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Guernsey writers: The Devil’s Claw

Guernsey, for all its past history as an occupied Island during WW2 and it’s more recent one as a financial hub, is also a place for writers. It’s also part of a Bailiwick so it does include the islands of Alderney, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou and Sark.

A quick Google search via Wiki comes up with this, an interest list. We’ve all heard of Victor Hugo, scribbling away in his Hauteville Garret with views over Castle Cornet. I never met him 😆 but I actually once met a man who knew someone that did… Two others on the list I know well, one actually lives in the same retirement home as a relative. I also had the pleasure of meeting George Torode in person, a raconteur of unprecedented proportions. If you ever come across any of his Donkey books snap them up (a different George to the chef)

But the list isn’t complete…

it includes Guernsey expats as Victor sure wasn’t local…

Where is Elizabeth Goodge and Green Dolphin Country? A fantastic writer, The White Witch still features in my best top ten reads ever.

Where is Betty Neels? Betty who? Okay so I know you’ve never heard of her but just how many writers are mentioned in their readers obituaries? I know it’s morbid but that’s just how much this writer and her books meant to so many people. Betty’s gentle romances, often set in Holland but also set in Guernsey, have been enjoyed and are still being enjoyed and talked about today.

Where is Elizabeth Bereaford? The creator of The Wombles or indeed…where is fellow expat Alderney writer, Rachel Abbott? She’s just signed a two book deal with Headline. There’s also another debut, Jill Watson missing…Alderney doesn’t even appear on Wiki as a writer hub mmm…

What about Mary Ann Schaffer and That Book? Mary wasn’t local. She only stopped off here on a cruise and yet her book has endeared Guernsey to many of her readers.

And of course I’m not there😂…

And then there’s Lara Dearman…

Lara is local but now lives in New York. Her debut novel, The Devil’s Claw is set in Guernsey and is one hell of a thriller.

Book Blurb

Following a traumatic incident in London, Jennifer Dorey has returned to her childhood home in Guernsey, taking a job as a reporter at the local newspaper.

After the discovery of a drowned woman on a beach, she uncovers a pattern of similar deaths that have taken place over the past fifty years.
Together with DCI Michael Gilbert, an officer on the verge of retirement, they follow a dark trail of island myths and folklore to ‘Fritz’, the illegitimate son of a Nazi soldier. His work, painstakingly executed, has so far gone undetected.But with his identity about to be uncovered, the killer now has Jennifer in his sights.
My review,

Well I’m not sure I’ll be visiting The Fairy Ring anytime soon, a little piece of Guernsey history entrappped in folklore. A ring of stones facing Hanois Lighthouse. No one knows exactly how they got there but thousands of island children have stepped around them or tried to – I’ve always fallen off. Now all I see is dead bodies…

it’s actually strange reading a book set so close to home. I walk these streets. I’ve even got the same name as the lead character and I know the Doreys (a well known local name). This is a well-written debut set in an amazing location and full of snippets of local life. Having the lead as a reporter for the local press was genius as any ‘Guern’ will know of our small Island ramblings and political arguments.

It’s always difficult for a new author to make their mark but Lara has done just that. I wish her well and hope to meet up in person when she next visits.

The Devils Claw, published by Trapeze, is available from Amazon here

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6 book reviews in one week – get a life!

If you’ve spotted my intro you’ll know I’m a prolific reader but not normally that prolific! I’m on bed rest at the moment and, as I don’t really watch TV reading is the best alternative. Of course I should be writing but with the cocktail of drugs running around my system my head isn’t in the right place for that.

Lucrilla Andrews

Lucilla Andrews wrote 33 novels between the fifties and the nineties, sadly all out of print except one. They’re mainly romances, and medical at that which is my favourite genre for now. It shouldn’t be – as a nurse I see enough of anything and everything medical but I seem to derive enjoyment from reading about nursing ‘in Bygone days.’ And her writing is full to the brim of historical commentary.

These are sweet ‘heart-warming medical romances’ with no bodice ripping – just good solid plotting and delightfully romantic scenes.

My friend the Professor and The Secret Armour are similar in that they are about young student nurses working in large fictional teaching hospitals in the UK – I loved them both. The only downside is Ms Andrews does tend to favour slim blond Hero’s and I couldn’t for the life of me get the image of Leslie Howard as he was in ‘Gone with the Wind’ out of my head – for me the burly Dutch type any day (more later).

The Africa Run was a divergence, a little like her ‘In an Edinburgh Drawing Room.’ In a way it was better written, but it lost itself in the middle only to redeem itself with a great ending. This time it was about 2 doctors (one with polio) and a widowed nurse on a cruise to The Cape, the story flipping backwards and forwards to the time they were all working together. I liked the vignettes on board, a little reminiscent of Jane Austen’s looking through the window at her neighbours.

Alissa Baxter 

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 Blurb

In a wager with the Earl of Fenmore, young Anthony Hamilton gambles away both his estate—and his sister, Diana, who is obliged to move to Fenmore Park to act as a governess to the Earl’s twin nephews, and as a companion to Lady Fenmore.

Still in print and available from Amazon.

I don’t really read historical. I used to, but that was when I was a teenager. I read and re-read all Georgette Heyer’s works in the early eighties and, even today can answer quiz questions on the difference between a barouche and a Landau!

Alissa’s writing is strong and the storyline believable in the style of poor little downtrodden heroine meets handsome hero and their dream coming true – what more do you want from a light read like this – I raced through in a couple of sittings.

Betty Neels

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You know I said heart warming medical romance was my favourite genre? Well it’s all my mother’s fault! My mother and my son’s that is. Up until I had my son I used to read in the murder genre – and I’m not talking Agatha Christie ( I read all hers in my teens alongside dear Georgette). All those top bestselling authors with sick deviant pens? I’ve read them all – or I used to. I can spot the second I laid my last book to rest. I was reading a book about a child murderer, son at my feet in his basinette and then – the boy had the same name! I finished the book nearly fifteen years ago and have never read another of its type. My mother came to the rescue with an old battered Betty Neels, I can’t remember the title – there are 135 after all!

She’s my old faithful! I’ve read all her books and re read them as and when I want to escape into that dream world she’s created within all her books – a cross between Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs. Her heroes to a man are big burly types that will be able to rescue you from a burning building, as opposed to Ms Andrew’s who’d have to waste time putting out their fag first!

Her writing is sublime, unlike many of her Mills and Boon counterparts. In a way I feel sad she stuck to this kind of light fiction because she can certainly hold her own against many more acclaimed writers. Just how many writers are mentioned in funeral obituaries? Have a search – The Great Betty is there!

So I read Esmeralda again this week, randomly picked from my stash. The tale of a young nurse with a deformed foot, nasty heiress chasing Leslie and the RDD (rich Dutch doctor) that saves the day. It’s like eating chocolate cake with a dose of chocolate on the side – did anyone mention chocolate? Comfort reading at it’s best!

Milly Johnson

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Blurb

Cariad Williams has been writing to Franco Mezzaluna since they were kids. But he has never written back. And now he has become a famous film star. What’s more, he is due to visit Winterworld, the Christmas theme park where Cariad works.

The best till last  – a lovely tale, more of a short story really written by a very talented writer who weaves magic from her pen tip.

I’ll let you make your own mind up as to the rest… All the profits from this book are going to Claire.

Jen x

Via Milly Johnson’s website

I was one of the many who heard about a fire in Penistone in October of 2014. A man and his two sons caught in a house fire. The man and the youngest son Paul, aged 9 didn’t make it but the elder son Jack, aged 12 was clinging onto life, despite sustaining burns to over 60% of his body. Jack had tried to save his brother’s life and fallen into the flames from the loft. Jack was able to tell the police that his father had started the fire deliberately. Jack lost his life after a week. ‘He smiled at me, then the light just went from his eyes,’ said Claire, who didn’t move from his bedside. Her lad died trying to save his little brother. I know that gives Claire an atom of strength to go on, to keep breathing.


Why? Why did their father ‘unlawfully kill’ them? Why did he transfer the money in his bank account to a female ‘friend’ (yes, she kept it) and cancel the house insurance? Why did he go out and buy a swanky train set to lure the lads over to the loft in his house? Why did he set off 14 fires and barricade every door to make absolutely sure the boys didn’t get out? Why did he execute this methodical evil plan in the days preceding the tragedy? He did it to hurt Claire who had the audacity to leave her controlling husband. He didn’t just leave her with nothing, but with LESS than nothing because there’s a £50,000 mortgage to pay on that house and the bank are hammering on the door for it. Imagine having to carry on paying for a burnt out shell of a house in which your two children were murdered?

It’s the little things Claire misses: like ironing their white shirts and that the lads still held her hand (obviously when they weren’t in danger of being seen by their mates). And it’s the regrets that torture her, such as that she never got the kitten that the lads asked for because she wanted to wait until they were settled in a new home first. The little things seep between the cracks and hurt the most. She’ll see their friends grow up, go to University, get married, ha
ve children of their own… and she’ll think ‘that could have been my boys too.’ I have two lads and as much as they drive me INSANE I can’t imagine life without them.
The community of Penistone hold their arms around Claire. The unsung heroes have renovated that shell of a house to a beautiful spec. They’ve given over 1000 man hours of labour, skills, materials, all for nothing and they’re still giving. I’m in the public eye, they aren’t. They’ve worked far harder than I have, stringing a few words together.

Available

UK

USA