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The Chilbury Ladies' Choir
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir
Jennifer Ryan | 2017 | Fiction & Poetry
8.7 (3 Ratings)
Book Rating
Sad, so sad (0 more)
Wartime Fiction
This eBook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!"
Set in the fictional village of Chilbury, Kent during the Second World War, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir explores the lives of the women left behind whilst the men go off to fight. The remaining villagers are disappointed at the closing of the church choir, which, according to the vicar, cannot go on without any men to sing the tenor and bass parts. However, the arrival of bold, forthright Primrose Trent brings the birth of a new choir, a choir for women only.

Although a war is going on, the ladies of Chilbury have so many other things on their minds. Told through a conflation letters and diary entries, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir reveals the everyday lives of a handful of characters. Mrs Tilling’s journal provides an overview of the general events, whilst 18-year-old Venetia’s letters divulge the wiles and charms she uses in the name of romance. Other characters, particularly the young teenager, Kitty, offer other insights to the goings on in the village.

From falling in love, to having babies, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is full of secrets, schemes and misunderstandings that almost let the villagers forget there is a war on. However, the effects of war do reach the little village, bringing with it terror and grief.

The individual stories that make up the book provide the reader with a number of scenarios that are full of emotion, but equally entertain. One moment the horror of war could leave readers in flood of tears, the next, Mrs B.’s pretentious personality and vaunting comments bring amusement and laughter.

All the while these events are playing out, the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir pulls the women together, providing them with a source of comfort to get them through the terrible times. No matter what disasters befall them, whether caused by war or their own actions, joining together in song gives them a purpose and opportunity to have a break from their fears and grief. War may destroy, but they will carry on singing.

Written in the manner of private letters and journals gives the novel a personal touch. The story is not merely narrated, it is expressed through the emotion and feelings of individual characters, making the scenarios seem more authentic. The downside to this method is the lack of distinction between each character’s voices. With no detectable dialect, the musings of a 13-year-old are composed in much the same manner as the much older Mrs Tilling.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is an enjoyable piece of historical literature, which is bound to appeal to many people. Although set during World War II, its primary focus is on the people in the village, making it more attractive to readers who are fed up of reading about bombs and fighting. A mix of family issues, bribery and romance provide considerably more entertainment than a generic wartime novel. Being Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is of a quality that suggests the author has so much more to deliver in the not-so-distant future.
The Wolf Next Door (Westfield Wolves, #3)
Lydia Dare | 2010
8.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
The Wolf Next Door by Lydia Dare
Genre: Paranormal werewolf romance, historical fiction
Published: June 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Casablanca


Years ago, William Westfield and Pricia Hawthorne were in love—but Pricia's heart was broken and she refuses to let the scoundrel forget it. She knows now that he never committed the accused crime… but she can't bare to give her heart to him again. Even though she wants to.

Will has established his reputation as the best lover in six centuries. And he knows he did it to get Pricia out of his head. He still loves and adores her, snotty remarks and spirited personality and rule-breaking attitude and all. But when he is forced to visit the Hawthorne house to escort his sisters-in-law, he discovers that another man—another Lycan man—is pursuing her hand in marriage. Will doesn't think: The games are over. He decides that he will do anything and everything to keep the other werewolf away, and claim her forever.

This was, out of the three Westfield stories, my favorite. From the time I started reading, I couldn't put it down. It was fast-paced, exciting, and romantic. Although can I say that the covers—for this one and the others—could have been better? Still, I loved the story.

Will has always been my favorite Westfield, because of his happy, funny, warm, laid-back personality… and I loved seeing him desperately in love, trying his hardest to charm Pricia's socks off. Pricia is my favorite kind of heroine: the kind that can hold her own, especially with five brothers. Put Will and Pricia together, and you have an epic couple: They love each other, they hate each other. But they only hate each other because they love each other… a never-ending circle, a never-ending conversation, and a never-ending story… but a very satisfying ending to the book.

The plot was a lot more exciting than Dare's other werewolf stories—not to say the others aren't exciting. But this one surpassed the others. The other Lycan threatening Will's happiness added a good conflict to the story. Pricia's execution of torture on poor Will was both pitiful and hilarious. There was a war going on between the two wolves, and a war going on between the lovers, and it made for a stay-up-until-3-AM kind of book.

One of the reasons this one was probably my favorite, was because it wasn't sappy. I'm not saying the others are: but there was this running theme of the woman telling the man she was in love with him, and the man not admitting it until way too late, and causing problems because of it. There was none of that in The Wolf Next Door. Will straight up told Pricia that he loved her. He told her father he loved her. He told his brothers, and her brothers, that he loved her. And it made their romance much better and much more believable.

Magic, romance, heart-break, rivals, witches, and true love…all tied together with a sweet, naive, innocent little devil, and a very handsome werewolf. This one is begging to be re-read.

Content/recommendation: Little language, some sex. Ages 18+
And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1)
And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1)
Kiersten White | 2016 | History & Politics
6.9 (9 Ratings)
Book Rating
<i>This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

And I Darken</i> is the first book in a brand new saga, <i>The Conquerors</i>, by bestselling author Kiersten White. Aimed at young adults, it is set at the time of the Ottoman Empire, providing a brief historical lesson as well as an entertaining story.

Inspired by Vlad the Impaler, the tale begins in Transylvania, 1453 with the birth of Lada, a daughter for the ruler of Wallachia, Vlad Dracula (no relation to the vampire). Despite the expectation that women are quiet, docile and mere possessions, Lada grows up with a vicious temper, as wild and fierce as a boar, unlike her younger brother, Radu, who is very cautious by nature. The siblings, caught up in their father’s politics, are sent away to another city. Lada however cannot be tamed, and is quick to insult or physically assault anyone who tries to put her in her place, even her new friend who so happens to be in line to become sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

As the children grow up they begin to involve themselves in the running of the empire, providing advice and companionship to the new sultan. Both Lada and Radu experience strong feelings for their friend, which they try to suppress - Radu, because it is improper (for that time period), and Lada, because she wants to be a strong, independent warrior with the same rights as all men.

<i>And I Darken</i> is extremely political but not in the same vein as politics today. Back in the 1400s, constitutional disagreements lead directly to wars, usually caused by the greed of the ever-expanding empire. Whilst these events are taking place, the true story line surfaces, exploring three very strong relationships. Despite Lada’s façade she is a young woman who cares deeply but does not let her feelings get in the way of achieving greatness. Jealousies and misunderstandings challenge the bonds between friends and siblings, resulting in a cliffhanger to encourage the read to eagerly await the next installment.

Although based on true events, <i>And I Darken</i> is mostly a fantasy. Lada has the characteristics and behaviour of Vlad the Impaler, something that would not have been possible at the time for a woman, but other than references to various battles, there are no other correlations.

The relationships focused on in the narrative can be frustrating at times, and it is easy to become annoyed at the key characters’ actions. Often I felt like giving up on the book, as I was not interesting in the gruesome fighting scenes, and not particularly keen on either Lada or Radu. Although I can admire Lada for her strengths and aspirations and agree that she is right to want more in her life as a woman, I found her malicious behavior difficult to respect.

Overall, <i>And I Darken</i> is a bold attempt by Kiersten White to combine history, romance and young adult fiction, particularly as the characters who would be considered teenagers today, were deemed adults during that time period, resulting in them being much more mature than many of today’s readers. This series is suitable for male and female readers alike as it contains an equal measure of bloody action and budding romance. Sadly, despite my high hopes, this book was not for me.

Louise (64 KP) rated Salt to the Sea in Books

Jul 2, 2018  
Salt to the Sea
Salt to the Sea
Ruta Sepetys | 2016 | Fiction & Poetry, History & Politics, Young Adult (YA)
8.8 (12 Ratings)
Book Rating
This book! OMG you guys! It had the feels and was so so so so sad!

Guilt is a hunter.

Salt to the Sea is a story set in 1945 Germany told from four perspectives, Florian, Joana, Emilia and Alfred all from different homelands, fleeing Stalin's Red Army. Refugees are fleeing for freedom in form on the Wilhelm- Gustloff a ship that will make a 48 hour trip to Kiel. The Wilhelm-Gustaloff is evacuating injured soldiers and civilians - It's capacity is to hold 1500 passengers but with so many people they are forced to take over 10,000. A few hours into the trip the ship is hit by Russian torpedoes, does the foursome still have enough fight to survive?

Fate is a hunter.

Joana is Lithuanian and has been assisting a doctor with surgery, with her knowledge she is able to help some of the injured refugees and civilians she comes across. She is leading a current group of people to the Wilhelm Gustloff when she meets Florian a Prussian apprentice art restorer for Gauleiter Erich Koch who was a leader of the regional branch of Nazi party (Very high up). Along side Florian is Emilia a 15-year-old Polish girl on the run from a farm in which she was sent by her father. Then there is Alfred a German sailor, with his first Voyage being the Wilhelm-Gustloff.

Shame is a hunter

This book was heartbreaking and a real eye opener. The story is told in small chapters alternating from the four perspectives. Alfred's perspectives are sometimes told in letters to a love interest back home The characters are equally fleshed out and you get a real connection with them, they all have something they are running from and a background story. I really didn't like Alfred's character, in his letters he was making out that he was some highly responsible soldier which made a huge difference to the war when all he was doing was a low-level job on the ship, he was pretty much insane. Emilia's story grew stronger and stronger as the story went on and became more peturbed . Florian is a mysterious character who doesn't reveal much about himself but he is always calculating the best way to freedom. There is a slow burn romance within the novel but it is no way insta-lovey at all. With this romance we find out more about Florian.

Fear is a hunter.

This book reminded me a lot of 'All the light we cannot see' by Anthony Doerr minus the fantasy element. But for me it was much better, the fact that you don't really read stories about Lithuanians, Prussians etc in world war 2 stories. The Wilhelm Gustloff was an actual ship in world war 2 and 9,500 lives were lost however I had never heard about this before and I am really interested in reading more about this. I am going to be honest, I don't know too much about the war and the particulars to it, so I can't say how accurate Ruta's account is.

This book is compelling and harrowing at the same time, some of the descriptions of how the civilians and refugees were living and attempts for freedom were deeply upsetting. The most moving book I have read this year and would definitely recommend to anyone that is interested in historical fiction.

I loved Ruta Sepetys writing and really want to read between shades of gray and out of the easy.

I rated this 5 out of 5 stars.
A Discovery of Witches
A Discovery of Witches
Deborah E. Harkness | 2011 | Fiction & Poetry
8.5 (45 Ratings)
Book Rating
Reading the reviews for this book, I knew it was going to be one of those reads, it’s a bit of a marmite book, you either love it or hate it. In my case I liked it enough to finish and want to continue to read the next one in the series.When I finished the book that was it. I didnt have loads of questions consuming me, it was just ok? what am I going to read next?

Diana Bishop is the female protagonist, she has descended from a very distinguished line of witches, however Diana does not use her powers that she has inherited, not since her parent’s died. Diana, a scholar is studying at a the Oxfords Bodleain Library as a historian. Unknown to her, she calls a bewitched alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782. Finding nothing of interest to her apart from a funny feeling and an off putting text, she returns it to the stacks without a futher thought. Soon there are daemons, vampires and witches swarming around the library in search for this particular manuscript as it has been lost for 150 years and has all the answers from their past and to their future.

Deborah Harkness did a great job with the development of the two main characters Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont, and even the sub characters, you got to see all their traits and mannerisms.

Diana is the female protagonist she is very bold, outgoing, hardworking and sometimes just damn annoying. She is a witch that doesn’t want to use her powers but is forced to as she needs to protect herself, in the book she is feisty and then other times whiney and saying she can’t do certain things.

Matthew Clairmont is a Vampire that has existed for over a Thousand years, who is currently a geneticist and falls in love instantly with Diana, however, he is very possessive (a vampire trait….supposedly) has moodswings and just generally annoying at times.

The first half of this book is very slow paced and is more of the character building and the relationship developing between the two. The second half is much faster paced as you get more action and magical elements added to it.

There is insta-love but not in the normal way, they don’t show each other that they have feelings for one another for several days but it is a gradual build up, however the book only spans 40 days according to Harkness and I cant believe they are that involved with each other so quickly, I had to take a step back, realising that all this had happened in such a short space of time.

There is also references to a lot of historical figures and wars, so if you like a bit of history in your fiction then this could be for you. There is also no sex scenes in this book, only referencing to kissing, cuddling and a bit of fondling.

One thing that I didn’t like in this book was all the french that was used (I am not french or learnt any either) However, I think Harkness added this to feel more authentic as that was where Matthews mother Ysabeau lived.

I will definitely be reading the second book in the trilogy as I am intrigued to find out what happens next.

I rated this book a 3 out of 5 stars.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari | 2016 | History & Politics
8.5 (4 Ratings)
Book Rating
This book was chosen to be the first book read and discussed in an online non-fiction book club I recently joined – and I’m glad we did choose this one!

The book is an overview of homo-sapiens as a species, and how we have changed over the ages, and what we have done, before finally touching on where we are going. As such the book is a cross-pollination of history, sociology, and economics.

As you may expect from a book with such a broad scope, there are some sweeping statements, and rather than being a neutral dispassionate account, Harari makes his opinions very evident. However rather than being irritating, I feel this makes for a more entertaining read.

The book begins by introducing the theme of homo-sapiens in the context of the presence of the other human species that used to exist. He then goes on to describe the cognitive and agricultural revolutions. Then it’s the establishment of patriarchal social hierarchies across the world, largely based on historical conventions. Next Harari states that the purpose of religion is to unify fragile societies with superhuman legitimacy.

Harari then moves on to the scientific revolution, describing how an admission of ignorance by Europeans, along with a desire to discover and conquer new lands was key to the movement.

The conversation moves swiftly then to economics, using the fact that a bank can loan £10 for every £1 it has, to argue that our economics is based on trust in the future. Harari states that a country’s credit rating is more important than its actual resources. Harari describes capitalism and consumerism as being 2 sides of the same coin with two commandments: rich must invest, rest of us must buy. Consumerism, he says, aims to convince people that indulgence is good and frugality is self-oppression.

Harari also argues that, now, instead of relying on local communities the individual relies on the market or the state. Parental authority no longer sacred, he says, and state intervenes. And so when Harari asks if we are any happier now than when we were hunter-gatherers, he argues that our rise of wealth is offset by the disintegration of community life.

Harari also speaks of ecological degradation and our tendency to treat other species as a means to an end, for example, the farming of cow's and chickens has cut years off the lives of both, since they are killed as soon as they reach their maximum weight.

In the final chapter, Harari speculates on the future of mankind. With improvements in medical knowledge comes new ethical conundrums, he says. How will we handle the options of genetic engineering? What will the advent of artificial intelligence mean for humanity?

In my book club, we found that the book generated a lot of talking points. What would the world be like now, had the other species of humans survived? Why have so many cultures across history and the world had patriarchal hierarchies? Can societies improve over time, or is one style better than another? Can communism be considered a religion? Are human rights really just a figment of our collective imagination?

Whilst not everyone in my book club enjoyed the book equally, I would say that it’s as enlightening as it is thought provoking. By the end, it was hard to argue with the author's conclusion that homo-sapiens are like dissatisfied and irresponsible gods.

Midge (525 KP) rated The Duke of Fire in Books

Jan 29, 2019  
The Duke of Fire
The Duke of Fire
Jennifer Monroe | 2019 | Fiction & Poetry, Romance
10.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
Lots of Romance, drama, tension and conflict (2 more)
Main character is kind and compassionate
Captivating and engaging story
A Wonderful Romance
"The Duke Of Fire" is a delightful story that has a bit of everything. From romance and drama to tension and conflict, and joy and sorrow, there really is something for everyone. Reminiscent of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, it is a lovely, historical fiction novel set in the magnificent Wellesley Manor, part of the beautifully scenic Exeter Estate, in England.

What’s really likeable about it straight-away are the opening chapters that draw you into the main character, Miss Jane Harcourt. She is a kind, compassionate, strong, and clever governess, but has to leave her present employment due to the unwanted advances and desirous pursuits of her boss. She goes to stay with her cousin Anne and her husband David, until she is able to secure another position, working as a governess.

Jane finds herself further employment with Michael Blackstone, the Duke of Hayfield, also known as the Duke of Fire and his son, Samuel, a sweet eight-year-old little boy. Five years ago the Duke’s wife was killed in a fire and he has lived with the stress and guilt of her death ever since, as he was unable to save her from the fire before she perished. The Duke himself suffered terrible disfigurement and has become a virtual recluse in his own home.

The extremely wealthy Duke has a brother, Lord Robert Blackstone, who assists with all business matters concerning their vast estate, but, unfortunately, does not take much of a liking to Jane’s arrival. Jane in return is mistrustful of Lord Blackstone’s intentions.

I felt instantly on her side of the thoughtful, pretty, and caring Jane, particularly in her initial dealings with the Duke, with whom she was already in awe of. You can immediately sense that there was something going on, and one of the highlights of the book was following how they dealt with their emotional feelings. The Duke is, at first, hard to work out but you gradually get to know him as the story unfolds and see that he has many surprising qualities. Both the plot and the character development are excellent, and the story-line is very believable. The story is both captivating and engaging. It held my interest from start to finish, and I found myself rooting for both Jane and the Duke as they tried to deal with all of their conflicting emotions of that time and the courage they showed in confronting their challenges.

"The Duke of Fire" was an interesting novel particularly with regard to the interaction of the different characters - a loving, bright and energetic young boy, a handsome, but selfish and untrustworthy brother and a judgemental, gossiping, close-knit ton. Plenty of emotional angst and ups and downs along the way and plenty of surprises. I loved the authors writing style which I found very easy to read. It was a fantastic read!

I delighted in every page of the book from beginning to end and my only criticism would probably be that it could have been a little longer. I liked very much how the book was ended. I have been inspired to read more from Jennifer Monroe and I highly recommend this book. I suggest wholeheartedly that you add it to your reading list.

Thank you to Hidden Gems and the author, Jennifer Monroe for a free ARC of this book in exchange for a voluntary, honest review.
A Very Austen Valentine
A Very Austen Valentine
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
ix beloved authors deliver romantic Valentine novellas set in Jane Austen’s Regency world. Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, and Barbara Cornthwaite, together with Susan Kaye and Mandy Cook, share variations of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility, featuring your favorite characters in sequels, adaptations, and spinoffs of Austen’s adored novels. Experience uplifting romance, laugh-out-loud humor, and poignant regret as these authors deftly tug on your heartstrings this Valentine’s Day.

I Dream of You by Robin Helm

Newly-married Elizabeth Darcy has a plan: to charm her too-busy husband into desiring her company as much as he did when he was courting her. A series of romantic dreams gives her just the push she needs to put that plan into action.

Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile

Faced with a lonely future and finding himself strapped for cash, Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot manfully decides to marry again. But his careful plans go sadly awry! A lighthearted Valentine mash-up featuring two of Jane Austen’s worst snobs.

My Forever Valentine by Wendi Sotis

Jane and Charles Bingley have married, even though Miss Elizabeth Bennet remains certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy gave his best effort to keep them apart. After Mr. Darcy refused to stand up with Bingley and did not attend the wedding, she despises the gentleman more than ever and finds his company intolerable. How will she endure her visit to Kent if Mr. Darcy turns up everywhere she goes?

Pretence and Prejudice by Barbara Cornthwaite

A chance encounter with a handsome stranger forces Elizabeth to resort to subterfuge in order to discover his true intentions.

My Valentine by Mandy H. Cook Mandy H. Cook

Little Charlotte was always determined and independent, traits which served her well as she battled a serious childhood illness and later as she took on Polite Society. Will those traits now deprive her of true love? Or would her lifelong Valentine win her heart?

The Lovers’ Ruse by Susan Kaye

 In this Persuasion alteration, Anne is so altered by Wentworth’s love in the summer of 1806, she refuses to give him up when both her godmother and father try to persuade her. “The Lovers’ Ruse”follows Frederick and Anne through their whirlwind courtship and their secret engagement. When Wentworth returns for his Annie girl, the cat comes out of the bag.

My Thoughts: These six charming novellas centered around Valentines will entice all those who adore Jane Austen's writings. Based on characters from Jane Austen's novels; I enjoyed reading into the lives of the Darcy's; I was impressed that the writers Robin Helm, Wendi Sotis and Mandy H. Cook are all centered their novellas around the same family. Each storytelling its own unique view of their lives.

Each story is fun to read, and takes the reader back to a simpler time, of love, romance, and proper etiquette. Each story has it's own charm and brings the reader closer to the characters.

My favorites have to be the novellas containing the characters Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, my absolute favorite being "I Dream of You". In this novella we learn how to give rather than to receive and the joys we can draw from each act of kindness.

If you love historical fiction, and Jane Austen novels, then this is certainly a book for you.
10.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
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<b>The Tom Wilde Series</b>
#1 <a href="">Corpus</a>; - Not Read Yet
#2 <a href="">Nucleus</a>; - Not Read Yet
#3 <a href="">Nemesis</a>; - ★★★★★

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<b><i>Nemesis is the third book from the Tom Wilde series by Rory Clements. I haven't read the previous two books, and I also haven't read any books from Rory Clements before. I received this book through ReadersFirst, and I will be honest, I was quite reluctant to read it. You already know my opinion on reading sequels before reading the previous books - but I went in blind in this book.</i></b>

The blue cover is simply gorgeous and I knew it was a thriller and a mystery, so I decided this was enough to get me going. If this book review ever captures your attention, I advise you to also go in blind. I think going blind made me enjoy this book even more.The fact that this is a third book in a series doesn't mean anything. The only similarity with the other books is the main character. Almost the same basis as Dan Brown's series and his professor Robert Langdon. The books are entirely standalones.

It is very hard to reveal what the plot is about without spoiling the fun. Tom Wilde is a university professor and one of his very talented students, Marcus, has left to join the International Brigades in Spain. Now, two years after, he is in trouble, and Tom helps him come home.

Meanwhile, numerous things happen, involving World War 2 Politics and propaganda, and in these times, no one knows who to trust. And when Tom Wilde finds himself in great danger, who will help him? And who does he needs to be afraid from? Has maybe helping Marcus been his greatest mistake?

Nemesis is full of suspense from the very first chapter, and the thing I loved the most about it was that the chapters are quite short, and always leave you hanging, hungry to find out more. Every word that Rory Clements types had a meaning and a purpose in this book, and that was the bit I admired the most.

The time setting revolves around the Second World War - a subject I don't often read about. I can't judge about the historical fiction element. However I do know that while I am a person that doesn't enjoy war books, this one struck me in a nice way. The war setting was very well written, and you could even feel the atmosphere around it. The ending was pleasantly surprising and it involved a mystery I could simply not resist.

<b>I will definitely read more books by Rory Clements, as I really enjoy the writing. If you enjoy thrillers and if you are a fan of Dan Brown, you will probably enjoy Nemesis a lot!</b>

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ClareR (4593 KP) rated The Mercies in Books

Feb 25, 2020 (Updated Feb 25, 2020)  
The Mercies
The Mercies
Kiran Millwood Hargrave | 2020 | Fiction & Poetry, History & Politics
9.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
The Mercies is a slow burn of a novel, set in the Arctic town of Vardø in 1617 (Norway, the part that was called Finnmark). On Christmas Eve, whilst all of the men are out fishing, a storm blows in and kills them all. The women are left without their husbands, brothers and fathers, and must learn to fend for themselves. Maren Magnusdatter is one of these women. She watches as her father, brothers and future husband are drowned.

Three years later, a Scot, Absalom Cornet and his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, arrive. Absalom has been appointed Commissioner of Vardø, and is adamant that witchcraft was the cause of the storm three years ago. The fact that the women are surviving and taking on the roles of their dead menfolk doesn’t help their case. Absalom only sees evil, and women who have forgotten their place as servants of God. He is a witch finder, and has been responsible for the prosecution and death of women at home in Scotland. Unsurprisingly, he’s not a very nice character, and I liked NOT liking him, although I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Ursa. She is shy and inexperienced in the ways of the world. She has been shut away, caring for her sick younger sister. She knows nothing of what is expected of her as a wife - in every sphere. She doesn’t know how to keep a house at all. This is where Maren steps in as an advisor. They become good friends, and there is the beginnings of something more than just a simple friendship. I loved the interactions between these two women. Maren, strongly independent, competent and lonely, and Ursa, inexperienced, unhappy and lonely. In other circumstances, theirs could have been a good friendship - but unlikely because of social status, I should think.

The writing in this is gorgeous. The descriptions of the landscape and the sea made me feel as though I was standing there with them (warmer though!), and I loved getting to know the women, even the ultra-religious women who were only too keen to give up their fellow towns-women as witches. This part doesn’t happen for quite a while, so we’re given the chance to become emotionally invested in these characters. So when we read of their treatment at the hands of Absalom and his fellow witch hunters, it makes it all the more appalling. If it wasn’t bad enough already.

I love historical fiction, and I really liked how this was written in such a way that these didn’t really seem to be women separated from us by 400 years. They were normal women, working hard to survive and make lives for the,selves. Which made it all the more sad. There’s no way I could detach myself and NOT read this with a modern woman’s eye. These women were punished for something that we take for granted: independence.

Despite the terrible things that happen, it’s a beautifully written, very enjoyable book that I would easily recommend to anyone, even though it’s just like I would imagine the landscape around Finnmark is: bleak, yet beautiful.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy of this book to read and review.