Saturday, November 23, 2019

Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery…

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters—the Brontë sisters—learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines—it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…


Hardcover | $26.00  

Published by Berkley a division of Penguin Random House
Sep 10, 2019 | 304 Pages | 6 x 9| ISBN 9780593099056


“For it seems that in the early hours of this morning the second Mrs.Chester’s bedchamber was found empty, except for great quantities of blood painted across every surface with no signs of the young woman, nor her remains. She is feared dead of course, but it cannot be determined with any certainty, as she is quite vanished.”


What happened to Elizabeth Chester?  Was she murdered and taken from Chester Grange?

Travel back to summer, 1845, Yorkshire, where the Bronte sisters: Anne, Emily, and Charlotte find out about a death at Chester Grange located just a few miles from Haworth Parsonage. The sisters governess friend, Matilda French works there. They must pay her a visit and give their condolences. If they happen to take a look around Chester Grange and start ‘detecting,’what’s the harm in that?

UK Cover 

Can I just say how very much I loved this book!  I’m not sure if the author, Rowan Coleman intended for her dialogue scenes between the three Bronte sisters and brother Branwell to be funny but I was laughing out loud during chapter one. I could picture all of them in my head and the writing is just so clever. 

I loved following the Bronte sisters on their visit to Chester Grange as they met some of the Chester family and employees. I felt as if I was right there with Charlotte, Emily and Anne as they put the pieces together of the disappearance of the vanished bride, Elizabeth Chester. 

There are twists and turns behind the life of the second Mrs.Chester. I found myself happily surprised at how the mystery unravels. The Vanished Bride is just good fun to read and a good mystery as well. I have to thank Berkley for sending me a review copy.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Dante Gabriel Rossetti napping and Lizzie Siddal

D.G. Rossetti Napping by Ford Madox Brown
Writing on right side reads:
D.G.R. 
as seen
August 18/79
FMB

I love the way he’s balancing his legs on the top of the sofa.

Rossovestita by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1850

Note Rossetti’s name on top:
Dante Rossetti
Fece in Londra

This was the first time Elizabeth Siddal modeled for Rossetti.

St. George and the Princess Sabra by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1862
 Elizabeth Siddal sat for this just a few days before her death.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Review: The Mother of The Brontes by Sharon Wright



At long last, the untold story of the mysterious Mrs Brontë.

 They were from different lands, different classes, different worlds almost.

 The chances of Cornish gentlewoman Maria Branwell even meeting the poor Irish curate Patrick Brontë in Regency England, let alone falling passionately in love, were remote.

 Yet Maria and Patrick did meet, making a life together as devoted lovers and doting parents in the heartland of the industrial revolution. An unlikely romance and novel wedding were soon followed by the birth of six children. They included Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, the most gifted literary siblings the world has ever known.

 Her children inherited her intelligence and wit and wrote masterpieces such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Yet Maria has remained an enigma while the fame of her family spread across the world. It is time to bring her out of the shadows, along with her overlooked contribution to the Brontë genius.

 Untimely death stalked Maria as it was to stalk all her children. But first there was her fascinating life’s story, told here for the first time by Sharon Wright.

By Sharon Wright
Imprint: Pen & Sword History 
Pages: 200
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526738486
Published: 8th July 2019
Last Released: 7th October 2019

‘A few days since, a little incident happened which curiously touched me. Papa put into my hands a little packet of letters and papers, telling me that they were mamma’s, and that I might read them. I did read them, in a frame of mind I cannot describe. The papers were yellow with time, all having been written before I was born. It was strange now to peruse, for the first time, the records of a mind whence my own sprang; and most strange, and at once sad and sweet, to find that mind of a truly fine, pure, and elevated order. They were written to papa before they were married. There is a rectitude, a refinement, a constancy, a modesty, a sense, a gentleness about them indescribable. I wish she had lived, and that I had known her.’  (Charlotte Bronte in a letter to Ellen Nussey. Sharon Wright, Author, page, 157).

This is such a special biography of Maria Branwell, a Cornish woman, who married Patrick Bronte and birthed three legendary genius female sisters and authors. The likes of which will not come again. I’m so thankful to Pen & Sword for my review copy and for the authors incredible research into a woman scarcely known about until now.

Chapters covering both Maria and Patrick’s early life, siblings, education, help to humanize them while lifting the veil shrouded by myth and legend. Exciting for me were the chapters charting the course for that fated meeting between Maria Branwell and Patrick Bronte. The author went further including nieces, close friends, landowners, religious factions, etc. 

I read this biography from the perspective of finding parallels between mother Maria and her daughters. It was fascinating to glimpse similarities in disposition between mother and daughter, Charlotte even at her tender age of five years old. There were a few interesting situations or events that might remind one of parts of Jane Eyre but I won’t go there. 

Reading about the history of Haworth pertaining to the arrival of Rev. and Mrs. Bronte was wonderful. Ponden Hall as well includes mentions of Robert Heaton which jarred my memory back to another recent Bronte novel, The Girl at the Window which I loved.

I would definitely recommend, The Mother of The Brontes to any Bronte fan. The epilogue at the end of the book was helpful and Maria’s letters are there to read as well. None of Patrick Brontes letters to his wife survive but I hold out hope of discovery one day!  

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Soon to be published Bronte article



I am very happy to share the news that my article on the friendship of Charlotte Bronte and Ellen Nussey will be published in a Bronte themed issue of an online magazine to be published early next year. I will post the link upon publication. For now, I’m waiting for the editor to send me the edits for approval. 

 


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Review of The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman


A house full of history is bound to have secrets... 

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It's also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from... 

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead. 

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present... 



  • Imprint: Ebury Press (Fiction)
  • ISBN: 9781785032462
  • Length: 464  Pages
  • RRP: £7.99


  • The bedroom inside Ponden Hall in Yorkshire believed to inspire Emily Bronte to begin to write, Wuthering Heights complete with box bed and the window where Cathy’s ghost wraps on.

    “This is what I understand about love, now. Love isn’t a transaction, it’s not a quid pro cuo. 
    It’s a force that goes far beyond that, a promise and a vow. It’s a declaration that says ‘I will always be at your side, even when you are far from mine. I will never leave you without an ally. I am yours.’ ”

    Author, Rowan Coleman, uses a Wuthering Heights reference for the title of her deliciously spooky and compelling novel, The Girl at the Window. The title eludes to the opening scene in Wuthering Heights where Cathy’s ghost wraps on the window wanting to come inside. The author brilliantly and cunningly takes the gothic tropes from Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights  and uses them as the basis of Trudy and Abe’s storyline juxtaposed against the dual narrative of the seventeenth century love story of Robert and Catherine. I am incredibly impressed by this novel; especially, Rowan Coleman’s beautiful writing style and storytelling abilities. This is my introduction to the author but not the last of her novels I shall read.

     Let’s just say Trudy has a contentious relationship with her mother who did not approve of Abe. After Abe disappears, Trudy leaves her home and takes her ten year old son, Will back to her childhood home, Ponden Hall where her mother still resides. I loved reading the chapters between mother, daughter and grandson to see how their relationships mature and old wounds heal. 

    If you enjoy love stories that are wrapped up in historical, fairytale magic, sprinkled with hardships and gothic elements, than this novel is for you! The Girl at the Window is unputdownable especially if you believe in a love that transcends time. 

    Thank you to Ebury Press for my review copy.

    This novel is not published in the United States but can be purchased internationally and or locally at Amazon UK


    Sunday, July 28, 2019

    Charlotte Bronte: The Last Surviving Bronte Sister Gets Married

    Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls and his wife, Charlotte Nicholls (née Bronte)

    The evils that now and then wring a groan from my heart lie in position not that I am a single woman and likely to remain a single woman but because I am a lonely woman and likely to be lonely. But it cannot be helped and therefore imperatively must be borne and borne too with as few words about it as may be. (Charlotte Bronte written in 1852 before her marriage in 1854)

    In reading Charlotte Bronte’s letters, my hope is to provide an understanding of who Mrs.Nicholls was as a married woman and vicar’s wife; taking the focus off the author of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte.  You see, her letters clearly show a spinster well aware of her duty to care for her aging and ailing father. Especially since by the time of her engagement, she was the sole remaining sibling. 
    I11 April 1854, in a letter to her dear friend, Ellen Nussey,

    Dear Ellen, I am engaged.
    I am still very calm very inexpectant. What I taste of happiness is of the soberest order. I trust to love my husband. I am grateful for his tender love to me. I believe him to be an affectionate a conscientious a high principled man and if with all this, I should yield to regrets that fine talents, congenial tastes and thoughts are not added it seems to me I should be most presumptuous and thankless. 
    Providence offers me this destiny. Doubtless then it is the best for me. Nor do I shrink from wishing those dear to me one not less happy.
    It is possible that our marriage may take place in the course of the Summer. Mr.Nicholls wishes it to be in July. I mean the marriage to be as quiet as possible. There is a strange half sad feeling  in making these announcements. The whole thing is something other than imagination paints it beforehand: cares, fears come mixed inextricably with hopes. Mr. Nicholls - Arthur as I now call him.

    One of the few remnants from Charlotte’s wedding to Arthur Bell Nicholls, is a fragment of a letter to Elizabeth Gaskell explaining her feelings about her wedding dress, etc.,

    My conscience is satisfied a sort of fawn colored silk and a drab barrage with a little green spot in it. Of the third the wedding dress I wholly decline the responsibility. Nothing would satisfy some of my friends but white which I told you I would not wear. Accordingly they dressed me in white by way of trial vowed away their consciences that nothing had ever suited me so well and white I had to buy and did buy to my own amazement but I took care to get it in cheap material there were some insinuations about silk, tulle, and I don’t know what but I stuck convulsively to muslin plain book muslin with a tuck or two. Also the white veil I took care should be a matter of 5s being simply of tulle with little tucks. If I must make a fool of myself it shall be on an economical plan. Now I have told you all.   CB. 


    Charlotte Bronte and Arthur Bell Nicholls married on 29 June 1854.  They honeymooned in Wales first, then throughout the South West Coast of Ireland to stay with Arthur's family. 


    This is my favorite bit of her life; when our beloved authoress chooses love, life, and joy albeit briefly. She left Charlotte Bronte (CB) behind to become CB Nicholls, vicar's wife.  It was her husband who didn't want any of her letters to survive.  I'm so grateful to her dear friend Ellen Nussey for keeping her letters. For it may truly be one of the only ways we discover the soft, feminine side of this married woman. Dear Reader, Charlotte Bronte was in love!

    The following excerpts are from Charlotte's letters, in her own words, written during her honeymoon. They are beautiful declarations of love for her husband Arthur.

    On the day of our wedding we went to Wales. The weather was not very favorable there. Yet by making the most of opportunity we contrived to see some splendid Scenery. One drive indeed from Llanberis to Beddgelert surpassed anything I remember of the English Lakes. 

    We afterwards took the packet from Holyhead to Dublin. From Dublin we went to Banagher where Mr. Nicholls relations live and spent a week amongst them.
    Arthur Bell Nicholls family home in Banagher, Ireland
    Mentioned above

    I had heard a great deal of Irish negligence &c. I own that till I came to Kilkee I saw little of it.  Here at our Inn splendidly designated  "the West End Hotel" there is a good deal to carp at if one were in a carping humour but we laugh instead of grumbling for out of doors there is much indeed to compensate for any indoor short-comings; so magnificent an ocean so bold and grand a coast I never yet saw. My husband calls me. (CB Nicholls to Catherine Wooler, 18 July 1845, Kilkee. Co. Clare, Ireland)
    The West End Hotel,1912




    Catherine Winkworth (Katie)

    Dear Katie,
    I'm at a little wild spot on the south west coast of Ireland that your letter reached me. Yes! I am married. A month ago this very day (July 27th) I changed my name.

    Such a wild rock-bound coast: with such an ocean view as I had not yet seen and such battling of waves with rocks as I had never imagined!

    My husband is not a poet or poetical man. The first morning we went out on to the cliffs and saw the Atlantic coming in, all white foam, I did not know whether I should get leave or time to take the matter in my own way. I did not want to talk,but I did want to look and be silent. Having hinted a petition license was not refused; covered with a rug to keep off the spray, I was allowed to sit where I chose, and he only interrupted me when he thought I crept too near the edge of the cliff. So far, he is always good in this way,and this protection which does not interfere or pretend, is, I believe, a thousand times better than any half sort of pseudo sympathy. I will try with God's help to be as indulgent to him whenever indulgence is needed.  (CB Nicholls to Catherine Winkworth, Cork, July 30th 1854)

     They were only married for nine months when tragically Charlotte would pass away from what's believed to have been hyperemesis gravidurum or detrimental vomiting due to pregnancy. She passed away with her husband by her bedside on 31 March 1855.




    Tuesday, July 9, 2019

    Upcoming Reads and Reviews





    A house full of history is bound to have secrets...

    Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It's also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from...

    Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

    While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present...





    At long last, the untold story of the mysterious Mrs Brontë.**

    They were from different lands, different classes, different worlds almost.

    The chances of Cornish gentlewoman Maria Branwell even meeting the poor Irish curate Patrick Brontë in Regency England, let alone falling passionately in love, were remote.

    Yet Maria and Patrick did meet, making a life together as devoted lovers and doting parents in the heartland of the industrial revolution. An unlikely romance and novel wedding were soon followed by the birth of six children. They included Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, the most gifted literary siblings the world has ever known.

    Her children inherited her intelligence and wit and wrote masterpieces such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Yet Maria has remained an enigma while the fame of her family spread across the world. It is time to bring her out of the shadows, along with her overlooked contribution to the Brontë genius.

    Untimely death stalked Maria as it was to stalk all her children. But first there was her fascinating life’s story, told here for the first time by Sharon Wright.

    Sunday, June 2, 2019

    Kate Mosse The Burning Chambers book event Strand Bookstore

    My beautiful review copy of 
    The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse 
    Thank you Minotaur Books, USA

    Book Event:  Kate Mosse with Madeline Miller at Strand Books, New York

    Date: Wednesday 26 June
    Time: 7pm
    Venue: Strand Books, 828 Broadway at 12th Street, New York, NY 10003

    Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: She knows that you live. But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to stay alive. As the religious divide deepens, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as tensions ignite across the city. All the while, the shadowy mistress of Puivert Château — obsessed with uncovering the secrets of a long-hidden document — strengthens her power and waits for the perfect time to strike.”

    I still can’t believe I’m going to attend a book event with one of my favorite writers, Kate Mosse, at this US  publishing celebration. I’ve read all of her books with her mix of historical accuracy and research; she has a descriptive writing style that evokes a sense of mythic folklore, a strong familial connection stretching back through the ages. She simply inspires me to be a better writer and researcher. 






    Saturday, April 20, 2019

    Currently Reading: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

    The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is the intoxicating story of a young woman who aspires to be an artist, and the man whose obsession may destroy her world for ever.
    London. 1850. The greatest spectacle the city has ever seen is being built in Hyde Park, and among the crowd watching two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning. 
    When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.
    But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening . . .
    •  Hardback | 336 pages
    •  135 x 216 x 33mm | 597g
    •  
    •  
    •  PICADOR
    •  London, United Kingdom
    •  English
    •  1529002397
    •  9781529002393
    The Doll Factory will be published in the UK by Picador on 2nd May 2019, and by Emily Bestler Books/Atria in the US on 3rd September 2019, and will be translated into 28 languages.

    Thursday, March 28, 2019

    Review: The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr



    All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

    When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

    However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

    As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave.

    • Product Details:
    • Publisher: Atria Books (April 2019)
    • Length: 320 pages
    • ISBN13: 9781982101015

    "I'd like to believe death contains a logic the living cannot comprehend.
    That the dead surround us. That those who truly love us never truly leave.
    They care for us in their way."

    Encompassed within chapters of this gothic debut novel are love poems embodying aspects of Ovid's Metamorphoses as only protagonist and poet, Hugh de Bonne can write. The Lost History of Dreams is a love story or is it? Love is just one of the themes amongst two couples, two sub plots; Ada and Hugh de Bonne as well as Hugh's cousin, Robert Highstead and his wife, Sida. Pay close attention readers as to the many themes found throughout this novel i.e. Death, tragedy, illness, grief and obsession.  When Ada's niece, Isabelle enters the frame it couldn't get more complicated. Reminiscent of one of my favorite novels, Byatt's Possession, I saw a few parallels. 

    I could not put this novel down and I rarely say that! Reading The Lost History of Dreams is akin to walking through a labyrinth filled with twists and turns where nothing is as it seems. Author, Kris Waldherr has written a beautiful debut novel filled with all the gothic elements I love: British countryside, house on the moors, family secrets, tragic illness, terrible death and ghostly visits! However, a stroke of genius was the use of daguerreotypes and a relative trying to earn a living as a post mortem photographer. I loved those chapters. The subject matter brought a very interesting viewpoint to the storyline and characters.

    If you enjoy the gothic elements found in du Maurier novels and Wilkie Collins's A Woman in White than I have a feeling this is for you. I hope you read it and savor it as much as I have.

    Thank you to Kris Waldherr and Touchstone for my review copy.

    To pre-order the novel  Amazon



    Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    Video trailer and giveaway The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr


    Now you can watch the trailer for The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr.

    I've read the review copy (my review will go live on publication day) 
    This is one of the most spine chilling and captivating books I've read.

    When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

    However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

    As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave.



    For a chance to win a fabulous gift pack from the author, Kris Waldherr along with Atria Books,
    Click the link below for all the details.


     To pre-order the novel, Amazon





    Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

    Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were  detectors  in this charming historical myster...