Monday, 28 September 2020

His Castilian Hawk by Anna Belfrage

shortlisted for book of the month





Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Fictional Saga
1300s /Edward I
Wales

#The Castilian Saga Book 1

"For bastard-born Robert FitzStephan, being given Eleanor d’Outremer in marriage is an honour. For Eleanor, this forced wedding is anything but a fairy tale. Robert FitzStephan has served Edward Longshanks loyally since the age of twelve. Now he is riding with his king to once and for all bring Wales under English control.
Eleanor d’Outremer—Noor to family—lost her Castilian mother as a child and is left entirely alone when her father and brother are killed. When ordered to wed the unknown Robert FitzStephan, she has no choice but to comply.
Two strangers in a marriage bed is not easy. Things are further complicated by Noor’s blood-ties to the Welsh princes and by covetous Edith who has warmed Robert’s bed for years.
Robert’s new wife may be young and innocent, but he is soon to discover that not only is she spirited and proud, she is also brave. Because when Wales lies gasping and Edward I exacts terrible justice on the last prince and his children, Noor is determined to save at least one member of the House of Aberffraw from the English king.
Will years of ingrained service have Robert standing with his king or will he follow his heart and protect his wife, his beautiful and fierce Castilian hawk?"

I've spent a week in the company of a wonderfully memorable set of characters. In His Castilian Hawk, Ms Belfrage wastes no time but plunges us straight into the action and therefore into the heart of the story. And what a story it is. 

One of the main themes is loyalty, but this is a tricky thing because loyalties here are not only divided, but constantly tested. This has the added bonus of testing, at times, the reader's loyalties or at least playing with our emotions as we are every now and then given reason to sympathise, if only a little, with characters whom we've dismissed as hateful through and through. All this has the result of making all the characters very rounded and very human.

The complicated political situation between Wales and England during the reign of Edward I is skilfully pared down so that we are given just enough information to help us understand the historical context without bogging us down with too much political detail. The main characters perform against this historical backdrop but the book tells their story, not that of kings, queens and princes. That said, King Edward is also presented as a complex character. Historically he is known as the callous oppressor of the Welsh, but was also known for being a loving and faithful husband. Ms Belfrage does a marvellous job of reconciling these two seemingly incompatible character traits, showing a man who was actually uncompromising in both. The development of his beloved wife is a perfect study of what would happen to a mother of potential kings, as is that of Elisabeth, mother of potential Welsh princes.

At the heart of the story though is the burgeoning love affair between Noor and Robert, hampered as always by his previous relationship with Edith. This awkward love triangle is central to the novel, but is not the only plot thread. What I especially loved was how these multiple threads kept interweaving and, while some were tied up, others were left so there were lots of moments when I thought 'oh yes, but what about...' Every tiny detail was planted perfectly, and the story flowed beautifully with a natural rhythm. 

This really is a masterclass in how to write historical fiction/romance. The occasional word sounded maybe a bit modern for the period, but such is the author's authority that I found myself thinking I was probably wrong! There is so much period detail in this book; not shoe-horned in but expertly added so that every scene comes alive. This is a fairly long book, but I rattled through it because I just begrudged any time when real life intruded and made me put it down.


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Annie Whitehead
 e-version ARC reviewed





<previous   next >

You will find several items of interest on the sidebar



Sunday, 27 September 2020

Did You Miss...


We rrecently highlighted some of the authors reviewed 
here on Discovering Diamonds
(see below if you would like to participate)

here are a few of them!

* * *

If your novel/s have been reviewed by Discovering Diamonds

(not sure? click here for our list of authors 
we've reviewed)

and you would like to participate in our 
 Guest Spot
here are a few details:
  • You must have at least ONE book reviewed by Discovering  Diamonds 
  • Send me a brief biography of yourself and information about your book/s  (approx 500-700 words)
  • Include all links you want used
  • Send as JPEG an image of yourself and your book cover/s
Please Note
  • I will not check for typos or errors - what you send I will cut and paste.
  • this is a free service to help promote your books. I will post links to your guest spot on Facebook and Twitter, and on this  (permanent) Guest Spot page
  • reciprocation via social media  to advertise your post when it is live AND other author's posts would be appreciated.
  • I will notify you of receipt of your contribution and the date that your post is scheduled but there will be no further reminders so make a note of the date!
  • send to Helen Hollick on: author@helenhollick.net

Friday, 25 September 2020

The Copper Road by Richard Buxton

Shortlisted for Book of the Month



Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Fictional Saga
1800s
American Civil War

Shire's Union #2


"Shire is far, far from home, his old life in Victorian England a fading memory. To keep a promise to his childhood love, he’s sailed an ocean and battled through war-torn America. He’s kept his promise, but now Clara’s pushing him away. The war won’t let him go. Fighting for the Union and his friends, Shire must survive the brutal campaign for Atlanta and imagine a future without her. After a violent end to a cruel marriage, Clara is free from her husband but not from his ghost. All that is left to her is Comrie, her home in the Tennessee hills. But the war relentlessly steals away its treasures and its people. Tod, a captured Rebel, escapes in Pennsylvania. His adventures on the roads and rivers back to his regiment cast the Civil War in a new light. Does he still have the will to fight? Three young lives become wrapped in the Rebels’ desperate need for copper. Friendships, loyalty and love will be tested beyond breaking point. Shire has new promises to keep."


This might be one of the best American Civil War novels that I have read.  Richard Buxton writes with passion for his subject and his characters, bringing both to life with detailed research and superb writing skill. 

We meet the three lead characters, Shire himself, Clara and Tod, and immediately like them, are immediately immersed in their lives, their hopes, dreams, despairs, and immediately want them to be happy. (Whether they succeed, I'll not divulge.) 

Although the American Civil War is the major backdrop to this novel, Richard Buxton's details of battle and life as a soldier are amazing; the story itself is very much character-driven. It is not a story about The Civil War, but about the people and their lives during the war. I'm tempted to say that The Copper Road is a modern-day Gone With The Wind, but to be honest it isn't ... it's far far better than that. 

This is a second novel in a series, the first being Whirligig (which I also enjoyed) and it is quality from cover to cover.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Jack Holt
 e-version reviewed






You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Discovery by Barbara Grieg



Amazon UK
Amazon US not found
Amazon CA
Amazon AU not found
Goodreads not found

 Fictional Drama
1557 - 1617
France  / Canada

This novel concerns the principal descendants of Luis Gharsia who is dying.  Elizabeth is the daughter of Luis and Margaret Weaver whilst Gabriel, Elizabeth's nephew, is his grandson. Gabriel is intent on going to New France (Canada), signing up for two years' service with his friend and neighbour, Luc. 

The opening chapters give us some background to Luis' life and events leading up to the main story. Twenty years later, Elizabeth's brother, Thomas, returns from Marseilles with a man, Pedro Torres, he has befriended, rescued from destitution and made steward of the estate and business Luis has willed to them. Thomas is a student, a fervent Huguenot and has little interest in the estate. Pedro's dream is to serve out his obligation and travel to the Netherlands where he feels he will be able to follow his Islamic beliefs without the threat of persecution.

Meanwhile, in Canada,  Gabriel becomes involved in a vicious war between two of the local indigenous tribes, is kidnapped by his friend, a Mohawk, and accepted into that tribe. As the months and years pass, his family at home despair of seeing him again.

All that sounds complicated, but the narrative flits from continent to continent in a structured manner, and the characterisations, especially that of Elizabeth, are tight. 

The main thrust of the story, however, is really the discovery of Elizabeth's mother's journals amongst Luis' effects. The secrets they reveal and the questions that they both answer and further ask, keep us intrigued as we watch the initially frosty relationship between Elizabeth and Pedro slowly begin to thaw.

I enjoyed this book very much. There is a small touch of graphic violence during the Canadian episodes but never too much. The various relationships between the Gharsia family do get complicated but the author has provided a list of characters at the beginning  which includes how they are involved with each other. There is plenty of scope for a sequel, but all the loose ends are tied up satisfactorily.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

©Richard Tearle





<previous   next >

You will find several items of interest on the sidebar


Monday, 21 September 2020

Larcum Mudge by Philip K. Allan



Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Nautical 
1800s / Napoleonic 
Caribbean

Larcum Mudge is the eighth installment in Philip Allan's marvelously engaging "Alexander Clay" Napoleonic-era series. It’s somewhat hard to believe that this series of nautical novels launched less than three years ago with The Captain’s Nephew. It’s even harder to believe that author Philip Allan shows no signs of running out of steam even after producing eight 300-odd page volumes in such a brief space of time.

I am not a voracious reader of nautical fiction. Rather, I’ll read a novel in any genre as long as it’s outstanding writing. Philip Allan has never disappointed me in that regard and his prodigious talent again shines brightly in Larcum Mudge. (I note this volume marks the author’s break with his previous publisher, PenmorePress, but readers will detect no change in the high level of editorial polish and fastidious layout.) 

We catch up with our rather complicated protagonist, now - Captain Alexander Clay, as he takes up his new post as master and commander of the Royal Navy frigate Griffin, having just slipped the ways at Portsmouth. He and his crew, several of whom having been with Clay since his days as a lieutenant, are immediately dispatched to the Caribbean on a mission to recover a ship lost to mutineers who sold her to the French on Guadeloupe. The mutineers then dispersed to the four winds, an intriguing fact that contributes surprising twists to the story. 

When Clay and his crew—including the very skilled and equally mysterious new crew member Larcum Mudge—reach Guadeloupe, they discover not only His Majesty’s purloined ship Peregrine, but also that the French have smuggled in a ship of the line able to outgun any vessel in the British squadron home ported on Antigua. Dealing with these two vessels occupies the remainder of this rollicking narrative, told with the characteristic deftness, detail, and nuance of all Allan’s novels. 

In addition, Captain Clay is confronted by some hard realities regarding the rampant casual corruption in which several of his fellow officers are regularly engaged, allowing the author to explore more of the moral ambiguities that have dogged the protagonist throughout his career at sea. By the end, however, the warring nations reach an exhausted agreement at Amiens. With the fighting ended and peace descended, Clay heads home to his family—now augmented by the arrival of a new daughter. But readers should not despair, since even a passing acquaintance with the history of the Napoleonic Wars will relieve any trepidation that Clay and his crew will remain ashore for long.

Early on in my reading of Larcum Mudge, I noted that the author was violating one of the many hoary maxims for novelists—don’t begin books or chapters with the weather. Allan does this in most sections of this books and I was growing a little peevish over it. About a third of the way through, it dawned on me what he was about. This was, I’m fairly sure, a mimicking of how a ship’s master begins log entries, there being nothing more important during the age of sail than the weather and sea conditions. Thereafter, I found this an excellent literary device, subtly imparting a sense of the episodic structure of a ship’s log while not inhibiting the irresistibly page-turning pace characteristic of all the author’s books. I have thereby grown in my already substantial admiration for Mr. Allan’s skills.

Larcum Mudge is a wonderful read for both devotees of nautical fiction, as well as demanding readers who seek the very best quality writing regardless of genre. I highly recommend this novel, as well as its sibling volumes. 


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 


© Jeffrey Walker


 e-version reviewed








You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Did You Miss...


We rrecently highlighted some of the authors reviewed 
here on Discovering Diamonds
(see below if you would like to participate)

here are a few of them!

* * *

If your novel/s have been reviewed by Discovering Diamonds

(not sure? click here for our list of authors 
we've reviewed)

and you would like to participate in our 
 Guest Spot
here are a few details:
  • You must have at least ONE book reviewed by Discovering  Diamonds 
  • Send me a brief biography of yourself and information about your book/s  (approx 500-700 words)
  • Include all links you want used
  • Send as JPEG an image of yourself and your book cover/s
Please Note
  • I will not check for typos or errors - what you send I will cut and paste.
  • this is a free service to help promote your books. I will post links to your guest spot on Facebook and Twitter, and on this  (permanent) Guest Spot page
  • reciprocation via social media  to advertise your post when it is live AND other author's posts would be appreciated.
  • I will notify you of receipt of your contribution and the date that your post is scheduled but there will be no further reminders so make a note of the date!
  • send to Helen Hollick on: author@helenhollick.net

Friday, 18 September 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Mustard Seed by Liala Ibrahim



Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads - not found


family drama
1800s (US Civil War)
USA

This is fresh and intriguing. The reader learns about the aftermath of the American Civil War in the 1860s and the way people of colour were in effect enslaved again. 

Lisbeth is the Southern woman from a good family who has married an Abolitionist and goes home to see her dying father where she faces the continued enmity of her family. 

Meanwhile Jordan, who is a teacher in a free state, returns to help the family she left behind and these two women face up to each other in terrible circumstances. 

A page turner and emotional rollercoaster for most of the book. We root for our heroines. Do give it a go. This really engaged me with the one exception that the last three chapters ran out of steam a little and don't meet the promise of the rest of the book. 

Still, a wonderful thought provoking read.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Jeffrey Manton





You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The Sewing Place by Joslin Day


Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads (not found)

Fictional drama
19oos
Devon, England


Written in a style reminiscent of a Victorian novel, The Sewing Place is a book to settle down with for a good long read. Author Joslin Day develops her characters so effectively they almost become real people. The setting, eighteenth-century Exeter in Devon, England, is described warts and all, and the author obviously knows the surrounding area extremely well. Description is evocative and in places, lyrical.

The main female character, Rachael (or Rae), is an innocent orphan coming into womanhood with literally no place to call her own, not even the window seat where she sits to sew. She is the servant of an absent local artist and friend of working girls in the neighbouring brothel, but she is also literate with strong personal moral values. None of which helps her when she is raped during the night by an unknown male. 

The male protagonist, Henri Latimer, is a hard-working, honest merchant struggling to keep his business going and raise two motherless children. Henri has a generous disposition and apart from being courteous and kind to Rae endeavours to help his nephew Geoffrey. Regrettably, the lazy, ungrateful Geoffrey does nothing but cause those around him strife. When Rachel realises she is pregnant Henri Latimer comes to her aid – to say more would be a spoiler, but their relationship is tested to the limits by social convention and the presence of typhus in the city.

I enjoyed this novel, particularly for its attention to period detail and descriptions of Exeter streets and Devon landscapes, but I have to say my enjoyment was hampered by confusion with various characters’ names. The author uses both first and last names somewhat randomly in both narrative and dialogue so it might have been worthwhile to establish a ‘who’s who’ at the beginning (although character lists are never easy to use in e-book format). Rae or Rachel, a very humble servant, speaks to a well-to-do merchant by both his first and last name in dialogue, while narrative sections include both the first and last names of secondary characters and servants, whom I’m sure would have been addressed only by surname. Attention to this, by the author or by an editor, would have made a good novel into a very good novel.

That issue aside, The Sewing Place is a most pleasant read for anyone who likes historical fiction to be historically accurate and/or enjoys a family saga. Joslin Day has an excellent understanding of human strengths, weaknesses and foibles; of how some people strive to do better and some are just plain mean or incorrigible. This is her first published novel I hope there will be others. A Latimer saga, perhaps?


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© J.G. Harlond
 e-version reviewed







You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Monday, 14 September 2020

How Dare the Birds Sing by Marina Osipova

shortlisted for Book of the Month


Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Romance
1930s - 1940s
Russia & Germany

Fifteen years after World War I and just as Hitler was coming to power, Lyuba and Natasha are walking in a park and meet two men who are enrolled at the flying school. Gunter is German and Germans are still disliked and mistrusted in Russia. Lyuba falls in love with him, although she feels a strong attraction toward his friend, Stepan. 

One day Gunter is gone. Lyuba assumes he has been called back to Germany but he left with no explanation and she feels betrayed. With Gunter out of the way, Stepan drugs Lyuba, forces sex on her, and then compels her to marry him to protect her and her mother from the secret police. She spends years longing for Gunter, at the same time as trying to reconcile herself to a life with Stepan whom she now loathes. When World War II breaks out and the Germans invade, she has to face dangers and difficulties far worse than marriage to an unpleasant man.

Stepan has some redeeming features. He truly loves Lyuba and, other than expecting her compliance in bed, doesn’t treat her badly. And when they adopt a little girl, he proves himself a good father. The author does a masterful job of turning him from an arrogant brute at the beginning of the book, to a man whose motives and actions (not all of them) we can sympathise with by the end.

At the start of the story, Lyuba is a sweet, naïve seventeen-year-old with a future in teaching ahead of her. But she has to learn other skills in order to survive. Throughout the war years, she is the victim of circumstances again and again, and the reader is carried along from one tense situation to another. None of which situations stretch credulity.

World War stories are not my favourite reading, but I enjoyed this one. Love, loss tragedy, pathos; it’s all there, with plenty of action added to the mix. I was enthralled throughout. An excellent book and the author will go on my TBR list.

Highly recommended

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Susan Appleyard
 e-version reviewed





You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Did You Miss...


We rrecently highlighted some of the authors reviewed 
here on Discovering Diamonds
(see below if you would like to participate)

here are a few of them!


*
Bill Kirton
*
Philip K Allan
*
Jen Black

* * *

If your novel/s have been reviewed by Discovering Diamonds

(not sure? click here for our list of authors 
we've reviewed)

and you would like to participate in our 
 Guest Spot
here are a few details:
  • You must have at least ONE book reviewed by Discovering  Diamonds 
  • Send me a brief biography of yourself and information about your book/s  (approx 500-700 words)
  • Include all links you want used
  • Send as JPEG an image of yourself and your book cover/s
Please Note
  • I will not check for typos or errors - what you send I will cut and paste.
  • this is a free service to help promote your books. I will post links to your guest spot on Facebook and Twitter, and on this  (permanent) Guest Spot page
  • reciprocation via social media  to advertise your post when it is live AND other author's posts would be appreciated.
  • I will notify you of receipt of your contribution and the date that your post is scheduled but there will be no further reminders so make a note of the date!
  • send to Helen Hollick on: author@helenhollick.net

Friday, 11 September 2020

The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight by Christina Courtenay



Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Time slip / romance
17th century
Wales
(Shadows from the Past Book 4) 
(first published 2016)



'  "As the velvet cloak of moonlight settled over the ruined towers of Raglan Castle, the shadows beneath them stirred ..." When newly widowed Tess visits Raglan Castle, she experiences an extraordinary vision that transports her to seventeenth-century Wales and a castle on the brink of a siege. Even when Tess leaves Raglan to return to Merrick Court, her late husband’s home, the strange dreams continue as her life becomes increasingly intertwined with the past. And when the new owner of the estate arrives - New Zealander Josh Owens - the parallels become even more obvious. But perhaps the visions aren’t just trying to tell their own story, maybe they’re also giving a warning …'

I picked this book up after I saw it 'advertised' as a Retweet on Twitter -  I'm so glad I saw that Tweet! What a fabulous read!

There is a fine well-crafted blend of the contemporary, present-day scenes and those of the past, with the characters and their situations superbly drawn and very credible and believable. These characters (Tess and Josh in the present day (2016) and Arabella and Rhys several centuries in the past: 1646, during the disruptive period of the English Civil Wars) immediately grab your attention, either because you want to root for them - or you hiss and boo at the villains. Whatever emotion, you want to find out what happens next.

In addition to the intriguing characters and superb plot, we have the added bonus of a writer who knows her craft, how to pace a story, how to keep the reader's attention and how to include the details of history and location without intruding on the story, and how to create words with skill and expertise.


I'll be seeking out the other books in this series!

A truly enjoyable novel. 

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Anne Holt
 e-version reviewed







You will find several items of interest on the sidebar