2 Aug 2020

The Gentleman Spy: An Audra Jennings PR Kregel Blog Tour

July 28th 2020, Kregel 
304 Pages

Serendipity and Secrets #2 
Genre: Historical/Regency Romance 
Setting: Oxfordshire, London, 1814 

He only wanted a duchess for a day―but she's determined to make it a marriage for life

When his father and older brother suddenly pass away, the new Duke of Haverly is saddled with a title he never expected to bear. To thwart the plans of his scheming family, the duke impulsively marries a wallflower. After all, she's meek and mild; it should be easy to sequester her in the country and get on with his life―as a secret agent for the Crown.

But his bride has other ideas. She's determined to take her place not only as his duchess but as his wife. As a duchess, she can use her position to help the lowest of society―the women forced into prostitution because they have no skills or hope. Her endeavors are not met favorably in society, nor by her husband who wishes she'd remain in the background as he ordered.

Can the duke succeed in relegating her to the sidelines of his life? When his secrets are threatened with exposure, will his new wife be an asset or a liability?

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I've read both books in this series in quick succession, since they were published within months of each other. Overall, I have enjoyed both books in this unusual regency series, which is the first from this author (she has written short Regency stories in collections before). 

The elements of espionage and political intrigue add a lot to the story, and Marcus. Sigh. Marcus is just dreamy. He was an excellent character in the last book, and even moreso here. Darkly handsome, chivalrous, protective, but also smart and sharp.
The quips and banter between him and Charlotte here at times hilarious, and I love how they came together over a mutual love of books. 

I liked Charlotte at first because of this. Being a devoted bookworm and nerd myself. I'd be called a 'bluestocking' in Regency times, for my love of history books and reading ancient poems over popular fiction. Set me loose in a bookstore and you could lose me for hours. 

However, I had a few issues with this novel (which also relate to the previous one). One of this was the continually negative depiction of men. All the male characters except the heroes, and few of their associates are either lechers or abusers, or both.
Now don't get me wrong, I think we do need to address the subject of abuse of women in novels, but I think the issue here is that it's very one-sided. Making out that only men are abusers and only women are their victims.

In real life, this isn't the case. Women can and do abuse men, other women and children. Women can be extremely controlling, but this isn't really depicted in this novel. All the women are helpless victims or innocent angels of evil men. 

Also, I stopped a few Americanisms and modern terms which really stood including a character referring to children as 'kids'. To a 19th century British person a 'kid' meant a baby goat. It wasn't a word for children until the 20th century.
There were also a couple of details which did not ring true for the time period. Such as Macus having a gym in his attic, and working out in it. The characters also refer to 'sitting in Lords'.
I assume this refers to sitting in the House of Lords, but that is not an abbreviation I've ever encountered before. British people don't say that. We'd say 'in the Lords' or 'The House of Lords'.

I'd certainly read more by this author, and look forward to the 3rd and final book in this series, though I'm glad there's a bit of a gap between the release dates. I did like this book, but I would not count it as a favourite, but will recommend it for fans of Regency Romance. 

Thanks to Audra Jennings and Kregel for providing me with an ebook version of this title. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

30 Jul 2020

The Lost Leiutenant by Erica Vetsch Review

Kregel, April 21st 2020
386 Pages

Serendipity and Secrets #1 
Genre: Historical Fiction/Regency 
Setting: London and the English Countryside 1813

He's doing what he can to save the Prince Regent's life . . . but can he save his new marriage as well?

Evan Eldridge never meant to be a war hero--he just wanted to fight Napoleon for the future of his country. And he certainly didn't think that saving the life of a peer would mean being made the Earl of Whitelock. But when the life you save is dear to the Prince Regent, things can change in a hurry.

Now Evan has a new title, a manor house in shambles, and a stranger for a bride, all thrust upon him by a grateful ruler. What he doesn't have are all his memories. Traumatized as a result of his wounds and bravery on the battlefield, Evan knows there's something he can't quite remember. It's important, dangerous--and if he doesn't recall it in time, will jeopardize not only his marriage but someone's very life.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Erica Vetsch is another new author for me. I understand she has a short short in another collection I have not read yet (but really need to), but this is her first full length Regency novel.

All in all, it was very good. The hero Evan is a former soldier suffering from whet we would now recognize as PTSD who gets raised to the nobility by the Prince Regent. The heroine Diana comes from an abusive and unhappy family situation. I would say this is a romance that develops by means of a marriage of convenience story, as the characters get married less than halfway though.

There are elements of intrigue (with a possible spy) and plenty of secrets on both sides, as well as a number of challenges for the characters to overcome, including the restoration of a mansion in only a few months.
Whilst The Lost Lieutenant is an enjoyable story that will certainly satisfy Regency fans, it's often been said that one of the weaknesses of this genre is the lack of communication between characters. That everything could be resolved if they simply talked more.

I do feel this was the case to a certain degree, as chapters would often end with one of the characters going off in a huff and then basically giving one another the silent treatment for days or weeks on end, because of some misunderstanding that could easily have been resolved. Although interestingly the characters to actually express this sentiment themselves at he end (things would have been easier if they had confided in each other earlier).

Despite this one minor gripe though, I like this novel and found the depiction of the Prince Regent interesting. A character who the characters had to be loyal to, but was annoying and a bit of a buffoon at the same time, which is consistent with a lot of what I've heard about him.

I look forward to the next novel which is about Marcus Haverly, Evan's best friend who seems to know everything about everyone.

Thanks to Kregel for approving my request to read an ARC of this title. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

26 Jul 2020

African Slaves in Medieval England? A History Sunday Post

Cecil in Jody Hedlund's A Loyal Heart , Little John in the upcoming adaptation of Robin Hood. 
Representing diversity in fiction has its merits, and its understandable why Christian Fiction authors want to reflect it in their works.

So when a character of African heritage is included in a Medieval novel, its often just assumed that they must have been a former slave: because of the Slave Trade, right? Well, actually, I think that's wrong on two levels. 

First of all, Britain did not become involved in the transatlantic slave trade until the sixteenth or seventeenth century: well after the Medieval period had ended. (And indeed, up until the end of the 17th century many poor people from Britain and Ireland were sent to the Americas as 'indentured servants'. Many died en route, or before they had lived in the Americas for a year.)
Second, I think find it rather offensive to assume that people of African heritage  only ever held a servile status in Europe until the modern age. 

This got me thinking: how much evidence is there for African Slaves in Medieval Europe? The
The Vikings made slave trading into an international industry:
This included selling Europeans as a slaves in North Africa &
The Near East.
answer is very little indeed. The Romans, of course, had slaves: but they did not tend to discriminate in terms of ethnic background. Slaves could be from anywhere in the Empire and beyond.
The Anglo-Saxons and the other peoples of Britain before the Conquest also had slaves: but the evidence suggests that they were generally people from neighboring regions and Kingdoms. Other Brits, or occasionally people from such far flung regions as Ireland, France or Byzantium.
The brutal truth is, if a person wanted a slave way back then, it would just have been a whole lot easier and cheaper to take one in a raid on the Picts across the border then to sail halfway across the world. 

The Vikings certainly had slaves: but one little-known fact is that they were involved in a slave trade which was almost the reverse of the one we know about. They kidnapped Europeans by the boatload and sold them in the Byzantine Empire, North Africa and the Middle East.
In fact, some of the worst offenders when it came to slavery in the Middle Ages were in fact the Islamic cultures of those very regions. From the 8th century, the Arabs began to conduct raids in Africa to take slaves, and alongside the Turks, their trade in African slaves continued until the 19th century, and even later in some cases.
Some historians estimate that as many as 112 million people from Africa were enslaved by the various Arab Empires of the Middle Ages, as well as the Turks and others, and destined for the Ottoman Empire, the North African Kingdoms and the Middle East. 1.
Most were male, and according to some sources were routinely castrated, and even had their babies killed at birth.
Back in Britain, it might come as a surprise to learn that the Normans were none too keen on slavery.
"Wulfstan (an 11th century English Bishop) made it his mission to end the practice of selling Christian slaves and spent months preaching to the people of Bristol against the practice. At first they were hesitant but he eventually won them around.
There are even reports that the townspeople attacked any slaver they came across. Eventually the example made by the people of Bristol was held up by King William and the practice of selling slaves was banned throughout the land by 1102."2

'But feudalism and serfdom!' I hear you cry. There were various important differences in legal and economic status between Medieval serfs and slaves, which is a subject for another post, but the
Although they're often characterized as such, Medieval
peasants were not 'slaves'.
simple fact is that not everyone who wasn't noble in Medieval Britain was a serf. In fact, some historians suggest that up to half of the rural population of Medieval Britain consisted of Free Peasants.
Then to add to the Norman antagonism, the Pope banned the holding of other Christians as slaves in the late 12th century. So really, slavery just became more and more untenable. 

We're used to the idea of Medieval Europe as 'Christendom': the centre of Christianity in basically the Western World, and indeed it was. But there were other Christian states in the Medieval world. One was Armenia, there were also large Christian communities in places like modern Lebanon and Syria, as well as Eygpt. One early Bishop and Church pioneer in Anglo-Saxon Britain is known to have come from North Africa: he was known as 'Hadrian the African' and might have been a Berber by birth (the Berbers were the indigenous people of North Africa: there before the Carthaginians or the Arabs, or the Romans).

And there was another problem. Medieval Europeans literally believed that the Equator was an impassable ring of fire. So hot that it could not sustain life, and any people living beyond it could not cross north, or people from the North cross over to the South. This meant that any contact Europeans had with Africans was limited to the areas North of the Equator.
This leaves two places that still needs to be mentioned. Regions often ignored or neglected in many histories and in fiction.That place? 


Remember the Ethiopian Eunuch from the Book of Acts? Did you know that many Bible teachers consider him to have been the first Gentile convert? 
So perhaps its not surprising that Christianity was evidenced in Ethiopia from a really early period, and Christianity was established as the official region by the 4th century making it one of the first official Christian states on earth. After Armenia.

Tradition has it that Christianity was bought to the country (which included much of modern Ethiopia and Eritrea), by two Syrian merchants who got washed up on the shore. Ethiopia was on a major trade route between India and the Roman Empire, so the version of Christianity which came to be adopted as the state religion was very similar to Eastern Orthodoxy. So Ethiopia developed its own version of Orthodoxy leading to the creation of the Ethiopian Orthodox church.

Church of St George, Labelia, Ethiopia
There are churches in Ethiopia today that date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, including some of the famous rock cut churches. Like this one, the church of St George in Lalibela. Notice that its shaped like a Greek Cross- and its also interesting that there is a Medieval Church in Ethiopia dedicated to the same Saint who would become the Patron Saint of England. Shows you something about the international nature of Medieval Christianity. 

Over the centuries, Ethiopia became isolated from the rest of the Christian world because of Islamic conquests to the North, but it still had some contact with the outside world: there's even evidence for contact in Europe. Indeed, some European travelers convinced themselves that Ethiopia was the home of the legendary King Prester John.

There was also the Kindgom of Nubia, along the banks of the Nile river which corresponded roughly
Mural from a 12th century Church in Faras,
A city on the border between Egypt and Sudan
to the modern state of Sudan. A Chronicle from the time of the Crusades make a passing reference to a Nubian King on Pilgrimage to Constantinople in the opening years of the 13th century.

..When the emperor (Byzantime Emperor) saw him coming, he rose to meet him and did great honour to him. And the emperor asked the barons: “Do you know,” said he, “who this man is?” “Not at all, sire,” said the barons. “I’faith,” said the emperor, “this is the king of Nubia, who is come on pilgrimage to this city.”3

Nubia also had a large Christian presence for many centuries, but eventually fell to the control of Bedouin tribes, the Turks and it's neighours to the North, so that by the 14th-15th century the region was no longer officially Christian.
The Christian King who made the Pilgrimage to Constantinople during the 4th Crusade was one of the last of his ilk.

There are also references to black people in art and literature: in a Medieval Arthurian legend, the leading character has a mixed race brother Sir Morien, born to a one of the Knights of the Round
Sir Morien, a character from a 13th century Romance
Table and a Moorish Princess. There is even evidence of a man from sub-Saharan Africa in a Medieval English monastery. 
Henry VIII even had a musician and trumpeter in his court who was black, given the ironic name of  'John Blanke'. Some people might consider it evidence of racism to have given a man of African descent a name which means 'White', but I think its more a case of British sense of humour, rather like how the tallest character in the Robin Hood stories is called Little John. 

What we can see is that not one of the black people who we find evidence or mention of in Medieval England was a slave. They appear as merchants, warriors, musicians, diplomats, even clerics and labourers but not as slaves taken by force from their homeland.
Contrast that with the Islamic world, in which people from Africa, particularly men were taken as slaves and usually castrated. This was going on long before Europe became involved in any kind of slave trading in Africa.

That said, is  some evidence of slaves in some Medieval European states after 1100. Most of these people seem to have been taken captive during the Crusades and sold into slavery. If this seems unjust, though, it pays to remember that the Turks were also in the habit of enslaving captured Crusaders, and even women and children who were unfortunate enough to have got caught in the proverbial crossfire.
So what Europeans were doing was essentially reciprocating the same treatment that had been meted out to them, and that the enslavement here was not based on race, but religion and circumstances.

Most of the slaves in Europe during the Crusading centuries seem to have been present in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece or the South of France. Countries which had direct contact with the near East and North Africa. Britain is obviously not a Mediterranean country, we're closer to Scandinavia than the Med, so there isn't any evidence of Muslim or pagan captives enslaved in England or Scotland.

So there's nothing inaccurate about having a person of black African heritage in a Medieval novel at all. What would be inaccurate would be to cast them as as a slave or former slave. There probably weren't any black slaves in Medieval England: or many slaves at all. 


Quotes and References:

1: See John Azumah, The Legacy of Arab Islam in Africa
2: 'Bristol's Other Slave Trades', The History Press Online, https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/bristol-s-other-slave-trades : accessed 12th July 2020
3:See The Conquest of Constantinople, Translated from the Old French of Robert de Clari trans. E.H. MacNeal. Columbia University Press, 1996.

8 Jul 2020

Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson Review

May 26th 2020, Thomas Nelson, 336 Pages 
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Setting: Regency England (1815) 

When the widowed Lord Torrington agreed to spy for the crown, he never planned to impersonate a highwayman, let alone rob the wrong carriage. Stranded on the road with an unconscious young woman, he is forced to propose marriage to protect his identity, as well as his dangerous mission.

Trapped by not only the duty to her country but her limited options, Miss Elizabeth Cantrell and her illegitimate son are whisked away to Middlecrest Abbey by none other than the elder brother of her son’s absent father. She is met by Torrington’s beautiful grown daughters, a vicious murderer, and an urgent hunt for the missing intelligence that could turn the war with France. Afraid of what Lord Torrington might do if he learns of her son’s true identity, Elizabeth must remain one step ahead of her fragile heart, her uncertain future, and the relentless mystery person bent on her new family’s ruin.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey was another great Regency from Abigail Wilson, a relative newbie author. It is essentially a marriage of convenience story, but with espionage, mystery, a murderer on the loose and plenty of twists, turns suspense and surprises. (I do feel that he highwayman part could have been followed up a bit more. One of the characters is posing as one, and we get the impression that it's central to the story, but after the first scene, no more is heard of that.)

I will say that in some ways it seemed quite similar to the author's other two books, especially with the espionage story-line and the possible French spy. I got the impression though that this was intentional, and the espionage is meant to be an underlying plot line throughout the books.
Which makes sense, as Elizabeth Cantrell, the heroine in this story actually featured quite prominently in the first book The Shadow of Croft Towers. So although the books are not formally part of the series, there are connections between them.

Things were a little confusing at the beginning with all the different characters, servants friends and family members, but the main characters were well drawn. Adrian was one of those characters who defies appearances. Or rather, when the heroine cannot see his good points or cannot bring herself to trust him, the audience can see through his actions that he is a good man. A good man with a past admittedly, but a man who was probably more sinned against than sinning. (Which is not so say he was without sin).
It was also interesting to see Elizabeth come into her own, as she had previously been cast as quite a shallow and self-centered character. Although I would have appreciated being shown her love for her child a little more, rather than just told about it.

The faith elements were a fair bit stronger in this story than they were in first book. The central theme was truthfulness and trusting others, which the characters who had both suffered betrayals found difficult. Neither came to them easily or naturally, as would be expected, but developed over time.

Recommended for Regency Fans, and fans of clean reads. Although this one sometimes pushes the boundaries of 'clean' a , it never goes too far.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Netgalley for the PDF copy to review. I also listened to the audiobook of my own volition and all opinions expressed are my own.

6 Jul 2020

A Most Singular Venture by Donna Fletcher Crow: Review

Elizabeth and Richard Literary Suspense #5
August 31st 2016, 286 Pages, 
Print and Ebook

Period: Contemporary 
Genre: Crime and Mystery 
Setting: London, England 

Richard is teaching Jane Austen as a Queen of Crime at the University of London while Elizabeth researches all the London sites Jane knew. A lovely interlude to their summer until Richard's brother Andrew shows up to bid on a set of Jane Austen first editions, a pushy student intrudes on their agenda and they become responsible for a young boy. And then one of Andrew's business associates is murdered and he is accused of the deed.
Elizabeth and Richard are exploring Jane Austen’s London, but their murderous opponent is all-too contemporary. 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another book from my Kindle backlog that I finally got around to reading this book. I've gradually worked through the last few books in this series over the last few years. I think I enjoyed the last two best, because of their English setting.

'Literary Suspense' is a good subtitle for these novels, which are mysteries but are also saturated in a background of 19th century American Literature and English Literature from Shakespeare to Sayers. Anyone can read them, but I would say you have to have read or at least be familiar with some of the authors to get all of the references.

The story in this one was a bit slow and towards the end I was sort of able to guess one of the culprits but not the whole basis of the mystery. I'm wasn't entirely convinced by young Jack, the 11 year old student who latched onto Elizabeth and Richard. Actually, it was mostly his language. Not many 11 year olds Britain in 2016 said something was 'wizard' to mean 'good' or amazing.
Last I was aware that term was used in the 1950s.

Otherwise though, A Most Singular Venture was a good suspense novel and a good choice for lovers of Austen and the classics and mystery authors.

27 Jun 2020

Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette Review

Cities of Refuge #4
384 Pages, March 3rd 2020,  Bethany House 
Print, Ebook and Audio 

Strong-willed Tirzah wants to join her people in driving the enemy from the land of Israel and undergoes training for a secret mission inside the stronghold of Shechem. But soon after she has infiltrated the ruthless Aramean commander's kitchen, she makes a reckless decision that puts her and her allies in grave danger.

Fresh off the battlefield, Liyam returns home to discover his beloved daughter is dead. After his vow to hunt down her killer leads to months of fruitless pursuit, his last hope is in a family connection that comes with strings attached. Strings that force him to pose as a mercenary and rescue an infuriating woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted.

When an opportunity to pave a path to a Hebrew victory arises, can Tirzah convince Liyam to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will Liyam's thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, his God, and the woman he's come to love?

My Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐


This series and Tessa Afshar's books have really been my introduction to Biblical Fiction. I barely read it two or three years ago, and indeed was reluctant to. I liked this entire series, which brings the period of the early settlement of Israel to life (its supposed to be set within a generation or two from the Exodus), along with the hopes and struggles of the people.

This one leaps ahead several years, and Moriyah and her family are no longer living in Kadesh, which has fallen to the Arameans. Being the nerd I am, I looked them up.

Her youngest daughter, Tirzah who has always been something of a tomboy begs to be able to join an expedition spying on their enemies in a nearby city, wading her way through the political intrigues and having to keep on the right side of a violent military leader.
There were a few scenarios and events that did not perhaps, ring entirely true, but the reader does get a sense of the danger the characters are facing to take back their land.

I would say the Romance element wasn't as strong in this one as some of the previous titles. Perhaps a little predictable, but it wasn't insta- love either, and it was good to to see the love growing between two hurting people who could bring healing to one another.
Personally, I find the audiobook narrator's pronunciation of a couple of the names interesting to say the least. Othniel to my British ears sounded very much like 'oatmeal', so I spent most of the book picturing a bowl of porridge whenever I heard his name. Silly I know.

Since I don't know much about this time period, I can't really remark on how accurate the period setting was. I will say the depictions of the various peoples were a little typecast at times (all the pagans/Arameans were evil etc), and there seemed to be a few modern turns of phrase. Not sure about mockingbirds in the ancient Middle East either.

However, overall this was a satisfying conclusion to the 'Cities of Refuge' series, which follows a family over two generations. I have not read the author's first series, and really ought to go back and do that, as some of minor characters mentioned in this series featured in that.

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

13 Jun 2020

The Healing Tree by Deborah Kinnard Review

The Faith Box #2
April 20th 2013, 237 Pages, Desert Breeze Publishing 

 A young English merchant dreams of riches, but is shipwrecked on the Cornish coast.

Richard de Knowle meets the local healer, Ebrel of Perran. Though their respective ranks forbid their joining, feelings quickly develop. She already has a suitor not to her liking. The suitor becomes Richard’s enemy. The men clash with words, later with swords. When her unwanted swain is found dead, suspicion centers on the newcomer. Richard is tried for murder.

The gallows' crossbeam breaks, saving Richard. The villagers claim a miracle, but Richard must seek justice from the local lord. Though the miracle spared him, he must clear his name if he expects to ask for Ebrel’s hand in honor.

Custom and circumstance decree separation. Yet the wheel of fortune turns, offering Richard a life in Cornwall. If he dares take the chance, he can hope to make a life with Ebrel at his side.

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 The Healing Tree is very unusual for a historical Romance. In fact, I wouldn't really call it a Romance. I'd call it Historical Fiction with a romantic element. Contrary to what some synopsis say, its not set in the 12th century, various details in the book show its actually set in the mid 14th century.

Anyways, The Healing Tree was a great story about a young man finding love, discovering himself and deepening in his faith after washing up in Cornwall (quite literally: he's shipwrecked). There's some interesting messages about the transient nature of life, and the the way people are remembered by those left behind.

Like a Deb Kinnard's other Medieval novels, the research shows in this book. I suspect that she did more research for this series than her previous novel Seasons in the Mist.
So, there's some interesting details about the culture of Medieval Cornwall, and how it differed slightly from other parts of England, and that goes beyond just using certain Cornish terms and phrases.
There are also details about the structure of the day, morning mass and the chores or activities people typically performed afterwards. Its those little details about day to day life
that gives the reader a 'feel' for Medieval society, and the preoccupations and pressures of the people who lived then. Some Medieval novels come over as very modern and contrived, but this one just feels a lot more real.

I wasn't entirely convinced about Richard's attitude to the clergy at times, as there didn't always seem to be a logical reason for it. More an injection of modern Protestant ideas, but it did not stand out too much nor was it constant throughout the book.
The only other minor niggle I had was that the implication that one character had some kind of 'gift' of foresight, and had visions of he future/knew things about people beyond the normal. I've noted that in one other book by this author but again, it wasn't really a major aspect of this story.

Readers may wish to note that he speech is written in a sort of archaic style, which might make it a little slower to read for some, but that's quite common in Historical Fiction now. Sadly, this novel is also out of Print.
Hopefully, one day this series will be republished. Its certainly one of the better Medieval novels I've read. Not cheesy or cliched, and a nice break from the Fairy Tale type stories that are common. More solid historical.

I was sent a copy by the author after I requested it. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

16 May 2020

Review and Blog Tour Post: Robin Hood's Widow by Olivia Longueville & J.C. Plummer

Synopsis and Review: 


Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting:  Late 12th century England and France 

Released: 8th May 2020, Angevin World Publishing
Editions: Print and Ebook

Robin’s duty to his king sends him on an odyssey that will unfold from the streets of Paris to the banks of the Danube. From incredible triumphs on the battlefields of the Crusade, to harrowing sea voyages, to a desperate dash across the frozen landscape of Central Europe, Robin Hood must ensure that King Richard safely returns to England.

Meanwhile, the outlaws of Sherwood Forest rise again under a new leader—and she is unwavering in her pursuit of justice against the tyranny of Sheriff de Argentan. Marian endures the heartbreak of widowhood only to find strength and purpose as she leads a small band of devoted men in her quest for vengeance while she protects Robin’s legacy.Sir Guy of Gisborne, tormented by his conscience and enslaved by the sheriff, faces the wraith- like fury of the woman he once loved.

How do you find forgiveness when you have committed an unforgivable crime? He must attempt a daunting journey of redemption, while finding inspiration from an unexpected source.And through it all, Robin, Marian, and Guy are entangled in a web of treachery spun by the Kingof France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, as the plot to dismantle the Angevin Empire and take the throne of England from the Plantagenets boldly continues.

                Part two of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!
Buy the Book
Amazon.com:  https://bit.ly/RHWidow
Amazon.co.uk:  https://bit.ly/RHWidow-UK

8 May 2020

First Line Fridays: Robin Hood's Widow by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

I know, I have not done a FLF post for what, 2 months now. I've been very remiss. My post today is to celebrate the release (it comes out today!) of the second book in The Robin Hood Trilogy, co-authored by two lovely ladies Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer. 

The first book came out in early 2018: you can read my review of it here. Y'all know I'm a sucker for Medieval Fiction and Robin Hood's Dawn was one of my favourite books for 2018. Although its categorized as a General Market title I made the exception of featuring it on this site. Several of the main characters have an active faith, and this is represented in a positive and sympathetic way: albeit one which is consistent with the time period. The 12th century. 

This isn't about the first book though. The long-awaited sequel is out. I had the honour of being offered an ARC to read by the author last year, and I loved it. If you want a female led Robin Hood retelling, that's historically accurate, but also has plenty of adventure and a dash of romance they the Robin Hood Trilogy is certainly for you. Also, my Christian readers might want to note that this series is, generally, clean. 
(There's one or two scenes in the first book that might make a few people blush, and the bad language is relegated to the occasional oath in the name of a Saint. Pretty much consistent with the time period.) 

So without further ado, here's the book: 

Robin’s duty to his king sends him on an odyssey that will unfold from the streets of Paris to the banks of the Danube. From incredible triumphs on the battlefields of the Crusade, to harrowing sea voyages, to a desperate dash across the frozen landscape of Central Europe, Robin Hood must ensure that King Richard safely returns to England.

Meanwhile, the outlaws of Sherwood Forest rise again under a new leader – and she is unwavering in her pursuit of justice against the tyranny of Sheriff de Argentan. Marian endures the heartbreak of widowhood only to find strength and purpose as she leads a small band of devoted men in her quest for vengeance while she protects Robin’s legacy.

Sir Guy of Gisborne, tormented by his conscience and enslaved by the sheriff, faces the wraith-like fury of the woman he once loved. How do you find forgiveness when you have committed an unforgivable crime? He must attempt a daunting journey of redemption, while finding inspiration from an unexpected source.
And through it all, Robin, Marian, and Guy are entangled in a web of treachery spun by the King of France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, as the plot to dismantle the Angevin Empire and take the throne of England from the Plantagenets boldly continues.

Part two of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

and the First Line comes from the Prologue...

9 April 1192. North of Poitiers, On the banks of the Clain River 

"Bracing herself against a tree, Marian gasped for air, clutching her side as she struggled to catch her breath"

Also on Kindle Unlimited


1 May 2020

A Mother For His Family by Susanne Dietze Review

Love Inspired Historical 
January 2nd 2018, 288 Pages
Print and Ebook

Lady Helena Stanhope’s reputation is in tatters…and she’s lost any hope for a “respectable” ton marriage. An arranged union is the only solution. But once Helena weds formidable Scottish widower John Gordon, Lord Ardoch, and encounters his four mischievous children, she’s determined to help her new, ever-surprising family. Even if she’s sure love is too much to ask for.

All John needs is someone to mother his admittedly unruly brood. He never imagined that beautiful Lady Helena would be a woman of irresistible spirit, caring and warmth. Or that facing down their pasts would give them so much in common. Now, as danger threatens, John will do whatever it takes to convince Helena their future together—and his love—are for always.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Mother for His Family is a rather enjoyable spin on the typical marriage of convenience story  and a great  follow up to Mrs Dietze's first Regency novel The Reluctant Guardian. (Its been a couple of years since I read that, and I might give it a re-read.
 There's a passel of impish and mischievous children, a blackmailer, a manor house in remote Scotland and a newly married couple keeping some secrets from one another.

Overall, its an enjoyable Regency novel with a slow burning romance. Not trite or predictable. Historical events and details are woven well into the story and some difficult or controversial subjects are dealt with sensitively.

Helen was a great character. Although thrown in the proverbial deep end with her marriage, she has to use her wit and intelligence to get by. She is vulnerable, but doesn't tend to show it and tries to help and assist her adoptive family in the best way she knows.

I only had a couple of complaints about Americanisms (eating with forks etc). Also, there was one scene where Helena starts preaching at the villain which just didn't come over as appropriate or realistic in the context. It just seemed contrived and not like something a person in that situation would do. At least not a normal, flawed, human being.

                                                                      A solid 4 star read. 

4 Apr 2020

Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse Review

Ravenwood Saga #3
February 4th 2020, Bethany House, 384 Pages 
Print, Ebook and Audio

Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker just as the war with the Dominia Empire begins. Working with the other Great Houses, Selene and Damien use their gifts to secure the borders and save those devastated by the war. But conflict, betrayal, and hatred begin to spread between the Great Houses, destroying their unity as the empire burns a path across their lands. At the same time, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire's attacks.

The only one who can unite the houses and restore her husband's power is Selene Ravenwood. But it will require that she open her heart to those who have hurt her and let go of her past, despite the one who hunts her and will do anything to stop her power.

Will Selene survive? Or is she destined to fall like the dreamwalkers before her?

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Cry of the Raven was an amazing conclusion to the Ravenwood Saga. Admittedly, the story took a while to get off the ground (so to speak), but from about halfway through it got a lot better.

The characters prepare for their battle with the Dominia Empire, with whom Selene's mother is aligned. Most aspects of this fantasy story are tightly plotted and well-written, especially the part about Selene discovering how she can use her gifts to do good and to help others. Not simply to harm, as she's been taught.

There were only a few things which I felt weren't necessary. The wyverns (two legged dragons) for example. I understand they're based on the idea of a culture of dragon riders, but I'm not sure they were necessary to the story and they looked too much like aping of a certain popular Fantasy series from HBO. (Thankfully, there's considerably less sex in this.)
Seriously, though, the fantasy world that Busse has created is strong enough to stand my itself, without appendages from other stories.

It was interesting to see Selene and Damien's relationship develop, but also see them develop as characters individually. A lot of family secrets were revealed in this one, which could have destroyed them both. Selene's final confrontation with The Dark Lady revealed a lot of the allegorical aspects of the story, and the nature of 'the light' which many readers have probably already come to suspect. Its expected, but satisfying.
And the possibility of even Lady Rabbana finding redemption was a good touch, as well as the surprise which she is presented with in the final part.

Cry of the Raven was an excellent conclusion to the story. There were a few loose ends not totally tied up, but nothing essential to the story. I'd recommend this to all lovers of Epic Fantasy, but with the caveat that readers really out to start this series from the beginning with Mark of the Raven.

Thanks to the publisher for my ARC from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

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