#BlogTour #BookReview Wicked by Design by Katy Moran @HoZ_Books @KatyjaMoran

Wicked by Design Blog Tour Poster
I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Wicked by Design by Katy Moran, the follow-up to Hester and Crow (previously published as False Lights).  My thanks to Vicky at Head of Zeus for inviting me to join the tour and for my proof copy.


Wicked by DesignAbout the Book

1819, Cornwall. Four women sit in the candlelit drawing-room at Nansmornow, an ancient Cornish manor house. The air is thick with unspoken suspicion and secret malice. As Hester Lamorna pours tea for her three guests, she has no idea one of them is about to rock her new marriage to its very foundations.

St. Petersburg. Half a world away, Hester’s impossible and charismatic husband, Jack ‘Crow’ Crowlas, will be caught up in a chess game of sexual manipulation, played out across the sumptuous ballrooms of St. Petersburg. All Hester and Crow hold most dear will be tested to the limit and beyond: their love for each other and their child, and for Crow, the loyalty of his only brother.

Format: Hardcover (464 pp.)                     Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 5th September 2019   Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Kobo | iBooks | Hive
*link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Wicked by Design on Goodreads


My Review

I really enjoyed False Lights, the book that first introduced me to Lord Lamorna, aka Jack ‘Crow’ Crowlas, and the then Hester Harewood. You can read my review here. (The book has since been republished under the title Hester and Crow.) I was thrilled to learn there was to be a follow-up and opened the book with high expectations; I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. Although Wicked By Design can be read as a standalone, give yourself a treat and start with the first book in order to experience every sizzling moment of the development of Crow’s and Hester’s relationship.

Hester – spirited, resourceful, fearless – and Crow – troubled, brooding, sultry – make an ideal hero and heroine. There’s constant crackling sexual tension between them and who can be surprised when the book includes references to Crow’s ‘illustrated expanse of lean torso’ or his precise knowledge of how to leave a woman ‘in his power and wanting more’. (Excuse me a moment while I go and cool down.)

Continuing the alternate history premise first introduced in False Lights – that Wellington lost not won the Battle of Waterloo – Wicked By Design sees Crow’s loyalty to the government of England doubted despite his pivotal role in freeing the country from French occupation. Crow has made himself some dangerous and powerful enemies and it soon becomes clear they will stop at nothing to exact revenge. Across the Channel, Napoleon Bonaparte is still a force to be reckoned with and no-one knows quite where the sympathies of Tsarist Russia lie.

Transporting the reader from the rugged coastline of Cornwall (ideal for those pining the absence of Ross and Demelza Poldark from their lives) to the salons of St. Petersburg, Wicked By Design races along like a golden Turkoman mare galloping across the steppes. Along the way there are twists and turns, vividly depicted action scenes and unexpected revelations. I loved every suspenseful, breathless minute of it, especially the riveting final chapters and that ending which I’ll confess left me a little blurry-eyed. Please, please tell me this is not the end of Hester’s and Crow’s adventures?

If you like your historical fiction to come with leading characters you really care about (flaws and all), an intriguing period backdrop, a storyline that encompasses deception, personal and political intrigue, betrayal and revenge plus a generous helping of spice, then Wicked By Design is the book for you.

In three words: Enthralling, spirited, passionate

Try something similar: Fled by Meg Keneally or The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau (click on title to read my review)

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Katy MoranAbout the Author

Katy Moran is a Carnegie nominated author who writes high-octane Regency romance which include muskets, gunpowder, Cornwall and Russia. She writes that when she is inspired by a new place ‘Regency England, Cornwall, Russia, the ancient palace of Fontainebleau – I want to actually be there. I want to take you there too, in the company of complex characters that you will fall a little (or a lot)in love with on the way.’

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#BlogTour #BookReview The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott #TheSecretsWeKept

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott alongside my tour buddies, Lynn at Ellesea Loves Reading and Haley at The Caffeinated Reader.

My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the inviting me to join the tour and to Hutchinson Books for my review copy.


The Secrets We KeptAbout the Book

TWO FEMALE SPIES. A BANNED MASTERPIECE. A BOOK THAT CHANGED HISTORY

1956 – A celebrated Russian author is writing a book, Doctor Zhivago, which could spark dissent in the Soviet Union. The Soviets, afraid of its subversive power, ban it. But in the rest of the world it’s fast becoming a sensation. In Washington DC, the CIA is planning to use the book to tip the Cold War in its favour.

Their agents are not the usual spies, however. Two typists – the charming, experienced Sally and the talented novice Irina – are charged with the mission of a lifetime: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago back into Russia by any means necessary.

It will not be easy. There are people prepared to die for this book – and agents willing to kill for it. But they cannot fail – as this book has the power to change history.

Sold in twenty-five countries and poised to become a global literary sensation, Lara Prescott’s dazzling first novel is a sweeping page turner and the most hotly anticipated debut of the year.

Format: Hardcover (480pp.)                    Publisher: Hutchinson
Publication date: 5th September 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Hive
*link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Secrets We Kept on Goodreads


My Review

Alternating between events either side of the Iron Curtain over a number of decades and incorporating multiple points of view, the structure of the book does require some concentration on the part of the reader. However, the effort will be amply rewarded.

There are some clever touches. I especially liked the chapters told from the collective point of view of ‘The Typists’, the members of the CIA typing pool. Equally as intelligent (and in many cases, more intelligent) than the male employees of the organisation, their gender sees them confined to administrative roles.   Also how the changing roles of key characters is cleverly reflected in the chapter headings.

The use of impersonal descriptors such as ‘The Muse’, ‘The Applicant’ or ‘The Emissary’ picks up on one of the themes explored in the book, that of identity. As one character observes, “I could become just about anyone”.

The act of writing and the power of literature to reflect, challenge and communicate ideas is a central focus of the book. In writing Doctor Zhivago – ‘the great novel you’ve dreamed of’ – and pursuing its publication, Boris Pasternak sacrifices everything: his freedom, his reputation and ultimately his health.  It also creates collateral damage, not least to Olga, his lover, muse and the inspiration for Lara, the novel’s heroine.

In Sally, Olga and Irina, the author paints portraits of three strong, resilient and resourceful women.  Olga’s experiences are particularly powerfully described. Arguably all the women prove themselves stronger than any of the men who claim to love them. This makes the final chapters revealing the fates of the women surely as chilling and moving as anything in Doctor Zhivago.

With its cast of spies, moles, couriers and double agents, the book conjures up the clandestine world of code words, secret rendezvous and undercover surveillance in the best traditions of John le Carré (think The Russia House or The Spy Who Came In From The Cold). There are also some great set pieces such as the scene in which illicit copies of Doctor Zhivago are distributed to be smuggled into the Soviet Union.

Combining touching love stories with the characteristic elements of a spy novel, as well as intelligently exploring themes such as identity and gender equality, The Secrets We Kept is an intensely satisfying read.

In three words: Clever, compelling, emotional

Try something similar: Tightrope by Simon Mawer (read my review here)

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Lara Prescott Author PicAbout the Author

Lara Prescott was named after the heroine of Doctor Zhivago and first discovered the true story behind the novel after the CIA declassified 99 documents pertaining to its role in the book’s publication and covert dissemination. She travelled the world – from Moscow and Washington, to London and Paris – in the course of her research, becoming particularly interested in political repression in both the Soviet Union and United States and how, during the Cold War, both countries used literature as a weapon.

Lara earned her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband.

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