Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Titanic Tragedy with Melanie Dent; and Cheryl Shireman's Dreams on the lake

In this blog, as regular readers know, I write, turn and turn about, about authors I've known and loved for years; and about my new discoveries. This time round it's the turn of the new writers. Meeting as I do (on the internet) a good many writers, I'm privileged to come across a great many fascinating books. This time I want to draw your attention to two whom I've found very recently, and who, in fact, are very different from each other; Cheryl Shireman who writes the Grace Adams series, Life is But a Dream, and Melanie Dent, who writes the Lynchcliffe series featuring Lewis Franklin. 

First, Cheryl Shireman, and in particular her book Life is But a Dream: On the Lake.
The word which stays with me when I think about this book is ‘powerful.’
Right from the first page, when Cheryl Shireman takes us into Grace’s thoughts, dreams, and dream-memories, she grips. Using a poetic, literary style, she plunges us right into Grace’s psyche, just in the same way that Grace plunges into the swimming pool. And throughout the book she takes time to bring us into the head and soul of each of her major characters as we meet them – Nick, Tony, Bert, Paul.

It’s Cheryl Shireman’s amazing way with words more than anything else that makes her people so alive.  The reader knows so many deep things about each of them in such a short time after she meets them:
the child Grace’s thoughts as she moves slowly nearer and nearer to the pool, unobserved by her mother: ‘She does not see. She does not. See me. See. Me.’;
Nick’s pain as her mother fails to return. ‘When he found her she would ask him, “Quanto tempo ti amo?” And he would pull out the picture and say, “Ti amero sempre.”’ Words repeated with immense emotional effect towards the end of the book;
Grace’s experiences with God, and her feelings; 
and Paul and his child, and his final experience… ‘a little girl was waiting. A beautiful little brown-eyed girl named Julie whose arms stretched toward her Daddy. And Paul had smiled.’

It is these moments and many more like them which make this book so special.

For the first few chapters, I thought I was reading a gentle, moving, literary romance with great characters, a story which focused mainly on the people, their backgrounds, and their interaction.  Halfway through, I woke up and realized that this book is also a thriller full of action, excitement and a terrific climax which seizes us and hurls us along breathlessly. And yet the focus on the characters is basic to the book, too. It’s because Cheryl Shireman has taken the time to build her characters and to allow us to feel for them that the impact of the action is so strong. As Grace rows across the lake our hearts are in our mouths with her. And the dreadful discovery in the cabin closet hits us as surely as it does her, as a further horror almost beyond believing and yet something which has really happened.

The ending is beautifully handled. We really want Grace to be happy. There have been so many possibilities for her, all of them abortive. The final resolution is everything we want for her; and yet it does not seem contrived, or only there to tie up the story nicely. Instead, it seems inevitable, something which couldn’t have worked out in any other way.

The murder plot is deft and agile. There are a satisfactory number of suspects, and enough twists and turns to keep us guessing, but the final solution arises straightforwardly from what we already know about the characters. And when Grace, at the last, turns away from approaching rescue and goes back into the cabin, the little scene, and the repetition of the words ‘Ti amero sempre’ is immensely moving. It is so right that Grace should go back in.

The spiritual element of this book is one other thing, and one of great importance, which makes it different and powerful. Introduced through Irene and Harold, God takes His place as a major character in the story from then on. Grace says at one point that she finds the whole idea of God too confusing. But as things begin to happen, she turns more and more to prayer as a natural response to the need for help, both for herself and for others. The beautiful picture of the sunset and her delight in it is a key point in Grace’s development.

The sun slowly slides from the sky, from another day in my life. It meets the water with a languid and silent splash, pulling a riotous mane of color behind. A wild shock of orange and pink is tangled amid tousled blue and purple tresses. Such beauty is overwhelming. Suddenly, it does not matter that I am divorced. It does not matter that Laney is not with me. At that second, that glorious second, all is right with the world.’

And later she and Tony sit quietly watching the wild geese and feeling at peace.

Like me, you will probably find that this book is not what you expected. But you will find it striking, moving, exciting, powerful and very, very readable. Don’t miss out!

You can buy it at these links.
And if you're very quick, it's on free offer today, 28 March.
The second book in Cheryl's series Life is But a Dream: In the Mountains can be bought here:

This is the hundredth year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, April 1912, a big deal for my native city Belfast where the ship was built and launched, so it's particularly appropriate that I should be writing about Melanie Dent's books at this time. Melanie has now written four books in her Lynchcliffe Series. So far I've read two of them, but that's enough to make me want to read the rest. The
 books are set in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the sinking of the Titanic plays a major role in both the books I've read, The Lynchcliffe Cuckoo and Eye of the Storm. In the first book, Lewis Franklin, Dent's brave, upright working class hero, loses his dear nephew and meets the love of his life, and both these things happen because of this tragedy. Set before the first world war with the sinking of the Titanic as a focal plot point, the story moves quickly and grippingly through the socially unacceptable relationship between the 'lady' Margaret Trevelyan and the chauffeur, Lewis Franklin. Starting with the death of Margaret's mother and her adoption by Lord and Lady Trevelyan, the plot takes us by way of Margaret's first meeting with Franklin through the murder of her adopted uncle to the very satisfying ending. The characters are real and likeable where they are meant to be, and the plot is gripping enough to keep any reader turning the pages. Lewis Franklin is a hero whom most women will love, with his Yorkshire accent, his strong and attractive appearance, and his kind, gentle nature. The period setting is a major plus point. It's natural to think of  Downton Abbey. Fans of this very popular series will enjoy The Lynchcliffe Cuckoo, with its full cast of intertwined characters, its setting in a great house, and its timing in the 1912 era. The Eye of the Storm takes us back to Lewis Franklin's earlier life, climaxing in his meeting with Margaret.

 These books are full of action and atmospheric episodes such as Sarah's attempt to support the suffragettes; but above all they are love stories, full of romance (which, by the way, Dent handles with adult detail. These books are not intended for children.)

 Since The Eye of the Storm is a prequel, most readers will approach it already knowing how things work out for Lewis Franklin. And that's just as well, for Lewis goes through some very bad times, including a beating up by an early 'protection gang.' There are some beautiful descriptive passages, such as, 'death had accentuated her frailty,' said of Lewis's little sister at her funeral at the beginning of The Eye of the Storm.

Unlike Cheryl Shireman's heroine, Melanie Dent's hero rages at God for the things which happen to him. As a believer myself (something which everyone who's read anything I've written must know), I find this difference fascinating. It will be interesting to see if Lewis works his way through this problem as the books continue.
And as it happens two of the books, Divided Loyalties: Lady Lynchcliffe's Story and The Enemy Within are on free offer this weekend (31 March and 1 April) so here are three free books you heard about here – how's that for service?

And of course my own book, Danger Danger is also free today, 28 March. Second time around. The first was amazingly successful. I'll be interested for future reference to see if a second go works or not.  This is a complete learning curve for most of us! 

 And as I write (type) Belfast Girls is heading at top speed for the 100 bestsellers ranking on AmazonUK – hard to believe! Currently #147 – interesting to see if it moves on up or not. No promos here, just a year and a bit of being around.
Buy my books ( ah, go on, go on!) here; ebook/dp/B006WVI37S

And don't forget Old Seamus!

See you soon!


  1. Thanks for these great reviews. I'm looking forward to reading them both. Already have Cheryl's book on my Kindle.

  2. Thanks, Anne – hope you enjoy the books. I know you'll enjoy Cheryl's!

  3. Hi Gerry! Great reviews there! I'm a friend of Cheryl's and already a fan of her books. I thought I'd ask though, do you accept submissions for books to review? Or do you just review what you discover yourself in the natural order of things? I only ask because (predictably!) I have a book, a travel comedy called 'That Bear Ate My Pants!', which I'm actively seeking reviewers for.
    Thanks so much!

  4. Great reviews. I've read all four of Melanie's books and have found them to be very enjoyable. I'll have to check out Cheryl's book as well. Thanks for bringing both these books to our attention.

  5. Tony, thanks for your kind comments. Any friend of Cheryl is a friend of mine.
    I don't normally ask for or deal in books sent to me for review. I want to enjoy myself here, only writing about books and authors whom I really like. And with no pressure to keep promises made to review something!
    Having said that, if you like to send me 'That Bear ate my pants' I'd be glad to read it, and if I like it I'll write about it sometime. No promises, but the title is great, so if the book lives up to it ...
    Send an email attachment to
    Or if you know how to send it to a Kindle, I have a Kindle app.
    All the best!

    1. Hi Gerry! Thank-you!! I'm a no pressure kind of guy, so I'm a big fan of this philosophy. Tell you what, I'll email it over and you can read it if and when, or not at all in fact. I'll just say, feel free to let me know what you think - and leave it at that :0)
      I'll attach to an email, but can send it to your app if you want - just reply to my email with your app address (don't want to post it live on the 'net! I shudder at the thought...)
      Oh, you know what though - there is swearing in it, just to warn you! Usually around the point I get bitten by something...

    2. Tony, I'm not sure what my app address is, so email attachment would be great. Easier to read, too, in my opinion, than the Kindle app – though not easier than an actual Kindle, I suppose! Looking forward to reading about this bear.

  6. Tricia, thanks so much for your kind comments. I'm haven't readMelanie's other two books yet, but I'm looking forward to getting them.( Have you thought of joining this blog, by the way?)

  7. Thank you so much for this beautifully written review, Gerry. I don't read many reviews, but this one brought tears to my eyes. It was as if you read my mind - as if you knew exactly what I was trying to accomplish with this novel. I may have to print it out and hang it on my wall above my desk!

  8. Hi Gerry.

    Thank you for the beautiful reviews. It's always nice when people show their appreciation of my work; it reminds me why I do it.

    Cheryl I wish you the very best with your own writing too.

  9. Mel, thanks so much for your comment. It's lovely to know you liked the post.

  10. Cheryl, I'm amazed and humbled by your reaction. I only wrote what the book deserved. Thanks so much for what you've said.

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