If any of you offer to read to review you should follow through, but if the book is not the right fit for you, then tell the author. I have been sent a few which I started and then realised were not my preference. I always worry that telling the truth will result in an aggressive response. However, so far most writers/ publishers have been great. They prefer you to leave the book and not review.
This is what I do. I only review books I finish and enjoy. What is the point of getting a free book and then ripping it apart?
So... moving on to DANGER AT THATCHAM HALL by Frances Evesham
I was lucky enough to be contacted by the author, and given a copy of this book for review. I really enjoyed it and got immersed in this Victorian world, with a strange death setting the scene for the brief encounter between the two main characters, Nelson and Olivia.
I have been a huge fan of crime fiction in the past (I have a lot of Agatha Christie books!) and had not read a book like it in a long time. Overall, I thought it was a fantastic read. Extremely well-written, with well thought-out characters, and an intriguing plot.
Since I am currently working on a historical novel set in the Victorian era, and have a love of Austen and Bronte, I followed the historic setting and understood the problems that resulted from Officers bad decisions. Even though hard to imagine, history has taught us that those in charge are not always the most knowledgeable!
Even though not mentioned, the Charge of the Light Brigade is a classic film written about the blunders that resulted in the Crimea because of Officers who had no knowledge of battle, made hasty decisions, or for costly mistakes resulting from a lack of communication. (There were no mobile phones you could use with which to abort a mission if it was obvious it would go sour!)
I mention this because his character is important, and the attraction with Olivia is almost blighted by his own misgivings.
Olivia is a strong and intelligent young lady who is a keen musician, but living in a man's world believes she can do no better than get a job as a governess. In those days, a woman's choices were limited! I loved the way her curiousity and better judgement came through in the end!
I would highly recommend this book to readers of crime and Victorian historical novels. Even though their relationship is of interest, I would not call this book a romance novel, but would suggest that if you like some hints of romance and a feel-good ending this is the book for you.
It certainly worked for me!
Nelson Roberts, an ambitious new lawyer in Victorian England, trusts no one. Embittered and wounded in the First Afghan War, jilted by his fiancée, he trusts no one, but jumps at the chance to make a name for himself at Thatcham Hall, convinced he’ll soon solve the riddle of mysterious thefts and violence.
Olivia Martin, headstrong and talented, dreams of a career as a musician. She’ll do anything it takes to avoid a looming miserable fate as a governess.
The pair stumble on a body. Is the farmhand’s death a simple accident, or something more sinister?
Who attacked the livestock at the Hall and why are the villagers so reluctant to talk? Can Nelson and Olivia overcome their differences and join forces to unravel the web of evil that imperils the Hall?
"Aghast, Olivia slid to a halt, half-lying in the stream. Water seeped into both boots, chilling skin, bone and muscle. Her woollen skirt mushroomed, the dress absorbing moisture until damp fabric outlined every curve of her body.
The stranger watched, eyes widening. Oh! He was staring at her—at her—no, Olivia could hardly even think the words. He could see her—her shape. Shame drove out the chill, reddening her chest, and heightening the dreadful humiliation. Oh, if only the earth would open and swallow her whole! She gulped, strove for words, but none came.
Wait. The stranger wasn’t watching her at all.
His gaze travelled further, coming to rest beyond Olivia. He stared, the knowing smile fading, and Olivia’s insides turned to horrified pulp. What could he see? Something terrible? Slowly, heart hammering inside a tight chest, she twisted, awkward in the flow of water, to peer over one shoulder.
A brown boot, heavy and cracked with wear, wavered in the stream, barely an inch from Olivia’s fingers. She gasped. A swollen leg bulged from the battered leather, the pale stretch of waxen flesh exposed through torn brown trousers. Olivia snatched back her hand, biting the knuckles to stifle a scream.
The man’s body lay on its back, head half-submerged, as the current stroked wisps of black hair across a pale cheek."
In my opinion, the discovery of this body sets the scene for the investigation that brings both Nelson and Olivia together to solve mysterious crimes that have been happening in the village.
Frances Evesham can’t believe her luck, spending her days writing and collecting grandsons, Victorian trivia and stories of ancestors.
She’s fascinated by the Victorians, especially the women in England, so complex and human, hiding longings, ambitions and repressed passions under society’s stifling conventions.
Cooking with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other, Frances devours books full of mystery, murder and adventure, their pages spattered with olive oil and scented with rosemary and garlic, their spines propped up on piles of lemons and oranges in the kitchen. Writing the Thatcham Hall Mysteries leaves just enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns, and wish she’d kept on with those piano lessons.