Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Secure the Shadow by Marion Grace Woolley + #Giveaway + #Excerpt

Secure the Shadow by Marion Grace Woolley
Self published on the 23rd June 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Rachel's Random Resources

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1824, a young man buttons up his redcoat and goes to war. Amidst the blood and devastation, he discovers a magical power which can save memory from the ravages of time.

1867 and a woman, living above a watch shop, meets two men who will change her life forever. As she ventures further into a world of séance and mysticism, she must decide whether to trust her own eyes.

In the present day, a rebellious artist finds herself photographing stillbirths for a living. At Little Angels, it’s not about what you can take from a picture, but what you can give.

The story of three lives, spanning the history of photography and our relationship with mortality.

Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades.

1860s Bristol, and Arabella Meaden is fascinated by photography. She arrives home after visiting a friend and goes to see Archie, a young man who runs a photography shop on Wine Street.

When the train pulled into Temple Meads, Bella went to her lodgings only long enough to drop off her bags, then she raced back down the stairs and along the street to Woodbead’s. 

“Archie,” she called, half tripping over the step. She arrived at the counter in more of a fluster than intended, biting back her words as she realised he was serving a customer. “I do beg your pardon,” she said.

“Not at all,” the man replied, turning to smile at her.

For a moment, she simply stared back, until he frowned and she closed her mouth. She was certain she had seen him before, but it didn’t come at once. 

As she watched them speaking, it eventually surfaced. A flower seller with a tray above her bosom, a young boy, a rose lying in the mud, and a man in burgundy with a smart bowler hat.

“I do beg your pardon,” she said again.

“It is still perfectly all right,” he replied, his moustache twitching at the edge of his lip.

“Are you OK, Bella?” Archie asked, from the other side of the counter.

“Yes, sorry,” she said, shaking her head as though she had done something silly. “I’ve just returned from Somerset. The journey has rather caught up with me, I’m afraid.”

The man with the moustache turned back to Archie, handed over a sovereign and waited for his change. Bella watched, deflated, as he took his paper bag from the counter and turned to leave. She was startled when he turned back, pivoting on patent-leather points.

“Reuben Leyland. It was a great pleasure to meet you, Miss—”

“Meaden,” she managed, as he took her gloved hand to his lips.

She stared after him as the bell above the door faded to silence.

It was later that week that Arabella realised she and Archie were going steady. They’d taken the omnibus to Bath Spa. It was Archie’s day off and he’d been promising to take her for weeks. 
They took a leisurely stroll through the Corridor Arcade, admiring all those windows sparkling beneath glass-rooved walkways, a string quartet playing from the balustrade. They took tea in a little shop on Pulteney Bridge, listening to the river wend its merry way back to Bristol. They stopped to admire buildings formed of beautiful Bath Stone, golden in the afternoon light, as though carved from honeycomb. They took a tour of the ancient Roman bath, its moss-green waters curling up from deep below the earth, dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva.

Finally, as the winter afternoon turned dark, they made their way to the abbey. For over a thousand years that towering, Gothic palace had stood watch over the town. During the Reformation, the abbey had been stripped of its jewels and lead, and even its roof. Its rotting carcass left to the elements. Restored under Elizabeth I, it attracted people from miles around who came to listen to evensong. As they approached along the river, the bells began to peal. Ten metal tongues calling out in prayer.

My Review

I'd grown just a tad weary of dual timeline novels recently so I am especially pleased that Velulu Khesoh's gorgeous cover art tempted me to look past that aspect of Secure The Shadow. I'd have missed a real treat otherwise. Marion Grace Woolley's wonderful novel has completely restored my faith in the genre!

Secure The Shadow explores ideas around memory and loss with the history of photography providing a strong link between the three central characters. I loved Woolley's historical evocation of Bristol, a city I know fairly well today. She has a genuine talent for depicting atmosphere and emotion, frequently allowing the two to play off each other which adds real depth to scenes and conversations. While the redcoat, Alfred, is essentially the beginning of this story, it was the two women, Victorian Arabella and present day Cody, who particularly caught my imagination. Both are determined to pursue their artistic dreams, but are held back in various ways. I loved understanding their differences - obviously Arabella's independence would seem to be more strictly curtailed than Cody's - and also seeing them struggle against similar situations of lost family and isolation. They make as many bad choices as good ones, but I always completely believed in their motivations.

I think for me the most memorable aspects of Secure The Shadow is the ideas Woolley puts forward around the veracity of memory and how what we believe can be turned on its head by gaining a more information and a wider view. Even the supposed clarity of the newfangled photography has its limitations so its images might not be as trustworthy as we would like to believe. The Little Angels photography service is an interesting paradox and I thought Woolley handled the stillbirths storyline very sensitively. Cody creates memories of families that have already been lost, yet this action allows them to be remembered. The Victorian fashion of postmortem photography has been twisted into something rather dark and gothic these days, but the idea at its heart is beautiful and beautifully depicted throughout Secure The Shadow.

Meet the author 

Marion Grace Woolley is known for dark historical fiction including Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran and The Children of Lir. She balances writing with her work in international development and her hobby as a piano tuner. Marion currently lives in Rwanda.

Author links: 
Website ~ BlogTwitterFacebook ~ Instagram

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win 3 x Paperback copies of Secure The Shadow by Marion Grace Woolley.
Open Internationally until the 26th August.

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome – so long as Amazon delivers to your country. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a lovely review. Really glad you liked it.

    - Marion