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BOOK REVIEW: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Friday, November 24, 2017


The Blurb (From Goodreads):

Into the Water is the incredible new standalone thriller from Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train. Published in over forty languages and now a No. 1 box office hit film starring Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train is a global phenomenon.

With the same propulsion that captivated millions of readers worldwide in The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins unfurls a gripping, twisting, layered story set in a small riverside town. Once again Hawkins demonstrates her powerful understanding of human instincts and the damage they can inflict.

Into the Water is an addictive novel of psychological suspense about the slipperiness of the truth, and a family drowning in secrets.'


My Thoughts:

Paula Hawkins made her name with her debut contemporary suspense novel The Girl on the Train, which helped spark a new reading craze about ordinary people in dangerous situations that has been dubbed ‘domestic noir’. I was looking for a book to read on a long car journey and I had about three seconds to choose one while my husband drove around the block. I grabbed this one, confident I’d get a strong, dynamic, fast-moving story with a tricky mystery at its heart.

I was not disappointed.

Into the Water
centres on the death of Nel Abbott, who was writing a book about the Drowning Pool, a place where witches had once been dunked and unhappy women had long sought escape from unhappy lives. Before Nel died, she had rung her sister Jules. Her sister, however, did not pick up. She had not spoken to her sister in many years. Now Jules has to deal with her own guilt and remorse, as well as a grieving teenage niece and the growing conviction that Nel had not killed herself.

Books like Into the Water hinge on long-buried secrets and misunderstandings. Part of the pleasure in reading is trying to negotiate through the lies and half-truths told by the characters. Into the Water has a great many points-of-view, which means the reader really has to concentrate to follow the story, and so it’s not an easy read. Neither is it a gnaw-your-fingernails-to-the-bone kind of suspense. It is, however, a dark, twisty, and surprising mystery that I read in a single sitting. Even better, I did not manage to guess the murderer (which I had done with The Girl on the Train). I really enjoyed it and will be most interested in what Paula Hawkins does next.

You can read my review of The Girl on the Train here. 

Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. 

BOOK REVIEW: Sixty Seconds by Jesse Blackadder

Friday, November 24, 2017


The Blurb (From Goodreads):

Inspired by the author's own family experience. The Brennans - parents Finn and Bridget, and their sons, Jarrah and Toby - have made a sea change, shifting from chilly Hobart to a sprawling purple weatherboard in subtropical Murwillumbah. Feeling like foreigners in this land of sun and surf, they are only just starting to settle when, one morning, tragedy strikes - changing their lives forever.

Determined to protect his wife, Finn finds himself under the police and media spotlight. Guilty and enraged, Bridget spends her nights hunting answers in the last place imaginable. Jarrah - his innocence lost - is propelled suddenly from his teens into frightening adulthood. As all three are pushed to the limit, questions fly: Who is to blame? And what does it take to forgive?

A haunting and ultimately redemptive story about what it takes to forgive.


My Thoughts:

A few years ago I bought a novel called The Raven’s Heart by a writer I had never heard of, Jesse Blackadder. I was partly seduced by the cover and partly by the subtitle, ‘The Story of A Quest, a Castle, and Mary, Queen of Scots.’ It sounded just like my kind of book! And it was. I adored it so much I wrote to the author and told her so. Jesse wrote back to say thank you and to ask me if I would be willing to launch her next book for her. Chasing the Light was inspired by the story of the first women to travel to Antarctica. I was intrigued enough by the premise to agree to read the book, and then – once I had read it and loved it – to launch it. So Jesse and I met for the first time at Chasing the Light’s book launch in 2013 and we’ve been fast friends ever since.

We’ve attended festivals together in both Australia and the UK, and last year spent a close-bonding week together as part of the Byron Writers Festival ‘Five Writers Road Trip’ around far northern New South Wales. Jesse told me that she was working on a novel inspired by a family tragedy that had had a powerful shaping force upon her life and her imagination. When Jesse was twelve, her two-year-old sister had drowned in their backyard pool. Jesse had tried to grapple with this catastrophe in her fiction before, but it had always been too raw, too close to home. As the 40th anniversary of her sister’s birth approached, however, Jesse had experienced a moment of epiphany. The story of Sixty Seconds had sprung into her imagination, demanding to be told.

Although it is inspired by true life, Sixty Seconds is a work of fiction. It begins: ‘The boy steps into this day like he owns it – like he is, in fact, God and has conjured this up with a sweep of his hand before breakfast: this achingly blue sky, this currawong sending out a ringing call from the verandah post, this water dragon sunning on a warm rock to loosen her scales, cocking her head and blinking a yellow eye in his direction.’

It’s a moment of easy joy and summery beauty, made heartbreakingly poignant by the tragedy we know is about to happen.

Sixty Seconds articulates what must be every parent’s greatest dread. The death of a beloved child, the grief and horror and guilt, ‘the seismic shift’, as Jesse calls it, which changes everyone’s life. Told in alternating chapters between the points-of-view of the boy’s father Finn, his mother Bridget, and his elder brother, Jarrah, the book moves forward from this point of shock, and shows how the ripples affect the whole community. Each voice is distinctively different. Jarrah speaks in first person, Finn in third person, and Bridget – most interestingly - in second person (and present tense). It’s a bold and unconventional narrative choice, but it works. Each chapter is very short, and so the fractured narrative structure of the book reflects the shattered family unit. As Bridget reflects, ‘the three of you – Finn, you, Jarrah – clinging to each other, rain-slicked, like shipwreck survivors. All looking in different directions.’

There is always a danger of melodrama and sentimentality when writing of tragedy, but Jesse never veers anywhere close. Her language is simple, direct and powerful. The story has tremendous pace, as the ramifications of the boy’s death reverberate through the grief-stricken family. Secrets are revealed, choices and mistakes made. At the heart of the novel is the question: can anyone recover from such a loss? If so, how?

The final chapters of this beautiful novel gave me chills all over my body, and such a lump in my throat I could not breathe. Both haunting and heart-rending, Sixty Seconds is as much a story about the redemptive power of love as it is about the terrible power of grief. I know some people will be afraid of reading it, afraid of how close it may cut to the bone. I can only urge you to read it anyway. It is, quite simply, a masterpiece. 


You might also like to read my 2013 interview with Jesse Blackadder


Please leave a comment, I love to know your thoughts!

BOOK REVIEW: Behind the Sun by Deborah Challinor

Wednesday, November 22, 2017




The Blurb (From Goodreads):

Irreverent and streetwise prostitute, Friday Woolfe, is in London′s notorious Newgate gaol, awaiting transportation. There, she meets three other girls: intelligent and opportunistic thief, Sarah Morgan, naive young Rachel Winter, and reliable and capable seamstress, Harriet Clarke.

On the voyage to New South Wales their friendship becomes an unbreakable bond -- but there are others on board who will change their lives forever. Friday makes an implacable enemy of Bella Jackson, a vicious woman whose power seems undiminished by her arrest and transportation, while Harriet is taken under the wing of an idealistic doctor, James Downey. Rachel catches the eye of a sinister passenger with more than honour on his mind, whose brutal assault leaves her life hanging in the balance.

When they finally arrive on the other side of the world, they are confined to the grim and overcrowded Parramatta Female Factory. But worse is to come as the threat of separation looms. In the land behind the sun, the only thing they have is each other ...



My Thoughts:

Deborah Challinor and I shared a stage at the Historical Novel Society (Australasian) conference in Melbourne a few years ago, and so I was keen to read some of her work. She’s a New Zealand author and historian who has written over a dozen books, quite a few of them set in Australia. Behind the Sun is the first in a quartet following the adventures of four young women in the 1820s who are all convicted of various crimes and transported halfway around the world to the convict settlement of Sydney.

There is Friday Woolfe, a cheeky and irreverent prostitute, Sarah Morgan, a cool and intelligent thief, Rachel Winter, young and beautiful and far too naïve, and Harriet Clarke, a seamstress who stole some cloth in the hopes of saving her family from starvation.

Moving from the filth of Newgate Prison, to the hardships of the notorious convict ships, and arriving at last in Sydney, the four women find their friendship and courage tested to the limits.

Written with verve and zest, Behind the Sun has bright moments of humour and warmth and some very dark moments of cruelty and loss. The story races along at a cracking pace, but not once is historical veracity or vibrancy sacrificed for narrative momentum. A really great holiday read with some truly unforgettable characters. 


For another great read about women and crime, check out my review of See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. 


Please leave a comment, I love to know your thoughts! 

BOOK REVIEW: The Midsummer Garden by Kirsty Manning

Friday, November 17, 2017




The Blurb (From Goodreads):

Travelling between lush gardens in France, windswept coastlines of Tasmania, to Tuscan hillsides and beyond, The Midsummer Garden lures the reader on an unforgettable culinary and botanical journey.

1487 Artemisia is young to be in charge of the kitchens at Chateau de Boschaud but, having been taught the herbalists' lore, her knowledge of how food can delight the senses is unsurpassed. All of her concentration and flair is needed as she oversees the final preparations for the sumptuous wedding feast of Lord Boschaud and his bride while concealing her own secret dream. For after the celebrations are over, she dares to believe that her future lies outside the chateau. But who will she trust?

2014 Pip Arnet is an expert in predicting threats to healthy ecosystems. Trouble is, she doesn't seem to recognise these signs in her own life. What Pip holds dearest right now is her potential to make a real difference in the marine biology of her beloved Tasmanian coastline. She'd thought that her fiance Jack understood this, believed that he knew she couldn't make any plans until her studies were complete. But lately, since she's finally moved in with him, Jack appears to have forgotten everything they'd discussed.

When a gift of several dusty, beautiful old copper pots arrives in Pip's kitchen, the two stories come together in a rich and sensuous celebration of family and love, passion and sacrifice.


My Thoughts:

Kirsty Manning is an Australian journalist and author who has previously co-authored a book on gardens and cooking called We Love Food. These two passions are apparent on every page of her debut novel, The Midsummer Garden.

The novel travels back and forth in time between the stories of Pip, an Australian doctoral student in 2014, and Artemisia, a cook at the Chateau de Boschaud in 1487. The two are linked by the discovery of a small book of hand-written recipes hidden within a set of antique French copper pots given to Pip as a wedding gift. Artemisia is planning to marry also, although she must keep her romance a secret from the cruel Abbot Roald who would never give his permission. Pip’s marriage plans are also in danger of falling apart, as her studies into Tasmanian marine life do not seem as important to her fiancé Jack as they are to her.

As both women’s hopes and dreams unravel, the story travels to Spain and then to Italy as Pip searches for her true calling. This is a rich, sensual, and evocative novel, fragrant with the smell of crushed herbs and flowers, and haunted by the high cost that women must sometimes pay to find both love and their vocation. 


For another book about food and France, see my review of Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard. 


Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment! 

BOOK REVIEW: Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Wednesday, November 15, 2017






The Blurb (From Goodreads):

A charming story of Mozart and his pet starling, along with a natural history of the bird.

On May 27th, 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart met a flirtatious little starling who sang (an improved version of!) the theme from his Piano Concerto Number 17 in G to him. Knowing a kindred spirit when he met one, Mozart wrote "That was wonderful" in his journal and took the bird home to be his pet. For three years Mozart and his family enjoyed the uniquely delightful company of the starling until one fitful April when the bird passed away.

In 2013, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Crow Planet, rescued her own starling, Carmen, who has become a part of her family. In Mozart's Starling, Haupt explores the unlikely bond between one of history's most controversial characters and one of history's most notoriously disliked birds. Part natural history, part story, Mozart's Starling will delight readers as they learn about language, music, and the secret world of starlings.


My Thoughts: 

I picked up this lovely little hardback at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, which claims to be the biggest bookstore in the world. It certainly seemed so to me! I wandered in it for hours and bought far too many books.

Lyanda Lynn Haupt is a naturalist and author with several books about birds under her belt. Mozart’s Starling – her fifth – was inspired by a beguiling anecdote about the 18th century composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The story goes that, in 1784, Mozart encountered a playful little starling in a Viennese shop who sang the theme from his Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major. Charmed, he brought the bird home to be his pet. For the next few years, the starling lived with the Mozart family, inspiring and amusing the famous composer.

Apparently, nowadays, starlings are seen as a nuisance. They gather in great squawking flocks, decimate crops, and fight other birds for food and nesting sites. I didn’t know this when I bought the book. All I knew is that starlings sometimes fly together in vast swirling clouds of motion that have been given the glorious name, a ‘murmuration’. I have always wanted to see a murmuration of starlings (I’ve watched a few on Youtube and they are just astonishing), and I love Mozart’s music, and so I bought the book to discover more.

A combination of natural history, biography and memoir (one of my favourite genres to read), Mozart’s Starling not only examines the story of Mozart and his pet bird, but also Lyandra Lynn Haupt’s own experiment with raising a baby starling. Cheeky, charming and clever, Carmen sings and whistles her way into Lyandra’s heart, and, I must say, into mine. 


If you enjoy reading about nature, you might also be interested in my review of Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane. 


Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. 

BOOK REVIEW: The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel

Friday, November 10, 2017



The Blurb (From Goodreads):

There is no easy path for a woman aspiring to power. . . .


A concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces white and style their hair attractively, hoping to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget.

Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive.

The first volume of the Empress of Bright Moon duology paints a vibrant portrait of ancient China—where love, ambition, and loyalty can spell life or death—and the woman who came to rule it all.


My Thoughts:

I met Weina Dai Randel when I was in the US earlier this year, attending the Historical Novel Society conference in Portland. A gorgeous cover and intriguing premise worked their usual powerful force on me, and I added her novel The Moon in the Palace to the great pile of books I had to lug home.

The story begins when a Buddhist monk predicts that a five-year-old girl named Mei would one day be the mother of emperors and reign over the kingdom of China. From that moment, Mei’s father began to plot to have his beautiful little girl brought to the attention of the Emperor. Her father’s plans are disrupted by his unexpected death, but then Mei – now twelve years old – finds herself summoned to the court as one of fifteen maidens chosen to enter the Inner Court. From this moment, her life changes drastically. Separated from her mother, she must learn to negotiate through the intrigues and dangers of the life at the palace. The Emperor has many hundreds of concubines, most of which he has never seen. If Mei wants to become his Most Adored, she must use her wit as well as her beauty … and be very careful not to fall in love with another man …

The Moon in the Palace brings the claustrophobic world of ancient China to vivid life. Exotic, dangerous, brilliantly coloured and romantic, it’s an astonishingly assured debut and a fascinating story.


For another great read set in Ancient Asia, in this case Japan, I recommend Lian Hearn's book Across the Nightingale Floor, the first in a fantastic series. It made my list of favourite books by Australian Authors. 


Remember to leave a comment - I love to know your thoughts!



BOOK REVIEW: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Wednesday, November 08, 2017



The Blurb (From Goodreads):

Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries - and there he dies suddenly. Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the hints in Ambrose's letters, and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin's widow with hatred in his heart. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel like a moth to the flame. And yet... might she have had a hand in Ambrose's death?


My Thoughts:

I first read My Cousin Rachel as a teenager, and decided it was definitely time for a re-read. This was partly prompted by the new movie starring Rachel Weisz in the title role, which I wanted to see, and partly because I re-read Rebecca last year and was absolutely thrilled by it.

I bought the book at Hartchards in the St Pancras International train terminal in London, ahead of a day trip to Paris, and was utterly absorbed in it from the first word. I was just beginning to worry that I was reading it too fast and would have nothing left for the return journey, when we arrived. I had not even noticed the kilometres slipping past.

My Cousin Rachel is told from the first-person point-of-view of Philip Ashley, a young English man who has been brought up on a large country estate in Cornwall by his cousin, Ambrose. Suffering in the cold damp English winters, Ambrose decides to spend some months in southern Europe for the sake of his health. He writes regularly to Philip, and soon informs him that he has met, in Florence, a family connection of the Ashleys, the widowed Contessa Sangalletti. It is not long before Ambrose begins to call this cousin by her first name, Rachel. By the time spring arrives, Ambrose and Rachel are married and living in Italy, much to Philip’s distress. Then another letter from Ambrose arrives. It is strange and paranoid in tone, and accuses Rachel of always watching him. Philip travels to Italy, but arrives to find Ambrose dead and Rachel gone. He suspects she has murdered Ambrose.

Philip returns to England, and within a few weeks his cousin Rachel arrives on his doorstep. Determined to hate her, he finds himself falling in love with her. As new pieces of evidence are revealed, Philip swings back and forth between trust and suspicion, adoration and animosity, and the reader swings with him, never quite sure of the truth of the matter.

It is a masterpiece of slow-burn suspense, and also, I thought, an early and shining example of what is now being called ‘domestic noir’ – books like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins which feature unreliable narrators, shifting ground, and crimes committed behind closed doors. Just brilliant!


You can read my review of Rebecca here. 


Please leave a comment, I love to know your thoughts! 



THE BLUE ROSE: I've started writing the new novel

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

I've begun writing my new novel, The Blue Rose.

it's always really thrilling to start putting words down. I've been thinking and planning and day-dreaming this novel for about three months now (I began work on it on Sunday 23rd July, on the night of the new moon). 

For those of you who have not been following my creative journey with this novel, here is a brief outline:

The Blue Rose is a historical novel for adults set in the late 18th century and moving between France during the 'Terror' of the French Revolution and Imperial China, a mysterious and scarcely discovered land of mandarins with long curving fingernails and concubines with bound feet. The book is inspired by the true story of a quest for a blood-red rose that blooms even in winter.




This is a picture of Rosa semperflorens, the ruby-red repeat-flowering rose brought back from China in the late 18th century. It is the ancestor of all our modern-day red roses.


In the past three months, I have been to London and spent a week in the Chinese archives of the British Library:


  

  


I went to Paris and Versailles where many of my scenes are set:

 

  


I travelled to Wales to research the life of my hero, a Welsh gardener (and along the way visited Caerphilly Castle and Tredegar House and Fleur-de-Lis, a most unusually named Welsh village where I imagined my hero may have grown up). 


 

 



I also visited many 18th century gardens for inspiration for the romantic garden at the heart of The Blue Rose.

 
  
Cerney Garden, in the Cotswolds


 

Coughton Court, in the Cotswolds 
 
I'd already filled up one notebook with timelines, scene outlines, character sketches and research notes, and have now typed up all my thoughts and ideas, then printed them out to stick in a new notebook. 



During the last few months of thinking and day-dreaming and planning, a few of my ideas have changed. I had initially imagined my heroine living in a chateau in the Loire Valley. I even visited the Loire last year to get some ideas and inspiration. I had a very clear idea of what the chateau looked like, however, and nothing I saw seemed close enough. Then one day someone posted a photo of a chateau in Brittany on Facebook and it looked so much like what I imagined my heroine's home to look like that I had to go and read up about it. It's called the Chateau de Trecesson and it sparked so many ideas for me that I had to move my story from the Loire to the Paimpont Forest in Brittany, a place deeply steeped in Athurian mythology. I also changed my heroine's name from Rosemunde to Viviane. As soon as I had the right name for her, she came to life in my imagination.

  
The French actress Marine Vacth who looks how I imagine my heroine Viviane would look


My character outline for Viviane 


Brittany in the time of the French Revolution

Chateau de Trecesson in Brittany

The Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard, who is my visual inspiration for my hero David


I began writing on Friday October 20th (again on the time of the new moon) and now I am aiming to write one chapter every week (that's about 4,000 words). There will be weeks when I simply cannot manage it, but I'll try. 

So far my word count is 5,665 words and so its very much early days ... however, once I get into the flow those words will start piling up fast.


Want to know more about The Blue Rose?  Read about the first inspiration for the novel.

  


BOOK REVIEW: Beneath the Parisian Skies - Alli Sinclair

Friday, October 27, 2017



The Blurb (From Goodreads):

Lily Johansson returns to Paris, the city that broke her heart and destroyed her ballet career, hoping to ease the guilt over her fiance's death and to make amends with her estranged sister Natalie, a ballerina with the Boheme Ballet.

 
Terrified of loving again, Lily nevertheless finds herself becoming entangled with the driven composer Yves Rousseau. Lily has many reasons for keeping Yves at arm's length but as he recounts the colour, drama and intensity of the Ballets Russes in 1917, the magic of this Bohemian era ignites a spark within her.

Meanwhile, cast in the role of honouring Ballet Russes dancer Viktoriya Budian, Lily's sister Natalie develops an unhealthy obsessio
n. Natalie's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as elements of Viktoriya's tragic life resonate in her own. Lily fears for her sister's safety and sanity so when Natalie goes missing, she and Yves set out on a desperate quest across France to find her and, along the way, battle their own demons.

Could the search for her sister, lead Lily to realise that ballet -- like love and life -- should not be abandoned so easily?

My Thoughts:

A sweet, heart-warming romance set in the dreamy world of ballet in Paris. The narrative is split between the present-day story of Lily Johansson, who lost both her fiancé and her dancing career there a few years previously, and that of Viktoriya Budian, a ballerina who has escaped the Russian Revolution and is hoping to build a new life for herself in the City of Lights. I am both a balletomane and a Francophile, and so I really enjoyed the setting and dance scenes. Of the two narrative threads, the historical story worked bet
ter for me, as is often the case – perhaps because it was had greater drama and suspense.

If you're after more historical romances set in France, check out the marvellous book The Chateau on the Lake by Charlotte Betts.

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.


BOOK REVIEW: The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

Wednesday, October 25, 2017





The Blurb (From Goodreads):

A contemporary romance inspired by Christina Rossetti's eerie, sensual poem, "Goblin Market." Four neighbors encounter sinister enchantments and a magical path to love in a small, modern-day Puget Sound town, where a fae realm hides in the woods and waters...


Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out.

Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic K
it would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.

It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

My Thoughts:

The Goblins of Bellwater is a contemporary paranormal romance set in the USA, and so it not at all my usual kind of book. However, the author Molly Ringle was inspired by Christina Rossetti's famous poem ‘Goblin Market’, which is one of my all-time favourite poems; and her twitter feed is full of gorgeous pictures of forests and flowers and folklore; and the cover was just gorgeous. So I thought I’d stretch my reading boundaries and give it a go.

The story is set in Puget Sound, Washington, a place of moss-hung forests and stretches of still water drifting with mist. Unknown to most, the forest is home to creatures of the fae, some of them benevolent, but most not – the goblins of the book’s title.

Local mechanic Kit must steal gold to give to the goblins to keep them from doing harm. One day he fails to bring enough, and so the goblins curse a young woman wandering nearby. Her name is Skye, and she finds herself unable to speak of what has happened to her. Her older sister Livy cannot understand why her usually happy and talkative sister has become so silent and morose. Feeling alone and unsure, she reaches out to Kit and a tentative romance develops. Meanwhile, Skye – desperate for help – draws Kit’s cousin Grady into the spell. The two love affairs develop side-by-side while Livy continues to try and work out what is wrong with Skye
- not knowing that her hot new boyfriend is actually a kind of liaison officer with the goblin world and it is his failure to feed the goblins’ greed that has caused the harm in the first place. This, of course, causes emotional problems when she finds out, while Skye and Grady gradually begin to lose their humanity and take on aspects of the ugly and malicious goblins who cursed them. Eventually Livy must find the strength within her to break the spell, and free Skye, Kit and Grady from their entanglements in the goblin world.

The novel has some of the eerie sensuality of Christina Rossetti’s poem, and the setting is wonderfully conjured – it made me want to go to the Puget Sound and see it for myself. I also really liked the character of Livy, who was so kind and loving and deeply concerned with trying to save the natural world. It’s unusual to see the relationship between sisters at the heart of a paranormal romance, and this freshness helped The Goblins of Bellwater from being too platitudinous. It hasn’t converted me to being a fan of the genre, but anyone who likes their fantasy sexy, fast-paced and contemporary will love it.

If you like the sound of The Goblins of Bellwater, you might also like A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!


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