The Secret Wife by Gill Paul @GillPaulAuthor #review

The Secret Wife by [Paul, Gill]

This is a book which had me totally enthralled. The Secret Wife draws on historical facts to weave a wonderful love story. Gill Paul has imagined what might have happened if one of the Russian Romanov family escaped the slaughter in 1918 and lived the rest of their life quietly and secretly. Tatiana was one of the Romanov daughters and in her surviving journals mentioned an officer, Dmitri Malama. By the way she writes of him, she was clearly very fond of him and her mother, Tsarina Alexandra, wrote that “he would make an excellent son-in-law'”.  Inspired by their possible romance, Gill Paul has written an epic tale of their love and how Tatiana might have been spared death. In the book she imagines that the lovers were separated after the Bolshevik revolution, neither knowing if the other was alive but both still loving each other deeply. In the present day, Kitty has inherited a cabin in the American wilderness from a great grandfather she had never heard of and begins to investigate his mysterious past.

I genuinely could not put this book down and read it over the course of a couple of days. I was totally captivated by the love affair between Dmitri and Tatiana and how they continued to love each other against the odds. I didn’t know much about the Romanov family except that they had been murdered and that there had been much speculation afterwards about whether any of them could have escaped. Gill Paul worked the historical facts effortlessly into her narrative so that I felt I learned a lot about the Russia of this era while reading. Initially, Kitty in the present day didn’t seem to have as much a part in the story but gradually her life and her investigation started to take a more prominent role as she uncovers more through her research into her mysterious great grandfather. She had gone to America following a betrayal at home and felt she needed to be completely alone to process her feelings. Discovering her great grandfather’s story helped her come to terms with her own life.

The Secret Wife is a book which has clearly been very well researched, giving such an evocative picture of time and place and of what life in Russia was like during WW1. It is beautifully written with characters who feel completely real, whether they are fictional or have their basis in a historical figure. The emotional story is romantic and exciting, moving and tragic, and ultimately satisfying. The kind of satisfying which may leave you with a lump in your throat. This is the first book I have read by Gill Paul but I will definitely be looking at her back catalogue and for future novels.

Thanks to Helena at Avon Books for my review copy. The Secret Wife was published on 25th August in paperback and as an e-book. The Kindle version is only 99p at the time of writing so if you love sweeping love stories against a historical background, take the opportunity to buy this at such a great price. You can order it here: The Secret Wife

From the back of the book

Love. Guilt. Heartbreak.

1914

Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger . . .

2016

Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret . . .

Haunting, moving and beautifully written, The Secret Wife effortlessly crosses centuries, as past merges with present in an unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience.

Kaisha – The Writing Garnet – Blogger in the Spotlight

 

Kaisha (TWG)

I’m delighted to welcome Kaisha also known as The Writing Garnet to the blog today. I must just mention that I love the phone case you can see in her photo!

Thanks for agreeing to be part of my Blogger in the Spotlight feature. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself? 

-waves- Hiya everyone! Thank you for having me on your blog! I’m Kaisha aka TWG (The Writing Garnet), i’m a single mumma to a beautiful little girl! We live in sunny Scotland, but my accent gives it away that I’m not originally from here😀.

What books/authors did you enjoy as a child?

HUGE HUGE fan of Jaqueline Wilson books, still am. I used to read the Babysitters Club by Ann.M.Martin, The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, The Little Vampire by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg..just to name a few! I was a massive bookworm as a child, and I still am.

What made you want to start blogging?

Honestly? To be associated with authors and the publishing world has been a dream of mine for over ten years. I have never really had the confidence to do anything about it. But, my life took a turn and I became even more ill and I found myself relying more and more on books as an escape. That’s when I decided to put my skills to use and start my blog.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

Oh my, so many things! I love being able to write my own views on things without getting told I’m too blunt haha, showcasing my voice with my biggest passion, books. I feel incredibly honoured to be able to read such wonderful books and be able to talk to very talented authors as they come onto my blog. It’s amazing. So surreal.

Tell me about your blog – sell yourself!

My blog is called The Writing Garnet, also known as TWG for short. I only started my blog back in March (2016) so it is still a baby! Not only do I review books on there, I also interview wonderful authors and have some of them write guest posts for me. Plus, I have my own little features which may include something book-ish, but I might be just voicing my opinion in a humourous way. TWG isn’t a one genre type blog either. A lot of people associate me with just chic lit, but, whilst I do thoroughly enjoy that genre, I also review psychological thrillers, Women’s fiction, YA, children’s books, pretty much anything except sci-fi type. I find the variety of genres appeals to a lot of readers. Sorry, I’m rambling now!

What’s your favourite book you’ve reviewed in the past year? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose.

Ahhhh, thats like choosing a favourite biscuit! Impossible!! Let’s see….Melody Bittersweet and the Girls Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French is hilarious. Sam Carrington’s – Saving Sophie was paper bag worthy…ie…you needed one! Brilliant. Ahhh this is hard! Sorry I’m giving you more than three now. Sue Watson’s – We’ll Always Have Paris. LOVE. Karen Burns – The Paris Effect. Claire Seeber – The Stepmother. Lily Graham’s books. I’ll stop now haha.

What are you reading just now? 

The Ex Factor by Eva Woods (August 2016)

Tell me about your reading habits:  book or kindle, bed or bath, morning or evening?

Both paperback and Kindle. I never read in the bath, I’m too accident prone for that! I always read at night time, and when I’m settling my little girl. I’ll try and sneak in more reading during the day if possible.

How can people follow your blog or connect with you on social media?

Multiple ways actually! My blog address is: https://thewritinggarnet.wordpress.com – people can follow it by e-mail too via the button. You can follow me on twitter @kaishajayneh, Instagram @thewritinggarnet. Also, my blog has its own facebook page www.facebook.com/thewritinggarnet. I can easily be found on facebook myself if you can’t get hold of me, not many ways eh😉 http://www.facebook.com/kaishie.

And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?

Good question! Silky from The Magic Faraway Tree because even though she is small, she sprinkles magic wherever she goes and always knows how to get out of tricky situations!

Coming soon – Scottish Publishers Feature Week

Coming soon on Portobello Book BlogScottish Publisher Feature Week

Look out during the week beginning 5th September for lots of posts looking at some Scottish publishers. I will be featuring Black & White Publishing, Sandstone Press, Cranachan Publishing, Saraband and children’s publisher Kelpies. I will have guest posts from the publishers telling you a bit about them, the kind of books they publish and their authors and what you can look forward to. There may even be some giveaways! 

My Busy Day at #EdBookFest

Monday was a bit of a busy day for me at the Book Festival. Well, I say busy, but it was spent mostly sitting down listening to lots of authors. I had lunch and a lovely chat with blogger @pamreader and also bumped into and had a chat with blogger @lizzysiddall As I saw so many authors, I’ll do my best to keep this shorter than an average novel!

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First author of the day was Prue Leith, famous of course as a cook, businesswoman, tv broadcaster and writer of many cookbooks. In recent years she has turned her hand to fiction and she was here to talk about the second book in her Food of Love trilogy The Prodigal Daughter which will be published by Quercus in September. It follows Angelica Angelotti, who has grown up in her family’s Italian restaurant business but has moved to Paris in 1968 to study French cooking. Amidst the drama and violence of the Paris student riots, she falls in love. Prue Leith was asked if love was more important that food in this trilogy to which she replied “Love is more important than anything!” She said she is not ashamed of writing love stories as all the great stories are about love. However she does get annoyed that when women write love stories it is classified as women’s fiction, chick-lit or commercial fiction, whereas a man will be said to have written with deep psychological insight and piercing analysis!

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Next I went to listen to James Naughtie talk about his second novel, Paris Spring which is due to be published in paperback next month. Funnily enough, it is also set during the student riots in Paris in 1968. He said one reason he wanted to write about this period of time was that he felt people had forgotten how melodramatic politics can be. He pointed that this was before the events of this summer with the Brexit vote and all that has happened in politics since! He said it had been a challenge moving from writing and broadcasting as a journalist to writing fiction. It had been fun to be able to make things up since he had spent a lifetime trying not to! He finds it fascinating how people respond to events, difficulties and threats. I expect he has seen this so much in his journalistic life that he has a lot of knowledge to draw on. One thing he had particularly enjoyed about writing fiction was creating dialogue. As a journalist, this isn’t something he’d had to do before. He felt his radio background helped when turning to fiction. Unlike tv journalists, radio journalism is about explaining what it’s like to be somewhere, what you can see, smell, hear. The job of a radio journalist is to capture and atmosphere and authenticity is important. Words matter, they are powerful and he has always enjoyed using words whether as a journalist or now as an author. I should say that James Naughtie was very witty and often had the audience laughing. A very entertaining hour.

 

After lunch, it was time to hear debut novelists Mary Paulson-Ellis and Nicholas Searle. Both these authors’ books are up for the First Book Award at the Festival. They both read from their books before chatting about them. I read Mary Paulson-Ellis’ book The Other Mrs Walker earlier this year and think it is excellent (read my review here). She read from the very beginning of the book and I can’t imagine listening to this very intriguing start about the lonely death of an old woman, with only a few strange objects in her house, and not immediately wanting to go to read the book! I haven’t read Nicholas Searle’s The Good Liar yet but I have a copy as my book group are reading it later this year. His book also sounds very intriguing being about a couple in their 80s who meet via internet dating. He explained that this had been inspired initially by an experience of an elderly relative of his. As both of these books use different periods of times throughout, I asked how the authors kept a track of what they were going to reveal and when. Nicholas Searle said that he had kept most of it in his head. He said that if he couldn’t keep the plot in his head, he couldn’t expect his reader to.  Mary Paulson-Ellis said that she had similar intentions but had created a kind of reverse spreadsheet after she’d written the book but focussing on the objects. As they appear in both the past and present she wanted to ensure these significant moments were clear.

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Next I went to see Joanna Cannon who wrote the wonderful The Trouble with Goats and Sheep due out later this year in paperback. (Read my review hereShe was appearing with Yewande Omotoso whose novel is The Woman Next Door This book looks at the relationship between two neighbours in a Cape Town community,  who absolutely hate each other. Both these books are exploring the hidden secrets of suburbia but through the eyes of very different narrators: 10 year old Grace in Joanna Cannon’s book and two women in their 80s in Yewande Omotoso’s novel. As both authors read, the humour in the books were clear despite some dark subject matter. Both agreed that you need the humour or the books would be too intense. Yewande said that humour is the lubrication to get you through the dark issues. I was interested in how both women’s professional careers influence or help their writing. Joanna Cannon is a psychiatrist and explained how a psychiatric patient is the ultimate unreliable narrator and how she looks for non-verbal clues. Similarly she enjoyed using Grace as an unreliable narrator leaving her reader to look for the non-verbal clues they pick up on as an adult. Yemande Omotoso is an architect, which might not seem immediately to be a career that would help writing. However, she said she is used to building a structure and she enjoyed fitting her story together, using layers and metaphors.

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The last event for the day was to hear Jessie Burton and Susan Fletcher. Jessie Burton’s most recent novel is The Muse (read my review here) and Susan Fletcher’s is Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew I didn’t have the best of seats hence the slightly arty photo above, as I looked through the glass partitions in a packed Spiegeltent. Both authors read passages from their novels which were beautifully descriptive, invoking quite a clear picture of their settings. Jessie Burton’s novel has as its muse a man, Isaac Robles, which is quite unusual as it’s more usually a woman considered a muse. In Susan Fletcher’s novel, Vincent van Gogh paints Jeanne, in her 50s she is the wife of the warden of the asylum he is in. Jeanne was attracted to van Gogh in some way despite his apparent madness. I loved that Susan said that “It doesn’t matter what age we are, we are still girls inside” – how true! Both writers spoke of being compelled to write, that their writing isn’t just a hobby. “I write because I don’t have the answers,” said Jessie Burton, “I write from a place of curiosity.” They also spoke of the weight of expectation after both their debut novels were so successful. When asked if there had been a muse or a mentor, someone who inspired them, Susan Fletcher said that being around other writers was a great inspiration as was attending events like the Book Festival. Jessie Burton agreed saying that interaction with readers mattered much more to her than a review in the newspapers.

So a busy but very enjoyable day for me. I hope you are enjoying reading my little reports. Have you been to the Book Festival this year and who have you seen? Or is there a book festival nearer to home you have been to or are going to? Let me know!

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts: A hilariously funny feel-good love story by [Darling, Annie]

I have just finished reading this in the garden on a lovely warm sunny day and it is just the perfect kind of book for summer reading. I must admit that since I got my Kindle I don’t read as many physical copies of books as I used to but I do still love a wander round a good bookshop. Bookends, soon to become Happy Ever After, is the kind of small, independent bookshop which are increasingly difficult to find these days.

Posy Morland lives above the bookshop which has been her home almost all her life. Her parents worked for the owner Lavinia and when they were tragically killed in a car accident, Lavinia vowed that Posy and her younger brother Sam would always have a home there. Now Lavinia has died and true to her word, has left the bookshop to Posy. However, like many independent bookshops, Bookends is struggling and Posy is going to have to work hard to make the business a success. She decides to transform it into a shop selling only romantic novels – Happy Ever After. She hasn’t reckoned on Lavinia’s grandson Sebastian though, one of the rudest, most arrogant men who also happens to be a very successful business men and infuriatingly handsome-and-he-knows-it! Sebastian wants to turn the shop into a crime bookshop and refuses to listen to Posy.

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts was a lovely read as we follow Posy’s plans to transform the bookshop. It was also entertaining watching her and Sebastian circling around each other and clashing time and again. I think it would be hard not to warm to Posy. She’s had such a difficult time losing her parents, losing Lavinia and facing the real possibility that she may lose her beloved bookshop, and therefore her home. It was touching to see the dedication she had to her teenage brother Sam and how she put her own ambitions of a writing career on hold to give him as stable a life as she could. Throughout the book she begins to learn to put herself first and becomes a lot more assertive. The Regency novel she begins to write as she explores her complicated relationship with Sebastian, while not a style I would normally read, was quite amusing and poor Posy became very confused about her feelings. Could she write a happy ever after for her characters that might be mirrored in real life?

I’d just like to finish with a quotation. There are lots of bookish quotes throughout the book, which if you are an avid reader you will enjoy spotting, but this one stood out for me. It’s from the letter Lavinia has left for Posy explaining why she has given her the bookshop and one I think all booklovers will identify with:

 “..you, my dear, of all people know what a magical place a bookshop can be

and that everyone needs a little magic in their lives.”

My thanks to Jaime Frost at publishers Harper Collins for offering me a review copy of this book. It’s already available as an e-book and is currently only 99p for Kindle. (Order a copy here: Little Bookshop) It will be published in paperback on 25th August.

From the back of the book

A delightful new series set in a quaint old bookshop, for fans of Lucy Diamond and Jenny Colgan. Where happy ever after is only a page away…

Once upon a time in a crumbling bookshop, Posy Morland hid in the pages of romantic novels.

So when Bookend’s eccentric owner, Lavinia, dies and leaves the shop to Posy, she must put down her books and join the real world. Because Posy hasn’t just inherited an ailing business, but also the attentions of Lavinia’s grandson, Sebastian, AKA The Rudest Man In London™.

Posy has six months to transform Bookends into the shop of her dreams but as Posy and her friends fight to save the bookshop, she’s drawn into a battle of wills with Sebastian, about whom she’s started to have some rather feverish fantasies…

Amanda Addison – Author in the Spotlight

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I’m very pleased to welcome author and artist Amanda Addison as today’s Author in the Spotlight. Her latest book, An Amsterdam Affair, was published on 6th July 2016 and you can order a copy here. Living by the sea myself, I was really fascinated to read about how the seaside inspires her work. You can find out about that yourself as she answers the last question. I’m also so pleased that Amanda has shared some of her beautiful sea inspired artwork.

What inspired you to start writing?

During my art degree at Chelsea School of Art I became interested in making books, including paintings, drawings and photos alongside text and poems I’d written. This developed into a commission for a children’s picture book, To Market…To Market with Creative Arts East and winning the Fish Publishing Art Prize for a painting used on the cover of a short story collection. I began to find that I wanted to write as well as make artwork to explore ideas and in 2003 began a writing MA in Norwich.

Tell me about your journey to publication

After my MA I wanted to fictionalise the life and preoccupations of being an artist. I developed the character of Laura Lovegrove, a textile designer who moves from London to Norfolk. In my novel, Laura’s Handmade Life, I explore both Laura’s development as an artist, alongside the constrains of family life. It is written in a stream of consciousness mode, so often a rather humorous take on things! It also allowed me to weave in information about textiles, tents, Tracy Emin and other artists into the novel.

I worked steadily on my fiction writing, stealing a few hours a week, when not teaching art or caring for my young family. I contacted a few agents and was delighted to be taken up by Sheil Land Associates and Laura’s Handmade Life was published here in UK, Italy and Germany.

In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?

An Amersterdam Affair

My latest novel, An Amsterdam Affair is a bitter-sweet story about searching for lost love and how families come undone and are re-made. At the heart of the story is a family secret. It is an inter-generational saga of romance and intrigue with art, craft and photography themes running through it. It is set on the coast in Norfolk and in Amsterdam.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

When I received the Arts Council Award to write and make artworks depicted in the novel, it had the long title, Picasso, Cream Horns and Tulips for Alice, which I liked for its quirkiness. It really was one of those lightbulb moments when the words Amsterdam AND Affair came to me. They really sum up so much about the story, but without giving any spoilers. I sent the new title to my agent who immediately messaged me back, saying ‘I LOVE IT!’

How did you celebrate publication day?

Celebrations began early! I attend a creative breakfast group – which is on a Thursday. We meet weekly to eat and talk about creativity, so I had a lovely breakfast amongst friends which was a perfect start to the day before the usual wine and chocolates later on!

Do you have a work in progress just now?

A couple of ideas which both link/carry on in some ways from An Amsterdam Affair.

The Cornwall Affair, an arty/crafty romantic mystery set in and around the Cornish art scene.

Billy’s World Class Bake Off, a contemporary novel aimed at 9-11 year olds and includes Billy’s recipes. At the heart of the story is Billy Braithwaite’s passion for baking, which he first shared with his Portuguese mother, then with his paternal Nan. It recently made it to the final 10 books in the Commonword Diversity Prize.

On the art front, I had a painting short listed for the Holt Festival Art Prize – so looking forward to the private view and meeting Sir John Hurt who will announce the winner.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!

I loved Deborah Moggach’s, Heartbreak Hotel. It’s a rare and clever thing to write this well. It is funny, well-observed, unafraid of tackling difficult issues, but ultimately a feel-good read. Looking forward to seeing the film of her Amsterdam novel, Tulip Fever, which is out soon.

What are you reading just now? (July 2016)

A book of poems, Bird Sister, by the incredibly talented, Norfolk poet, Julia Webb.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This is a quick re-read as I first read The Goldfinch last year and am now reading it to discuss in our village book group. And of course this novel is right up my street with so many art and Amsterdam scenes!

Tell me about your reading habits:  book or kindle, bed or bath, morning or evening?

Mostly I read paperbacks in bed with a cup of tea and chocolate. Perfect end to the day!

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

I have an author/artist Facebook page: Amanda Addison Author Artist

And a Twitter account: @AAhandmadelife

Wesbite: www.amandaaddison.com

And finally, how does the seaside inspire your work?

Barra Lighthouse

Amanda’s beautiful painting of Barra Lighthouse (in Portugal, not the Outer Hebrides!)

The sea has been a longstanding interest, to look at, to swim in, and record. In fact, as an art student, my first (Artists) book was called The Sea. I still have it. It’s a series of six oil paintings plus poems about the sea and bound in coarse blue silk.

Nowadays I both write about and paint seascapes. I work from sketches (en plein air) and memory. I’m not a great fan of working from photographs, as I feel they distort my memory of a place. Sometimes people ask me to do a commission and to paint a picture from a photograph of a landscape or seascape – I always have to decline, as my main interest isn’t in creating a photo-realistic image, but, moreover a painting which has a sense of being in a particular place, at a particular time and in certain weather conditions. I’m a great fan of wild weather! You can see some of my paintings at www.artgalleryonthegreen.com In many ways the settings in An Amsterdam Affair are almost characters in themselves, reflecting the main characters’ changing moods and emotions. Sam, one of the story’s narrators uses a beach hut as her studio. I write about East Anglian big skies, the sea, windswept beaches and flat landscapes both sides of the North Sea.

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1500 Twitter Followers giveaway

To celebrate reaching a milestone of 1500 Twitter followers, I am running a giveaway. (It’s UK only I’m afraid due to postage costs.) What’s the prize I hear you ask? Well it’s the mystery parcel in the picture below. All I will tell you is that it does contain a book and a couple of other small gifts. If you’d like to try to win it, click the Rafflecopter link below to find out all the ways you can enter. The giveaway will run until midnight UK time on Tuesday 23rd August. The winner will be contacted within 24 hours. Good luck everyone!

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Click here to enter the giveaway