Monday, 16 October 2017

Lord Edward's Mysterious Treasure: The Breton Adventure (The Victorian Adventures), by Lillian Marek (2107)



Lord Edward Tremaine comes to the fog-shrouded Chateau Morvan on the coast of Brittany. In this ancient building, all the inhabitants have secrets. The old vicomte demands that his descendants find a lost treasure, but he offers only hints to help the three cousins in their search. The beautiful and charming Delphine seems to be a creature of gaiety and sunshine, but every now and then glimpses of something darker appear. Marguerite, the brilliant pianist, is withdrawn in grim silence. Antoine, who considers himself a modern man, ignores the swirling emotions, concentrating only on the money needed for his steel factory.
Lord Edward wants to help his friend Antoine, but can he do so before tragedy strikes?

Review 



I adore a good Gothic historical novel and 'Lord Edward's Mysterious Treasure' fits the bill perfectly. It is beautifully researched and the little snippets of factual information about the era blends brilliantly with the romance and suspense in the story.

Set in a crumbling French chateaux some time after The Siege of Paris it develops a gothic feel right from the beginning when Lord Tremaine arrives at the old castle and he meets its strange inhabitants. The tension and fear among the ladies in the house is tangible and Lord Edward is soon embroiled in their problems which centre round Delphine's theatrics and spiralling mental disorder.

The hunt for the treasure makes an intriguing adventure and Ned's suspicious illness and suspected poisoning makes for suspenseful reading. I enjoyed the romantic angle as well and I was rooting for Marguerite and Edward from the beginning. 

Delphine is a beautiful, tragic character with a flawed personality which only becomes apparent as the story progresses. At the beginning of the novel I assumed her to be the beautiful heroine but her true colours quickly shone through and she became more unlikable as she retreated into her grandiose fantasies.

I liked the familial bond Edward had with his parents and how they thought nothing of spontaneously travelling a great distance to visit him in order to extricate him from trouble. Edward is a naive, young man and it felt right that they would jump to protect him. They make an interesting family and I will certainly be going back to read the first three books in the series.

Books 1-3  are available right now and 'Lord Edward' will be out on the 7th of November.

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Thursday, 12 October 2017

Queen of the Ploughing: My Story, by Anna May McHugh (2017)




'The embodiment of the spirit of rural Ireland'
Anna May McHugh's name is synonymous with 'the Ploughing' - the annual Championships of the National Ploughing Association. The event is the biggest outdoor agricultural show in Europe and Anna May is the driving force behind its spectacular growth.
Anna May now tells her story. Her description of growing up as part of a large family in rural County Laois is an evocative and affectionate account of an Ireland that is now gone. But in her account of how she went from being a secretary of the Ploughing Association, her first job, to becoming - to her own amazement - its managing director twenty years later is a story of leadership and people skills that are very much of the twenty-first century. Anna May was truly ahead of her time.
Still living in County Laois, close to where she grew up, and now in her eighties, Anna May still runs the multi-million euro operation from her home, alongside her daughter, Anna Marie.
Queen of the Ploughing is a captivating read, full of warmth, lively stories and Anna May's sharp observations. And it's not just about Anna May's life, but is also a celebration of the best of Irish life over eight decades.




I was stunned by how much I enjoyed reading Anna May's story as I have practically no interest and no experience in farming or agriculture. I didn't realise the Ploughing Championships were so significant! But once I started reading I couldn't put it down.

I am hugely interested in history and so it was with delight that on reading the first chapter I was hooked. It was also nice to read about twentieth century Ireland from a woman's perspective.
Anna May is a remarkable woman who managed to carve out a very successful career for herself in a male dominated industry and in a time when Ireland was very much a patriarchal society. She certainly was ahead of her time and it just goes to show how much people respected and admired her. 

In her book, Anna May fondly remembers her parents and she has some lovely stories about them and her childhood in general. She also explains how she met her husband. Anna May was very active in various local groups and she talks about the importance of community groups, like the GAA and ICA, and social gatherings in general for people in rural Ireland to meet and socialise. 

Anna May talks about the people she worked with and met during her career. There are photographs of the people she worked with as well as family photos. These pictures add a nice, personal touch and I felt like I was chatting to an old friend as I read through the book.

This was a lovely, warm and light read from a lady who has contributed an awful lot to Irish life and culture over the past sixty years.


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