Sunday, 23 February 2020

Retiring from the Book Review Scene.



Sad Reflections


Whilst I have afforded precious time in writing book reviews and acting as Judge for several prestigious off-line and on-line book awards, all in between writing my own novels, I can tell you it has been a challenge at times, a pleasure in many ways too, until the day one realises there are more people who take than give in this world.

It goes without saying I have written thousands of reviews for differing review platforms since the Internet came into being as a prime market place for books. However, I disliked Goodreads and its toxic environment from the first day I poked my nose on the site. Thus I left it almost immediate of posting several 5 star reviews which trolls tore apart as biased reviews for friends. As a matter of fact I didn't even know the authors at all. Aside from that I posted all my reviews to Amazon in hope it helped authors thrive! I was also surprised by the amount of UK readers who had never heard of Goodreads and, or, had no interest in the site. 

Prior to life on the Internet as author and reviewer, I reviewed novels for a magazine supplement for some thirty years. As an author at that time with several publishers (UK and US publishers under differing pseudonyms) I gained an NYT best seller accolade, and not once have I posted NYT Best Selling Author on any of my self-published/Indie novels under my present nom de plume. To me that would be a white lie because not one of my Indie novels has been presented to NYT reviewers nor have any of my Indie novels sold a million copies per book.       

In my time on Facebook groups I've encountered lovely authors and some so mean and downright unpleasant at times I pondered their sanity. But aside from the vindictive elements there always was an underlying competitiveness to the publishing industry, with publishing houses jostling for space on book store shelves and all sorts of incentives put forth to gain prime slots, Nothing has changed in the conventional world of high street bookstores, but Amazon has shifted the balance in who gets top slots on their platforms. Aside from faux novels and click-farm boosting, Amazon now promotes its own imprints (see them topping most pages as sponsored products) and that is aside from author sponsored ads. 

Other top slot books are rated on sales only, and most Indie authors contribute their book listings to KU which gain no rating whatsoever no matter whether they achieve bonus  mega downloads or not. But there is a cheat mechanism to KU if you know where to purchase those downloads. Ha, you thought no one would cheat? They do it all the time, not only with Sweepstake sites, they do it through Bookbub and other! If you're willing to pay you can purchase high ranking, you can even purchase reviews to requirement! Honest authors therefore lose out on sales, lose out on KU downloads, and lose out on reviews, Why? Because few readers will delve deeper in a chosen genre or sub genre more than two or three pages, so unless your book is in the top 50 sales will plummet and KU reads likewise.   

And so, with great sadness I am closing the blog to submissions for review. One simply cannot win against scammers and cheats no matter how many reviews one posts to help a newbie or established author! 

              

      

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Scottish Time-Travel Novel.



Reviewed by Francine.


Taking a time-slip/travel plot and adding a little alternative history to the mix, Ms Orford combines true fact with fiction and a serious what-if theme. Thus leaping from the 21st century to the realm of Mary Queen of Scots, young heroine Mary Elizabeth learns the skill of “puddle-jumping” back and forth through time and differing historical periods. Of those met along the way not all are key signatories, but nonetheless add backbone to the overall plot. The main theme concentrates on conflict between the Scottish and the English through the Tudor, Elizabethan, and Stuart periods respectively. Equally, the present day Brexit debacle and Independence for Scotland from the Union of the British Isles and the Province of Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) is a prime key!

Unfortunately time-travellers can be guilty of attempt to alter history or inform persons in the past of future aspects that may deem the messenger a witch. Mary Elizabeth is no exception in tempting a fate worse than death. There is sense of naivety about the heroine in many respects, bold arrogance too, and with time-slip novels readers will gladly shelve disbelief when feats of endurance are magical in content and action. And without spoiling the plot I will end here and say, for lovers of alternative history X marks the spot for intrigue, adventure, and time travel!


Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Regency Spies & A Convenient Marriage




Reviewed by Francine

Aside from French spies and highwaymen, when a novel touches on one’s home town it is only natural for element of familiarity to cloak about one, and Erica Taylor’s novel does precisely that when the hero and heroine venture to Wells Cathedral. Not only is the heroine’s penchant for Gothic architecture apparent, other cathedrals are soon destined to play a role in highlighting the craft of code breaking scripted ciphers. The very fact Luke, nor Vivian, had foreseen a chance encounter would lead to a marriage of convenience, they nonetheless adapt to the agreed bargain and become intrigued by each other almost as much as the mystery she finds herself dragged into.


Subsequently, as perilous danger surrounds them within England of 1816, Vivian unravels elements from her past that had meant little to her until events unfold. Thus with a timely spy plot, Luke’s past haunts him and fate determines a second encounter with his past is not only a major threat to the Prince Regent and his beloved daughter Charlotte, can his marriage of convenience with Vivian hold them together or is a parting of the ways inevitable? Therein lies the essence of marry in haste on impulse for personal gain, and suffer the consequences of uncertainties at a later date in how to resolve issues that that were never supposed to arise. A thoroughly enjoyable read as two people find the past can determine the future as they know it.  Enjoy!



Saturday, 8 February 2020

17th century Swashbuckling Romance.



Reviewed by Francine.


Set in Devon (England) 1627, the reign of Charles I, the author presents the reader with a slow burn romance and swashbuckling tale of derring-do. Thus three brothers whose major skill is that as an acrobatic trio, their secondary skill base is carpentry which lends favour to their labour in exchange for coin. Whilst a young woman met within a tavern soon enlists Gabriel and his brothers’ to assist with a schoolroom, a trusting bond grows between Gabriel and Perspicacity and love inevitably blossoms. But as with all travelling troupes of entertainers’ opportunities arise and move on they must, and those left behind enact their lives as fate dictates.

By the time the trio return to Devon, great interest is shown in Gabriel and his brothers’ performances by a man of noble countenance which is somewhat baffling, until Gabriel learns of a wicked gut-wrenching deed by others. Hence, Gabriel and de Wolf have every reason to band together. Notorious Barbary pirates holding prisoners on Lundy Island are a force to be reckoned with in more ways than one. Not only do they trade in slaves they barter and trade over kidnap victims from rich family folds. Situated in the Bristol Channel the island is a natural rock fortress, the castle less so, but can Gabriel and de Wolf rescue the women they love from the island and survive to tell the tale? Enjoy!

Monday, 3 February 2020

Historical Romance



Reviewed by Francine


Imagine if you will the windswept coastline of Ireland and a man mourning a lost love! If you’ve ever read “Wuthering Heights” you’ll recognise the mournful sorrow of loss in this novel, and in some respects Devan, Marquess of Castlereagh, befits the dark brooding essence of Heathcliff from the classic tome penned by Emily Brontë. 

Thus Devan poor man has retreated from England to Dahlingham, where beside himself with grief the appearance of a young woman who markedly resembles his late beloved haunts his every waking hour and dreams taunt and torment him. Aside from tragedy of Devan’s loss, Raven has no recollection of who she is or whence she came from. She is but a seeming orphan lost to strange dreams and unexplained circumstances. All the while Devan is far from her thoughts until an act of kindness, a kindness that drives him to the brink of belief he is losing his mind, and Raven to the horrors of love transcending time. But how can love in the present coalesce with love in the past, and how can she give her heart to Devan if it rightfully belongs to another?

Whilst Laura Mills-Alcott readily admits the ballad “Sweet Barbara Allen” inspired the writing of the novel, it’s more than that, for it has underlying elements of the Sleeping Beauty about it with the long sleep in a nether existence, and a prince who with one kiss stirs and brings forth a life Raven had lost. Thus The Briar and The Rose is a tale of something once lost and regained with a twist ending to warm the hardest of unromantic hearts. Enjoy!


Monday, 13 January 2020

A Mediaeval Ghost story.





Reviewed by Francine:

Set in Minster Lovell, a place in which the River Windrush flows through in its former crystal clear glory, although the overall setting is mediaeval during the reign of Edward IV, it brought back wonderful memories of my children wading in the waters in search of crayfish. There is nothing better than books that traverse time with wonderful prose and natural dialogue thus presenting good sense of times past whilst transcending personal time, that sense of familiarity. Although the mediaeval period is far from my favourite reading material I appreciate others’ perspectives on the past, and putting my author hat aside I can relish a good read no matter the period: more especially when historical input is seamlessly woven into the tapestry of the overall story. Whilst the mistletoe bride is a matter of myth the ghostly atmosphere enhances the story of a fairly ordinary gathering of family and friends, but the fact legend can almost become reality in another time is startling in its power of presentation. Well written, albeit a novella, this is a truly worthwhile read for lovers of the mediaeval period and that of legends – true or imagined and thus retold across the centuries.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Regency Anthology by the Blue Stocking Belles.





Reviewed by Francine.


Melting Matilda by Jude Knight.

As always Jude Knight portrays Regency England with stylish representation of characters as true to the era as any modern day author can contribute. One can rightly imagine Matilda and Charles, Earl of Hamner, as part and parcel of a series of books involving the House of Haverford, but this is entirely their story. Not least, past heartache for Matilda is apparent, and the crass behaviour for Charles’ part is indicative of class conscience over good sense, but he does redeem himself. Thus a rather touching tale unfolds and keeps one turning the pages!

My One True Love by Rue Allyn.

In this poignant tale which amounts to a love dilemma for Lord Trevor now returned from war, once again the reader is revolving around the London residence of the House of Haverford. A similar love lost, and love regained theme –as in Ms Knight's tale– is evident, and the heroine (Percy) fear’s a past incident will deter Lord Trevor’s affections when the truth is revealed. Percy being right or wrong in her belief, Lord Trevor is nothing but a dogged if patient individual and reaps his due reward with a just and Happy ever after, and Rue Allyn provides an engaging read set against a charitable fund.

Lord Ethan’s Courage by Caroline Warfield.

Here is another poignant tale, in which a soldier returned from war is struggling with his conscience on the rights and wrongs of war and battles won. Victory often has unpalatable elements even for the hardest of soldiers, and Lord Ethan ends up treading the dark side of forgotten war heroes. Thus the do-gooding ladies of a charitable fund are determined to save these men and the families of those who never returned from dire hardship. The charitable theme is the backbone of this anthology, and the romance that blossoms between Ethan, and Flora, seems inevitable though hard won due to his initial desire to remain anonymous among many. The rather sad touch to this tale leaves one in no doubt, times past were far from rosy, and less rosy Jane Austen than that good lady would have everyone believe of her lifetime during the Napoleonic wars.

A Second Chance at Love by Sherry Ewing.

The title says it all, and Constance and Digby’s romance is a gentle affair despite the machinations of another more ruthless suitor. Once again this novella is linked to the former within the anthology which has a charitable theme running throughout. Thus set during the time of a Regency era Frost Fair held on the frozen River Thames, a chance encounter between Digby and Constance, gives rise to hope that after a long absence from English shores he was not altogether forgotten, but things are not quite as simple as that. Nonetheless, the ladies continue with preparing picnic baskets for auctioning to the highest bidder to raise funds, and would-be suitors see their chance to place bids and gain time with the owners of said baskets. Can Digby outbid his rival and win Constance, or is that a foregone conclusion as far as Constance is concerned? A lovely story and a cosy ending for the reader.

The Umbrella Chronicles by Amy Quinton.

In this delightful themed charitable rendition of budding romance, again involving the Frost Fair and all it entails, brings Chester Mansfield, Duke of Eastly, and Miss Artemis Synclaire to the realms of a Beauty and the Beast fairytale. Amusing and light-hearted throughout, the two principal characters are straight-talking, principled, and at times appear as brittle as the frozen Thames due to individual vulnerabilities. But can there be worse than two matchmakers knowingly at play and deliberate in attempt to strike sparks of interest between Chester and Artemis, and the daring audacity to fan flames of desire that may or may not have already singed the flesh of one, and seared the pride of the other? Thus, there is much at stake in this lovely tale of romance in the name of charity.

Altogether this is a lovely collection of romantic tales in the fictional name of The Ladies’ Society for the Care of Widows and Orphans of Fallen Heroes and the Children of Wounded Veterans, and all written by a group of authors who collectively refer to selves as The Blue Stocking Belles. Well done, the Belles.


Monday, 9 December 2019

Jane Austen JAFF novel



Guest Review

Absolutely livid with Amazon and will not be beaten on promoting a novel I loved and was written by Francine Howarth. I have posted the following review on the Historical Romance Promotional FB group with an Amazon linked post. I hope it was all right to copy/paste the cover. I've just finished this book and so annoyed I cannot post a review at Amazon unless I have spent £50. The chances of my spending 50 on books in the next year is unlikely. Either way this novel captures the innocence of Georgiana so well. She really was a shy person as depicted by Jane Austen. Her naivety was made apparent in that disastrous near elopement with Wickham in Pride & Prejudice. That said, in this novel, and extremely well written it is, Georgiana reveals aspects of Wickham as she knew him throughout childhood. That concept won me to Georgiana's shy reclusive existence at Pemberley and how Wickham was a familiar and trusted part of her childhood. It shed light on not only Georgiana and Wickham as youngsters it opened my eyes to Darcy's aloof nature, not unalike Jane Austen's portrayal of his brusque manners and what may have contributed to that cool arrogant persona. This book is not about Darcy, it's Georgiana's from start to finish and the love story that ensues is lovely and realistic to the Regency era when the chips are down and and Georgiana trusts she has learnt from a past mistake and her chosen one is the right one this time. I loved it.
Jan Brook-Clark. 



I've read it too and couldn't have reviewed it better than Jan's review. Def an excellent read.  Charlotte.   

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Random Pick from the Archives!



I did check the original Amazon link and it was duff, so have updated the new cover and new link.




 

Reviewed by Francine.

 A gloriously Romantic Novella set in and around a Christmas Theme.

 
This is a touching tale of first love and the enduring romanticism of what if. What if Lucy’s ideal hero (Andrew Livingston) would only look upon her as he might a woman he desires? Instead he sees Lucy as he always has, as merely his sister’s best friend. Already betrothed, Andrew is beyond her reach except within her dreams. She too has a suitor. Although Lord Bexley is far from her tastes in a romantic sense he has admirable qualities: albeit he’s a widower with children. But, to wed a viscount will not only enhance Lucy’s fortunes, the chance to secure marriages of relative status for her sibling sisters will also raise her family from the realms of impoverished finances.
 
While Lucy’s life seems on the up, such is not the case for Andrew Livingston. Recently returned from the Peninsular Wars, Andrew’s life has been scarred: physically and emotionally. Jilted by his bride to be, dark days surround him for he’s no longer the Andrew who went off to war a full-bodied man. And while seasonal festivities are schemed and set in motion, Lucy treats Andrew no differently than she had in the past. But, Andrew, aware of a child now blossomed to womanhood - a desirable and caring young woman at that – something within stirs the like he never thought to encounter. Dare he let his heart runaway with him, for if he does, can he outsmart Lord Bexley and declare his heart before it’s too late?
 
There’s a lot of story neatly packed and wrapped within “A Twelfth Night”. It’s not only beautifully crafted and sparing on wordiness, the author has seamlessly woven nuances of Lucy’s and Andrew’s past into the storyline without slowing the pace of a lively and enchanting plot. This is a sweet romance in the vein of Jane Austen, the latter being a woman of her time writing about her time, and Susana Ellis has captured that self same essence of family life and budding romances within Regency society. A lovely read.

A lovely, lovely read selected from the archives!



Reviewed by Francine.

Alethea is a traditional Austenesque Regency tale, in which chance encounters lead to love and romance for two cousins. Of course, there are trials and tribulations along the way for both, and while Alethea is a somewhat headstrong young lady, Eleanor is older and more reserved. Both being borne to the genteel existence of a countryside abode  Alethea is utterly naive in the ways of aristocrats who take liberties at will with unsuspecting females. But once she’s introduced to the possibilities that infamous Almack’s can afford her, the world is suddenly her oyster.
Warned that one man is best not trifled with, for it would seem he delights in trifling with young ladies hearts, Alethea’s heart is soon suffering from romantic flutters whilst she remains utterly determined to resist any notion of surrender to his charms. But another, by far more dangerous man is soon taking more than he deserves and trouble suddenly abounds with the mere mention of his title. After all, mystery and intrigue is all very well until it comes too close for comfort. And while Alethea stands up to the bounder as a true heroine should, he nonetheless wreaks unknowing revenge that may well destroy any hope of happiness for her future. And there I shall leave you in suspense, for I thoroughly enjoyed Alethea’s initiation from innocent country girl to that of a young socialite caught up in the darker side of London Society. All the while, Eleanor, sweetly misguided into the belief she’s destined for spinsterhood, discovers otherwise! A lovely, lovely story.