Saturday, 27 April 2019

Historical Romance at its Best!

Francine's review of Alethea

After falling in love with Francis Heron (Moon in the Water), I sought every book Pamela Belle published thereafter in which the English Civil Wars remained the backdrop, including the Wintercombe books. But as happens in life some books get lost, and I’m restocking on old favourites. Alethea is far removed from the first Heron book where first-person narrative of Thomazine leads the story. And for me, a budding novelist at the time Moon in the Water was first published, Pamela soon demonstrated how authors grow into the craft of writing books and some, though not all, switch to third-person narrative. Althea is set within the restoration years of Charles II just before the Great Fire of London, where the horror of it all, the sense fear of death is imminent if one falters for a second as sparks fly, the aftermath burns from the pages. 

The backdrop of the novel almost reflects the fiery and sensual nature of Alathea’s tempestuous life and her overwhelming desire to challenge the status quo within the world of the great portraitists and artists of her day. Her father Francis, once a rebellious natured young man understands Alathea’s driving force perhaps better than anyone else, but she is very much her own woman. As with all artists, musicians, playwrights, and court wits, they revolve in circles of the great, the bad, and the ugly, each finding their own close niche, and Alethea is soon beguiled by one of the more notorious rakes of his day, the satirist John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. As with all passionate momentary hedonistic flares the after burn takes hold and reality is seen for what it is, a bed of sorrowful ashes. Of course, true love and admiration is where least expected, a shadowy constant presence and solid foundation for love and security. Thus a return to all that first inspired her artistry appeals as never before, and once again the elder Herons’ can rest easy in knowing their daughter is in safe hands. This is a really lovely stand-alone novel despite it is part of the Heron series of books. There are incidents to thrill and excite in full measure as expected from a first class romance with dangers attached. 

Whoopee. I have since obtained an original paperback copy of Alethea the same as bought as soon as it was published. Chuffed! 

Friday, 26 April 2019

Mediaeval Novella.

Francine's impressions of The Last Plantagenet. 

The Last Plantagenet is a short historical time-slip read for fans of Richard III. The author has provided datelines from future to past and vice versa, therefore no confusion can arise throughout the story. Set within the precincts of Nottingham Castle, itself situated on Castle Rock, the protagonist Kate, loves nothing better than watching mediaeval re-enactment days, thus July 2011 is a War of the Roses day. A keen Ricardian at heart, Kate explores the castle never suspecting for one moment a mishap will occur, or that her contemporary world of re-enactment will morph into the true-life mediaeval existence of July 1485. 

It is one thing to study history and indulge the occasional fantasy, but when fantasy is suddenly reality Kate embraces it to the full until time leaps forward and the past is not entirely left behind. Back in the here and now of the 21st century, Kate embraces the future with secrets aplenty alongside a few treasured gems. All in all this is a delightful tale of romance, friendship, and of something lost in the past and something gained from history.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Regency Pride & Prejudice Prequel.

Reviewed by Francine 

When a Pride & Prejudice prequel is as good as the original, then indeed the author has excelled in the medium of writing, and Riana Everly does just that with this novel. Her rendition of young Mr. Gardiner in the prime of youth and on his trading travels to Derbyshire, is delightful. 

His story begins with an opening more akin to Charles Dickens than Jane Austen. Given the instance of a boy in distress young Gardiner displays a heart of gold, and is well accustomed to paying witness to the harsher side of life in the less salubrious districts of London. Although Gardiner has an eye to quality of cloth there is a sense of naivety about him in other matters. He quite simply takes people and things at face value and believes almost every word thus uttered, until suddenly events become confusing and he puzzles the strange antics of his newly acquired waif-cum-assistant.

On the flipside, Mr. Gardiner’s employment of the waif has provided a place of safety, and more besides. But when one has lied and masqueraded as other, then a day of reckoning will inevitably dawn, and owning to dishonesty is not always as straightforward as might be imagined. Whilst words of affection expressed on paper warmed the cockles of Gardiner’s smitten heart, the outcome of truthful honesty turns to one of shame and guilt and disbelief for him. How could he have been so foolish, and what-if?  And here I shall pause, for to tell more would spoil the plot, except to say the Dickens opening gradually melds into Austen as familiar faces from Pride & Prejudice step centre stage, and Georgian England comes alive. Here I shall end with the words, Pure Escapism at its best!

Monday, 4 March 2019

Saying Thank You to Authors!

When a Review is More than a Critique - When It is a Sign of a Appreciation for a book that has taken an author months, sometimes years to write: more especially if it involves a huge amount of research.
People who Carp at Books have their own reasons for doing so and it is rarely the book that aggravates them, it is usually the Author who is the target of offensive rhetoric! Sad, but true. 

So when next you read a book think of the poem in the pic.
To read it, merely click on the pic and expand it. 

All authors deserve recognition for having finished a book,
and if it entertained you, be pleasant and tell the author you enjoyed it,  All it takes is a moment in time and one simple sentence in saying 

Thursday, 21 February 2019

17th Century Biography

Review Francine

Katherine Pym has taken the true-life story of Sara and David Kirke, (latterly Governor of Newfoundland) and presents a wonderful biography with all the fictional flare of the excellent historical novelist that she is. Set at a time when England was nearing the brink of Civil War (1642-1649) in which the opposing sides were King and Parliament, David is a sea-going merchant adventurer and a privateer in the crown’s name. He dutifully launches an assault on French Canadian Territory, and as in all land-grab fly-the-flag operations not all goes according to initial plans but he does finally revel in victory, and curses failures along the way. Whilst dogged individuals the like of Kirke will plough the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean, will barter and deploy diplomacy in one quarter, and exert power and dominance in another, he does not take well to betrayal and treachery by his monarch. Thus “The Pillars of Avalon” is a harsh tale of struggle and determination against the odds when a king sees fit to cripple merchants with increased personal taxes and higher levies on imported goods. But when the king sequesters and reinstates occupied land to France and its French colonists, Kirke’s ire rises with ferocity, in the interim Kirke is knighted in the strangest of circumstance. 

To say he’s confused by turn of events is understating the situation as he fights to retain some semblance of wealth, and once again sets out for the New World with Sara. Unfortunately what he covets most belongs to another in name, albeit the property is abandoned. Nonetheless, a Governor can sequester in the name of bettering a new colony’s fortunes, thus he exerts power of Governor and sets up home as intended. In the meanwhile, back in England war is raging, and ends in defeat for the king. With the king dead, a new republican era (The Interregnum) has begun, and those looked on as Royalists are forced to account for good fortune whether by hard won labour or by skulduggery. Sadly, his return to England is almost a rerun of his run-in with the king, with one caveat: he has a secondary enemy other than Cromwell’s administrators. 

Hence a high price is subsequently paid by Kirke in his fight to survive financial ruin in the city (London) he has come to despise. He longs for the clear blue horizon and the place he calls home, and who can blame him whilst the city of London comes alive throughout the novel and stirs the senses with its putrid mire, rat infested streets, and corrupt politics. Sara is more than a mere wife. She is David’s leaning post partner from early on, and his pillar of strength. Sara is the one he looks for first when home from the sea, and what can one say, other than not only does this novel represent a slice of history, it’s a love story too.

Friday, 15 February 2019

17th Century Murder Mystery

Reviewed by Francine

Written in M. J. Logue’s inimitable style, “Abiding Fire” edges toward the realms of a psychological suspense novel, as opposed to crime thriller. The author wields a mind-bending analogy to that of a deeply troubled and tortured mind: almost in the format of a journal, as though the main character is secretly confessing to revenge enacted without any sense of guilt. Thus deceit, rumour, and inference enough to ruin any man’s chances of elevation in favoured social circles prevails amidst the ambitious, the dubious, and the worst of the notoriously real-time debauched courtiers of their day.

Initially it is the year of 1663, three years since the Restoration of Charles II to the throne of England. A dreadful murder sets the scene for a mystery that will linger akin to smoke-laden miasma drifting throughout this novel. By 1665 the once Parliamentarian officer, Thankful Russell, who despised all that the Royalists ever stood for during the years of the English Civil Wars, is now gracing the corridors, and the drawing rooms of the great and not so good Royalists. Not only is he newly married and revelling in the glory of having one of the youngest brides on the royal campus, old fears of rejection, fears of failing Thomazina, fears of failing others, and most of all, fear of failing his old commander; Russell is under pressure as a maze of seeming madness surrounds him. And all whilst some unknown person is hell-bent on putting his neck in a noose! All told, this is a suspenseful read peppered with humour, and earthy language enough to lighten and lift the reader in between the more sinister elements as they unfold. All told it's a stand-alone novel, but is nonetheless intricately a part of a greater series of ECW novels by the same author, and of course well-known characters grace the pages.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Jane Austen Fan Fiction

Reviewed by Francine:

Assumptions & Absurdities is a truly apt title for this Jane Austen Fan Fiction novel. Being that of a variation on the Pride & Prejudice theme, it’s a well written narrative driven novel, with lots of amusing asides. And, to avoid spoiling the plot the best way to describe this novel is to say the author has a mischievous streak. You’ll see why, and yet, to some extent, what occurs seems quite plausible, if a little absurd. Therein lies the problem of assumption that all must be as before, instead of lateral thinking and wicked indulgence of characters who choose to differ on how their stories are to unfold. This is a fun read. Enjoy! 

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.