#BlogTour #BookReview Twelve Nights by Penny Ingham

Twelve Nights Full Tour BannerWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Twelve Nights by Penny Ingham. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy. Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, Joanne at Pickled Thoughts and Pinot, Jasmine at Jazzy Book Reviews and Jo at Over The Rainbow Book Blog.

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Twelve NightsAbout the Book

The Theatre, London 1592. When a player is murdered, suspicion falls on the wardrobe mistress, Magdalen Bisset, because everyone knows poison is a woman’s weapon. The scandal-pamphlets vilify her. The coroner is convinced of her guilt.

Magdalen is innocent, although few are willing to help her prove it. Her much-loved grandmother is too old and sick. Will Shakespeare is benignly detached and her friend Christopher Marlowe is wholly unreliable. Only one man offers his assistance, but dare she trust him when nothing about him rings true?

With just two weeks until the inquest, Magdalen ignores anonymous threats to ‘leave it be’ and delves into the dangerous underworld of a city seething with religious and racial tension. As time runs out, she must risk everything in her search for the true killer – for all other roads lead to the gallows.

Format: Paperback (368 pages) Publisher: Nerthus
Publication date: 1st June 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find Twelve Nights on Goodreads

Purchase links
Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme


My Review

The story unfolds at a pace that means there’s plenty of time to immerse yourself in the sights and smells of Elizabethan London and its theatres. The latter was an aspect of the book I really enjoyed and which I thought the author brought brilliantly to life, from the audience of one-penny groundlings and ‘bum-cushions’ (those who could afford seats) to the behind-the-scenes preparation for performances involving, amongst other things, a stuffed dog and Richard III’s hump. The story takes the reader to the grimy streets and alleyways of London, the squalor of Bridewell and the rumbustious goings on at the Mermaid tavern, as well as the homes of the nobility attired in their outrageously opulent garb. Amongst the latter there are goings-on that would definitely not meet with the approval of Puritans.

Magdalen makes a plucky and resourceful heroine – and she needs to be. Not only has she been accused of a murder she did not commit but she finds herself caught up in the political intrigue and religious turmoil of the period. Forced to turn detective in order to save her own skin, her investigation throws up a plethora of suspects and possible motives including revenge, jealousy, blackmail, corruption and bigotry. There’s a neat summary of the main suspects and why they might have committed the crime towards the end of the book. Alongside all this Magdalen has to repel the unwanted advances of her employer (also her landlord) and support herself and her ailing grandmother who is slowly losing her grip on reality, a dangerous situation when one loose word could spell disaster. It’s not surprising Magdalen feels very alone and vulnerable. ‘Once, the Theatre had been her sanctuary from the troubles of the world, and then death had crept inside and it no longer felt a safe haven.’ 

Woven into the story of Magdalen’s quest to clear her name are real historical figures including the playwrights William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd – all competing for noble patronage and the demands of bloodthirsty theatregoers – and actor and theatre owner, Richard Burbage. And of course no novel set in the Elizabethan period would be complete without a reference to one of the Cecil family.

The book ends with some surprising revelations. Not just the identity of the person responsible for the murder but about Magdalen herself, leaving plenty of possible storylines to be explored in future books.

In three words: Atmospheric, intriguing, lively

Try something similar: A Murderous Affair by Jonathan Digby

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Twelve Nights Author IMG_5152About the Author

Penny writes: I was born and raised in Yorkshire where my father inspired my love of history from an early age. He is a born story teller and would take us to the top of Iron Age hill forts, often as dusk was falling, and regale us with stirring tales of battles lost and won. Not surprisingly, I went on to study Classics at university, and still love spending my summers on archaeological digs. For me, there is nothing more thrilling than finding an artefact that has not seen the light of day for thousands of years. I find so much inspiration for my novels from archaeology.

I have had a variety of jobs over the years, including working for the British Forces newspaper in Germany, and at the BBC. When our family was little, the only available space for me to write was a small walk-in wardrobe. The children used to say, ‘Oh, Mum’s in the cupboard again’.

I have written four historical novels: The King’s Daughter explores the story of Aethelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians. The Saxon Wolves and The Saxon Plague are both set in fifth century AD, a time of enormous upheaval and uncertainty in Britain as the Romans departed and the Saxon era began. My latest is something a bit different. Twelve Nights is a crime thriller set in sixteenth century London, and features William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.

I now live with my husband in the Hampshire countryside. Like many others during the pandemic, we decided to try growing our own fruit and vegetables – with mixed results! We can only get better!

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Twelve Nights

#BlogTour #BookReview The White Hare by Jane Johnson

FINAL White Hare BT PosterWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The White Hare by Jane Johnson. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Head of Zeus for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Do check out the reviews by my tour buddies for today Atomic Books 1976 over on Instagram and Jo at JaffaReadsToo.


WHITE HARE GRAPHIC 2About the Book

In the far west of Cornwall lies the White Valley, which cuts deeply through bluebell woods down to the sea at White Cove. The valley has a long and bloody history, laced with folklore, and in it sits a house above the beach that has lain neglected since the war. It comes with a reputation and a strange atmosphere, which is why mother and daughter Magdalena and Mila manage to acquire it so cheaply in the fateful summer of 1954.

Magda has grand plans to restore the house to its former glory as a venue for glittering parties, where the rich and celebrated gathered for cocktails and for bracing walks along the coast. Her grown daughter, Mila, just wants to escape the scandal in her past and make a safe and happy home for her little girl, Janey, a solitary, precocious child blessed with a vivid imagination, much of which she pours into stories about her magical plush toy, Rabbit.

The White Valley comes with a long, eventful and often bloody history, laced with tall tales and local legends. Locals say that a white hare may be seen running through the woods there. Some say it is a phantasm, or superstitious nonsense; others say the hare is as real as you or me. It may be a sign of ill omen; or a blessing. Feeling fragile and broken-hearted, cast out of her old life, Mila is in great need of a new start and all the luck she can get.

Format: Hardback (448 pages)     Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 23rd June 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The White Hare on Goodreads

Purchase links
Bookshop.org
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops

Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme


My Review

If you think of historical fiction as being like a cake then The White Hare has all the ingredients necessary to make something appetizing: a remote location, a house with a mysterious history, elements of the supernatural, the scars of a country emerging from war, troubled relationships, oh, and a handsome stranger.

There is a timeless quality to the book with only a few references to the Second World War pointing to it being set in 1954. The remoteness of White Cove and the nearby village gives a sense of a place somewhat detached from modern life. ‘The old ways run deep in this part of the county. It’s a place full of ancient mysteries and a great deal of superstition.’ In this respect Cornwall with its rich history of legends and its ancient monuments makes an ideal setting for the story. It’s believable that the supernatural is not far from the surface in this part of the world and that life is lived very much to the rhythm of nature. It also goes some way to explaining the villagers initial hostility towards the new arrivals. ‘The valley doesn’t welcome outsiders.’

Mila’s mother, Magdalena (sometimes referred to in the book as Magda or Mother) is a rather unlikeable character. She’s self-obsessed, prone to fits of anger and seems determined to ‘punish’ her daughter for the failure of a relationship in which Mila was the innocent party, despite the fact it has provided the funds for the purchase and refurbishment of White Cove. Even when the details of Magdalena’s past are revealed, I found it hard to forgive her treatment of her daughter and granddaughter. I did like though the fact the story involves (for the times) an unconventional relationship although, rather contradictorily, the possibility of the disclosure of a similar relationship is shown to have a very different outcome.

Although for me the book moved at a sedate pace, the constant sense of unease the author created helped maintain my interest. There are a number of odd occurrences from ‘mishaps and minor accidents’ to strange visions, many associated with Mila’s daughter, Janey. Some of these defy rational explanation whilst others prove to have more conventional causes. I enjoyed how many of the strange events tied in with the history of the area and that they were given expression through women. The prologue and epilogue neatly reflect this.

Towards the end of the book the pace picked up as, one after another, secrets are revealed, animosity is replaced by acceptance and unexpected good fortune signals a different future for many of the characters.

In three words: Atmospheric, intriguing, enjoyable

Try something similarThe Marsh House by Zoe Somerville

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JANE JOHNSONAbout the Author

Jane Johnson is a British novelist and publisher. She is the UK editor for George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb and Dean Koontz and was for many years publisher of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Married to a Berber chef she met while researching The Tenth Gift, she lives in Mousehole in Cornwall and Morocco.

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White Hare Graphic 1