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August Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

titles in gold on a pink, red and black backgroundJust One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor, narrated by Zara Ramm – B+ This is the first book in the time-travel series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. They don’t call it time travel though. They investigate “major historical events in contemporary time”. (It’s totally time travel). Exactly how it all works is conveniently brushed away which I liked as no doubt I’d not understand it anyway (apart from that it’s fiction). The main character is Madeleine “Max” Maxwell and the stories are told from her first person perspective.

There is a romance thread running through it and it ends happily but the book is not romance per se. It’s firmly in the SFF camp. I had heard it was humorous and it is – but I hadn’t been expecting some of the serious topics covered and so CW for sexual violence, death and pregnancy loss. The romance is very gentle and a slow burn but I was quite satisfied by it.

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Back view of a woman in a blue Tudor dress walking out of an arched doorway towards the spreading winter-bare branches of a tree.Why I read it:  I received a review copy via the publisher.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  “My name is Mary Seymour and I am the daughter of one queen and the niece of another.”

Browsing antiques shops in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait – supposedly of Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better… The woman is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 as an unwanted orphan and presumed dead after going missing as a child.

The painting is more than just a beautiful object from Alison’s past – it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.

But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbours secrets in its shadows…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  In 1560, both Mary Seymour and Alison Banistre were at Wolf Hall together. They weren’t friends but they weren’t exactly enemies either. Alison did Mary a big favour and requested a boon in return. Alison went through a portal into the future (present day Marlborough) and Mary stayed where she was. She was tasked with finding out the location of Alison’s son, Arthur, who had been taken from her at birth. The plan had been for Alison to come back through to the past in the short term, snatch up Arthur and live happily together, perhaps in the future, perhaps not. But Alison’s way was blocked and she could not return. When the book begins, Alison has been in “now” for ten years and is desperately searching for a way back and to the answer to what happened to her son.

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