The Tuscan Girl by Angela Petch; Dragon’s Egg by S.R. Langley; Taxus Baccata by Patricia M Osborne; and 58 Farm End by Natasha Murray.
Reviews of books by four independent and/or local authors. These three novels and one book of poetry are very different from one another and represent the wonderful imagination and story-telling gift of these writers.
The Tuscan Girl
by Angela Petch
The Tuscan Girl tells the story of two women, separated by more than half a century but connected by one man. It opens with Lucia in war-torn Italy during the throes of the German occupation, dreaming about her innocent childhood running wild in the Tuscan countryside. As it unfolds throughout the book, her story is one of strength of will, courage and love.
A switch to the present, and when artist Alba Starnucci returns to her native Tuscany after the sudden tragic death of her English boyfriend she is devastated, unable to come to terms with his loss and the circumstances surrounding it. In their attempts to distract Alba from her sorrow her parents encourage her to stay and reconnect with the area she has known since she was a girl, with the love and support of her family. So she starts to immerse herself in the stunning landscape that surrounds them. While out sketching in the mountains she has a mysterious encounter that plays on her mind.
Then a chance meeting with Massimo, an elderly resident in the area, sets in motion events which would reveal long-hidden secrets and change the course of more than one life.
As Alba’s friendship with Massimo gradually strengthens he opens up, telling her of his childhood sweetheart, Lucia, and of their experiences during the war. Through him she learns about the desperate struggles of the partisans against German oppression and the bloody reprisals, which set neighbour against neighbour, fracturing the community.
Cleverly weaving together the strands of these three stories – of Alba, Lucia and Massimo – that span so many years and cultural changes is no mean feat and author Angela Petch carries it off with finesse. There are clues throughout the plot linking the time periods, and the transition between storylines is smooth and effortless, never leaving the reader disorientated.
I loved reading The Tuscan Girl, I was invested right from the start. In the words of Alba Starnucci it is “history coming alive” and I defy anyone to read this book and not find themselves a little bit in love with Tuscany and its resilient people.
Available from Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo and Google Play. To find out more about the author go to www.angelapetchsblogsite.wordpress.com
by S. R. Langley
What do straitlaced science nerd Roger Briggs and nature-loving wild child Mary Maddam have in common? Apart from the fact that they’re both thirteen years old and living in an alternative 1950s Inglande – apparently nothing.
But in a burst of serendipity their paths cross with a crash and their fates are inextricably intertwined. Chased by yobs and forced to cross into the ‘Bad Wood’, strictly off-limits, they find themselves in very unfamiliar territory, but unwilling to retreat and bear the brunt of further bullying they determine to explore their new surroundings.
It seems, however, their presence in the Bad Wood is no accident. While navigating this strange terrain they come face to face with a trio of enormous owls… enormous owls that speak. And very soon they discover that they are there for a particular and rather dangerous mission.
What follows is a fraught journey through the wood and down into the underworld, populated by beleaguered True Dragons and their nemesis, the Fire-Worm Lords of the Core and their Minion Army. The pair hasten to the aid of the Queen of the Dynasty of ruling Dragons who is desperate to protect her unhatched son, the Royal Prince and the only heir to the True Dragon’s Under-Erf Kingdom.
Catapulted into this dangerous world of magic and mythical creatures, Roger discovers resources of leadership and courage he didn’t know he possessed. Together with Mary’s indomitable spirit and sense of adventure they make an effective team. But will they succeed…?
Although written for fantasy fans and youngsters, Dragon’s Egg makes satirical digs at current societal issues that will no doubt appeal to any adult reader. A great yarn that takes you into uncharted territory and leaves you on a cliff-hanger, eager to discover more.
Dragon’s Egg is the first in the Dragon’s Erf series, available in paperback or Kindle from Amazon, or https://www.giobooks.com/Bookpreview/1167. Book 2 of the series, Dragon’s Inferno, is also now available. For more about the author please visit www.srlangleywriter.com
by Patricia M Osborne
Taxus Baccata is a collection of nature poetry that includes poems based on myth, folklore and legend around trees. Through them we are transported into the natural world and shown, through Patricia M Osborne’s sensitive observation, the minutiae that everyday life often misses.
I’m not going to describe the individual poems or their subject matter in detail as that really rather defeats the object. The images and feelings evoked by reading any poetry are peculiar to each individual.
As with any collection, however, there are, for me, some poems that stand out more than others. I love literature that widens my horizons and through Taxus Baccata I have been introduced to mythical characters, legends and folklore that have sent me scurrying off to learn more, with such poems as Soulmates; Lady of the Woods; Leda’s Recompense. For highlighting some of nature’s subtle wonders there is Mother Yew; Stratford Mums; Sky Ballet; and, perfect for spring, Sunrise Concertante.
This little collection of poems should be read all at once and then revisited, one by one – perhaps one poem a day, in the morning, with a cup of tea.
Consuming the whole collection in one sitting immerses the reader in the world of nature and myth conjured up by the verses. Then taking one poem at a time allows you to absorb the flavours – mossy, barky and fragrant – rolling them around your mind’s tongue like so much fine wine. Like a breath of fresh spring air, it left me wanting more.
Taxus Baccata is published by Hedgehog Press; signed copies or pdf versions are available from the author’s website https://whitewingsbooks.com/shop/ where you can find out more about the author’s work.
58 Farm End
by Natasha Murray
When Jules Bridgewater from Farm End accepted an invitation to a shindig at the neighbouring farm she didn’t know what she had let herself in for.
Nineteen-year-old Jules and her brother Peter virtually ran the dairy farm that their parents had inherited from their uncle, as their father, still mourning the loss of his wife, was subject to bouts of depression. An historical and bitter feud with the Hearns who owned neighbouring Crow Farm meant that any contact with them was strictly verboten. So the young Bridgewaters kept to themselves. Until, that is, Seth Hearn – something of the black sheep of the family – came to Jules’ aid one evening when a couple of drunks were harming her old pony.
Jules and Seth were irresistibly attracted to one another. But a romantic stroll through some woods ended in horror when the star-crossed lovers discovered the body of a young woman floating in a deep silent pool. Jules recognised the body at once. Had there been an accident, or was it murder? This grisly find kicks off a series of events that drew Jules into a web of deceit and lies, dark twisted secrets and infidelity, and ultimately revealed the true colours of those around her. In the end who could she trust?!
Set in the village of Findon at the foot of the South Downs – my old stomping ground, I was delighted to be able to envisage the area and surrounding landmarks with such familiarity – 58 Farm End has hidden depths, there’s more going on than meets the eye. A captivating tale at first glance, the story also touches on issues intimate to the human condition. It moves along at a good pace with a few gripping moments and occasionally something of the air of the supernatural, which keeps the reader guessing.
Available from Amazon, 58 Farm End is the first in the Waterfall Way Series, the story arc continues with Julia’s Baby, published just last month. For more information about the author and her other work visit https://nmurray3004.wixsite.com/mysite-1