#BlogTour #GuestPost: Mask of the Gods by Karen Furk @rararesources @karenfurkauthor

thumbnail_mask of the gods Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Karen Furk’s fabulous work of fantasy The Mask of the Gods. I hope you enjoy the guest post as much as I did, as it’s always intriguing to catch a glimpse of the creative process!



Soul Demons live off the souls of the living.

When Haydan’s home world is invaded by a soul demon seeking an item shrouded in myth and legend, his father evicts him and sends him to safety. His chosen one and warrior should provide reassurance and sanctuary, but neither appears to be working very well. Just when he thinks matters cannot get any worse his scheming grandmother arrives. She has her own plans that appear to involve him, none of which bodes well.

Diego feels confident he has the soul demon under control. Overlooking his devious mother’s involvement, he fails to appreciate that he is not only storm rider elder, but also an elven prince and certain debts are about to become due.

Lavinia worries about her grandson, but also who she left behind in the elven realm a long time ago. Tallin thinks she abandoned him and he is livid. She has everything under control, including Tallin…at least that is what she thinks.

They all need to learn afresh who to trust. With a soul demon on the rampage, an unleashed, angry and betrayed elven king and a long-forgotten mask surfacing, what could possibly go wrong?

The past is about to catch up with all of them. Nothing is going to go as planned because the mask and the gods have other ideas.

Purchase Link

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07M6L45Y8

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07M6L45Y8

Guest Post

Everything you Need to Know About Masks

The History of Masks

thumbnail_mask - mog_tallin_concept_art_aveyamaraA mask is an object that is usually worn to cover or conceal the face for entertainment, protection, performance or disguise. They have connections to ceremonial, tribal, ritual and practical purposes and have been around for centuries.

A quick Google search suggests that masks originate from medieval latin, Italian, French and even Arabic languages. In Asia masks have been common place for centuries. The oldest mask in the world is a stone mask dating from Neolithic times to approx. 7000 BC. Masks from the Carnival of Venice date back to 1162AD. The word only reached the English language in the 1530’s.

Masks can also hold sinister connotations. Obscuring the face adds to the anonymity of wearing them and gives an ominous, menacing quality to their use. Films like Scream and V for Vendetta used masks for this purpose. Even superheroes hide behind them, Batman, Spiderman and Deadpool being the first that immediately spring to mind.

A mask can be symbolic or protective and sometimes it’s merely figurative. In modern culture, we often talk about the mask coming off, or removing the mask. In other words, unveiling our true meaning, purpose or desires.

So, what was the inspiration for Mask of the Gods?

thumbnail_minimac reviews - mask-on-tree-for_about_masks_article_lowresIt started with a few ideas. The story of Haydan’s grandparents. An off world adventure. A search for a powerful object.

I’ve always found masks to be fascinating. I actually have two venetian looking masks decorating my Christmas tree each year. Everyone comments on them and says how pretty and unusual they are. I’m not sure at which point the powerful object became a mask, but once the thought was there to use a mask, it stuck. As the story unfolds you get a sense of the power of the Mask of the Gods which has never worked as it’s supposed to. It possesses those who wear it, learning about them and their vulnerabilities. This proves a real challenge for some of my characters to come to terms with. I liked the idea of that adding to the power the mask holds over those who try to wield it for their own gain.

I also liked the idea of concealed identities and hidden agendas and this comes out over the course of the book as well. In the second book, Mask of Deception, due out later in 2019, I had some fun with this concept. Tallin, my elven king enjoys games. Nothing in his realm really behaves itself, so he is constantly challenged. The mask is very much at home in Tallin’s realm because of that.

The Mask of the Gods book cover design process

thumbnail_mask - mog_concept_art_aveyamara_elven_city_1024x768The design of the book cover started with a Pinterest search for masks. I picked my favourites and passed them to my illustrator, along with a couple of descriptions of the mask and its appearance from the book. Since my illustrator is also my brother-in-law (yes, I know, how lucky am I?) we also had a good chat about it over a brew and I talked him through the parts of the masks I had selected that I really liked. This included the shape of the eyes and the design covering the mask itself.

The first pencil drawings arrived back and looked amazing. My illustrator freestyled the initial sketches and designed them in sections that could be built up to create the full mask. This leant itself to the creation of an animated gif of the mask which you can see here [https://www.karenfurk.co.uk/books/mask-of-the-gods/].

Once that phase was complete and agreed, the effects, layers, colours and shading were added. I ended up with two or three different colour variations of the mask and chose the one you now see on the cover, the blue, silver and turquoise design with the blue stone sparkling prominently on the forehead. It’s a real show stopper in pride of place on the front cover and immediately gives a visual reference as to what the mask looks like.

thumbnail_mask-of-the-gods--e-cover highresThe glow around the mask is significant as well. It’s a powerful object. In the book, there are frequently plumes of green mist cascading from the back of it, but for the cover the white glowing light illuminates it and lifts it up from the cover, making it look 3D.

The mask remains a key part of the Mask of the Gods book which will continue throughout the Mask book series. Book two in the series, Mask of Deception will be releasing later in 2019. In the meantime, welcome to the first book in the series, Mask of the Gods…

Author Information 

thumbnail_mask - karen furk author headshotKaren Furk loves fantasy stories. She has done ever since she was a small, lonely child with an over active imagination. She’s particularly fond of stories that are crammed full of magic, mayhem and magical creatures. Karen’s background in marketing laid the foundations for her writing career which began after a serious bout of depression. No longer able to contain her over active imagination, the stories finally flowed onto a page. She aims to surprise and delight with the characters and worlds she creates. She lives in the North West of the UK with her husband, two boys and a hamster called Rufus (Yes, a girl hamster with a boy’s name. Don’t ask, she just embraces the crazy!). Visit her at karenfurk.co.uk or find her on social media and say hello – she’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest under the user name karenfurkauthor.

Social Media Links





thumbnail_mask of the gods full tour banner

Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join in this blog tour.


#BlogTour #Review: 10-33 Assist PC by Desmond P. Ryan

thumbnail_14th by the letter book review books in paradise 15th i love reading uk rachel read it 16th chelle_s book reviews what emma read next 17th zooloos books minimac reviews

For my first blog tour of 2019 I am delighted to showcase Canadian crime fiction author Desmond P. Ryan and his debut novel 10-33 Assist PC. Giving a dark and gritty glimpse into Canada’s underbelly and the heartbreaking world’s of human trafficking and child prostitution. Canadian contest aside, this is some damn good crime fiction, and I couldn’t be happier to have 10-33 Assist PC as the kick start to my touring year.

thumbnail_1033covernewlarge copy (2)Title: 10-33 Assist PC

Author: Desmond P. Ryan

Publisher: Self Published

Publication Date: September 15, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural

Themes: Friendship, Relationships, Human Trafficking, Crime

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4.5/ 5


D/C Mike O’Shea, a young cop with a knack for working hard and following hunches, is on the verge of cracking a prostitution ring when an undercover from another unit burns him. With only days left before their pimps shuttle the girls out of the country, Mike pushes his team into overdrive. Hours later, with too little information, sleep, or luck, the unthinkable happens.

And now, the chase is personal.

In the first of the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, 10-33 Assist PC draws us into the dirty world of human trafficking through the eyes of the cops who put their lives on the line every day to shut it down. Written by a Real Detective, 10-33 Assist PC is the story of a cop who must decide how to move forward without forgetting the past.

My Review

Oh. My. Giddy. Goodness.

It has been a while since I picked up a book that demanded to be read in a single sitting, and that’s exactly what 10-33 PC Assist did. I started my day with dreams of being productive, started reading with morning coffee, and the next thing I knew I’d missed lunch, hadn’t done a single load of laundry, and ended up serving leftovers for dinner because I had decided that finishing the last chapter was more important than cooking a meal.

Yep. It was that kind of read.

One of the main things that I loved about this book is that it isn’t a behemoth. On the smaller side, this is the type of high impact read that can be devoured in one sitting without any (excessive) guilt. But don’t let it’s small size scare you away, 10-33 PC Assist carriers a heavy punch. Filled with solid characters, intriguing dynamics, a captivating case, and the kind of crimes you can’t make up, I was completely lost in every moment.

I love that Mike and Sal challenged many of the cop stereotypes while simultaneously embodying others. What I loved the most though, was Mike’s inclination not to shoot, even when it would have been the easier and more instinctual option. However, it was the fact that the JPTF saw each and every one of the children that they encountered as both human and as a victim, rather than as the inconvenient collateral damage of a dirty business that really had me hooked. Too often we see sex workers and trafficked individuals in the same way as the Morality unit in this book does – inconvenient, dangerous, dirty, and as more trouble than they’re worth. The human touch of the JPTF was not only needed, but grounding, especially as it became clear how the types of cases that the JPTF handled can quickly wear down the officers that work them.

I appreciated too, how Julia also defied convention, with her designer touch and immaculate presentation. She was a wonderfully strong character who showcased how career, fashion, and family ambition can all coexist in a single being – that it doesn’t always have to be an either-or decision. I loved her Italian heritage, the constant colloquialism and expressions, and her endearing hot-headedness. Combine that with Mike’s Irish family, Sal’s stoically independent personality, Hoagie’s dedication to his wife and children (thank you for tackling supportive husbands and post partum depression head on!) and you have the quintessential Canadian melting pot in a single unit.

Also, freaking Barb. I have never encountered a supporting character that made me laugh so much. Hello To-ron-to! Ballsy, indignant, and cooperative in the most stubborn way possible. Her bitterness and eccentricity had me in stitches, and I was desperately wishing that Mike and Sal would pay her another visit.

I enjoyed the familiarity of Toronto, and though it makes me profoundly uncomfortable at times when reading, genuinely appreciated the head-on way in Ryan addresses problems rarely associated with the Party in the Attic. It was both horrifying and engrossing to see how young girls were targeted, groomed, and pressed ‘into the game’. I found myself laughing, crying, and even having to take breaks when situations became too intense to handle. And to think, this is only the start of the series.

Beautifully written and powerfully real, 10-33 PC Assist is an absolutely incredible book! For lovers of crime fiction and police procedurals this is an absolute must read.

About The Author

thumbnail_img_1467Very few books give you the real crime experience because even fewer authors have it.

Desmond P. Ryan has it.

For almost thirty years, he worked the back alleys, poorly-lit laneways, and forgotten neighbourhoods in the city where he grew up. Murder often most unkind, assaults on a level that defied humanity, and sexual violations intended to demean, shame, and haunt the victims were all in a day’s work. Days, evenings, midnights–all the same. Crime knows no time.

Exhilarating. Exhausting. Often heartbreaking.

Whether as a beat cop or a plainclothes detective, Desmond Ryan dealt with good people who did bad things and bad people who followed their instincts. He wrote thousands of reports describing their lives, the places they lived, and the things they did. He investigated their crimes and wrote detailed accounts of the activities that brought him into their world. Detective Ryan also held victims as they wept, talked desperate people off of ledges, and sat beside the decomposing bodies of men and women who, in life, had been discarded and long-forgotten by society.

Now, as a retired detective with three decades of research opportunities under his belt, Desmond Ryan write crime fiction.


Because he wants to tell you a story like no other. Because he wants to bring you inside a world that will both fascinate you and challenge what you thought you knew about human nature. Because he wants to seamlessly weave truth and fiction together to create a place for you where the Good Guys ultimately win.

And because you deserve to have the most authentic crime fiction experience every time you pick up one of Desmond Ryan’s books.

Many thanks to Shell Baker at Baker’s Blog Tours and Promos for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

#Book #Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton #YALit #Fantasy

I’m thrilled to be starting off my blogging year with a cracking review for my most anticipated read of 2018, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. And because I am a turd that bites off more than she can chew, this baby has languished on the TBR for far too long! Beautifully written, intensely imaginative, and chalk full of action I adored every moment I spent transported to the world of Orleans and simply can’t wait for the sequel!

belles.jpgTitle: The Belles

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Genre: Fiction, YA, Fantasy, Mystery

Themes: Survival, Magic, Murder, Adventure, Romance

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4.5/ 5


From Goodreads

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

My Review

Okay, let’s get the bad bits out of the way first. This was an absolutely incredible story with tons of action, intrigues, and a hella twisty plot, but for some reason I felt that the romantic threads came across as completely forced. I get it, when you have a character that has been told her entire life that she can never love, that when she’s presented with charming men that swoon all over her, she’s going to want the things she can’t have. But Camellia’s chemistry with both her suave young sailor and her stoic guard simply wasn’t there.

Yet, despite my belief that The Belles would have been better without the romantic interest, it was still an absolutely amazing read. The idea of a world without colour and only a select few being able to bring beauty into it was rather intriguing. What a great way o challenge societal norms, beauty practices, and the ways in which we see ourselves and others. If this makes even one person think about the painful sacrifices we make, both physically and emotionally, in the name of beauty and unattainable ideals it’s totally worth it.

I think one of the most painful passage to read had to be Camellia’s first client in the tea house, a young girl whose mother sought to alter every natural aspect of her daughter’s features, despite her obvious pain. Even though the world of Orleans is sumptuous, vibrant, and highly superficial Clayton spreads some serious messages about self love – and I am a firm believer that we can never get enough of that!

But that princess though… what a steaming piece of nasty! Kudos to Camellia, and all those who came before her, for trying to alter her demeanour even if it never worked. Her unpredictable moods, outrageous demands, and the practice of treating her courtiers like playing pieces made her a perfectly hateable villain. The result was that the tension in the palace was incredibly intense, and more than once I found myself having to stretch out my neck and shoulders because the drama had me on tenterhooks.

I absolutely adored the uniqueness of Orleans magic and the amount of time that was dedicated to detailed world building. My favourite elements by far were the ballon systems for everything from mail to spying to news, and the sumptuousness of the fashion described. While the land, people and history of Orleans were carefully crafted and presented as a complete picture, it was done in such as way as to never feel cumbersome. Admittedly, there were a few elements that I would have liked to see more flushed out – such as the unofficial Belles and why the Belle population has been steadily dropping – but I can’t hold it against the author for keeping a few goodies for the other books in the series.

I should say though, while The Belles is magical and enthralling, it is not for the very young nor the faint of heart. There are many moments that could easily be considered triggering – such as an attempted sexual assault, a moment where a trans character has to battle with their self-identification in contrast to societal expectation, and some pretty horrific scenes which depict intense bullying, mental manipulation, and flat out torture. They will undoubtedly make many uncomfortable, and may even make some angry, but I appreciated the way in which these behaviours were always questioned and never condoned. Clayton forces introspection on some pretty serious issues, and I for one, and happy that she never shies away from the important stuff as it made The Belles that much better.

Edgy, imaginative, and packed full of paradox The Belles is a smashing start in what is sure to be an epic series. I can’t wait to see where Camellia and her gang go next, and am seriously thirsting for the sequel to be out, like, yesterday….

If you ever crave a touch of magic and adventure in your reads, I can’t recommend The Belles highly enough!

Year End Wrap-Up #amreading #books


Well book lovers, it’s been one hell of a year!

I didn’t do near as much reading as I normally would thanks to any number of circumstance – an interesting run of failed offers on properties, the sale of our house in record time, finally finding our dream home but with the worlds shortest possession and the endless stream of renovations that has followed rank high amongst my distractions. Then add in a new job, a bit of travel, some random health issues within the fam-jam and I’m sure you can imagine how the TBR has since spiralled out of control.

However, it’s that time of year again where wrap-ups and years-in-review dominate our streams and I simply couldn’t resist. While I once again fell short of my goal to read 100 books in a year, I’m absolutely over the with the titles that I did and I could’t wait to share a little more book-love to close out 2018.

Top Reads of 2018

Like last year, I thought about ranking these, but still can’t bring myself to compare apples to oranges or to put one book ahead of another. So, I have decided to once again select a few memorable titles from each broader genre. I am sure I have a great many, wonderful titles that I’ve forgotten to include – but this is a wrap-up, not an annotated bibliography so I’m trying my best to keep it brief!

Historical Fiction


Strong women, the French Resistance during WWII, and a serious touch of espionage – this baby had it all! Hearts of Resistance by Soraya M. Lane had me wishing that this was a TV series or feature film because there was so much juicy action. It’s well written, punchy, and it tickles my feminist heart strings to boot. It has this incredible balance between uplifting hope and the abject horror of reality, which really made it memorable in my books.


Ugh, this list would not be complete without The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. It’s not often I ignore my TBR to reread a book right after I’ve finished it, but this baby had that draw – and I might have ugly-cried the entire second read. The sheer emotional impact Morris delivers is absolutely phenomenal, the language powerfully evocative, and the story so rooted in reality that I found it hard to draw a line between fact and fiction. I loved every minute of this book, even the uncomfortable bits, and haven’t yet passed an opportunity to recommend it to family and friends.


girl like that

Read it. No, seriously, read it. A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena is so damn good. This is the kind of book that denies categorization as YA or literary fiction, but it demands to be read because of it’s relevancy, willingness to tackle some rather horrible and universal issues, and because the writing is simply beautiful. Irreverent, poignant, and punchy where it matters I’m willing to bet A Girl Like That is going to have some serious staying power.


I read a lot of YA fantasy, an not much of it ends up with a review on the blog. But The Gilded Wolves by Rouhani Chokshi was the kind of amazing that has me wishing for a movie deal. The originality of the world building alone had me absolutely blown away, the diversity of the characters enraptured, and the uniqueness of the magic utterly bewitched. This book was so fun and fresh that I jumped out my seat with legitimate joy when it became clear that a sequel would be forthcoming. I just wish I knew more about said sequel… like, now!

Comics & Graphic Novels


Okay, so I know this baby could fall under historical fiction, but I decided it belongs with with the graphic medium rather than the subject matter. Dark, uncomfortable, and painfully real despite it’s abstraction through comics The Photographer of Mauthausen stuck with me for weeks after I turned the final page. Given how much of the story was told through photographs I don’t think that a traditional novel would have done this retelling any justice. Heartbreaking and poignant, I would definitely put this on a list titled “If you only ever read one graphic novel it has to be…”

YvainOkay, so I know that this baby was actually published in March of 2017, but I didn’t get around to reading it until this year. But M. T. Anderson’s retelling of this classic medieval tale, accompanied by Andrea Offermann’s exceptional illustrations absolutely stole my heart. Seeing Yvain: The Knight of the Lion retold in a way that is both entertaining and accessible to modern readers of all ages ticked all the right boxes for me. It made this list purely because I find myself directing students to it at least once a week, and because I can read it over and over again and get something new out of it each and every time. Whether you’re a fan of Arthurian legends, fast paced action, or a touch of magic this baby is damn versatile it hurts.


Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson is one of those books that I picked up on a whim and ended up sticking in the back if my mind in a recurring kind of way. There are a great many works out there to help middle grade readers navigate the complexities of friendship and fitting in, but this one stood out from the crow. I think the thing that I loved the most was that Invisible Emmie doesn’t have any real mean-girls to overcome, but that it focuses on self acceptance and discovery – that alone is worth it’s weight in gold!

Crime Fiction

9780749023621 hidden bones hb wb

Ugh. Ugh, ugh ugh! So much good. I mean, I barely have the words to describe how much I loved reading The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford. It had the perfect balance between crime, drama, and archaeology and I was legitimately angry when it ended because I wanted so much more! It’s been a long time since I found an archaeologist/ author that I loved as much as the O’Neil Gear’s, and I have no doubts that Ford will be a strong contender for my next fan-girl fascination.


My love of Carol Wyer’s work should be no secret by now so finding The Birthday on this list will be no surprise. Not only was it the perfect start to a new series, it was an absolutely outstanding novel! I adored Natalie Ward and her team and the crimes presented are dark and twisty in all the right ways, with just enough gore to keep you horrified but not so much as to make you pause or put the book away. This was, by far, my most favourite police procedural of the year – and I simply can’t wait for the next instalment to hit shelves.

Literary Fiction


This baby makes the list because I loved it despite my decided hatred of romance. Maybe it was the fashion, maybe it was the setting, maybe it was the exceptional cast of supporting characters, but The Secret Vow by Natalie Meg Evans won me over and had me gushing in no time at all. It was the perfect way to close out the year.

1000Last but not least, we have my very first read of 2018 – which was so powerful I haven’t stopped trying to push it on all of my Canadian family friends despite our inability to locate a regular supply in print. Woman at 1, 000 Degrees by Hallgrimur Helgason blew my socks off (pun fully intended) and opened my eyes to the world of Icelandic literature. Witty, blunt, and beyond captivating Helgason’s creation was the most memorable way I could have started the year.

So there we have it, my top reads of 2018!

Thank you all for being so wonderful and supportive, and I look forward to what 2019 has to offer.

See you in the new year!

– J

#Review: The Secret Vow by Natalie Meg Evans #HistoricalFiction #Romance @bookouture

Happy Holidays book lovers! Today I’m delighted to share my final review of 2018, The Secret Vow by Natalie Meg Evans. Firmly in the realm of chic lit and romance, I have most definitely strayed from my regular selections. But the cover and description were both too pretty to resist – and it turned out to be a damned good decision because The Secret Vow turned out to be an amazing read chalk full of history, fashion, and family drama to boot.

vowTitle: The Secret Vow

Author: Natalie Meg Evans

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication Date: December 11, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

Themes: Family, Survival, Coming of Age, First Love

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4.5/ 5


From Goodreads…

Katya – young, beautiful and impoverished – arrives in Paris, hoping to begin a new life. She leaves behind a terrible secret, and her survival in this strange and beautiful new city depends on nobody ever discovering who – and what – she is.

Immediately, Katya is swept up in the city’s glamour – particularly the boutiques on the main boulevard, where glittering gowns are hand-sewn for an exclusive clientele. Dare Katya dream that she may someday wear – or even design – one of these dazzling creations? It feels like an impossible wish, until she meets businessman Harry Morten.

Tall, handsome and well-connected, Harry could give Katya everything she wants and more… but at what price? And should she break the vow she’s made and trust him with her secret when her very survival could be at stake?

My Review

I’ve been sitting on writing this review for a few weeks now, mostly because I didn’t want my deeply ingrained resistance to romance to bias my words. But, as much as I hate a healthy dose of mush, the dynamic between Katya and Harry was so reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy that I couldn’t help but be drawn to it. A poor and striving young lady in want of an income, a rich and haughty young heir with a good heart, and both too proud and petulant to allow for their emotions to win out sooner. Now throw in a distant but overbearing mother, a brash and disrespectful younger sister, and a minor miscommunication regarding a betrothal and you know you’ve got a winning recipe.

Of course, that’s about as far as the Austen parallels go. The Secret Vow is set at the close of WWI and during the height of the Russian Revolution which adds a dash of fear, desperation and rationing that really heightens the drama. Add to that the immeasurable loss that the Vytenis family suffered as they fled, the impossible choices that haunt Katya as she strives to make a new life for her family in Paris, and the fact that the Vytenis’s have former friends looking to bring them down further at every turn.

While I appreciated the difficulties Katya encountered with her mother, the dynamic between Tatya and her older sister was perhaps the most fraught – with the elder taking on the weight of the family and the younger thinking of no one but herself. I went through the entire book wanting to smack Tatya for her impertinence, but I suppose that’s the mark of a well written character, as they get so far under your skin as to actually aggravate you! And really, what’s a good family drama without a character that you love to hate?

Katy too had moments where I wanted to bring her back down to reality, but I suppose when you’re a former princess adapting to relative poverty there’s sure to be some growing pains. And while I found her arrogant and insufferable at times, I appreciated the conviction with which she worked to protect and provide for her family. I appreciated how no job was too small for her to take, and how even when her upbringing predicated that she looked down on certain types of work, that Katya always saw needs and reason and quickly came to grips with reality.

What I loved the most though, was the shifting landscape of Paris fashion between the wars. I enjoyed the stark contrast between the highly structured Russian aristocratic culture, and the influence of Coco Chanel with looser shapes and the shedding of the corset. The descriptions of cuts, colours, and fabrics were truly sumptuous and honestly made me want to pull out my Gran’s photo albums. The fashion aspect worked too, with the romantic arc in the story, as Harry’s embedded status in the textiles world provided organic avenues through which his and Katya’s paths could frequently cross.

I adored the descriptions of atelier life, the process and the shows, and especially the life of a mannequin before these women were replaced with plastic objects. The behind the scenes glimpses into the cut-throat world of fashion houses bring a tread of reliability as both girls and fashion have proven in their steadfastness to remain nasty. Perhaps my only complaint about this setting is that the good Harry Morten is always there to save day, which means that Katya’s success is not truly self made, but rather indebted to his generosity. I can’t really complain though, as it is Harry’s role as the reluctant hero that makes the romantic elements of this story so appealing.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! It was, without question, one of my favourite reads of 2018. Full of fashion, hardship, and a coming of age The Secret Vow is a step back into worlds long forgotten and a truly enjoyable read.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.