14 October 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Love of Geli Raubal by Brenda Squires

The Love of Geli Raubal
"A very good depiction of how strong, almost blind adherence to seductive, yet irrational political ideology can divide families in desperate straits."


Mystery / fictional drama

"Berlin, October 1933. Max Dienst has returned to the city he last knew as a student. He has been asked to cover the elections to the Reichstag. A colleague on the paper mentions the case of Geli Raubal, a young singer from Vienna who died in mysterious circumstances in the flat of her uncle. There is a botched death certificate but is it a hidden murder? Max thinks he may have a story, her uncle is the leader of a growing political party, a man who seeking to change Germany and Europe. Her uncle is Adolf Hitler. Berlin is also the city of his youth when he was in love with a young Russian communist and embroiled in all the new ideas of change and idealism. Ten years later Max is married to Rhiannon and a journalist for a respected newspaper. Rhiannon works at the British Embassy. She is approached by the mysterious Sid Khan, he may have information that would be useful to her husband. Max was a member of the communist party in his youth. Max wants to find the truth in a time when everyone has their own version, but are there secrets that are best forgotten?"

A very good depiction of how strong, almost blind adherence to seductive, yet irrational political ideology of both left and right can divide families in desperate straits and undermine friendships.

A polarised country with little history of democracy and rule by consent, 1930s Germany was disintegrating amidst economic and social breakdown, the pull of Prussian conservatism and the rise of ideologues. The author’s research is impeccable in this respect; she shows us the day-to-day tension and insecurity very well. Poverty, soup kitchens, high unemployment, casual violence and shortages contrast with people trying to do their best to keep some sense of normality in an environment when freedom and civilised values are in retreat.

Investigative reporter Max is thoughtful and persistent, but rather naive, given that he grew up in a capital city after the cataclysm of the First World War and the instability that followed it. He’s also swum in the shark-infested political waters of London in the 1920s and 30s. I would have thought his sense of self-preservation would have been higher especially as he now has a wife to care for. Rhiannon herself is sympathetically drawn, but we don’t see much character development through the book, which is a pity.

The most interesting character, a very clever stroke by the author, is the introduction of Sid Khan, an Indian working in Berlin for the Foreign Office in an intelligence-gathering capacity. His story must be worth a book alone as he develops from a loyal subject to a doubting one who obviously has a personal and political journey to go on.

The pace ratchets up nicely rising to the crisis point we know is coming. Action scenes are well-crafted; I was swallowing hard at several places.

I was drawn to the title of this book as the death of Geli Raubal is one of those rich side-mysteries of the Third Reich; the influence of Hitler’s half-niece and his fascination for her could well have changed history if she had lived. However, I was disappointed that the first mention of Geli didn’t appear until Chapter 18! This is a significant failing of what would otherwise be a first-class novel of the period. A thriller really requires some solid clue to the central mystery within the first chapter, or possibly two. For my money, I would have cut a considerable number of the earlier chapters and gone straight to the mystery.

However, I did enjoy this well-researched novel very much and once it got to the heart of the story, it caused me some late-night reading.

© Jessica Brown

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11 October 2019

The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert

The Tale of Hill Top Farm (The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, #1)

"This is an utterly charming cosy mystery!"



The first in Albert’s Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series, The Tale of Hill Top Farm focuses on Beatrix Potter’s move to Sawrey, purchase of Hill Top Farm, becoming acquainted with the townsfolk, and witnessing several mishaps and mysteries. The town is thrown into disarray when one of their own, Miss Toliver, dies unexpectedly. Naturally, the death being so unexpected, everyone wonders whether Miss Toliver had been poisoned, and by whom. Then it is discovered that the church register has been stolen, followed by the disappearance of a rare painting from Miss Toliver’s house, cash funds to repair the local school’s roof, and the question of who would inherit Miss Toliver’s cottage. The town devoutly hopes it does not go to her disagreeable nephew. All are surprised when, upon the reading of Miss Toliver’s will, the cottage goes to a Miss Sarah Berwick, a complete stranger. Further shocks come when the village learns why the register and roof repair funds have gone missing, as well as the true fate of Miss Toliver.

This is an utterly charming cosy mystery! While many of the plot details are, of course, pure fiction, the location and events of Beatrix Potter’s life are historically documented and reflected in the story. She did live in Sawrey for many years, and she did travel with a menagerie of pets like hedgehogs, bunnies, and mice. The animals are point-of-view characters throughout the book, and they are the ones who solve all the mysteries well before the humans ever do.

I enjoyed, too, the Victorian manners and etiquette the characters adhere to. I am so glad I am not a Victorian, but it is fun to read all the same.

I definitely plan to read the rest of this series. Highly recommended!

© Kristen McQuinn

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9 October 2019

Writing Prompts for Romance Writers by Jane Holland


"One of those useful little books for  writers, be it for anyone setting out to write a first novel or those who have several titles under their belt. "
Perfect bound with spiral cover effect 
6 x 9  £5.99
126 pages

"This is a book for writers by a professional writer with 25 years’ experience, someone who knows what it’s like to get up in the morning and stare at a blank sheet of paper without knowing where to start. Regardless of where you are in your writing career – just starting out, published a few, bestseller, returning after a break – we’re all writers, and we all know the perennial obstacles to writing."

I offered to read, and review, this little 'note-book' style aid for writers because we have many romantic historical fiction submissions to Discovering Diamonds. As with thrillers, the typical murder mystery 'Who Done It' genre, Historical Romance is very popular and tends to follow a specific guideline formula for the creation of a good, entertaining read.

Miss Holland's Writing Prompts for Romance Writers is one of those useful little books for  writers, be it for anyone setting out to write a first novel or those who have several titles under their belt, but would welcome a little encouragement, or to refresh the imagination and enthusiasm - the writer's equivalent of a strengthening wind to sail with confidence out of the Doldrums. 

Included are interesting thoughts on writing and publishing in general, and prompts to keep you on track with your plot and characters.

This is not just a 'how-to' book though, (there are plenty of those), what I especially liked is that it is a practical workbook. There are lined blank pages for you to jot down your own ideas, or to 'sprint write' a scene, with suggestions to get you started. 

Reading through, as a writer myself, my imagination was already whirring with possible plots, not as a romance but suitably adapted for my own genre of writing (historical fiction and nautical adventure). I particularly liked this Writing Prompt: "Write a novel-opening scene in which a woman has been scorned and is doing something hellish about it." I enjoyed ten minutes of doing just that, and who knows the exercise might turn up as a scene in one of my future Sea Witch Voyages!

Another titbit of advice worth remembering is: “The first line is an invitation to the reader, to enter the magical territory of the story. So try to make it sound like your novel is worth the journey.”

Is Writing Prompts for Romance Writers worth the journey, and the cost? Buy a notebook from any stationers and it will cost you two or three pounds or dollars, and all you get is a book with lined, blank pages. With Ms Holland's book, you get those as well, but in addition, several stimulating suggestions to boost your planned plots or get your mind working. So the answer is a definite yes!

In fact, Writing Prompts for Romance Writers, or it's twin, Writing Prompts for Thriller Writers would make ideal Christmas or birthday presents for friends or family who are writers, or who want try their hand at getting that first novel written.

Well recommended.

© Helen Hollick

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