Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction BURKE IN IRELAND by @TomCW99

Today’s team review is from Frank. He blogs here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Burke In Ireland by Tom Williams.

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4 stars.

It is 1793. In Ireland Wolf Tone and the United Irishmen are producing pamphlets and speeches advocating for the extension of the franchise. They are also in close touch with groups prepared to do more than advocate: to organise armed insurrection and encourage a French invasion.

A young James Burke is sent by the British government to infiltrate the organisation and report back on the details of their plans.

Another book by Tom Williams dealing with real events from British history, something which he does so well, this is the fifth in the series featuring James Burke. In the chronology of James’s career it is his second adventure.

The atmosphere of late eighteenth century Dublin is superbly evoked; both the physical and the social. The squalor of the slum districts is set against the plush interiors of the homes of the wealthy.

This differentiation between the masses and the privileged extends to the prison where a lawyer friend of the campaigners is allocated relatively comfortable accommodation.

The story progresses at a good pace as James inveigles his way into the organisation and is welcomed into the home of a wealthy man at the centre of a network of safe houses and secret arms caches.

He quickly learns that all is not as it seems in this household. He accompanies the man’s daughter as she brings food to starving citizens but danger lurks in her apparent affection for him.

The working out of the central conspiracy, to assist the escape of a prisoner, is gripping. It does not go precisely as intended and the possibility of James’s true identity being revealed is ever present.

The style makes it an easy read. It is not over-long. The history and the political background are infiltrated almost unnoticed into the story.

I have read many books dealing with Irish history since I made my home in Ireland. Most present an Irish perspective, often overtly anti-British. It should come as no surprise that a British writer does not follow that trend. Nor, however, does he present a viewpoint biased towards the British. As when dealing with British-Indian history in “Cawnpore”, he shows us both sides.

James, consorting with the Irish conspirators, learns some of the injustices they are seeking to correct. But he is, first and foremost, a soldier loyal to the crown and sees, too, the way in which different branches of government pursue their own often conflicting, agendas.

Read this book for the pleasure of watching a conspiracy unravel and discover how the campaign for Irish home rule drew on, and was a part of, the fight for human rights across Europe and America.

Desc 1

James Burke’s first mission!
1793 and James Burke is under cover in Ireland, spying on Irish Nationalists. His objective: to discover any plots to conspire with the French to bring down English rule in Dublin.
Dublin is full of plotters. Finding them is easy. Staying alive is not as straightforward.
A tale of spying, love and death against the background of the early struggle for Irish independence.

It’s real history but not how you learned it at school.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by @AilishSinclair

Today’s team review is from AJ Lyndon. She blogs here http://ajlyndon.com.au

#RBRT Review Team

AJ has been reading Fireflies And Chocolate.

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This historical romance, by the Scottish author of The Mermaid and the Bear, continues following the Monteith family. Sinclair’s second novel is set in the 1740s during the fateful years leading up to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion and its aftermath. Beginning in the castle near Aberdeen, the action quickly shifts away from Scotland however, with most of the story taking place on a tobacco plantation in Pennsylvania.  The Scottish heroine, Lady Elizabeth Monteith from “the castle” is kidnapped from her native Scotland and views its tragedy from the far-off American colonies. She is sold as an indentured servant, cook to an enlightened, mysterious “master”, Michael.

The novel is written in the first person with Beth relating the events in chronological order. Elizabeth, or “Beth” as she becomes, is a warm, likeable and very determined character. Her humanity and sense of humour rarely desert her. It is only in the aftermath of Culloden when she hears of the Jacobite defeat that her resilience flags and she succumbs to depression. Wisely, Sinclair chooses not to second guess the events of Culloden. Although most readers will already know the outcome of the Jacobite rising, Beth does not and a suitable period of time rolls by until the news crosses the ocean from Scotland.

The story follows Beth’s transformation from scared teenage captive to a capable and confident, practical young woman as she adapts to her new situation, ultimately leading to a decision between the old life and the new. It is set against the background of slavery, the social inequalities between free whites, indentured servants, native Americans and black slaves. Beth has a disarming acceptance of all races which today might be dismissed as “colour blindness” but in the context of an 18th century character is refreshing. Relations between the different racial and social groups are handed sensitively, even if it is sometimes a little difficult to believe in Beth’s naïve and childlike views.

There is an interesting range of characters from the evil (historical) Alexander Young, first mate on the ship which transports Beth to her new life, to the central figures of Sarah, the unpleasant Mrs Sauer, the elderly man Comfort and the two men in Beth’s life. Peter, her young companion in captivity, a fellow Scot, disappears from the story for much of the book, while Michael, the manager of the estates, emerges from the shadows in a series of revelations and surprising twists. 

The sense of time and place is well drawn; and the modest sprinkling of Scottish dialect words adds to the authentic voice of the narrator. Despite the central themes of slavery and racial intolerance, the occasional savagery of a scene (the pregnant Nivvie being whipped by the foreman) and the references to the brutal traitors’ deaths of the captured Jacobites, this is a gentle, hopeful and entertaining book. The plot keeps the reader guessing its outcome until the very last page.

Book description

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by @AilishSinclair

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Fireflies And Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

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The new novel written by Ailish Sinclair, Fireflies and Chocolate is set in the 1740s in Scotland and colonial Pennsylvania. Young Elizabeth Manteith tells her own story of boredom in a lonely castle replaced by a terrifying adventure on the high seas, leading to forced servitude in America. A spirited teenager, she survives the deprivation and threats on board ship due to her own determination to survive and the friendship of a young boy, Peter Williamson, who had also been abducted on the streets of Aberdeen.

The plot is based on the true story of 600 children and young people to whom this actually happened. If they managed to stay alive through the perilous journey, they then had to face being sold in a market without knowing where they would end up. Parted from Peter, Elizabeth is taken by an arrogant old woman to be a housekeeper for an invalid on a tobacco plantation. Not meeting her master for some time, there is a hint of, “the beauty and the beast”.

Finding some of the local community kind and helpful, Elizabeth sends letters to Scotland in hope of rescue, but her father is engaged in fighting with Bonnie Prince Charlie and her mother lies in bed under the influence of laudanum. Soon Elizabeth is actively involved with her new friends and finds some happiness, but she longs to find Peter and return to her home.  Is this to be her future or will she spend her life in lonely drudgery?

This is a wonderful story of fortitude and kindness against a background of prejudice and misadventure. Ailish Sinclair writes vividly of carefully cooked food which sounds delicious and amazing scenery in the countryside. She entices you to engage with the heroine and believe in her values, with just a hint of magic.

Book description

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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