Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hostage to the Revolution by Diane Scott Lewis



PUBLISHER'S BLURB

Sequel to Escape the Revolution. In 1796, ruined countess Bettina Jonquiere leaves England after the reported drowning of her lover, Everett. In New Orleans she struggles to establish a new life for her children. Soon a ruthless Frenchman demands the money stolen by her father at the start of the French Revolution.

Bettina is forced on a dangerous mission to France to recover the funds. She unravels dark family secrets, but will she find the man she lost as well?


REVIEW

Diane Scott Lewis’ sequel to Escape The Revlution opens with Bettina Jonquiere, leaving England aboard ship bound for the Americas with her children, Christian and Genevre, Everett’s nephew Frederick and her servant. In New Orleans she struggles to establish a new life for her children. With no idea whether Everett is still alive, Bettina must decides to go in search of her mother who fled to Louisiana after the horrors of the French Revolution.

Her reunion with her mother is not quite what she imagined, as the widowed countess is about to marry again to a man Bettina takes an immediate dislike to.

The political situation in the south changes and before long, Bettina as a fugitive aristocrat is under threat yet again, and it doesn’t help that her British passport is a fake.  A ruthless Frenchman demands the money stolen by her father at the start of the French Revolution and convinced she knows where the money is hidden, he kidnaps Bettina and takes her to France.

However Bettina is nothing if not resourceful and she manages to turn the situation to her own advantage and goes in search of the only man she will ever love.

Ms Scott Lewis has drawn a brave and determined heroine in Bettina, who allows nothing to get in her way of living the way she wants to. The author’s descriptions of the tropical climate of Louisiana’s cloying humid heat and mosquitoes was very realistic.

Fans of Ms Scott Lewis’ novels will not be disappointed with this latest offering.


EDITORIAL REVIEWS

...wonderfully researched and the reader is taken right into the drawing rooms, kitchens and taverns of the dark days of late eighteenth century England." - Historical Novels Reviews blog

“Diane Scott Lewis writes with a fresh, clear voice, keeping all the threads of betrayal, intrigue and lies from becoming tangled as she weaves them into her story”- The Muse

A love story steeped in secrets and set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, ... woven with the right amount of fact as well as fiction, each balancing the other in a perfect harmony. Diane Scott Lewis has the power of descriptive writing that makes readers feel as though they are traveling alongside Bettina as she faces the unknown. Simply brilliant. Historical Novel Society


Anita Davison
Author of The Flora Maguire Mysteries from Aria Fiction


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Drowning King by Emily Holleman



Ancient Egypt, 51 B.C. Sisters Arsinoe and Cleopatra face a devastating choice: to allow Rome's army to siphon power from their ailing father, or to take matters-and the dynasty-into their own hands


It's the dawn of a new era for Egypt as Cleopatra and her brother, Ptolemy, are welcomed to the throne after their father's death. But joint rule breeds its own conflicts: can the Nile be shared? Long overlooked by his father in favor of the beguiling Cleopatra, Ptolemy is determined to prove his ability as both man and king-but, at eleven, he is no match for his elder sister, who's quick to assert her primacy throughout the land.



Their sister Arsinoe is torn between her siblings in one of history's greatest power struggles. As the palace echoes with rumors, scandals and betrayal, Arsinoe's love for her childhood friend Alexander deepens into a forbidden passion that could endanger both their lives. When Cleopatra is forced to flee a rebel uprising, Arsinoe decides she has no choice but to follow her sister into exile. 


Yet while Cleopatra gathers an army to retake the crown, Arsinoe begins to doubt whether her sister is the champion Egypt needs. Faced with the choice of betraying her family or her country, Arsinoe will determine a kingdom's fate and the course of history.

It's the dawn of a new era for Egypt as Cleopatra and her brother, Ptolemy, are welcomed to the throne after their father's death. But joint rule breeds its own conflicts: can the Nile be shared? Long overlooked by his father in favor of the beguiling Cleopatra, Ptolemy is determined to prove his ability as both man and king-but, at eleven, he is no match for his elder sister, who's quick to assert her primacy throughout the land.

Their sister Arsinoe is torn between her siblings in one of history's greatest power struggles. As the palace echoes with rumors, scandals and betrayal, Arsinoe's love for her childhood friend Alexander deepens into a forbidden passion that could endanger both their lives. When Cleopatra is forced to flee a rebel uprising, Arsinoe decides she has no choice but to follow her sister into exile. 


Yet while Cleopatra gathers an army to retake the crown, Arsinoe begins to doubt whether her sister is the champion Egypt needs. Faced with the choice of betraying her family or her country, Arsinoe will determine a kingdom's fate and the course of history.

REVIEW

The Drowning King is the sequel to Cleopatra's Shadows. Although I didn’t have an opportunity to read the first book, it did not hamper my ability to follow the plot and enjoy this second book. This novel is written in the point of view of Cleopatra, her sister Arsinoe, and their brother Ptolemy and encompasses the period when Julius Caesar begins his relationship with Cleopatra and Egypt succumbs to Rome’s control.

These three characters give different perspectives to the political turmoil of the time period. What I enjoyed most was learning more about Arsinoe and Ptolemy, who have been historically overshadowed by Cleopatra in novels and books. There was plenty of intrigue and conflict to keep me reading to the very end. Vivid descriptions and great detail about the political climate graced each chapter – historical learning and good fiction intertwined! An excellent book for lovers of Ancient Egypt like me!


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Where Dragonflies Hover by AnneMarie Brear



Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …

Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it. 

Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.

Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the house leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …


REVIEW

I have been an avid reader of all AnneMarie Brear's novels. Her novels feature strong heroines who face adversity and always evoke mood and emotion. I've never been disappointed in any of her books and this one is no exception. 

This novel features two timelines - current day and 1917. The heroine, Lexi, is drawn to an old house after she finds a diary in one of its outbuildings. It was written by Allie, a nurse from Australia during World War I. She becomes completely absorbed by Allie and her romance with a soldier. 

Where Dragonflies Hover is an emotional, satisfying read with plenty of fascinating turns and twists. It is about complicated relationships and the need to forgive and heal in the name of love. An engrossing tale of the ability of the human spirit to persevere!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford


WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD
NAMED “NOVEL OF THE YEAR” BY THE UK’S SUNDAY TIMES


“Nothing short of a masterpiece.” The Guardian



The spectacular first novel from acclaimed nonfiction author Francis Spufford follows the adventures of a mysterious young man in mid-eighteenth century Manhattan, thirty years before the American Revolution.



New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746. One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat arrives at a countinghouse door on Golden Hill Street: this is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion shimmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge sum, and he won’t explain why, or where he comes from, or what he is planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money. Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

Rich in language and historical perception, yet compulsively readable, Golden Hill is a story “taut with twists and turns” that “keeps you gripped until its tour-de-force conclusion” (The Times, London). Spufford paints an irresistible picture of a New York provokingly different from its later metropolitan self but already entirely a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love—and find a world of trouble.

REVIEW

There is much to laud with this novel. First, the author did an exceptional job at bringing to life 18th century New York city. Secondly, there is the intriguing plot - the premise of a stranger landing on the shores with a vast amount of money and then being robbed of it shortly thereafter and his dire circumstances landing him in gaol not once, but twice. Thirdly, there are numerous fascinating characters with plenty of quirks. Altogether, these three points made the story unforgettable. 

I have to admit, it took me several tries to begin reading this book. My biggest obstacle was the extremely long, rambling opening sentence (about 1 page long). It was a bit of a struggle to convince myself to keep reading. The next obstacle I struggled with was the "rich prose" which made engaging with the story a bit challenging. In between plot twists, sometimes the story dragged a bit. An abundance of uncommon words and complex sentences throughout the book kept pulling me out of the story to look up words or to re-read passages. 

Having said that, I was captivated by the story. I can see why it is an award winning novel. I also can see why the prose is considered so rich. The descriptions and use of humor and a bit of sarcasm truly overcame the complexities of the words, sentences, and phrases. I loved all the main characters, but my favorite was the smelly, drunk prisoner, Capting! I enjoyed the twists and turns, the betrayals, and the ever evolving characters that always managed to surprise me. Despite my criticisms, this is a wonderful book, well worth reading. I definitely recommend it!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Death in the Castle by Pearl S Buck


A “thrilling” historical mystery about impoverished British aristocrats from the New York Times–bestselling author of The Good Earth (Boston Herald).


Sir Richard Sedgeley and Lady Mary are broke and without an heir to the castle that’s been in their family for centuries. Tourists are infrequent, and the offers they’ve received are not ones they can live with: a state-run prison or a museum in America. What is the remedy, and is it true that there’s treasure hidden somewhere under their noses? Featuring a cast of outsize characters—timid Mary, her possibly mad husband, Wells the Butler, and his mysterious daughter Kate—Death in the Castle is a suspenseful delight by the author of The Good Earth.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Pearl S. Buck including rare images from the author’s estate.

REVIEW

Pearl S Buck is an extraordinary, award winning author, and so it was with great anticipation that I began reading this book. The setting is England in the early 1900's. Sir Richard Sedgeley and his wife Mary own a castle, but can no longer maintain its upkeep. Opening up the castle to tourists has done little to help replenish the family's fast depleting coffers. Enter an eccentric but endearing rich American millionaire who wishes to dismantle the castle and rebuild it in America.

As expected with any novel written by Pearl S Buck, I found compelling characters and an intriguing plot premise. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, especially because each character seems to have a touch of eccentricty. However, in my opinion, the story unfolds very slowly and ambled along in several different directions, with little happening that could grip me until the last third of the book. This is not one of her best works, but if you are a fan of this author, then you may likely find something to enjoy in this romantic-gothic-mystery tale.