The Sewing Machine

Book Review:  The Sewing Machine

Valerie Fergie, The Sewing Machine.  Unbound Digital, London, 2017, ISBN13 9781911586043 (I read the Kindle version)

The Sewing Machine

Singer sewing machine

I just finished reading The Sewing Machine, a delightful debut by Valerie Fergie.  The central “character” is a Singer sewing machine which connects four generations of two families over a period of more than 100 years.  The earliest is Jean, who works at the Singer factory in Clydebank in 1911.  The last is Fred, who inherits the machine in 2016.  Initially, he wants to get rid of it, but then starts growing attached to it. Continue reading


Book Review:  Troubadour

A guest post by Julia Redlich

Isolde Martyn, Troubadour. Harlequin Mira, 2017, rrp $24.95. ISBN 9781489220370

We thank Julia Redlich for reviewing Isolde Martyn’s latest novel for us here on Dottie Tales.

Members of the New South Wales branch of the Richard III Society will have read and enjoyed our fellow member Isolde Martyn’s historical novels. Most of them have concerned real people from the period that interests us most: from Katherine Bonville to the Duke of Buckingham, and women who play a role in Edward IV’s life – Elysabeth Woodville and Elizabeth “Jane Shore” Lambard. Her presentation of real characters and the events of their time in English history is always combines romance with impeccable research. Continue reading

The Consequence of Coincidences

The Consequence of Coincidences –

A guest post by Julia Redlich

We welcome Julia Redlich to Dottie Tales, who tells us in today’s guest post about finding Richard III as a Consequence of Coincidences.

This is not just a coincidence, but having written a recent contribution to the Richard III NSW Branch website called Not Looking for Richard, this is just a natural consequence. The first feature dealt with finding mention of King Richard in unexpected novels and the pleasure derived from discovering authors who viewed him as a human being, not necessarily a villain. Continue reading

Memorial to the Duchess

Book Review:  Memorial to the Duchess

Jocelyn Kettle, Memorial to the Duchess.  Coronet Books, London, 1974 (first published 1968) (Pbk)

While we are on the topic of Alice Chaucer, here is a look at another novel on this fascinating historical character.

Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk, was a fascinating person, but I have yet to find any in-depth analysis of her life, preferably non-fiction.

However, you would think that she would also make the perfect protagonist for a work of fiction.  As seen, she is frequently a minor character (not that there is anything minor about Alice!) in the Sister Frevisse novels by Margaret Frazer, like for instance in the short story The Stoneworker’s Tale.  There is one full length novel about her, Memorial to the Duchess.  I had been warned, but I was still prepared to give it a try.  I should have headed the warning! Continue reading

The Stone-Worker’s Tale

Short Story Review:  

The Stone-Worker’s Tale

Margaret Frazer, The Stone-Worker’s Tale, Kindle edition, Dream Machine Productions, 15 April 2011

The Stone-Worker’s Tale is a short story by Margaret Frazer, featuring her medieval sleuth Dame Frevisse.  Gail Lynn Frazer, wrote a series of novels under the name Margaret Frazer.  The majority feature Dame Frevisse, a medieval nun, while several books have Joliffe, member of a troupe of travelling players, as the protagonist.  Unfortunately Ms Frazer passed away in 2013, so there will be no new encounters with either Dame Frevisse or Joliffe to look forward to.  Therefore it is even more rewarding to return to the old favourites. Continue reading

Gutenberg’s Apprentice

Book Review: Gutenberg’s Apprentice

Alix Christie, Gutenberg’s Apprentice. Headline Review, London, 2015 (Pbk)

Gutenberg’s Apprentice tells the story of the creation of the Gutenberg Bible through the eyes of Peter Schöffer (or Schoeffer instead of the Umlaut). Peter was the apprentice of Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden, called Gutenberg. Though the narrative takes place in the 1450’s, there are short chapters in between, where Peter is talking to abbot Trithemius of Sponheim Abbey 30 years after the Bible was printed, between September 1484 and March 1486. With the distance of time and Trithemius’ remarks, they allow Peter (and the reader) to reflect on what had happened. Continue reading

Gaudy Night

A Reunion with Old Friends – Gaudy Night

Book Review: Dorothy L Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

Note: Contains spoilers

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the publication of Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. For me this particular novel will always be connected with my memories of a holiday in Oxford, where most of the action of this novellater takes place. This holiday in the ‘city of dreaming spires’ was in 1973, and I bought the book a couple of years later. For years it remained one of my favourite books – amply documented by the by now rather tatty state of my copy – but as time went by it was pushed aside by new favourites. So I decided to have another look. And I read it and was hooked again. Since my first stay in Oxford in that magical summer of 1973 as a German school girl, I have been back a number of times. Whatever the circumstances, the novel still holds its old magic.

Continue reading

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Book Review:  A Plague on Both Your Houses

Susanna Gregory, A Plague on Both Your Houses. Time Warner Paperback, London, 2003 (originally published 1996)

I bought A Plague on Both Your Houses quite some time ago at a Bring & Buy stall, put it on my bookshelf and forgot about it. While researching Cambridge in the 15th century for a talk, I was reminded that Susanna Gregory’s novels are set in 14th century Cambridge, so I finally decided to read the book. A great pity that I hadn’t done so earlier, as I had missed out on a treat.

Continue reading

Amenable Women

Book Review: Amenable Women

Mavis Cheek, Amenable Women.  Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 2008 (Pbk)

I first became aware of Amenable Women by reading a short review in Sydney Morning Herald of 30 August 2008. From the description it sounded like The Daughter of Time on Anne of Cleves (the fourth wife of Henry VIII), which indeed would be an accurate description. In both novels, a present day person investigates a person from the past, who had mostly been portrayed in a negative light, and comes to find them much more positive. Continue reading

Death of a Cabman

Book Review: Death of a Cabman

Nina Boyd, Death of a Cabman (2015)

Death of a Cabman is the third in the series of Ethel and Amelia Mysteries, although you don’t need to have read the previous two to be able to follow the story. This is not to say that you won’t be very much rewarded if you do read The Disappearing Typewriter and The Vanishing Boy as well.

The story plays in 1911 in Huddersfield. A cabman is found dead in a livery stable and the police very quickly establish that he wasn’t kicked by a horse, but murdered. The police, Inspector MacDuff and police constable Fred Clough, try to find his killer. There is no lack of suspects. Continue reading