Review for The Tale of Briar Bank

The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Historical fiction, Mystery, Fantasy

Series – 5th book in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Rating – PG – Peril and mild violence

Synopsis –

Beatrix Potter has returned to her house at Hill Top farm. She is looking forward to spending some time in the country. Yet, when she arrives, the town is in an uproar. Mr. Wickstead has met an untimely death by the form of a tree. The villagers believe it is a curse, while Constable Braithwaite is not so sure. He has noticed some unusual marking on the tree. One of the witnesses to the event is a badger named Bailey, but of course he has no way of telling the humans what exactly he saw. Will Miss Potter be able to get to the bottom of this mystery before it is too late?

My Thoughts –

I have so enjoyed this series!! And this book is one of the better ones. The previous book, The Tale of Hawthorn House, was bit odd and disjointed. The Tale of Briar Bank flowed much better and the animals were much more likeable. There was Norse theme throughout which I liked. I have always enjoyed Norse history/mythology. One of the animals we are introduced to is a dragon named Thorvaald. He was so sweet and odd. It was hard not to like him.

Another new element is Miss Potter and Mr. Heelis’s blossoming friendship. Many years before Miss Potter’s fiance had died quiet suddenly and ever since she has been grieving her loss. So it was wonderful to see her start to move on after four books. đŸ™‚

The villagers are so quirky and odd. You have the usual gossip that spreads like wildfire and villagers falsely believing characters are a couple. They complement their town so well. The author does a wonderful job bringing this English countryside to life. You can picture the lakes and hills in your head. It reminds me a bit of the characters in the BBC show Doc Marin.

The author also breaks the third person wall and speaks right to the reader. She does this frequently throughout the book which I enjoyed. It made it seem like we were co-conspirators invading the town. đŸ˜‰ Albert would tell the reader that, “So you and I shall not stand idly by and wait whilst Will examines the photographs and eats his lunch. Instead we shall take ourselves up to The Brockery. . .” (Albert, p. 144). I think this is a great way to connect to readers, especially when done the right way.

Albert, Susan Wittig. The Tale of Briar Bank. Berkley Publishing Group, New York. 2008.

Language – None

Violence – A character is killed by the top of a tree. A dragon tries to hurt a badger by its fire. Badger gets singed arm.

Innuendo – The villagers believe that 2 characters are a couple and possibly engaged. (all false). Two different characters begin to develop a romantic relationship. Very mild.

Conclusion –

This was a lovely addition to the series. It was delightful to be able to visit the small town of Near Sawrey again. I highly recommend this series as it is something the whole family could enjoy. The author does a great job of keeping them pretty clean which is wonderful. Plus you get to learn some of the history surrounding Beatrix Potter.

Have you read any book in this series? What are you currently reading? Cannot wait to hear from you all!!

Review of The Tale of Hawthorn House

The Tale of Hawthorn House by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Mystery, Historical fiction, Adult

Series – 4th in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Rating – PG – for mild language and drama

Synopsis –

During a summer festival, baby Flora suddenly appears on Miss Potter’s doorstep. The villagers begin a search for the Flora’s parents, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Jemima Puddle-duck tries her hand at motherhood. Will Miss Potter be able to get down to the bottom of the mystery?

My thoughts –

Compared to the first three books, this one felt a little repetitive. There was a lot of recapping what had happened in previous books. From the start of the book, you have a pretty good idea where its headed. Not really any surprises.

Now, its not all bad. There is still some magic to the quaint village of Sawrey. I enjoyed the bit about the town’s meddling in personal affairs and chuckled at how the inhabitants had decided on who Miss Potter would marry.

Now I did struggle with the whole Thorn Folk. In The Tale of Holly How, the fairies felt real and not pushed on you. While here, I feel forced to believe that these Thorn Folk exist. Maybe it was the way the author used them, but I did not care for it.

To me the whole animal side-plot works for me. I enjoy hearing the animals talk among themselves about the big folk. I enjoy hearing about their adventures. Although Jemima could be annoying at times. I struggled to believe that she would run off with a fox. It connects the stories Beatrix Potter wrote to this series.

Violence – None

Innuendo – At the beginning, it is insinuated that a character had a baby out of wedlock, but that turns out not to be the case.

Language – A few mild curse words, maybe 4 at the most.

Conclusion –

I appreciate having a series of books that are clean and aren’t filled with a bunch of superfluous content. Although, this addition to the series wasn’t up to par as the previous books were, it still had that small town charm. I’m hoping the rest of the series will improve.

Review for The Tale of Hill Top Farm

The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert

Genre – Cozy British Mystery

Age Range – Anyone

Series – 1st book in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter

Synopsis –

The story starts with a death in the small community of Sawrey. This causes a crisis for the villagers as the woman who died was going to host the newcomer, Ms. Potter, to the village. Ms. Potter has just bought the land of Hill Top Farm, and she is hoping to get some inspiration for her books. As the villagers try to figure out where to put Ms. Potter, things start disappearing from several local establishments. Ms. Potter must eventually decide whether she will become involved in the small village or go back home to her parents?

My Thoughts –

This book has all the charm of the British countryside. The plot is a bit slower as it takes time to introduce all the characters, but it is well worth it. Not so much a mystery as a fictional account of what it might have been like for Beatrix Potter to move away from her family. The author ensures that we know who the real people are in the story, and at the back of the book gives a chronological account of Beatrix Potter’s life at Hill Top Farm.

The author did something unique by having not only people in the story, but animals as well. The animals can talk among themselves and not to people. Several of the animals are real pets that Beatrix Potter had. The animals actually are quite the investigators of the story. It gives the book a touch of fantasy which really fits.

Another thing I liked was the characters. I know I say that about almost every book, but I truly mean it here. All the characters have a role to play in this tiny community. Whether it be the vicar, the constable, or the head teacher. The author lets us hear from a variety of perspectives, although the main voice belongs to Ms. Potter. There is a vary poignant moment between the vicar and an ill character which shows how much he cares for everyone.

Negative content –

  • Violence – One character dies of natural causes (off the page) and a character stumbles and breaks her leg
  • Language – None
  • Innuendo – None

Conclusion –

I am eager to read the rest of this series as it was amazing. It is the perfect fall book. If you are interested in more character development and less mystery, then this might be the book for you. It truly brought the world of Beatrix Potter to life and makes me want to go back and read her children’s stories.

I cannot wait to hear your thoughts!!

Anna