Museum curator Caroline thinks history is safely in the past, until a century-old family secret collides with problems at work and upsets her plans for a quiet life in Birmingham. Why has nobody mentioned Great Aunt Susannah before? What does Caroline’s old flame want from her? And are any of the paintings really what they appear to be? As she battles professional rivalries, attempts to contain family dramas, and searches for historical treasure amongst the clutter, Caroline is forced to decide what she holds most valuable and exactly what she’s going to do to protect it. Deeds Not Words. Because actions speak louder.
Katharine is a Birmingham based author who enjoys writing about her home town (which is also where I live!). Her website can be found here.
Caroline has returned to Birmingham after her marriage has failed (her husband being offered a job in New York, which was too much of a risk for Caroline – something she begins to realise is a recurring theme in her life). The job she has at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is not exactly satisfying and challenging, and the office politics eats away at her – especially when someone comes in with a potentially ground breaking piece, that could challenge anything the recent Staffordshire Hoard could present.
Meanwhile her grandmother, Beth, ends up in hospital with a broken hip after a fall, and Caroline has to tread carefully. Caroline has her own issues with Alice (her mother, Beth’s daughter) and Beth doesnt want Alice to know about her looking to change her will, or the appearance of previously unknown cousin Richard. Ray, Caroline’s father, only makes the occasional appearance, but Caroline begins to appreciate his quiet dependancy when things come to ahead and her mother seems to fall apart.
As Caroline begins to check out the history behind Richard’s family and what he could possibly want with her grandmother, she becomes focussed on Susannah, whose paintings are on Beth’s walls, and who seems to have the strength of character (and ability to take risks) that Caroline fears she is missing. It also highlights a part of womens’ history left very much undiscovered.
Olly – with who she had a short fling when they were much younger – is back on the scene, expecting to pick up where things were left off. It presents Caroline with another safe harbour after her divorce, and his knowledge and contacts in the antiques world allows Caroline to investigate Susannah and her paintings more.
In the end, Caroline has the chance to make certain decisions that could affect her life forever, both personally and professionally.
I don’t always like books set in places I know fairly well, as sometimes there are glaring errors that could have been easily avoided with a little research. However, I had no issues with this book – probably because Katharine lives in Birmingham (and what artistic licence she took still made things fairly realistic).
The title “Deeds not Words” is taken from the motto of the more militant Suffragettes. The National Portrait Gallery has some additional information here.
Print copies of this book can be ordered through Waterstones here