11 February 2017

THE JESUIT LETTER by Dean Hamilton

Amazon UK £2.28  £11.02
Amazon US $16.99 $2.78
Amazon CA $21.96 

16th century / Tudor

The Tyburn Folios Series Book #1

Dean Hamilton’s debut novel, The Jesuit Letter, is the first in what promises to be an absorbing and entertaining series. Accompanied by protagonist, ex-soldier Christopher Tyburn, we enter the Tudor world of the Earl of Worcester’s Men, a troupe of travelling players who are to perform at a little place called Stratford-upon-Avon, where lives a lively young chap called Will, the son of Master John Shakespeare.

Our drinking and gambling Main Player seems to be little out of the ordinary at first, but he soon becomes involved in a dastardly plot concerning the turbulent Protestant v Catholic religious contradictions of the 16th century. Hitherto reluctant to choose sides, he discovers that sometimes sitting on the fence is not an option when survival is – well, a matter of survival.

The author has skilfully blended the reality of Tudor life into his excellent narrative – a nice change to view the period from the perspective of ordinary people, not the Royal Court of Elizabeth I. His setting, the plot, the era, are all very well researched, although maybe the footnotes would have been better employed as an Author’s Note at the end. I am not a fan of non-fiction-type footnotes in a work of fiction. If a fact needs to be explained, then it should be woven into the story. If it is not necessary for the story, it should not be there.

Perhaps a little sluggish to get into gear through the first pages, do read on for the story soon heats up with twists, turns, a touch of humour, romance, and the riddle of the most important part of the plot, the matter of a murder…

© Helen Hollick

Cover selected for Cover of the Month

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10 February 2017


Amazon UK £3.83 £9.99
Amazon US $4.73 $14.99
Amazon CA $ n.a/$19.76

Adventure / Romance / Thriller

The Emperor conquers Altishahr, a Muslim country to the west of his empire and summons a local woman from his new dominion to come to the Forbidden City as his concubine. Meanwhile in the market of Kashgar a girl named Hidligh is kidnapped by Iparhan, a woman scarred by the Emperor’s conquest of her homeland and bent on vengeance. Iparhan offers her a deal: Hidligh will become the Emperor’s concubine, living a life of luxury. In return she will act as Iparhan’s spy.
But when Hidligh arrives in the Forbidden City, she enters a frightening new world. Every word she utters may expose her as an imposter. Iparhan is watching from the shadows, waiting to exact her revenge on the Emperor. The Empress is jealous of her new rival. And when Hidligh finally meets the Emperor, she finds herself falling in love…

Even the back cover blurb is breath taking for this wonderful novel. The detail is superb; read this book and you will be there smelling the smells, hearing the sounds, watching as each scene unfolds.

The slightly staccato writing style is cleverly used in places to move the story on, invoking the urgency of the plot while not interrupting the intimacy we feel for the heroine, who is occasionally a little na├»ve in her thoughts and actions, but this makes her real, human, and utterly believable. As is the story and the drama throughout, be it for the scheme of revenge, the pain, the love, the betrayals or the loyalties. 

A moving, fascinating and highly enjoyable tale. Highly recommended.

© Helen Hollick

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9 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: WULFSUNA by Elaine Moxon

AMAZON UK £4.79   / £11.99
AMAZON US $5.88   / $18.99
AMAZON CA $7.53  / $17.88

5th century
Saxon Britain 

The Wolf Spear Saga

A Saxon thegn, Wulfric, has seen service in Britannia during the last years of Rome’s administration. Twenty years later, he goes back with Wulfgar, his son, to meet again with those who stayed in what has become Bryton. His intention is to reunite the two halves of Wulfsana, his beloved tribe. But of course, dreams and intentions are one thing, the actual doing, quite another, especially when there is an abundance of bad luck and a young seer who perhaps would be better off – from the tribe’s point of view – dead. Wulfgar does not believe that her destiny is relevant to his own, but maybe her seer’s power is more important than he realises.

This story is of a journey, of a tribe moving from one land to another, and of the trials and difficulties – and pleasures – of life. There is a large cast, but Ms Moxon handles them all with disciplined skill, although perhaps a few non-essentials could have been excluded in favour of the reader’s mental juggling ability. The main characters are drawn well, and the author plainly knows her period, with the only criticism being that there were a few anachronisms that jarred a little as they were too 21st Century, but even so,  an enjoyable read, especially bfor lovers of the post-Roman, early-Saxon era of England's rich and varied history.

© Anne Holt

8 February 2017

YAKIMALI’S GIFT by Linda Covella

Amazon UK £3.30 £9.53
Amazon US $4.07 414.99
Amazon CA $ n.a / $20.27

Young adult / Adventure / Romance
18th Century / 1775
Mexico / California

It's 1775 in Mexico, New Spain, and 15-year-old Fernanda Marquina, of Spanish and Pima Indian ancestry, can't seem to live up to her mother's expectations or fit into the limited female roles of her culture. To escape, Fernanda grabs any opportunity to ride the horses she loves. At a greater cost than she could ever have imagined, her dream of adventure in faraway lands is realized. With her family, Fernanda joins Juan Bautista de Anza's historic colonization expedition to California. On the arduous four-month journey, Fernanda makes friends with Feliciana, the young widow Fernanda can entrust with her deepest thoughts; Gloria, who becomes the sister Fernanda always wished for; and Gloria's seductive brother Miguel, gentle one moment, angry the next and, like Fernanda, a mestizo--half Indian and half Spanish. As Fernanda penetrates Miguel's layers of hidden feelings, she's torn between him and Nicolas, the handsome Spanish soldier hoping to win her heart. But propelling Fernanda along the journey is her search for Mama's Pima Indian past, a past Mama refused to talk about, a past with secrets that Fernanda is determined to learn. The truths she discovers will change the way she sees her ancestry, her family, and herself.”

Although primarily written for young adults, this is an engaging and intriguing narrative for any over-fifteen age group. It sets us on the path of a four-month journey with Fernanda and we meet and make friends with her, Gloria, Gloria’s handsome brother, Miguel, and the Spanish soldier Nicolas. Inevitably there is romance between our young heroine and the two young men, involving mixed feelings of a ‘coming of age’ nature. Which one will she choose? Or will she walk away from both?

The author’s depth of research is evident both in the culture, the settlement of the Spanish in their strange New World, and the thoughts, reactions, responses and feelings of young people. All bound within the every-day drama of every-day life and Fernanda’s own desire to understand her mother’s ancestry, this is a wonderful novel populated by some wonderful characters.

© Helen Hollick
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7 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: IN A GILDED CAGE by Suzanne Appleyard

Amazon UK £4.80
Amazon US $5.93
Amazon CA $ n.a
(e-book only listed)

Biographical Fiction
19th Century

In a Gilded Cage by Suzanne Appleyard is a skilful attempt at portraying the famous Empress Sisi / Elizabeth of Austria, from the days before she meets her husband in the mid-1800s until his inauguration. Sisi is a figure who has always inspired writers, historians and even film makers; the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, and thus Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Queen consort of Croatia and Bohemia.

Appleyard’s book is among the more serious and factual of them, less romanticised and more influenced by the consistent rumours and darker sides of Sisi, as well as putting her life in the wider political context as the personal circumstances of her upbringing and life at Vienna’s court.

Having grown up in Bavaria with the Sisi movies as regular fixture in the TV programming, I found much of Appleyard’s portrayal plausible, explaining the parts of Sisi’s life that do not seem to add up with the public perception. Written in a well-researched and documented fashion the style does sometimes verge closer to a biography more than a novel. The use of language and descriptive detail is very pleasing and historically this is of great value, so the book will very much appeal to readers who seek the more accurate over the more 'speculative' side of history. It also managed not to spoil my love for the romantic versions of the story by showing Sisi in a sympathetic light.

© Christoph Fischer

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6 February 2017


Amazon UK £0.99 / £8.50  
Amazon US $1.22 / $12.50
Amazon CA $ n.a /$16.41

Romance - with a dash of rebellion / Family Drama
19th century 1882
Dublin / Cumberland

This is a debut novel and it is a stunning read. It shows quality and that all-important ‘read-ability’ that keeps the reader turning the pages eager to know what happens next. The heroine, Louise Campbell, lives with her sister in Dublin and they are just about scraping by. Out of the blue, from an uncle they were unaware existed, they inherit Bowes Farm, a large estate on the coast of Cumberland in the north of England. They decide to move to their new property, rather than enjoy the money its sale would make, and look forward to a new life. But things are never that simple are they? (Well not in fiction anyway!) The uncle, it seems, was not much liked and the two girls find themselves tarred with the same brush of suspicion by their new neighbours, especially by handsome Nicholas Maxwell, the local magistrate. The situation being even more difficult because his family had been cheated out of ownership of the farm many years in the past, and the animosity has stuck like glue.

In between all this, we are treated to the excitement of breath-taking subplots, arms-smuggling, an abduction, police raids, terrorism, and a secret affair – all wrapped up in a tale of unfolding romance.

The narrative is beautifully written, with political issues of the period skilfully intertwined with wonderful attention to descriptive detail. I was reminded throughout of Georgette Heyer’s novels – how delightful to discover a similar new author!

Highly recommended, and definitely a Discovered Diamond.

© Helen Hollick  Discovering Diamonds
Note: this novel may be incorrectly justified as an e-book on some devices

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5 February 2017

It is the FIRST SUNDAY of the MONTH : which means...

No reviews on a Sunday but...
Today we Reveal our Selected Cover of the Month

January's Cover Winner:

With Honourable Mentions for:

WINNER for January 2017

Honourable mention for January

Honourable mention for January

Honourable mention for January

Our Judge is
Cathy Helms of

  • Cover of Month announced on the FIRST Sunday of the month
  • Book of the Month announced on the SECOND Sunday in month
  • Guest Spot - posted on the THIRD Sunday in month
  • Reader's Voice - posted on the LAST Sunday in month