26 Apr 2019

First Line Friday: Poison and Perfidy, A Case for Brother Daniel by Sergei Chechnev

I took a break last week for Good Friday, and I am returning this week with another title from my Kindle Backlist. I've had this novel on my Kindle for nearly 3 years.

Its a mystery set in 12th century Russia. I love me Historical Mysteries: especially when they feature clerics as the sleuths, because they remind me of the Cadfael stories. This one has a Greek Orthodox Monk.
Sadly, the Russian author has not published any sequels to date, so this book is the only one for now. 

900 years ago a village to the east of the tiny hamlet of Moscow challenged the supremacy of the ancient and majestic Kiev, thus beginning a strife that would endure for centuries. Perfidy and Poison: A Case for Brother Daniel is set amidst the roots of that epic power struggle in turmoil-ridden 12th Century Russia. 

Based on historic fact, this fast-paced medieval murder mystery pits Brother Daniel against all the odds and some powerful enemies, both regal and religious, trying to uncover the truth behind the death of the Grand Prince of Kiev, a puppet appointment that infuriated southern princes who stood to lose precious lands in the north and so divide the nation. 
As he stumbles closer to the real assassins in a tangled skein of suspicions, Daniel is hounded by treachery and treason lurking around every dark corner created by the country’s elite ruling classes.

Today's First Line follows from a Glossary of Russian words, a map,  and some helpful illustrations depicting the costumes of 12th century Russian Aristocrats. 

"He was not a Saint, and he should not be expected to act like one".

 Don't Forget to Click the Link and comment with your own First Line. 


12 Apr 2019

First Line Fridays: The Door to Camelot by Suzannah Rowntree

Today I am including an Arthurian Retelling. The Door to Camelot is the first in a Trilogy of short stories by Suzannah Rowntree. Its actually a re-publication of a full length novel entitled Pendragon's Heir which came out a few years ago.

I have included it because I'm an early reader for the second title in the series, The Quest for Carbonek. 
I loved the first book in the series, The Door to Camelot because its so steeped in Literature. Like every chapter begins with a quote from Tennyson, Milton, or some ancient poem about King Arthur, and because it was a great example of crossover fiction between and ancient and a modern setting.

The ebook is currently available for only $0.99 or the equivalent in your local currency. That might be a permanent price. 

What if King Arthur had a daughter?

Blanche was an ordinary girl in 1900 England...until the knight crashed through her door.

Now, her guardians say she’s a princess lost in time.

Now, her father’s enemies want her dead.

Raised in the wild, Perceval has never known his father. Hoping for answers, he sets out to pledge his sword to the legendary King Arthur Pendragon.

But dark forces threaten Camelot. And darker secrets fester behind the legend.

Sparks fly when Perceval steals a kiss from the strange damsel he finds in the forest. Blanche doesn’t trust this brash young knight...but as assassins close in, he might be her only chance of survival.

Don't Forget to Comment or Share your own First Line  


4 Apr 2019

A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh by Carolyn Miller

Regency Brides: Daughters of Aynsley #1
Kregel Publications, March 19th 2019, 326 Pages 

As the daughter of Viscount Aynsley, Caroline Hatherleigh knows every rule of society--and she's always followed them precisely. But when she visits south Devonshire and encounters a fossil-hunting scientist and his sister, her assumptions about what is right are shaken. Questions she has never considered about the importance of friendship and faith suddenly confront her--and her comfortable understanding about how the world works is thrown off balance. What if God wants to be the center of her life, rather than merely a social obligation?

Gideon Kirby loves science, and hunting down proof of past lives is a joy he won't willingly give up. But his scientific leanings are being challenged both by his personal beliefs and by local smugglers in the Devonshire countryside. And every day his sister's illness becomes more desperate. Adding a viscount's daughter to the mix is a complication Gideon never expected--especially since he must stay far away from this young woman he's falling for in order to protect his beloved sister's secret.

Then tragedy strikes in a smugglers' cave. And the threat of scandal may lead to broken hearts and passionless propriety. Will the shaky bond these two have nurtured be strong enough to overcome their differences--or will the trust they've withheld from each other tear three lives apart?

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Another excellent beginning to a new Regency series from Carolyn Miller. As before the author delivers a memorable tale blending Romance and family drama with a flavouring of mystery and adventure.

Mrs Miller transports readers to the rugged and rough beauty of the Cornish coastline bring together Caroline Hatherleigh, the eldest of three daughters of a country Viscount with Gideon Kirby. The author often has a way of incoporating unsual or little known historical details into her stories, and in this one it really delivers.

All good Cornish tales have smugglers or wreckers, but this one also includes fossil hunters because it explored the growth of the study of prehistoric geology and life in the Regency period. I must admit a personal connection here, because I wanted to be a Paleontologist when I was younger, and so had more than a usual interest in dinosaurs.
So the references to Mary Anning, an early pioneer of fossil hunting, and the search for the remains of an Ichthyosaur - or large sea dwelling dinosaur were a real plus for me.

This novel doesn't show away from difficult themes, and I felt the spiritual content was well handled without being heavy handed as well. I also appreciated the exploration of how man of science like Gideon were able to reconcile their work with their faith.

My only complaints were the misunderstandings which kept the characters apart. They could have been resolved so easily, with just talking, and it was so obvious that declarations mads in a particular situation near the end were not sincere. Caroline should have understood that.

Thanks to Kregel books for my copy for the Blog Tour. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

1 Apr 2019

Revelation by Olivia Rae

Sword and Cross Chonicles #2
July 8th 2015, HopeKnight Press, 296 Pages 
Print and Ebook 

King Richard needs a royal wedding…

Richard’s niece, the feisty and resourceful Lady Ariane is to be his pawn. Though she has spent the last ten years living with the infidels in the Holy Land, Richard plans to turn her into a pious Christian lady, one fit to marry the nephew of King Phillip of France and, thus, seal a lucrative contract between the two countries.

But she needs the right teacher.

Proud and fierce, Templar Knight, Julian de Maury believes he has been chosen by God to free the holy city of Jerusalem from Saladin’s evil grip. But when Richard orders Julian to return to England with Lady Ariane and oversee her Christian education, he’s angry and terrified; he has been denied his destiny and England holds a dark secret better left buried. Now he must come to terms with his past and his attraction to the forbidden Lady Ariane.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Once again, I have finished a book in this series with mixed feelings. On the one hand it turned out to be a good story, with love, intrigue and adventure.
On the other hand, it was hard for me to take this seriously as any kind of 'historical' fiction. . There was so many silly historical errors and inaccuracies that at times, I wondered if the author had read a single book on the Crusades, or 12th century History.

People  bathing was sinful, and the Knights Templar referring to themselves as the 'Order of the Templar' were just a few examples. That was not their name, and I don't think its even grammatically correct. Their correct name was the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, Templar is just an abbreviation of that.

Most inaccurate I felt though, was the assumption that all nobles at this time spoke primarily in English, so a we have a young woman captured by Saracens would have been taught English. No. This was the 12th century. English was considered the language of the commoners. The aristocracy, even those who came from England would have spoken French as their first language.
Now, I am not suggesting the author should have had characters speaking old French or something: but treating English as some kind of internationally recognized Lingua Franca in a novel set in the 12th century is just- really silly.

Also, no Muslim woman would have worn a transparent veil. Seriously, veils were worn for the specific purpose of covering the hair: a see through one defeats that purpose. Transparent veils and headscarves are a silly movie trope. There were other common tropes as well: such as the idea that almost all Templars and practically all of the Medieval Catholic church was evil and corrupt.
Ariane is supposed to have been kidnapped by Saracens and raised as a Muslim for 10 years, but apart from a few references to Allah, she seemed to have almost no understanding of that religion.  I very much doubt any Muslim woman would have been openly living as a mistress: or in a harem. Muslim women would normally have been subject to much higher standards as far as sexual morality was concerned. 
She also seemed to have no problem drinking wine, despite the Islamic prohibition on the consumption of alcohol. 

Her whingeing about not wanting anyone to 'control her life' came across as gratingly modern, and I really did not care for a certain plot device used in each novel in this series, which I won't give away but will become obvious to readers. To me, it makes things too easy.

So, ultimately this novel was OK, but it could have been set at almost any time in history. Even the fact that Julian was supposed to be a Templar only seems to have been put in because of the fascination with all things related to the Knights Templar these days.
I did feel that is sort of dragged towards the end as well, as things got rather far-fetched and contrived to keep the characters apart, or to keep the danger and drama to a high level. It could have ended about 40-50 pages earlier, but there had to be one more misunderstanding or fight scene.

I would read the next book in the series, but I have read better novels set during the period of the 3rd Crusade. Although, I would say the Crusade is not the primary focus, its more of a Romance.

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