Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lion Rampant - Bernard Knight ~ Wonderful find~ 5 Stars !

Bernard Knight being such a favorite author of mine I was thrilled to see this story of Nest of Wales available. My name being Carrow, Pembrokeshire and Carew Castle are very intriguing to me.

"Probably the most romantic, exciting and yet most tragic story in the history of medieval Wales. It is the true story of Princess Nest..daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, ward and mistress of King Henry I"

Henry gave her in marriage to Gerald de Windsor, Castellan of Pembroke. According to this author, that marriage did not go very well and set the stage for Nest's abduction by her cousin. Subsequently, Nest was embroiled in various conflicts. and victimized, ending up with 8 or 9 children.

The fact that Nest was so resilient and rose above those circumstances is what I love the best. Her love for her children and their cohesion as family remains a tribute to her, all these many centuries later.Thank you Bernard Knight for a great book..on to Madoc !

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Beaufort Woman - Judith Arnopp ~ Satisfying read!!

First, I should say that Margaret Beaufort has not always been my favorite historical figure, but Judith Arnopp has made her character believable and almost engaging. I enjoyed Margaret coming to a comfortable place with Thomas Stanley, and her marriage, as well as her kindness and respect for both Elizabeth and Anne as queens and women.

I was able to envision her as a complicated person but for reasons that were understandable. I am convinced that she had decent relationships with her husbands, for the most part and always understood her obsession for her son Henry's heritage. It really is what she felt her life was about, that and being at court, which had was important to her. She was raised to respect her family heritage and her kinship.

I recommend it to others who enjoy Tudor and Plantagenet novels and history. I am waiting for this authors next novel. (Hint: Peaceweaver is my favorite) 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Reiver - David Pilling - Love the Era

4.5 stars. I enjoy the era and have read other books about that period in time. The Wardens of the Scottish Marches or "Debatable Lands" make very fine reading. I would have liked it to be a bit more upbeat, but it was the author's tale and he did a fine job.

Queen Elizabeth and some of the Marcher lords were not very engaging characters, but Richie Reade had a lot of depth. Hopefully that means we will see him in another outing? I am going to try another one of David Pilling's historical novels now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sister of the Lionheart - Novel from time of Crusades- Hilary Benford ~ Engrossing read!

I really enjoyed this book about Joanna who is my number two favorite Plantagenet, Eleanor being  number one. It was not a quick read, reason being that it had such historical depth , but it was very engrossing. There is not a great deal written about Joanna and her relationship with her parents, so this one was very much appreciated by me.

Hilary Benford wrote a fine novel, and I am excited that there will be a sequel. Very much appreciated was the excellent author's note, medieval glossary and genealogy of the royal families who were involved, as well as a great  map of 12th century France. I enjoy this period as my Norman Irish maternal line worked for the Norman kings beginning with John and his son Henry.

I feel pretty sure that the novel was very close to how things transpired. Joanna was very a sympathetic character  and held my attention to the end. Recommended to all who like medieval historical novels and this family and era.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Mists of Glen Strae - Highland Ballad Series Vol.2 - Kristin Gleeson- Out now!

Happily there will be another novel in the Highland Ballad Series in 2017. It was so very enjoyable, although it is about a very complicated time in Scotland's history,and the sequel may pull the pieces together for me.

Kristin Gleeson's fine Historical Note indicates that Queen Mary was only 14 at this time. I always need a refresher about her years in France and why the Scots were not united behind her when she returns. 

This period, when Mary Queen of Scots was 14, was very tumultuous and complex in both countries with England of course trying to intervene. The borders between Scotland and England, called "debatable lands" were always in upheaval, although I think that this was not where we find this part of the series situated. 

Religion seems to be becoming a divider and would continue to be between the clans as the years passed. My husband's parents were born and raised in Scotland, and came to the US and married, were Church of Scotland and Catholic and lowland vs. highland Scots. They never discussed either religion and his father was from Huntly the Gordon estate.

Consequently, the relationship between Ian, and Abby the heroine,was frowned upon. Abigail, a Gordon, although raised in France would not be expected to have dealings with certain clans and their followers. I suspect that the next book will have some mention of Huntly Aberdeenshire and I am greatly looking forward to it.

I was not a great fan of Diana Gabaldon but am very much a fan of Kristin Gleeson and her works.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

An Unjust Judge- A Sixteeth-Century Burren Mystery - Cora Harrison ~ Always superb!

I received this ARC from Netgalley. Cora Harrison's Burren series has been a favorite for a long time and this one did not disappoint me at all. I had not figured out who the murderer was even to the very end, and why the murder happened at all remains a mystery.

There was a fine cast of characters, some of whom like the absent Cormac, young son of Mara the Brehan, have come into existence in this series. Her Grandson who possibly will inherit as Brehon if English laws do not inhibit that exchange happening is another and early in the series we met King Turlough O'Brien. Always, a fine mystery and it's resolution, is juxtaposed against other forms of justice which exist at this time in Ireland in the English speaking districts.

This murder of the "unjust judge" was complicated by the presence of the retired Brehon's nephew who had hoped to inherit, but was a protégée of  Stephen Gardiner's,  presumably sent to disrupt the Gaelic legal system. In fact, the storyline indicates the presence of many Brehons and Lawyers in training who could pursue law gathered in this one place at the same time. 

One of the final few scenes in the book included a  giant congor eel who attacked one of the suspects, sort of a chilling type of retribution. Life was harsh in the Burren and  their isolation  was both a protection and a risk factor. 

Brehon Mara's husband,King Turlough Donn’s rule of three kingdoms, threatens to be minimized by these same Anglo ruling forces, who call him a "captain" and not a king. As always, historical facts are woven into a fine mystery which includes great depth of  likeable characters.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Julian of Norwich- Janina Ramirez~ Bene Est!

"All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

When I received this ARC I moved beyond a person who found comfort in Julian of Norwich's writings to a more enlightened understanding of her work and life. What remains unknown, was much of her early life, and even exactly what, and how, her work came to be preserved over centuries.

The Protestant Reformation in England did not destroy this or rather these writings. This potentially dangerous work or works survived. How did they get out of Julian's cell after her death? Were they removed to Carrow Abbey? There is silence on any knowledge of how this happened but it did happen.

English Benedictine nuns, one of whom was Gertrude More Great great Granddaughter of Thomas More, Catholic martyr fled to Cambrai France and formed a community. Gertrude was just 17 years old. and elsewhere I discovered she was joined by two cousins, and later her sister Bridget. Did someone from that family have Julian's manuscript or a copy secreted? 

It did exist in Cambrai, probably copied by hand, as in 1670 the first printed copy was published by the nuns chaplain Serenus de Crecy. It existed in the hardships they experienced in the French Revolution, when they were incarcerated with 16 Carmelite nuns who were guillotined. 

The English nuns were able to escape, wearing the habits of the dead sisters, and fled back to England. No original copies of Julian's writings made it out of France, sadly, but existed as copies. Three copies exist to this day, in 1877 a more modern audience got access.In 1901 Grace Warrack's sympathetic treatment in modern English became hugely popular.

What an enlightening and enjoyable short biography this was. 5 Stars 


Friday, November 11, 2016

Almodis, The Peaceweaver - Tracey Warr - Vivid characters and history!

A definitely enjoyable book that seemed to be historically accurate, I do quickly check history to better understand characters. It is definitely an era that I find fascinating as was "Conquest" which was my favorite of the two books. I am reading "the Viking Heritage" now and of course the characters are connected.

I did not know nearly enough about this part of France and it is interesting. My maternal line was named Faunt (L'Enfant ) and were Anglo Normans in Ireland from the 12th century. My Grandfather's Y DNA line goes back to Sardinia. We know when they went to England and into Ireland but not when they moved into Normandy. They were in the employ of the Norman Kings from 1250 until the 1500s. So of course I am entranced!!

Almodis did not take to being a Peaceweaver really well, or rather she did but she had some huge bumps in that road. I adore the fact that her children were cohesive with each other even though they all did not share the same father. 

She had two loves and one very messy marriage if all of this is accurate. The author says some thoughts and actions of her characters were fictional but the basic facts are there. She was very resilient, partly from being a child hostage in her grandmother's court and partly, presumably, from some terrible events that she both witnessed and experienced.

All three of these books are superbly done with vivid female heroines. So excited that "Conquest" has a sequel coming. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Conquest, Daughter of the last King - Tracey Warr - Just wonderful!

5 Stars. This was an amazing book on many levels for me and I was indeed sorry for it to end. I think there may be a sequel, and I have downloaded The Viking Hostage by Tracey Warr so I'm comforted..

Nest ferch Rhys is someone I knew about historically, and since my name is Carrow, also someone I needed to know about. I should tell you that I pursue genetic genealogy and have tons of Welsh DNA matches I cannot yet figure out. John Carrow my 9th great grandfather was likely from close to there and his sons and grandsons marry into Welsh families. I did know about Carew Castle, and Nest's children, but this book has so much more. That of course is one level of amazement.

I think all the characters in this novel have great depth, some more than others. The author has positioned her story in a way that brings Nest into contact with important persons in her life. Gerald FitzWalter de Windsor ( Carew Castle) and Henry I of England and  Owain, Nest's cousin who abducts her were some of them. Haith who is historically known as Hait,Sheriff of Pembroke was not known to me and Nest's last husband was not either. 

The history as we know it was amazingly well documented (Orderic Vitalis and other documents) and the characters were vivid and engaging. Sybil de Montgomerey and her husband Robert FitzHamon ( known as FitzHamon here) Lord of Gloucester and Glamorgan, a confidante of some  of the sons of William the Conqueror, specifically William Rufus and Henry I.

That Sybil Montgomery and Fitzhamon's  ties lead them in different directions at the time that Nest is entrusted into their care is a strong thread in the story. Gerald's  ties to Glamorgan are known as was his on again and off again career at Pembroke Castle so it works quite well.

Definitely recommended to all Medieval history lovers of this period. It is engaging and  artfully written  and is one time that multiple person storytelling works for me.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Flood - Ann Swinfen - On to the sequel!

Terrific book and loved it so much I immediately started Book #2 "Betrayal". It does have some sad events but they are tempered by positive ones as well. The characters have grit,resilience and greatly support each other in a distressing time period of the English Civil Wars.

Mercy and generations of her family have lived in this same place of the Fenlands. Long accustomed to a life where interdependence on others was the norm, they were thrust into a time of upheaval and unrest. Cromwell is now in charge, the King is imprisoned and nothing is as it always was.

The Fenlands required group effort and the village had long used common lands and areas for their existence. Unscrupulous of shoots of Cromwell's government had run amok and sold or leased lands to Dutch investors who proceeded to demolish the natural draining and dyke lands in a dangerous manner. 

As the winter rains threatened new settlers and the long time occupants were thrown together for survival against a threatening flood. Common effort is required for survival as the book ends with everyone sequestered in the village church.

I am now off to the sequel to see what comes next. Very close to 5 Stars! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Rustle of Silk - Alys Clare - New series coming out. Get your preorder in!

Alys Clare is a favorite author of mine, having read all of the Hawkenlye and all the Aelf Fen books. ( Hoping there are more)This book was not the genre and time period I usually read but it was a good tight mystery, with  in unique flavor. The setting and characters were  unique and colorful if a bit noir. 

I am quite sure the series will continue to attract many of Clare's readers as well as new ones.I appreciate receiving this ARC from NetGalley.  Preorder your copy now!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Northern Queen - Kelly Evans ~ A Fine First Novel

4+ Stars. It was a fine first novel and I enjoyed it. A bit too detailed in some places and scene breaks would have made it a smoother read, but historically correct for the most part. 

It was a twist on the more popular idea of Emma being the beloved queen, however it is absolutely clear that Canute had feelings for both Aelfgifu of Northampton and Emma of Normandy. Later contemporary writings lean towards Emma but this version worked well.

I did enjoy Cnut's first wife's story and learning about her life. It was a very good representation of the history of that time which I always seek out to read. I am hoping Kelly Evans has another in the works.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Winter Siege - Ariana Franklin ~ Enjoyable~

Rounded up to a 4 Star, it was an enjoyable and readable book. It was one that took me awhile to immerse myself in , perhaps a bit darker than I usually choose. The epoch was one that I very much enjoy so that brought me into the storyline. It was a novel built upon this period of history in a way that was not exactly historical.

The characters were surely unique and memorable but again took time for me to accept their separate personalities. Questions remain: Did Penda reunite with her family or did I miss something? Maud and Alan of Ghent did apparently live happily every after. There then was William, who provided the different voice, and was not revealed to the reader until the end.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Novice's Tale - Ann Swinfen - 5 Stars ~ Hoping for more!

A very marvelous book that took up where the first left off.. with greater character depth and intricate plot line. Subsequent books in a series sometimes are that it the reader or the writer or both? The first book was very good but this one surely surpassed it. 

I found myself gasping at certain events just like it was happening before my eyes. Nicholas rescuing Emma from her stepfather's attack dogs was one such moment! Of course I did not want it to end and I am anxious for a sequel.

The history is unique and the period details are just superb. The candle-makers and the deputy sheriff were brought into the storyline very skillfully and all added strength to the plot.I have read and enjoyed 'This Rough Ocean' so now will try others by Ann Swinfen

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Bookseller's Tale- Ann Swinfen - a fine series start!

I liked this book a great deal and plan to get the second book in the series to continue with it. Setting the stage for the characters and the location slowed down the reading of the book early on, but the history was excellent as was the characterization.

The stage is set for an unusual historical era, Spring 1353 in Oxford is just past the plague or Black Death which took the lives of many. Nicholas Elyot, bookseller, scrivener and former scholar and University fellow is discussing with his motherless children the possibility of adopting a puppy. His sister Margaret, also bereaved and childless , who serves as his housekeeper was against the idea but they agree to give it a try. 

Later that day as he was coming from Yardleys farm for goose feather quills for his business he passed over a bridge and came upon a young man floating and dead in the Cherwell River. Two lay brothers of St. John's Hospital help him pull out William Farringdon. Was he a suicide? Was it a murder ? 

The crime would occupy his and his friend Jordain as well as his employees in a variety of ways.
Nicholas children and sister, as well as family members of the deceased become at risk as the tale unravels. Recommended for Medieval mystery fans with fine period detail. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Iron Water - Tom Harper Mystery - Chris Nickson ~ Preorder this one now!!

" Two macabre discoveries in a single morning present an intriguing challenge for Detective Inspector Tom Harper Leeds, England. July, 1893"

Thanks to NetGalley I am privileged to have gotten an ARC for this terrific 5 Star book by a favorite author.

Leeds and vicinity is a favorite reading destination for me as long as Chris Nickson takes me there. The 1360s, 1730s and the Victorian era have equal fascination- is it the author or the origins of the population? I am not sure but all Nickson's books have that effect on me, Leeds or Chesterfield area equally.

This one was very exciting and seemed to be wrapping up some of the criminal elements and exiting them from the narrative. Where are we going now I am wondering, but wherever the plot takes us I will follow.

Detective Inspector Tom Harper is sent to represent the new "City" of Leeds at a "torpedo" as weapon exhibition, all of which begin to introduce a changed political climate for this area. He is, therefore, an eyewitness to a murder and concealment of that crime. In rapid succession, murder are committed which implicate two warring crime factions and possibly introduce a third. It s a mystery however so all is not as it seems.

Also spotlighted is Annabelle Harper who is a suffragist, hotel and bakery proprietor and beginning a new career associated with women's suffrage as a political entity Societal changes weave in and out of these murders, which have our characters growing and changing with Leeds as it takes it's place a a major city.

Visiting characters like Billy Reed and his wife provide interest and back up for some of this societal change, upward mobility being spotlighted. The specter of Scotland Yard as "Big Brother" was introduced but that bullet was dodged, for now!

I am very much looking forward to the next installment in Spring 2017 where we may see the Leeds City political climate continue to change. Pre Order links are up now at Amazon, add this to your wish list! Recommended for all mystery lovers of any era.          

Modern Crimes - A WPC Lottie Armstrong Mystery- Chris Nickson - PreOrder Now!

This was just an amazingly well done, and of course well researched mystery, and not my "usual" genre although that varies a bit. I try to read historical mysteries set in other countries than the US, and mostly different eras- medieval is a favorite. However Chris Nickson's mysteries make that criteria fly out the window. 

1924 Leeds has partially recovered after WWI, although jobs are in short supply and crime is ramping up. Lottie Armstrong,WPC, is a female police officer in a period when women were being turned out of jobs that able bodied males "should" have first choice at. She and her partner Cathy Taylor were the only two women constables in Leeds, and they were not welcomed with open arms.

A related group of crimes, some of which harkened back to the war, and involving the fairer sex allowed Lottie to come to the attention of Sgt. McMillan in CID. The first involved an unwed mother who disappeared from the maternity home she was placed in and eventually involved crime figures, murders and one suicide.

Lottie takes her sworn duties quite seriously and runs afoul of the male Constables and eventually some higher up law enforcement as well. She is surprised when her redoubtable supervisor, Mrs Maitland, matron, speaks up in her defense on several occasions.

Her career is ended with termination for doing what she felt was her duty, and definitely was the duty of some male constables. I would have been quite horrified about Lottie, accompanied by her sidekick Cathy, turning in their uniforms together except for one bright spot. My ARC, graciously sent to me by the author, revealed what appears to be a sequel to this series. 

However when and how the short narrative I saw begins, I think you need to find out for yourself by preordering this book. Make it your Christmas present to yourself.There has never been a Chris Nickson book that I did not enjoy and I will prove it now by ordering a Dan Markham book. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Moth Catcher (Vera Stanhope, #7) - Ann Cleeves- Preorder now for next week

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for a review. I very much enjoyed it, although I thought the ending ( which explained the mysteries) was a bit complex. That being said,I am going to right now order the available kindles of the Vera Series that I have not yet read. Ann Cleeves has always been a particularly favorite author for me!  I have read the whole Shetland series as well as many of the other two.

For myself, reading mysteries written for another country,culture or era works, best as it adds  dimension and depth to the mystery. All of these books possess that depth for me. As a "baby boomer" which is not the term used in this book, but surely identifies these aging couples and a few singles in this tale, there was an added relevance for me. I was not expecting the ending and it did work for me, eventually.

The inhabitants of the Valley although essentially professing the same reasons for being there, actually had disparate reasons. Vera Stanhope and her colleagues in Northeast England, are no less flawed or regretting missed opportunities than those they come in contact with in the course of this very fluid murder triad. Ex-offenders, social workers as well as young people and their parents all become at risk in this seemingly-sterile-but-not-really little enclave.

This book is out next week in Kindle and another in February, but they work as standalone reads.Get yours now! 

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Autumn Throne - Elizabeth Chadwick - Completely enthralling ~ order now!

I so appreciate getting this ARC from NetGalley. It was one of the most  enthralling books I have read in a long time. Probably the finest one about Eleanor, my favorite historical personage of all time. 

What is most amazing to me is how much research went into these last years of Eleanor's life and how little we have known about these events. I actually made bookmarks on my kindle to remind myself.

As we do know, Henry imprisons Alienor (as was her actual birth name) at Old Sarum after the failed rebellion by his sons which she supported. She was held there in Salisbury for years, but Elizabeth Chadwick has revealed that sometimes she was under house arrest at various other castles in England and even Normandy. 

The enhanced role she had as Queen Dowager was quite amazing as were the things she did- and how she did them. The "hands on" way that Alienor, with Hamelin's help, amassed the exorbitant ransom was very intriguing as was the close relationship between Henry and Hamelin.

After Richard was ransomed and had his 2nd coronation we knew that he went on Crusade. What I did not know was why Emperor Heinrich hated him so and looked for him to capture. We knew about John 's escapades while Richard was imprisoned but the scene at the meeting after Christmas in 1192 in London with the regents was pretty riveting.

Also, if I knew about King John's son Richard begotten on his cousin, I had forgotten that even. I find the characters who were enfolded into Alienor's personal life made this such a fulfilling and poignant read. Richenza (later Matilda) and Joanna's relationship over the years with Alienor, as well as the time she was able to spend with her daughter Matilda of Saxony really rounded out the story of these years. 

The cameo of her meeting with her daughter Eleanor ( Leonora) of Castile and those granddaughters was very fine, although they were obviously not as close. She rose to the occasions and accompanied Princess Blanca ( Blanche) over the Pyrenees in winter at 76.

My least favorite scene was her death, of course, but that was where her story ended. An amazing , engaging and gratifying novel to me, who adored Eleanor from the first book I ever read about her many years ago. 

Recommended to all readers and I am so very much hoping to hear of another in the works. Her granddaughter Blanche perhaps would work or her mother Eleanor of Castile. Order your copy now it is out quite soon. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Tudor Brandons, Mary and Charles, by Sarah-Beth Watkins ~ Terrific Read ~

 5 Stars
A very fine exploration of the history and lives of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor his wife. Mary Tudor has lately begun to be explored along with Margaret her sister Queen of Scotland. I definitely feel this author's work was just as complete and well done as those that have recently bit the best seller lists. I am very much hoping that this treatment by Sarah-Beth Watkins does just as well.

There definitely were many events in the lives of Mary and Charles and their extended family that I never knew and was excited to learn. The recent ancestry of the Brandon line, as well as other children of Charles, both legitimate and illegitimate made riveting reading.

I enjoyed her prior book on Katherine Knollys but this second historical narrative definitely surpassed it, at least in my estimation. There was a lot of detail about illnesses, prior marriages and properties acquired and lost which goes a long way to tell a story about a family. 

It was an easy read, but very well developed and the author brought Charles and Mary to life. I recommend it highly and really hoping there is another in the works.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Jane the Quene- Janet Wertman- Book One Seymour Saga ~Fine Read ~

4.5+ stars and a fine and enjoyable book. Moving between Jane and Thomas Cromwell was a bit distracting  for me, as well as a tiny bit of a struggle making Jane vivid as a character. Her sharing a love of herbs with Henry was a tiny bit of a stretch, but the author made it work.

Jane the Quene was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be since I am, and always have been a Boleyn fan. Janet Wertman came very close, indeed, to making Jane likable if not lovable. It probably was difficult, as the Seymours are not that enjoyable all by themselves. (Well let me digress there, and say that Elizabeth Seymour was very interesting to me in her marriage to Gregory Cromwell.)

Jane became much more vital as a character, of course after her marriage and her death was definitely poignant. Henry is always Henry, but I am looking forward to some more glimpses into Elizabeth's marriage to Gregory Cromwell, as well as the other Seymours who will be spotlighted in the rest of the series.

Very entertaining and recommended. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Royal Nanny - Karen Harper ~ Very absorbing ~

Based on a seldom-told true story --April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York.

4.5+ stars. A fine novel that I greatly enjoyed and which has piqued my curiosity to learn more. My only critique is that Charlotte Bill's supposed relationship may have been a bit too elaborate, although I am sure she must have had one. Now I have a need to know what her life was like after 1919, although she did live her last years at Sandringham. So my 'need to know' the story of her whole life was a bit shortchanged.

Very importantly for me I did learn about the impact of these years on at least 4 or 5 generations of royals - from 1897 until Charlotte ( Lala)'s death in 1964. These 6 children of King George and Queen Mary had some impact of their royal great grandmother Queen Victoria's last years, the entire reign of their grandparents and their parents. I know now also that Queen Elizabeth and her Uncle Harry reflected on those years and possibly made changes in their lives in my own lifetime, as well as the grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth.

How the dynamics of this royal family with it's German roots and family relationships was absolutely riveting. The number of things I learned was amazing,the Sandringham Regiment's tragedy at Gallipoli and how the King's decision to deny the family of Tsar Nicholas emigration to England may have led to their deaths were both quite startling.

As I read, I came to understand, that beyond these family and domestic events, Europe itself was being impacted at this time. Quite possibly, the royals understanding of how precarious was their existence on the world stage, fed into their interpersonal relationship. The royals made their best attempt to prepare and "toughen up" at least their sons and overprotect their daughters in light of their dynastic and political threats.

Karen Harper has always been a favorite author but this one has a depth of understanding that can "grow on" the reader. I recommend this book to any who enjoy historical novels of any genre.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Shocking Assasination - Cora Harrison - Get your hard copy now!

Cora Harrison's Irish novels are always very fine reads for me. I loved the setting in this one- the English Market is quite close to where members of my family lived from 1890 until after 1921, on Little Cross Street, as well as spending some time on Barrack Street prior to that. I felt like I knew all about it and was a a part of it.

This one was a nail biter of a mystery with very great historical content. According to the author, told to her in some fashion by her parents who lived through the tumultuous time. It is actually shocking for those of us who have ancestral times to many of these times and periods.

Eileen and the Inspector, who were the Reverend Mother's prize pupils a few years prior to this as well as Dr. Scher are favorite characters and have a great outing in this book. Reverend Mother Aquinas and her cousin Lucy entrance me so- very much like my own relationship with my own first cousin, Patty, ( although we were hardly nuns). What a shocker when their second cousin, Capt Newenham attempts to kill the Sister!!

A bigger shocker was who actually committed the murder in the English Market. I was shocked, although a bit mystified that the police would consider the written confession of a deceased man. Well of course Inspector Patrick Cashman was on hand for that part.

It was both intriguing and delightful and the hardcopy is out now.. Get yours! 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Lanimer Bride- Gill Cunningham series- Pat McIntosh ~ Love this series~

 Very great read as usual, love this period in Medieval Scotland. The Tower Houses were a very intriguing part of this Gil Cunningham mystery, as were the jaunts or "trods" through the Lanark countryside. I did not realize that Gil Cuningham grew up in what was an "old style" fortified tower house,after all as everyone said " this isna the Marches".

In the Lanimer Bride outing, Audrey Madur, heavily pregnant, disappears and her husband is traumatized. Fingers begin pointing in every direction but not to the Royal Court, at least not at first. It is very amazing to read about how much of Scotland at this time was not unified or even transparent. Spies, which included Gil's cousin Sandy Boyd and a Black Irishman were everywhere. The English Crown wanted to rid themselves of a pretender but that was not the case over the borders.

I myself enjoy reading the Scots phrases and language, in Ersche and Scots and in this outing, even the tinkers "cant". I adore this series. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen - The Story of Elizabeth of York - Samantha Wilcoxson ~ Fine read!

A very readable and credible book  which I enjoyed. The ending was unique but not out of reach for believability; it was a novel after all so it worked. 

The Margaret Pole book, Faithful Traitor, is my favorite so far but I am seriously excited about the next one that is being worked on. I would appreciate more on the Poles and some other lesser know Plantagenets like perhaps Arthur, Lord Lisle. There are others of course.

I am always heartened when I read treatments of historical characters which are mostly positive. I was quite sad at the description of Edward of Warwick's execution. It was a time when many people were powerless and some made some attempts to take some control of their lives; Edward was sadly not one of those.

Elizabeth of York was a woman who chose to see the glass as half-full, as best she could. She had a natural resilience that made a difference in her life, which may have been a Plantagenet trait. That thread can be seen over the generations and in some of her siblings. I believe her daughters had that characteristic to some extent.

It was a well done treatment of a life that was not illustrated well by history. I recommend the author and her series.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Sisters, Three Queens - Philippa Gregory ~ Masterful~ Released Today!

'There is only one bond that I trust: between a woman and her sisters. We never take our eyes off each other. In love and in rivalry, we always think of each other.

This was truly one of those books that you hated to have end; I thank NetGalley for the ARC which I was delighted to get. Philippa Gregory did a masterful job giving what seems to be accurate motives for many of the events in Margaret's life.

Was she haunted by her envy of her sister Mary and her sister in law Katherine? Perhaps but it is a novelist's prerogative to tell a plausible tale when the facts are missing. Surely, Margaret's life was juxtaposed  against her sister and sister in law's, all of them suffering hardships in a world where women had little say at all. Margaret did have her on-again, off-again regency for her son James the young king of  Scotland to enable her to be more in control of her destiny than either her sister or Katherine of Aragon.

I am not sure that Margaret and her "sisters" were rivals, they were just mutual victims of some of the madness of  Henry VIII's reign. Did they have to collude against him at times or support him against each other? Surely.

She was a strong woman and rose above many hardships, the biggest one was  the warring  and polarizing of her Scottish subjects. It is amazing to me that Scotland has not declared their independence long before this time, the majority of Ireland has done so. The things that were done to the Scots people just during Margaret Tudor's lifetime are incredible.

Having read other books about the "Debatable Lands" in between the two kingdoms, I found this story very informative as to how and why  people behaved as they did. 

You can actually also juxtapose this era and the British-Irish  and British-Scots  assaults against the others; they are essentially the same at this time, the British "Pale" and the "Debatable Lands".

Today is release day- get your copy right now!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Terra Incognito - Medicus #2 ~Ruth Downie ~ Cum Laude !

"Army doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso strikes out for the uncivilized borders of Roman Britain..But the edge of the Roman Empire is a volatile place; the independent tribes of the North dwell near its borders. These hinterlands are the homeland of Ruso's slave, Tilla, who has scores of her own to settle "

This book finished the series for me..thanks Ruth Downie for the recent sale! Waiting for the next in the series,hopefully.

I do love the Roman Britain time frame, or really many ancient eras with some known history. I took Latin in HS for 4 years so appreciate what glimpses we do have. The juxtaposition of the Twentieth Legion with the Tenth Batavians, and how little they each knew about the other's culture. is hilarious as well as thought provoking.

Also wonderfully written about is the different tribes who lived in, ,and are the reason for "Hadrian's Wall". This outpost seems to me to have been created as realistically as we have historical evidence to document. As Downie's excellent author's note tells us: There is "serious trouble in Britannia at this time under Hadrian, with little details; The Batavian's and other unit's were heavy consumers of beer and wine; little is known about the cultures of the tribes along that border.

 The characters are quite vivid and move forward in their lives, as evidence by how the relationship between Ruso and Tilla is at the beginning and end of the tale. I should have read in order to understand more about Tilla's capture and becoming a slave, but will reread in the future.

 I just love this series and recommend to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries from ancient times. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Wolf Banner - Sons of the Wolf Book II - Paula Lofting ~ Preorder now!

"1056...England lurches towards war as the rebellious Lord Alfgar plots against the indolent, King Edward. Sussex thegn, Wulfhere of Horstede, must defy both his lord, Harold Godwinson, the Earl of Wessex, and his bitter enemy, Helghi of Gorde, to protect his beloved daughter. "

I was offered an ARC of this fine book by the author and have been reading it avidly. It was complex, involved and needed careful reading - and so very enjoyable. Paula Lofting is a fine historian and the events are true to what we know of them. With little to go on from either version of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle or Annales Cambriae , the author needed to tell the events of 1058 and Alfgar and did so in fine fashion.

My own favorite family, which was Harold Godwinson's provided my most enjoyable parts of the novel. Wulfhere's family is not going to win any awards for cohesiveness, nor is Alfgar's except for his mother, Godgifu ( Lady Godiva).

The book is put together in an unique way with alternating vignettes, consisting of 2-3 chapters, woven together to depict one time period. This "Crisis of 1058" started with Alfgar being expelled as Earl of Mercia, and King Edward's court and the Godwinsons' efforts to keep him away from Mercia and East Anglia. The vignettes or threads of stories involve the main characters just discussed: Wulfhere,Burghred, Alfgar and Harold ( and the King)

Alfgar married his daughter "Aldith" to Gruffudd, King of Wales and became estranged from his son Burghred. Both father and son would be dead in a few short years although not in one of the hair raising battle scenes which are vividly described. Aldith, we know marries Harold who ascends to Edward's throne, some of that for another outing we may hope?

Recommended to all who like this period of history and this group of characters. One of my very favorite era's and very well executed

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Vita Brevis ~Ruth Downie - An Awesome Read

I was very excited to get an ARC of this book from Bloomsbury. Thanks Sarah! It was delightful and I am so hoping that more are planned. I love the era and this series best exemplifies Roman Britain, or so I believe. Ruth Downie's great author's notes tell what little is known about Britain at this time, as well as the wealth of information about Rome in the same period She does it so very well!

What really works for me is the balancing act between accurate period detail and the extraordinarily vital character development. No amount of adequate historical knowledge can make that happen in my opinion. My very favorite of the several series that are in print about this time and place.

I was happy to meet up with Ruso and his wife Tilla and their baby Mara in Rome. Ruso, Medicus for a Roman Legion and a native of Gaul and Tilla his wife, a former slave from a Northern Celtic tribe in Britain have been given a marvelously rich "give and take" relationship in this series. 

They and their comtemporaries are lively, and the dialogue is never flippant or stilted but flows easily. One can easily imagine them in Roman Britain or any other period of time.

So who was the man in the barrel and what might he have had to do with the complicated political landscape Ruso finds himself in there in Rome? Tilla, described as a "magnificent woman" by a colleague of the Medicus from the Roman Legion, is level headed and can roll with the punches even better than those surrounding her.

A favorite line in this book is "The magnificent lady was bearing down on them, carrying the three-toothed daughter who might or might not have called him 'Pa' this morning."

To have a similar reading experience, may I suggest strongly that you purchase the whole series at once ? This 5 Star rated book is now out in kindle. Get your copy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Faithful Traitor - The Story of Margaret Pole - Magnificent and Moving

 A magnificent and moving book that appealed to me on many dimensions. I had previously read about Margaret of York in books about the era and one book just about her. I feel this one is very important as it illustrates her life a bit differently which is necessary to understand the history of that time.

An important dimension, in my estimation is how she looks back at her life trying to make sense of events, and her own, as well as God's, participation in it. I am a similar age and think that is a very astute angle for the writer to have pursued. 

In that same type of thought, how Margaret's relationship is with her children made me think in context my own four, each one having a unique place in the family. The difference, of course is her ingrained view of what it means to be a peer of them realm, and related to the King and his parents.This family had a long and convoluted history of attacking their cousins and anyone who threatened them.

How different might Margaret's life had been if her mother had lived, had her father not been executed by his brother and had Richard Pole who had stabilized her life not died? The events of her childhood alone were horribly traumatic and left little room for coping skills. 

God and her Catholic faith were indeed what she depended on, as did her quite religious children, or at least some of them.

A very fine treatment of a family matriarch who was both progenitor and descendant of the ruling class of this era. 5 Stars ~ I am off to the Elizabeth of York book by Samantha Wilcoxson to take to the beach with me..

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Foreign Bodies- David Wishart- Preorder now!

"Ancient Roman sleuth Marcus Corvinus is despatched to Gaul on a personal mission for the emperor."
My very first David Wishart book so I was happy to have had the opportunity to read it via NetGalley. Ancient Rome and Roman Britain are favorite time periods for me and Gaul fo the period was described well. Travel was horribly slow so it was amazing the trip was undertaken.I looked up that area of Gaul on maps as I was not familiar with how one would sail from Rome to Gaul. I learned a lot!
Solving the murder was complicated apparently and had many twists and turns! More bodies turned up to perhaps complicate Marcus' mission. The ending was a bit unexpected so that was a plus. One minus for me was the slang, a more moderate dialogue could work, I think. Recommended to those who like ancient historical mysteries.

Michael Jecks - Rebellions Message- New series!

 I have read perhaps four of Michael Jecks books before this one and liked the Templars characters a bit better than Jack. That being said, I think the attention to period detail was quite good especially the portrayal of Queen Mary as dumpy with fading reddish hair.

The publisher's blurb had this to say:"Introducing Elizabethan cutpurse and adventurer Jack Blackjack in the first of a brand-new historical mystery series..In fact, almost everyone seems to be after Jack Blackjack. " Wow wasn't that the truth! I had a hard time following the pursuers of Jack as they popped in and out of his presence, sometimes in succession. 

I am happy to say that Jack evades all the would be assassins and lives to set the stage for the rest of the series. How is that possible? Well it seems to be perceived that he vanquished all his pursuers with his own hands, although he detests bloodshed, so he is set up to be a paid assassin himself.

The images of the fighting between the rebel army and the defenders of London were chilling but surely quite accurate. Recommended for those who enjoy this era 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

One Corpse Too Many- Ellis Peters- Book #2 of Brother Cadfael ~ my 5 Star reread ~

"An ingenious killer disposes of a strangled corpse on a battlefield. Brother Cadfael discovers the body, and must then piece together disparate clues"

I am rereading all of the Brother Cadfael books in order to get a more coherent look at the series, which is a top favorite.. I thought I read this years ago but did not remember any of it so perhaps not.

It was wonderful to read about how he and Hugh Beringar made their acquaintance, although it is often alluded to. A sad and desperate time in England with King Stephen and Empress Matilda warring over the throne. About Shropshire I learned this: "Historically, the county has been known as Shropshire as well as by its older, Norman-derived name of Salop." Since my L'Enfant family was here at some early stage from Normandy, it speaks to me.

Cadfael's evolution from soldier and adventurer in the Crusades to monk in Shrewsbury gets fleshed out even more. Love this series and understand why it was made into a series of TV movies.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tabula Rosa- A Gaius Petreivus Ruso Mystery -Ruth Downie~ 5 Stars~

 This was the best Medicus yet and I did so hate for it to end. I know another one will be coming out soon..this"Ruso and Tilla's excitement at arriving in Rome with their new baby daughter " tells me it is starting right where I left off.. Cannot wait!

Hadrian's Wall and the borderlands take the reader to a bygone time that I am so happy to revisit. I adore this series and it is both well written and well researcher. Ruth Downie is a very skillful writer, with the ability to combine humor and great depth of characters, with the history and mystery we always hope to have in historical mysteries.

Preorder the next one, I have! "Vita Brevis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire" 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Imp of Eye- Book One- Kristen Gleeson and Moonyeen Blakey - Just terrific!

Once I got into the rhythm of this tale and how it was told, I loved it! I immediately had to learn what I could about where Eye was and who had lived there( that is what I do when I read).

Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester's fate was known to me peripherally, by reading a lot of books about the precursors to the Wars of the Roses, but not in this detail.I want to learn more about her and about Barnabas and Alys of course.

Some of the book is about the rise ( and fall) of Eleanor Cobham and her husband Humphrey the Duke of Gloucester. It touches on Henry VI and surely of that period in which tales of witches and fortunetelling were powerful and dangerous. ( Remember Jacquetta of Luxembourg . mother of Elizabeth Grey who married King Edward?) It also alternates with the hero of the book,Barnabas who reluctantly worked for Margery Jourdemayne, the "Witch of Eye" and Thomas Southwell, a canon and rector.

The alternating of narratives in chapters worked very well and had a pace that worked. Recommending this book for historical novel devotees and those who appreciate attention to period.I am off for the next in the series.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Owen - Book One of the Tudor Trilogy - Tony Riches

4+ Stars ~ " Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress,Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V"

It was an enjoyable and enlightening book about Owen Tudor himself. I have read The Forbidden Bride and books about the Beauforts, but this one was solely about Tudor himself, which was different. Sometimes I do prefer the female viewpoint so I will explore what Book 2 of the Tudors which is "Jasper".

It was written well enough for me to look at his other books and I am currently exploring Eleanor Cobham as book subject, so will give that a go also.

Little is known of the youth and early history of Owen Tudor so I think that the book was factual and interesting without being at all heavy. Recommended for all who enjoy this period of time and other historical characters outside of the main Tudor family.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Murder on St.Nicholas Avenue - A Gaslight Mystery by Victoria Thompson - Bonus!!

4.5 stars I think and nicely done. Not sure that Victoria Thompson has quite decided who will be the principal players and it was hard for me, at least, to make the switch. That being stated, Maeve and Gino with the assistance of Felix and Elizabeth Decker, carried on quite well as Sarah and Malloy sail home from their European honeymoon.

The mystery was wrapped up in a just a few pages and I am not sure what is happening to the perpetrator of the murders,Eddie the boot-boy and his love object Una O'Neill. Possibly that will be revisited in another story or at least we can be apprised of what the laws would have done in that case.

This book was a bonus book in the series and came out in time for Christmas.As others have indicated, it was a very fine bonus. I am anxiously awaiting the next in the series "Murder in Morningside Heights " which may be out tomorrow? Get yours now!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Virgin in the Ice - ( Cadfael # 6) - Ellis Peters ~ The best one!

 This was surely the best Brother Cadfael for several reasons, the most important is that after skipping around in the series I did not know how his son was revealed to him. If you do not know what that means, you need to start reading this series!

The winter of 1139 was a bad one for the area when Worchester was sacked during the Civil War between Matilda and Stephen. Adding to that was a very severe beginning to the winter with daily snows and bitter frosts which sent Worchester's inhabitants fleeing north to Shrewsbury. Missing at that time were orphan siblings from a noble family and their companion.

Adding to all these misfortunes were outlaws who abounded and preyed upon innocent people including those Hugh the Sheriff and Cadfael were seeking. A truly complicated and amazing mystery. I loved it! the only bad part is there are now only 4 books left in the series for me..

I shall have to start rereading them. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Trick of Fate- Novella by Kristin Gleeson and Moonyeen Blakey - Get yours!

   London, 1437
 "Alys longs to paint like the artists who created the beautiful paintings at St Michael’s but it isn’t      until a trick of fate sends her sprawling under a noblewoman’s horse that her life takes a different  turn. "

A delightful prequel to the Renaissance Sojourner series! I must refresh my memory of Eleanor the Duchess and start the rest of the series. So many exciting elements are packed into this novella.. Dukes, imperiled duchesses and maybe or maybe not a very fortunate Alys. Witches and scrying glass and young people with strange supernatural gifts abound. 

Let's read this series and find out what happens to Alys and her friends.. 

The Hostage of Glenorchy- The Highland Ballad Series - Kristin Gleeson ~ Preorder this great tale now!

 "With spice, wit and action "..yes all of those.. In 1551 when Mary, Queen of the Scots, was fourteen their was a poison plot against her. One Robert Stuart was executed in France but perhaps was innocent. 
Kristin Gleeson has said that she tries to inject a sense of time and place into her stories, and further that time and place are just the setting for her novels, and not the reverse. I really can see that happening here in this great tale of Scotland.

The heroine is Gabrielle "Abby" Gordon, daughter of a musician who is in France as a court musician and a French mother who is absent from her life. The Gordons are familiar to me as my husband's Ingram family lived for 500 years in Huntly Aberdeenshire, townland of the Earl of Huntly, a Gordon. They became a bit more familiar as players in this dangerous political intrigue I just read about.

As the story ends I am wondering if Abby goes on to Glenstrae and meet up with Iain MacGregor or travel back to France to her father. So excited there is a sequel. Order your copy of this book now. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Ides of June - Rosemary Rowe - Another great one~ Preorder today!

4.5 Stars. A great new one by Rosemary Rowe who is a master of tales of Roman Britain and the creator of Libertus.

I really like it and it is my favorite so far of the Libertus books. Why? I so appreciate books about Roman Britian and I learned a great deal reading this about  Celtic roundhouses, language customs and everyday life at that time. The different populations that were coexisting at this time period in Rome makes it a compelling read for me.

 The very favorite part for me was the journey to hide Julia and the children; the language and cultural differences that separated the two families was a unique look at this period. Next, I think was that this period in time, between Emperors was so fraught  with dangers for Romans and Natives alike. 

Also I felt that the routines of daily life for Libertus, and his now extended family, were thoroughly enjoyable to read and think about. Equally entertaining were Julia and Marcus and their children's roles that were explored.

The Tanner and his family were another delightful excursion from the ordinary and I am so glad they were able to move up a bit in society and had their son bought back from slavery. Glimpses of the countryside as it may have been at that time were really entrancing to explore.

Recommended for those who love mysteries set in other countries and eras.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Night Wanderer - An Aelf Fen Mystery by Alys Clare

Alys Clare has a unique style of writing and her mysteries are always complex. This one had so many twists and turns I had to back and up and reread but it was quite enjoyable. The eleventh century was still a time of great superstition and fear of  the supernatural. 

Enter Lassair, who is already a bit mysterious, a "healer" with some supernatural powers of her own. She travels on foot back and forth from Aelf Fen with a  magical shining stone that protects and warns her, a heirloom from her Icelandic grandfather.

Jack, the local lawman who works for the sheriff, and Lassair are determined to solve the grisly murders that need to investigate because of their careers. At one and the same time they are getting to be more than close friends which  could complicate their lives.

Is the Night Wanderer a deranged killer or something more? Lassair's instructor, a magician and his counterparts and she herself are in danger.

 A very fine read with accurate period detail with a big dose of mystery thrown in. Pre-Order this one now!