Amanda Grange’s dangerous romance and dastardly plots

17 Feb

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More Amanda Grange novels and this time romance against the backdrop of spies and secret plots.

Lord Deverill’s Secret by Amanda Grange: Cassandra has arrived in Brighton, a year after the death of her brother, to sell the family town house. With no parents, a mortgaged estate and a young sister to support she is determined to make it through life without having to marry for money (despite her friends matchmaking attempts). She is however concerned about a puzzling letter her brother wrote before he died and goes to see Lord Deverill, a supposed friend of his. Although he assures her nothing is amiss, cogs are in motion and her arrival in Brighton does not go unnoticed, and then there are the accidents. This book combines both passionate longings, and secret plots. Is Lord Deverill her saviour or her enemy?

The Silverton Scandal by Amanda Grange: When Elanor’s stagecoach is held up by a highwayman she is furious, but when she recognises the highwayman to be Lord Silverton she is astonished. Should she expose him, or keep his secret in order to pursue her own private mission. What she doesn’t expect is her electric connection with this man to stir feelings inside her. This book is romance first with the backdrop of blackmail, secret plots and scandal.

I unfortunately have run out of Amanda Grange books in Libraries which are in walking distance, but fear not, it seems the rest are in Taunton (road trip?)

and Jenny Colgan created Rosie Hopkins

16 Feb

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As you will probably have noticed practically everything I read has an element of the ‘fantastical’ about it. Either aliens or zombies or invading, or victorian women are investigating mysterious curses in shadowy castles, or the question of reality is in itself queried.

However I saw Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan in the library and suddenly had the desire for some chick lit. I went through a bit of a chick lit reading phase about 10 years ago but wandered away from it towards fantasy instead, getting sick of the same same plots and not at all identifying with the characters.

The back of the book looked appealing and as soon as I started I was hooked. I think i read it over only a few days. Rosie Hopkins works all hours in a hospital in London and lives in a small flat with her long term boyfriend. When a family emergency arises, Rosie ends up going to stay with her elderly aunt Lilian who runs a sweetshop in rural Derbyshire. Not only do we follow Rosie we also follow the story of Lilian back in 1942 which added a whole extra, yet intertwined, story to the book. I don’t want to give much away but it really is very good. There are good times and heartache, bicycles, vegetable patches, grumpy old ladies, the importance of having a good coat, a mystery in the dark house on the hill, and lots and lots of sweets. Oh and recipes too!

Old fashioned sweetshops are just magical, although i am of the generation of the plastic jars rather than the beautiful glass ones, i remember going in and buying quarters of giant strawberries, cola bottles and pint pots. (beer sweets – how exciting is that to a child!). We have proper old fashioned sweet shops in town, and one of the great thing about being an adult is that you can justifiably go in and spend a fiver on all sorts and then eat them all over the weekend without having to answer to anyone.

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins Sweetshop by Jenny Colgan. As soon as I finished the first book i immediately got on the library catalogue for the sequel. It had not long been published so every copy was out and i put myself on the waiting list to reserve a copy. I was immensely lucky and got the book within a week and then read the whole thing over the weekend.

Now I can’t give too much away here because I really want you to read the first one. (p.s. don’t read the back of this one before you’ve read the first one – my mistake – as it gives some stuff away). However, this book is set a year later and follows how Rosie is getting along and what she is doing for christmas. Firstly her family announces they will be arriving from Austrailia and then practically everything you can imagine happening in a telly christmas special, happens (but in a really really well written way). Thats all I can say really except that you won’t be able to put it down.

Before this i had only read one Jenny Colgan novel; Talking to Addison which i got free with a magazine many many years ago. I really enjoyed it (its about a florist who falls for a computer geek) but somehow never read another. This was Jenny’s second novel. I think there is something very personal about reading, you either take to the heroine or you don’t. Sometimes you read and you either don’t care about or don’t understand the main character but I must Jenny Colgan’s girls so far :) This spring her new book The Beach Street Bakery is being published and its on my wishlist already.

Amanda Grange’s women running away from houses

15 Feb

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What I really love is a good old fashioned gothic romance, where a young woman has to solve the mystery of a dark and terrifying castle by candlelight (and a bit of running through corridors away from frightening noises doesn’t go amiss either)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen summed this up brilliantly. Teenage girls in the 17th and early 18th century were gripped by orphaned heiresses trapped in renaissance Italian castles. Later on the Victorians brought the terror into gaslight London, and Daphne Du Maurier brought the mystery up to date in Rebecca. The problem is that ‘Gothic Romance’ isn’t really a genre you can easily search for, even amazon’s ‘people who bought this also bought’ section wasn’t helping me much (when in the past it has found me loads of things to add to my ‘to read’ list) as it tended to only bring up books by the same author. If you were in a bookshop (i adore the rummaging in the second hand one in my local market) you would probably find some of this genre in ‘historical romance’, but I don’t just want the romance, I want a good mystery plot too. The rest you would probably find scattered amongst general fiction (and maybe horror) but weeding them out can be hard.

A while ago I came across a website called ‘Women running away from houses’ which documents many book, often from the 60’s and 70’s where a heroine is gripped by the terror of whatever is happening in the building behind her. This seemed to be a good starting point to search for some of the authors in bookshop and library categories. Another good source I found was lists on Goodreads which pointed me in the direction of some authors.

Im not entirely sure how I came across Amanda Grange, but I am so glad I did. I think i was searching for the word castle in amazon. The first book that caught my eye was Stormcrow castle. The kindle version had a title of Castle of Secrets and the cover was just a girl in a pink dress, but on finding the hardback, there was a painting of a rather worried looking girl in had and cloak with an imposing mansion behind. This got me hooked and luckily my library seems to like Amanda Grange too.

Stormcrow Castle by Amanda Grange: When Helena goes to visit her aunt, the housekeeper to Lord Stormcrow, she is shocked and disturbed to find that her aunt has left (suddenly in the middle of the night) to care for a sick relative. Knowing that this is not true, and being mistaken for the new housekeeper Helena is determined to investigate from within. What secrets are Lord Stormcrow hiding and who’s grave does he visit in the dead on night, what are the noises in the attic and can she stay calm in front of suspicious servants while getting to the bottom of the mystery. This book was so good and I never guessed ”who dunnit’

Carisbrooke Abbey by Amanda Grange: Miss Hilary Wentworth takes an appointment at Carisbrook Abbey, despite the urges of the locals for her to turn back. The gruff Lord Carisbrook does not welcome the presence of women in his house and although he frightens her he also enthrals her. But there is real danger in the castle and a secret which must be kept hidden yet threatens to break free causing destruction and maybe death.

After this I have been raiding the library’s supply of Amanda Grange. I went for the ‘mystery in the castle’ stories first and am curious to see what else is in store. What I didn’t realise is that I already own an Amanda Grange novel, Mr Darcy Vampyre, but I haven’t got on to reading it since I got it  for last Christmas.

Style Inspiration: Midge Carne

12 Nov

Style inspiration from BBC’s South Riding Midge Carne

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Midge Carne, Specsavers Rufus glasses, Zehui duckegg cardigan at Amazon, Edinburgh Woollen Mill purple knife pleat skirt, Clarks Hamble Oak red brogues

Remembrance

11 Nov

Papaver rhoeas

Papaver rhoeas

 In remembrance of my great uncle, missing in a foreign field

Sparkle

5 Nov

little grey rabbit sparklers

Remember Remember the Fifth of November

Image from Hare and Guy Fawkes by Alison Uttley, illustration by Margaret Tempest

Austen for Everyone

7 Oct

The works of Jane Austen are as popular as ever and over the years adaptations have graced our screens. Some, the more traditional adaptations of the BBC and ITV, and other more modern adaptations, my favourite of course being Clueless. These days Austen is everywhere from movies about girls obsessed with Mr Darcy to Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (p.s. this is a great book).

I was wasting some time while waiting for a bus and discovered that there is indeed an Austen book for everyone

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Cozy

austeneducational

Educational

austen action

Marvel Action

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And even with a Pulp Fiction cover. The blurb on the back says: “Mrs Bennett is on a mission to marry off her five daughters to rich men. Enter Mr Charles Bingley and his rather fit friend, Darcy. LOVE, LOATHING & BITTERSWEET ROMANCE follow…”

Three Yellow Suits (and a kettle)

6 Oct

Yesterday morning I just couldn’t resist taking a peek inside Hobbs as I was passing, and immediately fell in love with this jacket and skirt. Unfortunately I have no need for a suit, however as separates I can imagine wearing them loads. (just wish I had the cash for them)

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On arriving home I settled down with a cup of coffee and started leafing through this month’s Vogue ‘More Dash than Cash’ suppliment and low and behold what caught my eye but this Emilia Wickstead yellow suit (its picture 3). I’m loving the skirt length and the jacket is more a coat than an indoor jacket. Perfect for coordinating when out in the chilly weather.

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I then got a thinking, what other yellow suits are out there. Preferably tweed of course. What I found was the Ardvreck Tweed Jacket with Peggy Skirt from Blues and Browns.

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Ive been very partial to yellow all year. I really want this kettle

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Autumnal Pinterest Board

5 Oct

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image source

Despite the fact that its currently warm enough to wear a strappy summer dress outside with no tights or cardigan (unusual for October but I’m enjoying the warmth while it lasts), my brain is getting ready for Autumn. Conkers, pumpkins, wood fires, tweed skirts and wool blankets. Ive spent this afternoon adding loads of cozy things to my Pinterest Autumnal page. Do take a look

Savoury Cheese Muffins

3 Oct

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Sometimes you just want to bake something savoury. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked in my Afternoon Tea recipe book for a while and on discovering that I had all the ingredients I decided to give them a go.

I really love this book, which I got as a christmas present from a friend, it has so many good recipes (cakes to quiches to scones) and is really easily laid out. You can see the recipe in the image below. Its really easy to mix and for once I didn’t need to use the kitchenaid (hoorah for less washing up). It makes a really gloopy paste which you put into bun cases with a block of cheese in the centre. The main thing to watch here is how much you put in each of the muffin tins. The first time I made these I put too much in the bottom and didnt have enough to cover the cheese on top.

The second time I made these it worked better. They were a little dry the first time and moister the second. I have no idea why this was although i didn’t bother with the recipe quantity of cheese the second time, as realising it needed more, I just cut a generous square for each of the muffins. More cheese is definitely better.

These work really well for a lunchtime or afternoon snack and are best eaten warm on the same day you bake them. They can last one more day but are really really dry if you leave them any longer (could microwaving to reheat be an answer? I didn’t try). Just be careful eating them too soon from the oven as theres a lot of molten cheese in there!

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