Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Cover and Book of the Month - June

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 2021
(honourable mentions for the Runner-up)

RUNNER UP COVERS

(designed by Streetlight Graphics)

(unknown designer)

(designed by Nick Castle)

WINNER - JUNE

(designed by Damonza)

Book of the Month - JUNE

I chose this one because it was different.
And it was very good

Read our Review




Monday, 28 June 2021

Mercies of the Fallen, by Eileen Charbonneau



Amazon UK
Amazon US
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Goodreads

Romance /Fictional Saga
1800s
American Civil War

Mercies of the Fallen is exactly my cup of tea. The story strikes the right balance between historical fiction and historical romance where there’s a central love story in a historically meaty era. 

The second instalment of a standalone series, Mercies of the Fallen is set during the American Civil War. Although a couple of characters from the first book, Seven Aprils, make an appearance, either story can be read and enjoyed in any order. 

Ursula Kingsley is a novice and prepares to take her vows, but the war interrupts these plans. Her family’s Maryland plantation becomes the site of a makeshift Union hospital, and Ursula rolls up her sleeves to help the wounded. 

Rowan Buckley is a Union soldier regains consciousness after a battle in Maryland. Due to his wounds, he’s unable to see. His eyes are bandaged and he’s not sure where he is, but he’s aware of a kind pair of hands, a soft voice and the comforting scent of lemon balm. Over weeks of recovery (still without his eyesight), he forms an emotional bond with a nurse in this makeshift hospital. Ursula’s brother is anxious for his sister’s future and strangely encourages the man’s interest. Rowan hardly needs the encouragement because he’s smitten, but there’s a mystery here that he can’t figure out. 

When he’s transferred to a Washington hospital to recover, his vision is slowly restored and he learns that Ursula is suspected of being a spy for the South and the army recruits his aid to spy on her. 

The romance strikes the right notes for me. This is a well-written romance where the circumstances—political and social—complicate the relationship and strengthens the bond. Rowan has an ingrained and unshakable sense of decency. We need more Rowans in this world. Ursula is a healing balm for those who are suffering around her, and her difficult circumstances and her past keep her from being a two dimensional character. At times the events paralleled today’s fraught world.

The author elevates the story by showing us the diverse backgrounds of the men who fought for the Union. Rowan, an Irish Canadian immigrant, decided to fight for the Union because he was opposed to slavery. The side characters were an absolute joy: Ursula’s quirky brother and one of the “Maries”, a French Canadian woman who is a force to be reckoned with, were both favourites of mine. 

Mercies of the Fallen has excellent writing, solid pacing and a tender romance. Well worth the read. Highly recommended!


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Cryssa Bazos
 e-version reviewed


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30th June -  book and cover of month

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Sunday Guest Spot - Linda Proud

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



Hello Linda, 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. Author of four novels set in the Florentine Renaissance, and one set in Ancient Britain (Chariot of the Soul). When I’m not writing, I’m gardening, studying Sanskrit or knitting. I also keep chickens.


Q. Where do you live?
A. In a village on the north side of the city of Oxford.

Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A. I’m living there, but would enjoy extended stays in the Orkneys, Hebrides, Shetlands etc. Even the Isle of Wight. I find the mainland can be oppressive.

Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A.  Ramshackle log cabin in the middle of a wood, old vicarage on cliff top, or Tudorbethan detached.

Q. Cat,  dog or budgie?
A. Chickens.

Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A. My preference is for squatting on my heels and eating with my fingers from small bowls, but haven’t tried it yet.

Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A. Drama - always with an eye on the story structure. Anything metaphysical, but you don’t get much of that. So, Gogglebox, then.

Q. What was your first published novel about?
A. A Tabernacle for the Sun was about a small boy with an ambition to become a scribe at the very time they invented the printing press. It seemed to be a tale of our own times. I began writing this story in the 70s; in 2000 I was ousted from my own career as a picture researcher by the digital revolution.


Q. What was your last novel about?
A. Unbeknownst to most of us, in the first century there was a king of central southern Britain who kept his region at peace during the upheavals of the Roman invasion and subsequent rebellions. His name was Togidubnus. This is his story.


Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A. Only one. Classical historical fiction, based on fact.

Q. Have you ever considered exploring a totally different genre?
A.  Nope.

Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
A. It would have to be Lorenzo de’ Medici and Togidubus.

Q. Where would you go / what would you do?
I’d take them for a picnic to Avebury Stone Circle.

Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A. Chariot, preferably. Oh, you mean now? In healthy times I enjoy a train. Right now, it’s Shank’s pony.

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. He’s egg-shaped and looking a bit wobbly. I try and talk him down, gently, gently, but he falls and cracks open, so I have him for breakfast.

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. Bhagavad Gita
2. Lord of the Rings
3. Mahabharata
4. Ramayana
5. Mabinogion
6. Flora and fauna of the island, as written by whoever abandoned the hut
7. The Way of Qigong by Kenneth S. Cohen
8. Winnie the Pooh

Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)
A. As above. Wild, west of Britain, full of elemental presences.

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 comfy bed out of the cold. 


www.lindaproud.com (includes blog and newsletter)
Instagram  lindaproud9
Twitter @lindaproudsmith




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

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Friday, 25 June 2021

A Sister's War by Molly Green

WWII / 1943
England

3rd in Three Sisters of Victory Saga

"Against her strict mother’s wishes, Ronnie signs up to join the Grand Union Canal Company, where she’ll be working on a narrowboat taking critical supplies between London and Birmingham. But with no experience on the waterways, she must learn the ropes quickly. She’s facing dreadful weather, long days, and rough living conditions. At least she isn’t on her own. In the toughest times, will Ronnie and her fellow trainees pull together? For even in the darkest days of war, hope and friendship can see you through…"

What is there not to like about a Molly Green novel?

All the characters in this entertaining and highly readable and enjoyable wartime adventure on the canals of England are superbly drawn, and very likeable (most of them – even taskmistress Dora). The youngest sister of three girls, Ronnie (Veronique) Linfoot, I immediately adored. Sixteen years old and determined to ‘do her bit’ for the war effort, she lies about her age and goes off to train how to handle narrowboats carrying essential cargo the length and breadth of England.

Along with Ronnie and her friends, we struggle through the hard training, the ups and downs, the laughter, loves and the dangers of life on the canals, the long hours, the endurance and the prejudices... in the eyes of many, the canals were not a place for women, even during wartime. Things go right, things go wrong. There is a war on, after all. 

I did wonder if I would enjoy this third part of Ms Green’s stories about these three sisters as much as I did the previous two, but if anything, this one was even better. As an added bonus, it really doesn’t matter if you have or haven’t read those two instalments in the series, for each are so well written they are perfectly adequate stand-alone novels.

I know it is a terrible cliché but this series would make superb TV drama.

A very highly recommended read


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Mary Chapple
 e-version reviewed


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Wednesday, 23 June 2021

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Flowers By Night by Lucy May Lennox

 

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Fictional Drama / LGBT
19th century /1800s
Japan
(Sexual content)

“Japan, 1825: Low-ranking samurai Uchida Tomonosuke is a devotee of the way of manly love, but he has never pledged himself to another man. Until one day he accidentally crosses paths with Ichi, a beautiful blind masseur who challenges everything he thought he knew about love between men. Ichi is independent and confident, but his blindness means he is considered a non-person in the rigid social hierarchy. Tomonosuke is torn between his passion for this elegant young man, and the expectations of his rank. Not to mention his obligation to his unhappy wife, Okyo. But when betrayal and natural disasters strike, it is Ichi who holds the key to saving Tomonosuke's life.”

Well told, well written, and apparently well researched, although I know nothing of Japanese culture to clarify this.

The Japanese detail of the story was engrossing; out of interest I found myself looking up a few things on Wikipedia to extend my interest in the real events of the period. 

For readers who enjoy gay romance in an historical, and alternative to the western world culture, this novel should appeal. I did find it a fascinating read, although I was not so interested in the relationship between the two main characters,  Ichi and Tomonosuke, the latter of whom I did not particularly warm too, but all the characters were well drawn and seemed very ‘human’, possibly because they were not stereotypical or one-dimensional. The plot was a little slow to get started, but once drawn in, especially where the secondary characters were concerned, Okyo and Rin the wife and servant, the story takes off at a steadier pace, although some threads, I felt, were a little skated over or rushed.

For readers with an interest in gay romance, or who are intrigued by the history of Japanese culture, this novel should be an entertaining read.


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Ellen Hill
 e-version reviewed



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Monday, 21 June 2021

Keziah's Song by Daryl Potter

shortlisted for Book of the Month




Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Fictional drama
2nd century B.C.
Ancient Israel

I was attracted to this book because it is refreshing to find a novel set in a different time, a little-known era, than those presently popular.

The main characters are brother and sister, Jacob and Keziah, who live in Cana in Galilee, but the story is really about the close community in which they live, how they live and how the industry of such small places operated in those days. There is a glassmaker, a wine producer and a carpenter, and each has the support of others when needed. They are an assortment of characters who feel like our own neighbours.

Music plays an important role in Keziah’s life. It is a way she has of communicating with her husband in public – invitation and acceptance. She plays her lute and neighbours play other instruments or sing when they gather together in one another’s houses to celebrate life. These musical evenings and the simple, productive lives of the villagers form a counterpoint to the wars that overshadow the period: against the Seleucids of the Greek-Syrian Empire and against the Egyptians. Civil war erupts as brother fights brother, and mother fights son for the crown of the Hasmoneans. The people of Cana are inevitably drawn into the conflicts.

This compelling book is a rich tapestry of war and peace, courage and endurance, love and loss that underscores the simple truth that when leaders clash it is the innocent who pay the price.

I see the story as a kind of microcosm of the Jews' suffering throughout the centuries. No matter how many times other nations attack, massacre and drive them from their homes, they survive, flourish and go on as before.
I thoroughly enjoyed this read and wholeheartedly recommend it.


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Susan Appleyard
 e-version reviewed


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Sunday, 20 June 2021

Sunday Guest Spot - Susan Grossey

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



Hello Susan, 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 think perhaps my Twitter profile sums it up: I’m a reader, writer, anti-money laundering obsessive, knitter, stoker (back half of a tandem) and chocoholic – but rarely all at the same time.

Q. Where do you live?
A. I live in a small terraced house in the middle of Cambridge, an old university city in the east of England.

Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A. I grew up in Singapore and – if I had the money to live in the same style as did in the 1970s – I’d go back there.  But Singapore’s cost of living is now astronomical and I’d end up in a high-rise shoebox, so instead I quite fancy a tall, elegant townhouse on the banks of one of the canals in Delft.  Delft is basically exactly like Cambridge (university, lots of cyclists, old buildings, waterways), but still in the EU.

Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A. Old townhouse – I have lived in a new-build but I missed the feeling that others had lived there before me.  And I like being within walking distance of things like shops and libraries. 

Q. Cat,  dog or budgie?
A. I am currently owned by a beautiful but demanding tabby cat called Maggie (short for “Magnificat”) but once I have retired and my time is my own, I shall also bring a dog into the family – I like their optimism (as opposed to the world-weariness of felines).

Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A. Shall I pretend it’s the former, or admit it’s the latter?  I make an exception for curry meals, as all the components demand the space of a set table.

Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A. My very, very, very favourite programmes are “Call the Midwife”, “Poldark” (the original series) and “Mad Men” – so it’s period drama with a touch of the soap.  I can’t do thrillers at all – I have to stand in the next room and call out, “Tell me when it’s over” if there’s any creeping about.

Q. What was your first published novel about?
A. “Fatal Forgery” was a semi-biographical novel about a banker in 1820s London who stole money from his customers and was sentenced to hang for it.

Q. What was your last novel about?
A. Sam Plank, the constable in “Fatal Forgery” who arrested the banker was a determined fellow and he took over, demanding that I write a series of books about him.  So “Heir Apparent” – my most recent novel – was the sixth in the Sam Plank series.

Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A. I write in one genre, one period and one style – for the time being…

Q. Have you ever considered exploring a totally different genre?
A. To be honest, I am so enamoured of the escape and discipline of writing historical fiction that anything else – modern stuff, or (shudder) science fiction – seems a waste of time.  That’s not to say I don’t like reading it, because I do – I just can’t imagine writing it. 

Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
A. I think I would like to have tea with Martha Plank (Sam’s wife) and Lily Conant (the daughter of Sam’s magistrate boss).  They are both very much women of their place and time – London in the 1820s – but intelligent, and expert at quiet influence.

Q. Where would you go / what would you do?
A. We would walk through Hyde Park and gaze into the elegant shop windows in Mayfair, before returning to Lily’s father’s rooms in Great Marlborough Street to read the evening newspaper together and discuss how women could run affairs of state, justice and defence so much more efficiently and effectively than the men.

Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A. My ideal day out involves cycling and a train, so perhaps a combination of those.  I don’t like flying and boats are just scary.  My car is an elderly Renault 5 – born in 1985 – and I do like pootling around in him (he’s called Hugo).

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. The odd thing about him is that he has a very expensive bike with him, propped up against the wall, and his front wheel has a puncture.  But he clearly has no idea how to fix it – he’s spent thousands on the bike, and knows nothing about maintenance.  This isn’t out of my imagination – I have seen this several times.  And if we’re on our tandem at the time (as we usually are), my husband will stop and mend the puncture for the poor fellow.  I remember being so impressed the first time I saw him do it; I’m less impressed by his proficiency these days, but always impressed by his kindness.

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. “The Little White Horse” by Elizabeth Goudge – a beloved childhood book that I re-read each year
2. “Ross Poldark” by Winston Graham – see earlier obsession [Helen: I'll be kind and you can have a box set of the entire series!]
3. “All I Ever Wrote: The Complete Works” by Ronnie Barker – I’ll need a good laugh on the island
4. “Anne of Green Gables” by L M Montgomery – I’ll also need a boost of optimism and determination
5. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen – no explanation needed
6. “The Great Gatsby” by F Scott Fitzgerald – a bit short (and I’m a quick reader) but it is such perfection
7. “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie – I wrote my university dissertation about this book and still love it
8. “Little Women” – more optimism and determination, please

Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)
A. I’d be delighted with the traditional desert island – I’m very happy with heat and sunshine.  But no snakes, thank you – spiders and lizards are fine (the more legs the better), but no snakes.

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. I’m going to assume that endless paper and pens are not a luxury but a necessity.  On top of that, I would like an ice-making machine – I don’t like hot drinks at all, and put ice in every drink, even in midwinter.  It’s that tropical upbringing again – sundowners on the patio, ice clinking merrily.

Contact Susan

Twitter: @ConstablePlank

 

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Friday, 18 June 2021

An Unconventional Officer by Lynn Bryant

19th century
Europe / India

Wellington’s army (The Peninsular War Saga Book 1

"The year is 1802. A brief and fragile peace has been reached in Europe, but Britain is at war against the Maratha in India. In its Leicestershire barracks, the 110th infantry welcomes a new officer. Paul van Daan is far from being a typical raw young subaltern. Ambitious, talented and a charismatic leader of men, Paul has the means to buy his way up the ladder of promotion. He also has an unconventional past, a fierce temper and a passion for justice which bring him into conflict with other officers. Paul needs to find a way to adjust to the realities of life in the officers’ mess while remaining true to himself. Along the way he makes enduring friendships, forged on the battlefields of India and Europe, and builds an unexpected bond with the unemotional commander of the Peninsular army, Sir Arthur Wellesley. As the 110th join Wellesley in Portugal, Paul has established a reputation as a respected officer, a courageous fighter and a shameless womaniser. His marriage to the shy, gentle Rowena brings him companionship and stability. But it is Anne Howard, the extraordinary daughter of a wealthy manufacturer, who bursts into his life like a shooting star, leaving him dazzled. Beautiful, intelligent and courageous, Anne refuses to conform to the expectations of the men around her, and changes forever everything Paul thought he knew about women. From the slaughter of Assaye to the bloody battlefields of Portugal and Spain, this is the first book in the Peninsular War Saga which follows Paul through war, danger, loss, triumph and an unforgettable love story."

I read this novel some while ago - and have delighted in the rest of this exciting series (six books, I believe) - so when  asked to review Book One An Unconventional Officer for Discovering Diamonds I had no qualm about doing so.

The battles and skirmishes in this opening salvo are expertly written and depicted, as are the lives and loves (and otherwise!) of the superb characters. It is not just a story of warfare during the era of the Napoleonic War, it is a character-driven story - and boy, what characters they all are!

We have the war and the battles, and the death and the dying and the terrible injuries, but alongside, we have tension and romance, passion and misconceptions. Danger, violence, jealousy - and hope and joy as well! It ticks all the boxes. This novel is so well written it could almost be a factual account of the lives of the people who were there.

The lead character, Paul Van Daan is a typical fictional hero, larger than life with his own rigid (an unconventional) way of doing things - in war, in camp and in love and romance. He is a survivor and a man to truly root for. 

He is also a 'ladies man' - his philandering  might not suit every reader, but I found the women in this story to be just as much alive and likeable (or unlikeable). 

The book is a story to savour and enjoy - for its intrigue and adventure, for its accuracy and for the author's writing skill. Highly recommended. 


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Jack Holt


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Wednesday, 16 June 2021

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The Castilians by VEH Masters


Amazon UK
Amazon US
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Amazon AU
Goodreads

Fictional Drama
1500s / Tudor
Scotland

"1546, and Scotland is bludgeoned by Henry VIII, determined to marry his son to the infant Mary, Queen of Scots. A few among the Scottish nobles, for both political and religious reasons, are eager for this alliance too. They kill Cardinal Beaton, who is Mary’s great protector, and take St Andrews Castle, expecting rescue any day from England. For a sister and brother, spirited Bethia and rebellious Will, living in St Andrews and caught up on opposite sides, the siege becomes a fight for survival. As the long blockade unravels, it also becomes a test of their loyalties and what’s more important: to save their family, stay true to their beliefs, or to save themselves." 

Bethia lives in St Andrews during the reign of Henry VIII in England, who likes to interfere with the reign of James in Scotland. Religion is as tumultuous north of the border as south, and accounts for the wasteful deaths of more than one person. After a particularly gruesome end to one cleric who dared to speak his truth, the young lairds of St Andrews decide to make a stand against the cardinal who ordered the burning of George Wishart. Bethia's brother is drawn into the plot and becomes one of the Castilians of St Andrews castle which they make their base and which then becomes their prison. Bethia knows a way in and out via the sea but she has other concerns: her younger brother, her friend and their looming marriages.

This novel is written in the present tense which does take some getting used to but does seem to be fashionable at the moment. There is plenty of detail from an author who seems to know her chosen town, and a period of history that isn't that well known (well, I didn't know about it!). The author has created a believable world with a range of characters; Bethia's mother is a needed lightness in what can be dark and politically heavy narration. The Scottish language certainly adds a sense of otherness, placing it firmly in Scotland. 

Anyone who likes Scottish history, who has exhausted Outlander, will find comfort here in an earlier incarnation of Scottish heroes.


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Louise Adam
 e-version reviewed


The author has a 99c/99p promotion running on 
Amazon between 11 to 18 June 


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Monday, 14 June 2021

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The Raided Heart by Jennifer Wilson



Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Fictional Drama / Romance
1400s
Northumberland

"Northumberland, 1470s. Ambitious reiver Will Hetherington wants to prove himself a competent man in the company of Robert Mathers, head of the village. Headstrong Meg Mathers, Robert’s younger sister, wants to remain at her beloved home, caring for her family, the land and the village of Long Ridge where she’s grown up. When an accident throws Meg and Will together, attraction builds, and both begin to realise they might just have met their match. But life on the 15th century border is never that simple, and Meg finds herself betrothed to the weakling son of tyrannical neighbour, Alexander Gray. When tragedy strikes, can Meg and Will find their way back to each other, and can Will finally take his own personal revenge on Gray?"

In the 15th-century Borders, young Will Hetherington, an outsider taken into the Mather family’s village, is eager to prove himself both loyal, and a competent, valuable reiver.  Raiding across the line dividing Scotland from England for cattle is a dangerous business, and men must be excellent riders, quick thinkers – but also obey orders. When Will’s mare accidentally injures Meg Mathers, the youngest daughter of the family, Will is ordered to give her all the assistance she needs during her recovery. He’s not happy about this, but he can’t afford to disobey.

The Borders is not an easy land, neither politically nor geographically. Windswept, rocky moorland, treacherous bog, thin soil – all make agriculture difficult. Cross-border theft and destruction; families manoeuvring for position and authority; the unique justice system of the March Wardens and laws specific to retribution for raids led to a way of life very different than other parts of England. Jennifer Wilson has positioned her romance between Will and Meg against this setting.

The role of and expectations for Meg are clear: she is to help run the house and village until a suitable marriage is arranged. She is an asset to be bargained with, to help create or solidify alliances among the reiver families. Will has been accepted by the Mathers after raiders destroyed his own home, following his sister, who has married into the village, but he has no status to allow him to be considered as a husband for Meg.

The story is told in clear, competent prose and with dialogue that flows naturally. We watch the romance growing between Meg and Will against a background of the tasks of house and village and the concerns of the Mathers to balance the opposing factions and the law. But Meg’s responsibilities to her family must take precedence over her own wishes, regardless of what her heart tells her. There are plenty of twists and turns, reversals and barriers in The Raided Heart, enough to keep the reader wondering how – or if – this love story will reach the desired conclusion.

The social and legal structure of Northumberland in the 15th century are described well; what I found lacking in the book was a sense of place. Other than town names and the description of a bastle, the fortified house common to the reiver families, there is little to ground the reader in the distinctive landscape of Northumbria. Yet it is a landscape that helped create the reiver way of life, and must have been both an immense challenge to navigate and a refuge for those who knew it well. 

That comment aside, this is a novel recommended for fans of romance embedded in a larger historical story.


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Marian Thorpe
 e-version reviewed



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Sunday, 13 June 2021

SundayGuest Spot - Nancy Jardine

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




Hello Nancy, 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. My life as a fiction author officially started when I hung up my dominie cloak for the last time in 2011 (ex-primary teacher). I’ve been traditionally published by a couple of small independent publishers since 2012; hybrid when I made my first foray into self-publishing in 2015; and since late 2018, all of my 9 titles are self-published with Ocelot Press, a co-operative of authors.  

Q. Where do you live?
A. In a historic village in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which was first granted Royal Burgh status in the late 12th century. Archaeology spanning thousands of years is all around me, which is really excellent since I’m continually obsessed by archaeological discoveries, which I use to inform my historical fiction set in Late 1st Century Roman Britain. I’m extremely favoured in that my daughter and family live in a house that was built for them next door, on what was originally my vegetable garden/ ‘mini-orchard’. I get to see my young grandkids regularly, and thankfully don’t have nearly as much garden ground to tend. 

Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A. I’ve no desire to live anywhere else, though I could definitely do with the local rain goddess having more days off! 

Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A. My granite house is a hotchpotch of old and slightly-less old and has a unique village history. 1820s built, it has adjacent granite outbuildings which include a 2-horse stable (now the wood shed). It was owned by a series of village doctors from the late Victorian era, and in 1900 a granite surgery extension was added on at that time.  Later on, a waiting room for patients was built on to the surgery room in the 1960s, a ‘health and safety’ requirement back then. Patients no longer entered by the house front door to wait in the large hall, till called through to the surgery by the doctor. 
These details were given to me by a doctor who grew up in the house in the 1950s and 1960s. He said his father (the incumbent doctor) did ‘tonsillectomies’ and ‘other surgical work’ on their long kitchen table. 

Q. Cat,  dog or budgie?
A. Never had a pet, though not because I dislike animals. 

Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A. Dining room when we have guests: all other times we eat at the kitchen table. I’m pleased to say that the table currently in my kitchen is also long, but not the same one that was used for surgeries! 

Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A. Lunchtime and 10 o’clock news, and other politics programmes. I use I-Player nowadays and do catch-up on TV historical series’. Via Amazon Prime I’ve recently enjoyed some Russian produced ones (subtitled), though they can be a bit ponderous  - Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and War and Peace come to mind, but since I loved reading them, that’s fine by me. 


Q. What was your first published novel about?
A. Monogamy Twist - a contemporary romantic comedy mystery.
In late 2011, I was embroiled in personal ancestral research and simultaneously following a Dickens series on TV. I decided Charles Dickens wouldn’t mind me borrowing his theme of a weird inheritance to use as the basis for a humorous contemporary novel. The mystery of Greywood Hall was born – a slightly ‘tired’ old mansion on the fringes of  the Yorkshire Dales. Lots of ancestral secrets must be uncovered when it’s left in an extremely quirky bequest to my handsome hero, Luke Salieri. The Wild Rose Press published the first edition in 2012, the title of Monogamy Twist being eventually agreed as a compromise with my editor of the time. [To be honest, I can’t remember now what my working title was!]

Q. What was your last novel about?
A. My last novel, Beathan The Brigante, is Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Series and is the story of young warrior Beathan of Garrigill. [At the end of Book 3 of the series, not quite13 years old, Beathan is captured by the Ancient Romans after a pitched battle in north-eastern Caledonia – Ancient Romans against the Caledonian tribes of the north.] Beathan the Brigante relates the couple of years that Beathan is held as a hostage and depicts his highly-unusual relationship with the Ancient Roman General Agricola, who drags Beathan all the way to Rome. During his captivity, Beathan exists to gain freedom and vengeance over his captors and Vindolanda Roman Fort (Hadrian’s Wall area) is the scene of some justified revenge, before he re-unites with his clan in Caledonia. Torrin, a female Brigante warrior, is a great help to Beathan and just might be a little more than that… (I’m adding a winky smile here 😉 ) 


Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A. Several. 
My 5-book Celtic Fervour Series is historical fiction, with varying degrees of romance, set in late 1st century Roman Britain/ Roman Caledonia. 
My time-travel historical novel - The Taexali Game -  is set in AD 210 when the Ancient Roman Emperor Severus invades ‘Aberdeenshire’. There’s archaeological evidence that points to Severan troops being in my home area around this time. (Intended to be enjoyed from early teens, I’m delighted that adult readers  have given it a definite thumbs up! 
Topaz Eyes is a complex romantic suspense mystery/thriller. Monogamy Twist is a light-hearted romantic comedy mystery. Both of these have dominating ancestral/historical themes.
Take Me Now is a fun romantic romp I call my ‘corporate sabotage’ mystery (That title was also a compromise with my Wild Rose Press editor in 2012, my working title suggestion being ‘Taking Me There’). 


Q. Have you ever considered exploring a totally different genre?
A.  Not presently! My WIP is planned as a 3-book family saga beginning in 1850s Scotland, but will follow one main character through different generations to probably the 1920s, or early 1930s. In that way, it differs from my Celtic Fervour Series, which features different clan members. 

Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
A. Oh, difficult question! 
1. General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola (Books 4 & 5 Celtic Fervour Series). He is a genuine historical figure, though little is known about his personal life. We only know what his son-in-law – the Ancient Roman writer Cornelius Tacitus – writes about him. Agricola could tell me so….much…real history.
2. Aela Cameron from Take Me Now – a feisty, adaptable young lass from Vancouver, Canada. She flies Nairn Malcolm, a grumpy temporarily debilitated hero, all over the world in his jet and his floatplane. She’s not fazed by the madman bent on wreaking havoc on Nairn.  

Q. Where would you go / what would you do?
I’d take General Agricola across the road from my garden and have him describe what the site was like back in AD 84, when 10,000 of his Ancient Roman troops were encamped there for a short time (Deer’s Den Roman Camp at Kintore). He’d tell me where the Battle of Mons Graupius (as described by Cornelius Tacitus) was fought against Calgacus and the Caledonians. I’d give him an enormous hug if he confirmed that Bennachie (9 miles from my house) was the battle site – because that’s where I’ve depicted the battle in After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks (Book 3 Celtic Fervour Series) 
Aela would fly me up the west coast of Scotland in Nairn’s floatplane, taking in all of the Hebridean islands. The idea for Take Me Now was prompted by an extended-family birthday trip in a seaplane from Glasgow to Oban, on the west coast. It was incredible to fly at such a low altitude, the illusion being that I could almost touch the grass beneath the plane, compared to flying in a normal commercial jet. Being Canadian, Aela might not know the history of the areas flown over, but I’d be delighted to tell her all I’ve learned over the years of visiting them! 

Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A. I like all forms of travel.
A local balloon flight was a tad nerve-wracking at lift-off (very noisy and wobbly) but was fabulous after that. Seeing the patchwork of fields below, the details of local Aberdeenshire castles so clear, and the tree tops so close when descending was incredible! 
I’m a good sailor and can cope with bad weather. In Aug. 2017, we had force 9 and 10 gales for more than two days on a cruise to Greenland, which was quite an experience! Very few passengers were staggering about, so my husband and I found we had the bars to ourselves. A cruise in early April 2020, to the Iberian Peninsula, was sadly cancelled due to Covid 19. 
Long-haul flights are okay, since I’m only 5 ft 2 and leg room isn’t an issue. I read a novel, or watch a film, and am generally surprised to find we’re approaching the landing phase. 

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. If I had to pass by to continue where I was going, I’d ask if he was okay – because that’s what normally happens in my area, people doing the ‘hello thing’ with complete strangers in the street, or countryside. Though, I’d ask at a distance if I felt in any way unnerved by him – even before Covid 19 has made that the ‘new norm’. 


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)

Big fat books! And… I’d be greedy. 
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
2. War and Peace.
3. Gone with the Wind.
4. The Outlander Series books.
5. Ulysses by James Joyce (Because I’d maybe understand it better now than I did as a student aged19, and would hopefully now appreciate the classical references) 
6. A Guide to living off the land! 
7. An omnibus of Charles Dickens books.
8. The complete works of Robert Burns. (I’d enjoy the poems and would have the words to sing many of the songs that I learned as a child, but now forget the lyrics to them.)

Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)
A. A warm one, anywhere. Survival on a Scottish Island would be so much tougher. 

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. soap or shampoo (I love my daily shower)

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