25 May 2020

The Adventures of Tom Finch, Gentleman by Lucy May Lennox

shortlisted for Book of the Month

18th century 

What becomes of a wannabe libertine in early 18th-century London who is continually thwarted in his rake’s progress by his remarkable musical talent and innate decency? Added to these confounding factors, Tom Finch, one of a stable of bastards sired by a poxy earl, has been blind from early childhood. In Lucy May Lennox’s delightful romp through Hanoverian England, The Adventures of Tom Finch, Gentleman, her unique protagonist is one of many characters that at first glance appear right out of costume-drama central casting but stubbornly play against stereotype. And it’s the characters that make this novel such a jolly read.

This is not to gainsay Ms Lennox’s skill in constructing a plot line that provides plenty of interest and pace. Tom Finch has survived through most of his adult life on the largesse of a domineering widowed aunt, Lady Gray, the sister of his noble father who has appointed herself wrangler of her intemperate brother’s herd of illegitimate sons and cast-aside daughters from his first marriage. However, Lady Gray has an insatiable taste for opera and a not unrelated soft spot for her musical prodigy nephew. Her modest largesse, together with Tom’s irregular earnings from writing broadside tunes, tutoring aspiring sopranos, and serving as rehearsal music master for Handel’s operas at the Theatre Royal, allow Tom to maintain a slightly tatty and very jumbled household near Covent Garden’s theatres, stews, and alehouses. 

Although he's a voracious and somewhat indiscriminate consumer of the services of the area’s concubines, Tom’s heart resolutely belongs to a notorious prostitute, Sally Salisbury. However, his ill-advised loyalty to Sally is tested when he’s hired to tutor a promising young half-English soprano, Tess Turnbridge, newly arrived under questionable circumstances from Naples and her Italian mother’s family. The remainder of the book is taken up with the intriguing antics of Tom, Tess, Sal, and a memorable parade of extended family members, quirky acquaintances, and opera folk. 

Ms Lennox is very adept at deeply immersing readers in the sensory details and social conventions of the 18th century—she plunges us in from the first pages and never lets us up for air. She has both an expansive and nuanced skill with period idiom, as well as a remarkable ability to convey the experience of a blind man in a time before accommodations for sightlessness—braille, service animals—making his way personally and professionally in a sighted world. Her attention to every detail of character and setting allows her to continually surprise the reader with twists in both the behavior and backstory of her parade of memorable personalities.

This is a must read for any lover of fiction, not only of English and/or 18th century tales. Tom Finch is a finely crafted and wonderful book for the general reader as much as the historical fiction devotee. I highly recommend this book.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Jeffrey Walker
 e-version reviewed

<previous   next >

You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

24 May 2020

Guest Spot - Alison Morton

Persistence and determination

Ten years ago, I started thrusting books on the world. Broadcaster Sue Cook, a long-standing friend of Roma Nova, commented by my third book that she admired my persistence. Now there are nine. And persistence is the key to a successful writing career. So how did this work out?

Alison & Sue Cook

August 2009:
A really bad film sends me to my desk, and within 90 days, I have typed a story of 90,000 words. No clue what to do with the finished manuscript, but it’s bound to be snapped up and sold in every shop and airport.

2010-12: A humbling apprenticeship. I discover I know nothing about the book world or novel writing craft despite being a life-long avid reader. Although ‘high concept and well-written’ according to professional assessors, my story is covered in layers of wishy-washyness and undirected – certainly not ready for agents, publishers or unprotected readers.  I start a blog, though (https://alison-morton.com), as I knew from my business days that you need a wholly owned presence in cyberspace.

I join a writers’ circle, acquire a critique writing partner, go to conferences, read craft books, study on courses and in classes, and hone. And I mean hone. You have never seen such scalpel action on a writer’s work. I put it through professional assessments – tough and even tougher. At last, a reasonably publishing manuscript emerges.

My desk isn’t visible through the layers of multiple rejection letters saying, ‘intelligent and well-crafted, but we don’t know how to market it’. I despair. I know my work is of publishable standard; feedback from many quarters said the story was good to go.

During this ‘apprenticeship’, I make connections and come across self-publishing experts in person and virtually like Helen Hollick.

Alison, Anna Belfrage, Helen Hollick
2013: Structurally and copy-edited, proofed and put together beautifully by SilverWood Books, INCEPTIO hits the world. PERFIDITAS follows six months later (It’s fully drafted by the time INCEPTIO came out, so I’m not being super-productive!). Am taken aback by the amount of PR/marketing needed: blog tours, reviews, guest posts, competitions, talks, local radio, let alone feeding my own blog.

2014: SUCCESSIO comes out in June and I’m interviewed by no less a person than broadcaster Sue Cook (https://youtu.be/56IL5BPB1p8)!

I start to get onto the speaking ladder at conferences – small spots but exciting. But I realise my writing life has to change. It’s the fine choice indies have to make – writing or marketing. The answer is both.  Planning is key whether it’s speaking, attending, selling your books, requesting reviews, running your social media, writing guest posts, packing your exhibition box or considering next year’s events.

And you learn to write on planes and trains.

2015: AURELIA comes out – the first of a new trilogy – set the late 1960s. Originally, it was going to be a single sequel, but I have too much story, so another trilogy. That will be it. Or so I think. I go to the US and chair the indie panel at the Historical Novel Society conference with Helen, Anna Belfrage and Geri Clouston of IndieBRAG.

2016: The year the Ryanair crew recognise me when I came back home to France from my tenth gig in the UK. I realise I’m doing too much. Still, I’d chair the indie panel at the 2016 HNS Conference, launch my fifth book, INSURRECTIO (endorsed by Conn Iggulden!) at the London Book Fair and speak at an event with Kate Mosse!

2017: RETALIO comes out in April followed by CARINA, a novella, in November. I only achieve this by gluing myself into my chair and doing fewer events, although I had the pleasure of speaking in Dublin for the first time.

2018: Persuaded by the dynamic force known as Helen Hollick, I move several light years from my comfort zone and write a short story for 1066 Turned Upside Down alternative history collection. No problem with the alternative history side; this was the genre I write in – I give talks in it – but a short story? Um…  I write 90-100,000 word books. But somehow it works. This impels me to publish a short story collection of my own – ROMA NOVA EXTRA. Oh, and I represent the indie world on a panel at CrimeFest.

2019: The great change in Roma Nova: reorganisation and brand new covers! Each heroine will now have four books – three novels and a novella to their name – and the series will split into the Carina and Aurelia strands. If there’s one thing that’s constant in indie publishing, it’s change. NEXUS, the novella that completes the Aurelia strand, came out in September 2019.

Where next? Who knows, but that’s the unnerving, but always exciting roll of indie author life.

About the Roma Nova thrillers
Roma Nova is an imaginary country somewhere in South Central Europe. Developing along an alternative timeline from ours, it’s a survivor from the mess at the end of the Roman Empire, its people value strength, service and loyalty.
Women have always been prominent from the first day they buckled on armour and stood side by side with their men to defend their tiny country. They run the government, businesses and families. But men are in no way disadvantaged.
Two ‘strands’ centre round two tough but fallible heroines – Carina and Aurelia – both from the leading Mitela family. They are so similar in character, but their temperaments are different. Coffee is a must for both, but Aurelia likes a French brandy and Carina a chilled Castra Lucillan white wine. But both will scale Olympus and fight to their own death to defend Roma Nova from its enemies.
Alison’s Amazon page: http://Author.to/AlisonMortonAmazon
(All books also available on Apple, Kobo and Nook and also as paperbacks)

A bonus! You can download a free guide to the Roma Nova books or if you sign up to my mailing list, you also get two free short stories.

Who is Alison?
Alison Morton writes the award-winning Roma Nova thriller series – ‘intelligent adventure thrillers with heart.’ She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected an MA History.

All six full-length Roma Nova novels have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO was selected as an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women...

Now she continues to write thrillers, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband.

Where to find Alison on social media
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison_morton

Click HERE to find   Alison on Discovering Diamonds

If your novel/s have been reviewed by Discovering Diamonds
and you would like to participate in our 
 Guest Spot
click HERE for details