The Promise by Ann Weisgarber

The Promise

Publisher: Mantle

Synopsis from Goodreads:

1900. Young pianist
Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio in the
wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she
finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the
recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation she agrees to marry him.

But
when Catherine travels to Oscar’s farm on Galveston island, Texas – a
thousand miles from home – she finds she is little prepared for the life
that awaits her. The island is remote, the weather sweltering, and
Oscar’s little boy Andre is grieving hard for his lost mother. And
though Oscar tries to please his new wife, the secrets of the past sit
uncomfortably between them.

Meanwhile for Nan Ogden, Oscar’s
housekeeper, Catherine’s sudden arrival has come as a great shock. For
not only did she promise Oscar’s first wife that she would be the one to
take care of little Andre, but she has feelings for Oscar which she is
struggling to suppress. And when the worst storm in a generation
descends, the women will find themselves tested as never before…

My thoughts:

The story is narrated
by two women, both from different worlds but with very strong voices and
beliefs.  It is 1900. Nan Ogden is a
young women living in Galveston and a neighbour of Oscar Williams and a great
friend to his late wife Bernadette. Nan promised Oscar’s dying wife that she
would look after Andre, their young son. 
Secretly, she has feelings for Oscar and hopes that one day they might
be reciprocated. 

Catherine Wainwright,
a talented pianist, is around the same age and living in Ohio.  As a result of a scandal involving a married
man, she is ostracised by her community and penniless. After trying to find
someone who will help her, she comes across the name of Oscar Williams, an old
school friend who at the time had a crush on her.  However Oscar, being the son of a coal
merchant was not considered good enough for Catherine – but that was then.  Oscar has now done well for himself in the
intervening years and has his own smallholding in Galveston.  

This was a compelling
read, told by two women – one in love with a man and another who made a
marriage of convenience.  Both women are
constrained by the rules of society which dictates how they should dress and
behave.  Nan is illiterate but knows how
to keep a house whereas Catherine is educated but cannot cook a basic meal.

Nan’s jealousy of
Catherine comes to the fore and she feels usurped by Catherine’s presence as
Oscar’s new wife and it is clear that the two women are too different to be
friends.  However when a great storm
arrives, both women must do whatever they can to survive.  

I adored this book and
found it a compelling read.  It is mainly
set over a relatively short time period of just over a week but so much happens
in that timeframe.  The characters are so
well written and events are described with such detail that the reader feels
like a bystander and by the end of the story I was near to tears.   There is a wonderful sense of place – you
can feel the stifling Texan heat and get a real sense of the remote and vast
landscape where your nearest neighbour is over a mile away.  The story is based on a true event from 1900
when Galveston was torn to shreds and over 6,000 people lost their lives.  I knew nothing of this tragedy before reading
the book and was interested enough to find out more.  

I can’t recommend this book highly enough and will be keen to read more by this author. 

5/5 

Author website: http://annweisgarber.com

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

One Step Too Far

Published by Kirk Parolles

Synopsis from Goodreads:

An apparently
happy marriage. A beautiful son. A lovely home. So what makes Emily
Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life to start all
over again? Has she had a breakdown? Was it to escape her
dysfunctional family – especially her flawed twin sister Caroline who
always seemed to hate her? And what is the date that looms, threatening
to force her to confront her past? No-one has ever guessed her secret.
Will you?

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this
book and the story drew me in from the very first page.  It begins with Emily leaving behind her family
and starting another life many miles away. 
From the very beginning I was wondering what on earth could have
happened to make someone do that.   Emily
seemingly had a perfect life -so why did she leave…?

Emily is the product
of a dysfunctional family, she has a twin sister , Caroline, just an hour younger
than herself.  Caroline is the exact
opposite of Emily – Emily is fundamentally a good person whereas Caroline has a
destructive nature.   

As the story
progresses and we follow Emily in her new life – when she changes her name to
Cat, there is a feeling of tension – it is always in the background that she is
running away from someone/something and she goes to great lengths to ensure
that she won’t be found.  

I wanted to dislike
Emily/Cat for leaving her family, but I couldn’t. She isn’t perfect, she does
have a flawed personality and she does get involved in situations that she
shouldn’t but the author has made her a very real person.   From
the hovel that she first moves into and then to her ensuing friendship with
Angel, who she meets when she moves to London, the story is believable.  Angel too is an interesting character and
with flashbacks we find out more about her life. 

The story is told with
alternating chapters of the back story to the time when Cat and Caroline were
born and their parent’s behaviours, their young lives and also Angel’s story
and so the reader builds up a picture. Of course we are not told everything and
when a tragic event brings Cat’s world crashing around her, we then discover
the rest of her story.   

The story kept me
hooked and I wanted to keep reading to discover more.  For a debut novel it is excellent and I
certainly look forward to reading more by this author.  

My thanks to Netgalley
and publisher Kirk Parolles for the digital copy to
review. 

5/5 

Author website: http://tinaseskis.com

Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

 

Dear Thing


Published by Transworld Digital

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Claire
and Ben are the perfect couple. But behind the glossy façade, they’ve been
desperately trying – and failing – to have a baby for years. Now, the stress
and feelings of loss are taking their toll on their marriage. Claire’s ready to
give up hope and get on with her life, but Ben is not. And then Ben’s best
friend, Romily, offers to conceive via artificial insemination and carry the
baby for them.

Romily acts in good faith, believing it will be easy to be a surrogate. She’s
already a single mother, and has no desire for any more children. Except that
being pregnant with Ben’s child stirs up all sorts of emotions in her,
including one she’s kept hidden for a very long time: Ben’s the only man she’s
ever loved.

Two mothers—and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of
them can keep.

My thoughts:

Ben and Claire appear
to have the perfect life – a loving relationship, a lovely house, successful
careers however the one thing missing from their lives is a baby.   After many rounds of failed IVF treatment,
Claire makes a decision to stop trying, however Ben does not want to give up on
their hopes just yet and thereafter things become complicated. 

Romily, has been Ben’s
best friend since university.  He is
godfather to her 7 year old daughter Posie.    Romily is a single mother, a scientist whose unconventional mothering
skills sometimes leave a lot to be desired.

On impulse, Romily
offers to be a surrogate for Ben and Claire. 
She doesn’t want any more children herself and she sees this as
something wonderful she can do for her friend Ben and Claire. 

As the story and the
pregnancy progresses, all three characters have to reassess their feelings
about the surrogacy and the true reason for Romily’s well-meaning intentions.

I loved this book from
the very start and was immediately drawn into the story.  Initially, Claire came across as rather a
prickly character, whose obsession with having a baby has now stopped her from
interacting with anyone who is pregnant and withdrawing even from her
family.  Romily and Claire have a rather
strained relationship – Romily has always been Ben’s friend rather than
Claire’s and they both have to make an effort to get on, rather than it coming
naturally.  Ben is so overjoyed that his
dream of becoming a father may now happen that he rather naively ignores the
warnings from family and friends and it was obvious that he hasn’t thought the
surrogacy through in any great detail. 
For me, Romily was the most interesting character.  Her life is rather chaotic, but she muddles through
with Posie and her letters to her unborn baby (the ‘Dear Thing’ of the title)
add an extra dimension to the story.   
Posie was a delightful character with a voice older than her years.  

Each character had
enough depth to make the reader care about them and when a face from the past
suddenly appears and complicates the arrangement, it is clear that this
surrogacy is not going to be as straightforward as had been first thought.   The issue of surrogacy is dealt with
sensitively and the emotions of all three main characters involved clearly
shine through. 

This was a compelling
read and one which I would highly recommend. 

My thanks to Netgalley and publisher Transworld for the opportunity to review this book. 

5/5 

Julie Cohen’s website: http://www.julie-cohen.com

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to my blog….which will be mainly my thoughts on books I’ve read, other bookish snippets and maybe some holiday posts.  

I’m very new to the world of blogging so please bear with me whilst I find my feet 🙂

I’ve read some fantastic books already this year, reviews of some of them will gradually appear on this blog but here are just a few of my 5* reads:

  • The secret keeper – Kate Morton
  • The shock of the fall – Nathan Filer
  • The storyteller – Jodi Picoult
  • One step too far – Tina Seskis
  • Siege – Simon Kernick
  • The Night Rainbow – Claire King
  • The Promise – Ann Weisgarber
  • The view on the way down – Rebecca Wait
  • Dear Thing – Julie Cohen
  • It’s raining men – Milly Johnson
  • The House we grew up in – Lisa Jewell

Once I’ve become more experienced at blogging, I would love to take part in author interviews and hosting giveaways.

I hope that my ramblings will be of some use when choosing your next read.

Happy Reading

Karen
August 2013