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The King’s Witch, Tracy Borman

The King’s Witch,  Tracy Borman

The King's Witch by [Borman, Tracy]

Genre: Historical Fiction

I have an occasional foray into this genre, Tracy Borman is an author new to me but I’ll look out for more of her novels. When I’m reading an historical work I want the personalisation, the feeling I understand the characters, to see them in day to day action, and Tracy did that perfectly here for me. I don’t work a work of fiction that reads like a text book, but I do want the events and maybe some of the characters surrounding them to be presented as they happened more or less.
Its pretty horrific how we treated people in history ( and sadly in current times too). It never ceases to amaze me how inhumane man can be, how inventive with torture. Reading a reminder of the penalty for treason gave me the usual sick feeling, that people would do all that and expect the result to be genuine, threaten and expect to get the truth. Though really I guess it wasn’t truth they wanted, just a list of names to prosecute/persecute. Seeing what happened to Frances and how she came through shows how the system was so skewed against truth.
As well as charting the end of Elizabeth the first and the succession of James 1st (of England & NI) this story covers the persecution of witches, and the still difficult question of religion. No such thing as live and let live then, it was each man out for themselves mostly, with political figures changing stances on everything according to the current climate. A very insecure time to live, especially of someone powerful in court held a grudge.
I loved Frances and her family, her love of healing and helping, her compassion but when witchcraft was being pursued so heavily, with people taking the chance to play out old grudges it was a very dangerous time to have knowledge of simple healing. I’ve always been attracted to natural remedies and how we discovered them, how people found what worked, how they did things that we would see as plain idiotic and yet they derived strength from them. Sometimes I think we have an innate need to believe in Something, Anything to help with pain, illness, things out of our control.
When it came to making a decision over Tom and his compatriots, whether to do one thing or another, I so felt for her. Each course of action held danger, each held things that went against her nature and it was a very hard decision to take.

It was a fascinating read, felt very true to time period but with that personal touch that makes a story easy to read for me.
I hadn’t realised it was a trilogy so look forward to what next for Frances and for England.

Stars:Five, a great read, very real characters, a writing of real events in a way that well could have played out.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

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Queen of the North, Anne O’Brien

Queen of the North,  Anne O’Brien

Queen of the North by [O'Brien, Anne]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Historical

I love historical novels such as this which take real events, real people and weave a story of how things may have unfolded. History was a tough time for females, regarded as first fathers property, then belonging to husband, and for those like Elizabeth, with Royal blood, and connected to the current monarch they were his property too.
Politics back then was ever changing, those who supported the king could be traitor soon as the next contender the the throne wins through. It was a time when ambition ruled, when the house name was all and Elizabeth has been brought up strong in the sense of the Mortimer claim to the throne, and genuinely believes her nephew(s) has the right to be king now that Richard is dead. Henry is her cousin, and she believed his claim that he just wanted to reclaim his lands, taken by Richard, and is shocked when he breaks his sworn vows and deposes Richard. For a while the Percy star is high with Harry and his father being supporters of Henry. Slowly though the usual cracks break through, Henry admires what Harry has done, commands him into battles, and yet the financing…well, the royal coffers have other calls.
I adored Harry ( Hotspur as he’s fervently known) – he inspired such love and loyalty in his people, was very honest in what he believed, didn’t thrown in his lot and change with the wind as so many did back then. He and Elizabeth were a great couple, both strong headed, both ready to put their views forward, both brought up since babies with a certain destiny in mind, and supporting the family names. They clashed, heatedly, repeatedly, but the making up showed how truly they were in love, how much they respected each other even when they didn’t agree. When Hotspur finally fell in battle I cried, even knowing it was coming, even though he died centuries ago. These characters felt so real to me, and their stories played out making me feel as if I was there with them, wondering what course of action was best next, what they could do to move things towards the destiny they believed was right.

Stars: Five, a wonderful read, transporting me back in time. Its my second Anne O’Brien novel, and I’m looking forward to catching up on some of the others.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, (Six Tudor Queens 3), Alison Weir

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, (Six Tudor Queens 3),  Alison Weir

Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen: Six Tudor Queens 3 by [Weir, Alison]

Genre: Historical Fiction

About fifteen years ago I was into reading a lot of historical fiction, and devoured books by Phillipa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick, Ariana Franklin and others, and found several of Alison’s books that appealed to me.
I hated history at school, and yet through reading historical fiction I’ve learned the appeal of past times. What I really love is the personal touch, not the dry reams of dates and facts History lessons at school consisted of. Fiction lets authors play with those facts, put a personal spin on them and brings the characters to life, and Alison does that perfectly.

I’ve read many books about Katherine, Henry’s first wife, and of course Anne Boleyn. She’s someone that existed for a short few years yet changed the course of history, changed England’s future and religion. I knew, as all schoolkids were taught, that Henry had six wives, and I have read a couple of books about Kitty Howard and Ann Parr, but the middle two, especially Jane, seem to get forgotten when it comes to fiction.

I’ve always thought of Henry as a spoiled child who became a spoiled adult, demanding everything goes his way…or else. In reality it was difficult for Royals of the day, they never knew who was planning to take their place, treason might have carried an awful death but it didn’t stop plotting. Then of course he was never really given his advisers true thoughts, afraid of his reactions they told him what they thought he wanted to hear, so when for example he wanted to divorce Katherine, or get rid of Anne they needed to make it happen, or they paid the price.
He did a difficult job, and he was very clear how he felt about his position as King, that he had a responsibility to the country. He may have played with that a bit in his reasoning at times, when he wanted, for example, to marry Anne, but on the whole he comes over as someone who held his position as one of duty as much as privilege.
When it cam to Jane I found myself almost sympathetic to Henry at times here, he really did seem to have feelings for her, which marries with the little I’ve read about her in other books, when she has come in as a secondary character. The end section was very emotional.

This is a lovely, long book, and it started with Jane’s early years where we learned much about her family. All that lays the foundation for the person she became as she matured, and was interesting reading.
I felt the way Jane was very moral about Katherine and Henry’s position with Anne, was good and true to her beliefs. After much praying and thought, she decided she wasn’t doing the same as she felt Katherine was the True Queen. In her reasoning she thought therefore as Henry wasn’t married to Anne, and Katherine had now died he was free to make advances to her. I needed to feel that she had given much thought to her position, as in the early part of the book she was so devout in her religious beliefs.

Families were in a constant struggle for power, and we see how Jane’s ambitious brothers encouraged her, despite knowing how she felt, they wanted the rewards that came with being a favoured family of the king. To have their sister be the King’s mistress was a heady thought, but when she refused and it became likely she would be Queen their pleasure was unconstrained. That goes through all the historical fiction I’ve read, families always seem to be in the struggle for pole position, ready to use their females however it benefits the family, disregarding how they themselves may feel. The Seymours were a typical family in their actions, all of the “important” families would have done the same thing. The Boleyns pushed Mary forward, then her sister Anne, and later the Howards pushed Kitty, despite her young age, all for Family glory and favours.

I enjoyed the author’s notes, where Alison explains how she has used certain known facts, or drawn conclusions from available data and modern advice, to fit this book, but made clear that it may not be what actually happened. I want to read fiction, but feel its grounded in reality, and I am happy at the way this was done. I haven’t read the earlier books, will look out for them.

Stars: Five, a lovely long read ( almost 7000 kindle locations) that engrossed me, made me feel part of the story, took me back in time mentally for a few hours. Did what I though was impossible and made me feel sympathetic at times for Henry!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Illumination of Ursula Flight, Anna-Marie Crowhurst

The Illumination of Ursula Flight,  Anna-Marie Crowhurst

The Illumination of Ursula Flight by [Crowhurst, Anna-Marie]

Genre: Historical Fiction , Literary Fiction

I really wanted to like this book, wonderful cover, beautifully written but somehow it was just an OK read for me. Its kind of whimsical, almost fantastical the way its told, but in effect its a story of one poor child married off unhappily, easily taken in by the stories of others.
She’s determined though, and doesn’t stay down but bounces back, full of optimism. Her story is one very familiar to the time where girls and women were almost a sub-class, seen as delicate when it came to learning and education, and the property of the nearest male relative.

I didn’t really like Ursula, even when we first meet her as a toddler, and my feelings didn’t change even as she aged. I did admire her determination though, the way she picked herself up again and again. Sadly hers was the lot that befell many women of the time, where men weren’t expected to be faithful, where silver tongued rakes whispered sweet nothings in ears that were too ready to believe them. As always its the woman that pays the price.

I do like a dip back in history from time to time, and I enjoyed that side of it, but I almost abandoned the book to begin with, as it just didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and I never really came to love the story. I’m glad I read it, the writing style is interesting and kept pulling me back even as I was mulling over whether to stop as the actual story wasn’t working for me.
That’s how it goes sometimes, a beautifully written tale, loved by other readers but which just doesn’t do it for me. Its not the book, its me, a matter where my taste in reading and the story within the novel just don’t meet.

Stars: Three, interesting setting, beautifully told, but the story wasn’t a great one for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Burning Chambers, Kate Mosse

The Burning Chambers,  Kate Mosse

The Burning Chambers by [Mosse, Kate]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical fiction

I remember reading Kate’s Labyrinth years ago, but haven’t read any of her books since then but I enjoy historical fiction and was keen to read this.

I don’t know much about the religious divides of this time in France, I know more about UK history for this time and thought I’d enjoy reading about it. As in UK when there were religious controversies and changes, its a particularly gruesome time, where people were taken for spurious reasons and tortured at will. Its weird isn’t it how we think torturing someone for a confession will bring out the truth….
Sadly though I found the book incredibly slow starting, and though the pace did pick up I never got really engrossed in the story. I felt kind of bogged down by detail at times and had to put the book aside. That’s unusual for me, I love details, I love the little nitty-gritty intricacies of people’s lives, but in this book I felt that it just didn’t work for me.

If you’ve an interest in french/religious history this may appeal to you, I certainly expected I’d love it but…It’s well written and has all the elements for a good read for me but was one of those where the story and I just didn’t gel. I’m not really sure why, just that I found it a struggle to keep reading and eventually I was just pleased to have finished.
I won’t be reading further books in this series but would happily pick up another of Kate’s stories, even when you usually adore an authors work there’s always the chance some won’t suit.

Stars: Two and a half, I enjoyed parts but overall it wasn’t a hit with me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

The War Widow, Lorna Gray

The War Widow,  Lorna Gray

The War Widow by [Gray, Lorna]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

WW2 isn’t my favourite time setting for reading, but the amazon sample of this intrigued me, very mysterious, had me wanting to know what happens next.
Sadly I carried on wanting to know what came next, as for most of the book it seemed to me to be hinting at various events and revelations that didn’t come out until the very end, and even then I’m still unsure of just how all the connections tied in.
Its – for me, not for everyone clearly – a novel that was well written, had a fabulous use of language and yet was incredibly confusing. For much of the novel we know that Kate has experienced so many bad things, its her voice telling the story, but then the hints are there that maybe its all in her head, trauma from the suicide of her ex husband, trauma from the accident she head, so what she tells us may just be what she believes and not what actually happened.
I didn’t really like her, but of course she’s very true to the time, recent history it maybe but still a period when Men Ruled, and the ladies were expected to defer always.
I did like Adam, though sometimes he appeared brusque.
The other hotel residents were a mixed bunch and I just loved the way Mary’s sister was so determined to see Mary in the running for Adam’s affections, and the way she tried to discredit Kate constantly.
Overall it was an OK read, I did keep putting it aside as I was so confused at what was happening and incredibly frustrated not to know what was the big secret, what the guys after her wanted, what the police were really doing etc. It works perfectly that way for many readers, thus the five stars of course, but we’re all different and it didn’t suit me.
It does all tie up neatly, though even then the bluffs and obfuscation and constantly in presence, and getting to the end I had to re-read some parts to see exactly what had happened. I still can’t say I fully followed all of it 🙂

Stars: Three, its not a story I’d reread, and one I did struggle with, but that’s more a case of me not the book. Not all books suit all readers, that doesn’t make them bad books, just ones that will be loved by some and disregarded by others.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Pengarron Land, by Gloria Cook

Pengarron Land, by Gloria Cook

 

Pengarron Land (Pengarron Sagas Book 1) by [Cook, Gloria]

 

Genre:  General fiction (adult), Historical fiction.

I fell in love with historical Cornwall after the BBC drama back in the 70’s led me to reading all the Winston Graham novels. Many times! I hoped this series would be along those lines but sadly though there are similarities the story itself was too bland and uneventful for me.

It starts well, lots of promise but I was expecting the Poldark level of drama and it isn’t here. There is drama but its very slight, easily over and everyone is so -well- Nice. Kerensa is nice, Oliver is nice, Beatrice starts off being harsh to Kerensa but…she’s soon nice too,. Throw in others from the upper classes who welcome Kerensa (!), the villagers who are mostly happy for her, the wise but open minded vicar, the shopkeepers….you get it. Everyone is so Nice. Clem is to start with too but turns nasty, but even his jealousy has a stunted edge, he never really does much except moan and wallow in self pity.
Its not a bad book, felt very true to the period but I need more going on, more real drama, jealousy, angst, a bigger divide where Oliver marrying Kerensa would have caused a huge rift in society as it did in Poldark. I didn’t really understand why he married her, Tom was greedy enough that he’d have sold the land anyway, and Oliver could have fond a more suitable to his position wife than Kerensa. He’d barely noticed her so its not like he felt one look and he had to have her. Knowing she was already set to marry Clem he’s not the kind of guy who’d go against that just on a whim so his determination to marry her didn’t really work for me.

The Poldark echoes don’t really do this any favours, Oliver doesn’t have the charisma of Ross, Kerensa is sweet but doesn’t have Demelza’s sharp wit and determination, Beatrice has shades of Trudy, but without Jud it doesn’t really work. There’s a kiddley run by a widow, the miners and their hard lives, wrecks on the shore and smuggling, even a Rosina with a bad leg but somehow it all feels so pallid.
I expected Oliver’s contemporaries to be shocked, to be rude to Kerensa, for Clem to do more than wander round whinging, for the vicar to be spouting fire and brimstone, for the shopkeepers to be avaricious etc. Instead I read a novel that was probably far more true to the time period, but much less fun to read.
Its not a book I could dislike, its perfectly well written, just didn’t have the excitement and drama the Poldark connection gave me to expect.

Stars: Three, a story I had high hopes for but which ultimately was just an OK read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

 

Living in the Past, Jane Lovering

Living in the Past,  Jane Lovering

Living in the Past (Choc Lit) by [Lovering, Jane]

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Well, I’ll start with that genre category, women’s fiction. Why? I so hate that we alienate men from stories that they could well enjoy, splitting books into Women’s and Men’s is so dated, harks back to the fifties or so and has no place in literacy today. Well, that’s my take.

Anyway, to the book. I love Jane Lovering’s stories, find ChocLit delivers books I almost always love, and this one was another perfect read. A story that’s got that bit extra, not a cut and paste romance but one where there’s a fascinating story line running through.
I’m kind of open minded about time travel, just because we don’t understand it, if its possible, doesn’t mean it isn’t. After all years back what’s common place now was thought impossible, but science and technology brings leaping progress in what was thought impossible. I think of it as sort of parallel worlds, existing at the same time and maybe parts are thinner, maybe its some bloodlines, maybe time of year etc that allow people to pass through.

I love Grace, she’s been a widow for two years, and talks still to Jamie. I talk daily to my late husband to, so her feelings resonated with me. She has some great friends and they have been a solid support and as part of that Grace gets dragged off on an archaeology dig.
Duncan, the dig leader is a terrific character. He appears abrupt, abrasive and grumpy, yet his colleagues and students follow him avidly, knowing he’s very skilled at his career. This dig is personal for him though, and through it Grace discovers some of why he appears so unapproachable. I so felt for him, what an awful thing to happen, and the repercussions have shadowed his whole life.

Its kind of not hard to see where the story goes, but that didn’t matter, its delivered in such a fascinating way. I really felt there with Grace, out in the mud of the 21st century with the dig, and then back with Lady Hen. I love the way the two stories worked seamlessly, how they fitted together, and how we gained insights of the characters, saw how events can shape us. Life happens and we react to it, and what happens to us affects us as people.

Stars:Five, another great read from Jane, one I was really absorbed in and enjoyed thoroughly.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Lakota Moon Rising, Constance Gillam

Lakota Moon Rising, Constance Gillam

Lakota Moon Rising by [Gillam, Constance]
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, I’m fairly selective but this is the sort I really enjoy, a romance, wrapped up in a very real period realistic story about the people involved, the day to day issues and events that they undertake.
Julia has a sad back story but one that was very real for the time, that affected so many people. Horrible times when people of colour were regraded as less, who had no rights, whose children could be sold like possessions. She’s determined not to give in to the under-seer, who routinely uses women for his pleasure, but knows the only way out is to run, and that if she’s caught the consequences will be horrific.
She is captured by Comanche Indians, and at that point I almost stopped reading as what happened was pretty gruesome….but I skipped some of it and then when she was traded to Trades with Horses the story really began for me. He’s a very foresighted warrior but battling not only the whites, who he knows will deceive the Indians, go back on their word, but his own people who simply don’t believe them. He’s fighting for their way of life but tragically he doesn’t stand a chance. When he sees Julia something in her sparks to him and he determines she will be his wife. Convincing her though takes time 😉 She’s set her heart on Canada and freedom. Will she give up that dream, or chose to stay with him. They undertake some perilous events, antagonism from white men and his own people in their quest to be together and its a story that I really enjoyed. It’s a shortish read, a 0.5 in a series but packs a lot in to the book.

Stars: Five, a very genuine feeling story, heartbreaking at times but with a HEA – I do need those.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Wildwood, Elinor Florence

Wildwood, Elinor Florence

Wildwood by [Florence, Elinor]

Genre:  General fiction (adult), women’s fiction.

Well this was one of those reads which was a real treasure. It merges past and present beautifully with present day Molly, reading the diaries of her great aunt, first owner of wildwood, and the story of their struggles to live in such an inhospitable environment.

Molly and Bridget are wonderful, Molly, having had a hard life and been disappointed one too many times in love, is determined its just her and Bridget now. Bridget has elective mutism, and was having treatment, as she can speak but will only talk to Molly.
Then things change, Molly loses her job, they can’t afford Bridget’s therapy, can’t afford the apartment and are facing homelessness when she gets contacted by a solicitor about her great aunts will.

Its the first Molly knows about her family, and comes as a shock. She will inherit Wildwood and can do with it as she pleases but first she has to live there for a year. Or she can take a lump sum which would give them a few months reprieve. $50,000 or $1.5 million…There’s a $400 a month rental from land contracted out if she chooses to stay there which will provide the basics.
Of course she opts to stay but the house has been closed up for many years and is filthy, and Molly and Bridget seem to have a bit of a germ mania….frantic cleaning restores it to its glory, a beautiful home but with no plumbing, no electricity. They’re going to be living much as the ancestors did. Molly finds the diary of her great aunts first year, when she was just 18, along with other books, and they help her so much. She a city girl, can’t cook, knows nothing of country life, how to live in a place where the answer to everything is Google.

I loved seeing the story from the present, Bridget and Molly having great days, having bad days, having scary days. I loved Winona, young girl from the local reservation who came to be such a friend and help to the family.
She had a tough life and the diary talks about Annie Bearspaw, who was her great grandmother ( I think) and a famous healer.
I loved how they changed over the course of the year, grew in confidence, how Bridget became a different child from the scared, timid one she was, Molly learned practical skills, and Winona opened out from the quiet ,slightly sullen girl we first met. .
There’s a hint of romance and that made the book perfect for me, Colin was a great guy, it was clear how he felt about Molly, Bridget and Winona, and how they felt for him. The gentle way the romance played out, taking a very back role in the story was perfect.
Of course its not all sweet and light, there are reminders of how harsh the land is, how unforgiving of mistakes, how people have to take care at all times not to get lost to the vagaries of nature.
Lisette, reader of bodice ripper romance, with her vivid clothes and tortured hairstyles, secretary to Mr Jones ( Franklin) the solicitor who handles everything. I adored her, and felt so sad for her when she realised just how things were going, that she was another victim of the “wife doesn’t understand me” justification. I looked forward to seeing what she was wearing, what she was reading each month. She had a perfect end too – and I hope she went on to go far, she was such a kind, sunny person.

I made a couple of notes while reading..the rhubarb pie Molly so proudly makes but doesn’t add enough sugar, reminded me of a time when I made two perfect rhubarb crumbles for my husband and my friend. I don’t like rhubarb but they did, and the crumbles looked perfect. Only issue was I forgot the sugar, not added too little but forgot it altogether! Yeach…really sour.
The second note, not humorous at all was the reference to Winona’s ancestors, victims of the Residential School system. The whites of the time were so obnoxious we decided Native Indians needed education in our ways, and removed whole families of their children, taking them far away to residential schools. No chance to object, no thought for the kids or the families who lost them, it was just done. Of course they weren’t going to be accepted by the whites even if well educated, and taken away from their support system they lost their place, their role in the Native Indian group too, turned into people with no real place in the world.
How arrogant we can be at times. I’d read about this a couple of years back and had no knowledge of it before, but it was quite widespread, no doubt all the “do-good” types patting themselves on the back for a job well done, when in reality they ruined lives of the kids taken away and the families left behind.
Ah well, that’s today’s rant over 😉 read this book if you love history brought to life, to see the past through the eyes of people living it.

Stars: Five, great read, real situation, past and present both felt very real, its not a one plot story but one with some real substance to it. One I will reread.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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