15 Jan 2019

In the Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail Wilson

336 Pages, January 15th 2019, Thomas Nelson
Print, Ebook and Audio


Croft Towers holds more than its share of secrets . . . and Sybil is determined to uncover them all.
 
When Sybil Delafield’s coach to Croft Towers was robbed by highwaymen, she should have realized that her new position as companion to old Mrs. Chalcroft would be no ordinary job. Upon Sybil’s arrival, Mrs. Chalcroft sneaks into her room in the dark of night, imploring her to relay messages to town that are to stay hidden from the rest of the family. Who exactly is she working for and what do the messages contain?

When fellow passengers of the robbed coach are later murdered, Sybil’s hunt for the truth takes on a new urgency. The only person she can rely on is Mr. Sinclair, Mrs. Chalcroft’s godson, but under all his charms he too leads a double life. Sybil must decide if he is the one honest voice she can trust, or if he is simply using her for his own advances.

With murderers, smugglers, and spies on the loose, nothing—and no one—in Regency England is what they claim. Can Sybil even trust what she knows about herself?

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

In the Shadow of Croft Towers in an excellent debut novel. There's a bit of an expectation these days for Regency novels not just to be 'bonnet dramas' so to speak, but to contain other elements such as intrigue, an espionage subplot or a mystery.

Wilson delivers a sterling Regency Romance with all of the above, as well as a tight plot and memorable characters.
Stories narrated in the First Person as this one is, don't always work well. Yet the heroine is able to guide the reader complex and dangerous adventures in Croft Towers, seeking to unravel the mysteries of her past, whilst running errands for her mistress with highwaymen, dragoons and a potential murderer at large.

So overall, this is an exciting, engaging and atmospheric Regency tale. There was not quite as much of a strong sense of place as in Julie Klassen's work, probably because that author visits many of the areas she writes about.
Wilson does however do well in recreating something of a sense of the period, the the environment the characters inhabit in a grand country house with many secrets during turbulent times. 
 It could be a little hard to keep up with all the characters and the mystery got a bit drawn out towards the end, but otherwise the writing was very good.

Sadly, there were some of the Americanisms common to stories like this, and the problem of distinguishing between England and Britain.
This was over a century after Acts of Union, which made England and Scotland into a United Kingdom, sharing a government and Monarch. It was Britain- including Scotland and Wales- that was at war with Napoleon, not 'England', and spying for the French would have been treason against Britain, not England.

Recommended for all lovers of historical fiction and Regencies, as well as fans of Julie Klassen and Sarah Ladd.

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

11 Jan 2019

First Line Friday: In The Shadow of Croft Towers



Welcome to my first FLF post for 2019! I have not had much reading time so far in these two weeks. I have however signed up to the annual 2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge from Passages to the Past, a blog devoted to this genre. I've entered to read at least 15 Historical Fiction books this year, which should not be a problem. 

For today I am including a novel that I am currently reading.  The Shadow of Croft Towers is a Regency Romance by debut author Abigail Wilson.


When Sybil Delafield’s coach to Croft Towers was robbed by highwaymen, she should have realized that her new position as companion to old Mrs. Chalcroft would be no ordinary job. Upon Sybil’s arrival, Mrs. Chalcroft sneaks into her room in the dark of night, imploring her to relay messages to town that are to stay hidden from the rest of the family. Who exactly is she working for and what do the messages contain?
When fellow passengers of the robbed coach are later murdered, Sybil’s hunt for the truth takes on a new urgency. The only person she can rely on is Mr. Sinclair, Mrs. Chalcroft’s godson, but under all his charms he too leads a double life. Sybil must decide if he is the one honest voice she can trust, or if he is simply using her for his own advances.

With murderers, smugglers, and spies on the loose, nothing—and no one—in Regency England is what they claim. Can Sybil even trust what she knows about herself?

The first line is: 

" I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had never learned the truth"

Don't Forget to visit the Meme and Comment with your own First Line

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

30 Dec 2018

My Year in Books: 2018



I've nearly finished the final book in my 2018 Goodreads reading challenge. 98 Books! I am so going to be setting that number lower for next year. I almost did not make it, and relied a lot on Audiobooks, I must say. Yeah, I cheated. 

So I'm rounding up the year with some of my favourite reads for this year. Not all of these titles were actually released this year, as I have been wading into my Kindle backlog and I have lots of older books on my shelves. So without further ado here are some of my favourites divided by genre. 

Historical Fiction 

  From Ancient Rome to Edwardian Britain, there have been so many great historical novels and novellas I have read this year. 


Ancient Rome:  This novel is a few years old now, but well worth the read. I'm working through my Kindle backlist as this was one of the first titles of it. 

Its about a young British Boy who is kidnapped following a rebellion in Britannia, and becomes a slave to a Roman Centurion. 

Running away from his master, he meets a Jewish exile, and converts to Christianity, and from thereon follows a story about the growth of the Church and the challenges faced by Christians in First Century Rome. 

I don't read many novels set in this period, but its starting to grow on me, alongside Biblical Fiction. 


28 Dec 2018

First Line Fridays: Death at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering



Welcome the the last First Line Friday post of 2018! Today I am going to be featuring a book that was actually published about in late 2017. I've only just got around to reading it now, as its been setting on by Kindle from Netgalley for a while. 

Death at Thorburn Hall is the sixth and so fat the last title in American author Julianna Deering's series called the Drew Fathering Mysteries. The series is set in Britain in the 1930s, and features a minor nobleman and his American girlfriend and later fiance, Madelaine. 

Drew Farthering arrives in idyllic Scotland for the 1935 British Open at Muirfield hoping for a relaxing holiday, but he soon finds a mystery on his hands. Lord Rainsby, his host at Thorburn Hall, fears his business partner may be embezzling and asks Drew to quietly investigate. Before Drew can uncover anything, Rainsby is killed in a suspicious riding accident.

Thorburn Hall is filled with guests, and as Drew continues to dig, he realizes that each might have had a motive to put Rainsby out of the way. Together with Madeline and Nick, he must sort through shady business dealings, international intrigue, and family tensions to find a killer who always seems to be one step ahead.




I've made a little graphic for today's first line, which works because its quite long. 





Happy (soon be be) New Year to you all. 

As Always, don't forget to comment with your own first line, or click the graphic to see what others are reading.



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


21 Dec 2018

First Line Fridays 45: Christmas Books



Its nearly that time of the year again! Only 4 days until Christmas: and yup, I seem to have managed to have caught a head cold/flu. Yeuch. Let's hope I'm over that soon. 

Today my theme is not so much books I'm going to receive for Christmas, but festive themed books. I just finished reading The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado yesterday. After having seen the movie a couple of times, I thought reading the book was a good idea.
Imagine a Victorian England village in the Cotswolds where very little out of the ordinary ever happens . . . except at Christmas time.
This year, Edward Haddington, a lowly candle maker, is visited by a mysterious angel. That angel silently imparts a precious gift—a gift that’s bungled and subsequently lost. The candle maker and his wife, Bea, struggle to find the gift.
And when they do, they have to make a difficult choice. Who among their community is most in need of a Christmas miracle?


“I just think it odd that Oxford would assign its top student to a village like Gladstone,” Edward Haddington said to his wife, Bea. "


Today I am reading another book that sort of ties in with the season. Its about King Wencelas: you know the one from the popular Christmas carol. It seems he was a real person, a King of Bohemia (the modern day Czech republic) in the 10th century.

Immersed in the historical background of the tenth century, this true tale of Good King Wenceslaus, as told by his faithful servant Poidevin, brings the reader into the Dark Ages.

 Fear grips the land of Bohemia as the faithful face betrayal and persecution under the reign of the pagan Duchess Dragomira. 

As she struggles for power with the rightful heir, Prince Vaclav, her foes forge alliances in secret despite the risk of discovery. Who will survive?


" DARKNESS GRIPPED BOHEMIA, an evil born of fear: Fear of the goddess Morana and her demand for human sacrifice; fear of the nomadic Magyars who had destroyed Moravia on our eastern border; and fear of the mighty Germanic army to the west"

So that's two First Lines from Me today, and I am not too far off reaching my target for this year's Goodreads Challenge 

Now its your turn: Click the Meme to see what other members are reading, and comment with your own First Line

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

20 Dec 2018

Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Ravenwood Saga #1 
352 Pages, November 6th 2018 Bethany House 
Print, Ebook and Audio 

Genre: Fantasy and Speculative 
Setting: Invented World/Country of the Seven Realms 

Lady Selene is the heir to the Great House of Ravenwood and the secret family gift of dreamwalking. As a dreamwalker, she can enter a person's dreams and manipulate their greatest fears or desires. For the last hundred years, the Ravenwood women have used their gift of dreaming for hire to gather information or to assassinate.

As she discovers her family's dark secret, Selene is torn between upholding her family's legacy--a legacy that supports her people--or seeking the true reason behind her family's gift.

Her dilemma comes to a head when she is tasked with assassinating the one man who can bring peace to the nations, but who will also bring about the downfall of her own house.

One path holds glory and power, and will solidify her position as Lady of Ravenwood. The other path holds shame and execution. Which will she choose? And is she willing to pay the price for the path chosen?

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Mark of the Raven is the first novel in a new fantasy series from author Morgan L. Busse. I believe she has written other books, but this is the first one to be picked up by Bethany House. Overall, I enjoyed it more than I expected it to. The concept was good and well executed and the world building quite believable. I would not all the setting wholly Medieval, as there were modern elements (tea trays etc) but they don’t seem intrusive or anachronistic. They just kind of work as part of the invented world.

There were faint resemblances to other stories including Patrick W Carr’s Darkwater Trilogy which involves different houses or families having different ‘gifts’, and even Game of Thrones with a clan of dragon riders (a wyvern was according to mythology a two-legged dragon) and a house the symbol of a raven. Yet there was enough originality in the story and characters for this story to work on its own. Despite a few clich├ęs- leather trousers for example or characters drinking tea out of iron mugs. Yeah iron a conductor of heat, so, burning hazard there.

Also, the characters were interesting. Again, it’s easy in some fantasy stories for the characters to get ‘lost’ in the complexities of the story or the action, or just be killed off too quickly. It was possible to identify with Selene’s moral struggles and angst about her purpose the destiny in life, her care for her family was tangible, and I was found myself rooting for her throughout.

My only real complaint was that things got a little repetitive in a few places. I think the history of what had happened to House Ravenwood only needed to be mentioned a couple of times, not over and over again. Also, the way that characters kept mulling over their actions, thoughts and feelings, often with the same decisions and conclusions became repetitive.

I certainly recommend this novel to lovers of clean fantasy with an inspirational flavour set in unique and imaginative worlds, and I look forward to the story continuing in the next book.

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

14 Dec 2018

First Line Fridays #44: Wayfarer by Janalyn Voigt



I published a review last week, so no FLF post, and I have been out in London most of today. Sitting here writing this at 7:30 in the evening.

I've decided to include the sequel to the Fantasy novel I included later on the year. I'm also currently listening to Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse audiobook. Going for a bit of a fantasy tangent at the moment. 


When Kai returns with the supposed DawnKing, Lof Shraen Elcon cannot trust that the Elder youth truly is the prophesied deliverer. Driven to prove himself, Elcon banishes the boy and embarks on a peace-keeping campaign into the Elder lands, where he falls in love with an Elder princess betrothed to another. 
Sometimes the deliverance of a nation comes only through the humility of one. 
Declaring his love would shame the nations, but Elcon is torn. As war approaches, Elcon's choices lead him on a journey of discovery that will either settle the lands or leave them mired in conflict. Can his kingdom ever be united, or will the consequences of his decisions forever tear asunder the fabric of Faeraven?


I'm going to share the first line from Chapter 13, which I'm onto now. 

"Hiding her surprise, Aewen backed into her outer chamber to allow her father entrance".

Don't Forget to clock the Meme and See what Everyone else is reading or comment with your own first line. 

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