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The Mistress of Pennington’s by Rachel Brimble: atmospheric historical fiction

Synopsis

1910 – A compelling tale of female empowerment in Bath’s leading department store. Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridge and The Paradise.

Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath’s premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington, believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.

Determined to break from her father’s iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington’s into a new decade, embracing woman’s equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.

Can this dream team thwart Edward Pennington’s plans for the store? Or will Edward prove himself an unshakeable force who will ultimately ruin both Elizabeth and Joseph?

My review

Elizabeth, our heroine, is ahead of her time in her ambition for the family department store, but her father doesn’t share her plans. He’s the sort of domineering, intolerant and narrow-minded man we associate with the Victorian era. In contrast, Joseph, the glove-maker, is far more modern in his views and is prepared to listen to and consider what women have to say. His wife Lillian, tragically murdered, was a proactive woman, like Elizabeth, and so he values women for their intelligence and insight, and not just their looks. He shares Elizabeth’s vision for catering to women customers considerably more. The two work well together, and inevitably attraction follows. But there are other impediments besides Edward Pennington: class conventions, political issues and personal agendas are there too.  As well as struggling to be mistress of Pennington’s store, Elizabeth also struggles to be mistress of her own fate.

Elizabeth has built a shell around herself to protect herself from her father’s constant belittlement. She thus appears somewhat stiff and distant at first, but as we get to know her better as the book progresses we see her hidden side. She’s sensitive and motivated, very much her lively mother’s daughter. Or at least her mother was lively until Edward finally stifled her joie de vivre. Elizabeth fortunately seems to be made of sterner stuff and we have faith that she’ll escape from her father’s shadow.

I especially liked the atmosphere created in the book. In scenes with Edward there’s oppressiveness and stuffiness, but Elizabeth always seems to bring light and hope. Joseph carries sadness with him, but a growing air of optimism. Pennington’s, brightly lit, shines out like a beacon beckoning to the future, like Elizabeth herself.

The author recreates an exciting time in history in her novel and furnishes it with fascinating, contrasting characters and a clever plot. This makes for very enjoyable reading.

The book is beautifully presented with an eye-catching cover. However, my one criticism of this book is in relation to the cover. It would look even better without the ‘Welcome to Bath’s finest department store’ on the right hand side. To me it is a completely unnecessary addition, and it detracts from  the symmetry and perspective. But maybe that’s just me – I admit I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about slogans plastered on covers!

Super book, thoroughly enjoyable and one to add to your ‘to be read’ list.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/2SvRcqp

Amazon US: http://a.co/bYr2KHM

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mistress-of-penningtons-rachel-brimble/1128920728?ean=9781788546508

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-mistress-of-pennington-s

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Rachel_Brimble_The_Mistress_of_Pennington_s?id=dIFSDwAAQBAJ

Author Bio

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Since 2007, she has had several novels published by small US presses, eight books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical.

In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a brand new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s, released July 2018.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

Social Media Links

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Brimble/e/B007829ZRM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1490948101&sr=8-1

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

Giveaway to win £20 / $20 Amazon Gift Card (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494121/

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‘Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World’ by Caitlin Davies – definitely a novel to immerse yourself in!

Daisy Belle : Swimming Champion of the World by Caitlin Davies

I’m so pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for this captivating novel featuring such a resilient heroine.

 

Synopsis

Summer 1867: four-year-old Daisy Belle is about to make her debut at the Lambeth Baths in London. Her father, swimming professor Jeffrey Belle, is introducing his Family of Frogs – and Daisy is the star attraction. By the end of that day, she has only one ambition in life: she will be the greatest female swimmer in the world.   She will race down the Thames, float in a whale tank, and challenge a man to a 70-foot high dive. And then she will set sail for America to swim across New York Harbour. But Victorian women weren’t supposed to swim, and Daisy Belle will have to fight every stroke of the way if she wants her dreams to come true.   Inspired by the careers of Victorian champions Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, Daisy Belle is a story of courage and survival and a tribute to the swimmers of yesteryear.

 

My review

I think the word that best sums up this beautiful novel is understated, and this is precisely what makes it so powerful. Daisy Mae Belle calmly and modestly recounts to us the story of her eventful life. She never sensationalises things, and she could on many, many occasions. As a young child she breaks moulds by swimming, and her father takes full advantage of her courage and determination to line his pockets. She’s upset by this at times but restrains her emotions. She remains low-key concerning her incredible feats of endurance and the tolls they take on her. When her little sister becomes her mother’s pet and Daisy is all but ignored, she accepts it and doesn’t dwell on how much it must hurt. This taking things in her stride makes us respect and admire Daisy all the more. And love her, I think. She’s a wonderful character – so honest and unassuming, a charming and unpretentious heroine.

The novel has not quite cycles, but definitely fore-shadowings. The Belles’ marriage isn’t a great one. Daisy’s father and mother are generally at loggerheads and there doesn’t seem to be much affection in the family, apart from between Daisy and her eldest brother Billy. Daisy’s own marriage to the handsome Dob doesn’t turn out to be quite what she hoped for either. Daisy’s once happy relationship with her mother as the adored and petted little girl of the family is replayed by Minnie who, like her big sister, eventually tires of her mother’s restrictions. Daisy sees how Captain Matthew Webb allows himself to be driven by the desire for more money into going too far, pushing himself beyond his limits, and she too finds herself tempted into taking on perhaps more than she should. Just as her father attempted to save someone who fell into the sea, so does Daisy, and ultimately neither rescue attempt ends well.

The novel is so eye-opening as regards the social norms of the time. Girls aren’t allowed to do boy things, like swim. Women are completely subservient to the men in their lives, although a few, including Daisy, make brave steps forward. However, they’re generally on some sort of rein. Poor Daisy has to make her epic swims in heavy, modesty-protecting outfits that must weigh a ton when wet!

There is so much fabulous imagery, particularly regarding water. After all, the whole novel is water-based, an water, as one character says, “makes you feel yourself”. The seaside, Margate, is depicted in vibrant blues with freshness and freedom in the air. The sea is alive. London, to which Daisy’s father drags them, has dead, dirty water. The baths seem oppressive, the Thames is menacing, the Aquarium is claustrophobic. Daisy is like the creatures there that are confined by their captivity.

Daisy travels to America, somewhere she’s long wanted to go, in an attempt to obtain fame and fortune – or at least the latter for Dob. This trip proves to be a key event in her life. Back home in England, her life begins to unravel and it’s heart-breaking, but remember, this is Daisy. And there is justice in the world, although it can take a while coming. Keep a tissue handy 😉

This novel is as buoyant as its heroine and will stay with you for a long time after you’ve read it. It’s marvellous.

About the author

Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She spent 12 years in Botswana as a teacher and journalist and many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, including a memoir Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘candid and unsentimental’.
Her novels include The Ghost of Lily Painter, a fictional account of the arrest and execution of two Edwardian baby farmers, and Family Likeness about the fate of ‘war babies’ born to African American GI fathers in England during World War Two.
Her non-fiction books include Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath, a celebration of 200 years of outdoor bathing, an illustrated history of the world famous Camden Lock Market, and Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames.
Her latest non-fiction is Bad Girls, and her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the lives of several Victorian aquatic stars, to be published by Unbound on September 1, 2018.
She is also a teacher and journalist, and was a regular feature writer for The Independent’s education and careers supplement. From 2014-17 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.

 

Her website is http://www.caitlindavies.co.uk/

Twitter: @CaitlinDavies2

Daisy Belle Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DaisyBelleSwimmingChampionoftheWorld/

 

Book details

  • Paperback:240 pages
  • Publisher:Unbound Digital (1 Sept. 2018)
  • ISBN-10:1911586483
  • ISBN-13:978-1911586487

 

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daisy-Belle-Swimming-Champion-World/dp/1911586483/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532382917&sr=1-9&keywords=caitlin+davies

 

 

 

 

 

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Barnabas Tew and the Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan: lively and unique

 

My review

It’s hard to classify this lively novel – it’s detective story, with steampunk, supernatural and fantasy elements. Quite unique and definitely admirable. I’m a firm believer that any book that can’t be pigeonholed neatly is definitely worth a read.

And this one is. It’s extremely entertaining.

The novel has a Victorian setting and the language and characters and their situations are entirely apt for this. Barnabas Tew, a Sherlock Holmes wannabe with sidekick Wilfred, isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. He tends to solve the crimes after he’s lost his clients – either because they’ve given up on him or been killed by the stalkers he was hired to find! However, nothing daunted he tackles his next undertaking with zeal, and some surprise. A trip to view the new Egyptian treasures display at the British Museum leads neatly into this particular adventure. His new client is none other than Anubis, the Egyptian god, and since the sun god (the scarab beetle of the title) has gone missing, the fate of humankind is at stake if BT can’t solve the mystery so that the sun can continue to be rolled across the sky. Could this be the case that will rocket Barnabas Tew to fame and give him an equal ranking with his hero? Or will he fail miserably, as seems to be the pattern of his sleuthing attempts?

The book is a breathless and romp through the underworld, and immense good fun. There’s lots of wit and wryness, imaginative action and comedy. There’s great chemistry between Barnabas and the unflappable, sensible Wilfred who does his best to keep his boss safe. Both take dealing with Egyptian mythological figures and all that entails firmly in their stride with Britishly stiff upper lips and get on with the unlikely task at hand.  

If you enjoy novels that are quirky and escapist, then this is one for you. I loved it and will be following Barnabas’s future adventures with keen interest. You have to wonder what he can possibly do for an encore…

Synopsis

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab
Barnabas Tew, a detective in Victorian London, is having a hard time making a name for himself, probably because most of his clients end up dead before he can solve their cases. His luck is about to change, though, for better or worse: Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, notices him and calls him to the Egyptian underworld. A terrible kidnapping has occurred; one that promises to put an end to the status quo and could perhaps even put an end to the entire world. It is up to Barnabas (along with his trusty assistant, Wilfred) to discover the culprit and set things to right. Can he turn his luck around and solve the most important case of his life?
Purchase Link – mybook.to/Barnabas

Author Bio

Columbkill Noonan lives in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, where she teaches yoga and Anatomy and Physiology. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Her first novel, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” by Crooked Cat Books, was released in 2017, and her latest work, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds”, is set to be released in September 2018.
In her spare time, Columbkill enjoys hiking, paddle boarding, aerial yoga, and riding her rescue horse, Mittens. To learn more about Columbkill please feel free to visit her website (www.columbkill.weebly.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan) or on Twitter (@ColumbkillNoon1).
Social Media Links – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/columbkillnoon1?lang=en