Sunday, 26 November 2017

Charming Regency!



Reviewed by Francine


This sensual and touching novella begins with a soldier's gallant deed during the battle between British and French forces at the Ch√Ęteau Hougoumont Farmhouse (1815). But memories remain a year and six months later (1816) and are as stark and real within nightmares as dreadful news received by Noel Redgrave hours before the French assault. Given to believe a normal life as others of his ilk are enjoying will never be realised, young maidens are displayed and trumpeted by others in hope of tempting him to enter the marriage mart. True, he has an inheritance in dire need of a boost in funds, so ideally a large dowry and at least a moderately attractive bride would solve his problems. Though no one expected, not least his best friend, the lady who would catch his eye is the least thought of as a suitable bride in temperament or otherwise.

Lettice is independent, a rebel at heart with an artistic bent and a wicked mischievous almost cruel streak which she has wielded in the past with consummate skill for no other purpose but to deter potential suitors. Suddenly besieged by a new irritable rash of suitors she puts into practise a new deceit to test Noel in determining whether he is genuinely drawn to her, or whether a substantive dowry is the greater attraction. For Noel it is a double dilemma, for on the one hand he will be looked upon as a cad if he dares to ask for her hand in marriage, on the other he may destroy the very thing he wants if he compromises her in the heat of the moment and casts caution to the wind. Hence, the dire situation that arises betwixt Noel and Lettice, cannot be resolved without absolute honesty and confession of hidden truths, so who will own to deceit first? A dilemma indeed and a thoroughly charming Regency romance!



Amazon

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Christmas Regency Romance



Reviewed by Francine:

This is a charming sweet romance with a Seasonal Christmas feel to it in every sense of the word, seasonal, in which the heroine Holly Gray, and hero Will Berry, share in the delights and preparations for the decorating of a castle and near by church. The snow-laden landscape adds to the thrill and chill as guests engage with gathering all manner of greenery and thereby establish friendships. Thus, amidst glittering candelabras and sumptuous fare laid to dining tables, surreptitious glances are exchanged. As with most house parties; tales of old are spun and ghost stories imparted, but does a ghost really exist within the castle or did Holly imagine a close encounter? If she did, she ponders whether any one of the guests even those who display interest in her innocent charms can ever match the man of an ethereal moment in time. If it was one of the guests who dared in a moonlit conservatory: which one? Perhaps a mistletoe ball will satisfy her curiosity or leave her with a wondrous mystery. And of course, her mama is a dreadful social climber, so only the best suitor will do!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

General Historical Romance



Reviewed by Francine:

Life in a Harem and the practices defined as part of life within a Sultan’s palace is unacceptable and sexist for 21st century thinking. Thus the era in which Josanna Thomson’s novel is set, it is nonetheless a safer place than most for those sold into slavery, and a strict hierarchy exists and woe betide anyone who breaks the rules. Strange as it may seem, women within Harems of the Ottoman Empire stretching to the Barbary Coast, had more rights and power than most European women had within marriages, so sayeth the renowned English aristocrat Lady Mary Wortley-Montague, who stated in one of her 18th century letters: “The Turks govern their country and their wives govern them. In no other country do women enjoy themselves as much.

Be assured the author has researched her subject matter in depth, right down to names for individual items of clothing worn by women of the Harem, and of a south sea island maiden, though the true heritage of Sarah and the colour of her hair sets her apart from other women, just it had for another who arrived at the Harem and is thus presented to Naa’il Dhar. Throughout the beginning of the novel two stories of two women run parallel and finally merge as one, and yet neither woman meets the other. Whilst Naa’il is the central pin in their respective stories aside from the swashbuckling hero Hassan, Naa’il is a man of his time and his religion, wealthy and powerful, and yet his faith is tested, just as the hero’s faith and belief he can rescue the woman he loves is tested. 

Hassan Aziz’s existence as a Barbary pirate is key to knowledge in how to achieve his aims, but the fact he is not what he seems is also reliant on betrayal of those closest to Naa’il. This is a fascinating novel of south sea island innocence, treachery, lust, and love, the kind of love that comes once in a lifetime if a man is lucky, and both Naa’il and Hassan are driven to acts that astound both in their own way because of two women. So alike is Sarah to Cora, an American captive; Naa’il’s conscience plagues him for his unjust treatment of both women who refuse to submit and embrace his religious dictate. Although I mention love and lust, this is a historical novel combined with romance, and the novel is not a steamy read in the vein of eroticism. The characters are well-rounded, their faults exposed, and the punishment of slaves and concubines, or favoured wives who deceive, can be realistically harsh. All told this is an enlightening read with hints at how one person’s religion can give cause for another to doubt their own. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Review - Proof of Virtue.



Sometimes reviews give balance to a book  - after all, one reader's delicacy, another's poison. 

So here is my Review of Proof of Virtue.

Reviewed by Francine:

The last part of the Georgian period drifting to the Victorian era was a very harsh period in history, and all despite the great Industrial Revolution in which steam trains gradually brought about the end of long journeys by mail coach (other) as a means of travel, and factory mill industrialists began crushing incomes of small country weavers. It was also a period of change as the poorer people deserted the countryside to find work in townships. Sadly, the heroine of this novel has lived a comfortable life but is suddenly cast into a hell pit due to unforeseen circumstance of death and loss of her home. Thus, with her younger siblings to care for she is duty bound to provide for them as best she can. But tide of bad fortune affords no hope of a kindly person to care what happens to them and she has no alternative but to look to the Workhouse for a roof over their heads and food to belly.


To understand Emma’s plight fully, there is the reality that Workhouses were the most dreaded of prospects next to prison. Subsequently, she braces herself for the humiliation of it all, but never in her worst nightmare could she envisage the dark side of workhouses, of those who sponsor them and exploit and abuse the inhabitants, nor of those who manage or own workhouses. Hence her story is harrowing, one in which she battles numerous emotions, suffers the wrath of others, and yet finds friends and allies, and love blossoms in extraordinary circumstances when least expected. I admire this author’s daring to venture to the darker side of life, because in reality for those less fortunate in these times it was a hellish existence. This novel reflects the harshness and the value of human flesh by those who sought only to further their own finances, personal aims, and covert desires. So for that reason this is a true depiction of the dark side of life as young Princess Victoria is schooled to reign by William IV, the last of the Georgian kings.






Review - A Marchioness Below Stairs



Reviewers oft assess books in quite different ways, and that's why reviews can be awfully confusing for readers to determine whether a book is to their tastes! When I review books I rate them on entertainment value, quality of prose, natural flow in dialogue, whether characters are fully fledged, no plot-holes, and above all else, good sense of time and place of the era depicted. 



Reviewed by Francine:

What an enchanting and unusual love story this is, and made all the more enjoyable because it is atypical! Here we have a marchioness who is willing to contravene the expected social mores of the haut monde, and indeed she takes control at a crisis moment in which fellow females would never soil their hands to see others replenished in a time of need. But Isabel is not altogether as one would imagine, and whilst good fortune has come her way in one instance, in another it has caused her great pain. All too well aware memories of former affairs of the heart can be as painful as when first experienced, hers are far from fully vanquished. And despite another man teases her mercilessly, his interest in her evident, life soon becomes somewhat heated below stairs as Isabel and the hero rally to provide sustenance for her uncle’s guests.

Aside from the romance, which in itself develops in the strangest of circumstances, there are elements of the period many Regency fans are familiar with in general, but few authors will venture to. Thus Ms Baxter touches on the subject of slavery, and Isabel’s discovery of a unique business premises in London brings to light a delicacy that is today a familiar sight in almost every town in the Western world, hence she has created as far as I am aware an original Regency plot-line. Well done Ms Baxter with this debut novel.