📚’In short, this is a terrific read’. Noelle reviews #HistoricalFiction The Invincible Miss Cust by @PennyHaw for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Noelle.

Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw.

The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw

This is the heartwarming and remarkable story of Aleen Isabel Cust, England’s first female veterinary surgeon, and a book I thoroughly enjoyed. The author explains that while the main character is real and many of the events in her life are recorded, this is not a biography. But what she’s created is completely believable.

Aleen Cust’s first memories are of her life in Ireland with her aristocratic family. She loves their animals, especially the horses, and delights in racing and hunting on horseback with her brothers. She is also unusually educated for the time because she gets to share her brother’s tutor. But she also knows that many of the opportunities given to her brothers she can’t share because she is a girl. Nevertheless, when she first meets a veterinary surgeon, she is struck with the idea that this is what she wants to be.

When her father dies, the family has to leave Ireland for England because he had been an overseer of land owned by someone else. Leaving their beloved horses and dogs behind, Aleen vows to return once she achieves her dream.  When she tells her mother of her plans for her future, and the family, especially her mother, is appalled by the idea and emphatically forbids it, citing the shame it would bring on them.

When she meets and is drawn into a family that is friends with her own, she finds their daughter shares her same passion for her own life and career. This young woman is allowed to go hunting and will train as a nurse, and Aleen’s dream is reignited. But the only thing her overbearing mother will allow her to do is train as a nurse, which she soon finds is stultifying and stifling. Working in the city instead of the country and the patriarchal relationship between physicians and nurses makes her resentful. She quits.

After some years, the heavens align (I can’t reveal how!) and she finds a way to attend the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, which sets her on the path to her dream but which alienates her from her family forever. The trials of school and her training thereafter make a wonderful read, but what she does with the rest of her life is nothing short of amazing.

Using available research, the author has crafted a wondrous story of Aleen’s ambition, determination against all odds, and battle for equality that is won with courage, passion and friendship. The storytelling is riveting and filled with tension. The reader is left wondering How could she have done this?  when reading about Aleen’s daily challenges and obstacles and the years it took her to accomplish her goal.

Each of the characters comes alive and the reader becomes invested in their lives as well, and one can’t help feeling the same about the dogs and horses that run through the Aleen’s life. The complexity of Aleen’s relations with various members of her family, especially her mother and older brother, is both frustrating and difficult to absorb, so different from the present day, and the reader can feel the conflict between Aleen’s loyalty and love for them and her absolute certainty that the family’s plans for her future are not something she can accept.

 The historical background of England and Ireland from the late 1800s through WWI is meticulously presented and I learned a great deal about the treatment of the horses that were central to the war. The author did considerable research on veterinary surgery of the time – I am very impressed.

In short, this is a terrific read about a woman in the trenches of the war against historical patriarchy and appallingly unequal societal norms. It is also colorful, personal and filled with warmth and passion.

I reviewed the author’s previous book, The Wilderness Between Us, and gave it five stars. The same for The Invincible Miss Cust.

Orange rose book description
Book description

Aleen Cust has big dreams and no one―not her family, society, or the law―will stop her.

Born in Ireland in 1868 to an aristocratic English family, Aleen knows she is destined to work with animals, even if her family is appalled by the idea of a woman pursuing a veterinary career. Going against their wishes but with the encouragement of the guardian assigned to her upon her father’s death, Aleen attends the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, enrolling as A. I. Custance to spare her family the humiliation they fear. At last, she is on her way to becoming a veterinary surgeon! Little does she know her biggest obstacles lie ahead.

The Invincible Miss Cust is based on the real life of Aleen Isabel Cust, who defied her family and society to become Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon. Through Penny Haw’s meticulous research, riveting storytelling, and elegant prose, Aleen’s story of ambition, determination, family, friendship, and passion comes to life. It is a story that, even today, women will recognize, of battling patriarchy and an unequal society to realize one’s dreams and pave the way for other women in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

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📚A Serial Killer Comes Back From The Dead. @NAGrangerAuthor reviews Haloed by @SueColetta1 for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Noelle.

Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Noelle has been reading Haloed by Sue Coletta.

Book cover for Haloed by Sue Coletta set against a free photo of balloons form Pixabay.
Haloed by Sue Coletta

This is the second book I’ve read by this author – the first was Pretty Evil New England and not part of the Grafton County series — so really my first foray into her murder/thriller stories.  I have to admit, this author knows how to create tension and keep you turning the pages.

Eight years ago, a serial killer attacked Sage Quintano and she lived. The killer died that year. In present day Alexandria, New Hampshire, where Sage lives with her sheriff husband, a string of gruesome murders occurs with the traits of that serial killer: red and pink balloons and victims staged to resemble dead angels. The problem is, Sage can’t convince her husband that the serial killer really didn’t die and that he’s come back to get her – his only victim that he didn’t kill.  Even when a red balloon appeared out of nowhere in her bedroom. Even when two pink balloons are tied to a tree in her yard. Even when she is framed for the latest killing and taken into custody by the state police.

Sage is now a writer and the stay-at-home mother of a toddler son, still guarded by the dog that was shot protecting her eight years before. She is also suffering from severe rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, which leaves her weakened and in pain much of the time. How will she find the strength to face the Romeo Killer, who is frightening her with these murders. Is this a lead-up to his enjoyment of killing her?

I appreciated the chapters that were devoted to the mind of the killer. They explain a lot of the why of what was happening and revealed what a sick individual he is, truly a loathsome individual!

The characters in the book are very well drawn and enjoyable with their quirks and contributions: Niko, Sage’s strong and loving husband; Frankie, his number one deputy and a hot tomato; even the dogs have great personalities. The dialogue is fun and believable, and Sage is the prototypical hero – smart, quick-thinking, determined and strong despite her physical weakness.

The author has done her research, which permeates the book, and the twists and turns are very creative and unanticipated. And the tension! I don’t think I’ve read another author in this genre who can maintain and ramp up tension like Sue Coletta.

If there was one drawback to this book, it was the occasional lengths of ‘telling’ about the forensics, Roman calendar and numerology. Even in conversations, these explanation seem very long and I wonder if this would detract for the usual reader.

Haloed was, nevertheless, an enjoyable and at-the-edge of your seat read, and I recommend it as the latest in the long line of Sue Coletta’s rich thrillers.  

Orange rose book description
Book description

She may be paranoid, but is she right?

A string of gruesome murders rocks the small town of Alexandria, New Hampshire, with all the victims staged to resemble dead angels, and strange red and pink balloons appearing out of nowhere.

All the clues point to the Romeo Killer’s return. Except one: he died eight years ago.

Paranoid and on edge, Sage’s theory makes no sense. Dead serial killers don’t rise from the grave. Yet she swears he’s here, hungering for the only angel to slip through his grasp—Sage.

With only hours left to live, how can Sage convince her Sheriff husband before the sand in her hourglass runs out?

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🕵🏻‍♀️#CrimeFiction Noelle Reviews Easy Street – The Reluctant Hustler Book #3 by J Gregory Smith for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Noelle.

Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Noelle has been reading Easy Street – The Reluctant Hustler Book 3 by J Gregory Smith

Book cover for crime fiction, Easy Street by J Gregory Smith, set against a picture of a street lamp from a free photo from Pixabay.
Easy Street by J Gregory Smith

Although this can be a stand-alone novel, I reread the first chapter trying to make sense of place and past events. I think a clear intro or prologue would have helped my confusion or perhaps a directive to read the previous two books first.

The story, as I perceive it: Kyle Logan is the unwitting inheritor of a dubious business, shady contacts, and a house following the death of his friend Ryan.  Two years later Kyle has divested himself of most of that part of that business involving illegal hustles and is now the head of a company called Global Imported Crafts, a legitimate business run out of the city’s port and managed by Ali. In addition he has become the de facto leader of a band of misfits. Together they work just outside the law to help people who have nowhere else to turn, which means they occasionally work with the city’s Irish mob to get things done. This involves favors. Every favor Kyle calls in results in yet another obligation, at a time when he is trying to rebuild his life and go legit.

The characters are well enough described: Sandy, Kyle’s girlfriend is a physical therapist; Rollie is a retired Marine sniper; and VP is a super hacker. The reader is introduced to how this group works when they are asked by Sandy to do something about crooked lawyer Clark LeSuer, who has been fleecing customers out of their lawsuit settlements, one of whom is her client.  Then Charlie and William O’ Brien enter the scene – two Irish thugs who are being squeezed by arch villain Milosh, head of an Albanian mob that is trying to take over the O’Brien’s territory. Kyle owes the O’Briens, but this time he may be in over his head, trying to help with too few hands on deck.

Caught between the two warring gangs, Kyle and his merry band face seemingly unsurmountable obstacles, and there is lots of lots of action, often violent. Background details are minimal but sufficient and carry the story. The only thing I found a little over the top were the names the gang assumed during an operation. They seemed more childish than integral.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy the read, after I’d parsed the story. It does not lack for action and clever plot twists. This yarn will definitely appeal to men who enjoy the crime genre. I’m not so sure about women.

Orange rose book description
Book description

Walking the Tightrope
Nearly two years after the death of his friend, Ryan, Kyle Logan finds himself the unlikely leader of a group of misfits who operate outside the law as they target crooks and scammers. In the past, Kyle had to rely on his friend’s shady contacts just to survive violent competitors and complete prior deals.
Now he’s starting to realize that these connections earn him power and respect but also drag him deeper into the life. Every favor he receives comes with strings and cutting those strings usually involves fresh obligations.
In order to help others who have nowhere else to turn, Kyle sometimes works with criminals like the Philly Irish Mob but he tries to avoid getting involved with the gangster’s more intense activities.
When not running his hustles, Kyle has taken the opportunity to leverage his connections to finance and acquire a legitimate (if dull) import facility at the Port of Philadelphia. The port represents a great opportunity to rebuild his life but he’s about to learn the hard way that shady friends come with enemies who see Kyle as one more obstacle to be crushed.

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📚1950 London. Noelle Reviews Post-War Fiction The Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT.

Today’s team review is from Noelle

Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner.

Book cover for post war fiction Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner, set against a black and white picture of a vintage book store from a free photo from Pixabay
Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

This is the second book by Natalie Jenner, the first – The Jane Austin Society — having received much critical acclaim. I haven’t read that book, but based on the publicity expected something special.

The year is 1950, and the feminist movement is just beginning.

Bloomsbury Books in London has existed as a store for both new and rare books for over a hundred years. Little has changed in the running of the store, with men in leadership positions and women employees living under their rules. Fifty one unbreakable rules generated by the general manager. The chapters are organized by a rule heading, and perhaps that is why the book begins so slowly and plods along for a good while.

The story concerns three women who work in the store. Vivian Lowry is highly intelligent, creative and stylish. Her plan is to become the Head of Fiction, for which she has new ideas. Fiction is currently run by Alec McDonough, who rules the book choices with an old-fashioned hand, and with whom she had a night of passion early in her employment.

Grace Perkins is married with two sons and a husband basically unemployable because of PTSD caused by his service in WWII. Thus as secretary to the store’s general manager, she is the breadwinner of the family and her family lives more or less hand to mouth. She would like nothing better than to move to the front of the store from her place in his office.

Evie Stone is the subject of the prologue and was a character in the author’s first book. She is a member of the first class of female students at Cambridge permitted to earn a graduate degree, but she was denied an academic position because of the male chauvinism of the faculty. Without the possibility of entrance to academia, she is lucky to land a position at Bloomsbury Books, based on her experience in cataloguing a library donated to Cambridge. She is fascinated with the writing of late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century women writers and longs to have a real career, rather than cataloguing the thousand plus rare books at the store.

These three characters are very well drawn, as well as the male characters: Lord Baskin, the earl who owns the bookshop, the general manager Mr. Dutton and his partner Frank Allen, and Alec McDonough. The reader will follow the developments in their lives, especially when the general manager leaves his position, unfortunately only temporarily, which allows the women to take on new and leadership roles. These women have to work within the complex web of relationships that keep the bookstore running. Despite the male hierarchy and their different lifestyles and circumstances, their goal is to create for themselves a richer and more rewarding future.

The author cleverly has them interacting with various famous literary figures and publishers of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others.

There is mystery and there is romance, but this reader found that despite her interest in the book, the pace was a problem to be reckoned with. The topic of feminism became preachy at times, another aspect that did not appeal, and I wasn’t really sure where the story (ies) were going from chapter to chapter. Thus I was somewhat underwhelmed by this read, especially given the hype preceding its release. .

Nevertheless, on balance, this is a good, solid novel and one which should appeal to many different readers, especially women with a background in the history of literature and a penchant for great character development and for stories of women pulling themselves up in the world.

Orange rose book description
Book description

The internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

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📚Set in France in 1969. Noelle reviews #Histfic Lake Of Echoes by @LizaPerrat, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Noelle.

Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Noelle has been reading Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat.

Book cover for Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat
Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat

Juliette lives with her father, Bruno, and her mother, Lea. Her father is headmaster at a local school, and her mother runs L’Auberge de Lea, where they live, together with her father’s mother. The marriage is gradually falling apart, both from Bruno’s apparent infidelity and also Lea’s laser focus running on the auberge, which takes all her time and most of her attention.  The mother-in-law contributes to the turmoil by her unquestioning support of everything her son does and her unending criticism of Lea.

Juliette is witness to the arguments and frequently flees the house to get away from the ugliness. One day she does not return. Neighbors and people from the nearby village are organized into search parties led a local gendarme, who at first thinks Juliette will come home. At time goes by, Lea is tormented by thoughts of what has happened to her daughter but by necessity must continue to run the auberge and face the pity of the villagers. Her sister and her neighbors, one of whom is a self-proclaimed psychic, are her only support.

As the seasons pass, Lea’s despair deepens and Bruno finally moves out, leaving his wife for the teacher with whom Lea thought he was having an affair. The reader is introduced to various men in the village, raising one question after another about who took Juliette. The author creates various paths that never seem to lead to the perpetrator!

Liza Perrat can create complex and compelling characters, and she definitely does here. The reader is privy to the mind of an eight-year-old, to the feckless Bruno, to the apparently tireless and but always prim and proper mother-in-law, and to the mad workings of the mind of Juliette’s captor. You are drawn into Lea’s anguish over her lost child, which only strengthens as time passes. She is willing, as any mother would, to hold onto any sliver of hope, no matter how tenuous, despite the months passing, and the additional impact of the breakup of her marriage. Her inner strength is remarkable. The author truly understand her characters.

This emotional tension is set against the colorful local traditions of rural France, the workings of the auberge, and sumptuous description of the changing seasons around the lake which it overlooks.  And since this in an auberge, there is always tempting French cuisine, the descriptions of which made me dig out my French cookbooks.

Orange rose book description
Book description

A vanished daughter. A failing marriage. A mother’s life in ruins.
1969. As France seethes in the wake of social unrest, eight-year-old Juliette is caught up in the turmoil of her parents’ fragmenting marriage.
Unable to bear another argument, she flees her home.
Neighbours joining the search for Juliette are stunned that such a harrowing thing could happen in their tranquil lakeside village.
But this is nothing compared to her mother, Lea’s torment, imagining what has befallen her daughter.
Léa, though, must remain strong to run her auberge and as the seasons pass with no news from the gendarmes, she is forced to accept she may never know her daughter’s fate.
Despite the villagers’ scepticism, Léa’s only hope remains with a clairvoyant who believes Juliette is alive.
But will mother and daughter ever be reunited?
Steeped in centuries-old tradition, against an enchanting French countryside backdrop, Lake of Echoes will delight your senses and captivate your heart.

Universal link: mybook.to/LakeofEchoesEbook

⚓’From his days as an impoverished law student to the lively and glittering court of Elizabeth I.’ Noelle reviews #Tudor #Histfic Raleigh by @tonyriches, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Noelle.

Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Noelle has been reading Raleigh by Tony Riches.

Book cover for Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer by Tony Riches
Raleigh: Tudor Adventurer by Tony Riches

I was first introduced to Tony Riches when I read his Tudor Trilogy, about the founding and growth of the Tudor family. With his latest series – the Elizabethans – he populates the Elizabethan court with some of the outstanding characters of the day. The first book had the reader sailing with Sir Francis Drake, the second in the middle of rebellion with Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. In this book, the reader accompanies Sir Walter Raleigh (or Rawley as he was earlier called) from his days as an impoverished law student to the lively and glittering court of Elizabeth I. He doesn’t dance or joust, doesn’t come from a noble family, nor marry into one. He just has an overweening ambition to be a courtier, to wear the rich clothes, and to have the ear of the Queen.

Raleigh is an adventurer from the start, taking part in the religious civil wars in France in his late teens, then in the suppression of a rebellion in Ireland. Raleigh proceeds to finish his education in the Inns of the Court and then is admitted to Middle Temple, which is one of the four Inns of the Court exclusively entitling him as a member of the English Bar as a barrister. He has absolutely no interest in the law and decides he can most easily attain his goals by adventure and piracy. With financial backing from his family – his cousin Sir Richard Grenville and a younger half-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert – he opts for sea-going adventures to fill his coffers with Spain’s gold, along with those of the Queen, in an attempt to get her attention. He is successful enough to become one of the principal landowners and colonists in Munster, Ireland, for seventeen years. His Irish estates ran into difficulties that contributed to a decline in his fortunes, but he finally becomes a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I because of his efforts at increasing the Protestant Church in Ireland. In 1585, Raleigh is knighted by Queen Elizabeth, whose ear he did have from time to time. She grants Raleigh a royal charter authorizing him to explore, colonize and rule any heathen lands in the New World, in return for one-fifth of all the gold and silver that might be mined there.Most of us know the story of Raleigh in the New World and the lost colonists of Roanoke. No gold and silver are found by the expeditions he funded, but he himself leads expeditions to the Orinoco river basin in South America in search of the golden city of El Dorado, which he never finds.

The author has done an amazing amount of research to bring the people in Raleigh’s circle to life and to let the reader experience the highs and lows of his time at court, and his longer time away from it. Raleigh loved Queen Elizabeth and his choice of his life’s paths are always made with her in mind, to the detriment of himself and his family. Riches introduces such notable nobles as Sir Francis Walsingham and the poet Edmund Spenser, and sets the years of Raleigh’s life against an authentic backdrop of the Court, its unending intrigues, and the history of the time. The clothing, food, and customs do not elude the author’s attention, so the reader becomes embedded in the times.

The book ends with the death of Elizabeth, and perhaps that is for the best because the remaining years of Raleigh’s life under the rule of James I were unfortunate. The reader is left with the image of a man who seeks adventure – who, despite or perhaps because of his lowly origins, is determined and focused in his pursuit of wealth and a courtier’s life – and who is also in love with his Queen.

I highly recommend yet another well-written and richly ornamented book by Tony Riches.

Orange rose book description
Book description

Tudor adventurer, courtier, explorer and poet, Sir Walter Raleigh has been called the last true Elizabethan.

He didn’t dance or joust, didn’t come from a noble family, or marry into one. So how did an impoverished law student become a favourite of the queen, and Captain of the Guard?

The story which began with the Tudor trilogy follows Walter Raleigh from his first days at the Elizabethan Court to the end of the Tudor dynasty.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

🌻’Recounting the lives of three generations of women in Ukraine’. Noelle reviews #HistoricalFiction Sunflowers Beneath The Snow by @TeriMBrown1, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT🌻

Today’s team review is from Noelle.

Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Noelle has been reading Sunflowers Beneath The Snow by Teri M Brown.

Book cover for Sunflowers Beneath The Snow by Teri M. Brown
Sunflowers Beneath The Snow by Teri M. Brown

Sunflowers Beneath the Snow recounts the lives of three generations of women in Ukraine: grandmother, mother, daughter. This is the author’s first book, and she has created a deeply emotional portrayal of each of these women. ‘Sunflowers beneath the snow’ is phrase spoken by the grandmother, but to me these three women are the sunflowers.

Ivanna, the grandmother, has spent the majority of her life under Communist rule, where everything from food to housing is strictly regulated. She doesn’t know her husband, Luyaksandro, is spying for an anti-Communist group, and when the group informs him he’s been identified, they give him the choice to be sent out of the country or be outed, which would lead to the arrest and possible death of his family by the state police. He chooses to leave without a word to his family.

When her husband disappears, Ivanna is told he is dead at the hand of his lover’s husband, and she feels bitterly betrayed. She now must to try to support herself and her daughter with nothing but a menial job, scarce food, and cold, mean living quarters. She uses ingenuity and determination to ensure their survival, but somehow she never stops believing in necessity and fairness of the Communist government.  Her daughter, Yevtsye, grows up, she develops political, religious and societal opinions different from those of her mother, from whom she becomes estranged. She meets and marries Danya, a teacher of physics at the university, and after years to trying, they have a daughter, Ionna.

Ionna is born into a different world than either her grandmother or her mother, since by that time, Ukraine has been independent from Russian for some years – although the country is still dependent of Russia for virtually everything and is run by corrupt politicians. She proves a to both her mother and grandmother. Ionna dreams of seeing and experiencing the world outside of Ukraine, and her eventual travels lead to a surprising outcome.

The author writes with great realism of living in Ukraine during that period of time. She reaches deep to portray the tenacity, determination, and deeply felt emotions of these women, in the face of the different and continual challenges in their lives. This book should be of particular interest to readers, given the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. The history described by the author explains a great deal of what is happening now.  This reader lived in Czechoslovakia when it was part of the Soviet Union, and the author has hit the nail on the head of what it is like to live in a country under Russia’s control.

The only problem I had with this book were some prolonged descriptions of the women’s emotional states or considerations of Ukrainian politics. This slowed the forward progress of the story and tempted me to read ahead.

This is the author’ first book and, overall, I think she’s written a winner. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys women’s fiction in a historical setting, and especially in the recent history of Eastern Europe.

Desc 1

A Ukrainian rebel. Three generations of women bearing the consequences. A journey that changes everything.

When Ivanna opens the door to uniformed officers, her tranquil life is torn to pieces – leaving behind a broken woman who must learn to endure cold, starvation, and the memories of a man who died in the quintessential act of betrayal. Using her thrift, ingenuity, and a bit of luck, she finds a way to survive in Soviet Ukraine, along with her daughter, Yevtsye. But the question remains, will she be strong enough to withstand her daughter’s deceit and the eventual downfall of the nation she has devoted her life to? Or will the memories of her late husband act as a shadow haunting everyone and everything she loves, including Ionna, the granddaughter that never knew him?

In Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, Teri M. Brown explores the tenacity of women, showing that even in grueling circumstances, they can, and do, experience all the good things life has to offer – compassion, joy, love, faith, and wonder.

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📚For Those Who ‘love a good historical #mystery’ Noelle reviews Dark Hunter by F.J. Watson, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT.📚

Today’s team review is from Noelle.

She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Noelle has been reading Dark Hunter by F. J. Watson

Historical Mystery

I do love a good historical mystery, and Fiona Watson has written an atmospheric and compelling one, set in the city of Berwick-upon-Tweed in the early 14th century.

In the year 1317, a young and pious squire named Benedict Russell is sent to the English-held garrison of Berwick-upon-Tweed, a town sitting on the border between Scotland and England. The town’s strategic position and relative wealth had previously resulted in a succession of raids, sieges and takeovers during centuries of war between these two countries. Three years earlier to Benedict’s arrival, the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, had won a massive victory at the battle of Bannockburn and were raiding over the border. Edward II decided to send reinforcements to Berwick in case of an attack.

Benedict is learned – he can read and write – and is belittled by his fellow squires, who are more trained in the art of swordplay and warfare. He discovers through keen observation and a little diversion that the knight supplying food to the garrison is diverting money into his own accounts. Recognition of his ability gets him the task of discovering who murdered a beautiful young girl, one whom Benedict lusted after, and left her mutilated body outside the city’s walls. Benedict must decide if the murder was a crime of passion or one which involves a traitor or spy for the Scots.

The pace of discovery as Benedict works through various clues is deliberate, as would be for a sleuth of that time, but introduces the reader to the realities of life in the 14th century: the poverty and squalor set against the wealth of the ruling class, the hierarchy amongst the knights and their treatment of servants, and women as chattel to be used as pawns. The author draws on her knowledge of conditions of daily life, religious practices, practices of medieval punishment, food, drink, clothes, weapons, and social distinctions to put the reader firmly inside a city awaiting a siege, with all of the tension exacerbated by the murder.

This is also a coming-of-age story as Benedict slowly becomes a man and discovers his own reserves of strength and ability to love. The secondary characters are very well-drawn, from the knights and squires to the various townspeople Benedict comes to know, from apprentices to paupers. I was especially drawn to the murdered girl’s sister, who becomes a valuable companion to Benedict. She is afflicted with something I interpret as scoliosis, which makes her the butt of derision, but she has an intelligent and unusually perceptive mind trapped in her twisted body.

I very much appreciate that the author did not attempt to make the language of the day mock-medieval. She did write the story in the present tense, however, as is becoming common more recently. As a reader, I find it makes the story-telling more immediate but slows the pace of the story.

This is an excellent first fictional outing for a medieval scholar and I highly recommend this to mystery and historical fiction aficionados.

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The year is 1317, and young squire Benedict Russell has joined the English-held garrison of Berwick-upon-Tweed after the spectacular Scottish victory at Bannockburn three years earlier.

Serious and self-doubting, he can’t wait for his time there to come to an end. Living on the disputed territory between Scotland and England is a precarious existence, and as the Scots draw ever closer and the English king does nothing to stop them, Benedict finds himself in a race against time to solve the brutal murder of a young girl and find the traitor who lurks within Berwick’s walls.

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‘A very captivating and fun read.’ Noelle reviews action #thriller JENKS by @burrell_barney, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Noelle has been reading Jenks by Barney Burrell

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I purchased this book for review, as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

If you are a fan of James Bond and Jason Bourne, you will like Jenks, a freelance professional assassin with a moral compass. The book is a fast-paced thriller, and I will admit at the outset of this review I am a sucker for such books.

Jenks (short for Graham Jenkins) was recruited early in his life for an ultra-top secret government agency (MI5 on steroids). He chose to reject the offer but returned to accept it after time spent in the armed forces. He now lives rather anonymously in a house by the sea, taking only those assignments that appeal to him as an assassin.

The plot is an old trope: someone steals explosive, high level secrets about various world governments from the CIA, with the altruistic intention of providing them to a WikiLeaks type of organization which would reveal them and overturn the world order. Jenks is hired to find not only the people stealing and delivering the information but also those buying it.  The action takes place simultaneously in London, Virginia and Washington, with the story shifting from site to site.

Jenks is, of course, ruggedly handsome with brilliant turquoise eyes (normally hidden by contact lenses, so he can blend into his background) and is ultimately competent in his profession. Nicely, the author has given him a less robotic, human side – from refurbishing his old house to flirting with a local barista. 

Yes, the book is standard high-octane and the base plot unordinary, but there the commonalities end. The author has layered in several plot lines, a lot of high tech spyware, and moles at every level. Everyone is being manipulated, even Jenks to an extent, so the reader is unsure until the end who are the actual “good guys,” if you can call them that.  A warning, though, there is some graphic violence.

The only criticism I have is that there are a couple of places in the book where the author goes into enormous technical detail, a lot of which I didn’t follow, so when I got the gist, I skipped over those sections.

High tension, technical wizardry, and the knowledge that Jenks will successfully complete his assignment (how else could it end?) made this a very captivating and fun read. I definitely look forward to another Jenks outing.

4.5 stars

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In a nutshell.. Ruthless freelance professional assassin Jenks is hired by ultra-top secret government agency – responsible for the dirtiest of work – to kill a rogue CIA analyst and prevent a super Wikileaks-like Russian backed dissemination of catastrophic above Top Secret explosive revelations, capable of overturning the world order.

Using the most ingenious of spycraft, the chameleon like Jenks has no option but to let the crime play out until the very end. With the action taking place between Soho, London and Virginia, USA, Jenks hurtles towards the ultimate confrontation and sacrifice – his pedal to the metal race to uncover the truth will leave you gasping.

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A Novella that features the Irish potato famine. Noelle reviews The Winds Of Morning by @AuthorGMacShane

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Noelle has been reading The Winds Of Morning by Gifford MacShane


This is a novella, written as a prequel Donovan Family Saga by this author. I purchased this book for review.

The author is a gifted writer, with an excellent talent for creating the historical scene of 1848, when the potato crop failed in Ireland. What happened after that is made clear: The Protestant landlords abscond back to Britain, leaving the Catholic peasants to fend for themselves. Rather than providing food to their citizens, the government allows the export of tens of thousands of tons of Irish food daily. There follows a period of mass starvation and disease, leading to the deaths of over a million people.

When her father and mother die of starvation, Molly O’Brien has no choice but to take her father’s place on a road gang, swinging a mallet to break rocks for a road running from her tiny village to the nearby river, in order to feed her family. There is no other work available, and even sixteen hours of labor does not pay enough to feed her younger brothers, who are dying of starvation as well.

One day, quietly facing the river, she decides that despite her deep-sown Catholic tenets, she will sell her body to the first man she encounters who will give her the price of a loaf of bread. The first man to see her, John Patrick Donovan, at first thinks she is going to throw herself in the river, but when she asks him for a loaf a bread up front, he realizes she’s decided to prostitute herself.  In Donovan, the author has created a gentle, caring, and thoughtful older man who does his best to save Molly and her brothers. His efforts extend to her small village, where the grain he was sent to buy was locked away by the landlord, who had fled: he opens the granary to the villagers, despite what that will cost his family.

When John Patrick takes her to the local church, where the priest informs her she will be married, she nearly faints at the miracle. She and her brothers are saved. John Patrick has fallen in love with her at first sight and knows this is the only way he can protect her honor until she grows stronger and accepts him.

Will his family accept Molly? What will they think of the money their son spent on saving her and her brothers and also in the village? How are his parents, who are well-off because the father runs a chandlery, dealing with the famine? Will Molly come to accept Donovan as her husband?

While this book was a lovely read, part historical and part romance, as are the author’s other books, two things jarred me somewhat. The first was the age difference between John Patrick and Molly. I had to remind myself that this was a different time, when girls married young and older husbands were often the norm. The other was, with few exceptions, the overwhelming ‘niceness’ of all the various characters. I would have preferred a little more grit. 

I recommend this lyrically and beautifully rendered novella to readers – despite the grim subject – to discover what happens to Molly and to understand the basis for the Donovan Saga.

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1848: the third year the potato crop failed in Ireland. The Protestant landlords have absconded back to Britain, leaving the Catholic peasants to fend for themselves, while the English government allowed the export of tens of thousands of tons of Irish food daily.

With two younger brothers to feed, Molly O’Brien took her father’s place on the road gang, building a road that runs from her tiny village to the river and no farther. Yet sixteen hours of labor a day would not garner enough wages to buy food for her family.

She was beyond despair. Beyond prayer. And so far beyond the tenets of her childhood, she’d decided to offer her body to the first man with the price of a loaf of bread. At that moment, a voice behind her spoke…

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