No Noise?

House of Silence Book Cover House of Silence
Sarah Barthel
Fiction
Kensington
2016-12
300

Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin s future like that of every young woman hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiance commit a horrific crime and no one believes her. Gregory denies all, and Isabelle s mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband s assassination. In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine. Weaving together a thread of finely tuned suspense with a fascinating setting and real-life figures, Sarah Barthel's debut is historical fiction at its most evocative and compelling."

The publisher’s write-up sounded fabulous and so I attempted to read this book several times. But found that whilst the beginning was engaging, once Isabelle was committed to the asylum, I found myself getting less interested and less interested. Somehow my attention wandered… I never managed to complete the book.

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Do a Crime – get Schooling? No Contest.

Lord of the Night Book Cover Lord of the Night
Rogues to Riches #3
Erica Ridley
history, literary fiction, romance
WebMotion
(20 July 2017)

Unlike proper debutantes, Miss Dahlia Grenville is secretly Robin Hood in a bonnet. Her home for wayward girls has too many dependents and not enough donations. But just as she’s about to pull off the heist of the Season, she tumbles straight into the arms of the handsome detective who has sworn to deliver Mayfair’s mysterious thief straight to the gallows. Highly principled Bow Street runner Simon Spaulding’s world is black and white. There’s no mastermind too clever, no criminal alive who can escape the hangman. Until he realizes the delightful young lady he’s been courting is a liar and a thief. Suddenly, his career—and his heart—are in peril. How can he bring her to justice when it means losing her forever?

And again Erica writes a good historical romance with a modern twist – or at least a feminist twist.

Here we have a nicely brought up young woman not only starting her own school for destitute and desperate young girls but also finding a way to support the school through somewhat illegal means – although she would point out that no-one was actually physically harmed, and anyway, those she took from could well have afforded to donate instead, but didn’t. So almost deserved it….

And we have the start of the Peelers to add to the mix. Which again will intrigue people who like their history and crime fiction…

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Snow in a Globe?

The Snow Globe Book Cover The Snow Globe
Judith Kinghorn
Fiction, historical
Canelo
25th September 2017
416

Inside the glass orb was a miniature garden and a house. If she stared long enough, she could almost see the people inside. But whether they were trapped there, or kept safe, in that miniscule snowbound world, she couldn't have said... Christmas 1926 holds bright promise for nineteen-year-old Daisy Forbes, with celebrations under way at Eden Hall, her family's country estate in Surrey, England. But when Daisy, the youngest of three daughters, discovers that her adored father, Howard, has been leading a double life, her illusions of perfection are shattered. Worse, his current mistress, introduced as a family friend, is joining them for the holidays. As Daisy wrestles with the truth, she blossoms in her own right, receiving a marriage proposal from one man, a declaration of love from another, and her first kiss from a third. Meanwhile, her mother, Mabel, manages these social complications with outward calm, while privately reviewing her life and contemplating significant changes. And among those below stairs, Nancy, the housekeeper, and Mrs. Jessops, the cook, find that their long-held secrets are slowly beginning to surface... As the seasons unfold in the new year, and Daisy moves to London, desires, fortunes, and loyalties will shift during this tumultuous time after the Great War. The Forbes family and those who serve them will follow their hearts down unexpected paths that always return to where they began...Eden Hall.

Author Bio:
Judith Kinghorn
is the author of four novels: The Echo of Twilight, The Snow Globe, The Memory of Lost Senses and The Last Summer. She was born in Northumberland, educated in the Lake District, and is a graduate in English and History of Art. She lives in Hampshire, England, with her husband and two children.

Twitter: @judithkinghorn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writerjudithkinghorn/

Website: https://www.judithkinghornwriter.com/

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When games aren’t helpful

Lord of Chance Book Cover Lord of Chance
Volume 1 (Rogues to Riches)
Erica Ridley
Fiction
Intrepid Reads
March 27, 2017
266

The first book in USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Erica Ridley's new regency romance series, Rogues to Riches! When Lady Luck wins him in a game of chance-and a wee mishap has them leg-shackled by dawn-have the tables finally turned in this rake's favor?

 

Erica Ridley always writes a fluent Regency style novel. Historically correct with speech adjusted to modern understanding.

Here we have 2 very sad specimens adrift in a society where women are wives, servants, or harlots, and society men do not toil for a living.

So an illegitimate daughter of a courtesan cannot be respectably employed, and a man without an income has no recourse but gambling to fund his life and to support his family.

3

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Reading, Writing, and Women

The Words in My Hand Book Cover The Words in My Hand
Guinevere Glasfurd
literary fiction, historical fiction
Two Roads
February 9, 2017
414

The Words in My Hand is the reimagined true story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid in 17th-century Amsterdam, who works for Mr Sergeant the English bookseller. When a mysterious and reclusive lodger arrives - the Monsieur - Mr Sergeant insists everything must be just so. It transpires that the Monsieur is René Descartes.
But this is Helena's story: the woman in front of Descartes, a young woman who yearns for knowledge, who wants to write so badly she makes ink from beetroot and writes in secret on her skin - only to be held back by her position in society.
Weaving together the story of Descartes' quest for reason with Helena's struggle for literacy, their worlds overlap as their feelings deepen; yet remain sharply divided. For all Descartes' learning, it is Helena he seeks out as she reveals the surprise in the everyday world that surrounds him.
When reputation is everything and with so much to lose, some truths must remain hidden. Helena and Descartes face a terrible tragedy and ultimately have to decide if their love is possible at all.

A story based in speculation about facts – what caused Descartes to have a friendship with Helena, a maid? And how did Helena manage to learn to read and write when it was extremely uncommon amongst women of the Quality, let alone a maid?

Well, the author has made some suggestions within this book that link the facts in a way that makes total sense – with perhaps a little embroidery here and there, just to flesh out the known characters and known occurrences.

This is a sensitive tale of a young girl, Helena, who is forced by family circumstances to become a maid in the household of a bookseller in 1635.

Helena narrates this story as it happens to her and she tells us of the way in which she manages the household and her work, and how she learnt the rudiments of reading and writing (on her hand for lack of knowledge or access to, paper, quills, and ink) from her brother who was schooled by tutors.

The bookseller, Mr Sergeant, ekes out his living by renting the attic rooms of his house to like minded gentlemen and thus Descartes comes to stay. And Helena encounters him and his servant, and learns to write properly. All this at a time when paper was extremely expensive and not for the ‘common sort’ to have access to.

Helena and her maid friend, who she teaches to read and write,  wonder what life would be like if all women could read and write. Perhaps they could then manage their own businesses and not be dependent on men for their livelihood and income? A world that they do not get to see.  As they live in a world where books are still extremely expensive and a man (never a woman) who has a library of 100 books is considered a scholar and wealthy.

Meeting Descartes changes Helena’s life forever, and not just because she learns to read and write properly.

I found this a fascinating and sensitive story and could not put it down. I wanted to know more of this strange relationship between the maid and the renowned scholar.

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