My Favourite Reads by Jane Fenwick @jane_fenwick60 #neverthetwain #historicalcrimenovels #romance #victorianwhitby
I am an avid reader. As a child I loved all the usual classics. I remember aged eleven getting a hardback copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and spending all Christmas with my head in the book. Needless to say I still have that book.
I was also horse mad as a child and loved all Ruby Ferguson’s horsey books – not that I had a horse! I remember a rainy caravan holiday curled up with Jill’s Gymkhana! It took me to a world where I could use my imagination and live vicariously through the main character. I was desperate to be Jill.
I first got hooked on crime novels as a teenager with Agatha Christie. For me she will always be the queen of crime. I have every Miss Marple and Poirot book she wrote – more than one copy in some instances as I love the old 1930’s covers. I also have some really nice hardback copies too. I have read and reread them over the years. Some are so old and battered the spines are falling apart but I can’t throw them away.
I like all types of crime books including historical, police procedural, psychological thrillers and who dunnits but I have one or two favourite authors I go back to time and time again. In particular I like C J Sansom’s Shardlake series. His detective is a likeable hunchback who lurks about Tudor England solving murders. With remarkable ease Sansom weaves together a cast of characters and knits his murder story into a vivid tapestry of historical happenings. His attention to detail and research has kept me gripped through all seven of the tomes.
Another favourite author is the Peter James’s “Dead” series. All fifteen of them! Again he has a very likeable Detective in Roy Grace. He’s not tortured and full of angst as is so often the case, but is sensitive, believable and effective.
I also have a fondness for Donna Leon. Her books are set in Venice and are very evocative. Her sense of place makes me feel as though I’m there walking around the city with the gorgeous Commissario Brunetti, her lovely detective.
Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer were my first taste of historical fiction and although a recent reread showed them to have not quite stood the test of time I will always remember them fondly. Thomas Hardy also made an early impression. As a teenager I adored The Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I have recently reread Tess many times and loved it just the same. The writing, though very descriptive, is wonderful.
I have read most of Philippa Gregory’s books including the Wideacre sagas which are so different to her Tudor novels (of which The Other Boleyn Girl was a highlight). I also like Marina Fiorato’s writing. The Glass Blowers of Murano and the Crimson and The Bone are particular favourites of hers. Books such as these which are historical and crime are a perfect choice for me. Another classic which took the author, Michel Faber, twenty years to write is The Crimson Petal and the White. Racy but the book remains with me years after reading it.
And then there is my all time favourite read which has everything in one package – well twelve packages to be fair. The Poldark sagas by Winston Graham have it all: romance, crime, history and a beautifully depicted Cornwall – not to mention glorious writing. The characters just leap from the page, the writing is poetic yet accessible.
The central character of Ross Poldark is complicated and flawed – he’s not a hero but a “real” man who makes mistakes and frustrates his wife whilst trying to navigate his way through hard times and difficult situations. He has his own moral compass and is not above breaking the rules when he thinks the laws are unjust. Yet it is the love affair between Ross and Demelza that stands out; it is so beautifully written. Some of the trials and tribulations the couple experience in their marriage are the same as everyone else’s and that’s what makes it so special. Their marriage is relatable and real.
Winston Graham wrote about what he knew- Demelza is supposed to be based on his wife. He lived close by the old tin and copper mines. To a large extent Cornwall, where he lived for a large part of his life, is as much a character as his cast. Graham’s historical accuracy is outstanding and lifts the books from good to great in my opinion. From the opening prologue to the last page of book twelve I have been emotionally attached to the character’s lives, following their stories through the ups and downs, the joys and the sorrows. I have read all the books at least three times and the first three volumes more than that.
Graham has the knack of making the ordinary extraordinary. Recently I joined an on line Poldark book discussion group where fans of the books look more closely at the text and talk about the finer points. I’m so at home there! I really enjoy debating the various nuances of Winston Graham’s wonderful writing.
From the other on line Poldark addicts I found that as much as twenty percent of the first book, Ross Poldark, was edited out when it was released in paperback. There are copies of the unedited Ward Lock versions available but they often sell for over a thousand pounds! I can’t justify paying so much for a book, though I was sorely tempted. Then I was sent a link by a Danish member showing there was an unedited copy on Canadian Amazon. It was a House of Stratus version for sale – not as collectable as the Ward Lock, but much cheaper than any I had seen before. I managed to buy it for forty pounds. So now I am in the process of going through the paperback alongside the unedited version and reading whole passages that I’ve never read before. Fabulous. Yes, dear reader I am obsessed!
The Poldark saga is one of those books that when I can’t find something I want to read I go back to time and time again and always find something new and refreshing to discover. They are my comfort blanket. They also inspired me to write a saga of my own. The first is called My Constant Lady and is set in 1765 on the North East coast. It features a romance between Gabriel Reynolds, a shipping magnate and Eleanor Barker a woman with strong opinions. The story is set against a backdrop of shipping and moves between Whitby and Alnmouth. The first book in the series will be available as an eBook and paperback in early 2020.
Never the Twain: A twin tale of jealousy and betrayal, love and murder.
The year is 1890. The port of Whitby is heaving with sailors and where there are sailors there are brothels doing a roaring trade. Beautiful identical twins April and May are in desperate straits. They have been abandoned by their actress mother and are about to have their virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder by a notorious brothel madam.
Their fate is hanging in the balance when Captain Edward Driscoll a handsome, wealthy shipping tycoon from Glasgow saves them before they can be deflowered.
But have they exchanged one form of slavery for another?
April, reluctantly swept up in her twin’s secrets and lies unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. Is May’s jealousy stronger than the twin bond which has always connected them?
Never the Twain: A dark blend of Gothic romance and murder.
Jane Fenwick lives in the market town of Settle in Yorkshire, England. She studied education at Sheffield University gaining a B.Ed (Hons) in 1989 and going on to teach primary age range children. Jane decided to try her hand at penning a novel rather than writing school reports as she has always been an avid reader, especially enjoying historical and crime fiction. She decided to combine her love of both genres to write her first historical crime novel Never the Twain. Jane has always been a lover of antiques, particularly art nouveau and art deco ceramics and turned this hobby into a business opening an antiques and collectables shop in Settle. However her time as a dealer was short lived; she spent far too much time in the sale rooms buying items that ended up in her home rather than the shop! Animal welfare is a cause close to Jane’s heart and she has been vegetarian since the age of fourteen. For the last twenty years she has been trustee of an animal charity which rescues and rehomes cats, dogs and all manner of creatures looking for a forever home. Of course several of these have been “adopted” by Jane!
Jane has always loved the sea and although she lives in the Yorkshire Dales she is particularly drawn to the North East coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. This coastline is where she gets her inspiration for the historical crime and romance novels she writes. She can imagine how the North East ports would have looked long ago with a forest of tall masted ships crammed together in the harbours, the bustling streets congested with sailors, whalers, chandlers and sail makers. These imaginings provide the backdrop and inspire her to create the central characters and themes of her novels. As she has always loved history she finds the research particularly satisfying.
When she isn’t walking on Sandsend beach with her dog Scout, a Patterdale “Terrorist” she is to be found in her favourite coffee shop gazing out to sea and dreaming up her next plot. Jane is currently writing a historical saga series again set on the North East coast beginning in 1765. The first two books are being edited at the moment; My Constant Lady and The Turning Tides. Look out for My Constant Lady in 2020.