The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans | @HarrietEvans @headlinepg @annecater | #blogtour #bookreview #publicationday

Delighted to host a stop on publication day for The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my beautiful review copy.

Author : Harriet Evans
Title : The Garden of Lost and Found
Pages : 480
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : April 18, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and Found days before his sudden death.

Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted ‘The Garden of Lost and Found’, capturing his children on a perfect day, playing in the rambling Eden he and Liddy made for them.

One magical moment. Before it all came tumbling down…

When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale House, she opens the door onto a forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers. For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or, in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness.

Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?

| MY THOUGHTS |

It’s been a while since I read a family saga but I was quickly reminded of why they make such engrossing stories. Especially when they are as brilliantly written as this one. It took just a few pages for me to be swept along and become absolutely captivated.

The Garden of Lost and Found is centred around the Horner family and a painting. Ned Horner used to be quite the well-known artist and “The Garden of Lost and Found” was his masterpiece. It captured his children on a beautiful day, playing in the garden of their beloved home, Nightingale House. But in 1919, a few days before his death, Ned destroys the painting.

Now, Ned’s great-granddaughter Juliet returns to Nightingale House for the first time since her grandmother died. True to form, there are a lot of family secrets to discover but most importantly, there is a mystery to be solved. Because what could possibly have driven Ned to destroy his most famous painting?

The Garden of Lost and Found is full of complex characters, some a bit more flawed and unlikeable than others, yet all incredibly realistic and believable. For most of the novel, I was mostly drawn to the chapters set in the past. I suspect that’s the crime fiction lover in me, who was desperately trying to figure out the answers before Juliet did in the modern day setting. And to be quite fair, her children drove me up the wall. Yet it also brought home how different things were generations back when the kind of behaviour they display wouldn’t have been tolerated for a second.

Despite having had The Wildflowers on my shelf for the longest time, this was my first introduction to Harriet Evans. I really enjoyed her writing style as it’s beautifully descriptive. At times it felt as if I was right there at Nightingale House, hearing the rain patter on the windows, smelling the glorious scents from the garden, maybe even hear a mouse skitter across the floorboards.

At almost 500 pages, this isn’t exactly a quick read but at no point did it drag or become boring. It never felt like a long book as I became completely immersed and invested in these characters’ lives, losing myself within the pages. The Garden of Lost and Found is an engrossing, enchanting and sometimes emotional story about family, love and secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these characters and I will definitely be reading more by Harriet Evans.

The Garden of Lost and Found is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Harriet Evans is the author, Going Home, A Hopeless Romantic, The Love of Her Life, I Remember You, Love Always, Happily Ever After and Not Without You. Before becoming a full time writer Harriet was a successful editor for a London publishing house. She lives in London with her family.

The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis @EmilyGunnis @headlinepg @annecater #blogtour #RandomThingsTours

Delighted to host a stop on the blog tour for The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis today! My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my review copy.

39345100

Author : Emily Gunnis
Title : The Girl in the Letter
Pages : 384
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : August 1, 2018

aboutthebook

In the winter of 1956 pregnant young Ivy is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a home for unmarried mothers in the south of England, run by nuns, to have her child. Her baby daughter is adopted. Ivy will never leave.

Sixty years later, journalist Samantha stumbles upon a series of letters from Ivy to her lover, pleading with him to rescue her from St Margaret’s before it is too late. As Sam pieces together Ivy’s tragic story, terrible secrets about St Margaret’s dark past begin to emerge. What happened to Ivy, to her baby, and to the hundreds of children born in the home? What links a number of mysterious, sudden deaths in the area? And why are those who once worked at St Margaret’s so keen that the truth should never be told? As Sam unpicks the sinister web of lies surrounding St Margaret’s, she also looks deep within – to confront some unwelcome truths of her own…

mythoughts

Wow! The Girl in the Letter has left me rather speechless and let me tell you that doesn’t happen very often. I feel quite lost for words and slightly incapable of forming any kind of coherent sentence, nor do I have a clue as to how to do this novel justice.

In her debut novel, Emily Gunnis tackles one of the most disturbing topics in history. That of the mother and baby homes, where single expecting mothers were sent to give birth away from the disapproving eyes of relatives and neighbours. They were often forced to give their babies up for adoption with no hope of ever seeing them again.

The story starts in 1956 when young Ivy is sent to St. Margaret’s. Abandoned by her family and the boy who got her pregnant, the circumstances in which she finds herself are utterly devastating.  Sixty years later, reporter Samantha stumbles upon letters written by Ivy while at the mother and baby home. Samantha senses there’s a story here that needs to be told. What happened to Ivy? Where is Ivy’s baby? What secrets and lies hide behind the walls of the home?

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot. Yes, there are a few mysteries to be solved and questions to be answered but to be honest, they all kind of melted into the background for me. This was all so realistic and believable, as history has proven it to be, that it near had me in bits. Ivy’s letters are immensely harrowing and the events she describes are incredibly disturbing. I can’t even begin to imagine the hardship of daily life at the home, the loss of a child. Not just at the home but also in later life. It’s devastating to realise that so many people got away with these atrocities.

The Girl in the Letter is a thought-provoking, moving and utterly heartbreaking novel that nearly had me in tears. It made me sad, it made me angry and it’s a novel I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. I’m not entirely sure I’ve managed to get across the impact this novel had on me but I do so hope I’ve said enough to make you want to pick this one up. This is an absolutely incredible debut novel by Emily Gunnis and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

The Girl in the Letter is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

I’ve wanted to be an author since my mum, Penny Vincenzi, got her first book deal when I was 13. We’d spend hours walking and talking about the worlds her characters inhabited and unpicking any plot dead ends she’d found herself in. I absolutely loved it – this is what I wanted to do!

Fast forward 30 years and I’ve discovered it’s a great deal harder than my mother made it look! But still, here I am.

After graduating I wrote scripts and had two episodes of BBC Doctors commissioned but didn’t like all the input from Script Editors and Producers. So, while I worked in various PA jobs I decided to go for it and just kept learning as much as I could until I sold my debut novel, The Girl in the Letter, which is published on eBook on 1st August 2018 and paperback in April 2019. I really hope you enjoy it, and my follow-up novel which I’m busy researching now!

I live in Sussex with my husband Steve and our two beautiful girls, Grace and Eleanor.

Author links : Facebook | Twitter

page-divide_12_orig

08072018_girlletter

 

The Island Villa by Lily Graham @lilygrahambooks @bookouture #blogblitz

It’s such a pleasure to host a stop on the blog blitz for The Island Villa by Lily Graham today! My thanks to Kim Nash at Bookouture for the invitation to join and for the review copy, which I received via Netgalley.

39712117

Author : Lily Graham
Title : The Island Villa
Pages : 285
Publisher : Bookouture
Publication date : June 29, 2018

aboutthebook

When Charlotte’s husband James tragically dies, he leaves her an unexpected gift – her grandmother’s beautiful villa, Marisal, on the Spanish island of Formentera.

As she begins to explore her new home, and heal her broken heart in the warm golden sunshine, Charlotte discovers that her grandmother Alba has been keeping secrets about her life on the island. Intrigued by her family’s hidden history, Charlotte uncovers a devastating love affair that put many lives at risk and two sisters torn apart by loss.

Can the heartbreaking truth of the island’s dark history finally be laid to rest? Or will the secrets of the past shake the new life and love that Charlotte is close to finding?

mythoughts

Widowed at the young age of forty-five, Charlotte would like nothing else but to hide under her duvet and sleep the days away. But her husband has left her a surprise in the form of a villa on the Spanish Island of Formentera that used to belong to Charlotte’s grandmother. Arriving on the island, Charlotte soon discovers her grandmother has kept a large part of her life secret.

I do so adore a dual timeline in an historical fiction story and this one is done brilliantly. Parts of the story are set in the present day with Charlotte trying to put the pieces of her shattered life together, while discovering things about her family she never knew. Other parts of the story are set in the late 1700’s. These are centred around two sisters, Cesca and Esperanza. Sometimes I find myself being more engrossed by one of the timelines but in this case, both held my attention throughout.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot but it deals with a part of history I knew nothing about and the author does a fabulous job of combining fact and fiction, turning it into a moving, evocative and thought-provoking story. Combine that with tales of the hardship that is island life, the struggles the sisters faced back in the day and Charlotte trying to find her feet after such a devastating loss and I soon found myself completely engrossed.

With vivid descriptions, the island of Formentara soon captured my heart, as did the characters. Charlotte is most definitely someone to sympathise with and root for and the characters she meets on the island are equally likeable in their own ways. This is a truly wonderfully immersive and enchanting story about family, love, loss and secrets and its idyllic setting makes this the perfect summer read.

The Island Villa is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Lily grew up in dusty Johannesburg, which gave her a longing for the sea that has never quite gone away; so much so that sometimes she’ll find sand grouting the teaspoons, and an ocean in a teacup. She lives now in the English countryside with her husband and her sweet, slobbering bulldog Fudge, and brings her love for the sea and country-living to her fiction.

Author link : Twitter

page-divide_12_orig

07022018_islandvilla

The Photograph by Debbie Rix @bookouture #blogblitz #extract

It’s a pleasure to welcome you all on the final day of the blog blitz for The Photograph by Debbie Rix! My thanks to Kim Nash for the opportunity to join and for providing the extract I’ll be sharing with you all today. First, here is what The Photograph is all about.

39944618

Author : Debbie Rix
Title : The Photograph
Pages : n/a
Publisher : Bookouture
Publication date : June 27, 2018

aboutthebook

Italy, 1958: Rachael is a young widow with a small child. After a lifetime of running for survival, of not knowing who to trust and where to call home, she finds herself in a place of safety. On a sun-drenched Italian island for one carefree summer the troubles of her past fade away and she falls in love. But will Rachael’s new-found happiness bring her further heartache?

England, 2017: Sophie has a handsome husband, a gorgeous house in the English countryside and a successful career as an anthropologist. But the one thing she longs for is a baby of her own. As she struggles to conceive, cracks begin to appear in her marriage. So Sophie throws herself into her work and tries to seek comfort in childhood memories of her beloved grandmother Rachael.

One afternoon, Sophie finds a forgotten letter and an exquisite silk bracelet hidden in Rachael’s old writing desk. Intrigued, she begins to unravel the extraordinary story of her grandmother’s past – and a secret that has the power to change everything…

extract

PROLOGUE

The crowds in the town swirled and moved and, for a moment, a path opened up between her and Tommaso. He looked up momentarily from his card hand. There was a flash of recognition as he caught sight of her. He stood up, saying something to his friend. She smiled fleetingly at him, and then was gone. Back into her car, reversing down the little road and onto the ring road around the town, heading for the causeway back to Cagliari, onto the ferry to Rome, then back to London – and to everything that was most dear.

CHAPTER ONE

Herne Hill, London
March 2016

Sophie closed the door to the little box room as quietly as possible, anxious not to alert her husband, Hamish, who was sleeping in their bedroom across the landing. The box room was filled with dusty packing cases from their last house move five years earlier, and it aggravated her. She wanted the room cleared out, but Hamish refused to help. This niggling disagreement had been going on for several months and was part of a much bigger struggle, a complex combination of simmering tension that festered between husband and wife.

Sophie went downstairs to the kitchen, put the kettle on the range and pottered about, clearing up from the night before. Friends had come for dinner and the sink was still filled with the roasting pans that had been left soaking overnight. They’d had a nice enough evening – sharing jokes, discussing politics and work gossip – but lurking beneath the surface were layers of unspoken resentments between Sophie and Hamish that intermittently bubbled to the surface.

Later in the evening, Sophie had filled the sink with hot water and began to wash up the serving dishes. Hamish, fuzzy with red wine and brandy, had stood behind her, his arms wrapped round her waist, nuzzling her neck.
‘Don’t,’ she’d said. ‘Help me with this.’
Hamish, hurt at this rejection, had sloped off to bed.
When Sophie had finally followed him upstairs, they’d argued, before climbing into opposite sides of the bed, both bristling with indignation.

As she washed and dried the pans the following morning, putting them away in the bottom of the dresser, Sophie thought about Hamish; about the way his back had been turned away from her the night before. She still felt a glimmer of resentment at his refusal to help, but nevertheless made two cups of tea – a small conciliatory gesture – and took them upstairs. Hamish was sitting up in bed checking emails on his phone when she came in.

‘Morning,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry about last night. I should have been more helpful.’
‘Yes… well. The washing-up’s all done now.’ She put his mug of tea on the bedside table.
‘Thanks…’ He looked up at her expectantly from beneath his sandy lashes. ‘I was just tired,’ he explained.

She studied him for a moment with her dark grey-green eyes before wandering over to the chest of drawers and picking up her hairbrush.
‘But that’s no excuse, is it?’ He paused, waiting for her to reply but she seemed intent on vigorously brushing her long dark hair.
‘I’m just worried about applying for the new job,’ he continued, by way of explanation. ‘You know how important it is to me.’
‘I do understand, Hamish,’ she said, impassively, turning to look at him, ‘but I really can’t talk about that now. I’ve got to get off to work.’
‘Can we talk later then?’ He sipped his tea, admiring the way her loose silk kimono slipped off her shoulder; her dark hair trailing in gleaming tresses down her back. ‘Sophie…?’

She didn’t reply, but twisted her hair into an instant chignon that she fixed, expertly, with a pair of combs, and selected a black skirt from her wardrobe.
‘Why don’t you come back to bed?’ he asked.
‘No, I can’t this morning, sorry,’ she said from the other side of the room, ‘I’ve got a meeting with my PhD supervisor this morning – I’ve really got to get going.’
Dressed in the black skirt and a pale blue sweater, she shoved her notes into her bag, leant over the bed and kissed him, fleetingly, on the cheek – the kiss you give a distant relative, not the kiss of a wife for her husband.
‘Shouldn’t you be off too?’ she asked, checking her reflection in the mirror.
‘I’ve got a slightly later start,’ he said.
‘Time to sort the box room out, then,’ she cajoled, slinging her bag over her shoulder.
‘Not that again? Can’t you just leave it?’
‘Fine, fine…’ she answered, impatiently, picking up her leather jacket from the chair. ‘See you later.’

Sophie was thirty-three, and had been married to Hamish for eight years. They met at a friend’s wedding and it had been love at first sight – at least that’s how they both remembered it, how they described it to new friends and acquaintances. Sophie was an anthropologist, studying for a PhD at London University, exploring various aspects of Roman burial. Hamish was a registrar at King’s College Hospital in south London. They lived in a small terraced house in Herne Hill, South London. Sophie had been brought up in Hampstead and had never really got used to living south of the river. But it was convenient for Hamish’s job, and as his hours were more demanding than hers, with weekends on call and frequent late nights, they moved there to suit him.

After nearly four years in the same job, Hamish was on the lookout for a consultant’s post. As they prepared dinner for their guests the night before, he and Sophie had squabbled about a job that had recently been advertised in Cheltenham. Hamish was keen to apply, but Sophie was concerned about moving so far out of London.
‘How will I complete my PhD from Cheltenham,’ she had asked him, as they waited for their guests to arrive. ‘I have to be in London at least two or three times a week. I have to meet with my supervisor, I have lectures to give – students who need me. Have you thought about that?’
‘Honestly? No,’ he’d replied. ‘But this is not about you, Sophie; it’s about me and our future…’

As she walked down the road towards the station, she smarted with renewed irritation about his assumption that she would just abandon her PhD to suit him. She was annoyed too about the box room. He simply refused to help her clear it out. Why had it become such a battleground? It wasn’t that the room really needed clearing. There was no pressing deadline, like a visiting relative, or urgent need for a spare room. But Sophie wanted it cleared; she wanted it to be prepared – cleaned and decorated. She wanted it to be waiting for a time that she hoped would be coming soon, if she could only get pregnant…

If she could just have a baby, she might be more willing to abandon her PhD, move to Gloucestershire and be a consultant’s wife. In many ways, it was exactly what she wanted. But the sheer wretchedness of her inability to conceive made her stubborn. The box room, filled with her husband’s notes from his student days and the discarded detritus from their previous lives, was a physical manifestation of their impasse. She wanted a baby; her body refused to cooperate. She wanted the room empty for the baby; her husband refused to cooperate. He wanted to move out of London; she refused to cooperate.

As Sophie stood on the platform at Herne Hill station, a cool breeze blew in across the tracks. The station was dirty and, she had to admit, rather depressing. When her train came in, it was packed as usual, and she stood all the way to London, wedged between a man with appalling body odour and a young woman who spoke loudly into her mobile phone for the entire journey. At Blackfriars station, she took the tube to Tottenham Court Road. From there she walked the final leg of the journey to the British Museum, where one of her supervisors was based. She loved the route – the buildings in that part of London were architecturally all of a piece. Nearing the museum itself, walking past the tourists gathering in eager gaggles, she always got a rush of excitement as she crossed the threshold and entered the vast atrium. This stunning centre of learning – of research, of knowledge – was her playground. She believed, on days like today, that she had the best job in the world.

She took the lift to the first floor where the anthropological library and research centre was based. With ten minutes to spare before her meeting with her supervisor, she wandered into a gallery exhibiting Roman and Greek vessels – intricately designed pots and bowls made of verdigris bronze, and pottery painted with decorative scenes. The idea that something so delicate could survive intact for over two thousand years never failed to impress Sophie. A particular favourite was the Portland Vase. Made early in the first century, this Roman hand-blown dark glass vase was decorated in exquisite detail with a white cameo design of languorous men and women, relaxing by the sea. Discovered in Italy in the seventeenth century, it had been transported from Naples to England, where the Duke of Portland had lent it to Josiah Wedgewood, who created an entire industry based on its stunning designs.

The vase was thought to have been a wedding gift, and as such was a remarkable example of first century workmanship. Any items from this period were of interest to Sophie – not just because they were beautiful but also from a professional perspective. The title of her PhD was The Rituals and rites associated with burial sites of Ancient Rome, with a particular focus on Pagan, Jewish and Christian traditions in 1st and 2nd century AD. It was a subject that had long interested her. Her great-grandfather, George Laszlo, had been an expert on classical archaeology and had also worked at London University. Sophie was proud of this link with her august antecedent. When she walked into the college buildings, she often thought of her great-grandfather striding up the same steps fifty years earlier. After studying for an MA, she too had taught at the university, and two or three times a year took groups of students to work on archaeological digs around the Mediterranean. Her work was challenging and fulfilling, but time spent away from home for long periods put inevitable stresses on her marriage and disrupted her attempts at getting pregnant. To be abroad on a dig at the precise moment she was ovulating was frustrating to say the least. And, at first, that was how she reconciled her inability to conceive.

As she sat outside her supervisor’s office, she recalled the first time she and Hamish had discussed starting a family. They had just moved into the house in Herne Hill; it was in a state of disrepair and they spent every weekend stripping old woodchip from the walls.
‘Do you want children, Hamish?’ she’d asked, as she coated the wallpaper with water.
‘What… now?’ he had asked, laughing, holding up his hands covered in glue and bits of paper.
‘No… not now,’ she’d laughed, ‘but, you know… some time.’
‘Sure – I’d love kids. But it’s your call, Sophie. Whatever you want really.’

This was not the ringing endorsement she had hoped for. When she had imagined this moment, she had fantasised that he would sweep her up in his arms and declare himself excited at the prospect of fatherhood – like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. Sophie loved the film, especially the scene when Mary tells George she is pregnant. Stewart’s face goes through the full gamut of emotions, from disbelief, to joy and excitement. There was no doubting George’s elation at the prospect of becoming a father. By contrast, Hamish had been about as far from ‘elated’ as it was possible to be. On reflection, it was the perfect response and she realised that he was probably anxious not to put too much pressure on her. He was telling her that whatever happened, he would be happy. If they had a child, then great; if not, then that would be fine too. But, of course, what it meant was that she carried the burden – the desire for a child, the desperation, as each period came and went with lunar regularity – totally alone.

page-divide_12_orig

If this extract has left you wanting more, why not go ahead and grab yourself a copy!

The Photograph is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Debbie spends a lot of time in Italy and the setting of the novels reflects her knowledge and passion for the country. She lives in the Kent countryside with her journalist husband, children, sheep, chickens and cats. When not writing, she is usually to be found in the vegetable garden. She began her career with the BBC- initially as the news reader on Breakfast Time, thereafter appearing as a presenter and reporter on a variety of factual and light entertainment television series. She had a spell as an Agony Aunt, and has also written about gardens and gardening – one of her private passions.

Author links : Facebook | Twitter | Website

page-divide_12_orig

07012018_photograph