[Book Review] Blog Blitz: THE GIRL FROM THE SUGAR PLANTATION by Sharon Maas

As a lover of Historical Fiction, I was understandably very much intrigued when Bookouture approached me with an invitation to participate in an upcoming Blog Tour for Sharon Maas‘s latest novel The Girl From The Sugar Plantation.….

DETAILS

TITLE: The Girl From The Sugar Plantation

AUTHOR: Sharon Maas

GENRE: Historical Fiction

PUBLISHED BY: Bookouture

PUBLICATION DATE: 19 October 2017

EDITION: E-Book

ISBN: 9781786812957

PRICE: £1.99

Currently available to purchase as an e-book from Amazon UK & details can also be found at Amazon US.

An unputdownable story about a woman in search of the truth, the man she falls in love with, and the devastation of the Second World War.

1934, Georgetown.

All her life, Mary Grace has wanted to know the truth about who her parents really are. As the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners, her childhood has been clouded by whispered rumours, and the circumstances of her birth have been kept a closely guarded secret…

Aunt Winnie is the only person Mary Grace can confide in. Feeling lost and lonely, her place in society uncertain, Mary Grace decides to forge her own path in the world. And she finds herself unexpectedly falling for charming and affluent Jock Campbell, a planter with revolutionary ideas.

But, with the onset of the Second World War, their lives will be changed forever. And Mary Grace and Jock will be faced with the hardest decision of all – to fight for freedom or to follow their hearts…

THOUGHTS

When we first meet 16 year-old Mary Grace amidst the sugarcanes of her ancestral plantation, the juxtaposition between her family’s social standing and her perceived lower class personal standing due to her mixed race heritage is clear. On the one hand, she has been brought up as a young lady of the English upper classes; but destined to never be accepted by her peers she is unsure of her place in the world.

At times, her behaviour seems spoiled & brattish, as she pouts & wheedles to ensure her mother capitulates to her every whim; but in reality I think the strained relationship with her mother combined with the constant bombardment of racist treatment has left her having no option but to construct this veneer.

Young and naive as she is, Mary Grace is a likeable character, who ultimately aspires for a better fairer life for those around her as well as herself.

As we learn more about the difficulties of being both a young woman and of mixed race in 1930s British Guyana, it is all too clear that Mary Grace is going to have to struggle to find a place where she feels that she ‘fits’.

The author’s passion for both place and time is made obvious by the way her well-researched factual findings are seamlessly woven into the fabric of this thought-provoking, tale evocative of the era.

Whilst this particular book can be read as a stand-alone novel, it is in fact the third offering in Maas’s The Quint Chronicles trilogy and having enjoyed The Girl From The Sugar Plantation, I fully intend to read both The Secret Life of Winnie Cox and The Sugar Planter’s Daughter to find out more of the family’s backstory, as well as reading ahead into the future with The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q.

RATINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Maas presents a tale as perfectly woven as the fluid green silk of Mary Grace’s concert debut gown, her descriptive prose brings the landscape and feelings of the era to life and the story is as full and rich as that skirt.

I rate this touching and enthralling tale 4 out of 5 sugar-encrusted stars.

An utterly compelling and evocative story about the heart-breaking choices men and women had to make during a time of unimaginable change. Perfect for fans of The Secret Wife and Island of Secrets, lovers of Historical Fiction, and those interested in the history surrounding the British sugar trade.

THE AUTHOR

Born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, Sharon Maas spent many childhood hours either curled up behind a novel or writing her own adventure stories. Sometimes she had adventures of her own, and found fifteen minutes of Guyanese fame for salvaging an old horse-drawn coach from a funeral parlor, fixing it up, painting it bright blue, and tearing around Georgetown with all her teenage friends. The coach ended up in a ditch, but thankfully neither teens nor horse were injured.

Boarding school in England tamed her somewhat; but after a few years as a reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown she plunged off to discover South America by the seat of her pants. She ended up in a Colombian jail, and that’s a story for another day…

Sharon has lived in an Ashram in India and as a German Hausfrau–the latter giving her the time and the motivation to finally start writing seriously. Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, was published by HarperCollins, London, in 1999 and reprinted as a digital edition in 2014. After working as a social worker in a German hospital she finally retired and now has time for her favourite pastimes: reading, writing, and travelling.

The Author’s website SharonMaas.com is well worth a visit; being full of all sorts of bookish treats & tidbits and, always eager to hear from readers, Sharon Maas can also be contacted (and followed, if you are interested in keeping up-to-date with upcoming news!) via Facebook and Twitter.

DISCLOSURE

I received a digital copy of The Girl From The Sugar Plantation, from Bookouture via NetGalley and free of charge, for the purpose of supplying an honest review and participating in this blog tour. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

And, also as always, thanks for stopping by!

Hugs,

Crafty xxx

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[Book Review] A PEARL FOR MY MISTRESS by Annabel Fielding

As a bit of a history nerd, I was understandably excited when Annabel contacted me last month enquiring if I would be interested in participating in the upcoming blog tour for her new historical fiction novel; running between the 14th and 28th of September; and today’s the (my) day!

DETAILS

TITLE: A Pearl for my Mistress

AUTHOR: Annabel Fielding

PUBLISHED BY: HQ Digital

GENRE: Historical Fiction

PUBLICATION DATE: 9th August 2017

EDITION: E-book / Kindle

ISBN: 9780008271169

PRICE: £0.99 / $TBC

Currently available from both Amazon UK and Amazon US .

THE STORY

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…

THOUGHTS

Both Hester and Lucy are inherently likeable characters, any flaws or failures being a byproduct of their respective upbringings or situations.

The author’s choice of lengthy descriptive prose is evocative of the era, indeed there is one particular part early on in the book when the two young women are discussing Lucy’s writing which to my mind sums it up rather nicely;

“My sentences used to take at least five lines each. Otherwise I felt I didn’t do justice to the heroine’s complexion or the fragrance of the garden”.

I feel that the physical attraction between the two was somewhat inevitable, given the somewhat forced closeness between them during their time in the isolated Hebden Hall; Lady Lucy’s foreboding ancestral home; and the romanticed notions they each have of the others life.

At times, I found myself getting somewhat frustrated by the unthinking ways and poor choices that led Hester (and at times Lucy) into difficult situations.

As always I am ever-mindful of not giving away too much of the story in my review, so rather than tell you my take on this wonderfully poignant tale, I’d rather concentrate on the vividly described world that Hester finds herself plunged in. At a time when the upper classes were still trying to cling to all their traditions and rules of proprietary as the world marched on to more modern ways of thinking, Hester could still experience what she saw as the wonder of a different way of life; although ultimately realizes that for all the luxuries afforded to the upper-class they are as much trapped by their situation as those of the working class.

Through her detailed and well-researched writing, Annabel Fielding immerses the reader in the world of 1930s society through her wonderfully evocative descriptions. Sometimes, this level of description and background information does cause the pace of the story to slow; but this makes for a languorous unfolding of the story which somehow feels in-keeping with the era.

RATING & RECOMMENDATIONS

As a lover of historical fiction, I enjoyed this richly woven tale. Whilst the story was somewhat of a slow burner, I felt this added to it’s charm.

I rate this evocative and eminently readable tale of 1930s society 4 out of 5 stars.

I recommend A Pearl for my Mistress to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a touch of romance, and fans of Downtown Abbey or similar.

MEET THE AUTHOR

You can find out more about Novelist, History Geek and International Woman of Mystery Annabel over on her blog History Geek in Town ; where she shares her love of travel, books and tea through her reviews of (mostly) historical fiction and her stunningly photographed travel posts.

Alternatively, you can also follow her, @DearestAnnabel, on Twitter.

DISCLOSURE

I received a copy of this book from the author, via NetGalley & free of charge, in order to read, review and join in with this blog tour. All thoughts are my honest opinions.

Do you enjoy Historical Fiction? Do you have a preferred era?

Hopefully, this review may have piqued your interest!

Thanks for stopping by,

Hugs,

Crafty xxx

I would also like to thank the lovely Annabel for inviting me to read her book, and participate in the blog tour.

[Book Review] ‘The Women of the Castle’ by Jessica Shattuck

TITLE: The Women of the Castle
AUTHOR: Jessica Shattuck

GENRE: Historical Fiction

PUBLISHED BY: Bonnier Zaffre

PUBLICATION DATE: 18 May 2017

ISBN: 9781785762710

PRICE: £12.99

The Book

The Women of the Castle tells the tale of three women, and not only how they cope with both the loss, trials & tribulations of war but also how to survive in the aftermath.

The story begins with aristocratic German Marianne von Lingenfels helping host a party at Burg Lingenfels, her aunt-in-laws family seat. The castle has no electricity or running water as it is not inhabited.

It is November 1938, and the Lingenfels and their friends are nervous about Hitler and his Nazis. They know war is coming and the men hatch a plan to assassinate Hitler. Marianne is more interested in politics and literature than ‘ladylike’ pursuits such as sewing or cooking and fashion, and so she is party to these discussions. During the course of the evening, Connie, her childhood friend dubs her The commander of wives and children, entrusting her with a list of those close to all those involved in the plot. At first Marianne feels somewhat belittled by this, but in time she begins to realize that she is serving an important role by locating and assisting the survivors.

Towards the end of the war, Connie’s wife Benita and their son Martin become the first of her flock, followed by the Polish Ania and her sons. These three become The Women of the Castle as they set up home together in what remains of the old family castle.

Repeatedly raped, Benita is a broken shell of her sunny & beautiful former self. The capable Ania has secrets, and together the three women make the best of what little they have.

After the war is over, the women still have both their present and their pasts to deal with, if they have any hope of surviving the future.

Truths are ultimately uncovered, and friendships are changed forever.

For seven years, Jessica Shattuck conducted research specific to the book and research into her personal family history, combining aspects of both to weave an intricate & truthful tale which is observant & believable.

The Women of the Castle is a touching and compelling read.

Thoughts

“In war, they made impossible choices. Now, they must live with them.” Or so reads a tagline on the cover. To my mind, in times & situations such as those, rather than make choices people simply do what they have to in order to survive; very often there IS no other choices. 

The cover image itself is hauntingly atmospheric, and i like the way the women, whilst seemingly so small in comparison to the towering castle (an analogy for ‘the establishment’?), appear strong and solid against the softer muted look of the architecture. 

Ratings and Recommendations

The Women of the Castle is both thoughtprovoking and insightful, and I don’t hesitate to award it a 5 out of 5 stars rating.

I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Historical Fiction, in particular the World War Two era, and/or Womens’ History; or those who enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, The Reader and The Light Between Oceans.

The Author

Jessica Shattuck lives in Massachusetts with her husband and 3 children.

You can find out more at jessicashattuck.com or connect with her via  Facebook or Twitter.

A Strange Coincidence

Near the beginning of the book, Marianne travels across the country in an effort to retrieve Martin, the son of her childhood friend Connie and his wife Benita, from the Children’s Home where he had been interred after his father had been executed and whilst his mother was held elsewhere.

He was looked after by the elderly Frau Vortmuller, best described as Matron of the home. He later recalls her fondly as she treated her young charges with kindness.

We are told of the Mutterkreuz, or Mother’s Cross; a pinned badge or medal awarded to German women who had borne & raised at least 4 children in a manner befitting the ideals of the government of the time; which she wears with pride.

Whilst I have previous knowledge of this item, I had never seen one, nor indeed was I absolutely certain what it looked like, as I had up until now only read or heard descriptions of these blue and white crosses with a gold star.
Imagine my surprise when, the very next morning after reading this passage, I stumbled upon one whilst browsing the upcoming lots in our local auction house.

It was a somewhat chilling discovery.

 

Do you enjoy historical fiction? I especially enjoy works (such as this) where you get the impression the author is knowledgeable about the time period they have set their writing in.  

Do you have a particular time period you favour when it comes to historical fiction?

Any recommendations?

As always, thanks for reading!

Hugs, Crafty xxx

 

 

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book; from the publisher, via Readers First; in exchange for an honest review.