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Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, Samantha J Wilcoxson

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, Samantha J Wilcoxson

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York (Plantagenet Embers Book 1) by [Wilcoxson, Samantha]

Genre: Historical fiction

Sometimes I want a break from Romance, from Fantasy, and then I take a dip back in history. With these reads, as with most fiction I enjoy, I need to feel that events could have been real,. I hopefully get drawn into the story so I’m almost part of it, instead of a detached observer.
This story did all that and more, I really felt for the characters, wondered about events, even knowing British history so I had an idea of what would happen.

Samantha has stuck broadly to facts well known, but put her own interpretation on them. Thus all UK kids learn about King Richard putting his nephews into the Tower and that they disappeared, but we never really know, even now, if they died, escaped, were murdered, and if so by whom. Samantha has an interesting and plausible take on that.

The Tudors – books generally focus on Henry V111, but we’re a bit earlier here, starting with his mother and her story from childhood. We see firsthand ( well, fictionally first hand) the trials her family went through, princesses in hiding, then out in the open and then frequently back in hiding or in Sanctuary for their safety. It was a tumultuous period, with different factions vying for the throne, each gathering their own support and some pretty bloody battles. Families were never really secure, knowing that through battle they could be deposed at any time…

I enjoyed seeing Elizabeth grow, marry, have children and seeing figures I know as adults in history, Henry and Arthur, it was interesting seeing them as children. I enjoy reading about lesser known figures from history such as Elizabeth, and the childhoods of more well known people.

An excellent read, had me swept up in the story, worrying for the families, and feeling sad for the girls who were married off as political pawns, and the boys who faced imprisonment or execution if there was a change of king. Tough times to be Royals.

Stars: five, a great historical read, that drew me in and made me feel “there” with the characters.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, Julie Houston

Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, Julie Houston

Coming Home to Holly Close Farm: Addictive, heart-warming and laugh-out-loud funny. Perfect for fans of Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell by [Houston, Julie]

Genre: general fiction (adult), women’s fiction

Once more, women’s fiction. Why, why alienate men? They read books like this too.

Anyway, I’ve loved all Julie’s past stories, but this one wasn’t a great fit for me. It could well be living circumstances, I’m between homes, living in my daughter’s conservatory so getting “lost” in a book hasn’t been easy. I may reread this at a later day and feel very differently.
Its full of the usual realistic characters and events, and peppered with Julie’s trademark subtle humour. I’m always nervous when a book promises to make me “laugh out loud” as too often I fond that really means the forced, very unfunny humour I hate. Julie’s style isn’t that, is much more soft and clever humour, not pushed-in-your-face stuff .
So, the story, its kind of in two parts, and I found I loved Madge and her backstory more than I enjoyed the current time romance. Madge had such a tragic past, I loved her stoic, never give in mindset, but found it hard to believe no-one knew about Holly Close Farm, how a property so valuable would have no evidence that family would have picked up on linking her to it. No bills from the council? No demands for utilities etc? It’s possible but a bit hard to believe given that now I seem to get bills from the council in numerous duplicates constantly! Her daughter Nancy was a bit weird, and I couldn’t see her missing out on any stray info that would lead to reward for her.
I wanted to like Charlie, felt so much for her over Dominic, sadly things like that happen, and people can be horribly plausible about absences. I just found it hard to really feel for her after that, she’s a little too me, me , me for my taste. Like I said, maybe its my mindset, and I’ll feel differently at a later date.

Stars: Three, a good story, great characters, but fell a bit short for me of Julie’s others five star reads.

Arc via Netgalley

Always With You, Indigo: Book 3, Kate McBrien

Always With You, Indigo: Book 3, Kate McBrien

 

Always With You (Indigo Book 3) by [McBrien, Kate]Genre: Romance

Well, a very climatic, drama filled finish to the trilogy. TBH it felt – cough- a little too drama filled. I love action, intensity and drama but there was so much here that I felt it became almost wearying to the senses, took away from the actual events. Having said that its still and amazing read, and a fabulous trilogy for a debut writer. Very well written, full of excellent plots and very polished overall.

Lucy; at times I want to say to her “what are you doing!!” when she dithers. She’s grown in confidence though, and there’s a lot less of that in this final part. Justin, well, he’s just fabulous, so very solid in his love, so very protective and I enjoyed how the past events affected him in this life. I loved Lucy and Justin together, but did feel they got a little lost in the other events that filled this story. Sometimes Less is More, and for me less additional plots ( the Russian connection) and more of Lucy and Justin would have worked better. That’s just me though, others will love it as it is.
Edward…Gah, I hate that guy, but I love characters like his. He played a terrific part in the story, very believable. I wasn’t so convinced on the Rachel story-line, especially with how things ended. I disliked her intensely, didn’t want to change my stance on that and though events could have proved otherwise I’m holding fast to my dislike 😉

I would have liked to have seen a bit more connection between Justin and Lucy’s nightmares and the past, maybe snippets of what they were dreaming or something? The past in each book is really kept to just beginning and end, which makes for a wonderful ending, where we see just what did play out, but I’d have enjoyed a bit more linking through the story.

I love the way the Cross links past and present Justin and Lucy, and how its creation from Love held fast, and meant so much to them when they touched in in the present. I enjoyed the history, past and present story of Lapis Lazuli and the issues behind it. Everyone has heard of Blood diamonds, but I’d never connected this stone with terrorism financing.

From the book blurb, and important. Note to readers: This book contains scenes which may be triggering to survivors of sexual violence

Stars: Four and a half, a great trilogy, but I wasn’t quite as gripped by this part as by parts one and two, especially part one, which I loved.

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

Counting on a Countess, The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore, Eva Leigh

Counting on a Countess, The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore, Eva Leigh

Counting on a Countess: The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore by [Leigh, Eva]

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

* Sigh…Women’s Fiction again…Why? Why write off a potential clutch of readers? Men write romance, men read romance so this genre is sadly outdated.
I didn’t like Vanity Fair, and though I loved Poldark this isn’t in any way similar to those novels, except in the setting being Cornwall and past times.

Another historical that proved for me to be well written but not exciting. Its an easy read, a perfect book to relax with but not one to set the heart pounding, make emotions come alive.

I liked both characters to begin with, and love that Regency way of talking round issues, of pandering to society while working towards one’s own ends. Its a clever trick, a dance that’s hard to perfect and I love the way characters know what they want but have to use polite dissembling to achieve it. Here its Kit that needs a wife to secure his fortune and Tamsyn that needs a wealthy husband. Both have ambitions that need money, and a very short span of time in which to obtain it.
I loved the spark that ran between them, sexual tension, subtle wit and a sharp intelligence in both made them perfect for each other. Both though are holding a big secret, Kit wants the money for the dream that held him together in the depths of war, Tamsyn wants to buy her childhood home and the smuggling coves so essential for sustaining the villagers in these lean times.
It plays out well, gradually unfolding the plots each have to gain what they want. They marry, and then Kit receives a massive shock, control of the money is solely with Tamsyn, he has to ask her for everything, the promises he made about setting her up with an allowance, etc all fall flat. Tables are turned and its Tamsyn who has the deciding hand. Of course letting him have the money for his dream means letting go of hers, and can she do that with the village depending on her?

That’s where it fell back for me, she didn’t discuss anything, didn’t try to meet Kit halfway, just made her mind up and went ahead. I found that really unlike the character I thought she was, and to be honest, morally unfair too. It was Kit’s inheritance, but she’s happy to take charge of it and make all the decisions. Emasculating for any man, especially in that era. There’s also the fact that she knows how he feels about the Law, and yet she’s made him an unwitting accomplice, without ever trying to work things out another way. I’m not saying his ideas where necessarily right, but what she did felt so very wrong. I really didn’t like the way she just dashed his dreams, no discussion, no explanations just waded ahead with her own plans.
Then when it all comes to a head, well, that old 10cc seventies song springs to mind “The things we do for love…” I did find Kits about turn on what he had long believed a little hard to take, heat of the moment yes, but I thought there’d be some hard words in private, but he appears to have abandoned all his principles and it made me think less of him.

Still, its a romance, we can’t have an unhappy couple, and clever Kit finds a way to make both of them achieve what they want.

Stars: Three, a solidly written story, but at times I disliked Tamsyn intensely, and I felt Kit was way to quick to abandon all his long held beliefs.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Lake of the Dead, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 5), Susan Clayton-Goldner

Lake of the Dead, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 5), Susan Clayton-Goldner

Lake of the Dead: A Winston Radhauser Mystery: #5 by [Clayton-Goldner, Susan]

Genre:Mystery and Thrillers, General Fiction.

I love this series. I started with book two, offered the chance to review by the author and she’s been kind enough to let me review each succeeding novel.
You can read each story as a stand alone but you’ll get much more by reading in order, as there are people connecting each book, and its interesting and adds more if you know the back story. Parker’s girlfriend Rishima was in the last book, only as a very secondary character, but it brings the stories closer knowing just what she’s been through, and continues to face. I really felt so sad for her, a wonderful character.

As usual Radhauser is immersed in a complicated murder, with multiple possible suspects but no real motive. It makes me wonder how police even begin to search out who was responsible, and following this story, seeing Radhauser’s reasoning for doing things, the constraints that stop him doing other things, was really interesting and absorbing.
As always the characters here feel so real, so genuine. I think I could find ones like them easily within my own life, though hopefully not murderous ones! I love the way Susan makes what seems reasonable at first sight untangle to become something else, and then puts in reasons and bars to what seem like real motives and possible actions to the murder.
And once more she caught me out. I had an early dislike of a character but thought I was judging unfairly, and it wasn’t til very near the end that I began to see how and why things happened.

Its a sad story, one sadly that could be real, murders happen to so many folk, cut off before they’ve had a chance to grow, to become adults, have their own family. There were some really tragic backstories here too, ones that I had no trouble believing in.
I love Radhauser as a cop, he’s exactly they guy we all need, thorough, principles, meticulous and yet I’d hate to be married to him, to have him as a parent. He adores his family but work – when taking time off and going home could mean a killer escaping, possibly to kill again, how can he? We see here him spending so much time on work, that he barely has time with his family. Grace is incredibly understanding, though we have seen how his work causes friction at times. Its understandable, she’s got two young kids and is still recovering from her cancer treatment and surgery.
I guess she’s seen how he is when they first met, and it would be hard to say come home, knowing the possible consequences and also how it would affect him. You take the person as they are when you choose a partner, and Radhauser is very committed to his work. It doesn’t mean he loves his family any less.

Stars: Five. Its another great story from Susan, well plotted and gripping reading, which wraps up properly. I hate novels that make me thing “but what about….” when they end. This doesn’t, we get a brief six month on peek into what’s happened with some of the key characters and that’s just perfect for me.

ARC supplied by author

The Binding, Bridget Collins

The Binding, Bridget Collins

Genre: General fiction (Adult)

A really unusual story, its hard to class it but it feels like its set back in time but where the magic of Binding – removing peoples memories and putting them in a book– is real. Of course while alive those memories aren’t supposed to be sold, but they are the only kind of stories around, and there are always unscrupulous folk….

I did find it difficult re pacing at the start. I felt like I was fully engrossed in Emmet’s present and the issues he’d been through when I’m taken to his past, where he meets Lucian. And that was heartbreaking for all parties.

Its a read full of what if’s – what would I do in the same situation, and it shows that the old adage of be careful what you wish for is something to be carefully considered.
I loved the characters, the descriptions of everyday life, the horrors of those who abuse the system, from people covering up or forgetting their own bad behaviour, to those poor folk who had nothing left to sell, were so poor they parted with their memories, each leaving its own impact on them. Of course things like that weren’t supposed to happen, ostensibly people had to consent but there are ways around that and the more money and position orientated Binders were ready to take full advantage.
It did feel a little disconnected at times, as though I’d missed some essential parts, but that didn’t affect the overall story, and the gentle, unfolding romance was beautiful. If this magic was real, yes, I could see all the things in the novel happening all too easily. Its not a HEA story, there’s a conclusion of sorts, but its very much a possible HFN, and maybe the magic HEA, though in that time and clime I think its unlikely.
Would I reread this? Possibly, and I’d certainly read more from this author.

Stars: Four, a really unusual and entrancing story but the pacing was a little off for me, and I would have liked a bit more of an ending.

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

The Girl in the Corner, Amanda Prowse

The Girl in the Corner, Amanda Prowse

The Girl in the Corner by [Prowse, Amanda]

Genre: , Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Usual grump – Women’s fiction as a genre, just why? Men read all sorts of stories too….why alienate them?

Anyway, I enjoy Amanda’s books, she writes tales that make me think “what would I do in that situation”, has characters and settings that feel very real.
I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of her other stories though, the settings and characters were terrific as usual, but the story – I felt that for so much of the book I was waiting, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it wasn’t until very near the end that it did. I’d have liked a bit more of what happens then, instead of the brief opening into Rae’s future we see.

Its a tale that happens way to often, wife ( or husband) thinks everything is wonderful, and then finds out that their adored and loyal partner has been playing away…what next? Carry on regardless for the sake of the family? Try to forgive and move forward? Or divorce/separation? I always think, how could I trust that person again? That kind of betrayal is so hard to get past, I’m not sure I could forgive and move on. I think that would be a hard barrier for me, the one I can’t forget.
Can Rae move forward though? And in what direction? She really needed to talk it through but Dolly is Howard’s sister, and though they’ve been best friends for so many years, Dolly has divided loyalties. It meant Rae looking at her life introspectively, looking at not just her and Howard’s relationship, but all the family ties, at what happened to the Rae who wanted to be someone but instead became the person supporting everyone else. Its got a huge potential for looking at what could happen if she decided differently, and I so felt for her in her having to decide without the soundboard of Dolly to help her.

Of course nothing happens in isolation and looking back we can see where the routes for different paths were going, where what one person perceives isn’t necessarily the truth – a great example of that was Rae’s view of her childhood and family relationships, where what she thought of events and decisions was how it seemed to her, but not what her parents intended her to feel. That sounds tangled, you’ll need to read the story to understand I think…What Rae sees as her parents not supporting her ambition to be a chef turns out to be her parents fearing that way led to hard work and no reward for Rae, whereas they wanted what they saw as the best for her, that she was clever enough to work in an office, the pinnacle of achievement in their eyes. She thinks they’re unsupportive, that her sister is the one they support, but what they intend is to make Rae be the best she can, and office work in their eyes is something their clever daughter can aspire to. As adults looking back we can see that what we though wasn’t necessarily what was intended.

Like I said, I enjoyed this story, but didn’t love it, its not one I’d reread. I just felt for so much of the story I was waiting for the next section, that so much of the book covered the same ground while Rae mulled over what had happened and what she should do – I’m sure that’s very real, what people in her situation do but for me it wasn’t very entertaining reading.

Stars: Three, another very real story from Amanda but not one of my favourites. Still, that’s just my opinion and I can see that its a perfect story for other readers.

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

The Last Duke, 1797 Club, Jess Michaels

The Last Duke, 1797 Club,  Jess Michaels

The Last Duke (The 1797 Club Book 10) by [Michaels, Jess]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

I’m an eclectic reader, and sometimes I lie to dip back to gentler times – well, real life wasn’t gentler but historical romance tends to be. I was really hoping I’d Like this story because Jess has written so many novels and I’d not read any of them. There’s nothing like the discovery of a new-to-you author who has loads of novels you can then devour. Sadly though this was an easy read, it wasn’t one that gripped me.
The characters are pleasant, the storyline pretty simple, lady goes down in station when fortunes fall, becomes governess and falls in love with a duke. I liked meeting the other dukes and duchesses, and maybe if I’;d read their stories I’d have got more from this. Maybe…

I tend to want a bit more drama and angst, even in historical reads, more tension and problems that I can’t see how to work out. This was just a well written, simple, easy tale full of gentle problems, a developing romance and a sweet ending. I could see from the start how it was going to end and while I don’t mind that – after all I constantly re-read favourites while knowing exactly what will happen – in this instance I just felt it was all too light and cute for me.

As always though the reminder, what I like and what you like aren’t necessarily the same. What doesn’t work for me about this story could be just what makes it perfect for you. I’ve devoured many novels others have rated one and two stars because they hate what I love. Horses for courses and all that.

Stars:Three, A well written story but one that just doesn’t excite me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Dissolution, C. J. Sansom

Dissolution, C. J. Sansom

Dissolution: Tenth Anniversary Edition (The Shardlake Series Book 1) by [Sansom, C. J.]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and thrillers

I love this period in history, so much change going on in politics, state and religion. I’ve read many. many books, and the ones I love best are always like this, ones that make me feel I’m there, among the events, not just a reader but actually in the thick of what’s happening.
I’ve read most of the Shardlake series over the years, but in print form. They are among those I’d read over and over, but sadly all my print books had to go a few years back ( around 2k of them) as eye issues meant I couldn’t read them. Thank heavens for Kindle with its changing font size and background lighting.

So seeing this offered for review reminded me of how much I loved this series. Matthew Shardlake is a great lead character, he’s a very moral person, strongly in favour of reform but somehow naïve considering his profession.
He’s sent down to Scarnsea where the Commissioner investigating the monastery there has been murdered.
Its winter, the journey is hard, the welcome by the monks edges on suspicion. After all they knew the murdered man had come looking for excuses to shut them down but murder? Everyone is on edge, everyone seems to hold secrets, have possible motives and its Matthews job to tease them out and find the truth.
He’s accompanied by Mark Poer, a young man who’s been under his wing so to speak, working in Augmentations. Mark doesn’t like what he’s seen, and Matthew thinks he’s exaggerating, maybe its the hard work, the hours or something, or of course the fact his dalliance with a lady way above him was caught, he can’t believe Marks is right in what he sees happening. He’s promised Mark’s father to set him on the road to a good career, and he’s determined to do his best for Mark, not what he wants necessarily, but what he needs. That sounds harsh but its how life was then, a scrabble to survive and Matthew knows Mark could well end up one of the poor they see so often, in rags, no home, depending on charity for the few scraps of food that keep them alive.

The mystery surrounding the killer is difficult and tangled, no-one seems to have a motive, but several of the inhabitants of the monastery have the opportunity. Commissioner Singleton had been going to meet a monk, though no-one knows who, but the abbot and the monks are keen to believe it must have been an intruder that killed him. The more Matthew learns about the events surrounding the murder the wider the circle seems to get, and then things become even more dangerous.
I love that there are so many suspects, I’ve just decided on one as the culprit along with Matthew, when something happens to throw doubt on them, and this happens over and over.
There are so many secrets, so much going on here in this time of change for everyone. No-one feels safe, no-one actually is safe. Even stray words at the wrong time are enough to condemn someone so everyone is very guarded and that doesn’t help the investigation.

Poor Matthew gets his eyes really opened here by events surrounding Cromwell, a man he fervently believes in and admires. He learns his idol has feet of clay and is shocked, really shocked that he could be so casually callous about certain recent events. The force of what’s going on though has become uncontrollable, and Matthew isn’t in a position to do anything about it. I really feel for him, a good man in a position that puts him front and centre of the change he wanted but which isn’t having the results those like him intended. .

It was easy to feel as if I was back in the 1500’s with Matthew. Often its the little details, the snippets of real history, the day to day events, the food and clothes, the poverty, all those make a book feel very real. CJ Sansom has a real talent for those, for bringing the reader into the story by making the setting so vividly real. For throwing out little clues that send the reader on false tracks, often along with Matthew, for keeping the events wide open to very near the end, and keeping reader guessing who is behind things, and why of course. Rarely does murder happen without motive.

Stars: Five, a solidly written mystery/suspense that I enjoyed reading once more and I think its time for a reread of all of the novels.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

When Winter Comes, V.A. Shannon

When Winter Comes,  V.A. Shannon

When Winter Comes by [Shannon, V.A.]

Genre: Historical fiction

Gosh, such a difficult book to review. I enjoyed it immensely, but it also made me incredibly angry, sad, squeamish, and so glad I was born in recent history.
Its easy to judge from the perspective of a safe, warm home, plenty of food, good trustworthy family and friends. The Indian saying about walking a moon in anothers shoes before judging is a good one to bear in mind. Who knows what we’d do when faced with death?

We get the story from Mrs Jacob Klein, now a well respected person, wife and mother. Her husband Jacob doesn’t figure largely in this story, and yet I get the feeling he knows what happened, he saw how harrowing the journey had been for his wife, and his decision right at the start to tell her he would never ask gave her a peace of mind.
She didn’t love him when they married, but over the years that respect and trust has grown, and I feel she does love him now, not with a grand passion, but with a depth that is solid, means more to her.

When we first meet her she’s one of many, families struggling to survive, parents who don’t care or have given up caring, and just use whatever they can to scratch a living, steeped in the alcohol that helps them forget for a bit how hard life is. That’s her future, selling her body, unless she takes charge, and when the opportunity comes she grabs it, and runs, out onto the trail with folk hoping for a new life.
Its hard, she’s on her own, tagging on to a family by their goodwill, and need for her help. Things go wrong of course, days are long, life is tough but somehow they’re getting through. Seeds are sown, moments of distrust, stories embellished, accusations and insinuations run riot, as happens with any large group, but so far they are making progress. Not without losses, but they all expected that.
Then someone comes up with a shortcut, tells some of the others they’ll get there ahead of the main group if they take it, they’ll get the best opportunities, the best land, the best grazing, be wealthy, and the infamous Donner Party sets out.

That part is true, the story is a fictionalised tale based upon real events, and its harrowing to read in parts.
Of course its never as easy as it seems, the shortcut proves to be anything but, and they fall far behind, the bad weather catches up and we see all this happening through the main characters eyes. Harsh realities bring out the best in some folk and the worst in others, and it makes for some tough reading, but I was gripped by wanting to know how things worked out. Slowly the misfortunes build on and life gets harder and harder. None of them escape unscathed and they have to take some hard decisions over what to do.

Reading it, I was thinking of the unwavering cold, no real shelter, no warm clothes or bedding, no medical supplies, very little food, and the outlook bleak, with no hope of getting through before the hard weather sets in for months. That real last resort, eating the dead so the living can survive, its an awful thought, but then so is letting children starve when bodies are meat that could save them. Hard choice to make and the decision never to speak of it is a good one.

As always though there are those with loud voices who make money from the story, not by telling the truth of course, but by presenting themselves in the best light, and by talking down and blaming those who they’ve held grudges against for so long.

That’s human life, that still happens, never let the truth get in the way of a good story is something we see today in the news all the time. Some things never change, but those lies can decimate anothers life.

Stars: Four, a story I really enjoyed, hard though parts were to read.
I liked the contrast of the seemingly content and well off Mrs Jacob Klein, with the scared, starving waif she began the story as.
I loved the history part of it, that its a real story, though a fictionalised account, and I felt for those poor souls who were part of it.
It gave me much to think about after.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

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