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 r√©p [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.
***