New Release Book Review: Bellevue by Alison Booth

4.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

After reading Alison Booth’s last book The Painting and absolutely loving it, I jumped at the chance to read Bellevue, her latest novel.

Bellevue was another fantastic read for me, while it took a couple of chapters to draw me in, once there I didn’t want to put it down. Set in the Blue Mountains in NSW in the early 1970s the author really manages to capture both the time period and the place in her writing.

The story is told mainly from Clare’s perspective but we also get a young boy Joe’s perspective interspersed between chapters and I really enjoyed this because it enabled me to glimpse a different aspect of both Clare and the town and its people.

Clare hasn’t had the easiest of lives and we are taken back in Clare’s memories to the early 1950s when she meets her husband Jack, to his death and the secrets he has kept from her and the loss of their property due to those secrets, some of which are only fully uncovered in the later part of this story.

Clare has been left Bellevue by Jack’s Aunt Hilda who came to Clare’s aid when she first lost everything and has continued to be there for her ever since. Remembering how happy she was there with her young daughter, who is now an adult travelling in Europe, she decides to retire and live in Bellevue whilst doing it up.

Things are never simple though and while Clare finds some wonderful people who inhabit the town, she also finds a few not-so-nice ones who are determined to cause her trouble because they want to buy her property for a new development.

This was a time when people were starting to stand up to developers and the government in order to save the land, cultural heritage sites and historical sites, from their greed. When they decide to try and intimidate Clare into selling, they had no idea the fight that would bring them. Clare was part of a big push to save the bushland where she previously lived and she is pushed to take up this newest fight to save not only her property but the town and the surrounding area from being developed and destroyed.

Clare uncovers corruption and greed that bring with it answers to secrets from her past. There were so many twists and turns and mystery and intrigue, and there were times I didn’t know who to trust or believe, who was Clare’s friend and who wasn’t. The author does a great job of only slowly letting us have small pieces of the puzzle, revealing little character traits, and bits of things overheard or seen, keeping us from seeing the whole picture until the very end.

The friendship that Clare forms with young Joe, a boy who has lost his mother and whose father has become neglectful and somewhat abusive, turns out to have a big impact on both their lives. I loved seeing how they each helped each other, Clare proving a safe place for Joe to hang out, a nurturing grandmother figure for him to give and receive affection from, something they are both lacking. And in turn, Joe helps to thaw some of the pain and hardness that Clare has been carrying and which Joe sees in Clare the first time he glimpses her leaving a garden party.

This isn’t a fast-moving story, though the second half moves along faster than the first, instead, it is a slow-burn read as we get to know the town and its characters, learn about Clare and her past and her dreams for the future. It is a look at family and its often messed up relationships, it is a reminder of how fragile our environment is and the need for everyone to stand up and protect it if we want any of nature or our history to survive the greed that is prevalent even more today. It is a look at grief and the effect it can have on those around us and the baggage we carry with us that can affect so much of how we live our lives. It is about friendship in its many forms and about healing from our pasts and letting go of the baggage we are carrying.

I really enjoyed this novel and I can’t wait to see what Alison Booth delivers next.

Alison Booth has written an interesting post on the background to writing her newest novel if you are interested in having a read.

Background to writing Bellevue

New Release Book Review: The Codebreakers by Alli Sinclair


I finished this book just before midnight, I couldn’t make myself put it down, to be continued another day just wasn’t going to happen, this book just had to be finished. It was brilliant, it left me with tears in my eyes, both happy tears and sad tears. What a remarkable story Alli Sinclair has weaved together in The Codebreakers. The amount of research that has gone into this novel is monumental and as with another wonderful Australian historical fiction novel, The Land Girls by Victoria Purman, this is a story about women and their courage and adaptability during the most trying times. A story that needed to be told, of secrets that have been kept for far too many years. Of the women who helped win the war and save countless lives.

The characters in this novel were so fully realised that it was easy to believe they were real people, to forget that it was fiction, that the author was telling the real story of these men and women is easy to believe.

Ellie, already working for the war effort as an engineer at Qantas, is recruited by Central Bureau to help crack codes, this is a highly secret division, especially for the women who work there and I could feel the internal war that Ellie waged trying to keep her job from her friends and family, it is not a situation I ever hope to find myself in.

I loved the friendships and relationships that Ellie developed, I especially loved her childhood friend Louis, what a fabulous friend to have. I loved her landlady Mrs Handley, if there was ever a mother substitute, she is the person you would want, and her friend Florry. The friendships she made with the girls in the Central Bureau were strong ones, that were sadly severed after the war. That would have been hard, losing the only people who knew what you’d been through.

So many people lost friends, lovers, husbands, sons during this time, that the urge to collapse in dispair must’ve been strong, yet everyone soldiered on, doing what had to be done and getting by the best they could.

There is a scene maybe two thirds of the way in where I had to stop and listen to one of my favourite songs.

It fit so perfectly with the story.

This was a fantastic read, which I highly recommend, full of many emotions and uncovering a long hidden history of the women who helped in the war.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

New Release Book Review: The Last Truehart by Darry Fraser


I always enjoy being transported to the past by Darry Fraser, I know I’ve said it before but she has a way of writing that makes you feel like you are there with the characters in that period.

For me, this felt more romantic than her previous novel, which I really enjoyed as I seem to be in the mood for a lot of romance at the moment. I could feel the connection between Stella Truehart and private detective Bendigo Barrett from the moment they meet.

This time we are taken to Geelong in 1898, where Stella is now alone after losing her beloved grandmother. Her abusive husband is dead or is he, someone is stalking her, and then Bendigo Barrett turns up saying he has information from a mystery woman about her father who she has never met and knows nothing about. Life is becoming a bit too interesting for Stella, and dangerous. Luckily Stella has some wonderful friends and now she has Bendigo to help look out for her and help her discover the truth about her father.

I really loved diving into this novel, the mystery and the history of the time were very interesting, I always learn a great deal about Australian history in these novels. I knew nothing of the confederate ships, or the constitution, so I found this very interesting.  

Women were still fighting for equal rights with men, and fighting to get the vote in their state. What women had to endure in terms of little rights back then makes me very glad to be where we are today, even if we do still have a way to go, especially in terms of spousal abuse, at least these days it is not acceptable, even if it does happen far far too often, this is something that needs to change big time.

Stella’s friends Faith and Joy were great characters and provided plenty of humour even when frightening things were happening, Stella couldn’t have asked for better friends in the girls and their parents. I loved Bendigo, he had a great heart and a great moral compass, he was wonderful to his sister’s and despite having had a bad experience and an ex-wife, he wasn’t afraid to give his heart to Stella. Stella was a tough woman, having survived a great deal and being drawn into a dangerous mystery, she deals with her trauma in the only way she knows, not wanting to rely on anyone, but ultimately learning having others to lean on can make you stronger.

This was a great read and I can’t wait to see where and when Darry Fraser takes me next.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.


New Release Book Review: Billings Better Bookshop and Brasserie by Fin J Ross


This was a delightfully quirky, feel-good novel, about a young girl who is amazing in every way, and brings joy and good fortune to those around her.

It did take me a few chapters to get into this story, there were many words at the beginning I didn’t know, (something the author doesn’t apologise for, saying we should all take the opportunity to learn new words) and I found it a little hard to get a rhythm going. But once the foundations of the story were set, I got swept up in the amazingness of Fidelia Knight, a child prodigy and an orphan who already knows far more than many adults, but who is living on the streets, fending for herself.

This was such a different kind of novel and so wonderfully uplifting and serendipitous, with the message we can all achieve great things and if we have the chance we should make sure we support others on their journey.

All of the main characters were just wonderful. Meeting and helping Jasper, the manager of Billings Better Bookstore was the catalyst for everything wonderful that happened throughout the novel. Mr Billings is the financier of everything that happens throughout, giving opportunities to Fidelia, Jasper and his wife, and two orphan boys who all become family to each other. The boys are wonderful companions and I enjoyed watching them grow and achieve.

What starts off as an opportunity to help Jasper make Billings Better Bookstore greater than Coles Book Arcade, becomes something so much bigger. Fidelia changes the lives of those around her with her imagination and her love of words as well as her positive outlook on life. I really enjoyed this novel.

Thanks to Clan Destine Press for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.


New Release Book Review: Keeper of the Light by Leanne Lovegrove

Isn’t it funny, that even when you know a novel is going to have a happy ending, you can get to parts in the story that make you scared to read any further in case something bad happens and things don’t work out.

There were several moments during this novel where I held my breath and didn’t want to read any further, there was even one part where I had to skip ahead to make sure things would be OK, something I very very rarely do. But Leanne Lovegrove certainly had me on edge for quite a bit of this story.

I just loved Luca, the young Italian man who gets washed up on Bruny Island and awakens young and naive Esther to what love is. From the moment they meet, their lives are bound forever, but oh my God, what a journey they had, Esther especially, making it to forever.

I detested Esther’s mother and my feelings for her sister Margaret were nearly as strong. Both were horrible characters who had no redeeming features at all and I was disappointed that they didn’t get what they deserved. They disappointed Esther as well, but she was better off with them out of her life.

There were some great supporting cast members in this novel, especially the friends that Luca made in Hobart. There were also some not so likeable supporting cast members and I just can’t fathom how people can become as nasty as they do.

Racism is one theme that runs through this novel, from the outright blatant kind to the more subtle but just as insidious kind. In this case, it was racism against the Italian people who came over to forge a new life for themselves. It seems like racism is one thing that will never die, it will just shift from race to religion to anything else that makes people uncomfortable, some people will always find reasons to hate people who are different to them.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, despite the fact I couldn’t relax for half the novel because I was so worried Luca and Esther wouldn’t get their happy ever after.

Thanks to the author for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.


New Release Book Review: The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman

Reading a Victoria Purman novel is like having my own time machine to take me back to life in Australia in the 1940s. This, the third of her novels to cover this time period, once again covers many important issues that people, women especially, struggled with through the war years and after them.

The Women’s Pages is a story of loss and courage, of endurance and struggles and of hope for a better future for all.

I really enjoy learning about our history, about the lives of ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances. Through Tilly, a woman’s war reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald, we learn first hand of the issues facing women during and after the second world war. Woman who struggled to hold their families together, who worked long hours doing tough jobs to help the war effort, who did without for years for that same reason. Women who after the war were essentially thrown away to make room for the men returning from war. Who had tasted freedom and partial equality and who then had it taken back. I learned that despite the huge steps we’ve made in this direction, where women can do the same jobs as men, earn their own wage, make their own decisions, we really haven’t come that far at all.

I also learnt a great deal about the trade unions back when they actually had much more power than most of them do these days. The struggles that Tilly’s family and other dock workers were facing and the fight for fair pay and fair hours and how the government and the newspapers made them sound like they were the bad guys. Many barely had enough money to buy food let alone keep a family. The war made this fight all the harder especially when the soldiers returned from overseas and the fight to keep their jobs and fair pay and hours became even harder.

I had no idea about the bombing of the Japanese ship and the loss of all the prisoners of war and the story behind it. This left me in shock after reading about that one situation.

I really felt for Tilly and and her friend Mary, as well as all the other women who had no idea if their men would return from the war, and if they did, would they return as whole people or would they be changed completely from what they had been through. Tilly’s situation left me feeling heartbroken for her, especially as she watched others husbands returning. I really loved Tilly’s colleague Cooper and enjoyed the friendship they had and the support and encouragement he gave Tilly throughout was very special.

This was an emotive read and Victoria Purman has done a great job of showing us the challenges of the time. If you enjoy Australian history, you will hopefully find this to be a great book to add to your reading list.

Thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin Australia for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Elsa Goody Bushranger by Darry Fraser

Elsa GoodyI’m a big fan of Darry Fraser’s historical fiction novels, she has a way of transporting you back in time so that you just about feel that you are there with the characters. In Elsa Goody Bushranger, I was definitely travelling the roads from Robe, South Australia to Casterton, Victoria in 1896. This was not an easy time or an easy journey for Elsa and her sister Rosie, and there were many times I didn’t want to go any further with them because I was so worried about the outcomes.

It is a time where women don’ t have a great deal of rights, but in South Australia women are just about to be able to vote for the first time and make history in Australia. For Elsa this is of mighty importance, but her sister cannot understand this at all. We take our right to vote to be a given these days, I wonder if we would have fought for that right back then.

When Elsa and her sister Rosie are thrown together after their brother and father die, the two must get to know each other properly for the first time and travel a dangerous road to find out what happened to their brother. Things don’t go as planned, what was supposed to be an uneventful journey becomes fraught with danger from more than one direction and Elsa becomes wanted for helping to hold up a coach.

Hearts are also on the line for both sisters and for the three Jones’ brothers. I enjoyed getting to know the two sisters and the brothers, all so different from the other and all with lessons to learn about what they want in life and what is important. I really liked Ezekiel Jones and his children, who were just gorgeous, and I loved the way they took to Elsa.

This was a journey and a half and though it had me stressed out at times, I found this to be another great read from Darry Fraser. I certainly would not have survived back them, that is a definite.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.