Thursday, 16 November 2017

General Historical Romance



Reviewed by Francine:

Life in a Harem and the practices defined as part of life within a Sultan’s palace is unacceptable and sexist for 21st century thinking. Thus the era in which Joanna Thomson’s novel is set, it is nonetheless a safer place than most for those sold into slavery, and a strict hierarchy exists and woe betide anyone who breaks the rules. Strange as it may seem, women within Harems of the Ottoman Empire stretching to the Barbary Coast, had more rights and power than most European women had within marriages, so sayeth the renowned English aristocrat Lady Mary Wortley-Montague, who stated in one of her 18th century letters: “The Turks govern their country and their wives govern them. In no other country do women enjoy themselves as much.

Be assured the author has researched her subject matter in depth, right down to names for individual items of clothing worn by women of the Harem, and of a south sea island maiden, though the true heritage of Sarah and the colour of her hair sets her apart from other women, just it had for another who arrived at the Harem and is thus presented to Naa’il Dhar. Throughout the beginning of the novel two stories of two women run parallel and finally merge as one, and yet neither woman meets the other. Whilst Naa’il is the central pin in their respective stories aside from the swashbuckling hero Hassan, Naa’il is a man of his time and his religion, wealthy and powerful, and yet his faith is tested, just as the hero’s faith and belief he can rescue the woman he loves is tested. 

Hassan Aziz’s existence as a Barbary pirate is key to knowledge in how to achieve his aims, but the fact he is not what he seems is also reliant on betrayal of those closest to Naa’il. This is a fascinating novel of south sea island innocence, treachery, lust, and love, the kind of love that comes once in a lifetime if a man is lucky, and both Naa’il and Hassan are driven to acts that astound both in their own way because of two women. So alike is Sarah to Cora, an American captive; Naa’il’s conscience plagues him for his unjust treatment of both women who refuse to submit and embrace his religious dictate. Although I mention love and lust, this is a historical novel combined with romance, and the novel is not a steamy read in the vein of eroticism. The characters are well-rounded, their faults exposed, and the punishment of slaves and concubines, or favoured wives who deceive, can be realistically harsh. All told this is an enlightening read with hints at how one person’s religion can give cause for another to doubt their own. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

2nd Review - Proof of Virtue.



Sometimes second reviews give balance to a book  - after all, one reader's delicacy, another's poison. 

So here is my Review of Proof of Virtue.

Reviewed by Francine:

The last part of the Georgian period drifting to the Victorian era was a very harsh period in history, and all despite the great Industrial Revolution in which steam trains gradually brought about the end of long journeys by mail coach (other) as a means of travel, and factory mill industrialists began crushing incomes of small country weavers. It was also a period of change as the poorer people deserted the countryside to find work in townships. Sadly, the heroine of this novel has lived a comfortable life but is suddenly cast into a hell pit due to unforeseen circumstance of death and loss of her home. Thus, with her younger siblings to care for she is duty bound to provide for them as best she can. But tide of bad fortune affords no hope of a kindly person to care what happens to them and she has no alternative but to look to the Workhouse for a roof over their heads and food to belly.


To understand Emma’s plight fully, there is the reality that Workhouses were the most dreaded of prospects next to prison. Subsequently, she braces herself for the humiliation of it all, but never in her worst nightmare could she envisage the dark side of workhouses, of those who sponsor them and exploit and abuse the inhabitants, nor of those who manage or own workhouses. Hence her story is harrowing, one in which she battles numerous emotions, suffers the wrath of others, and yet finds friends and allies, and love blossoms in extraordinary circumstances when least expected. I admire this author’s daring to venture to the darker side of life, because in reality for those less fortunate in these times it was a hellish existence. This novel reflects the harshness and the value of human flesh by those who sought only to further their own finances, personal aims, and covert desires. So for that reason this is a true depiction of the dark side of life as young Princess Victoria is schooled to reign by William IV, the last of the Georgian kings.






2nd review - A Marchioness Below Stairs



How differently two reviewers assess books, and why reviews can be awfully confusing for readers to determine whether a book is to their tastes! 

Hence this is my review of A Marchioness Below Stairs, and it is a debut novel by this author. 

Reviewed by Francine:

What an enchanting and unusual love story this is, and made all the more enjoyable because it is atypical! Here we have a marchioness who is willing to contravene the expected social mores of the haut monde, and indeed she takes control at a crisis moment in which fellow females would never soil their hands to see others replenished in a time of need. But Isabel is not altogether as one would imagine, and whilst good fortune has come her way in one instance, in another it has caused her great pain. All too well aware memories of former affairs of the heart can be as painful as when first experienced, hers are far from fully vanquished. And despite another man teases her mercilessly, his interest in her evident, life soon becomes somewhat heated below stairs as Isabel and the hero rally to provide sustenance for her uncle’s guests.

Aside from the romance, which in itself develops in the strangest of circumstances, there are elements of the period many Regency fans are familiar with in general, but few authors will venture to. Thus Ms Baxter touches on the subject of slavery, and Isabel’s discovery of a unique business premises in London brings to light a delicacy that is today a familiar sight in almost every town in the Western world, hence she has created as far as I am aware an original Regency plot-line. Well done Ms Baxter with this debut novel. 



Friday, 3 November 2017

Historical Novel / Regency






The premise:

Escaping from Bath and the news that her former love is about to marry another, Isabel, the young widowed Marchioness of Axbridge, accepts an invitation to her cousin’s house party. Yet, instead of finding respite, she stumbles into a domestic crisis of majestic proportions: The kitchen servants have succumbed to the influenza. If that weren’t bad enough, her former sweetheart arrives with his fiancée, seeking shelter from the increasingly hazardous snow storm.

 

Trapped inside Chernock Hall with a volatile mix of house guests, including abolitionists and slave owners, Isabel wishes she could hide below stairs for the duration. But, alas, she cannot. While helping in the kitchen, Isabel is cornered by her cousin’s disreputable friend, Marcus Bateman, who challenges and provokes her at every turn.

 

At last, the storm subsides. However, the avalanche of repercussions cannot be undone. Caught in the grip of the terrible winter of 1813, will Isabel’s greatest threat come from the weather, her abolitionist views, or from falling in love again?

Reviewed by Charlotte. 
 

My Review:

The premise and the title reveal a great deal about the plot, so that when the marchioness reveals hidden talents and skills enough to step into the shoes of a haute cuisine chef it’s a certainty where the plot is going. Because of that for anyone who thrills to floured hands and deft twirling of wooden spoons this novel will be a romantic culinary delight. In my opinion there was a bit of a problem in two people with the same skills. I could have bought the situation completely with Isobel and a servant who could cook assisting her or the other way about. Two cooks in the gentry was stretching fiction a bit as did Isabel’s ex popping up in a snow storm with his new fiancé. He rears up much like a stage prop with a mute betrothed. Had he remained a memory in Isobel’s thoughts that would have been better I think.

 

I did like the hero Mr Bateman who had a dark side which added a touch of mystery. His past life though was more a James Bond of the Regency era and he was a man of numerous skills and jobs in life. To excuse him in a few things was simple since he is the hero and the rest of the story leaps into the topic on abolition of slavery. A good deal of historical fact as to who is who in the political debate at the time arises, and an evil slave owner who has his eye on Isobel strikes without warning. He does add tension and suspense to the story at the point where it begins to drown under the weight of abolition rhetoric, so the story hots up again with lust and abduction.

 

Isobel’s interest in the first Indian takeaway to grace London will intrigue the curious reader, while the spirit of Isobel’s interest came across a bit like a modern political agenda contrived by the author. To my way of thinking it was superfluous to the story even the fact she had cooked meals out of necessity for her uncle which she had no cause to do afterwards.

 

It’s a bit sad how the romance too becomes secondary to the historical incidentals of the period rather more than is good for a romance novel. But credit must be awarded to the author for excellence in research for the project, and I rate this as a historical novel intertwined with a romance. It’s a good read and historically informative with all the knowhow on the abolition movement in Britain against slavery. And Isobel is a woman who is repulsed by people who own and condone the trading of slaves.

 

Reviewer asides:

I did like Isobel and Mr Bateman, and did like the story for the greater part. But there were episodes that seemed detached from the main story and unnecessary.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Victorian!

 
 
Reviewed by Charlotte.

Book’s Premise:

 

It is the year 1848, and a cholera outbreak has just ravaged Manchester, leaving Emma Belden an orphan, with two young siblings to care for. Left with few options, she is forced to enter the workhouse and suffer the habitual injustices commonplace to that sad institution. Her beauty and naivety a target for the unscrupulous master of the workhouse and Edward Wells, the owner of the local textile mill, Emma will be compelled to make the difficult decision between the safety of her brother and sister, and her own virtue.

 

Gideon, Lord de Monthaut, is instantly smitten the moment he sees Emma, despite the fact that she is on the arm of one of the most notorious blackguards in Manchester society.

Will Emma find it possible to rise above her circumstances and find love? And in the process learn the true Proof of Virtue?

 

My Review:

 

As Victorian novels go and the author has pulled no punches to knock the cruel reality of Victorian England from the pages of her book, therefore this was not a comfortable read but an excellent depiction of the dark side of Victorian life. The heroine is innocent and naïve to the harsh existence she and her siblings are facing with the tragic consequences of death and sudden poverty. As the premise tells us she has no alternative other than to seek shelter in the most dreaded place of the working classes, and for someone of middling comfort and wealth it’s a doubly humiliating experience. The worst aspect is the amount of exploitation that exists within the dark walls of the workhouse and the realisation inmates are traded to the highest bidders for out-working at cloth mills and other work places. If that was not bad enough the heroine Emma is unfortunate in her natural attractiveness to the opposite sex, and the mill owner has a taste for pretty girls. Where one favour deserves another between workhouse inmates, Emma soon learns there are those who go further with favours of a sexual nature elsewhere and that is an act she will never agree to. At least, that is her word on the matter while the mill owner has his eye firmly on Emma. To save from spoiling the book for other readers I will leave the story there and just mention the horror Emma is forced to endure is dire, though her story does have a happy ever after and a gallant knight rides to the rescue. Proof of Virtue is an honest reflection of Victorian life in the vein of Catherine Cookson novels.   

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Regency



Reviewed by Fran.


Set in London 1821, the Unmasking of Lady Helen is a sweet tale of the young lady Helen who fears an incident in her past has lessened her chances of gaining a suitor, and at twenty-four years of age it seems wise to put one’s energies into other more interesting subjects than seeking a husband. Besides, her father is an Egyptologist, his work infinitely pleasing and intriguing, and Lady Helen is quite happy to become a rather studious blue-stocking and forego marriage for a safe spinster existence. Albeit social gatherings and coming -out balls must be attended for the sake of her sister, an unexpected incident closer to home intrigues both her and her sister Diana, and the object of their scrutiny is equally unaware he will be stepping across their threshold on official and private business shortly. Hence, Jason Lord Peyton, a man of covert play within the underworld of military spies soon finds himself caught up within a case of Industrial espionage and new inventions. 

A man with his own inner disquiet in respect of a failed love match, similarly to Lady Helen, he is in no great shakes to beget a wife for the ubiquitous heir to his title and estate. One could say two kindred spirits have entered centre stage and both equally intrigued and a little shocked by turn events, both equally bent on solving the crime, and neither aware danger is closer at hand than envisaged, until it is almost too late. Thus Lord Peyton’s greatest worry Lady Helen will come to harm if she pokes her nose too deep into dark corners, both discover dark corners can prove very intimate and steal attention from matters at hand. And of course, for two people averse to marriage, though most definitely attracted one to the other, decorum precludes any notions of love and romance: or does it? 

This is a lovely sweet romance with likeable characters, an intriguing plot, lots of little asides, and enough background details to make for pleasant escapism to the past.


Thursday, 3 August 2017

Regency



Reviewed by Charlotte alias Charmian (Goodreads).


Book’s Blurb:
Hell will freeze over before Miss Philomena Aubrey willingly marries the insufferable Honorable Luther Whyte. Her mother had angled Mina’s quite hefty dowry in front of the vicar and secured him, but Mina still resisted. When Mrs. Aubrey threatens to force her into the marriage, Mina’s father hides his daughter with a friend of his as he leaves for an extended business trip.

A wounded war hero, burdened by guilt after inadvertently sending his French fiancée to death, Lord James Darling keeps his family as far away from his tormented heart as possible. But as he keeps bumping into his mother’s new lady’s maid, he grows suspicious—is she a spy?—and sets out to expose her, only to find himself mesmerized by her feistiness and her warm heart.

My Review:

Mina, short for Philonena, steps to the stage as the archetypical young heiress of the Nuevo riche in the Regency era. Presumably her father became extremely wealthy from timely investments and good business dealings. It must be said as history tells us, a great many of the Nuevo riche were so wealthy their daughters were sought by aristocrats as a timely means to bolster ailing funds for sons who were wastrels. Many a rich heiress gained a title from brokered deals cut and dealt across tables at Gentlemen’s clubs in real life as they do with regularity in Regency romance novels. 

Funnily Mina’s mother has set her marital scheming eye at humble bait, the local vicar no less, and oh lord, shades of Jane Austen’s Mr Collins leapt to mind straight off. And thank serendipity Mina is an only child and has a father who dotes on her. Mina can do little wrong in his eyes, and her mother sees only a wilful minded daughter who refuses to marry the man of her mother’s choice, ha ha.

While this is a common mother daughter conflict for Regency novels, the story for me becomes a little contrived with a father who looks to the help of a childhood playmate, a duchess (ha) who conveniently has bachelor sons in need of wives. It was all a little twee perfect and unrealistic but it’s a bunny out of the hat magical fairy tale and what’s wrong with that.

And then there’s the tortured James Darling. He’s a secretive man and with Miss Curiosity Mina kitten on his patch in the guise of a lady’s maid he doesn’t stand an earthly in resisting the vivacious young madam who seeks to inveigle her way under his skin. Throughout a theme of will he or won’t he fall in love with Mina makes this romance a fun read with little touches of haunting sadness from James’s past. For all her silly childish antics I liked Mina a lot. James was more a muddle of conflicting caricatures and didn’t materialise as a solid character, not for me at any rate. An Heiress in Disguise is what it is, a well written fun romance with a few raunchy pulse driven scenes.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Regency / Victorian




Reviewed by Charlotte alias Charmian (Goodreads).


The Book’s Blurb:
A missing heirloom. A stolen inheritance. Can love conquer mistrust?

Athena Hawthorne never imagined that she would lose everything she'd ever had. But after the death of her father, his prosperous jewelry store is sold off to pay his supposed debts. Athena, now destitute, embarks on a mission to discover the truth, but circumstances force her to accept an offer from a handsome stranger to work as a governess. She's determined to clear her father's name, but a certain earl is making matters far more difficult than necessary. And she can't be in danger of losing her heart to a member of the aristocracy...

Orion Ashcroft, the Earl of Rockford, is convinced that Athena is a grasping thief who stole a priceless family heirloom, the rare sapphire known as the Couleur Magnifique. When he offers her the position of governess to his sister's children, he only intends to catch her in some nefarious scheme and get back the sapphire—his grandmother's dying wish. But he soon discovers that keeping his distance—and his sanity—around the beautiful Athena isn't as easy as he'd planned. It certainly doesn't help that his sister and his best friend plead her innocence at every frustrating turn. Soon he's struggling between honoring his promise and his growing attraction to Athena.

But there's danger closer than either expect. Even a masquerade can't hide Athena from the curiosity of the ton forever...and there's a threat hiding among the highest members of society...


My Review:

Well I must say for a debut novel Ms Waite painted the heroine to the canvas with in depth emotional pull and I liked and felt for Athena. Sympathy poured forth (from me that is) while Athena Hawthorne hears of her fate within a solicitor’s office. Could life be more traumatic than the death of a father and to learn there is no legacy of worth from a once thriving business, poor Athena is utterly stunned by it all.

In the event of kindness from a stranger, which gives hope for a workable life one day, a few days later the strange circumstances surrounding the job places Athena into an emotional pit of heaven and hell wrapped up in one man, the Earl of Rockford. Of course Athena falls hopelessly loves struck with burning desire little knowing the earl’s thoughts of tumbling the newly appointed governess (to his niece and nephew) has caused him a good deal of discomfort until the more his eyes glitter with devilry soon Rion and Athena lose themselves in lustful thoughts and eventual actions, while every crime known to the darker side of London streets start striking with menacing force. Here the repetitive abduction theme took some believing, while the rest of the story had me turning the pages to see when Rion would hump Athena again and would he stop being a mindless prat, and would she fall pregnant. So obsessed did I become with the likelihood of pregnancy the criminal proceedings paled alongside my thinking Rion would be forced into marriage with Athena, and I prayed his sister would stand behind him with a pistol held to his head. It doesn’t end that way and I did like the sub characters a great deal. All in all I enjoyed Athena's and Rion's story a a romantic tale with danger and mystery.

I do have a few quibbles. The story setting is Regency England 1819 and there’s reference to a novel by Charles Dickens which set alarm bells ringing. Dickens was born in 1812 and in 1819 Charles Dickens was 7yrs old and had yet to write his first published paper let alone a novel. While this may appear a small criticism it does point to lack of research by the author, it also shames an incompetent editor. Worse it implies the novel started out as a Victorian novel set after 1836 when Dickens published his first novel The Pickwick Papers. A few Americanisms didn’t help matters in recommending this as a Regency set read, while readers who care not a bean about historical accuracy will enjoy this book for what it is - a fun read.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Article by Francine (RMM Reviewer)

What constitutes a Good Romance Read?


Francine's reveal: 

Having asked RRM reviewers to reveal what makes for a good historical romance, it occurred to me that I too must reveal the nitty-gritty, so here goes. All in all I have curious nature and throughout life I’ve always wanted to know what makes other people tick, and authors of historical novels– in general– are an intriguing species as are fans of historical novels.

It’s a given readers will time-slip through pages to wild windswept moors, tread through harsh stone mediaeval castle and manor halls, or step to the more elegant domain of royal courts and ballrooms. In reality each historical period has memorable events such as 1066, 1485, 1812, 1815, so on and so forth, but not all authors include major events as a backdrop to their stories. 

Many of the old romances often afford little more than a dateline sub header per chapter to denote time and place, e.g. Yorkshire 1759, or perhaps London 1814, and nothing else beyond the social standing of the characters and all that arises within their immediate circle is provided to latch onto. After all, a red shawl is a red shawl, and it’s up to the reader to determine knitted, woven, or silk etc, according to the character's social standing. Often within old books there was no in depth description of clothes, but the story was no less thrilling. In this instance the novel “Wuthering Heights” leaps to mind, and there are those within literary circles who will declare WH is not a romance, that it is merely a love story because it doesn’t have a happy ever after. I beg to differ, because two people fall in love, conflict arises, and tragedy ensues, just as it did in Romeo & Juliet, as it does in many of the great love/romance stories where the hero or heroine has to turn from the other and walk away. Some of the most memorable novels of loss leap to mind: Gone with the Wind; Frenchman’s Creek; and Brief Encounter. These novels were no less enthralling throughout, the endings somewhat tragic in the emotional sense, though in GWTW it was an open ending – would Rhett return; unable to live without Scarlet?

So you see I don’t believe romance novels have to have an HEA. Romance and tragedy is memorable; sad yes, and yet fulfilling in so many ways. So whatever romance comes my way for review, I can in all honesty say I have an open mind as to what constitutes a good or great romance read, though I do revel in books where emotions run deep, characters reveal their inner self, or the story lines have darker elements at play. Historical accuracy counts too, but please no antique sales catalogue descriptions of items, whether personal or household. Other than that I am a tart for handsome military heroes.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Article by Nigella (RRM Reviewer/Maritime Historian)










From Nigella's Perspective (Maritime Historian):

When Francine asked would I write a short piece on what constitutes a good romance novel from my perspective as a reader, the overall concept appealed until I sat down to compose the blessed response. If only a keyboard equated to the pleasure factor of a pen’s top pressed between teeth as does a comforter for a child, the words may have flowed with ease. It truly struck me how easy it is to point to the things in romance novels that annoy me, and that would be a big cheat on what Francine asked for. Being that of a maritime historian any adventure on the high seas, sweet or hot romance, whether a pirate captain or British Royal Navy officer hero, those books will be my first choice read over a land based novel. Caveat if you will for maritime plots where dialogue had better not ring heavy with ‘Ooh Arrrrghs’ or the book will be cast aside as stereotypical Hollywood characterisation of English pirates and privateers. Also no quarter will I grant for historical inaccuracies. As to the land based variety of romance novels, the more unusual and as near original as authors can strive toward and avoid reworking tropes of old the better I will like them. To summarise in a few words what constitutes a ‘good’ romance novel is when the end is reached and enjoyment lingers. What constitutes an ‘excellent’ novel is when characters and scenes leap to mind in vivid colour months after the book was put aside - those are the best kinds of book. 

Article by Charlotte (RRM Reviewer).

Articles by RRM reviewers on 
What makes for a Good Historical Read. 



Give me a historical romance novel and I am in heaven, transported through time to the world created by the author. Although love and romance is the backbone of romance novels, historical accuracy to do with place, time, clothing, and all the other wondrous elements expected of a good romance, for me, the characters must leap from the pages and become real in their own right.

If characters are mere props for the plot they won't hold me entranced, and faux period novels are two-a-penny at Amazon in recent months. The novels to which I refer are so badly researched the characters can be visualised as contemporary novels due to contemporary language and lack of authentic period feel.

A carriage is a carriage seems to be the mantra and if the book has horses and carriages that sets it in the past. No, a few horses and carriages don't make a historical novel is what I scream. A period novel must set the time and place with events or at least one or two of the characters who enlighten the reader with newspaper items, pamphlets, or some topic of conversation to place the novel within the 18th century or the 19th century.

To simply say the  novel is set de da de da is not good enough, show me, your reader, you the author know the period in which your novel is supposedly a representation of.  Don't attempt to con me with high praise editorial reviews and inflated NYT and USA Today accreditations.

To date and ten novels read in the last two months more than half of the acclaimed Regency novels fall short on London streets that are said to be grand houses during the Regency era. The most notoriously acclaimed South Audley Street itself consisted of small living accommodation over trade premises. It was never a desirable residential street in Georgian times. Mistakes of that kind deserve two stars for slack research even when the novel is well written. There, I have grumped for the day as a dissatisfied reader.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Regency!



Reviewed by Francine:


It’s 1816, the year after the Battle of Waterloo, and the year of the wettest summer known in England to that date. Whilst dark skies prevail, Georgiana, Duchess of Darby is blighted by the deepening desire of her brother and friends to see her back within the social whirl of the haut monde, which in turn means the marriage mart. Whilst her past remains a dark and raw reminder to the hurt that awaits the innocent and unpractised in deceits and vile subterfuge, widowhood is a sanctuary, albeit a lonely place to hide one’s inner desires. Even when temptation beckons in the form of Rafe Landsbury, he poses a dilemma for Georgiana, for to put her trust in another man and give sway to notions love can exist if only she can embrace it, she knows the potency of it all could be utter folly. 

Likewise, for Rafe, tempted in extremes by Georgiana, he’s aware she could so easily become his Achilles heel, the one thing that can destroy him. To his chagrin his past which is far darker than Georgie’s haunts from the shadows of his mind, and whilst his present interest in Georgiana becomes a whirl of hedonistic delights, a ghost from that past suddenly looms and threatens all that he covets. Thus, as hurt, betrayal, eroticism, and the mire of a covert lifestyle play on his mind, Rafe must cut off the snake’s head or lose all: game over. To say this is an exciting and hot read, pretty much says it how it is: enjoy! 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Tiime-Slip Roman Romance.



Reviewed by Nigella:

For me at least, this was a time-slip novel with a difference. Of course the ubiquitous time portal is there if only one knows of its existence and how and when it is activated, and Janet, an archaeologist and museum curator has unknowingly acquired the lock and key to the portal. In the meanwhile, absolutely obsessed with Roman Britain and extremely familiar with archaeological digs close to Hadrian’s Wall, sudden mysterious thefts from the museum require investigation. And Janet’s encounter with a cloaked figure, one that mysteriously vanishes, sets precedence for inner and physical alarm. While suffering mental anguish over a broken relationship, there remains an underlying sense she is drifting through life on automatic mode to quell the reasons behind the break up, her self confidence severely knocked back. It is the personal battle alongside strange visions which give rise to secondary sense she may well be verging close to a mental breakdown, until the moment the vision becomes real in every sense of the word “real” and she enters into another dimension, or has she entered into madness? If I were to say how and what occurs, such would spoil the story for other readers, suffice to say, her passion for Roman Britain is fulfilled, though is it quite as she had perceived from the perspective of an archaeologist rooting around in mud laden digs 2,000 years into the future? What transpires for Janet when she encounters Trajan, a noble Roman officer, not only quashes perceived imaginings of life in Roman Britain, tribal uprising north of the wall spells imminent trouble for the Roman soldiers manning the wall and its forts. But again is it real or a lifelike vision, as Janet looks to modern knowledge and technology whilst Trajan demonstrates skills beyond her immediate capabilities? Again, to infill here with gradation of events would spoil the story,  and I shall merely say romance blossoms, and while someone else from the future is intent on changing history time is bridged for Janet and Trajan, and the end has a satisfying outcome. 
A thoroughly recommended read for time-slip fans of ancient romance themes with a touch of mystery and adventure amidst gruelling feats of endurance and battles. 


Friday, 30 June 2017

English Civil War Romance



Reviewed by Francine:

The Royalist defeat at the Battle of Naseby (1645) is the opening scene to Traitor's Knot, and cannot by any stretch of imagination be quantified in death and injury alone. Miraculously alive, and determined to survive and fight another day, James Hart traverses a path of broken bodies whilst the stark crushing horror of it all tests his resolve in how to evade the triumphant Parliamentarian victors. With an episode of derring-do, alongside untold fear of detection, Hart's life and future has fallen to the hands of fate, and his reaching the Royalist stronghold of Bristol affords momentary relief. But nothing in times of war can be counted on as secure, and with a royal prince taking flight from the country what hope exists for eventual victory for the royal standard?         

By chapter two, time has moved on to 1650, the time of The Interregnum, the year after the beheading of Charles I, the year his son Charles II, sets out to regain the throne of England. Here the reader meets Elizabeth Seton, the last but one of the Weymouth Setons' - a family of traitors as far as many are concerned. Thus life for a single and vulnerable young lady is thwart with dangers, and with a sister married to a Parliamentarian, Elizabeth's life is subject to their influence, and their unwanted intentions for her future. Brave but grief stricken with the death of her mother, stoical Elizabeth sets out to make a life for herself elsewhere, unknowing of what lies ahead in Warwickshire, or that she and Hart are destined to cross paths in strange circumstances. With a journey fraught with the dangers of highwayman and vagabonds, can her life become any more dangerous? Indeed it can, when the likes of a secret organisation eventually embroils her in its humanitarian bent to help those in need and undermine the enemy. 

As time progresses and supporters of the King believe he will march south from Scotland, that battle will ensue, and all will be as it should be for the Royalist cause, James and Elizabeth are drawn one to the other, and as love blossoms war is nigh. As with all historical fiction, even romantic fiction, history itself dictates the outcome and the author adheres strictly to historical fact. In bearing a great passion for this particular period in history both as a reader and author, I thoroughly enjoyed James Hart and Elizabeth Seton's adventures and all the heart-rending experiences that befell them. Make no mistake this a swashbuckling romance set within the English Civil Wars, and a delightful step back in time.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Regency!




Reviewed by Charlotte. See her blog @ Charlotte

The Book’s Premise:

Did you love the wit and elevated dialogue of Pride and Prejudice, yet always wish you got to see Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have it off? Set in England in the early 1800's, with hoydens, lords and rakes, this is the witty and sexy regency romance you have been waiting for...

London-hating dreamer, Lydia Norwood, has failed spectacularly as a débutante. Now an encoretante whose family has lost a fortune, Lydia discovers that the beau monde is hard on a nouveau riche social climber, particularly one who is no longer riche and only wants to climb trees. Lydia must stave off the effrontery of rogue lords and conniving competitors long enough to make a good match, or else incur society's scorn by earning her own money. Falling for the unattainable Lord Aldley is a distraction she cannot afford. But they share such an enchanted history, how can her heart resist?

The tragically virtuous Earl of Aldley is tired of ambitious families hurling debutantes at his head, but cannot hide in France forever. He returns to London to seek out the mysterious tree-climbing girl who once saved him from a scheming chit, and finds more than he bargained for. Abductions, seductions, trickery and injury all endanger Lydia, but Lord Aldley's heart is imperiled beyond rescue. He has only just found her; will he lose her forever to his enemy, his best friend, or his own dangerous mistake?

My Review:
First off the premise and title reveal almost all the major plot points including one or two plot spoilers. Though why Jane Austen’s wit and elevated dialogue in Pride and Prejudice gets a mention I know not after reading Three Abductions and An Earl.

Apart from the revealing premise the story started well with a little intrigue, and it progressed at a steady pace with amusing asides and character introductions. Though it slowed a great deal and required a good many chapters until the scenes were set for envy, conflict, and disreputable intrigue. Even so, the way Earl Aldley and Lydia Norwood hedged around each other with words and secret thoughts was mildly amusing to begin with. All the while the sub-characters Tilly and Rutherford (for this reader at any rate), more than edged ahead of the hero and heroine and they did thank God carry the plot forward after the first abduction took place. Here Rutherford took the lead role as the wounded hero and Lydia had every reason to be grateful to him.

Things then turned silly when Lydia revealed bluestocking dreams of going into trade, which became an ancillary thread amidst a lengthy period of comings and goings and spiteful rumours and female rivalry escalated. Funnier still Aldley who at the start is a well travelled aristocrat turned into a lovesick whimpering puppy panting and wagging his tail every time he gets close to Lydia, and then abduction two happens and the end result is a carriage accident.

Poor bedridden Lydia is then confused while the earl resides in limbo land not knowing if he can have a place in her life, and to the sidelines Rutherford and Tilly making out in the sick room brought me to tears because believe me the second half of the book is as funny as the premise promises even though it takes a long time to plough the farce and reap the sinful harvest of lustful hopes and dreams.

Reviewer aside:
At 20 plus Kindle pages per chapter it’s a long slow read with 58 chapters in all. While the first half of the book has a good literary edge with formal permutations relevant to on dit [they say] and pen rép [error] the second half falls away to a more relaxed style and strangely less formality all told.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Under The Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage - further medieval mayhem





Reviewed by M. J. Logue






The third book in a series I have come to love as much as the author's other series.... 

It is still a wonder and a joy to me how the author has managed to create two totally different and totally plausible worlds. I know it's not the done thing to compare two different series-es, but it's so easy for a writer to simply transplant a set of successful characters into another period, appropriately renamed. And Ms Belfrage doesn't - Adam and Kit are fully-rounded (and in Kit's case, almost perpetually fully rounded: might I suggest that Adam ties a knot in it, for the next instalment?) carefully-crafted creatures of the medieval period. 

Yes, there is action and intrigue a-plenty, and adventure to stir the blood. But although they're well done and deftly handled, my favourite parts of this novel are the little domestic touches where the author's research makes for an intimate, tender portrayal of medieval family life. The omniscient Mabel, for instance, I love. (I am also intrigued by Adam's brother William, who may be a man of the cloth but who, I think, has something of a most un-canonical tenderness for Kit. I wonder what will come of it...because I am pretty sure Adam won't like it if he finds out. And I cannot help but wonder if William is quite what he seems to be, or whether a very de Guirande ambition is hidden behind that virtuous exterior...) 

Without giving too much away, I am DELIGHTED to see that my doubts regarding Tom in the first book, were shared by Kit in this one. And that William's handling of that situation is what makes me wonder if he's all he seems to be. 

I love the way themes are developing in this series: the themes of family ties, dysfunctional and otherwise: of deceptions both kindly and unkindly meant; of the contrast between theI "right" and the "wrong" love. Ms Belfrage creates a wonderfully shaded world in which the right choices are not always the defensible choices. There are times when I don't like Adam very much: he doesn't always put his family first, although he always puts his family's future first. (As I said. A very de Guirande ambition.) He can be arrogant, quick-tempered, high-handed. He's also an entirely typical medieval male, and much though I might want him to put Kit's needs to the fore at times, it would be anachronistic for him to do so. 


So book four soon, please - I'm watching that William.... 




Saturday, 3 June 2017

Regency Mystery and Suspense.




Reviewed by Francine: 


Having ventured to the Far East as an East India Company man, Reinhart Maycott is essentially a reluctant aristocrat. His life in India encapsulates the intrepid and adventurous spirit of the young Reinhart, until the sudden and unexpected elevation to a marquisate forces him back to his homeland. And no matter his shady existence in the nether wilds of India and scandalous rumours that abound, every mama in England has taken note of his return to home shores, not least that of Lady Parbury, who immediately sets out to present her eldest and most ravishing daughter for his delectation.

Of course, Reinhart (Ren) is far from conventional, any more than young Mariah Parbury, who indeed recognises Ren’s extreme handsomeness as does her elder sister Rorie (Aurora), but it is his travels and former lifestyle that prove as captivating as his golden eyes to Mariah, whilst her mother sees only wealth and status for her eldest darling. And so the fun begins as Lady Parbury sets forth to create a match made in heaven, but the best laid plans ‘n’ all are thwarted as Ren’s past begins to encroach and threaten those close to him. As happened whilst in India, life becomes fraught with ever increasing dangers, and if love should blossom betwixt him and a Parbury miss the death knell may ring out as it had when he was far away in India.

The great mystery of who is plaguing Ren’s life comes to light at the very end of the story, as would be expected of a good suspense novel. I applaud the author for the story’s unusual theme of a man and his big cat, a man who harbours a secret longing for love but dare not embrace it. As for the delightful heroine with an inquisitive mind and foolish daring, she set the tone nicely for touches of farce, fear, and she was indeed deserving of a happy ever after. Nice one Ms Eastwood.

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Darcy Monologues



Reviewed by Nigella (maritime historian)


Against the remit of RRM and expected due regard to anthologies, I am, as it were, obliged to read and review each story in turn and I haven’t. With two stories and a third of the next read I was Darcy fatigued. 

However I did feel obliged to flip through the table of contents and at random selected stories for a quick browse. To my utter dismay different eras alternating from Regency to modern threw me and never again will I pick up another modern day Austen novel or anthology riding on Ms Austen’s pelisse hem. My reasons for abandonment of the Darcy Monologues can be viewed at the bottom of the page.


Death of a Bachelor by Caitlin Williams inducts the reader with Mrs Fitzwiliam Darcy, nee Elizabeth Bennet, and her beloved Darcy travelling to London post-wedding nuptials. There is little more can be said of this well written short story with Austenesque prose befitting the period in third person perspective. To reveal more would entail a plot spoiler.

From the Ashes by J Marie Croft is another Darcy in which the author narrates the story from the perspective of Darcy’s harrowing and humiliating self analysis of Elizabeth’s rejection of his marriage proposal. Effectively it’s a well written cameo utilising Ms Austen’s fully-formed character with literate flair.

If Only a Dream by Joana Starnes is befittingly yet another well written Darcy Monologue, and it is with regret I could read no further. After two Darcy stories, the third began to rankle and my thoughts strayed to how wonderful Jane Austen’s characters were, and how overused they are by modern day authors obsessed with Fitzwilliam Darcy.

When young I didn’t appreciate Jane Austen’s novel Pride & Prejudice foisted on me as obligatory reading at my school until the untitled toff Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet the feisty and somewhat capricious female grabbed my attention. Both were superbly depicted by Austen, not least Darcy’s supercilious nature and contempt for the lower orders. Over the years I have read Pride & Prejudice several times and the chip that sat on Darcy’s shoulder has remained as plain as a pike staff and I believe he hailed as likely as not from Ms Austen’s observant eye of a gentleman of her time. On the scale of social mobility Darcy is a commoner regardless of family connections to a lordly base, for that reason Ms Austen portrayed him with sense of zeal as though she disliked him every bit as much as Elizabeth did. His deportment demands attention, his scornful nature thereby is his undoing in Elizabeth’s eyes until against all that he abhors he succumbs to physical desire for that feisty madam of the lower order. One wonders if in her own way Jane Austen derived great satisfaction from his comedown in marriage to Elizabeth which in the social event would result in lesser requests for his pleasure at notable soirees when news of their marriage began spreading abroad. Greatly amusing is how Ms Austen left Darcy in a social set he had despised and ridiculed. For me Austen is Austen, and modern day Austenesque novels touch me not.
***

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Regency!



Reviewed by Francine:

The title says it all, and as with any first real sense of romance, imagined or otherwise, who from amongst us forgets the name and description of their first romantic entanglement? Thus Cassandra remembers every aspect of the late Lieutenant, Lord Benedict Mallory’s appearance, or does she? Has the passing of time and heartbreak clouded her memory? For when she encounters a stranger in a position that is contrary to Ben’s former life she cannot believe her eyes, and yet, something deep inside wills her to pursue the notion it is he. 

Unsure how to proceed in matters of discretion is not easy for Cassandra, who is far from slow in putting forth in petulant manner and oft sharp tongued when it suits her. Equally frustrated by formal etiquette so prevalent within the elder echelons of society, she faces the added task of proving a young chit can balance emotional pull against sage thinking as a soldier steels himself to do what must be done. Therefore she strives to convince others Ben is indeed alive. But of course, love does strange things to a mind, and there I shall leave you to ponder Cassie’s fate. Has she seen the one she fell in love with, or is the man she encountered a figment of imagination and overt desire for something lost? I can say in all honesty I enjoyed following Cassie on her journey of discovery, and although the plot follows though pretty much as expected, there are steamy and sensual moments, emotional torments and strife aplenty, and of course, a Happy Ever After. Enjoy!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Georgian Romance



Reviewed by Francine.

This is a delightfully charming little country tale, and the fact I’m a bee-keeper’s moll, I naturally loved the storyline.

Set within the Georgian era and of Queen Charlotte’s love for hosting grand balls and social functions, beeswax candles were required in vast numbers from specialist suppliers. In those days beeswax candles were almost akin to gold-plated illumination in comparison to that of tallow candles. And so, when Oliver Hamilton, the Queen’s acquisitions officer, encounters Madelyn Wickham, disaster unsuspectingly lies in wait around the corner. But who wishes to harm her, and seeks to destroy all that she has? Albeit Oliver’s job is merely to acquire candles, a true gallant cannot abandon a young woman to the vagaries of harsh weather and destitution. Thus, as he and Madelyn work together to resolve her plight, a new kind of light sparks between them. Oh yes, it’s a sweet little romance and the delightful aspect, it has an original plot.

I just want to point out I award five stars for original plot themes, and for stories that touched my heart.