Blog Tour #1: Review of The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn

the botanists daughter.jpgTitle: The Botanist’s Daughter

Author: Kayte Nunn

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 388

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Discovery. Desire. Deception. A wondrously imagined tale of two female botanists, separated by more than a century, in a race to discover a life-saving flower . . .

In Victorian England, headstrong adventuress Elizabeth takes up her late father’s quest for a rare, miraculous plant. She faces a perilous sea voyage, unforeseen dangers and treachery that threatens her entire family.

In present-day Australia, Anna finds a mysterious metal box containing a sketchbook of dazzling watercolours, a photograph inscribed ‘Spring 1886’ and a small bag of seeds. It sets her on a path far from her safe, carefully ordered life, and on a journey that will force her to face her own demons.

In this spellbinding botanical odyssey of discovery, desire and deception, Kayte Nunn has so exquisitely researched nineteenth-century Cornwall and Chile you can almost smell the fragrance of the flowers, the touch of the flora on your fingertips . . .

‘I loved The Botanist’s Daughter. I was transported to the 1880s and Chile, to contemporary Sydney and Kew. A gripping, warm-hearted read’
JOY RHOADES, author of The Woolgrower’s Companion

‘The riveting story of two women, divided by a century in time, but united by their quest to discover a rare and dangerous flower said to have the power to heal as well as kill. Fast-moving and full of surprises, The Botanist’s Daughter brings the exotic world of 19th-century Chile thrillingly to life’ KATE FORSYTH

~*~

This review and upcoming Q and A with the author are part of a blog tour with Hachette during August.

AWW-2018-badge-roseElizabeth Trebithick lives in Victorian England, in an old house, alone after the death of her father and sister’s marriage. Headstrong and determined to make her own way in the world and not be confined to the female universe that society, her sister and brother in law seem bent on setting out for her, Elizabeth sets out on a quest presented to her by her father before his death – to Chile to find a rare plant with miraculous qualities, that might have the answers and cures to many ailments, but getting it from Chile to England will be the challenge. But so will life aboard a ship for many months, and then life in South America: falling in love, making enemies and the consequences that come with hiding secrets and secret missions.

In Australia in 2017, Anna’s discovery of a tightly sealed box containing a diary, sketches and watercolours, as well as a hidden secret that draws Anna into the mystery of the diary of Elizabeth, known at first as ‘E’ – it ruptures her ordered life of work, and routine, and beings to force her to face her own demons, the memories of her past still haunting her as she tries to let go and move on with her life – which is why she has created such a well-ordered schedule, so life doesn’t overwhelm her. When the box she finds triggers a mystery that potentially involves her family, Anna leaves to go to England to trace the story of Elizabeth and the flower she was searching for – the Devil’s Trumpet. Keen to find out more about Elizabeth, and the diary, Anna’s trip takes her to London, Kew and Cornwall – to meet a descendant of Elizabeth’s father whom she hopes will be able to help her solve the mystery of the diary and paintings. With the help of her sister, Vanessa and friends who also work with plants, Anna’s interest is caught: and it is a mystery that had me turning each page diligently and eagerly as she met botanists in England at Kew, and found a kinship with them, and a shared interest in botany that Anna will soon learn hits much closer to home than she, her mother or her sister ever realised.

Elizabeth and Anna are strong, wilful characters whose driven presence gives the book its strength. It is through these characters that the world of botany comes to life, the smells and sounds of both centuries and cities, and the scent of flowers wafts around as you read – even the unfamiliar plants and scents filter through, and come to life in the imagination. The characters in both timelines were so full of life and complexities, both linked by a love of botany, which shines through, as does their determination not to let families, times or other people define what they do and who they are – they are allowed to be themselves and – particularly Elizabeth – work within the confines of what is expected of them whilst maintaining a sense of self and individuality that springs in a lively form from the page.

With a few twists and turns, the mystery of the diary, sketches and forgotten stories and family are solved, and brought together in a riveting ending that has whispers of the past potentially coming through on the very last page.

A well written novel, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. My Q and A with Kayte will appear on the blog on the 12th of August as part of the blog tour with Hachettte.

Booktopia

Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

beachcomber bay.jpg

Title: Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay

Author: Jill Mansell

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia, Headline Review

Published: January 10, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 405

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Love is in the air in St Carys, but you’d never know it – the people of this seaside town are very good at keeping secrets…

The man Clemency loves belongs to someone else. She has to hide her true feelings – but when she ropes in an unsuspecting friend to help, wires start to get crossed.

For the first time in Ronan’s life his charm has failed him in winning over the woman he wants. Loving her from afar appears to be his only option.

Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right. And now a long-buried secret is slowly rising to the surface.

The truth has a funny way of revealing itself, and when it does St Carys will be a very different place indeed…

~*~

Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay was a book that took me a little longer than usual to get into. It is a genre I don’t really read out of choice, because I often find romance novels  have characters that are too perfect. In this one, there was a decent mix of characters with their own flaws and individual backgrounds. Set in the small town of St Cary’s the story revolves around a group of people who come to find themselves interlinked through each other for various reasons. Everyone has a secret to keep from someone else, some that they are unaware of until the final chapters of the novel.

Stepsisters Belle and Clemency are always at odds: this is no secret in St Cary – they have been since they were teenagers. Yet in a small town where gossip is rife, anything that they try and hide from each other, themselves or anyone else is sure to come out sooner rather than later. It is this gossip that leads to secrets that have been hidden for years to come to the surface, culminating in an all too convenient ending for each character and what they desire – whether it is love, friendship or family.

Marina, the artist is harbouring a secret of her own, and one she has not been able to share at all. Ronan is adopted, and happy, but always wondering about the woman he loves but cannot have, and his birth parents. Kate, the post carrier, has a secret that not even she knows about. And Clemency is in love with the man her sister is with – but does Belle really like Sam?

Each chapter is generally told from a different perspective at first, at least until everyone becomes linked and eventually, they are all consistently thrown together in one way or another, or at least with one or more people at a time. This technique allows the secrets to unfold slowly and to evolve as the characters come together.

Given that this is marketed as romance, or chick lit, the clean and convenient tying up of plots and characters is possibly expected, and the conflicts that lead to that point work. I would have liked a little more conflict though, rather than just everyone happily getting along. Though this isn’t what would happen in the genre, and even though it did not work for me, there are others who will enjoy it. I managed to make it to the end though, and in the end, did find aspects I enjoyed – The friendship between Ronan and Clemency was perhaps my favourite relationship in the book, and Ronan was my favourite character. His story was indeed the most intriguing, and I would have liked to have it explored a little more.

One thing I did like was that not every character got what they wanted immediately – even if it is inevitable that they will in the end – they had to go on their own journeys to get there. Ronan and Kate’s is perhaps the most interesting too – maybe because it is shrouded in more secrecy than the others, and the result come out quite suddenly – a shock that begins each relationship changing and the convenience of everything working out, and leading to a surprise ending for two characters that aren’t as prominent as Ronan, but just as important.

A great beach read, an easy read f you’re in the mood for something light, and the perfect read for people who, unlike me, enjoy this genre all the time.

The Farm At The Edge of The World by Sarah Vaughan

isbn9781444792294

 

 

I received a copy from the publisher for review

 

Title: The Farm At The Edge of The World

Author: Sarah Vaughan

Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette/Hodder and Stoughton

Published: 28/6/2016

RRP: $32.99

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

 

Synopsis: 1939, and Will and Alice are evacuated to a granite farm in north Cornwall, perched on a windswept cliff. There they meet the farmer’s daughter, Maggie, and against fields of shimmering barley and a sky that stretches forever, enjoy a childhood largely protected from the ravages of war.

 

 

But in the sweltering summer of 1943 something happens that will have tragic consequences. A small lie escalates. Over 70 years on Alice is determined to atone for her behaviour – but has she left it too late?

 

 

2014, and Maggie’s granddaughter Lucy flees to the childhood home she couldn’t wait to leave thirteen years earlier, marriage over; career apparently ended thanks to one terrible mistake. Can she rebuild herself and the family farm? And can she help her grandmother, plagued by a secret, to find some lasting peace?

 

 

This is a novel about identity and belonging; guilt, regret and atonement; the unrealistic expectations placed on children and the pain of coming of age. It’s about small lies and dark secrets. But above all it’s about a beautiful, desolate, complex place.

 

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The Farm at The Edge of the World tells a dual story about the same family. Maggie’s story spans seventy years, and is intermingled with the contemporary story of her granddaughter, Lucy. Lucy has escaped to the farm after a relationship breakdown and is on leave from work after making an error that could have had disastrous consequences.

The intrigue of the novel is woven throughout the narrative, switching back and forth at the right time to keep the reader engaged. The use of different tenses for the different time periods is effective, allowing the reader to take note of the past versus the present. As Maggie recalls the days of the war and the presence of the evacuees, Will and Alice, and what led to a betrayal that could never be forgiven, Maggie’s granddaughter, Lucy, hopes a visit to the farm will help her work out what she needs to do with her life, and help her heal some wounds from a broken marriage and near-tragic mistake.

Over the course of the book, both Maggie and Lucy grapple with secrets and struggles that have made them who they are, and impact their emotions in the book. The opening of the book invites the reader into the mystery, wanting to know more as the story unfolds. As the book climaxes, and secrets come out, the family begins to heal and understand what has driven Maggie to want to keep the farm, rather than sell it. When reading this story, I was transported to a part of the world I wish to visit, and to a past time when expectations were different, when war plagued the world but human emotions and desires were very much the same.

Reading this book was a joy, and not quite what I expected, but in a good way: it had history, romance, conflict – a variety of themes that created a well-rounded story, that had more motives for the characters to give them more drive, which made reading it a delight and far too easy to keep reading late into the night. Sarah Vaughan has written a beautiful novel. Using World War Two, and the evacuee situation as a backdrop made the novel enjoyable.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

9781742376516

 

The Lake House

 

Title: The Lake House

Author: Kate Morton

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Category: Fiction

Pages: 596

Available formats: Print and Ebook

Publication Date: 21/10/15

RRP: AU$32.99

Synopsis: A missing child.

 

June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Alice Edevane, sixteen years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t have. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.

 

An abandoned house.

 

Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, Sadie stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.

 

An unsolved mystery.

 

Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape.

 

~*~

 

Kate Morton’s fifth novel starts with a mysterious scene that invites the reader into the story instantly. I wanted to know who this girl was, carrying a bag at night to bury. And why? Immediately, the reader is thrust into the world of mystery, the mystery disappearance of little Theo Edevane in 1933, and his family. Parallel to this story is that of Sadie Sparrow, a police detective on leave after a troubling case, and reprimand – seventy years after Theo’s disappearance. She discovers Loeanneth during a walk with her grandfather’s dogs, and is drawn into the mystery of the missing child, Theo.

When Sadie contacts Alice about the disappearance of Theo in 1933, eager to uncover the truth, a series of events lead to the lives of Sadie, her grandfather, Alice and Alice’s assistant colliding to resolve what happened.

Like Kate’s other novels, The Lake House journeys between 1933 and 2003, and the years of The First World War and the intervening seventy years, with significant events and clues being dropped throughout the book at careful intervals, and the right places. The story of Theo’s disappearance parallels Sadie’s current life, the case that made her break protocol, that keeps haunting her throughout the book, and her own past that has come back to haunt her throughout the book. These threads slowly combine to unite the story in a way that still has me thinking about it, even days after completing the final chapter.

The setting of Cornwall, and the mysterious Loeannath create the perfect air of mystery, and the house, left alone for seventy years, acts as a time machine, transporting the characters and the reader back to the time of the Midsummer Party, and disappearance of little Theo, and the raw emotions of the time bubble to the surface when Alice enters the house with Bertie, Sadie’s grandfather, Sadie and Peter. Entering the house with them, the shadow of the mystery hung over the beautiful house yet at the same time, it was as though the house had come back to life for the first time in seventy years.

The mystery was well presented, and the parallels in the lives of the characters echoed each other in an effective manner, bringing it to a nice conclusion that has left me wanting to know more about the fates of these characters. I look forward to the next book by Kate Morton.