#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.

Connect with Gill
Website | Twitter

#BookReview Hermit by S.R. White @Headlinepg

Hermit Blog Tour Banner
Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for crime thriller, Hermit by S.R. White. My thanks to Emily at Headline for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my advance review copy. Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Mrs Cooke at Mrs Cooke’s Books.

Hermit S.R. WhiteAbout the Book

He vanished for 15 years… She has 12 hours to find out why.

After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth… 

Format: Hardcover (384 pages)                Publisher: Headline
Publication date: 17th September 2020 Genre: Crime

Find Hermit on Goodreads

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

My Review

The events in the book take place over a day giving it an almost real-time feel. But it’s not just any old day. For Dana Russo, it’s “the Day”, the anniversary of something the nature of which the reader can only guess at but immediately senses was traumatic.

Much of the book is given over to the interview sessions between Dana and chief suspect for the murder, Nathan Whittler. The reader really gets a sense of being in the interview room alongside them.  It’s claustrophobic and filled with tension. I found myself holding my breath at some points while one of Dana’s questions is posed and considered by Nathan. The accuracy of the description of Nathan as “not their usual kind of suspect” becomes increasingly clear.

What I found particularly fascinating was Dana’s preparation for the interviews: the insight into her thought processes about the line of questioning she should adopt; how and when to disclose information; how to interpret Nathan’s responses and body language. It hadn’t fully occurred to me how much a police interview is akin to a psychological game of chess or poker in which picking up small signs in response to delicate probing is an essential part. In Hermit, the author conveys this element superbly.

Between the intense sessions, Dana has moments of doubt about her ability to interpret the meaning of Nathan’s “flicks, gestures, silences, and absences”.  She fears the fact of it being “the Day” may have an impact on her ability to exercise her professional skills and that a mistake on her part might jeopardize what really matters to her – finding the truth. Sharing some of his introvert instincts gives Dana a degree of empathy for Nathan. “Being Nathan Whittler was clearly not easy and the sudden insight into what it involved jarred her.” But are they too alike and will she perhaps have to reveal too much of herself to get the answers she needs from him?

What the reader learns is that Dana likes – indeed, needs – order. She knows she functions best when she “was allowed to take her time – delve, think, plan.” I loved the relationship between Dana and her colleague, Mike. Their light-hearted banter is a sign of their close working partnership but also that they understand each other well. As Mike reflects at one point, “Between them they made one mighty detective. Individually, they were deeply flawed, but in different areas”. They have a tacit agreement to act as Devil’s advocate when either of them is leading a case: challenging assumptions, suggesting different lines of enquiry.

I also liked Dana’s fellow officers: Bill, her boss; Lucy, the team’s formidable secretary and administrator; Rainer, the eager young detective already displaying the instincts needed to be successful. Mike and Lucy in particular have a keen awareness of Dana’s strengths and vulnerabilities and I really loved how the author showed them supporting her in all sorts of little ways.

Hermit is a book for those who like their crime fiction to be character-driven, detailed and of the slow-burn variety. However, even a slow-burning fuse results in an explosion in the end. And, as much as you’ve been expecting it – preparing for it, even- it can still make you jump when it occurs.

I thought Hermit was terrific and I only hope the author is already working on a follow-up.

In three words: Intense, compelling, immersive

Try something similar: Payback (Charley Mann #1) by R.C. Bridgstock

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S.R. WhiteAbout the Author

S.R. White worked for a UK police force for twelve years, before returning to academic life and taking an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. He now lives in Queensland, Australia.