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.