#BookReview The Spanish Girl by Jules Hayes @books_dash @rararesources

Three decades. Two love stories. One chance to uncover the truth... (3)

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Spanish Girl by Jules Hayes. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orion Dash for my digital review copy via NetGalley.

The Spanish GirlAbout the Book

A country torn apart by war. Two love stories divided by decades. One chance to discover the truth…

Feisty journalist Isabella has never known the truth about her family. Escaping from a dangerous assignment in the turbulent Basque country, she finds her world turned upside down, firstly by her irresistible attraction to the mysterious Rafael, and then by a new clue to her own past.

As she begins to unravel the tangled story of her identity, Isabella uncovers a story of passion, betrayal and loss that reaches back to the dark days of Spain’s civil war – when a passionate Spanish girl risked everything for her country, and for the young British rebel who captured her heart.

But can Isabella trust the man she’s fallen in love with? Or are some wartime secrets better left undisturbed…?

Format: ebook                                 Publisher: Orion Dash
Publication date: 15th March 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The Spanish Girl on Goodreads

Purchase links
Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

I very much enjoyed Jules Hayes’ previous book, The Walls We Build, so I was delighted to be offered the chance to read her latest novel, The Spanish Girl. If you’ve been following the blog tour, you’ll know it’s been getting enthusiastic reviews from readers.

The book opens in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War with a dramatic prologue in which a young boy witnesses a shocking event that will have consequences for decades to come.  It’s then fast forward to May 1976 and Franco’s Spain as journalist Isabella Adame travels to interview Rafael Daguerre, a prominent Basque separatist. Initially, Isabella finds Rafael rude, arrogant and obstinately self-assured but, as we learned from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, first impressions are not always accurate – or are they?

Isabella’s role as a campaigning journalist is seeking answers to questions and trying to discover the truth so it’s ironic that she’s living with so many unanswered questions about her own life, such as the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her birth mother, Sofia, and the identity of her father.  It’s resulted in Isabella becoming rather guarded, with few friends and a life which has become, in her own words, a ‘monotone mosaic’.  The only people who mean anything to her are Calida and Aurelio who adopted her when she was a baby, fleeing from Spain to France during the height of the Civil War.  For all these reasons, it’s not surprising that she is intrigued when Rafael reveals a link to her mother.  From that point on, the book alternates between Isabella’s search for the truth and events during the Spanish Civil War.

As the story unfolds, the reader is immersed in the complex politics and history of Spain both during the Civil War through the introduction of another storyline which will see a rivalry develop that will ultimately split a family, and later through events during the Franco regime.  Indeed, the author has her characters witness dramatic events such as the notorious bombing of the city of Guernica that left many dead and had a lasting impact on the people of Spain.  “The hostility that existed all over Spain, between families that had once lived peacefully together, and friends who couldn’t trust each other anymore.”  

As a counterbalance to the horror, throughout the book the author uses opportunities to evoke the spirit of Spain – its  culture, food, landscape and music.  A scene that stood out for me was Isabella, inspired by traditional guitar playing, performing flamenco during which she feels ‘nothing existed only the thumping beat, the raw energy, the infinity of music’.

I can’t say much more about how the story unfolds for fear of spoilers, except that I’m not sure I could be as forgiving as Isabella is to some of the characters when the truth of what they knew – and when – is finally revealed.  Isabella’s story exposes the guilt that can linger for things done or not done, the burning desire for answers and the need to belong.

The Spanish Girl is an absorbing story of secrets and lies, love, loss and betrayal.

In three words: Dramatic, intriguing, emotional

Try something similar: The Garden of Angels by David Hewson

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Jules HayesAbout the Author

Jules writes: “I have a degree in modern history and I’m fascinated with events from the first half of the 20th century, which is the time period my historical fiction is set. My work has been longlisted in the Mslexia Novel Competition, and shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport Short Story Competition. I live in Berkshire, UK with my partner, daughter and dog. Before writing stories, I was a physiotherapist.”

Jules Hayes is a pseudonym for J A Corrigan who writes contemporary thrillers. Falling Suns by J A Corrigan (Headline Accent) was published in 2016.

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#BookReview The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger by Suzanne Fortin @Aria_Fiction

Arthur Pettinger Blog Tour

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger by Suzanne Fortin. My thanks to Vicky Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my limited edition proof copy. The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger was published as an ebook on 4th March and will be available in paperback on 10th June 2021.

The Forgotten Life of Arthur PettingerAbout the Book

Sometimes the past won’t stay hidden, it demands to be uncovered…

Arthur Pettinger’s memory isn’t what it used to be. He can’t always remember the names of his grandchildren, where he lives or which way round his slippers go. He does remember Maryse though, a woman he hasn’t seen for decades, but whose face he will never forget.

When Arthur’s granddaughter, Maddy moves in along with her daughter Esther, it’s her first step towards pulling her life back together. But when Esther makes a video with Arthur, the hunt for the mysterious Maryse goes viral.

There’s only one person who can help Maddy track down this woman – the one that got away, Joe. Their quest takes them to France, and into the heart of the French Resistance.

When the only way to move forwards is to look back, will this family finally be able to?

Format: ebook (379 pages)           Publisher: Aria
Publication date: 4th March 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Find The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger on Goodreads

Purchase links
Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger is one of those books that offers something for just about every reader:  there are elements of domestic drama, such as the family tensions caused by caring responsibilities; scenes of wartime adventure and romance; and a search for a long lost love.

I loved the touching and very natural relationship that develops between Maddy’s daughter, Esther, and her great-grandfather, even if Arthur does occasionally struggle to recall Esther’s name (although he never seems to forget that his favourite biscuits are digestives).  It’s a neat echo of the close relationship Maddy remembers having with Arthur herself when she was younger.  As it turns out, affection for Arthur is not the only thing Esther has inherited.  She also has the same inquisitive nature and independent instincts as her mother.

The book eloquently conveys the challenges of caring for someone with dementia, although Maddy’s sympathetic response and greater understanding of Arthur’s need for routine proves much more successful than that of her half-sister, Hazel, who previously cared for him.  (Arthur privately christened Hazel ‘Moaning Minnie’). Although Maddy recognises the role photographs and music can play in provoking what memories are left, she knows it’s only a matter of time before Alzheimer’s claims Arthur completely. I’m sure many readers can empathize with Maddy when she thinks, “It was so cruel, so painful this long goodbye, watching her grandfather slowly disappear in front of her…”.

The author finds imaginative ways to allow the reader inside the mind of Arthur and witness his own frustration at his declining memory. “It was all muddled up in his mind like a heap of spaghetti and he didn’t know where the strands of thought started.  They were a jumbled mess of words and images, fragments of memory and snatches of thought – all knotted up together.”

The details of Maddy’s search for Maryse, assisted by investigator and ex-boyfriend, Joe, and the difficult moral dilemmas thrown up along the way, will be familiar to fans of TV programmes such as Heir Hunters or Long Lost Family. Trust me, as the book nears its conclusion, you’ll find yourself in complete agreement with Arthur as he thinks, “He wished he knew how his story ended and what happened to those he loved”.

For me, the ending, although bittersweet, was the perfect conclusion to the story. After all, there’s more than one way to be reunited.

In three words: Touching, emotional, poignant

Try something similar: Endless Skies by Jane Cable

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Sue Fortin July 20 a - Sue FortinAbout the Author

Suzanne Fortin is a USA Today and Amazon UK & USA best selling author, with The Girl Who Lied and Sister Sister both reaching #1 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Her books have sold over a million copies and translation rights for her novels have been sold worldwide. She was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex where she now lives with her husband and family.

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