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Lady Gardeners Rule OK: Book Review

The Fair Botanists Book Cover The Fair Botanists
Sara Sheridan
Historical Fiction | Romance | Women's Fiction
Hodder & Stoughton
Pub Date 5 Aug 2021

Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?

It's the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV's impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower - an event that only occurs once every few decades.

When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband's aunt Clementina, she's determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant's impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.

Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don't last long in this Enlightenment city . . .

And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences.

I loved this book – but then I am a keen gardener and plant afficionado and as it happens I collect agaves and aloes especially, of all succulents and exotic Mediterranean plants. Not cactii. But a few euphorbia. Preferably not too prickly! I do have an Agave Americana in my collection, and interestingly of all agave, these are now the most common, even though, to be honest, I have never seen one flower in a garden. I have seen them flower on Mediterranean mountain sides. The flower is not very exotic. Normally they grow a lot of offsets and propagation is through them. I have masses of grey agave from offsets.

I thought that the sensory discussion about smells having colours was interesting as this is a well known phenomena – people also have music colours and taste colours.  And I liked the idea that smells produce emotions as people often associated perfume with a particular time, place, or person.

The setting up of the new Botanical Garden was fascinating. And how they transplanted the trees. In barrels. I always thought that they used sacking round the roots to transplant and to remove the soil. This was clearly a very different, and perhaps less brutal way, as the finer roots wouldn’t be damaged.

The argument over whether a botanical garden is for medicinal uses still ranges – especially now that we discover that many plants that were once thought to be ornamental – such as green beans – are now used for food; and others such as yew are used to extract (a cancer) drug from it called paclitaxel (Taxol), which is an antimitotic agent which stops cell division, resulting in cell death and this prevents cancer growth.

I knew about pineapples being a status symbol and that many wealthy plantation owners put a pineapple finial on their gates to indicate that they had grown them, but I was unaware about strawberries being a new plant. According to wikipedia, the garden strawberry was first bred in Brittany, France, in the 1750s via a cross of Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America and Fragaria chiloensis, which was brought from Chile by Amédée-François Frézier in 1714. Strawberry fragrance is extremely complicated – it has 31 elements that give it its flavour and scent and it is claimed to be useful in alleviating diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis.

I did like the idea of a bath oil to help alleviate period pains – the doctors all being male (at this time, and what about later researchers and grants?) would think that was nothing to concern themselves over. And so it has continued for many years. As has been said, if only male doctors got periods there would have been a cure for the pain and discomfort long ago! Today the use of oil for cramps is common in the complementary medical world, and they recommend: peppermint, lavender, cypress oil, clary sage, rose, copaiba, cinnamon, and bergamot peel, roman chamomile flower, ylang-ylang, cedarwood, geranium, fennel seed, carrot seed, palmarosa herb, and vitex leaf berry, not to mention siberian fir. So there is a large number of essential oils that can help and special blends are available.

So what did I think of the book apart from all this wonderful plant knowledge? I loved it. I thought it very clever the way the various stories about the people of Edinburgh were blended into the story of the Botanical garden move and the excitement over a unique flower and other special, and new to that time, plants. The style was good and easy to read as well as being informative. We well understood that this was a blend of historical facts and fiction. The visit in 1822 of the Prince Regent to Edinburgh was real. Sir Walter Scott and his insistence on tartan for the dress code elevated the fabric to become again symbol of identity – as it had been forbidden after the Jacobite Rising.

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Witchling’s Girl

The Witchling's Girl Book Cover The Witchling's Girl
Helena Coggan
Sci Fi & Fantasy | Teens & YA
Hodder & Stoughton
Pub Date 7 Jan 2021

In a quiet street far from the river, with an ancient tree growing through its walls and floors, is the House of the Dead. There lives the witchling: healer, midwife and conduit between the world of the living and the world below. A witchling must give up her family and friends and spend her life alone, tending to the sick and carrying the dead down dark tunnels to the underworld. Haley was born with the gift of death-magic, and at the age of seven her mother abandons her to the witchling to be raised as her successor. But as Haley grows older and learns her craft - as invading armies pass through her town, people are born and die on her floor, and loyalties shift and dissolve around her - she finds it harder and harder to keep her vows and be the perfect and impassive healer. But if she can't, it will be her downfall - and that of everyone she's not supposed to love . . .

I failed to get involved in the storyline, it seemed too reminiscent of the stories of Baba Yaga and her house on chicken legs that lives in many dimensions. (In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a supernatural being who appears as a deformed or ferocious-looking old woman. Baba Yaga may help or hinder those that encounter her or seek her out). So having read stories about Baba and her disciples before and quite enjoyed them, I needed to read a story which was completely different – except this one wasn’t. And death magic is quite common too in stories and comes across better in a humorous format I find.

This is my personal view as someone who reads and has already read, far more than the 10,000 lifetime books – as I read 400 books a year. So you really have to be good and original especially when delving into folk-lore or fairytales.

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Amusing George

An Accidental Royal Kidnap Book Cover An Accidental Royal Kidnap
Paul Mathews
humour, contemporary fiction, mystery
Independently published
November 24, 2020
260

When London schoolteacher George Nearly wakes up one Sunday morning to find a dishevelled young woman sprawled on his living-room rug, claiming to be a princess, his plans for a peaceful day at home recovering from his 39th birthday party disappear faster than a French monarch's head during a revolution. And when the feisty royal accuses George of kidnapping her, his very ordinary life is turned completely upside down, as the party princess takes root in his apartment, causes royal waves among his friends and family, and demands to go walkabout on the streets of London. It's blue-blooded British comedy by unofficial royal appointment in this hilarious, and often surreal, regal romp that's guaranteed to raise a laugh from Balmoral to Buckingham Palace! The first novel in the Royally Funny Books series This very British comedy novel is the first in a series starring reluctant hero George Nearly, the unpredictable Princess Araminta of Essex ('Minty' to her friends) and a host of other quirky characters - all of whom make Mad King George seem like a perfectly sane individual. Royals and commoners collide in these uniquely English adventures that lovers of comedy fiction around the former British Empire and beyond will enjoy. And if you're reading this, Your Majesty ... we guarantee that you will be amused, ma'am!

There’s something about a book character named George. they can be one of 3 things: all somewhat charming in their own way.

  1. a small grubby full of questions and questioning boy;
  2. a scruffy mongrel dog inevitably rolling in whatever smelt the worst;
  3. an Englishman. recognizable by leather elbow patches, cricket flannels too baggy. a domineering mother. a loser group of friends. and a loser girlfriend with a lack lustre love life.

Guess which George we had here. And no, he didn’t wear flannels and elbow patches but close!

Amusing story here as George clearly had no idea what he was about and how to deal with strange arrival in his life. But a happy ending and all was well through a series of amusing episodes. Nicely written and full of expectations fulfilled.

4

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Turner rules OK. Book Review.

Accidentally in Love Book Cover Accidentally in Love
Belinda Missen
Fiction, romance, College humour, love, sex and marriage, new adult
HarperCollins UK
September 11, 2020
384

In the space of a week, Katharine Patterson has quit her job, decided to move back home, and broken up with the guy she thought was the one.

No big deal.

Because Katharine has a plan. She’s going to open her own art gallery, just like she’s always wanted. What she’s not going to do is worry about boyfriends.

Then she meets Kit, a handsome and talented local artist. He might be the most stubborn person Katharine has ever met. He might also make her feel like no one ever has before.

And Katharine might be about to fall accidentally in love

Well well, Sheffield has certainly changed since I lived there..

We left many years back when the River Don was still a nasty smelling sewer full of chemicals and not a place to sit by.. The steel industry went into decline and Sheffield suffered badly, but seems to have pulled itself back up with a lot of Yorkshire grit no doubt.

We liked being so close to the moors but not above the snow line – you needed to watch out for that – the closer to the moors, the higher you were and the colder it got.. and we are forever grateful that we were outbid on the house with best view ever! The art in this story made the telling even better for me, as I also love Turner and the Romantics and the Arts and Crafts movement. we go to as many exhibitions as we can here in London, which is such a joy for us, and we are so looking forward to going to the galleries again – Covid permitting. we buy local original art when we can afford it – we have a wall or two full of it and always complaining we have no more room but always finding room for yet more… we don’t like prints but do like the work our friends produce!

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Perfect? Not in my opinion. Book Review

The Perfect Bet Book Cover The Perfect Bet
Perfect Series
Anita Lemke
Fiction, Contemporary Romance,
Anita Evensen
September 18, 2020
195

Will she open her heart to her perfect husband and win the bet? She’s afraid to love anyone… Solely focused on her career, ambitious Megan Rhodes never gets close to anyone – let alone a boyfriend. When her wealthy aunt offers her $200k to find the perfect guy, the goal is to draw Megan out of her shell. But Megan is determined to win the bet and start the ad agency she’s always wanted to run without risking her heart. … when the perfect husband captures her heart. Megan convinces her teenage crush, outdoorsy Alex Whitmore, to become her husband for hire. Alex will do anything he can to help Megan win her bet – and he has own reasons for doing so. But when Megan’s feelings for Alex become all too real, she must face her fears surrounding love while facing the very real possibility of losing the bet and the perfect husband. A modern-day contemporary romance

Perfect Plan/Bet

Anita Lemke

I thought both these books lacked depth in characterisation of the main protagonists. And, to be candid, the endings would have been better start points for the stories.

These are stories that follow the trope too closely and don’t give enough angst and emotion. The writing was ‘nice’ rather than good; lacked humour even though there were plenty of opportunities for it; and I never quite got past instant lust into a meaningful relationship. Shame really as there was a good opportunity to plot well and provide readable and interesting books.

This review goes for both books as they are by the same author and her ‘failings’ are evident in both.

2-3 stars.

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