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Cold Harbour Gentlemen

by Ann Lee

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The author (aka Abigail Bok) is one of my oldest friends on Goodreads.

Young Harry Steer is being pushed hard, as his father wants him to rise in the world. The endless cramming makes Harry long for adventure – or even for the outdoors! A chance meeting takes Harry along a path that could not only ruin his own life – it could take his family down with him. A smuggler’s life appears glamorous & well paid at first – but everything comes at a cost.

Ms Lee has completely immersed herself in the the world of Darking (now known as Dorking) and has even created a website for this world.  I really enjoyed this adventure, which picked up a lot in the final third. Saying that the ending was a little improbable,  but no matter! Enjoy this rollicking tale!


Rating: 2 out of 5.

Penelope by Anya Wylde

I hate giving a bad review when an author gives me a free copy of a book. But the author approached me because she thought I liked humorous Regency romances & I did message her back that I usually only like the incomparable Georgette Heyer‘s Regencies & that I was in a bit of a reading slump because of Lockdown. Ms Wylde still very kindly sent me a copy.

I had a problem almost immediately with the idea of a pet goat being kept in the house. (not a spoiler – Lady Bathsheba is introduced 3% in) I’ve owned two goats & I can tell you, no one in their right mind would keep a goat indoors! We got our first goat because the previous owner claimed Hoover had eaten all the washing off their clothesline. I’m sure that was an exaggeration. Hoover was only a kid then. As an adult, not only would he have been capable of eating an entire wash – he probably would have eaten the clothes line too! Fortunately (I guess) when he got off he found more appealing targets – our rose bushes, for example!

The other thing with goats is they defecate constantly – what my husband called hundreds & thousands – & their pooh really stinks. This isn’t to say that they aren’t great pets – our second goat, Petunia, was lovely – but they need to be kept outside with appropriate shelter. I have to say, I really started questioning my life choices, when on top of everything else I had to do as a working Mum, I had to take the goat for walks. (to keep her hooves down)

This jarred me every time Lady Bathsheba appeared, because I couldn’t lose myself in a romance that I knew from other reviews had a fair few anachronisms. (such as frequently mentioning “bloomers” for women’s underpants) I made it to 31%, but I didn’t find this book funny & I thought the hero was ridiculous.

Not for me. Sorry.

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Syrian Brides

Syrian Brides

Syrian Brides by Anna Halabi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This collection started with the weakest of Ms Halabi’s short stories – Nobody’s Bride– which if I was rating individually I would have at 2⭐ and was followed by the strongest – The Groom’s Miracle. I really didn’t predict where this slyly funny short story was going and for me it was an easy 5⭐.

Most of the other short stories would have come in at about 3 or 3.5⭐ (except for The Old Groom – that was predictable & silly. And I found The Counterfeit Bride 4⭐ worth of funny!)As another reviewer has pointed out, the tone is a lot like fables we read at school. They are good moral stories,but there is a certain “samey” tone to Ms Halabi’s work. I would recommend spacing the reads out.

This does sound quite critical,but i am envious of Anna Halabi’s ability to write in a language that is not her mother tongue. And the cover of my edition is gorgeous!

I was gifted a copy of this book by the author and she was happy for me to share my honest opinion of it.…

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The Body in the Dumb River

The Body in the Dumb River

The Body in the Dumb River by George Bellairs

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

One beautiful cover.

If I start a review like this you know there is a problem! I loved the previous British Crime Libraries book I read by E.C.R. Lorac (Fell Murder)and couldn’t understand why Lorac has fallen into obscurity. Based on this novel, I’m not having any trouble understanding the same thing about Bellairs.

Mild mannered and diminutive James Teasdale had been living a double life. But who wanted him dead?

By the 40% I no longer cared.

✎ Really dull, pedestrian writing.

At Basilden, he was the only traveller to descend from the train. It was 4 oo’clock and the sun was still shining.In spite of late October, it was warm and dry. The ticket collector had a rose in the lapel of his coat. Littlejohn asked him the way.


✎ Other than Teasdale’s girlfriend and wannabe singer Henry Wood, no characters stood out in a believable way. The Major was a fascinating if gross caricature. The solution seemed unlikely to me.

What lifted the book above 1★
✎ The above mentioned cover.
✎ Martin Edwards informative introduction (which I think shows Bellairs in his heart of hearts never had much faith in his writing ability)
✎ A quirky final outcome. Appealed to my warped sense of humour.

Thanks very much Poisoned Pen Publishers & Net Galley for this review copy and for being happy for me to share my opinions.…

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Colombiano by Rusty Young

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I really loved Rusty’s Marching Powder

Marching Powder A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail by Rusty Young

which proves that truth can be stranger than fiction. While I think Colombiano is an important book with a story that needed to be told, I can’t rate it quite as highly.

Young isn’t a naturally gifted writer. This didn’t matter so much in Marching Powder where the charismatic Thomas’s voice shone through. But working in fiction, Rusty can’t make his characters come alive. He lacks a gift for dialogue and, other than Pedro’s best friend, Palillo, all the figures remained cardboardy for me.

Unfortunately, this includes Colombian child paramilitary soldier Pedro himself. I never cared about happened to him and had no difficulty in putting this book aside for long periods of time.

For me there are also structural problems with this book. The start is slow moving for long periods and at 686 pages this book is at least 100 pages too long. I hated the short chapters.

In spite of it’s faults I don’t recommend giving up on this novel. The events near the end are horribly violent, but genuinely thrilling and document a horrible and shameful part of world history.

Two more things. The cover (designed by Jem Butcher Design) is awesome. The silhouette of the child soldier truely moved me.

Thanks to Havelock & Baker Publishing for emailing me a paperback copy of this book and being happy for me to share my genuine opinions on this book.…

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