A brush with newspaper fame

It was with great anticipation that I bought my local newspaper, the Ham & High (popular abbreviation of The Hampstead and Highgate Express) on Thursday and turned to the books pages. There, as promised, was the article about GARDEN OF STARS and how it came into being. It's a local, not a national, paper but nevertheless, I was delighted to see my work featured; thank you to Bridget Galton, the journalist, for spotting the story and writing it. I would have much preferred the picture to have been of my book cover, which is so much more attractive and alluring than me, but I'm going with the notion that all publicity is good publicity!

Now to some other reading that I have been doing. I finished William Boyd's Ordinary Thunderstorms, which I really enjoyed but I think the ending is a total cop-out.

I also managed to complete Gill Paul's The Secret Wife and Amanda Jennings' In Her Wake.

The blurb:

A Russian grand duchess and an English journalist. Linked by one of the world’s greatest mysteries . . .

Love. Guilt. Heartbreak.


Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance – and their lives – in danger . . .


Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret . . .

Haunting, moving and beautifully written, The Secret Wife effortlessly crosses centuries, as past merges with present in an unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience.

This novel was an enjoyable read. I was fascinated by the historical detail about the Romanov family, and slightly shocked to realise how little I knew about them and their fate. In fact, I could have done with more information about them and their excesses; there is something horribly fascinating about the richest family in the world, their extravagances so incredible to the ordinary mortal. The characterisation of Kitty, the present-day protagonist, fleeing her crumbling marriage and estranged from her husband, was sympathetic; she came across as a very real person. However, I had problems with the character of Dimitri. At first, he was the dashing, brave and gallant cavalry officer, bravely fighting on the frontline, the epitome of fearlessness. But once he started following Tatiana around, he began to disintegrate before my very eyes. I simply couldn't believe that he would do what he did - he was a man of action, a fighter, but became an emasculated figure idly hanging around for months, nay years, on end. He was also guilty of some extremely selfish actions, which barely seemed to trouble his conscience, and his relationship with his wife was verging on the abusive, in my opinion. And then what he did at the end of the novel really put him beyond the pale. By the closing pages, I actively disliked him and wanted him out of my life! Added to this, there were times when I found that the writing lapsed into the, 'and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened' style that I can't really get on with.

Nevertheless, it's a read that bowls along quite happily and there's plenty of enjoyment to be had in it, as is clear to see from its bestseller status and numerous positive reviews.

The blurb:

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella's comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but her life.Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family - and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

I was really drawn to this book and I'm glad I read it. It's beautifully written and the main character, Bella, is well-drawn and sympathetic. I wouldn't describe it as suspense, though; there's nothing particularly tense about it and it's fairly obvious from early on what the secret is.

This leads me to a question that I often ponder when reading books like this, and have done so more and more recently. Does it matter if a book is realistic or not? Should a series of fantastical and completely unbelievable events detract from excellent writing? I have to admit that I just don't know the answer. I enjoyed reading this, I wanted to turn the pages.... part of my brain was having a great time. But I could never switch off the other half which was constantly emitting great snorts of ridicule as yet more insanely implausible plot twists were revealed. So I'm not sure about this - I'll withhold judgement and leave it to the many satisfied readers who've reviewed it on Amazon to have the final say.

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