General History

Reviewed by Francine:

Featuring the wonderful county of Pembrokeshire (Wales), the majority of the action in this novella occurs north of The Landsker where the crags of the Prescelli Hills roll down over moorland to towering headlands, to sandy coves, and small fishing harbours. It is 1797, England is at war with France, and French troops commanded by an American, Colonel William Tate, land at Fishguard. This is the point where true history is masterfully blended with fiction, thus the fictional Major Mullone, and an old French adversary of his are once again treading the same ground.

Amidst treacherous collusion and deceptive practises not all the local inhabitants of Fishguard, and the surrounding district, are so easily hoodwinked by French soldiers masquerading as a British regiment. Subsequently, Major Mullone against the odds of one man rallying a local force to oust the French, duly finds favour with a local ex soldier who proves himself invaluable as a source for covert activities. Suffice to say, and avoiding plot spoilers, there is one incident that is pure fiction. Nonetheless, French uniforms are singed, and some commanders on both sides are left with egg on faces; whilst Mullone? Well, read the story and find out. Highly recommended!

A delightful collection of Short Stories & Novellas in aid of St Luke's Hospice, Plymouth.


A Tale of Two Engagements by A.C.A Hunter: Historical.

Take a moderately sized British package ship mid-Atlantic with limited protective gun-power, and looming on the near horizon is an unidentified ship on full sail  thus the scene is set for a passing encounter. But is the ship French? If it is then Captain Finlay, his crew, and passengers are in dire straits. What is worse, Captain Finlay feels doubly responsible for his passenger sister, and when out-going fire from his cannon causes the ship to shudder from stem to stern, and in-coming fire shatters ship and humans to splintered fragments, Louisa refuses to abide to her brother’s command to act the lady, and thus keep her head below decks?

Here we are given an action packed short novella, a good sense of life aboard ship in wartime, and sufficient insight as to why Louisa is aboard her brother’s ship.


Bobbing in the Dark by Cliff Beaumont: 
Contemporary Ghost Story.

Here we have the greatest ever scheduled re-enactment Waterloo 200 in celebration of the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. With tents pitched in the Orchard at Hougoumont a British contingent are taking a well-earned rest post-travel to the event. Amidst their number is Mark Skinner, his mind awash with thoughts on how it must have been for men of his rank and file in June 1815, and he’s not all that surprised when he's approached by a fellow uniformed re-enactor, anymore than when another appears and orders the first to fall in for duty. His own voluntary enlistment thus leads him into a scary and thrilling mock battle, albeit he’s somewhat mystified by turn of events, for at times it all seems a tad too real. But that’s what re-enactment is all about ain’t it, with mock dead and wounded soldiers, else it would be a mere walk in the park in fancy dress.

To say I thoroughly enjoyed this story; is to say it ticked all the boxes for a suspenseful read.


The Bravest of the Brave by David Cook: Historical.

In this story we are presented with the inner perspective of Martial Ney, at the point where it is a case of do or die for the French. Whilst the Emperor Napoleon, rides before his troops with head held high as though Victory is theirs, Ney knows he must do his damn best to achieve that outcome. But doubts linger in his mind questioning the sanity of taking the initiative to advance against Wellington and the Allied Forces – there has to be a better way but he has not the time to think it through. Praying to heaven God is with the Emperor, Ney spurs his horse forward, and the rest is History so to speak. 

This is another story by David Cook that sets the scene with excellent sense of time and place and no quarter given to the squeamish reader. After all, war is war – Enjoy!


The Chancer by Francine Howarth: Historical.

This is my naval orientated contribution to the anthology, thus I cannot pass comment!

A Person of No Consequence by Alison Stuart:
Historical Romance.

Picture a glittering ballroom and fine array of coming-out damsels in search of wealthy husbands, chaperones in abundance like faded wallflowers, and young bucks in search of suitable brides. Thus the scene is set for an elegant marriage mart, though not all the guests are seeking marriageable prey. Hence a heart-stopping moment occurs, and memories from the past leap to the fore and cause distress to one person, whilst curiosity is heightened for another. But can one dare to dream the past could ever be revisited in the present and secure a differing outcome?

A lovely sweet romance in Alison Stuart’s inimitable and award winning style.

August 27th by Jacqueline Reiter: Historical Fact.

Here we have a brief glimpse of the Walcheren Island Campaign of 1809, where the initial object of the British Navy is to blockade the mouth of the Scheldt (Antwerp Netherlands) and the primary objective to destroy the French fleet purportedly lying at anchor in Flushing. But as you will see from the interaction between leading field commanders of their day, not all are of like mind in how best to proceed or indeed cope with an unforeseen pestilence that more or less has rendered their task nigh impossible.

For the most part the reader affords insight to proceedings as they unfold through the eyes and thoughts of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Keats, and it’s easy to see how politics, personal ambitions, and military strategy oft clash when things go awry.

A Clash of Empires by Paul Bennett: Historical fact inclusive fictional characters.

In this novella the reader is transported to the American Colonies the year of 1763, when the Pontiac Rebellion  in opposition to British rule on former French territory begins in earnest with a confederacy of Native American warriors who attack British forts. But the fort in Detroit defies all the efforts of a combined tribal force to destroy its very existence, and Pontiac thence lays siege to the fort. A siege is the last thing any commander would willingly face, and whilst some might raise a white flag, Major Gladwin is made of sterner stuff. 

Again no quarter is given to the squeamish reader, for this is a war situation, in which brutal retaliation is markedly atmospheric.

Over the Moon and Faraway by Daniel Methwell: Fiction.

This story is set, I believe, in the region of Aragon, Spain during the Peninsular War (1808-1814). If not, my apology to the author, who spins an amusing yarn not unalike a “Carry-On” movie style plot  as far as the humour goes. Thus with bungling French troopers and equally bungling British troopers, this story equates to laughs-a-minute, and combined with earthy trooper language drifting across the ether, a somewhat blue hue prevails. And yet, the awfulness of war is lingering beyond the veiled fringe of humour, and one can almost hear the old soldiers recounting this tale with touches of laughter and a tear to eye.

Suffice to say, it’s an all round fun chuckle read.

Reviewed by Fran.

If you're a fan of the late TV drama series "Xena Warrior Princess", then "The Beltane Choice" is for you. It's set in AD 71, Britannia, and the heroine is indeed a Warrior Princess. Nara has lived for many years on the Island of Nemetom with the priestesses until her coming of age, and the upcoming Beltane fires are set to decide her fate.

Although extremely brave, from page one Nara has committed a grave mistake and by her own hand has incited the wrath of a wild beast. Put to flight and seeking a safe haven her options are few. To accept the help of any warrior is bad enough and goes against the grain of Nara's upbringing. To be grateful to an enemy warrior is humiliating indeed. Besides, not only does her bitterest enemy achieve a kill where she has failed, he has it in mind to reap a grand reward in exchange for her life. But her life comes at a greater price than expected. Unwilling to concede to his ardent advances, albeit he awakens forbidden desires within her, she cannot and will not succumb.

Lorcan, although a hardened warrior and far superior in strength he nonetheless concedes to wise inner counsel and sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding his captive. For rather than take her against her will, he knows the journey ahead is long and arduous and will afford time enough for him to win her over: if that is ever possible. Her belief all man's inner desires and needs are base proves mildly amusing to him, and he's not immune to her secret observations all things Lorcan.

But events soon unravel to mar a burgeoning mutual respect erring affection between the captor and captive, and although both are aware of intense desire and longing they remain enemy warriors, Brought to the tribe elder Nara is forced to await her fate for she is nought but a bargaining tool between two tribes. And yet, a Roman legion marching ever closer is set to turn her fate around, and come the night of the Beltane Fires she wishes to succumb to the one she loves but is instead betrothed to another. How then can the Goddess Rhianna make her life complete and remove the darkness now befallen her? Of course as the fires fall to smouldering embers and the sun rises on the distant horizon Goddess Rhianna finally plays her trump card!

Nancy Jardine has spun a wonderful romance set within Roman Britain, and likewise woven a tapestry of tribal life and political ambitions in the shadows of the great forests of Britannia.

True Soldier Gentlemen

Adrian Goldsworthy

Mr Goldsworthy starts us in his tale of the exploits of a fictional English regiment ahead of the action that was to take place in the Peninsula Campaign by several months with the conquest of Madrid by the French. Such a terrible time can only be conveyed into words with tales of atrocities, which might not recommend such a work to the many woman who read of the Regency Era and the romances that are created for it.

Goldsworthy further mixes in, with a hint here, and a glimpse over there, a very familiar George Wickham, the well remembered Rake we have met through Jane Austen's creative work, Pride and Prejudice. He has a part to play here as well. Later, rather than earlier, we find that Goldsworthy's Wickham, along with his wife Lydia, and a personal favorite, Colonel Fitzwilliam, all have parts in the drama. But they are not central to our story.

Goldsworthy's regiment, the 106th Glamorganshire Regiment is central and several characters within are our heroes who we follow. There are moments where POV shifts rather rapidly and so that detracts from a solid read of the material, as is always the case when a writer attempts to be so omniscient. And a giant caveat, as this is a piece of Military Historical Fiction, one might ask where is the romance?

We best not forget we have re-met Lydia Wickham nee Bennet, and though she is not central to our romance sub-plots, that Goldsworthy has given us this lady, shows his affection for Austen. And he has painted a picture of other romances as backstory, as well as the central quest of one of our fine young heroes of the piece.

One should not look to True Soldier Gentlemen for the romance, for that is secondary. (There is much that occurs in the Regency Era that can expand our knowledge of all that occurred in that era, so I read and review a great deal more than just traditional Regency Romances.)

Where this book shines is as a Military History, it is well researched to give one the sense of what regimental life was like at this time, and though Goldsworthy makes his heroes the first to stop dyeing their hair, cutting their queues, and the first to form a regimental mess, ahead of the other regiments serving under Sir Arthur Wellesley, once battle is joined he follows the scripts of what happened in those early days in Portugal in August of 1808. His use of language is vivid and evocative (those of faint heart, be prepared) and this is what makes the book shine amongst others that have also told us of these battles (Rolica and Vimeiro). If you ever would look to find out more detail of what occurred on the continent for the heroic troops of England, this may be the very place to start.

You can find a copy at Amazon com (US) and (UK)

Reviewed by David W. Wilkin

Historical Romance during the English Civil War

Gillian Bradshaw's
London in Chains

While this is a romance, that is not its strength. The romantic elements are not really developed as opposed to the historical context and background that Ms. Bradshaw provides us in what becomes an excellent glimpse into a time that perhaps most know little about.

London, after the victory of Parliament over Charles I was not all celebration and happiness, but was in turmoil, the victors fighting over the spoils of war as happens frequently when the victors are not led by one mind. We see this as our heroine comes to London for the first time and has to deal with allies who were oppressors, family that loves and hates her, and a city that is tightly held in an inflationary spiral which happens when a country has been beset by a war that has ravished it.

Add the religious pressures that Parliament was suffering as well to this mix where all those who know the truth of their vision of god tried to wrest control of the nation, and London is indeed in Chains as Ms Bradshaw names the book. What we see also is the rise of printing in this era and a comment that is made, about how no General would dare go to war without their own press, (which reminds me a great deal of Douglas Macarthur) and we see that our Heroine is poised to show us a glimpse of this period that I had no idea of. Before this work, I thought Parliament won, Charles was incarcerated and eventually Parliament voted to behead him, and then Cromwell was made supreme. Yet much was to be done before that happened as I now know. (I am a product of the US education system)

Though there is a romance for our Heroine, and some little time is devoted to it, it does not seem fully fledged as the hero of this action is taken away off stage. That there is some interaction and words between hero and heroine to put the building blocks for a relationship and that they view each other philosophically similarly might breed true, but still, if romance be ones first inclination, more should take place. If History is what you would like to delve into in a period piece, than look no further for the period of 1647 and 1648 one can do little better. At every turn of the page Ms Bradshaw is able to add depth to her world, painting with words details that little occurred to me, but that I think all would find enriching. I recommend this to those who find history of an interest in their reading.

At Amazon US or at Amazon UK

Reviewed by David

Reviewed by Francine

This is a fast paced romance and the author avoids the pitfalls of tedious blow-by-blow accounts of domesticity.  Susanne duly throws the reader into the emotional world of a young love-struck teenage Danielle, and of Marie who with the gift of foresight predicts heartache for Danielle in the near future. And true enough the love of Danielle’s life, Etienne Blouin an honourable young man whom recognises her willingness to succumb to his inner desires is tempted by her blossoming charms. With much regret and steel resolve he knows he must walk away for he cannot dare ask for her hand nor provide for her in the manner to which she is due.
The story then leaps forward ten years, and Danielle de Cherbourg is living a privileged and extravagant lifestyle of a countess, or is she? Nothing is quite as it seems for her husband’s seedy murder reveals the extent of his gambling debts, and although Danielle is forced to don widow’s weeds her heart has always pined for Etienne. Unbeknown to Danielle, Etienne returns to honour a promise made in secret and willingly steps up to pay her husband’s debts. Vexed by his seeming indifference and heart again broken, to her chagrin her aunt has set in motion an arranged marriage to a man Danielle despises. But, whilst travelling by coshe highwaymen save her from the plight of her impending marriage only to cast her into another more terrifying likelihood and dark void of unconsciousness. Upon her awakening aboard ship she fears the worst, and believes the captain is a trader of white slaves to the Turks: a fate worse than death. So is her doom that of a sex slave to a Turkish merchant or Sultan? Buy the book and find out.