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Book reviews: The Good Servant by Fern Britton, Orphans of the Storm by Celia Imrie and One Last Secret by Adele Parks

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Janet Gordon, who lives in Takeley, reviews best-sellers and debut fiction for the Indie...

Goodness, it’s a big pile of fantastic hardback novels I have for you this week.

If you are packing one of these in your holiday suitcase – assuming your plane’s not cancelled, of course – probably just one will be enough.

But which to choose?

The Good Servant by Fern Britton (HarperCollins £14.99)

Well, first up is a new and wonderful read from former television presenter Fern Britton, for whom this is her 10th best-seller.

Fern has broken away from her normal Cornish stories to write about a character from royal history that has long fascinated many many people, myself included.

Having read The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford many, many years ago, Fern has delved into historical archives and, after copious research, written a compelling and fascinating account of Marion’s long years of service as governess to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

Crawfie, to give her the nickname bestowed upon her by the young princesses, was devoted to her royal family. So much so that when her mother, who was determined to marry Marion off, introduced her to a much older gentleman, they courted for over 10 years before Marion could even think about a romance.

You have to feel really sorry for the naïve Crawfie and a charming but ultimately determined queen who really didn’t want Crawfie to leave if it would cause the royal family any inconvenience.

The Good Servant by Fern Britton (HarperCollins £14.99) (58123971)
The Good Servant by Fern Britton (HarperCollins £14.99) (58123971)

And when Crawfie finally succumbed to the blandishments of her gentleman friend, at least she was given the sweetest “grace and favour” cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace.

But then Crawfie was lured into publishing “little harmless stories” about her time with the royals which eventually became a best-seller but incurred the serious wrath of the royal family and ensured that Crawfie became persona non grata for the remainder of her life.

This is not the first book I’ve read on the subject – over the past couple of years there have been several faction-type novels on the subject – but this is certainly one of, if not the best governess novels I’ve read.

It’s a real departure from Fern’s previous novels and I look forward to many more enthralling sagas like this.

Orphans of the Storm by Celia Imrie (Bloomsbury Publishing £14.99)

And yet another personality/actress-turned-author is next. Celia Imrie is such a familiar face on the box, especially for those of you who love watching all the old sitcoms. Dinnerladies and Absolutely Fabulous anyone?

This is Celia’s fifth novel and is a beautifully engrossing tale of young seamstress Marcela, who wanted to be an operatic singer but somehow became a seamstress and was sort of lured into marriage to husband Michael.

Orphans of the Storm by Celia Imrie (Bloomsbury Publishing £14.99) (58123969)
Orphans of the Storm by Celia Imrie (Bloomsbury Publishing £14.99) (58123969)

Having had two children, whom she adores, Marcela has had enough of the cruel and controlling man her husband has become.

Here I must hold my hand up and say that I’m only part way through this one, so I haven’t yet reached the part where socialite Margaret’s path crosses with that of Marcela and Michael on the ill-fated Titanic and I can’t wait to see how this pans out.

Once again it’s a great thick engrossing and wonderfully written saga based on fact.

One Last Secret by Adele Parks (HQ £14.99)

The latest novel by the wonderful Adele Parks is a simply unputdownable domestic thriller.

Dora is an escort. Ultra careful with her clients, all vetted and checked and working through a facilitator, Dora is on her way home from one of her regulars when she is asked to stop off and visit a new client who has come with a recommendation.

Dora really doesn’t want to, but allows herself to be persuaded. It doesn’t go to plan and so she is forced to lie low for a while.

And then she is booked to go on a sunshine break with her regular. Her loving boyfriend, away at a conference, wouldn’t approve, but Dora figures that this one last job will enable her to save some money and enjoy a week away.

One Last Secret by Adele Parks (HQ £14.99) (58123967)
One Last Secret by Adele Parks (HQ £14.99) (58123967)

However, once at the chateau it becomes obvious that this holiday is not what it should be and Dora, far from being in a safe environment, is in mortal danger.

Once again the wonderful Adele Parks has written a compelling and read-on novel that will keep you guessing at every chapter.

I’d be so hard pressed to choose between which one of these three novels to take on holiday that I’d be forced to take them all, much to my husband’s annoyance!

Awesomely Austen (Hachette Children's Books £6.99 each)

This is such a brilliant, brilliant idea. Jane Austen novels (and of course you will probably realise that I'm a great Austen fan) are generally difficult for youngsters to get into, but here each of them has been retold by well-known children's authors in suitable language for youngsters without losing any of the wit and humour.

Not only that, they are beautifully illustrated in cartoon style and there's a glossary at the back with all kinds of Regency-type titbits.

Enter our competition to win the Awesomely Austen collection (58268457)
Enter our competition to win the Awesomely Austen collection (58268457)

Since there were six Jane Austen novels there are obviously six to collect, but one lucky Indie reader can win the entire collection.

To be in with a chance, simply answer this question: In which Jane Austen novel does Mr Darcy appear? Is it a) Emma, b) Northanger Abbey or c) Pride & Prejudice.

Send your entries to Book Competition, Bishop's Stortford Independent, 12 North Street, Bishop's Stortford CM23 2LQ or email letters@stortfordindie.co.uk with 'Book Competition' in the subject line. Entries close at 5pm on Tuesday August 2. The winner will be asked to collect their prize from the Indie office.

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