#BlogTour #BookReview The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans @RandomTTours

Beloved Girls BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for finding me a place on the tour and to Headline for my digital copy via NetGalley.

The Beloved GirlsAbout the Book

It’s a funny old house. They have this ceremony every summer . . . There’s an old chapel, in the grounds of the house. Half-derelict. The Hunters keep bees in there. Every year, on the same day, the family processes to the chapel. They open the combs, taste the honey. Take it back to the house. Half for them –‘ my father winced, as though he had bitten down on a sore tooth. ‘And half for us.’

Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?

The answer lies buried in the past. It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold. Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. She and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present..

We need the bees to survive, and they need us to survive. Once you understand that, you understand the history of Vanes, you understand our family.

Format: eARC (448 pages)                Publisher: Headline
Publication date: 19th August 2021 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Find The Beloved Girls on Goodreads

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My Review

Opening in 2018 and then going back in time to 1989 and 1959, before returning in reverse to 2018, The Beloved Girls has a cast of damaged individuals; the male characters, with a few exceptions, are particularly unpleasant.

Janey is struggling to manage her grief following a traumatic event that came out of the blue, and is in search of somewhere she feels she can belong. She thinks she has found that at Vanes, the country house of the Hunter family that she once visited as a child.

Ah yes, the Hunter family. I have to say they’re not a group of people I’d be keen to spend time with, much less be a member of. The creation of this dysfunctional family and the sense of menace, of suppressed rage and discontent that threatens to spill over into violence, was probably the strongest part of the book for me.

Charles Hunter, referred to as pater familias by his children, is irascible, petty and often cruel towards those around him. He is in thrall to his family’s history and the traditions associated with it, especially the annual ritual known as The Collecting. His wife, Sylvia, is a talented designer whose time has been diverted to running the household in accordance with the whims of her husband, and to protecting her children – the twins Kitty and Joss, and Melissa (known as Merry) their younger sister – from the malign influences that seem to hover around them. The sense of unease is heightened by the presence of the bees, housed in an old, rundown chapel, whose humming is a constant backdrop to life at Vanes.

For me, the chapters set in 2018 felt very different in tone from those of the earlier timelines. The run-up to Catherine’s disappearance conforms to everything you might expect from a modern day thriller. On the other hand, the sections set in 1989 had a rather timeless quality despite the frequent references to 1980s music. Part three of the book, set in 1959, filled in the back stories of key characters but for others represented their sole appearance.

I wasn’t quite sure how the author would manage to bring together the three timelines to form a coherent whole but I think this was largely achieved, although for the observant reader the direction the story will take won’t be a great surprise. On the other hand, the book leaves a few unanswered questions for readers to ponder.

At just under 450 pages, The Beloved Girls represents quite an investment in reading time but will reward the reader who is prepared for a slow increase in tension and is happy to inhabit the strange, unsettling world the author has created.

In three words: Chilling, unsettling, atmospheric

Try something similar: The Glass House by Eve Chase

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Harriet-EvansAbout the Author

Harriet Evans is the author of several top ten bestsellers including the Sunday
Times bestselling The Garden of Lost and Found and Richard and Judy bookclub selection The Wildflowers. She used to work in publishing and now writes full time, when she is not being distracted by her children, other books, sewing projects, puzzles, gardening, and her much-loved collection of jumpsuits. Last year, she and her family moved from London to Bath

Connect with Harriet
Website | Twitter | Facebook

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#PublicationDay #Spotlight Why Are You Here? by Radhika Iyer @CastlesPress

I’m delighted to be marking publication day of Why Are You Here? by Radhika Iyer. The book, a collection of short stories, is the first publication by new venture, Castles in the Air Press. As joint founders Órla & Clare explain, Castles in the Air Press is an ebook publisher dedicated to finding and supporting unique and diverse Irish authors. You can follow them on Twitter or Instagram at @castlespress or visit their website (where you can also find out how they came up with the name Castles in the Air).

Castles in the Air Press is currently open for unsolicited submissions of quality fiction for adults and young adults, especially from first-time authors.

Why Are You Here?About the Book

Radhika Iyer’s debut collection, Why Are You Here? contains twelve explosive short stories presenting twelve provoking female narratives. Iyer’s unique style is quirky yet powerful, as she illustrates a sense of otherness, as an immigrant and as a woman of colour.

Iyer explores the struggle of being a woman in different cultures, as the stories take us from the harrowing results of a family scandal in Malaysia, to an internal cultural identity struggle in Dubai, to an abusive marriage amplified by the lockdown in Ireland.

This collection is ultimately about the female experience, and being different culturally, and in terms of shape and size. The women of these stories face their internal and external battles, and as we follow their journeys, we come face to face with the struggle and the strength of women.

Format: ebook                                Publisher: Castles in the Air Press
Publication date: 1st August 2021 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Short Stories

Find Why Are You Here? on Goodreads

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Amazon UK
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Radhika IyerAbout the Author

Radhika Iyer was born in Malaysia to migrant Indian parents. Her stories mainly explore themes of identity struggle, acceptance, and domestic violence.

In 2020, an excerpt of Radhika’s journal piece was aired on RTE Radio 1’s Arena show, an excerpt of an article she wrote about working and living in Ireland was featured in the Irish Times, and a reflective piece was featured as part of the Keywords Podcast 5: Common Ground on RTE Radio1Extra and went on to be nominated for Best Short Feature in the 2020 IMRO Radio Awards. The short story, Why are you Here? was on the Cranked Anvil shortlist in late 2020.

Radhika currently lives in and is trying to fit into Dundalk, Ireland. (Bio/photo credit: Publisher author page)

Connect with Radhika
Twitter | Goodreads