Monday, 15 October 2018

Regency Novel

Reviewed by Francine.

A delightful story of a wilful young lady addicted to late night forays abroad, and when caught in the act, telling fibs simply will not do. Her disguise is insufficient to convince a lordly spy (extraordinaire) that she’s indeed aware of the danger she so readily embraces with air of confidence. With no thought to the dangers of masquerading in a world where men are men and brutality is part of the nightly entertainment, the Earl of Tisbury determines the dark underworld is no place for Lady Lydia Radcliffe. What is more, unrequited love can cost a man dear if he’s of mind to protect the woman he loves. Despite a past misdemeanour that set them at odds and no seeming way out of that former pickle, Lydia’s resistance to any notion of romance in the air is but an aphrodisiac to the earl. He’s most definitely a man of equal determination to win his heart’s desire no matter the cost to his sanity, but dare he endanger her life with a declaration of true love? Danger is always close at hand for him too, as shadows in the dark merge with life all around him and the enemy is closer than first realised. Here I will stop and say no more, and leave you a potential reader to enjoy a thoroughly well-researched novel. Enjoy! 

Friday, 21 September 2018

English Civil War Novel

Reviewed by Francine:

For too long this book has been sitting in my TBR file, and finally I’ve read it. Thus, fully expecting a damn good read, Ms Riley has most definitely thrust her historical punches on the research front. From page one Justin Ambrose brings to the fore the atmosphere surrounding Banbury Castle, not least the town, and its underlying Puritan leanings. Whilst he and his men suffer the consequences of soldiers as good as under siege and not daring to slacken their guard within the castle walls, there are moments of respite and of course trading for wares to be enacted. But not all the townsfolk are as willing to oblige those looked upon as the enemy, and the streets can be a dangerous place for the unwary. What is more, when cavaliers patronise specific establishments and female eyes stray from the dour countenance of their brethren to dashing young blades, scorn and abhorrence soon gives rise to contention of a differing nature to that of mere allegiance to opposing forces. Personal grievance can lead to vendettas, and when budding romance crosses the boundary of social acceptance retribution brings inevitable heartache and fear of worse to come. Hence Banbury Castle becomes a refuge for more than those who have sworn to hold it against all the odds set against them until relief arrives, if ever that can be. Therefore, A Splendid Defiance is true to its title, enhanced by historical fact and peppered with touches of fiction to stir emotions as only love and romance can alongside swashbuckling military feats of endurance. A thoroughly enjoyable novel.        

Friday, 22 June 2018

Regency Romance

Reviewed by Francine:

When a book has been read and put aside with sense of contentment, which one derives from a good book, and a month later one can remember the characters and the name of a schooner as vividly as when reading the story, then the author has achieved his or her aim. As with straight historical fiction, onus lies with authors of Historical Romance to likewise depict a chosen historical period with sense of historical knowledge, not merely place characters in a historical setting and assume readers will truly feel transported to the past. Thus, I can commend and recommend this novel as a thoroughly entertaining and compulsive read. Not only are the characters fully-fleshed, their quirks, and inner anxieties add to the tensions of traversing dangerous waters in which Barbary pirates abound, For Kit Hardacre, captain of the Calliope, the past could so easily repeat itself, he fears it, he knows the pain and humiliation of becoming a Captive of the Corsairs, and he has the responsibility of two genteel women passengers to protect and deliver safe to foreign shores. To reveal more of this action adventure would be to spoil it for future readers, suffice to say, from the shores of England to the shores of Sicily, the rigours of seamanship, sense of revenge, and romantic notions, test the resolve of both Kit and Sophia Greene as each battle inner emotions en route. Whilst for Kit, the consequences of recognisable sails on the horizon indeed spell imminent disaster and a fate worse than death for all. A thrill-packed read!  

Reviewer asides: This novel is set at a time when the American navy having previously engaged in war with the Barbary Pirates from 1801-1805 and again later in a second war, but it didn’t deter or prevent the pirates continuing with heinous crimes. Hence, by 1815 a concerted effort between the British and Dutch navies with assaults on the North African coast, and raids on other ports around the Mediterranean Sea, by the close of 1816 the Barbary pirates were brought to book, crushed, and suffered a slow and gruesome death in the Port of Bristol. Subsequently, 4,000 + Christian slaves were rescued and repatriated to homelands.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Lorna Doone - a classic love story!

A Highly Recommended Read for lovers of English Historical Romances - Fictional Love Stories)  

Review of much loved childhood owned novel. 

Reviewed by Francine:

Lorna Doone, is for me, a step back in time to my home county, a place I love and a place I often feature within my own novels. Although Richard D. Blackmore has written this novel in first-person narrative, thus depicting the defined sentiments of the gentle giant John Ridd, he manages to convey others' perspectives via dialogue. Great sense of time and place is derived from his descriptions, and the rich local dialect, which is very much on a par with Thomas Hardy novels. Set during the time of the Rye House Plot, Charles II's death, and the Monmouth Rebellion, Blackmore sets the scene for a period in history that was indeed peppered with rogues and vagabonds in the cities and that of highwaymen and livestock rustlers in the rural districts, Hence the Doone's are the baddies, and Doone country is safe for no man. Add a love tryst betwixt John Ridd and Lorna Doone, and the complication of a jealous suitor (Carver Doone), thus love, loss and revenge is the key to suspense and intrigue. Blackmore delivers on all counts through John Ridd's latter day verbal journal of events; as they unfolded in earlier times.

Lorna Doone is a masterful stroke of fictional genius allied with local legend and factual events. Having read this novel at a young age, sadly, somewhere along life's path I lost the book. For years I kept promising myself I would purchase another copy of Lorna Doone, but I couldn't find an early illustrated edition so I downloaded an e-book version at Amazon. I have since acquired an early illustrated copy which I shall now treasure.

Reviewer asides: There are many people who struggle with works of great literary merit, not least, convoluted sentence structure the like of Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy et al. I don't mean the former as slight, but when readers are familiar with modern mass market fiction text, and are suddenly confronted with recommended reads in original text format, such can be quite a shock and often referred to as boring and long-winded passages. But there are revised modern editions available for readers who prefer a more modern approach.  This version is the original. 

   Amazon UK

Due to requests!

Due to requests from readers as well as authors, the review blog will be reinstated, but it may not be as prolific review wise as it was beforehand. In fact I've been trawling my archives of past stashed reviews, which I happened upon by accident whilst in search of another file. Many of the listed reviews were lost from this blog when it was closed for a short while after a major blog hack, the backed up text files were on a pen stick and it has since come to light of day from the back of a desk drawer. The only problem I don't have the names of the reviewers, but reviews are reviews and I'll post them from top to bottom as and when I can find the time. 

Either way, I thought it would afford some older books a new lease of life with a little exposure.    

Friday, 27 April 2018

Highly Recommended Update.

An update post  to include reviews of two books within this series. 
Nigella reviewed the first in the series more than a year ago. 

We did this as a dedication to Francine who kept this blog going when no one else could. She was excellent in setting things right when we got things wrong and messed up links or missed out some things that were important. We're working behind the scenes to see if we can get her to keep it online and connected to the Facebook group. 
Fingers crossed!     

OMG On Nigella's recommendation I'm partway through the paperback which has some fab illustrations.        

For Love of Captain Jack

Reviewed by Nigella (a maritime historian)

For Love of Captain Jack bears all the hallmarks of Thomas Hardy’s fabulously rich dialogue and prose that has for two centuries enthralled readers of English countryside fiction.  And here we have historical dialogue commensurate with counties surrounding Dorset and vital for nuance of the Regency. I remember when ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ was obligatory reading for school children. I remember groaning as did chums of mine but the characters were so lifelike and vibrant they remained unforgettable as have the characters in ‘Tess of the d'urbervilles’.  Astoundingly Ms Howarth has captured that very same Wessex language Jane Austen and Hardy would recognise as theirs. What struck me most is the women folk in this novel enchant the reader with witty quips and outlandish gossip that is so reminiscent of the Pride & Prejudice Bennett clan. Where Mr Darcy was the cause of uproar in Ms Austen's tome,  it is the report of a murder most foul that strikes a blow to the peaceful and idyllic lives of Ms Howarth's gossips who soon turn to speculation and ponder as one might expect from a good old whodunit? Murders farther afield add to the mix for a thoroughly engrossing murder mystery.  More to the point the local naval hero becomes suspect number one as dark elements come to light in the neighbourhood of Port Seaton. The novel's hero is a lifelike naval officer of the Regency era and so long as the villain proves impossible to pinpoint any hope of Jack Trevellian's reprieve dwindles. This a grand whodunit with red herrings  and miniscule clues that may or may not unveil the murderer.  The eventual uncloaking of the villain is totally unexpected and had me on the edge of my seat fearing another death would prevent the coming of a happy ever after. Fear not, there is a happy ending and this is a rollicking good murder mystery with a deeply engrossing romance. 

Ahoy there. This is a most important update to my review of Captain Jack. I agree it is rather odd to review novels out of sequence and one can in all honesty blame the author in this instance for writing three books back to front and publishing book 1 and 2 long after the first which is last. If you're confused by now, so be it. All will become clear. 

In consequence the words which best describe The Admiral's Prize (book 1) is 'heart-touching' romance set in a period of history when France experienced the first tremors of revolt within the pastoral idyll of grand Châteaux of the French Countryside. As per, Ms Howarth tugs at heartstrings with tragedy setting a scene of trauma and loss and mystery. The mystery to this story lies in the recent past and here begins a familiar thread of a heroine's future plotted by paternal guidance and that of an interfering and manipulative aunt. If that opening sounds familiar, as do tropes of French heroine's settling to a new life in England, there is nothing familiar to this unique plot. It is utterly devoid of all the usual French Revolution plots which in general involve spies and counter spies aka copy-cat Scarlet Pimpernel's or the gallant Sydney Carton from a Tale of Two Cities. Ms Howarth goes one better than stealing a well-tried plot, she is stepping back from Captain Jack's adulthood to before he was born. This story is therefore a prequel of events unfolding when the young countess is at her most vulnerable. Genuine affection is lacking within her household with exception of a young French coachman who is remarkably understanding of the heroine's plight, and for good reason and throughout he is her most trusted ally. The young admiral hero risks a great deal too when he falls in love with the French countess. Their unexpected encounter and the love affair as it unfolds with touching moments is a pure joy to read. And here I will move to the second book in the trio to avoid spoilers.

The Admiral's Sin is another telling title which depicts the life of a naval officer whose life is not his own to command. In the meanwhile the countess faces the awful truth that one day he will sail away to foreign shores, and there also remains the continued threat of a father in search of his runaway daughter. The search is led by her former betrothed and reaches a traumatic climax in which the French coachman's true past comes to light. The countess's reunion with her father is a poignant moment too, and with the admiral away the countess bestows great affections upon her son and the Devon house she calls home. Her newly acquired best friend plays a key role in her life, and with a joyous homecoming of the admiral life has moved on almost two years. It is a new beginning for all and while the admiral sets out to bridge divides with an old adversary, he unknowingly sets in motion events that end in tragedy for him and the countess. Forced to bear the blame for what occurs the pain of it results in a duel and his life will never be complete until the day he brings his wife home to Devon.  I can excuse the end of this story Ms Howarth, based on the reality all three stories are part of a whole befitting a family saga steeped in mystery, jealousy, and dreadful betrayal. However, I feel duty bound to warn readers a handkerchief may be required if like me a sentimental ending can cause tears. Add to that the supporting cast of characters from all three books are as one would expect of a Ms Howarth novel or novella. Each and every one has unique personalities and all making a whole.  I did read the ebooks first and decided I would have the paperback as a 'keeper' which has all three stories in one cover.        

Reviewer notes:

Ms Howarth has a 'literary' style and English cadence that may take a little getting used to. Her writing is not unlike Georgette Heyer's crisp narrative and dialogue. And if you haven’t read a Thomas Hardy novel give him a go. You won't regret it.    

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Georgian Era Western.

Reviewed by Josanna

Book Blurb:

She was forced into exile. He chose his. Acadian exile Elizabeth Marie Johns refuses to return to Baltimore Town. Not only are the Acadians not wanted, but her own people have turned against her. All alone, she sets out to find her father on the northern border. But when frontiersman Thomas McQueen finds her, he proposes a different plan. Can Elizabeth trust him? Or in the end will he, too, betray her? Thomas McQueen has plans. Deadly Ones. While it is too late to save his life, he can still save his family from fates worse than death. But an encounter with the Acadian lass on his way home causes him to wish for another fate. Is it too late to become a different man? The French and British fight for control of a wilderness empire. But trust is scarce and hate plentiful, and when Thomas’ past explodes into Elizabeth’s future, she is forced to face her worst fear. Will Elizabeth forgive him for the man he was? Or will the mistakes of his past require the ultimate sacrifice?


Friendship sometimes grows from the most unlikely sources. Such is true for Elizabeth Marie Johns, an Acadian exile and Thomas McQueen, a Scottish warrior and woodsman with a dark past. Set in the 1750’s, Elizabeth and Thomas stumble across each other when Thomas returns to his family farm. His family had fled their home, and a French Acadian exile had sought refuge there in hopes of fleeing religious persecution. Thomas needs her healing talents, and Elizabeth needs Thomas’ protection. The trouble is, neither trusts the other. Yet, their circumstances forces them to do so.

This is a fascinating story about friendship, loyalty, and betrayal. The author provides a masterful insight into this early history of the Maryland backcountry. This is a wonderful story. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good historical romance.  

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Time-Crossed as opposed to Time-Travel

Reviewed by Francine

Book's Blurb:

Struggling with guilt over her sister's death and the stress of her medical residency, Maya Radelis runs away to Scotland. A robin seems to lead her to an antique shop, where she finds a century-old engagement ring. But what is the ring’s history? She follows the slim paper trail, wondering if it is only coincidence that her dreams reveal the story of a Swiss woman physician who wore the ring during World War I.

In Paris she meets fellow New Yorker David Fischer, a lawyer with family in Switzerland as well as America. He helps Maya follow the memories stored in the ring as they lead her around Europe. The attraction between David and Maya grows, and when they discover a connection between the ring and David’s family, they learn, bit by bit, more about the ring’s earlier owner. Will Maya’s own life have the same tragedy of lost love?


There's little to be said in terms of the plot, for the back cover blurb provides a summary of the whole. What I will say, however; this debut novel by Ms Milkasen affords the reader a delightful and unusual take on the crossing of time. Thus an antique shop, a ring, and a robin, yes, that little red-breast darling who appears on Christmas cards in the northern hemisphere, leads Maya to explore elements from the past. Curiosity is one thing, need to know another, and as the past intertwines with the future the two begin to merge in the strangest of serendipitous events. 

Whilst many time-slip novels often defy belief even in the fictional sense, the two things which cross time seem so plausible one can truly believe in predestined fate. Therefore the title of this novel is not only apt, it is a key to the lock that opens the window on true love that never died. And so the reader crosses time through the heroine as she in turn struggles with grief and a future that appears from the outset, somewhat bleak. But the thing with serendipity, it can surprise one when least expected! This is a lovely novel for anyone who loves "chance encounter" stories.    


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Regency JAFF

Reviewed by Nigella

Back Cover Blurb

A tale of love, manners, and the quest for perfect vowels.

From a new voice in historical romance comes this sparkling Regency tale, wherein the elegance of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the wit of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion collide. The results are clever, funny, and often quite unexpected….

Professor Fitzwilliam Darcy, expert in phonetics and linguistics, wishes for nothing more than to spend some time in peace at his friend’s country estate, far from the parade of young ladies wishing for his hand, and further still from his aunt’s schemes to have him marry his cousin. How annoying it is when a young lady from the neighbourhood, with her atrocious Hertfordshire accent and country manners, comes seeking his help to learn how to behave and speak as do the finest ladies of high society.

Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the professor since overhearing his flippant comments about her provincial accent, but recognizes in him her one opportunity to survive a prospective season in London. Despite her ill feelings for the man, she asks him to take her on as a student, but is unprepared for the price he demands in exchange. 

Nigella's Review

Teaching Eliza is simply the re-telling of Pride & Prejudice and the incongruous amalgamation of Pygmalion, probably better known as My Fair Lady? Meticulously following through on Jane Austen’s readymade characters, the author awards Fitzwilliam Darcy with a professorship in sociolinguistics. For that reason, when Darcy morphed into Professor Higgins of My Fair Lady fame, it took some swallowing, but there ‘tis. In like to Professor Higgins who instructed Eliza Doolittle in the art of elegance and voice to assume a socially acceptable persona, from there on the author alleges Lizzie’s Hertfordshire accent is inferior to Darcy’s North Country seeding, and if that be the case, it can be said, plum to mouth training never justly disguises the orator’s original roots. Beyond any shadow of doubt the author impresses the reader with a literate rendition of Jane Austen’s much beloved P&P characters. Additionally excellence of a thesaurus redeems and lifts common realm words to elevated literary standards, while in itself the novel remains an appropriation of characters and plots from others former endeavours. How did I feel on reaching the end? Sadly Indifferent! 

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Georgian Romance

Reviewed by Francine.

Book Blurb:

England, 1799
Major Matthew Southam returns from India, hoping to put the trauma of war behind him and forget his past. Instead, he finds a derelict estate and a family who wish he'd died abroad. Charlotte MacKinnon married without love to avoid her father’s unpleasant choice of husband. Now a widow with a young son, she lives in a small Cotswold village with only the money she earns by her writing. Matthew is haunted by his past, and Charlotte is fearful of her father’s renewed meddling in her future. After a disastrous first meeting, can they help each other find happiness at last?


The gentle romanticism of this love story is as much to do with a house and its landed estate, as it is to do with a friendship that develops between Major Mathew Southam, and Charlotte McKinnon. Each has a story to tell, and their existence within the locality of Edgecombe unfolds in a delightful and charming way. Although the reader expects from the outcome their paths will cross and have a happy ever after; it is the way in which they encounter one another, and the way in which they conduct themselves throughout that ultimately brings alive the charm of the rural way of life. 

Aside from the complexities of men returning from war situations, the major’s past appears by far more complex than that of Charlotte’s, but she too bears an ongoing dilemma that must be addressed. Thus, as they, and others, (wonderfully depicted characters) gradually adjust to changes in personal circumstances, poignant moments of reflection, harrowing nightmares, family betrayal, and envy, make this novel a compelling and at times, a heart-rending read. It’s a lovely, lovely love story in which others find happiness, or sense of contentment and belonging! As the title states, there are two Mrs McKinnons, but although Mary's story runs parallel with Charlotte's it is a love story within a love story, so two for the price of one.