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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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Any Old Diamonds, K.J. Charles

Any Old Diamonds, K.J. Charles

Any Old Diamonds (Lilywhite Boys Book 1) by [Charles, KJ]

Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance

I love KJ Charles writing style, very typically British gentle, self effacing humour, subtle and understated clues to plots, and a rich, realistic historical setting. I don’t want in-your-face novels, I want to explore characters, work out scenes, pick up insinuated clues to what’s going to happen, try to work things out myself.
I loved the connection to some past novels, though you don’t need to read those. I enjoyed seeing those characters some twenty years on.

I adored Alec, so felt for him. He wanted to do what was right by his siblings, avenge his sister’s death, but when its your father, however awful he is, its a tough thing to face. The Lillywhite Boys, are commissioned by Alec to work the sting, with Jerry, one half of the duo, working closely with Alec, as his friend so that he can be in the right place at the right time.
I loved the slow developing romance between Alec and Jerry, the wondering from Alec is this is just a pleasant interlude for Jerry or could he dare hope he means more to him.? Jerry is such an enigma its difficult to feel how he thinks, work out what he really wants from Alec, and I wasn’t certain either until I was blown away by that magical, unexpected declaration.
As always historical novels bring the dangers to M/M romances to the fore, and Oscar Wilde and his stint in prison gets a mention – as does the fact that he was prosecuted but the Wealthy Society Gentleman also involved wasn’t. That links to the main plot here, how Lord Alec’s father, the Duke of Ilvar, literally got away with murder, being both wealthy and having the position to take out any repercussions. Old Boys Network at its finest. Its fiction here, but things like that did – and to a degree still do – happen all too often 😦
I thought I’d followed the clues, worked plots and answers out, but as usual KJ has surprises, events don’t go as I’d planned and everything changes in an instant. Its cleverly done, the way I’d thought it would go would have left severe repercussions whereas of course the way it actually happens works well for everyone. Well, apart from the Duke and Duchess of course!!

Stars: Five, another cracking read,. Romance, mystery, history all in one cleverly written story.

Arc via author

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

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

The Turn of Midnight, Minette Walters

The Turn of Midnight,  Minette Walters

The Turn of Midnight: The much anticipated second instalment to the bestselling novel The Last Hours by [Walters, Minette]

Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (adult)

I adored The Last Hours, such a realistic read, I felt I was there with the characters. I’ve been looking froward to this. Its a very detail dense read, and I did put it aside a couple of time to fully absorb what had been written and think about what transpired.

In this next book we can see how some of the characters have changed, matured in the case of certain younger ones, some of the older ones having the reservations about Lady Anne and what she was doing reassured with her successes.
Develish has come through the plague thanks to Lady Anne’s early closing them off to the rest of the country. A hard decision, as was the exclusion period for those that had been out to see what was happening in the rest of the country. One too, of which the priest was certainly not in favour of, the line of the day from Pope Clement was that constant prayers and repentance for sins would stave off the disease. Those who died were not devout enough, full of wickedness, the plague was God’s punishment.

Once more Thaddeus is the hero of the hour, and the lads that went out with him in book one returned as men, banding together and seeing Thaddeus as their leader, honouring and respecting his decisions. He listens to them first though before deciding a course of action and they feel as if they’ve had some input. Its clear to see Lady Anne’s influence on him here, its similar to the way she rolls up her sleeves and gets on with jobs alongside her people, not just sits lazily, expecting them t do the work.

Thaddeus and the lads find out just how badly the rest of the country has suffered, especially among the labouring classes, and its clear there is going to be a huge shortfall in those with the knowledge to grow food, look after livestock, all the day to day jobs so essential in life. He and Lady Anne come up with a plan to secure independence for her folk, but its fraught with danger, and their worst fears come true.

They’ve changed some opinions by their example, Bourne has taken to heart what he learned in Develish, and with Thaddeus advice intends to implement much of it on his own estates. He can see their ideas for the future ring true, that workers more than scribes are needed now, that more profits produced when workers are treated with respect and fairly rather than the whip and fear. I feel much of his changing ideals come from the profit angle but that works and everyone benefits so….
Sadly when Thaddeus and the lads seek to bring about the plan he and Lady Anne have come up with to set their people free, they find they’ve been nurturing a viper.
Some have come round with kind words and deeds, and seen the example of what can be achieved that way, Bourne and Lady Eleanor for example, but someone else treated with the same kindness is still harbouring thoughts of vengeance, and it brings them into a very dangerous position.

Its a great read, transporting me back in time once more. The characters feel so vivid, and I feel I’ve got to know Thaddeus and the lads really well. Joshua’s dogs play a great part here, hard to think of what might have happened if Thaddeus had his way and they’d been killed. They’ve proved their worth and loyalty time and again. There were times when I struggled to see how Minette would brings these characters through, how would they slide through the murky waters of the deception they planned.

I’m sure much of the UK did look like this after the plague, it decimated the countryside, leaving orphans, ruined homes, fallow fields and a dearth of workers to rebuild. The few who survived in Blandeford were probably very typical of the time, they were so busy deciding who had more rights to what, to ensuring that everyone received a fair share that they didn’t actually achieve anything, didn’t work together, didn’t do what was needed, just struggled on day to day until Thaddeus and Lady Anne explained what happened at Develish, and set them to forming their own leaders and teams. Its pretty typical of what happens in any disaster, there are a few that get on with things while the majority bicker and decide they aren’t being treated equally. Its human nature I guess, but once Thaddeus spoke to them about leadership and what could be done they did seem as if they’d move forward. I’m sure there were many Lords though that didn’t share Lady Anne’s views who insisted their serfs still pay the full tithes even though there were few people to work the fields, mill the flour, spin the wool, butcher the livestock etc.

For those like the workers of Devilish its a time of opportunity, and I’m really keen to see how book three come about, how the events play out.

Stars: Five, another rich, enticing read, that had me fully absorbed in life after the plague.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.

 

The Last Relicuin, Hargus Montgomery

The Last Relicuin, Hargus Montgomery

The Last Relicuin by [Montgomery, Hargus]

Genre: General Fiction, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I was really intrigued by this book, a mix of future worlds and past one but sadly gave up at 30%. I found it too confusing and just wasn’t gelling with the story.

We’re in the 22nd century, where life for the vast majority of the population is lived in a secure and safe environment, behind glass, where everything is germ free. No touching another person, life is lived in a very solitary way so obsessed are they with germs and sterility. Its a strange existence but for them its the norm, the living museums, where they get glimpses of the past, seem an abhorrent way of life to them. Eating foods that’s been grown in dirt? Talking directly to, touching, standing near another person? Risking germs by breathing in unsterile air? Life for them is very safe, very regulated and they can’t imagine a world where people touch each other, breath ordinary air, grow food, gather in groups, and as for sex, horrible thought that, messy and unsanitary…..
Alex though, son of a prominent senator, isn’t so sure about this life, rebels in small ways and then decides he wants to be one of those studying the past, museum dwellers living life as it was in certain periods of history.

I was really intrigued by the idea of this story but in practice I found it confusing, and sadly it was just going over my head. I didn’t understand What was happening and Why, never mind the Who and How….
It soon became a story focused on a mystery, secrets and lies, a struggle for power where the protagonists are determined to keep the past hidden.
It’s a story with strong minded and power hungry characters, set against those who think we have a duty to keep the past alive. There were so many characters I found it difficult sorting out who was who, and how they fitted in. I did like the section dealing with the practicalities of the past, loved for example the bit where Alex smells spring for the first time, his puzzling over what it is, and where he and other students are entranced by falling leaves. I felt sorry for those doomed to live the “safe” life, but I wasn’t pulled into the story enough to continue with it.

Stars: Two, I’m sure for others its a terrific read, but the content just didn’t gel with my taste. One of those stories where its book v reader and we just don’t match.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Laurel’s Choices, Exie Wilde Henson

Laurel’s Choices, Exie Wilde Henson

Laurel's Choices by [Henson, Exie Wilde]

Genre:, Women’s fiction, General fiction
* sigh..* Once more women’s fiction. Why? Men read books like this too.

Every now and then I like to dip into a historical read, especially ones like this where folk are living with nature. I really thought I’d enjoy this, and I did, but with reservations.

I loved the contrast of Laurel and Justin, two people in love who wanted such different things for their family, saw their futures in different ways. Laurel was an amazing woman for the time, very forward thinking, not content to let life just evolve around her, but wanting to fight for not just women’s rights, but for what was morally right every time. She wanted a stable home base, Justin wants travel and adventure, but he respected her in a way many men of the time wouldn’t, and together they do an amazing amount of good for so many people.

Laurel’s faith is very strong and often bring god into a story irritates me, depends how its done. Here’s its necessary, part of Laurels character, and of course back then people faith often was stronger than today, life was tough and they needed to believe in some form of higher power I think. I felt in that context, even though the religious parts got stronger as the novel continued it was necessary as its was so much a part of Laurel.

Where the book fell down for me was that it lagged in parts. I know it can’t be adventure and suspense all the while, and I do love day to day minutiae, but there were times here when I just felt disconnected and put the book aside.
I’m not really sure why, there were plenty of events that brought the “what now?” questions to the fore, the dangers of living in a rural situation, the differences of opinion in folk living so closely together, the medical catastrophes when there’s no hospital nearby…I liked the characters too, it just seemed to be a little flat for me. Still, as ever its perfect for others and its a well written novel that certainly brings forward all the dangers and hardship of living in those times.

Stars: Three and a half, parts I really enjoyed, the roughness of rural life, the difficulties they faced but its a one off read for me.

ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers

Home to McCarron’s Corner, Lily’s Story,  Sharon K. Middleton

Home to McCarron’s Corner, Lily’s Story,  Sharon K. Middleton

Home to McCarron's Corner: Lily's Story by [Middleton, Sharon K.]

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Romance

I love this kind of novel, one which has day to day minutiae of life in times long past and was eager to get started.
I found a number of things that bothered me though. Lily takes going back in time in her stride, to the point where she acts as if its perfectly normal, and those back in the past act as if her appearance is an everyday thing. I know they’ve the advantage of superstition and a prophecy but it felt kind of wrong somehow that everyone was so open and accepting. Then there’s the stuff she just happens to ave on her that play such an important part in the story. Does she really always carry stuff like that around with her. The blood cards in particular, just how many of them did she have? The way people in the past just happily let her test them in a time when anything out of the ordinary was viewed with suspicion was a little weird too for me.
Then there are the many parallels with the Diana Gabaldon Outlander stories. Having read those books several times over I noticed a number of themes that crop up in both…..nothing in fiction is every really unique, but sometimes there were parts that for me felt a little too close. The language and idioms used, I accept Lily would use 21st century speech but the way so often no one queried it? And even used expressions themselves felt a bit wrong.
The story itself was interesting, but I wished there was more from the McCarron’s Corner and the prophecy in it. The first part of the story is there but it seemed to move on to town very quickly.
If you can get past these barriers then its a story you may love, there are some inviting parts but for me the quirks were more than just a minor irritation and the story fell short because of it.

Stars: Two and a half, a story with great potential but which was let down for me by the things I’ve mentioned.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

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