Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase


Obviously a book cover can have me at ‘hello’ but does anyone else get seduced by the title of a novel? I think the name Black Rabbit Hall promises so much intrigue, so much magic. This was a book I wasn’t willing to wait until it came out in paperback for. I bought it hot off the hardback press, just in time to sit by my mums swimming pool in France and devour, along with copious glasses of kir royale.

Amber Alton is about to pass a¬†summer in Cornwall at Black Rabbit Hall,¬†her London family’s country estate where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, one stormy evening in 1968, it does. The idyllic world of the four Alton children is shattered. Fiercely bonded by the tragic events, they grow up fast. But when a glamorous stranger arrives, these loyalties are tested. Forbidden passions simmer. And another catastrophe looms…Decades later, Lorna and her fiance wind their way through the countryside searching for a wedding venue. Lorna is drawn to a beautiful crumbling old house she hazily remembers from her childhood, feels a bond she does not understand. When she finds a disturbing message carved into an old oak tree by one of the Alton children, she begins to realise that Black Rabbit Hall’s secret history is as dark and tangled as its woods, and that, much like her own past, it must be brought into the light. A thrilling spiral into the hearts of two women separated by decades but inescapably linked by Black Rabbit Hall. A story of forgotten childhood and broken dreams, secrets and heartache, and the strength of a family’s love.

Black Rabbit Hall is a gothic, romantic tale told from the two¬†perspectives of present day Lorna and 1960s Amber, seamlessly moving between the two eras.¬†It’s¬†so atmospheric, full of beautiful descriptions of the old house and it’s glorious surroundings. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!




The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox


I had never read a Maggie O’Farrell book before. I had heard fantastic reviews of her earlier books, The Distance Between Us and After You’d Gone, but I tend to avoid a book that makes me cry! The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox intrigued me when I picked it up from a local cafe’s book swap section. I took it home and immediately started to read.

In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend‚Äôs attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital‚ÄĒwhere she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.

This is such a beautifully written and haunting novel, full of family secrets and unexpected developments. Maggie O’Farrell writes exquisitely, drawing you into the narratives of both modern day Iris and 1930s Esme. Her characters are so wonderfully written, it’s hard not to fall in love with Esme. And to be devastated at¬†the life she had stolen from her.

Another of my favourites. It left me reeling long after I’d finished it, one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read and I¬†now wait with great anticipation of her next novel.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill


My obsession with The Stepford Wives often leads me to some pretty dark, dystopian stories, and this book is as dark as they come. I saw someone I follow on Instagram reading it  and I liked the look of the cover. So I sought out some reviews and decided it was right up my street.

Only Ever yours is¬†a young adult book, which I often¬†read because I find the subject matter of YA books really hook me. And they can be read relatively quickly if I’m looking for something to read on the train. This book may be a fast read, but the subject matter is by no means easy.

Only Ever Yours takes place in a future where girls are no longer born naturally¬†due to their flaws. Females are manufactured, and to the specifications of the men who they will serve. Eves, as the young girls are known, live separately to the rest of society and are schooled in how to attract and please men, right up until they are 16 when they are chosen to have one of three fates: Concubine, Companions¬†or Chastities. To become a Companion is¬†the biggest prize, chosen by one of the young men who come to ‘audition’ them¬†to be the perfect model of wife and mother to as many male heirs as she can produce. A Concubine is a prostitute who will work in one of the many brothels in the city. To be a Chastity is the worst prospect, she will stay at the¬†school and teach¬†younger Eves for the rest of her life, never to be allowed to leave.

We see life through the eyes of Frieda, who, along with her best friend Isabel, is a high ranking Eve. But when Isabel commits the worst possible sin, putting on weight, Frieda has to decide whether to protect her friend and stay loyal, or to focus all her efforts on her path to becoming a Companion. Things start well for Frieda, but soon her life goes horribly downhill, spiralling out of control. Then she faces the worst fate imaginable.

I read this book in a bit of a frenzy, hoping desperately that with each page things would get better for Frieda. It’s a long time since a book has made me feel so angry and despairing. Author Louise O’Neill uses clever devices like the lack of capitalising the girls names and using punctuation to underline the inconsequence of the female characters which make you feel utterly immersed in the girls’ plight.

Brilliant and devastating all at once. A quick read but by no means an easy or unchallenging one. I highly recommend.



A Bookish Tour of Lacock: Harry Potter


I need to confess something. I was one of those people who sneered at adults reading ‘those children’s books’ before¬†I saw the first Harry Potter film. I went into the film sneering and I came out of the film frantically back peddling, and trying to factor in a trip to the book shop so I could buy The Chamber of Secrets¬†on the way home from the cinema. ¬†From then on I obsessively read every book as soon as they were published. In fact we even had to make an elaborate¬†detour to¬†visit Exeter Waterstones during our first family holiday with our new son to buy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 16th, 2005 to be precise).

We discovered the beautiful National Trust owned village of Lacock when we moved nearby to Bradford on Avon 10 years ago and it fast became one of our favourite days out.

On out first visit to the Cloisters of Lacock Abbey we saw a sign propped up, proudly declaring that some scenes from the Harry Potter films had been shot in that very location. As soon as I got home I searched the internet for more information and discovered that several scenes from The Philosopher’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets and The Half-Blood Prince had been shot all over the village.

One grey day in October the children and I (with my husband rolling his eyes in the background) combed through those films and freeze-framed the scenes that we thought looked likely to have been shot at Lacock. A bit more internet searching showed us exactly where to hunt and we planned a Halloween trip to see the locations in real life.


I thought there might be some likeminded Harry Potter fans who might like to share our excitement, so I’ve produced a map a tour of the village so you too can follow in Harry’s (and Dumbeldore’s, Snape’s, Slughorn’s, Ron’s, Hermione’s…) footsteps.

A Harry Potter Tour of Lacock

If it’s a nice day, pack a picnic. If it’s not, pack a picnic anyway if you don’t mind getting wet, or eat at the tearooms or one of the pubs, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

When you arrive on the outskirts of Lacock, follow the signs to the National Trust car park and park there (small charge for the day, or free if you’re a member of the NT).

Follow the signs to the village, cross a road and walk through a small wooded area, you’ll come out onto a pavement on the other side of the road from the Abbey entrance.


At the entrance to Lacock Abbey and Cloisters you can decide if you want to just explore the grounds and cloisters which also includes the Fox Talbot museum (that’s what we do!) or go into the house as well.

Interior scenes from The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets were filmed in the Cloisters and the rooms off it, you’ll probably recognise it if you’ve watched the films 12,000 times like we have.


Small child, massive cauldron.



The Warming Room, which houses a real 16th century cauldron, was used as Professor Quirrel’s Defence against the Dark Arts classroom in The Philosopher’s Stone.

The Chapter House was where Harry comes across the Mirror of Erised in The Philosopher’s Stone. It was also a classroom in The Chamber of Secrets where Harry speaks Parseltongue.

The Sacristy was Professor Snape’s Potions classroom in The Philosopher’s Stone.

The Cloisters walk is where Harry confronts Lucius Malfoy and tricks him into freeing Dobby in The Chamber of Secrets. And again it’s used for when Harry hears the basilisk’s voice after leaving Lockhart’s detention in the same film.


Once you’ve finished in the cloisters, go out and explore the grounds. There are lots of interesting little nooks and crannies to discover.

Leaving the abbey, turn right and then right again onto East Street. You can pop into the 14th century Tythe Barn and sometimes there is a craft market just beyond here on your right. At the end of East Street take a right onto Church Street, past the church and at the end of the road you’ll see The Potter’s house¬† (in Godrick’s Hollow) which appears in flashback in The Philosopher’s Stone when Harry’s parents were killed by Voldemort in their attempts to keep Harry safe.


Do remember people live in the houses in Lacock so please keep a respectful distance and try to avoid peering through windows!

Retrace your steps back along Church street. Lacock Bakery is on the right hand side sells cakes and refreshments. We also like to buy a Harry Potter inspired chocolate frog from there to keep us going.


At the end of Church Street turn right up Cantax Hill. Here you will find the beautiful red brick Muggle house which is where Horace Slughorn hid from Death Eaters in The Half Blood Prince in the village of Budleigh Babberton. He was discovered by Dumbledore and Harry cleverly concealed as an armchair.


Leaving the house, walk back along Cantax Hill and keep going back to the junction with Church Street. Here is where Babberton Square was located, where Dumbledore and Harry aperate at the beginning of The Half-Blood Prince. A large stone cross was built and placed in the middle of the road for the filming.

Further along West Street you’ll come to The George Inn where you can stop for a coffee.

Keep walking a little further and turn right, there are a few shops set back, one of which is Barty’s of Lacock. Part of Wiltshire Scrap Store,¬†it¬†is an absolute treasure trove of crafty stuff. You can buy the materials to make your own wand, or cat or frog decorations.

You’re now at the end of our Harry Potter tour and you’re probably ready for that picnic, or lunch in a cafe. Head left down High Street, past the school and you’ll see Lacock Stores & Post Office on your right where you can buy drinks and snacks. If you turn right at The Red Lion you can eat a slap-up meal there or opposite is the Stable Tearoom, where you can buy sandwiches, soup, cakes and coffee as well as ice-creams.

The picnic area is the next right on the way back to the car park. There’s a lovely little play area there too for little ones who still need to run off some energy.

The tour will probably take 1.5 – 2 hours if you take in lunch and a good explore of Lacock Abbey and grounds too.

As a side note, if Lacock looks even more familiar, it has been used as a¬†filming location for many other productions,¬†including: the 1995 adaption of Pride and Prejudice, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Other Boleyn Girl, Cranford, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Emma.

Hope you have a magical time!

The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard


If you haven’t read any of the Cazalet Chronicles then I suggest you remedy that right now. Here’s a link to Waterstones where you can buy all five books. What are you waiting for? Go!

I was given a set of Elizabeths Jane Howard’s five wonderful books¬†by my mum for my 40th birthday. I had never heard of them before. But when I opened up the first in the series, The Light years, I was¬†introduced to a world of enchanted childhoods and old fashioned, endless summers and I was hooked immediately. My only problem was trying not to read all of them at once.

The Light Years¬†begins in 1937 at the family estate, Home Place, in the heart of the Sussex countryside. Three generations of the Cazalet family are home for a summer of lavish meals, picnics on the beach and long, lazy sunny days. But things aren’t always¬†so idealistic, there is a grittiness to this book which undercuts the occasional cosiness

Along with their extended family, their children and their servants, a fascinating drama of love affairs, sibling relationships and rivalries begins, against the backdrop of impending war and devastating loss, and stretches across five novels.

The books are told cleverly through the¬†narrative point of view of¬†over a dozen characters, so that the stories are brought to us in relatively short bursts. However if you think all those characters sharing the storyline would be complicated or confusing you’d be wrong, Howard’s characterisation and clear story telling means that we know exactly who is who and what part of the story is developing. She’s an incredibly clever and confident story teller.

If you are fascinated by social history and the intricacies of familial relationships, there is nothing you won’t love about these books. And the great thing is if you devour The Light Years in a few days, like I did, you have another four books to read.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware


I am a sucker for a book that looks as if it might be perfect to cosy up with under a blanket by the fire to read. And if it promises a thrilling mystery tinged with a large does of fear, then all the better. So when I saw the cover of In a Dark, Dark Wood I absolutely had to read it.

Six people gather in a large, modern house in the middle of the woods for an old friend’s hen weekend. ¬†Novelist Nora, the main protagonist, hasn’t seen bride-to-be Clare for years, and it seems there is some long-held animosity between them. Clare’s friend Flo appears to be totally obsessed with her, and slightly unhinged. There is much forced-fun and drinking, and plenty of tense moments between the six invitees.

As the narrative raced¬†along, I got sucked into the plot, with¬†a keen-ness¬†to discover the secret between¬†Nora and Clare. Then the story¬†started to divide between the telling of events in the house, and from Nora’s hospital bed where she has obviously sustained injury but struggles to remember what happened.

In the Dark, Dark Wood has all the makings of a classic, closed-house murder mystery: the house remote and shut off from the outside world, and the characters with their hidden secrets. The relationships in the house slowly unravelling, and the unreliable narrator, Nora, with her injuries causing amnesia. Everyone is under suspicion at one point or another.

My two negatives are: I found Nora intensely irritating, with her inability to ask questions or realise what was going on. I didn’t ever understand her motivation for going along to the hen weekend of someone she hadn’t spoken to for ten years.¬†¬†I also felt that it lacked proper creepiness. The ingredients were there,¬†the large glass-walled house which looks out onto the dark, snow-lit wood, an opportunity for voyeurism at it’s best, but it just fell a little short.

I would recommend this as a quick, easy read for holidays. It has one heck of a pace and engages you immediately.

Hello and Welcome to Tea and Tales

Hello! Pull up a chair and pour yourself a cup of tea.

My name is Natasha and I am a self proclaimed junkie. Of books. The ‘to-be-read’ pile by my bed is threatening to burst through the ceiling into the¬†living room¬†below. I deliberately get an early train to work so I can sit in a cafe by the station and read with a coffee for 20 minutes before I start work.

I am a mum of two and a television editor. I have found myself editing several¬†documentaries recently¬†about¬†literature, including Being the Bronte’s for BBC2, A Very British Romance and A Very British Murder both with Lucy Worsley, and I have just finished Andrew Marr’s Paperback Rules on crime fiction.¬†This has only strengthened my bookworm tendencies.

I’m not particularly intellectual about the books I choose, but I do like them to be well-written and carefully edited. Not over-long or full of errors. I¬†can happily read a throw-away suspense novel one¬†week¬†and a classic of English literature the next.

Here is where I am going to keep a diary of sorts of all the books that I read and share my favourites¬†and not-so favourites with you. I do hope you’ll come back from time to time to see what I’ve been reading.IMG_2707