#BlogTour #BookReview The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable @RandomTTours

Bookseller's Secret BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Harper Collins for my review copy.

Booksellers Secret Graphic 2About the Book

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

Format: Paperback (400 pages)               Publisher: Graydon House
Publication date: 11th November 2021  Genre: Historical Fiction, Dual Time

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My Review

Alternating between London in the present day and during World War 2, the book is told from the point of view of American author, Katie Cabot, in London to visit her friend Jojo, and Nancy Mitford, at the time the author of three not very successful novels.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if the dual timeline structure would work but as the book progressed I enjoyed how more and more paralells between the two women emerged. For example, both are struggling to come up with ideas for their next book, are either in or trying to move on from unsuccessful relationships and have experienced health issues.  The inclusion of the present day timeline and Katie’s curiosity about the possibility of discovering a lost manuscript by Nancy Mitford allows the author to drip-feed into the story details about Nancy’s life, her wartime activities, her eccentric childhood and, in particular, her infamous sisters.

What links the two women is Heywood Hill bookshop, where Nancy worked during the war and which Katie visits on the recommendation of her friend. A neat touch is the similarity between the women’s first impressions of the bookshop. Katie notes its ‘dusty chandeliers, the cob-webbed tinged corners and nooks’ whilst Nancy describes its ‘cluttered shelves, cob-webbed corners, and teetering stacks of books’.  (I wonder if it is purely coincidence that Katie’s most successful novel, and the only one stocked by the Heywood Hill bookshop, is called A Paris Affair and the author’s first book was entitled A Paris Apartment?)

I particularly enjoyed the sections written from Nancy’s point of view which are lively and gay, and seem very much Nancy in style. I loved her witty repartee with her friends and her waspish comments about other authors. For example, Ernest Hemingway is dismissed as ‘the biggest bore on earth’ and Evelyn Waugh, although supposedly a friend, as ‘a workaday, bloated drunk in a bowler hat’.  The banter between Nancy and her friends is mirrored in Katie’s jokey conversations with the man she meets in the bookshop and who, she discovers, shares her own interest in Nancy Mitford’s wartime experiences. You may not be completely surprised that initially Katie does not particularly take to the gentleman concerned. However, as we learned from Pride and Prejudice, first impressions can be deceptive. Talking of romance (potential or actual), I found the way the author describes Nancy’s relationship with her French Colonel especially touching.

As Katie struggles to come up with an idea for her next book (resisting everyone’s suggestion that she simply write a sequel to A Paris Affair), she is reassured that ‘Every writer struggles, even the late, great Nancy Mitford’.  As we now know, Nancy did finally overcome that struggle and write her most famous novel, The Pursuit of Love (to which she did write a sequel, Love in a Cold Climate).

I really enjoyed The Bookseller’s Secret and it has definitely made me want to read more of Nancy Mitford’s books, and to re-read The Pursuit of Love.

In three words: Absorbing, lively, engaging

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Michelle Gable Author PicAbout the Author

Michelle Gable is the New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, I’ll See You in Paris, The Book of Summer, and The Summer I Met Jack. She attended the College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting, and spent twenty years working in finance before becoming a full-time writer.

She grew up in San Diego and lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California with her husband and to daughters.

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#BlogTour #BookReview The Girl from Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl @rararesources @KathMcGurl @HQStories

The Girl From Bletchley Park Full Tour Banner

Welcome today’s stop on the blog tour for The Girl from Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to HQ Digital for my review copy via NetGalley. The Girl from Bletchley Park is available now as an ebook and will be published in paperback in January 2022.

The Girl from Bletchley ParkAbout the Book

A country at war. A heartbreaking betrayal.

1942.Three years into the war, Pam turns down her hard-won place at Oxford University to become a codebreaker at Bletchley Park. There, she meets two young men, both keen to impress her, and Pam finds herself falling hard for one of them. But as the country’s future becomes more uncertain by the day, a tragic turn of events casts doubt on her choice – and Pam’s loyalty is pushed to its limits…

Present day. Julia is struggling to juggle her career, two children and a husband increasingly jealous of her success.Her brother presents her with the perfect distraction: forgotten photos of their grandmother as a young woman at Bletchley Park. Why did her grandmother never speak of her time there? The search for answers leads Julia to an incredible tale of betrayal and bravery – one that inspires some huge decisions of her own..

Format: ebook (326 pages)                  Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication date: 3rd November 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Dual Time

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My Review

I really enjoyed The Stationmaster’s Daughter when I read it back in 2019 so my interest was immediately piqued when I learned Kathleen McGurl had a new book coming out.

There is a continuing fascination with the work carried out at Bletchley Park during World War 2, work which we now know proved of great significance to the war effort. The author takes us “behind the scenes” at Bletchley Park through the story of Pamela, a promising student of mathematics who is persuaded to defer her place at university and instead put her skills to work in the service of her country. During her time at Bletchley Park, Pamela makes friendships that will last a lifetime but also learns in the most dramatic way possible that not everyone is quite what they seem, the author deftly playing with the reader’s doubts and suspicions.

Interwoven with Pamela’s experiences is the present day story of Julia, Pamela’s granddaughter. As the book progresses the similarities between the situations the two women face become increasingly apparent. For example, a neat touch is that Julia runs her own IT business whilst Pamela worked on what could be considered an early version of a computer. In different ways, both Pamela and Julia experience betrayal by those they have come to trust but also find help from unexpected quarters. Along the way ties of friendship and affection are tested and both women have to summon up all their strength to protect those they care about.

I really liked the way Julia’s relationship with her two sons, Oscar and Ryan, was portrayed and how they progress from being stroppy teenagers to showing signs of becoming fine young men. Julia’s brother, Bob, and Drew, the husband of Julia’s business partner, act as counterpoints to other less than admirable examples of the male species. And, in the earlier timeline, Clarissa proves a steadfast friend to Pamela whose warnings, as it turns out, Pamela would have done well to heed.

The Girl from Bletchley Park will appeal to fans of dual timeline stories with an element of mystery, and those with an interest in the contribution, often largely unsung, of women to the war effort.

In three words: Engaging, emotional, intriguing

Try something similarThe Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

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The Stationmasters Kathleen McGurl author photoAbout the Author

Kathleen McGurl lives near the coast in Christchurch, England. She writes dual timeline novels in which a historical mystery is uncovered and resolved in the present day. She is married to an Irishman and has two adult sons. She enjoys travelling, especially in her motorhome around Europe.

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The Girl From Bletchley Park