Can’t Wait Wednesday: The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths

Features a forensic archaeologist who is sometimes called in to consult with the police

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings. This is a weekly meme to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. The books I choose aren’t released yet and usually won’t be published for at least two or three months. So I have a while to wait!

I love finding out about books set to publish in future months and I like to share my excitement about the books. I also like to find out about new books on other people’s blogs and hope they’ll sometimes find something to look forward to on my blog.

I’m excited to read . . .

The Lantern Men

by Elly Griffiths

Series: Ruth Galloway #12

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publishing date: June 16, 2020

Genre: Mystery

356 pages

Synopsis: Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway changed her life—until a convicted killer tells her that four of his victims were never found, drawing her back to the place she left behind.

Everything has changed for Ruth Galloway. She has a new job, home, and partner, and she is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried—but only if Ruth will do the digging.

………………………….

One of my very favorite mystery series. I love the characters Elly Griffiths has created in this series–especially Ruth and Cathbad. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist and the way Ms. Giffiths weaves that into the central part of each book is wonderful. Each character in these books is interesting, but they are also very human which makes these books especially readable. They grow and change during the course of the series. And, of course, the mysteries are great!

Review: Emma: An Audible Original Drama by Jane Austen

Emma Thompson & a full supporting cast perform a Jane Austen classic

Emma: An Audible Original Drama by Jane Austen
Emma: An Audible Original Drama by Jane Austen (Anna Lea, Adaptation Author)

Series: None

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Classic

Setting: Surrey, England

Source: Audible, Sep 2018 member benefit

Note: I received this book for free as an Audible Original Member Benefit. That didn’t influence my review.

Narrator: Emma Thompson with a full supporting cast (see below)

Publishing Date: 1815 (2018 for the Audible version)

Duration: 8 hours, 21 minutes

Synopsis: This Audible Original production of Jane Austen’s Emma is narrated by Emma Thompson (Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy and BAFTA winner, Love Actually, Harry Potter, Sense and Sensibility), with a full supporting cast including Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey, Liar), Morgana Robinson (The Windsors, Walliams & Friend, Morgana Robinson’s the Agency), Aisling Loftus (Mr Selfridge, War & Peace), Joseph Millson (Casino Royale, The Sarah Jane Adventures), Alexa Davies (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) and rising star Isabella Inchbald as our eponymous heroine.

Before she began writing, Jane Austen wrote, ‘I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like’ and thus introduces the handsome, clever, rich – and flawed – Emma Woodhouse. Emma is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage; nothing, however, delights her more than matchmaking her fellow residents of Highbury. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

This lively comedy of manners, with its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, is often seen as Jane Austen’s masterpiece.

Public Domain (P)2018 Audible, Ltd. 

My thoughts

I really enjoyed this presentation of Emma. Each character is voiced by a different actor and they do a great job. I love Emma Thompson as an actor and she is the narrator of this story. She did a wonderful job. I was totally immersed in the story. I haven’t listened to many dramatizations before and want to listen to more now that I’ve listened to this story.

It’s been a long time since I read this book by Jane Austen, but I’ve always remembered it as a favorite of mine. Jane Austen is always a good observer of society while also creating a very enjoyable story. I like that Austen writes about a character who’s not likable whom we end up liking, because she has learned a lot during the course of the book.

Emma

Even though Emma isn’t very likable during much of the book she’s certainly a force to contend with! I like that she grows and matures a lot and is self-aware enough to acknowledge and learn from her mistakes. She has to learn there are consequences to her actions. She learns some harsh lessons, but is a better person for it. She’s not the same person she was when the book began.

Bottom line

I very much recommend this dramatization.

My Rating: A

Dramatization Rating: A

Have you read any books by Jane Austen? What about full cast dramatizations? Do you like them?

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Death Comes to the Nursery by Catherine Lloyd

A great mix of romance and historical mystery

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings. This is a weekly meme to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. The books I choose aren’t released yet and usually won’t be published for at least two or three months. So I have a while to wait!

I love finding out about books set to publish in future months and I like to share my excitement about the books. I also like to find out about new books on other people’s blogs and hope they’ll sometimes find something to look forward to on my blog.

I’m excited to read . . .

Death Comes to the Nursery

by Catherine Lloyd

Series: Kurland St. Mary Mystery #7

Published by Kensington

Publishing date: January 28, 2020

Genre: Historical Mystery

304 pages

Synopsis: Delighted by the quiet uproar of raising their newborn, Lady Lucy and Major Sir Robert Kurland could not be more pleased at the prospect of welcoming another into their home. But their preparations are soon overshadowed by a baffling case of murder . . .

Once known to all in her village as the rector’s daughter, Lucy is now a mother herself—to a wonderful eighteen-month-old son, Ned. Upon discovering that she is expecting a second child, Lucy and Robert are delighted. In anticipation of the new arrival, Lucy is set on expanding her nursery staff. When Agnes, her current nurse, recommends her cousin, it seems like the perfect solution.

But trouble arrives along with the new nursery maid from London. Polly’s flirtations provoke fisticuffs in the servants’ hall and tumult in the village tavern, and on her afternoon off, she fails to return to the Kurland Estate. When a farmer finds her lifeless body in a drainage ditch, Lucy and Robert fear foul play.

………………………….

I’m a few books behind in this series so I need to read some books soon! The series has a great mix of romance and historical mystery.

Review: Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon

Series: None

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Setting: England

Source: Ebook, purchased

Publishing Date: 2009

449 pages

Synopsis: Thirty-nine year old Rachel is having a really bad year. After losing her job and breaking up with her boyfriend, Rachel has inherited her late aunt’s house, her beloved border collie, and a crowded rescue kennel, despite the fact that she knows almost nothing about dogs. Still, considering her limited options, she gamely takes up the challenge of running the kennel. And as Rachel starts finding new homes for the abandoned strays, it turns out that it might not just be the dogs that need rescuing.

Opening sentences:

When February started, Rachel Fielding had a middling-to-glamorous career doing PR for Internet companies, a boyfriend who regularly bought her flowers and dressed better than she did, a cleaner, and a skin-age three years younger than her actual age, which was thirty-nine.

By the second week, however, she had, in one simple maneuver, managed to lose the love of her life, her Chiswick flat and her job.

My thoughts

This is an author whom Barb @ Booker T’s Farm recommended. I grabbed this book when it was on sale and I’m so glad I did. I love it–the rescue dogs, the setting in England and interesting, fun characters (including dogs). I wanted to meet these people and dogs and have them for friends!  The book has Rachel’s POV, but also several other people’s POVs. I enjoyed learning more about these characters and how they interact with Rachel’s world and the dogs’ worlds.

They Call It Puppy Love Challenge

I’m participating in “They Call It Puppy Love” Challenge during February. The challenge is hosted by Barb @ Booker T’s Farm. I was so happy to sign up for this challenge since I’m enjoying reading books about dogs. I’ve saved some books for this challenge so you’ll see me reading lots of dog books this month!

Rachel

Rachel lost her boyfriend, apartment and job all at the same time and is distraught–especially about her ex-boyfriend of ten years. At about the same time she learns she’s the executor of her Aunt Dot’s estate and that she has inherited her aunt’s house, land, border collie and rescue kennel. That’s overwhelming for Rachel along with everything else. She’s never had a dog and knows nothing about dogs let alone a rescue kennel. Rachel’s from London and she’s not a “dog person!” However, Rachel tries to fulfill her obligations. She loved her aunt, but discovers she really didn’t know a lot about her after she moves into the house.

Rachel also finds out the kennel needs to take in some money and can’t survive with just rescue dogs. The vet–George–who is quite gruff and plainspoken tells her the kennels are also meant to have paying customers who board their dogs. Rachel slowly learns more about dogs and about rescue dogs. And about walking dogs and cleaning kennels and feeding dogs. Slowly some of the rescue dogs are given permanent homes. Rachel begins making friends including Natalie who is a marketing pro. Together Natalie and Rachel begin working on plans for the rescue dogs and to make the kennels profitable. I really like that we get  stories of other people in this book, too.

Gem

Gem is a wonderful dog. When I was younger I always wanted a collie especially after I read the Albert Payson Terhune books about his collies. (I read lots of dog books when I was a teenager!) I found a copy of Lad: A Dog–the first book in the series at a used bookstore a few months ago and plan to read it again one of these days. Anyway, Gem was Aunt Dot’s dog and is missing Dot, but he’s a typical intelligent herding dog who helps during dog walks by herding the rescue dogs who don’t know about walking on a leash. He also provides solace to Rachel when Rachel takes him for solitary walks and indulges in her once a day crying. He is just what Rachel needs even if she doesn’t know it.

Romance

There are relationships at various stages of romance in this book. I like that the romances don’t take over the story. I like romances that are part of the daily life people live. I love that Rachel starts out a mess and grows and changes during this book.

Rescue dogs

We meet so many wonderful rescue dogs in this book. We learn about the heartbreak these dogs suffer if they’re abandoned by their owners. It’s especially bad when the dog is just abandoned on a street or out in the country. They sometimes doesn’t survive that. We get to know the quirks and characters of the rescue dogs and meet some of the people who adopt them.

Bottom line

A really good book especially if you like dogs!

My Rating: A-

Have you read any books by this author?

Awards

Romantic Novel of the Year (RoNa’s) Award (2010)

Reading Challenges

  • The Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by Lark @ The Bookwyrm’s Hoard
  • Review Writing Challenge hosted by Shari @ Delighted Reader blog
  • They Call It Puppy Love Challenge hosted by Barb @ Booker T’s Farm (February challenge)

Review: White Silence by Jodie Taylor

white silence by jodi taylorWhite Silence by Jodie Taylor

Series: Elizabeth Cage #1

Genre: Fantasy, Thriller

Setting: England

Source: Audiobook, purchased (10 hours, 31 minutes)

Narrator: Kate Scarfe

Publishing Date: 2017

325 pages

Synopsis: Elizabeth Cage is a child when she discovers that there are things in this world that only she can see. But she doesn’t want to see them and she definitely doesn’t want them to see her. 

What is a curse to Elizabeth is a gift to others – a very valuable gift they want to control. 

When her husband dies, Elizabeth’s world descends into a nightmare. But as she tries to piece her life back together, she discovers that not everything is as it seems. 

Alone in a strange and frightening world, she’s a vulnerable target to forces beyond her control. 

And she knows that she can’t trust anyone… 

My thoughts

Oh, my gosh, this book wasn’t what I was expecting! I knew it was a fantasy and I’ve read some of Jodi Taylor’s time travel series–The Chronicles of St. Mary’s–and I love that series. This new series is quite different. It’s more of a thriller and even ventured into horror territory for me. (I don’t like being scared so keep that in mind!) There were parts of this book that scared me–especially since I was home alone at the time…lol. I hadn’t planned to read any scary books for Halloween, but it happened anyway!

First part is more typical fantasy…the second not so much

The first part of the book is like a typical fantasy. The main character has some sort of magical ability, but she doesn’t know exactly what it is. She learns to hide her ability, but still comes to someone’s attention. By the time this has happened she’s happily married. However, her husband dies and the world she knows comes to an end. This is where the book gets very unpredictable.

Excellent narrator

I listened to the audio version of the book and it’s excellent. The narrator, Kate Scarfe, does a wonderful job. She’s easy to understand and I felt she really understood Elizabeth. I love the colors on the cover of this book, too!

One of my favorites this year

White Silence is one of my favorite books so far this year. I’m not going to say too much more about the book except that even though I was scared during some of dark light by jodi taylorthe book I listened compulsively and finished the 10+ hours of narration in one day. The second book–Dark Light–comes out at the end of this month and I’ve preordered it!

My Rating: A-

Narrator Rating: A

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

Swords and Stars Reading Challenge hosted by MsNoseinaBook — Read the first book in a series

Books that take place in another country

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week the topic is Books that take place in another country. I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday topic for quite awhile, but this topic inspired me since reading books set in other places is one reason I love to read. When I looked at my reading lists back to 2012 however, I discovered that I don’t read too many books set outside the United States. And the ones I do read are often set in the United Kingdom or Canada. I do have some books I want to read set in other places (Africa, Asia, Europe), but haven’t read them yet. I’ve included one historical fantasy that was set in Russia. The rest are mysteries.

As I finished up this post I see that I had a Top Ten Tuesday post from 2016–Books set outside the U.S. which has some of the same books. However, I didn’t write about those books (and I spent quite a bit of time on this!!) so I’m going to post it…lol.

I have broken out the books which take place in Great Britain into England, Scotland and Wales. In many ways they feel like separate countries! However, I think I wanted to pretend to myself that I have a more diverse reading experience than I do!

Note: All links in my title for the book or series go to Goodreads. In the case of a series the link and photo of the book are for the first book in that series. If I have a link in the part where I write about the book or series the link is to a review on my blog.

India

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

This is a book I’m listening to set in Calcutta, India in 1919. It’s a mystery about an English police officer who comes to Calcutta to join the police force there. India was under British rule at the time so the British are in charge of the government, but there are Indians who are part of the police force. India is shown here with Indians working with the British government as well as Indians who are working for India’s independence. The British are mostly a self-satisfied lot who’ve brought civilization to the savages. I’m really enjoying the book and am nearly finished.

England

The Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths

This series mostly takes place in Norfolk, England. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist and college professor who sometimes consults with the police. I’ve read eight books in this series so far and love them all. The tenth book comes out this spring.

Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series by Deborah Crombie

I read quite a few police procedurals set in England, but probably my favorite police procedural series set in England is the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series set mostly in London though Duncan and Gemma sometimes travel outside of London and at least once I can think of there’s a mystery set in Scotland. I’ve read all the books written so far in this series, have reviewed most of them and love them all.

Scotland

Shetland Island series by Ann Cleeves

This series takes place in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. I read Raven Black quite a while ago, but read White Nights this year. I enjoy this series a lot and have the third book in the series to read soon.

DI Marjory Fleming series by Aline Templeton

This series is set in southwest Scotland near Galloway. DI Marjory Fleming and her team of detectives are very good characters to read about. They don’t always have it easy and her subordinates and superiors don’t always like Marjory, but she’s a very interesting character. My favorite book in the series is the first book–Cold in the Earth. Very good! However, I’m bogged down in the sixth book in the series at the moment. I’m going to finish it soon though and I think I will end up liking it.

Wales

Constable Evans series by Rhys Bowen

This series takes place in Wales which in these books seems like a different country from England. The Welsh characters all speak Welsh–especially when they are around any English visitors! This is quite a lighthearted police procedural series. I’ve read the first two books in the series and am really enjoying them.

Canada

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny

These take place in Quebec, Canada. It certainly feels very foreign to me since the main character is part of the French Canadian part of Canada. Though Chief Inspector Armand Gamache speaks excellent English he is most definitely part of the French Canadian community. I’m really enjoying these books and recently read books 6 and 7–Bury Your Dead and A Trick of the Light.

Constable Molly Smith series by Vicki Delany

These books take place in British Columbia, Canada. I’ve loved all that I’ve read (six of the eight books) and hope Ms. Delany writes some more. The last book was written in 2016 and Ms. Delany is currently writing several other series. I like this series best and do hope she will continue.

Rockton series by Kelley Armstrong (formerly called the Casey Duncan series)

I’ve read the first two books in this series and have the third book to read very soon! This mystery series is very suspenseful. I don’t usually like books which are too suspenseful, but I’ve made an exception for these. They’re set in the wilderness of northern Canada in a village which is “off-the-map”–which helps add to the suspense.

Ireland

Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O’Connor

Set in a small village in County Cork, Ireland. I really enjoyed this book and have the second book so I need to read it soon!

Russia

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This is a historical fantasy which set in a fantasy Russia. The book is told like a fairy tale and was really enjoyable. The second book in the series came out in January 2018 and I hope to read it this year.

Iceland

Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason

I read this book in 2017. It’s a prequel to the series which is set in Reykjavik, Iceland. Not all the books are translated into English, but a few are and I’m hoping to read more about Inspector Erlendur.

What books do you like which take place in a different country?

 

 

Review: The Merchant’s House by Kate Ellis

the-merchants-house-kate-ellisThe Merchant’s House by Kate Ellis

Wesley Peterson #1

E-book, purchased

Setting: Devon, England

Mystery, Police Procedural

Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson’s first day finds him investigating the death of a young woman who may be connected to a kidnapped child. As the suspense builds, a strange parallel emerges between his case and the two skeletons found in the ruins of a 17th century merchant’s house. With stellar characterizations and sharp plotting, readers will find themselves completely swept up in this virtuoso mystery, the ending of which is as satisfying as it is shocking.

……………………

My thoughts

I love finding a new police procedural series! This reminded me a little of some of the Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid series where historical events affect current events in the story. Other than that this book is different from that series. This is the first in the series and was published in 1998. I like that over 20 books have now been published in the series.

Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson and his wife Pam transferred to Devon from London where Wesley will work in CID for the local police and Pam hopes to find a teaching job. They will also be closer to Pam’s mother in Devon.

The book sets up interesting arcs for future books in the series–Wesley’s wife determined to get pregnant and have a child by any means and racial tensions in the police station because of Wesley’s dark skin color. I look forward to future books to see what happens with Wesley and the various characters in the book. I would like to meet Wesley’s family in these books since they are all doctors. I get the feeling they were at least puzzled when Wesley chose the police force!

Wesley is immediately busy when he arrives at the station his first day on the job. A call has come in reporting a suspicious death. This death of a young woman who has had her face disfigured by the murderer makes her identification difficult. Before Wesley arrived in Devon a young child was kidnapped. Every police officer dreads a missing child case and though the case belongs to a different team the entire department knows the details of the case. As the book continues it begins to look as though the two cases may be linked–but are they really?

I also like the fact that Wesley has a degree in archaeology and has a friend in the area who is an archaeologist. That is an important part of this story. It will be interesting to see if Neil, Wesley’s friend, shows up in future books.

I enjoyed this first book. However, I thought the linking of the historical with the present day happenings was a little forced. Since this was the first book in the series that doesn’t bother me too much.

Will I read more books in this series or other books by Kate Ellis?

Yes! I want to read more about Wesley and the other characters in the book.

Have you read any of these books? How do you like the series?

Rating: C+

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Books set outside the U.S.

Top Ten

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted at the Broke and the Bookish blog. Each week a different topic is introduced and it is fun to see what everyone writes each week. Check out their blog for more information.

The topic this week: talk about the books we’ve read set outside the United States.

As I looked for books I’ve read set outside the United States I realized most of the books come from just a few countries. Also a number of the books I read are science fiction and fantasy with imaginary settings.

I do have books which take place in other settings. I just haven’t read them yet!

Ireland

Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O’Connor

Medieval Ireland, on Viking ships, Iceland

Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale by Donna Jo Napoli

Canada

In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicky Delany

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny (French Canada)

Scotland

Cold in the Earth by Aline Templeton

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (Shetland Island)

Scotland, Belgium, Russia

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

England

Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie

Alaska Territory (1919)

Borrowed Death by Cathy Pegau

Australia

And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst

What books set outside the United States do you recommend?

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

missing-presumed-by-susie-steinerMissing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
Series: Unknown
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Cambridgeshire, England
Published by Random House
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: June 28)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
368 pages
Grade: C+
Synopsis: At thirty-nine, Manon Bradshaw is a devoted and respected member of the Cambridgeshire police force, and though she loves her job, what she longs for is a personal life. Single and distant from her family, she wants a husband and children of her own. One night, after yet another disastrous Internet date, she turns on her police radio to help herself fall asleep—and receives an alert that sends her to a puzzling crime scene.

Edith Hind—a beautiful graduate student at Cambridge University and daughter of the surgeon to the Royal Family—has been reported missing for nearly twenty-four hours. Her home offers few clues: a smattering of blood in the kitchen, her keys and phone left behind, the front door ajar but showing no signs of forced entry. Manon instantly knows this case will be big—and that every second is crucial to finding Edith alive.

The investigation starts with Edith’s loved ones: her attentive boyfriend, her reserved best friend, and her patrician parents. As the search widens and press coverage reaches a frenzied pitch, secrets begin to emerge about Edith’s tangled love life and her erratic behavior leading up to her disappearance. With no clear leads, Manon summons every last bit of her skill and intuition to close the case, and what she discovers will have shocking consequences not just for Edith’s family, but for Manon herself.

Suspenseful and keenly observed, Missing, Presumed is a brilliantly twisting novel of how we seek connection, grant forgiveness, and reveal the truth about who we are.

Initial impressions

  • Interesting, but not exactly the book I thought it was going to be. I thought it was more police procedural. Ended up more thriller and psychological.

The story

  • Edith Hind is missing. A small amount of blood is found in her house. Her door is unlocked, cell phone, car and personal items are left behind.
  • When her boyfriend returns from a weekend away and finds her gone, he notifies her parents and the police.
  • A huge search finds no sign of Edith alive or dead.
  • As the hours, days and weeks go by and the police find no real clues to her disappearance the police believe she must be dead.
  • Where is Edith and is she alive or dead?

Pluses

  • I don’t really enjoy thrillers or psychological mysteries which this book is more than it is a police procedural.
  • The book is told in a mix of present and past tense and from many points of view. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw is probably the main character, but we find out about the story from many others, too. At the beginning of each chapter the present tense aspect and switch in point-of-view jarred, but after a couple of paragraphs I got used to it. I think the author shows quite a bit of skill to write the book this way.
  • I found the story suspenseful and quite well-written.
  • It is more character study than mystery.
  • I don’t like Manon very well–which isn’t necessary for a book–though I like to connect with characters.
  • My favorite character is Davy, Manon’s partner. I like the way he views the world and how he see’s Manon. Though he certainly has his blind spots.

Minuses

  • Manon is a mess during much of the book. She’s 39 years old, but she hasn’t learned some of the basics of working in a team in the workplace, let alone as a detective sergeant in the police force. And her personal life is a mess. She does some stupid things both professionally and personally.
  • I thought the end of the book ties up all the strings in this book much too easily. And I’m offended by one of the characters at the end of the book.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • This isn’t really the type of mystery I enjoy. I think that’s at least part of the reason I didn’t like the book as much as other readers.
  • I did find parts of it interesting and suspenseful. However, this is not quite my chosen genre.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Susie Steiner grew up in north London and studied English at York University, which is when she first fell in love with north Yorkshire, in particular the north York Moors national park, which was the setting for her first novel, Homecoming. Homecoming was published by Faber & Faber to critical acclaim in 2013.
  • She worked for national papers as a news reporter. She left reporting when her first novel sold.
  • Her second novel, Missing, Presumed, is a bestselling thriller with Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw at its heart. Missing, Presumed is based in Cambridgeshire. She worked closely with Cambridgeshire police during the writing of this and the next Manon book.
  • She lives with her husband and two sons in north London.

Reading Challenges

Christmas Gifts by Mary Balogh

christmas-giftsChristmas Gifts by Mary Balogh
Series: None
Genre: Historical Romance–Regency England
Setting: Christmas in England
Published by Class Ebook Editions Ltd., 2015 (reprints of three out-of-print novellas)
E-book, purchased
168 pages
Overall Grade: A-
Synopsis: CHRISTMAS GIFTS brings together three previously published and long out-of-print novellas, each on the theme of Christmas gifts that will last forever because the gift, in essence, is love.

In “The Best Christmas Ever” a boisterous house party is in progress and all the children when asked are eager to tell what they want for Christmas. But one man feels sad, for his young child has not spoken since her mother died and he does not know if the gifts he has bought her will be what she really wants. Unknown to him, her one fervent wish is for a new mother for Christmas, and when she sees one of the guests she knows who that will be. But the lady concerned has an unhappy history with the child’s father.

In “The Porcelain Madonna” a gentleman becomes involved with helping an impoverished lady, who thinks of everyone’s happiness but her own. However, he has seen her gaze with longing at a porcelain madonna well beyond her means displayed in a shop window.

In “The Surprise Party” a man and woman who are antagonistic to each other find themselves landed with the care over Christmas of children who are related to each of them. They quarrel over which of them should undertake the task. It is not a happy situation until the children teach them the true meaning of Christmas, and of love, and they discover that they can do it together.

Initial impressions

  • I know why Mary Balogh is one of my favorite authors when I read these novellas. These stories show how we all hope Christmas will be.
“The Best Christmas Ever”  — Rating: A
  • This is such a lovely story. A little girl (5 years old) who hasn’t spoken since she saw her mother drown three years ago. Her father who loves her fiercely, but is so worried she might never speak again.
  • Each of the children at their grandparents’ home tell their wish for Christmas. Except for Anna who doesn’t speak, but still makes a wish for a mother.
  • On Christmas Eve Day she sees the woman whom she is sure will be her mother, but her father doesn’t cooperate very well since he knows Emma Milford from the past and is still angry with her.
  • This is my favorite story in this series.
“The Porcelain Madonna”  — Rating: B+
  • This is a lovely story about a gentleman who has lost faith in people, is cynical and dislikes Christmas. When he sees a shabbily dressed young woman gazing into a jewelry shop window he sees it as “…the perfect picture of Christmas sentimentality….”
  • He stops a street urchin from running off with her reticule, but when he is going to teach the boy a lesson she stops him. She doesn’t want the boy harmed.
  • “But of course she was beautiful, and of course she was educated, and of course she was impoverished, he thought scornfully. What else could he have expected? And she had been admiring, not a golden bracelet or a diamond necklet, but a porcelain Madonna….”
“The Surprise Party” — Rating: B+
  • The parents of three young children have died. It’s nearly Christmas when their maternal uncle and paternal aunt arrive to take care of them. However, the aunt and uncle dislike each other and neither really wants the children.
  • However, when they decide the children should have a real and happy Christmas, they begin to forget their enmity and discover love for their nephew and nieces.

Jeers

  • No real jeers. I just like one of the stories a little better than others.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  These are lovely stories of people who have lost faith in themselves and others, who are down on their luck or need the spirit that can come at Christmas to change their lives.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Mary Balogh‘s first book was published in 1985 and she’s been writing (over 70 novels and close to 30 novellas) ever since. The latest book is Only a Kiss, the 6th book in The Survivors’ Club series, published in September 2015.
  • She grew up in post-war Wales. She wanted to teach and travel so she took a 2-year contract in Saskatchewan, Canada. After a blind date with Robert Balogh she ended up marrying him and staying in Canada! She and Robert have three grown children. Her dream was to write, but that had to wait until their children were older.
  • When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Reading Challenges