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Down and out in Kensington

Miss Lottie's Christmas Protector Book Cover Miss Lottie's Christmas Protector
(Secrets of a Victorian Household, Book 1)
Sophia James
Fiction, (Mills & Boon Historical)
HarperCollins UK
October 31, 2019
368

A Christmas mission... ...with the scarred and brooding gentleman! Part of Secrets of a Victorian Household: Working in her family’s charity foundation for destitute women, caring but impulsive Miss Lottie Fairclough is desperately trying to find a missing woman. She’s roped in family acquaintance Mr Jasper King to help her, equally impressed and annoyed when he rescues her from perilous danger! As she gets to know the injured entrepreneur, it seems he needs her just as much…

This is an historical novel that has the normal features of the genre with the added benefit of a discussion of some of the social ills of the time. I always think that this adds an extra element of interest as I enjoy reading about social or political history.

Set in London and around Kensington, which is of course, one of the most expensive and poshest areas of London, it was also notorious in the late 19th century for the Jennings Buildings.

Just FYI Magpie is slang for a thief – as we all know what magpies do, and magpies lived in the Jennings Buildings, hance the name Old Pye Street.  Jennings built 81 two storey wooden tenements grouped over 5 courts, meant for 200 or so inhabitants. He built 49 toilets to serve the 5 courts.

At the time this story was set there were probably over 1000 people living in the Irish Rookery as the Jennings Buildings became known. At least 800 of the inhabitants were known to be Irish. The Irish peasants and labourers and their families had emigrated to London in vast numbers over the 19th century due to poverty, illness and famine and crowded into what accommodation they could get however unsanitary. The men tended to be construction workers and fruit pickers and the women worked the laundries.

Here’s an interesting historical note to add to this, in the early 20th century the Irish immigrated a little further afield many into Kilburn, North London, which became known as Little Ireland and were supporters of the IRA. But the men were still labourers and ‘bogtrotters’ ie from farm land, and the  women who emigrated tended to go into the care and nursing industries and wouldn’t marry them! Too poorly educated and bad tempered. I know this from my Irish friends in that area…

As for the Jennings Buildings they were so notorious they were demolished in 1873 and a very large house was built on the many acres, by a gentleman called Grant . Grant was riding high and generally enjoyed public confidence. In this period he resolved to build a vast house in its own grounds close to Kensington Palace, on the combined sites of the previous Kensington House, Colby House, the slums of Jennings Buildings and associated plots. In 1872 he proceeded to buy the freeholds of Kensington House and Colby House and to demolish them. (British History Online.)

 Next year he purchased the freeholds of Jennings Buildings and other properties on and behind the east side of Kensington Square. Here the prices are known: £14,000 for one tract including Nos. 2 and 3 Kensington Square, £11,000 for another, and £2,000 for a ragged school run by the parish.  Commentators of the time marvelled that Grant did not resort to law to eject the tenants of Jennings Buildings. He simply paid them off as necessary and let them carry off any woodwork they wanted, so accelerating the work of destruction. 


Grant’s expenditure on buying the land and building his new Kensington House was estimated to have been about £300,000 but by 1882 the house was up for sale by Grant’s creditors as he owed so much and In June the first sale of materials occurred; portions of the marble stairs were acquired for installation at Madame Tussaud’s,

So after the history lesson, did I enjoy the book? Yes, not only because it enabled me to delve into some social history, but also because it was true to life and well written.

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How to kill successfully

Perfect Kill Book Cover Perfect Kill
DCI Luc Callanach
Helen Fields
Fiction
HarperCollins UK, Avon
February 6, 2020
416

He had never heard himself scream before. It was terrifying.

Drugged and kidnapped, the realisation soon dawns that he’s been locked inside a shipping container far from his Edinburgh home. But what Bart doesn’t yet know is that he’s now heading for France where his unspeakable fate is already sealed…

DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are working on separate cases that soon collide as it becomes clear that the men and women being shipped to France are being traded for women trafficked into Scotland.

With so many lives at stake, they face an impossible task – but there’s no option of failure when Bart and so many others will soon be dead…

Get ready for a rollercoaster ride like no other, with the next gripping thriller from the number one bestselling crime author, Helen Fields. The perfect read for fans of M. J. Arlidge and Karin Slaughter.

Ah yes, the Frenchman and the Scotswoman and their on again off again romance.

Luc is back in France helping Interpol  with some PT distress about his sex life. His case involves a Scottish lad who turns up dead after all his organs have been removed! And Ava gets a shot victim after a trafficked Romanian girl attempts to escape from her captors. And this case winds up and up and up.. Two disparate cases you think but a twist of course.

Now a word to the author please. Helen, you either have a very sick imagination of you have been researching some very sick criminals. I hope it is the latter!

The twists and turns of these cases and crimes make for nail biting reading. Well plotted, well planned and well written.

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Puppies and more

A Puppy And A Christmas Proposal Book Cover A Puppy And A Christmas Proposal
(Mills & Boon Medical)
Louisa George
Fiction. Romance
HarperCollins UK
November 28, 2019
192

Her ex-fiancé... ...is giving her paws for thought! Alex Norton devastated Beth Masters when he told her he could no longer marry her. The last thing she wants this Christmas is to come face-to-face with him, clutching an adorable puppy! Warm-hearted vet Beth can’t say no to a four-legged patient in need but she’ll need to guard her damaged heart from delicious doc Alex. Which becomes impossible when he finally reveals the reason why he left…

A nicely written romance with the twist of testicular cancer which affected the menfolk of a certain family and the impact that it would have on their future life – assuming that they survived. But it is worth noting that the general 5-year survival rate for men with testicular cancer is 95%. This means that 95 men out of every 100 men diagnosed with testicular cancer will live at least 5 years after diagnosis. The survival rate is higher for men diagnosed with early-stage cancer and lower for men with later-stage cancer. Unfortunately it can spread to the lymph nodes if not caught quickly and this makes it more dangerous. It most commonly diagnosed between 15 and 40 years of age.

Without this sub story we have a more normal romance which could have become rather sickly as puppies are rather Xmas obvious.

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Tea for Two and More

The Afternoon Tea Club Book Cover The Afternoon Tea Club
Jane Gilley
Fiction
HarperCollins UK
December 12, 2019
300

Everyone’s welcome at The Afternoon Tea Club...

Everyone’s welcome at The Afternoon Tea Club…

Marjorie, Stacy, Raymond and Dora each hold a different story to their chest – lost loves, abandoned dreams, crippling self-confidence issues, and simply feeling invisible. For each of them, the thought of letting those stories out is almost as terrifying as letting strangers in, and that makes for a very lonely life indeed.

But when these four strangers who have struggled to “fit in” end up on the same table for an event at their local community centre, little do they know that their lives are about to be entwined and changed forever because of an Afternoon Tea club.

Cue an unexpected journey of self-discovery, some unlikely new companions, and plenty of tea and biscuits along the way…

Heart-warming and poignant in equal measure, this is a story about loneliness, kindness, and the power of friendships that span generation, proving that the most simple of human connections unite us all. Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village and The Keeper of Lost Things.

At first I thought ‘Oh Dear! Another sweet and cosy story about how having tea together makes you less lonely.’

But it was friendship, and intergenerational friendship too, that worked.

However, reading the characters’ back stories and finding that the characters struggled to adjust to their lives and circumstances made the book. It lifted it above the mundane. Even if it took until the end of the story for Dora to find her position in life.

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Meeting at St Pancras

The Day We Meet Again Book Cover The Day We Meet Again
Miranda Dickinson
Fiction, Romance,
HarperCollins UK, Avon
September 5, 2019
384

Their love story started with goodbye…

The brand-new novel from The Sunday Times bestselling author, Miranda Dickinson.

‘We’ll meet again at St Pancras station, a year from today. If we’re meant to be together, we’ll both be there. If we’re not, it was never meant to be . . .’

Phoebe and Sam meet by chance at St Pancras station. Heading in opposite directions, both seeking their own adventures, meeting the love of their lives wasn’t part of the plan. So they make a promise: to meet again in the same place in twelve months' time if they still want to be together.

But is life ever as simple as that?

This is a story of what-ifs and maybes – and how one decision can change your life forever…

The old film about the strangers that meet at the train station and fall in love is re-imagined here as a modern love story.

Two people travelling in opposite directions but who meet and fall in love (lust?) at St Pancras  station whilst waiting for their delayed trains. They talk and agree to some rules about how they will communicate during the following year. But they break these rules as their communications become more intense. And of course, they have agreed to meet again at the end of the year, in the same place, to continue their journeys together this time.

But life is never as straight forward as that, which is why I liked this story. Most traditional stories would have had them meet and all would be well. But as we know, real life is not as romantic as this.

The writing style was pleasant and the story was well crafted. It was enjoyable if not high literature.

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