19 May 2019

Lord of Her Heart by Sherrinda Ketchersid

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
May 14th 2019, 244 Pages 
Print and Ebook 


Genre: Historical Fiction, Medieval 
Setting: Northern England 1198-99 AD


Lady Jocelyn Ashburne suspects something is amiss at her family’s castle because her father ceases to write to her. When she overhears a plot to force her into vows—either to the church or a husband—she disguises herself and flees the convent in desperation to discover the truth.

Malcolm Castillon of Berkham is determined to win the next tournament and be granted a manor of his own. After years of proving his worth on the jousting field, he yearns for a life of peace. Rescuing a scrawny lad who turns out to be a beautiful woman is not what he bargained for. Still, he cannot deny that she stirs his heart like no other, in spite of her conniving ways.

Chaos, deception, and treachery threaten their goals, but both are determined to succeed. Learning to trust each other might be the only way either of them survives.

Minor Heading: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


I have a bit of an ambiguous relationship with Medieval Fiction. Some I love, sometimes I really can't stand it even if its set in my favourite period.

Thankfully, this new book fell into the former category. I ended up really liking it. It proved to be an excellent debut novel with an engaging plot, with a blend of romance, adventure and mystery. Sometimes its hard for newbie authors (or any authors) to blend together the various threads and numerous characters into a cohesive whole, but thus author does it very well with a story that's divided into certain parts starting out with more intense action, and settling into domestic scenes.

What's more, most of what happened was pretty credible. In some stories like this, a lot of suspension of disbelief is required, and even the romance was not too cliched or mushy for the most part. The combat and jousting scenes well also pretty well written. I also liked the way that Jocelyn was written as a strong woman: but what she did was plausible and within the bounds of the time. 
Not like a modern feminist superhero: who is great at every form of combat without training and can take out whole armies or something or doesn't want to get married because its 'oppressive'.

There were only a few minor niggles. First off, whilst I generally like the cover: those costumes don't do it for me. The man's armour just looks off. Sorry.
 
My second point is not aimed at this book in particular, but just generally. Why is it assumed that normal way of using knives in the past was throwing them? Knives are not intended to be thrown: unless its part of a Circus act or something.
From what I've heard, throwing a knife is a really inefficient and inaccurate method of combat.
If someone wanted a projectile weapon, or something that could be used from a distance, there are much better options than knives. A bow, short spear, or even a slingshot would do the trick.

I'd certainly be willing to read future books by this author, and would happily recommend this one. 

I received a promotional copy of this title from the publisher/author or their representatives. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

13 May 2019

Of Fire and Lions by Mesu Andrews

Waterbrook Multnomah, March 5th 2019
Print, Ebook and Audio


The Old Testament book of Daniel comes to life in this novel for readers of Lynn Austin's Chronicles of the Kings series or Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series.

Survival. A Hebrew girl first tasted it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago as the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. She thought she'd perfected in the many years amongst the Magoi and the idol worshippers, pretending with all the others in King Nebuchadnezzar's court. 

Now, as Daniel's wife and a septuagenarian matriarch, Belili thinks she's safe and she can live out her days in Babylon without fear--until the night Daniel is escorted to Belshazzar's palace to interpret mysterious handwriting on a wall. The Persian Army invades, and Bellili's tightly-wound secrets unfurl with the arrival of the conquering army. What will the reign of Darius mean for Daniel, a man who prays to Yahweh alone? 

Ultimately, Yahweh's sovereign hand guides Jerusalem's captives, and the frightened Hebrew girl is transformed into a confident woman, who realizes her need of the God who conquers both fire and lions.

My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐


Of Fire and Lions was the first novel I have read by this author. I'm getting to like Biblical Fiction now more than I used to, and the Book of Daniel. Well, it really does cover some very turbulent times earth-shaping events from the perspective of a Jewish exile who rose to the heights of society in Ancient Babylonia, but remained faithful to his God.

Who can forget the story of King Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the great statue, Daniel in the Lion's Den, and the Fiery Furnace. Its all here, alongside some hints of Romance and family drama.
Adding Daniel's wife, and having much of the story written from her standpoint adds an interesting and emotional flavour to the story.

Abigail (the said wife of Daniel), takes on a Babylonian name, and struggles with the terrible hand that fate deals with her. Though sometimes its the King, not fate. Even in later life she struggles to come to terms with her past, and to repair her relationship with her children who she was forced to live apart from for several years.
She grows and develops a lot as a character, and is the perfect companion to Daniel: at times and almost otherworldly figure.

It terms of historical accuracy, this novel seemed pretty good. The descriptions of places and buildings, and even religious rites were authentic.
My only niggle, and its a minor one, was the use of the term 'Palestinian'. There was no such place as 'Palestine' in 500BC: the region in the modern day Holy Land was not called that until Roman times.

Overall this was a very good story told from the perspective of a strong but vulnerable woman. I would certainly be open to reading more by this author.

I requested this title from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

1 May 2019

Pendragon's Heir (Parts One and Two) by Suzannah Rowntree: Two Reviews for the Price of One.

The Door to Camelot: Pendragon's Heir #1 
March 18th 2019, Ebook Only 
  
What if King Arthur had a daughter?

Blanche was an ordinary girl in 1900 England...until the knight crashed through her door. Now, her guardians say she’s a princess lost in time. Now, her father’s enemies want her dead.

Raised in the wild, Perceval has never known his father. Hoping for answers, he sets out to pledge his sword to the legendary King Arthur Pendragon. But dark forces threaten Camelot. And darker secrets fester behind the legend.

Sparks fly when Perceval steals a kiss from the strange damsel he finds in the forest. Blanche doesn’t trust this brash young knight...but as assassins close in, he might be her only chance of survival.


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 I've recently been honoured to act as an early reader for Australian author Suzannah Rowntree as she republishes a novel which she wrote several years ago entitled Pendragon's Heir as a Trilogy. The Third installment is due out later this month.
 
The Door to Camelot is an Arthurian tale which crosses over into 1900, when a young woman discovers she is, in fact, the daughter of King Arthur, who was sent from ancient Britain through a portal to save her from the enemies of Camelot and her father
It reminded me in sort parts of the recent movie The Kid who Would be King, with Giants and errant knight chasing fighting characters in the modern world with courage, heroism and a touch of fantasy and romance thrown in.

The book is also clearly immersed in the Literature of the Arthurian legends: with Tennyson and Chesterton quoted at the beginning of the chapters, as well as some older authors, such as the Tudor period writer Edmund Spenser.

Recommended for lovers of historical fiction, fairy tales and good old fashioned adventure yarns. This is the first part of the longer story retold as a trilogy- and I get the feeling its just about to get really intense.

So open the door and travel to Camelot today, to step into the richness and drama of the glorious Medieval tales retold with an interesting modern spin. Also a great taster to anyone who is not familiar at all with the legends. 
 

 

26 Apr 2019

First Line Friday: Poison and Perfidy, A Case for Brother Daniel by Sergei Chechnev




I took a break last week for Good Friday, and I am returning this week with another title from my Kindle Backlist. I've had this novel on my Kindle for nearly 3 years.

Its a mystery set in 12th century Russia. I love me Historical Mysteries: especially when they feature clerics as the sleuths, because they remind me of the Cadfael stories. This one has a Greek Orthodox Monk.
Sadly, the Russian author has not published any sequels to date, so this book is the only one for now. 

900 years ago a village to the east of the tiny hamlet of Moscow challenged the supremacy of the ancient and majestic Kiev, thus beginning a strife that would endure for centuries. Perfidy and Poison: A Case for Brother Daniel is set amidst the roots of that epic power struggle in turmoil-ridden 12th Century Russia. 

Based on historic fact, this fast-paced medieval murder mystery pits Brother Daniel against all the odds and some powerful enemies, both regal and religious, trying to uncover the truth behind the death of the Grand Prince of Kiev, a puppet appointment that infuriated southern princes who stood to lose precious lands in the north and so divide the nation. 
As he stumbles closer to the real assassins in a tangled skein of suspicions, Daniel is hounded by treachery and treason lurking around every dark corner created by the country’s elite ruling classes.


Today's First Line follows from a Glossary of Russian words, a map,  and some helpful illustrations depicting the costumes of 12th century Russian Aristocrats. 

"He was not a Saint, and he should not be expected to act like one".

 Don't Forget to Click the Link and comment with your own First Line. 


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12 Apr 2019

First Line Fridays: The Door to Camelot by Suzannah Rowntree



Today I am including an Arthurian Retelling. The Door to Camelot is the first in a Trilogy of short stories by Suzannah Rowntree. Its actually a re-publication of a full length novel entitled Pendragon's Heir which came out a few years ago.

I have included it because I'm an early reader for the second title in the series, The Quest for Carbonek. 
I loved the first book in the series, The Door to Camelot because its so steeped in Literature. Like every chapter begins with a quote from Tennyson, Milton, or some ancient poem about King Arthur, and because it was a great example of crossover fiction between and ancient and a modern setting.

The ebook is currently available for only $0.99 or the equivalent in your local currency. That might be a permanent price. 

What if King Arthur had a daughter?

Blanche was an ordinary girl in 1900 England...until the knight crashed through her door.

Now, her guardians say she’s a princess lost in time.

Now, her father’s enemies want her dead.

Raised in the wild, Perceval has never known his father. Hoping for answers, he sets out to pledge his sword to the legendary King Arthur Pendragon.

But dark forces threaten Camelot. And darker secrets fester behind the legend.

Sparks fly when Perceval steals a kiss from the strange damsel he finds in the forest. Blanche doesn’t trust this brash young knight...but as assassins close in, he might be her only chance of survival.


Don't Forget to Comment or Share your own First Line  


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4 Apr 2019

A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh by Carolyn Miller

Regency Brides: Daughters of Aynsley #1
Kregel Publications, March 19th 2019, 326 Pages 

As the daughter of Viscount Aynsley, Caroline Hatherleigh knows every rule of society--and she's always followed them precisely. But when she visits south Devonshire and encounters a fossil-hunting scientist and his sister, her assumptions about what is right are shaken. Questions she has never considered about the importance of friendship and faith suddenly confront her--and her comfortable understanding about how the world works is thrown off balance. What if God wants to be the center of her life, rather than merely a social obligation?

Gideon Kirby loves science, and hunting down proof of past lives is a joy he won't willingly give up. But his scientific leanings are being challenged both by his personal beliefs and by local smugglers in the Devonshire countryside. And every day his sister's illness becomes more desperate. Adding a viscount's daughter to the mix is a complication Gideon never expected--especially since he must stay far away from this young woman he's falling for in order to protect his beloved sister's secret.

Then tragedy strikes in a smugglers' cave. And the threat of scandal may lead to broken hearts and passionless propriety. Will the shaky bond these two have nurtured be strong enough to overcome their differences--or will the trust they've withheld from each other tear three lives apart?

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Another excellent beginning to a new Regency series from Carolyn Miller. As before the author delivers a memorable tale blending Romance and family drama with a flavouring of mystery and adventure.

Mrs Miller transports readers to the rugged and rough beauty of the Cornish coastline bring together Caroline Hatherleigh, the eldest of three daughters of a country Viscount with Gideon Kirby. The author often has a way of incoporating unsual or little known historical details into her stories, and in this one it really delivers.

All good Cornish tales have smugglers or wreckers, but this one also includes fossil hunters because it explored the growth of the study of prehistoric geology and life in the Regency period. I must admit a personal connection here, because I wanted to be a Paleontologist when I was younger, and so had more than a usual interest in dinosaurs.
So the references to Mary Anning, an early pioneer of fossil hunting, and the search for the remains of an Ichthyosaur - or large sea dwelling dinosaur were a real plus for me.

This novel doesn't show away from difficult themes, and I felt the spiritual content was well handled without being heavy handed as well. I also appreciated the exploration of how man of science like Gideon were able to reconcile their work with their faith.

My only complaints were the misunderstandings which kept the characters apart. They could have been resolved so easily, with just talking, and it was so obvious that declarations mads in a particular situation near the end were not sincere. Caroline should have understood that.

Thanks to Kregel books for my copy for the Blog Tour. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

1 Apr 2019

Revelation by Olivia Rae

Sword and Cross Chonicles #2
July 8th 2015, HopeKnight Press, 296 Pages 
Print and Ebook 

King Richard needs a royal wedding…

Richard’s niece, the feisty and resourceful Lady Ariane is to be his pawn. Though she has spent the last ten years living with the infidels in the Holy Land, Richard plans to turn her into a pious Christian lady, one fit to marry the nephew of King Phillip of France and, thus, seal a lucrative contract between the two countries.

But she needs the right teacher.

Proud and fierce, Templar Knight, Julian de Maury believes he has been chosen by God to free the holy city of Jerusalem from Saladin’s evil grip. But when Richard orders Julian to return to England with Lady Ariane and oversee her Christian education, he’s angry and terrified; he has been denied his destiny and England holds a dark secret better left buried. Now he must come to terms with his past and his attraction to the forbidden Lady Ariane.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

Once again, I have finished a book in this series with mixed feelings. On the one hand it turned out to be a good story, with love, intrigue and adventure.
On the other hand, it was hard for me to take this seriously as any kind of 'historical' fiction. . There was so many silly historical errors and inaccuracies that at times, I wondered if the author had read a single book on the Crusades, or 12th century History.

People  bathing was sinful, and the Knights Templar referring to themselves as the 'Order of the Templar' were just a few examples. That was not their name, and I don't think its even grammatically correct. Their correct name was the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, Templar is just an abbreviation of that.

Most inaccurate I felt though, was the assumption that all nobles at this time spoke primarily in English, so a we have a young woman captured by Saracens would have been taught English. No. This was the 12th century. English was considered the language of the commoners. The aristocracy, even those who came from England would have spoken French as their first language.
Now, I am not suggesting the author should have had characters speaking old French or something: but treating English as some kind of internationally recognized Lingua Franca in a novel set in the 12th century is just- really silly.

Also, no Muslim woman would have worn a transparent veil. Seriously, veils were worn for the specific purpose of covering the hair: a see through one defeats that purpose. Transparent veils and headscarves are a silly movie trope. There were other common tropes as well: such as the idea that almost all Templars and practically all of the Medieval Catholic church was evil and corrupt.
 
Ariane is supposed to have been kidnapped by Saracens and raised as a Muslim for 10 years, but apart from a few references to Allah, she seemed to have almost no understanding of that religion.  I very much doubt any Muslim woman would have been openly living as a mistress: or in a harem. Muslim women would normally have been subject to much higher standards as far as sexual morality was concerned. 
She also seemed to have no problem drinking wine, despite the Islamic prohibition on the consumption of alcohol. 

Her whingeing about not wanting anyone to 'control her life' came across as gratingly modern, and I really did not care for a certain plot device used in each novel in this series, which I won't give away but will become obvious to readers. To me, it makes things too easy.

So, ultimately this novel was OK, but it could have been set at almost any time in history. Even the fact that Julian was supposed to be a Templar only seems to have been put in because of the fascination with all things related to the Knights Templar these days.
I did feel that is sort of dragged towards the end as well, as things got rather far-fetched and contrived to keep the characters apart, or to keep the danger and drama to a high level. It could have ended about 40-50 pages earlier, but there had to be one more misunderstanding or fight scene.

I would read the next book in the series, but I have read better novels set during the period of the 3rd Crusade. Although, I would say the Crusade is not the primary focus, its more of a Romance.


 
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