#TuesdayBookBlog ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte #BookReview #Victorian @Audible #Audiobooks

I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall too many years ago, in my teens, when I read all the Bronte sisters’ novels, but I just couldn’t for the life of me remember much about the story. So, as the version I read, narrated by  Alex Jennings and Jenny Agutter was on Audible Included, which means that as a member, I could listen for free, I decided to have a go at the audio version. I wasn’t surprised when I was hooked immediately, I’ll tell you why right away.  

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Audiobook By Anne Brontë cover art

From the Blurb

Fleeing a disastrous marriage, Helen Huntingdon retreats to the desolate mansion, Wildfell Hall, with her son, Arthur. There, she makes her living as a painter. Finding it difficult to avoid her neighbors, she is soon an object of speculation and gossip. Brontë portrays Helen’s eloquent struggle for independence at a time when society defined a married woman as her husband’s property.

Before I start my review, I’d like to tell you why I love Audible. I know I’ve told you many times already, but it’s even better now! My monthly credit allows me to buy one audiobook of my choice every month, plus there are daily deals and frequent sales and two for the price of one offers, plus there are loads of free listens in the ‘Included’ catalogue, which has new additions every week, and there are podcasts.

And I love to listen to audiobooks while I work out, go for walks, do the cooking, the laundry, the cleaning, clearing out cubboards, and much more! Here’s more information, in case you’re interested. (By the way, I have no commercial affiliation to Audible, I just wanted to share how great I think it is!) 

My Review

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was easy for me to enjoy. You all know how much I love Victorian Fiction, and as I had completely forgotten about the plot, it was like reading it for the first time. 

It’s a very long, three volume novel, as was the custom of the time. It is over 800 pages and over16 hours of narration time. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the second and final novel by Anne Brontë, the youngest of the Bronte sisters. Her first novel was Agnes Grey, which I only vaguely remember, so I’ll probably be reading it again, soon, too.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was first published in 1848 under the pseudonym of Acton Bell. Although it was very successsful, it was considered the most shocking of the Brontë’s novels, and I can’t imagine why, because the main female character, Helen, is so very pious that she is at times quite nausiating. In fact, I was often furious with her subservient behaviour, especially in the third part of the novel, but more about that in a moment.

The first volume is narrated by Gilbert Markham (by the way, one of my new favourite romance heroes!), who is telling his friend about how he came to meet the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. He was intrigued and fascinated by Helen Graham, a beautiful and aloof, young widow, who moved into the crumbling, old Hall, with her young son, Arthur. They do eventually (very eventually), become friends, but then she becomes the target of local gossip and it is discovered that she is not a widow, because her husband is alive.

The second volume is narrated by Helen, who gives Gilbert all the letters she wrote from when she met her husband to the moment she left him. Here she shows herself to be a devoted wife, who is in love with an unworthy husband, and although she put up with a lot of psychlogical and some physical abuse, she was finally strong-willed and determined enough to abandon him.

This part of the novel certainly gives us a clear insight to the life of the country gentry and servants of the era, as well as the submission of women, even wealthy women, to their husbands,  fathers and religious notions of women’s piety.  I both pitied and admired Helen at this point, because I thought I was going to read a 19th century, #MeToo novel, and I almost did, but as I read the third part I discovered I was wrong. 

This third part, narrated by Gilbert, describes how she returned to her husband and what happens afterwards, but I won’t spoil it for you by telling you how the ending comes about. I will tell you I was exasperated with both Gilbert and Helen, and her brother, but especially with Helen, for being so obstinate and submissive. So, although I did enjoy the ending, I found it was not the feminist novel I had been expecting to read.   

A modern editor would have reduced the novel by half, even I, lover of Victorian literature, was impatient for something to happen and maddened by the going round in circles of the same events, and long drawn out conversations, which did not move the plot forward a single inch! 

There are two major difficulties in reading this type of Victorian fiction, for the modern reader; in the first place the excessive length, verbosity and repetition of certain parts, and on the other hand, the cultural and emotional distance, with contemporary readers. The later makes it hard to understand or sympathize with their passive acceptance of patriarchy, gender differences and medieval attitude to religion, and the former can become frustrating.  

However, there was one aspects that reminded me of contemporary society; harmful and spiteful gossip and blatant lies, which still occurs today, except nowadays it would spread on social media, instead parlours and at sunday service.   

I would recommend the audio version, because it brings the characters and events to life and makes the tedious parts more enjoyable (and you can speed them up!).

I hope I haven’t put you off, because it really is worth reading. The prose flows smoothly and the vocabulary and expressions are gorgeous, and you will be rewarded with an authentic, first-hand glimpse of what life was really like for women, men and children, in Victorian England. 

Have you read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall? What was your impression?

 

 

 

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Love Her or Lose Her’ by Tessa Bailey #Romance @Scribd #Audiobook #BookReview

Today, after a few heart-pounding thrillers, I’m reviewing a sweet and steamy, second chance romance, Love Her or Lose Her, by Tessa Bailey.

Love Her or Lose Her: A Novel by [Bailey, Tessa]

From the Blurb

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

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My Review

Love her or Lose Her is a sweet and steamy, second chance romance by Tessa Bailey.

It’s easy to fall in love with your High School sweetheart, marry and expect a happy ever after, but what happens when real life takes over dating and having fun? Can couples stay in love after marriage? What’s the secret to staying in love after years of marriage?

There is plenty of food for thought in this apparently light romance. Why do couples fall out of love? Why do some pull through, while others split up? It’s a complex question, and although this novel isn’t a deep, psychological or sociological analysis of love and marriage, it did make me wonder about why love doesn’t always last and how to decide if it was a mistake or whether it’s worth making the effort to pull through the rough patch.

Rosie and Dominic are a young married couple who has fallen out of love. Tessa thinks her high school sweetheart and husband doesn’t love her any more and she leaves him. There is no cheating and no third parties involved. They’re both unhappy because over the years they’ve given up their cherished hopes and dreams and they’re not communicating their feelings or needs.

Some of the best moments of the novel are the sessions with their unique and insightful marriage guidance councillor. It made me think I know a few couples who would benefit from his therapies! And it made me realise how vital it is for a couple to communicate their feelings and if they can’t, how important it is to get professional help, before deciding to break up.

A sweet, second chance romance. A nicely written and plotted romance with angst, humor and lots of food for thought.

 Especially for readers who are in a very romantic, feel good mood!

Scribd link to Love Her or Lose Her

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Tessa Bailey

Tessa Bailey is the New York Times Bestselling Author of the Line of Duty Series. She lives in Long Island, New York with her husband and exuberant daughter. When she isn’t writing, eating cheese, listening to true crime podcasts or reading romance, Tessa enjoys a good argument and thirty-minute recipes.

Follow Tessa on twitter.

Tuesday

Photo taken on my morning walk, in Córdoba, 4th February, 2020

Check out my other reviews!

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘The Runaway Wife’ by Dee Macdonald #Women’sFiction #BookReview

Today I offer you a review of a hilarious, heart-warming novel about Connie, wife, mother, grandmother, extraordinaire, who at 66 has decided she’s had enough of them all and sets out on a journey of self-discovery!

The Runaway Wife: A laugh out loud feel good novel about second chances by [MacDonald, Dee]

From the Blurb

One evening in early August, while mashing the potatoes for dinner, Connie McColl decides she’s had enough…

Connie is tired of solving one family crisis after another – usually involving her unruly grandchildren – while her husband Roger spends all day at his beloved golf course. Surely it must be time for her to shake off her apron and start living again?

So Connie packs a bag, gets in her little green car and drives off…

As Connie journeys from England to Scotland on an unexpected adventure, she finally begins to rediscover herself. And she starts to wonder, will she ever be ready to return home? Or will this summer change her life forever?

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My Review

There are so many reasons why I loved this book!

It’s hilarious, heart-warming (did I already say that? well that’s because it’s very-heartwarming, indeed!), optimistic, adventurous, interesting, realistic, romantic, sad, and ultimately uplifiting, because Connie reminds us that it’s never too late, for anything!

I’ve had a very eventful Christmas-New Year festivities. catering for my three children and four grandchildren has been fun, but exhausting, and although my husband, fortunately, is nothing like Roger, (and by the way, no-one’s husband should be anything like Roger), there were moments when I felt, just like Connie. I wanted to say, “Look, I’ve had enough of cooking, shopping, advising, counselling, being understanding, playing with the kids, babaysitting, and generally supporting everyone’s family! I want my own life back!”

Connie’s travels from Sussex to Inverness are such fun. I enjoyed all the different types of people she meets and the enriching and diverse awakenings she narrates.

She garners unforgettable experiences and meets some amazing people, who will help her understand her past and embrace her future with renewed optimism. In spite of the last, shocking encounter when she returns home, Connie can cope because she’s become stronger and more assertive than she’s ever been.

Especially for anyone who enjoys reading well-written, humorous, women’s fiction set in the UK. The Runaway Wife is a real gem! A different and exceptional novel.

I’ve discovered a new favourite author. Next on my list is her latest novel, The Silver Ladies of Penny Lane.

The Silver Ladies of Penny Lane: An absolutely hilarious feel good novel by [MacDonald, Dee]

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Dee MacDonald

The Runaway Wife is Dee’s first (published) novel but in fact she wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep., and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

Dee’s Amazon UK link

Dee’s Amazon.com link

#Sunday Photo Fiction ‘Happy Anniversary’ #FlashFiction #100words

It’s my second time taking part in the Sunday Photo Fiction. Below is the picture which inspired me to write the following 100-word flash fiction, although according to the rules, you can write up to 200 words. Thank you Susan for hosting and Terri Smeigh for the photo prompt.

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Photo Credit: Terri Smeigh

Happy Anniversary

My husband raised his gold-rimmed champagne flute. ‘Happy anniversary, darling.’

I smiled, in spite of the partying and the other women, because I had learned to play my part.

A reporter approached as planned. ‘Senator, a few words for Celebrity Night?’

 ‘I’d like to thank my wife for twenty years of love and support.’

‘It’s been a pleasure, my love,’ I replied, although I wished we were back at the highway diner where he proposed.

He promised eternal love and I believed all our dreams would come true. Be careful what you wish for, I thought as my heart wept.  

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#Sunday Photo Fiction ‘The Nightmare’ #FlashFiction #100words

It’s my first time taking part in the Sunday Photo Fiction. I came across the picture which inspired me to write the following 100-word flash fiction, although according to the rules, you can write up to 200 words. Thank you Susan for hosting and Fandango for the photo prompt.

Photo Credit: Fandango

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The Nightmare

I watch his thoughtful face on my phone screen as I describe my nightmare.

“I’m walking along a narrow path lined with tall, sturdy trees, but there’s a bend ahead and I can’t see what lies beyond, so I slow down then stop, because I’m terrified. That’s how I feel, paralyzed. What does it mean?”

He smiles. “I’ll tell you what happens next. You keep walking until you’re standing by my side, and together we walk down the aisle towards the man you love.”

“Are you sure, dad?”

“Absolutely, my princess.” He sighed. “Your mother would be so proud.”

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#FridayFictioneers ‘A Visit to the Synagogue’ #FlashFiction #100Words

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story featuring Alice Pendragon and her best friend Billy! Last week, they saved a young man from committing suicide. Today he’ll tell them what was troubling him so much in life to prefer death.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge and to Roger Bultot for this week’s photo prompt.

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

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I recently read a beautiful novel called The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom (read my review here) by Beth Miller, about a Jewish girl living in London, in an orthodox family, who married a non-Jewish man, against her parent’s wishes, and the subsequent upheaval in both their lives. It’s an emotional and non-judgemental, yet moving account of what happens when families are in disagreement over their children’s marriages.

It’s a topic that is close to my heart, not because I’m Jewish, I’m not, but I could have been. We do not choose where we are born, or our parents’ religions, nationalities, skin colour, or mother tongue. It’s relevant to me because my parents have held hostile attitudes towards my husband for the last 39 years, since we started going out, which brought, and still brings, many senseless and unfair complications to our family.

This flash, was written bearing in mind the damage such inflexible and unreasonable attitudes can cause in a young man who is in love and yet would go to extreme lengths not to upset his family.  

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A Visit to the Synagogue

The young man whose life they’d saved took them to a brown stone building.
“The woman I love isn’t Jewish,” he said staring at the synagogue.
Alice shrugged. “Neither are we.”
“Then you wouldn’t understand.”
“Try us,” said Billy.
“I must marry a Jewish girl.” Tears filled his eyes.
“Have they met her?” asked Alice.
“They would never allow it! And I’d rather die than live without Helen.”
“We understand.” Billy squeezed Alice’s hand. “If your parents realized how much they meant to you, so much that you’d rather die than upset them, I’m sure they’d want to meet her.”
****
Billy is right. If the young man’s parents realised how much their intolerance and demands were making their son suffer, due to his love for them, they would surely reconsider, but unfortunately, parents aren’t always willing to accept that their children grow up and should be allowed to make their own decisions, and even their own mistakes.
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My ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be mostly read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are! 

#FridayReads My Husband the Stranger by Rebecca Done #BookReview #Amreading

What you would do if your husband became another person overnight?

When Molly married Alex Frazer, she knew it was for ever. Theirs would be the perfect future.

In sickness and in health.

However, after a night out with his twin brother, Graeme, a terrible injury leaves Alex with permanent brain damage. In a single moment the man she married is transformed into someone new. Someone who has forgotten how to love her. And someone Molly isn’t sure she can ever love again.

From the blurb of My Husband the Stranger, a contemporary family drama by Rebecca Done.

My Husband the Stranger: An emotional page-turner with a shocking twist you'll never see coming by [Done, Rebecca]

My Review

My Husband the Stranger is an intense family drama and love story narrated by Molly and Alex, in two timeframes, before and three years after, Alex’s accident, which led to serious physical and emotional changes.

The reader receives a great deal of insight into both characters and their relationship, but there is a third dark and troubled character, Alex’s twin brother, Graeme.

It’s a contemporary domestic drama, which contrasts Alex’s dysfunctional family and Molly’s supportive parents. Other important topics brought up are parenting, sibling rivalry, friendship and the hardships of contemporary life.

My Husband the Stranger is also and overall a love story. Molly loves Alex, but she’s having financial and emotional difficulties coping with her husband’s changed and unpredictable personality, after his accident.

Molly literally has to learn to live with a new man and cope with a depressing job in a small town, far away from her family and friends in London.

Molly is the strongest and most admirable person in the novel. Her caring, determined and patient character ensures her struggle, against all odds, to preserve her marriage and help Alex through his long and challenging recovery.

The conclusion was satisfactory and feel-good, which surprised me because there was a lot of suspense and tension throughout, so I kept expecting a dark twist, which never came.

In spite of the lack of surprising plot twists, the novel had a steady pace and the prose flowed smoothly. I listened to the whole novel over two days, because I was invested in the characters and the storyline.

I will definitely be looking out for more novels by Rebecca Done.

The narrators of the audio version were excellent. 

US buy link

UK buy link

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#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge ‘Marry me’ #JaneEyre

This is my response to Charli Mills’

March 1: Flash Fiction Challenge

Prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. Respond by March 6, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 7). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Marry Me, Jane!

‘Soon I shall be a bridegroom,’ said Mr. Rochester.
Jane looked down at her plain, governess dress and remembered Blanche Ingram’s extravagant clothes, noble features and glossy, raven hair.
‘I’ll leave at once. Miss Ingram will have plans for Adele.’
Jane refused to witness the man she loved marry a beautiful, yet unworthy gold-digger.
‘You would have me marry that frivolous woman?’ Rochester shook his head. ‘You think so little of me, Jane? I ask you to pass through life at my side as my best earthly companion.’
Rochester kissed her hand. ‘Jane, say Edward I will marry you.’

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It’s amazing how the mind works. I saw the picture of the raven and thought of Blanche Ingram’s hair! For those of you don’t remember, she was Lord Ingram’s daughter, who Mr. Rochester used to make Jane jealous, tease her and perhaps find out if cool Jane loved him…

I’ve tried to capture the moment Rochester asked Jane to marry him, which is no doubt one of the most dramatic and romantic scenes in the novel. Jane is convinced that he’s going to marry the awful Miss Ingram, but Mr. Rochester recognises gold when he sees it, even if it’s hidden under an ugly dress!