Book reviews: Three summer sizzlers from Piatkus Books

The House in Quill Court byCharlotte Betts

The House in Quill Court byCharlotte Betts

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Take time out with three escapist reads from the sparkling collection of summertime novels from Piatkus Books.

The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

A stunning new saga from award-winning author Charlotte Betts sweeps us far beyond the sumptuous elegance of Regency London’s smart squares to the grime and crime of the city’s squalid underworld.

With its mesmerising mix of passion, mystery, suspense and the harsh realities of early 19th century life, The House in Quill Court offers readers an exciting and revealing twist on the standard Regency romance.

At the heart of the story is a middle class young woman, plucked from her safe, comfortable home in Kent and thrust into the dangerous melee of London where she must learn to make her own living and negotiate the perils of ruthless racketeers.

In 1813, Venetia Lovell lives happily by the sea in Kent with her pretty, frivolous mother and idle teenage brother Raffie. Venetia’s much-loved father Theo is an interior decorator to the rich and frequently travels away from home, leaving his sensible and artistic daughter to look after the family.

Venetia designs paper hangings and she and her father often daydream about having their own shop where they would display the highest quality furniture, fabrics and art to his clients.

But when a handsome but antagonistic stranger, Major Jack Chamberlaine, arrives at the Lovells’ cottage just before Christmas bringing terrible news and shocking revelations, Venetia’s world is turned upside down.

The family, along with Venetia’s feisty maid Kitty, now have no option but to leave their home and move to Islington in London and begin a new and hitherto unimagined life at a large house in Quill Court.

To make ends meet, Venetia fulfils her design dream by opening a wall-hangings and fabrics store on Cheapside but her courage and creativity are tested to breaking point by unforeseen dangers, and Kitty, who is determined to seek out new opportunities in London, finds herself drawn into a shady world of deception and crime…

There is action aplenty in this gripping evocation of Regency London as Betts, a trained fashion designer, uses both her career skills and natural storytelling talents to create an adventure brimming with romance, real history and authentic atmosphere.

But there is also a seductive darkness to this compelling story which reveals much about the class divide in Regency England, the lack of an established police force which allowed criminals to rule the streets and the grinding poverty of those who lived among the bleak warren of rooms and hovels.

A thrilling tale with a rewarding social conscience…

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)

The War Bride by Pamela Hart

Head off to sunny Sydney in the 1920s in a sweeping tale of love, betrayal and new beginnings inspired by the real-life experiences of Australia’s war wives.

Award-winning Aussie author Pamela Hart, who enchanted readers with her novel The Soldier’s Wife set during the tough years of the First World War, returns with a moving story about an English war bride struggling to build a new life on the other side of the world.

In January of 1920, young Englishwoman Margaret Dalton is full of excitement as she arrives on a special war-bride ship in Sydney to begin a new life in the warm, golden land of Australia. She leaves behind the horrors of wartime and can’t wait to see her husband Frank.

Frank, the man she met and married but hardly got to know, was injured at Passchendaele and was sent straight back to his homeland so they have not set eyes on each other for over two years.

When Margaret’s ship docks at beautiful Dawes Point, Frank isn’t there to greet her as he had promised and Margaret is informed that he already has a wife. Devastated and alone, Margaret must make a new life for herself in this strange city, and she soon falls in love with its vibrant harbour, sweeping ocean and clean sea breezes.

A growing friendship with army sergeant Tom McBride gives her a steady person to rely on but just as Margaret and Tom begin to grow closer, news arrives that Frank may not have abandoned her after all. Will Margaret’s life be thrown upside down once again and where should her loyalties lie… with Frank, the man she married, or reliable Tom?

The War Bride is a warm and moving story of love and forgiveness, of healing the past and forging the future, and making a new home and a new life against all the odds.

Full of empathy and insight, this is a sunlit story for all true romantics…

(Piatkus, paperback, £7.99)

Halfpenny Dreams by Frances Brody

Family love and loyalty play leading roles in a captivating story of two families set in Leeds during the misfortunes and hardships of the 1930s.

Halfpenny Dreams, previously published as Sisters of Fortune by Frances McNeil, comes from the pen of Frances Brody, author of the popular Kate Shackleton mysteries, and is packed with drama, romance and authentic Yorkshire life.

Sophie and Rosa Moran are born into a working-class family struggling to rise above poverty. Their father is a lowly employee at Thackreys’ Bank, a powerful family-run business. Sophie and her sister first come into contact with the Thackrey family – especially young Lydia – as children through their father’s job.

In spite of the social and class differences between them, the three girls form an enduring friendship. Years later, their paths cross again when Barney Moran is sacked from the bank, and the girls beg Mr Thackrey for help. Swept up in a dramatic chain of events, the lives of the two families are changed forever…

Brody uses her trademark warmth and humanity in this moving, authentic and vibrant tale which explores family life, freindship and love in a forgotten era of class division and everyday struggle.

(Piatkus, paperback, £8.99)