27 May 2017

It's the Fourth Weekend in May

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26 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of THE WOLF OF DALRIADA by Elizabeth Gates

Amazon UK $8.99
Amazon CA n/a

Family Drama / Adventure
France / Scotland

It is 1793... As Europe watches the French Revolution’s bloody progress, uneasy Scottish landowners struggle to secure their wealth and power. And, in Dalriada – the ancient Kingdom of Scotland – fractured truths, torn loyalties and bloody atrocities are rife. Can anyone ride the maelstrom of these dangerous times? Only, it seems, Malcolm Craig Lowrie – the legendary Wolf of Dalriada.

In remote Argyll, people cry out to the young laird for protection against the evil of the Clearances. And there is also a beautiful Frenchwoman – staked as a child on the turn of a card – now living in thrall to her debauched captor, Sir William Robinson. But can the Wolf of Dalriada safeguard his people? Can the Wolf defeat enemies who, like the spirit of Argyll’s Corryvrecken Whirlpool, threaten to engulf them all?”

Part political intrigue, part romance, part mysticism, this debut novel, The Wolf of Dalriada, explores the upheaval of the period of the French Revolution and it is refreshing to see life in this era from the different perspective of Scotland rather than the more usual London/Paris Scarlet Pimpernel-type romantic adventure.

Perhaps a little clichéd in places with the baddies being bad and the goodies being good, and the occasional stumble with the flow of the writing where intrigue is key over action, but some of the scenery and ‘backdrop’ to the story is very nicely described so lovers of Scotland will appreciate this aspect. There could be some polishing to this debut novel, but the author has talent and a good technical editor could help bring out that talent to make Ms Gates an author to definitely watch in the future.

An entertaining tale.

© Ellen Hill

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25 May 2017


Amazon UK £2.79 £12.00
Amazon US  $3.45 $16.99
Amazon CA $22.64

WWI / Irish Uprising
England and Ireland

This is a thoroughly researched novel that begins with the Irish rebellion in Dubin in 1916 and moves to the front lines of World War I. It is the first of The Carmody Saga, a fictional family, but the events with which they become entangled are all too real. The week long “rising” in April 1916 and its aftermath, is followed by imprisonment in Frongoch, in North Wales, for young Danny.

Danny's father is shot whilst collecting important research papers from the College of Surgeons and the family moves to his mother-in-law's home in Greenwich. Danny's older brother, Patrick, training to become a surgeon like his late father, joins a hospital ship. Their sister, Jenny, is injured in a Zeppelin raid. Meanwhile a close family friend, also a medic, treats injured soldiers.

Later Danny becomes a reluctant recruit to the British army. The depictions of the horrors of war are graphic. The rivalries and romances of the family members drawn with conviction. The many twists and turns of fate and fortune that afflict each member, and the way each responds, kept me turning the pages. This powerfully written novel provides moments of pleasure and pain, drama and horror that never fails to excite.

Given this is book one, and occupies two very turbulent years in Irish and British history, it is hard to imagine how Ms Petken will match the excitement as the family leaves the war behind. Of course, there is the violence of the guerrilla warfare that preceded Irish independence, and the brief but bloody civil war that followed. Danny, the passionate believer in Irish Independence, will surely have a part to play in these events that formed the Irish nation. What, though, of the other family members with their careers in medicine? Perhaps you can see that I am completely hooked, and desperate to read the next instalment.

Cover selected for Cover of the Month

© Frank Parker

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24 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of Rosette by Cindy Rinaman Marsch

 Amazon UK  £9.66 £3.07
Amazon US $3.10 $13.99
Amazon CA $18.32

Fictional Biography
US Settlement

"Almost-spinster schoolteacher Rosette Cordelia Ramsdell married Otis Churchill on a Michigan farm in 1857. Her real-life journal recounts two years of homesteading, history hints at the next six decades, and the novel explores the truth. We meet Rosette in 1888 as she revises the wedding-day page of her journal. In lush detail, in the voices of Rosette and others, the novel traces how we both choose and suffer our destiny, how hopes come to naught and sometimes rise from the wreckage."

All novels are a labour of love, especially independently published novels, and this one takes that a little further being the story of the author's ancestor, derived from diaries and other records found by the family.

Rosette's story is one that must have played out hundreds of times to hundreds of girls, a story of growing up and living in the 'wild west' on land that was newly reclaimed from nature in small, close-knit communities that had to cooperate to survive. Drama was breaking a cart and helping each other was a matter of course. Laura Ingalls Wilder would recognise this world and feel at home here.

Although this is a story that is far from unique, what we have here is a valuable piece of social history in that is has survived to be re-told. Ingalls Wilder wrote her own story, and so did Rosette, but not for the consumption of anyone other than her own family, and as such, she didn't explain the everyday terms and words that she uses, which is why the author does that for us.

The style that this novel is written in reflects the style of that diary, it is not a 'he said, she said' scene by scene tale of adventure or derring-do with a plot building chapter by chapter, but this is a more re-telling style, recounting life as seen through the eyes of the characters. Because of that you never really get into the head of each character, but you do get a good sense of how the main protagonists are viewed by those around them.

A gentle story of family life in an era where life was hard and yet simple pleasures mean everything. A wonderful snapshot into a lost world.

© Nicky Galliers

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23 May 2017

Nȧȧpiikoan Winter by Alethea Williams

AmazonUK £5.62 £13.67
Amazon US $7.00 $19.95
Amazon CA $26.08

Family Drama
19th century
American Settlement /Native American

Based on the memoirs of a Hudson Bay Company fur trader, this novel centres around two people, Buffalo Stone Woman, a captured slave to a Native tribe, and Donald Thomas who is seventeen years old and who is sent, because of his linguistic skills, to live among the Native Pikani tribe in the Rocky Mountains in order to develop trade. There, he discovers Isobel, a Mexican landowner’s daughter who was captured many years previously by the tribe – and known now as Buffalo Stone Woman. Inevitably, a relationship grows between the two of them, which creates difficulties for the trade partnership which he is supposed to be seeking and encouraging.

Some of the scenes are graphic and unsettling, the Native names can be difficult to get your head around (I merely skipped over them) but Ms Williams writes with great skill, confidence and what appears to be highly detailed research. Her understanding of the differences between the two cultures is handled with dexterity, and makes this a recommended, very enjoyable read.

© Ellen Hill

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22 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The House at Zaronza by Vanessa Couchman

 AmazonUK £1.99 £8.99
Amazon US $2.55 $11.99
Amazon CA $16.06

Romance / Family Drama
1914 - 18

It is delightful when one of the main characters is a place, not a person, when the scenery is described in as much detail and as vividly as the lead protagonist and the plot.

In the present day, Rachel Swift goes to Corsica, the place where her mother was born, with the intention of researching her family history. She finds some letters, which are anonymous but passionate and written to ‘Maria’. Gradually she uncovers the desperate love between the couple, the mountains they must climb to be together and the heartbreak they must endure.

Maria becomes a nurse when war breaks out – but more than this I am not saying, because it will spoil the story.

The House at Zaronza is an emotional, absorbing and powerful read, a story of betrayal, misunderstanding and a love story, all wrapped in the tragedy that these can, so often bring, especially when war is the main background.

The story is of the island during these turbulent years, and of the people – local inhabitants, invaders and who had to live, die, and survive.

This is a debut novel, and although written with passion and skill it could perhaps, as with all new authors, have benefitted from an additional structural edit, for the pace ebbs and flows a little, especially at the beginning. But do persevere – even if only for the delight of the descriptive scenery. Vanessa Couchman has a huge potential talent, and will be an author to watch, I think.

© Mary Chapple

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