Sunday, 6 November 2016

Edwardian Romance & Murder Mystery




Reviewed by Fran - short & sweet because it's a murder mystery, and I don't want to give away the clues.


.A murder mystery set against the backdrop of a trans-Atlantic cruise ship was too intriguing to miss, and I’m glad I didn’t let this one slip to the bottom of my TBR Kindle list for a “come-to-read” at a later date. The lead characters victims as well as suspects set the tone of the era and its social mores, whilst the cleverly constructed mystery aspect holds throughout and comes to light at the very end. Albeit I had my suspicions in respect of one murder, and felt vindicated at the outcome, the second murderous villain escaped my notice, and that’s how a murder mystery should be: undetectable and intriguing. While this is a delightful cosy murder mystery in the vein of Miss Marple aboard ship, likewise it has an overall genteel ambience veiling sinister undertones! A lovely read.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

2016 RRM Summer Awards

The 2016 RRM Summer Awards





Hi, Charlotte here.  When I was asked if I would like to become the host and admin for RRM I leapt at the chance, and responsibility for three books already nominated for the RRM Summer Award landed on my virtual desk within days. I was a bit daunted because the final decision would be mine. It was my job to knuckle down and read the books before the awards could be given the go ahead. None, hooray, were binned. The three nominated books were as follows.          

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Steel & Lace was nominated by Suzy who read and reviewed the book.  






All proceeds from this anthology go to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

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Premise for the Steel & Lace Anthology.

War, Rebellion, Love and Romance!

While England is ravaged by Civil War, divided loyalties abound and Victory is not always as imagined. With a king beheaded, a king in exile, and a Lord Protector ruling the land, the future looks certain for many and fraught with danger for others. ‘Tis true to say, characters have shaped their own destinies: but at what price, and what price must be paid for the future?

#
Suzy's comments.
There is no gimmick sell to this anthology and no reference to outlandish sex and courtly rakes, but all those wicked delights do exist in moderation. And if you’re a discerning lover of historical romances, then I suspect like me, period accuracy is as important to you as ever the romance, the sex, and the background scenery are. That is why this wonderful collection of novellas has taken rather longer to assess and review than anticipated. Steel & Lace is a good eclectic mix of biography tinged with fiction, pure fiction stories blended with fact, and a few that are pure fiction. I feel I must commend all the authors at the outset on their dedication in researching every aspect in detail for their chosen periods. 

Amazon UK     Amazon US

---------------
Suit of Swords was nominated by Frances & Suzy for the 17th century category.




Don’t be misled by the cover, or the title, into believing a 17th century duel is in the offing with the clashing of steel. And yet, “Suit of Swords” is a duel of sorts, but only in the romantic context of battling one’s feelings and gauging one’s chances of success.  Hence, this short romance novella has more page-turning pull than many hyped (often overly hyped) historical romance tomes. “Suit of Swords” is a rare gem, which does indeed add background spice to a series of mind-blowing and explosive series of novels set within the English Civil Wars. Thus Amsterdam (Christmas 1626) is the setting for this touching tale of one woman’s kindness, and that of a young English mercenary soldier’s secret thoughts.



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It is a sad affair when a book is nominated for an award and the author cannot find it in their heart to at least say thank you. And so the third book has been removed from this publicity page.    


Friday, 12 August 2016

Sweet Regency




Reviewed by Francine


As this is the first book in series to do with the Allamont Sisters, Amy’s story nicely sets the tone for upcoming books, which are destined to feature each of her sister’s individual stories and romantic leanings. That said; Amy’s story stands-alone as a rather sweet tale of an elder sister who has always looked to her father for guidance, until his death, which leaves her bereft and shocked by the contents of his will. Ever faithful to his memory Amy finds it increasingly difficult, and at times, impossible to understand the sudden rebellious nature of her sisters. What is more, her mother’s indifference to the plight of her daughters confuses the poor lass. After all, her father’s strict upbringing of the sisters (in all 6) and his biblical bent seem lost in the mayhem that suddenly surrounds her. As for love and romance, where can that fit in with her life given the strict criteria laid down within her father’s will for the sisters’ individual inheritances?

What could her father have been thinking to set forth such a cruel schedule of events, when one sister already has her heart set on her life partner, and another with fanciful notions to do with a man who is more than a little enamoured with Amy, herself. Life for Amy is one of adhering as best she can to her father’s gambit for the future stability of their individual lives, but she soon discovers demure meekness and self-sacrifice can be unbearably painful. So too, another finds himself facing a sacrifice he cannot bear, and with a little cunning he attempts to resolve his and Amy’s dilemma, but not without heart-in-mouth realisation that it could all go terribly wrong. Be assured there is an HEA to this story, a touch of mystery, a shocking revelation, and all in all, it’s a delightful read.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Deadly Affair





Reviewed by Charlotte


The Book's Premise.

Autumn 1763. Career diplomat Alec Halsey has been elevated to a marquessate he doesn't want and Polite Society believes he doesn't deserve. And with the suspicion he murdered his brother still lingering in London drawing rooms, returning to London after seven months in seclusion might well be a mistake. So when a nobody vicar drops dead beside him at a party-political dinner, and his rabble-rousing uncle Plantagenet is bashed and left for dead in a laneway, Alec’s foreboding deepens. Uncovering the vicar's true identity, Alec suspects the man was poisoned. But who would want a seemingly harmless man of God murdered, and why?
Lucinda Brant’s Alec Halsey mysteries explore the darker side of her deliciously romantic 18th century world. Along with trademark wit and high drama there are deeper subplots and even quirkier characters that will have you shuddering and laughing in equal measure!

 My Review of Lucinda Brant's novel.

It has a long list of 5 star ratings at Amazon and sort of lived up to expectations.
My grumps with this book were few all told.
Number one the character dialogue at vital moments was too long winded.
And secondly there was a lot of irritating author intrusion.

Ms Brant kept prompting with reminders of previous chapters. That was unnecessary and insulting as though the author thought a reader wouldn't remember what had happened earlier in the novel. The plot is really not at all that complicated and was easy to follow and I don't think the author has quite got a handle on writing suspense novels. The plot was a little too predictable and short on convincing red-herrings. My rating is 4 stars and that's generous because the author does do a good job at describing clothes and characters.

Recommendation. It's a non taxing brain read for a lazy weekend and although I think a little overrated on star quality plot wise, the historical value was there twofold.
Purchase here

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Anthology - General History.

As I hadn't read any of my fellow authors' contributions to this Charity Anthology prior to publication, I've taken the liberty of reviewing their delightful offerings for "Tales from the Sergeant's Pack".







A delightful collection of Short Stories & Novellas in aid of St Luke's Hospice, Plymouth.

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A Tale of Two Engagements by A.C.A Hunter: Historical.



Take a moderately sized British package ship mid-Atlantic with limited protective gun-power, and looming on the near horizon is an unidentified ship on full sail thus the scene is set for a passing encounter. But is the ship French? If it is then Captain Finlay, his crew, and passengers are in dire straits. What is worse, Captain Finlay feels doubly responsible for his passenger sister, and when out-going fire from his cannon causes the ship to shudder from stem to stern, and in-coming fire shatters ship and humans to splintered fragments, Louisa refuses to abide to her brother’s command to act the lady, and thus keep her head below decks?

Here we are given an action packed short novella, a good sense of life aboard ship in wartime, and sufficient insight as to why Louisa is aboard her brother’s ship.

~


Bobbing in the Dark by Cliff Beaumont: 
Contemporary Ghost Story.


Here we have the greatest ever scheduled re-enactment Waterloo 200 in celebration of the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. With tents pitched in the Orchard at Hougoumont a British contingent are taking a well-earned rest post-travel to the event. Amidst their number is Mark Skinner, his mind awash with thoughts on how it must have been for men of his rank and file in June 1815, and he’s not all that surprised when he's approached by a fellow uniformed re-enactor, anymore than when another appears and orders the first to fall in for duty. His own voluntary enlistment thus leads him into a scary and thrilling mock battle, albeit he’s somewhat mystified by turn of events, for at times it all seems a tad too real. But that’s what re-enactment is all about ain’t it, with mock dead and wounded soldiers, else it would be a mere walk in the park in fancy dress.

To say I thoroughly enjoyed this story; is to say it ticked all the boxes for a suspenseful read.

~


The Bravest of the Brave by David Cook: Historical.



In this story we are presented with the inner perspective of Martial Ney, at the point where it is a case of do or die for the French. Whilst the Emperor Napoleon, rides before his troops with head held high as though Victory is theirs, Ney knows he must do his damn best to achieve that outcome. But doubts linger in his mind questioning the sanity of taking the initiative to advance against Wellington and the Allied Forces – there has to be a better way but he has not the time to think it through. Praying to heaven God is with the Emperor, Ney spurs his horse forward, and the rest is History so to speak. 

This is another story by David Cook that sets the scene with excellent sense of time and place and no quarter given to the squeamish reader. After all, war is war – Enjoy!

~

The Chancer by Francine Howarth: Historical.

This is my naval orientated contribution to the anthology, thus I cannot pass comment!
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A Person of No Consequence by Alison Stuart:
Historical Romance.
~

Picture a glittering ballroom and fine array of coming-out damsels in search of wealthy husbands, chaperones in abundance like faded wallflowers, and young bucks in search of suitable brides. Thus the scene is set for an elegant marriage mart, though not all the guests are seeking marriageable prey. Hence a heart-stopping moment occurs, and memories from the past leap to the fore and cause distress to one person, whilst curiosity is heightened for another. But can one dare to dream the past could ever be revisited in the present and secure a differing outcome?

A lovely sweet romance in Alison Stuart’s inimitable and award winning style.
~

August 27th by Jacqueline Reiter: Historical Fact.
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Here we have a brief glimpse of the Walcheren Island Campaign of 1809, where the initial object of the British Navy is to blockade the mouth of the Scheldt (Antwerp Netherlands) and the primary objective to destroy the French fleet purportedly lying at anchor in Flushing. But as you will see from the interaction between leading field commanders of their day, not all are of like mind in how best to proceed or indeed cope with an unforeseen pestilence that more or less has rendered their task nigh impossible.

For the most part the reader affords insight to proceedings as they unfold through the eyes and thoughts of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Keats, and it’s easy to see how politics, personal ambitions, and military strategy oft clash when things go awry.

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A Clash of Empires by Paul Bennett: Historical fact inclusive fictional characters.
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In this novella the reader is transported to the American Colonies the year of 1763, when the Pontiac Rebellion in opposition to British rule on former French territory begins in earnest with a confederacy of Native American warriors who attack British forts. But the fort in Detroit defies all the efforts of a combined tribal force to destroy its very existence, and Pontiac thence lays siege to the fort. A siege is the last thing any commander would willingly face, and whilst some might raise a white flag, Major Gladwin is made of sterner stuff. 

Again no quarter is given to the squeamish reader, for this is a war situation, in which brutal retaliation is markedly atmospheric.


~
Over the Moon and Faraway by Daniel Methwell: Fiction.


This story is set, I believe, in the region of Aragon, Spain during the Peninsular War (1808-1814). If not, my apology to the author, who spins an amusing yarn not unalike a “Carry-On” movie style plot as far as the humour goes. Thus with bungling French troopers and equally bungling British troopers, this story equates to laughs-a-minute, and combined with earthy trooper language drifting across the ether, a somewhat blue hue prevails. And yet, the awfulness of war is lingering beyond the veiled fringe of humour, and one can almost hear the old soldiers recounting this tale with touches of laughter and a tear to eye.

Suffice to say, it’s an all round fun chuckle read.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Victorian Gothic





A remote manor house, Cornish cliff-top locale, and ghostly apparitions are the perfect backdrop for a Gothic story, and duly set in place the author delivers on that theme with a tale of inheritance, and a rather independent minded heroine. Minerva Goodridge is no shrinking violet. Thus, undaunted by tales of ghosts, and rather enchanted by a stranger’s helping hand, Minerva is soon in love with a house, whilst inner awareness to Gideon Drake’s masculinity leads to lustful imaginings. The Hero, Gideon, is a man on a mission to solve a mystery, and the heroine just so happens to have the keys to a house that may, or may not afford clues, or indeed resolve a family secret. As a man of the world, Gideon is far from immune to Minerva’s bodily charms, and albeit he’s a stranger to the district he’s already somewhat familiar with her inheritance, and as keen to win her trust, as invade her privacy. But can Minerva trust him, and will her lustful imaginings be her downfall?

This is a lively tale of one woman’s singular independence at a time when most young women were either chaperoned at the behest of their parents, or a companion was thus engaged by a single heiress to ensure compliance with social expectations. But Minerva is essentially a rebel who flaunts her wild independent spirit and gives not a hoot to the social mores and graces of her lifetime. She is as earthy and as sensual as the ivy clinging to the structure of Trekellis Manor.


Monday, 18 July 2016

Regency Romp!




This is most definitely a “sweet” lighthearted Regency romp, in which a wilful young heroine cannot understand the mysterious disappearance of her cousin whilst he was en route from London to the family estate. Determined to investigate whether his delay is intentional or something dreadful has happened to him, bold and wilful, she sets out alone in a manner most unbecoming of a gentlewoman. Even so, her disguise draws the wrong attention at a wayside inn, and there the mystery deepens, as a gallant young man steps centre stage and becomes embroiled in her brave escapade. 

This is a rollicking "short novella" written in the style of an essay, and perfect for a spare moment read!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Latest Historical Murder Mystery.


Review by Francine:


Written in M. J. Logue’s inimitable style, “A Broom at the Masthead” edges toward the realms of a psychological thriller, in which the author wields a mind-bending analogy to that of a deeply troubled and tortured mind: almost in the format of a journal, as though the main character is secretly confessing to revenge enacted without any sense of guilt. Thus deceit, rumour, and inference enough to ruin any man’s chances of elevation in favoured social circles  prevails amidst the ambitious, the dubious, and the worst of the notoriously real-time debauched courtiers of their time.

Initially it is the year of 1663, three years since the Restoration of Charles II to the throne of England. A dreadful murder sets the scene for a mystery that will linger akin to smoke-laden miasma drifting throughout this novel. By 1665 the once Parliamentarian officer, Thankful Russell, who despised all that the Royalists ever stood for during the years of the English Civil Wars, is now gracing the corridors, and the drawing rooms of the great and not so good Royalists. Not only is he newly married and revelling in the glory of having one of the youngest brides on the royal campus, old fears of rejection, fears of failing Thomazina, fears of failing others, and most of all fear of failing his old commander; Russell is under pressure as a maze of seeming madness surrounds him. And all whilst some unknown person is hell-bent on putting his neck in a noose! All told, this is a suspenseful read peppered with humour, and earthy language enough to lighten and lift the reader in between the more sinister elements as they unfold.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Latest Regency Romance.






Reviewed by M.J.Logue.
 
 
I do like a bit of Georgette Heyer - clean, neat, tidy, sweet romance in which decency triumphs over deceit, every time.
 
And "Cynthia" is very much like one of those old-fashioned romances.
 
A sparky heroine who disguises herself as a boy to save her heedless young sister's reputation. An Apollo of a hero with a bit of a past, but one that can be excused. A beautiful, silly, romantic young girl, a handsome stable boy who's not all he seems, a romantic flight. A family whose future is uncertain, held together by our heroine.
 
All the Heyer set pieces are there, and the author's skill is that she makes them seem new. This is not a modern Regency romance: it's very much of a style that Georgette Heyer would have recognised, where the most nudity our heroines encounter is Ted the stable-boy in his night-shirt, and even that's rather shocking. If sensuality is your thing, look elsewhere, for there's precious little physical encounters in "Cynthia" - and, I think, all the better for it, because the relationship between Cynthia and Julian is first and foremost one of friendship, camaraderie and mutual respect.
 
The relationship between flighty, romantic Amabel and her "stable boy" - or is he....? - is presented as based on mutual attraction, though, and at first I found that relationship much less convincing. I persevered, however, and I'm glad I did, because it becomes clear that there is a good reason for the author's portrayal of Ted initially as something of a lumpen clod. The suspicious fact of his poetry-reading on his days off, should have been a clue...
 
The language and style of the novel gives it very much the feel of a period-piece, somewhere between Jane Austen and Patrick O'Brian in its attempt to recreate the flavour of a bygone age - not just in speech, but in the author's narrative, which remains true to the language of the period. It does take a little bit of getting used to, and it does have something of a quaint rng, to begin with, but it bears perseverance.
 


Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Historical Anthology with all proceeds to charity.



All proceeds from this anthology go to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
Premise for the Steel & Lace Anthology.
War, Rebellion, Love and Romance!
While England is ravaged by Civil War, divided loyalties abound and Victory is not always as imagined. With a king beheaded, a king in exile, and a Lord Protector ruling the land, the future looks certain for many and fraught with danger for others. ‘Tis true to say, characters have shaped their own destinies: but at what price, and what price must be paid for the future?
#
Reviewed by Suzy.


There is no gimmick sell to this anthology and no reference to outlandish sex and courtly rakes, but all those wicked delights do exist in moderation. And if you’re a discerning lover of historical romances, then I suspect like me, period accuracy is as important to you as ever the romance, the sex, and the background scenery are. That is why this wonderful collection of novellas has taken rather longer to assess and review than anticipated. Steel & Lace is a good eclectic mix of biography tinged with fiction, pure fiction stories blended with fact, and a few that are pure fiction. I feel I must commend all the authors at the outset on their dedication in researching every aspect in detail for their chosen periods.    


Story 1:  The Countess Spy by Anita Seymour.

Fiction based on the true exploits of Elizabeth Murray, Countess Dysart.
I have no intention of spoiling the plot, even for those who may have little or no knowledge of Elizabeth Murray’s life. I was fascinated from page one.
The author selected an incredibly thrilling and fear laden scenario for the opening page where Elizabeth is embarking on a dangerous mission in support of King Charles II.  Although the English Civil war is at end and Oliver Cromwell rules England, there are many Royalist supporters in England who live in hope one day their king will return with an army at his back. All the while it is well understood couriers and spies risk all to further the cause, but Elizabeth Murray is a wife and mother. She’s brave and scared at one and the same time. Then her worst nightmare is suddenly reality aboard ship. Her life as she knows it could be taken from her if Cromwell’s spymaster can present proof she is guilty of treason. Oh yes, Elizabeth Murray was a brave heroine of her day, and this story is a little sprat to catch a mackerel for three more books exist and one presumes they relate to Elizabeth.
#
Story 2:  The Price of Convictions by Anna Belfrage.

Pure Fiction
It is apparently a previously unpublished part of the Graham Saga.
It is fair to assume the author’s intention is to incite interest in the Graham Saga. In all honesty this tactic often works extremely well, and at a rough guess I predict I shall enjoy reading more books by this author. The story opens with the Graham family preparing to depart from Scotland and is the end of whatever went before and the beginning of what is to come. Great sadness lingers as it surely does for any family when all hope of a good life at home seems lost, and a better life is hoped for elsewhere. Trials and tribulations plague the family almost at every turn in the road, and the streets of Edinburgh are no less dangerous. The Grahams do seem to court trouble one way and another from unknowns and from estranged family, and there is hedonistic sexual activity between the loving parents. The story by itself feels incomplete, no beginning, and no end. All then becomes clear to the reader when it is made known there are several novels available before this event occurs and several novels afterwards. Price of Convictions is another little sprat to catch a mackerel.                        
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Story 3: Si Tu Doir Partir by M. J. Logue.

Pure Fiction
The setting is the English Civil Wars.
 Another sprat to catch a mackerel story and this is a rather sweet romance. Scarred of body and troubled of mind Russell is a Parliamentary solder and a veteran of several battles and skirmishes. While warring with his own thoughts and ideals his homeward bound trek deviates to a house that holds a special place in his heart.  Not only does Thomazine the daughter of his once senior officer live there, she’s so young any thoughts of a romance between them could be construed as indecent. Then there’s the possibility that if he were to reveal his thoughts she might laugh and think it a joke. On the one hand he feels drawn to the whole household where the lady of the house once nursed him back to health. On the other hand she is a force to be reckoned with. While Russell ponders over dare he show his face the unseen but remembered magnate of cosiness draws him into the Babbitt household. What then transpires is historical romance at its best. Hoorah!  

Story 4: The King’s Courier by Francine Howarth.

Mix of Fiction & Real Persons: Swashbuckling action adventure and romance.
There’s a mix of fictional characters and real people in this story beginning at the outset of the English Civil War. The story begins with a Royalist hero who returns to home ground on a secret spying mission for the king.  Familiarity with forest trails and drover roads is useful for covert movement of an army from overseas, but the hero’s exploits soon clash with others in the county who have already infiltrated the enemy encampment. Safely behind the walls of Pembroke Castle sit two men who are forcing the county’s populous to support the Parliamentary call to arms. At the same time there are Royalists who are entrenched behind walls of other castles and fortified houses. The heroine is a feisty landowner’s daughter and her family is under house arrest and the hero’s sudden and unexpected intervention sets them free but she‘s far from grateful to him. Major conflict arises between them, and the hero soon has two battles of contention on his hands. Love and War.  Again this is historical romance at its best.

Story 5: The Chambermaid by Andrea Zuvich.

Pure Fiction: A saucy and sexy Romantic romp set in the 1700s.
A Cinderella story with a sexy twist where the heroine dreams of a life that is beyond her grasp. But a titled gentleman has favoured her and she’s his sexual plaything. Unsure if she commands his heart she intends to in hope of escape from drudgery though is not the least bit in love with the man. She loves the idea of all that he is and what he has and why can’t she have some of it. The odd bauble is simply not enough. Her heart has always belonged to his cousin, Lord Vauxhall, who left the country long ago after the disastrous defeat of the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion against James II. His lordship was also beyond her reach but is finally on his way home. And poor Verity with fingers reddened from scrubbing floors and sore between the thighs from her lover’s ardent overtures, the arrival of his lordship is the highlight of her life. With a pretty face and a willing nature Verity soon has her lord enraptured until her lover turns up like a bad penny. Here the story gets interesting because it seems Verity has bitten off more than she can chew. Thankfully there is a happy outcome.

Story 6: Secrets of a Princess by Kelli Klampe.

A mix of fact, alternative history and time-slip.
This story begins in the 21st century with Kate an American who suffers a recurring and disturbing dream. Convinced the dream is somehow linked to the past, it’s not her past so is she going mad? She naturally seeks help from a psychic medium in hope it may solve her dilemma. Instead the dream escalates and becomes a part of her life. Seriously sure she is slipping through time in her imagination Kate has to prove to herself she is not insane. She travels to England and to the Isle of Wight and visits places she knows exist within the dream. The dream then takes on new meaning with a voice and eyes and she sees and hears as though she is there in the dream. Soon there is no escape from its hold. Like Alice - Through the Looking Glass - Kate is living within the dream and becomes a figure from the past. Her name is Elizabeth and she’s with her brother Henry and their father Charles I. What happens to the doomed king is well documented and the author follows true to the story until the time when Elizabeth dies - also documented. From here the story slips into alternative history. What might have happened if? This story is intriguing as Elizabeth lives on to fall in love, attempts to change history and witnesses events the real princess never did.


Story 7: Goblin Damn’d by Susan Ruth.

A truly amusing romantic tale of murder and mystery.
While a troupe of travelling players are rehearsing a scene from Macbeth one of the actors fails to appear on cue. Then a body is discovered. A female shrieks and startled looks shoot from one to another of the remaining cast, quickly followed by momentary disbelief. Who did it? That is the question. Well it seems it could have been any one of the cast and that’s when a rather distinguished gentleman appears on the scene and takes charge of the distressing situation. Though madness might explain better the situation that unfolds as hysterics and recriminations are balled and batted between the players. Valerian Sable duly attempts to make order from chaos and the cast settle to the reality a killer is walking amongst them or must be watching them closely. As fear mingles with pride secrets and lies are unearthed and love between two people blossoms. To say more would give away clues and spoil the thrilling aspect of whodunit.

Amazon UK     Amazon US

Friday, 1 January 2016

A Little Gem Historical Read!





Reviewed by Frances.

Don’t be misled by the cover, or the title, into believing a 17th century duel is in the offing with the clashing of steel. And yet, “Suit of Swords” is a duel of sorts, but only in the romantic context of battling one’s feelings and gauging one’s chances of success.  Hence, this short romance novella has more page-turning pull than many hyped (often overly hyped) historical romance tomes penned by NYT Best Selling authors. “Suit of Swords” is a rare gem, which does indeed add background spice to a series of mind-blowing and explosive series of novels set within the English Civil Wars. Thus Amsterdam (Christmas 1626) is the setting for this touching tale of one woman’s kindness, and that of a young English mercenary soldier’s secret thoughts.

Kindness and affection bestowed upon Hollie Babbitt is wholly alien to the youth, though somewhat comforting, and decidedly tempting, but dare he respond in kind?  Likewise, Margriete, proprietor of the Blue Cat Inn, knows her place in the scheme of life in general. But there are times when a patron draws a compassionate eye, none more so than Hollie. Thus sense of Christmas spirit takes hold, and the giving of gifts is a costly business when a sacrifice must be made in the name of love; but can it be love, or a foolish notion that can only lead to heartache?    


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Latest Mainstream Historical Romance!





Reviewed by Frances.

Set prior to and within the years of the English Civil Wars, The Black Madonna is a veritable literary mainstream historical tome written with multiple character viewpoints, so there is a lot of head-hopping. At 625 pages Kindle edition, it’s a well-written and extremely well researched vendetta led plot, ending with a romantic conclusion.

The prologue itself [1636] provides the reader with insight to the background of the Falceiri family of Genoa (Italy), and that of Luciano Del Santi’s bent to avenge the death of his father. By chapter one it is 1639, and Luciano is ensconced in London as a goldsmith and money lender. Albeit his work is much sought after, Luciano’s debtors’ range from the King to his courtiers, therefore the Italian moves in circles where he can never be “one of them” whilst they revolve in the realms of his dark existence out of dire need.  Therefore, he wields dangerous power over a great many people of high rank and lesser status of whom may, or may not have had a hand in his father’s demise. What is more, his quest for justice and revenge combined with his cold calculating nature leads him on a predetermined path to dangerous encounters and the ultimate coup de grace.

But one should never underestimate element of surprise attack from an unknown source, and if not for the intervention and gallantry of Richard Maxwell and his son, the Italian might well have breathed his last in the gutter of a dark alley. Thus a new bond is struck, a bond that will last and eventually lead Lucianio to the men he seeks, thus the Maxwell family become an asset and latterly a liability when his heart is touched by Kate Maxwell, but tragedy strikes a mortal blow and guilt reigns for Luciano. All the while Parliament and the King are at odds, Civil War is no longer talked of as a possibility, for battles indeed rage, cities fall to Royalist or Parliamentarian banners [1642], and Luciano continues hunting his prey. Meanwhile one of the hunted is determined to remove all evidence of his involvement in Del Santi senior’s demise, until one rash indulgence provides indisputable evidence of his guilt. But will Luciano grant mercy or serve sentence when the final moment of truth is upon him?

Reviewer notes: There are in depth narrative introductory passages per chapter and page breaks akin to Wikipedia datelines relating to persons of note, political shenanigans, plus military conquests and defeats. IMHO less author intrusion and more character drip-fed revelations of events as they unfolded would have provided the necessary historical facts woven seamlessly as opposed to documentary overtones, which often stalled the otherwise compelling storyline. All in all, an excellent read. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Rosemary Sutcliffe's "The Rider on The White Horse"

The Rider of the White Horse - Rosemary Sutcliff
 
 
 
Reviewed by M. J. Logue
 


I make no apologies for my first review for this blog being an old-fashioned, out of print novel, one of Rosemary Sutcliff's lesser-known books.

In fact, I'm reviewing it in the hope that people will once again turn to this simple, tender, moving portrayal of the relationship between Thomas Fairfax, Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Parliament during the English Civil War, and his plain, brown, feisty wife Anne.

It's no epic courtly love story. Quite the opposite: the story of a plain woman who comes to love her principled and honourable husband with a passion that frightens her, in the uncomfortable self-knowledge that he will, in all probability, never see her in the same way as she sees him. There is little glamour in their love story, little chivalry, little courtliness. Despite its setting in the England of the 1640s, we are not in the realms of lace and glittering satins, but of buff and steel, of hunger and  danger and tragedy. Of the little commonwealth of a small manor in Yorkshire, thrust all unwilling into war, and of a woman's fear for the man she has come to hold precious.

As ever, Rosemary Sutcliff's skill lies in her ability to weave a tale around the tiny domestic details of a household that stick in the reader's memory long after the last page: the honeyed scent of the snowdrops on a table, the whiff of tobacco smoke and a golden sunset over the Yorkshire Dales. The Fairfax of Ms Sutcliff's writing is not an articulate, poetic courtier, but an awkward, rather diffident soldier - and a reader expecting grand declarations may wonder what on earth the fiery Anne sees in him at times, this decent, kind, stiff, rather too honourable gentleman whose idea of a compliment is to tell her she looks "bonnie in t'firelight".

Nor - this book having been written in 1959 - is there a deal of sexual tension. But indeed, it would have jarred, had there been explicit physical loving in this story. I am still not sure - having read this book every year without fail, for the last 20 years, having cried at exactly the same parts every time, at the death of Captain Smith and of the baby Elizabeth - I still couldn't say with any degree of certainty whether or not Thomas Fairfax ends the book by returning his wife's love, not physically. But then, as Anne says, “You could not hold a winged thing; you could not even perfectly remember it afterward, for that, too, was a kind of holding.” Whatever it is, is enough.

No, I love this book. I would like more people to love it. Some of the historical accuracy is shaky, but the battle scenes are stirring and moving, and the relationships drawn with a tenderness that can be heartbreaking. Sutcliff's dialogue is almost perfect in its simplicity, of things not said but felt with the heart.

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