Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: historical-fiction-series
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-06-27 10:20
'Naughty In Nice - Her Royal Spyness #5' by Rhys Bowen
Naughty in Nice - Rhys Bowen,Katherine Kellgren

'Naughty In Nice' sees Georgie on another covert mission for the Queen, this time retrieving a small piece of art that no one wants to admit was lifted by a guest at Buckingham Palace. The mission takes Georgie to winter on the Riveria, where England's wealthiest escape the English weather and the dreariness of a country going through an economic depression, to party and gamble and do things that would be frowned upon if done back home in England.


While she's in Nice, Georgie becomes a model for Coco Chanel, is courted by a French Baron, is almost raped by an English industrialist, loses a stunningly expensive necklace belonging to the queen, finally gets to experience her mother's hospitality, gets arrested for murder and becomes a target for the real killer.


The book is full of colour and action. The plot turns out to be more complicated than it seems. Georgie is centre stage throughout but we see less than usual of her ensemble cast, although they all make an appearance. 


I liked the way Rhys Bowen displayed the extravagance of the wealthy against a back-drop of general poverty. The book opens with Georgie working in a soup kitchen in Victoria station, watching the rich walk by to catch the Boat Train as they head for sunshine and ease. This puts Georgie's first-class on Le Train Bleu from Paris to Nice into context. The rich come across as superficial, self-absorbed, unpleasant and completely unaware of the enmity that their behave produces in the people who service their lifestyle. 


The attempted rape, which takes place on a yacht, is described in a way that makes it clear that the would-be rapist, who would describe what he's doing as seduction, not rape, abuses a lot of women and takes his right to do this for granted. Georgie, once she understands the man's intentions, defends herself. I liked that the man's behaviour wasn't normalised and the Georgie didn't just brush it off. 


This was a sort of 'Winter Sun Vacation' episode in the series. It was fun but it also made aware of how much I dislike the people Georgie associates with. Le Train Bleu is gone and the Riviera is no longer the destination of choice but the rich are still with us and their behaviour hasn't changed.


As usual, my enjoyment of the story was enhanced by Katherine Kellgren's excellent narration. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2020-06-16 16:44
Reading progress update: I've read 4%. - already ditched the audiobook version
The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This is off to a spectacularly gothic start. Who among us wouldn't have liked to have been taken, at the age of ten, to a secret library in a ruined castle, especially when it's called 'The Cemetry Of Forgotten Books' and you're not allowed to tell anyone about it?


Unfortunately, the narrator of the audiobook, Daniell Philpott, seemed determined to such the life out of the book. He was slow, deaf to the rhythm of the prose and altogether too English for this book. I had wondered why a book of 500 pages was going to take 17 hours and 33 minutes to listen to - that's 90 minutes more that I expected and my guess is that much of it is accounted for by the narrator's pace and inappropriate hesitations.


So, I've claimed my refund for the audiobook and then got a version from Kindle for £0.99 (how does the author or the publisher make any money from that?)



Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2020-05-28 10:43
Reading progress update: I've listened 72 out of 552 minutes. - Le Train Bleu
Naughty in Nice - Rhys Bowen,Katherine Kellgren

This is my sixth 'Her Royal Spyness' novel (I know, this is the fifth in the series but I started out of sequence with 'The Twelve Clues Of Christmas' the sixth book in the series and I'm only now catching up). They've become a comfort read for me. Before Lockdown, I listened to them on long car journeys. I'm listening to this one while I sit idly in the garden (again) and try to remember what day it is.


The thing to love or hate about this series is that it's always the same cast of characters and the same sources of humour in each book. All that changes is the location and the task that Georgie has to accomplish. I'm just finishing the set-up part of the book and soon Georgie will be leaving the miserable London winter behind and travelling to Nice on the French Riviera.


Part of the charm of the series is seeing how this was done in 1931 when the elite travelled by boat train from Victoria and then by The Blue Train, an overnight luxury express train direct from Calais to Nice. 



Everything is different now, in this time of private jets. The boat train from Victoria Station stopped in 1980. I took it once in the Seventies as part of a school trip. It was battered and basic by that time but I still enjoyed it. All that's left of the old tradition now is the magnificent Le Train Bleu restaurant in the Garé du Nord in Paris, which is now a national monument. If you ever get to travel by Eurostar from London to Paris (which these days takes just over two hours) it's worth taking the time to look at this place.



I've only been to Nice on business on the way to a tech conference in Cannes (in the winter of course) and my luxurious travel was a seat on EasyJet, an economy airline that favours a bright orange livery and tiny seats, earning it the nickname SqueazyJet.


So I'm looking forward to seeing how these things were done by the wealthy in the thirties, while most people were struggling to feed themselves.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-05-27 15:24
'A Quiet Life In The Country - Lady Hardcastle #1' by T E Kinsey
A Quiet Life In The Country - T E Kinsey,Elizabeth Knowelden

My wife had already read 'A Quiet Life In The Country' by T E Kinsey and immediately moved on to 'In The Market For Murder', the second Lady Hardcastle book, so I knew I was in for a good time with this period-piece cosy mystery.


Set in 1908, the book centres around the unique relationship between the redoubtable Lady Hardcastle, an eccentric widow with a mysterious past and Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidant, who is an expert in martial arts.


The two are seeking a quiet life in the country which, thankfully two events quickly thwart this ambition; they discover a dead body in the woods and one of the local gentry asks for their help in recovering a lost valuable.


For me, it was the perfect light read. It made me smile almost constantly and occasionally laugh out loud. As my wife had already read it, I kept finding myself turning to her and saying, 'I've just reached the part where Florence...' and we'd laugh about it because it was simply too good not to share.


Told from the point of view of Florence Armstrong, ladies maid to Lady Hardcastle it is full of nuanced wit, much of it around the rules governing the relationship between gentry and the rest of us. The relationship between Florence and Lady Armstrong is unconventional and based on several years of depending on each other as circumstances lead them to travel through various hostile environment from China, through Burma to India.


The mystery is just twisty enough to be interesting and a cast of characters that includes local gentry, the village cricket team, bigwigs in the local shipping industry and bohemian musicians playing 'American Music'. None of it is particularly challenging but it shows off the people well, It is so cosy in tone that, despite the deaths, it barely causes a ripple of emotion.


There is some playful use of creative anachronism which allows that Lady Hardcastle, drawing on her education in science at Cambridge, creates two now-taken-for-granted-but-then unknown concepts to help her investigations: the Murder Board (a large blackboard with hand-drawn portraits) and a visual timeline.


I also liked that Lady Hardcastle is the sort of woman who has written to Conan Doyle, asking him to stop Holmes from referring to his technique as 'deduction' when it is clearly 'abduction'. I had to look that one up and having done so, all I can say is that Holmes should have known better.


What made the book so enjoyable for me was the relationship between Florence Armstrong and Emily Hardcastle (aren't those names to conjure with?). I love the joy they take not only in confounding people's expectations of how women should behave but also in using those expectations to their own advantage. I'd read the book just for the banter between them. It's clever, playful and affectionate. These are strong women who care for each other and who have found a way to live together that satisfies them and holds society at bay.


Elizabeth Knowelden's narration is a perfect fit for this book. She gets all the voices perfectly. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.



Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2020-05-23 09:24
Reading progress update: I've listened 295 out of 463 minutes.
A Quiet Life In The Country - T E Kinsey,Elizabeth Knowelden

This is a lot of fun. The mystery part is so cosy, it barely causes a ripple of emotion but the relationship between the two main women and the joy they take not only in confounding people's expectations of how women should behave but use those expectations to their own advantage is wonderful. I'd read the book just for the banter between them.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?