Saturday, 30 November 2019

Christmas Hope, by Caroline Warfield

"Christmas Hope is not typical Christmas fare since the story expands well beyond the holiday season, but it is a lovely story and one that can be enjoyed at any time during the year. "

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA


"After two years at the mercy of the Canadian Expeditionary force and the German war machine, Harry ran out of metaphors for death, synonyms for brown, and images of darkness. When he encounters color among the floating islands of Amiens and life in the form a widow and her little son, hope ensnares him. Through three more long years of war and its aftermath, the hope she brings keeps Harry alive.
Rosemarie Legrand’s husband left her a tiny son, no money, and a savaged reputation when he died. She struggles to simply feed the boy and has little to offer a lonely soldier, but Harry’s devotion lifts her up. The war demands all her strength and resilience, will the hope of peace and the promise of Harry’s love keep her going?"

Christmas Hope is not typical Christmas fare since the story expands well beyond the holiday season, but it is a lovely story and one that can be enjoyed at any time during the year. 

Harry Wheatly is a Canadian corporal in WWI who has carried his grandmother’s bible to the front. Though he’s not religious, the book is his only connection to home and he carries that memory into the trenches. A childish prank leaves the cherished book muddied and damaged. Running errands for his commander near Amiens, he tries to wash off the mud but loses hold of the book and watches as the river sweeps it away.

Living near Amiens, Rosemarie Legrand is a widow caring for her three -year-old son without any help from family or friends. She’s an outcast in the community, no thanks to the vile rumours spread by her former sister-in-law, but her resilience ensures her and her son’s survival. A few days before Christmas as she is rowing back to their island home, she rescues a bible floating in the water. Harry catches up to Rosemarie and  together they embark on a touching war-time romance that lasts throughout the war. 

Christmas Hope manages a delicate balance between love story and war story. Through both characters, we see the struggles of war, not only in the trenches but also the day-to-day troubles in war-torn France where food is scarce. When Harry and his unit were lined up to be the first wave at Vimy Ridge, I was sick with worry for him, knowing how hard-won that engagement was for the Canadians. And Rosemarie, left with few friends or resources and having to evacuate as the Germans approached Amiens was also a fraught moment. Even Armistice Day proved to be fraught with tension. 

Christmas Hope is a well-written story with rich period detail and engaging characters to root for. A book to enjoy no matter the season.

© Cryssa Bazos

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Friday, 29 November 2019

In the Shadow of the Storm by Anna Belfrage

shortlisted for Book of the Month

"Ms Belfrage is very good at writing reality by expertly creating a sense of actually being there"


The King's Greatest Enemy #1 
(Audio version 'read')

Fictional Saga / Romance

"Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Lord Roger for his life and all his worldly goods, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Lord Roger thinks she is. So when Lord Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be. England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down... Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and Lord Roger, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods. Kit has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name. Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Lord Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can."

I confess: I had read this book when first it was published, but I treated myself to the audio version. And yes, what a treat it was! The narration was well done.

The story takes place during the reign of Edward II. Our main characters, Kit and Adam, are to be married by an arranged betrothal, and neither of them are happy with the prospect - or each other. Except the situation is more complicated than that, because the bride is not who she is supposed to be (no spoilers), while the politics and troubles of the time add to the tension of the kingdom and between our feisty couple.

This is an adult read, for there are explicit adult scenes, and some violent ones - this is the 1300s where battles, torture and even daily life were often vicious and gruesome, and Ms Belfrage is very good at writing reality by expertly creating a sense of actually being there, even where dungeons and torture are concerned. But that is the point of Ms Belfrage's excellent writing skill - she can and does write very well.

For the historical side of the factual events, Ms Belfrage is equally as skilled. Her research is immaculate.

This is a 'romance', with the usual mixture of a love-hate relationship between our intrepid couple and where, occasionally, you just want to bang their silly heads together. There are a couple of things that you may need to swallow with some scepticism where, for instance, the believability of the endurance of suffering is concerned (and Kit's initial deception?) but then, that's what makes fiction entertaining: the heroes are heroes because they can endure, and the heroines are feisty women because they are determined to survive in a world where men are the lords and masters.

I also very much like the new cover which has replaced the original.

© Anne Holt

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Wednesday, 27 November 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Specter by Tam May

"a good base for the series to  build upon"


Book One of the Waxwood series

Fictional Saga
San Francisco

Set in the San Francisco Bay area of the US in 1892, this is the first of the Waxwood series. The Alderdice family are socially important, and the funeral of the doyenne, Penelope, is therefore to be managed perfectly by her daughter, Larissa. Although Alderdice himself is no longer in full command of his reason, everything must be organised as befits the family of a shipping magnate. Vivian, Penelope's granddaughter, baulks against her mother's correct but coldly unemotional approach.

Before the funeral Larissa receives a letter from one Bertha Ross, claiming to be an old friend of Penelope's – though she refers to her as Grace – and saying that they knew each other years ago, as debutantes, at Waxwood. Larissa claims ignorance of the person, but is nevertheless insistent that she will not be permitted to attend the funeral.

A woman is brought into the chapel in a wheelchair, and the fear in her mother's eyes arouses Vivian's interest. Bertha Ross wears true mourning in her face, rather than the false and assumed emotions of the residents of Nob Hill. Intrigued, Vivian decides to take the train to Waxwood, and to discover what happened to Penelope/Grace in the time that she spent there, and of which no-one has ever spoken.

The town is nothing in comparison with the city. It is noted for an artists' colony on the outskirts, which is held in some suspicion by the other residents.  Vivian learns that Penelope came to Waxwood to recover following her refusal of an offer of marriage. People are inexplicably wary of her, but eventually she is given a series of letters which Grace/Penelope wrote at the time. The freedom, after the stultified life of the city, and the awakening of a sense of self, are plain to see, but the letters hide a secret: the spectre of the title.  It's there in a portrait of her, painted at Waxwood, but it's also a part of Vivian, who discovers that there is more of her grandmother in her than she ever knew.

In a way, this is a novel in which not much happens. It has already taken place, and Vivian is simply following a trail to find out what it is.  The denouement is not that much of a surprise, and a little editing would remove some glitches and correct missing words, but it is gently told, and forms a good base for the series to  build upon.  

© Lorraine Swoboda

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Monday, 25 November 2019

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

shortlisted for Book of the Month

" I have never read anything that conjures the memories of the First World War like this novel does. "


Family Drama
1917 WWI

"1921. Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she beings to search. Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother. And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth. An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history, The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again."

Harry and Edie are both seeking the same person - Francis, Harry's brother and Edie's husband, reported missing in action in Flanders in 1917. Edie has received a photo of him in the post with no note attached, just a photo, and she sets off to northern France and Flanders in search of him. Harry, meanwhile, has taken on the task of photographing graves and other significant sites for the relatives of those lost in the Great War. With Harry feeling every location and knowing exactly what happened here, it is maybe not the best occupation for him, but he feels he owes it to those who didn't return to serve their families in some small way when he did survive. However, it becomes more personal as he meets those also in search of someone: Rachel who is looking for her husband, Gabriel who is looking for himself and a reason to return home.

It so often happens that I read a novel and find a news story that is very close to the subject matter - and so it was with this novel. Dig Hill 80 located the remains of 110 individuals in Flanders and began a debate over whether the remains should be left there or exhumed and re-buried in an appropriate graveyard nearby. Some say they should be left, but this novel will completely persuade you that they and their families did not want them left and lost but marked and remembered, even those who are known only unto God. Too many people in the novel are preoccupied, obsessed even, with finding the lost and remembering all who fell.

A long novel but filled with twists and turns, it is an adventure story, a lament, a reason to never forget the Great War, a love story, a tragedy, on several levels, and a gentle ghost story. I have never read anything that conjures the memories of the First World War like this novel does.  Among all the other themes, it is certainly a triumph and compulsory reading for anyone with an interest in this era, or with an interest in humanity.

© Nicky Galliers

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Friday, 22 November 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Julien's Terror – Laura Rahme

"A dark and complex tale, it describes extreme PTSD, as we know it today; but also it shows how ignorance can inflict its own terror"


Family Drama

That horrendous and inglorious period of French history known as the Terror, which followed the Revolution and the storming of the Bastille, is the scene for the first half of this book.  In Nantes in 1793 it only takes one man – one Citizen - to lead the many into mass murder and destruction, for whatever spurious reason, and for unspeakable crimes to be committed in the name of the rule of law. Against this background, life grinds on in fear and suspicion. Food is scarce, as is conscience. People do what they have to in order to survive; and if that means betraying a neighbour, or falsely accusing another, to protect one's own skin, so be it. 

Julien, a child living in Paris, learns the new rules early on. He has a dream of becoming an architect, which seems unlikely when his sole task every day is to buy, beg or steal food. However, he is fortunate to find a supporter, Guillaume, a wealthy man who will sponsor him in his studies, and in the fullness of time he becomes involved in the reconstruction of the city. He marries Guillaume's niece, Marguerite, and before long she is expecting a child.

The second half of the novel deals with Marguerite's own Terror. Far worse than anything that Julien has experienced, the horrors she has witnessed, and lived, with the doomed counter-revolutionaries known as the Chouans in the forests of Brittany and western France, have left their indelible mark upon her.  Knowing nothing of her past, Julien cannot comprehend her behaviour. In an age before the advent of psychiatry, no-one can explain what she is suffering, or indeed how to cope with one who is seriously deranged.

This is a novel of two distinct halves; Julien's narrative is fairly straightforward, and the events of his life simple enough. Marguerite's story deals with the psyche, with the workings of a tortured mind which cannot or will not speak of what it has seen, and which associates wholly with the torment of others. A dark and complex tale, it describes extreme PTSD, as we know it today; but also it shows how ignorance can inflict its own terror and torture, through its own fear.

The Terror, at its worst, is almost all Marguerite's, and the title is therefore a little confusing. Julien has in comparison had a fairly easy time of it, and has made a good living out of the reconstruction of Paris under Napoleon. His ascendancy compares with her descent back into the hell of her memories.

Not an easy book to read, and occasionally it seems to have taken on more than it intended; but it is an interesting study of the effects of the total breakdown of society, of conscience. While it is possible to repair some of the damage done with bricks and mortar, it takes far more to repair the broken mind – if it can be done at all.

© Lorraine Swoboda

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Wednesday, 20 November 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Shadows Of Hemlock by K M Pohlkamp

" T
his is the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane and Ms Pohlkamp has lost none of her ability to produce a good story."


Fictional Saga / Thriller / Alternative
16th Century
Gaulshire, a mythical shire in Tudor England

Set in a mythical English county in the 1520s Tudor-type England, Aselin Gavrell had once been the apprentice to assassin, Lavinia Maud. Now she is the Master. To gain the confidence in her abilities as well as the patronage of an important client, she must commit four murders. But more important to Aselin is her acceptance as a Fellow into the Guild as they will not accept her credentials on the recommendation of her former Master. They set her a task: find an antidote to hemlock, Aselin's preferred method of assassination. And she has just four months to achieve this.

Aselin has learned well from Lavinia but, if anything, is more arrogant and cynical than her predecessor. More calculating, too. She uses people without conscience until, that is, she realises that she has been used in turn. She is willing to 'use her feminine whiles' to achieve her short term goals whereas Lavinia looked down upon that ploy. 

What follows is a dangerous adventure in which Aselin confronts her own demons, is betrayed and betrays in return as she moves to achieve her goals.

This is the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane and Ms Pohlkamp has lost none of her ability to produce a good story, although it is not history in the strict sense of the word, and there are some very un-Tudorish anachronisms and phrases,
 but then, this novel is not, I assume,  actually set in Tudor England, just a sort of mirror-image alternative version of the period and places. I spotted some typos in the pre-published file I read, but these have been corrected for the final version.

My only criticism – and it is a personal one – is the invention of the English Shires that feature in both books, a real Shire would have done no harm to the tale telling, and brought in an extended feeling of realism. 

Shadows of Hemlock can easily be read as a stand alone novel, but I would really recommend reading the previous volume first, not only for the deliciously evil manner of the protagonist, but because the first chapters of this book is a spoiler for the stark and dramatic ending of the first.

© Richard Tearle

Pre-publication PDF ARC edition reviewed

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Monday, 18 November 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Farewell My Life by Cynthia Sally Haggard

"Ms Haggard's writing is exquisite. Her characters are vibrant with life and colour"



family drama
1920s / 1930s
US / Berlin

"A Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes in the edgy setting of 1920s and 1930s Berlin during the rise of the Nazis, Farewell My Life spins an operatic tale of dangerous love, obsession and loss; of crumbling, dissolving and nothingness, that revolves around Grace, a shy 17-year-old whose fabulous talent for the violin promises a shimmering career."

Set between the two wars of WWI and WWII, the novel starts in Washington DC where single mother Angelina has a tough life bringing up her two children, but Nicholas Russell is to enter the scene.  A promising career with the violin for the youngest daughter, Grace, takes  us to Berlin. Not the best of places in the late 1930s.

Ms Haggard's writing is exquisite. Her characters are vibrant with life and colour, whilst the storyline is engrossing and in places very moving. The research of actual historical events, neatly woven into the fictional ones, is well done. I felt for this family, eager to read on to find out what happened next - although it is a somewhat large tome at not far off 600 pages.

My only slight reserve is the ending, which I personally found to be a little abrupt. But no spoilers, so I will say no more. Even so, a very good read.

© Anne Holt

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Friday, 15 November 2019

Heir Apparent by Susan Grossey

shortlisted for Book Of The Month

"From Sam himself, through his adorable wife, Martha, to William Wilson and his new young bride, Alice - and even the baby, young George - each character brings the life of London in the 1800s superbly to life."

(The Sam Plank Mysteries Book 6)

murder mystery

"A young man returns to London from the family plantation in the Caribbean after an absence of six years to be at his father’s deathbed – and to inherit his estate. But is the new arrival who he says he is, or an impostor? Anyone who doubts his identity seems to meet an untimely end, but his sister swears that he is her beloved brother.With their investigations leading them into the complicated world of inheritance law and due process after death, Constable Sam Plank and his loyal lieutenant William Wilson come face to face with the death trade and those who profit from it – legally or otherwise. Among them is an old enemy who has used his cunning and ruthlessness to rise through the ranks of London’s criminal world. And, in this sixth novel in the series, it’s now 1829: as plans progress for a new police force for the metropolis, Sam and his wife Martha look to the future."

I so enjoyed this novel! Apart from the attention to detail, the mystery of 'is  he the heir or isn't he?' and outguessing the author throughout with 'who done it?' (I was wrong), Ms Grossey's characters are so utterly delightful. From Sam himself, through his adorable wife, Martha, to William Wilson and his new young bride, Alice - and even the baby, young George - each character brings the life of London in the 1800s superbly to life. I felt as if I was actually walking with Sam and William along Oxford Street, or entering a coffee house or tavern with them. And as for Martha Plank's apple pie... sadly the one I made the day after reading this novel was nowhere as good as hers. (It comes to something when reading that you can actually smell and taste the food described because the atmosphere of each scene is so brilliantly written!)

It was good, also, to meet with old friends - and enemies. Not to mention the well-thought-out plot! What I especially enjoy about this entire series is the ordinariness of the 'behind the scenes' scenes. The story progresses in 'real time' not as often seems on TV cop shows where the murder happens and the cop/s solve the crime within, apparently, a few days (after several red herrings and while dealing with the trauma of a difficult personal life.) Constable Plank, however, treads a more realistic policeman's beat, doggedly pursuing clues and crimes as they arise (fortified by Martha's cooking),  through  a period of weeks and months. These are not action mysteries, but they are absorbing, thoroughly engrossing and a huge pleasure to read. I have said before, and am happy to say again - Sam, Martha and Constable Wilson are ideal material for a darn good TV cop show with a difference!

Very highly recommended.

© Helen Hollick

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Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Katherine Tudor Duchess by Tony Riches

Shortlisted for Book of the Month

"The characters are wonderfully drawn. From king to queen to servant, each were brought vividly to life, whether you liked or loathed them."

Historical biography

“She stands up for what she believes in...but such courage has consequences. Attractive, wealthy and influential, Katherine Willoughby is one of the most unusual ladies of the Tudor court. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Katherine knows all his six wives, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, and his son Edward, as well as being related by marriage to Lady Jane Grey. When her father dies, Katherine becomes the ward of Tudor knight, Sir Charles Brandon. Her Spanish mother, Maria de Salinas, is Queen Catherine of Aragon’s lady in waiting, so it is a challenging time for them all when King Henry marries the enigmatic Anne Boleyn. Following Anne’s dramatic downfall, Katherine marries Charles Brandon, and becomes Duchess of Suffolk at the age of fourteen. After the short reign of young Catherine Howard, and the tragic death of Jane Seymour, Katherine and Brandon are chosen to welcome Anna of Cleves as she arrives in England. When the royal marriage is annulled, Katherine’s good friend, Catherine Parr becomes the king’s sixth wife, and they work to promote religious reform. Katherine’s young sons are tutored with the future king, Prince Edward, but when Edward dies his Catholic sister Mary is crowned queen. Katherine’s Protestant faith puts her family in great danger - from which there seems no escape.”

I am not, usually, a Tudor fan.  I often think that publishers do not realise that there are quite a few other periods for authors to write about, but I had heard quite a buzz on social media  about this particular author, Tony Riches, and as this novel seemed to be a little different from the norm I offered to read it.

And how glad I am that I did!

This is a totally engrossing novel of someone I didn’t even know had  existed. Katherine Willoughby’s story is that of a remarkable woman who faced danger and hostility when the balance of power changed – and changed again – and depended on whoever wore the crown, or which person (in the case of Henry VIII, which wife) was in or out of favour. Life and survival, which God to worship, Catholic or Protestant, depended on the whim of royal preference. Free will was an unknown quantity during these turbulent times of Tudor kings and queens. (To be fair, during the reigns of several of the Stuarts as well.)

The story spans from March 1528 to March 1557, so there is a lot of ground for Mr Riches to cover – and goodness he does so in style! It is the detail of the writing that impressed me: in the opening paragraph, for instance, where young Katherine is shocked to discover that her recently widowed mother has arranged her marriage,  the line, ‘The leather seat still held the round shape of him [Katherine’s deceased father] as if he had been sitting there only that morning’. It is lines like this that bring the story to a such high standard – the background, the incidentals are so superbly painted.

The characters, too, are wonderfully drawn. From king to queen to servant, each were brought vividly to life, whether you liked or loathed them.

So often reviewers praise a novel for being a ‘page turner’… well, this one certainly is, even if you are not a Tudor fan.

© Anne Holt

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Monday, 11 November 2019

The Horizon by Douglas Reeman

A Good Read Revisited - a novel selected for UK Armistice Day


"Reeman wrote with natural style. In every scene there are vivid portrayals of life and love, death and tragedy, of hope, glory, fear, desperation... the depiction of Reality, with a capital 'R'. Stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things."


Family Saga / Nautical
Blackwood saga #3

"1914-1918.For three generations, members of the Blackwood family served the Royal Marines with distinction. With the outbreak of World War I, at last comes Jonathan Blackwood's turn to carry the family name into battle. But as the young marines embark for the Dardanelles, and a new kind of warfare, it dawns on them that the days of scarlet coats and an unchanging tradition of honour and glory have gone forever. First in Gallipoli, and two years later at Flanders, comes their horrifying initiation into a wholesale slaughter for which no training could ever have prepared them. Caught up in the savagery of a conflict beyond any officer's control, Blackwood's future rests on the 'horizon' - the dark lip of the trench which was the last fateful sight for so many."

I have read all of Mr Reeman's 'Bolitho' novels, which he wrote under the name of Alexander Kent, but not being a 'World War' fan I'd not explored his wartime stories. I have obviously very much missed out on some marvellous books! 

Reeman wrote with natural style (alas he is no longer with us, a great loss to the literary world, and his fans). In every scene there are vivid portrayals of life and love, death and tragedy, of hope, glory, fear, desperation... the depiction of Reality, with a capital 'R', about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and yet, Douglas Reeman had the gift of detailing a scene without being gratuitous, be it regarding the horrors and violence of war, language or sex. He convinces with natural ease; an author, a gentleman, who wrote with knowledge and passion but a writer who could convey exactly what was happening where, why and how, without resorting to gore, titillation or deliberate sensationalism. 

Above all Reeman, with incredible sensitivity, brings out the pride of these people who fought for their country and for what they believed in. Yes, they are fictional characters, but they are all based on the Tom, Dick and Harrys who fought and lived or died during the two wars, all the more poignant in this particular story for the tragedies of WWI, outside of the more well known Trenches of Ypres, Flanders, and maybe Gallipoli, are all but now forgotten. 

All of which put together make for one heck of a cracking good read.

Poppies, Flowers, Poppy, Red, Nature

© Helen Hollick

Please do visit two relevant posts today as part of Kimberley Jordan Reeman's online tour. 
Kim is Douglas's widow.

Kim Reeman: "Still" and "Carry On"
Helen Hollick: The Horizon

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Sunday, 10 November 2019


A New Literary Website Developed by Carol M. Cram

I write historical novels about women in the arts—medieval painting in The Towers of Tuscany, classical music in A Woman of Note and late Georgian theatre in The Muse of Fire. My love for the arts and of fiction inspired by the arts led me to develop a database of similarly-themed novels.

 I’ve called my new venture Art In Fiction (
I’ve designed Art In Fiction to be a literary oasis that lists novels inspired by the arts—a comfortable, laid-back, friendly place where readers can browse hundreds of curated titles. Almost every genre is included—historical, thriller, mystery, literary, and even a smattering of sci-fi and romance—across a wide range of subjects, from architecture to dance to ... knitting!  Yes, knit-lit is, I've discovered, a very robust niche.

Here are the ten arts categories of novels listed on Art in Fiction: Architecture, Dance, Decorative Arts, Film, Literature, Music, Photography, Textile Arts, Theatre, Visual Arts. I’ve even included an “Other” category for novels that have an arts focus but don’t fit into any of the categories.

With over 1,000 novels to choose from, and more titles being added daily, Art In Fiction is a one-stop shop for arts-inspired novels. And best of all, membership in the Art In Fiction community is free for readers and authors.

In addition to book listings, Art In Fiction offers blog posts on topics related to the arts and fiction and to cultural travel, guest posts from authors listed on the site, book reviews written by the Art In Fiction team and guest reviewers, and periodic mailouts. Authors with novels listed on Art In Fiction can join the site and have their novels included in a mailout. There’s even a podcast in the works.

Some of the blogs posted on Art In Fiction include:
A Music-Lover’s Guide to Vienna
Gift Guide: Art Mysteries for the Art Lover On Your List
Photo Finish: Snap Happy Novels Inspired by Photography
To Dance, To Dream: Novels about Ballet
Vivid & Vibrant Vivaldi Novels
Yarns About Yarn
Novels Inspired by Jane Austen
Riveting Tales of Hollywood's Silver Screen
Guest Post: The Story Behind Berthe Morisot's "At The Ball"

That’s just a taste. New posts are added almost daily with many more cultural tourism posts (A Jane Austen Guide to England, Best Places to Enjoy Modern Art in France, Top Ten Not-to-Miss Masterpieces in Tuscany, etc.) to come.

I invite readers and authors to visit to discover hundreds of wonderful novels. I’m also interested in receiving blog posts and guest reviews related to novels listed on the website (reposts are fine). 

Art In Fiction is a celebration of the many ways in which authors are inspired by the arts. I’ve been amazed and fascinated by the range of novels I’ve discovered as a result of building the Art in Fiction database. 
I’m so thrilled to share these titles with readers.

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Carol M. Cram ( is a multi-award-winning author of historical fiction (The Towers of Tuscany, A Woman of Note, The Muse of Fire), president of New Arcadia Publishing, and founder of Art In Fiction

She lives on Bowen Island near Vancouver on the west coast of British Columbia in Canada with her husband, artist Gregg Simpson ( 

© Carol M Cram

Friday, 8 November 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Seven Aprils, by Eileen Charbonneau

43861840. sy475

"I enjoyed the balance between the romance and the grim reality of seeing the [US] Civil War through an army hospital."


Family drama

Tess is a crack shot, far better in skill than her father or brothers. Living in Virginia before the onset of the Civil War, her skills help to provide for her family. During one hunting session, Tess finds herself farther away from her home range and ends up saving a stranger from a panther attack. Before the man loses consciousness, he calls her Diana after the Greek goddess of the hunt. The encounter changes both their lives, even though at that moment, they don’t realize it. 

Tess has other pressing worries. Her father, a lazy man, who drove his wife to her grave, is determined to marry off his only daughter to a local merchant for his own comfort. The merchant has a poor reputation in their small community, and he makes Tess’s skin crawl. Knowing if she didn’t take matters in hand she’d end up like her mother, Tess manages to escape.  

Once more her path crosses with that of the stranger she had saved, but this time Tess has disguised herself as a young man named Thomas to pass unnoticed. Ryder Cole is a physician on his way to Washington to serve in the Union as an army surgeon and Tess agrees to join him as his assistant. 

Over the course of the Civil War, Tess develops her skill as a surgeon’s assistant while being careful to preserve her identity as the resourceful Thomas. Through war and hardship, her feelings for Ryder deepens to love, but do they have any future when she can’t ever let him know who she really is, especially when their main concern is surviving the bloody civil war? 

I had read about women who had dressed as men to enlist and serve their country while managing to keep their secret for years. This is what intrigued me about this story. I also enjoyed the balance between the romance and the grim reality of seeing the civil war through an army hospital. Tess and Ryder’s relationship developed out of friendship and a shared purpose while Tess was in her Thomas personae, and more intimately when she came to him as a mysterious woman. Both characters are well-drawn, and I especially loved Tess’s grit. 

Having said that, there were a couple of niggles. I felt that the way Tess manages to keep her identity a secret from Ryder during those times when she appears to him as his mistress felt like a stretch. Also, there were one or two military actions which directly involved the characters that we were told about after the event. I would have preferred to have had these scenes on the page. 

Aside from these minor quibbles, Seven Aprils is an enjoyable read with good characterization and authentic period details that make the reader feel they have stepped back into the Civil War era. Recommended for readers who enjoy a romantic story set in a rich but challenging historical setting. 

©Cryssa Bazos

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