Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scottish #HistFic A House Divided by @MargaretSkea1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A House Divided by Margaret Skea

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A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of a religious war, feuding clans and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597 – What’s not to like about A House Divided? I couldn’t wait to read it and savored it for as long as I could.

This is the second book in series about the Munro family and their enemy, the arch-villain of their story, William Cunninghame. Although I have not read the first in the series, The Turn of the Tide, A House Divided can be read as a stand-alone novel with no problem…except that I now feel compelled to treat myself to that first book.

The Munro family has been forced into hiding to escape their enemies, the wealthy Cunninghames. While Adam Munro fights in France with the Scots Garde, which is supporting Henri IV, Kate Munro takes shelter with her children at the Montgomerie stronghold of Braistane. There she takes the surname Grant to hide her and the children’s identity. The Cunninghame son, thinking all the Munros are dead from their persecution, takes possession of the Munro’s home at Broomelaw and is rebuilding the estate for himself.

Kate supports herself by working as a ‘wise woman,’ the term used for an herbalist and a midwife. These woman are often accused of being witches, and Kate courts danger during a period when witchcraft trials and burnings are common in Scotland. Kate is partially identified when she attends the wife of a Cunninghame supporter, and her daughter, who is training with her mother to be a wise woman, also becomes visible in the countryside when she answers some of the calls for Kate to provide medical help. When Kate’s growing reputation results in her being asked to attend Queen Anne, the wife of James VI, the chances she will be seen by the Cunninghame family at court increase exponentially.

Although the story focuses on Kate, Adam is not forgotten as the reader is treated to the vicissitudes of the war in France, King Henri’s increasing reliance on him, and Adam’s attempts to find a way home to see his family, from whom he has been separated for several years. I found these interludes to be less compelling than Kate’s story, but necessary to the direction of the overall plot.

This is an exceptional book, combining the tensions of several story lines with exquisite detail of life in Scotland in the 16th century. I loved the descriptions of herbal remedies and as the wife of an obstetrician, I found the midwifery fascinating.

The characters are exceptionally well wrought, pulling you into each scene. Skea is a master of description, from the lovely countryside to the details of siege warfare, the trials of witches, and the daily, mundane chores of everyday family life. Set against this rich tapestry is the rising and falling tension that Kate and/or Adam will be discovered, which did not play well with my blood pressure!

Skea also weaves into her story broader issues of morality, science vs superstition, loyalty and justice. This is a must read for all lovers of historical fiction, and I think Skea’s writing  is comparable to that of Phillipa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon.  I’m hooked and looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Book description

Eleven years on from the Massacre of Annock, the Cunninghame / Montgomerie truce is fragile.
For the Munro family, living in hiding under assumed names, these are dangerous times.
While Munro risks his life daily in the service of the French King, the spectre of discovery by William Cunninghame haunts his wife Kate. Her fears for their children and her absent husband realized as William’s desire for revenge tears their world apart.
A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of feuding clans, the French Wars of Religion, and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597.

About the author

Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster at the height of the ‘Troubles’, but now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders.

Awarded the Beryl Bainbridge Award for Best First Time Author 2014 and Historical Fiction Winner in the Harper Collins / Alan Titchmarsh People’s Novelist Competition for her debut novel Turn of the Tide, the sequel A House Divided was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2016. The third book in the series will be published in autumn 2017. She is passionate about well-researched, authentic historical fiction and providing a ‘you are there’ experience for the reader.

An Hawthornden Fellow and award winning short story writer – recent credits include, Overall Winner Neil Gunn, Chrysalis Prize, and Winchester Short Story Prize. Third in the Rubery Book Award Short Story Competition 2013, a finalist in the Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition 2012, shortlisted in the Mslexia Short Story Competition 2012 and the Fish Short Story and long-listed for the Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition 2014, the Matthew Pritchard Award, and Fish One Page Prize, she has been published in a range of magazines and anthologies in Britain and the USA.
New collection of short stories – Dust Blowing and Other Stories, including some of those from competitions mentioned above is now available.

Margaret Skea

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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 superhero #fantasy The Hat by C.S. Boyack @virgilante

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Hat by C.S. Boyack

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The Hat is a delightfully fun, whimsical fantasy with overtones of chick lit and Disney magic. As a novella, it is a fast, fast read, and I was disappointed when I came to the end.

Lizzie St. Laurent is a 21-year-old college dropout who is having a difficult time following the loss of her grandmother, whom she loved and with whom she lived. She moved to an apartment, but her roommate abandoned her, and now she is working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Her uncle is in control of her grandmothers’ estate, and when she visits her grandmother’s house in the hopes of having something by which to remember her, she finds everything boxed up and on a moving truck. In frustration, she snatches a box from the truck and brings it home.

From the book’s title, the reader can guess what Lizzie finds in that box – a hat – but not just any hat. This Hat can talk and can alter its look to any fashion appropriate to Lizzie’s wardrobe. More importantly, the Hat can transport Lizzie to other places, once it’s on her head. Lizzie is taken by the Hat to a cabin owned by her grandmother, a place which no one knows about, and discovers she can play a mean jazz bass, when the Hat plays through her fingers. The banter between Lizzie and the Hat is pure comedy and made me laugh.

In a serious subplot, the magical and paranormal abilities of the Hat take Lizzie on a roller coaster ride to uncover a ring of baby snatchers and find her best friend’s kidnapped child. How does it do that? You have to read the book.

The ending left me thinking there will be more adventures of these two odd companions, and I’m looking forward to them! C.S. Boyack has created a magical mystery tour de force.

Book description

Lizzie St. Laurent is dealing with many of the struggles of young life. She lost her grandmother, and her living arrangements. Her new roommate abandoned her, and she’s working multiple jobs just to keep her head above water.

She inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate, but it belonged to her grandfather. This is no ordinary hat, but a being from an alternate dimension. One with special powers.

Lizzie and the hat don’t exactly hit it off right away, but when her best friend’s newborn is kidnapped by a ring of baby traffickers, Lizzie turns to the hat for help. This leads her deep into her family history and a world she’s never known.

Lizzie gives up everything to rescue the babies. She loses her jobs, and may wind up in jail before it’s over. Along the way, she and the hat may have a new way of making ends meet.

Humorous and fun, The Hat is novella length. Wonderful escapism for an afternoon.

About the author

About the author:

Craig Boyak was born in Elko, Nevada, which the author claims has always been a little behind the times and gives him a unique perspective. He moved to Idaho in the early 2000s and jumped into his writing career where he found other writers and critique groups. He likes to write about things that are unusual, and his books are science fiction, fantasy and paranormal designed to entertain his readers. The Hat is his twelfth book.

C. S. Boyack

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Historical #Mystery The Likeness by @carver22 #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Likeness by Bill Kirton

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The Likeness is a sequel to the enormously popular book by this author: The Figurehead. In that book, the readers were introduced the port city of Aberdeen in the mid-19th century and to three of its citizens: the woodcarver John Grant; William Anderson, a rich merchant; and his headstrong daughter Elizabeth.

The Likeness begins with the discovery of the battered body of a young woman in the muck near the wharves where the Aberdeen fishermen bring in their catches. The body is painfully thin and is clothed in the rich garb of someone not normally found in that area.

Grant is doubtful that the town’s constable – who is short-sighted, lacks intelligence, and has a nasty personality — will ever discover what happened to her, and decides to take on the task of finding her killer. At the same time, he accepts a commission to create a figurehead to feature onstage in the melodramas of a newly-arrived theatre group, a commission paid for by a demanding patron.

The love that developed between John Grant and Helen Anderson in the previous book grows stronger and more evident in this one. Helen wishes to become an integral part of her father’s shipping business, an unheard-of thing in those times, and eventually her father acquiesces. This puts her in direct conflict with a merchant wishing to do business with her father — the patron who paid Grant’s commission and an insulting character.

The story weaves in and out of Helen’s challenges in a male-dominated society, Grant’s investigations, and their love story. It proceeds at a leisurely pace, as befits the times, and is filled with historic details of the theater and actors, the city, and most especially Aberdeen’s busy port. The descriptions of waterfront and the wharves, the ships, and the workers there were compelling, and I read some of them twice for enjoyment. The author has captured the sights, the smells, the city and the societal norms in vivid detail.

Helen as a character is quite unique to her age. I wonder if such women – running businesses and rejecting the restrictions of conventional courtship and marriage, especially the idea that a woman is the property of her husband –actually existed at that time. Certainly, her role is one that will appeal to feminists of all ages. I was particularly drawn to the description of her three-day journey on one of her father’s ships, designed to carry passengers to Canada. It gave further insight into Helen’s intelligence and the plight and strength of those immigrating to North America.

John Grant is kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and certainly amenable to all of Elizabeth’s modern ideas. As a man of his time, I would have liked him to be more resistant. The only tension between them is just a misunderstanding.

The mystery of the woman’s death is far more complex than at first view, and the twists and turns of Grant’s investigation left me puzzled to the very end.

All in all, a successful meshing of historical romance and mystery, with rich detail of a bygone era, by an author who knows how to weave a good story.

Book description

Aberdeen, 1841. Woodcarver John Grant has an unusual new commission – creating a figurehead to feature onstage in the melodramas of a newly-arrived theatre group. Simultaneously, he’s also trying to unravel the mystery of the death of a young woman, whose body has been found in the filth behind the harbour’s fish sheds.

His loving relationship with Helen Anderson, which began in The Figurehead, has grown stronger but, despite the fact that they both want to be together, she rejects the restrictions of conventional marriage, in which the woman is effectively the property of the husband.

As John works on the figurehead, Helen persuades her father, a rich merchant, to let her get involved in his business, allowing her to challenge yet more conventions of a male-dominated society.

The story weaves parallels between the stage fictions, Helen’s business dealings, a sea voyage, stage rehearsals, and John’s investigations. In the end, the mystery death and the romantic dilemma are both resolved, but in unexpected ways.

About the author

Bill Kirton was a university lecturer in French before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer. He’s won two 2011 Forward National Literature Awards – ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’ was the overall winner of the Humor category and ‘The Darkness’ was runner up in the Mystery category. His historical mystery, ‘The Figurehead’, was long-listed for the 2012 Rubery Book Awards.

He’s produced material in many different media. His radio plays have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His stage plays have been performed in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the USA and he’s been the visiting artist to the Theatre Department of the University of Rhode Island on four separate occasions. There, he directed stage plays, gave classes on creative writing and theatre, performed in revues and translated three plays by Molière for public performance, one of which won a BCLA prize. Material from his Edinburgh Festival revues was broadcast on the BBC, ITV and French television.

He’s also been a TV presenter and a voice-over artist and his scripts for corporate and educational DVDs and videos have won awards in the UK and USA. He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and the universities of Dundee and St Andrews.

Most of his novels are set in the north east of Scotland. ‘Material Evidence’, ‘Rough Justice’, the award-winning ‘The Darkness’, ‘Shadow Selves’ and ‘Unsafe Acts’ all feature DCI Jack Carston. ‘The Figurehead’ is a historical novel set in Aberdeen in 1840. The award-winning ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’, is a spoof spy/crime novel also set in Scotland. His comic fantasy novella, ‘Alternative Dimension’ satirises online role-playing games.

His short stories have appeared in the Crime Writers’ Association annual anthology in 1999, 2005 and 2006. IN 2010, one was also chosen for the ‘Best British Crime Stories, Vol. 7’ anthology edited by Maxim Jacubowski.

His non-fiction output includes ‘Brilliant Study Skills’, ‘Brilliant Essay’, ‘Brilliant Dissertation’, ‘Brilliant Workplace Skills’ and ‘Brilliant Academic Writing. He also co-wrote ‘Just Write’ with Kathleen McMillan.

He writes books for children. ‘Rory the Dragon and Princess Daisy’ was published as a tribute to his great niece, Daisy Warn, who lived for just 16 weeks. Proceeds from its sales go to a children’s hospice in South-West England. ‘The Loch Ewe Mystery’ is a stand-alone novel for children aged 7-12 and he’s preparing a series about a grumpy male fairy called Stanley who lives under a cold, dripping tap in his bedroom.

Bill Kirton

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller Ryan Kaine: On The Defensive by @KerryJDonovan

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Ryan Kaine: On The Defensive by Kerry J Donovan

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This is the third in the Ryan Kaine series by Kerry Donovan, and it’s been interesting to see how the main character and his story evolve through the books. This one is quite a change from the first, which left me out of breath by the end, with its fast and furious pace, and the second, where the pace had slowed marginally but gathered steam as it went along.

On the Defensive opens in a small Greek bistro in London, where the owners, Justina Constantine and her husband Orestes, struggle to keep the business open. Justina’s father-in-law, Papa Onassis, had been killed when a missile exploded the plane he was on to Europe – a missile fired by Ryan Kaine, who didn’t know at the time he’d been set up to do this. The Constantines now owe thousands of pounds to the bank and business is way off because a developer has bought the block where the bistro is located and is systematically forcing the tenants to leave. This day Justina is visited by two men, who smash up the restaurant, rough her up and threaten to harm her daughters if her husband won’t sign papers selling their place to the developer. A terrifying opening and a great hook.

What bothered me about the book is what came next: a long, long digression to a villa in France. There Ryan Kaine lives with the veterinarian Lara, who is introduced in the first book when she rescues him from the people sent to kill him. She must now remain with him for her own safety. Filled with their badinage, the story drags while Kaine, who has promised to make restitution to the families affected by the deaths on the plane, is informed of the Constantines’ situation. His plan to help them, his interactions with Lara, and the arrangement for a backup for him in London occupy the next seven chapters and to me, the story dragged here.

Admittedly, the author needs to fill in information about Kaine, Lara, and the mechanism by which Kaine is told when and where he might be needed. There is also Kaine’s internal struggle not to fall in love with Lara – a struggle he is losing – because of the mortal danger their relationship brings. However, this long a digression from what I’ve come to expect – a fast-paced story – detracted from my enjoyment.

Once the story returns to London, the pace picks up and the reader becomes engrossed in how Kaine inserts himself into the Constantines’ lives, identifies and finds their tormentors, manages to wreak justice on the man at the top, and rescue the bistro and the family. This is pure Donovan.

As usual, the author’s descriptions of places are succinct but well-wrought and the villains are loathsomely three dimensional. All the characters are clear and identifiable, with quirks and foibles. There are the usual twists and turns along the way, leading to a satisfying ending, with more foreshadowed to come.

All in all, a good, fun read, but maybe not up to the level of the first and second books. Nevertheless, for Ryan Kaine fans, this latest adventure will please.

Book description

A simple act of vandalism. A victimised family. One man will protect them.

When Ryan Kaine, former Royal Marine and current fugitive, learns of the Constantine family’s problems, he leaves his coastal hideaway and rushes to their aid. The only problem is, he is the most wanted man in the UK and his face is on every billboard and news bulletin.

Choosing his vow of protection for The 83, the eighty-three families of the people he killed on Flight BE1555, over the pleas of his friends, Kaine risks his life and takes the first plane to London.

Fully recovered from his recent injuries and with a London safe house full of toys at his disposal, Kaine won’t stop until the Constantines are safe.

Can Kaine find out why the family are under attack, neutralise the threat, and make it out of London without being recognised?

About the author

Internationally bestselling fiction author, Kerry was born in Dublin. He spent most of his life in the UK, and now lives in the heart of rural Brittany with his wonderful and patient wife, Jan. They have three children and four grandchildren (so far), all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the advent of video calling.

The cottage is a pet free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and red squirrels).

Kerry earned a first class honours degree in Human Biology, and has a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. A former scientific advisor to The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he helped UK emergency first-responders prepare for chemical attacks in the wake of 9/11. This background adds a scientific edge to his writing. He is also a former furniture designer/maker.

Kerry J. Donovan

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW1 #PTSD Novella Fred’s Funeral by @sandeetweets

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

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Fred’s Funeral is a novella by Sandy Day, inspired by hundreds of letters written by the author’s Great Uncle Fred, but a wonderful concoction of her imagination.

Fred Sadler has just died in his room in a hospital for the mentally ill. He sees his cousin and his brother and a whole family of those who died before him, congregating on the other side of an ethereal divide. The problem is, he can’t cross the divide. He finds himself – or at least his consciousness – watching from the ceiling of his room, as his priggish sister-in-law, Viola, and her brother, Thomas, open his one possession, an old battered suitcase. It is Viola who gives her interpretation of Fred’s life based on old memories and the contents of the suitcase.

As they paw through his belongings, Fred is shocked to find Viola’s version of the events of his life is not as he remembers it. Why had he spent so many years locked up in Whitby Hospital for the Insane?

As Fred moves through his funeral and the gathering of the family afterward, and between his memories and the pronouncements of Viola and others, we learn that the young Fred went off to fight in World War I and came back damaged: addicted to binge drinking, constantly angry and full of anxieties. At that time, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was not recognized, and the remainder of his life was consumed by his trying to govern his emotions and fit in, his family’s attempts to provide and adjust for him, and finally, his placement in the hospital. We are reminded of the barbarity of the so-called modern treatments for patients at that time in such institutions.

What I particularly liked about this story are the ways different people look at the same events, and the ability to see how his confusion, frustration, and mental breakdown – now so understandable – were met with misunderstanding by his family. Fred desperately wants to gain control of his life, to spend his life in the home and with the family he so values, but can’t help pushing them away.  The reader can feel his angst and understand his actions, but at the same time see themselves in the family’s shoes. The author does a wonderful job of describing family relationships and deep-seated feelings.

This is a short, but very profound read.

Book description

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

About the author

Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox and Fred’s Funeral. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.

Sandy Day

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#NewRelease The Viscount And The Vicar’s Daughter by @MimiMatthewsEsq #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Viscount And The Vicar’s Daughter by Mimi Matthews

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The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter – A Victorian Romance – is a tender and sweet romance novel. It is not the first by this author, who has clearly developed her style. Romance is not a genre I truly appreciate, but the historical aspect appealed, and I was not disappointed.

Tristan Sinclair, Viscount St. Ashton, is wallowing in melancholy and decides to attend a Christmas house party in wilds of Yorkshire, hosted by a woman renowned for her orgiastic feasts. He has admitted to himself that after years of debauchery and spending, he has hit rock bottom. What does he have to lose?

On his way there, he is distracted by the sobbing of a woman in the woods and discovers Valentine March, a prim and upright vicar’s daughter who has come on hard times. With the death of her father, she has had to find employment and is currently a companion to Lady Brightwell, an old crone with a vicious temper and pension for abusing and discarding companions.

Tristan discovers he has fallen in love with Valentine at first sight, and she is initially attracted to him – until she learns that he is a most infamous rake. Tristan pursues her with charm, wit and warmth, and not surprisingly, she eventually surrenders. But theirs is a doomed relationship, a scandalous liaison in a house of poor repute between a wealthy lord with a repugnant reputation and a woman not only from a poor background, but also born on the other side of the blanket. Her mother was pregnant with another man’s child when the vicar, out of the kindness of his heart, married her.

There is more to Valentine’s background than meets the eye, and it is not clear whether their fragile romance will survive the continuing revelations of their true characters and the outside pressures brought to bear by virtually everyone around them.

This is truly a romance in every sense of the genre. The characters are colorfully fleshed out, the dialogue is believable and witty. Ms. Matthews has created a believable Victorian world from her studies of 19th century style, fashion and history. The historical detail is just enough to set the scene but does not overwhelm. I was not surprised to find the typical romantic themes permeating the story. Even with my limited (but growing) background in romance literature, I find they can be over-used, and their predictability of outcome can create a sense of ennui. However, this author has managed to infuse a freshness in these tropes and keeps the story moving at a good pace, so that the reader keeps turning the pages.

I am certain fans of this genre will find The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter a satisfying read.

Book description

England, 1861. A world-weary rake and a prim vicar’s daughter are thrown together during a holiday house party. Will they discover there’s more to each other than meets the eye? Or will revelations from the past end their fragile romance before it begins?

A WORLD-WEARY RAKE

After years of unbridled debauchery, Tristan Sinclair, Viscount St. Ashton has hit proverbial rock bottom. Seeking to escape his melancholy, he takes refuge at one of Victorian society’s most notorious house parties. As the Christmas season approaches, he prepares to settle in for a month of heavy drinking…until an unexpected encounter changes his plans—and threatens his heart.

A PRIM VICAR’S DAUGHTER

Valentine March is not the drab little spinster she appears to be. When her new job as a lady’s companion lands her smack in the middle of Yorkshire with England’s most infamous rake, she resolves to keep her head down and her eyes fixed firmly on her future—a future which most definitely does not include a sinfully handsome viscount.

A MATCH MADE IN SCANDAL

A friendship is impossible. An affair out of the question. But when one reckless act binds them together, will two star-crossed souls discover there’s more to each other than meets the eye? Or will revelations from the past end their fragile romance before it begins?

About the author

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Pen & Sword Books, November 2017) and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty (Pen & Sword Books, July 2018). Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. When not writing historical non-fiction, Mimi authors exquisitely proper Victorian romance novels with dark, brooding heroes and intelligent, pragmatic heroines. Her debut Victorian romance The Lost Letter was released in September 2017.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT A Tincture Of Secrets And Lies by @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A Tincture Of Secrets And Lies by William Savage

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This review is for Rosie’s Book Review Team. The book was purchased by the reviewer.

A Tincture of Secrets and Lies is the fourth book in the Dr. Adam Bascom Mysteries series by William Savage.  His other series is the Ashmole Foxe Mysteries and both are set in Georgian England, in and around Norwich. I’ve read the previous three Dr. Adam Bascom books, mainly because I love mysteries, history, and am married to a physician. A perfect syzygy for Savage’s books. Despite being part of a series, A Tincture of Secrets and Lies can be read as a stand-alone, without any confusion on the part of the reader.

The main character, Dr. Adam Bascom, practices medicine in Aylsham, a small town in Norwich. His closest friend, and the person off whom he bounces ideas, is Peter Lassimer, a pharmacist and a confirmed ladies’ man. Dr. Bascom’s unmarried status has the subject of many of their interchanges, but this book hints that his status may change,  sooner or later. Dr. Bascom has fallen in love with Lady Alice, young and wealthy widow of one of his former patients.

The story opens on the night of April 13, 1793 with two significant events. Bascom is thrown from his horse on his way home, and lies unconscious for a long time on a remote country road. At the same time, some miles away, a young woman is viciously stabbed, her body pushed under a hedge to prevent it from being discovered.

The good doctor, although badly hurt, rouses himself enough to let his horse lead him home, but his injuries are serious enough to keep him there for an extended recovery period. In previous adventures, Bascom has developed into an astute detective, and when two other murders are discovered, he is naturally sought out to solve them. However, this time he is frustratingly confined to his bed and must use Peter Lassimer, the nephew and niece of Lady Alice, and even his groom, William, to be his eyes, ears and legs to find the killer.  Through them, he uncovers a plot to destabilize the country, already on edge with a threatened invasion by the French, and the topic of smuggling, rampant on the English coast, becomes entwined in the story.

I shared the sheer frustration of Bascom, being confined to his room and then his home, and at the mercy of his housekeeper, Mrs. Brigstone; Hannah, the nervous parlor maid; and Mrs. Munning, a warm-hearted young widow brought in to nurse him. I was nearly tearing my hair out, right along with the patient. How the author managed to keep the plot afoot from Bascom’s confines is a real feat, but allows him to write from different characters’ points of view, which keeps the readers interest. I particularly enjoyed, Professor Panacea (wherever did Savage get that name?), a snake oil salesman with real charisma but no medical knowledge.

Characters from previous books in the series evolve in this one. Lady Alice’s niece, Ruth Scudamore, is a young woman who dislikes the trapping s of traditional society, and is more than happy to investigate and interview people at Bascom’s direction. She reminds me of a Georgian Nancy Drew. Her twin brother Charles, who has been unable to find a focus for his life other than genteel leisure, discovers what he’s made of working for the doctor. Through him, the reader gets to experience a military attack to stop a group of rebels. The reader is kept hanging about the outcome of the doctor’s relationship with Lady Alice, who keeps a huge secret from Bascom. Perhaps in the next book?

The author’s ability to weave interesting characters into the social mores and historical detail of the day is his strength, along with a complex and complicated storyline. The book is written at the pace of the time, and there is lengthy dialogue, both of which can take a period of adjustment for the reader; however, but with the varied settings and points of view, the mystery never flags. I recommend it to all, but especially to readers who love mysteries in perfectly described, historically accurate settings.

Book description

The night of April 13th, 1793 has proved unlucky for at least two people. Dr Adam Bascom has been thrown from his horse to lie injured, unconscious and alone on a remote country roadway. Barely a mile away, another man is thrusting the body of the young woman he has just murdered as far under a hedge as he can. Thus begins one of Adam Bascom’s most complicated mysteries; one that will end in many more deaths and a fight off the coast of Norfolk between a navy frigate and a French privateer. Trapped at home by his injuries, Adam still finds ways to use his friends and family as his eyes and ears as he uncovers the solution to a series of local murders — and a plot to destabilise the country as it awaits the threatened invasion by the French revolutionary government.

About the author

William Savage grew up in Hereford, on the border with Wales and too his degree at Cambridge. After a career in various managerial and executive roles, he retired to Norfolk, where he volunteers at a National Trust property. His life-long interest has been history, which led to research and writing about the eighteenth century.  But his is not just a superficial interest in history, but a real desire to understand and transmit the daily experience of living in turbulent times.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Action adventure Ryan Kaine: On The Rocks by @KerryJDonovan

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Ryan Kaine: On The Rocks by Kerry J Donovan

Ryan Kaine: On the Rocks: Book Two in the Ryan Kaine action thriller series by [Donovan, Kerry J]

I was completely mesmerized by Kerry Donovan’s first book in the Ryan Kaine series. It left me panting with the exertion of reading it, so of course I had to read the sequel. I hope this is a long series.

Ryan Kaine on the Rocks was slower paced (but only slightly) from the first book and is a more than worthy continuation, since it picks up where the first left off.

Martin Princeton is trapped on a ledge halfway down a cliff in the wilds of Scotland. He is severely injured, bleeding and, without a heavy jacket, freezing to death. He is preparing himself to die. He was there because he had to get away from the mourning for his brother, who was killed in a plane crash. A  crash that had been orchestrated by Ryan Kaine.

When news of Martin’s disappearance reaches Kaine, he abandons the effort to clear his name and instead, in an act of contrition, heads to the Highlands to find Martin. Still hampered by injuries from his previous confrontation with the people behind the crash, and with an unofficial bounty on his head, Kaine goes to the site of the rescue organization and manages to convince the rescue team of his good intentions without alerting them to his identity. He must first find out everything about Martin’s route in the mountains and the people who were with him, treading a fine line to keep himself anonymous. What he brings with him is an intimate knowledge of the area, mountaineering skills, and special forces training, which allows him to strike out on his own to find Martin.

Kerry Donovan is in his element. He clearly knows the Highlands and its people and has an intimate knowledge of mountain climbing and rescue. His descriptions of the area are compelling – I could feel the wind and the rain – but the author never loses sight of the plot and shoves the story forward at an exhilarating pace. You are never unaware that the clock is ticking, both for the boy and for Kaine, who has to keep his butt out of jail while engaged in the search.

Once again, his characters are fun, even the really bad ones. The clashes between the locals and the English armed response team which arrives to take over the search are both humorous and confrontational. How could you not like a villain named William (Buffalo Bill) Cody? Donovan writes good, tight dialogue for these characters, spartan almost, but smooth.

This is escapism at its best, and once again, my only minor complaint is that at his age, Kaine is nearly superhuman in his strength and ability to endure pain. I will admit I got slightly lost in the descriptions of the mountaineering and climbing gear, but I’m sure aficionados of this sport will have no complaints.

So, I’m again looking forward to the next Kaine outing, and I rate this book up there with the best in its genre. What a fun, breathless read!

Book description

Ryan Kaine is back in the action-packed sequel to the hit adventure thriller, Ryan Kaine: On the Run. 

Fresh from finding evidence that might clear him of terrorism charges and still carrying the scars of battle, Ryan Kaine heads to Scotland to help find missing schoolboy, Martin Princeton.

Facing arrest for shooting down civilian aircraft, Flight BE1555, and killing the 83 people aboard, Kaine is desperate to help find the boy. Why? Martin’s brother was on that plane and Kaine has vowed to protect the families of the victims–The 83.

Hunted by the authorities, can Kaine escape capture long enough to find the boy, or will the police and his more dangerous enemies find him first?

From the pen of Kerry J Donovan, Ryan Kaine: On the Rocks, is a powerful, action-packed novel set in the mountainous highlands of Scotland.

Ryan Kaine is a new addition to the great military action characters in the tradition of Lee Child, Mark Dawson, Chris Ryan, and Matt Rogers.

About the author

Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. Kerry earned a first class honours degree in Human Biology, and has a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. A former scientific advisor to The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he helped UK emergency first-responders prepare for chemical attacks in the wake of 9/11. This background adds a scientific edge to his writing. He is also a former furniture designer/maker. He is the author of a sci-fi/thriller, The Transition of Johnny Swift, which reached #1 on the Amazon Bestsellers List in December 2014.

A citizen of the world, he now lives in the heart of rural Brittany with his wonderful and patient wife, Jan. They have three children and four grandchildren (so far), all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely grateful for the development of video calling.

Kerry J Donovan

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Rosie’s Review Team #RBRT #Thriller Nothing Bad Happens Here by @NikkiCAuthor #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley

Nothing Bad Happens Here by [Crutchley, Nikki]

This is Nikki Crutchley’s first book, and for an initial outing, it’s pretty darned good.

The story:

A young tourist disappears from Castle Bay, a small tourist town on the east coast of North Island of New Zealand. When her mangled and mauled body is discovered, news crews and journalists descend on the town. Among them is Miller Hatcher, a young magazine writer battling alcoholism, who is sent there by her editor with the promise of a huge splash in the magazine if she can assemble a strong story for the next month’s edition.

Leading the investigation in Castle Bay is Sgt. Kahu Parata, a Maori and twenty-year member of the local constabulary, at least Detective Nicholson and a team of four arrive. Nicholson pushes Parata aside, leaving him to the day to day running of the station and the odious task of informing the victim’s parents. But Nicholson doesn’t know the town like Parata does. Castle Bay has some dark and well concealed history, but everyone believes nothing bad ever happens there.

Miller finds the only housing available at a wellness retreat a few minutes out of town. It is recommended to her by the wife of the head of the Town Council who herself is going there for a few days’ respite. The wellness center is populated by a small group of women experiencing a variety of crises and has a threatening caretaker who has found needed isolation there after losing his family.  A visitor at the wellness center disappeared from there many years previously, but she was never found, and the town’s residents still believes Castle Bay is safe and welcoming.

***

There are several threads to this mystery, which the author unravels deliberately and with excruciating tension, before wrapping them together tidily in a completely unexpected ending. There are also a couple of ‘gotcha’ moments that gave me a chill. The pacing of the story is excellent and keeps you turning pages (or swiping your Kindle, as the case may be). But the best part of the book are the characters, whom Ms. Crutchley details in such precision that you can easily see them in your mind’s eye. What I particularly liked was that each of them had flaws – their imperfections made them three dimensional and human.

Of the two characters from whose point of view them mystery is seen, I found myself liking Parada, who while caring for a gentle wife with an undisclosed but serious illness, mourns the fact they’ve been unable to have children. Miller is less likeable – her need for alcohol interferes with her investigative journalism and causes her to pull her hairs out one by one in disgusting detail. Nevertheless, she is largely fearless and determined to follow events wherever they lead, even when one of the women at the wellness center subsequently disappears.

The town itself – in an exotic locale for those of us not from that part of the world – becomes a character, full of interesting detail, and darkly looming, surrounded by jungle. As Miller investigates the trails leading into the jungle, the black cloud of evil that seems ever-present for most of the book is cloying, palpable, and ominous.

This is a satisfying read and I recommend it – a great first book for this author.

A quote to tempt you:

“She looked away from his face and took in the clear spring night, full of stars. Her last thoughts were of her mother. Would she finally care, when one day they found her body, and a policeman came knocking at her door?”

Book description

“She looked away from his face and took in the clear spring night, full of stars. Her last thoughts were of her mother. Would she finally care, when one day they found her body, and a policeman came knocking at her door?”

The body of missing tourist Bethany Haliwell is found in the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where nothing bad ever happens. News crews and journalists from all over the country descend on the small seaside town as old secrets are dragged up and gossip is taken as gospel.
Among them is Miller Hatcher, a journalist battling her own demons, who arrives intent on gaining a promotion by covering the grisly murder.
Following an anonymous tip, Miller begins to unravel the mystery of the small town. And when another woman goes missing, Miller finds herself getting closer to the truth. But at what cost?

About the author

After seven years of working as a librarian in New Zealand and overseas, Nikki now works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She lives in the small Waikato town of Cambridge in New Zealand with her husband and two girls.
Nikki has been writing on and off her whole life and recently has had success in flash fiction. She has been published in Flash Frontier, Flash Fiction Magazine and Mayhem Literary Journal. Crime/thriller/mystery novels are her passion. Nothing Bad Happens Here is her first novel (but hopefully not her last), set on the Coromanadel Coast of New Zealand.

Nikki Crutchley

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