Review: #TheDeadWorldofLanthorneGhules by Gerald Killingworth #NetGalley

My thanks to Pushkin Children’s Books and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

I hadn’t been requesting or reading books from NetGalley for the last few months as I wanted to tackle my own TBR pile. But browsing through NetGalley some days ago I came across this one, and reading the description made me think this was something on the lines of Eva Ibbotson’s books which I very much enjoy so I decided to put in a request, and this did turn out to be a great deal of fun. 

Twelve-year-old Edwin Robbins lives with his parents, and they are planning to have a small swimming pool to which he dreams of inviting his friends. But these dreams are shattered when he learns that not only is there going to be no pool, the family must move to another house and he is going to have a sibling. To add to his woes (he is certainly not ‘thrilled to bits’ as his parents claim), his baby sister is named Mandoline. On one house-hunting trip with his father, Edwin comes across a strange advertisement for a pen pal, and decides for fun to answer and places the reply (as called for by the notice) in a chimney. To his horror, it goes up and some weeks later he even receives a response. The writer (and he who placed the ad) is another young boy, Lanthorne Ghules but he lives not in Edwin’s world but a strange parallel world where everything is dark, grey and rotten, and the inhabitants are more or less, ghouls.  After a letter or two which expectedly scares Edwin, Lanthorne comes for a short visit, and before he knows it, Edwin finds himself pulled into Lanthorne’s world—here Edwin is a shiner, someone who stands out in a grey, dark space and who is a curiosity not much liked. After encountering some rather strange creatures, and almost running into Lanthorne’s rather dangerous aunt Necra, Edwin manages to escape only to find that his little sister, who he claimed to not like has been kidnapped and taken to Lanthorne’s world, and it is only him (with Lanthorne’s help) who can rescue and bring her back.

The world that the author has created in the book is dark and creepy but still I think a good bit of fun (to read about, at any rate). Lanthorne’s world lies parallel to the human world and Lanthorne, Edwin and others go back and forth through ‘doors’. In Lanthorne’s world, not only are people grey skinned, but the general atmosphere is grey and musty too, as are people clothes—the world is devoid of any light or colour, and their food habits are equally strange for they allow things to ‘ripen’ before they eat them. Things here have reflections of the human world (such as celebrating Nollig not Christmas, and in Dikembra not December) but are still as different as can be, and the ways of the ‘traditionalists’ here are stranger still. The animals who live here are no less peculiar, and some positively deadly. I did like the Snarghe though. The author has created an imaginative and fairly scary place, where one certainly wouldn’t want to be trapped–ever.

The plot itself I enjoyed a lot—a fun adventure where young Edwin finds himself having to undertake a rescue mission that he alone can (having been in Lanthorne’s world before, and being the only one who knows of it). Lanthorne stands by and helps Edwin like a true friend but with the others in his world, one can never be sure for everyone and everything is strange, and one doesn’t know whom to trust (Of course, as events unfold we find that just as in the human world, there are kind-hearted people as well as evil ones). Still the boys go on, helped by one person or another but find themselves in danger more than once, at times with little hope of escape.

Of the characters, Edwin himself I didn’t take to too much—he came across as a bit of a brat, not grateful for the help he gets or those going out of their way for him. One does feel for him since he is trapped in a frightening place for little fault of his own, but at the same time, his attitude towards things was off-putting. Lanthorne on the other hand, I did like—he is genuinely looking to make friends, and takes trouble to help Edwin as far as he can from lending him things and helping him return the first time to being by his side, supporting him throughout the trip to rescue Mandoline. The villains are nice and creepy, their actions at times giving one chills down the spine.

Despite not liking Edwin all that much, I did enjoy the book—imaginative and entertaining, though with a definitely dark touch! The ending had a rather fun little touch that I liked very much indeed!  

The book comes out in Mid-September by the way, so well in time for a Halloween read!

Book Review: #Zarathustra: The Lion that Carried the Flame by Richard Marazano and Amad Mir #NetGalley #GraphicNovel

My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this one.

This is the first volume of a graphic novel which tells the story of the prophet, Zarathustra or Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism or Mazdaism, or the religion of the Parsis as we in India might identify it more commonly. I know next to nothing about Zoroaster, and felt a graphic novel would be a great place to get an introduction to at least the legends surrounding him. The Lion that Carried the Flame is of course only the first part of the story. The story opens in the Karakum dessert, the land of the Bactrians and the Margians, where a young boy begs his father to tell him the story of the gods, including the one he ‘killed’. The father of course has to give in to the request and tells of the time when he, Amru, was a traveller who decided to set up as a trader in the merchant city of Gonur-Depe where he has bought a little shop—though he was not quite made (or destined) to be a merchant. But he finds things are not so easy in that city where merchant guilds are led by powerful women. Despite warnings from various quarters, Amru continues to try and do business, but is soon driven to debt, also attracting the enmity of a powerful woman merchant, Vivana. Amru however, also has a secret from his past, for among his belongings are a sword and a skull and we of course, don’t know what they signify, and who he really was before he came to Gonur-Depe.

In the meantime, alongside, a prince, Zahak, who has gone down the wrong path, praying to the evil forces of Angra Mainu is seeking something (once again, we don’t know what), which leads him to Gonur-Depe which he is bent on destroying, in fact, wiping out even from memory. Amru soon finds he has to contend with not only Vivana and her schemes but also the evil forces unleashed by Zahak who he alone seems to have the strength and resources to withstand. Thus starts his adventure, on which Amru must flee the city with an unexpected travelling companion. And out in the dessert, the terrain is not the only danger they face for other creatures not of this world also roam there!

This was an interesting telling of the story of Zarathustra, rather of the legends surrounding him which take one into the territory of myth, where civilisation flourished but where the gods (sometimes in fantastic forms) too still walked the earth alongside mortals. Of the characters, I didn’t know quite what to make of Amru with all the mystery surrounding him (though of course we know he is our ‘hero’), while Vivana herself is quite a handful—arrogant, but also very spirited. The story set out well the background to Amru’s adventures, preserving the element of mystery that surrounds his past (to which we get some small clues), and also of exactly what befell him when he ‘met’ a god, which intrigued me, and made me really want to read on. But like some (not all) of the graphic novels I’ve read from Europe Comics, being only part of the story, it doesn’t quite feel complete in itself, which leaves one feeling perhaps not entirely satisfied. However, this didn’t prevent me from wanting to read the next instalment to see how the story continues and what secrets are revealed. Three and a half stars.

Book Review: 82년생 김지영/Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo #NetGalley #KimJiyoungBorn1982

My thanks to Simon and Schuster UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this one.

Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982 is a 2016 Korean novel, now translated into English (besides other languages). This hard-hitting novel has sold over a million copies, and was also adapted into a film that released in October this year. The book traces the story of Kim Ji-Young, the title character, from the year she was born, 1982, to 2016 highlighting the sexism, discrimination and injustice she faces at every stage of her life [The author, a former scriptwriter for television, in fact, said that Ji-Young’s life wasn’t much different from her own]. Ji-Young is the second daughter in the family of a lower-level government servant. Her mother is a housewife who also takes up an assortment of jobs from home to supplement her husband’s income, having had to give up on her own education and work in her youth so that her brothers could get the best educations. Ji-Young of course has a ‘better’ time in that she does get an education, as best as her parents can afford, and even goes to university, and has a chance at a career (though not for long), but at every stage be it as a child growing up, to school, to interviewing for a job, getting one, and having to give it up, she is impacted in some way or other by sexism, having to share where her younger brother doesn’t, having to accept being secondary, being looked over despite being qualified simply because she is a woman, whether for a job or inclusion in a team at work, having to give up her career for her child, and having fingers pointed at her for everything, whether it be her fault or not, mostly the latter. However, there is a little hope too in the story. Ji-Young’s mother, despite and also perhaps because of having faced worse in her life, does stand up for her daughters at times, and tries within her constraints to ensure that they do not have to give up their dreams as she did. Others girls and women who Ji-Young encounters (at school and work) too sometimes take a stand, rather than accepting things quietly, winning for themselves and others small victories. But despite all that, at the end one realises that there is still very long to go before much of this changes, and many will still have to walk the same path, face the same life as Ji-Young. (The final sentences will definitely shake you.)

I found the book to be a very impactful one, and while set in Korean society, some (actually most) of these forms of discrimination and sexist behaviour aren’t restricted to that country, so the truths it brings one face to face with would resonate with many. I was also quite surprised with how fast the book moved—of course, it is a short read (under 170 pages in the edition I had), but still it moves well, and it doesn’t ‘feel’ like a translation at all (The translator is Jamie Chang). Some reviews of the book I read mention how the book uses a rather dry tone. Partly I do agree with this, as it certainly does that, and in addition, the footnotes supporting different facts make it feel somewhat like non-fiction at times, but on the other hand, the tone I felt is explained once one gets to the end of the book and realises who the narrator is, and what it is one is supposed to be reading. Well worth a read, for everyone. Four and a half stars!

Book Review: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal #Bookreview #NetGalley

My thanks to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this one.

This is, as the title suggests, the story of the Shergill sisters—Rajini, Jezmeen, and Shirina, who while not quite at loggerheads have drifted apart with time. Each is dealing with their own life problems—Rajini’s son is about to opt out of college and marry a woman twice his age, Jezmeen’s career is going only one way—downwards, and Shirina’s marriage is not turning out quite as she thought it would be—and not really aware of what the others are going through. When their mother, Sita Kaur, dies, her last wish is that they travel to India, taking a pilgrimage of sorts that she couldn’t go on because of her illness—taking them from Delhi to Amritsar, to the Gurdwara Hemkund Sahib, up in the Himalayas. So of course, the three must take that journey together, one that their mother had planned out for them in detail in a letter she left. Sita Kaur didn’t merely want them to travel to the places she wanted, but more so to spend time with each other and learn to get along once again (or perhaps as they never did). Needless to say, it doesn’t go entirely to plan, but because of this, they begin to face their own problems and also grow closer once again, when dealing with issues of inequality, family, tradition, and modernity.

This was a mixed sort of read for me. On the one side, I liked reading the story/stories (their individual stories as well as of their relationship with each other) of the three sisters, their lives, and how they ultimately handle the problems in their lives (in which at times, circumstances and (happy) coincidences also have a role). Some simply require a change in perspective (acceptance), while others more serious, life-changing decisions. I liked how the author handled these aspects of the story, especially that it was done realistically, with no ‘magical’ changes and yet a bit of magic at work (if that makes any sense). The picture of the country however, I wasn’t too thrilled with—I mean the author highlights various issues that the country is dealing with no doubt, including inequality and women’s safety, but the picture she presented felt to me far too gloomy, as though there is only darkness, no light, and that to me was off-putting. There is the negative, but that doesn’t mean that there is no positive, no hope, either, which I felt the book didn’t reflect.  

Three and a half stars!

Review: #MaryShelley by David Vandermeulen, Daniel Casaneve, and Patrice Larcenet #NetGalley

My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this book.

This graphic novel is the second volume on Shelley’s life (I read and reviewed the first a few months ago-review here), and written from the point Mary Shelley takes more of a centre stage in the ‘story’, picks up in 1814, where the first volume left off. Percy had fallen in love with Mary Godwin, and accompanied by her sister Claire Clairmont were about to elope. As this story opens, the three travel to Europe, struggling with money troubles, and living an itinerant life, and seeking adventure. In Europe, first Claire and then Mary and Percy join Byron (that is they take a house next door, and visit constantly). Here also joined by Byron’s doctor Polidori, the little group enjoys themselves with conversations and walks until the weather turns inclement. And so comes the famous time when each of them takes on the challenge of writing a horror tale—we see Polidori narrating his Vampyre, and then Mary being inspired to write Frankenstein—the task more or less taking possession of her. Each of the group’s complicated relationships and moralities are also explored. But then the story takes a rather odd turn, which made me stop and actually look up what was happening—instead of continuing as a biography, it moves into the world of fiction, and more specifically Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, the devastation caused by the plague and the depths to which people can fall even amidst such disaster, with the Shelleys and Byron taking on a central role among the last few survivors.

I really enjoyed the first volume of this series and thought it a very cute way to getting to know a little about Shelley’s life and work. This second volume opens the same way, and up until the time in Villa Diodati, where all of them composed or began to compose their horror stories remains on this track, and this part I enjoyed very much, as much as I did the first volume. In fact, the composition of Frankenstein, etc. was a part of this book that I was looking forward to very much and I was glad that the authors included it in detail, and went a little into the works, and also tried to imagine the kind of conversations the Shelleys, Byron, and Polidori might have had in their time there. But then the story’s turn towards the fictional gave it a very weird feel which while interesting in a way didn’t make any sense to me in this book, especially considering the way the two volumes proceeded from the start. If the authors had chosen to take a fictional path entirely or from the start combined fact and fiction, it might have still worked but when one is reading something biographical, even if done with humour as these books have been (the art work too is caricature-like, which was fun), one kind of expects it to continue that way, and it is a touch disappointing when it doesn’t. I enjoyed the first part of the book a lot, and while the second was done imaginatively, and was interesting, it just didn’t seem to ‘fit’. 3 stars for this one!  

The book released on 17 April 2019 in English!

Review: Mr Finchley Discovers His England by Victor Canning #NetGalley #Humour #MrFinchley

My thanks to NetGalley and Farrago Books for a digital review copy of this book.

First published in 1934, Mr Finchley Discovers His England is the first in a series of (I think) three books featuring Mr Finchley, a forty-five-year-old bachelor, who works as a solicitor’s clerk in London. When one of his bosses Mr Bardwell dies, and the office is taken over by his partner Mr Sprake, there comes an unexpected change in Mr Finchley’s life. For the first time since Mr Finchley was employed, he finds himself getting a three-week holiday. So of course, as holidays must usually be, he books himself into a hotel at Margate. But when he is waiting to catch his train, a man asks him to watch his Bentley, which Mr Finchley agrees to do but he falls asleep in the process. When his eyes next open, the car is being driven, away and Mr Finchley finds himself kidnapped. He is unnerved but decides to take the experience as an adventure, one he could have never had in his normal life. From here, he manages to make his escape. And with this starts a holiday completely unlike what Mr Finchley could have ever imagined. Mr Finchley traipses across the country, soaking in nature, meeting interesting people and having a series of unforeseen adventures. He falls in with tramps, artists, travellers, and gypsies, ends up taking jobs at a fair and selling petrol, being mistaken for a vagrant and a lunatic, is almost strangled, plays cricket and even takes to smuggling! His adventures change his life completely, so much so that there is likely to be a change in his everyday life too.

This was such a fun, charming read, with gentle humour and a very likeable set of characters. Something like Three Men in a Boat but without the slapstick. What I really liked about Mr Finchley as a character was how open he was to each new adventure, to each new experience, and how ready he was to enjoy every thing that came his way, irked sometimes (only initially), but never complaining or grumbling much, rather relishing every moment. The people he meets have interesting stories (unlike Mr Finchley’s own which is rather ordinary untill this adventure begins), some sad, some simply unusual, and while not all are honest and straightforward, they certainly are far from the ordinary. I also loved how away from grey London, Mr Finchley gets to really immerse himself in nature, whether it be the birds around, or the sea, or the moors, there is a certain peace about the places he spends time at which transfers itself to the reader as well. My first acquaintance with Mr Finchley and Victor Canning’s work was really delightful. Looking forward to more in the future.    

The book was published on 18 April 2019!

Review: Arnica, the Duck Princess by Ervin Lázár #NetGalley

My thanks to NetGalley and Steerforth Press/Pushkin Press for a digital review copy of this book.

This is an English translation of a Hungarian classic children’s tale, first published in 1981 and now being printed by Pushkin Press. The translator is Anna Bentley and the book has been illustrated by Jacueline Molnár.

King Tirunt lives in a palace by a round lake, a palace with thirty-six towers and three hundred windows. He is a just ruler, punishing only those who deserve it, and taking precautions (very great ones) against giving orders when he is in a temper, that is to say, he ensures they aren’t followed and locks himself in his throne room while he is in a temper. With him lives his daughter Arnica, a very special princess, “so sweet and gentle that when she smile[s], wolves and bears forget their fierceness”. King Tirunt wishes that Arnica would marry the person she loves and does not mind who he is or where he is from. Into their lives comes just such a person, Poor Johnny. Poor Johnny has nothing except the clothes on his back and is “footloose and fancy-free”—not only that, he wants nothing either which means that the Witch of a Hundred Faces fails to entrap him (she must enslave a new person every seven years to retain her magical powers), despite the untold wealth and riches she offers. Making his escape (she does pursue him with magic, when he simply walks away) Johnny meets Arnica and they fall in love. But the King wants to be sure before he gives his consent, and makes them wait six months. When this period is up and they are awaiting Johnny’s arrival, the witch acts, casting a spell, as a result of which it turns out that at any given time, either Arnica or Johnny must be a duck. Now they much find a way out, and they don’t mind whether both are ducks or humans but they want to be the same thing at the same time. So off they set to seek the Seven-headed Fairy, the only one who can free them of the curse. Along the way, they meet various people, each with their own oddities, and problems, and change their lives as they move on.

The story is told in third person, and off and on, there is also some dialogue between the narrator and the person he is telling the story to. This gives it the feel of a traditional storytelling style.

I found this to be a really pleasant and cute read. This is a fairly short (just 96 pages) book and a great deal of fun. Being a children’s classic, there are hidden messages of course, but it isn’t preachy or forced down your throat. All of the people they encounter, in fact, find that the solution to their problems lies within themselves, just a change of attitude or approach is called for. And that is what the book tries to tell its readers. Also, the story/stories are told in an amusing way, some episodes more than others, like the Witch’s frustration when Johnny fails to be lured by treasure or the story of Tig-Tag the robber, which was very good fun. I also liked that despite the various little troubles Arnica and Johnny fall into on their adventure, there is no melodrama or exaggeration. Arnica and Johnny are very likeable; Johnny, in fact, reminded me a little of a Grimm’s character in the story ‘Hans in Luck’ where too, the ‘hero’ attaches little to material possessions.

The book has some really colourful illustrations. These reminded me (the style) somewhat of the illustrations for Dunno (by Boris Kalushin) though the ones in these book aren’t as delicate. I loved the colours, also the patterns used, the animals, flowers, trees, etc. but while I didn’t much care for the human beings (illustrations) in the book at the start (they felt a little clumpy), even these kind of grew on me as I read on.   (See cover above)

A charming and cute read.

Have you read this book or do you plan to? If you have, how did you like it? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Review: Golden Pavements by Pamela Brown

My thanks to Steerforth Press/Pushkin Press and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

Golden Pavements is the third in the Blue Door series of books by Pamela Brown set around a group of children (three sets of siblings) interested in theatre, who are now training to be professional actors, and aspire to make their amateur theatre, the Blue Door Theatre, in their hometown of Fenchester, professional. While I say this is the third book, the events of this book start before the second book, Maddy Alone, and continue past the events of that book. So when we start, Nigel, the eldest has spent some time at the British Actors Guild Dramatic School while the others (with the exception of Maddy who is still twelve) have just come in for their first term. Soon enough they are absorbed in theatre life, with things to be learnt and shows to be put on, but alongside also having to deal with the reality of living life on their own on meagre allowances, and having to penny pinch or take up jobs (even against rules) to make up where they’re falling short. We see them in their time at the Academy, their tours and summer jobs, the time that Maddy joins them, and finally as they leave the Academy and set off to set up their own repertory company. At times, we are following all of the children, while at others, one or more of them as they take up jobs (like Lyn and Vicky serving as assistant stage managers in a small repertory company for ten weeks). They have fun but the work is hard as well, and some lessons of life they must learn the hard way.

This instalment in the series focused on the experiences of young actors (or producers, or stage managers, or anyone connected with the theatre) when they first begin to translate their dreams into reality. The children’s amateur productions or experience helps them but working in a professional setting is a completely different cup of tea. While this doesn’t discourage any of our young heroes and heroines, they experience both highs and lows, good performances and bad ones, tough days and golden ones. Probably written on the basis of the author’s own experiences, this feels very real (But she managed to achieve this effect with the first book in the series as well, which she wrote when 14 or 15, what had me especially in awe was that she could out forth the ‘grown ups’’ point of view very fairly as well)—the kind of experiences they undergo, their hopes, aspirations, decisions that they take, and I had great fun going along with them. I haven’t read very many books in a theatre setting, but this one while not going into every little detail gives one a fairly good idea of the workings of the process, of the hard work that goes into it, and of the fact that despite all of this, the result may not always be a happy one. I also found all of the children very likeable (as in the previous instalments), and even when they don’t take the right decisions on everything or are veering off course, one can’t fault them for it because these are mistakes that anyone can (and would probably) make. This was a fast-paced, endearing, and absorbing read, and I enjoyed myself very very much reading it.

Pamela Brown was a British writer, actor, and producer of children’s television programmes. The town of Fenchester is based on her own town of Colchester. Very passionate about the theatre, she and her friends put up plays as children, and she went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (using her earnings from The Swish of the Curtain).

This book was first published in 1947, and is being republished by Pushkin Press on 25 June 2019.

p.s. My reviews of The Swish of the Curtain and Maddy Alone are here and here. I will also be reviewing book 4, Blue Door Venture via NetGalley soon!

Review: Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay

My thanks to NetGalley and Red Rogue Press for a review copy of this book.

Ever Alice is pretty much a sequel to the Alice books taking place when Alice is fifteen. Alice has never ceased to believe in Wonderland and those she met there, but in the “real” world, this has meant that people, her parents and sister included, do not think her “normal” but “mad”. As a consequence, she is now undergoing treatment in a mental facility, dreaming of returning to her family one day. On the other side, we see the Queen of Hearts, here Rosamund, who is turning more and more ruthless as time passes, and beheading whoever irks her in one way or other, their innocence being of no consequence. The White Rabbit (here Ralph) comes to Alice and seeks her help in doing away with Rosamund. Alice does not wish to kill anyone but does want to escape, even more now that she is going to be subjected to new treatments to “cure” her at a different facility. Once in Wonderland, Alice finds herself placed as one of the Queen’s ladies alongside Bess (the Duchess with the pig baby), who hates her, and Sabrina who wants to be her friend. She also finds herself falling in love with the Prince of Hearts, Thomas. But plots to do away with the Queen are very much underway, and Alice is a part of them whether or not she wants to do any actual killing, while the Queen on her side is trying to secure her throne by getting rid of Constance, the Queen of Spades, and anyone else that she is in a mind to. How does Alice fare amongst these plots and counter plots?

I loved that so many of the characters that we are familiar with from the Alice books (this is probably the first sequel/retelling that I’m reading) are there in the book with “new” names—Ralph the white rabbit, Sir William (the Hatter), and Charles (the Dodo) besides the Duchess with the pig baby (Bess) and others (With the new names, it took some time to get my head around how was who). There are also other characters that are new but springing from the books as well as those familiar from outside, such as Humpty Dumpty’s cousin (Marco Polo), Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum’s children, Lady Godiva, the Frog Princess, and Marilyn Montagu, the actress! The story for the most part switches between Alice’s viewpoint and Rosamund’s (though in third person) and so we see the other characters through their stories.

This was a fun sequel to Alice which for the most part keeps the humour and whimsical tone that one would associate with Alice (though it didn’t have perhaps what I would call Alice-y lines). I loved how the author created a skittles game (with armadillos and penguins) on the same lines as the original croquet, but very imaginative and fun all the same; and there is also another trial that Alice has to face. The plot was fairly interesting (though the Alice being brought back to kill the Queen bit is, may be, similar to the recent Alice films), and I liked how it played out with a fair number of twists and surprises along the way. (Even with characters who we “know”, things don’t turn out as we expect). For me though, after the first few pages, it somewhat began to drag for a bit (in the sense that I was enjoying it but not to the point that I couldn’t put it down or wait to get back to it), but then a little after the half way point, it once again picked up pace and I wanted to read on to see how things turn out for all the characters. The book has both light and dark moments—one point/aspect at the end was a little too dark for me, but it was definitely something that I didn’t see coming, and kind of left me with an eerie feeling.

I enjoyed reading this book very much, but not as much I expected to, so this was about a 3.5 stars for me.

Review: A Country Rivalry by Sasha Morgan

My thanks to NetGalley and Aria for a review copy of this one.

A Country Rivalry is set in Treweham village in the Cotswalds where we “meet” and follow the stories of numerous characters—the lord of the manor Tobias Cavendish-Blake, recently married to Megan; his younger brother Sebastian who is seeing success on the stage as Richard III but had seen unhappiness in his personal life; Dylan a jockey who is starting his own training yard with a girl he loves Flora but has to face his playboy past; Finula chef at the Templar, the local inn and also daughter of its proprietor, who is also dealing with heartbreak; and Gary and Tracy Belcher, lottery winners who have made Treweham their home after finding that their fortune means that their old friends only value them for their money, and while moving has meant getting away from this, they haven’t yet found a new “home” at Treweham. A documentary-film maker, Marcus Devlin (who has met Finula before) decides to make a film on the countryside and Treweham specifically (he has his reasons), and the arrival of the crew throws the lives of all its residents into disarray as the crew Marcus and Viola (his researcher, with an agenda of her own) are set on showing the worst side of village life, especially the aristocracy. On the other side, their arrival brings hope of love to some of the characters, Finula, and Sebastian, specifically.

This was a pleasant enough read for me (although it did turn out different from what I was expecting from the description (second time this month)—there was no cover at the time I requested the book). The characters are pretty straight-forward, though they each have their problems and secrets, loneliness, heartbreak, illness, revenge etc. among them, they aren’t complicated in themselves (but then, this is popular fiction). But that said, I did find myself getting interested in their stories, and wanting to know how things would turn out for each of them. From the beginning one does know that this is a feel-good sort of book, so things will turn out right certainly, but I still liked seeing how that would happen. The characters were also all fairly likeable except the one/s who aren’t supposed to be, but also they are more or less “perfect” as far as appearance goes even if not in their natures. I also liked that the resolution of everything was not too melodramatic (just a touch). But there were parts of this book that read like a cheesy romance which made me cringe a bit—these I felt could have been done much more subtly. Also there were some parts of the book (not very many, but still) that made me feel as if I’m reading a sequel where previous events are being recapped, which I don’t think is the case, so possibly these could have been written differently as well. Overall, this was a light-hearted read, pleasant, and one I would have enjoyed much more if it weren’t for some aspects (the cheesy bits specifically).  

  #Acountryrivalry #NetGalley #BookReview