15 Jan 2024

The Polluted Font by Mel Starr Review

Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton #16 
Lion Fiction, October 23rd 2023, 192 Pages
Print and Ebook 

Setting: Late 1300s/14th century England
Genre: Crime and Mystery/Historical

When Hugh and Kate's new-born son is taken to the church to be baptized, they are astounded to find that the locked font is completely dry. The possibility of a leak is quickly ruled out, and just as Hugh is beginning to wonder if there may be a sinister explanation for the stolen holy water, Fr Robert is found lying motionless by the rood screen in a pool of blood . . .

Meanwhile, parliament has passed a poll tax, stipulating everyone above the age of 14 is to be taxed equally. Folk are soon scrambling to find the money to pay and, inevitably, unscrupulous elements in society see an opportunity to feed off people’s desperation and make some cash . . . But what connection can there possibly between this and events at Bampton?

Mel Starr's latest novel is a thoroughly enjoyable medieval crime mystery. It may be enjoyed as complete in itself, or as part of the Hugh de Singleton series.


Rating: 🌠🌠🌠🌠

I’ve been reading the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton almost since the beginning, and I’m more than willing to admit some of the books were better than others. This one, I think was one of the better ones. Mel Starr has managed to so something quite remarkable in this book- allow for there to be a complex mystery, investigation and a satisfactory conclusion with no murder having taken place. A man is attacked and left with a head injury but is not killed.

Another interesting aside: this series has spanned a length of time almost as long as I have been reading the series. The first book was set in 1364 and this one take place in 1377. I first discovered this series in 2011. Twelve years to Hugh’s thirteen. 
Considering how some of the laws and political changes at the time the story is set might have impacted on ordinary people was the backdrop of the story.

My only sort of gripe was the negative portrayal of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Hugh never met the man, so why does he consider him corrupt, greedy and untrustworthy? 
Seems more like the interpretation of modern historians if you ask me. I’ve read a biography of John of Gaunt and I don't think this image reflects reality, or at least its too simplistic.

Anyway, The Polluted Font was an interesting and detailed mystery which also managed to explore the importance of compassion and forgiveness, and even to make you feel sorry for the antagonist. It also explores the importance of religion to 14th century people, without some of the pitfalls of the genre which include treating all Medieval Catholics as bad and the anacronistic proto-Protestant character as the only real believer.

Thanks to SPCK and Lion Fiction for approving me for this title via Netgalley. This did not influence my review and all opinions expressed are my own. 

5 Jan 2024

Forever, Lovely by Linore Rose Burkard

Forever in Time #2
November 28th, 2023

When Miss Margaret Andrews travels to the future to find her missing sister, she never expected to find true love. In 1819 England, Margaret is a bluestocking with dreams of becoming an inventress, but when the Tallit, a magical time-travel shawl, goes awry she finds herself stranded in 21st Century Manhattan.

At a Jane Austen conference, she meets Stewart Russell, a grad student studying early British female writers. Stewart is immediately taken with Margaret and her effortless use of the speech and manners of Jane's day—until she claims to be FROM Jane's day! Worse, due to a mix-up, he is a wanted man and the clock is ticking. Margaret must find a way to get them both back to 1819—before the unthinkable happens.

If you enjoyed the time-travel romance of Outlander, then you'll love Margaret and Stewart's story in Forever Lovely.


 My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was the follow-up to Forever, Lately which came out a couple of years ago. These two books are funny and sweet romances which involve time travel instigated by a tallit, or a Jewish prayer shawl. You heard that correctly.

I love how the author combined her love for the Regency period happily-ever-after love stories and life in the modern world. You can tell she's done her research, but the reactions of 19th century characters to modern technology and inventions still manage to be both credible and funny at the same time. Margaret encountering a bus and a computer for the first time, and then a mobile phone was hilarious.
Anyhow, I love Margaret. She's a nerd who considers herself unlovable and unmarriageable because of what others and her sister said. I have a weakness for romances with protagonists who don't fit the mould of beautiful and perfect.

Although there’s a fair bit about regency customs in this novel though, be prepared for the fact that this is *not* a serious historical novel. Its very much fantasy with the time-travel aspect, and if you can suspend your disbelief its just a very nice, sweet story to pass the hours when you want something that is both fun, wholesome and edifying at the same time. Great for the Christmas Season or really any time of the year when you want something which isn’t too taxing.

There’s a lot of religious content in this which some might not expect if they weren’t aware that Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational/Christian Fiction. Its not an issue for me, or for most readers to be honest because there is enough story to just get lost in.

I read this title via Book Sirens. All opinions expressed are my own and freely given.

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