22 March 2019

The Girl From Oto by Amy Maroney

Shortlisted for Book of the Month



"This is skilful story-telling at its very best. There are so many strands to the tale, with many hints carefully dropped in along the way."

AMAZON UK
AMAZON CA
The Miramond Series #1 

Fictional Saga

fifteenth century / 21st century
Spain

In fifteenth-century Spain, a noblewoman gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl. A wise woman helps her, taking the girl away to safety in a convent. In twenty-first-century England, an art historian is attempting to discover the true identity of a portrait painter. How are the two events connected?


This is a dual timeline novel and some reviewers have said that the historical scenes work better than the present-day scenes. At first, this may be true but, after I'd finished the book, the modern-day characters stayed with me for just as long. However, let's rewind. 


It soon becomes clear that the girl in the monastery and the portrait painter are one and the same, but that's not a spoiler, because almost to the last, we don't know how all this came to be. Mira, the young girl, grows up in the convent, and whilst others learn her identity, she initially does not. The Spanish part of the story is told from various points of view - that of Mira herself, of the abbess, of Mira's parents, and of a rich merchant, whose family have something to do with the story, but quite what, we don't immediately learn. Nor do we learn for quite some time just why Mira was sent away - this part of the story is revealed slowly, and is all the better for it. 


This is skilful story-telling at its very best. There are so many strands to the tale, with many hints carefully dropped in along the way. I hoped desperately that all would become clear, that the strands would tie themselves together, and they did: the role of the merchant family, the history behind the paintings and the origins of their wooden panels, the brutality of Mira's birth family, the reason for her being sent away. Despite the fact that this is one of a series, the loose ends all come together satisfyingly, so it can definitely be read as a standalone. You can choose to revisit these characters, or not. That in itself is the mark of an excellent book. There is a great little reveal, too: Ramon, Mira's father, beats any servant who dares approach him from the left. One assumes this is just a device to demonstrate his temper, but even this fairly minor detail is explained towards the end of the book.


The plotting is intricate, masterfully worked out, and the pacing is superb. That's not to say it's a fast read; there are many scenes where one can enjoy a lingering look at the expertly-described scenery, watch the local mountain people celebrating, and enjoy the burgeoning romance of the modern-day protagonist, Zari, as she tries to combine her professional and personal lives.


The author is American, yet chooses to use vocabulary which English readers will find familiar, so the modern day characters use mobiles rather than cell phones, for example. 


To the very last pages, I was unsure how the story would 'pan out' and I found myself saying 'aha' out loud as little hints dropped into the earlier chapters suddenly made sense, and I was genuinely impressed with how the author put all the strands of her detailed plot together. In the closing chapters, a family scene could so easily have been drawn with cliche and assumed responses. Yet the author directs the scene differently and the reactions of the characters, at first surprising, become all too real. To say more would be a spoiler.


The concept of the novel, of modern-day characters researching a story from the past, is not a new one, but it really works. I was fascinated by the historical sections. The Girl from Oto might have worked as a straight-forward historical novel, but the modern-day scenes added to a sense that so much of history is lost to us, and sometimes we just have a tantalising glimpse of a lost world. The fact that Zari literally walks over the same terrain that Mira has walked before her adds a poignancy to the tale.



© Annie Whitehead


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21 March 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Berlin Butterfly: Ensnare by Leah Moyes



"National and world events are shown through Ella’s eyes and like most ordinary people at that time, they hardly touch her except for the tension expressed by her employers and colleagues. The atmosphere is realistically and very deftly evoked. "


AMAZON UK

family drama

1960s *
East Berlin

1960s East Berlin was a tense and dangerous place. And Leah Moyes draws this very well indeed. Her protagonist, teenager Ella, has had a rough start in life and doesn’t expect much. However, she has the rock-solid anchors of her best friend Anton and younger brother Josef and her love for her adoptive father until the infamous barrier which became the Berlin Wall went up in 1961. But Ella is conflicted. Does she take a chance to escape with Anton and Stefan – a decision she must make in minutes – or does she stay to care for her dying father? Her inner strength shows us her answer as well as the resilience in the way she makes the best of the stressful consequences. But Ella is no ‘Mary Sue’; she is emotionally and socially constrained because of her early life, unable to relate to others except to Anton and Josef. She longs to escape in every way as signified by her artistic expression in the form of the butterfly pictures she produces.


Moyes cleverly demonstrates the privilege, yet the fragile position, of the nomenklatura, the party rulers of East Germany as well as the restricted and harsh life of the majority of the population. Her research and world building are thorough. National and world events are shown through Ella’s eyes and like most ordinary people at that time, they hardly touch her except for the tension expressed by her employers and colleagues. The atmosphere is realistically and very deftly evoked. 


The plot unfolds naturally at a smooth pace, neither slow nor rushed. We follow Ella as she unfolds like a butterfly from a chrysalis, wondering at her own emotional flowering. But she is all too aware of crossing the iron boundaries separating the new classes in the DDR when she starts to experience very deep feelings for a member of the elite.


This is an entrancing story well told and with a very engaging protagonist. As a German-speaker I enjoyed the little drips of language which enhanced the setting, but many readers will appreciate the comprehensive glossary the author has provided. Only one thing, well, possibly two things detract: I read the Kindle version and was disappointed to find a proportion of the formatting was haywire; something to check given that Amazon is the world’s biggest ebook retailer. The other is that a very enjoyable read has been negatively affected by a lack of editing. At one point I wondered if the author was a non-native English speaker. Once edited professionally, this book would have nothing to stop it flying high.



© Jessica Brown

* we review novels  set post 1953 at our discretion



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20 March 2019

THE DISTANT OCEAN by Philip K Allan

shortlisted for Book of the Month

"...excellent seafaring descriptions... Mr Allan knows his stuff!"

AMAZON UK
Book 5 of a series

Nautical

18th/early 19th Century - Napoleonic Wars
Indian Ocean

Fresh from victory under Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, Captain Alexander Clay - every inch our handsome, dashing hero – is honoured by King George III by the gifting of a magnificent sword. He has been told by his wife, Lydia, that they are soon to become parents and is waiting for his next posting. Though that comes quicker than he would have liked, he is delighted to be joined by his close friend, John Sutton. Not so welcome is the presence of Nicholas Windham, for there is bad blood between the three of them. Worse is that the commander of the expedition is the fastidious Sir George Montague, Windham's sponsor.


The mission is simple: to protect the ships of the East India Company (John Company) that are being harried and taken by the French. When they arrive and discover a French frigate anchored off a small island, Clay devises a plan to flush it out and destroy it. But the plan relies on Sutton and Windham working together ... 


This is Book 5 of the Alexander Clay series and although, as always, it is recommended to read any series in order, this is completely stand alone and does not suffer for that. Mr Allan has created a decent cast of characters and, I think, deliberately panders to our desires for certain 'types' to be present: rough, tough but loyal seamen; eccentric and/or incompetent high ranking officers. As such, this is an easy read, conflict and action to the fore, casualties but no gore and some excellent seafaring descriptions. In all these, Mr Allan knows his stuff! 


Easily and heartily recommended for those who enjoy the period, good writing and an escape to exotic locations and times past.


© Richard Tearle





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19 March 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of A Greater God by Brian Stoddart



"This is a complex story, but Stoddart’s writing is so convincing I felt I was not only watching what was happening, I was involved. "


AMAZON UK

mystery / crime

1920s / India Independence partition
India

Using the medium of historical crime fiction, Brian Stoddart’s Superintendent Le Fanu novels relate a critical time in the decline and fall of the British Raj in India. This book in particular highlights the circumstances and type of events leading up to Independence and the awful tragedy of ‘Partition’. 


A Greater God is Book 4 in the series and set in 1920s Madras. There is mounting tension between Hindus and Muslims, but the Raj is too busy keeping up appearances to investigate the sources of the trouble effectively or prevent further outrages. Le Fanu has returned from a stint in the Straits Settlements to be met with problems and opposition on multiple fronts: there are increasingly violent confrontations between Muslims and Hindus, which in turn are exacerbated by the attitude of the ‘authorities’, represented by a bloated Blimp of an Englishman called Jepson, who epitomises the very worst aspects of the Raj. Jepson’s mental health clearly demonstrates he needs to be replaced, but his superiors are reluctant to act, not least because they passively agree with his appalling arrogance and racism. 


Adding to Le Fanu’s troubles is his dilemma over which woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with: Roisin McPhedren, to whom he was nearly, or unofficially engaged, but who now lies gravely ill in hospital, or his new love, the Chinese Jenlin Koh, who is apparently on her way to Madras to join him – although there are serious complications here, too.


This is a complex story, but Stoddart’s writing is so convincing I felt I was not only watching what was happening, I was involved. If I have a criticism it is that we only see events through Le Fanu’s eyes, meaning we cannot appreciate how others might see him or what is happening, and there are very few moments of light relief. But this is quality fiction not light reading, an intense story told in a serious manner that should appeal to anyone interested in the final years of the Raj and Swaraj.



© J.G. Harlond




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18 March 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Year the Swans Came by Barbara Spencer


"Spencer masterfully uses detailed descriptions to bring this story to life. "


Romance / fantasy 


The Year the Swans Came is tale of love and mystery that revolves around Margrit “Maidy” Bader and Ruth Endelbaum, their families, and the friends the two girls meet while attending college. The story takes place after the end of an unnamed war, in a village whose townsfolk are slowly trying to get back to normalcy after the departure of the occupied forces. When Maidy is young, she is devastated when her older brother, Pieter, unexpectedly leaves home without explanation. Then, six years later, Pieter reappears around Maidy’s 16th birthday. With Pieter’s return come the trials and tribulations of love and the deepening mystery of where he was and why he left home in the first place. Even more puzzling, is Pieter’s connections to the mysterious Van Vliet, Zande, Jaan, and others who seemed to be a part of a small bevy of select young men.


Spencer masterfully uses detailed descriptions to bring this story to life. I easily came to respect and admire Maidy, her humble courage and her natural strength, even though she seemed to see herself as lesser than her best friend, Ruth. Opposite Maidy’s character is Ruth, who is the girl that has it all, from money, to beauty, and to what both girls feel is the admiration of everyone she comes to meet, especially the young men at the college. Spencer also does an excellent job of weaving historical details throughout the narrative that give it a strong sense of past. Even though it is not clear as to when or where the actual story took place, the intricate details throughout the novel build wonder and curiosity as to the time period and setting. 


As I followed the lives of the two girls and the connections between their families and their friends, the magical realism was not easily realized throughout the first part of the story.  Even though Spencer integrated small hints of fantasy as she thickened the plot of the love triangles and deep friendships, the tale felt more like a love tragedy with small hints of mystery. It was not until the last few chapters that the magical realism came to the fore. I was able to reflect back through the story to recognize how the legend of the swans was the foundation for Spencer’s story and how the subtle hints dropped throughout Maidy’s and Ruth’s journeys were a part of the magic that helped the story to unfold.


The Year the Swans Came is a tragic story for anyone who wants to become captivated by the lives of two girls who are polar opposites of each other. It is a story of one girl’s love of herself and her physical world, and the story of another girl’s unconditional love for the people in her life. It is a story of passion and a story of anguish. Spencer has done a wonderful job subtly showing how magical realism is a real part of the mythologies of a culture.  



© Cathy Smith





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16 March 2019

Browsing the Blogs March

Twitter: #DDRevsBrowsingBlogs
interested in having your blog post listed?
Click HERE for submission details
BROWSING THROUGH MARCH 


Slipcoat Cheese by M. J. Logue (from the English Historical Fiction Blog)

The time has come, the Ironside said, to talk of many things: of Banbury cheese, and slipcote cheese, and sometimes headless kings. Banbury cheese must wait another day, for my accomplish't delight on this occasion is slipcoat cheese.

Read More > 
https://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2019/03/slipcoat-cheese.html

Book of the Day


The "Lost" History of the Town of Swindon by Nicola Cornick (from the EHFA blog)

The town of Swindon in Wiltshire is not well-known for its pre-industrial era history. It rose to prominence in the early nineteenth century, first with the building of the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal in 1810 and later when it became a centre for the repair and maintenance of locomotives on the Great Western Railway. 

DDRevs will be reviewing
this book next mont
Read More>


PREVIOUSLY:

April Munday: A Writer's Perspective
Medieval linen


Battage_à_Fléau

"Over the past month, we’ve been looking at the manufacture of fabric for outer clothes in the Middle Ages: wool and silk. Now we’re taking a look at the fabric used for undergarments. These were not undergarments as we would think of them, but simple chemises or shirts, whose purpose was to keep the outer garments away from the skin. They kept the body’s oils and sweat from the expensive (and almost impossible to wash) wools and silks. It was the undergarments that would be washed, not the outer ones."

READ MORE
https://aprilmunday.wordpress.com/2019/03/03/medieval-linen/


Steam in the British Coalfields by Mick Pope - Amberley Blog


"Trainspotter, a description that has somehow become a term of ridicule, conjuring up an image of some bespectacled nerd who is unable to function in normal society and definitely won’t have any dress sense, wife or girlfriend. Funny how this has come about as an interest in railways in general as the second most popular hobby among men in the United Kingdom after angling. I did wear glasses as a young lad and so I was part way there already!"

READ MORE
https://www.amberley-books.com/blog/2019/03/steam-in-the-british-coalfields-by-mick-pope/


Sheila Williams



In 1590 at Skipton Castle in Yorkshire the Countess of Cumberland, Margaret Russell gave birth to a daughter, Anne. Her father was George Clifford one of England's heros; explorer, commander of ships during the Spanish Armada, favourite and champion of Queen Elizabeth I. However, whatever his public reputation, privately he was not much of a husband and father. George Clifford died in 1605 when his daughter was just fifteen. His final act of neglect was to disinherit his daughter of all the land, titles and possessions of the Clifford estates...

READ MORE > Link https://writeonthebeach.wordpress.com/2018/12/27/like-an-owl-of-the-desert-lady-anne-clifford/




Jude Knight The disease that made you in fashion



One of the biggest killers of humankind in history (apart from other humans) has been a tiny organism we now call Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

In ancient Greece, it was considered the most prevalent disease of the age. Throughout history, it has been feared and the symptoms treated with despair. And in the nineteenth century, it was a fashionable way to die.


A Baron for Becky

J.G.Harlond - A Tribute to Daphne du Maurier


It is 80 years now since Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca was first released. Back in 1938, du Maurier’s publishers were nervous about the novel’s future, but the story has become a classic: a world-wide favourite, a play, a television series, even an iconic black and white movie. For a while, back in the 90s, new editions of du Maurier’s novels were hard to obtain, but with the recent film version of My Cousin Rachel she is very much back in the public eye. Which is as it should be, because Daphne du Maurier was a very accomplished novelist.



15 March 2019

Mid-Month Extra March

Next in our  mid-month series 
about novels that come as a series


ALISON MORTON'S ROMA NOVA 
by Helen Hollick



Alison Morton writes a thriller series. But wait a minute - isn’t this supposed to be an Historical Fiction-based blog site? So why am I including 'thrillers'? Well, there are such things as thrillers and murder-mystery type novels set in an historical period - probably the most famous being another favourite of mine, Cadfeal.

But Ms Morton has created what is, I think, something unique for her novels, not thrillers placed in an historical setting – there are plenty of those of a good, middling or poor standard – but thrillers placed in an alternative historical setting. 

Imagine, as she has so superbly done, if the might that was Rome, with its military and administrative expertise, had not collapsed here in the West in the fifth century. Imagine if sixteen hundred years ago a group of steadfast Roman exiles had given all they had to preserve 'Rome', from its language to its customs, to its gods and its ideals. The only thing to change, as the centuries wore on, were the leaders, the ones in charge. The women. 


Who is Carina Mitela 
the heroine...
Morton’s Roma Nova series features modern twentieth and twenty-first century Praetorian heroines. With a few hunks of male heroes and a smattering of dastardly baddies thrown in for good measure. The result is a series of engrossing, intelligent, entertaining – and dare I say, thrilling – novels that have no respect for lights-out at bedtime, but an addictive and compulsory need to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. Nor does the excitement leave at the end of each book. Thank goodness for Kindle where ordering the next in the sequence is instantaneous.


... and a hunk of a hero
Morton’s passion for Roman history is evident, as is her knowledge of military matters. She spent six years in the UK military service and a lifetime of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction. From an early age, Morton says; “I was intrigued by the role of female soldiers, probably influenced by a feminist mother and a father who was ex-military.” She saw no reason why women could not represent their country alongside men in the armed forces and joined the Territorial Army in the special communications regiment. She eventually finished her career as a captain, a career which included a variety of interesting, and some secretive things that she still cannot talk about. Which is, perhaps, as frustrating for us as it is for her, but highly valuable for a writer in need of conjuring up plots for exciting thriller novels based around a fictional military regime.


A fascination as a child with the Ampurias mosaics in Spain and the wonders of Roman engineering kick-started her interest in Roman history, and in particular the role of women. The Roman Empire spread from small beginnings via a republic to an imperial regime with periods of political stability, expanding conquest and the most powerful economic, cultural and military force in the then known world, possibly only partially matched ever since by the Victorian era British Empire. Interspersed with this stability and expansion, however, were insane or power-lusting emperors, administrative chaos, bloody battles, scheming political intrigue, inter-family at top level squabbling and murder. Morton, however, began to wonder what a modern Roman society would be like if it had survived all that, and was run by strong, capable women… Tough, disciplined, dedicated heroines who had the guts and capability to deal with any or all of the issues of the past that could re-raise their ugly heads. Even the passing of centuries does not eliminate a lust for power and disrespect for the law to achieve it. A fact which Ms Morton uses well to her advantage.



From the striking original covers to the brand-new stunningly attractive ones, we get an immediate sense of the grandeur of Rome, and the very cleverly thought-out titles – Latin, but recognisable and pertinent to each story-line – the novels themselves whisk you into an entirely made-up imagined world, but one that is utterly believable and completely convincing in the locations, the plot, the characters and the action. But in layers beneath these adventures, she does more than merely entertain. Morton examines some eternal themes: power, betrayal, personal and political breakdown and the many facets of love. While not necessarily being pro-feminist, by using an alternative historical framework she prods us to consider that public agency in a historical environment – government, military service, open political power – is not always exclusively a male prerogative.


Roma Nova?
For the characters, we meet Carina Mitela, the heroine, in Book One, Inceptio in modern-day New York, although even here things are not quite as expected, for this is not the USA as we know it. This is the Eastern United States, similar but not the same; I personally find it fun to ‘spot the difference’ where Ms Morton has made subtle changes: Central Park is Kew Park, for instance, a nod to London’s Kew Gardens? At first you think she has made a mistake, then you cotton-on to her adept twists of what is ‘our’ world and her alternative Roma Nova existence. Very cleverly done.

Here, though, at the start of this part of the series, our heroine is Karen Brown who finds herself suddenly plunged into confusion, kidnapping, threats to her career and life – and a meeting with an arrogant Roma Novan Praetorian special-forces officer, Conrad Tellus. Karen is forced to flee with him to the homeland of her deceased mother, Roma Nova, situated somewhere in Europe, roughly in our modern Austrian/Switzerland area, and finds herself re-established as Carina Mitela, the granddaughter of one of the most important administrative families. She enrols in the law enforcement service, but remains determined to discover who it is who wants her dead, and who is hunting her so ruthlessly. Romance, of course, comes into it via Conrad, known as Conradus on his own turf, and other dominant males. 

Action, adventure, thriller, military precision: “The Hunger Games meets Lindsey Davis’s Roman detective Falco,” as one fan from a book club summed it up.



Perfiditas, the next instalment follows on, with Carina risking being terminated by the security services and a variety of chilling conspirators. Her decision to seek help from a less-than-legal friend brings her close to wrecking her marriage and her career. There is betrayal, emotional decisions, loyalty and hard-gut determination in this novel. The true stuff of heroines and heroes. 


Successio, Book Three, sees Carina working as an experienced officer in military intelligence – you can clearly recognise Morton’s own experiences in this particular book. Carina is given the task of protecting Roma Nova from a last remnant of the Empire that has survived into the twenty-first century, but to do so she must find the mental and physical strength to face her nemesis. And make some very hard decisions.





With Aurelia, Book Four, the author not only surprises her readers but shows to full extent her magnificent talent as a competent and creative writer. She takes us back to the early 1960s and the story that lies behind Carina’s esteemed grandmother, Aurelia Mitela. Investigating silver smuggling, silver being one of the financial mainstays of Roma Novan survival, she clashes with Caius Tellus, a personal enemy since their childhood, and an enemy of Roma Nova, for through him the destruction of everything that has been established looms immanent. 



The story continues to a breath-taking, heart-pounding climax as a trilogy through Insurrectio and Retalio. Yes, you know that Aurelia will eventually win the day, she has to for she is there in the first three books set several years after this trilogy, but it is her journey, her fight, her courage, that is important here. Morton’s skill at pulling off such an engrossing set of classy thrillers to entirely absorb, gasp at, cheer at and ultimately, at the last page, to whole-heartedly applaud, is, to use a common phrase, awesome.




But we do not have to stop there! Carina, is a novella set after Inceptio but before Perfiditas and focuses on Carina’s early experiences within Roma Novan society and law. She is an inexperienced officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, and through folly, is disgraced and reprimanded for her undisciplined actions. To extricate her from embarrassment she is sent to the Republic of Quebec (Canada) to return a traitor to Roma Nova, but in true thriller adventure style, things do not go to plan.



And then there is Roma Nova Extra! A collection of short stories from the fourth century to beyond the present.



The Girl from the Market AD 370
Lucius Apulius, a young Roman military tribune, is posted to the back end of empire as Rome struggles to keep the barbarians behind the Danube. There, Apulius meets the fiery Julia Bacausa under most unusual circumstances.

Victory Speaks AD 395
In real history, the disappearance of the Altar of Victory is an ancient mystery.
Victory served as the pagan symbol of Rome’s endurance, the guarantor of the empire’s existence. But as the official imperial cult of Christianity swept all before it, Victory’s fate was condemned to historical  obscurity. In the Roma Novan timeline, Victory herself tells us the story of how two senators and a small child step in.

A Roman Intervenes 1066
Galla Mitela, eleventh century imperial councillor, is sent by the imperatrix under pressure from the Eastern Romans of Constantinople to stop William of Normandy invading Saxon England. Could she have succeeded?
(Previously published as part of the 1066 Turned Upside Down collection)

Silvia’s story  1983
Re-building Roma Nova after Caius Tellus’s tyrannical rebellion is pulling on every Roma Novan’s personal strength and resources. Young Imperatrix Silvia devotes herself to her country, but she’s eighteen, exhausted and lonely. Sent by her councillor, Aurelia Mitela, for a few days’ holiday to the spa at Aquae Caesaris, she encounters a young Italian, Andrea Luca.
(Set just after the end of RETALIO)

Games  (Set just after the end of INCEPTIO)
Newly minted Praetorian officer Carina Mitela and her buddy Daniel Stern, a seconded officer from an allied force, love challenges. Dangerous ones. It’s a game to them. But real life gives them a challenge that is anything but a game.

Conrad and Carina’s Roman Holiday  (Set between PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO)
Legate Conradus Mitelus, commanding the Praetorian Guard, doesn’t get out in the field very often. Neither does his wife, Carina Mitela, a newly promoted Praetorian major. But a personal quest from the imperatrix sends them on their own ‘Roman holiday’. With a difference.

Saturnalia Surprise  (Set after a few years after SUCCESSIO)
When Carina and Conrad’s son Gillius nearly blows himself up just before the Saturnalia winter holiday, he’s sent to Sextilius Gavro, Conrad’s ‘mad inventor’ cousin. Carina is dubious, having met Gavro in New York nearly twenty years before (INCEPTIO), but she is in for several surprises on the first day of Saturnalia.

Allegra and Macrinus  (Set several years after SUCCESSIO)

Highly intelligent, efficient and dedicated to her career in the military, Carina and Conrad’s eldest daughter, Allegra, is losing her grip on her life. Her introverted character prevents her from acknowledging her feelings for a man she has known all her life, let alone doing anything about it. Macrinus has grown up in the Mitela household. His mother was a comrade-in-arms of Aurelia Mitela during the Great Rebellion and tells him Allegra is out of his reach.



There are several essentials that can turn a good book into a brilliant book (or a good series into a brilliant series). Obviously, good writing and good editing are two of these essentials, but for whatever the genre and sub-genre believability for the plot, the locations, the characters, indeed the entire package, is as essential. For her Roma Nova series, Alison Morton has created a cast of characters, various exciting adventures that befall them, and an entire fictional world for them to ‘perform’ in which, quite frankly, has left me open-mouthed with admiration. Nor does she pull any emotional punches. How on earth does Morton manage so consistently to write book after book to match, and outrank, the previous one for quality, continuity, thrills, spills and page-turning entertainment, again, and again and again? The answer is, without doubt, top-class writing skills, dedication, scrupulous attention to detail, in-depth research and books that are professionally produced from cover-to-cover.

My only comment against Ms Morton is that she has no regard for permitting her readers to go to sleep at night, or notice the required stop on their bus or train travels. But then, the ability to engross your reader so deeply in a novel is a very fine talent, and Alison Morton possesses that talent by the bucket-load. Once discovered, her books are pounced on by her readers; her work is an exemplar of the current crop of high-quality independent self-published writers, a group that has well and truly established itself in the genre of historical fiction writing.

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© Helen Hollick


(Updated from an original article posted in March 2018 )