Wednesday, 14 April 2021

A Discovering Diamonds review of Playing With Fire by Jayne Davis

Fictional Saga /Romance
eighteenth century

"France 1793. Phoebe’s future holds little more than the prospect of a tedious season of balls and routs, forever in the shadow of her glamorous cousin and under the critical eye of her shrewish aunt. She yearns for a useful life, and a love match like her parents’, if such a thing could ever be possible for an unwanted, poor relation. But first she has to endure the hazards of a return home through revolutionary France—a nation suddenly at war with the English. Her aunt’s imperious insensitivity soon arouses a suspicion that quickly develops into mortal danger. Can a stranger encountered on the road prove to be their unlikely salvation?
Alex uses many names, and is used to working alone. A small act of kindness leads him to assist Phoebe’s party, even though it might come at the expense of his own, vital mission in France. Ignoring his own peril, he is willing to risk all in the hope of getting them safely back to England. Unexpectedly, as he and Phoebe face many dangers together, he finds his affections growing towards the resourceful and quick-witted red-head, despite their hopeless social differences. Alex dismisses the possibility of a match between them, not realizing that she feels the same way about him. Before they can admit to their affection for each other, they must face the many difficulties that lie ahead."

Well, I do enjoy a good eighteenth-century romance, and this one was no exception. Our young couple are a likeable pair in what I found to be an enthralling story. Phoebe and Alex were delightful characters, and I even enjoyed (although I'm not sure that 'enjoyed' is the right word!) the unkind aunt because the author portrayed her very well as an unlikeable person! Don't we all love a villain occasionally!

I also enjoyed meeting up with characters from Ms Davis's other books in this series (Will Marstone, for instance), although perhaps the author could have reminded us with a little more backstory about who they were and what significance they held - it has been quite a while since I read Sauce For The Gander, for instance, so it took me a while to remember the details.

It is a big book at 500 or so pages, so not a one-off cosy afternoon's reading in front of the fire, (ha ha despite it's title!) and there were a couple of passages that flagged a little, but even so this was a most enjoyable adventure. An adult read, for there are references to violence, including sexual violence, but there is nothing explicit.

If you like your romance reading to be full of adventure, with quick-witted heroines and rather nice heroes, with an added touch of well-researched historical background, this one is for you - it is a stand-alone, no need to have read the other two in the series, although I would recommend that you do.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Mary Chapple
 e-version reviewed

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Monday, 12 April 2021

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Noose's Shadow by Graham Brack

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU

Murder Mystery
17th century

"1680, Leiden, The Netherlands. After a successful trip to England to secure the Princess Mary’s hand in marriage to William of Orange, Master Mercurius is back at the University of Leiden. And once more, he finds himself embroiled in a local mystery. A farmer named Wolf was stabbed to death outside his home, and his neighbour Jaco has been arrested for the murder. But Jaco’s wife Sara is convinced her husband is innocent, and Mercurius believes her. As Mercurius gathers the facts, it soon becomes clear that Wolf was a deeply unpopular man. But is that enough of a motive for murder? With the shadow of the noose looming over Jaco, Mercurius is running out of time to catch the killer and stop an innocent man from hanging in his stead. The Noose’s Shadow is the fourth historical murder investigation in the Master Mercurius Mystery series: atmospheric crime thrillers set in seventeenth-century Europe."

This was my first foray into Graham Brack's Master Mercurius murder mystery series. There was much I enjoyed, a little I didn't.

This is not a fast-paced action thriller - I hope it isn't a spoiler but 'whodunit' was obvious from the start, although our sleuth took several chapters and quite a few days to reach the same conclusion. However, the enjoyment was in finding out how our theological university lecturer reached his eventual conclusion.

I like Mercurius, he is an amiable, amusing somewhat naïve fellow who has his own outlook on seventeenth-century life, and is a closet Catholic priest in a non-Catholic university. I like him because of his naïvety, his lack of arrogance and his preference for thinking things through in the local pub rather than the quiet of the church. I didn't like him so much, oddly, for almost the same reasons - I felt these points were a little over-egged by the third part of the book: enough already of the mayor trying to marry him off to his daughter but our hero not realising the fact, and a few other repetitive scenes. I also rather skipped Mercurius's various thoughts on religious matters and quotes, which were quite acceptable given that our man is of a profound religious faith, but as a non-believer I found them a little tedious, a little too lecturing by the back door maybe?

All of which makes it sound like I didn't enjoy The Noose's Shadow which is completely incorrect! I did enjoy it! The book is very well written, the research is immaculate, the characters realistic, the narrative flowed and I found it very refreshing to read about a country (the Netherlands) which is rarely written about (outside of Tulips...!) This is a light, easy and entertaining read.

Will I read more about Master Mercurius? Certainly, I've already downloaded the first book Death In Delft.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Jack Holt
 e-version reviewed

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