29 Sept 2017

First Line Friday #10: King's Folly by Jill Williamson

Another week come and gone. The British weather didn't disappoint this morning, with a good old-fashioned downpour. Yesterday, I finally caught up on my Goodreads Challenge, after months of being behind. Isn't that great?  

I'm still reading last week's book which is a paperback, but I like to read at least one Kindle book as well. So I've decided to turn my attention to the first novel in Jill Williamson's fantasy series The Kinsman Chronicles. I have literally had a Netgalley version of King's Folly on my Kindle for nearly 2 years. Sometimes it takes me ages to get around to books. 

This series has actually been published in two different versions: as 3 full-length novels (the third one is due out next year), and also as a series of 9 shorter ebooks with each of the longer novels split into three parts. I sort of cheated as started reading King's Folly with the short ebook covering the first third of the story called Darkness Reigns. Truly it does. 

Briefly, the series is a prequel to the author's King's Blood series which came out several years ago, set many centuries before. Although it adopts the traditional vaguely Medieval-ish setting for fantasy, many of the details are based on the peoples, cultures, and events of the Old Testament. So it's a polygamous culture in which the King has many wives and concubines. 
The ending of the world of Armania with earthquakes and fleeing of the population could be seen as having certain parallels with historical events. 

The first line (from the prologue) reads: 

"Aldair Livina sat at the table in the great cabin of his privately owned ship, the Half Moon, looking over his most recent chart of the Eversea. After an eleven-night voyage north-northwest from the Port of Everton, he had discovered a new island." 

Happy Friday reading from Old England (with a hope for the weather to improve for the rest of the day).
Don't forget to check out what the other members are reading. Next week, we are going moving to a new location and getting our own linky tools list based at a new blog called Hoarding Books.


22 Sept 2017

First Line Friday #9: The Hour Before Dawn

After a short break, I'm back to First Line Fridays this week. Life is still busy, but my plans to catch up on my Reading Challenge are going well after the Summer hiatus. Today I'm featuring the second in a series of sequels to a trilogy of tales that were first written 20 years ago.  The original Hawk and Dove Trilogy by British author Penelope Wilcock was a set of 3 short stories centred around a monastery in Yorkshire in the late 1300s.  

Forget Cadfael, the Hawk and Dove is not a mystery series, but focused instead on specific characters: brothers of the fictional St Alcuin's monastery, using their lives and struggles to convey spiritual lessons. The first three stories entitled The Hawk and the Dove, The Wounds of God and The Long Fall placed particular emphasis on Abbot Peregrine, who took on the name Columba when be become a monk. His name was the source of the series title: Columba is the name of a Saint, but also means 'Dove', Peregrine means Hawk and is the name of a breed of falcon.
Fast forward to 2011 when a set of three sequels to the original trilogy was published by Crossway Books following the characters of the first series under the leadership of a new Abbott. A few years later, the series was taken on by British based publisher Lion Fiction, and three more titles were added taking the total up to 9. 

I read the original trilogy back in 2014 and requested the three sequels from the Publisher more than a year ago. The first one (or the fourth book in the series), I read back in March before joining this group, and I'm just getting around to The Hour Before Dawn now. 
Judging from some of the reviews, this title proved to be one of the most controversial in the series because it explores the impact of psychological and emotional trauma through the rape of one of the characters (the sister of one of the monks).
Now, I for one dislike the inclusion of content such as rape scenes in stories just for the sake of it, or just to crank up the drama: but nor do I shy away from books which explore difficult subjects. Readers will be able to read my opinion when I write the review.

The first line reads:

Brother Thomas thought he had never heard a monk shout so loud. 

Remember to check out what the other members of this group are reading on their own websites. Until next time, have a great weekend and happy reading, with love from England.

20 Sept 2017

The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

Thomas Nelson, Sept 5th, 2017, 336 Pages
Print, ebook, and audio 

"There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned."
When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered. “Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”
During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

 My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I know, I always say that I don’t like and don’t tend to read contemporary fiction. But ‘timeslip’ novels aren’t quite the same, right? They’re partly historical. Besides, since reading Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson I have come to rather like them.

I know some people have complained that the historical aspects of this work are in the background. Only a small part of it relates the actual story of the Huguenot Bayard family in 17th century France. I did not find that to be a problem myself and liked how their story became interwoven with that of Jessica, and her search for truth and healing with all that had happened to her.

People looking for a lot of genealogical information and the history of the French Protestants will, therefore, be disappointed. I enjoyed the human drama the development of the characters, as well as the blossoming romance that accompanied the historical details. As well as the characters ‘tracking down’ the members of the historical family.

Personally, I also think there was meant to be a connection in the way that the 17th-century French peasant girl and the modern American protagonists in their response to violence, evil and intolerance, and the worst actions of human beings. All in all, it was just a well told, tightly plotted story about faith, endurance, and survival during terrible trauma and adversity which I enjoyed.

I requested a copy of this book from Booklook Bloggers and purchased the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

19 Sept 2017

New Release: A Dangerous Engagement by Melanie Dickerson

Regency Spies of London #3
Septemeber 12th 2017, Waterfall Press, 306 Pages
Print, Ebook and Audio
Just as merchant’s daughter Felicity Mayson is spurned once again because of her meager dowry, she receives an unexpected invitation to Lady Blackstone’s country home. Being introduced to the wealthy Oliver Ratley is an admitted delight, as is his rather heedless yet inviting proposal of marriage. Only when another of Lady Blackstone’s handsome guests catches Felicity’s attention does she realize that nothing is what it seems at Doverton Hall.

Government agent Philip McDowell is infiltrating a group of cutthroat revolutionaries led by none other than Lady Blackstone and Ratley. Their devious plot is to overthrow the monarchy, and their unwitting pawn is Felicity. Now Philip needs Felicity’s help in discovering the rebels’ secrets—by asking her to maintain cover as Ratley’s innocent bride-to-be.

Philip is duty bound. Felicity is game. Together they’re risking their lives—and gambling their hearts—to undo a traitorous conspiracy before their dangerous masquerade is exposed

Despite some weaknesses, A Dangerous Engagement was probably my favourite book in the Regency Spies of London trilogy. The writing style could be very repetitive, and the constant complaints about society’s expectations regarding marriage and rules imposed on women, which have been common to all the heroines of the series, were grating. I don’t like feeling that I’m being hit over the head with moral themes or modern judgments.
However, I liked the plot and the premise of this story, and it kept me interested to the end. I loved the hero Phillip, a younger son trying to find his place in the world who went into espionage to try to prove himself. Aside from the weaknesses outlined above, I did like the heroine Felicity as well, and her spinster Aunt who came into her own towards the end was a wonderful supporting character.

The tension and mystery in the story were very well-written, not dependent on a lot of action, but more on the situation and underlying sense of danger. There was murder, intrigue and a dangerous group of political revolutionaries following an unlikely female mastermind. I must confess to having smiled when the characters referred to their planned violent revolution as a ‘glorious revolution’. The Glorious Revolution is the name given to bloodless coup in 1688 in which the Catholic King James II was ousted by parliament in favour of his Protestant daughter Mary, and her Dutch husband William of Orange.

The ending built up the tension and danger well, my only complaint was the treatment of the romance, which became a little corny, with the characters falling in love based on looks. This bothers me because the female characters in books by this author will frequently complain if men are only interested in them for their looks, money, childbearing ability or political influence. But it’s OK for them to base attraction on such superficialities. I was glad that Philip and Felicity’s relationship developed to be more than just that by the end though to be based on character and mutual beliefs.

Altogether, I found this a satisfactory conclusion to the series and an authentic Regency novel. I requested the e-book from NetGalley for review and obtained the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

14 Sept 2017

Audiobook Review: An Invonvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

Hawthorne House #4
Bethany House, September 5th 2017, 384 Pages
Print, ebook and audio

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, and he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. He's certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, but while Frederica is strangely elusive, he can't seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, her uncle will only help them if she'll use her beauty to assist him in his political aims. Already uncomfortable with this agreement, the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she wishes to be free of her unfortunate obligation.

Will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and face their fears in time to find their own happily-ever-after?

The final installment in the Regency Romance Hawthorne House series finally gives Griffith, the oldest of the four Hawthorne siblings (and eldest son and heir to the Dukedom), his chance at love. It started off on a humorous note, with the young Griffith and his friend paying back school bullies.
Years later, the most practical and unromantic of his siblings decides to seek a wife, a young lady whom nobody would expect yet is most suitable. At first, all goes well, until an old love interest comes back onto the scene and Griffith meets the Lady’s beautiful cousin, Isabella Breckenridge.

I must say that the premise of this book was good (a young woman who is being used by a relative to attract the attention of the young men of society for his own purposes, but cannot marry any of them) as was the characterization. Griffith was a likable character in all the previous books, the wise oldest brother, so tall that he was constantly banging into things, and supposedly could not dance.
There seemed to be fewer egregious Americanisms in this novel, which was something that really annoyed me with the previous ones. 

Other reviewers, however, have remarked that it seems repetitive, and they never connected with the characters. I can understand where they were coming from and I wonder if the author was in some sense, running out of steam with this one. I’m not sure that the informal behaviour of Griffith and his brothers in parliament rang true, acting more like they were in the audience of a football match. The details themselves were interesting, and not often used in the genre, but could have been a little better.

It was an enjoyable story and plodded along and a decent pace. I would not say there was really anything to make it stand out from a lot of others, but it’s a good light read to pass the time.

8 Sept 2017

First Line Fridays #8: The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere

Another week come and gone, and I am starting to catch up thanks to audiobooks and fitting in some more reading time. I am including this week a Victorian historical Romance that just seems to get being pushed back and back on my to read list, but I intend to get around to it next.  
Got it from Netgalley way back in March. I'm terrible when it comes to British Fiction, I sometimes go a little click-crazy on the site requesting anything like that from the major Christian Publishers, especially if its a new author or a series I already liked the previous books in.

 The Captain's Daughter: London Beginnings #1

The First Line: 

Dartmoor Coast, England, 1873

  "I'm not surprised to find you here" Rosalyn Bernay said, wrapping an arm around her sister's waist".  

Remember to check out what the other members of this group are reading on their own websites. Until next time, have a great weekend and happy reading, with love from England.

Introducing another new member this week: Ellie Harriger whose blog is Sprinkles and Pink

6 Sept 2017

Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering

Drew Fathering Mystery #5
January 31st 2017, 336 Pages, Print and Ebook

Mystery Awaits on the Mysterious Yorkshire Moors

At the urgent request of an old school friend, Drew and Madeline Farthering come to Bloodworth Park Lodge in the midst of the Yorkshire moors, a place as moody and mysterious as a Bronte hero. There have been several worrisome incidents out on the moor--property destroyed, fires started, sheep and cattle scattered--and worst of all, the vicar has been found dead on the steps of the church.

Drew's friend is obviously smitten with his bride of eight months, though it's hard to imagine what she sees in the awkward man. Drew can't help wondering if her affections lie more with the man's money and estate, while her romantic interests focus on their fiery Welsh gamekeeper. As the danger grows ever closer, it's up to Drew to look past his own prejudices, determine what is really going on, and find the killer before it's too late.


 Purely as a story, I think this was one of the best in the series yet. It had everything, the enigmatic and atmospheric landscape of the Yorkshire moors that has lent itself well to tales of the strange and mysterious since the Brontes, well-drawn characters and a solid central mystery. Honestly, there were echoes of the literary greats, and many twists and turns to keep the characters guessing, and the resolution for some of the main characters ended it all on an uplifting note. Even the religious themes were worked well into the story.

Yet one thing really marred this story: well perhaps two things: the first that it was a little hard to keep track of all the characters, but you can get over that after a while and just follow the central mystery. What really did it was the Americanisms. The whole book was riddled with them 'gotten, someplace, write him, out in the yard, Two Hundred- Fifty' etc. Sorry, but it's a British mystery. Nobody, except the American wife of the protagonist Drew, should, well, speak that way.

For that reason, it can't be taken as seriously as some of the works of great British Literature that the characters read and quote. It's sad that so many books like this are spoiled by this very same thing.

1 Sept 2017

First Line Fridays #7: The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

Yes, you may ask what am I doing picking up yet another new book when I am so behind on my Goodreads Challenge? I am going to catch up when work starts again, thanks to audiobooks. Cheating, I know.  
Admittedly I was not really planning to read this book, I'm doing so because of a well-timed sale on the Kindle edition. 

I requested The White Feather Murders, the final book in a trilogy featuring two unconventional female Canadian sleuths based in early 20th century Toronto, from Netgalley way back in March. You've guessed, it was another title that I forgot to download. I'm not normally so absent minded, but its happened twice this year. 

Since then I have been hoping for the Kindle edition to go on sale, or for my library to get it. The former happened first. Seems fitting as I have all the others on Kindle too.

                               The White Feather Murders: Herringford and Watts Mysteries  #3 

The first line goes: 

 "War was on the tip of Merinda Herringford's tongue"  

Have a look at what the others in the group are reading by visiting the links below.

And welcoming another new member his week Alicia Ruggieri at A Brighter Destiny

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