30 September 2019

What Hamlet Said by Terry Mort

shortlisted for Book of the Month



"This is a fun read with a compelling storyline, made all the more worthwhile by being extremely well written."

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA

Crime / Murder mystery
1930s
USA

What makes a good story? A picturesque setting? Interesting and/or curious characters? Wonderful writing – which means an economy of style as much as a way with words? A story that keeps you reading to the last word or a cunning plot? To get all these in one snappy who-dunnit is a delight. Terry Mort’s new murder mystery kept me hooked until the last paragraph, and laughing out loud along the way.

The story is set in 1930s Los Angeles, California. The characters include a cast of typical Hollywood movie personalities: the chinless British aristocratic (who we never actually meet), his sultry wife, an ice-cold German diplomat complete with scar, a down-on-his-luck, hard-drinking literary author trying to get by as a screen-writer, and various Chandler-esque mobsters, including a shiny-suited Italian casino impresario, plus a couple of over-worked police detectives.

The tale is told by a private eye who goes by the awful name of Bruno Feldspar, but is actually called Riley Fitzhugh. This double identity is the key to the novel; nobody is quite who they appear to be. The plot revolves around Bruno’s investigations into two separate cases: an apparently simple matter of blackmail involving the German diplomat and the Englishwoman, and a much less obvious matter of a missing movie actor, forged identity documents and illegal Balkan immigrants. Bruno suspects the cases are connected because both are related in some way to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party and the unavoidable war to come, but he has a hard time finding the answers.

Bruno – or Riley – is not ‘a college man’ but he is very well-read and scatters literary allusions into his conversations and narrative wherever he can. Identifying the quotations was fun for me, as was trying to decide if the literary author-cum-failing screenwriter was meant to be Scott Fitzgerald. But this is all extra to the gathering pace of the novel and trying to predict whether the two cases are connected or not.

Good-looking Riley, who naturally started out in Hollywood as an actor, naturally becomes entangled with the sexy Englishwoman, which naturally confuses matters and affects his judgment.

This is a fun read with a compelling storyline, made all the more worthwhile by being extremely well written. Highly recommended to anyone with a sense of humour, although knowing a little bit about the movie ‘Gone with the Wind’ will help. I shall be reading all Terry Mort’s novels from now on.
Something different and definitely a Discovered Diamond.

© John Darling


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The Book and Cover of the month for September 
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27 September 2019

A Deceitful Subtlety by M J Logue

shortlisted for Book of the Month

A Deceitful Subtlety

"What I especially enjoyed was the subtle detail of life in 1666 in England and Bruges. Ms Logue has a knack of taking her readers into a time-travel experience - we are there, watching the characters live their lives..."

Amaz0n UK

Mystery / Thriller
1666
England / Bruges

"Thomzanie and Major Thankful Russell should be enjoying married life. With one teething baby and another on the way, life at the newly-rebuilt house at Four Ashes in the Chilterns is never dull, and they’re hoping to put the debauchery of Restoration London behind them. But then the indomitable poetess Mistress Aphra Behn arrives at their door… Aphra claims to have promised to marry respectable merchant William Scot, who she met on a previous spying mission in Belgium. But he never turned up for the wedding. She’s determined to discover his fate – and she wants Thankful to help her search Bruges. Which may be how married couples behave in sophisticated London society, but there’s no way Thomazine is letting her husband loose on his own with the lovely, flirtatious Mistress Behn. It looks like the couple will once again have to put domestic bliss aside to unravel this intriguing mystery…"

This is the second novel in the Thomazine and Major Russell thriller series, and I loved it. Second instalments in a series are often difficult to write because the momentum has to be kept going and, if anything, the interest in the characters, the plot and the action has to be even more developed ... and A Deceitful Subtlety does this by the bucket-load!

I fell for Major Thankful Russell l when I first 'met' him in Ms Logue's excellent An Uncivil War series created around a set of dubious Parliamentary characters fighting in the English Civil Wars. I say dubious - absolute loveable rogues full of life and character but a proper rum lot! Thankful was a mere nobody back then, but he rose through the ranks and met with his commander's young daughter, Thomazine. Who, incidentally, even as a two-year-old child was delightful.

Now we meet the pair of them these several years later as a married, very much in love couple. Alas, life outside of fairytales never runs smooth and 'happy ever after'. Which is just as well, because if it did we would not be having the opportunity to become emersed in Ms Logue's wonderful tales as there would be little for her to write about.

What I especially enjoyed was the subtle detail of life in 1666 in England and Bruges. The food, the clothes, the travel, the living conditions - well, everything. Ms Logue has a knack of taking her readers into a time-travel experience - we are there, watching the characters live their lives and deal with problems as they arise. Thankful I could have shaken at times for his uncertain shyness. Thomazine is a wonderful character. Thank you, Ms Logue, for creating her.

I also hadn't realised until I had finished the novel (which I read in one sitting as it was too compelling to put down) that Aphra was a real person from history. She really was a spy. Since reading this novel I have met her in another novel - interesting that both authors had made her very different as a person. I preferred Ms Logue's interpretation, however.

So to sum up: a delight of a romp. Super characters, well written, thoroughly enjoyable. More, please...

© Helen Hollick



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25 September 2019

Death Makes No Distinction Lucienne Boyce

shortlisted for Book of the Month



"Ms Boyce takes us confidently into both halves of London; the magnificent houses and the slum area of Covent Garden. A very good read indeed."

Amazon UK

Amazon US
Amazon CA

Mystery / Thriller

late 18th C
London

A former actress and courtesan, Lucy Parmeter, is murdered in her home. Dan Foster, an officer of the Bow Street Runners, is assigned to assist Principal Officer John Townsend, a man for whom he has little time. The first mystery is why Townsend specifically asked for him. Townsend is convinced it is an 'inside job' and Pickering, the groom, is soon arrested when his alibi does not quite hold up. But Foster has misgivings as neither Pickering nor any other member of Miss Parmeter's staff have any motive. The people who may have a motive are those who have been featured - albeit anonymously – in Miss Parmeter's unpublished memoirs, which have been stolen along with some diamonds. Suspects include the Prince of Wales himself! Dan is obliged to interview members of the upper class, in whose presence he feels uncomfortable. But Townsend's opposition to his methods suddenly change and Dan discovers the reason why he was chosen. At the same time, Dan is trying to follow up the case he had to abandon – another young woman murdered in the slums of London. No one else seems to care – hence the title of the book. And then Dan's infant son is kidnapped ….. What I liked – and have liked in previous adventures – is that Dan Foster is a very human creation. He's rough and tough and knows all the criminal tricks and people from personal experience. He is also in a marriage that has had more downs than ups, though things seem to be improving. Ms Boyce takes us confidently into both halves of London; the magnificent houses, the members of High Society and their hangers-on alongside the thieves, prostitutes and street urchins of the Seven Dials, a slum area of Covent Garden. Her characters are well-drawn, the plot is tight and highlights the difficulties of an ordinary 'policeman' trying to make headway in the days when only the intuition, talents and determination of men like Dan Foster could hope to succeed. A very good read indeed. © Richard Tearle Note: pre-published ARC edition reviewed.




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23 September 2019

Lord Garson’s Bride by Anna Campbell

Lord Garson’s Bride: A Novel-Length Dashing Widows Romance by [Campbell, Anna]


"For those who enjoy well-written and layered historical romance, this novel is a treat."

Amazon UK

Amazon US
Amazon CA

Romance
1830s
England

I am somewhat of a binge reader. If I discover an author I like, I tend to read everything I can find by them. Sometimes, this leads to disappointment. That first book I got hold of may be substantially different from the author’s previous work. Or maybe the writer in question has honed their craft markedly so that what is an excellent novel the seventh time round was not quite as impressive when they first started out.


Recently, I discovered Anna Campbell. I must admit I was seduced by a lovely, yellow cover and after reading that novel I have since blown through everything she has written. I am happy to report I am not disappointed. Ms Campbell writes delicious, steamy historical romance of a consistent high quality. Her characters have depth and plausible backstories. The central love story is well-developed and the historical context brought to excellent life. The emotional turmoil is often coupled with suspense, thereby enriching the reading experience.

I specifically want to share my thoughts on one of Ms Campbell’s later books, Lord Garson’s Bride. Central to the story is Hugh Rutherford, Lord Garson, himself. No longer a callow youth, our Hugh fell head over heels in love some years previously with the fair Morwenna Nash, who at the time believed she had lost her first husband to the seas. Turns out that Captain Nash was not dead and somewhat importunely he makes it back to London just as Lord Garson and Morwenna are about to announce their engagement. Hugh’s heart is crushed. He is quite, quite sure he will never love again, but life on his own is a tad lonely, and besides, he wants a family.  So what does Hugh do? He seeks out a level-headed bride, a woman he’s known since forever and likes a lot, has a lot in common with but does not love.

Jane Norris is taken aback by Hugh’s proposal, but marrying him seems a far better proposition than spending her life as an unpaid nanny to her sister’s children. She tells herself that liking someone can be quite enough for a successful marriage, and Hugh treats her with respect and will make a good, loyal husband. So she agrees… Does she hope to one day inspire more than warm affection from her husband? Yes. But she keeps on telling herself that what she has is good enough.

Let’s just say that the Jane-Hugh's marriage soon becomes very, very complicated, and at one point Hugh, Jane and I are quite convinced their marriage is beyond salvation – wounds have been inflicted on both sides that run too deep.

For those who enjoy well-written and layered historical romance, this novel is a treat. Neither Hugh nor Jane are stereotyped, their reactions and feelings easy to relate to. Add to this the historical setting, the swish of expensive evening gowns, the glitter of jewels and of polished Hessians, and I am swept away to another time, another place, all the while keeping my fingers crossed that Ms Campbell will somehow find a way to give Hugh and Jane the Happily Ever After they deserve!

© Anna Belfrage


contains scenes of an adult nature


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22 September 2019

Sunday Look Back

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Gloved Heart: A Regency Romance (Hearts of Amberley)
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20 September 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Gloved Heart: A Regency Romance by Charlotte Brentwood

Gloved Heart: A Regency Romance (Hearts of Amberley)

"I enjoyed the characters and soon became immersed in wanting to know what happened to them"


AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA
(Hearts of Amberley Book 2)

Romance

1800s
England

"Amy Miller is struggling to come to terms with her new life as a mother while being a reluctant guest in a rigid gentry household. A victim of abuse, she is determined to never trust a man again. Henry Russell has loved Amy for as long as he can remember, but his family want nothing to do with her. A chance encounter with Amy rekindles a friendship which might save both of them. The discovery of a secret which holds the key to Amy’s past will change them forever, and jeopardise any chance they have for happiness. Can Henry show Amy that true love will give her everything she could ever need?"


Amy has been seduced by the son of her employer, leaving her 'in trouble', in more ways than one. She manages to find refuge with another family, however, and gives birth to her child. She works hard, tries to fit in, and meets up with an old flame. But of course, the path of true love never runs smooth...


I enjoyed this light and easy read. A typical Regency Romance, with the plot a little predictable - but it wouldn't be with this particular genre if it were not, readers expect the expected!


I enjoyed the characters and soon became immersed in wanting to know what happened to them, how they coped with the problems that get thrust in their way and how it all ended. (No spoilers, but you know it will be 'happily'.)


Amy was an interesting, and very likeable, young lady who found herself in a situation that was not her fault, and I applaud the author for handling the morals of the 1800s with care, sympathy and understanding. Her period detail is authentic for the period detail and she has a talent for making her characters seem very real, believable people.


This is the second in a series but easily read as a stand alone.


© Mary Chapple



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18 September 2019

The Day I Saw The Hummingbird by Paulette Mahurin

shortlisted for Book of the Month


The Day I Saw the Hummingbird: A Novel

"
This is a very powerful and emotional book ... Ms Mahurin has created totally believable characters and even the evil Prescott is not, you feel, a mere stereotype."


AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA


Fictional Drama
Late 1800s / 1915
America's Deep South
American Civil War

In 1915, a black man attends a lecture given by Booker T Washington in memory of Harriet Tubman. On his way he reflects on his life and experiences as a slave in Louisiana just prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War.


Oscar was born on a plantation to slave parents, Mack and Catherine (Cat) Mercer. There's was a life of misery, of working 'cin to cain't' (can see until can't see), planting, tending and finally harvesting sugar cane. A life in which violence and cruelty can be expected every day, a life that was all but without hope.


After Mack is killed by the viciously cruel overseer, Prescott, Cat instils in the seven-year-old Oscar that silent obedience is the best way to stay alive and that one day Oscar will be able to escape and become a free man. The thought becomes an obsession for Oscar; after a couple of years when he is old enough to go to work, a new slave arrives with news of the possibility of Civil War and tales of the Underground Railroad and a woman called Harriet Tubman. Plans are made for Oscar and his friend Sammy to escape but are continuously postponed until an event changes everything. This event was on the day that Oscar saw the hummingbird …


What follows are his harrowing adventures aided by 'conductors' and safe houses to avoid capture and certain death.


This is a very powerful and emotional book and defines the phrase 'man's inhumanity to man'. Ms Mahurin has created totally believable characters and even the evil Prescott is not, you feel, a mere stereotype. The dialogue is authentic, its nuances never overstated. To be honest, it made me angry for these inhumanely treated people; I have no doubts that the incidents were drawn from real events, sometimes brutal, sometimes senseless, sometimes heartwarming.


A great read especially for those interested in this shameful piece of our history. 


© Richard Tearle







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16 September 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Mary's Song by Susan Count

Ruth Sanderson (Illustrator)


Mary's Song: Volume 1 (Dream Horse Adventures)

"The story is about determination and friendship, and horses. "

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA
(Dream Horse Adventures Book 1)

family drama/ Young Adult

1950s
USA

"Twelve-year-old Mary falls in love with a foal that is lame, just like her. The expensive surgery the foal needs has little chance to correct the problem. Still, Mary plots and conspires to raise money to save the horse, even as time runs out. She sacrifices what she holds dear - the trust of her papa, to gain her heart's desire. But she could lose everything in her struggle to save the foal."



A charming little story which will grab any pony-loving young teenage girl by the heart (and a few horse-loving adults as well.) 

Mary is a lonely girl of twelve and wheelchair-bound, presumably, because of polio. Like any young girl, she wishes she had a pony, in particular, one of the Morgan foals bred at the neighbour's ranch. The foal, named Illusion, is like her, disabled; he was born with a club foot. Mary is determined to get him the treatment he needs and to save him, and aided by Laura, her best friend, she sets out to do just that in traditional pony-story fashion.


The story is about determination and friendship, and horses. Whether there was the veterinary know-how to even contemplate putting this foal right in the 1950s is debatable (to be honest, probably not, and such a circumstance would have seen the foal put down soon after birth) but that is not the point. I do not think that when I was younger I read one single 'pony story' that could have been true to life; I did not read them for the realism, but for the pleasure of fictional adventure and to feed the dream of owning my own pony. (I never did, but such is life!)


At 124 pages this is a quick, easy read, ideal for the pony-mad youngster in your life.


© Mary Chapple



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15 September 2019

The Sunday Browse

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three reviews per week
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13 September 2019

Nexus by Alison Morton

shortlisted for Book of the Month

NEXUS: The second Aurelia Mitela Roma Nova adventure (Novella) by [Morton, Alison]

"Rome, the Rome of the past did not survive much beyond the fifth century AD, but Ms Morton has turned that fact totally on its head by creating an alternative present-day world with its people, politics and events."

Amazon UK

alternative / thriller / novella
post-Roman / 1970s
England and various locations

"Ex-Praetorian Aurelia Mitela is serving as Roma Nova’s interim ambassador in London. Asked by a British colleague to find his missing son, Aurelia thinks it will only be a case of a young man temporarily rebelling. He’s bound to turn up only a little worse for wear. But a spate of high-level killings pulls Aurelia away into a dangerous pan-European investigation. Badly beaten in Rome as a warning, she discovers the killers have kidnapped her life companion, Miklós, and sent an ultimatum: Back off or he’ll die. But Aurelia is a Roma Novan and they never give up…"

I rarely get time to become so engrossed in a novel that I read it from start to finish in one go. I made the time for Nexus; even if it had been a full-length novel, not a quick-read novella I would have done so. I confess I know Alison Morton, she is a friend, but that has no significance when it comes to reading a very good, very absorbing and very interesting story.

Set between the novels Aurelia and Insurrectio in the Aurelia Mitela section of Ms Morton's series of thriller adventures, Nexus is an entirely stand-alone read and is as superb, gripping and thoroughly believable as is the rest of the series. 

'Believable' is the key word here. The whole background concept for the series is entirely imaginative fiction: there is no such place as Roma Nova, its construction, its history, its people its politics - it's trials and tribulations do not exist. Apart from 'What did Rome do for us?' (roads, sewers, baths, etc.) Rome, the Rome of the past did not survive much beyond the fifth century AD, but Ms Morton has turned that fact totally on its head by creating an alternative present-day world with its people, politics and events. Roma Nova, is a small patch of ancient Rome snugly fitted into today's modern world, complete with its traditional language and customs. A world that is so utterly believable and convincing, I defy anyone to not go looking on a modern map to see where Roma Nova is located. 

It is the preciseness of detail that puts the icing on the cake for these novels, and Nexus in particular. From the very first sentence, with her immaculate research and knowledge of army intelligence and tactics, the author brings every scene, every character, every word of dialogue to very real and very vivid life. From the way they dress and speak to the way they fight, every scene is immersed in believability: the training of a young horse, self-defence in a sticky situation, the lurch in the stomach as a helicopter takes off... beautifully written.

Add in the thriller element of the bad guys, the menace of dark shadows, murder and mystery and you get a page-turner of the very highest exceptional quality. 

© Helen Hollick



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11 September 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Sir Humphrey's Last Stand by Jonathan Forth

Sir Humphrey's Last Stand

"It is the minor characters who have all the best lines... quite a few chuckles along the way. Just don't take it seriously!"


AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA

prior to the Norman Conquest

France
Humour

Actual history goes out of the window in this amusing tale by Jonathan Forth. King Harold the Donkey wants the lands he believes are his by right and King Louis (unnumbered) has other ideas. Incompetence reigns in the English ranks as they consistently lose battles and are forced to retreat back to England. Unfortunately, nobody has thought to tell Sir Humphrey, who holds the last stronghold of Mont St Bernard. Or rather, he has been told, but in a mix up in communications, he has been told to hold the small township instead of abandoning it.


As in other novels by Mr Forth, it is the minor characters (with names like Clive and Pondscum) who have all the best lines. Throw in some pirates – er, privateers – French spies and the obligatory revolting peasants and you have an enjoyable – well, I am trying to avoid the word but I will have to use it -  romp. Maybe no belly laughs, but quite a few chuckles along the way. Just don't take it seriously!



 Richard Tearle




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9 September 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of None So Blind by Xenon

None So Blind

"
I quite took to Dio; I felt the conflict in him regarding his best friend's wife"


AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA


Fictional Drama
499 BC
Gea – a mythical part of the Trojan Empire

Diomedes (Dio) is the Swordmaster in the area of Gea in the first of this ambitious series based on Trojan life. His best friend Miltiades, governor of the area, has begun acting strangely; giving up wine and taking less interest in his wife, Kalliste, among other things. A religious cult is causing problems, Miltiades has announced that he is divorcing Kalliste and the emperor has just been assassinated – quite a lot for Dio to take in. But worse will follow as a plot is uncovered to overthrow the new emperor, Kalliste's life is threatened and Dio has to flee for his life. And in the meantime, he has to examine his feelings for Kalliste. Indeed, he has to examine her apparent feelings for him too!


I quite took to Dio; I felt the conflict in him regarding his best friend's wife, now 'available'. He had been a loner all his life and he finds intimacy, no matter how mild, uncomfortable. There are some good minor characters, too.


All in all, not a bad read, quite a bit of action, a romance and well-paced throughout.



Richard Tearle




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8 September 2019

Sunday Browsing

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The Twisted Tree
from September we will be posting 
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6 September 2019

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

The Twisted Tree

"Many an adult will enjoy Rachel Burge’s debut novel. It's a dark, creepy and at times frightening story that cleverly winds Norse mythology into present-day life"

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA n/a

Norse Mythology/ghost/mystery
Young Adult
Norway

Maybe not a historical novel, but readers interested in Norse mythology and ghost stories may well enjoy this gripping tale of fantasy and mystery.


Martha travels from England to Norway where her grandmother lives on a remote island. An accident blinded Martha in one eye and since then she has been able to sense people’s feelings by touching their clothes. Feeling that only her grandmother will be able to give her the answers she needs, she is horrified to find a stranger in residence and that her grandmother has been dead for over a week.


The story begins with Martha and Stig sizing each other up. He cannot leave the island immediately due to lack of ferries and cars. Gradually a friendship develops between the two teenagers, each with their own difficulties, and Stig stays on. Then the spinning wheel starts creaking when no one is touching it, and shadows flit around the room until Martha doubts her senses. When a message from her mother arrives, telling her she is in danger and must leave the cabin immediately, fear tightens its grip. Then howls are heard in the woods and two people are found dead.


Many an adult will enjoy Rachel Burge’s debut novel. It's a dark, creepy and at times frightening story that cleverly winds Norse mythology into present-day life; Martha is lucky that her unwanted house guest is Norwegian and can interpret the language and the mythology for her. A couple of times I stopped reading in bed in the dark and took the story up again in the light of day! The friendship between the young people progresses in leaps and bounds and both it and the winter landscape are beautifully described. If you enjoy a tale of horror and fantasy, I recommend this book for your enjoyment.


@ Jen Black



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