9 Sep 2019

Always by Jody Hedlund

The Lost Princesses #0.5 
August 13th 2019, Northern Lights Press, 136 Pages
Print and Ebook 

 A fierce elite guard. A loyal lady in waiting. They must work together to save three princesses from certain death.

On the verge of dying after giving birth to twins, the queen of Mercia pleads with Lady Felicia to save her infant daughters. With the castle overrun by King Ethelwulf’s invading army, Lady Felicia vows to do whatever she can to take the newborn princesses and their three-year old sister to safety, even though it means sacrificing everything she holds dear.

Gravely wounded in battle  the king of Mercia tasks Lance, one of his fiercest elite guards, to protect his family along with keys to an ancient treasure. As Lance makes plans to sneak the princesses out of the capital city, he doesn’t need or want Lady Felicia’s help.

With the dark enemy in pursuit, Lance and Felicia must put aside their differences to outrun King Ethelwulf and prevent him from killing the princesses. In a desperate attempt to hide the young girls, Lance and Felicia agree to a marriage of convenience, a decision that will change their lives—and hearts—forever.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

I decided to borrow this since I have a month left on my Kindle Unlimited subscription, and I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
 This series, I would say are set up as more Fantasy than the last series which some people seemed to think were actual Historical Fiction. I've always maintained the previous series were Fantasy as well, but I digress.

Always was a fun beginning to a new series, and an interesting self-contained adventure which would appeal to younger readers. It sets up a lot of the background for the stories, but has its own story-line and sympathetic characters, as well as romance and a faith message.

Its clean and sweet, but adult readers really do need to be prepared to suspend their disbelief in several places. A couple of common fantasy tropes in this story did have me saying 'Oh come on!' including throwing a sword. Swords are not projectile weapons people. They're not aerodynamic, and won't just go flying straight through air or spinning impressively like you see in movies.
There's also a character wearing a 'chain mail cape'. I had to do a double take at that. A cape made of chain mail. Really? And the point in such a garment would be what? Except being a cumbersome nuisance?

The thing that I have to say irked me most about this novel though there the number of references to American animals. I recall mention of mink, grizzly bear, raccoons and coyotes.
OK, so I said this is fantasy, but really if you're going to write a novel set even in a fantasy land that's meant to be loosely based on Medieval Britain (even called Britannia, I mean its obvious) can you please do some research on European animals? Otherwise what's the point of the Medieval setting?

So overall, I kind of enjoyed this book. It looks to be a solid start to the new trilogy and the concept looks promising. I just hope its a little more authentic and a bit less silly.

7 Sep 2019

Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Ravenwood Saga #2
April 30th 2019, 400 Pages,  Bethany House
Print, Ebook and Audio 

 Selene Ravenwood, once the heir to House Ravenwood, is now an exile. On the run and free of her family's destiny, Selene hopes to find the real reason her family was given the gift of dreamwalking. But first she must adapt to her new life as wife to Lord Damien Maris, the man she was originally assigned to kill.

While adjusting to her marriage and her home in the north, her power over dreams begins to grow. As the strongest dreamwalker to exist in ages, her expanding power attracts not only nightmares but the attention of the Dark Lady herself.

With a war looming on the horizon and a wicked being after her gift, Selene is faced with a choice: embrace the Dark Lady's offer, or search out the one who gave her the gift of dreamwalking. One path offers power, the other offers freedom. But time is running out, and soon her choice will be made for her.


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Book 2 was one heck of a ride. It has a romance, with the developing relationship between Selena and Damien: but also the growing sense of adventure and danger, with the threat of the Dominia Empire.

As this is fantasy, the powers of the different 'Houses' come into the story, and Selene is learning to come to grips with her own power as a dream-walker. Like all good fantasy stories, there is a struggle between good and evil.
In this case, it is largely Selena's as she struggles to let go of what she was taught and wants to use her power to help people, while struggling to be accepted in a new land.

The fantasy world-building continues, only in this one I think it was stronger and a little more credible. There was more background to the different families and Houses, and the source of their power.
Selena learns alongside the reader, which is a great way of developing the story and the plot.

Alongside the spiritual and fantasy elements, there is political drama, with the growth of an Imperial Conquering power that threatens all the people in the fictional world, as well as friction between and within the different families.
There a couple of fantasy tropes: i.e people fighting with swords but without shields (which were kind of vital in pre-modern warfare), wearing leather and able to endure combat for a longer period than someone would be able to in real life. But a lot of those are to be expected.

Honestly, when it comes to fantasy I am picky. I did not think I would like this series, but I liked the first novel, and this one is even better. The Ravenwood Saga is a Fantasy series I can recommend for all those who like the genre.

Thanks to Netgalley and Anne Rogers for allowing me to read the Epub of this title. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

A Worthy Rebel by Jody Hedlund Review

An Uncertain Choice #5 
September 4th 2018, Northern Lights Press 
Print and Ebook 


A desperate noblewoman, a rebellious peasant, and a forbidden love.

While fleeing an arranged betrothal to a heartless lord, Lady Isabelle becomes injured and lost. Rescued by a young peasant man, she hides her identity as a noblewoman for fear of reprisal from the peasants who are bitter and angry toward the nobility.

Cole Warwick cannot turn his back on a person in need and soon finds himself falling for Izzy, the gentle and beautiful runaway who is mending in his cottage. As the leader of an imminent uprising against the nobility, he tries to resist his growing feelings for Izzy to protect her from the dangerous life he’s chosen. But the longer she stays, the more he hopes she’ll never leave.

When Izzy’s true identity is revealed, Cole feels betrayed. With the rebellion underway, can Cole forgive Izzy and find a way to save her from an unhappy marriage? Or will he and his peasant army be destroyed before he has the chance to fight for the people and the woman he loves?


 My Rating: ⭐⭐


 I really could not get on with this book. It was so annoyingly repetitive, constantly telling instead of showing. We don't need to be told 5 or 6 times how pretty and kind Izzy is, how sacrificial, how hardworking and decent Cole is. How much his family suffered. We got it. Just really, stop telling us.

Even the characterization isn't great. Isabel is almost sickly sweet: she supposedly hates violence so much it makes her sick, and yet does not even bat an eyelid when her manservant kills men in front of her to get their horses.
The villain is basically a caricature. Most of his actions were inexplicable, or just so exaggeratedly evil it was almost cartoonish: he also felt very generic and similar to a lot of other villains in this series. Complete with his own personal torture dungeon, cos' he really loves torturing people. There does seem to be this ever-present and slightly disturbing fixation with torture in every novel in this series.

Medieval nobles really just had much better things to do than stay at home and micromanage their tenants. In fact, most didn't even personally take charge of their lands and just left it to estate managers, but Sir Thomas apparently didn't get that memo.
As Historical Fiction, this story was, I'm sorry to say, atrocious. It described as a work of 'Historical Recreation but the only way it resembles actual history is that there was an event called the Peasant's Revolt that took place in 1385. That's where the parallels end- and even the date given for Revolt is wrong.

Worse still though, the story was with sloppy historical inaccuracies, inconsistencies and lazy misconceptions. That all peasants were dirt poor, wore rags and were starving. In fact, there were considerable variations in wealth among the Medieval English peasantry. Some, the 'free peasants' could buy and sell land, did not have to pay fines and could move around. They could be pretty well off. In this novel though they're all lumped together into one stereotypical and homogeneous mass. 

We're continually told they're poor as dirt: and yet they all have beds (pretty expensive) and some even their own weaving equipment. We're told that they struggle to feed themselves yet have baskets full of vegetables in their homes.
We're told they'll starve over winter because they can't hunt: why not just slaughter their nice fattened pigs like actual Medieval peasants did? They throw peat on their fires: when they live right next to a flippin' great forest.

Oh, and the peasant workforce living on Isabel's own land are so incompetent that they don't even know about crop rotation- a system which commonly used by European farmers for nearly 1000 years- and literally relied on her to buy food for them for the winter.
I mean honestly: what kind of farmer sucks so badly at farming that he has to have his landlord give HIM money to buy food?
Just no. Medieval peasants only tended to starve if there was a crop failure or natural disaster or something, but for some unknown reason in this novel they're totally dependent on the heroine like- everything.

The most egregious historical inaccuracy though was the claim that it was considered to be a 'mortal sin' and 'heresy' for peasants to try and better themselves and rise through the ranks. NO. IT. WAS. NOT. There are actual historical examples of peasants who did just that: rising to gentry within a generation or two through advantageous marriages or buying land.

It’s a total misunderstanding and oversimplification of Medieval religion and social attitudes: and honestly, I think Catholics would take issue at such an interpretation of what constitutes Mortal Sin.
I think authors ought to make some effort to acquaint themselves with these things before writing novels set in the Middle Ages.

Also: if you're going to write battle scenes, please acquaint yourselves with weaponry and tactics from the period. I'll grant that most of the details were right: but there were a couple of silly errors that really let the side down.
Like expensive and heavy weapons breaking after a single use (as if they were made of plastic or something). Two minutes research on Google tells me that Pikes, a weapon mentioned in this novel, were spears on poles that could be up to twenty feet long. Common sense would suggest they couldn't be used on horseback, like the soldiers do here.

I do commend Mrs Hedlund's desire to write clean and wholesome stories for teens, but this really didn't do it for me. Maybe I'm not the right age group, but the whole story just felt rushed. I'd like to see a more historical research as well if the stories are going to be set in a real historical time and place or incorporate actual historical events.

3 Sep 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Outside My Comfort Zone

Welcome to another TTT (Top Ten Tuesday) post, the group is hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. 

Today's theme is Books Outside My Comfort Zone.

Some long term followers may know that this Blog was originally devoted almost exclusively to Historical Fiction and Fantasy. The only books I read included outside that Genre were biographies and the odd non-fiction History book.

I almost never read Contemporary Fiction. I seldom do so now, but I am starting to move outside my comfort zone a little, as some of the books on my recently read and TBR list show. 


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32969745-just-the-way-you-are?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36207260-second-impressions?from_search=true#https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41394085-when-you-look-at-me


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37118595-five-days-in-skye




 I also don't normally read American Fiction, unless there's British character in it, or its one of those Dual Timeline stories about the Second World War or something.
Sorry to my followers across the pond. Its just I don't really identify with stuff set in the United States because I don't live there. And honestly, its boring to constantly be cast as the bad guy on the grounds of nationality. Which is why generally avoid anything set during the Revolutionary War like the proverbial plague. 

I have read a few books set in America that I've liked though, and I have a few others on my Kindle. Most of these reflect my status as a certified Mystery buff. I'm a sucker for a good mystery or thriller set just about anywhere. 


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31212328-out-of-the-frying-pan?ac=1&from_search=true




 General Market titles aren't necessarily outside my comfort zone per se, its just that I don't usually review them on here because this blog is devoted to Inspirational and Christian books. I do read them, I just review them elsewhere, usually on Amazon or Goodreads. Although I have a couple on my Netgalley account that I might eventually review here.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41946353-a-modest-independencehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41594101-rebels-against-tyranny?from_search=true


Join me again for another Top Ten Tuesday post in a week or two.

30 Aug 2019

First Line Friday: Without A Trace by Mel Starr




I was at camp last week: well, actually traveling for a large part of the day so there was not post from me. 
Today I am posting the 13th title in a Medieval Mystery series which my followers might know I am madly keen on. 

The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton follows a surgeon and bailiff living in the late 14th century. In the 1370s, so be precise. Hugh uses his skills as a surgeon, his office as Bailiff to the nobleman Sir Gilbert Talbot and his keen wit to solve various murders and other crimes. 

As the series has progresses, the novels have come to be set outside Oxfordshire, and Hugh has come to move in the circles of some very prominent people, including Edward, The Black Prince, who was the eldest son and heir of the Plantagenet King Edward III and the theologian John Wycliffe. 

Without A Trace is the 13th novel in this series, of which one novel comes out per year. I would really recommend it if you want a historical mystery series that doesn't contain graphic sex scenes or lots of blood and gore. 

The wife of a knight disappears while traveling from her husband's manor to Bampton, on the way to another of the knight's properties. She and her maid are travelling in an enclosed wagon, whilst her husband and his grooms and a squire are mounted. When the party arrives at Bampton Castle neither the lady nor her maid are within the enclosed wagon: they have simply vanished.

As the disappearance may have happened while the travellers were on Lord Gilbert's lands, his surgeon and bailiff, Hugh de Singleton, is assigned to discover what has happened to the lady.
Has she been taken? Her has she fled her husband? A few days later her husband receives a ransom demand, and Hugh is named to deliver the money. Why him? The ransom is paid, but the lady is not returned. Can Hugh help find her, or is it already too late?




Today I am posting the first two lines, since the First Line is really short. 

"June and July are hungry months. Hogs slaughtered and smoked and salted at Martinmas have been consumed, and unless a man is adept at setting snares to poach his lord's coneys and hares, he and his family will go without flesh on their trenchers" 


 Martinmas, in case you're wondering, was a festival in Mid November.

 Now its your turn. Click the Meme and Comment with Your Own First Line. 


https://hoardingbooksblog.wordpress.com/category/first-line-fridays/
 

20 Aug 2019

Top Ten Tuesday : Favourite Book Tropes

Welcome to my Blog, new readers! I've decided to create my first post for Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Each week has a separate theme, but you don't have to follow it exactly. This weeks theme is Favourite Book Tropes. 

This is kind of a difficult theme for me, because there are some tropes that really annoy me: forced marriage being the main one.  I really dislike forced marriage stories: its not a moral objection but a historical one: I think they're inaccurate and unrealistic. But enough of that. I had to think of some tropes I do like. So without further ado, here are my top ten.

Unlikely Sleuths 

 

 I am madly in love with Historical Mysteries. Especially Medieval Mysteries, but I love the Classical authors as well, and unlikely Sleuths are the best.

Image result for father brown stories bookImage result for complete miss marple


 Of course Agatha Christie was the Grandmama of Mystery and gave us  Miss Marple, the seemingly harmless old Lady whose sharp mind and keen wit allowed her to solve many a crime, but before here there was:

G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown:   
The original Father Brown, as Chesterton wrote him was totally different to the current BBC character. He was described as very small, with a round, pig like face. The unassuming Catholic priest was often found sitting silently in a corner when the mystery began.

 

Warrior Women 

 

 I have a love/hate relationship with this trope, since few storytellers do it well. Many fictional Warrior women are annoyingly arrogant or conceited feminists with a chip on their shoulder. Or they're impossibly perfect and good at everything. Like Ninja Commando Barbie, who has to show off her perfect figure in a leather Bikini and emerges from Battle unscathed. Or takes down a whole army singlehandedly using her magical Girl Power. Yeah, Right. 

So, here are some good stories I've read which carry off this trope well without being unrealistic or annoying.


Image result for duty by rachel rossanoImage result for the edge on the sword




A Few Others:

 Courageous by Dina Slieman
God's Daughter and Forest Child by Heather Gilbert 
Warrior Princess by K.M. Ashman

 

Robin Hood Retellings 

 

Image result for robin hood's dawnImage result for Hood by Stephen Lawhead

 

 The famous Outlaw of Sherwood Forest has had many incarnations over the years, and his story proves as popular as ever. Some break the rules, and place Robin in different times and places, but keep most of the fundamental elements the same.

Girl Robin Hood 


Gender-Bending retellings of the Robin Hood story are popular, but many just involve women who are good at archery helping the poor, and might be set anywhere at any time. Again, there aren't many of these which I like, as some are so corny or unoriginal. Just sort of written to prove 'Look, Girls can be good at shooting arrows too'! Yeah. We know.


Image result for dauntless dina sleimanImage result for the huntress of thornbeck forest



Biblical Retellings  

 

Image result for the edict keyworthImage result for the widow's redeemer

 

 Stories from the Good Book are also popular, and some have been retold in various settings. From the Wild West to Regency Britain or even Fantasy worlds. There are plenty of these, because to be honest, some Bible stories are timeless.

Other Suggestions:
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers 
Here Burns my Candle & Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs 



  Fairytale Retellings 

 

Image result for the golden braid melanie dickersonImage result for suzannah rowntree pendragon's heirImage result for the beautiful pretender melanie dickerson

Fairytales are of course another source of inspiration for many an author. Some are ever popular, others you might never have heard of: some might not even be 'Fairytales' as we know them, but Myths and Legends from various Cultures including the Arthurian Legends. 



History With a Twist




This does not just mean Historical Fiction, but books that involve major events or figures from History,  retold in a different way or style. Be this gender bending, or placing the characters and events centuries in the future. Or maybe just retelling from the perspective of a different person.


Image result for to die for sandra byrdImage result for fawkes nadine brandes
Others I enjoyed: 


 

 Epic Journeys 

 Image result for dawn treader drawing

 From before Tolkien to today, many great stories involve a literal or metaphorical journey to fulfill a mission, perilous quest, or just learn some important lessons. Or it could be the journey of life and growing up.

The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien 

 

 Heroes in Hiding 


Image result for dread pirate roberts cartoon

Heroes or heroines who don a disguise because the circumstances demand it, before they are finally unmasked. They can be girls who disguise themselves as boys,  people pretending to be someone else, or people hidden away




Transatlantic Romance


This is another trope I have a love/hate relationship with. There are sooo many stories set during the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812 which involve the American Guy falling for a British Woman or vice versa, and they always end in the same way. The Brit comes over the the Patriot cause or they move to America, cos' its just the best place in the world, and Britain is so terrible.

I prefer stories that work without that kind of presumption, but deliver a good cross-cultural Romance anyway.


Image result for a perfect weakness jennifer DavidsImage result for just the way you are pepper basham

Others I Enjoyed:





 I know, I know this is not ten, but this was all I could think of for now, and I've put so many books for each category.
If you know any any great books I  haven't included, or any books in a series that aren't mentioned its purely because I haven't read them. 

What are your Top Ten? Have You Read any of These 

14 Aug 2019

Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin Review

384 Pages, March 5th 2019, Bethany House
Print Ebook and Audio 


In spring 1918, Lieutenant Colin Mabry, a British soldier working with MI8 after suffering injuries on the front, receives a message by carrier pigeon. It is from Jewel Reyer, the woman he once loved and who saved his life—a woman he believed to be dead. Traveling to France to answer her urgent summons, he desperately hopes this mission will ease his guilt and restore the courage he lost on the battlefield.

Colin is stunned, however, to discover the message came from Jewel's half sister, Johanna. Johanna, who works at a dovecote for French Army Intelligence, found Jewel's diary and believes her sister is alive in the custody of a German agent. With spies everywhere, Colin is skeptical of Johanna, but as they travel across France and Spain, a tentative trust begins to grow between them.

When their pursuit leads them straight into the midst of a treacherous plot, danger and deception turn their search for answers into a battle for their lives

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐



This was a great book overall. It had spying, Intrigue, War, plots and secret codes. Even a very smart messenger pigeon.
The characters were complex and well developed, and all were embroiled in a complex web of familial or country loyalties so at times you could not tell who could be trusted or not. All in the style of a good thriller.

The faith elements were well handled and the romance was sweet, without being overly simplistic or instantaneous. In fact, for much of the book the hero is meant to be in love with another character. So its an unlikely romance.

There were a few things I counted against it though. I think Colin was a little too gullible in certain areas, to fall for the same trick twice. I mean c'mon. He was meant to be an experienced soldier with connections in military intelligence. I expected better of him.

Secondly were the inevitable Americanisms. British people using only a fork to eat in the American manner, and various Americanisms which crept into the narrative. I also feel there were a few things that weren't adequately resolved or developed. I can't quite put my finger on it, it might just be that the ending felt really rushed but I think I preferred the last novel in the series.

It was a good read altogether though, and a good follow up to the author's previous novel Not By Sight which was about Colin's sister. A solid 4 stars.


9 Aug 2019

First Line Friday : Mercy's Gift by Katy Huth Jones




Today I am including yet another book from my Kindle backlog, which I have had for about 3 years. Katy Huth Jones' Medieval Fantasy series He Who Finds Mercy combines action, adventure and romance with dragons. Talking dragons. 
C'mon what's not to love about a talking dragon, especially when its a good one that helps the heroes, not an evil one like Smaug. 

Plus, many of the names in this series are fantastic. The Prince is called Valerian, such suits him perfectly, and the leading dragon is called Albionix. Don't worry about the references to witches and dragons though: this series is very solidly Christian, and the attitude to magic is Biblical. The Dragons also work in the context of the fantasy world. 


While Prince Valerian adjusts to marriage as well as his new title, conspiracy brews in the south among disgruntled lords who wish to separate from the north. The situation is made even more volatile by a charismatic rebel leader whose guerilla tactics are swift and brutal.

The clandestine efforts of a witch hired by one of the lords render Valerian's gift of Sight ineffective, and Merry's Healing gift is sorely tested.

It has become dangerous for a northerner living in the south, and if the gifted young royals fail to stop the growing rebellion, evil will reign in Levathia.




Click the Meme to See what Others are reading 
or comment with your own First Line


https://hoardingbooksblog.wordpress.com/category/first-line-fridays/

6 Aug 2019

A Little While Longer by Venessa Knizley

Walk With Me Series #2
219 Pages, June 30th 2017, Print and Ebook

 The worst of the Plague has ended, but who among the living can claim to have escaped the effects of its devastation?

Certainly not Lady Velena Abrose, who not only bears the scar of her mother’s death, but also lives with the uncertainty of her brother’s life.

Having remained sheltered for the last three years, Velena now finds herself thrust into a harsh season of change as her self-seeking uncle arrives at the castle with news that his eldest son has died—and with him, her arranged marriage.

Tristan wants to believe that the death of Velena’s betrothed means new-found freedom for their ever-deepening friendship, but in his heart, he knows differently. Plans are already being laid for Velena’s future, and chances are, they won’t include him.

A little while longer, and their friendship may be lost.

My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

To briefly summarise, this series is about a teenage girl, Lady Velena Ambrose, the daughter of a nobleman, whose family and household are caught up in the Black Death which came to England in 1348.

After losing her mother, Velena's father decides to move to one of their remote estates in the country for safety and refuge. Velena mourns for her mother, and suffers terrible trauma and depression. The author captured the existential fear of Medieval people very well: they literally believed the Black Death might be the end of the world and nobody would survive.

Then she befriends Tristan Chaneller, the son of a famous knight, who helps her work through grief and uncertainty, and leads her to faith.
The second story picks up in 1351, after Velena discovered the young man to whom she was betrothed had died, but his brother (who also happens to be her first cousin), is still alive, and a new betrothal might be imminent.

I loved meeting the main characters again. It was great to see the characters grow and develop, in their friendships and relationships with one another: and to see Velena and Tristan deepen their faith in God as well as reaching out to their peers.
There were also the less serious characters, such as Squire Rowan. The banter and hilarious capers of Rowan, Tristan and their company provided some excellent comic relief.

Mostly, I think this novel is about the characters struggle to find their place and purpose. It revolves around Velena's upcoming betrothal to her Cousin, Stuart. She struggles with her feelings for a man she has known all her life but seems much changed, and her friend Tristan who has been at her side for the last 3 years.
She struggles with returning to the home she left before the plague. Most of all she is torn between her duty and sense of what is right, or being swayed by the advice and council given to her by others. Is is just rumour, lies and jealousy, or are they speaking the truth in love?

Whilst the research has been done and historical details in this story are mostly very authentic, I did have a few minor niggles. Firstly, Medieval Bibles like the one Tristan owns were not small, portable books.
They were HUGE. This was the time when most books were made on parchment, and to make a whole Bible would take like a dozen herds of sheep. I mean I've seen the things. One person would struggle to carry one, and they certainly wouldn't fit in a satchel.
That's probably why John Wycliffe only translated the New Testament, and people only had portions of the Bible. So they could make them small and easy to carry.

Second: I'm pretty sure the Catholics I've spoken to say that indulgences were not believed to grant automatic entry into heaven: instead they were believed to provide a remittance of some time in purgatory. I'm not saying I agree with them, or anything, but I think this is a modern misconception they were meant to grant salvation.

I can't want for the 3rd book in the series to continue Velena and Tristan's journeys, and see how things will work out for them and other characters.

It bears mention here that this story does a address what would now be considered adult themes, such as personal relationships, sex within and outside marriage and sexual assault.
It doesn't glorify these things, per se, just mentions them. So, although the protagonists are teenagers, its not really Young Adult Fiction. Older teens could probably read it though.

4 Stars and recommended for all lovers of Historical and Medieval Fiction aged 15 or 16 and upwards.

3 Aug 2019

Historical Saturday: Medieval Wall Paintings

A lot of the Medieval novels I've read recently talk about the interior walls of Castles and even monasteries being decorated with tapestries and pictures hanging on the walls. Being the historically minded and naturally curious person I am, I've wondered how Historically Accurate this is. 

Not to say there weren't tapestries and such. Of course there were: but we tend to think of the interiors of Medieval buildings consisting of bare, grey stone. Tapestries would seem to be the only form of decoration suited to a bare stone wall: but some recent discoveries are shedding a new light on this subject. 

It would seem that the inner walls of many Medieval buildings were in fact not just left bare: they
 Wall Painting in a Medieval Church in Wales
were covered in plaster and sometimes had a layer of whitewash applied in top of that.
Evidence now suggests Medieval people used these plastered and whitewashed walls of their homes, castles, manors and churches as a blank canvas to create beautiful murals and wall paintings.   

I think this makes a lot of sense, because the thing about tapestries is that they're really expensive. They had to be sewn or woven by hand, and it could take months or even  years to create a large one. Even if a noblewoman decided to make her own, rather than paying someone else to do it, it would take a long time and a lot of careful attention. 

Its the same with pictures: there weren't a lot of full time professional artists or portrait painters in Medieval Europe, and where they did exist they didn't tend to make lots of copies of their paintings. Medieval portraits tend to be one of a kind. Literally.
So again, most people, even many knights or nobles wouldn't have the money to bring some artist over from Italy to paint a picture for them. 

Painting in a Church, Berkeley, England
If they wanted their walls decorated, murals would have been a quick and relatively inexpensive solution. 
In the last few decades, renovators and builders have uncovered some beautiful examples of wall painting in Medieval churches. Many of these were covered up or painted over during the Reformation because they were held to be extravagant or 'idolatrous'. Or in secular buildings, the plaster simply deteriorated and crumbled away with time, or was replaced with new styles of decoration that came into fashion.

This is why there are so few examples of wall paintings in buildings that survive from the Medieval period, and many such building are ruined so little survives of the internal structure. However, there ARE some precious and rare examples, and as previously mentioned sometimes by an amazing stroke of luck, new ones are discovered. 
Painting from Pickering Church, Yorkshire

Designs for wall paintings varied according to personal creativity and taste. They could be anything from simple patterns, to scenes from mythology, Literature, the Bible, or even just drawn from life. Hunting and jousting scenes seem to have been quite popular. 

I've attached a short clip from a BBC Documentary made a few years ago entitled Secrets of the Castle. It involves 3 British Historians who went to work on the Guedelon Project in France, which is a project to build a Medieval castle from scratch using only methods and materials available at the time. 

This 10 minute segment shows the plastering and whitewashing of one of the Castle's rooms, followed by the painting of a mural using natural dyes and home made paint. Enjoy. 





So Medieval people liked colours and decoration as much as us, and for those who could not afford to fill their homes with tapestries, wall paintings were a great alternative. Perhaps its time that we started incorporating these into Historical novels.

31 Jul 2019

Kregel Blog Tour: Underestimating Miss Cecelia by Carolyn Miller

Regency Brides: Daughters of Aynsley 1
23rd July 2019, 352 Pages, Kregel Publications 
Print and Ebook 

 Will a shrinking violet and a prodigal son come together to better their world?

Cecilia Hatherleigh has many secrets in her shy, sweet heart--but none bigger than her unrequited love for Edward Amherst, the earl's son next door. Her love has persevered over many years, even when he grows to be a bit of a rake. Yet despite his fondness for females, he never seems to see her as anything more than the quiet younger sister, and nothing Cecy does has changed that. Rather than pining after his perhaps unworthy love, she decides to turn her focus toward living out her newfound faith. Now she's determined to follow God's leading to make a better world for the poor and dispossessed around her.

A London riot awakens Edward to the responsibilities due his family name. It's time to turn his life around to please his noble father--and that means restoring his abandoned legal career and making a marriage of convenience. Neither will be easy, given his past and the prejudices of the upper echelons of society to which he belongs.

When misadventure strikes at a house party, these two are thrown together even as their lives are upended. If Cecy can't trust God, overcome her shyness, and find her inner strength, the good work they've both done may be for naught-and neither will ever find true love . . .

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Another great Regency from Carolyn Miller. Cecelia Aysley, the Middle child of her family is not he shrinking voilet she appears to be, but actually quite a determined young lady with the courage of her convictions. She just needed some encouragement to discover a cause to fight for.
She doesn't give up because it’s easy or comfortable: except in the case of Edward Amburst. I think she gave up on him rather too easily, and because of misunderstandings that could have been easily resolved.

Edward was I think my favourite character: he made a brief appearance in the last novel of the last series 'The Making of Mrs Hale' as a rakish aristocrat who courted scandal by stepping out with a married woman. Now he is transformed and has found faith: with Cecelia's inspiration he decides he wants to help the poor and marginalized people of Regency society. Including Gypsies and Irish migrants.
For much of the book though, Edward believes he must earn forgiveness, from God as well as his family to make up for his past misdeeds. He avoids Cecelia despite feelings for her, because he believes he doesn't deserve happiness.

One of the strengths of this author's books is the way the characters must work through real struggles and problems like this. This theme did allow for adding of certain historical details which enrich this series, including the Peterloo massacre of 1819.
It’s a very good book overall, I just wonder if too much was squeezed into it with all the political events and social commentary. Some of this involved a lot of telling rather that showing, just came across as a bit simplistic or not fully developed. Some events and people were just mentioned for a few scenes and then forgotten about. Perhaps the story was a little too ambitious in blending all the politics with a simple Regency romance.

That romance between Cecelia and Edward was probably the best part of this story, developing and burning slowly. I also enjoyed reading about Ceclia deepening her relationship with her younger sister Verity, seen as the Black Sheep of the family. Apart from Cecelia’s immediate family my only other minor niggle is that there were rather a lot of characters to keep up with in this novel, many of whom enter halfway or two thirds of the way through.
This book was still a four-star read, which fans of Carolyn Miller and Inspirational Regencies will enjoy.

I signed up for the Kregel Blog Tour of this book and was sent a copy. This did not influence my review and all opinions expressed are my own.
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