Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Cover and Book of the Month - March

designer Cathy Helms of www.avalongraphics.org
with fellow designer Tamian Wood of 
select their chosen Cover of the Month
with all winners going forward for 
Cover of the Year in December 2021
(honourable mentions for the Runner-up)

 WINNER

Read our Review
published by Severn House Publishers
 (mainstream)

RUNNER UP

Read our review
cover art by Miblart

RUNNER UP

Read our review
designed by 
Deranged Doctor Design


Book of the Month
a personal selection
by Helen Hollick

read our review

I admit the horse on the cover first attracted my attention
 (looks just like our mare, Lexie!) 
but the story itself hooked me in right from the start.
Jolly good read




Monday, 29 March 2021

This Day is Ours by Gretchen Jeannette

shortlisted for Book of the Month

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Romance

18th Century 

US (American War Independence)

The Amazon blurb for this epic novel says ‘A Love Forged in the Fire of Revolution’, which sets it neatly in the sub-genre of historical romance, but This Day is Ours is much more than a period love story. The author, Gretchen Jeannette, knows her eighteenth century colonial history inside out, meaning she is able to convey vital background details with a light hand through dialogue and sharply focused descriptions of the Philadelphia locations, the various town and country households, and battle fields – and I learned quite a lot about the American War of Independence along the way. 

The cover also suggests the story will be a fairly typical Hollywood-style costume triangle with an elegant, educated young man about town courting an elegant, educated young woman of his own class, whose head has been turned by a rough diamond – pirate, rancher or, in this case, a highwayman named Jack Flash. Superficially, this is the case, the woman, Alexandra Pennington, is a young widow of means, loyal to the British Crown in the early days of the Revolution. The elegant man about town, Charles Villard, is trapped in his class’s social mores, yet far more complex than the stereotype. The dashing hero highwayman, Dalton Jameson a.k.a. Jack Flash, is from a humble background but intelligent, courageous and altogether more subtle than the usual renegade. He’s also a gifted horseman – meaning he’s a good, kind person despite the robberies and pistols. 

The first encounter between wicked Jack Flash and the feisty heroine is indeed the stuff of romantic movies, but the manner in which Alexandra discovers her personal strengths and assesses her loyalties takes the story to deeper levels, as does Dalton/Jack’s involvement in George Washington’s rabble of an army and the War for Independence. 

This Day is Ours is a novel with amusing characters, glorious, glamourous balls and gruesome battle scenes, and a story-line that twists and turns and kept me reading until late at night. A very well written book, worth reading for both its entertainment value and its historical setting. Sound research and a cracking story, definitely a Discovered Diamond.


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© J.G. Harlond

 e-version reviewed



You will find several items of interest on the sidebar



Sunday, 28 March 2021

Sunday Guest Spot Denise Barnes AKA Molly Green

Continuing our Sunday Series
of taking a look at some fabulous authors!




Hello Denise, welcome to our Discovering Diamonds Guest Spot. Along with my readers and visitors I love to hear from authors who write wonderful stories. There’s nothing better than curling up with a good book,  box of chocs and glass of wine to hand!

Q. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself....
A. I’ve lived and worked in several places around the world, including America, in a huge variety of unrelated jobs, and enjoyed them all. I came back to England and studied for a BA(Hons) with Open University, whilst getting married and setting up and running a chain of estate agents. I sold my business (unfortunately to two con-men – which resulted in another book, Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business) for the sole purpose of seeing whether I could fulfil my dream of writing a novel. I spent many years writing a trilogy which I self-published, but the third one, Kitty’s Story, landed me a 3-book deal to write for Avon HarperCollins. This all took a decade to achieve. The road to publication is often a very long one.

Q. Where do you live?
A. I live on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells, though I actually come from Norwich, but I hope to move to Lewes next year, just to have a complete change.

Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A. No hesitation – it would have to be Italy – somewhere near the coast.

Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A.  I love old character properties but the older I get the more I appreciate modern benefits. Am in a bungalow at the moment, which is perfect, having just fractured my pelvis!

Q. Cat,  dog or budgie?
A. I have a handsome snow-white rescued cat. He came to us at 6 years and is now 13, but just as active and into naughty pleasures as he always was. He often wanders down to my cabin and jumps onto my workstation, then saunters across my keyboard. I wouldn’t be without him for the world.

Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A. Oh, tray on the lap with TV – or a book. However, there’s nothing like a dinner party where everyone turns up looking rather posh (those were the days) and sitting down to a beautifully laid table. Will those days ever come back?

Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A. I love documentaries, whether they’re on current issues such as the environment, political world news, historical, animal behaviour etc. Love sit-coms both American and English – no one was more upset than I was when Father Ted keeled over with a heart attack, but rarely thrillers, and no soaps unless you count Downton Abbey. You haven’t mentioned films, but I adore old black-and-whites which can get me in the mood for the era when most of my stories take place. 

Q. What was your first published novel about?
A. It’s called Annie’s Story, under the pen-name, Fenella Forster and is the first of The Voyagers trilogy – what I would call a ‘real’ saga. It opens in 1913, when my heroine, Annie, and her husband (both of whom were servants in grand country houses) set sail for Australia, intending to emigrate. It ended in tears and they were forced to come home. This was based on my paternal grandparents who came from the same background. My grandfather persuaded my grandmother to go with him to Australia to ‘better themselves’. At the time they were only engaged to be married so they were assigned to separate areas of the ship – steerage – so no luxuries at all. Ninety percent is fiction, but the ten percent that’s true gives it, I hope, a real authenticity. 

Q. What was your last novel about?
A. This is called A Sister’s Song, under the pen-name, Molly Green. It’s set in the 2ndWW and is the second of The Victory Sisters trilogy. Suzanne, the heroine, is the middle sister of three. She’s a musician and wants to do her bit in the war. She joins ENSA and is sent to Malta to sing to the troops, all the while wondering if she will ever see James, the naval officer she fell in love with, before his ship sailed. There’s also another secret in her heart that she’s determined to unravel. The third in the series, A Sister’s War, will be published in March 2021. Ronnie, the youngest sister, works on the Grand Union Canal taking cargo from London to Birmingham and back. It’s extremely heavy work – I don’t know how these girls did it with such stoicism.

Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A. The last six novels under Molly Green have all been what the publishers call sagas. I call them romantic fiction. They are all set in the 2ndWW which seems to be what my readers like and now expect. I’m very comfortable in that genre because I’ve always been fascinated with anything to do with the last war, as it doesn’t seem so far away from my life, having had parents who went through the entire London Blitz. My mother told me lots of stories of how the people coped and the friendships they made, and most of all the way they really did all pull together. I think the virus gave us an inkling of those wartime years and inspired us to help each other. I do hope it will have a lasting effect. 

Q. Have you ever considered exploring a totally different genre?
A.  Yes. I have a romantic comedy tucked away in a drawer which I’m determined will one day see the light. It has the best title ever which I won’t disclose until I have a contract! I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, but the trouble is, when books sell successfully, publishers want you to keep on producing in the same genre, which is commercially logical. Maybe I’ll self-publish it one day.  

Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
A. What a difficult question! I’m attached to all of them. I think I’d pick Juliet, the heroine of Juliet’s Story, Book 2 in The Voyagers trilogy. This is mainly because she’s much closer to my age, runs her own business and moves across the world to make a new life. I feel I have a lot in common with her. Then I’d choose Raine, the heroine of Book 1 of The Victory Sisters trilogy, because she is the most determined person I ‘know’ and against all odds manages to defy convention and her family and become a pilot, eventually joining the Air Transport Auxiliary to deliver the aeroplanes to the fighter boys. I think she and Juliet would get along beautifully as they’re both gutsy women.

Q. Where would you go / what would you do? 
A. I’d take them to Biggin Hill. They have a new museum which opened just before Covid, so I’ve not seen it yet. Raine could explain to Juliet what the women in the ATA achieved in the war, contrary to one high-ranking officer who made the comment that women couldn’t even be trusted to scrub a hospital floor, let alone fly a plane. Juliet would immediately sympathise as she’s come across plenty of chauvinistic males in her own life and would be genuinely fascinated. Then we’d take the train to London and have a slap-up meal at the Ritz. 

Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A. I’m crazy about trains. Preferably steam trains going on long journeys. I’ve been on the longest train journey in the world – all the way from London, picking up the Trans-Siberian Express in Moscow, and changing trains on the Chinese border to Shanghai. It took over a month and was an amazing trip. There was a terrifying incident in Belarus where I was thrown off a train at 2 am by two gun-toting soldiers for not having an in-transit visa. No one spoke English so I didn’t know what was going to happen to me until 8 hours later when they forced me on a train back to Warsaw. Yet it hasn’t spoilt my love of train travel. 
 

Q. You are out for a walk. You see a chap sitting on a wall, looking right fed up – but there’s something odd about him... What? And what  do you do?
A. I’d probably get into conversation with him. Ask him if anything’s the matter. If there was something very odd about him I’d probably avoid his eye and hurry past – then feel guilty.

We have a long-running Radio programme here in the UK called Desert Island Discs on which celebrities talk about their life and select eight of their favourite discs... so changing that slightly...

Q. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what eight books would you want to find left in an abandoned hut? (There’s already a Bible, the Quran, and the complete works of Shakespeare)
 
1.  Nefertiti Lived Here and City in the Sand by Mary Chubb (I hope I’ll be allowed this duo which would be perfect for a desert island!)
2.  The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini (supposedly the first autobiography ever published)
3.  Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson (funniest travel writer since Mark Twain)
4.  Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
5.  Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome (just as funny as Three Men in a Boat yet not nearly so well known)
6.  The Odyssey by Homer
7.  Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence (not read it but keep meaning to)
8.  from Bad to Wurst: Bavarian Adventures of a Veggie Cook by Denise Barnes
I had to add this one to the list. It tells of my time when I worked in the kitchen of a Bavarian sanatorium in the 70s. It still makes me laugh when I re-read it. 

Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)
A.  Definitely desert. Especially if there were a few camels, which are my second most favourite animal (cats first, obviously!) I could have wonderful rides and get some great views of … well, the sea, I suppose.

Q. And you would be allowed one luxury item – what would you want it to be? (a boat or something to escape on isn’t allowed.)
A. A feather pillow. I can’t sleep in hotels who have those horrid spongy bouncy ones. I always take my travel feather pillow my sister made me wherever I go – it really comes into its own for my overnight train journeys. 


Thank you for having me as your guest interviewee. I’ve really enjoyed it.





Click HERE (and scroll down to 'G') to find our  reviews of Molly Green's books  on Discovering Diamonds

See Our Full 

Friday, 26 March 2021

A Discovering Diamonds review of A Canopy of Stars by Stephen Taylor

19th century
London, Germany, Netherlands

This book is an indictment of anti-Semitism, which began two centuries B.C.E. and is an ongoing evil today. 

David Neander arrives in England to start a new life. Two days later, he is accused of stealing half a sheep, arrested and brought to trial. It becomes obvious that the judge is prejudiced by the fact that David is a Jew and regards him as a low-life. The valuation of the half-sheep is 40 shillings, which makes the theft a capital crime and worthy of the death penalty. David is found guilty and sentenced to death. This part of the story is based on a true event that the author read about.

Julia Carmichael wanted to be a lawyer like her father, but since that is impossible she becomes his clerk. She is in the courtroom for David’s trial and is furious at what she sees as an egregious miscarriage of justice. After visiting David in prison, she determines to save him from the hangman. Their association blossoms into a restricted romance.

This is more than just a courtroom drama. The author takes us on a journey through the previous four years of David’s life where we see that far from being a low-life, he is an exceptional young man who has risen from a family tragedy to become a translator, a poet, and a pugilist. The latter skill proves very useful as he makes his way from Germany to England, only to run afoul of the law.

David is a thoroughly decent man and Julia is a determined, loyal and compassionate young woman who refuses to give up in spite of setbacks. On his journey, David meets some interesting characters. My favourite is Old Musketeer, named after the gun that blinded him, a more self-reliant man than most sighted people.

The historical aspects of the story – justice in 19th-century England, anti-Semitism in Germany, and more – were enlightening. 

One little niggle – too much description of David’s fights, literally blow by blow, became slightly tedious for me, but might not bother other readers. I skipped through them, but they did not spoil my enjoyment of the rest of the book.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Susan Appleyard
 e-version reviewed



You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Cover and Book of the Month - 30th March
Critique Cover Corner - 31st March



Wednesday, 24 March 2021

EO-N by Dave Mason

shortlisted for Book of the Month

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Thriller
1945 / 2019
Europe

"2019: Alison Wiley, a once-idealistic biotech CEO, is processing her new reality: she's the last bud on the last branch of her family tree. On the heels of her mother's illness and crushing death, a phone call from Scott Wilcox, a former combat medic turned government investigator, pulls her into a seventy-four year old mystery that begins beneath the surface of a Norwegian glacier. 1945: Squadron Leader Jack Barton, a cocky Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, flies combat missions over occupied Europe. Major Günther Graf, a war-weary and disillusioned Luftwaffe pilot, is trapped in the unspeakable horrors of Nazi Germany. Their paths, so different yet so similar, are connected by a young girl, a victim of appalling cruelty who may carry the promise of a better future. As these five lives converge in a sweeping arc that takes readers on a tightly woven and gripping journey--from the destruction and cruelty of war to the relentless pressures of corporate greed--EO-N reminds us that individual actions matter, and that courage comes in many forms."

‘Captivating’, ‘engaging, ‘engrossing’ are terms often used in publicity for a book, but for EO-N, these words are absolutely accurate. This is an accomplished novel, beautifully written.

Running along two timelines with the characters caught in vices of personal conflict, this story takes the reader into the hearts, minds and dilemmas of each character.  Alison in the present and Günther in wartime Germany are both driven individuals, high achievers in their chosen profession. Both have suffered loss; both are grieving. But they live their work distanced from others. Then they hit a metaphorical brick wall which forces them to face questions they have been asking all their lives and to make choices of conscience which makes them question everything about their lives. Jack and his act of courage in 1945 and the strong, self-contained Scott are the catalysts.

The author follows each character in such a way that we see through their eyes and into their minds. The writing is thoughtful and clever and beautifully detailed but above all personalised. The research, particularly for the settings, shines through and EO-N, the De Havilland Mosquito – at times a light bomber, photo reconnaissance aircraft, night fighter, maritime strike aircraft – is almost a character of its own.

The mystery is peeled away gradually, but steadily, which makes the story realistic as well as heart-wrenching and the author cleverly weaves it in with the personal examination and dilemmas.

If you are looking for themes, there are the questions of whether war is justified, how devoid of humanity people can be, how courageous and self-sacrificing they can also be. Is the price of ‘selling out’ the loss of your integrity, and how long can you go before you have to make the ultimate moral decision?

Highly recommended

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Jessica Brown
 e-version reviewed


You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Monday, 22 March 2021

Spitefull Bones by Jeri Westerson


Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Mystery / medieval noir / Fictional saga
14th century
London

Some fun characters from the past feature in this story, the 14th instalment of Westerson’s Crispin Guest medieval noir series. Nigellus Cobmartin has inherited his father’s house upon the death of his older brother. He and his lover, the delightful John Rykener (under the guise of Eleanor) are in the process of restoring it, the house having fallen into disrepair. The workers discover a gruesome scene - a skeletonized body tied up within the walls of the manor house. It is determined that the body belonged to a former servant who the Cobmartin household thought stole a relic and then took off with the wife of another servant. At the same time, Nigellus and John are victims of extortion, under threat of their lifestyle being exposed if they fail to pay the unknown villain. But nothing is as it appears at first glance, and so Crispin and his apprentice, Jack Tucker, find themselves on the hunt for an extortionist who may also be a murderer. 

The character development over the course of this series has been excellent. Crispin is now in his forties and is beginning to feel the effects of a hard and active life, though he rails against it. Jack is taking on more of the lead role in the sleuthing duo and is the image of a young and vital man. There were a few times that he saved Crispin’s neck, literally and figuratively, and while it was lovely to see, I also miss little boy Jack even as I revel in the upstanding man he has become.

Crispin himself has long since accepted that he is no longer nobility and has made a family for himself with Jack, Jack’s wife Isabel, and their growing brood of children. He seems content enough with his lot and takes pleasure in the simple joys in life in ways he was unable to do before. One of his greatest joys is in his son, Christopher, who he is unable to acknowledge. His friends, too, are his joy, and he throws himself into investigating who would murder a friend’s servant, driven to protect those he loves. 

As always, Westerson creates vivid scenery in her settings. It is easy to picture the sights (and, unfortunately, the smells!) of the Shambles and other places in medieval London. The strength of her descriptive writing is exceptional and that, along with complex character development, have made Westerson one of my favorite authors. She creates characters readers genuinely care about and then develops them into rich and multidimensional people, even secondary characters.

Take, for example, Nigellus Cobmartin and John Rykener. Nigellus is a fictional character, but Rykener was a real man who dressed as a woman and was a whore and a skilled embroideress. Their relationship, while it may seem implausible to us given the time period they were from, could well have happened. Rykener was listed as having a husband in one of the documents Westerson referenced, though the man was not named. Why not let the husband be Nigellus? There have always been LGBT people, even if they had been vilified, shunned, or even killed at various points in history. A lack of understanding does not mean they didn’t exist, and there is plenty of documentation to prove it. I think it is really important to discuss social issues in all their many elements, but literature is an ideal medium in which to do so. 

Readers get to know both Rykener and Nigellus over the course of a few books, and can see them as people rather than ideas, mere figures on a page, or solely by their sexual identity. Having other characters like Crispin sometimes struggle with how they see Rykener helps create depth but also gives a nuanced examination of our own society. A long-winded way to say that I love their relationship, the characters themselves, and how Westerson approached it.

I was sad while I was reading this story because I thought it was the final entry in the Crispin Guest series. But I was wrong! There is one final adventure to share with Crispin, Jack, and friends, The Deadliest Sin, which Westerson’s website says will be released in 2022. 

In the meantime, I highly recommend this book, as well as the rest of the series, to anyone who loves a good, complex, brooding protagonist and a delightful cast of secondary characters.  

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Kristen McQuinn
 e-version reviewed


You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Sunday Guest Post- Judith Arnopp

Continuing our Sunday Series
of taking a look at some fabulous authors!



Hello Judith, welcome to our Discovering Diamonds Guest Spot. Along with my readers and visitors I love to hear from authors who write wonderful stories. There’s nothing better than curling up with a good book,  box of chocs and glass of wine to hand!

Q. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself....
A. Hello, thank you for having me on your blog, Helen. I’ve always loved history but spent my younger years bringing up my children and running a smallholding. We kept horses, poultry, goats and grew vegetables and had a wonderful life. Once the children grew up and flew the nest, I turned to writing. I studied creative writing and history at university and had always dreamed of being a ‘proper’ author, so I’ve been lucky enough to achieve both my childhood dreams of having a farm and earning a living from writing. I like to read, write (obviously). I also garden and sew historical clothing. I am a member of The Fyne Companyee of Cambria a medieval/Tudor re-enactment group that fills the summer weekends with fun. I am just completing my thirteenth Historical Fiction novel, most of which are set during the wars of the roses or the Tudor era.

Q. Where do you live?
A. I live in Wales, on the coast looking over Cardigan Bay. I love being able to walk on the beach or on the cliff path every day. The views are magnificent and never grow stale.

Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A. I’d stay here but maybe in my last house if it could be transported to the coast. The weather is better here than in land.

Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A.  I’ve lived in an old cottage for twenty years; it was often cold and required a lot of maintenance. My husband always kept a hammer in his back pocket in case it began falling down – ha ha! The house I live in now was built in the 1950, originally a small family house it has now had a huge wrap around extension and loft conversion. I would find it hard to give up the comfort of this house but …I watch Escape to the Chateau and, along with most viewers, wish I were young enough to buy and renovate one for myself.

Q. Cat,  dog or budgie?
A. In the past we always kept dogs but since we lost our last one a few years ago we aren’t going to replace him.

Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A. A bit of both really, it depends on the company. Now there’s just the two of us, my old fella and I often eat in front of the telly.

Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A. I love dramas if they are well done. I found The Crown really fabulous, but I also enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale, and White Lines. I loathe cheap historically inaccurate costume dramas. I’ve stopped watching them since almost suffering apoplexy watching The White Queen. I even find some documentaries tedious and repetitive – they take two hours to say what could be said in one.

Q. What was your first published novel about?
A. Peaceweaver was published in 2009. It is set in the 11th century and tells the story of Eadgyth, who was wife to Gruffyd ap Llewellyn of Wales and Harold II of Hastings fame. I wrote in this era for a few years but switched to Tudor when people kept asking me to.

Q. What was your last novel about?
A. My last published novel was about Mary Tudor, Queen of England. She is on her death bed, looking back on her life and past mistakes. The books covers her childhood, the break-up of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, her experience during the reign of Edward VI and the events surrounding Lady Jane Grey, and also Mary’s reign. I find Mary Tudor a fascinating woman; her good points have been completely obliterated by the religious changes that took place after her passing. Despite her actions, she doesn’t deserve the title Bloody Mary. I don’t white-wash her, but I hope I explain the motivation behind her more controversial actions.
I am just on the editing stage of A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years which is due to be published in 2021.

Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A. I just write Historical Fiction and non-fiction,

Q. Have you ever considered exploring a totally different genre?
A. I don’t think I could write anything else. I lived so far from the modern world for so long, I know very little about it. I am far more at home in Tudor England.

Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
A. Only two? How mean! I think Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth I would be interesting; Margaret would have been so proud of her great granddaughter.

Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A. Car, if I am really pushed. I have travel phobia. If I go further than Cardiff, I am liable to panic attacks.

We have a long-running Radio programme here in the UK called Desert Island Discs on which celebrities talk about their life and select eight of their favourite discs... so changing that slightly...

Q. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what eight books would you want to find left in an abandoned hut? (There’s already a Bible, the Quran, and the complete works of Shakespeare)
A
1. Daphne du Maurier – The King’s General
2. Winston Graham – The complete Poldark
3. H Mantel - Wolf Hall trilogy
4. Elly Griffiths – The first Ruth Galloway book
5. Any of Terry Tyler’s books
6. The Tudor Chronicles
7. Michel Faber = The Crimson Petal and the White
8. one of mine – A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years

Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)
A. Not a desert island as I don’t like it too hot and I hate spiders. Hebridean would be better provided I had warm clothing, but Guernsey would be better - lol

Q. And you would be allowed one luxury item – what would you want it to be? (a boat or something to escape on isn’t allowed.)
A. A shower with decent water pressure and my favourite shampoo plumbed in.


Click HERE (and scroll down to 'A') to find our  reviews of Judith's books  on Discovering Diamonds

See Our Full 

Friday, 19 March 2021

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Death Game by Chris Longmuir


Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Mystery/Thriller
WWI
England /Dundee

We take equality for granted in 2021, but in the post-First World War period, it was anything but for women wishing to pursue a paid and purposeful career. Imagine the resistance if you had wanted to enter the very male environment of the police force. Kirsty Campbell has to face this in spades as she becomes the first policewoman in her home town of Dundee.

At the end of the war a new women’s police force was set up called the Women’s Police Patrols which drew its recruits from the Women’s Police Volunteers and the Voluntary Women Patrols. Many of these women had been suffragettes and suffragists so on the ‘consumer end’ of police action. But the First World War had changed that as the women campaigners had called a ‘truce’ and volunteered in support of the nation’s needs in war.

The post-war Women’s Police Patrols were more formal, particularly in London and its trained and uniformed members were deployed in escorting lost children and dogs, controlling prostitutes and taking statements from women. Kirsty and her colleagues took pride in their professionalism and smart appearance always sensitive to not being taken seriously and to the unwritten need to perform better than their male colleagues expected.

When Kirsty is asked to become the sole pioneer back in her home town of Dundee, she has misgivings, but for somebody of her strong character and dedication, she soon agrees.

But it’s a nightmare. Her male ‘colleagues’ ignore or sideline her, her old family disputes come back in full bite mode and then there’s a particularly savage murderer on the loose.

Chris Longmuir gives us a very strong sense of place of Dundee in the post First World War period, a Dundee typical of a world irrevocably changed by that war. She doesn’t flinch from describing the seamier side of life, the varied personalities, the kind hearts and the cold minds. Her heroine, Kirsty, is prickly, but tenacious in her duty and determination. But she has a soft heart and a sensitive nature which sometimes lead her to be impulsive with not such good outcomes. Kirsty is an attractive character because of this very complexity.

A historical mystery with edge and a protagonist I want to read more about. 

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Alison Morton
 e-version reviewed


You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Falcon Queen by Johanna Wittenberg



Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Fictional saga / fantasy
9th century
Norway

"Ninth-century Norway, the island of Tromøy.
Åsa has won back her father’s kingdom, but can she hold it?
The evil shapeshifter Hrolf lurks in the hinterlands, plotting revenge. The powerful Danes threaten from across the Skagerrak Sea, demanding marriage in exchange for peace, while her only ally, Olaf, presses his own suit. Though she loves Olaf, Åsa refuses to sacrifice her position and her people’s welfare to become any man’s property.
Then, across the snow-clad mountains comes Ragnhild, a runaway shield-maiden, seeking glory and gold. She seems to be the answer to Åsa’s prayers, but Ragnhild’s past catches up with her, bringing treachery and war."

Äsa Haraldsdotter has achieved her goals: she has avenged her father and brother (by murdering her husband who, in his turn, murdered her father and brother) and claimed the throne of Tromöy (Agder), the hereditary kingdom of her family. It is not a big kingdom. In fact, it is very small, and Åsa lacks both men and weapons to properly defend her kingdom against the advances of the Danes. Except that she has two secret weapons: the young shieldmaidens who join her cause and the support of Olav, her former step-son and lover.

Ms Wittenberg sweeps us back to 9th-century Norway, to a time of legend and magic. This is a time of shapeshifters and heroic deeds, a time where the strongest rules. While Åsa may not always be physically the strongest, she is a force to be reckoned with—especially when she has her back to the wall and must fight to defend those she holds dear. 

While I have no problem believing in the occasional shield maiden – women throughout the ages have often taken up arms in dire times—I find it somewhat improbable that a company of women fighters would have been capable of holding their own in a full-on battle against men. Longer reach, superior strength and much more battle experience would have worked in the male warriors’ favour, no matter the determination and passion of their female opponents.

But Åsa Haraldsdotter is a legend and it is as a legend, a woman bridging the gap between myth and reality, that we must see her—and her companions. Ms Wittenberg has taken the ancient stories and twisted them into a vivid description of the challenges facing a young woman who refuses to conform, making her own way in a world where women were usually restricted to the role of wife, mother—and, in some cases, victim. Åsa is no victim. She rules her own little kingdom, oversees everything from the brewing of ale to the preparation of flax. She fights, she raids, she trades, she worries about her little son. 

In summary, Åsa comes alive.

Ms Wittenberg has obviously done her research. It shines through in her description of clothes and interiors but at times the very detailed depictions of everything from harvests to ale-making come at the expense of pace. The Falcon Queen is the second in a series, and at times I felt as if I was missing relevant parts of the back story. I suspect this is one of those books that do better when read as part of the series than as a stand-alone. So start with the first book.

All in all, though, The Falcon Queen gives an interesting insight into life in Scandinavia in the years before there even was a united Norway. 

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Anna Belfrage
 e-version reviewed




You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Monday, 15 March 2021

The Lady Jewel Diviner by Rosalie Oaks


Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

fantasy/ cosy mystery
Regency 
England/ Devon coast

Miss Elinor Avely finds herself exiled on the Devon coast with her mother and brother after her reputation was ruined in London in a most public fashion. Accused of stealing a jeweled necklace, she self-destructs further when she shuns Lord Beresford, who tried to save her by declaring before one and all that she was his fiancee. Exiled from society, Elinor is determined to keep her head down and be a dutiful daughter. Until, that is, her evening is interrupted by a bat flying into her room, turning into a tiny, naked woman, and demanding to be fed a sheep. The two form an unlikely alliance when a local man turns up dead, piles of jewels and gold are missing and presumed to be smuggled to France to pay Napoleon, and an identity of an English spy may hit too close for comfort.

This was an entirely agreeable cosy mystery. Or cosy fantasy. Either one would be accurate. Honestly, though. Who wouldn't adore a Regency cosy mystery fantasy romance? Elinor is a typical figure in many Regency romances and mysteries. She is curious, intelligent, and not at all afraid to speak her mind. If only Lord Beresford could appreciate that about her! Or does he? 

Aldreda Zooth, the tiny bat-woman, is a vampiri from France. She is in England to search for a necklace that belonged to her lost beloved and she convinces Elinor to help. Elinor is what Eldreda calls a Diviner, one who can find hidden objects by a sixth sense. This is, of course, what led to Elinor’s disgrace in London - she found a necklace but was accused of stealing it. Elinor agrees to help Eldreda but they are soon both drawn into an intrigue. Elinor gets to display her bravery and intelligence in several instances, but is still able to be a damsel in distress. Eldreda is an ideal chaperone, even though she is fairy-sized, and is a plucky and fun character.

Elinor’s brother, Perry, is a bit flat in terms of character development, but I really don’t think it matters a whole lot since he is not the main attraction of the novel. He is in it enough, though, that a little more depth for him would be appreciated. Perhaps this will come in future books, as the second in the series is set to be released on 1 March 2021. 

I will definitely be on the lookout for that book as well as others by this author. A light, somewhat silly (in the 'fun' sense), cosy mystery is exactly what I needed to read as pure escapism. Enthusiastically recommended.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Kristen McQuinn
 e-version reviewed


You will find several items of interest on the sidebar