Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT Crystin reviews The Black Hours by Alison Williams

Today’s book review comes from Crystin, she blogs at


Crystin Chose to read and review The Black Hours by Alison Williams

The Black Hours - Alison Williams

The Black Hours – Alison Williams

Title: The Black Hours by Alison Williams

  • Genre: Historical Fiction


First off, I’d like to mention that this novel is very different from my typical reading preferences. This isn’t a young adult novel, nor is it fantasy. There is very little romance, and there isn’t really a happily ever after. The Black Hours is a very dark tale; written like fiction, but based on actual events that occurred in 16th century England.

The story follows two main characters – Matthew Hopkins, a documented witch hunter during the 16th century, and Alice Pendle, a fictional young woman who is suspected of witchcraft. The story goes through the process of how women were first suspected of witchcraft during those times, then goes into further detail into their trials and how the witch hunters would ‘prove’ the witches guilty.

Again, this is not a happy book. It is dark, gritty, and gruesome at times.

It was still fascinating.

The story was extremely well done – one could read the novel as fiction and it would provide everything a fiction reader would need. Suspense, action, resolution – even some much needed karmic retaliation. The hero and the villain were both fleshed out beautifully – you could see the reasoning behind both views – but the villain stayed very much a villain. (Yes, I’m being vague. I don’t want to ruin it for you.)

However, the story is also extremely depressing. It was heartbreaking to realize that the events that unfolded could have (and probably did) happen in those times. The unfairness, the inequality … I found myself getting frustrated and angry at the ignorance of many of the characters multiple times while reading. Sadly, the ignorance was real back then. There were no lie detectors, no means of sending to another town for impartial witnesses. Doctors weren’t around then, either – in fact, to claim to be a healer was one of the ways to be suspected of witchcraft. The fact that the author was able to infuse the reality of those times so authentically … it was absolutely amazing.

I would highly recommend this book for history lovers, especially old English history, or anyone interested in the details surrounding witch hunts of the middle ages.

I would NOT recommend this book for children, anyone with a weak stomach, or anyone overly sympathetic. There are detailed torture scenes, rape, extreme prejudice, fanaticism, and death. It is not for the faint of heart, but for anyone who is interested in the real events of that time period – this book is gold.

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Book Review Challenger Review from Noelle

Today our book review from the recent Book Review Challenge series if from Noelle.

Rosie's Book Review Challengers 1

She chose to review “Kings and Queens” by Terry Tyler.


Terry Tyler’s book, Kings and Queens, is a fast-paced romp through the life of England’s Henry VIII, but set in modern times with modern characters. For anyone who knows the story of Henry’s six wives (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived) and for those with a wicked enjoyment of the foibles of historical figures, this book roars.

Even if you are not a fan of English history and know nothing of the metaphors and references the author has slyly inserted into the story, this book will draw you in as contemporary fiction, demonstrating that the human foibles are ageless and that a historical family drama can repeat itself.

Harry Lanchester, red-headed, fun-loving, ne’er do well, inherits the reins of a large property development company when his older brother Alex, the heir apparent, is killed. His story is told by the contemporary counterparts of each of Henry VIII’s six wives – actually five wives and a nanny who loves Harry but is rejected. The calm and insightful perspective of Will Brandon, Henry’s best and oldest friend, weaves together their unique and compelling voices.

The author has done a yeoman’s job of integrating historical figures from Tudor times. Charles Brandon, for example, was Henry VIII’s oldest friend, once married to his sister, Mary Tudor. The modern Will Brandon was married for a time to Harry’s sister Dahlia. Other names with Tudor ties – Rochford, Blunt, Wyatt, Seymour and Dudley – find their way into the narrative.

The characters are wonderful – from the self-indulgent, over-bearing, charismatic Harry, to the motherly older Cathy, the stunning and driven Annette, the sweet and simple Jenny, the frumpish but practical nanny Hannah, the former lap dancer Keira, and the patient and understanding final wife, Kate. These women lead you down the twisting, never-boring road of life in the Lanchester family.

This is a great read, and I’m looking forward to a sequel featuring the Lanchester children, especially the son Harry wanted so much he was willing to marry again and again to get: the spoiled and entitled Jasper.

Kings and Queens is rich in the sins and peccadillos of the wealthy and entitled, those that captivate readers across the board. Bravo to Terry Tyler for giving us such a sumptuous read with a grand historical twist.

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The Black Hours by Alison Williams

The Black HoursThe Black Hours by Alison Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Black Hours is a book that thinks about the actual lives of ordinary people who are mixed up in a period of history that is well publicised. Set in England around 1647, a time of Civil War and strong religious times. This book looks at the famous Witch Trials.

The author has interpreted some of the documented names and facts into a thoughtful story about the horrors of the period. We meet Alice Pendle and her Grandmother Maggie, wise women of Coggeshall who have used herbs and ointments to help and heal the villagers for years. When their midwifery skills result in the unfortunate death of a mother and child, people start to whisper.

Religious fears have been stirred up in the country and Matthew Hopkins believes he has a duty to God. He must rid the earth of evil in the form of Witches. With the law behind him Matthew arrives in Coggeshall and finds a supportive Minister and Lord of the Manor. Villagers are encouraged to sign witness statements condemning Alice and Maggie.

What follows is a horrific tale of their trials and suffering at the hands of Matthew and his supporters. This tale depicts the suffering of just 2 lives. During the actual period of history in question it is believed that between 200 and 300 women were similarly accused and tried. It was a terrible time and an example of how people are easily led and manipulated by their fears.

This is a well written glimpse in to the window of history.

Find a copy here on or

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Alison will be our guest author on the blog tomorrow, do come back and read more about her.

Guest Author Rachel Florence Roberts

Today our guest is Rachel Roberts author of The Medea Complex which I reviewed yesterday on the blog. Here is the link to my review.


Let’s find out more about Rachel and her writing.

1) Where is your home town?
I was born in Liverpool, and grew up in Merseyside. I now live in Malta, EU.
2) How long have you been writing?
I’ve only been writing since my son was born, as he was the inspiration behind The Medea Complex. But I’ve been reading my whole life, and have wanted to write a book for much longer!
3) How long did it take to research the material for The Medea Complex?
Just under a year to gather the majority of it, and then further research as the book developed and came to life. All in all, about 18 months.
4) Can you tell readers the history of Bethlem Lunatic Asylum?
Bethlem Lunatic Asylum, or as we now refer to it “Bethlem Royal Hospital” is the worlds oldest, and most infamous psychiatric hospital. Records can be traced to its foundation in 1247 during the reign of Henry III, when it was first opened as a means of collecting alms to support the Crusader Church, and linking England with the Holy Land. Scholars argue that it’s first use as an insane asylum occurred as early as 1377. The word ‘Bedlam’ – meaning madness, actually comes from its earlier given nickname, assigned to the hospital sometime in the fourteenth century. From the end of the sixteenth century until the mid nineteenth century, people were able to pay to ‘poke sticks’ at the inmates, and ‘laugh at one knocking his head against a post’; both as a means of entertainment and as a cautionary tale to people against bad morals and vice.
It has been featured in many seventeenth  and eighteenth century plays and more recently, in books, television series, movies, and even ‘fly on the wall’ documentaries. People have long held a curiosity about those who hide behind it’s walls, even to this day.
5) Was Doctor George Savage considered a leader in psychiatry at the time?
This is of great debate. Dr George Savage was ‘ahead of his time’ in a way, and many of his opinions and research at the time was opposed by another alienist or two. Dr Savage was against the use of chemical restraint: ‘chemical cosh’, as he referred to it: dosing inmates on morphine and other drugs as a means of sedation. He preferred to use physical restraint when necessary, which was in direct opposition with both Dr Bucknill and Henry Maudeley’s opinions on the treatment of the insane. In fact, during my research, there are newspaper articles in the 19th century ‘Lancet’ where these doctors publically demean one another’s techniques! Dr Savage was knighted in 1912, so someone somewhere thought he was doing something right. His research and opinions can be found in the publically available book, ‘Insanity and Allied Neuroses’ (this can be found in, and the Gutenberg project). His character in my novel was heavily influenced by his works, and indeed many of his notes regarding Anne come directly from this book.
6) Anne was an unusual women because she read many books, why did the Doctor disapprove?
Women in the nineteenth century were not encouraged to read. Indeed, this was believed to be detrimental to their health, and in itself could directly cause insanity. Women were ‘weak’ creatures, of no significant consequence…delicate, and easily offended. To educate themselves beyond the home was anathema to the men at the time. To fill their heads with stories and knowledge…why, god knows what might happen to their brain! Women were wives, they were mothers. They were to play the piano, and sit, and look pretty. They were to agree with the men around them. In everything they were, in fact, viewed almost as a lesser species. When Dr Savage learnt of Anne’s passion for reading, this, of course (in his 19th century mind) led him to believe that this was a direct cause to her insanity. (Though of course, if you read on….).
7) Tell us more about the history of Anne’s Lady’s Maid, Beatrix.
Ah. Beatrix was found by Anne’s mother during one of her trips to France. Beatrix was in a terrible state, and Anne’s mother took pity upon the woman dying in the road. When she saved her, and took her on, Beatrix’s’ sense of obligation, loyalty, and love for her saviour transferred to Anne. Having lost her own child, she believed that she owed Anne’s mother. When Anne’s mother died, suddenly, there was a motherless child, and a childless mother. Beatrix therefore created a bond that was as strong, if not more so, than that between a natural mother and her child. She would do anything to protect the daughter of the woman who saved her, and in turn, of the child she came, over the years to view as her own. Although she did not agree with Anne, nor of what she did, she was simply in too deep to turn her back or sway her allegiance. She desperately did not want to be alone.
8) The Medea Complex is a complicated tale, I wonder if there was not an alternative way to rid the family of Stanbury?
I wondered this too! But ultimately, no. In the Victorian Era, if a man and wife divorced, any child born of that union would be put in the full custody of the father. Combined with the male entail that secured Asquith Manor, there was no other way to dispose of Stanbury. If she had run away with the child, her family was too well known for this to not have attracted the attention of the police and newspapers. When (for there was no if in my mind, only a when) she was found, the child would be taken away from her as Stanbury commenced divorce proceedings. As mentioned in the novel, women COULD divorce men at that time…but it was very difficult to do so, and Anne would have had to PROVE cruelty, incest, and affair, etc. And still, as previously mentioned, she would run a very high risk indeed of her baby being given to Stanbury, without access! If they killed Stanbury, again, that was too much of a risk: She would have hung, and in that way too, she would have lost her baby. If a grown man suddenly disappears, people start asking questions. So how else could she have done it? She can’t run away from him, she can’t kill him. She certainly can’t ask him nicely not to take her baby away from her (though anyone who has read The Medea Complex, will learn that if she had indeed spoken to him, the outcome would have been very different). Though there is a part in the novel where Stanbury is warned. Did she think that if he thought there was no longer a baby, and no possibility of a baby (to secure his hold on the Manor) that he would go away? Why doesn’t he? Is it because he loved her, and she didn’t realise…or because he was hell bent on getting what he believed was rightfully his, by any means possible? Was she being kind here, and trying to give him an ‘out’? We see his behaviour after her release!
Ultimately The Medea Complex is a tale of miscommunication, two people who want something very very badly, laws that contributed to the story (because come on, it would never be necessary to do what she did in the 21st century!), and then…just to make you wonder…was Anne, in fact, just not a very nice person? Or was she a mother simply desperate to do anything it took to stay with her baby? At the end she clearly says that the death of Stanbury was not her intent, yet the reader knows by this point…she was not stupid. She certainly knew how to do her research. Did she say this simply to appease Beatrix’s’ conscience? Did she know what the outcome would be all along, and if so, why did she do it? Did she feel such hatred for the man, and his plot, that his death was her vengeance?  I like the way that this is open to interpretation. To be honest, I’m not even sure myself. Sometimes I like her character, and sometimes I hate her. Ultimately I don’t know who I feel the sorriest for in the end!
9) Are you working on your next book?
Yes. And it will be JUST as twisty, and dark (if not more so!)
10) Do you have an expected publication date for fans?
I’m going to say (ever so tentatively here)…June 2014. But fans can join my Facebook page to stay right up to date with future developments, and of course, to message me! I love to discuss the novel, and anything else, with anyone!
The Medea Complex
The Medea Complex, or

Thanks Rachel and good luck with the new book.

The Griffin Cryer by Julia Hughes

The Griffin CryerThe Griffin Cryer by Julia Hughes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a brilliant book for the YA market and very readable as an adult too. If you like dragons then you’ll enjoy the Griffin in this book.  Teenager Frankie, accidently summons a Griffin when whistling for her dog, and must then try to help the Griffin and it’s rider return home to their parallel universe. There is a mix of modern life and very old English Celt history, with the temptation of more books to come in the series. A great book.

View all my reviews

This is the second book that I’ve read written by Julia, they are very well written and good YA stories.

Let me tell you a story…

English village schools are a part of our history, many have been in existence for 100 years or more and with the cost of housing making it harder for families to afford houses in rural villages, the village school is often under threat of closure. Also gone are the days when a local bus swept through the lanes picking up handfuls of children to deliver to the village schools. Today most children have to rely on their parents driving them to school. Rural roads have few pathways for safe walking, nor the width to build paths. On top of this there is usually not enough parking spaces near to the school. So you find a colourful mix of parents and carers twice a day gathering in the school playground to drop off or collect the children. This wonderful canvas began the seedling idea for my book “Talk of the Playground” and it grew into an ever branching tale of potential disaster, heartbreak and humorous endings which I hope you will enjoy reading very much.