26 May 2018

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25 May 2018

Circumstantial Enemy by John Bell

AMAZON UK £2.99 £8.99   
AMAZON US $4.19 $9.99 

Mystery / Thriller
Croatia/ Germany / Italy /USA

“When Croatia becomes a Nazi puppet state, carefree young pilot Tony Babic finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome are soon to discover that love and friendship will not circumvent this war’s ideals. Downed by the Allies in the Adriatic Sea, Tony survives a harrowing convalescence in deplorable Italian hospitals and North African detention stockades. His next destination is Camp Graham in Illinois, one of four hundred prisoner of war camps on American soil. But with the demise of the Third Reich, repatriation presents a new challenge. What kind of life awaits Tony under communist rule? Will he be persecuted as an enemy of the state for taking the side of Hitler? And then there is Katarina; in letters she confesses her love, but not her deceit… Does her heart still belong to him?”

Circumstantial Enemy is a classic war drama of the “caught-between-the-devil-and-the-blue-sea”-type: political convictions, ideology, love and loyalty bringing heartache and forcing inner turmoil.

Twenty-year-old Tony Babic already has two years’ experience as a pilot under his belt. After previously fighting the Nazis under Serbian command, in 1941 Croatia becomes an independent state under Germany’s influence and Tony is interviewed to join the Croatian air force and fight against the Communist thread.

His training takes place in Germany, subsequent hospitalisation in Italy and eventual imprisonment in Illinois. All the while he corresponds with the woman who owns his heart: Katarina, whose political convictions are strongly against the Nazis.

The book offers plenty of perspective and reflection on choices, options and the course of history. Knowing that this is based on true events makes the story more poignant. An interesting insight into lesser known parts of WW II history and a very enjoyable read.

© Christoph Fischer

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24 May 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of Renaissance: The Fall and Rise of a King by Marla Skidmore

AMAZON UK £2.99 £6.99
AMAZON US $4.19 $10.00
AMAZON CA $5.22 $12.88

Alternative/Fantasy History
Wars of the Roses 1483-5 / Present Day


King Richard III lies dead on the battlefield at Redemore Plain, his body stripped and thrown on the back of a horse ready for an unceremonious burial. And then he wakes up on the battlefield. Found and mentored by the mysterious monk, Gilbert, he learns that he is in Purgatory and must account for the past deeds of his life. This is done in a series of episodes covering all the controversial incidents of his short reign.

Naturally, the problem of the fate of the princes arises and the author does not put forward some over-imaginative and previously unthought-of personal theory but sticks with one that is universally recognised as a possibility and makes a good case for its likelihood. In doing so, Ms Skidmore may well elicit some sympathetic reactions towards the character and actions of her Richard.

Yet this is a little more than just another retelling of Richard's story: it proposes the possibility of reincarnation, of a spell in Purgatory where tests and trials are made to determine whether the 'candidate' is ready to enter the Kingdom, and also one man's struggle for redemption when faced with the decisions he made whilst in his earthly life.

I have only two quibbles: the 'tests and trials' are not gone into at all and I was left wondering as to what they might have been – physical, mental, spiritual? The other concern is that the book is only 170 pages, too long for a novella, but very much too short for a novel. Which is a shame because the writing is lovely, well-characterised without being stereotypical and has an ending which is both emotional and thought provoking. The cover is attractive, too: the White King fallen at the feet of its victorious nemesis.

Despite these quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed this slightly new take on an oft-written about subject.

© Richard Tearle

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23 May 2018

The Mrs MacKinnons by Jayne Davis

Shortlisted for Book of the Month

AMAZON UK £2.99 £11.99 
AMAZON US $4.19  

Family Drama


“Major Matthew Southam returns from India, hoping to put the trauma of war behind him and forget his past. Instead, he finds a derelict estate and a family who wish he'd died abroad. Charlotte MacKinnon married without love to avoid her father’s unpleasant choice of husband. Now a widow with a young son, she lives in a small Cotswold village with only the money she earns by her writing. Matthew is haunted by his past, and Charlotte is fearful of her father’s renewed meddling in her future. After a disastrous first meeting, can they help each other find happiness at last?”

Major Matthew Southam, Private Webb and ship’s carpenter Deacon return from war damaged men. Each struggles in his own way and chance brings them, and the starving dog who adopts Matthew, together at Birchanger Hall. The house is neglected and unlived-in since the death of the last owner; it is barely habitable. Someone has stolen the furniture, too.

Much to my surprise I found the way the hall was brought back to life quite as absorbing as the way the men fight their disabilities, interact and integrate with the abandoned estate workers and slowly reach out to others in the village.

Widow Charlotte MacKinnon and her son Davie are instrumental in this transformation, as is Charlotte’s widowed companion, Mary MacKinnon. Well-established in the village of Edgecombe, their lives slowly intertwine with the newcomers in spite of grasping relatives, abusive fathers, thieving labourers, kidnap attempts and not least the hidden dangers of the mantraps installed without permission in the surrounding woods.

There are no Regency balls, no froth and frills in Birchanger; the story is concerned with kindness and getting on with life after seemingly impossible setbacks. The writing is so clean I never really noticed it and the book is long enough at nearly 600 pages for the reader to be truly absorbed in the story and the characters. I particularly liked the character of the small boy, Davie, and how he related to the Major. The idea of learning mathematics by mapping the estate, which he loves doing, is a good one.

It is worth investing some time in this book; it repays handsomely. I was waiting for the villain to be found caught in the one missing mantrap, but.. well no spoilers!.

© Jen Black

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