26 May 2018

Salvation by Olivia Rae Review

Sword and Cross Chronicle #1
HopeKnight Press, July 9th 2015, 218 Pages 
Print and Ebook 

 With the death of her husband, independent Lady Breanna Durville is finally free of male control and happily waits the birth of her child…alone. But her late husband’s cousin, Lord de Beaufou has come to claim his rights to Durville Keep and to her hand in marriage. If that is not enough to deal with, her brother has sent a peasant to watch over her. She has but one plan. Get rid of them both!

Tormented by is past, Royce Canwell leaves the unrest in the Holy Land and returns to England to fulfill an oath to a friend—go to Durville Keep and ensure all is well with the man’s sister. But upon arrival Royce discovers Lady Breanna’s situation is more precarious than he expected. Though he longs for a simple life in which to heal his wounded soul, he finds himself sacrificing his hopes, his dreams, and even his heart to give Lady Breanna the future she wants and deserves.

My Thoughts: ⭐⭐⭐

This was a frustrating book, so full of contradictions. I neither totally loved it nor entirely hated it, and it did improve towards the end, but there were a lot of things which annoyed me.

For a start the heroine Breanna. I think with hindsight that I found her an inconsistent character. She's supposed to be a strong and independent woman: in fact so much so that she does not even have an Steward, an official who was essential to the day to day running of a Medieval estate. Instead she does all the accounts herself, and takes a personal interest in the finer points of farming. Something which Medieval Aristocrats would not have been personally involved in.
So she's stressed out an doesn't have much time: but doesn't need a man's help, thankyou very much!

She's also supposed to be so 'feisty' and strong that could flatten a man with a single punch, and at one points, picks up a bench and hits a male character with it. Which would suggest she possessed a remarkable degree of physical strength.
Yet for all this, she was apparently 'ruled' by a husband for years, and is virtually helpless against the machinations of the villain.

I don't accept that her helplessness was the result of repressive social customs which stripped her of power. As a noble widow, she should not have lost everything: she would be entitled to dower. Contrary to what the characters thought, a girl would also have been eligible to inherit: Eleanor of Aquitaine inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine from her father.

The passage about the villain trying to undermine her with allegations of witchcraft really got to me: spreading rumours that she was a witch because she put benches in the chapel. Seriously? Like Medieval people thought chairs were of the Devil or something. Even the part about holding prayers in English did not entirely ring true, unless it was done for the benefit of the servants, since most nobles would have spoken Norman French as their first language.
Yet for all this, a character very publicly announcing that he rejected the tenants of Christianity and making some rather profane statements was no problem but putting benches in the chapel was WITCHCRAFT! 

This novel was given a 'historical' feel with the characters speaking a type of pseudo-archaic English: 'mayhap' and 'methinks' and 'ye', although it was still peppered with modern Americanisms such as 'whomever' and 'smart'. 
As with other such novels the business of the characters was of such import as to warrant personal involvement by the royal family: which seems odd.
Even if a claimant to the estate was a friend of the King, Henry II ruled most of England and a good proportion of France: you'd think he'd have more important things to worry about with than who the widow of a country baron married, and who owned a castle surrounded by a few farms.

Yet for all that: I can understand why such content was included. It was necessary to build the story. Which was did have some well-written scenes with plenty of adventure. Even the romance between Brianna and Royce was interesting , if rather explosive at times. Their tempestuous relationship allowed for some comical moments, if nothing else. After about the midway point I cared enough to keep reading to see how it ended.

So I suppose this book is a good choice if you want a vaguely romance which is vaguely historical and isn't too taxing. Its not bad for a first novel, either.

21 May 2018

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin Review

Sunrise at Normandy #1 
February 6th 2016, 386 Pages
Print, ebook and audio

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a 'Wren' in the Women's Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France--including those of her own family's summer home--in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin's practiced pen with this powerful new series

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 I don’t read a lot of novels set during the Second World War (less than I could count on one hand, probably), but I saw that this one was very popular. Also, one major attraction was that unlike a lot of novels and movies set in this period is that it didn’t just involve on US Army. Sorry everyone, but there is a bit of an American-centric focus in a lot of these things.

I can be a slow reader when it comes to books from Netgalley, so I confess, I cheated and finished this one on audio. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised: the relationship between Dorothy and Wyatt developed slowly from friendship, so it was not instalove. What’s more the protagonists had lives outside the romance. We could read about what they were up to when they weren’t together, which was nice.

Also, the story didn’t get bogged down with details about the Normandy landings and the events of the war. Which is not to say the historical details were ignored, they were just worked well into the story, and all seemed authentic to me. I also liked he treatment of the central themes with two flawed characters who were struggling with personal tragedy and duty.
For one, in increased his faith, and for the other, drove her away. Wyatt was patient and genuine with Dorothy, not preaching at or bashing her, but rather making her think, and allowing for her religious doubts.

My only complaints were the usual Americanisms coming from the British characters. One said ‘gotten’ and another said ‘sidewalk’ at one point. Which was unfortunate but kind of expected.
Overall though, I really enjoyed the book, and would recommend to all lovers of Historical Fiction and WW2 novels.

I requested a copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley/Revell Reads. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

18 May 2018

First Line Fridays 28: Leopards and Lillies by Alfred Duggan

Today I am featuring a book I purchased a few years ago because it related to something I was working on at the time, but did not get around to reading. The author Alfred Duggan was a 'British historian, archeologist and novelist' who died in 1964. He was described as 'one of the best historical novelists' of his century.

Leopards and Lilies is one of his less well known novels, and is out of print except as some older versions, my edition dates from 1975. It small, creased, yellowed, and has a slight hint of that musty book smell.
It bears a mention here that none of this author's books were not explicitly Christian, but they did reflect the religious beliefs and convictions of the periods in which they were set, which in the case of his Medieval novels, would have been Catholic. 
I've also found that novels written before the 1960s tend to me more on the clean side (though not always). 

The first line is rather long, written in the old fashioned style. In fact, I'm going to share the first two lines, because I think the second is interesting too. I hope its not too much to read:

"For more than ten years, since the King returned in defeat from Normandy , England had been restless; order never quite broke down, but in castles and walled towns there had been gatherings of armed men, blustering and exaggerating their strength to overawe their opponents, then dispersing to meet again at some other stronghold of faction. 
Now at last the crisis had come and passed; in may the Exchequer closed and the judges ceased to sit, an official acknowledgement that the country was at war; then in June the King met his enemies in a meadow between Windsor and London, granted all their demands, and to everyone's surprise appeared to be keeping the engagement he had sealed"

Well, that's my rather wordy contribution for the day. 
Now share your own first line or click the button to see what others in the group are reading. 


15 May 2018

The Weaver's Daughter by Sarah Ladd Review

Thomas Nelson, April 10th 2018 
320 Pages 
 Print, Ebook and Audio

Kate’s loyalties bind her to the past. Henry’s loyalties compel him to strive for a better future.

In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions?

Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder—including her own.

Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war hoping to find a refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather’s goals to modernize his family’s wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers.

Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry’s side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village’s future. Born on opposite sides of the conflict, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls—even if it means risking their hearts in the process.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Sarah E Ladd’s first standalone novel was quite marvelous. The cover and description of ‘A Regency Romance’ might give the impression that it’s a quaint and slightly whimsical story when its anything but. In fact, parts of it reminded me of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell- although that was set several decades later. Those who are acquainted with me may know that BBC adaptation of North and South is one of my all-time favourite historical dramas, starring one of my favourite actors.

So that’s a good start. Needless to say, the historical backdrop of the novel made for a lot of drama and intrigue. We refer to the protestors who broke up machinery and attacked mills in the second decade of the nineteenth century as Luddites. Their principal motivation was that they believed the machinery would replace them and take their jobs: and there were also concerns about exploitation of workers who operated said machinery, with small children working long hours in unhealthy conditions.

So, The Weaver’s Daughter is the story of two conflicted characters, overall, I thought it was a beautiful tale about love, duty and friendship in turbulent times with a host of very interesting minor characters who might deserve their own stories, in spite of some rather inconsistent actions and attitudes in places.

It could have been perfect, but there were two issues. One was pointed out by another reviewer, was the characters strange take on morality. Henry’s sister was pregnant outside marriage: yet most of the characters acted as though her lying about being a widow to save her reputation was more objectionable than the sin which got her into that situation in the first place.
The second issue was with certain American speech patterns and mannerisms. There were several references to characters eating with only a fork, in the modern American manner and using words like ‘gotten’ which weren’t common in Britain at the time.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this title via Booklook Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own. My copy has now been added to the shelf with my other Sarah Ladd books to be reread in future.

4 May 2018

First Line Fridays: The Weaver's Daughter by Sarah Ladd

Friday has come around again! I have a couple of new followers, so just to explain First Line Fridays is a group in which we share a post each week (sometimes less often), featuring the First Line of a book we are currently, or have recently read. 

I know that this week's days has particular resonance for Star Wars fans, but for me its significant as my father's birthday. He has a better claim, since he was born before the first movies were made! I'm not going to share anything Star-Warsy anyway, since its not really my 'thing'.

Instead, I am going to be sharing the first line of a book I received way back at the beginning of April. The Weaver's Daughter, which is the latest Regency novel by Sarah E. Ladd

 Kate's loyalties bind her to the past. Henry's loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions?
Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder --including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father's pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed.

Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war seeking refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather's goals to modernize his family's wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family's livelihood and legacy.

Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry's side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village's future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls - even if it means risking their hearts in the process.
Sounds good doesn't it? Shades of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and the delightful adaptation starring Richard Armitage. Yeah you know, the one that culminates in this dreamy scene....

So, erm yes, romantic reveries aside. My first line for today is taken from Chapter One (Missing out the Prologue). 

January 1812, 
Amberdale, West Riding 
Yorkshire, England
"Henry Stockton pulled his mare to a stop at the edge of a stone bridge and tipped his wide-brimmed hat low over his forehead to guard against winter's icy blasts" 

So that's my contribution for this week. Now its my audience's turn. Comment with your own first line, or just share your thoughts, and don't forget to click the meme to see what the other members our the group are reading. 


2 May 2018

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Perfect Bride by Debbie Lynne Costello

Genre: Historical Fiction, Medieval 
Details: 113 Pages, April 18th 2018 
Avice Touchet has always dreamed of marrying for love and that love would be her best friend, Philip Greslet. She’s waited five years for him to see her as the woman she’s become but when a visiting lord arrives with secrets that could put her father in prison, Avice must consider a sacrificial marriage. 

Philip Greslet has worked his whole life for one thing—to be a castellan—and now it is finally in his grasp. But when Avice rebuffs his new lord’s attentions, Philip must convince his best friend to marry the lord against his heart’s inclination to have her as his own.

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Although this was described as a 'novella', its actually a decent length at 113 Kindle pages. Nevertheless, I got through it in just over 2 hours before work yesterday. 
It was a lovely, short foray into late 14th century England, and although it complements the author's full length novel (with a couple of the characters from that one appearing in it), it can standalone as well. 

The basic plot is of two childhood sweethearts who are clearly in love, but for various reasons don't think they can marry: Philip because of his career aspirations, and because he thinks he's not the man Avice needs. 
Such a story could easily degenerate into cliche, but this one did not. It was original and well told, and also managed to avoid many of the pitfalls of stories set in the Medieval period, with a reliance on myths and misconceptions about the period. What was interesting is that the characters served a lord living not in a castle, but a Manor House. Its often (wrongly) assumed that everyone of remotely royal blood lived in fairy-tale castles. They didn't and this reflected that well. 

Another couple of details were very interesting. Who knew there was such a thing as a 'talking' starling? I never knew it, but I did some research and found there have indeed been cases of European starlings mimicking noises from cars and cellphones, and even being taught to mimic human language. 
I doubt I shall see the little birds, which are commonly seen in gardens in Britain, the same way again.

My only complaints were really related to the language: don't get me wrong, there was no swearing: but I did doubt the authenticity a couple of times. The nobly born characters seemed to have exactly the same vaguely Northern accents as the commoners, which did always not ring true. Unless they were born and raised in the Cumberland region, they would not have had the same accents.
Also, there was a reference to a character using a Gaelic, which also didn't seem credible for a 14th century English nobleman living in modern Cumbria. 
Gaelic is a Scottish language: Cumberland did once have its own language or dialect, but linguists think it was probably more closely related to Welsh, and seems to have become extinct by the 12th century.

Despite that though, The Perfect Bride was a beautiful and very enjoyable story. Two hours well spent and thoroughly recommended. 
I did receive a PDF from the author for review, but read the Kindle edition which I borrowed through Kindle Unlimited. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own. 

Author Bio

Debbie Lynne Costello has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children's Director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland Sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, she and her husband take pleasure in camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.

Connect with Debbie Lynne:

 Author Interview

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’d love to! I used to think I was an extravert because I certainly am not an introvert, but I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I am a people person, but I’m not always the greatest at starting conversations when I meet someone new—unless I know of something we have in common. I am a person who lives by lists. I love to check things off and have even been known to add something to my list that I did just so I can check it off! I am a go getter. I like to get things done. Now that isn’t always an asset let me tell you. But I am the type who if I see a job that needs to be done or an opportunity, I will be the one who volunteers. Sometimes I forget that my schedule is already bulging at the seams. When we moved and found our new church 11 years ago, our pastor was asking us what we did in our last church. As I was telling him some of my jobs my hubby spoke up and said, “all jobs for my wife will be run through me first. She doesn’t know how to say no.” LOL.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Oh my. Well, if we are talking this year, we are building our house. I am out working, drilling holes, pulling wires, wiring fixtures. I will be tiling the whole house, painting, and helping my husband put up the hardy back siding as well as putting a stone facing on the front basement wall and chimney. I also keep my 7 year old mini-me granddaughter for 3 to 4 days and nights a week (she’s in bed sleeping right now). I fix meals for us and my vegan hubby. Keep the house up…okay… this one maybe not as well as I should! And I feed and care for our horses, dogs and ducks. The ducks being more work than the dogs and horses!

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I have always loved writing. My mother saved a lot of the stories I wrote when I was 8 years old and up and gave them to me when I started writing again. I went to college for journalism but married and started a family shortly after so never finished my degree. We chose to homeschool my last 2 kids and when they reached HS they really didn’t need my help constantly, however, I needed to be there in case they did AND to keep them on track and motivated. ;) One day as we sat at the dinner table and I told my hubby about the book I had read and how I thought it could have been better he said, “Why don’t you write a book?” I thought about it for 2 weeks then sat down and started to write. That was about 11 years ago now. I finished that book in 5 months.

How did you choose the genre you write in?
It was easy for me because I loved the medieval time period and read so much in that era. So I naturally gravitated toward that. But I also enjoy the 19th century, too.

Where do you get your ideas?
I wish I could say I had this dream, like many authors do, but I don’t. I usually have a nugget of an idea, a what if? And then I start expanding until it starts speaking to me.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Oh do I ever! I just came off writers block with this book. It is NOT fun! High stress can cause that with me. It seems to drain my creativity and I struggle for each word and sentence. But God in His great mercy has lifted the fog from me each time.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I loved Beverley Cleary as a child. I loved Ribsy and Henry. I was a tomboy so could relate to the boy in the book and I have always loved animals. I was forever bringing home an injured animal and trying to nurse it back to health. I fell back in love with reading after having all four of my children and my daughter was a teenager. We read Gilbert Morse’s books. It was his writing that rekindled my love for reading.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Yes! Medieval in the Christian market is not accepted with publishers unless it is YA. I don’t write YA so getting a medieval published was impossible. Even my agent suggested I self-publish. So that’s what I did. But even that wasn’t easy. There is so much to do to get a book ready for publishing. SOF went through 3 in depth edits. I had to learn how to format (Thank you Marylu Tyndall!), find someone to make a good cover, learn about ISBN numbers, and so much more.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

It is mostly fictional. I do talk a bit about the Peasant Revolt which is history and I try to give a flavor of the time period. It is a novella so squeezing those little tidbits with a limited word count is a bit more challenging.

How did you come up with the title?

This question made me smile. I agonized over this title. It went without a title while I was writing it, through my crit partner and even into my edits. It was while I went through my edits I got to one point in the book where the hero makes a realization. At that point the title hit me—The Perfect Bride!

Blog Hop

April 29th Overcoming With God

April 30TH Anne Payne Blog

May 2nd Cross Romance

May 4th Amy Booksy

May 7th  The Sword and Spirit

May 9th Singing Librarian Books

May 12th Stitches Thru Time

May 15th- Heroes, Heroines, and History- Mid Month Madness

May 17th Jodie Wolfe Blog

May 21st  Sunnie Reviews

And finally: a giveaway! 

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