Sunday, 22 November 2015

Rosemary Sutcliffe's "The Rider on The White Horse"

The Rider of the White Horse - Rosemary Sutcliff
Reviewed by M. J. Logue

I make no apologies for my first review for this blog being an old-fashioned, out of print novel, one of Rosemary Sutcliff's lesser-known books.

In fact, I'm reviewing it in the hope that people will once again turn to this simple, tender, moving portrayal of the relationship between Thomas Fairfax, Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Parliament during the English Civil War, and his plain, brown, feisty wife Anne.

It's no epic courtly love story. Quite the opposite: the story of a plain woman who comes to love her principled and honourable husband with a passion that frightens her, in the uncomfortable self-knowledge that he will, in all probability, never see her in the same way as she sees him. There is little glamour in their love story, little chivalry, little courtliness. Despite its setting in the England of the 1640s, we are not in the realms of lace and glittering satins, but of buff and steel, of hunger and  danger and tragedy. Of the little commonwealth of a small manor in Yorkshire, thrust all unwilling into war, and of a woman's fear for the man she has come to hold precious.

As ever, Rosemary Sutcliff's skill lies in her ability to weave a tale around the tiny domestic details of a household that stick in the reader's memory long after the last page: the honeyed scent of the snowdrops on a table, the whiff of tobacco smoke and a golden sunset over the Yorkshire Dales. The Fairfax of Ms Sutcliff's writing is not an articulate, poetic courtier, but an awkward, rather diffident soldier - and a reader expecting grand declarations may wonder what on earth the fiery Anne sees in him at times, this decent, kind, stiff, rather too honourable gentleman whose idea of a compliment is to tell her she looks "bonnie in t'firelight".

Nor - this book having been written in 1959 - is there a deal of sexual tension. But indeed, it would have jarred, had there been explicit physical loving in this story. I am still not sure - having read this book every year without fail, for the last 20 years, having cried at exactly the same parts every time, at the death of Captain Smith and of the baby Elizabeth - I still couldn't say with any degree of certainty whether or not Thomas Fairfax ends the book by returning his wife's love, not physically. But then, as Anne says, “You could not hold a winged thing; you could not even perfectly remember it afterward, for that, too, was a kind of holding.” Whatever it is, is enough.

No, I love this book. I would like more people to love it. Some of the historical accuracy is shaky, but the battle scenes are stirring and moving, and the relationships drawn with a tenderness that can be heartbreaking. Sutcliff's dialogue is almost perfect in its simplicity, of things not said but felt with the heart.


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Latest Swashbuckling Historical Novel

Reviewed by Nigella.
At first I did wonder if this novel would fit the criteria readers expect from a romance novel. On balance violent battle scenes steal a march on romance to begin with so does the heroic romanticism of a troop in Cromwell’s New Model Army. In spite of my initial concerns, glimmer of a budding romance does begin to emerge. The tragedy of this story develops with heartfelt love bordering on the breaking of religious dictate to do with acts of immorality, but every good story requires a twist in the tale and this book has many exciting twists. When all is said and done this is a novel to do with soldiers who yearn for peace while bracing themselves in readiness to do battle. There is historical merit and vivid detail within the novel and of all the characters, and there are many worthy of mention, Lucifer Pettit stands out as a fine young man who ends up bedevilled by his namesake. I confess I find it difficult to applaud overt use of coarse language inside a book boys may be drawn to. However, on the plus side the narrative is fast paced. The action scenes are nail-bitingly real and the secret masquerade is somewhat amusing. I rate the book a Historical Adventure Novel with a little romance.      

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Latest Regency.

Reviewed by Francine
This is a quick sexy read (novella), in which the heroine, Gabriella, believes a birthing misfortune will leave her a spinster until her dying day. Likewise, the hero, Nicholas, had long ago brutally said as much: thus a childhood friendship had ceased to be. But years later a risqué wager laid down on high stakes ensures Gabriella and Nicholas are destined to meet again. Whilst for Gabriella the past cannot be forgotten, on a prompt Nicholas struggles to remember something he may have said or done at age 12 yrs of age. Of course, when the awful truth is revealed, sense of guilt cloaks about him, whilst desires of the flesh, namely Gabriella’s flesh taunt and overwhelm him with physical needs. The dilemma then arises in how to seduce her mind, delight in amorous pursuits, and win the wager.
An accepted marriage of convenience based on a wager is one thing, and when love, true love enters play, revenge on the person who waged the challenge seems fair recompense for intended humiliation of Gabriella, and the very fact the Earl of Thornwich set out to play Nicholas Lord Eastden for an utter fool. Thus Nicholas turns the wager on its head, and Gabriella’s brother is subjected to contracted terms that are a tad humiliating, though as a reader I would have liked it better had Nicholas made Thornwich squirm to the point of near ruination before saving the blaggard’s neck. Nonetheless this is a sweet ugly duckling tale with a few explicit sex scenes, in which the leading man abides to the principle and honour of a true gentleman.   

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Review by Diana - A Romantic Comedy


‘Just Marred Again’
By: Charlotte Hughes

What a little powerhouse of a story.  This book was a breath of fresh air for me as two about to be divorcees happen upon one another along with a thirteen year old teenager in a remote cabin in the hills of North Carolina in the middle of a winter snow storm.  Now did they just happen to be at the same place, same time, or did fate step in and take control of a mistake waiting to happen?  Big question…

Michael Kelly, a young lawyer making his way up in a very prestigious law firm Smyth -McGraw in Charlotte, NC, is all about his job, getting ahead, providing a good life for his young wife, his ultimate goal to make partner in the law firm.  Working seventy and eighty hour weeks, he makes the ultimate mistake of leaving his young wife at home by herself, casting her aside leaving her alone to her own devices.

Maddy Kelly, a vivacious young fitness instructor/trainer is totally in love with her husband but the marriage is falling apart.  She eats alone, wakes up alone and goes to bed alone her husband totally ignoring her needs and their marriage.  After a miscarriage she can’t take it anymore and she leaves him determined to make a better life for herself, one where she matters only if to herself.  Anything would be better than the lonely existence she's endured for the last five years of her marriage.  She takes some much needed time off over the Thanksgiving holiday and decides to spend some time at a little cabin her and her husband still own.  She loads up her two little dogs, lots’ of food and firewood and sets off, heedless of an approaching winter storm.  When she is awaken in the late of night to find a man coming through the front door she boinks him over the head with the fireplace poker only to realize that it’s her soon to be ex-husband. 

Now the fun begins between these two misguided lovers and fate is determined to get these two love lost people back on the right track.  But can fate really step in and change our lives?  Can fate put us back on the right path of life?  You’ll find out!

I loved this little story, it’s not real long but the characters have depth and will grab you from the first page as the author regales a humorous tale of two lovers that have lost their way. The story line moves well, it’s easy to follow and the editing is great.  There's a little deception, clean humor, and in the mix of hopes and dreams you have a very perceptive teenager.  It’s a refreshing clean read, very little sex in the story but just enough that you’ll feel the love radiating from the characters.  I highly recommend this book and will promote it as much as possible on my own sites.  My hat is off to this author, for a successful story.

Latest Regency Murder Mystery

Reviewed by Francine.

Make no mistake, this is a Jane Austen follow-on novel. Subsequently, if you’ve ever wondered what happened to Miss Jane Fairfax, the rather reserved young lady from Jane Austen’s novel “Emma” then look no further.  Jane is now Mrs. Frank Churchill, and finds herself suddenly widowed in strange circumstances. Worse, soon embroiled in the dark seedy world of criminals, she meets and supports a young woman one wouldn’t ordinarily sup tea with whilst in polite company. What is more, with her life seemingly under threat from unknowns, Jane places her life and that of a child in the hands of a decidedly affable Bow Street Runner.
Caleb Armitage is a man well accustomed to the dark netherworld of crime, and duly packs a punch in the name of the law, more so when protecting a true lady from hard-nosed criminals. Needless to say, this novel has the ubiquitous twists and turns one would expect from a crime novel, and of course, the conclusion, although not wholly unexpected, it does shed light on Jane as a woman of inner steel in the face of adversity. Ah, but did we not see a glimmer of that within the novel Emma, when Emma herself looked upon Miss Jane Fairfax as a competitor for Mr. Knightley’s affections? Miss Fairfax smiled sweetly back then, and likewise in this, her own story, she carries on as though nothing untoward had occurred even when all the odds are stacked against a happy conclusion. Death of a Fop is a delightful and entertaining read.