Review: The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding

Title: The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding
Author: Jennifer Robson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: December 31, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.

“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love. 

Review:

This was a fascinating story about the creation of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

There was an exceptional amount of research done to create this book. The description of the way the dress was embroidered was very detailed, so I felt like was there. There were also some fun moments, such as when there was a story “leaked” to the press, but it was completely wrong.

The narrative alternated between Ann and Miriam in 1947, and Heather in 2016. I could relate to Heather’s story, because she lived in Toronto. I could picture the places she mentioned. I could also imagine the locations in London that were described. I loved the dueling narratives. It gave two different perspectives on the royal wedding, from the people who were there to the people who were curious about the dress in the future.

I learned so much from this story. I loved it!

What to read next:

Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson

The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe by Angela Kelly

Have you read The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Family? What did you think of it?

Review: The Widow of Pale Harbor

Title: The Widow of Pale Harbor
Author: Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Graydon House Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A town gripped by fear. A woman accused of witchcraft. Who can save Pale Harbor from itself?

Maine, 1846. Gabriel Stone is desperate to escape the ghosts that haunt him in Massachusetts after his wife’s death, so he moves to Maine, taking a position as a minister in the remote village of Pale Harbor.

But not all is as it seems in the sleepy town. Strange, unsettling things have been happening, and the townspeople claim that only one person can be responsible: Sophronia Carver, a reclusive widow who lives with a spinster maid in the eerie Castle Carver. Sophronia must be a witch, and she almost certainly killed her husband.

As the incidents escalate, one thing becomes clear: they are the work of a twisted person inspired by the wildly popular stories of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. And Gabriel must find answers, or Pale Harbor will suffer a fate worthy of Poe’s darkest tales.

Review:

This is a thrilling read for the fall!

I love Edgar Allen Poe stories, especially at this time of year. In this story, someone copied the gruesome murders from his stories in an attempt to scare Sophronia. It was so creepy, but it was also exciting to recognize these elements of his stories.

This story was so fast paced! I couldn’t put it down. There were lots of events that happened quickly, such as the threats against Sophronia. The mystery of Sophronia’s and Gabriel’s secret pasts we’re slowly revealed throughout the story, so it kept me guessing. I loved the twists at the end when the culprit was revealed!

I loved this book! It’s the perfect read for a cold autumn evening!

Thank you Graydon House Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

Tidelands (The Fairmile #1) by Philippa Gregory

Have you read The Widow of Pale Harbor? What did you think of it?

Review: The Lady Rogue

Title: The Lady Rogue
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: Young Adult, Historical
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it. 

Review:

I really enjoyed this magical, historical story.

Theodora and Huck travel around Romania and Bulgaria in search of her father, and rings that were supposed to belong to the real man who inspired Dracula. This story reminded me of Bram Stoker’s book Dracula, because of the way they traveled around Eastern Europe.

The story was fast-paced. It kept twisting so I didn’t know how it was going to end. The magical elements made it much more unpredictable. It was set in our world, but there were witches with talismans and magical rings, which made the reality uncertain.

The ending of this story left the door open for a sequel. I would love to see these characters go on another adventure.

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Last Magician (The Last Magician #1) by Lisa Maxwell

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1) by Mackenzi Lee

Have you read The Lady Rogue? What did you think of it?

Review: Tidelands (The Fairmile #1)

Title: Tidelands (The Fairmile #1)
Author: Philippa Gregory
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: August 20, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

THE BRAND NEW SERIES FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLING AUTHOR

England 1648. A dangerous time for a woman to be different . . .

Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast. 

Alinor, a descendant of wise women, crushed by poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbours. This is the time of witch-mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.

Review:

I have loved all of the Philippa Gregory books I’ve read in the past, so I was excited to read this latest novel. The other ones I’ve read have been more focused on the Tudor royals. This one was different because it was about a working class woman in the seventeenth century.

The story started at a slow pace. It began with just two characters, Alinor and James, meeting by chance. She is an innocent women who is accused of witchcraft by gossipers in her village, and he leads a dangerous double life in religion and politics.

I loved how the women tried to fight for their rights. The politics of the country were open to lots of change in this story, with the King in exile. Alinor and her daughter Alys often talked about how unfair their position was, just because they were women. I’m not sure how historically accurate these conversations were, but it was fitting for the contemporary reader.

Though the story started slow, the plot gradually grew into a thrilling story. I was shocked at the surprising ending. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory

Have you read Tidelands? What did you think of it?

Review: Fatal Inheritance

Title: Fatal Inheritance
Author: Rachel Rhys
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Get swept away to the enchanting South of France with this suspenseful historical novel, where perilous secrets lurk under the glitz and glam of seaside wealth. 

She didn’t have an enemy in the world…until she inherited a fortune.

London 1948: Eve Forrester is stuck in a loveless marriage, isolated in her gray and gloomy house when out of the blue, she receives a letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mysterious inheritance but in order to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera.

There, Eve discovers she has been bequeathed an enchanting villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and suddenly, life could not be more glamorous. But while she rubs shoulders with the rich and famous, challengers to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge—challengers who would love to see Eve gone forever.

Alone in paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest—before her unexpected twist of fate turns deadly…

Fatal Inheritance is an intoxicating story of dysfunctional families and long-hidden secrets, set against the decadence of the Côte d’Azur.

Review:

I was excited to read this new suspenseful, historical fiction novel. It didn’t disappoint.

This story was set in the South of France. I’ve never been there, but I would love to go after reading this book. The setting was incredibly descriptive. It was set in various villas along the coast. Though the story was tense, the setting was calming.

The tension of the story built slowly. The plot began immediately, when Eve was told that she had been given an inheritance by a mysterious man. There wasn’t much progression in that plot until the last third of the story. There were a couple of interesting subplots, that didn’t really have anything to do with Eve’s mystery. The ultimate resolution made sense, and I was happy with where Eve ended up.

This is a great historical read for the summer!

Thank you Simon and Schuster for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

The Temptation of Gracie by Santa Montefiore

Have you read Fatal Inheritance? What did you think of it?

Review: The Daughter’s Tale

I loved this story. It was fast paced, with short chapters, so it was a quick read for me.

Title: The Daughter’s Tale
Author: Armando Lucas Correa
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The internationally bestselling author of The German Girldelivers an unforgettable family saga of love and redemption during World War II, based on the true story of the Nazi massacre of a French village in 1944.

New York City, 2015: Elise Duval, eighty years old, receives a phone call from a woman recently arrived from Cuba bearing messages from a time and country that she’s long forgotten. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise and her world are forever changed when the woman arrives with letters written to Elise from her mother in German during the war, unravelling more than seven decades of secrets.

Berlin, 1939: Bookstore owner and recent widow Amanda Sternberg is fleeing Nazi Germany with her two young daughters, heading towards unoccupied France. She arrives in Haute-Vienne with only one of her girls. Their freedom is short-lived and soon they are taken to a labor camp.

Based on true events, The Daughter’s Tale chronicles one of the most harrowing atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II: the 1944 massacre of all the inhabitants of Oradour-Sur-Glane, a small, idyllic village in the south of France. Heartbreaking and immersive, The Daughter’s Tale is a beautifully crafted family saga of love, survival, and hope against all odds.

Review:

I loved this story. It was fast paced, with short chapters, so it was a quick read for me. 

The story was mostly set during World War II. The beginning and the end were in 2015, which looked at the main character in her later life. The first chapter didn’t really make sense until about halfway through the book. There was so much that happened, so it was always exciting. 

The concept of family was fluid in this story. Depending on the situation they had to call different people family. For example, parents had to give up their children to give them a better life, with the strong possibility of never seeing them again. This sometimes meant giving them to friends or even strangers, and hoping that they would be looked after. It was heartbreaking to see families being separated like that, but it was necessary for their survival. 

This was a powerful story! I highly recommend it. 

What to read next:

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

Have you read The Daughter’s Tale? What did you think of it?

Review: The Temptation of Gracie

Title: The Temptation of Gracie
Author: Santa Montefiore
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Never give up on your dreams, no matter how long you hold on to them . . . 

Gracie Burton is a grandmother, living quietly in Devon. She has rarely left the village over the past forty years. Her daughter, Carina, is immensely high-powered with her own fast-paced business in London. She has very little time for her 17-year-old daughter, Anastasia, away at boarding school, and even less time for her aging mother. In many ways, the three of them barely know each other. Then Gracie stumbles upon an advertisement for a weeklong cookery course in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. She cannot resist and ploughs her life savings into the trip. Carina and Anastasia accompany her. They have no idea why Gracie has been drawn to this venture. They have no sense of her past; she has never spoken about it. They have no idea that Gracie is harbouring the secret of an extraordinary life that preceded them . . . 

Review:

This is a great book to start off the summer. It is set in beautiful Tuscany. I feel like I have been there after reading this book!

I loved the mystery of this story. Gracie lived a secret life in her youth, which she has always kept from her family. Her mysterious past slowly unraveled throughout the story. There were huge revelations in the last couple of chapters, so even when you think it’s finished, there is more to learn.

There was a lot of symmetry in this story. Gracie’s life in Italy is slightly reflected in the experiences her granddaughter has on their trip. I love it when books are mirrored in this way.

The only part that I found a little strange was the way the story sometimes returned to the town where Gracie lives in Devon. The story only returned there a couple of times, and I didn’t see any connection to the main plot about Gracie. This may have been changed in the final edition.

I really enjoyed this new historical novel!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Juliet’s Answer by Glenn Dixon

Songs of Love and War by Santa Montefiore

Have you read The Temptation of Gracie? What did you think of it?