Annie of Albert Mews by Dee Williams

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Helllllo readers, hope you’re well! Since writing up my favourite historical fiction periods for a top ten Tuesday post I realised that there are lots of historical fiction books that I just haven’t got around to reading yet and I thought it was time to get them written up for you lovely people. I adore Dee Williams and her writing – she just has a way of creating emotion with the reader and making them fall in love with her characters wholly; but I’ll stop gushing. Without delay the review.

Even if she feels life is passing her by as she serves behind the counter in her father’s Rotherhithe grocer’s shop, Annie Rogers knows she is lucky to have a secure home and a loving family – unlike her friend Lil, whose father is a violent drunk. Knowing how hard Lil’s life is, Annie willingly helps her out, lending her dresses and make-up and, when Annie is asked out on a smart date by the landlord’s son Peter Barrett, suggesting Lil come along to make up a foursome.

But it is a shock when Lil gets on famously with Peter’s swanky friend Julian whilst Annie feels much less sure of the smooth Peter. Soon Lil is busy earning money from pub singing spots set up for her by Julian, and Annie, no longer needed by her friend, feels more isolated than ever. It is then that she notices shy Will Hobbs from Fisher’s engineering works. Before long Annie and Will are engaged, with plans for a home of their own in Surrey. But a dreadful accident at Fisher’s and the looming shadow of World War II mean that life for Annie of Albert Mews is not so predictable – or secure – as she once thought it was …

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So as the blurb suggests the book follows the life of Annie Rodgers who currently works for her father in his grocery store – very close to her family and old beyond her years Annie is a family girl through and through. Supporting her best friend Lil, whose father is a violent drunk and trying to find her place in the world we follow Annie as she watches the world struggle against the pulls of WW2. But it’s not all doom and gloom – going on a date with the seemingly lovely Peter Barrett and taking Lil along, everything might work out okay. However, when Annie finds herself ditched by her friend she falls for the shy but delightful Will – but trouble is on the way.

I’ve spoken about the author Dee Williams over and over again but this is potentially my favourite of the books of the series. The writing style is lyrical and beautiful. It moves wonderfully detailing the struggles of the people at home as the war starts to wage closer and closer. The speech used and the descriptions of the struggles as the rationing becomes closer and the world starts to panic about the impending war I loved seeing the ‘behind-the-scenes’ tale that is woven. More often than not it is the back-stories about the war that I tend to enjoy more, rather than the action itself.

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Character build up is perfection – Annie and Lil are chalk and cheese and their teetering friendship kept me on edge as a I continued through the book. Annie is sweet, loving but shy and a little retiring. Lil is big for your buck, in your face but she had a desperate and needy side that I thought came through against Annie. Looking at their backgrounds and the men they decide to keep in their lives and the differences between them too only added to the tale.

I guess the only wobble I can come up with is that it’s not an action tale, it’s a tale about family and that, as like the rest of the Dee Williams books is what makes me love them so much but they don’t have much of a plot – there’s no mystery, there is romance and there is a plot of get your teeth into but it’s soft. It’s about family.

Overall as like the rest of the Dee Williams books I adored this. It’s a beautiful tale of war love and family and it’s definitely worth a read.

The Poisoned Cup by Edward Lanyon

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Good afternoon readers, it’s Thursday and I have another brilliant review for you. Now this one comes with a sigh because it should have been posted, well a little while ago to say the least but my disorganised brain managed to miss it completely. It’s been sat in my drafts waiting to be posted for a very long time, but today is the day. In terms of reading, currently I am wading through 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and it is an absolute masterpiece; I cannot stop reading it; the review will be up probably in the next year seeing as in total the three books span over 2000 pages but we’ll see: for now, this (very) long awaited review.

You’ve seen Braveheart – now discover the other side of the story. In 1286, King Edward of England sends his aged confidant, Sir Henry de Grenville, to Scotland to negotiate a marriage that could unite the two kingdoms. In a tragic accident, the Scottish king dies and his country is left without an heir. In a desperate bid to avoid civil war, the Guardians of Scotland invite King Edward to arbitrate on the succession. But war ensues anyway, a war that quickly engulfs England. Sir Henry is caught up in a bitter conflict against the army of William Wallace. But there is a spy in the Wallace camp…

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So, this is a full on whirlwind of a historical fiction book and as you all know I adore historical fiction. The book follows an ageing English Knight who happens to be working for King Edward the first. His job is to bring peace between England and Scotland; the angst between the two kingdoms is beginning to build to a startling level. However his plans are scuppered when the King of Scotland, Alexander is killed in a sudden accident; all must be done to stop the incoming of a civil war. With no clear path of how to unite the two, war wages and Sir Henry is caught up in the heat. Step forward William Wallace, a mean and fierce man and a little different to the figure we see in the film Braveheart. Lanyon spills a brutal tale of battles, knights, one beautiful maiden and a rip-rolling story.

So the first thing to mention is this feels like a very well-researched and investigated story; the story feels real and definitely transports you to medieval times which of course it is supposed to. I liked the idea that history can be a little set up to make certain historical figures seen in a more positive light and Lanyon forces the reader to re-think the portraits we see of such historic figures. What I also found truly intriguing was the brutal nature of the book: this is an author who does not step back instead the writing is heady, ruthless but also fully formed. It feels like you’re there in the action, feeling the heat of the battle, the roar in your ears; it’s a wonderful thing when historical fiction manages this.

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I thought the characters were fleshed out with style and precision and I liked the way that some are historical figures whilst others are fictional and created from the author’s imagination. I thought the political line of fiction was woven throughout and helped to add to the action and make it feel all the more real. Two slight wobbles; I did wonder how far the character profiles of some of the characters such as William Wallace had been pushed to fit with the storyline and some of the events that occurred did push the boundaries of believability a little but I was so consumed that didn’t affect how much I enjoyed the book to a point where it became a major issue.

I really did enjoy this wonderfully told historical fiction; this type of plot-line isn’t my first port of call, I often prefer the tales of what was happens away from the battle and I tend to read books that focus during world war one and two but this novel has definitely opened my eyes to the other types of historical fiction that are out there waiting to be read.  My only slight complaint would be how honest the character profiles are and how far they have been played with to fit with the plot-line being woven but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. It has a real sense of what historical fiction should do and how to engage the reader. A lovely, but rather brutal tale.

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