Friday, 10 April 2015

Guest Book Review: Maria Murphy - For the Love of Martha

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Though separated by one hundred and twenty years, two strangers need each other. Their worlds collide in Carissima, a beautiful old house in County Monaghan, Ireland, when mysterious events begin to unfold. 

All Martha wanted was to be with Edward. As governess to the Pershaw family in England, in 1888, she never thought she would know a man like Dr. Edward Adams or experience such passionate love. And she would do all in her power to be with him. 

When photographer Juliet flies off for a holiday in Florence, she doesn't realise she will be sharing an apartment with a distractingly gorgeous stranger. Happily indulging in a little holiday romance with Logan Pershaw, before returning to her life in London, is just what she needs. She certainly has no intention of uprooting and following him back to an old house in Ireland where she has to fight for their love. 

There, Juliet comes to realise that the mysteries within Carissima can lead her to the fulfilment she craves - if she can just manage to bridge time and unlock them . . .

Amazon links: Kindle or Paperback

For the Love of Martha is the d├ębut novel from Maria Murphy and with such an attractive cover I was delighted when this arrived in the post. It's refreshing to see the publishers Poolbeg encompassing more historical fiction into their catalogue alongside the likes of Rosemary McLoughlin, Gemma Jackson and A O'Connor. For once a time slip novel was set in Ireland although it was mostly the last quarter of the book. In the beginning each chapter alternated between 1888 and 2010 and then the further we progressed several chapters at a time were dedicated to each era. It would have become confusing only for the dates were clearly marked at the beginning of each chapter. This book was very slow to get going with a lot of repetition and at one point I did feel like giving up but I kept going. Some of the talk in 1888 was a bit too modern and unrealistic. Would someone have really said 'My emotions went berserk inside me'? The ending did get better even if you did have to suspend your disbelief at spirits etc. Overall this was a promising first effort from Maria Murphy, she should stick to this genre but maybe forget the time slip element for the moment and just base a book specifically on the past. The story is essentially the same except the two women Martha and Juliet are separated by over 120 years. They both meet men and fall in love with them very quickly. Too quickly it seemed to me but I had to put that aside.

Martha is governess to her cousin Helena's child Beatrice who is three. Left alone in the world after the death of her father she had no one to turn to and is now forever grateful to Helena and her husband James Pershaw. When Beatrice falls ill the new doctor Edward Adams is called and as soon as Martha and Edward lock eyes they are forever entwined. Their love must remain a secret as Edward has no money to marry Martha just yet. On the other hand Martha longs for marriage but she feels her duty and obligations lie with Helena and her family. When Martha discovers James is building the magnificent Carissima house in County Monaghan in Ireland, she is torn in two. Should she go with the family and keep her relationship a secret or come out in the open and express her love for Edward? I didn't feel the overwhelming passion Edward and Martha had for each other as it all appeared all too cloak and dagger. In my opinion Martha needed a good shake, on the one hand her loyalty to Beatrice and Helena could be admired but then on the other she is a grown woman and if she felt that strongly about Edward just go ahead and marry him whether he has money or not. The whole situation was frustrating to read. I'm sure if Helena knew how Martha felt she would have done her best by her cousin.

In 2010 we have wildlife photographer Juliet sent to housesit in Florence where she meets Logan Pershaw (a distant relative of Helena's). Just like the couple many years before them the minute they clap eyes on each other a spark is ignited. We spent what seemed endless chapters reading of Juliet’s time visiting the sights of Florence before she returns home to London. She wonders whether she can sustain a relationship with Logan especially as he trying to re-establish the orchards of Carissima and keep the farm going. Only when Juliet visits Ireland does the story in anyway come together as Juliet discovers the history of Logan's family and attempts to put things to rest to better her future with Logan. Carissima appears to be haunted by whom or for what reason she must discover. At this point I thought come on! I am not a fan of books that have spirits and such, I need something more concrete and factual but I kept going hoping there would be a satisfactory resolution on all sides. So much happened in the last quarter of the book that I wish it had been like that throughout, don't spend so long setting everything up (which became tedious) instead keep the action coming that's what helps move the story along.

I really wanted to love this as historical fiction is my favourite genre but there was something lacking here and it didn't quite hit the mark for me. I wanted the connection between the past and the present to be established far earlier not waiting until Juliet finally arrives in Carissima for some action to eventually take place. Too much time spent describing brief secret meetings between Martha and Edward did nothing to further the book along. The fire scene in the middle of the book was pointless, if the author wanted us to know how much Martha cared for Edward this was not the way to do it. We already knew from the endless glances she gave him and her constant longing for him. Some more structure was needed in certain parts with regard to the writing as some of the sentences seemed basic and better description could have been used to evoke the sights and sounds of Florence and also Martha's time in England.

Maria Murphy has great potential and despite not loving this book, I didn't hate it either. The time slip element was not done as well as in plenty of other books I have read. Concentrating more on Martha would have been better. That said it was easy enough to read, I'm glad I kept going just to see how the loose ends were tied up. I wait with interest to see if Maria Murphy can further develop the talents she undoubtedly has in book two.

Many thanks to Poolbeg for sending me a copy of this to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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