24 Apr 2023

Suppression and Suspicion by Mel Starr

Genre: Crime/Mystery- Historical
Period: Medieval- 14th Century

Edmund Harkins has gone missing.

Few in Bampton liked him, knowing him to be a wife-beater and distinctly unsavoury character, so when some hungry pigs unearth his corpse from a shallow grave, there is hardly an outpouring of grief.

As bailiff, it is Hugh de Singleton’s duty to bring Edmund’s killer to justice. But where is he to start investigating when almost everyone in the village has a motive? And when everyone is pleased to see the scoundrel dead, who knows how far they might go to help someone get away with murder?

To further complicate Hugh's life, the Bishop of Exeter has appointed his nephew as Bampton’s new vicar. But as well as an obsession with discovering any heretical views Hugh might hold, he could not be more unpriestly – he not only acts appallingly with Lady Katherine’s maid, but is contributing to the unhealthy atmosphere of suppression and suspicion that has come to pervade the village . . .

 Mel Starr paints an immersive and atmospheric picture of fourteenth-century England, and weaves a compelling mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page.

My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐


I (usually) love my Hugh de Singleton books. This one was interesting and involved a lot more in terms of social attitudes and domestic issues than some of the other stories in the series. Towards the end I was rather concerned that it was going to be a rehash of an earlier story, Unhallowed Ground. There were similarities, but it wasn’t entirely the same.

I’m not sure I agreed with everything Hugh did and all the decisions he made in this one, but I could understand his motivation if not he justification. One thing I did find interesting was the idea of community justice in Medieval England, and the idea that people in villages might well deal with disputes in their own way, without any recourse to the central legal authorities who were seen as out of touch at best, and openly corrupt at worst.

I hope to continue reading more Hugh de Singleton books, moving forward as I do enjoy the series and I just hope the author doesn’t run out of ideas.

Thanks to Lion Fiction for approving my request for this title. I also pre-ordered the book for myself.
(The only thing which didn’t impress me with that was the number of pages stuck together because the book hadn’t been cut and finished properly, but this isn’t’ review of the book’s condition.)
Neither of these influenced my review and all opinions expressed are my own.

12 Apr 2023

In Love's Time by Kate Breslin


Genre: Historical Fiction
Period: WW1 Britain and Russia

In the summer of 1918, Captain Marcus Weatherford arrives in Russia on a secret mission, with a beautiful ballerina posing as his fiancée. Marcus searches for the Romanov Tsarina and her son--who both allegedly survived the murdering Bolsheviks--and the information behind an allied plot to assassinate Lenin. But Marcus's sense of duty battles his desire to return home to Clare--his actual love.

Hospital orderly Clare Danner still suffers from Marcus's betrayal and now fears losing her daughter to the heartless family who took Daisy away from Clare once before, but only Marcus can provide the critical proof needed to save her daughter.

Faced with danger and unexpected circumstances, can Clare trust Marcus, or will he shatter her world yet again?


                                                    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


 This novel got off to a strong start, kind of lagged towards the middle, and ended very well. My main problem was that I could not remember all the characters: which is my bad. Marcus Weatherford has been in several of them, but it has been years since I read Not By Sight, which I understand this is the Follow Up to. I need to re-read that, and then this.

There's plenty of romance and intrigue, and some interesting details about woman working as nurses during WW1, as well as the way battlefield injuries were being dealt with. Not just physical, but also mental injuries: Marcus is suffering from amnesia as well as what we would probably now recognize as PTSD. Understanding of this condition was in its infancy in 1918: which is to say almost non-existent.

The details about spying and the political situation worked well in the background took me ages to realize the copy of Pride and Prejudice was being used as a sort of signal.

I really liked Marcus, Clare, and Marcus’ sister, Frannie. This was a lovely story of second chance romance, love, and forgiveness. I would recommend this to those who like WW1 novels and historical fiction but would recommend starting with the first book as this one doesn't work so well as a standalone since there is a lot of background for the protagonists which the first book explores.

Thanks to Bethany House for approving my request for this title. All opinions are freely given and entirely my own.


10 Apr 2023

Merlin's Blade by Robert Treskillard


Merlin's Spiral #1 

Genre: Fantasy/Arthurian Legend

April  16th 2013, Zondervan  

A strange meteorite.
A deadly enchantment.
And only Merlin can destroy it.

A meteorite brings a mysterious black stone whose sinister power ensnares everyone except Merlin, the blind son of a swordsmith. Soon, all of Britain will be under its power, and he must destroy the stone—or die trying.


 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wow! I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did. One thing that I find with a lot of novels is that I don't really get immersed in the setting: there are often too many things that pull me out of it, or that the worldbuilding isn't that great.

Merlin's Blade though was a welcome change. It was so immersive & kept me hooked almost from the outset. I don’t know if it was totally historically accurate, but the story has that mythic and slightly mystical feel that I want from Arthurian Legends. Also the geographical setting: I really thought it was set in Wales, but its actually set in 5th century Cornwall.
To me, it just felt like Post-Roman Britain should, with local Kings and warlords, people clinging onto the last remnants of “civilization” even if that was just to keep told of power as petty tyrants and monks clinging onto scholarship and learning at the edge of a culture breaking down. There’s treacherous warbands and bards, druids and ancient treasures, miracles and magic.

The prose was well-written, consistent and even the twists made sense. The poetic parts also worked well. It is really some of the best writing I have encountered in a YA book. Some of the songs reminded me of Welsh war poems and The Gododdin: a 6th century War Poem I recently read.

The beginning felt like the old Sword in the Stone movie, but the story soon took on a more serious tone: with prophecies a battle against an evil druid threatening everything and everyone Merlin loved, and sinister powers at work behind the scenes. I liked how this author wasn’t afraid of incorporating some of the supernatural elements into the story: but he’s also unashamedly Christian. Some writers try to remove all religious or Christian elements from the Arthurian Legends, but Robert Treskillard put’s Merlin’s faith at the centre.

He is not a druid or a wizard, but rather a prophet-like figure as some of the Medieval Romances cast him: a foretold sage and wise person who will save his people through becoming a guide and mentor to the future King.

Of course, he has to grow into that role: for most of this story he is a blind blacksmith’s son who is quite insignificant. I now want to read the next two parts of this story.

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