THE VELVET HOURS by Alyson Richman

The Velvet Hours
THE VELVET HOURS by Alyson Richman
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

THE VELVET HOURS is captivating historical fiction inspired by the real-life Paris apartment of Marthe de Florian that sat untouched for 70 years. I remember being intrigued when the story of this “time capsule” apartment came out, and Alyson Richman did a beautiful job bringing it back to life.

The heart of the story is a grandmother telling her newly-found granddaughter about her eccentric life. Marthe was a courtesan during the Belle Époque, and she rose from poverty to become the owner of this lavish apartment filled with amazing treasures. Her granddaughter, Solange, is a struggling young writer looking for inspiration, and definitely finds it in Marthe’s tales.

At times I thought the pacing was slow, a lot of time was spent describing things – paintings, ceramics, and such – but the story picked up when the threat of World War II was upon them. It was here that the characters were truly challenged, and Solange learns from her grandmother that sometimes sentimentality must be sacrificed for a greater purpose.

THE VELVET HOURS is a rich story of history, romance, and survival, perfect for fans of late 19th/early 20th century fiction.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN by Chris Cleave (Audiobook)

Everyone Brave is Forgiven
EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN by Chris Cleave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN is a beautifully written story about the horrors of WWII and how it impacted the lives of everyday people. The pacing is a bit slow, though overall well written. The book is very much focused on the characters. Socialites join the war effort at home as teachers and ambulance drivers; an art restorer is shipped off to endure the Siege of Malta; and London school children struggle with society’s prejudices and racism as bombs fall around them. I was amazed at the strength and resilience of these characters. Even with the serious subject matter, there was a nice touch of humor in the dialogue that I enjoyed. I also enjoyed Luke Thompson’s narration of the audiobook. He did a great job with the many different characters’ voices.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THE SECRET KEEPER by Kate Morton

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Publisher: Atria
Released: October 9, 2012
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

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THE SECRET KEEPER is my first Kate Morton book, and I was completely wowed! I’m so intrigued by stories with family secrets, and the one revealed in this book is a doozy. It’s still at the forefront of my mind days after finishing the book.

THE SECRET KEEPER begins on an English farm in 1961 when Laurel is a teenager, and she witnesses a violent crime involving her mother Dorothy. The story jumps ahead to 2011, as Laurel and her siblings are gathering for Dorothy’s 90th birthday.

The incident 50 years earlier has always haunted Laurel, and she knows with her mother’s failing health, time is short to find out why it happened. From there, the story takes readers back and forth between 1941 London during the Blitz when Dorothy and her beau Jimmy meet Vivian, and 2011 as Laurel searches for clues about her mother’s past.

Not only was this book a gripping mystery, it was also compelling historical fiction, painting a vivid picture of life in WWII London as bombs were dropped on the city. Heartrending!

THE SECRET KEEPER has a complex plot full of twists and turns that leads to a jaw-dropping conclusion. Kate Morton is an amazing storyteller, and I’m eager to read the rest of her novels.

Rating: 5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.