7 January 2017

BEHIND EVERY DOOR by Cynthia A. Graham


AMAZON UK £ 7.36  / £6.46
AMAZON US $ 9.12  /$10.63
AMAZON CA $ n.a / $21.39

Mystery / Crime
1940s
Arkansas

This book is set in the very small town of Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas, and the town’s young sheriff Andrew “Hick” Jackson Blackburn has a murder to solve, which is not in itself unusual. But this time, it is personal, the victim being a lady Hick cared for – that everyone, it seems, cared for. So who killed her, and what on earth was Gladys Kestrel doing up by the drainage ditch anyway?

Behind Every Door is a beautifully written book centred round a well-developed plot. Descriptive passages bring to life the setting, a small town in the back of beyond just after World War II. The sheriff himself remains afflicted by the memories of what he saw and did during his time in the army, and as a consequence Hick has problems opening up to those who love him and care for him, preferring to bury himself in work. This causes difficulties between him and his wife, Maggie, and allows for glimpses into a complex man, battling with demons he refuses to fully acknowledge.

What I particularly enjoy is how Ms Graham uses the brooding weather to reflect the growing tension at Cherokee Crossing. On the one side, a large number of people have already decided who is guilty of the murder and want the sheriff to act – before they do so themselves. On the other side, those who are not so quick to judge urge caution – albeit that this is a dwindling minority. And all the while, one storm after another rolls in, making night out of day, drenching the town and the surroundings.

This is not only a book about a murder. It is a book about the secrets all people carry, the ones that live and breathe behind each door. All of us have them, and some of them are defining, some not so much. Hick knows about this, is far too intimately acquainted with the darker side of being human and the fortitude required to rise above the burdens of guilt and buried secrets to confront the life ahead. This reader is happy that Hick has people holding his back: his loving wife, his brother-in-law and deputy and, last but not least, that rather wonderful doctor, Mr Prescott.

©Anna Belfrage  Discovering Diamonds
(This novel may appear incorrectly formatted as an e-book on some devices.)

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6 January 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: LYDIA'S CHRISTMAS CHARADE by Saralee Etter

We must have at least one Christmas Book for the Festive Season - so for Twelfth Night:


AMAZON UK £1.63
AMAZON US $2.05
AMAZON CA $ n.a
(e-book only)

Regency Romance / Novella
Regency / 18th Century
England

This little book is a novella that will take no time to read, partly because it is rather short, and partly because it bounces along quite happily to its inevitable conclusion. The solution to everyone’s problem is a touch contrived, but in this genre of Regency Romance that is forgivable.

There are no surprises with this novella, you get exactly what you expect, a sweet, romantic tale where the female lead is beset with issues that test her loyalty to a beloved parent and her own beliefs in herself. There is a male sympathiser and a male trouble-maker, and a few females who want to spoil everything. 

I think the edition I had could do with a little polish format-wise, but the writing is perfectly accomplished and I think Ms Etter thoroughly enjoyed writing it. It is charming and touching and in places fun. Some of the characters appear in other of Ms Etter’s work and in that respect this will slide in nicely with them as well as being a pleasant read for itself.

© Nicky Galliers 
Note: this novel may be incorrectly justified as an e-book on some devices

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5 January 2017

A HOUSE DIVIDED by Margaret Skea

AMAZON UK £3.59 / £7.32
AMAZON US $4.61 / $10.08
AMAZON CA $ n.a / $14.19

Family Saga
16th century
Scotland
Series #2

It is always a bit of a gamble to pick up the second book in a series without having read the first. As a reader, I worry that maybe there will be a lack of backstory, leaving me stumbling about in the dark for a while before the new story picks up pace. Ms Skea has obviously considered this, and accordingly this book is an excellent stand-alone read.

When the novel opens, Kate Munro has been living under an assumed name for six years. Her husband is in France, fighting for Henri IV of France – well, Kate hopes he is; she hasn’t heard from him in years, and in this time and age death can surprise a man at any time. Other than worrying for her husband, Kate has other concerns – like how to keep her children alive. She works as a healer and is constantly nervous that someone will recognise her.

Over the first few chapters, the reason for this stunted life is presented. The Munro family is a victim of the ongoing bloody feud between the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries, and in a desperate attempt to save his family from certain death, Adam Munro fled abroad, leaving his wife and children behind. Ultimately, of course, someone does recognise Kate, and so begins a somewhat nerve-wracking story which has this reader flipping pages long into the night.

Set in sixteenth century Scotland, this is a vivid description of life back then, complete with political intrigue, a rather sympathetic King James VI and a vindictive William Cunninghame. Historical detail is inserted with finesse, historical people pop in and out, adding a dash of colour to a complicated weave centred round Kate and the accusations of witchcraft that threaten her very life.

Ms Skea is an accomplished writer. Her descriptive writing brings her settings to vibrant life, complete with sounds, texture and smells. Her dialogue has pace and flow, with enough Scots added to give flavour, but not so much as to threaten comprehension. Add this to a compelling plot and well-developed characters, and you have a gripping, fantastic read!

©Anna Belfrage Discovering Diamonds
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4 January 2017

A KISS FROM FRANCE by Susan Hughes

Amazon UK  £1.99 / £4.54
Amazon US   $ 2.58 / $13.99
Amazon CA $ n.a / $n.a ?

Romance / Fictional Drama
WWI / 1917
England

"Dangerous munitions work links two very different women in WWI Britain. Ambitious Lizzie Fenwick puts a note in a box of ammunition shells which triggers an exciting wartime romance. In the face of increasing casualty figures, patriotic Eunice Wilson is overcome with regret for shunning her conscripted husband. Events soon mean Lizzie must make hard choices and accept that a less romantic future beckons. Meanwhile, Eunice attempts to cope with personal tragedy. Peace returns, but with it comes the discovery of a betrayal which sets the two women on a potential collision course where they must confront everything they thought they knew about love and loyalty. And let go of what they want to hold on to most."

Life in 1917 was tough, especially when the munitions factories during the Great War needed workers. With the men away at the front, the task fell to the women. It was hard, long and dangerous. Conditions were bad, and many of the girls lost their lives. But they brightened their gruelling days by writing notes to slip into the munitions boxes in the hope that their words would spread a bit of joy in the trenches. Lizzie was the only one to get a reply, although Harry’s letters did not come often and he didn’t say where he was.

Eunice found it hard to forgive her Jack because he was the last on the street to join up – leaving her and their son to fend for themselves, but at least she could now walk down the road with pride.

This is a wonderful novel about love, although it is not a romance as such. The story explores decisions that had to be made, some easy, some harsh – with some scenes heartbreaking, some that make you smile, some where you can't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happens next. It is a story of the women, and how they survived, or tried to. What struck me about the reality of the Great War - I didn't even realise there were munitions factories at this time, We hear a lot about the Somme, the trenches, a lot about the Blirz of World War Two, but its these details of what was happening here at home that often hit hardest of all.

Full marks for this fabulous debut novel. Susan Hughes promises to be a talented author worth watching and looking out for - I hope she is going to write more books, and many of them!

©Helen Hollick Discovering Diamonds


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3 January 2017

THE CROSS AND THE CURSE by Matthew Harffy

Amazon UK  £2.60 / £12.99
Amazon US $3.25  / $21.99
Amazon CA $ n.a / $?

Adventure / Military / Family Saga
Anglo-Saxon England
The Bernicia Chronicles  Series #2

In the first in the series, The Serpent Sword, we first met Beobrand, a brash young man raised by outlaws and taught the ways of survival by use of a sword.

In this second story, Beobrand is slightly older and he questions his worth as a leader, though his fame as a warrior is spreading. He comes to the attention of Oswald, a king who desires to be king of all England. Having disposed of Cadwallon, Oswald now faces a bigger threat from the rising star that is Penda of Mercia. Peace, for the moment, is imperative but with issues of his own, can Beobrand be trusted to keep his famous temper in check? Or will his desire for revenge lead to all-out war?

Matthew Harffy weaves his words in the same way that Beobrand weaves his unerring sword arm – dangerous and deadly. I wondered whether the author could maintain the standard and soon found my answer – a resounding 'yes'!

The action is unrelenting, battle scenes authentic and, above all, we get a real taste of life for the ordinary folk in the Dark Ages. Nor is the author afraid to make life hard for Beobrand and us, his readers, with the twists and turns of the plot.

There seems to be an upsurge of books covering this or similar periods and on the evidence of Mr Harffy's two examples so far, he is well to the forefront of the pack!

©Richard Tearle  Discovering Diamonds
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2 January 2017

GALLOWS WEDDING by Rhona Martin

 Amazon UK  £3.19 / £9.99
Amazon US $3.94  / $14.25
Amazon CA $ n.a / $18.86

Adventure /Witchcraft
1540s
England

Hazel is a young girl who bears a mark associated with being a witch and is forced to flee her village. She falls in with a tinker and his family, but he robs and rapes her and she runs away again, only to become part of a group of professional beggars. But when she overhears a plan to sell her to a house of ill repute, she once more escapes. On her travels, she learns how to look after herself enough to keep herself alive - and then she comes across Black John, a notorious outlaw, who is about to be hanged. Hazel volunteers to marry him – she is already heavily pregnant by the tinker – as she learns that local custom will save John from the noose.

But who exactly is Black John and what secrets does he keep from her?

This appears to be a new imprint of a book which, the blurb says, was an award winner when first released in 1977. I can fully understand why. The two major characters are ably supported by a number of 'road folk' whose actions and dialogue are all perfectly believable and the ending is [no spoilers!] let’s just say ‘ unexpected’.

Despite a minimal number of typos, one 'line malfunction' and a rather incoherent cover in which Black John seems to be a young man whereas the author makes it quite clear that he is 'old enough to be her father', I thoroughly enjoyed this book and this review comes with a high recommendation.

©Richard Tearle  Discovering Diamonds
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1 January 2017

BLOODIE BONES by Lucienne Boyce

Please welcome
our first official review!

Amazon UK  £10.99 /  £3.99
Amazon US   $16.00 / $5.12
Amazon CA $ n/a / $9.83

Crime / Mystery 
1796 / Georgian
A Dan Foster Mystery  #1

Josh Castle, a gamekeeper, has been murdered and Bow Street Runner, Dan Foster, goes undercover to discover the truth of the circumstances of his death. Taking part in a night-time poaching expeditions Dan infiltrates into the heart of the local community. There are questions to be answered, though, and Lord Oldfield himself is a unpopular landlord. What is the truth? What are the lies and deceits?

Bloodie Bones is a fantastic novel. It is beautifully written with a smooth seamless flow to the story with a faultless style oozing the ability of a very talented writer. Many scenes are so realistic you could almost be there watching, like a fly on the wall or as if seeing the action on a movie screen. The characters are highly engaging - 100% believable, and the author's detail of research evokes a genuine feel of the 1880s era. The intriguing glimpses into Dan’s home and personal life create a nice balance - more of Mrs Foster in the next novel please Ms Boyce - I liked her!

The story is a thrillingand engrossing page-turner that demands just one more chapter before lights out and sleep - then maybe just one more... perhaps just one more...

Very highly recommended. The next in the series of Dan Foster mysteries is most eagerly awaited.

©Anne Holt Discovering Diamonds

(corrected error: initially listed as set in the 1880s. Error now rectified)
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1066 TURNED UPSIDE DOWN by Joanna Courtney, Helen Hollick, Anna Belfrage, Richard Dee, G.K. Holloway, Carol McGrath, Alison Morton, Eliza Redgold, and Annie Whitehead. Foreword by C.C. Humphreys


To launch Discovering Diamonds 
a few reviews for novels written by our main reviewers or admins:


Amazon Universal £1.98  / $2.45

alternative / 'what if?'
1066
England / Normandy/ Denmark

'Ever wondered what might have happened if William the Conqueror had been beaten at Hastings? Or if Harald Hardrada had won at Stamford Bridge? Or if Edward the Confessor had died with an heir ready to take his place? Then here is the perfect set of stories for you. ‘1066 Turned Upside Down’ explores a variety of ways in which the momentous year of 1066 could have played out differently. 

Written by nine well-known authors to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, the stories will take you on a journey through the wonderful ‘what ifs’ of England’s most famous year in history.'

There are brief historical notes to guide the reader who is unfamiliar with this period, and a few suggested 'follow-on' questions for schools, reader groups - or just your own entertainment. 
The e-book remained in Amazon's UK top ten best seller ranking list for four months, and is still in the top twenty-five.

This interesting alternative history of England’s tumultuous year 1066 is a collaboration of nine authors, each a successful writer of his/her own historical fiction novels: Joanna Courtney, Helen Hollick, Anna Belfrage, Richard Dee, G.K. Holloway, Carol McGrath, Alison Morton, Eliza Redgold, and Annie Whitehead.

In 1066 Turned Upside Down, each writer envisions a fascinating “what if” version about that fateful year in England's history. And with each outcome, modern man would have inherited a much different world, in some instances giving rise to my notion of “too bad it didn’t happen that way.”

I must confess to not knowing much about this time in England’s long history. However, having read James M. Hockey’s excellent “Edith Fair as a Swan: Tales of Bowdyn 3” (an excellent series, by the way), I was at least familiar with King Harold’s common-law wife Edith.

Because of this, and the excellent Foreword by C. C. Humphreys, I enjoyed the “what if” scenario in 1066 even more.


© Inge H. Borg, 

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ALVAR THE KINGMAKER by Annie Whitehead

To launch Discovering Diamonds 
a few reviews for novels written by our main reviewers or admins:

Amazon UK £2.30 / £9.99
Amazon US $2.99 / £15.75
Amazon CA $ n/a / $20.54 

Biographical Fiction
Anglo-Saxon / 10th Century 
England
'Alvar the Kingmaker is a tale of politics, intrigue, deceit and murder set in tenth-century England. Nobleman Alvar knows that securing the throne for the young and worthy King Edgar will brand him as an oath-breaker. As a fighting man, he is indispensable to the new sovereign, but his success and power gain him deadly, murderous enemies amongst those who seek favour, and who point the finger of suspicion when Edgar’s brother, the previous king, dies in mysterious circumstances.'


I thoroughly enjoyed Ms Whitehead's first novel, To Be A Queen, so I was eagerly looking forward to her second novel of Saxon England, and to my delight I was not disappointed! The characters travel through the pages with realism, excitement, readability and entertainment. The pace does not falter,
the plot sweeps you along and the story itself is superbly aided by the meticulous research that the author undertakes. You can almost use this novel as a textbook with additional imagined bits.

What is especially delightful is reading a novel set in a little-known period of history. Alfred the Great, Bede - indeed the most famous Saxon date, 1066, is known to most readers interested in early English history, but what a refreshing change to read about (and learn about!) these different people in a slightly different to the norm time.

Ms Whitehead is one very talented writer, and here's hoping there are many more novels by her to come.

©Anne Holt

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AURELIA by Alison Morton

To launch Discovering Diamonds 
a few reviews for novels written by our main reviewers or admins:


Amazon UK  £8.99 / £2.99
Amazon US   $13.49 / $3.66
Amazon CA $n/a  /$17.66

Alternative / Thriller 
20th century

Roma Nova Series #4

Late 1960s Roma Nova, the last Roman colony that has survived into the 20th century Aurelia Mitela is alone – forced to give up her beloved career as a Praetorian officer. But her country needs her unique skills. Somebody is smuggling silver – Roma Nova’s lifeblood – on an industrial scale.”

The Roma Nova series of excellent alternate history books is an enormous pleasure to read as exciting 'what if' thriller-adventures.

Roma Nova in the 1960s, and this is Aurelia Mitela’s story. She is the grandmother of the heroine from the previous books of the series, but this novel is very much a stand-alone read (although I heartily recommend the others!) Aurelia is a young woman going through the trauma of devastating loss. Her future career in the Praetorian Guard appears to be at an end, but she is sent to Berlin in order to find those responsible for stealing Roma Nova’s precious silver reserves. In this fabulous novel, prepare to enter an expertly imagined world of alternative history written so thoroughly believable that it is almost impossible to understand how the Roman Empire did not survive into the modern world.

Alison Morton’s writing skill is professional, consistent, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable. Her characters are as believable as her plots, her research is impeccable and every book she produces is a delight to read. 
More please Ms Morton - keep them coming!

©Mary Chapple  Discovering Diamonds






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KHAMSIN by Inge H Borg

To launch Discovering Diamonds 
a few reviews for novels written by our main reviewers or admins:


Amazon UK  £3.94 / £12.32
Amazon US $4.93 / $16.05
Amazon CA $ n/a $21.07 

Adventure / Series 
Ancient Egypt
Legend of the Winged Scarab Series

The ‘devil wind’ burst through ancient Egypt for about fifty days at the time when King Aha ruled from 3080 B.C. before the pyramids were constructed, or even thought of, and long before the period most of us are familiar with and fond of, but the Ms Borg skilfully takes us back into this glorious past to show that human behaviour hasn’t changed much during the many, many centuries between then and now. They were,it seems, just as passionate – whether for good or ill, love or hate.

In this episode of the Legends of the Winged Scarab series, the character list is vast, somewhat like a block-buster movie, but the novel is so deftly written with the turbulence created by the wind echoing in the breathtaking events that unravel as each page is turned (eagerly, to find out what happens next). The plots and intrigues, fights and the need to survive, by commoner, priest, king or queen hook you into Egypt's past.

Readers interested in the events of Ancient Egypt will find this to be a must read.

©Anne Holt  Discovering Diamonds

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DAYS OF SUN AND GLORY by Anna Belfrage

To launch Discovering Diamonds 
a few reviews for novels written by our main reviewers or admins:

Amazon UK £2.99 / £11.99
Amazon US  $2.99 / $15.99
Amazon CA  $n/a  / $21.15   

Family Saga 
14th Century
England
The King’s Greatest Enemy Series #2



It is 1321 and there is rebellion in England. Adam de Guirande has survived Roger Mortimer’s attempted coup, but those who served Mortimer are now seen by King Edward II to be traitors. When Mortimer escapes imprisonment from the Tower of London and flees to France Adam has to find the resources to keep himself and his family safe, relying on allies such as his wife, Kit, and  Queen Isabella.

A thoroughly enjoyable story written by a superb story-teller. One that includes love, hatred and intrigue all immersed in a desperate fight to survive during one of England’s most highly troubled periods.

The research and the detail is impeccable, the characters are thoroughly believable and the plots as breathtaking as they must have been in real life. This is a real page-turner of a novel, and can be read without the first in the series, but I would suggest starting at the beginning to gain the maximum reading experience pleasure.

©Anne Holt  Discovering Diamonds

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ON THE ACCOUNT by Helen Hollick

To launch Discovering Diamonds 
a few reviews for novels written by our main reviewers or admins:


Amazon Universal    £10.99 / £3.99    $14.49 / $5.99

Nautical / Adventure / Saga
18th Century 
England / Other
The Sea Witch Voyages #5

In March 1719, Tiola Oldstagh treks through the English countryside at night. She’s unable to contact Jesamiah and, fearing for his life, she heads for the only man who might help save her husband. But she senses someone follows – Maha’dun, a Night-Walker she once saved from death. He claims to seek the same man, but he’s really tracking a bone-box, in hopes that it will lead him one step closer to The Carver, the man who crafted several such caskets from the bones of slain Night-Walkers. Legend says those who possess one become powerful, and Maha’dun follows Tiola because he thinks she knows where one is. When they reach their destination, the man they seek isn’t at home. Knowing time is running out for her husband, Tiola retraces her steps only to fall and injure herself. While she suffers alone on the moor, Cara’mina, a High-born Night-Walker, blames Tiola for the death of her lover, and her need for vengeance puts her sanity in question. She wants the bone-box Tiola possesses, but all Tiola actually has is a pendant given her by a woman who once owned a box. When Cara’mina insists on learning who and where the woman is, all Tiola says is “Francesca Escudero” and “Bristol” before she passes out.

Jesamiah Acorne awaits trial in Bristol. His friend, Henry Jennings, has offered to help, but Jesamiah neither wants nor needs his kind of help. His schemes and plots are what got Jesamiah into his present predicament – arrested on charges of smuggling and his ship, the Sea Witch, wrecked. Adding to his misery is the possibility that his wife no longer loves him, because ever since his incarceration, he’s been unable to mentally communicate with her. Not that Tiola doesn’t have every right to be angry with him. After all, he did bed another woman and get her with child, even though Francesca denies it’s his. But in spite of this infidelity, he loves Tiola and needs to find her.

Maha’dun finds Tiola on the moor and takes her to her home, where her friends care for her. Being a White Witch, she could heal herself, but only Jesamiah and Maha’dun know what she is. Her one wish is for Maha’dun to go to Bristol and keep Jesamiah safe.

During Jesamiah’s trial, Francesca sweeps into the courtroom and claims to bring a letter from King George for the judge. The contents result in the suspension of the trial, and Jesamiah and his men are released. While he is walking through town with Francesca, she’s murdered by an assassin. Only Jesamiah thinks the blade was actually meant for him – a fact that is reinforced by the discovery of a dead man in Jesamiah’s bed at the inn where he had taken a room.

Maha’dun accompanies Jesamiah on his journey back to Tiola, but it turns out to be more perilous than either man expects. Even after their reunion, Jesamiah and Tiola aren’t safe. Cara’mina still wants vengeance and doesn’t care who dies in the process. Then there are those who seek the power of the bone-box and who wish to manipulate Jesamiah into doing their bidding. Instead, he and Tiola set sail for Spain to find Francesca’s young son– a dying plea from Francesca because Leondro’s name appears on a killing list. But even Spain proves unsafe, for Barbary pirates are raiding coastal towns in search of children to sell into slavery, and Tiola vanishes.

While I like Jesamiah and Tiola, I found Maha’dun the more intriguing character in this tale. I don’t necessarily like everything he does, but he often seems to steal the limelight (so to speak). His character has so much depth and grows so much. In spite of his fears, he ventures into realms that terrorize him and becomes a stronger and far more fascinating character as he does so.

On the Account is the fifth voyage in the Cpt. Jesamiah Acorne series, and it is a complex tale of magic, intrigue, and true love. Hollick has included a map, a diagram of the sails and masts of a square-rigged ship, and a glossary to help readers unfamiliar with ships and sailing. Some people may find several scenes too brutal and a few physical relationships may not be to everyone’s taste, but Hollick weaves a spine-tingling story that compels readers to keep turning pages rather than putting the book aside. Readers experience a whirlwind of emotions, from devastating sadness to bright hopefulness. Final farewells are said to characters who have been part of Jesamiah’s life for several books. But that is part of real life, which makes even the unbelievable possible as you read On the Account.

©2016 Cindy Vallar
(Genuine independent review)
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