Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Witch Trials And A Scottish #HistoricalRomance THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by @AilishSinclair

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailsish Sinclair

Ailish Sinclair has written a captivating romantic fairy tale for adults, set in 1597 Scotland.

Isobell has been pledged by her father to marry a man she calls Wicked Richard. Together with two boys, Ian and Jasper, she flees her intended husband and a life of privilege in London, sailing in the hold of a ship to a smugglers cave below a remote castle in Scotland. There she will work as an assistant cook.

With no training for her menial job, she is taken under the wing of Bessie Thom, the castle’s cook – a large, jolly woman who is also an herbalist – who reminds me strongly of Mrs. Fitz in Outlander. Isobell meets Agnes, a sour and bitter young woman who is the governess to Wee Thomas and who loves to tell tales of witchcraft; the handsome Duncan McCulloch, Greeve of the castle; Christen Michel, an elderly woman who is the mother of the Laird’s first wife, Mary, who died giving birth to Wee Thomas; and finally the Laird himself, Thomas Monteith. All of these characters are so well drawn, I could easily see and hear them. The authentic use of Scottish words and phrases draws the reader into this medieval world.

I called this a fairy tale – Isobell falls in love with the laird, a bear of a man who is kind and gentle and sad – and the reader is lulled into contentment by both their love and the beauty that surrounds the castle: fairy pools and standing stones and beautiful woods. But this tale turns grim and gritty when it delves into accusations of witchcraft and witchcraft trials, prevalent at the time.

Thus the narrative encompasses hope and despair, good and evil, friends and enemies. The author writes beautiful descriptive prose of the Scottish countryside and delves into the heart of Isobell in an astonishing way, encompassing her views of conflicts between the Protestant and Catholic faiths and the feeling of the ancient religion, carried on by women, when Isobell finds the standing stones.

I really liked this book, despite the fact I expected and got a satisfying conclusion.  Isn’t this usual for fairy tales?

A truly enchanting tale!

Book description

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

AmazonUK | AmzonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic #Mystery A SICKNESS OF THE SOUL by @penandpension

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A Sickness Of The Soul by William Savage

This book was purchased for review.

I will admit I am a fan of William Savage’s mysteries. He has two series, one about Adam Bascomb, MD, and the other about Ashmole Foxe, bookseller, stylish dresser and man about town. Both are set in or around Norwich, England in the period between 1760 and 1800, a period of great turmoil in the country.  I enjoy both, but Ashmole Foxe is a favorite character of mine.

Although Ashmole Foxe is not of the nobility, he is a tradesman of the highest order and has a friend in Alderman Halloran. Halloran serves as a link between Foxe and the mayor of the city and its wealthy merchants, who frequently employ his investigative talents and logical mind in solving the murders of noblemen and women, merchants, and tradesmen. Mr. Foxe has developed nicely through the series (each book of which is stand-alone) with the gradual creation of an extended family that assists him in his pursuit of murderers: Mrs. Susannah Crombie, a widow who runs his bookshop; Charlie, a street urchin whom Foxe is grooming to be a bookbinder and who interacts with street urchins in pursuing clues for Foxe; and Miss Tabitha Studwell, a Cunning Woman (wise woman), herbalist and healer.

In this outing, Foxe finds himself with three murders to solve, and they each present him with different challenges. The first, and most important to the mayor, is the stabbing death of the son of Lord Frederick Aylestone, son of Viscount Penngrove, at a masquerade. The second is the death of an elderly collector of books of the occult, found stabbed in his library following an interview with a rare visitor. The third, and the one which Foxe is most emotionally involved, is the stabbing death of a man the street urchins called ‘Uncle’ – a poor person who lived on the streets but who was good and kind to them and whose body was discovered to have a valuable pendant around the neck, bearing the crest of a local semi-noble family.

The various paths Foxe chooses takes in solving each mystery are intertwined but are taken slowly and deliberately – after all, this is a historical period when life proceeds at a slow pace and within the confines of social norms. I enjoyed the challenge of seeing if I could keep up with, or ahead of, Foxe in his thinking. This only happened with the first murder but was enjoyable nonetheless. The twists and turns of each path keeps readers on their toes and second-guessing.

The author is a past master of the history of the times and manages to include a wealth of detail – the city and its underbelly of crime, the people, and the social strata, not to mention the clothes, the food, manners and the décor. All of this makes the reader feel they are living there with Ashemole Foxe. Each character is well-drawn and compelling for their sins, foibles, or goodness. The mysteries are always drawn to a suitable conclusion, and there is always a teaser at the end. In the last book, Foxe, a heretofore confirmed bachelor who satisfied his needs in elite brothels, proposed to Lady Arabella Cockerham. Her response led him to believe he had been rejected. Or had he? This time around we learn more about Lady Arabella.

This was a thoroughly satisfying book and for fans of William Savage and for those who have not yet had the pleasure of being introduced to his two sleuths, I highly recommend this as a great read.

Book description

“Many people wear masks. Some to hide their feelings; some to conceal their identity; and some to hide that most hideous plague of mankind: a sickness in the soul.”

Ashmole Foxe, Norwich bookseller, man-about-town and solver of mysteries will encounter all of these in this tangled drama of hatred, obsession and redemption.

This is a story set in the England of the 1760s, a time of rigid class distinctions, where the rich idle their days away in magnificent mansions, while hungry children beg, steal and prostitute themselves on the streets. An era on the cusp of revolution in America and France; a land where outward wealth and display hide simmering political and social tensions; a country which had faced intermittent war for the past fifty years and would need to survive a series of world-wide conflicts in the fifty years ahead.

Faced with no less than three murders, occurring from the aristocracy to the seeming senseless professional assassination of a homeless vagrant, Ashmole Foxe must call on all his skill and intelligence to uncover the sickness which is appears to be infecting his city’s very soul.

Can Foxe uncover the truth which lies behind a series of baffling deaths, from an aristocrat attending a ball to a vagrant murdered where he slept in a filthy back-alley?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction THE CONFESSOR’S WIFE by Kelly Evans @ChaucerBabe

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Confessor’s Wife by Kelly Evans

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The Confessor’s Wife is an engaging tale of the wife of Edward the Confessor. Edith of Wessex , daughter of Godwin, the Earl of Wessex, spends her early years in a household with two older brothers, Harold and Sweyn, and a beloved younger brother, Tostig.  Her father, knowing that she must make a good marriage in support of her family, sends her as a teenager to the royal abbey of Wilton. There she is to be educated in the running a household, along with the artly skills of the high-born and with fluency in various languages. Despite her despair at having to leave her home, she finds a friend in Aethel, also the daughter of a nobleman but who has taken her vows as a nun, and also in the Abbess. After years, during which she comes to feel at home at the abbey, her brother Sweyn, a pompous, self-centered man, comes to retrieve her. She is to be married – to Edward, the King of England.

Edith’s nemesis in her marriage is her mother-in-law, Emma, who despises Godwin and his family, believing Godwin is responsible for her oldest son’s death. Edith finds herself in an untenable situation – married to an older man, hated by her mother-in-law who thwarts her at every turn, and her family obligations. She must prove herself worthy to all of them.

In time, her relationship with Edward becomes respectful and deeply caring, yet she bears him no children – a cause for a man to cast his wife aside. Royal politics sway this way and that, and at one point Edith is sent back to the abbey, when her family falls from grace. And yet Edward does not remarry.

How does she navigate the political waters that swirl around the king? How can she ensure the promotion of her family’s men to the highest offices in the land, and help raise her brother to the throne? And how can she do this, when criticized over many years for being a barren wife?

Kelly Evans has taken a woman who is little more than a footnote in history and created a story around her that makes her real and emphasizes the perils of a queen in that period.

I had not known of Edith prior to reading this book and had barely heard of King Edward the Confessor, so the history of the story fascinated me. The strength of the author’s writing is definitely in the dialogue, which gives three-dimensionality to the speakers and had me drawn in from the beginning. I felt the love of Edith for her brother Tostig, even when he proved feckless and disloyal, through her dislike of the ceaselessly critical Sweyn, and her tolerance of the scheming Emma and her simpering mother, Gytha.

While much less descriptive than the writings of other authors of historical fiction – and there were times when I absolutely yearned for more detail – the dialogue kept me reading. The author made Edith’s life and the obstacles she faced very real despite the sparseness of the background elements. There were a few lapses into modern expressions, which brought me up, but not enough to drag me away!

The author has written several other historical novels. One of them is The Northern Queen about Edith’s mother-in-law, Emma. I think readers of historical fiction will enjoy this book, and I am definitely interested in reading The Northern Queen.

Book description

In the 11th Century, when barren wives are customarily cast aside, how does Edith of Wessex not only manage to stay married to King Edward the Confessor, but also become his closest advisor, promote her family to the highest offices in the land, AND help raise her brother to the throne? And why is her story only told in the footnotes of Edward’s history?

Not everyone approves of Edward’s choice of bride. Even the king’s mother, Emma of Normandy, detests her daughter-in-law and Edith is soon on the receiving end of her displeasure. Balancing her sense of family obligation with her duty to her husband, Edith must also prove herself to her detractors.

Edward’s and Edith’s relationship is respectful and caring, but when Edith’s enemies engineer her family’s fall from grace, the king is forced to send her away. She vows to do anything to protect her family’s interests if she returns, at any cost. Can Edith navigate the dangerous path fate has set her, while still remaining loyal to both her husband and her family?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction #Mystery Death Of A Good Samaritan by William Savage @penandpension

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Death Of A Good Samaritan by William Savage

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William Savage is the author of two Georgian mystery series, one featuring Ashmole Fox, a colorful book seller, and the other Adam Bascom, a physician. I will confess that despite my medical background, I have been drawn more to Ashmole Fox, but this latest in the Adam Bascom series has changed my mind.

This book is located in Norfolk market town of Aylsham in 1794 and as well as Millgate and the Bure Navigation – the upper reaches of the river Bure, which extended from from Horstead to Aylsham and which included locks. The author has included a map, which greatly helped in my understanding of the area. Agricultural produce and bricks were among the main cargoes on the new navigation, carried by wherries, which to readers on this side of the pond, is a long, light, shallow-draft rowboat used for transporting goods and passengers.

Now to the story: Dr. Adam Bascom wants nothing more than to be fully engaged in his medical practice, but he is wildly distracted –first by his love for Lady Alice Fouchard and then by the murder of a kindly surgeon on the outskirts of Aylsham. The death is ruled an accidental death by the local coroner, who has no medical background nor any evidence to support his conclusion. Bascom, who has an established record of solving cases of mysterious deaths, is drawn to discover what happened to his fellow physician but finds no more than tidbits of information and is frustrated by the reluctance of the locals to talk to some of a high social status.

As a reader, I was getting very frustrated myself until the good doctor meets the surgeon’s former housekeeper, Rose Thoday. Ms.Thoday is not your usual housekeeper, being something of a wise woman (skilled in the use of herbs and plants in healing) and having learned a great deal of medicine from her former employer. She wants to be an equal partner in the investigation, posing a conundrum to Bascom – he needs her information and help but how can he collaborate on equal terms with a mere woman? What will upper-class society — and Lady Alice — think of him if he does?

What Rose and Bascom eventually find, with many stops and starts, is a conspiracy of clever, desperate and ruthless men, deeply involved in smuggling and murder. All face the gallows if they are brought to justice, and one will not hesitate to kill again in order to avoid discovery.

As usual, the author does an incredible job bringing the reader into the Georgian Age. Competition from railroads and a disastrous flood that caused major damage to the locks on the river early in the 20th century led to the end of the Bure Navigation, which has not been restored. Thus the author has done a yeoman’s job helping the reader see this historical navigation as it was in its heyday.

The detail is outstanding and the characters, many introduced in previous books, are compelling. Lady Alice is intelligent and gracious and knows well and accepts Bascoms foibles. His closest friend, the apothecary Peter Lassimer, does not figure as largely, but offers humor to counter the doctor’s gloominess. Rose Thoday is a very forward woman, whose fearlessness I enjoyed.

The plot was tortuous and I was constantly rearranging my suspects. I’ve learned from the previous books in both series that the pace of life in the 1700s was slow compared to today, and thus the mysteries in these books develop at the same deliberate pace. It makes the reading of the book leisurely, which contributes to the absorption of the details.

I liked this book the best of the Adam Bascom series and I highly recommend it to mystery readers and especially lovers of historical mysteries.

Book description

A new investigation is the last thing that Dr Adam Bascom wants. He’d much prefer to devote himself to sorting out his future. But when a kindly surgeon living on the edge of Aylsham is brutally murdered, and the local coroner does all he can to bring in a verdict of accidental death, Adam knows he has no choice.
At first, a grave shortage of direct evidence and the reluctance of the locals to talk freely to someone so far above them socially look set to prevent any progress. Still, Adam persists, drawing on whatever help he can muster from friends and contacts. Even so, progress is slow until more help arrives in the unexpected form of the surgeon’s former housekeeper, Rose Thoday. Can our young doctor accept collaborating on equal terms with a mere woman? What will upper-class society — and Lady Alice — think of him if he does?
Adam must grapple with much more than the dispassionate mental challenges he’s been used to. This time, he’s up against against a conspiracy of clever, desperate and ruthless men. All face the gallows if they are brought to justice. One at least will not hesitate to kill again to save himself.
This is a contest which may very well cost Adam and Rose their lives.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #NonFiction ARTHUR: Shadow of a God by Richard Denham @britanniaseries

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Arthur: Shadow Of A God by Richard Denham

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I have read all of Richard Denham’s Britannia Series and enjoyed them immensely – they are fascinating historical fiction with attention to true detail. Arthur: Shadow of a God is quite different. Here we have an in-depth analysis of the possible reality of a British king called Arthur and the possible truth that he was not a man at all but became a god, based on Celtic tales and Druidic traditions.

A historical fiction novel this is not! What it is: a compilation of research done by the author in an attempt to define who Arthur really is, based on research of ancient texts and stories. Nevertheless, this is not a dry book. Its contents are fascinating!

Like most people, I have been drawn to stories of Arthur since childhood, and I always believed he was real. The author digs for his reality in the history of Britain before, during and after the Roman occupation based on previous scholarly consensus that Arthur was a Romano-British warlord. That worked for me until it became obvious from this book that much of the research on which this idea was based is guesswork – guesswork compounded by a lack of archeological information and fact-based sources from what would have been his time. The magical swords, wizards, dragons and faeries interweaving Arthur’s story added to my doubt. Do you see Arthur as a knight in shining armor? Such men, mounted on destriers and armed with swords and lances are the stuff of medieval times!

What was evident to the author, based on many sources and his own scholarship, is that Arthur is a god in the appearance of a king, drawn from Celtic folklore and Druidic tales handed down orally from generation to generation. Legend and myth, human imagination and perhaps a longing for such a hero combined to produce Arthur.

If you are as fascinated by King Arthur as I have always been, then you need to read this book. It is rich in detail and peels away, like the layers of an onion, all of the mystery surrounding him to get to the truth. It is your choice to believe or not!

Book description

King Arthur has fascinated the Western world for over a thousand years and yet we still know nothing more about him now than we did then. Layer upon layer of heroics and exploits has been piled upon him to the point where history, legend and myth have become hopelessly entangled.

In recent years, there has been a sort of scholarly consensus that ‘the once and future king’ was clearly some sort of Romano-British warlord, heroically stemming the tide of wave after wave of Saxon invaders after the end of Roman rule. But surprisingly, and no matter how much we enjoy this narrative, there is actually next-to-nothing solid to support this theory except the wishful thinking of understandably bitter contemporaries. The sources and scholarship used to support the ‘real Arthur’ are as much tentative guesswork and pushing ‘evidence’ to the extreme to fit in with this version as anything involving magic swords, wizards and dragons. Even Archaeology remains silent. Arthur is, and always has been, the square peg that refuses to fit neatly into the historians round hole.

Arthur: Shadow of a God gives a fascinating overview of Britain’s lost hero and casts a light over an often-overlooked and somewhat inconvenient truth; Arthur was almost certainly not a man at all, but a god. He is linked inextricably to the world of Celtic folklore and Druidic traditions. Whereas tyrants like Nero and Caligula were men who fancied themselves gods; is it not possible that Arthur was a god we have turned into a man? Perhaps then there is a truth here. Arthur, ‘The King under the Mountain’; sleeping until his return will never return, after all, because he doesn’t need to. Arthur the god never left in the first place and remains as popular today as he ever was. His legend echoes in stories, films and games that are every bit as imaginative and fanciful as that which the minds of talented bards such as Taliesin and Aneirin came up with when the mists of the ‘dark ages’ still swirled over Britain – and perhaps that is a good thing after all, most at home in the imaginations of children and adults alike – being the Arthur his believers want him to be.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #FamilySaga #HistoricalFiction MAHONEY by @huckfinn76

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Mahoney by Andrew Joyce

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I am a big fan of Andrew Joyce’s books, and I think this may be the best one yet. Perhaps it’s because the book is so entertaining, perhaps it’s because I’m part Irish through the migration during an Gorta Mór (the Irish potato famine or great hunger), or perhaps because I am a sucker for history and family sagas – but probably all three.

Mahoney is the story of the family by that name and was written as a trilogy tied together by common ancestry. The reader is first introduced to Devin, who is the last of the Mahoneys, famine and sickness having taken everyone else in his family. He lies on the dirt floor of the single room in his small, dark home in Ireland, waiting to die. When given the opportunity to take a ship to America, which looms large in his mind as a place where he can grow rich, he takes it.

The author has done some incredible research for his book, as he has for all the previous ones. Devin’s voyage to Quebec in the crowded and disease-ridden hold of a ship is richly drawn in its sordid and dangerous details. The story of how Devin makes his way and his living in cities prejudiced against the Irish is intense and his letters as a soldier in the Civil War are heart-breaking.

The next Mahoney we meet is Dillon, son of Devin. His life is a tapestry of adventures, from working on the transcontinental railroad, to becoming a cowboy on a vast cattle ranch, to earning a reputation as a gunslinger in the Wild West, to earning a fortune as an oil wildcatter in California.

Finally there is David, the dissipated and spoiled son of Devin. The disappointment I initially felt with this character is gradually lifted with his foray into the South during the time of the Depression and the Klu Klux Klan.

All in all, an adventurous ride I could not put down. The writer’s strengths are in his ability to paint the history in succinct brush strokes, in the development of his characters, and most of all, in the dialogue. The story of Devin is perhaps the strongest of the three, as this characters has the most to overcome and does it mainly on his own. I wanted to stay with his story, but events of the time interfered. Dillon and David have somewhat miraculous help at critical times (who’s not to say they wouldn’t?) to move their story forward.

Nevertheless, Andrew Joyce gives us a rich and colorful picture of America, with all its faults, from the Irish migration to the Deep South of the 1930s, covering a lot of history with an engrossing story.

I highly recommend Mahoney if you want a great read.

Book description

 

In this compelling, richly researched novel, author Andrew Joyce tells a story of determination and grit as the Mahoney clan fights to gain a foothold in America. From the first page to the last, fans of Edward Rutherfurd and W. Michael Gear will enjoy this riveting, historically accurate tale of adventure, endurance, and hope.

In the second year of an Gorta Mhór—the Great Famine—nineteen-year-old Devin Mahoney lies on the dirt floor of his small, dark cabin. He has not eaten in five days. His only hope of survival is to get to America, the land of milk and honey. After surviving disease and storms at sea that decimate crew and passengers alike, Devin’s ship limps into New York Harbor three days before Christmas, 1849. Thus starts an epic journey that will take him and his descendants through one hundred and fourteen years of American history, including the Civil War, the Wild West, and the Great Depression.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Medieval Adventure Lord Edward’s Archer by @HoskerGriff @EndeavourQuill

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Lord Edward’s Archer by Griff Hosker

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Author Griff Hosker has written 116 books, all centered on warfare, many in the Middle Ages with knights, Vikings, swordsmen, and Saxons, but some set in WWI and WWII. He’s a very popular author, so I decided to read this book, which I purchased for review.

The story is set in the 13th century in Wales, France and England. The main character is a young man named Gruffyd, who has been trained by his father, a famous archer, to follow in his footsteps. His father is retired from his life as a hired soldier and ekes out a meager living, enough to support him and his son. At seventeen, Gruffyd is already a strong, smart and able bowman and is hired by the lord of a nearby castle. The lord is a base and cowardly man, and when the nobleman commits a devastating deed affecting Gruffyd, the young man makes a life-altering decision. For a while he lives as an outlaw living wild in the woods while seeking a passage to France. There are a considerable number of obstacles in his journey but when he reaches France, he is hired as an archer by Lord Edward, heir to the throne of England. Edward is waging war against certain French factors who are a threat to his father’s throne. He quickly becomes captain of Lord Edward’s archers and plays a major role in some of England’s most decisive and ruthless battles, both in France and in England. Gruffyd is very young for such an important post and must continually prove not only his own worth, but also the value and importance of his archers in winning significant battles.

Did I enjoy the book? Yes and no. The author’s style of writing – short sentences, almost staccato in style and with sparse description—took a bit of getting used to. The story itself moves quickly and is true to both the history and battles of the time and the use of the longbow. As a reader, I learned a great deal about archery (long bow, cross bow, and the pros and cons of both), how archers were used to advantage in battle, and the life of an outlaw in England – it’s not all Robin Hood. The battle scenes spared no gruesome detail, but then battles in the Middle Ages were gruesome affairs.

What I found somewhat off-putting were the deaths of most of Gruffyd’s friends, while he himself moved seamlessly and without injury through challenge after challenge, always finding just the right solution and earning a lot of money from his employer in the process. It was a tiny bit too perfect. The name Gruffyd chooses to disguise who he really is – Gerald War Bow – felt an off note, but considering the names of other characters, such as Dickon of Downholme, Matty Strawhair, and Rafe Oak Arms, perhaps not so much. The author has an enormous grasp of warfare in the Middle Ages and the history of the time, so it’s perhaps just the writing style that threw me off.

I was drawn along by the story, despite the drawbacks, and if you like historical novels, you might want to sample one of his books to see if his storytelling appeals to you.

Book description

13th Century, Wales and England.

To young Gruffyd, life has been unkind. Eking out a meagre living with his father, he has learned very quickly how to look after himself in the hostile borderlands. His father, an archer, has taught him well and at seventeen Gruffyd is a keen and able bowman. Young, loyal and skilled, it’s not long before Gruffyd finds himself following in his father’s footsteps, working as an archer in the bordering castle. But tragedy strikes when his lord commits a devastating deed, and Gruffyd is forced to make a life altering decision.

This is the story of a young archer’s riotous journey from avenging outlaw to merchant’s bodyguard to, finally, the captain of archers for the heir to the throne. Gruffyd must prove not only his own worth, but the importance of archery in some of England’s most decisive and ruthless battles.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Social drama The Swooping Magpie by @LizaPerrat

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

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I had not read the preceding book by this author, also set in 1970s Australia, but based on a review by another member of Rosie’s book review team, I decided to delve into this one, The Swooping Magpie, purchasing the book for review.

Having lived through the 1970s sexual revolution, the core theme of the book was one I was intimately familiar with, and my memories heightened the tension and my connection to the unfolding story.

Lindsay Townsend, a beautiful and popular sixteen year old high school student, comes from a home where her father beats her and her mother ignores her. Her teenage hormones fuel her irresistible urge to attract one of her teachers, Jon Halliwell. Much to her surprise, he returns her interest and their interaction blossoms into a physical relationship. As a result of their affair, Lindsay finds herself pregnant. Pregnancy was a huge fear of teenage girls at that time, and parents took a variety of steps to deal with babies conceived out of wedlock. Lindsay’s parents take a truly drastic step and Lindsay is thrust into a world unimaginable to her – one of deprivation, bone-deadening work and dark despair.

While I found myself frustrated by Lindsay’s naiveté and stubbornness in the first part of the book, her strength of character in the face of horrible circumstances was impressive. She does indeed make lemonade from the lemons of her life, until about mid-book, when a truly terrible twist finally beats her down – and the reader along with her. Her trauma defines her future, when she and other women like her work to right the wrongs done to them. Thus the story ends with a message of hope.

The author uses first person to tell Lindsay’s story, which is very effective. The use of constant dialogue heightens the emotions and the tensions. The other young women who fill Lindsay’s world are each unique in their own way; the author does a marvelous job creating them. The anger this book rekindled in me, derived from the Jon Halliwell character, was my anger at that time: men escaped all responsibility, leaving the women to pay the price. The author definitely achieved that goal! While the story is set in Australia, its theme is universal.

I highly recommend this book, especially for younger women who needs to recognize how far we have come.

Book description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery Black As She’s Painted by @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Black As She’s Painted by William Savage

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Black as She’s Painted is the fifth book in the Ashmole Foxe Mysteries series by William Savage.  His other series is the Dr. Adam Bascom Mysteries and both are set in Georgian England, in and around Norwich. I will be honest and reveal I am a huge fan of William Savage and have enjoyed both of these mystery series. However, even though I come from a medical background, the Ashmole Foxe books are slight favorites, possibly because of the charismatic, unconventional and quirky protagonist.

Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller with his own shop, run largely and profitably for him by an entrepreneurial widow, Mrs. Crombie. Foxe is a dandy and an unrepentant hedonist, a lover of beautiful women in his bed, fine wine and a surfeit of good food, but despite all these social faults, he has solved several other mysteries for Norwich’s political and mercantile elite. Thus it is natural for him to be approached for assistance when a rich goldsmith turned banker Samuel Mellanus goes missing. Almost immediately there is further news: the banker’s wife, who has a promiscuous reputation, has been found naked and strangled to death in her own bed.

A group of politicians/merchants need Foxe to find Mellanus, since having a missing banker is catastrophic for a bank and its money, but they also need him to discover how thousands of pounds have been stolen from the bank, without anyone noticing they were missing…until now. Add to this conundrum is the fact that Mellanus had closed his gold smithing business for no apparent reason, letting all his workers go, and Foxe discovers that coins and jewelry were taken from Mr. and Mrs. Mellanus by their pretty maid Maria.

Can Foxe find Mellanus and the missing money? Was Eleanor Mellanus as black as she was painted, or was it simply her misfortune to be both desirable and dumb, used and betrayed by the men she welcomed to her bed?

To solve these crimes, Foxe will use his considerable investigative powers and intellect, plus the help of characters introduced in previous books: a motley crew of street children, Mistress Tabby – a so-called Cunning Woman or folk healer, who practices folk medicine and magic, and a sea captain, Captain Brock, who has just returned from his honeymoon.

As usual, the author wraps the solution to these crimes in layer upon layer of hard- won information, much of it not useful at the time of its uncovering, plus a number of tangential crimes. Also as usual, the reader learns a great deal about specific aspects of Georgian life. In each book one of these aspects is a focal point, in this case coinage and banking.

William Savage is a living compendium of Georgian life, and he creates a world into which the reader is absorbed, alternatively colorful and dangerous, and populated by characters that become real. Over the series, I have come to look forward to the reappearance of many of them, interested in how their lives are evolving, as they most certainly do.

I was not disappointed by the tangled ball of yarn created by the author to be unwound by Ashmole Foxe. The pacing of this mystery series is slow, in keeping with life in Georgian England, and is something I have learned to enjoy. It allows the reader to savor the story.

If I had one criticism, it is the length of time it takes to get to the mystery. There is always a period of introduction at the beginning of the Foxe stories but this one was long enough to be on the tedious side.

I was also disappointed that the changes in Foxe’s life in the last book – his turn to more sedate attire and true consideration of the women in his life – were not evident in this one. Can this man go on forever in his present state? Will age catch up with him? I guess I will have to wait for the next book to find out.

In any event, as always, I strongly recommend this latest Ashmole Foxe adventure to anyone who likes historical mysteries and to anyone who might!

Book description

Samuel Melanus, a rich goldsmith turned banker goes missing, and his promiscuous wife is found naked and strangled on her own bed. It’s yet another case for Georgian Norwich’s most cunning and unconventional crime-solver, the bookseller Mr Ashmole Foxe.

Foxe is approached by representatives of the city’s mercantile elite to find the missing banker before his disappearance causes a financial panic. Then, right at the start, news comes that the man’s wife has been found murdered. Thus begins a tale of intrigue, deceit and hatred, involving one of Foxe’s most loathed enemies.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scifi Killing Adam by Earik Beann @EarikB #SundayBlogShare

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Killing Adam by Earik Beann

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I enjoy a good science fiction book, and this one did not disappoint. How many of us watch people fixated on their cell phones, iPad, or other digital devices? How many of us are one of these addicts? Author Earik Beann has taken this a step further in his world, where small implants behind the left ear allow people to experience anything they could ever imagine.

These Alternate Reality Chips are the ultimate addiction: some people spend twenty-three hours a day online, only disconnected when their chip forcibly disconnects them twice a day so they can eat. Jimmy Mahoney’s wife is one of these. Once a vibrant, loving woman, her addiction to her ARC is slowly sucking the life out of her and she spends her days in bed, disconnected to the world around her. Many in her situation have died already, unwilling or unable to log off to take care of even their most basic needs, and Jimmy fears for her future. Jimmy, on the other hand, doesn’t have an ARC. He is one of the few incompatibles (without the device) because of a brain injury which occurred during his years playing football, rendering him unable to connect. He rides on a bus full of silent, detached people to a meeting of similar incompatibles, just for company. To the people who are not connected, being without an ARC is worse than being blind and deaf, and they struggle to hang on to what’s left of a society they are no longer a part of.

There is no more hunger, no more crime in Jimmy’s world – it’s called the Golden Age of Humanity. But is it? A few of the incompatibles see the cracks, although they have no idea what to do about it. One day Jimmy meets Trixie, a newcomer to the meeting. She is actually a singularity (artificial intelligence) who can inhabit the bodies of different people (in sequence), and she introduces Jimmy to Adam, the singularity who runs the world and who thinks he is God. Adam has destroyed other singularities that have arisen from computer programs in different parts of the world, but it has been unable to eliminate the one inhabiting Trixie. Jimmy is chosen to be the conduit for the virus that will help Trixie destroy Adam, because Jimmy can transmit but Adam can’t get into Jimmy’s mind. So it’s the case of a good vs bad singularity.

Once Jimmy becomes acquainted with Adam, he is drawn into a life and death struggle – which he doesn’t completely understand at the outset – with the most powerful and omniscient computer-based brain on earth, a being that exists everywhere and that has limitless power.

I was completely drawn into this story, even though I had a few questions; but aren’t there always in science fiction? Based on many op-ed pieces I’ve read about the changes inevitable to the human race with the development of computers, the premise is all too realistic. Just consider the many uses to which Watson, IBM’s super computer, has been put – in medicine, agriculture, space travel and winning at Jeopardy. There is a lot of action after the initial premise is laid out, a roller coaster ride that leaves the reader breathless and compels you to turn the page.

Beann’s writing is smooth and his characters are drawn well enough – they are definitely not cardboard cutouts. Crazy Beard, an odd ball man who lives under a tree and who is dragged along on the wild ride, may not have been essential to the story, but he is a calming diversion when the action becomes too frantic.

All in all, I strongly recommend this book for science fiction fans and I’m looking forward to his author’s next outing.

Book description

The world runs on ARCs. Altered Reality Chips. Small implants behind the left ear that allow people to experience anything they could ever imagine. The network controls everything, from traffic, to food production, to law enforcement. Some proclaim it a Golden Age of humanity. Others have begun to see the cracks. Few realize that behind it all, living within every brain and able to control all aspects of society, there exists a being with an agenda all his own: the singularity called Adam, who believes he is God.

Jimmy Mahoney’s brain can’t accept an ARC. Not since his football injury from the days when the league was still offline. “ARC-incompatible” is what the doctors told him. Worse than being blind and deaf, he is a man struggling to cling to what’s left of a society that he is no longer a part of. His wife spends twenty-three hours a day online, only coming off when her chip forcibly disconnects her so she can eat. Others are worse. Many have died, unwilling or unable to log off to take care of even their most basic needs.

After being unwittingly recruited by a rogue singularity to play a role in a war that he doesn’t understand, Jimmy learns the truth about Adam and is thrown into a life-and-death struggle against the most powerful mathematical mind the world has ever known. But what can one man do against a being that exists everywhere and holds limitless power? How can one man, unable to even get online, find a way to save his wife, and the entire human race, from destruction?

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