The Pirate Duchess is set in the late 1700s and is an historical romance.
Esmeralda Crobbin, also known as Irish Red, is an infamous privateer who sails in the Caribbean seas. It’s here that she first meets British Naval Officer Brandon Gilroy, but they part ways during a skirmish. We next meet the duo in Britain during a storm; Gilroy is still working for the Navy while Esme is searching for details about her parentage. Their encounter is short but they meet for a third time in Scotland.
There is a lot going on in this story and apart from the opening scene much of the interesting action happens ‘off-screen’. I thought that the story tried to fit in too much at the expense of giving the reader time to really enjoy the two main characters. It’s not a bad story, but I didn’t love it as much as I hoped.
Esmeralda Crobbin first encounters Brandon Gilroy during a brawl. Once their opponents are vanquished, she admires the man’s skill with his fists, his intelligence, and a number of other attributes until she learns that he is a British Naval Officer. He would be eager to see her hang, if he knew she was the American privateer, Irish Red.
Frank has been reading Burke In Ireland by Tom Williams.
It is 1793. In Ireland Wolf Tone and the United Irishmen are producing pamphlets and speeches advocating for the extension of the franchise. They are also in close touch with groups prepared to do more than advocate: to organise armed insurrection and encourage a French invasion.
A young James Burke is sent by the British government to infiltrate the organisation and report back on the details of their plans.
Another book by Tom Williams dealing with real events from British history, something which he does so well, this is the fifth in the series featuring James Burke. In the chronology of James’s career it is his second adventure.
The atmosphere of late eighteenth century Dublin is superbly evoked; both the physical and the social. The squalor of the slum districts is set against the plush interiors of the homes of the wealthy.
This differentiation between the masses and the privileged extends to the prison where a lawyer friend of the campaigners is allocated relatively comfortable accommodation.
The story progresses at a good pace as James inveigles his way into the organisation and is welcomed into the home of a wealthy man at the centre of a network of safe houses and secret arms caches.
He quickly learns that all is not as it seems in this household. He accompanies the man’s daughter as she brings food to starving citizens but danger lurks in her apparent affection for him.
The working out of the central conspiracy, to assist the escape of a prisoner, is gripping. It does not go precisely as intended and the possibility of James’s true identity being revealed is ever present.
The style makes it an easy read. It is not over-long. The history and the political background are infiltrated almost unnoticed into the story.
I have read many books dealing with Irish history since I made my home in Ireland. Most present an Irish perspective, often overtly anti-British. It should come as no surprise that a British writer does not follow that trend. Nor, however, does he present a viewpoint biased towards the British. As when dealing with British-Indian history in “Cawnpore”, he shows us both sides.
James, consorting with the Irish conspirators, learns some of the injustices they are seeking to correct. But he is, first and foremost, a soldier loyal to the crown and sees, too, the way in which different branches of government pursue their own often conflicting, agendas.
Read this book for the pleasure of watching a conspiracy unravel and discover how the campaign for Irish home rule drew on, and was a part of, the fight for human rights across Europe and America.
James Burke’s first mission! 1793 and James Burke is under cover in Ireland, spying on Irish Nationalists. His objective: to discover any plots to conspire with the French to bring down English rule in Dublin. Dublin is full of plotters. Finding them is easy. Staying alive is not as straightforward. A tale of spying, love and death against the background of the early struggle for Irish independence.
It’s real history but not how you learned it at school.
Liz has been reading Fireflies And Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair
The new novel written by Ailish Sinclair, Fireflies and Chocolate is set in the 1740s in Scotland and colonial Pennsylvania. Young Elizabeth Manteith tells her own story of boredom in a lonely castle replaced by a terrifying adventure on the high seas, leading to forced servitude in America. A spirited teenager, she survives the deprivation and threats on board ship due to her own determination to survive and the friendship of a young boy, Peter Williamson, who had also been abducted on the streets of Aberdeen.
The plot is based on the true story of 600 children and young people to whom this actually happened. If they managed to stay alive through the perilous journey, they then had to face being sold in a market without knowing where they would end up. Parted from Peter, Elizabeth is taken by an arrogant old woman to be a housekeeper for an invalid on a tobacco plantation. Not meeting her master for some time, there is a hint of, “the beauty and the beast”.
Finding some of the local community kind and helpful, Elizabeth sends letters to Scotland in hope of rescue, but her father is engaged in fighting with Bonnie Prince Charlie and her mother lies in bed under the influence of laudanum. Soon Elizabeth is actively involved with her new friends and finds some happiness, but she longs to find Peter and return to her home. Is this to be her future or will she spend her life in lonely drudgery?
This is a wonderful story of fortitude and kindness against a background of prejudice and misadventure. Ailish Sinclair writes vividly of carefully cooked food which sounds delicious and amazing scenery in the countryside. She entices you to engage with the heroine and believe in her values, with just a hint of magic.
Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…
For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.
Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.
For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.
But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.
Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.
The Servant is an historical fiction story set in London during the 1760s. The story was inspired by the author’s visit to London’s Foundling Hospital Museum.
This is Hannah’s story; she is a girl of fifteen employed as cook and housekeeper. Unusually taught to read and write by her previous employer, Hannah is able to detect possible illegal activities undertaken by her current employers. She is placed in terrible danger as she learns more, but what can one servant girl do? Who will listen to her accusations?
Although the subject matter was dark and disturbing, this was a well-written and interesting story; I immediately wanted to know more about Hannah. I read the first half of the book easily in one sitting. Poor women and young girls had so few opportunities to live better lives; I’m glad there was someone who gave Hannah hope. I would easily recommend this to historical fiction fans.
Young Hannah Hubert may be the granddaughter of a French merchant and the daughter of a Spitalfields silk weaver, but she has come down in the world.
Sent one spring day as maidservant to a disgraced aristocrat, she finds herself in a house full of mysteries – with a locked room and strange auctions being held behind closed doors.
As a servant, she has little power but – unknown to her employers – she can read. And it is only when she uses her education to uncover the secrets of the house, that she realises the peril she is in.
Hannah is unable to turn to the other servant, Peg, who is clearly terrified of their employers and keeps warning her to find alternative work.
But help might come from Thomas, the taciturn farmer delivering milk to the neighbourhood, or from Jack Twyford, a friendly young man apprenticed to his uncle’s bookselling business. Yet Thomas is still grieving for his late wife – and can she trust Jack, since his uncle is one of her master’s associates?
Hannah soon discovers damning evidence she cannot ignore.