Friday, January 27, 2017

The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander




Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are “fallen” women—unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals. Most are ordinary girls whose only sin lies in being too pretty, too independent, or tempting the wrong man. Among them is sixteen-year-old Teagan Tiernan, sent by her family when her beauty provokes a lustful revelation from a young priest.

Teagan soon befriends Nora Craven, a new arrival who thought nothing could be worse than living in a squalid tenement flat. Stripped of their freedom and dignity, the girls are given new names and denied contact with the outside world. The Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has secrets of her own, inflicts cruel, dehumanizing punishments—but always in the name of love. Finally, Nora and Teagan find an ally in the reclusive Lea, who helps them endure—and plot an escape. But as they will discover, the outside world has dangers too, especially for young women with soiled reputations.
Told with candor, compassion, and vivid historical detail, The Magdalen Girls is a masterfully written novel of life within the era’s notorious institutions—and an inspiring story of friendship, hope, and unyielding courage.

OPINION


I learned about the Magdalen laundries in a Canadian document that revealed the history of these homes not only here but also in Ireland where they originated.

The hardship and tales of abuse are difficult to fathom, but they are real and they did occur. 

The Magdalen Girls is a fictional account of young women who were sent to the Irish laundries if their behavior was scandalous, or they were victims of male attention, or often by innocent mistakes. Unwed mothers, prostitutes, victims of rape, all were sent there to relieve their families of embarrassment or scandal. 

The laundries were administered by the Catholic Church and the young women worked under the harshest of conditions while suffering horrendous punishments. 

The girls who were imprisoned in Ireland in the Magdalen laundries in the 1960s to learn the errors of their ways. The laundries were managed by Catholic nuns for girls who were deemed unacceptable - either they had a baby out of wedlock, were prostitutes or were merely too pretty and may entice men. The living conditions were extremely harsh as they girls were being rehabilitated with hard work, punishment and prayer.

This book was difficult to read as it stirred my outrage. It was well researched and an authentic accounting of what transpired.  More importantly, it is recent history - 1960's. 

The characters were not real, but they depicted exactly the type of women or circumstances they faced when confined so.

For those that love to learn history through historical fiction, this is not a book to miss. Definitely worth reading...



Sunday, January 15, 2017

White Spirit by Lance and James Morcan



Based on the remarkable true story of Irish convict John Graham, WHITE SPIRIT is an epic historical adventure set in 19th Century Australia. 


After escaping from the notorious Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, Graham finds refuge with the Kabi, a tribe of Aborigines who eventually accept him as one of their own. 

Attempts to recapture Graham are orchestrated by a variety of contrasting characters working for the all-pervasive British Empire. They include Moreton Bay's tyrannical, opium-addicted commandant Lord Cheetham, the dashing yet warlike Lieutenant Hogan, native tracker Barega and the penal settlement's captain, Tom Marsden. 

Marsden's young daughter Helen, a progressive lady ahead of her time who is both an egalitarian and a feminist, boldly inserts herself into the clash between the Irish convict, her father and Moreton Bay's other iron-fisted rulers. Helen complicates things further when she finds herself in a Pride and Prejudice-style love triangle with men on opposite sides of the conflict.

When Scottish woman Eliza Fraser is found shipwrecked and close to death in Kabi territory, Graham and his legion of pursuers, as well as the Irishman's adopted Aboriginal family, are all forced to navigate a multi-faceted rescue mission. The precarious rendezvous is made all the more dangerous by Helen Marsden's ethically-driven meddling that often outwits the men involved.

WHITE SPIRIT is not only based on arguably the great Australian (true) story, a sweeping tale that encapsulates all the nuances of the southern continent's unique history, it also provides readers with detailed insights into the tribal life of First Australian (Aboriginal) peoples.

OPINION

Lance and James Morcan love to write books about aboriginal peoples of the world. Their novels always intrigue me with their blend of historical fact and fiction. White Spirit is my favorite of all their novels so far. 

It is a brutal, no-holds-barred retelling of the true story of Australia's notorious Moreton Bay Penal and the one prisoner who successfully escaped and eluded capture for decades - a man named Graham. 

The story takes from the harsh conditions of the penal settlement to the brutality of the aboriginals and their daily lives. The book is very long - about the length of a trilogy - but I can see why it is important for the tale to be told in one book as opposed to three. The best way to describe this novel is disturbing, brutal, honest, and unputdownable. It is real, very, very real with fascinating characters at the helm. Very highly recommended! Both men and women will enjoy the story.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Good Negress by A.J. Verdelle


The year is 1963, and young Denise Palms has rejoined her family in Detroit where she must work to make a place for herself and prepare for the arrival of her mother's new baby. The baby will mean the end of Denise's afterschool lessons with a stern teacher who insists that Denise learn to speak "proper" English to make herself heard. Verdelle's intuition and ear allow her to dramatize precise moments of Denise's self-recognition and, in the process, offer an inside look at a maturing intelligenceThe Good Negress marks the arrival of an original voice in contemporary fiction.

OPINION

Denise Palma is a young woman who must help her mother prepare for a baby. The family is poor and Denise will have to forego her after school lessons with her teacher who recognizes Denise's budding abilities and intelligence. This is a contemporary tale, a coming of age story about a young woman who struggles to rise above the dire circumstances of her life and reach out for a better future.

The author tells the story through flashbacks, going back and forth through time. Although I felt this made the story a little disjointed and a bit rough to read, there is much poignancy and fodder for thought. The characters are wonderfully real with their own flaws and strength. Overall, a very passionate tale. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris



I killed a man the summer I turned thirteen . . . 
Thus begins C. S. Harris’s haunting, lyrically beautiful tale of coming of age in Civil War-torn Louisiana. Eleven-year-old Amrie St. Pierre is catching tadpoles with her friend Finn O’Reilly when the Federal fleet first steams up the Mississippi River in the spring of 1862. With the surrender of New Orleans, Amrie’s sleepy little village of St. Francisville – strategically located between the last river outposts of Vicksburg and Port Hudson – is now frighteningly vulnerable. As the roar of canons inches ever closer and food, shoes, and life-giving medicines become increasingly scarce, Amrie is forced to grow up fast. But it is her own fateful encounter with a tall, golden-haired Union captain named Gabriel that threatens to destroy everything and everyone she holds most dear.

Told with rare compassion and insight, this is a gripping, heart-wrenching story of loss and survival; of the bonds that form amongst women and children left alone to face the hardships,depravations, and dangers of war; and of one unforgettable girl’s slow and painful recognition of the good and evil that exists within us all.



OPINION


Back in history, when the men left for war, the women were left behind to look after not only their families and their own work, but also that of their husbands, fathers, and son. Vulnerable, alone, this novel is a depiction of the courageous struggles facing southern women during the American Civil War. 

Farms pillaged and stripped bear, entire towns destroyed, homes plundered, people murdered, women raped, and the extreme hunger people faced as food became scarce. Terror and horror plagued those left behind. 

C.S. Harris has breathed life into a time long past, weaving together a brilliant recounting of the hardships and troubles for women and children, black and white alike. Each page of this compelling story kept me eagerly reading along. Heart-wrenching and bold, the author describes the horrors as well as the triumphs. For those who love this period of history, especially the American Civil War, this is a poignant rendering of what took place. Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

BLOG TOUR for Alison Stuart


BLOG TOUR for ALISON STUART'S NEW NOVEL
AND THEN MINE ENEMY


 
The latest swashbuckling 17th century historical romance from the pen of Alison Stuart!

AND THEN MINE ENEMY is the first book in a two book series (FEATHERS IN THE WIND) spanning the years of the English Civil War from 1642- 1645.

AND THEN MINE ENEMY
A family ripped apart in a country divided by war . . .



England 1642: Hardened mercenary, Adam Coulter returns to England sickened by violence, seeking only peace, but he finds England on the brink of civil war. He has seen first-hand what that will mean for every man, woman and child and wants no part of it.

King or Parliament? Neutrality is not an option and Adam can only be true to his conscience, not the dictates of his family.
Having escaped a loveless marriage, Perdita Gray has found much needed sanctuary and the love of a good man, but her fragile world begins to crumble as Adam Coulter bursts into her life. This stranger brings not only the reality of war to her doorstep but reignites an old family feud, threatening everything and everyone she holds dear.
As the war and  family tensions collide around them, Adam and Perdita are torn between old loyalties and a growing attraction that must be resisted.


Read an excerpt…
England July 1642



A shudder of rain slewed across the sodden countryside, sending its cold fingers cutting through Adam’s already saturated cloak. He huffed out a misty breath and straightened his aching shoulders. Not for the first time he cursed his brother for summoning him to a meeting Adam knew would inevitably end in grief and recrimination.
The remote inn loomed out of the gloaming and led on by the cheerful light spilling through the front windows, Adam urged his weary horse forward. The miserable beast, the mud dragging at its every step, plodded forward.
A young boy ran from the stable, a sack over his head and shoulders. Adam threw him the reins e and, taking a deep breath, strode into the inn.  He tossed his hat and gloves to the innkeeper, his numbed fingers fumbled at the ties of his cloak
‘His Lordship’s in the private parlour.’ The innkeeper scowled as he held the dripping garb at arm’s length.
Adam pushed open the door the man indicated. The two men seated beside a cheerful fire that burned in the wide hearth rose to their feet. His half-brothers schooled their faces to a neutrality that Adam knew would not last. As they faced him across the room, a growing sense of despondency gripped him as he stood before them. Once more the cuckoo in the nest, always the acknowledged baseborn son but not even given the protection of his father’s name.
Denzil Marchant, just as Adam remembered him, tall and powerful, with a mane of tawny hair like his father, and his younger brother Robin, as tall but of a slighter, elegant build, his hair more auburn and sleekly curling.
‘Denzil, Robin,’ Adam acknowledged them as he stepped into the room. ‘I wish I could say, well met, but I would be lying.’
‘Adam Coulter.’ The deliberate use of his full name jarred, as Denzil no doubt intended. ‘I would scarcely have recognized you. Hardly the darling of the court now, are you?’
‘I found lovelocks and pearl earrings something of a hindrance to the life of a soldier.’ Without waiting to be invited, Adam poured himself a full measure from the bottle of wine that stood on the table, hoping that they would not mark that his hand shook.




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ABOUT ALISON STUART



Award winning Australian author, Alison Stuart learned her passion for history from her father. She has been writing stories since her teenage years but it was not until 2007 that her first full length novel was published. Alison has now published seven full length historical romances and a collection of her short stories.  Her disposition for writing about soldier heroes may come from her varied career as a lawyer in the military and fire services. These days when she is not writing she is travelling and routinely drags her long suffering husband around battlefields and castles.



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To celebrate the release of http://bit.ly/MineEnemy Alison is giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card. Enter here:  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0d923dde9/?