Monday, 30 January 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE UNEXPECTED EARL by Philippa Jane Keyworth

AMAZON UK £).99    / £10.50
AMAZON US $1/24   / $14.95
AMAZON CA $n.a / $19.32

Regency / 18th Century

This is a classic Regency Romance. Miss Julia Rotherham is attending her sister’s coming out ball when she unexpectedly comes face to face with the man who jilted her six years before. And on this hangs the tale.

This romantic story features a feisty heroine, a handsome leading man, an excellent supporting male, two fabulous sisters and a suitably wicked foil. But for all the typical clichés this story only descends into farce where it is required and lightens what could be a dark situation. In general the characters are rounded enough to be believable, although the mother does teeter on the edge of the ridiculous, but in a very Jane Austen / Mrs Bennett kind of way and so it is completely forgivable.

Although it could be said that this novel does not offer anything new in the way of Regency Romances, that is not a criticism. Sometimes it is a comfort to know that the story will develop in the way you expect, like an old friend in a new hat. So bravo! A good read, warm, familiar, and welcoming. Like a comfy pair of slippers or an old snuggly jumper, this is a perfect indulgent read for a long winter evening.

©  Nicky Galliers  Discovering Diamonds

Sunday, 29 January 2017


No reviews on a Sunday but have you seen our 
Reader's Voice page?

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Do we still love ‘Ruritania’? by Alison Morton
Ruritania is an imaginary country in central Europe, a ‘placeholder kingdom’ and is used in academia and the popular mind to refer to a hypothetical country. The author, Anthony Hope, depicts Ruritania as a German-speaking Catholic country under an absolute monarchy, with deep social, but not ethnic, divisions reflected in the conflicts of the first novel, The Prisoner of Zenda- but is this style and idea still as popular today for readers and writers? How essential to today's novels was/is Ruritania?

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Saturday, 28 January 2017

Nautical Week: BRITANNIA'S AMAZON by Antoine Vanner

The Dawlish Chronicles Volume 5 : April - August 1882

Amazon UK £2.86 / £8.99
Amazon US $3.57 $12.50
Amazon CA $ n.a / $16.75

Nautical / Saga / Series
Victorian / 1800s
The Dawlish Chronicles Series

Antoine Vanner’s latest ‘Britannia’ in the Dawlish Chronicles focuses on Florence Dawlish whom we first met in Britannia’s Wolf when she was Florence Morton (no relation, but I wish she was!). Florence is no kick-ass action heroine – a highly transgressive idea for the Victorian era – but in her persistence, high moral courage and straightforward courage, she can rival them.

Striving to transcend her humble beginnings, yet determined to keep contact with her family despite the almost ironclad social structure of Victorian times, Florence is a deeply sympathetic heroine. She is in love with Nicholas, her naval officer husband, and he with her, and although a more modern idea, they are a team; she will do anything not to hinder or damage his career, he is determined to protect her from any slights or snubs due to her early life as a paid servant.

So when Florence is appalled, angry and then motivated to investigate a particularly nasty exploitation that lies beneath a pleasant façade of Victorian life, she is anxious that it doesn’t impact on her husband’s prospects. Of course, these two things soon come into conflict…

This is a story that does not pull punches; the research into misery, hypocrisy, yet bravery and high moral intent that characterises the Victorian period lays these bare. But the story is about a tough lady full of integrity, no “goody two shoes” but one who does become anxious, worried, unsure of herself and her actions, yet persists.

The author cleverly guides us through the plot, opening up the environment, informing us but never preaching. Florence and her friends Agatha and Mabel are a fearsome bunch, but so very human.

Highly recommended.

And if you’re a follower of The Dawlish Chronicles, the additional story at the end, “Eye” gives us a bonus - a peek into the early life of Nicholas Dawlish. It solved one mystery for me…

©Alison Morton Discovering Diamonds

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Friday, 27 January 2017

NAUTICAL WEEK:A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE SEVENTY-FOUR by M. C. Muir

AMAZON UK £3.23  / £9.99
AMAZON US $4.06   / $12.50
Amazon CA $ n.a / $16.60

Nautical Adventure / Series
19th Century / Napoleonic Wars

This fifth book of the Oliver Quintrell Series, is a maritime novel in the tradition of C. S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien, set in the same era of the early Napoleonic Wars when the action of the conflict was more concentrated on the sea.

Captain Oliver Quintrell is in Rio with a precious cargo that needs to be brought back to England, a small group of troublesome Irish rebels and a larger Royal Navy vessel to escort back to Portsmouth. The novel follows the events of that voyage.

Muir’s knowledge of ships of the line and the navy of that time is deep and satisfying. Everything feels right and one can imagine that our Captain is friends with Jack Aubrey and sits in Portsmouth docks supping with him while they exchange tales of sea-borne derring-do. The ships fold out from the page like a pop-up; the sea is tangy with salt and the air thick with heat and humidity. We know what the ships smell like, the colours, the sounds. They are the stars of the novel.

This is a very easy book to read as it flows beautifully, the action never lets up, and the detail of the ships and the navy is carefully woven into the narrative while not being intrusive. However, if I had a criticism it would be that the same attention is not given to the people – I can’t picture Quintrell or his first lieutenant Parry, and the two ladies aboard the Perpetual don’t add anything to the story so transparent are they. As this is part of a series I assume that we discovered the physical attributes of the recurring characters in Book One? I wish Muir had added some in here. I defaulted to Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany… A little more care with people and this would be an outstanding piece of fiction. Even as it is, it is a good read especially if you like tall ships and nautical adventure.

© Nicky Galliers Discovering Diamonds

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Thursday, 26 January 2017

Nautical Week : GLENDALOUGH FAIR & NIGHT WOLF by James L. Nelson

Amazon UK £8.74 / £2.80
Amazon US  $12.99 / $3.49
Amazon CA $n.a / $16.79

Adventure / Saga
Norseman Saga #4

The last vestiges of winter blanket Vík-lo at the opening of the fourth book in the Norsemen Saga. Thorgrim Nightwolf is lord, and soon he and his men will launch their new longships. But some of his cooped-up men spoil for action. Chief amongst them is Kjartan Thorolfson, who stages a fight with the intention of killing Thorgrim. The timely arrival of Kevin mac Lugaed interrupts Kjartan’s plans, but Thorgrim intends to deal with the traitor just as soon as the Irishman leaves.

The uneasy alliance Kevin has forged with Thorgrim allows the two peoples to coexist, but Kevin wants to be rid of all Norsemen. In doing so, he will gain more land and greater power. To initiate his plan, he proposes that Thorgrim and his men join with the Irish to raid Glendalough Fair, an annual gathering of merchants and villagers near a monastery. Both offer rich, tempting targets that are ill-defended.

Louis de Roumois chafes at being a novitiate in the monastery. He’s a soldier, who spent the past four years fighting the Danes, but his popularity with his men made his elder brother wary and jealous. Although Louis had no desire to rule Frankia, his brother exiled him to Glendalough to take holy vows. Instead, he spends more time bedding the wife of Colman mac Breanclan, the wealthiest man in town. Colman knows of the dalliance, and when a priest tasks Louis with leading the Irish in defending the village and monastery against the Norsemen, but under the nominal command of Colman, problems ensue. Further complicating Louis’s life is the fact that someone wants him dead.

Thorgrim doesn’t trust the Irish, but he agrees to Kevin’s proposal. On the morrow when they are to depart, Thorgrim discovers Kjartan and his men have taken one longship and disappeared during the night. He intends to have his day of reckoning with Kjartan, but it must wait until after the raid. On the way to where they are to meet Kevin and his men, they come across a burning village where everyone has been slain. The killing seems senseless and doesn’t set well with Thorgrim because the villagers had nothing to steal. Then Kjartan reappears and he is afraid. He claims not to know who slaughtered the Irish, but Thorgrim knows he’s lying. He learns why when they reach Kevin’s camp and discovers the Irishman has also allied with another group of Norsemen. They are led by Ottar Bloodax, who likes killing. It soon becomes evident that Ottar is untrustworthy and Kevin can’t control him. When the men of Glendalough launch a surprise attack on the encampment, Thorgrim begins to rue ever getting involved with Kevin’s scheme, but it’s too late to turn back.

Glendalough Fair is a novel of deception, betrayal, and honor. The various storylines are intricately woven, and while how they will intersect isn’t initially obvious, they come together seamlessly to realistically depict life in Ireland during the Viking Era. While the water scenes are minimal, the raid is portrayed with ingenuity that shows how much Thorgrim’s son has matured during the course of this series. Readers will gloss over the occasional misspellings or missing words, because this riveting and gritty tale is told so vividly it unfolds in the mind’s eye like a movie playing on the big screen. Fans of Thorgrim and his men will relish this latest saga and eagerly await their fifth adventure.

 ©2016 Cindy Vallar

Amazon UK £9.05 / £2.92
Amazon US $12.99 $3.99 
Amazon CA $ n.a / $17.47

Nautical / adventure / saga
Viking era
Norseman Saga #5

Two hundred men dead. One betrayer. One deserter. A lone longship. Guilt gnaws at Thorgrim Night Wolf, for leading his men into the bloody slaughter, and honor demands satisfaction. But revenge must wait until the ten remaining survivors of the battle at Glendalough have repaired themselves and Sea Hammer. The sheltered sandbar is a good spot to do both, even though it is far from a secure place to stay with Irish men-at-arms still hunting them. And what should be done with their two prisoners– the Frank named Louis de Roumois and an Irish woman named Failend – who asked to go with them? Why do they flee their own kind? And what’s in the small chest they hide?

Rage, confusion, and fear swirl within Lochlánn mac Ainmire. The man he most admired and trusted, Louis de Roumois, has abandoned him. Plus Louis murdered one of their soldiers, possibly killed another man, and has run away with the second man’s wife. Justice demands satisfaction, and Lochlánn is determined to see Louis doesn’t escape. If he encounters more Northmen, so much the better, so with twenty men-at-arms, he hunts them all.

After twenty-five, ragtag Irishmen step from the woods near Thorgrim, he knows his men are outnumbered and in no condition to fight again. Two men step forward – one a giant with more brawn than brains, and the other a shorter, red-haired man who whispers to his companion as if giving him advice. With only one way to win this confrontation, Thorgrim challenges the giant to a duel. Hardened by many battles and more intelligent than his opponent, he toys with the Irishman before slaying him.

Without consulting the remaining Irishmen, Cónán assumes command and prepares to depart because he’s savvy enough to abide by the rules of the challenge. But Thorgrim offers him a tempting proposition. If the Irish stay and help Thorgrim sack the monastery at Glendalough, Thorgrim will provide them with weapons and armor, as well as a share of the plunder. He might not trust these Irish bandits, but he needs them.

When Aghen Ormsson of Vik-ló first spots the returning longships, he senses no trouble. But Thorgrim isn’t with the Northmen who alight. Ottar Bloodax claims the former lord of Vik-ló is dead and declares himself the new ruler of the Viking longport. He trusts only a handful of his men and rules by terrorizing those under him. The more Aghen learns, the more he believes Thorgrim isn’t dead and that belief is strengthened when a lone wolf appears inside the walls one night. Knowing Ottar is a superstitious man, Aghen acts on that fear. One by one Ottar’s elite corps is killed and the evidence points to the lone wolf – the shape changer Thorgrim who stalks at night.

Night Wolf, the fifth book in The Norsemen Saga, is an intricately woven tale of betrayal and revenge. Violence remains a key element of this story and the time period, yet Thorgrim, Cónán, and Aghen rely more on ingenuity and knowledge than their fighting expertise in the encounters with their enemies. This adds depth to the characters and shatters the stereotypical portrayals of Norse and Irish alike. Readers who haven’t read the previous volume, Glendalough Fair, won’t have any trouble following what happens in the aftermath of that disaster, but reading that title first may enrich the experience of Night Wolf. Like the tales of old told by an Irish seanachaidh or a Norse skaldNight Wolf lures readers into its web and holds them spellbound until the story ends.

 ©2016 Cindy Vallar

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Nautical Week: CHARITY’S CROSS by MaryLu Tyndall

AMAZON UK £8.24 / / £3.50
AMAZON US $4.95 / $11.95
AMAZON CA $n.a / $11.04

Nautical / Adventure / Romance
18th Century
Bahamas / Caribbean

Sing a song of sixpence
Pocket full of rye
Four-and-twenty black birds baked in a pie . . . 

For two years, the nursery rhyme has provided twenty-five-year-old Charity Westcott with her only safe haven from her abusive husband. But it provides little solace this night – not after she kills him while trying to protect her unborn child. The façade Lord Villemont projected to the world was far different from the brutality she’s endured, and no one will believe it was self-defense. If she can just get to Charles Town, South Carolina, her family will help her disappear. The closest she can get, though, is Nassau and so she boards the only ship sailing on the evening tide.

Charles, the new Lord Villemont, has no intention of allowing his sister-in-law to escape punishment for her crime. He just misses her in Portsmouth, and he’s already waiting for her when the vessel she’s on arrives in the Bahamas. But when he gets aboard, she’s disappeared. He circulates reward posters and anxiously waits for someone to betray her whereabouts.

Charity is appalled to find that Charles is also in Nassau. Taking only her jewels, she slips over the side of the ship into the harbor. She’ll swim ashore, exchange her jewels for cash, and book passage on a ship to South Carolina. Unfortunately, her plans go awry when a concerned gentleman witnesses her fall and jumps in to rescue her. The more she protests, the more attention she draws from the watching crowd. At the first opportunity, she disentangles herself from her knight in wet clothes and escapes, only to discover she no longer has the jewels. Then she sees her likeness drawn on the wanted poster and she desperately seeks out her rescuer.

Elias Dutton, reformed pirate turned preacher, is miffed when the beautiful mermaid leaves without even a thank you. Yet he can’t waste time looking for someone who should not be alone in this town, which was only recently civilized once Governor Woodes Rogers arrived and threw out the pirates. Elias promised his parents he would hasten to Barbados to help his sister, and he fervently prays he’s not too late. Getting a merchant captain to take him there, however, proves impossible until his ungrateful mermaid reappears…

Tyndall spins a riveting tale of betrayal, violence, trust, and honesty in this latest inspirational pirate romance. She vividly recreates Caribbean locales as they were in 1718, while the depth of her characters conveys just how complex we humans are. She mixes serious subjects with light humor in situations that are realistically portrayed, while seamlessly weaving religion into the story so it never intrudes and always shows the power of faith and prayer. Charity and Elias capture readers’ hearts with sincerity, smiles, and tears, while secrets, jealousy, and anger provide formidable foes for the duo to overcome.

Review © Cindy Vallar

Cover selected for Cover of the Month

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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Nautical Week : A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE BUTCHER’S DAUGHTER: A JOURNEY BETWEEN WORLDS by Mark M. McMillin

AMAZON UK £9.60 / £2.69
AMAZON US $14.95 / $3.99
AMAZON CA $n.a $19.33

Nautical / Adventure
16th Century / Elizabethan Tudor
Ireland / England

At the age of twelve, Mary witnesses her father’s murder and is then raped by the perpetrators, whom she kills. Thus begins the tale “Lady” Mary weaves to Queen Elizabeth while imprisoned in the Tower of London on charges of piracy. Young Mary spends the next few years under the tutelage of a smuggler, where she becomes adept at this trade and falls in love with ships and the sea. A bequest gains her sufficient funds to purchase her own vessel, and she becomes a successful smuggler in her own right.

What Mary lacks is power, and thus she must pay a percentage of her take to the Dowlin brothers, brutal men who kill for sport. But jealousy makes the eldest Dowlin lash out against her, and an innocent child pays the price. Thereafter, Mary bides her time before unleashing her vengeance and stealing his buried treasure. Those two deeds infuriate the other Dowlin brothers, known simply as the Twins, and they vow retribution.

With Ireland no longer a safe haven, Mary and her crew head to the Caribbean. They meet Cortes, an influential businessman in Cuba, and they become partners. Mary and her men bring supplies and luxuries from the Old World to Cortes, who arranges for the authorities to look the other way, and once the ships’ holds are empty, they are laden with goods from the New World and Mary’s men smuggle them into Europe. But the Caribbean is a dangerous place. The Twins haven’t forgotten Mary and when all is ready, they spring their trap. She finds herself betrayed by friends…

The Butcher’s Daughter is a gritty tale not for the faint of heart. It takes place in the years before, during, and after the sailing of the Spanish Armada. McMillan pulls no punches here, and in spite of the violent world in which Mary lives, she possesses a moral compass that draws readers in and never releases them. The story ebbs and flows like the tide with high periods of tension and peaceful interludes where readers can regain their breath. The only place where the story’s pace slows to a snail’s crawl is during the recounting of Spain’s attempt to invade England, and this is perhaps because Mary tells what occurs for too many pages rather than letting readers participate in events as they unfold, as happens throughout the rest of the book.

What makes this novel different from other piratical tales is the time period – Elizabethan – and smuggling. This is not to say pirates don’t make appearances from time to time; they do, and even if the Dowlins claim to be smugglers, their behavior easily compares to such infamous pirates as L’Olonnais or Ned Low. For readers seeking the history behind the fiction, McMillin also includes an afterword where he discusses the dawn of the Age of Sail, Elizabethan ships and guns, and relevant odds and ends of historical facts.

© Cindy Vallar
Cover selected for Cover of the Month

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Monday, 23 January 2017

Nautical Week: AMBER WAKE and JADED TIDES by P. S. Bartlett and Ronovan Hester

AMAZON UK £9.02 / £2.12
AMAZON US $12.99 / $2.99
AMAZON CA $ n.a /$16.79

Nautical / Adventure
18th century 1705

In a London tavern in 1705, Captain Gabriel Wallace and Lieutenant Miles Jacobs intervene when an admiral attempts to kill his wife’s paramour. Gabriel prevents this, but someone stabs the admiral and Gabriel must face an Admiralty court of inquiry. The verdict, while acknowledging both his good intentions and his loyal service to the Crown, cashiers him from the Royal Navy. But the admiral’s friends aren’t satisfied and hatch a plot to destroy Gabriel. Not only do they connive to bring about his execution, but they also kidnap his younger brother and set his house aflame with him in it.

Miles and another lieutenant rescue Gabriel and his brother and, having nowhere else to turn, they head for the Majesty’s Venture, Gabriel’s former vessel. While others see the crew as hard-headed and undisciplined, Gabriel realizes just how loyal his men are when they decide to “retire” from the navy and abscond with their ship. First, though, they have to escape the harbor and the naval vessel pursuing them.

Like undulating waves, Amber’s Wake is a tale of non-stop action and heart-thudding thrills: storms at sea, pirates, and narrow escapes from their hunters (former friends and colleagues). The characters are well-drawn and, although the reasons behind Miles’s hesitancy and Gabriel’s reluctance to share could be stronger, they quickly snare readers into caring about what happens to them. 

Readers familiar with the other books in the Razor’s Adventures Pirate Tales series will enjoy this one, which explores Rasmus Bergman’s past, and look forward to future exploits with Gabriel and his men.

Review © Cindy Vallar
* * * * * * * * * * 

Amazon UK £1.99 /£10.50
Amazon US $2.99 / $15.99
Amazon CA $ n.a / $20.66 

Nautical / Adventure / Adult Content
18th Century

After a bloody battle at sea against unsavory pirates, Ivory Shepard and Captain Rasmus Bergman return to Port Royal. While they and the crew repair the ship, Ivory and Razz also explore their blossoming love. Before long, he asks her to be his wife, and reluctantly agrees that she can go to sea with him and the other pirates as long as she learns some doctoring skills. He also has her help the cook, all to keep her from harm. But best laid plans rarely unfold as expected, especially where Ivory – and her pirate persona Ivan Razor – are concerned.

Ivory is determined to pursue the pirates who stole young girls from their homes and sold them to others to use as they wish. The log of Captain Barclay – one of the leaders of this smuggling ring and the man who brought Ivory and her cousins to Jamaica – contains information about the ships and the girls. Ivory and Razz’s first target is the Virginia Belle, but capturing her, subduing her crew, and rescuing the girls requires stealth, sly thinking, and a bit of luck.

Jaded Tides, the sequel to Demons & Pearls, is an intricately woven tale of romance, jealousy, and betrayal. Bartlett never whitewashes the brutal reality of living in an age when pirates prey on the innocent. She deftly shows Ivory’s growing maturity and her struggle to come to terms with the hardest lesson of all: she can’t save everyone. Both the subject matter and one blatant scene make this a story for mature readers.

©2016 Cindy Vallar
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Sunday, 22 January 2017


No reviews on a Sunday 
but have you seen our 
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Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: BLOOD OF THE WOLF by Steven McKay

AMAZON UK £2.99    /£8.99
AMAZON US $3.76  / $11.99
AMAZON CA $n.a / $15.74

Saga / Series / Adventure
13th Century
Forest Lord Series #Final

Blood of the Wolf is the final part of McKay’s popular Forest Lord series about Robin Hood. He bucks the trend and sets his in the time of Edward II and the location as Barnsdale Forest in Yorkshire. That in itself is refreshing as the scope for cliché that dogs Robin Hood tales is much reduced.

In this story Robin Hood finds that the tables are totally turned on him – he is the sheriff’s man and he is hunting a band of cut-throat outlaws. The irony is lost on no one. His band has dispersed and has to be collected together in a nice passage and they set off after the outlaws.

This Robin Hood is far from the Lincoln green romantic that we have come to expect. He is not too good to be believed and has an edge, as well as an ability to really rile his wife. He is not perfect, in his work or as a fighter and he does not have it all his own way.

The story gallops on at a great pace that never lets up as we traverse the north of England with him. There is enough back story to make this a decent stand alone novel and McKay writes this so it is not intrusive or trips up the flow. It is a rugged 'boy’s book', including some explicit language, with little delicacy about it... but then Robin Hood in his Hollywood romantic guise should not just belong to the girls, should he?

© Nicky Galliers Discovering Diamonds
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Friday, 20 January 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: LORD OF IRELAND by E.M. Powell

AMAZON UK £3.98 / £8.99
AMAZON US $4.91 / $9.25
AMAZON CA $ n.a / $15.93

Adventure / Series
12th Century
Fifth Knight Series

The Fifth Knight Series. Norman Ireland is rarely the setting of a novel, so it was very refreshing to pick up a book firmly placed on the Emerald Isle and further enhanced by the sympathetic protagonist, Benedict Palmer, and his wife, Theodosia. These characters have a rich backstory as presented in previous books of the series, and it is probably of benefit to read them first to fully understand their motivations and reactions.

In 1185, Henry II sent his son, John, to Ireland to pacify the natives – and ensure a certain Hugh de Lacy wasn’t growing too big for his boots. The young prince was accompanied by Gerald of Wales, and these three real-life characters form the base round which EM Powell’s well-constructed novel pivots. John is as disagreeable and inept as one would expect – gifted with cunning rather than intellect – Gerald of Wales is a delightful waste of space, more interested in his creature comforts and proving his prejudices versus the savage Irish, and Hugh de Lacy is enigmatic and silently powerful.

Sir Benedict has been ordered by King Henry to accompany John, and while Benedict is less than delighted by all this, he has no choice but to comply. He leaves with a heavy heart but can comfort himself with the knowledge that Theodosia remains safely at home. Ha. By now, Benedict should know his wife better. Where he worries about her, she worries about him, which is why she disguises herself as a nun and somehow makes it across to Ireland where she ends up as Gerald of Wales’ private secretary & nursemaid rolled into one.

Benedict is shocked when he recognises the nun tending to Gerald’s needs. He is just as shocked by John’s behaviour, and as to Hugh, Sir Benedict is not entirely sure the man can be trusted. Soon enough, Benedict finds himself in quite the tight corner: his beloved wife’s well-being is threatened, and Palmer must take to desperate means to save Theodosia from an aggravated John and his determination to proclaim himself King, not Lord, of Ireland.

The historical and geographical setting is beautifully presented, the protagonists are well-developed and as the story proceeds, it becomes increasingly difficult to put the book down. All in all, a great read – maybe with the one single objection: Prince John is so bad, so depraved, he hovers close to becoming a caricature. Surely the man had at least one redeeming feature? One moment of decency?
Or maybe he didn’t.

©Anna Belfrage 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

FOR KING AND COUNTRY by Charlene Newcomb

AMAZON UK £ 4.16 / £12.50
AMAZON US $ 5.24 / $14.99
AMAZON CA $n.a / $19.37

Fictional Saga / LGBT / Military / Adventure
Battle Cross Series #2

It’s well over a year since I read Ms Newcomb’s first book in her Battle Cross series, Men of the Cross. Set during the Third Crusade, this book introduced Henry de Grey and Stephan l’Aigle, two young men who find themselves in more ways than one while fighting the infidel in the Holy Land.

Now Henry and Stephan – together with the enigmatic Robin – have returned to England, only to find the enemy lives and breathes at home as well, in this case as the grasping Prince John, younger brother to the imprisoned King Richard – and determined to make England his own.

We all know the general story of Richard and his younger brother, we all know that England was ravaged by strife, with some men siding with John, others with their king. This is the complicated mess to which Henry and Stephan return, and soon enough it becomes apparent it will be very difficult to identify friend from foe – even within the immediate family.

Ms Newcomb has stepped outside the normal restrictions imposed on novels set in these times in that her Henry and Stephan are not only comrades in arms, they are lovers. In a sequence of beautiful scenes, she breathes careful life into their passion, moments of tenderness and love that make it abundantly clear theirs is not a short-term relationship, theirs is the love of a lifetime.

Unfortunately, Henry is the heir to estates and is expected to marry. Fortunately, the young bride, Elle, is no more interested in marrying Henry than he is in marrying her, which leads to a creative approach to things.

While Henry’s marital issues are a recurring theme throughout the book, the central plot is based round Prince John’s determination to fight his brother for England. In secret, he is arming and provisioning various castles – among them Nottingham – and this is where Sir Robin, loyal knight to King Richard, takes the lead, forming a band of men to create as much havoc as possible.  Men such as Tuck and Little John, Allan and Will take on shape, becoming very different creatures than the outlaws we know from the old tales of Robin and his Merry men. And yes, there is a Marion too.

Beautifully written, chock-full of historical details imparted elegantly throughout, For King and Country is a compelling and wonderful read. I am happy to note Ms Newcomb is planning further books in the series – I for one will be eagerly awaiting them!

© Anna Belfrage Discovering Diamonds


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Wednesday, 18 January 2017


Amazon UK £3.95 / £9.99
Amazon US $4.88 / $18.00 
Amazon CA $ n.a $23.65

Military / Anthology / Epic
Napoleonic / 18th-19th Century

Fire and Steel isn’t one book but five novellas amalgamated under the banner of The Soldier Chronicles, which covers a period of almost twenty years of conflict in Ireland, Malta, Holland, Spain, and culminating in the Battle of Waterloo.

David Cook’s writing is powerful, and in each episode he introduces new characters in new situations and in different locations. In each story there is a battle and for the more sensitive reader be warned - these are described graphically and bring out the horrors of warfare with such skill that you feel as though you are there, which not all readers who do not enjoy bthe reality of battles may not appreciate.

The only blemish on the presentation is one badly spaced line towards the end of the last story. My one disappointment was that there was not enough of each episode as each could well have made a full-length novel and even a series. The author has the ability to enthral for a lot longer than a hundred or so pages!

An excellent anthology. Highly recommended.

©Richard Tearle Discovering Diamonds

(This novel may appear incorrectly formatted as an e-book on some devices.) 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR By Jen Black

Amazon UK £2.65
Amazon US $3.50
Amazon CA n.a

Victorian / Edwardian -  19th Century

Artistically talented Daisy Charlton dreams of furthering her art studies in London. Whiled doing so she is helping her uncle catalogue his art collection, but when one of the paintings goes missing, it is suspected that she might have had a hand in it. Well, suspected by Mr Adam Grey, who offers to take on the investigation into the disappearing paintings.

The theft is the first of many, and Adam finds himself working with Daisy, though he worries she is too young and vulnerable to assist in a crime investigation, but he is attracted to her  and is more than happy to spend time in her company.

Daisy does not know what to make of Adam. Rumour has him a cruel employer who dismisses people over misdemeanours; more rumours describe him as a womaniser. Initially Daisy is too innocent to sort the truth from the lies – but she is also attracted to this man with silver eyes.

Ms Black delivers an superbly executed romance firmly rooted in an excellently depicted historical setting. The 19th century comes vividly alive, and Daisy and Adam both rise above the clichéd cut-outs to become characters it is easy to relate to and care for. The plot is well-constructed, the dialogue enjoyable and the villains agreeably villainous. A book warmly recommended for readers who enjoy a well-written historical romance.

©Anna Belfrage 

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