23 October 2017

The Matfen Affair by Jen Black

Amazon UK £1.20

This title is shortlisted for the October Book of the Month

Regency Romance

My word, where to start?

This novel is concerned with little more than marriage. It takes place over the space of a few days as a family is drawn together for a wedding. And little else is on the minds of the guests. But there is a ghost story that is seamlessly blended into the plot and adds a delightful frisson of mystery and danger.

This is pure Austen. A family who want to marry off their youngsters, and that is pretty much the main theme of this novel yet as simplistic as that sounds, it does it perfectly. Even if the ghost story were taken out completely, this tale would still work perfectly. It would still be as readable, it would still flow as smoothly and with the same surprising pace. 

This is an absolute gem of a novel, a delight, one of the best Regency Romances I have ever read. I could not put this down. I read it in a handful of hours and resented the time I had to leave it alone.

As a classic Regency Romance, this is a must if you like the genre. I can't praise it highly enough.

© Nicky Galliers

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20 October 2017

The Confessions of Socrates by R. L. Prendergast

Amazon UK £0.99 £19.95
Amazon US $1.28 $27.95
Amazon CA $27.22

Biographical Fiction
Ancient Greece

While The Confessions of Socrates was categorized under “Biographical,” of course it is fiction; but what brilliant and well-researched Historical Fiction it is.

Socrates languishes in a stinking prison cell awaiting execution: death by drinking hemlock. Having been given a twenty-eight-day reprieve (not by his vile accusers or the Council of Five Hundred, but due to the observation of a festival period), he scribbles an account of his life on scrolls smuggled in by a kind jailer. In it, he reveals himself to his sons (and to the reader) not as the haughty Greek philosopher we have come to believe he was, but as a fallible human being. His humble beginnings as a stonemason surprised me (bringing into focus the book’s cover: even a hard block of stone cannot suppress new life sprouting from it). I never knew he was drafted for several military campaigns – albeit without much enthusiasm on his part. He is an outwardly gruff sort of man, but his long internal struggles with himself and toward his family, friends and foes at last expose him as quite vulnerable and deeply caring; not that he admitted this to anyone until the end of his life.

The author injects conversations and philosophical arguments as they might have taken place during those heady days of Athenian dominance; not an easy read, mind you, but so well executed I never skipped even a paragraph. What a joy to read such brilliant and intelligent use of language. While this novel is a literary gem, it is by no means devoid of action, intrigue, and surprises with plenty human fallacies and insights.

I also appreciated the appended glossary of Greek names, places and gods. It made me realize those times were real, as were most of the people, their beliefs, continual wars and personal struggles. While I am ashamed to say that the little I knew about Ancient Greece I had almost forgotten, I am now inspired to re-acquaint myself with another great ancient civilization, brought to its knees by Man’s forever impetus to wage war.

The Confessions of Socrates is indeed a Discovered Diamond and I am giving it a sparkling and well-deserved place on this Review Site.

© Inge H. Borg

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19 October 2017

The Pirate's Debt by Katherine Bone

Amazon UK £3.04 £10.63
Amazon US $12.99 $3.99
Amazon CA $16.90

Romance / Nautical adventure

Book 2 The Regent’s Revenge

The guise of the Black Regent offers Basil Halford, Earl of Markwick, a chance to right his father’s wrongs and restore the reputations and incomes of the dead marquess’s victims. But prowling the seas around the coast of South West England as the masked smuggler and pirate necessitates that he separate himself from his few remaining friends. One of those men is Pierce Walsingham, a revenue agent who has vowed to hunt down and destroy this so-called “Robin Hood.”

Reality weighs on Markwick like an anchor around his neck. The hangman’s noose awaits him if he’s caught, and even a lifetime spent redressing the destructive deeds of his father may never pay for that man’s sins. Nor is he as adept in this role as his predecessor, the Duke of Blackmoor. But in July 1809, news arrives that Lady Chloe Walsingham has gone missing. He must rescue his friend’s sister before her curiosity ruins her reputation or puts her in harm’s way. Doing so, though, puts him in danger. She could well see through his disguise and, inevitably, he will cross paths with her brother who also searches for her.

Constant reading of her favourite novel convinces Chloe Walsingham that she must find the man she loves, but locating Markwick proves challenging. Only her love can redeem him from the depths of his despair over his father’s scandalous greed. When whispers of Markwick’s whereabouts surface, she and her maid board the Mohegan bound for Penzance. Besides, her brother has taught her how to defend herself, so what trouble can she get into?

The Pirate’s Debt is the second book in The Regent’s Revenge series. Sufficient background information from the first book, a novella, is included within The Pirate’s Debt, that readers new to this series will readily understand the events leading up to Markwick’s assumption of his alter ego. The only flaw in this otherwise gripping historical romance is a tendency to repeat character motivations and feelings, which at times dissolves the tension. The scenes involving the wreckers, Chloe’s rescue, the sea battle, and the confrontation with the black ship’s captain are nail-biting, riveting pages.

Bone is adept at snaring the reader’s attention and not releasing it until the story concludes. Her well-drawn characters easily come to life. Even the villain – Captain Carnage, a man whose mantra is “Dead men tell no tales” – is depraved yet stirs the reader’s sympathy.

Those who dare to venture within the covers of this book won’t be disappointed.

© 2017 Cindy Vallar

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18 October 2017

The King's Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

Amazon UK £3.89 £11.81
Amazon US $5.01 $14.99
Amazon CA $18.71

shortlisted for the October Book of the Month

Fantasy /Alternate / Fictional Saga

The King's Daughter is one of those novels that is not strictly Historical Fiction but is worthy of the attention of this site. It does contain nods to real history with brushes with a culture and language that is entirely Roman, hinting that this mythical land might actually exist alongside the known Ancient World. That thought is tantalising, even if the make-up of Prille and Corium, places in the novel, is at a different stage of cultural development.

Irisa has always wondered at the education her father gave her, at the words he spoke to her, the stories he told, but nothing fits until she discovers that rather than being the daughter of an impoverished scribe who went missing three years before, she is the daughter of a dispossessed king. She is wanted by opposing factions to serve their needs and the desires for different claimants to replace the ailing monarch on his throne. Irisa has to survive at court, pulled in different directions, following advice from those who only serve themselves, and fighting against falling in love with the man she is to marry.

This second novel is less dramatic than the first but that is not to say there is not tension or danger; there is, but danger does not always come at the point of a sword. Sometimes it is hidden behind words, a look, a withholding of the truth.

Another accomplished novel from Ms Churchill. You might not like fantasy as a genre, but this novel is perfect for lovers of the Wars of the Roses, and if you are feeling the loss of Game of Thrones, this will feed those hunger pangs.

© Nicky Galliers

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17 October 2017

The Chalky Sea by Clare Flynn

Amazon UK £2.99 £9.99
Amazon US $3.85 $15.87
Amazon CA $20.40

This title is shortlisted for the October Book of the Month

Family drama

When I bought A Greater World by Clare Flynn, I didn’t know what to expect. Within a few pages I was captured not only by the writing and immersion into the historical period, but by the fine development of Flynn’s heroine over the years. When I was offered the opportunity to review The Chalky Sea for Discovering Diamonds, I leapt at the chance.

The Chalky Sea does not disappoint. The author knows Eastbourne, on England’s south coast, and has researched its history in detail, but she uses it deftly to illustrate her story and never allows it to cloy or bore as we see in some historical fiction. The detail is cleverly woven into the essential story of two people from different backgrounds, ages and character. One is intensely proper, emotionally defensive, an outsider in many ways, yet yearning for something undefined; the other, unsophisticated, even innocent, and wounded by betrayal.

War and its circumstances, give release to both; Gwen grows to recognise her emotions, to enjoy herself and express her feelings, Jim hardens up and achieves balance. Both step out of their previous worlds to cope with horror; we are with them not only in the harshness of the barrack room or battlefield, and the body count after a Luftwaffe raid, but also in the new friendships and sense of purpose in a period of violent change.

This is a stylish, unusual and well-written Second World War story which I heartily recommend.

© Jessica Brown

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