Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #Novella CONGEAL by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading Congeal by John F. Leonard

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Congeal by John F Leonard is a post-apocalyptic horror story which I chose to read as a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team. I received a copy from the author but this does not affect my review at all.

I think this is the longest story I have read from this author but the pace is unrelenting throughout. Congeal is the stuff of nightmares. You know, those ones in which you are being chased by something that doesn’t tire when you do, and which may subside during daylight but by night returns bigger than before.

At the beginning of this story we meet Amelia, who is running, along with Pete, who definitely annoys her, but then her choice of company is limited so beggars can’t be choosers. There were more in their group but that number dwindled in ways that you need to read the book in order to discover.

As always with Leonard, the writing is a joy to read, each turn of phrase or descriptive passage a delight and I highly recommend this to all who like their reading to be on the dark side.

Book description

It starts with reports on the news of an inland lake turning semi-solid.
Surely, a media joke, some lame April Fool’s prank?
The before and after pictures are vaguely ludicrous and oddly disturbing, the contrast stark and strange.
First, darkly rippling water that hints at hidden depths. Slightly spooky and perfectly normal. Next, a putrid blotch of clotted sludge which bears little resemblance to anything aquatic.

It isn’t a joke.
And pretty soon, that greasy, sickening substance isn’t confined to an inland lake.
It’s spreading. Flowing over fields and filling streets.
Each morning brings a new revelation. Countryside denuded of life and towns empty and echoing.
The night is when it changes, becomes something that consumes. Something infinitely worse than a congealed impossibility.

CONGEAL is a short tale of apocalyptic horror. How the world ends may not be how you expect. Nuclear Armageddon or a zombie apocalypse could get beaten to the punch.
Our apocalypse may come from below.
An ancient, cosmic entity bubbling up to the surface in search of food.
It’s also the story of one individual and her fight to stay afloat in a sea of despair.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Superhero #ShortStory MY NEW SUPERJOB by @AntonEine

Today’s team review is from Lilyn, she blogs here https://www.scifiandscary.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Lilyn has been reading My New Superjob by Anton Eine

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I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but I was delighted by what I found. This is a quick, easy read that introduced me to a character I definitely want to know more about.
Yeah, she seems a bit too skilled for certain things, but her deficiencies will make up for I think.
I also enjoy the author’s thoughts on how cities very well could turn to looking at unexpected ways to handle rising crime in the future. Do I think that this particular way is a possibility? No, not really. However with the current MARVEL MCU rolling, who knows who could buy into that crazy and try this stuff themselves.
It’s pretty well written, quick, gets straight to the point, and crafts a good couple of characters. Recommended.
Book description
Did you ever want to be a superhero? The city’s defender against crime, violence, and all forms of sicko nastiness?
When one day she stumbled upon a strange help wanted ad claiming that the city was looking for a superhero, Samantha Washington, a former Ranger commander, was sure it was a joke. And she sent in her resume.
Will the ad turn out to be somebody’s dumb idea of a joke, a practical stunt, a cunning maniac’s clever trap, or… a real opportunity leading to a difficult and dangerous future occupation?
Now that she has let herself be drawn inextricably into the chain of events, Samantha will have to figure it all out on her own. And she’ll have to do it face to face with her own deepest fears.
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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Memoir LOVE, LOSS and MOVING ON by @LorieKEckert

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Love, Loss and Moving On by Lorie Kleiner Eckert

Where to begin?  This book was a total surprise- part memoir, part fantasy and one way of dealing with loss, guilt and loneliness.  And any book which gives a detailed description of the life and films of actor, Bill Nighy can’t be bad.

Lorie Kleiner Eckert relates events during 2015, two years after the death of her long-term partner, Big Irv, via her diary entries, some of her “Slice of Life” newspaper columns and fan letters to Bill Nighy. She is witty and informative. Supported by good friends, Lorie shares regular visits to movies, prepares weekly dinners for her children and grandchildren and runs a craft day each Monday for her youngest grandchildren.  Being of a similar age, I admire her energy tremendously, but she was aware that she had not come to terms with Irv’s death from cancer or her guilt at turning him out of her house.

An amazingly creative lady she had previously produced stunning quilts with simple, important messages spelt out in the designs but now she felt unable to return to her craft.  Then she responded to the suggestion of writing The Book of Irv with sections on Good Stuff, Bad Stuff and Ugly Stuff.  Working through these topics she tells us about their relationship and how despite their love for each other he made life impossible by trying to keep her family away.  Interspersed with the fan letters she sent to Bill and those she wrote but did not send, Lorie works out what she wants from the future but she also helped me, the reader, to see echoes in my own life when I had to deal with the death of my mother.

The best thing about reading “Love, Loss, and Moving On” is that I have found a person to follow, whose blogs and motivational articles speak personally to me.

Book description

“Love, Loss, and Moving On” captures the universal truths about the risks and rewards of relationships when you’re a woman of a certain age. With a relatable style both hilarious and heart-rending, Lorie Kleiner Eckert shares her grief, loneliness, and curiosity as she processes her past to create a rich, fulfilling future for herself. Lorie comes to terms with the death of her longtime partner, coping with her uncertainties by connecting with good friends, writing to work through her emotions, searching the Internet, and eating her fair share of ice cream. (Oh, and there’s also the matter of falling head over heels for a certain handsome British actor known for his bespoke navy suits.) “Love, Loss, and Moving On” will have readers laughing, crying, and above all, nodding in recognition as they travel Lorie’s path with her, gaining strength and inspiration for their own journeys into what comes next.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery Novella An Empty Vessel by @JJMarsh1 #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Alison, she blogs here https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Alison has been reading An Empty Vessel by J. J. Marsh

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This is such a captivating novella. The author clearly and without sentimentality tells the story of poor Nancy, misunderstood and downtrodden, overlooked by almost everyone in her life. Unattractive and ungainly, Nancy’s options in life are limited, but she pulls herself up, and is successful at what she does. Now she finds herself in a cell, about to be hung for murder.

The book looks back, from Nancy’s point of view and those around her, to the events that have led up to this moment. And you’re kept guessing all the way through. I’m not going to give anything away, but this is a real page turner, and you’ll be desperate to get to the end to find out the truth while all the time not really wanting to leave Nancy, alone in her cell.

So well-written, this story captures your imagination. There is nothing overwrought here, or overdone, and that adds to the emotions you feel – the writing is honest, and your reactions are genuine.

The other characters are fully drawn and believable too with enough detail that you really feel you know them, without unnecessary information dragging the narrative down. It’s a lesson in restraint and shows the skill of a competent and talented writer.

I feel that Nancy could almost warrant a novel by herself, but as the heart of this novella, she is a compelling character, in a powerful narrative that is a pleasure to read.

Five stars

Book description

Today’s the day Nancy Maidstone is going to hang.

In her time, she’s been a wartime evacuee, land-girl, slaughterhouse worker, supermarket

assistant, Master Butcher and defendant accused of first degree murder. Now she’s a prisoner condemned to death. A first time for everything.

The case has made all the front pages. Speculation dominates every conversation from bar to barbershop to bakery. Why did she do it? How did she do it? Did she actually do it at all? Her physical appearance and demeanour in court has sparked the British public’s imagination, so everyone has an opinion on Nancy Maidstone.

The story of a life and a death, of a post-war world which never had it so good, of a society intent on a bright, shiny future, and of a woman with blood on her hands.

This is the story of Nancy Maidstone.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #Novella CONGEAL by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Robbie, she blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading Congeal by John F. Leonard.

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Human civilization is a fragile thing and author John Leonard does a superb job of depicting this frailty and the ease with which society can fray and disintegrate when faced with calamity which knocks out the power and other communication sources. A primeval ooze, that becomes know as the clag, is sighted in a lake in a small rural town. It moves swiftly and silently, popping up in cities and towns all of the world within days. The clag comes from the very centre of the earth and uses man’s own interventions against him such as the sewers and the manholes. It sweeps in vast, rippling sheets of mud-like substances across entire suburbs and towns leaving nothing in its wake. The few survivors are left stunned and helpless to try and regroup and survive in virtually impossible circumstances.

Amelia has recently found the love of her life, William, and they live a happy and relaxed life in the country with their dog. Amelia has just discovered she is pregnant and their joy will be complete, but before she can even tell William the news, the clag strikes and her life is torn to shreds. Amelia flees her home and the terrible memories associated with it and happens to come across a small group of survivors led by a man called Pete.

This book is a true horror book. In fact, it is the ultimate in horror as the main characters alternatives gradually disappear as different survival theories fail, one after the other.

For me, the most interesting aspects of this book where the characterizations of the various survivors in the group that initially revolve around Pete, a man who has a plan and a determination to survive. As the circumstances of the group become more hopeless and the group shrinks, their shaky unity starts to fracture and conflict starts to divide them. There would seem to be a lot of truth in the old saying “divide and conquer.” It reminded me a bit of Lord of the Flies by William Golding when the tentative leadership and attempt at a society breaks apart with tragic consequences.

Book description

It starts with reports on the news of an inland lake turning semi-solid.
Surely, a media joke, some lame April Fool’s prank?
The before and after pictures are vaguely ludicrous and oddly disturbing, the contrast stark and strange.
First, darkly rippling water that hints at hidden depths. Slightly spooky and perfectly normal. Next, a putrid blotch of clotted sludge which bears little resemblance to anything aquatic.

It isn’t a joke.
And pretty soon, that greasy, sickening substance isn’t confined to an inland lake.
It’s spreading. Flowing over fields and filling streets.
Each morning brings a new revelation. Countryside denuded of life and towns empty and echoing.
The night is when it changes, becomes something that consumes. Something infinitely worse than a congealed impossibility.

CONGEAL is a short tale of apocalyptic horror. How the world ends may not be how you expect. Nuclear Armageddon or a zombie apocalypse could get beaten to the punch.
Our apocalypse may come from below.
An ancient, cosmic entity bubbling up to the surface in search of food.
It’s also the story of one individual and her fight to stay afloat in a sea of despair.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Contemporary #Fiction WINTER FLOWER by @CharlesEMiles

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Winter Flower by Charles Sheehan-Miles

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This is the first novel I read by Charles Sheehan-Miles, who is a brand new author to me, although he has published a large number of books, and from the comments, I guess he has a legion of fans that were surprised by this book, as it is not a romance. I cannot compare it to his previous work, but I agree with the warning. If readers from his previous books approach this novel as a romance, they will be shocked, because it is far from it.

This is a long book (over 600 pages long), divided up into four parts, with a prologue set two years before the main action of the book, although there are flashbacks (memories) narrated in the first-person by the four main characters —all members of the same family— that offer readers a good understanding of the background to the current situation and help them get to grips with their circumstances, their pasts, and who they are. This is the story of a family, a married couple and their two children, on the brink of collapse due to a terrible tragedy that took place two years before the action we follow chronologically. Or so it seems. (The truth is a bit more complicated than that). Sam and Brenna, the children (adolescents by the time we met them) are close, and Brenna has always willingly played the role of big sister to Sam, there to protect and guide. Until she disappears. Carrying on without her puts a big strain on a family we soon learn was going through difficulties already (some more out in the open than others), and whose communication had ground almost to a halt. The parents, Cole and Erin, are living example of the “opposites attract” edict, at least from a political perspective (Cole, the father, who as a young man decided formal education wasn’t for him and moved up the corporate ladder at lightning speed, is conservative as can be, while Erin, the mother, a college  graduate, is a convinced liberal who sacrificed her career to look after her children), and although the story opens up with Sam’s narration, we soon get to read their own perspective on the matter and the kind of traps they find themselves in.

This is a story that deals in many important subjects, and it could have been told in a variety of ways, but I am impressed not only by the subjects (adultery and its toll on family relationships, sex trafficking, rape, prostitution, bullying, harassment and violence against the LGBT community, missing youths, the isolation of the trans-gender experience for young people, prejudice and harassment at work…) and the sensitive and enlightening way they are handled, but also by the way the story is told. The author allows each character to tell his/her own story, and that makes us walk a mile in their shoes, no matter how uncomfortable they might feel. I am sure many readers will think, as they read, that they would have never reacted in a certain way, or allowed their circumstances to deteriorate to such an extent, but, do we truly know? Although, as the author reminds us in the final note, the events in the book are far from unique (yes, it is a work of fiction, but many individuals and families, unfortunately, will go through similar experiences to those depicted in the book), many of us will never have been in close contact with somebody in such dire circumstances, much less be directly affected by it, so, how do we know what we would do? The characters are not necessarily the most likeable when we meet them (drinking heavily, harassed, afraid for their lives, paralysed and frozen, unable to make decisions and move on), and they are all closed off from each other, trapped, physically or mentally, sometimes by others and their preconceptions, sometimes by their own fears and inability to grief and forgive. The author also makes a conscious decision to introduce the rest of the family —the parents and Sam— first, so we get to see the effect her loss has had on the family before we meet Brenna, the missing girl. Her situation is heart-wrenching, and the most extreme and difficult to read about, although none of the characters have an easy ride.

Thankfully, the author manages to achieve a difficult balance between telling the story, not pulling any punches, making sure people can understand and empathise with what the characters are going through, while avoiding extremely graphic scenes (both of sex and violence), and gratuitous iterations and repetitions of the abuse, which would risk further exploitation rather than facilitating understanding and empathy. Don’t get me wrong; this is a hard read, and readers with triggers around topics such as child abuse, rape, bullying, violence against women and the LGTB community, and racism need to be aware of it. Even people who don’t have such triggers will find it a tough read, but, on the other hand, this is a book with a big heart, and the individual journey of each character, and of the family as a whole, make for an inspiring and hopeful read.

I have already talked about how impressed I am by the story and the way it is told. I grew fond of all the members of the family by the end of the book (it’s impossible for our hearts not to go out to Sam and Brenna, but we get to appreciate their parents as well), and I particularly enjoyed the journey of enlightenment Cole’s father goes through. The author includes most of the reactions we can imagine to these subjects, from the sublime to the ridiculous, (not everybody changes and accepts either. Bigotry remains alive and well, as we all know), and they all felt true. I was particularly fond of Jeremiah and his wife — almost too good to be true— who are an ideal we should all aspire to. I also liked the fact that the story does not stop when most readers would expect it to, and even Sam makes comments on that. There is no magical happy ending here that just makes everything right again. All the members of the family will have to keep working at their relationship and supporting each other, but that is as it should be.

There were no negative reviews of the book at the time I wrote this, and the only objections (apart from the warning that it is not a romance) some people had referred to were Sam’s virtual game playing (that a reader didn’t feel added anything to the novel. Personally, I think it helps readers understand what life is like for the character and experience the kind of coping strategies adolescents in similar circumstances might use), and some others felt the book could have been shorter and still managed to tell the same story. That might be true, but I suspect some of the nuances would have been lost.

This is an excellent book that manages to combine complex and credible characters with a plot that deals with several difficult subjects, without becoming preachy or too graphic. It is horrifying, touching, and insightful all at the same time, and it makes readers witness the highs and lows of the human condition. I recommended it to readers interested in the subjects, but I advise those who might worry about possible triggers to proceed with caution. The author adds some resources (links to websites) for people who need more information about some of the issues raised in the book, and I thought the final conversation of the book, between Brenna and her grandfather in the garden —when the grandfather talks about the snapdragon, and how it grows back after getting rid of the dead stuff, stronger and more beautiful— stands as a great metaphor for the story, and explains the title. Highly recommended.

Book description

A shocking and poignant story of a family on the brink of destruction and the transformational events that could bring them back together—or tear them apart.

Every day, Cole Roberts reminds himself that life wasn’t always this bleak. He was once passionately in love with Erin. Sam used to be an artistic and lively kid. They hadn’t always lived in a shabby two-room house in rural Alabama, where he runs a mediocre restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

That was before Brenna disappeared. It was before Cole lost his job and they lost their home.

Every day it gets worse. Erin drinks wine out of the bottle and spends her days with a tormented expression, searching the web for signs of their daughter. Sam hides in his room and rarely speaks. And Cole works himself to a stupor for a paycheck a fraction of the size of his old salary.

Until one day a phone call changes everything.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ChickLit Jennifer Brown Moving On by @JenBJourney

Today’s team review is from Jenny.

#RBRT Review Team

Jenny has been reading Jennifer Brown Moving On by Angie Langley

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What an absolute delight it was to read the sequel to Jennifer Brown’s Journey. I loved the first book so much I simply could not wait to get my teeth into the second instalment. I am not disappointed either. From the very first page I was tittering and laughing out loud.

There are some marvellous surprises and some very touching moments, which made me cry. Most of all though, are the typical Jennifer Brown moments that made our heroine loveable. Jennifer’s career really takes a surprisingly interesting turn in this book. The reader takes every nervous and exciting step with her, willing and encouraging her to work her magic. Which she does, to perfection.

Angie Langley has done it again! Her way with words and her sense of fun make this a charming and delightful book to read.

Please Angie….let’s have a part three.

Book description

She’s back!
Five feet one and full of fizz, Jennifer Brown has learned to roll with the punches and adapt to whatever life throws at her. It’s thrown plenty in the past and she’s had to use her steely core to reinvent herself, first as cook and housekeeper to a saucy sexagenarian, then as manager of a tumbledown country estate with sensitive secrets. In Jennifer Brown On The Move, this Bridget Jones with knobs on is taking charge of her life again, showing the world she can move in the most exalted, high-power circles and lose not an ounce of her gutsy, down-to-earth charm. Her hilarious cross-dressing confidant Will is on hand once again, with pearls of caustic widsom, and her old boss Jonathan Dashwood-Silk breezes in and out of her life, still dripping charisma but still needing our heroine to dig him out of the odd hole. As she crosses continents and breaks bread with the world’s movers and shakers, Jennifer Brown finds her mind still troubled by thoughts of the quiet man with the warm eyes and the velvet vowels. Then that daydream is torpedoed when she’s invited to his wedding.
But you know Jennifer. She never gives up!

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Art Heist #Thriller Marked For Revenge by @JSAauthor

Today’s review is from Sandra,

#RBRT Review Team

She has been reading Marked For Revenge by Jennifer S. Alderson

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Marked for Revenge is the third book featuring art researcher Zelda – now working in the Amstel Modern museum in the Netherlands. I had no idea that there were other books in this series and it did not matter at all; at no point did I feel that not having read the previous books in the series was affecting my understanding.

It is a complex story told from multiple viewpoints and this works really well. We get insight into why the crimes are taking place, and not just a hunt for the perpetrators, which results in a much more nuanced narrative. It is obvious that a lot of research has gone into this book, the detail is convincing and the author’s love of art history shines through.

The vivid descriptions of Venice and Marmaris are a highlight and will make you want to visit them and see the sights for yourself. It is well written, with believable characters and lots of action. The themes of art theft, forgery and revenge are woven seamlessly into this fast-paced thriller. I look forward to reading about Zelda’s next adventure.

Book description

An adrenaline-fueled adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.

When researcher Zelda Richardson begins working at a local museum, she doesn’t expect to get entangled with an art theft, knocked unconscious by a forger, threatened by the mob, or stalked by drug dealers.

To make matters worse, a Croatian gangster is convinced Zelda knows where a cache of recently pilfered paintings is. She must track down an international gang of art thieves and recover the stolen artwork in order to save those she loves most.

The trouble is, Zelda doesn’t know where to look. Teaming up with art detective Vincent de Graaf may be her only hope at salvation.

The trail of clues leads Zelda and Vincent on a pulse-pounding race across Europe to a dramatic showdown in Turkey that may cost them their lives.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction SEVERED KNOT by @CryssaBazos #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Severed Knot by Cryssa Bazos

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4.5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book so much.  The basic story: Iain Johnstone is a Scottish soldier imprisoned by Cromwell’s men after persuading many of his contemporaries to go south and fight for Charles II.  Mairead O’Conneil is a young woman staying at her uncle’s house in rural Eire for ‘safety’ while her father and brothers fight the Parlimentarians ~ but then the soliders come… and both Iain and Mairead find themselves on a slave ship bound for Barbados.

I hadn’t read this relatively new writer before, but I’m glad I’ve discovered her; she’s seriously talented.  The book is professionally presented, which I appreciated so much; it is clear that the research has been both meticulous and extensive, but at no time was I overly aware of it; I never felt that I was reading her research notes, as can so often be the case.  The atmosphere of the prisons, the slave ships and the Barbadian plantations, with all their horrors, is colourfully illustrated, and her characterisation and dialogue kept me engrossed, throughout.  I liked, too, that it gave me a view of how the English troubles spread far and wide.  Aside from all this, it’s a terrific adventure story.

Within the plot is a romantic thread, a background shadow in the first half of the book that steps closer to centre stage as it goes on.  The theme is the romantic novel standard of two people taking against each other on sight then being extraordinarily rude to each other whenever they cross paths before finally admitting their passion, which can work well if cleverly written, and this was.

Sadly, though, because of the descriptions of Mairead (tiny, skinny, frizzy-haired, plain, sprite, ‘Mouse’) I could only ever picture her as a sort of meek teenage imp, rather than a woman likely to inflame the passions of the Sean Bean-as-Sharpe/Boromir-like Iain, so it fell a little flat for me.  This sort of opinion is only ever a personal viewpoint, though, and I must bear in mind that I not a fan of romantic fiction, generally; I was glad that other non-love stuff made up the main body of the book.

Despite these reservations, I am still rounding the 4.5* up to 5* on Amazon in the interests of objective reviewing, because it really is an exceptionally good novel, and I will definitely place her on my mental ‘read more’ list.

Book description

Barbados 1652. In the aftermath of the English Civil War, the vanquished are uprooted and scattered to the ends of the earth.

When marauding English soldiers descend on Mairead O’Coneill’s family farm, she is sold into indentured servitude. After surviving a harrowing voyage, the young Irish woman is auctioned off to a Barbados sugar plantation where she is thrust into a hostile world of depravation and heartbreak. Though stripped of her freedom, Mairead refuses to surrender her dignity.

Scottish prisoner of war Iain Johnstone has descended into hell. Under a blazing sun thousands of miles from home, he endures forced indentured labour in the unforgiving cane fields. As Iain plots his escape to save his men, his loyalties are tested by his yearning for Mairead and his desire to protect her.

With their future stolen, Mairead and Iain discover passion and freedom in each other’s arms. Until one fateful night, a dramatic chain of events turns them into fugitives.

Together they fight to survive; together they are determined to escape.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction #Mystery Death Of A Good Samaritan by William Savage @penandpension

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Death Of A Good Samaritan by William Savage

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William Savage is the author of two Georgian mystery series, one featuring Ashmole Fox, a colorful book seller, and the other Adam Bascom, a physician. I will confess that despite my medical background, I have been drawn more to Ashmole Fox, but this latest in the Adam Bascom series has changed my mind.

This book is located in Norfolk market town of Aylsham in 1794 and as well as Millgate and the Bure Navigation – the upper reaches of the river Bure, which extended from from Horstead to Aylsham and which included locks. The author has included a map, which greatly helped in my understanding of the area. Agricultural produce and bricks were among the main cargoes on the new navigation, carried by wherries, which to readers on this side of the pond, is a long, light, shallow-draft rowboat used for transporting goods and passengers.

Now to the story: Dr. Adam Bascom wants nothing more than to be fully engaged in his medical practice, but he is wildly distracted –first by his love for Lady Alice Fouchard and then by the murder of a kindly surgeon on the outskirts of Aylsham. The death is ruled an accidental death by the local coroner, who has no medical background nor any evidence to support his conclusion. Bascom, who has an established record of solving cases of mysterious deaths, is drawn to discover what happened to his fellow physician but finds no more than tidbits of information and is frustrated by the reluctance of the locals to talk to some of a high social status.

As a reader, I was getting very frustrated myself until the good doctor meets the surgeon’s former housekeeper, Rose Thoday. Ms.Thoday is not your usual housekeeper, being something of a wise woman (skilled in the use of herbs and plants in healing) and having learned a great deal of medicine from her former employer. She wants to be an equal partner in the investigation, posing a conundrum to Bascom – he needs her information and help but how can he collaborate on equal terms with a mere woman? What will upper-class society — and Lady Alice — think of him if he does?

What Rose and Bascom eventually find, with many stops and starts, is a conspiracy of clever, desperate and ruthless men, deeply involved in smuggling and murder. All face the gallows if they are brought to justice, and one will not hesitate to kill again in order to avoid discovery.

As usual, the author does an incredible job bringing the reader into the Georgian Age. Competition from railroads and a disastrous flood that caused major damage to the locks on the river early in the 20th century led to the end of the Bure Navigation, which has not been restored. Thus the author has done a yeoman’s job helping the reader see this historical navigation as it was in its heyday.

The detail is outstanding and the characters, many introduced in previous books, are compelling. Lady Alice is intelligent and gracious and knows well and accepts Bascoms foibles. His closest friend, the apothecary Peter Lassimer, does not figure as largely, but offers humor to counter the doctor’s gloominess. Rose Thoday is a very forward woman, whose fearlessness I enjoyed.

The plot was tortuous and I was constantly rearranging my suspects. I’ve learned from the previous books in both series that the pace of life in the 1700s was slow compared to today, and thus the mysteries in these books develop at the same deliberate pace. It makes the reading of the book leisurely, which contributes to the absorption of the details.

I liked this book the best of the Adam Bascom series and I highly recommend it to mystery readers and especially lovers of historical mysteries.

Book description

A new investigation is the last thing that Dr Adam Bascom wants. He’d much prefer to devote himself to sorting out his future. But when a kindly surgeon living on the edge of Aylsham is brutally murdered, and the local coroner does all he can to bring in a verdict of accidental death, Adam knows he has no choice.
At first, a grave shortage of direct evidence and the reluctance of the locals to talk freely to someone so far above them socially look set to prevent any progress. Still, Adam persists, drawing on whatever help he can muster from friends and contacts. Even so, progress is slow until more help arrives in the unexpected form of the surgeon’s former housekeeper, Rose Thoday. Can our young doctor accept collaborating on equal terms with a mere woman? What will upper-class society — and Lady Alice — think of him if he does?
Adam must grapple with much more than the dispassionate mental challenges he’s been used to. This time, he’s up against against a conspiracy of clever, desperate and ruthless men. All face the gallows if they are brought to justice. One at least will not hesitate to kill again to save himself.
This is a contest which may very well cost Adam and Rose their lives.

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