#BookReview Dear Child by Romy Hausmann trans. by Jamie Bulloch @Flatironbooks

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Dear Child by Romy Hausmann, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch. My thanks to Claire at Flatiron Books for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Dear Child will be published in the U.S. on 6th October 2020 by Flatiron and is available for pre-order now. It was published in the UK by Quercus on 13th May 2020 and is available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook format.

Dear Child Romy HausmannAbout the Book

A windowless shack in the woods. A dash to safety. But when a woman finally escapes her captor, the end of the story is only the beginning of her nightmare.

She says her name is Lena. Lena, who disappeared without a trace 14 years prior. She fits the profile. She has the distinctive scar. But her family swears that she isn’t their Lena.

The little girl who escaped the woods with her knows things she isn’t sharing and Lena’s devastated father is trying to piece together details that don’t quite fit. Lena is desperate to begin again but something tells her that her tormentor still wants to get back what belongs to him…and that she may not be able to truly escape until the whole truth about what happened in the woods finally emerges.

Format: eARC (352 pages)                           Publisher (US): Flatiron Books
Publication date (US): 6th October 2020 Genre: Thriller

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Pre-order/Purchase links*
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My Review

Told from a number of different points of view, Dear Child is a twisty, suspenseful page-turner that it’s well nigh impossible to say much about without spoiling the experience for potential readers. It features many of the elements you expect to find in the psychological thriller genre whilst still seeming fresh and original. This is especially the case with one of the narrators whose voice combines innocence and a slightly chilling precision.

The storyline encompasses abduction, imprisonment and coercive control but the author chooses to major on the psychological impact of their experiences on those involved. For example, the strains on the relationship of husband and wife, Matthias and Karin, caused by the disappearance of their daughter Lena many years ago. It’s not just the despair they endure at not knowing what happened to her, or the false hopes that come to nothing but the effect of press intrusion and speculation.

Dear Child is one of those books where you can try to work out the final destination or just sit back and experience the literary equivalent of a mystery ride. In the end, I chose the latter and for a lot of the time I could identify with one of the characters who observes, “I try to arrange the pieces, but the meaning defeats me“. But, as with a jigsaw, there’s always a sense of satisfaction when the final piece is put in place.

In three words: Dark, intense, suspenseful

Try something similar: The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

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Romy HausmannAbout the Author

Romy Hausmann was born in East Germany in 1981. At the age of twenty-four she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son she has been working as a freelancer in television.

Dear Child is her thriller debut. Romy lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart. (Photo credit: Astrid Eckert)

#BookReview The Second Marriage by Gill Paul @AvonBooksUK @RandomTTours

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Second Marriage by Gill Paul. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour and to Avon for my digital review copy. Do check out the blog post by my tour buddy for today, Debbie at Inked Book Reviews.

About the Book

Jackie – When her first marriage ends in tragedy, Jackie Kennedy fears she’ll never love again. But all that changes when she encounters…

Ari – Successful and charming, Ari Onassis is a man who promises her the world. Yet soon after they marry, Jackie learns that his heart also belongs to another…

Maria – A beautiful, famed singer, Maria Callas is in love with Jackie’s new husband – and she isn’t going to give up. Little by little, Jackie and Maria’s lives begin to tangle in a dangerous web of secrets, scandal and lies.

But with both women determined to make Ari theirs alone, the stakes are high. How far will they go for true love? 

Format: Paperback (464 pages)                Publisher: Avon
Publication date: 17th September 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The Second Marriage on Goodreads

Purchase links*
Amazon UK | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

From the book’s UK title and blurb, readers could be forgiven for thinking the main focus of the novel is the relationship that develops between the widowed Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis. In fact, that part of the story takes up only the final section of the book. Instead, Gill Paul commences the story much earlier, giving the reader an insight into the events that shaped the lives of Jackie and Maria. Some of these events, especially those played out in the public eye, may be familiar to many readers. Others less so. And, of course, there are always gaps in historical fact that have to be filled from the author’s imagination or, as Gill Paul freely acknowledges in her afterword, that have to be reshaped to meet the demands of a fictional narrative. Gill has recently written about the delicate balancing act involved in this in an article for Historia magazine.

It’s no coincidence the book is structured in five parts – Acts 1 to 5 – because there is certainly an operatic quality to the story. It’s like watching a performance playing out at length in front of an audience with moments of both high drama and tragedy. Indeed, during one scene in which Maria delivers an ultimatum to Onassis, she reflects, “In an opera, there would have been drumrolls, cymbals clashing.

Starting in 1957 with the first meeting between Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis in the Hotel Danieli in Venice, the cast of characters making up the chorus (to continue the opera analogy) is a Who’s Who of the rich and famous: Princess Grace of Monaco, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Marilyn Monroe, Winston and Clementine Churchill, to name just a few.

The author vividly and movingly depicts the human stories behind the glamour and luxury. Witnessing through Jackie’s eyes the fateful events of November 1963 is still shocking to read despite knowing what’s going to happen and I found the description of Jackie’s fortitude at her husband’s funeral particularly poignant. Maria’s desperation to have a child was also heartbreaking to witness.

Although from very different backgrounds, I was struck by the similarities between the experiences of the two women. They both had to endure infidelity by the men they became involved with – and, as it turns out, by the same man. They both experienced tragedy in their lives and rifts with family members. And they both had to live under the intense scrutiny of the press and public with every word, every gesture subject to speculation.  They were often vilified for what they did, who they met and their lifestyles. Of course, their positions in society meant there was always going to be interest in their lives.

As presented by the author, I felt neither woman deserved the treatment they received from Aristotle Onassis. Though undoubtedly possessing charisma, he seemed to be motivated more by acquisition than genuine love, as if they were rare items to be added to a collection, not fellow human beings – and fragile ones at that. As Maria wisely observes, “He thrived on conquest” and was a man who “collected celebrity notches on his bedpost“. Yet she still ignored his flaws and forgave his betrayals time and time again. For instance, I couldn’t understand how Onassis could have so little interest in opera or music when it was clearly the central passion of Maria’s life and the thing that brought her the most joy and satisfaction. It was Maria I felt most sympathy for and whose story most engaged me. As she observes to her friend Mary, “Some people are born to be happy but I was not one of them. I am destined always to be the tragic heroine”.

The Second Marriage is an absorbing story of love, loss and betrayal.

In three words: Emotional, intimate, dramatic

Try something similar: The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg

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About the Author

Gill Paul’s historical novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Toronto Globe & Mail and Kindle charts, and been translated into twenty languages. They include The Second Marriage (titled Jackie and Maria in the US), two bestselling novels about the Romanovs – The Secret Wife and The Lost Daughter -as well as Women and Children First, which was shortlisted for the 2013 RNA Epic Novel of the Year award, No Place For A Lady, shortlisted for a Love Stories award, and Another Woman’s Husband, about links you might not have suspected between Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana.

Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History Of Medicine in 50 Objects, and she speaks at libraries and literary festivals on subjects ranging from the Titanic to the Romanovs. Gill lives in London, where she is working on her tenth novel, and she swims daily in an outdoor pond.

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