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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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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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

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

Cover selected for Cover of the Month

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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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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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22 January 2017


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