17 February 2020

The Irish Princess by Elizabeth Chadwick Reviewed by: Helen Hollick

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


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"It is the minute detail that Ms Chadwick so excels in that brings the story and her characters to life"

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Biographical fiction / romance
1100s
Ireland, England, Wales

"Aoife MacMurchada is just 14 years old when her father Diarmit, King of Leinster, is brutally deposed, and her family is forced to flee Southern Ireland into English exile. Diarmit seeks help from King Henry II, an alliance that leads him to the charismatic Richard de Clare, lord of Striguil, a man dissatisfied with his lot and open to new horizons. Diarmit promises Richard wealth, lands, and Aoife's hand in marriage in return for his aid, but Aoife, has her own thoughts on the matter. She may be a prize, but she is not a pawn and she will play the game to her own advantage. From the royal halls of scheming kings, to staunch Welsh border fortresses and across storm-tossed seas to the wild green kingdoms of Ireland, The Irish Princess is a sumptuous, journey of ambition and desire, love and loss, heartbreak and survival."


Yes, the names of the characters are difficult for non-Irish speakers to get their tongues and heads around; yes Aoife MacMurchada is a princess few people outside (even inside!) Ireland have heard of  - but yes, this is an absorbing and brilliantly written novel. Although few readers of historical fiction would expect anything less of Ms. Chadwick.


It is the minute detail that Ms Chadwick so excels in that brings the story and her characters to life, and not just the detail of the meticulous research that goes to form the framework of the history itself. The little human things like a little girl contemplating whether to wet the bed and put up with the result or braving the cold outside to use the chamber pot, her hiding beneath her father's chair and falling asleep in the folds of his long cloak. The grief at the loss of a loved kindred, the patting of a foal, the gazing into the fog - a fog which echoes the inability to see what lies ahead when a new king comes to the throne. Especially when that king happens to be the volatile Henry fitzEmpress - Henry II.

I suppose I have to say something critical (with difficulty for there is little to criticise.) There are scenes of violence that could be a little disturbing to some readers - these were violent times, after all. No spoilers, but hostages were taken for a reason in the twelfth-century political and military turbulence, and unfortunately these hostages often suffered the consequences. Some scenes are also slightly sexually explicit - but for both these comments I stress this is an adult book about adults doing adult things and written for adults to read.

Maybe the book is more 'romance' than some of Ms Chadwick's other novels? (The Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy and the William Marshal series for instance). Was Aoife a little too spoiled as a child, a bit precocious perhaps? But then you could say that about the majority of heroines (and heroes). As in the fashion of most biographical historical fiction of this nature the time-span jumps quite a bit; one chapter depicts one particular week or day, then the next shows a glimpse of the next event of note, hopping from one season or year to another for a snippet of  the lives of these people who once lived, loved, fought and died. But these were complex times and complex characters, and historical novels of this kind are not meant to be linear stories of the day-by-day minutiae of life.

Ms Chadwick skilfully shows us these glimpses, not as a blow-by-blow (somewhat tedious) memoir, but as if we were time-travellers popping back every so often to watch, quietly and secretly from the shadows, the events of the past.

I loved it.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Helen Hollick

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15 February 2020

The Weekend

No reviews posted at the weekend



But start here for our previous reviews:
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we are currently accepting new submissions

we would especially like to promote 
indie authors 
and childrens' historical fiction

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 but do accept properly formatted PDF files)





14 February 2020

Mrs Calcott's Army by Lorraine Swoboda Reviewed by: Mary Chapple

A Regency Romance for Valentine's Day
Shortlisted for Book of the Month


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"Oh I enjoyed this one! A charming and beautifully written romance to read when the weather outside is cold and wet"

#DDRevs Historical Fiction Reviews 

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Regency romance

1800s
Dorset, England
"Lydia Calcott, making her lonely way home from market, is accosted and savagely attacked. She is rescued from drowning by Major Mark Roper, a stranger to the area, who takes her back to his temporary quarters at Brockhill Manor. Hearing her story, Mark vows to protect her until the would-be murderer is taken up. How to find one unknown man before he can come back to finish her off is a challenge to which Mark rises with the aid of his brother, his batman, and some old army friends.
During her enforced convalescence at the Manor, and with new friends to support her, Lydia discovers the strength and the determination to fight for herself; but there is more than one enemy waiting for her to fail, and past secrets which could shatter all her hopes."

Oh I enjoyed this one! A charming and beautifully written romance, with a twist of mystery, to read when the weather outside is cold and wet, feet up on a foot-stool before a crackling log fire, box of chocs to hand... The main characters are immediately engaging and you instantly feel interested in what they do, what happens to them and how they react and deal with the circumstances that arise - in other words, they very quickly become your friends.

The detail of early nineteenth-century life in Dorset, England, is expertly handled - fictional places blending seamlessly with real ones, historical events neatly slotted into a made-up plot. 

This is a character-led novel; it is not an action-packed romp, nor is it a 'heaving-bosomed', lipstick-clad woman pouting over a scantily-clad muscle-bound torsoed hunk on the front cover type historical romance. It is far more sophisticated. Fans of Jane Austen should love it. 

Not a romance reader? Try this one, I think you'll be converted!

I have only one complaint: why has Ms Swoboda only written this one novel? More please.

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© Mary Chapple

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13 February 2020

The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman Reviewed by: Kristen McQuinn

available for pre-order. Release date March 2020
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"Penman has a great talent for taking her characters, whether fictional or historical, and making readers care about them."


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Biographical Fiction
1172
Jerusalem

Many people are at least a little familiar with the Crusades, Richard the Lionheart, and Saladin. Far fewer, (outside of historical fiction) I would wager, know about the life of Balian of Ibelin, a Frankish lord born in the Levant. Penman tells his story in The Land Beyond the Sea. The timespan of the novel is actually fairly short, beginning when Balian is a young man. Penman takes readers on a journey among the Poulain, the people born in the Levant and descended from the Crusaders who remained in the region after the First Crusade; she shows us the complex and surprisingly collaborative interactions between the Poulain, the migrant Crusaders, and the Saracens, which influence the local politics to an extraordinary degree; and she demonstrates, above all else, that history is not always what we’ve learned from school.

Balian’s story here starts with his relationship with King Baldwin, known to history as The Leper King. The two had a relationship built on respect and Balian rose high at the court in Jerusalem as a result of Baldwin’s favor. Balian also had a good relationship with Saladin himself, as well as his brother, Al-Adil, one of Saladin’s most trusted advisors. These relationships came into play at the height of Balian’s influence, when he convinced Saladin to accept Jerusalem’s peaceful surrender after a prolonged siege that would have left thousands of civilians dead or sold into slavery.

The labyrinthine politics of the court are described in detail and were an interesting change of pace, for me anyway, from the court politics I’m more used to reading about. I understand the politics of periods like the Wars of the Roses, the Tudors, or the Plantagenets, but I had never read anything set in the medieval Levant. Penman does a thorough and highly accurate job of showing these twisting intrigues. It was a bit surprising to me to learn how much the European and Saracen societies mingled and cooperated with one another. I had this vague notion that the two societies were segregated from each other because of the religious wars between them.

Penman has a great talent for taking her characters, whether fictional or historical, and making readers care about them. Even though these people, the ones who were real, died nearly 1000 years ago, Penman breathes life into them, brings them springing forth with their wonderfully messy, complex, endearing, irritating humanness. 

All in all, while I have come to expect nothing short of amazing writing and research from Sharon Kay Penman’s books, it is nevertheless a delight to dive into a new book of hers and discover that her reputation as a precise and vivid storyteller remains intact and well-deserved.


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Kristen McQuinn

ARC copy reviewed


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12 February 2020

Unkept Promises by Jude Knight Reviewed by: Anna Belfrage

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"Ms Knight’s books tend to start with a bang and Unkept Promises is no exception."

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Fictional Saga / Romance
1800s
Cape Town / Various

I have previously enjoyed some of Ms Knight’s books about the Redepenning family and was therefore positively predisposed towards the male protagonist of Unkept Promises, a feeling that survived throughout the first chapter. Then… Ah, well: I need to clarify, I think. Ms Knight’s books tend to start with a a bang and Unkept Promises is no exception. It is 1805 and we meet Navy Lieutenant Jules Redepenning when our hero awakens after having been taken prisoner by some nasty smugglers. He quickly realises that he is not alone in his predicament: in the cell next door is a young girl and her dying father. Jules saves the day, but young Euronyme (Mia for short) Stirling is compromised by the fact that they have spent the night together in a cell with only her dead father as a chaperone – I'll say no more. Spoilers.


It would not be much of a romance if the book began with the Happily Ever After, which is why Ms Knight has constructed a complicated life for Jules. His mistress Kirana, back in Madras, is expecting their first child. Jules tells Mia about Kirana, about his need to keep his native mistress—and their children—safe. He makes promises and then leaves for distant Madras and his duties there.

Eight years later, Mia has struck up a correspondence with Kirana and upon hearing that she is fatally sick, decides she must go to Cape Town and help her. Yes, Mia is one of those genuinely good people the world has too few of, but she is no milksop, and she manages to conceal her insecurities behind the façade of a rich lady of the upper classes. So she braves Jules' household—he is away at sea—brings order into chaos, saves Kirana from a dismal hole in which Jules has thrown her, and… well, I'llleave you to find out.

I enjoyed how Ms Knight developed this side of the story, elegantly emphasising just how difficult it was to be a woman—even a wealthy, woman—in a time where an adulterous husband was par for the course. And as to Kirana, she is utterly dependent on Jules’ goodwill, which is why she hasn’t protested overmuch at his various affairs, making excuses for him along the lines that a vigorous man needs his bedsport and when she was struck down with consumption, what else could she expect?

Ha! At this point, Jules comes across as a major, major cad but it is testament to Ms Knight’s skills as a writer that Jules is utterly believable in his hero-cad-hero journey (because yes, dear reader: this is a romance and Jules is the hero. Phew!) Along the way, she skilfully presents us with a historical background, complete with furnishings and clothes, foods and customs. Ms Knight generously imparts her information—and love of—the period without it ever intruding into the story as such. She paints colonial Cape Town and nineteenth century England into vivid life, all the while giving the readers a twisting well-plotted tale that at times is quite impossible to put down.

I shall not reveal more than this of an excellently executed plot. I will only say that Ms Knight has delivered yet another great read which I warmly recommend you to read!

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Anna Belfrage
 e-version reviewed


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11 February 2020

No Woman's Land by Ellie Midwood Reviewed by: Elizabeth St John

shortlisted for Book of the Month


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"Ms Midwood’s extraordinary sensitivity and gifted writing treats this devastating subject of the Holocaust with strength and delicacy, weaving a compelling love story that emerges from the horror of the concentration camps."

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Fictional Drama
WWII
Europe

This is a novel that you wish was not written, and yet a story that must be told. Ms Midwood’s extraordinary sensitivity and gifted writing treats this devastating subject of the Holocaust with strength and delicacy, weaving a compelling love story that emerges from the horror of the concentration camps. In this biographical historical fiction, Ms Midwood does not flinch from the truth, nor hold back from describing scenes that cannot be imagined. And yet, her heroine, Ilse, has a strength and calmness that protects the reader from the anguish, and gently encourages us to read on.

Researched to the finest detail and woven with the art of a true storyteller, No Woman’s Land leaves an indelible memory, and in that alone, Ms Midwood has achieved her greatest literary success. Although this novel is harrowing, its message is that of hope and the promise of life, and is a story that should be shared and re-read. The voices may be stilled, but their memories must always be preserved. Brava.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds

© Elizabeth St John
e-version reviewed

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10 February 2020

The King's Furies by Stephanie Churchill Reviewed by: Richard Tearle

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


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" ...the writing is top class. Descriptions are precise... but it is the characterisations which really win this book for me."

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(Crowns of Destiny Book 3)

Fantasy
Middle Ages
Fictional Kingdom of Agria

Third in the trilogy telling mostly the stories of Irisa and Kassia, two girls brought up in poverty only to discover their royal connections. We are a few years on from the first book, The Scribe's Daughter, and Irisa is married to Casmir Vitus, King of Agria while Kassia has wed her sweetheart, Jack.

The peace that Casmir has brought to Agria is suddenly threatened when a dangerous prisoner escapes, their daughter and heir, Sybila, is kidnapped and a powerful lord is suspected of plotting to take Casmir's throne. Casmir finds friends and enemies in strange places in his quest to solve these three mysteries.

As usual, the writing is top class as you would expect from an established author. Descriptions are precise of this mythical land, but it is the characterisations which really win this book for me. Casmir is our narrator and we see him change from a loving husband and father, efficient in his ruling duties and beloved of most of his subjects, to a man obsessed with finding his daughter's kidnapper whilst beset with the other problems as well.

His father and grandfather had both been cruel leaders and Casmir is petrified of turning into them. We see his vulnerability increase as do his self doubts. Casmir sees it too, but seems powerless to stop himself sinking into the depths he so fears. This shows the supreme skill of Ms Churchill's writing as we wonder how far he will ultimately go as his actions only add to the increasing rift in his marriage.

Irisa's thoughts and feelings are also dealt with expertly by the author as we really feel the tension between them and, finally, the king's furies are unleashed.

But other characters do not suffer from neglect. Jack is the calm but deadly man he always was despite hiding a deadly secret, Kassia has lost none of her plain speaking and the slightly 'dodgy' Wimarc of Dalery has you wondering exactly whose side he is on. Add in the mysterious mercenary, Jachamin Guimer, some ruthless villains and the mix is complete.

My e-book had a few typos – minor blemishes, though, which did not distract me at all. The book can be read as a stand alone (I have read The Scribe's Daughter, the first volume, but not, unfortunately, The King's Daughter, the second) as there is enough back story contained in this final volume. I say 'final volume' as all loose ends are neatly tied up, but there might be scope for continuations.

I thoroughly recommend this read.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Richard Tearle



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8 February 2020

The Weekend

No reviews posted at the weekend


But start here for our previous reviews:
  Click Here to browse back


we are currently accepting new submissions

we would especially like to promote 
indie authors 
and childrens' historical fiction

email Helen author@helenhollick.net  )
for further information

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(we prefer e-files - mobi preferably
 but do accept properly formatted PDF files)





7 February 2020

Storytellers by Bjørn Larssen Reviewed by: Annie Whitehead

shortlisted for Book of the Month

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"...the ‘then’ is just as captivating as the ‘now’ story. We know that the ‘then’ story is setting out little clues, but it’s hard to know what they are."

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fictional drama /mystery
1920
Iceland

"On a long, cold Icelandic night in March 1920, Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith, finds himself with an unwanted lodger – Sigurd, an injured stranger who offers a story from the past. But some stories, even those of an old man who can barely walk, are too dangerous to hear. They might alter the listener’s life forever... by ending it.

Others are keen on changing Gunnar’s life as well. Overbearing Brynhildur is set on marrying him. The Conservative Women of Iceland are determined to make him a model Christian. Gunnar’s doctor is preparing an intervention. An enigmatic elf might exist... or not. And the demons in his mind never leave for long… With so many keen to change Gunnar’s fate, will he find strength and courage to write his own story?"

I like ‘strange’. And the set up for this book is certainly that. Okay, the premise is quite simple: a blacksmith living alone in 1920s Iceland finds himself having to take care of an injured stranger and while the stranger recovers from his injuries, he entertains the blacksmith with a story, told over several nights.

But it’s not quite so straightforward. It seems the stranger is not so benign and he insists that no one must know he is at the blacksmith’s house. Odder still are the folk in the village: some who want to get close to the blacksmith, and some who shy away from him.

It’s hard to talk much about this book without giving away spoilers. So let me just say that the ‘then’ is just as captivating as the ‘now’ story. We know that the ‘then’ story is setting out little clues, but it’s hard to know what they are. In the ‘now’ story, we feel there must be a connection, some reason why the stranger is here, telling this particular tale.

I pride myself on guessing twists correctly, but I didn’t quite get this one right. It’s fair to say that the stories, both ‘then’ and ‘now’, start off fairly placidly. This is as it should be, for we are being told a story, round the fireside, in instalments, just as the blacksmith is listening, day by day and we, like he, wait impatiently for the next chapter. Then the last part of the story picks up in speed and tension and I was absolutely riveted. The drama is intense, the plot reveals come thick and fast, and the ending is satisfying and yet… it might not be an ending. I think it is for the reader to decide what really happens.

Mystical, and sometimes a little creepy, this story sits firmly within its landscape. The characters are insular, as you’d expect in such an isolated place, and of course everyone knows everyone else’s business. There are some moments of genuine laugh out loud comedy - the women who try to bring Gunnar back to the Church are fabulously OTT and hilariously scary - and there are scenes of real tragedy.

Gunnar is a well-drawn character. Irascible, odd, unsociable, he sits on the edge - physically and symbolically - even of this cut-off community and his people skills are practically non-existent (but it becomes clear as the book progresses exactly how he came to be so). Sigurd may be the one telling the story, but really the book is about Gunnar. Yet the other characters all come marvellously to life, in both the 'then' and the 'now'. Getting to know them so well, it's very satisfying when the two threads start to come together and so much of what happens in the last few pages makes sense because it's as much character-driven as it is action-packed. That said, there are lots of on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments too.

If I have one niggle, it is that occasionally there is a bit too much ‘head-hopping’ where we go from hearing the thoughts of one character to hearing those of another within the same paragraph. But it is just a tiny niggle.

This story was an ambitious project and the author has executed it with aplomb. It’s not like anything I’ve ever read before and these strange, sad, funny, murderous people will stay with me for a long time.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Annie Whitehead
e-version reviewed



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6 February 2020

A Discovering Diamonds review of Jack Dawkins by Charlton Daines Reviewed by: J J Toner

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"A romp through Victorian London using some of the characters from Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. "


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Fictional Drama
1800s / Victorian
London

"Jack Dawkins, once known as the Artful Dodger in the streets of London, was sent to Australia on a prison ship when he was little more than a boy. Now he has returned to find that London has changed while the boy has turned into a man.
With few prospects provided by his criminal past and having developed mannerisms that allow him to move amongst a higher strata of society, Jack turns his back on the streets that would have primed him as a successor to the murderer, Bill Sykes, and quickly remodels himself as a gentleman thief.
New acquaintances and a series of chance encounters, including one with his old friend Oliver, create complications as remnants of his past come back to plague him. Jack is forced to struggle for a balance between his new life and memories that haunt him with visions of the derelict tavern where Nancy used to sing."

A romp through Victorian London using some of the characters from Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. The story imagines the Artful Dodger, Jack Dawkins, on his return to London after a ten-year spell in penal servitude in Australia.

Still as light-fingered as ever, he acquires a number of outfits that enable him to pass for a ‘toff’ with suitably adjusted speech and, with equal alacrity as a member of the lower classes using the London patois known as ‘the cant’. To accommodate these switches of persona, he takes lodgings in two very different parts of the town.

As an apparently well-heeled member of the establishment, he catches the eye of a wealthy young lady, while his alter ego forms a business relationship with a violent gangster. When the lady’s young brother is kidnapped, Jack sets out to rescue the child, and the story takes off.

There lies the only slight problem with the storyline: it takes too long for the action and the 'good bit' to get started. In a series of pilfering expeditions, accompanied by changes of costume, the story treads water until the child is abducted in chapter nine of nineteen. While the first chapters are interesting, I would have suggested moving the story along much quicker. During the narrative he meets up with a few of his old acquaintances, including Master Oliver Brownlow.

The language is suitably Victorian and liberally populated with many interesting words, like 'alderman' (a coin) and 'dollymop' (a doxie).

Despite the slight hiccup with getting going, this was a good read for a debut novel, certainly worthy of four stars.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© J J Toner
e-version reviewed




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5 February 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The Beauty Doctor by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard Reviewed by: Mary Chapple

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"I found it interesting that the ethical and moral practices of the Edwardian era were different from those of today, yet they are, in a way, very much the same"


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Fictional Drama / Romance/Medical
1907 Edwardian
New York City

“In the spring of 1907, Abigail Platford finds herself unexpectedly adrift in New York City. Penniless and full of self-doubt, she has abandoned her dream of someday attending medical school and becoming a doctor like her late father. Instead, she takes a minor position in the office of Dr. Franklin Rome, hoping at least to maintain contact with the world of medicine that fascinates her. She soon learns that the handsome and sophisticated Dr. Rome is one of a rare new breed of so-called beauty doctors who chisel noses, pin back ears, trim eyelids and inject wrinkles with paraffin. At first skeptical, she begins to open her mind, and then her heart, to Dr. Rome. But his proposed business partnership to build an Institute of Transformative Surgery with financial backing from an eccentric inventor and collector of human oddities raises troubling questions. Soon Abigail is ensnared in a web of treachery that challenges her most cherished beliefs about a doctor’s sacred duty and threatens to destroy all she loves. A suspenseful work of historical fiction grounded in the social and moral issues of the Edwardian era in America.”

As I am not a fan of cosmetic surgery – Beauty Surgery as it was termed  in the early 1900s – I was not certain if I would enjoy this read, but I was pleasantly surprised. Well written and engaging, it brought to mind several ‘arguments’ that were as relevant back then as they are today, and any novel that sparks a little moral discussion (even with oneself!) is worth reading.

I found it interesting that the ethical and moral practices of the Edwardian era were different from those of today, yet they are, in a way, very much the same: that craving to look perfect, to have a bump in the nose erased, unlevel eyebrows made symmetrical etc. The things that, really, shouldn’t be of importance, yet are to those who can afford to change them, are seen as essential to be corrected, despite the risk involved.

This was also a shocking book in the fact that the poor were used for experimental purposes, and of course, the subject matter deals with the fact that women, despite their ability, intellect or education were not permitted to tread in the footsteps of men where careers or anything outside of the home, charity work or marriage were concerned.

All in all a somewhat strange book, but an interesting, thought-provoking read.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Mary Chapple
e-version reviewed



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4 February 2020

Shamus Dust: Hard Winter. Cold War. Cool Murder by Janet Roger Reviewed by Helen Hollick

shortlisted for book of the month

"We are immediately interested in the protagonist as a character, even though we never discover his first name"

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Thriller/Mystery
late 1940s
London

"Two candles flaring at a Christmas crib. A nurse who steps inside a church to light them. A gunshot emptied in a man’s head in the creaking stillness before dawn, that the nurse says she didn’t hear. It’s 1947 in the snowbound, war-scarred City of London, where Pandora’s Box just got opened in the ruins, City Police has a vice killing on its hands, and a spooked councilor hires a shamus to help spare his blushes. Like the Buddha says, everything is connected. So it all can be explained. But that’s a little cryptic when you happen to be the shamus, and you’re standing over a corpse."


Think Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Dick Barton... It is 1947. It is Christmas and it is snowing. London is still bombed-out and there is a murdered body in a church, and a rather murky background to its previously alive owner. No spoilers; I'll say no more about the plot.

Private Investigator Newman is an American living and working in London. He narrates the story with dry wit and a smooth sophistication. And for once in an American-style historical-based novel set in England the Americanisms didn't jar because we see and hear everything through Newman himself as he saunters along a sidewalk not a pavement, uses the subway not the tube/underground. We hear his American accent and American ways very clearly through Ms Roger's clever use of words. And every word that Newman relates to us is relevant. 

The research is impeccable, the cold, dark rubble of a snow-covered post-Blitz freezing London so real you'll find yourself shivering with the cold and reaching for a blanket. 

Although long and definitely not a fast-paced gallop of a read, this is a novel that ticks the boxes for a 'who-dun-it'.  It has dialogue that is witty, and the essential elements of a Private Investigator thriller: political intrigue, dark shadows, unexpected twists and turns, murders, bodies, suspects. Glamorous women, goodies, baddies, lies, secrets, sordid blackmail, greed, corruption all held together by a dogged PI who won't give up or go away. No matter what is thrown at him.

We are immediately interested in the protagonist as a character, even though we never discover his first name - we know bits about him, but not all about him. Which adds to the atmosphere of mystery that the author has created.

It is not a page-turner action/adventure read: it is the methodical plod of Columbo rather than the haring about, skidding cars and non-stop energy of The Professionals or Starsky and Hutch (OK I'm showing my age!). Nor is it a sit before the fire to while away a wet afternoon read. It is an ongoing amble, not a sprint. Explore each chapter with attention to detail; each scene needs to be mulled over and digested because you will not know, until the end, which are the snakes to slide down or the ladders to climb up where clues are concerned. We, as the reader, have to unravel the tangle to get to the result - just as Mr Newman does.


My main criticism is that I think the cover could have been more appealing/eye-catching. With the majority of books bought online with only a thumbnail to view, this particular cover doesn't immediately spring out as 'Oh, this looks interesting,' nor does it convey the 'identity' of the novel. It could be a romance or even non-fiction - yes the text mentions murder, but that will not be seen clearly at a smaller online size. The saying 'You can't judge a book by its cover' is not necessarily accurate regarding the text inside, but it is very accurate where 'grab potential readers' attention is concerned. So alas, this cover gets a thumbs down from me.

That said, in my opinion, this is a debut indie-published novel that deserves a 5 star review as it will be enjoyed by murder-mystery lovers who like to take their time over untangling the plot and the clues.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Helen Hollick
e-version reviewed







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3 February 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The Captain and the Theatrical by Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead Reviewed by: Anne Holt

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"Ms Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead are experienced, reliable writers who know how to write a good story"

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Book three in the Captivating Captains series

LGBT /Gay Romance
Regency
England

“When Captain Pendleton needs an emergency fiancée, who better to turn to than his male best friend? After all, for Amadeo Orsini, life’s one long, happy drag! Captain Ambrose “Pen” Pendleton might have distinguished himself on the battlefield at Waterloo but since he’s come home to civvy street, he’s struggled to make his mark. Pen dreams of becoming a playwright but his ambitious father has other ideas, including a trophy wife and a new job in America. If he’s to stand a hope of staying in England and pursuing his dream, Pen needs to find a fiancée fast. Amadeo Orsini never made it as a leading man, but as a leading lady he’s the toast of the continental stage. Now Cosima is about to face her most challenging role yet, that of Captain Pendleton’s secret amour. With the help of a talking theatrical parrot who never forgets his lines, Orsini throws on his best frock, slaps on the rouge and sets out to save Pen from the clutches of Miss Harriet Tarbottom and her scheming parents. As friendship turns into love, will the captain be able to write a happy ending for himself and Orsini before the curtain falls?”

The back cover blurb, above, sums the entire story up very well. This is romance at its best, as long as the reader is comfortable with gay romance. Ms Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead are experienced, reliable writers who know how to write a good story, and are very capable of handling what could, to some, be a sensitive subject.

I was also interested in the fact that the story was set in Regency England – one tends to think of gay relationships as being set in Ancient Greece or Modern Day (which, of course they aren't!).

There is the romance, the mystery, the superb characterisation and a subtle twist which I did not see coming,  And the parrot… I shall say no more!

Not necessarily ‘historically accurate’ for those who insist on the nit-picks of facts -  but certainly a thoroughly delightful and entertaining read.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Anne Holt
e-version reviewed


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You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

1 February 2020

January's Book and Cover of the Month Selections


designer Cathy Helms of www.avalongraphics.org
with fellow designer Tamian Wood of www.beyonddesigninternational.com
select their chosen Cover of the Month
with all winners going forward for 
Cover of the Year in December 2020
(honourable mentions for the Honourable Mention Runner-up)

WINNER 
January 2020


Designer Unknown
Read Our Review
Honourable Mentions
January 2020

Cover design by Design for Writers
Read Our Review
39963616. sy475
Designed by Tara Mayberry
www.teaberrycreative.com
Read Our Review


This is a personal choice made by  me, Helen Hollick,
(founder of Discovering Diamonds)
from books I have shortlisted for my personal reading 

My criteria for a 'winner' is:
* Did I thoroughly enjoy the story?
* Would I read it again?
* Is it a 'keeper'

My chosen Runner-Ups for January 2020
two because I have enjoyed
the entire series of both these novels

Read our review
Read our review
but my Book of the Month is

* * * * * * 


Book and Cover of the Year
will be announced on 31st December 2020