Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The King's Corrodian ~ Love Gil Cunningham

Pat McIntosh is a huge favorite of mine and I got this as a birthday book..sigh..I had too many reviews for new book later I ever so happily finished last night! Love Gil Cunningham so much and this era..Shortly after this period my own Cunninghams moved into Ireland as overseers.My Cunningham cousins are in Tipperary by 1700.

It was possibly the best of the series, but then I think I always say that! Medieval is my favorite period and Scotland and Ireland the very tops! I love the parts written in Scots and Gaelic and have not a bit of trouble with them, of course.

Gil Cunningham and Alys and their immediate entourage travel from Glasgow to Perth to his kinsman's Dominican priory. A man named Pollock, a Corrodian whose living, called a corrody was paid by the King for unclear reasons has vanished. Not just vanished of course, but evaporated out of a locked and sealed room in a huge puff of fire and black smoke. The Devil apparently!

Gil as Quaestor or criminal investigator for Archbishop Blacador in Glasgow is summoned to the Blackfriars Priory to try to make some sense of it. An enlightened and educated couple Gil and Alys are not buying into the "De'il" story but need to tread carefully with religious beliefs of the times.

My very favorite part was Mistress Buttergask's "voices", which were actually explained as her having "The Sight" and she was able to assure Alys of her childbearing possibilities. Mystery was laid upon mystery and it was so very delightful! A must for historical mystery lovers as well as Medieval fans.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baynard's List and Stephen Attebrook

Ludlow England in 1262 was so intriguing, that I had to read this one. My Faunt (Lenfant) is first found in England in this time period in the employ of the Plantagenet kings. I was not disappointed, as the period detail and history was very well done. Stephen Attebrook and some of his associates are a bit more modern than might be expected for that time, but it is a fiction after all.

Attebrook is the Deputy Coroner for Ludlow, and is connected as such, to the Crown. The duties he was responsibility for were accurate, although I thought he might have enjoyed a bit higher status than was apparent. He and his friends and associates seemed to be in danger much of the time, which of course added to the mystery that unfolded.

I am glad that I happened upon this book and plan to try others in the series. Jason Vail knows his period detail and weaves it into a complicated tale. Recommended to those who love mysteries as well as historical fiction.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Visit to 16th Century Ireland ~ Cross of Venegeance

Sixteenth  century Ireland is such a marvelous place for a mystery novel and the Burren's stark,rocky setting merely enhances the tale. Cora Harrison's evocative style of writing transports the reader to this unique time and place.

Mara,the Brehon of the Burren,is a vivid character,who has sophisticated skills described in this excerpt of Brehon Law "judge of three languages and competent in traditional and canon law" He/she may administer laws in the name of its king." She additionally is married to the King Turlough and respected and admired by all.

In 1519 Irish law and the overarching English laws were dramatically different and in a collision course. In each of these ten books the author is able to illustrate those differences both legally and culturally in an impressive fashion. These times were important and cultural remnants exist to this day. Harrison has a masterful grasp of the particular history in which she sets her mysteries.

This particular mystery had me reading feverishly to see learn the outcome and who actually did which deed. The very well developed plot surely twisted and turned until the very end.

Please, please tell me there will be more tales of the Burren! Very soon!

Received from NetGalley for an honest review. Very soon to be released so order now!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Presents from Cwrtnewydd Scribblers

My Christmas gift from Judith Arnopp's writing group is a very fine endeavor. It is not your usual warm, fuzzy and frothy holiday bauble but rather serious writing about deeper issues. It cannot fail to please. "A collection of short stories and poems from the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers to celebrate Christmas" was shared with me and I thank them all!

Teapots and Tiaras is available, just today I think, for free. I snatched it up and devoured it last night. The Cwrtnewydd Scribblers consists of Judith Arnopp, Brenda Old,Sue Moules,Margaret Williams, Iris Lee , Alicia Painter, Mary Middleton and Rachael Thomas. Have I missed anyone? They have been meeting together for more than ten years and Judith Arnopp has been with them for part of that time.

"Teapots" also features winners of a short story contest Helen Spring, Lesley Chapman and Kathy Miles which the Scribblers host each year. Delightful anthology! Grab this one!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Convalescence" is a superb entry into historical Leeds

This short story will lead you from "At the Dying of the Light" to "Fair and Tender Ladies. I gulped it down and loved it and of course went on to read both. Chris Nickson knows his time and place and delivers every time out. The characters have depth and warmth and the story lines are gritty. That was the nature of  the 1730s in Leeds and those that lived in that bygone time.

Recommending the entire series to mystery and historical fictions lovers. Treat yourself to a great reading experience.


Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors

Two weeks ago I said this "
It is so very difficult to tear myself away and to finish the books I have dates to review...Judith Arnopp, Carol McGrath, Paula Lofting, Sherry Jones, Nancy Bilyeau, Anne O'Brien, Debra Brown, Tim Vicary...Oh My!
The new favorite authors that I am finding.. Give me strength to put it down .."

So of course you see that I did not have the strength to put it down. Every night I had to read some more before getting to my "required reading" and now, somewhat regretfully, it has ended.

I am so happy this was offered to me for a review by Debra Brown, a fine Editor! Did I tell you that many of these are favorite authors for me? That I anticipate their books coming out ? Did I mention already that there are many more authors that I am now following because I had the opportunity to read this one?

Katherine Ashe ends the book delightfully with 800 years of Christmas in England and juxtaposes ancient customs with newer ones. I learned how we built on ancient customs to arrive at how we celebrate today. What things did the Protestant Reformation change for "propriety's sake" and which  bits were retained from the ancient Roman Lupercalia? Yes they are all here.

Well it is Christmas now, get out there and purchase this book for yourself. It will offer you countless hours of delightful reading.

Medieval is my biggest passion, both early and late but if you are a lover of Tudor, Regenecy and Victorian it is all here for you! I am off now to find the latest by Brian Wainwright and Christy English  and to look for Roseanne Lortz and Richard Denning. Rereading will also happen from time to time , I am sure of it. Recommended for lovers  of every period of British History and those who appreciate scholarly details in their reading.

Please follow these and other great writers on English Historical Fiction Authors @ englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com as I do..

Monday, November 18, 2013

Covenant With Hell ~ #10 by Priscilla Royal

So far the best I have read in an enjoyable series, although probably sequels are supposed to do that. Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas continue to develop character, depth and acquire insight and self knowledge. Priscilla Royal is a fine historian and knows her period well. It is a period I appreciate as my ancestor(s) were one of Edward's household knights in Ireland.

The setting is just prior to Palm Sunday's pilgrimage to the Walsingham shrine in 1277. The times were unsettled and the premise is that Edward was still unproved and an unpopular king with many pretenders to the throne. Murders and plots to kill the king are untangled by Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas and she is quite prominent as her brother had the king's ear at that time.

Some interesting aspects to Brother Thomas' life are revealed as well as his skills as a sleuth and his charity. His prior prison record again comes to the fore as do other earlier events in his life.Do these events take him out of Tyndal Abbey in the future?

Prioress Eleanor herself acquires more personal serenity through prayers and the pilgrimage itself. The Bell Tower of Ryehill Priory, an invented place, has a very important place in the tale.Ryehill is a poor and impoverished place which ultimately has a change of fortune after some unfortunate events.

Come to the village of Walsingham, in East Anglia and meet Gracia a street child who is entangled with everyone at Ryehill Priory as well as spies and murderers. I am surely glad I had the opportunity to do so.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Contributing authors of "Castles Customs and Kings" ~ all my favorite authors

It is so very difficult to tear myself away and to finish the books I have dates to review...
Judith Arnopp, Carol McGrath, Paula Lofting,Sherry Jones,Nancy Bilyeau, Anne O'Brien, Debra Brown, Tim Vicary...Oh My!

The new favorite authors that I am finding.. Give me strength to put it down ..

Full review to come~

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gracianna ~ A cultural exploration of a life~

Trini Amador has chosen to memorialize his Basque grandparents by this fictionalized but mostly biographical tale of their lives. Titled Gracianna, it is nonetheless a cultural snapshot of  the Basque people and particularly those in the Pyrenees. I have a very old ancestral tie to the Pyrenees region , although my family became political Aquitanians and Anglo Norman , so I very much appreciated this glimpse.

As a Cultural Anthropologist by education, I took the opportunity to speculate on Gracianna's personality as a vestige of an  isolated ethnic group. The Basque language has stayed very much the same since the Stone Age and has very little in common with the Indo European and Romance languages which surround it.

Gracianna was fiercely protective of family and extremely self reliant and almost excluded others into her inner circle. Fortunately for their descendants, Juan Lasaga, her adolescent sweetheart and husband, was less so. Juan followed Gracianna to Paris and entwined his life, lovingly about hers.
Ultimately he saved her life, literally as well as figuratively with his physical presence and tenacity.
Was Gracianna's family of origin different in some way than Juan's or  were they just individual personality traits?

The  author stated that his grandparents were " like two strong tower foundations linked but a bridge..unable to really be one", or was that true? Amador also tells a story of a time in their later years ,when they reverted to their youth, sleeping outdoors together under an oak tree overlooking their sheep ranch.

Their wartime Paris  experience involved the Nazi occupation of Paris and the French Resistance Movement. Gracianna's sister Constance's incarceration in a concentration camp near Auschwitz was described with stark and chilling language, and her almost inexplicable release was startling. This was a large part of the author's tale and the part I enjoyed the least.

I am glad that Amador exhumed a childhood memory to construct this tale and that I was able to review it for my Blog. It definitely was thought provoking and provided many  questions to research, which is definitely why I read books!

About the AuthorTrini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Love Roman Britain! ~ Dark Omens by Rosemary Rowe

So very glad I received this book for a review from Netgalley. I must go back and look at the series to find when Libertus rejoined his captive wife, as his family life adds a fine dimension to the series.

Rosemary Rowe's descriptions of Roman Britain and those who lived there are superb and historically possible, at least in my estimation. The darkness of the period is hinted at but seldom overwhelms. Libertus is an increasingly cheerful character despite his earlier history as captive and slave.

Characters are very well developed and humorously portrayed, if a bit modern in their thought processes.

The mystery in Dark Omens weaves religion and class structure in a very entertaining and intriguing tale of murder and exile. A complicating blizzard grinds the Empire,  and specifically the countryside around Glevum, to a halt with exciting consequences. Recommended for historical mystery fans as well as this who enjoy this ancient period.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Elizabeth of York : A Tudor Queen and Her World

Elizabeth of York is currently in the literary spotlight and Alison Weir contributed greatly to the existing body of knowledge. I chose to review this book so I could be more informed about what Elizabeth's life was like in actuality. I was not disappointed in what was offered by this fine history.

Weighing the more than adequate evidence, anecdotes, fiscal records and arriving and some conclusions, Weir concludes that the marriage between Henry and Elizabeth was a happy one and that Elizabeth had a good and full life.She is the ancestor of most of the rulers of England since that time,and she bridged an era of change by her life.The meticulous accumulation of scholarly detail was a tribute to a life well lived.

Alison Weir's conclusions are different from some authors that have been offered in quite recent books.I think she proved her case and am not sure that others did so. Perhaps it is a bias or an interpretation but facts were definitely offered in this case. I appreciated the opportunity to read this one as I also did with those with opposing opinions. It is up to the reader/historian to decide, I feel.

I received this book from NetGalley to provide a review

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Monmouth Summer ~ A Unique Read!

The summer of 1685 in Monmouth may be significant for my family. Much, if not most, of my reading is geared to significant events represented in historical fiction. I jumped at the chance to get this book for free, but was not expecting to become so engrossed in it that I would not put it down until I finished.

Tim Vicary has written a fine novel about this brief moment in time that was so catastrophic for many in the West Country. The history seemed impeccable and writing about common men and women and their reasons for rebelling made an effective tale.

James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, had tried and failed to get prominent people to join in his rebellions, so he wooed the West County peasants and tradespeople. They had the Civil War strife, which had enveloped their lives a generation before, as background.

Ann Carter and her father Adam were well developed characters although their motivation was discordant by today's politics. The day to day life of the villagers of Colyton was descriptive and compelling. Robert Pole, an officer in King James militia, opens the tale as Ann's love interest.

The ending, we know, is disastrous for thousands of persons involved. It is terrifying to read of how little justice was dispensed for misguided men who were manipulated by their dreams for a better life.
My own research has shown me that family members fled the area at that time for anyplace that gave them some protection.

I recommend this book for history enthusiasts.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Anvil of God ~ Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles

Charles Martel founded the Carolingian dynasty and was the ruler of medieval Western Europe. He and his descendants, called Carolingians laid the early foundations of  what would come to be the kingdom of France. The lands north of the Pyrenees were being collected and won by the Merovingian kings with the assistance of their mayors of the palace.

Charles Martel was the illegitimate son of Pippin II, a family who had reduced the Merovingian kings to mere figureheads. Their family became  hereditary mayors of the palace  at that time in Austrasia. They were the power behind the throne and soon usurped the powers of the kings. Charles Martel became the mayor of the palace of Austrasia, instead of the legitimate grandson of Pippin II, by the acclamation of the nobility.

I learned a great deal about the origins of feudalism and empire by reading this book. Gleason is a fine historian and has a appreciation of the cultures of the regions involved in this pivotal time in history. The characters  have energy and dimension as well as being powerful figures.

Charles Martel was a skilled administrator and warrior as his mayoral duties would dictate. He surely established the beginnings of feudalism and  knighthood. His son Carloman, at least in this tale seemed like an early Christian knight, although his chivalry surely went astray. Pippin the younger son was much less religious and more a man of the people. Hiltrude his daughter, here called Trudi was an enigma. Gripho the younger son portrayed by Gleason was shallow, juvenile and not very highly esteemed. How much of the personas of Charles' children is factual, even the author is unsure of, so little is known of them.

Battle scenes were graphic but that was the nature of war, then and now. I recommend the book to lovers of historical novels as well as battle buffs, although that is not my favorite genre. I look forward to the next installment of the family and hope it continues with future Carolingians. This family was important ancestrally to so many that I feel strongly that the remainder of the descendants of Charles should be explored in depth.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I found it a very worthwhile read.
                              ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After a 25-year career in crisis management and public affairs, J. Boyce Gleason began writing historical fiction and is publishing his first novel ANVIL OF GOD, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles.  With an AB in history from Dartmouth College, Gleason brings a strong understanding of the past to his historical fiction.  He is married, has three sons and lives in Virginia.

                 GIVEAWAY!! GIVEAWAY!!   
                                   This fine book will be given away to one of you from today through the end of the Book Tour. Get your entry in by November 29th at 6 PM by posting to this blog or sending me a  e-mail or message at Google. I will choose a number at random and then notify you of your success. The giveaway is for one paperback and US only. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Fire Dance- Helen Tursten ~ Return to Goteborg, Sweden

Irene Huss is a favorite of mine as is the Goteborg Sweden setting and this book did not disappoint. The author has aged her characters gently and appropriately with enjoyable status updates on their present activities. Even Sammie the dog is enjoying life as much as he did when I last visited the family.

Aiding the readjustment was a split timeframe for the mystery, two or more mysteries were taking place over a fifteen years period. A child was suspected of knowledge of a crime but was protected by family and child protective service workers. Fast forwarding over those years we meet the young woman who was the child Sophie as a victim of a violent murder. Was she a victim or merely a disturbed child who grew up in a terribly dysfunctional family?

Sophie's mother, brother, father and other family members definitely warranted Inspector Huss' attention. She is accused of spying, trespassing and causing bodily harm to at least one member of this family. At the same time her husband developed amnesia and her twin daughters add their own distractions to her successful policing of the case.

The ending was unexpected but well done. Helen Tursten knows how to weave a plot successfully and to maneuver her characters in a believable manner. I received a review copy from NetGalley and am quite glad I did.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Stark and Dramatic

So very excited to be able to review this long anticipated work by  this excellent author.. The book was riveting and of course I was barely able to put it down after I had started. Philippa Gregory's version of the day to day life of Elizabeth of York was stark and dramatic to say the very least.

Henry VII is more obsessed than I could have imagined with the various Pretenders to the throne.Since he is essentially a Pretender himself, this is a bit puzzling. That he was not a good husband to the Princess Elizabeth was not something I had expected, although I don't know why.
His mother and he were known to be controlling and cold and he surely was that. The fact that he put to death or imprisoned many,if not most of Elizabeth's relatives should have been a clue.

Gregory's belief is that a love had grown between Henry and his wife which his strange behavior eventually extinguished. I found that especially poignant and sad and I grieved for Elizabeth. She seems to have had a warmer relationship with her mother and siblings and her cousin Margaret which is a comfort. She adored her children and she had a comfortable life as Queen of England.

Gregory is such a superb writer that all of those things really mattered to me as I read it. It definitely was not just a story but gripped the heart. A must read!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

COLOSSUS The Four Emperors ~ A trip to ancient Rome

David Blixt did a masterful job with word pictures of Rome and the Romans  in a troubled period. I agreed to review this fine book for a blog tour although it is not my usual epoch to read. What a surprise and a delight to find characters who leapt off the page and engaged my imagination. My three years of high school Latin and Junior Classical League also served me in good stead, although I surely learned things about Nero that Miss Cooper never shared with us.

Nero's suicide threw the Empire into the first Civil War in just about 100 years, surely the result of his erratic and despotic rule, which prompted many Senators to declare him an enemy of the State. Enter Galba, then Otho and finally Vitellius who was a disaster. Each of them had their supporters, regions and Legions to back them, albeit briefly. The gens Vespasia which Blixt embodies as not one but three men named Titus Flavius Sabinus, I,II and III, emerges from this unrest as a steadfast family who serve the Empire well.

The book begins with the younger brother of Titus Flavius Sabinus the eldest being named as general of the war in Judea. Several Christian  executions such as Symeon ben Jonah, Marcus and Saul of Tarsus  also feature prominently in the opening chapters and their remaining friends and family appear throughout in sympathetic fashion. Cultures begin to mesh together in a  time of civil unrest

Eventful  and sometimes brutal events transpire throughout the telling of this tale  which is not always my preferred choice of novels but such were the times. Ritual suicide, which surprised me to read of was explained by the Roman belief of a "good death" being as important as a life well lived.

The family Vespasian had it's ups and downs but remained essentially true to one another, with the possible exception of Sabinus Major who had a serious case of sibling envy. The book closes with Vespasian being chosen as Emperor by the Senate in December 69 after being declared by the armies in Egypt and Judea in July of that year. This family prevailed and ruled the Roman Empire until 96 AD.
About the AuthorAuthor and playwright David Blixt's work is consistently described as "intricate," "taut," and "breathtaking." A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS'D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY'S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, "Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it." Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as "actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order."

For more about David and his novels, visit

Sunday, October 6, 2013

871 AD Mercia and the Danish Invasion

I very much enjoyed The Circle of Ceridwen and the time or history it illuminated. Historical novels that verify the times and people utilizing the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle appeal greatly to me. Ceridwen was mostly a believable character although some of her life choices seemed improbable.

The Danish invasions are important reading to me on several levels, and this time period especially so,as it lays a framework for when the Normans began to come to England.

"A.D. 871. This year came the army to Reading in Wessex;there was much slaughter on either hand, ; but the Danes kept possession of the field"

Such was the time that Octavia Randolph wrote about and Ceridwen lived. It seems accurate and believable to me and times, people and places all developed extremely well.

I plan to go now and purchase the other two books in the series as I am missing my daily trips into Essex and Mercia

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Martin Jensen ~ The King's Hounds

This is the first title of Martin Jensen's to be released in English and I am sure it will not be the last.The title the "King's Hounds" is a play on words that suggests the probability of further mysteries to be solved, as does King Cnut's making such a comment. The Translator is very much to be congratulated as the book was amusing and entertaining.

King Cnut Sweynsson is recently crowned and has convened a combined meeting of the Witenagemot and Danish Ting to bring his varied peoples together in Oxford. Winston the Illuminator, who grew up in a monastery, is summoned by the Lady Ælfgifu the Mistress of Northampton to paint King Cnut. Enroute he encounters Halfdan of Oakthorpe a dispossessed Saxon whose father and older brother had been killed at the Battle of Assundun fighting the Danes.

Winston and Halfdan encounter each other on the way to Oxford and join forces. Halfdan is hungry and Winston is unprotected and their mutual needs work well together. Their first encounter leads them to the later mystery they are commissioned to unravel.

I was very happy to have been able to read this for a review. I recommend it highly for historical mystery as well as medieval period historical novels.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spellbinding and Riveting ~ Fair and Tender Ladies

I returned to Leeds for a riveting visit with Richard Nottingham as he continues to do what he has always done best, solve crimes with his wit and his heart.

Chris Nickson tells a spellbinding story, taking the reader with him into the hearts and minds of the citizens of this city as they existed in 1734.I should digress here, and tell you to hop on over to Amazon.com and purchase "Convalescence". This short novel  can precede your reading of Fair and Tender Ladies until publication.

Nickson, like his protagonist the Constable, has a love and an intimate knowledge of the city. "Why Leeds?" he has said, " It's where I was born and raised, and that puts a place in your bones. You know it the way you can never quite know anywhere else". Nothing enhances my literary appreciation like solid historical facts and appropriate period details.

Emily Nottingham, the Constable's only living relative is in danger, as are many young women. Why is that and how do these and other murders and crimes tie into each other, or do they? What would Nottingham do without his right hand man, Deputy Sedgewick?

Answers to all of these questions had me biting my nails as I finished the book. Relief of a sort was followed by wondering what will happen to Leeds if a certain letter is delivered. How much time will elapse until we see the Constable again?

Were I you, I would purchase "Convalescence" this very moment, and preorder and read "Fair and Tender Ladies". I am pleased to be able to designate this a Five Star mystery novel in my review. Recommended to historical and mystery lovers and anyone at all who enjoys a well written period tale. Off to my next Nottingham read!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The King's Grave ~ An insider look at an event

As one of the millions who were awake and on Twitter as the announcement came on Richard III's identity, I was excited and thrilled to get a review copy of the book from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. My Kindle and I happily became witnesses to a remarkable historic event through this book.

The authors, who held differing ideas about King Richard, made a more than adequate team  team as the facts were sequentially laid out before me. Ms. Langley's part of the tale was most appealing to me and was riveting. I found myself most excited at Philippa Langley's narration of the events and less so for the historical events compiled by the Jones/Langley team which at times created a disjunction. Probably Langley and the search, dig and resulting scientific conclusions by impeccable experts get five stars from me and the book as a whole three. You might chalk that up to the fact that I do a lot of work in genetic genealogy (DNA) and the facts of the search for and discovery of Richard are breathtaking for me.

That being said, it was a very good technique to bring balance and scholarly discourse to Richard's persona and the book itself. I enjoyed the psychological profiling and handwriting analysis which added depth to the two opinions. Richard seems to have been very much a product of his times and his convictions. He was and remains a courageous warrior and a chivalrous prince, the last English warrior king.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Announcing ~ "The Study of Murder" by Susan McDuffie

I was so very happy to catch up with Muirteach MacPhee and his new wife Mariota on the road to Oxford. Muirteach, you remember, is the Keeper of Records for John McDonald the Lord of the Isles, who is also his overlord. He has been charged, as we join him, with protecting and escorting Donald, son of the Lord of the Isles and grandson of the current King of Scotland.

The year is 1374 and the differences between the Scottish Hebrides and  the university town of Oxford  were stark. In addition to the usual mistrust between town and gown, we can add religious and gender inequities, which intensify stresses on the newly married couple. Muirteach seems to be accepted but Mariota, seen to be his equal in Scotland, is mistrusted for her skills and education in this country.

Riots, disappearances and murder shake and roil the town leaving many in danger. When Mariota disappears, Muirteach is desolate, distraught and sleepless but continues to search for her and gather clues about all. He is aided by Thomas Houkyn,coroner, a historical figure in  1373 Oxford Town. The coroner collaborates with Muirteach with network of searchers  as  hope begins to fade for Mariota and another missing young woman.

Jonetta, the tavern keeper's daughter, had gone missing shortly after Muirteach, Mariota and Donald arrived in Oxford. It was initially surmised that she ran off with a chapman from York who fancied her. When that proved not to be the case, suspicion turned on another attached to the school.The plot and the suspects shift and twist and change daily. The coroner's jury finds an innocent man guilty and  he will soon hang.

You MUST read this book, a superb mystery and historically correct in every aspect. Susan McDuffie is of Clan McPhee,Fee, McDuffie  and her ancestors served the Lord of the Isles, the McDonalds in the Inner Hebrides on Colonsay.She knows her Scottish history and this period intimately and is a powerful storyteller.

                                      GIVEAWAY  GIVEAWAY   GIVEAWAY
                                 Celebrating the publication of this book with an ARC of this very fine book.
Send a request from my blog using my Google email found there at the top by  the end of the Tour  on September 25th.  I will have a helper draw a number and will award the book based on the order the e-mails come in. I shall send it to the e-mail you provide in the e-mail. Good Luck!

                                                           The Author and Award
Susan McDuffie and her Editor and fellow author Alice Duncan with her 2011 Award for "Best Historical Novel of 2011" by the New Mexico Book Awards for  The Fairie Hills

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Closet ~ Summerset Tales ... A Giveaway

Pleased to be an advanced reader for Jac Wright's upcoming full length novel, The Reckless Engineer. You too can be pleased as he is offering to send his short story, The Closet, to those who sign up from my Blog! So we are all very fortunate on this Friday the 13th. No bad luck here!

Jac Wright is an Edgar Nominee whose Summerset Tales, a collection of literary novel The Reckless Engineer.  His characters live, love and struggle in the semi-fictional area of England called Summerset. Thomas Hardy called this area Wessex in his Tales.

I call it fun and am ready to explore the region and experience the suspense myself.
Use this link below to sign in on Jac Wright's contact page. and start the count down to The Reckless Engineer debut  also.


The Handfasted Wife ~ A Gem of a Book ~ Free on Friday ! Grab It Now!!

Carol McGrath's fine work is climbing on the charts.. Grab it Free while you can at Goodreads Giveaways and Amazon.com and iTunes..
My previous review is below..I am counting the days until her next novel..

So very glad that I saw this book in someone's "want to read" status! This is an era and a family that I can't get enough of reading and the author surely did them justice.

I am thrilled that this is the first of a planned trilogy and that I can revisit Elditha's family and hopefully it will be soon. Carol McGrath has done impeccable research and is so very knowledgeable on these troubled times. The use of The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Domesday and Orderic Vitalis through out the book in chapter headings was very inventive and informative.

McGrath's author's note was very clear and detailed on what is known of that time, what was probable and what was her thoughts could have been possible. I highly recommend this novel and Carol McGrath's Blogs as well.         

Monday, September 9, 2013

East Side, West Side ~ Murder in Chelsea

This is a favorite series for my sister and I, and my birthday gift this year. So thrilled with where this particular book took the main characters and the route they traveled to get there. Murder in Chelsea had depth, warmth and the correct amount of twists and turns in it.

I plan to visit Victoria Thompson's website now to cheer on the next chapter in Frank and Sarah's life. I am so glad they are officially a team! How quickly characters become part of our own circle of friends.

The period detail in this series is very fine and the characters have have depth and are lively.Loved this visit in New York City and looking forward to my next one.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Blackstone and the Endgame

My first Inspector Sam Blackstone mystery and surely there will be more. It was certainly fast paced and ended in a very satisfying fashion. Sam has family now and what directions will that take him in?

I was not sure about all the ins and outs of the Russian scenes, although Rasputin and the Tsar and Tsarina were not new to me. The "Great War" surely shaped the 20th century in many ways 1916 was pivotal for Europe. The Bolshevik Revolution was close at hand and the author knew his history well. I needed to look a few things up to follow along,no fault to Spencer, just not my genre.

Archie Patterson and Sam Blackstone apparently make a tremendous duo together, with the addition of Ellie they had a trio. I will surely check that out in another book in the series. Vladimar apparently had made an appearance in the past.

I appreciated the opportunity to review this book and recommend it to all mystery, WWI and Russian spy aficionados. Something exciting will be happening in Sam's life next time out. Check it out! 


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mary Darby Robinson~ Lady of Passion

"So you were once the beautiful Mrs. Robinson?" begins the prologue of the book in December 1800. Mary Darby Robinson, writing her autobiography at that time, passed away Dec. 26 with that work unfinished. She died in poverty although her fortunes rose and fell during her life.

Was she a victim of circumstances or did she make poor choices? The author does not actually say, but rather presents the facts of her life to the reader. In Freda Lightfoot's words " entirely based on facts, backed up by the less emotional biographies...when in doubt I went to the primary source".

My thought is that she was a victim both of men who pursued her and her own choices. The husband who was thrust upon her at fifteen was not a choice she made, however, but one that was thrust upon her. Her enabling of Thomas Robinson, a weak but pleasant spendthrift and gambler set a pattern for her life.

We can only look to her father who, when Mary was seven left his wife and five children to pursue a life in Labrador with a mistress .The fact that her father remained in control of the family, while not supporting them, cast a very large and dark shadow over her life.

I appreciated the opportunity to review this book which was well researched and comprehensive. Mary was a wistful character, lived a sad life and Lightfoot documented that life well, although I am not sure the title best describes her or her life. My first read by this author but for sure not my last.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Alice Perrers was The King's Concubine

Anne O'Brien's books just keep getting better in my estimation. The title character of Alice was impeccably developed and I like to think accurately illustrated her life and the times she lived in. Perhaps her marriage was less idyllic than described, and possibly Queen Philippa did not choose her to entice Edward, but all things looked at together do seem to represent historical events.

As a critic, I would say that as the protagonist Alice shone, and Edward had much less depth. The rest of the characters were sort of typecast as minor villains as their roles as family members of the King dictated. It was a tumultuous time and Alice rose to her self imposed task on more than one occasion, quite possibly because she necessarily had to try to have a safety net for herself and her children.

Alice was a solitary figure her entire life, I would like to hope that the last 20 some years were good ones for her, living in comfort with her children and her husband. We do not know a lot about her early life but it could have happened just this way.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Christ's Mass 1203 - The Canterbury Murders

Nicolaa de Haye and Bascot are a fine team that I visit every chance that Maureen Ash gives me. Christ's Mass season in 1203 in Canterbury was just such an occasion with King John. King John, like all Plantagenets is a complicated person, and he surely added unnecessary twists to this murder investigation.

Nicolaa as a historical figure is always intriguing to me, as she was a very important and capable person and valuable to the throne. Maureen Ash's history and sense of time and place is always impeccable.
Nicholaa and King John are always the most vivid characters for me, although that surely varies for others.

I am looking forward to the next episode.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Devil's Companion ~ A Fine Read

Very glad indeed that I happened upon this book by a favorite author! This is a period in time skipped over by many but very important to know about,William Rufus's reign is often relegated to the events of his death.

Robert Fitzhamo(Fitzhamon),Earl of Gloucester,who died young and in the King's service was also called the Lord of Tewkesbury. His family served,Duke William in Normandy and likely came with his entourage.His father Haimo and Grandfather Richard were hereditary feudal lords in Lower Normandy. Apparently they earned the respect of the native Saxons as well as their Norman peers.

Maureen Ash's characters had depth, vibrancy and very much came alive to tell their own story. I hope there will be a sequel as Fitzhaimo's relationship with Sybil de Montgomery has just begun with the ending of the book. The remainder of their life appears to be eventful and worthwhile to read about in such eventful times.

Their daughter Mabel married an illegitimate son of Henry I and together they established a line of important personages in England.
I hope to hear about them soon.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Outlaw Knight ~ Fulke FitzWarin as Robber Baron

The story of the Outlaw Knight was not new to me as Fulke FitzWarin was already a favorite character. Revisiting him and his world was surely no chore for me at all. Elizabeth Chadwick has no equal, I do not think.

Beginning with the most probably true story of Fulke's argument with Prince John over chess, their personal history is always one of struggle. As King, John was terribly unfair to Fulke about awarding Whittington Castle to another. Fulke has been awarded the right to the Castle in the Curia Regis court and as a consequence he turned outlaw.
Outlaw Knight is a very apt title for the book as he was truly an outlaw for a period, though surely not the only man driven to such by the crown.

Fulke as a Robber Baron is superb and the history supports the events of his life. He lived and loved hard and well. It is a story worth retelling and no one tells a story better than Elizabeth Chadwick

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

So missing Gail Frazer~ Two last volumes

Gail Frazer was a great writer and an extremely fine person and I mourn her passing. She and her children devised a plan to digitize her works and I am so glad I purchased this one.

Although I have read one of the three short works in the book, the other two as well as the "tour" of St. Frideswides' Abbey and surrounding lands and houses made it a very worthwhile purchase for me. The tour was much more educational and surely more enjoyable than other works about Medieval life I have read.

"Margaret" Frazer wrote so well and entertainingly about this period and this place. She was , I believe my first venture into medieval historical novels. So worthwhile!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Wilder Rose ~ Two Lives

Susan Wittig Albert has done a masterful work with the two subjects of her book, Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. It is a novel, a novel with facts to be explored. In her very fine reader's companion to A Wilder Rose, Albert says " Writing novels about real people can be a tricky business"

What can be so tricky about it, you might well ask? Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories about a time gone by are now a fabric of our society and part of legend, part of our childhood. Let me let Laura herself explain " All I have told is true bit it is not the whole truth".

We knew her as an unpublished, inexperienced writer who put pencil to paper and wrote her memories of life on the prairie and frontier with her family. In actuality, Wilder and her daughter Rose were collaborators in taking the memories of pioneering and making them publishable and saleable.

The author's years of meticulous study of original documents including the diaries and day journals of both women and scholarly comparisons of the writing of both are compelling but sympathetic. We can enjoy them by understanding that both of these women lived through hard times and created stories that endure.

Susan Albert ends her very excellent Reader's Companion with a  statement in response to those who say that something has changed with this new knowledge. I wholeheartedly agree with her when she says, "Do the books really 'mean something different' "? I don't think so."

They are "books that we still cherish, some eight decades after their  publication."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hey There Georgie ~ Her Royal Spyness

So pleased that I grabbed this review copy of this book from NetGalley which was there to announce and promote the seventh book in the series, "Heirs and Graces". Rhys Bowen is a favorite author but I had not gotten to this series yet and so glad I now have. The rest of the books are now a must.

Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is a delightful, vibrant and funny character who is marvelously well developed. I would have loved the book even if any mystery had not developed but happily it did. Georgie was an intuitive if not physically adept sleuth. Her cousin the Queen appreciates her thinking and daring and will surely utilize her skills in the future.

The dreary castle in Scotland she was born in as daughter of the Duke of Rannoch and Glen Garry was described so well as was the London town house belonging to her family. Poor Georgie had really never functioned without a maid to assist her and had to quickly discover how to do just about everything or be cold and hungry.

Her brother the Duke, Hamish called "Binky" was suitably stuffy but with warmth and affection for his sister. Her adorable grandfather and her typical actress-cum-socialite mother were superb characters.

It is obvious why Rhys Bowen has won just about every mystery writing award that exists. She is brilliant and so is Georgie!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Paths of Exile ~ Post Roman Britain springs to life

 A.D. 617. This year was Ethelfrith, king of the Northumbrians,
slain by Redwald, king of the East-Angles; and Edwin, the son of
Ella, having succeeded to the kingdom, subdued all Britain,
except the men of Kent alone

This quite enchanting look through the mists of time back to 7th century Britain finds Eadwine, son of Aelle who is driven out of Deira (Northumbria) by Ethelferth into years of exile.

Ethelferth is most likely brother-in-law to Eadwine and exactly why he pursued Eadwine is not known but Carla Nayland fleshes out those unknown years is a superb fashion. Her research and scholarly attention to detail is impeccable. The terrain as well as culture and customs of post Roman Britain are described beautifully.Her characters sprang to life and entertained me.

I recommend this book to historians and lovers of ancient British fiction and I anxiously await the sequel.         

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Swarming of Bees- So Delightful!

From the Anglo Saxon Chronicle A.D. 627 "This year was King Edwin baptized at Easter, with all his people ".

Hild was an orphan who had become a member of the household of her great uncle, King Edwin and she is one of those baptized with Edwin. She becomes an Abbess and is wise, beloved and has political importance,so that the Synod of Whiby is held at her monastery sometime around 664.

A delightful book with very well developed characters such as Hild, her herbwife Fridgyth and the daughter of King Oswy. A wonderful blend of facts and mystery, superimposed on actual historical events.

Real life characters such as Caedmon the poet and later Saint,Wilfred of York and Aldfrith the son of King Oswy spring off the page and entertain.

I loved this book and recommend it to historians and mystery lovers alike.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Handfasted Wife ~ A Gem

So very glad that I saw this book in someone's "want to read" status! This is an era and a family that I can't get enough of reading and the author surely did them justice.

I am thrilled that this is the first of a planned trilogy and that I can revisit Elditha's family and hopefully it will be soon. Carol McGrath has done impeccable research and is so very knowledgeable on these troubled times. The use of The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Domesday and Orderic Vitalis through out the book in chapter headings was very inventive and informative.

McGrath's author's note was very clear and detailed on what is known of that time, what was probable and what was her thoughts could have been possible. I highly recommend this novel and Carol McGrath's Blogs as well.