*ARC REVIEW* ~ A Scarlet Woman (The Fitzgeralds of Dublin, #1) by Lorna Peel

#historicalromance #victorianromance

Book Blurb

Can Isobel leave her past behind and allow Will to show her she is worthy of his love? 

Dublin, Ireland, 1880. Tired of treating rich hypochondriacs, Dr Will Fitzgerald left his father’s medical practice and his home on Merrion Square to live and practice medicine in the Liberties. His parents were appalled and his fiancée broke off their engagement. But when Will spends a night in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding, little does he know that the scarred and disgraced young woman he meets there will alter the course of his life.

Isobel Stevens was schooled to be a lady, but a seduction put an end to all her father’s hopes for her. Disowned, she left Co Galway for Dublin and fell into prostitution. On the advice of a handsome young doctor, she leaves the brothel and enters domestic service. But can Isobel escape her past and adapt to life and the chance of love on Merrion Square? Or will she always be seen as a scarlet woman?

My Review ~ 5 stars

Bewitching Victorian Romance

In Lorna Peel’s latest novel the lives of a fallen woman and an idealistic young doctor become unexpectedly intertwined after they meet in the most inauspicious of settings, a brothel. Their ensuing relationship  challenges both their own future and  society’s mores. It is a heartfelt and bewitching read, which transported me to the past as I became totally immersed in Isobel and Will’s lives. Although at times it brought a tear to my eye, the book also contains some humorous scenes. A predominently sweet romance, it  has some frank sex scenes.

The read explores the double standards between men and women, specifically the hypocrisy when it came to sexual relations. Isobel is regarded as a fallen woman, a woman who by modern sensibilities, had simply been unfortunate to have been seduced and left high and dry by a man. This event has had a huge impact on her life, reducing her to poverty which called for desperate measures. The book also focuses on the differences between the lives of domestic servants and those ‘above stairs’, who view themselves as their betters. I enjoyed how the author explored these themes and also how she delved into the underbelly of Dublin and the sexual preledictions common amongst all classes.

Will is a wonderful hero – principled, caring and non-judgemental. He refuses his father’s offer to work alongside him in his practice, prefering instead to set up on his own in a less salubrious part of the city where his talents are sorely needed. The advice he gives to Isobel- to leave her life of vice, she takes to heart and she applies for a position as a domestic. Imagine the surprise of the couple when their paths once again  cross. Relations between servants and their social superiors are frowned upon however and they begin a touching friendship, gradually revealing themselves to one aonother and becoming ever closer. Their romance is a slow burn but when the couple reveal their feelings for one another there are some scorching scenes.

Isobel is unwilling to commit herself as she has been let down brutally in the pasr and fears that she is not good enough for Will. Will thought he would never love again after his fiancée threw him over, yet once he realises he has fallen for Isobel nothing will stand in his way. I just LOVED how determined he is to make her his. However, he did not bank on Isobels’s reluctance to commit and also how others react to their relationship. Also luck is not on their side as a number of obstacles from their respective pasts get in the way of their HEA! I wanted to tear  my hair out at times! Can Will persuade Isobel that her past doesn’t mater to him and make her his? Can Isobel escape the shame of her past? Can Will’s family accept her as a future wife for Will?

All in all a stellar read, one of my favourite from this author yet.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Please note, an ARC of this book was given to me by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Purchase Links

K-Girls, #1 in the Kylemore Abbey Series, by Lydia Little

51QfXiHJMgL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_[1]A Spirited Tale of Irish Boarding School Escapades

Pre-Teen to Adult Readers

Readers of all ages who relish tales of high jinks and adventure with a paranormal twist will enjoy K-Girls. The read will be particularly nostalgic for those such as me who spent their youth in the 1980’s and enjoyed reading Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s and Malory Towers series. It is many a girls dream to attend boarding school  away from the confines of home life, forging new friendships and experiencing exciting escapades and this book does not disappoint in bringing these dreams alive.

K-Girls is the first book in the Kylemore Abbey Series, by author Lydia Little, who was herself once a pupil of the school (scroll down for her bio). It has been released in both digital format and paperback. In K-Girls Alice Stone persuades her parents to send her to boarding school, wanting to have the adventures she always dreamed about and at the same time reinvent herself. She is drawn to the beauty and splendour of Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, a convent school for girls, housed in a former castle.  Alice enters the school as a somewhat nervous first year, nevertheless determined to make her mark and enjoy her life there to the full.

Soon after she arrives she encounters Ruth, the ghost of a former pupil, who died at the school in the 1920’s and whose body resides in the cemetery. Alice has never seen a ghost before, let alone held a conversation with one! For her part Ruth has had a lonely existence since becoming a ghost, being able to observe the comings and goings at Kylemore, to which she is tied, but never having communicated with a soul, living or dead. Alice keeps Ruth and her ability to see and communicate with her a secret from her new friends, Gale and Bessie, and others at Kylemore, lest they think she is losing her mind.

As a first year Alice and her friends are viewed as the newbies by the other girls, especially the seniors and Alice cannot resist embroiling herself in some daring escapades as she strives to prove her worth in challenges set by the older girls. Her success in these ventures is threatened by some enemies she inadvertently makes and she has to rely on Ruth’s assistance and her own cunning and tenacity to succeed, often against all odds.

I enjoyed the two main characters of Ruth and Alice and the friendship and mysrerious bond they formed. Alice is a spunky, confident and likeable heroine, wanting to make her mark and do right by others. She is desperate to prove that she can succeed in the tasks she is set and at the same time not wanting to offend Dame Mary, who runs the school, with her exploits. Ruth is desperate for a friend, having been on her own for so long and sometimes Alice, who doesn’t want her ability to communicate with Ruth to jeopardise her budding friendships with other girls, is a little unfeeling with some of the things she says to her, although she does feel guilty afterwards. I really felt for Ruth as she cannot recall the circumstances around her death and cannot comprehend why she has not passed over. I was interested to learn about her story as her memories start to resurface. Ruth has a strong sense of what is right and wrong, sometimes at odds with more modern sensibilities.

The novel is set in the 1980’s and there are many references to the popular culture of the time. It is clear that the author is familiar with this time period as well as the minutiae of school life at the school she attended and its history. I enjoyed the descriptions of the school and its grounds and the escapades of the girls! There are many humorous scenes, such as Alice talking to Ruth and being overheard talking to herself by others and other scenes where certain characters get their comeuppance.

There are many other characters in the novel, comprising Alice’s friends, Gale and Bessie and other characters comprising older girls and teachers, some of whom do not have Alice’s interests at heart.  The novel also deals sensitively with the usual issues of the making and breaking of friendships and making up, their emotions being perhaps more acute than normal as the girls are away from home and in a secluded environment.  Some of the characters are not all what they first seem and there are a number of plot twists, including a major one at the end, which I did not expect. I will be very interested to find out where the author takes the tale in the next instalment!

I recommend this novel to readers of all ages who like tales of adventure and mystery with paranormal elements, but which also explore the trials and tribulations of pre-teen and teenage girls in their formative years.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

A copy of this book was provided by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

https://www.facebook.com/LydiaLittleKGirl

http://www.kylemoreabbeytourism.ie/

Author Bio: Lydia Little grew up in Kinsale, Co. Cork. Convincing her parents to send her to boarding school, Lydia attended secondary school in Kylemore Abbey School for girls in Connemara from the ages of 12 to 18. Having kept diaries throughout, she still enjoys putting pen to paper, only now her journals are full of plots, scribbles, quotes and new characters, all shouting for inclusion in her new books.

After a stint of sailing, living in the UK and a short life as a hotelier, Lydia has returned to West Cork, where she now lives with her husband, 3 children, 3 dogs and a mad eyed cat named Bowie.

K-Girls is her first novel.

Here are the links to the book on Amazon UK    Amazon US