Thursday, 3 August 2017

Regency



Reviewed by Charlotte alias Charmian (Goodreads).


Book’s Blurb:
Hell will freeze over before Miss Philomena Aubrey willingly marries the insufferable Honorable Luther Whyte. Her mother had angled Mina’s quite hefty dowry in front of the vicar and secured him, but Mina still resisted. When Mrs. Aubrey threatens to force her into the marriage, Mina’s father hides his daughter with a friend of his as he leaves for an extended business trip.

A wounded war hero, burdened by guilt after inadvertently sending his French fiancée to death, Lord James Darling keeps his family as far away from his tormented heart as possible. But as he keeps bumping into his mother’s new lady’s maid, he grows suspicious—is she a spy?—and sets out to expose her, only to find himself mesmerized by her feistiness and her warm heart.

My Review:

Mina, short for Philonena, steps to the stage as the archetypical young heiress of the Nuevo riche in the Regency era. Presumably her father became extremely wealthy from timely investments and good business dealings. It must be said as history tells us, a great many of the Nuevo riche were so wealthy their daughters were sought by aristocrats as a timely means to bolster ailing funds for sons who were wastrels. Many a rich heiress gained a title from brokered deals cut and dealt across tables at Gentlemen’s clubs in real life as they do with regularity in Regency romance novels. 

Funnily Mina’s mother has set her marital scheming eye at humble bait, the local vicar no less, and oh lord, shades of Jane Austen’s Mr Collins leapt to mind straight off. And thank serendipity Mina is an only child and has a father who dotes on her. Mina can do little wrong in his eyes, and her mother sees only a wilful minded daughter who refuses to marry the man of her mother’s choice, ha ha.

While this is a common mother daughter conflict for Regency novels, the story for me becomes a little contrived with a father who looks to the help of a childhood playmate, a duchess (ha) who conveniently has bachelor sons in need of wives. It was all a little twee perfect and unrealistic but it’s a bunny out of the hat magical fairy tale and what’s wrong with that.

And then there’s the tortured James Darling. He’s a secretive man and with Miss Curiosity Mina kitten on his patch in the guise of a lady’s maid he doesn’t stand an earthly in resisting the vivacious young madam who seeks to inveigle her way under his skin. Throughout a theme of will he or won’t he fall in love with Mina makes this romance a fun read with little touches of haunting sadness from James’s past. For all her silly childish antics I liked Mina a lot. James was more a muddle of conflicting caricatures and didn’t materialise as a solid character, not for me at any rate. An Heiress in Disguise is what it is, a well written fun romance with a few raunchy pulse driven scenes.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Regency / Victorian




Reviewed by Charlotte alias Charmian (Goodreads).


The Book’s Blurb:
A missing heirloom. A stolen inheritance. Can love conquer mistrust?

Athena Hawthorne never imagined that she would lose everything she'd ever had. But after the death of her father, his prosperous jewelry store is sold off to pay his supposed debts. Athena, now destitute, embarks on a mission to discover the truth, but circumstances force her to accept an offer from a handsome stranger to work as a governess. She's determined to clear her father's name, but a certain earl is making matters far more difficult than necessary. And she can't be in danger of losing her heart to a member of the aristocracy...

Orion Ashcroft, the Earl of Rockford, is convinced that Athena is a grasping thief who stole a priceless family heirloom, the rare sapphire known as the Couleur Magnifique. When he offers her the position of governess to his sister's children, he only intends to catch her in some nefarious scheme and get back the sapphire—his grandmother's dying wish. But he soon discovers that keeping his distance—and his sanity—around the beautiful Athena isn't as easy as he'd planned. It certainly doesn't help that his sister and his best friend plead her innocence at every frustrating turn. Soon he's struggling between honoring his promise and his growing attraction to Athena.

But there's danger closer than either expect. Even a masquerade can't hide Athena from the curiosity of the ton forever...and there's a threat hiding among the highest members of society...


My Review:

Well I must say for a debut novel Ms Waite painted the heroine to the canvas with in depth emotional pull and I liked and felt for Athena. Sympathy poured forth (from me that is) while Athena Hawthorne hears of her fate within a solicitor’s office. Could life be more traumatic than the death of a father and to learn there is no legacy of worth from a once thriving business, poor Athena is utterly stunned by it all.

In the event of kindness from a stranger, which gives hope for a workable life one day, a few days later the strange circumstances surrounding the job places Athena into an emotional pit of heaven and hell wrapped up in one man, the Earl of Rockford. Of course Athena falls hopelessly loves struck with burning desire little knowing the earl’s thoughts of tumbling the newly appointed governess (to his niece and nephew) has caused him a good deal of discomfort until the more his eyes glitter with devilry soon Rion and Athena lose themselves in lustful thoughts and eventual actions, while every crime known to the darker side of London streets start striking with menacing force. Here the repetitive abduction theme took some believing, while the rest of the story had me turning the pages to see when Rion would hump Athena again and would he stop being a mindless prat, and would she fall pregnant. So obsessed did I become with the likelihood of pregnancy the criminal proceedings paled alongside my thinking Rion would be forced into marriage with Athena, and I prayed his sister would stand behind him with a pistol held to his head. It doesn’t end that way and I did like the sub characters a great deal. All in all I enjoyed Athena's and Rion's story a a romantic tale with danger and mystery.

I do have a few quibbles. The story setting is Regency England 1819 and there’s reference to a novel by Charles Dickens which set alarm bells ringing. Dickens was born in 1812 and in 1819 Charles Dickens was 7yrs old and had yet to write his first published paper let alone a novel. While this may appear a small criticism it does point to lack of research by the author, it also shames an incompetent editor. Worse it implies the novel started out as a Victorian novel set after 1836 when Dickens published his first novel The Pickwick Papers. A few Americanisms didn’t help matters in recommending this as a Regency set read, while readers who care not a bean about historical accuracy will enjoy this book for what it is - a fun read.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Article by Francine (RMM Reviewer)

What constitutes a Good Romance Read?


Francine's reveal: 

Having asked RRM reviewers to reveal what makes for a good historical romance, it occurred to me that I too must reveal the nitty-gritty, so here goes. All in all I have curious nature and throughout life I’ve always wanted to know what makes other people tick, and authors of historical novels– in general– are an intriguing species as are fans of historical novels.

It’s a given readers will time-slip through pages to wild windswept moors, tread through harsh stone mediaeval castle and manor halls, or step to the more elegant domain of royal courts and ballrooms. In reality each historical period has memorable events such as 1066, 1485, 1812, 1815, so on and so forth, but not all authors include major events as a backdrop to their stories. 

Many of the old romances often afford little more than a dateline sub header per chapter to denote time and place, e.g. Yorkshire 1759, or perhaps London 1814, and nothing else beyond the social standing of the characters and all that arises within their immediate circle is provided to latch onto. After all, a red shawl is a red shawl, and it’s up to the reader to determine knitted, woven, or silk etc, according to the character's social standing. Often within old books there was no in depth description of clothes, but the story was no less thrilling. In this instance the novel “Wuthering Heights” leaps to mind, and there are those within literary circles who will declare WH is not a romance, that it is merely a love story because it doesn’t have a happy ever after. I beg to differ, because two people fall in love, conflict arises, and tragedy ensues, just as it did in Romeo & Juliet, as it does in many of the great love/romance stories where the hero or heroine has to turn from the other and walk away. Some of the most memorable novels of loss leap to mind: Gone with the Wind; Frenchman’s Creek; and Brief Encounter. These novels were no less enthralling throughout, the endings somewhat tragic in the emotional sense, though in GWTW it was an open ending – would Rhett return; unable to live without Scarlet?

So you see I don’t believe romance novels have to have an HEA. Romance and tragedy is memorable; sad yes, and yet fulfilling in so many ways. So whatever romance comes my way for review, I can in all honesty say I have an open mind as to what constitutes a good or great romance read, though I do revel in books where emotions run deep, characters reveal their inner self, or the story lines have darker elements at play. Historical accuracy counts too, but please no antique sales catalogue descriptions of items, whether personal or household. Other than that I am a tart for handsome military heroes.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Article by Nigella (RRM Reviewer/Maritime Historian)










From Nigella's Perspective (Maritime Historian):

When Francine asked would I write a short piece on what constitutes a good romance novel from my perspective as a reader, the overall concept appealed until I sat down to compose the blessed response. If only a keyboard equated to the pleasure factor of a pen’s top pressed between teeth as does a comforter for a child, the words may have flowed with ease. It truly struck me how easy it is to point to the things in romance novels that annoy me, and that would be a big cheat on what Francine asked for. Being that of a maritime historian any adventure on the high seas, sweet or hot romance, whether a pirate captain or British Royal Navy officer hero, those books will be my first choice read over a land based novel. Caveat if you will for maritime plots where dialogue had better not ring heavy with ‘Ooh Arrrrghs’ or the book will be cast aside as stereotypical Hollywood characterisation of English pirates and privateers. Also no quarter will I grant for historical inaccuracies. As to the land based variety of romance novels, the more unusual and as near original as authors can strive toward and avoid reworking tropes of old the better I will like them. To summarise in a few words what constitutes a ‘good’ romance novel is when the end is reached and enjoyment lingers. What constitutes an ‘excellent’ novel is when characters and scenes leap to mind in vivid colour months after the book was put aside - those are the best kinds of book. 

Article by Charlotte (RRM Reviewer).

Articles by RRM reviewers on 
What makes for a Good Historical Read. 



Give me a historical romance novel and I am in heaven, transported through time to the world created by the author. Although love and romance is the backbone of romance novels, historical accuracy to do with place, time, clothing, and all the other wondrous elements expected of a good romance, for me, the characters must leap from the pages and become real in their own right.

If characters are mere props for the plot they won't hold me entranced, and faux period novels are two-a-penny at Amazon in recent months. The novels to which I refer are so badly researched the characters can be visualised as contemporary novels due to contemporary language and lack of authentic period feel.

A carriage is a carriage seems to be the mantra and if the book has horses and carriages that sets it in the past. No, a few horses and carriages don't make a historical novel is what I scream. A period novel must set the time and place with events or at least one or two of the characters who enlighten the reader with newspaper items, pamphlets, or some topic of conversation to place the novel within the 18th century or the 19th century.

To simply say the  novel is set de da de da is not good enough, show me, your reader, you the author know the period in which your novel is supposedly a representation of.  Don't attempt to con me with high praise editorial reviews and inflated NYT and USA Today accreditations.

To date and ten novels read in the last two months more than half of the acclaimed Regency novels fall short on London streets that are said to be grand houses during the Regency era. The most notoriously acclaimed South Audley Street itself consisted of small living accommodation over trade premises. It was never a desirable residential street in Georgian times. Mistakes of that kind deserve two stars for slack research even when the novel is well written. There, I have grumped for the day as a dissatisfied reader.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Regency!



Reviewed by Francine:


It’s 1816, the year after the Battle of Waterloo, and the year of the wettest summer known in England to that date. Whilst dark skies prevail, Georgiana, Duchess of Darby is blighted by the deepening desire of her brother and friends to see her back within the social whirl of the haut monde, which in turn means the marriage mart. Whilst her past remains a dark and raw reminder to the hurt that awaits the innocent and unpractised in deceits and vile subterfuge, widowhood is a sanctuary, albeit a lonely place to hide one’s inner desires. Even when temptation beckons in the form of Rafe Landsbury, he poses a dilemma for Georgiana, for to put her trust in another man and give sway to notions love can exist if only she can embrace it, she knows the potency of it all could be utter folly. 

Likewise, for Rafe, tempted in extremes by Georgiana, he’s aware she could so easily become his Achilles heel, the one thing that can destroy him. To his chagrin his past which is far darker than Georgie’s haunts from the shadows of his mind, and whilst his present interest in Georgiana becomes a whirl of hedonistic delights, a ghost from that past suddenly looms and threatens all that he covets. Thus, as hurt, betrayal, eroticism, and the mire of a covert lifestyle play on his mind, Rafe must cut off the snake’s head or lose all: game over. To say this is an exciting and hot read, pretty much says it how it is: enjoy! 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Tiime-Slip Roman Romance.



Reviewed by Nigella:

For me at least, this was a time-slip novel with a difference. Of course the ubiquitous time portal is there if only one knows of its existence and how and when it is activated, and Janet, an archaeologist and museum curator has unknowingly acquired the lock and key to the portal. In the meanwhile, absolutely obsessed with Roman Britain and extremely familiar with archaeological digs close to Hadrian’s Wall, sudden mysterious thefts from the museum require investigation. And Janet’s encounter with a cloaked figure, one that mysteriously vanishes, sets precedence for inner and physical alarm. While suffering mental anguish over a broken relationship, there remains an underlying sense she is drifting through life on automatic mode to quell the reasons behind the break up, her self confidence severely knocked back. It is the personal battle alongside strange visions which give rise to secondary sense she may well be verging close to a mental breakdown, until the moment the vision becomes real in every sense of the word “real” and she enters into another dimension, or has she entered into madness? If I were to say how and what occurs, such would spoil the story for other readers, suffice to say, her passion for Roman Britain is fulfilled, though is it quite as she had perceived from the perspective of an archaeologist rooting around in mud laden digs 2,000 years into the future? What transpires for Janet when she encounters Trajan, a noble Roman officer, not only quashes perceived imaginings of life in Roman Britain, tribal uprising north of the wall spells imminent trouble for the Roman soldiers manning the wall and its forts. But again is it real or a lifelike vision, as Janet looks to modern knowledge and technology whilst Trajan demonstrates skills beyond her immediate capabilities? Again, to infill here with gradation of events would spoil the story,  and I shall merely say romance blossoms, and while someone else from the future is intent on changing history time is bridged for Janet and Trajan, and the end has a satisfying outcome. 
A thoroughly recommended read for time-slip fans of ancient romance themes with a touch of mystery and adventure amidst gruelling feats of endurance and battles. 


Friday, 30 June 2017

English Civil War Romance



Reviewed by Francine:

The Royalist defeat at the Battle of Naseby (1645) is the opening scene to Traitor's Knot, and cannot by any stretch of imagination be quantified in death and injury alone. Miraculously alive, and determined to survive and fight another day, James Hart traverses a path of broken bodies whilst the stark crushing horror of it all tests his resolve in how to evade the triumphant Parliamentarian victors. With an episode of derring-do, alongside untold fear of detection, Hart's life and future has fallen to the hands of fate, and his reaching the Royalist stronghold of Bristol affords momentary relief. But nothing in times of war can be counted on as secure, and with a royal prince taking flight from the country what hope exists for eventual victory for the royal standard?         

By chapter two, time has moved on to 1650, the time of The Interregnum, the year after the beheading of Charles I, the year his son Charles II, sets out to regain the throne of England. Here the reader meets Elizabeth Seton, the last but one of the Weymouth Setons' - a family of traitors as far as many are concerned. Thus life for a single and vulnerable young lady is thwart with dangers, and with a sister married to a Parliamentarian, Elizabeth's life is subject to their influence, and their unwanted intentions for her future. Brave but grief stricken with the death of her mother, stoical Elizabeth sets out to make a life for herself elsewhere, unknowing of what lies ahead in Warwickshire, or that she and Hart are destined to cross paths in strange circumstances. With a journey fraught with the dangers of highwayman and vagabonds, can her life become any more dangerous? Indeed it can, when the likes of a secret organisation eventually embroils her in its humanitarian bent to help those in need and undermine the enemy. 

As time progresses and supporters of the King believe he will march south from Scotland, that battle will ensue, and all will be as it should be for the Royalist cause, James and Elizabeth are drawn one to the other, and as love blossoms war is nigh. As with all historical fiction, even romantic fiction, history itself dictates the outcome and the author adheres strictly to historical fact. In bearing a great passion for this particular period in history both as a reader and author, I thoroughly enjoyed James Hart and Elizabeth Seton's adventures and all the heart-rending experiences that befell them. Make no mistake this a swashbuckling romance set within the English Civil Wars, and a delightful step back in time.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Regency!




Reviewed by Charlotte. See her blog @ Charlotte

The Book’s Premise:

Did you love the wit and elevated dialogue of Pride and Prejudice, yet always wish you got to see Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have it off? Set in England in the early 1800's, with hoydens, lords and rakes, this is the witty and sexy regency romance you have been waiting for...

London-hating dreamer, Lydia Norwood, has failed spectacularly as a débutante. Now an encoretante whose family has lost a fortune, Lydia discovers that the beau monde is hard on a nouveau riche social climber, particularly one who is no longer riche and only wants to climb trees. Lydia must stave off the effrontery of rogue lords and conniving competitors long enough to make a good match, or else incur society's scorn by earning her own money. Falling for the unattainable Lord Aldley is a distraction she cannot afford. But they share such an enchanted history, how can her heart resist?

The tragically virtuous Earl of Aldley is tired of ambitious families hurling debutantes at his head, but cannot hide in France forever. He returns to London to seek out the mysterious tree-climbing girl who once saved him from a scheming chit, and finds more than he bargained for. Abductions, seductions, trickery and injury all endanger Lydia, but Lord Aldley's heart is imperiled beyond rescue. He has only just found her; will he lose her forever to his enemy, his best friend, or his own dangerous mistake?

My Review:
First off the premise and title reveal almost all the major plot points including one or two plot spoilers. Though why Jane Austen’s wit and elevated dialogue in Pride and Prejudice gets a mention I know not after reading Three Abductions and An Earl.

Apart from the revealing premise the story started well with a little intrigue, and it progressed at a steady pace with amusing asides and character introductions. Though it slowed a great deal and required a good many chapters until the scenes were set for envy, conflict, and disreputable intrigue. Even so, the way Earl Aldley and Lydia Norwood hedged around each other with words and secret thoughts was mildly amusing to begin with. All the while the sub-characters Tilly and Rutherford (for this reader at any rate), more than edged ahead of the hero and heroine and they did thank God carry the plot forward after the first abduction took place. Here Rutherford took the lead role as the wounded hero and Lydia had every reason to be grateful to him.

Things then turned silly when Lydia revealed bluestocking dreams of going into trade, which became an ancillary thread amidst a lengthy period of comings and goings and spiteful rumours and female rivalry escalated. Funnier still Aldley who at the start is a well travelled aristocrat turned into a lovesick whimpering puppy panting and wagging his tail every time he gets close to Lydia, and then abduction two happens and the end result is a carriage accident.

Poor bedridden Lydia is then confused while the earl resides in limbo land not knowing if he can have a place in her life, and to the sidelines Rutherford and Tilly making out in the sick room brought me to tears because believe me the second half of the book is as funny as the premise promises even though it takes a long time to plough the farce and reap the sinful harvest of lustful hopes and dreams.

Reviewer aside:
At 20 plus Kindle pages per chapter it’s a long slow read with 58 chapters in all. While the first half of the book has a good literary edge with formal permutations relevant to on dit [they say] and pen rép [error] the second half falls away to a more relaxed style and strangely less formality all told.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Under The Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage - further medieval mayhem





Reviewed by M. J. Logue






The third book in a series I have come to love as much as the author's other series.... 

It is still a wonder and a joy to me how the author has managed to create two totally different and totally plausible worlds. I know it's not the done thing to compare two different series-es, but it's so easy for a writer to simply transplant a set of successful characters into another period, appropriately renamed. And Ms Belfrage doesn't - Adam and Kit are fully-rounded (and in Kit's case, almost perpetually fully rounded: might I suggest that Adam ties a knot in it, for the next instalment?) carefully-crafted creatures of the medieval period. 

Yes, there is action and intrigue a-plenty, and adventure to stir the blood. But although they're well done and deftly handled, my favourite parts of this novel are the little domestic touches where the author's research makes for an intimate, tender portrayal of medieval family life. The omniscient Mabel, for instance, I love. (I am also intrigued by Adam's brother William, who may be a man of the cloth but who, I think, has something of a most un-canonical tenderness for Kit. I wonder what will come of it...because I am pretty sure Adam won't like it if he finds out. And I cannot help but wonder if William is quite what he seems to be, or whether a very de Guirande ambition is hidden behind that virtuous exterior...) 

Without giving too much away, I am DELIGHTED to see that my doubts regarding Tom in the first book, were shared by Kit in this one. And that William's handling of that situation is what makes me wonder if he's all he seems to be. 

I love the way themes are developing in this series: the themes of family ties, dysfunctional and otherwise: of deceptions both kindly and unkindly meant; of the contrast between theI "right" and the "wrong" love. Ms Belfrage creates a wonderfully shaded world in which the right choices are not always the defensible choices. There are times when I don't like Adam very much: he doesn't always put his family first, although he always puts his family's future first. (As I said. A very de Guirande ambition.) He can be arrogant, quick-tempered, high-handed. He's also an entirely typical medieval male, and much though I might want him to put Kit's needs to the fore at times, it would be anachronistic for him to do so. 


So book four soon, please - I'm watching that William.... 




Saturday, 3 June 2017

Regency Mystery and Suspense.




Reviewed by Francine: 


Having ventured to the Far East as an East India Company man, Reinhart Maycott is essentially a reluctant aristocrat. His life in India encapsulates the intrepid and adventurous spirit of the young Reinhart, until the sudden and unexpected elevation to a marquisate forces him back to his homeland. And no matter his shady existence in the nether wilds of India and scandalous rumours that abound, every mama in England has taken note of his return to home shores, not least that of Lady Parbury, who immediately sets out to present her eldest and most ravishing daughter for his delectation.

Of course, Reinhart (Ren) is far from conventional, any more than young Mariah Parbury, who indeed recognises Ren’s extreme handsomeness as does her elder sister Rorie (Aurora), but it is his travels and former lifestyle that prove as captivating as his golden eyes to Mariah, whilst her mother sees only wealth and status for her eldest darling. And so the fun begins as Lady Parbury sets forth to create a match made in heaven, but the best laid plans ‘n’ all are thwarted as Ren’s past begins to encroach and threaten those close to him. As happened whilst in India, life becomes fraught with ever increasing dangers, and if love should blossom betwixt him and a Parbury miss the death knell may ring out as it had when he was far away in India.

The great mystery of who is plaguing Ren’s life comes to light at the very end of the story, as would be expected of a good suspense novel. I applaud the author for the story’s unusual theme of a man and his big cat, a man who harbours a secret longing for love but dare not embrace it. As for the delightful heroine with an inquisitive mind and foolish daring, she set the tone nicely for touches of farce, fear, and she was indeed deserving of a happy ever after. Nice one Ms Eastwood.

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Darcy Monologues



Reviewed by Nigella (maritime historian)


Against the remit of RRM and expected due regard to anthologies, I am, as it were, obliged to read and review each story in turn and I haven’t. With two stories and a third of the next read I was Darcy fatigued. 

However I did feel obliged to flip through the table of contents and at random selected stories for a quick browse. To my utter dismay different eras alternating from Regency to modern threw me and never again will I pick up another modern day Austen novel or anthology riding on Ms Austen’s pelisse hem. My reasons for abandonment of the Darcy Monologues can be viewed at the bottom of the page.


Death of a Bachelor by Caitlin Williams inducts the reader with Mrs Fitzwiliam Darcy, nee Elizabeth Bennet, and her beloved Darcy travelling to London post-wedding nuptials. There is little more can be said of this well written short story with Austenesque prose befitting the period in third person perspective. To reveal more would entail a plot spoiler.

From the Ashes by J Marie Croft is another Darcy in which the author narrates the story from the perspective of Darcy’s harrowing and humiliating self analysis of Elizabeth’s rejection of his marriage proposal. Effectively it’s a well written cameo utilising Ms Austen’s fully-formed character with literate flair.

If Only a Dream by Joana Starnes is befittingly yet another well written Darcy Monologue, and it is with regret I could read no further. After two Darcy stories, the third began to rankle and my thoughts strayed to how wonderful Jane Austen’s characters were, and how overused they are by modern day authors obsessed with Fitzwilliam Darcy.

When young I didn’t appreciate Jane Austen’s novel Pride & Prejudice foisted on me as obligatory reading at my school until the untitled toff Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet the feisty and somewhat capricious female grabbed my attention. Both were superbly depicted by Austen, not least Darcy’s supercilious nature and contempt for the lower orders. Over the years I have read Pride & Prejudice several times and the chip that sat on Darcy’s shoulder has remained as plain as a pike staff and I believe he hailed as likely as not from Ms Austen’s observant eye of a gentleman of her time. On the scale of social mobility Darcy is a commoner regardless of family connections to a lordly base, for that reason Ms Austen portrayed him with sense of zeal as though she disliked him every bit as much as Elizabeth did. His deportment demands attention, his scornful nature thereby is his undoing in Elizabeth’s eyes until against all that he abhors he succumbs to physical desire for that feisty madam of the lower order. One wonders if in her own way Jane Austen derived great satisfaction from his comedown in marriage to Elizabeth which in the social event would result in lesser requests for his pleasure at notable soirees when news of their marriage began spreading abroad. Greatly amusing is how Ms Austen left Darcy in a social set he had despised and ridiculed. For me Austen is Austen, and modern day Austenesque novels touch me not.
***

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Regency!



Reviewed by Francine:

The title says it all, and as with any first real sense of romance, imagined or otherwise, who from amongst us forgets the name and description of their first romantic entanglement? Thus Cassandra remembers every aspect of the late Lieutenant, Lord Benedict Mallory’s appearance, or does she? Has the passing of time and heartbreak clouded her memory? For when she encounters a stranger in a position that is contrary to Ben’s former life she cannot believe her eyes, and yet, something deep inside wills her to pursue the notion it is he. 

Unsure how to proceed in matters of discretion is not easy for Cassandra, who is far from slow in putting forth in petulant manner and oft sharp tongued when it suits her. Equally frustrated by formal etiquette so prevalent within the elder echelons of society, she faces the added task of proving a young chit can balance emotional pull against sage thinking as a soldier steels himself to do what must be done. Therefore she strives to convince others Ben is indeed alive. But of course, love does strange things to a mind, and there I shall leave you to ponder Cassie’s fate. Has she seen the one she fell in love with, or is the man she encountered a figment of imagination and overt desire for something lost? I can say in all honesty I enjoyed following Cassie on her journey of discovery, and although the plot follows though pretty much as expected, there are steamy and sensual moments, emotional torments and strife aplenty, and of course, a Happy Ever After. Enjoy!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Georgian Romance



Reviewed by Francine.

This is a delightfully charming little country tale, and the fact I’m a bee-keeper’s moll, I naturally loved the storyline.

Set within the Georgian era and of Queen Charlotte’s love for hosting grand balls and social functions, beeswax candles were required in vast numbers from specialist suppliers. In those days beeswax candles were almost akin to gold-plated illumination in comparison to that of tallow candles. And so, when Oliver Hamilton, the Queen’s acquisitions officer, encounters Madelyn Wickham, disaster unsuspectingly lies in wait around the corner. But who wishes to harm her, and seeks to destroy all that she has? Albeit Oliver’s job is merely to acquire candles, a true gallant cannot abandon a young woman to the vagaries of harsh weather and destitution. Thus, as he and Madelyn work together to resolve her plight, a new kind of light sparks between them. Oh yes, it’s a sweet little romance and the delightful aspect, it has an original plot.

I just want to point out I award five stars for original plot themes, and for stories that touched my heart.

Dystopian Gothic with a touch of Romance.



Reviewed by Francine.

How to classify this thoroughly intriguing book in terms of genre is impossible, and so I'm going to refer to it as a futuristic gothic novel. I say that because it has gothic towers, ecclesiastical minsters along with island castles and fortresses and civil war has ravaged across the lands. It's a strange existence within the British Isles, and whilst the hero cavorts around in flying machines (aircraft) and solar vehicles, the political turmoil that seemingly prevails has a mediaeval bent that sets it aside from the usual Mad Max style of futuristic post apocalyptic plots.

In Skryker's world he's Minister of State Security, and when a traumatised Prisoner of State becomes his ward, he sets out to uncover the truth behind a 12 year old child's dark harrowing past. But even men who wield element of power within the greater scheme of everyday life, a bizarre dark mass (dislocation barrier) remains an unknown phenomena (what is it?), and worse, political unrest and royalist rivalry is afoot. Skryker has no idea why others are hell-bent on kidnapping and or killing him and his Prisoner of State, and Xanthe Chance proves to be his greatest challenge to date: in more ways than one. This novel touches on mystical properties and portrays elements of the present in latent terms, and therefore makes for a thoroughly intriguing read.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Who's in the Interview Chair?

Today the Lovely Katherine Kullmann, author of Georgian/Regency novels, has stepped to the chair! 







(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

Ans:There was no one thing. I have always loved writing, and it has been an important part of my work, but it was only when I took early retirement that I had the time and space to consider writing creatively. I’ve been fascinated by the regency period since I first read Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen and it seemed natural to set my books there. As to what triggers a story—it can be something quite small, for example, take thisslight exchange between two women at a masquerade inPerception & Illusion:
“The carriage is outside if you still wish to leave. It has just struck midnight,” Thalia whispered.
“I do. And you?”
“I’ll stay awhile.”
I couldn’t stop wondering what happened when Thalia returned to the ballroom and the result was The Murmur of Mask. In the end, it was published first. I was so immersed in it by the time Perception & Illusion was returned from my editor that I decided to complete it before returning to P&I.

(2)  Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank?– brief description!

Ans:I don’t think of my heroes in terms of alpha or beta but I would say they are a mixture of both. Luke Fitzmaurice, in The Murmur of Masks is the younger son of a baronet. Prevented by a previous illness from leaving university to join the Army in 1803, he will not be deterred from joining Wellington in Brussels in May 1815. He is a debonair man about town, an excellent brother, frequents a rough and ready fencing club in preference to Angelo’s and is interested in political reform.
The Honourable Hugo Tamrisk M.P, hero of Perception & Illusion, is the youngest surviving child and only son of the twenty-fifth Baron Tamm. One of the ton’s most eligible bachelors, he is inclined to be cool and reserved but is instantly attracted to Lallie Grey. On first sight, she finds him ‘very dark, with strong cheekbones and deep eye sockets set above a beak of a nose and a determined chin, above which his lips were fixed in a straight line’ but he soon reveals a ‘surprisingly attractive smile’.

(3)  Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– brief description!

Ans:Olivia Frobisher in The Murmur of Masks is the daughter and sister of naval officers. She is a competent and capable woman, used to sizing up a situation and making the best of it, but her aloof façade conceals a longing for love.
Lallie Grey, in Perception & Illusion, is governess to her younger half-sisters. She is warm-hearted, impulsive and full of life. Hugo admires her ‘slanted green eyes and provocative combination of a little turned-up nose perched above a plump upper lip’ but also finds her very easy to talk to.

(4)  Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

Ans: Yes. In The Murmur of Masks, Luke’s friend Lord Franklin plays a very important part, as does Olivia’s friend the Duchess of Gracechurch. Perception & Illusion is more of an ensemble piece, with Lallie’s and Hugo’s families to the fore.

(5)  Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

Ans: Both are set in England, but with some of the action in Brussels and surrounding areas. Book One of The Murmur of Masks is set in 1803, Book Two in 1814 and Book Three in 1815. Perception & Illusion runs from mid-1813 to early 1815. There is a slight overlapping of characters between the two books as much of the action occurs within the same social set.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

Ans: I love regency fashion. It reflects the light-heartedness of the period. But I am also fascinated by the darker side of a world on the cusp of modernity.

(7)  Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?
Ans: Robert Grey, Lallie’s father, who only has an eye for the main chance, and his crony Frederick Malvin who leaps at the chance to marry Lallie.A thoroughly nasty pair.

(8)  Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

Ans: I don’t avoid sex scenes but do not include them gratuitously. They must be part of the plot and feel right for the characters in their time. I avoid gross violence.

(9)  How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, other...?

Ans: I describe my novels as ‘historical fiction for the heart and for the head’.

Back cover blurb, and point of sale links. 



Back Cover Blurbs;
The Murmur of Masks
1803/04 England is at war with France. Olivia Frobisher, daughter of a naval officer who is somewhere at sea, loses her home when her mother dies suddenly. Adrift and vulnerable, she accepts the proposal of Jack Rembleton, a natural scientist, hoping that love will grow between them. She is unaware that Jack, fearing exposure of his innermost secret, has yielded to pressure from his elder brother to marry and sire an heir to his title. Luke Fitzmaurice,devastatedat being declared unfit for military service, suffers another disappointment when he learns that Olivia is already married. Olivia too is shaken and realises that in accepting Jack’s offer she has cut herself off from the world of youth and the promise of love.

Ten years, later, Jack spends most of his time at his experimental farm, visiting Olivia and their three children occasionally. With Napoleon defeated, he leaves to travel abroad indefinitely. Luke has become more radical in his outlook and under the pseudonym Otanes casts a critical eye on society. He is still drawn to Olivia but must accept they can have no future. A sudden turn of events changes everything but Napoleon escapes from Elba. Although offered a seat in parliament, Luke purchases a commission in the 1st/52nd and joins Wellington’s army in Brussels. Once Napoleon is defeated, Luke must fight the battle for Olivia’s heart.

“Catherine Kullmann's debut novel offers lovers of historical fiction an authentic portrait of the passion and turbulence of the extended Regency period. It is a story of love and war; an eternal triangle with a difference.”

The Murmur of Masks is available as e-book and paperback worldwide from Amazon 




Perception & Illusion
Cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, Lallie Grey accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride.

Perception & Illusion charts Lallie’s and Hugo’s voyage through a sea of confusion and misunderstanding. Can they successfully negotiate the Rocks of Jealousy and the Shoals of Perplexity to arrive at the Bay of Delight or will they drift inexorably towards Cat & Dog Harbour or the Dead Lake of Indifference? Catherine Kullmann's skillful evocation of the Regency period rings true, as do her protagonists’ predicaments. It is a joy to step into this other world with her.

What they say about Catherine Kullmann’s writing
‘Fans of historical fiction will be delighted with a well-wrought story and a wealth of authentic detail.’
‘A page-turning plot of romance and intrigue with well-developed characters set in an extremely well-researched and detailed Regency period.’
‘The characters are particularly well drawn, and the English Regency setting is just perfect.’
‘You really get a feel for the Regency era and the conflicts and difficulties people faced.’

Perception & Illusion is available as e-book and paperback worldwide from Amazon 

Regency!




Reviewed by Francine.

Short Afternoon tea read!

A lovely little short novella to wile away a moment of escapism with afternoon tea and cake. Albeit small, the author packs a lot of detail into this sweet tale of bridging the centuries, and all without the ubiquitous "sudden thunderstorm" which opens a time-warp fault so commonplace within time-slip novels. So what is it like to find oneself the object of attention by an unknown who is convinced you are a part of his life? There I shall leave you to discover how Lottie copes with amorous intentions, and whether she wants to, or indeed makes it back to the 21st Century. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Who's in Interview Chair?

In the Interview chair today is the lovely Erato... 



(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

Ans: So, my entire Regency Romantics series began with choosing plots from actual old books and plays, and using those as scenari; kind of like you do with a commedia dell’arte play, where you use the same stories over and over, but it comes out new and different because you’re filling in the details from scratch – working in fresher or better ideas you got, improving what failed in the past incarnation, stuff like that. The book Sweet Errors is based on an opera from 1790 called Cosi fan Tutte. There are some significant differences even in the general description of the two plots, but that’s what Sweet Errors was modelled from. I tried to correct some of the issues with Cosi, such as how the scheme to test female fidelity had seemingly come out of nowhere, and consequently the characters seemed a bit unsympathetic because there was no motivation for putting everyone through the wringer like that. So, for instance, I made it that the girls were the ones who really started the ball rolling with this whole testing of fidelity, and the boys were motivated in response to that.

(2)  Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank? – brief description!

Ans: Sweet Errors has two male leads. They do have the fits of passion and emotion usually associated with alphas, but the fact that they aren’t really running the show sort of takes away the implication of leadership I would think of when I think alpha. They are both young guys, sons of wealthy country landowners, who don’t really have their own fortunes or properties yet, but also have every reason to expect they will eventually inherit those things from family members. Bertie Wooster types, I suppose, though a tad more rugged as befits their era.

(3)  Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank? – brief description!

Ans: The two females are sisters, and they are daughters of a reasonably wealthy merchant-landowner. They’d be marrying up by marrying squires. Their personalities are rather more ditzy than I’m used to writing, but I’m a believer in making characters to serve the plot, and Sweet Errors has a plot that doesn’t really suit heroines who are too intelligent or steadfast.

(4)  Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

Ans: Mr. Hackett was originally going to star in a romantic subplot all his own, but I quickly found there wasn’t enough space for that in a book of the length that I wanted. I had imagined he’d end up with Despa, the maid, who was going to be smart enough to escape from her own crummy situation as a housekeeper who doesn’t even get to choose her own name; but her role was chopped down to almost nothing by the time it was over. I suppose I might recycle that story for some future work. Omitting that romantic plotline actually caused Hackett to come off as possibly gay, between his female pen name, his misogyny, and his unusual attention to the two young men – which maybe worked better for the story, really. One of my favorite romantic heroes in the whole Regency Romantics series is Richard Kensington from In the Fire; and he and Mr. Hackett actually seem to be almost the same character; they are men of science who didn’t find it to hold the answers they wanted, and turned to the comfort of literature instead. The main difference is that Hackett got older and kind of channelled his life’s disappointments into a literary career, whereas Kensington, alas, merely got really into Goethe’s Sorrows of Werther, and consequently didn’t get older. In Sweet Errors, Hackett is the one who is actually pulling the strings – the highwaymen didn’t come up with these stupidly literary backstories and Adam Ant style costumes on their own. That’s all Hackett’s direction.

(5)  Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

Ans: Sweet Errors is set in 1797, which is the year in which it is generally assumed that Jane Austen completed the writing of her book Pride and Prejudice (though that book wasn’t published till much later.) That was my only real reason for choosing that year. It is set mostly in a place called Walton Bay, which is apparently little more than a trailer park nowadays; but I wanted it to be set at the seaside, for reasons related to my memories of the staging of Cosi fan Tutte, I suppose; and it had to be in kind of a rural area where the characters wouldn’t encounter a lot of other people who might spoil their schemes. I had also intended to use the proximity to Bristol for some plot purposes, though in fact I wound up not using those sequences I had planned for the city. But, the female leads live in Walton Bay, and their boyfriends live nearby in Walton-in-Gordano and Weston-in-Gordano. I’ve never been to these places and had to learn about them from Google Maps, town websites and a couple little references in old books.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

Ans: I’ll tell you honestly, the Regency isn’t one of my favorite historical eras; the costumes are a little plain for my taste and it was the beginning of that “Victorian” idea of kind of prudish good behaviour. I remember once reading an old play from 1706 called The Recruiting Officer – I began reading it on Google Books from an early edition, but with the weird typefaces they used in that era, it was hard to read; so I sought out another copy. I ended up finding an edition from either 1800 or 1810, in a better typeface, but it was amazing how much was censored in that version compared to what was in the original. It showed how much the morals changed in just that 100 year span! Thing is, I find stories where everyone is behaving well to be incredibly boring – I kind of prefer the wild antics of the 18th century, to the 19th century’s backlash against it. When I first began to write Regency Romances, most of what I knew about the era was picked up from the Surgeon’s Hall Museum and from episodes of Blackadder. Consequently, I display what I recognize is kind of an unusual interest in the diseases everyone had. I got to use some of that in Sweet Errors. I was trying to follow the literary rules of disease, where too much stress causes a deadly condition called “brain fever” that was evidently thought to be a real thing at the time, and was understood to be potentially fatal. It sounds like the medical treatments they used against brain fever were the only reason it was ever deadly, though – lots of heavy bloodletting was the recommended course. Nowadays brain fever would mean a condition like encephalitis or meningitis, but in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the disease that everyone in novels was dying from after receiving distressing news – I guess because when you’re under stress, you can get headaches or have trouble concentrating, so they believed that it was a fever forming in your brain.

(7)  Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

Ans: I think I like all the characters in Sweet Errors. The book Honoria has characters I dislike – amusingly because I was trying to make them more likeable to the general public by toning down their worser traits. As I said before, I find stories where everyone behaves well to be so boring! Nobody behaves in Sweet Errors.

(8)  Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

Ans: Sex scenes, yes – not that I’m exactly prudish about sex, it’s just I don’t feel sex scenes add much to a work. It certainly doesn’t move the plot forward to know the details of her “mound of Venus” or his “Beefy McManstick” or whether anyone’s moaning with pleasure. Especially now that I’m an adult and can easily get real porn, if that’s what I want – I just don’t enjoy a good story interrupted with a description of imaginary characters having sex. It’s a great way to lose my attention. Gross violence, on the other hand – I love that! There wasn’t much opportunity for it in Sweet Errors, but in books like Pursuit I made good use of it. Violence, gross or not, can totally move a plot; and in a book it’s difficult for it to really be properly gross anyway, because you don’t get the kind of visuals you would from a film. When I was young, there were movies my mother forbade me to watch, like A Clockwork Orange – but she was fine with my reading the book versions, I assume because the inherent nature of its being a book just tones down the violence so much.

(9)  How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, other...?

Ans: Oh, god, this was really tricky to figure out when I needed to come up with titles and labels for the ISBNs! I think Sweet Errors is pretty definitely a romantic comedy, and in fact might be the most straightforward romantic comedy of the whole series, even if everyone does get the dreaded brain fever.  I used the neutral term “novella” for most of the Regency Romantics titles because some of the books aren’t quite as humorous. The ones I labelled as “romances” are usually so called because someone dies – and even then they are often a bit humorous or satirical. Like, In the Fire is almost making fun of the Werther-suicide phenomenon that went on around that time, even though I don’t think it’s quite right to call that story a comedy. I’m not very good at writing anything with a totally straight face, though. There’s very little that I can take 100% seriously, and it often seems kind of arrogant, to me, when people think that everything has to be serious and others are wrong to be amused.  That’s not to say I intended the Regency Romantics stories as satires – in fact I was a bit annoyed that that’s how they kept coming out – but it seems to just naturally fall that when I imitate the old style storylines, I automatically seize upon some really weird element that turns the whole thing into a John Waters kind of satire, every time. I don’t even like John Waters’ stuff all that well, but it’s undeniable that my style resembles his – I think because he’s doing the same kind of thing, taking his favorite old books and films and trying to imitate them and improve upon them, but through a mind a little too twisted to interpret with perfect sincerity.  





The Richmond sisters have met the men of their dreams — or have they?

Charlotte and Elizabeth Richmond have every expectation of marrying their devoted boyfriends, Thomas Marchant and Robert Benjamin; but when they come to question the fidelity of these men, a series of events are set into motion which can change their lives forever. Two highwaymen in hiding take residence near the Richmond home, and the sisters begin to fall for these mysterious strangers. Will the girls betray their long-time lovers, or will their fidelity stand true? It is a matter of the utmost importance — for Thomas and Robert have bet their entire fortunes on it.

A sweet and silly adventure in love, Sweet Errors plunges the reader into an exciting 18th century world of young lovers, secret identities, romance novels and breezy seascapes. Pick it up and you will fall for the charms of its amusing cast and vibrant story.

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