My Review of The Other Mrs Samson by Ralph Webster #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

The Other Mrs. Samson

I received this book as an ARC from the author, Ralph Webster, as a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team, #RBRT. 

I gave The Other Mrs Samson 3.5* out of 5*.

Book Description:

Surviving two wars, sharing one husband, searching for answers.

A hidden compartment in a black lacquer cabinet left in an attic reveals the secrets of two incredible women: Hilda, born and raised in one of the wealthiest Jewish families in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, and Katie, whose early life in Germany is marked by tragedy and death. Their lives are forever entwined by their love of the same man, the brilliant and compassionate Dr. Josef Samson.

From the earliest, rough-and-tumble days of San Francisco, through the devastation of the Great War in Berlin and the terrors of Vichy France, and then to a new yet uncertain life in New York City, their stories span the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. In the end, one of these women will complete the life of the other and make a startling discovery about the husband they share.

My Review:

I chose The Other Mrs Samson because it covered both historical and memoir genres. It’s a story that stretches through decades and settings; from the middle of the nineteenth century to the time of the First World War, the mid twentieth century and World War Two to the present era, and from the United States, to Germany and France.

The book’s appeal to me was the description of the intriguing, yet so different, life and love stories of two women for one man with so many settings across a great spread of years. I was keen to start reading the book.

But I struggled with it. And I have struggled to review it as well.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the author has carried out extensive research to provide a background to the story: the Jewish community in San Francisco at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, conditions in WW1, the growth of Nazism and the dreadful effect on the Jewish people.There is much detail about the politics of the time and the impact on the economics of the societies, the suffering caused through the conditions during the great wars.

And we follow the stories of the two women, Hilda and Katie Samson, who, in different decades, both meet and then marry the same man, Dr. Josef Samson. These are recounted through papers that were found by the narrator in a secret compartment in a black lacquer cabinet; the memoirs of Katie, a friend of the narrator.

The novel relates the difference between the two women, their lives and their emotions; their reactions to events. And this is where I had the problem. Let me say that I enjoyed the start of the book; the finding of the papers and, to a much greater extent; Hilda’s story, which was fascinating. But the enjoyment palled slightly when I came to the story of Katie. Where I felt the narrator’s words brought of the character of the first Mrs Samson alive on the page, for me it wasn’t the same with the second. Initially, I was engrossed in Katie’s tragic early life, set against the so-called decadence of the twenties, the economic downfall in America, the insidious evil of the Nazi party in Germany. As I said earlier, the reader learns so much of the conditions throughout the world, but I also felt the all characters became less rounded, almost an after thought, in the telling of their stories. And, I’m afraid, the author lost me; I skipped through many pages ( then went back to read, because I didn’t think I’d given it a fair shot). It’s not something I normally do, and certainly not something I’m proud of, but it felt almost like an historical explanation of what was the world rather that following the characters.

I think my problem with The Second Mrs Samson is that I like character driven stories. And I felt that Ralph Webster missed a chance to develop both the main and some minor characters in his quest to write such a brilliantly detailed historical setting.

But, after all, reviews are always subjective and I would recommend The Second Mrs Samson to readers who enjoy historical novels.


A Few Moments With #RNA #familysaga Writer LinTreadgold #TuesdayBookBlog

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

This is the seventh of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Lin Treadgold

Welcome Lin, it’s lovely to see you here today.

Glad to be here, Judith.

Let’s start by my asking you, when you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one account?

When I began writing ‘The Tanglewood Affair’, my second book, I knew precisely where the story was going, and therefore it was easy to write.  It could only be labelled as a family saga, and when I’d completed the work, the genre was spot on.  However, in my first book, I spent many hours changing the story, and what was purely a romance novel, became a family saga.  Sometimes the genre is laid out in front of you without you realising what it is you are writing about.  I am now a saga writer, but I really don’t want to be labelled as such throughout my writing career.  I hope to make changes to my genres as I move forward with the romance theme.

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

I think that when I write a novel, I am very aware of the balance between the family saga and the romance.  The saga part of the story should lead the reader to empathise with the characters. Whereas romance is what brings it all together. So, in my opinion, the two should have a delicate balance, tilting this way and that. You have to ask yourself if you’ve spent too long on the romance, and vice versa.

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in.

You cannot write a novel without doing your research.  I think that’s what makes the book very real to the reader, to read about places they have visited.  Also, it has to ring true as well. For example, my first book ‘Goodbye Henrietta Street’ was based on the Isles of Scilly and in Whitby, Yorkshire.  The feedback from my readers is that they have visited the places I mention in the story, and it makes them want to go back there.  This book has sold in Austria, Portugal and Sweden and the USA, and those readers have told me I made it so realistic that they wanted to visit the beautiful islands on the south-west coast of England.

So now I am writing my third and fourth books, and the research I had to do for my World Ward II story ‘The Trail to Freedom’ (not yet published),  has been a long haul, but the book is now ready for the publisher.  You can never stop researching your work.  There will always be a reviewer who points the finger at incorrect research.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

I think it’s essential to keep a record of the timelines for your story—Eg. The ages of the characters, when and where, etc.  On book number four, I have a lot more characters,  and so I have written a family tree at the front of the book, but I keep records as well to ensure that, e.g. young Jamie isn’t six years old and then suddenly he’s only five. 

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world. How important is the timing of the development in your narrative?

The essence of a good saga is to hold the reader’s interest as the story unfolds.  There will be the usual ups-and-downs of life, but the writer should be aware of the exact timing on where to make those exposures throughout the book.  There is no sense in having  ‘John leave his wife ‘ halfway through the book.  I would start his story at the beginning and show the consequences of his actions and how those actions lead from one set of circumstances to the next.  So yes,  regarding the period of development, the writer must know where in the book the revelations will take place to help keep the story moving forward and make those changes,  from troubled times to resolve.

Goodbye Henrietta Street

The Tanglewood Affair

The Trail to Freedom (Coming soon)




Author Biography

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Lin Treadgold

In 2015 Lin Treadgold returned to the UK after spending 15 years in The Netherlands. She gave up her profession as a driving instructor to be with her husband and his job as a professional in the steel industry. Now retired, they live in the heart of Devon with their Jack Russell dog, Dylan.

Since writing her first book in 2012, ‘Goodbye Henrietta Street,’ nominated for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award, Lin has spent her time refurbishing her new home and writing a further two novels.‘The Tanglewood Affair’ is her second book. She recently completed her third book, The Trail to Freedom’ centred around World War II and the war letters her father wrote during his time in a prisoner of war camp In Italy. Book number four will be a sequel to this.

Lin is the group organiser for the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Exeter Chapter, and enjoys art, photography, and wildlife. After sailing around the world in her youth, she has acquired plenty of life experiences to assist her future novels.