Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #psychological #thriller Hiding by @JMortonPotts

Today’s team review is from Judith B, she blogs here http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Hiding by Jenny M Potts

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My Review:

I enjoyed this book; Jenny Morton Potts has created a good psychological thriller; great plot, believable characters, good dialogue.

Hiding follows two main characters from different countries, both well-rounded and many layered: Rebecca, the protagonist, brought up in the Scottish Highlands with her siblings by her grandparents. It’s a bleak seemingly loveless household according to the narrative from Rebecca’s point of view.  But there are many unanswered questions, especially about the death of here parents; killed in a car accident. And Keller Baye, the antagonist;  an American youth, and son of a murderer. His narrative is revealed slowly and is, initially, more difficult to grasp. But what is obvious is the lack of love in his upbringing, and explains his total absence of empathy for anyone in his world. (I use the word ‘world’ on purpose, rather than his ‘life’; right from the start his character is portrayed as distanced from any other character in the story – he seemed to me to be more of a spectator). The most unsettling is his graphic, almost internal narration of his presence at his father’s execution.

Told alternately from each of the two main characters’ point of view, the plot lines are related  both in the present and in flashbacks, (a device I like as a reader; to me this always adds so many more layers).

But it wasn’t only these two characters that came alive for me; most of the minor characters are many layered as well; some I liked, some I didn’t – which, is, undoubtedly,  as the author intended

And both  the internal and spoken dialogue expands on all the characters and there is never any doubt who is speaking.

The descriptions of the settings give a great sense of place; it’s easy to envisage each scene. From the descriptions of the isolated chilly mansion in  Highlands of Scotland to the cramped unloving house that was Keller Baye’s home with his aunt in the USA, to the external scenes when each character is telling their own narrative and on to the scenes where they are eventually together.

As I said earlier it’s a great plot; seemingly separate tales with no connection, both well told, until a sudden realisation that there is an inevitable link.

Initially there is an even pace to the two separate narratives but then the suspense builds up as threads of the parallel stories intertwine and connect.A gripping read.

And right up to the last chapter I would have given Hiding five stars. So many small twists and turns, so many suspenseful moments joining up all the past narrative. But then, for me, it ended too abruptly. I won’t say how, and no doubt other readers will have their own opinions. But the gradual deepening of the plot and the lead up towards the end worked so well – and then…it was over; a sudden and unsatisfying denouement.

A last point; I love the cover; the silhouette of the woman looking outwards as though searching, the grim image of the man’s face as though watching; the contrast of light and dark. Wonderful!

Despite my reservations of the ending (and I leave that point for other readers to decide),  I would certainly recommend Hiding. Jenny Morton Potts has a great style of writing.

Book description

A gripping psychological thriller with chilling twists, from a unique new voice.

Keller Baye and Rebecca Brown live on different sides of the Atlantic. Until she falls in love with him, Rebecca knows nothing of Keller. But he’s known about her for a very long time, and now he wants to destroy her.

This is the story of two families. One living under the threat of execution in North Carolina. The other caught up in a dark mystery in the Scottish Highlands. The families’ paths are destined to cross. But why? And can anything save them when that happens?

About the author

Jenny Morton Potts was born in a smart, dull suburb of Glasgow where the only regular excitement was burglary. Attended a smart, dull school where the only regular excitement was the strap. Worked in smart, dull sales and marketing jobs until realising she was living someone else’s life.

Escaped to Gascony to make gîtes. Knee deep in cement and pregnant, Jenny was happy. Then autism and a distracted spine surgeon who wanted to talk about The Da Vinci Code, wiped out the order. Returned to wonderful England – and unlikely ever to leave again – Jenny, with assistance from loyal hound, walked and swam her way back to manageable health.

Jenny would like to see the Northern Lights but worries that’s the best bit and should be saved till last. Very happily, and gratefully, partnered for 28 years, she ought to mention, and living with inspirational child in Derbyshire.

Jenny Morton Potts

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Mild #thriller My #Bookreview of Girl Without A Voice by @ChrisBridge313

Girl Without a VoiceGirl Without a Voice by Chris Bridge

4.5 stars

Girl Without A Voice is a suspense thriller set in Yorkshire. It opens with a past scene: a family picnic with a traumatic event that caused nine year old Leah to stop talking.

In present time Leah is now thirty-four, and hasn’t spoken since that day, twenty-five years ago. Her father has just died and the family gather for his funeral. Years of silence have made Leah almost invisible, particularly to her three siblings who ignore her, and are not reprimanded for this by their grieving mother, Izzy. After a long illness her father’s death was expected, but everyone was shocked when Izzy revealed she had another son.

Izzy becomes excited about the possibility of reuniting with her long-lost son and asks his forgiveness for giving him away. However, she’s being furtive and this behaviour makes Leah extra worried. Her observational skills have developed in place of her ability to speak, and when the family finally meet Patrick he concerns and shocks her; Leah suspects that she and her mother are both in danger.

I jumped at the chance to read this book because I know how well this author can write, having read Back Behind Enemy Lines a few years ago. This book didn’t disappoint. It is written in several significant parts. Leah’s story and the effect on her life of her disability are scripted very well; I was appalled at how her siblings treated her. In part two we learn more about Patrick and a religious cult which brought him up. The author does an excellent job building the layers of suspense and tension, it was obvious just how much research had gone into making the plot and characters really believable.

I would describe this as a mild thriller, for those who enjoy character-led plot lines. I was very interested to learn about Leah’s elective mutism, and whilst the religious cult aspects left me pretty uncomfortable the storyline had me abandoning other duties just to finish reading. I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

 

 

Childhood trauma robs Leah of the power of speech and forces her to be a watcher on the margins of society. But when her mother goes in search of the child she gave up for adoption, Leah is tempted out of the shadows. At first Patrick is everything she could hope for from a half-brother, but is he too good to be true? Leah makes a shocking discovery that leaves her with a moral dilemma and the need to take on not only her half-brother but the ruthless cult he belongs to.

About the author

Chris Bridge was born in Hull, England in 1947. He studied English and Philosophy at Nottingham University and became a teacher after graduating. He eventually became Headteacher of Huntington School, York, and finished his school career as a National Leader of Education. He has been a regular contributor to poetry magazines and his poems have featured in the winning lists of Hippocrates and Stanza poetry competitions. Back Behind Enemy Lines is his first novel. He lives in North Yorkshire.

Chris Bridge

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT modern #fairytale The Royal Deal by @DGDriverAuthor

Today’s team review is from Teri, she blogs here http://teripolen.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Teri has been reading The Royal Deal by D.G. Driver

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D.G. Driver’s books have always captivated me, and The Royal Deal is no exception.  I generally prefer darker fairy tales, but I liked the sound of Princess Faith.  Although headstrong, determined, and spontaneous, she just wants a chance to control her own life.  Ill-prepared to survive in the forest, perhaps she should have thought things through a little better before striking a deal with her father, the King, but whatever the case, you have to admire her chutzpah.

With the appearance of the hermit, I wondered if this would take a turn toward Beauty and the Beast, but I was glad to see that it didn’t.  Not that I have anything against Beauty and the Beast, but I was hoping for more originality than ‘they lived happily ever after’ – and that’s what the author delivered.  I felt the ending was abrupt, but satisfying.

This isn’t a sparkly fairy tale with the prince rescuing the princess – it possesses a more modern spin, with the princess learning independence and building self-esteem.  The Royal Deal is a charming tale that takes only a couple of hours to read at the most, and I’d recommend it to both fans of traditional fairy tales and those who are looking for a different take on the standard stories.

I received a digital copy of this book through Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Book description

A pampered princess is told she must marry a prince she doesn’t like, let alone love, on her nineteenth birthday. Desperate to find a way to stop this arranged marriage, she makes a bargain with her father. If she can survive for three months in the forest with no help of any kind and return healthy and unharmed, then she can choose the man she will marry. The King accepts the wager, knowing he can’t possibly lose. Princess Faith knows she must win this deal, but once she ventures into the forest, she has no idea how she can possibly succeed.

About the author

D. G. Driver likes to write about diverse people dealing with social or environmental issues, but she likes to include a touch of fantasy or fun, too. She primarily writes middle grade and young adult fiction. She is the award-winning author of the YA eco-fiction series The Juniper Sawfeather Novels, which includes Cry of the Sea, Whisper of the Woods, and Echo of the Cliffs. She has stories in a variety of anthologies, and her newest book is a middle grade story about bullying and Autism awareness called No One Needed to Know. When she isn’t writing, she is teaching, performing in a local community theater musical, or probably watching TV.

D.G. Driver

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #NZ #Mystery The Maori Detective by @crossmanDA

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Maori Detective by DA Crossman

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I selected this mystery to review because I was attracted by both the setting and also the protagonist, who is half Maori.  Here’s the story:

Carlos Wallace spent thirteen years in Australia, eight of them as a police officer in New South Wales. When he kills a man in the line of duty and his wife is subsequently murdered, he comes under suspicion and he’s dismissed from the force. He’s devastated and decides to return home to Christchurch and become a private detective. He arrives shortly after the earthquake of 2011, which leveled the city’s business district, and the reality of the devastation is a grim backdrop to his depressed mood. An absent and mysterious Mr. Prince sets Carlos up with a PI business office and funds to continue cases that Prince left behind. A blood relative deeds him a house, asking only that in return, he look after his cousin Miriama (a beautiful matakite or seer to whom he is attracted) and his whānau or family.

The main case Carlos sets out to solve is the disappearance of a young French girl, missing since the earthquake and presumed dead. His search is tortuous and has international tentacles, but he acquires a feisty and capable partner, Ginny Andrews, who has a mysterious background of her own. Interspersed in this case are searches for lost dogs and unfaithful wives, which at first seem rather superfluous but which eventually tie in. One of the best character in the book is Uncle Tau, a local cop whose links to the community are a big help to Carlos. But his uncle also reminds him of his duty to family and a supposed curse he needs to explore.

To be honest, I found this book a tough read with some definite roadblocks. There are initially many Maori terms, which are defined at the end of the book, but going back and forth with an e-reader is tedious. The plot lines are complicated, and when I put the book down, I had to go back when I picked it up again and skim through what I had read.

Nevertheless, the setting and the Maori family culture are fascinating and that kept me going, when I felt a little frustrated. Initially slow with the introduction of characters and their past, the pace picks up as the various plot lines come to the fore. There are many interesting and  complicated turns, but the characters are vivid and compelling. To me, they were one of the best aspects of the story. I particularly like the taciturn Uncle Tau and Carlos’ beautiful but troubled cousin. The descriptive details are spare, but Christchurch itself, as it struggles to revive and rebuild, is a wonderful background.

The Maori Detective was not a totally satisfying mystery for me because of the density and the foreignness. I felt like I was standing to the side, observing the story and trying to understand it, rather than being pulled into it. I do think the book will be a huge draw to readers in that part of the world. All in all, the insight into Maori life and the backdrop made it a read worth the effort.

Book description

He’s lost his wife, his job, and his mana. So what now? A PI? He really couldn’t get used to it. Traipsing around after unfaithful wives and little old ladies’ lost dogs? Was this the future for Carlos Wallace? And what of the beautiful matakite? Wasn’t it a sin to fall in love with your cousin?

Carlos has spent thirteen years living in Australia, eight of them as a serving officer with the New South Wales Police. But when he kills a man in the line of duty, Carlos’ life begins to unravel. His wife is subsequently murdered in mysterious circumstances, and Carlos is dismissed from the force. A devastated Carlos returns home to his Christchurch whānau and takes up a job as a private detective.

When Carlos investigates the disappearance of a young French girl, missing since the February earthquake, the detective becomes embroiled in a sinister conspiracy. Carlos must solve the case, and pick up the pieces of his life among the ruins of a devastated city.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Terry reviews #Tudor #HistFic Mary: Tudor Princess by @tonyriches

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading MARY: Tudor Princess by Tony Riches

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4 out of 5 stars

Like many people, I have an unquenchable thirst for good fiction about the Plantagenet and Tudor period.  I wondered if Mary Tudor’s story in itself would be enough to sustain a novel, but was pleased to see that it added to my knowledge of the Tudor period and I liked the way the author used her story to produce another, interesting perspective on that of Henry VIII, as Mary fretted over the troubles with France and watched the fortunes of her friend Queen Catherine plummet.

There are some clever ideas in this tale of Henry’s sister, such as placing the thirteen-year-old Anne Boleyn as her maid, on the night of her wedding to King Louis of France.  Whether she really was or not I don’t know, and neither does it matter, though we are given the information that Anne became one of the ladies of Mary’s bedchamber.  That the reader knows more about what was happening at court than the protagonist is a smart move, as we turn the pages in anticipation of her finding out; as an aristocratic woman of her time, Mary’s life was, of course, subject to the machinations of the men who controlled her.  Later, when kept away from court at Brandon’s seat in Suffolk, she knew only what she heard from others, which included very little of her own husband’s infidelities.

As is usual with Tony Riches’ books, it is clear that much research has been undertaken without it ever seeming research-heavy, a skill I always admire.

Given that the story is of a whole life, and a not uneventful one, this is not a very long book and at times I felt that more detail might have made it more absorbing, for instance in the development of Mary’s first, brief marriage to King Louis of France, of Charles Brandon’s feeling towards her, of the discovery of her husband’s infidelity, and the loss of her first son.  I didn’t feel I knew Mary until half way through, and at times it seemed the story was being somewhat raced through as new characters emerged, older ones died off until, had I not known a great deal about this time, I might have forgotten who was who; on the other hand, it is written as Mary would have seen it—and novels of Tudor history are always hampered by the fact that everyone is called Anne, Mary, Catherine, Charles, Henry and Thomas!

I did enjoy it and read it in two sittings; I just felt that, on occasion, the story required extra depth to make me feel really involved with the main character and less as though I was reading a catalogue of factual happenings.  It’s as well-written as all Mr Riches’ books, though, and that I read it so quickly shows that I found it a page-turner.

Mary’s death at the end was beautifully executed.  I do love a good ending.  I’d definitely recommend this book as an addition to the library of fellow Tudor addicts.

Book description

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.

Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?

Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.

About the author

Tony Riches is a full-time author from Pembrokeshire, West Wales, an area full of inspiration for his writing. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya.

His real interest is in the history of the Tudors and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period.

Best known for his Tudor Trilogy, Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’. In his spare time Tony enjoys sailing and sea kayaking.

Tony Riches

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#WomensFiction The Girl I Used To Know by @GerHogan #TuesdayBookBlog @BrookCottageBks

The Girl I Used To KnowThe Girl I Used To Know by Faith Hogan

3.5 stars

The Girl I Used To Know is women’s fiction set in Dublin. It tells the stories of Tess and Amanda  through triple time lines. Tess is a sitting tenant in the basement flat of Amanda’s Georgian house.

At sixty-six, Tess is grumpy, rude and lonely. She loathes Amanda and her rich banker husband Richard. Forty-eight years ago Tess moved to Dublin to follow her singing dreams; what happened to that talented girl?

Amanda is also unhappy. The artist she used to be has been lost under the model homemaker and corporate wife image that Richard has urged her to assume. But everything is about to change after a New Year’s Eve party.

Using the triple time lines, the author builds the back story to where Tess and Amanda are today. Circumstances in present time transform them from sworn enemies to supportive friends. There’s a little romance, too.

The use of alternating time lines can work well in a novel, but I did find the triple ones a bit too much, they pulled me away from building empathy with any one character. Overall, this is a book about forgiveness and moving on with life, ideal for those enjoy family saga style stories.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

A beautiful, emotive and spell-binding story of two women who find friendship and second chances when they least expect it. Perfect for the fans of Patricia Scanlan.

Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn’t be more different.

Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accouterments of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.

By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess Cuffe has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.

It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.

BUY LINKS

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2HavtuH

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2Hcqxp4

iBooks: https://apple.co/2ItGWon

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2q7pcrv

BookBub: http://bit.ly/2H9W6jc

Faith Hogan is an original voice in women’s fiction. Her stories are warm and rooted in a contemporary Irish landscape which has lost none of its wit, charm or emotion thanks to its modern vibe.

Faith was born in Ireland. She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.

Her debut novel ‘My Husbands Wives’ is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin, published by Aria Fiction in 2016. Her second novel, ‘Secrets We Keep,’ is published in February 2017 – it has been included on the Netgalley ‘Hot List 2017.’ Her third novel – ‘The Girl I Used To Know’ is out in December 2017.

She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a rather busy chocolate Labrador. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

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Giveaway – A SIGNED COPY OF THE GIRL I USED TO KNOW (open internationally)
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My review of The Madonna Of The Mountains by Elise Valmorbida #TuesdayBookBlog @FaberBooks

The Madonna of The MountainsThe Madonna of The Mountains by Elise Valmorbida

4 stars

The Madonna Of The Mountains is cultural fiction set during twenty-five years of Maria Vittoria’s life. The book opens in 1923, in a mountainous Italian village. Maria is twenty-five years old, almost too old to marry, but few eligible men are left after war and Spanish flu. Maria’s father searches for a husband for his daughter; he returns with Achille, and the pair begin their married life. Both are hard-working and they move to a small town where they buy a grocery shop.

The Second World War years are very hard, and they now have five children. Owning a grocery shop helps with food shortages, but they are still vulnerable to political battles. Maria’s driving force is to keep her family safe and fed. When the war ends, Maria and her family face new trials as Italy rebuilds itself and finds new leaders.

Throughout her story Maria’s Catholic faith guides her. She keeps a statue of the Madonna with her and there are sections of prayer or dreams where the Madonna talks to Maria.

This is a book about families, hardships, war and retribution. The beginning was rather slow, perhaps reflecting the pace of life. I never quite got all of Maria’s relatives straight in my head. However, the war years were well written, I could easily picture it all, especially the hunger, cold and hardships. My favourite part of the book was the section on Mulberry trees and silk worms, which I found fascinating.

This book might suit those who enjoy family saga style books, or those who are interested in something a little different with their war years dramas.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

1923
Maria Vittoria is embroidering a sheet for her dowry trunk.
Her father has gone to find her a husband. He’s taken his mule, a photograph and a pack of food: home-made sopressa sausage, cold polenta, a little flask of wine-no need to take water-the world is full of water.
It’s Springtime, when a betrothal might happen, as sudden as a wild cyclamen from a wet rock, as sweet as a tiny violet fed by melting mountain snow. There are no eligible men in this valley or the next one, but her Father will not let her marry just anyone, and now, despite Maria’s years, she is still healthy. Her betrothed will see all that. He’ll be looking for a woman who can do the work.
Maria can do the work. Everyone in the contra says that.
And the lord knows Maria will need to be able to work. Fascism blooms as crops ripen, the state craves babies just as the babies cry for food. Maria faces a stoney path, but one she will surely climb to the summit.
In this sumptuous and elegant novel you will taste the bigoli co l’arna, feel the mulberry leaves cut finer than organdy, hear the silence that enfolds Maria when Achille – that ox of a man – lifts his hand to her, and feel the strain of one woman attempting to keep her family together in the most testing of times.

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#NewRelease My #BookReview of #HistFic Daughter Of War by @SJATurney @canelo_co

Daughter of War (Knights Templar #1)Daughter of War by S.J.A. Turney

4 stars

Daughter Of War (Knights Templar #1) is historical fiction set in 1198. It revolves around the mysterious Templar Knights. The book opens with a battle in the Aragon area between Spanish Lords and a raiding group of Moors. Arnau de Vallbona is among the Spaniards, fighting alongside his Lord. But Arnau is unsure of his future when Lord Berenguer de Santa Coloma is killed . Berenguer’s heir is his fifteen year old daughter; however, straight after her father’s funeral, the king’s representative orders her betrothal to the vile Ferrer della Cadeneta, a treacherous man who did nothing to save Berenguer when he had the opportunity.

But the fifteen year old Lady Titborge is no child, and she asks Arnau to help her escape. They seek refuge at a Templar monastery in Roureel, offering the Templars the lands and wealth of the Santa Coloma estates. But just how low will della Cadeneta stoop to get the fortune that Titborge can give him?

Religion was a strong theme in the medieval era, and most readers of history know of the Knights Templar. Less is written about the order in Spain. Turney has chosen to base his story around two, real life, Templar sisters. Woven throughout the story are strong Templar themes of religion. But we are also reminded that, in reality, the Templar rubrics would have been melded with secular habits to fit the needs of the monasteries and the demands on the knights.

The story follows Arnau’s narrative; there are plenty of fight scenes as Cadeneta is relentless in his attempts to get either Titborge or her estate titles. This will appeal to readers who like a story which doesn’t have a romantic sub-plot. Overall, an interesting insight into both brothers and sisters of the Knights Templar.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

An extraordinary story of the Knights Templar, seen from the bloody inside
Europe is aflame. On the Iberian Peninsula the wars of the Reconquista rage across Aragon and Castile. Once again, the Moors are gaining the upper hand. Christendom is divided.
Amidst the chaos comes a young knight: Arnau of Valbona. After his Lord is killed in an act of treachery, Arnau pledges to look after his daughter, whose life is now at risk. But in protecting her Arnau will face terrible challenges, and enter a world of Templars, steely knights and visceral combat he could never have imagined.
She in turn will find a new destiny with the Knights as a daughter of war… Can she survive? And can Arnau find his destiny?

About the author

Simon lives with his wife and children and a menagerie of animals in rural North Yorkshire, where he sits in an office, wired on coffee and digestive biscuits, and attempts to spin engrossing tales out of strands of imagination while his children drive toys across his desk and two dogs howl as they try to share a brain cell.

A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of country, history and architecture, Simon spends most of his rare free time travelling around ancient sites, writing, researching the ancient world and reading voraciously.

Following an arcane and eclectic career path that wound through everything from sheep to Microsoft networks and from paint to car sales, Simon wrote Marius’ Mules and, with help and support, made a success of it. Now, with in excess of 20 novels under his belt, Simon writes full time and is represented by MMB Creative literary agents.

Simon writes Roman military novels in the form of the bestselling Marius’ Mules series based on Julius Caesar’s campaigns, Roman thrillers in the Praetorian series, set during the troubled reign of Commodus, medieval adventures in the Ottoman Cycle, following a young Greek thief around the 15th century world, and a series of Historical Fantasy novels with a Roman flavour, called the Tales of the Empire.

S.J.A. Turney

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#Classic American #HistFic – My #Bookreview of My Antonia by Willa Cather

My AntoniaMy Antonia by Willa Cather
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Antonia is classic American historical fiction set in Nebraska in the 1880s.

It is told by Jim Burden, who met Antonia when they were both children. Jim was going to Black Hawk to live with his grandparents, while Antonia came with her family from Bohemia. Living close to each other, they quickly became friends.

This story tells of harsh pioneering times, when people spread across America in search of a better future. They tamed the land, withstood the seasons and the hardships that Mother Nature threw at them and many thrived. Antonia took to life on the land with ease, doing the work of men for many years. Her friendship with Jim drifted at times, especially when he left to study and become a lawyer, but, years later, they renewed their acquaintance.

I enjoy stories of early settlers and their strengths against adversity; I find them both humbling and motivating. This story involves a range of immigrants and their stories were all interesting; each worked hard for themselves and the future of their families. It makes me wonder how much the next generation and the ones after that really appreciated the hardships of their forefathers.

First published in 1918, this is a snapshot of a long past era. Even during the telling of this story change happened and progress marched confidently forward. Ideal for anyone, like me, who enjoys dipping back in history and losing themselves for a few hours of reading.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

My Antonia tells the stories of an orphaned boy from Virginia, Jim Burden, and the elder daughter in a family of Bohemian immigrants, Ántonia Shimerda, who are each brought to be pioneers in Nebraska towards the end of the 19th century, as children. Ántonia must work as a servant on the farms of her neighbors after her father commits suicide. She elopes with a railway conductor but returns home and eventually becomes the patient and strong wife of a Bohemian farmer, Anton Cuzak, the mother of a large family and a typical woman of the pioneer West.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Austen style #Mystery Lover’s Knot by @JenettaJames

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Lover’s knot by Jenetta James

Lover's Knot: A Mysterious Pride & Prejudice Variation

I have recently read and reviewed several books that take place in Jane Austen’s universe, from sequels to versions transplanted to modern times. One of them was The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James.  I was so impressed I could not resist getting an ARC copy of this book before its publication.

This is a more straightforward (and shorter) story, although it shares with the other the element of mystery, although, in this case, the story is not a domestic mystery but a police procedural of sorts (the police as we know it now did not exist at the time). Readers familiar with Pride and Prejudice will walk right into familiar territory when reading this story. We pick up the story when Bingley has moved into the area where the Bennetts live, with Darcy as his guest, and Jane Bennett is staying at the Bingley’s due to her illness, and her sister Elizabeth is looking after her. Rather than what happens in the original story, here we have a murder, and a bit later, another one (this one of a character we know, but I won’t give anything away). There are many familiar elements but interspersed with those, we have the investigation of the murders and the secrets behind it. As the description states, this is a variation on the story, as all the original elements are there, and the characters remain true to the original, but new events come into play and disrupt the action.

The story is told by Darcy in the first person and the present tense, and that makes readers feel they share his thoughts and his detecting process. This is quite different from the original novel, and it is one of the attractions of this variation, as rather than judging Darcy by his actions and having to second-guess him most of the time (let’s face it, he is the prototype of the strong and quiet man), we are privy to his thoughts and understand his motives and feelings. In this story, he becomes involved in the investigation, and that means it also fit into the genre of amateur detective fiction. In his case, though, he is not an old hand at this, eager to participate and imposing on the official team, but rather he is recruited by the magistrate investigating the case, Mr. Allwood, a fabulous character. Contrary to expectations, Darcy is not an immediate success at detecting as he is somewhat marred by his belief in appearances and his prejudices, but he is motivated to discover what happened to ensure Elizabeth is safe and goes out of his way to follow clues. The case helps him discover things about himself and about the society he lives in that make him change his outlook on life.

The case is intriguing. There are plenty of red herrings, devious characters, and, of course, there is romance. As I mentioned, Mr. Allwood is a great character. This magistrate doggedly pursues the investigation, not concerned about who might be discomfited by his methods, and making no distinctions according to social classes. People underestimate him at their peril, and I hope he might reappear again in later books (or get his own). I particularly enjoyed the mock paper by a Professor acknowledging the role of Allwood in the creation of the Metropolitan Police. A nice touch and a good way of providing more information on a star character that is not part of the original novel. Having studied Criminology, I only wish that many of the papers I had to read were written in such an engaging manner.

I am aware there are other mystery novels set up in the Pride and Prejudice universe (although I have not read them, so I can’t compare), although not at this particular juncture of the story (as this affords quite a different twist to the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth). I enjoyed Darcy’s point of view, having access to his thoughts and getting to see a more human and less stiff version of the character (he still has his pride, of course), although as this book is very short, some of the changes of heart in the main characters feel somewhat rushed (and, personally, the process by which both of them end up changing their opinions and the way they feel about each other is one of my favourite parts in the original, but that does not detract from the writer’s skill). The scenes that take place in London and the friendship that grows between Georgiana and Elizabeth are among my favourite parts in this story.

The writing style is perfectly in sync with the original and it flows well. The mystery elements are well worked into the story, and they respect the nature of a criminal investigation of the time. In keeping with the proceedings, and with the role Darcy plays, there is a certain degree of telling and not showing, especially when it comes to tying loose ends, but that is also typical of the genre. Although the mystery elements would work in their own right, even without knowledge of the original novel, I think the ideal readers are those familiar with Austen’s work.

An interesting variation on Pride and Prejudice that offers a new perspective on their favourite characters for fans of Austen. And for fans of mystery/crime books, an intriguing insight into crime detection prior to the establishment of the Metropolitan Police in England.

Book description

Darcy as an amateur detective, secrets, lies, and a peep into crime detection in the Regency period.

A great love. A perplexing murder. Netherfield Park — a house of secrets.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is in a tangle. Captivated by Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a girl of no fortune and few connections. Embroiled in an infamous murder in the home of his friend, Charles Bingley. He is being tested in every way. Fearing for Elizabeth’s safety, Darcy moves to protect her in the only way he knows but is thwarted. Thus, he is forced to turn detective. Can he overcome his pride for the sake of Elizabeth? Can he, with a broken heart, fathom the villainy that has invaded their lives? Is there even a chance for love born of such strife?

Lover’s Knot is a romantic Pride & Prejudice variation, with a bit of mystery thrown in.

About the author

Jenetta James is a lawyer, writer, mother, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. She is the author of “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” and “The Elizabeth Papers”.

Jenetta James

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