8 July 2017

Second Weekend in July

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7 July 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Colour of Cold Blood by Toni Mount

AMAZON UK £2.99 / £11.99
AMAZON US $3.49  / $14.97
AMAZON CA $4.99 / $20.16

15th Century
Sebastian Foxley series Book 3

The Colour of Cold Blood is the third in the Sebastian Foxley series by Toni Mount, and the second full-length novel.

This time, Seb and his older brother Jude are trying hard to run their scrivener’s shop and live a normal life. Seb is trying to enjoy married life with Emily, whom he wed in the preceding novella, The Colour of Gold.

Seb is dealing with daily medieval life and its troubles - running his shop, managing rambunctious apprentices, making ends meet even though the local clergy keep asking for fancy psalters for free. There’s also the small problem of someone murdering local prostitutes, and Seb’s journeyman, Gabe, is arrested for heresy on top of it.

I found this to be a quick read, full of nice nuances of medieval London life. It was a tad slow to get into the actual plot of the two separate mysteries, but I enjoyed the detail enough that it didn’t bother me. Other readers who want more action right off the bat might find it a bit slow going. But the plot involving the murders of the prostitutes is intriguing, and presents Seb with a very interesting problem - how can he teach Rose, a prostitute he met and befriended (no, really) how to read and better her situation in life without Emily thinking the wrong thing? And his plan to rescue Gabe from Newgate and a heretic’s execution is fun, though it perhaps requires a little more suspension of disbelief than I think most readers can likely muster.

One thing that confounded me, however, was Emily herself. I fully admit that I haven’t read the first book of the series. I read the novella, which was my introduction to the series and the characters. Unless Emily was very different in the first book, she seems to have undergone a sea change from the novella to this novel. In the novella, she was sweet but had a good deal of spark and seemed the sort who wouldn’t be shy to speak up for herself. In ...Cold Blood, she was an absolute shrew throughout. The change was jarring, as was another plot point involving her, which I will not discuss so as to avoid spoilers, but which seemed to come out of the blue. Seb seemed consistent and the little apprentice boys, especially Jack, were thoroughly developed, but some of the other characters seemed inconsistent even within the story.

Overall, while I enjoyed the novel in general, there were a few quibbles. If you are looking for a quick airplane read, without the necessity of deeper characters and plot development this would do nicely to while away a few hours.

 © Kristen McQuinn

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6 July 2017

The Colour of Gold by Toni Mount

The Colour of Gold by Toni Mount

AMAZON UK £.99 / £5.49
AMAZON US $.99  / $6.99
AMAZON CA $1.32 / $9.58

Medieval / Series / Mystery
15th Century
Sebastian Foxley series Book 2

The Colour of Blood, a novella by Toni Mount, was my entree into the Sebastian Foxley Medieval mystery series, and it was enough to whet my appetite for more.

It is the second entry in the series, but each story is written with the intention of being able to stand on its own. The novella focuses on the wedding day of Sebastian and his sweetheart, Emily. The tradition of borrowing a livery collar from one’s guild is showcased in this story. Things go awry, however, when Seb’s livery collar turns out to be a fake. Seb, his brother Jude, and a fairly charming street urchin named Jack, have to figure out where the real collar is before Seb himself is accused of stealing it and ending his marriage before it has a chance to begin.

I found this story to be sweet and entertaining, if a trifle innocent. I don’t know if it was just because it was a novella and by default could not go into more depth, but the mystery was a little too conveniently wrapped up, the characters just this side of oversimplified. However, I enjoyed the story and the setting, and it is obvious that Mount does excellent research.

I was entertained and intrigued enough by Sebastian to want to read more and I am looking forward to getting to know this new medieval character better.

© Kristen McQuinn

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5 July 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of Fragile Blossoms by Dodie Hamilton

 Amazon UK £2.99


Fragile Blossoms by Dodie Hamilton  is a romantic historical fiction novel set in the Edwardian period. This book is a delight to read - I can honestly say after years of reviews that seldom do you come across a writer with such a voice and such a heroine who can lift you up and put you into another world so deftly. Beautifully written...

Julianna Dryden is a celebrated beauty and muse for the great and the good - and is the protégée of the dubious wealthy Lady Evelyn who has a disreputable brother - oh yes, it is Georgette Heyer all the way but with such a modern twist - until she inherits a house. But a little house with such a legend - once a teashop to two mysterious and difficult sisters. Julianna and her little son Matty seek an escape and here it is. Our heroine is a widow and so must rely on her patroness which is increasingly a burden due to her attentions.... So off to Norfolk and Sandringham (and yes, the king makes an appearance) where Julianna befriends the publican and a dark, handsome builder who helps with the teashop unwillingly.

Julianna wants the shop to be a success; and so it looks until scandal looms through no fault of her own - and then Julianna finds friends fall away and her son in danger.

This is the sort of book that cheers you. Our heroine is so engaging but not a pushover and you root for her all the way as the scattering of great names test her. Yes, some of the plot is implausible, some of it over romantic, but that does not detract from writing that lifts you up. 

Why the author hasn't found a publisher I don't know - except that this novel could be edited by a good quarter and in the middle it did weigh as I turned pages to get on and needed to pick up - and way, way too many points of view dropped in - with a better editor this would be such a good book. So give it a go.

© Jeffrey Manton

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4 July 2017

4th July 2017

wishing all our American readers, authors
and reviewers a very enjoyable
4th July

Here are a couple of reviews for Good Reads 
relating to this most special day!

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3 July 2017

A Discovered Diamond review of The Cavalier Historian by Dorinda Balchin

Amazon UK £0.99 £10.49

Amazon US $1.27 $12.82
Amazon CA $16.42

17th century (English Civil War /Present day)

All fiction requires a reader to suspend disbelief: time-slip novels require the author to pull off a double bluff. This, Dorinda Balchin has achieved in Cavalier Historian. But the novel is more than a time-slip - taking a man working on a very contemporary ‘historic house’ project back to the seventeenth century – it is also multi-layered, well-researched historical fiction involving a war story, a coming-of-age story, a ghost story, a romance, and witchcraft.

The novel opens in the present day with Rob Hardwick being employed to develop a themed Civil War tourist attraction. Waking in the old house in the middle of the night, he sees a malevolent ghost, who haunts him and the house with evil intent for the rest of the story. We then learn Rob’s ancestors lived here and that there was a tragic romance between the second son, Simon, and local girl, Rebekah. Rob then thinks he dreams he is this second son, and the time-slip device takes him back to the 1640s, where he is young Simon writing a diary about the events of the war period. These ‘dreams’ become more and more disturbing and distressing as Rob/Simon is taken into the war itself, travelling to Colchester and Oxford with his father, Sir Thomas, and witnessing appalling scenes. Rob then begins to realise that the Rebekah he has met in nearby woods in the present is the Rebekah he has read about in a letter dated 1651 – a letter written by Simon to explain why he cannot marry her then hidden in the family Bible.

As a seventeenth century enthusiast and someone who has read Barbara Eskine’s Lady of Hay more than once, I began this novel anticipating a compelling story that would take me back in time. Unfortunately Balchin’s need to include all her research means the novel becomes unnecessarily long and sections of the story become overly didactic, slowing the pace to such an extent that when I was taken step by step through the causes, process and effects of the war, then the regicide itself, I literally lost the plot. The dialogue could have been sharpened as characters speak in measured tones for the most part; and the narrative itself would have benefited by a dispassionate editor’s surgical knife  (in one paragraph I counted six repetitions of ‘he had’.)

The lack of editing is a tremendous shame for this is an ambitious novel with everything going for it – except the pace. Ultimately, though, I believe it is an accurate account of what life was like in rural areas for the lesser aristocracy in mid-seventeenth century England, and if you enjoy time-slip stories, this period of English history, are eager to know the facts - plus enjoy the fictional element of superstition and the time-honoured time-slip plot-line, then this novel is worth reading.

© J.G. Harlond

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