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on 21 May 2008
I was really looking forward to this book having been enticed by the cover blurb. I have to say it didn't disappoint. The story begins with the end of Julia's affiar with her friend's husband - his parting gift (accidentally) is a needlework book dating from the 1620s. Written in its margins is the story of Cat a nineteen year old girl living in Cornwall longing for excitement and a route away from a life married off to her cousin Rob. Cat gets her wish in the most unlikely fashion when Berber pirates kidnap her along with many other villagers and plan to sell them as slaves in Morocco. Cat's story is very much the tale of a girl struggling to find a place in the world, whether thats in Cornwall, Morocco or on a pirate ship.
Julia meanwhile is determined to keep this gift that her ex-lover Michael is desperate to get back. She travels to Morocco not only to get away from him but also to follow in Cat's footsteps.
The mirroring of both Cat and Julia with their different journeys was a nice way of building tension and keeping me guessing. As other reviewers have said they are both quite shallow characters - not always illiciting much sympathy from the reader. But the need to know what happened to Cat and find out how her story ends carries the book along at a great pace. My only criticism is that the slightly supernatural element right at the end of the book was unneccesary.
If you want something that has a dash of adventure mixed in with romance, and not too historcial then this could be the book for you.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The author was in Morocco researching the story of her ancestor and finished up selling her London flat, moving to Morocco and marrying there. This is a work of fiction based on historical fact. I have only rated it 4, but for enthusiasts of historical fiction, it may well merit a 5.

There are two stories in this one book, beautifully linked: Catherine in 1625 and Julia in the present day. Both succeed in making new and better lives.

Catherine wanted to escape her 1625 Cornwall existence, but not in the way it happened - kidnapped by pirate corsairs from north Africa. She survived, was able to continue with her passion for embroidery, and found unexpected love.

Julia, unhappy in a seven-year affair with her best friend's husband, also found adventure from an unlikely source. Her friend's husband's parting gift sent her to Morocco where she was captivated by the country and people.

This was a thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable book; I look forward to reading more of Jane Johnson's work.
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on 15 April 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is a rip-roaring read crammed with history, romance, ghosts, love, heartbreak, white slavery, pirate raids and religion. It's a fictional account of a pirate raid led off of the Cornish coastline in the 1600s, but based on historical facts that have been meticulously researched. Johnson has a marvellous descriptive style of writing that makes the reader feel the fear and uncertainty of the 60 villagers as they are captured and stolen off to sea, heading to places they'd never even dreamed about. She sweeps you along with her story and vividly describes every step of the captives' journey. Their tale is told via the diary kept by Catherine Anne Tregenna, who recorded all of her thoughts in a small book of embroidery designs, squeezing her writing in amongst the patterns. Hundreds of years later this book lands up in the hands of Julia Lovat, and this seamlessly joins the two women's tales together. Julia sets off to discover if Catherine ever made it home to Cornwall and along the way embarks on her own adventures. My only criticism is that I felt the supernatural side of this story could have been developed further, but on the whole I found this to be a gripping read and will definitely look out for more by this author.

At the back of the book there is a list of further recommended reading for anyone who wants to know more about the topics covered in this tale.

The author Jane Johnson's own story is an intriguing one too, and I hope she writes the tale of her adventures one day.
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on 5 August 2011
I bought this book on the strength of the fact that it was loosely based on the true story of a pirate raid on Cornwall in the 1620s. Given that Barbary pirates also attacked Baltimore in Ireland around this time (I'm Irish) and that I've been to the Westman Islands off Iceland which were also raided back then, I zoned in on this book like a hawk. I'm delighted to say that I wasn't disappointed. This is an absolutely terrific read.

Other reviewers have done a great job in detailing the plot, so I won't go into it in depth. It's enough to say that this time-slip novel expertly engages on both fronts. We have the modern day tale of Julia, and her doomed love affair with the duplicitous Michael, and her discovery of Catherine (Cat) Treganna's notes in the old embroidery text that Michael mistakenly gives Julia - and also the historical story of the fiery, tempestuous Cat, who dreams of escaping life in boring 1620s Penzance. Cat's dreams come true - but not in the manner she'd expected. Carried off into slavery by Barbary pirates (from modern day Morocco), her nightmare journey takes her on a voyage of self-discovery. A similar thing of course happens to Julia, who journeys (as Jane Johnson did!) to Morocco in search of more information, and finds far more than that.

This book is beautifully written, evoking not just the prudishness of 17th century Puritan England, but the terror of a pirate attack, the richness and squalor of North Africa, both yesteryear and today, and the differences between the two cultures of east and west. It's very romantic too, and I found myself thinking of Birdsong as I read it. I enjoyed every page of this novel. It's a tremendous book, and gives The Sea-Hawk by Sabatini a real run for its money. Five solid stars out of five.

Ben Kane, author of The Forgotten Legion.
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VINE VOICEon 28 April 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I very much enjoyed reading this book especially as it involves one of my favourite themes of two parallel stories through the ages with something connecting them.

In this case, it was an embroidery book that was owned by a 16th century Cornish girl, Catherine, which she uses as a diary, in which she tells us about her daily life in a Cornish manor house, her kidnapping by Moroccans and her new life in Morocco. At the same time we learn about a modern day embroiderer who is given this book, she is intrigued by the writings she finds in the book and sets out to find more about Catherine. Her travels take her down to Cornwall and across to Morocco.

I don't really want to go into any more detail as I hate reviews that spoil the story but I will say there are many more parallels between the characters between the two different times.

I found the book extremely easy to read. The story kept me interested but wasn't the type of story that I couldn't put down. I did feel a bit of connection with it because I have stayed in the Kenegie Manor Hotel on the outskirts of Penzance when I was a girl. Catherine works in Kenegie Manor which I believe is the same place I stayed in. This helped to bring some realism to the story.

If you want a nice easy story to read I can recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 12 July 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was particularly interested to read this book knowing that the author had an ancestor who was reputed to have been kidnapped from a church in Penzance in 1625 and taken by pirates to Morocco. The author decided to go to Morocco to investigate further and ended up discovering and marrying her own Barbary pirate.
Which makes this book at least semi-autobiographical. For me that's a big plus.

Catherine Anne Tregenna (Cat) has been promised in marriage to her cousin Rob. Although ahe loves him as a cousin, the thought of being married to him does not appeal. Just when this seemed to be her lot she is whisked away by Barbary pirates with 59 other members of the church congregation on a Sunday morning.
Back in the present day, Julia Lovat is given an antique book of embroidery designs as a parting gift from her married lover. Written over the instructions is the tale of Cat's abduction and her subsequent arrival in Morocco. Julia decides to travel to Morocco herself to investigate the story and finds a facinating country, so different from her own.

Although a little bit stilted at times, I enjoyed the book. The characters were fun but the coincidenecs on which events hinged stretched belief a bit at times.
9 out of 10, a good read.
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on 28 May 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a fascinating novel, all the more readable because it is based on true events. The author has entwined her own experiences with the more fictional ones of the ancestor who was captured by Moroccan pirates and has done so richly, with delicious attention to detail. She paints her scenes perhaps with more care than her characters; I found all of them a little two-dimensional and hard to care about, particularly the hard-nosed heroine Julia. This makes the reader distance themselves from the story and care less about its outcome. The twist - the similarities between 17th century Rob and 21st century Andrew - is clumsily handled, although, as with so much of the story, the idea of it is excellent and suggests this debut is one of a talented writer to watch out for.

These small flaws aside, I would recommend this book as a glimpse of a history few are aware of, and the first book of a writer who shows real promise. A good 'chunk' of a book ideal for swallowing in one leisurely sitting.
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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Just the sort of book I like, full of history, adventure and definitely a page turner.

The story is about a modern day heroine who is given a book about needlework. She discovers that a Cornish girl who was kidnapped by Barbary pirates and taken to Morocco in 1625 has written her adventures on the pages of the book.

The modern day heroine goes to Morocco to find out more about this earlier woman and what happened to her. Jane Johnson seems to have done her homework well and the book is based on historical fact. Many readers will probably be unaware of the Barbary corsair raids on the south coast of England but weaved into the story are some fascinating facts.

I am loathe to tell you more of the story but if you are looking for a good book to keep you awake, this is the one for you. This is the first book I've read by Jane Johnson - I shall certainly look out for other books written by her.
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on 26 March 2009
This story is beautifully written and a delightful read. The journey set in the 17th century and in the present also describes two love stories leading from Cornwall to Morocco which is described in vivid detail. I was completely caught up in the story and could hardly put the book down as I raced to find out what happened to the 17th Century Catherine who was abducted by Pirates and taken to Morocco. The Character of Julia, from the present who is trailing Catherine's story is told from a modern viewpoint of English women which is a tad stereotypical at times. Also I am not so convinced that in modern day Morocco people are really as fascinated by white women as the Author portrays a little too vainly. Aside from that I found this book hard to fault and immensley enjoyed the journey. A recommended read for anyone needing a bit of Escapism and a little bit of History slipped in also.
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VINE VOICEon 17 November 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Jane Johnson was inspired to write this novel due to family legend which told of a young Cornish woman who was taken away from her home and country, by Berber pirates, and then sold into a life of slavery. During her extensive research for the novel she spent a lot of time in Morocco, and it was during this time that she met her now husband.

The story is set around a fictitious Cornish woman, Catherine Tregenna, in the seventeenth century. Cat spends her time wishing for something exciting, and more mysterious. She finds the idea of following her simple life, through marriage to her cousin, and bearing his children, simply not possible for someone who aspires to so much more than that. When pirates invade her Cornish village she finds herself amongst a group of Cornish people who facing slavery in Morocco. Obviously, life doesn't end in the bleak life of slavery that she fears she is facing, as it wouldn't be much of a story if it did!

What makes the story so much more interesting is that it is interwoven with a modern-day scene involving a possible future relation. Julia is an accomplished needlewoman, just as Cat had been, and she finds Cat's tale written in an embroidery book that she receives from her duplicitous lover, as a parting gift.

To try and understand what happened to Cat, Julia travels to Morocco. She follows the trail of Catherine, and ends up falling for the mysterious and exotic charms of Rabat, in Morocco. The two stories gradually twist and intertwine, and a series of delightful parallels begin to occur.

Overall, the historical information is well-presented, and convincing. The novel is more riveting than many in the genre, probably due to the colourful and rich descriptions throughout. It is definitely a worthwhile read, and I am looking forward to reading more of this authors works.
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