The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

 

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Published by Piatkus, 25th August 2016, 383 pages, 5.99

‘Romantic, engaging and hugely satisfying’

Katie Fiorde on The Apothecary’s Daughter

‘A highly-recommended novel of love, tragedy and the power of art’

Daily Mail on The Painter’s Apprentice

‘Full of passion and drama . . . I was captivated by this moving, heart-warming and beautifully woven story – gripping, atmospheric, eloquently told and full of rich detail’

Kate Furnivall on The Chateau on the Lake

2.8 stars

The beginning got the plot cogs churning nicely. Its 1813, imagine a young, noticeably handsome but hostile, man strolling in to inform your family that your father has been murdered. Not only this, but he secretly had another family in the city which he hopes for you to live with, to which this young man’s a part of. Shock and horror for Venetia, a young, ambitious woman as she experiences her whole privileged world smash against their elegant wall. We follow her family as they uproot themselves to London, meet the ‘others’ and overcome all the shame buzzing around. They also have to find a way to support themselves, so Venetia busies herself with re-opening her father’s furniture business. Jack Chamberlaine, the guy who broke the news, reluctantly helps her. He’s war-wearied, initially suspicious, but soon softens, and conveniently not a blood-relation. Together, they try to gather up the mess while something blossoms between them.

We also get POV chapters from Kitty, their maid, who accompanies them. Kitty is sweet and lively. She was bored with the village life she had, where the end point was to be married in a tiny shack with a bundle of babies. When she arrives, she runs into Nat, a good-looking street rat who is as fascinating as the city. He introduces her to a whole new world of women wrestlers, dangerous alley-ways and professional house burgling. So it was refreshing to get a change of story now and then. I grew to like Venetia and Kitty as pleasant characters. The main vein that connects to two is a mysterious mafia called King Midas that controls the neighbourhood and begins terrorizing their lives. He is also connected to the death of Venetia’s father. So the book gradually gets darker almost to the point of echoing Les Miserables.

As Kitty and Venetia begin to clash with King Midas and his cronies, the book unfortunately reaches a bit plateau 40-70% through. The pacing slows down and you’re basically living with the characters during their daily activities. I found this slightly mundane, but it suits those who enjoy soothing sagas. Those like me, who prefer heart-constricting romances and thrilling paces, will feel a little held back during this stage. Things pick up towards the end. There is a sneaky little twist which I didn’t see coming, and a good old fight scene. Kitty’s ending saddened me because seemed a direct result of class. Despite it being a fairly realistic portrayal, it seemed a bit typical of Victorian yarns and gives off the wrong attitudes if it intends for readers to be OK and accept it as a happy ending.

Many thanks to Piatkus for my review copy xxx

 

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About the Author:

Charlotte Betts began her working life as a fashion designer in London. A career followed in interior design, property management and lettings. Always a bookworm, Charlotte discovered her passion for writing after her three children and two step-children grew up.

Her debut novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter, won the YouWriteOn Book of the Year Award in 2010 and the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers, was shortlisted for the Best Historical Read at the Festival of Romance in 2011 and won the coveted Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Historical Romantic Novel RoNA award in 2013. Her second novel, The Painter’s Apprentice was also shortlisted for the Best Historical Read at the Festival of Romance in 2012 and the RoNA award in 2014. The Spice Merchant’s Wife won the Festival of Romance’s Best Historical Read award in 2013.

Charlotte lives with her husband in a cottage in the woods on the Hampshire/Berkshire border.

www.charlottebetts.com | @CharlotteBetts1

For further information please contact Clara Diaz on 020 3122 6565 | Clara.Diaz@littlebrown.co.uk

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The Tutor by Andrea Chapin

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Published by Penguin Books, March 2015, 360 pages, £8.99

4 stars

What would it be like to run into a twenty-six year old William Shakespeare? Whether you have studied him for years or adore two lines from Romeo and Juliet, this book is suited for anyone curious about the man who owns the biggest share in English literary education. Its gorgeously detailed and rich in history. Chapin has it all down: dialect, food, architecture, politics, people, publications…

Its 1590, rural Lancashire, and I can practically smell the dry fields from the first paragraph. Katherine is a smart, no-nonsense and highly educated widow. At thirty-one she is content to just carry on her existence reading and helping family members. No one has been able to match her affinity with the written word. Until she meets Will; a new school master with rumours swarming about him. They say he’s just a glove-makers son. He’s also a player (actor), a writer and a keen philanderer. They say he’s married to a woman much older than him. He flits in and out between Stratford, London and other parts of the country entertaining and playing favours to potential patrons.

Katherine meets a rude, charming and handsome man she immediately recoils from. Chapin draws him up in a way that’s not lame and obvious. He’s definitely honey-tongued, witty..weird compared to the average 16th century man, everything you might imagine him to be. There are also neat and subtle references to plays which wink at you; three ‘witches’ that arrive on their way to imprisonment, a Twelfth Night festival, and Katherine herself as the untamed ‘Shrew’.

Their mutual passion for poetry draw Katherine and Will dangerously close. She becomes his writing partner for ‘Venus and Adonis’, which became a highly successful narrative poem. I would recommend reading it if you haven’t before. The playful contrasts and sumptuous eroticism of the piece appears woven in Katherine and Will’s relationship. I was enticed line by line.

Unfortunately, the heat that builds up between them slows down 60% through. You are offered distraction in the form of family and political dramas while Elizabeth I is undergoing a crack-down of Catholicism. Paranoia, suspicions and accusations are flying around in all directions and the family gets torn part as a result of them. And then, Will ends up a bit of an ass. He is a player of all sorts and at the end of the day a social climber. Chapin is not afraid to portray him negatively and exposes him simply as a manipulative user. Like Katherine, I was captivated and wooed, but ultimately to feel the heart-break  when the ink turns sour.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

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Published by Dial Books, Jan 2016, 394 pages, 3.85

3.5 stars

I had this on the back-burner for a while. It didn’t seem exciting enough, so I kept putting it off and nearly forgot about it. I was sifting through my kindle archive last week and thought I’d give it try. It turned out to be quite a nice read, especially if you’re in the mood for something light and summery.

Samantha Reed lives a ‘princess life’, in a nice house, never having to worry much about money or grades. But she doesn’t come across spoilt at all, just lonely. Her mother had developed a passion for politics, so is always off campaigning and rising up the levels. Her older sister, a more rebellious and outspoken character spends most of her time with her boyfriend. Samantha is careful, quiet and overall good-girl, but this is put to the test when her mother brings home a disturbing boyfriend/political adviser. Clay hurtles into their lives, transforming her mother into a polished Senator barbie, and spreading his controlling streak everywhere.

Despite her mother’s prejudice against them, Samantha also has a secret obsession with the family next door, which have a Weasley/ Cheaper by the Dozen style: big, loud, chaotic but warm and affectionate. Each child has their own unique way about them and the parents are loving and all-knowing. After years of spying on them from her room, she stumbles across the second eldest son, Jase Garrett. He’s the cute, animal-loving, car-fixing, totally boy-next-door figure. They hit it off immediately and their relationship starts to grow intense. And then something happens to make her choose between her mother and Jase.

The book starts off fairly engaging with lots of characters and conflicts, especially the Garrett siblings. Half-way through when things are going good with Samantha and Jase, it does stray towards the boring side. It’s only towards the end when the real dilemma happens. Even though the ending nicely resolves this sweet-fuzzy style, there are some things from the plot left forgotten.

 

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