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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends

SquadPod Book Club Review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Published: May 13th, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Greek Mythology
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Better late than never. I’m finally sharing my review for The Wolf Den, the magnificent story that was the first Squadpod Book Club read in the summer. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For now her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken. By day, she walks the streets with the Wolf Den’s other women, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels reimagining the lives of women who have long been overlooked. Perfect for fans of Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and Madeline Miller’s Circe.

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MY REVIEW:

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

The Wolf Den is an absolute masterpiece. Lush, atmospheric and mesmerising, it gives a voice to the voiceless women lost to the sands of history. Told by Amara, a young woman sold into slavery after her family fell into poverty and now forced to be one of the she-wolves at Pompeii’s infamous brothel, this is a story of friendship, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and survival.

I luxuriated in the exquisite storytelling of this book. This ancient tale is told with a modern voice, bringing the story to life in a way that is relatable and compelling. The evocative scene setting brought the story alive and transported me back to the doomed city of Pompeii as vividly as if I were walking the dusty streets myself. The brutality and precariousness of life at the time is vividly depicted through a broad spectrum of society, from the seedy to the opulent, reminding us your fortunes could change in an instant, taking you from freedom to slavery. Meticulously researched, the author’s vivid descriptions and attention to detail illustrates her passion for the history of Pompeii and to allow those who were silenced for centuries to finally have their voices heard.

“And you would, wouldn’t you? Tear them all apart.”

The characters are richly drawn, vivacious and charismatic. They have that spark that makes you care and root for them. There is a sisterhood shared by the she-wolves, each one ready to defend the other no matter what. This book was our first Squadpod Book Club read and Clare described the she-wolves as the ‘early Squadpod’, which I thought was perfect. Each of them possess strength, tenacity and vulnerability, as well as a sensuality and wiliness that they rely on to survive. As women and slaves they were especially powerless and I liked that we saw the hard choices they had to make and unpaletable things they are forced to do in order to survive.

“She gets better at pretending, but Amara is never satisfied. The desire to escape takes hold, its roots digging under her skin, breaking her apart.”

I loved Amara and thought she was a great choice for the narrator. Though she is now a slave, she is a doctor’s daughter and an educated woman, something that sets her apart from many of the other women. And while Felix may own her body, he doesn’t own her spirit, the embers of rage burning in her alongside an unquenchable determination. I liked her immediately and found her easy to root for, even when she was unlikable.

Sumptuous, enthralling and unflinching, The Wolf Den is a phenomenal start to an exciting new trilogy. The jaw-dropping ending left me desperate for more and counting down to the release of part two next May. A triumph of historical fiction that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss. Go read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Elodie Harper is a journalist and prize-winning short story writer. Her story ‘Wild Swimming’ won the 2016 Bazaar of Bad Dreams short story competition, which was judged by Stephen King.

She is currently a reporter at ITV News Anglia, and before that worked as a producer for Channel 4 News. Her job as a journalist has seen her join one of the most secretive wings of the Church of Scientology and cover the far right hip hop scene in Berlin, as well as crime reporting in Norfolk where her first two novels were set – The Binding Song and The Death Knock.

Elodie studied Latin poetry both in the original and in translation as part of her English Literature degree at Oxford, instilling a lifelong interest in the ancient world. The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels about the lives of women in ancient Pompeii.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books |Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tours Q&A

Blog Tour: Q&A with Fiona Valpy

Happy Monday Bibliophiles! Today I’m delighted to be sharing a Q&A with author Fiona Valpy as part of the blog tour for her latest novel, The Storyteller of Casablanca, which is published tomorrow.

What drew you to writing? Had you always wanted to become a novelist?

From early childhood I’d always been an avid reader and lived in a home filled with books. Often, I would finish a book and think ‘I wish I could have written that’, but all my time was filled with my career and motherhood until we made a move to France. There, I found both inspiration and the time to write my first books. Now I can’t imagine my life without writing.

What made you want to shift from contemporary fiction to historical fiction?

While the countryside and contemporary culture of France were the initial inspiration for my writing, the country’s history – especially the legacy of being occupied during World War 2 – are all-pervasive and soon claimed my attention.

I still wanted to include a contemporary slant to my books, though, and so I began writing dual timeline novels. There’s a challenge in finding the connection between two separate eras and pulling them together in a way that’s convincing. I love the sense of interweaving two storylines which may seemed disconnected at first, but which later converge. And of course, our histories are such a part of who we are today.

What is it about the Second World War that you think readers are so fascinated by?

It’s still just within living memory for some, although of course that generation is slipping away fast and so there’s a sense of urgency in recording their first-hand testimonies and making sure their voices will still be heard as the years go by. We’ve also reached new milestones in terms of documents being de-classified and information released, allowing previously unknown facts to come to light and enabling new interpretations of wartime events.

While subsequent generations have been fortunate to live in a time of peace, life can still be challenging, and I believe we can learn a great deal from understanding how others have suffered and faced up to difficulties. In particular, in some ways the war gave women an opportunity to break free of the limitations society placed on them and prove themselves in new ways, playing their part in the fight against oppression.

I believe women are incredibly resilient and have qualities that are absolutely vital in today’s world – not just strength and endurance, but also kindness and compassion. I hope my books help women to see themselves in this light.

What research did you do for The Storyteller of Casablanca?

I’d organised a research trip to Morocco but the global pandemic stymied those plans. So I had to find other ways to fill in the gaps and ensure I could still transport the reader to that other time and place. I studied travel guides and pored over maps, but also read more widely and around my subject, including novels by Driss ChraÏbi (The Simple Past), Paul Bowles (The Sheltering Sky) and Anthony Doerr’s Africa-based short stories (The Shell Collector). Meredith Hindley’s book Destination Casablanca offered a wealth of insight into the city during the war years and Hal Vaughn’s FDR’s 12 Apostles was a useful source of detail about the establishment of espionage networks in North Africa prior to US invasion in November 1943.

Videos on YouTube helped me visit the sights and souks, and the internet offered up additional information on some of the real-life characters that appear in the book, including the inspirational Josephine Baker and Hélêne Cazês-Bénatar. Other such characters, like Dorothy Ellis, proved to be frustratingly elusive despite all my research efforts though, so I hope I have done her justice.

In The Storyteller of Casablanca there are many different stories told in different ways. Can you tell us a little more about this?

I’ve included storytelling in many different forms in the book – there’s everything from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and the murder mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers, La Fontaine’s Fables, and traditional African and Berber Folk Stories, to the Tales from the Thousand and One Nights.

It’s one of the key themes of the book. I wanted to explore how the stories we tell are an important part of our history and at the same time can inspire and shape our future, as well as illustrating the common ground between different cultures in the past and present. There’s a universality in the human need to tell our stories and make our voices heard that transcends borders, cultures, race, religion, age and gender.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a novel set in Italy during World War 2 at the moment, as well as revising my first three books (The French for… series of contemporary novels) which are to be re-issued in the coming year, so my writing continues to keep my busy!

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I don’t know about you, but this interview has made me even more excited to read The Storyteller of Casablanca. Still not sure? Well here’s some more info to whet you’re appetite…

SYNOPSIS:

In this evocative tale from the bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift, a strange new city offers a young girl hope. Can it also offer a lost soul a second chance?

Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Josie has fled with her family to Casablanca, where they await safe passage to America. Life here is as intense as the sun, every sight, smell and sound overwhelming to the senses in a city filled with extraordinary characters. It’s a world away from the trouble back home—and Josie loves it.

Seventy years later, another new arrival in the intoxicating port city, Zoe, is struggling—with her marriage, her baby daughter and her new life as an expat in an unfamiliar place. But when she discovers a small wooden box and a diary from the 1940s beneath the floorboards of her daughter’s bedroom, Zoe enters the inner world of young Josie, who once looked out on the same view of the Atlantic Ocean, but who knew a very different Casablanca.

It’s not long before Zoe begins to see her adopted city through Josie’s eyes. But can a new perspective help her turn tragedy into hope, and find the comfort she needs to heal her broken heart?

You can buy the book here

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Fiona is an acclaimed number 1 bestselling author, whose books have been translated into more than twenty different languages worldwide.

She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of World War II. Her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.

She spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she’s written.

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thank you to FMcM Associates for the invitation to take part in the tour and the gifted copy of the book. And a special thank you to Fiona Valpy for taking the time to answer these questions.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan

Published: August 5th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Adventure Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this exquisite novel. Thank you to Steven at Hodder for the invitation to take part and the gifted finished copy.

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SYNOPSIS:

Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?

It’s the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV’s impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower – an event that only occurs once every few decades.

When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband’s aunt Clementina, she’s determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant’s impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.

Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don’t last long in this Enlightenment city . . .

And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences.

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MY REVIEW:

“There is mischief afoot…”

Sumptuous and sensual, The Fair Botanists is an intoxicating blend of secrets, skullduggery, friendship, passion and empowerment. So beautifully crafted that every sentence reads like a work of art, this book is one to savor, and I luxuriated in it as I slowly drank in every luscious word.

The thing I love most about historical fiction is how it transports you back in time, something the author expertly does with this novel. . She has taken historical and reimagined characters and combined them with real history and moments she created to bring 1820s Edinburgh to life and create a world that is evocative, alluring and authentic. I knew nothing about the events of the story, or about botany, but the author writes with such rich detail that her meticulous research, vast knowledge and passion is both evident and infectious. I never imagined I’d care about the blooming of a plant or its seeds, but the author had me so invested that I was excited to see the Agave Americana – also known as the Century Plant – flower and on tenterhooks waiting to see who’s scheme would be successful. 

“Why must it be women who shoulder the shame and not men? Why is it so shocking that she might choose her own path and be perfectly happy along it?”

The story centers around two female characters, Belle and Elizabeth, who become unlikely friends. I adored these fascinating women and how the author explored female empowerment and challenged society’s expectations through them in different ways, giving a voice to those who were silenced in history. Belle is a feisty, strong, independent and determined woman who refuses to conform to society’s expectations. She is a courtesan who also makes money from her secret passion – botany – and dreams of finding financial freedom by concocting a love potion. I loved how she challenges patriarchal society and refuses to apologise for who she is. And the description of her as “an attractive but determined fairy general” is not only utterly brilliant, but one that will stay with me. She’s a bad-ass woman who I would love to be friends with. Elizabeth is much more subdued but through her friendship with Belle she finds strength and a new life that she never dreamed she deserved. I enjoyed watching as she blossomed, just like the famous plant, coming into bloom and finding herself as the story progressed. The author also filled the story with an array of vibrant background characters that I enjoyed, each one inextricably linked with the Botanical Gardens and Century Plant.

Dazzling, evocative, intricate and absorbing, The Fair Botanists is an exquisite piece of historical fiction. I was so completely immersed in the story and lives of these characters that I never wanted to leave and felt bereft when it was finished. I can’t recommend this enough to anyone who enjoys the genre. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sara Sheridan is a writer and activist who is interested particularly in female history. She has written more than 20 books.

Truth or Dare, her first novel received a Scottish Library Award and was shortlisted for the Saltire. Her novel On Starlit Seas, was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Prize in 2017. An occasional journalist, Sara has reported for BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent and on ‘being a lady’ for Women’s Hour. In 2019 Sara re mapped Scotland according to women’s history for Historic Environment Scotland – the resulting book Where are the Women was listed as one of the David Hume Institute’s Books of the year 2019. In it, she imagined several monuments to the witches.

Sara mentors fledgling writers for the Scottish Book Trust and has sat on the board of several writers’ organisations. In 2015, Sophie McKay Knight’s portrait of Sara garnered media and critical attention at the National Gallery of Scotland.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon | Google Books| Apple Books| Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Suspects by Lesley Pearse

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Saga, Thriller, Mystery, Domestic Fiction, Romance Novel, Historical Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this entertaining whodunnit. Thank you to Megan at Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to Michael Joseph for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

What do you do when your dream home becomes your worst nightmare?
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Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect . . .

On the day Nina and Conrad Best move into their new home in picture-perfect Willow Close, a body is discovered.

Hurrying inside with their belongings, they see horrified neighbours gather around the police cordon – one of the residents has been attacked and brutally killed in the woods.

When police start to interview the residents of the Close, they soon discover each neighbour harbours their own secrets. Because everyone on the Close is far from what they seem.

Nina and Conrad thought they’d found their dream home.

But have they moved into a nightmare . . . ?

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MY REVIEW:

Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect…

Willow Close is a picture-perfect neighbourhood so idyllic that houses rarely come up for sale. Nina and Conrad feel lucky to have bought their new home on the close that backs onto a lush wooded area. But on the day they move in, the body of a young girl is discovered in the woods.

Thirteen-year-old Chloe Church had lived on Willow Close all her life and the residents are shocked to hear about her brutal murder in the woods that surround their homes. Suspicions quickly flare as neighbour suspects neighbour. And as the police investigate it soon becomes clear that Willow Close is a place full of secrets where many of the residents aren’t what they appear to be and anyone could be the killer…

Suspects is a steadily paced whodunnit with an atmosphere full of suspicion. An ensemble piece told in the third person, it reads like a darker version of Neighbours. The author introduces us to the residents of Willow Close, slowly unveiling the secrets they are hiding behind their picture-perfect facades: dodgy dealings, unhappy lives and crumbling marriages. I genuinely couldn’t pinpoint a suspect, instead being suspicious of everyone.

I admit that I struggled to get into the book at first. Focusing on everyone in the Close felt like it took away the tension and made it hard to connect with any of the characters. But about half way through the tension rises and I felt like I’d got to know the characters enough to care about them. It was at this point I felt like the murder became the focus of the story, rather than the drama of the lives of the residents, which also made it more gripping. 

The residents of Willow Close are a varied cast of characters. We get to know the life and backstory of each one in depth over the course of the book; some of which are wildly entertaining, while others are more mundane and ‘normal’. I loved Conrad and Nina and could have happily read more of the story from their perspective. I also had a soft spot for Janice, who was a warm and genuine character. The author wrote some fantastic villains and I often wanted to slap Trudy, Rose and Dee, with Dee being particularly callous, calculating and vile. 

This was my first foray into this author’s books and I would definitely read more. An entertaining story that explores what makes people tick and what is really going on behind our neighbours’ doors, I would recommend this for those who like their mysteries without the gore. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

International bestselling author Lesley Pearse has lived a life as rich with incidents, setbacks and joys as any found in her novels. After her mother died, Lesley spent three years in an orphanage before she was taken home when her father remarried. Resourceful, determined and willing to have a go at almost anything Lesley left home at sixteen. By the mid Sixties she was living in London, sharing flats, partying hard and married a trumpet player in a Jazz rock band. She has also worked as a nanny, a Playboy bunny and designed and made clothes to sell to boutiques. It was only after having three daughters that Lesley began to write. The hardships, traumas, close friends and lovers from those early years were inspiration for her beloved novels. She published her first book at 49 and has not looked back since. Lesley is still a party girl.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the blog tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Shadows Over the Spanish Sun by Caroline Montague

Published: May 27th, 2021
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Romance Novel, Adventure Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this beautiful novel. Thank you to Ellen at Orion for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Escape to the Spanish hills with this spellbinding story of passionate love, family secrets and betrayal

A country in the shadow of war. A love that burns through the decades…

Mia Ferris’s heart has always belonged in Spain. Every childhood summer was spent at her grandfather’s hacienda, riding together amongst the olive trees or listening to his stories of the past. So when she learns that he has fallen from his horse, she knows that she belongs by his bedside – even if it means leaving behind her life in London, and her new fiancé.

But as Leonardo fights for his life, and Mia to save the family home from financial ruin, secrets begin to emerge that tell a different story of the past – a terrible history that begins with a boy running for his life over the Andalusian hills, and ends with a forbidden love that only war can destroy…

As Mia untangles the passions and betrayals of the past, everything she thought she knew is turned upside down. Can she heal the wounds of the past, and face the truth of her own heart?

A sweeping novel of passionate love, betrayal and redemption, set against the turmoil and tragedy of the Spanish Civil War.

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MY REVIEW:

“Throughout my erratic childhood it had been a haven of tranquility, a golden sanctuary. Papa Leonardo had wrapped me up in his world of horses, orange groves and fireflies.”

One of the things I miss during this pandemic is travelling to new places. Thankfully, we can still travel through books and this beautiful novel transported me to the sunny skies and stunning vistas of Spain. The lush and evocative descriptions made me feel like I was in Andalusia.  It was the perfect book to enjoy in the garden on the day the sun had finally decided to arrive in England.

A sweeping saga laced with secrets, mystery and betrayal, this is a story of family, love, loss and forgiveness. The author immerses you in the world of the Palamera de Santos family. She moves seamlessly between timelines and narrators, taking the reader on a journey alongside Mia as she slowly unfurls the enigmas of her family. 

This book is filled with wonderful characters that are so vibrant and well written that they leap from the page and compel you to keep reading. I adored the relationship between Mia and Leonardo. It is so special and there were parts that felt reminiscent of my own relationship with my grandmother. I love reading about multigenerational relationships, whether they are family or friends, and combining that with my love of historical fiction and mysteries made this story irresistible to me. With that being said, it is probably no surprise to learn that Leonardo’s backstory was one of my favourite parts of this book. My heart went out to him as a scared, heartbroken little boy and I enjoyed seeing what he went through over the years that shaped him  into the man that Mia knows. 

One of the reasons I love historical fiction is because I like broadening my knowledge of history. And as I didn’t know anything about the Spanish civil war, this story offered the perfect chance to educate myself more about it. I found it fascinating and also liked reading about the time leading up to WW2 from a different perspective than I’ve read previously. 

Shadows over the Spanish Sun is a tender, moving and sumptuous story that will take your breath away. Perfect for fans of historical fiction. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From early childhood a poem, executed by my own hand was a compulsory requirement for my father’s birthday. To the reluctant five year old this was considered a trial, but by the age of seven writing poetry had become my passion. At ten I won my first national poetry competition and from that moment I dreamt of being a writer.

This particular dream took rather longer than I had hoped because reading law, marriage at nineteen, children, a career as an interior designer – something always got in the way. When I moved with my second husband, three children and four step children to Burnt Norton twenty years ago, and I happened upon the empty pools made famous by TS Eliot in the first of his Four Quartets, I knew that one day the dream would become a reality.

In 2018 after first writing a historical novel set at Burnt Norton I changed agents to William Morris Endeavour and it was here that I felt truly at home. Within a fairly short time, Matilda Forbes Watson had procured a two book deal with Orion for ‘An Italian Affair’ and ‘A Paris Secret’. She recently procured a further two book deal for a novel set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and a novel set in Greece.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Asylum by Karen Coles

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Welbeck Publishing Group
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Historical Mystery, Romance

SYNOPSIS:

1906: Being a woman is dangerous, being different is deadly.

Maud Lovell has been at Angelton Lunatic Asylum for five years. She is not sure how she came to be there and knows nothing beyond its four walls. She is hysterical, distressed, untrustworthy. Badly unstable and prone to violence. Or so she has been told.

When a new doctor arrives, keen to experiment with the revolutionary practice of medical hypnosis, Maud’s lack of history makes her the perfect case study. But as Doctor Dimmond delves deeper into the past, it becomes clear that confinement and high doses are there to keep her silent.

When Maud finally remembers what has been done to her, and by whom, her mind turns to her past and to revenge.

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Maud has been locked in the darkness of Angelton Lunatic Asylum for five years. She doesn’t remember how she got here or what caused her madness. The only thing she remembers is the man in the marsh, an eerie and ghoulish figure that haunts her nightmares. But is he real or a figment of her imagination?

When Dr Dimmond says he wants to help her by exploring her unconscious it seems like someone is finally on Maud’s side. But as the hypnosis awakens her memories, Maud begins to wonder if some things were better off buried and forgotten after all…

WHAT. A. BOOK! It’s no secret that I love historical and gothic fiction, so this book had everything I could want and more. Claustrophobic, haunting and addictive, I couldn’t put this one down. It is exquisitely written, a creeping malice seeping from every page as the author transports you to the bleak, shadowy rooms of the asylum and the anguished recesses of Maud’s mind. 

The depth of Coles’ research is clear in her striking imagery, the descriptions of the practices asylum staff use to treat patients, and in her thought-provoking exploration of topics such as the mistreatment of women and mental health, and the effects of psychological and physical imprisonment. The sense of dread, desperation and sheer helplessness are palpable, coming together to create an atmosphere that has you on the edge of your seat and your heart pounding as you wait for the secrets buried in Maud’s memory to be unlocked. 

Maud is an unreliable narrator. While there is a suspicion early on that she might not be as mad as some of the doctors would like her to think she is, even she doesn’t trust what she tells herself. Reality shifts and cracks around her, echoes of memory stir and haunt her nightmares and hallucinations. She is an enigma to the reader, and herself. A woman fighting to be heard in a place where they want her to be silent.. She is an unlikely heroine, but shows herself to be much braver and stronger than anyone could have imagined at the start of the story. 

The Asylum is a menacing, evocative, lingering and intricately woven novel. An example of storytelling and mystery at its finest, it is one fans of historical and gothic fiction won’t want to miss. Go read this book! 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Karen was born in Taplow, Berkshire UK to rather nomadic parents. Countryside walks with her father instilled in her a lifelong love of nature, particularly wild plants, insects and amphibians. Karen is a painter and sculptor. As a child she was a voracious reader of fairy tales, myths and legends, and this led to a fascination with dark, Gothic literature. She now lives in Wales, not far from a town which once had three Victorian asylums. Their history inspired the writing of her novel, The Asylum.

Instagram | Twitter

The pictures above were part of the author’s inspiration when writing The Asylum. They are taken from the author’s Instagram page where she talks about each one in relation to Maud and the book.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon*
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you to Welbeck Publishing for the gifted ARC.

Thanks for reading Bibliphiles. Until next time, Emma xxx