27 Oct 2017

First Line Fridays 13# Deeds of Darkness by Mel Starr

Back again after last week's hiatus. I've been a bit naughty this week since I have actually only just finished my last book The Dishonorable Miss Delancey by Carolyn Miller, which I received from Kregel. You can read my review here.  

So today I am going to feature one of the books I am going to start in the near future. Its the latest in a series of Historical Mysteries, set in 14th century Oxfordshire, which features a Surgeon and Bailiff who solves crimes. The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton is Published by Kregel's UK sister company Lion Hudson (it was originally Publisher by Monarch books) and has actually been around for many years since this is the tenth in the series of which one book is published each year. 

I am a mystery buff generally, but there are two things I enjoy about the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton: the historical background, and the details about Medieval Medicine and surgery.  Also, the series is set in the late 14th century, during the lifetime of John Wyclif, the famous Medieval English Church Reformer, who was based at Oxford University and makes an occasional appearance in the books as a friend and mentor of the hero, Hugh.  

When Bampton’s coroner, Hubert Shillside, does not return from a trip to Oxford, Master Hugh de Singleton is called. Concerned for his old friend, Hugh takes to the road to investigate. Travel is safer than in times hence but, out of sight of prying eyes; it is still unwise to travel alone…
Hugh finds a body, stabbed and left to rot, but it is not the body he was expecting to find. Indeed, reports of pillage, attacks, and chaos on the roads out of Oxford suddenly seem rampant. Hugh must ascertain whether the incidents are random, or whether something darker is afoot. The guilty cannot afford to be caught, but what lengths will they go to cover their tracks, and will Hugh escape unscathed?

The first line (well actually the first two lines) are: 

"Plague has made travel somewhat safer. Many folk have died of the great pestilence in the past twenty-some years, so that those who yet live can find employment where they will have no need to rob other men upon the roads, and risk a hempen noose."

Back again next week; click the Meme to visit the Hoarding Books site and see what the other members are reading.


25 Oct 2017

Kregel Blog Tour: The Dishonorable Miss Delancey by Carolyn Miller

 Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace #3 
October 24th, 2017, Kregel, 294 Pages, Print and Book
Will a damaged reputation and desire for society's approval thwart the legacy of grace?
Tainted by scandal and forced to leave London for the quieter Brighton countryside, the Honorable Miss Clara DeLancey is a shadow of her former society self. She's lost the man she loved to another and, in a culture that has no patience for self-pity, is struggling with depression. A chance encounter brings her a healing friendship with the sisters of an injured naval captain. But Clara's society mama is appalled at the new company she's keeping. 

Captain Benjamin Kemsley is not looking for a wife. But his gallant spirit won't let him ignore the penniless viscount's daughter--not when she so obviously needs assistance to keep moving forward from day to day. Can he protect his heart and still keep her safe?

When they're pushed into the highest echelons of society at the Prince Regent's Brighton Pavilion, this mismatched couple must decide if family honor is more important than their hopes. Can they right the wrongs of the past and find future happiness together--without finances, family support, or royal favor?

I've had the pleasure of reading all three titles of debut author Carolyn Miller's Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace trilogy since March, thanks to Kregel (and Netgalley in part).
The story has been told with the striking realism and humour the author has established in the previous two works; as well as a genuine treatment of the role of faith in the characters' lives, which does not degenerate into the preachy or contrived. Also, it has to be mentioned, that the cover is simply gorgeous.
A sunrise that would entice the photographer in the family. I'm also coming to appreciate the parts of this book which were set in Brighton, a popular seaside resort in East Sussex. I've only visited the city a handful of times, but I do remember some of the streets named, and its great to come across references to places I have actually been in a book like this. It just allows me to relate to it more.

Lady Clara DeLancey was a relatively minor character who appeared as the antagonist in the two previous titles. Making a hero or heroine out of an antagonist can be a challenge, but I think, in this case, the author has done very well.
The reader cannot help but grow in sympathy for Clara, and the circumstances (often beyond her control) that drove her to her previous deeds. In desperation, she sees the extreme which she has reached and wants to start turning her life around after she strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young woman she meets when her parents retire to their house in Brighton.
Much to the consternation of her family, Tessa Kemsley, the sister in law of the local vicar, is not a highborn  Lady, but Clara cannot seem to avoid her, or her brother Benjamin, a former sea captain and war hero: and a man who sees past the facades that the men and women of High Society erect to preserve reputations and hard-won connections. I had one or two quibbles with a couple of parts of the story, a few terms and phrases, and the ending bordered on being a little far-fetched, but nothing major.

I'd heartily recommend this book and the entire trilogy to anyone who loves Regencies, Inspiration or simply meaningful' historical fiction.
I requested this title as part of the Kregel Blog Tours programme (as well as an ebook version from Netgalley) I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

22 Oct 2017

New Release: Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano

October 3rd 2017, Revell
400 Pages, Print, ebook, and audio 

When Aurelie Harcourt's father dies in debtor's prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father's unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother's disappearance--and perhaps even her father's death.

Author Joanna Davidson Politano's stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.

I requested this book: well, because it was plugged as a Victorian Gothic Romance cum mystery whose protagonist is a young female writer working incognito. What’s not to love? What indeed. There were so many things about this book that were good; insights into the life and struggles of an author, vivid characters, a solid storyline as well as realistic and sympathetic faith elements.

Yet, I have to say I did not like this as much as my favourite Victorian authors: there was plenty of suspense and drama to keep the reader interested, yes, but there were a few things that were really frustrating for me. Mostly, it was the Americanisms: the book was absolutely riddled with them, and this was exacerbated because it was written in the first person so that the Victorian English characters talked about eating ‘candy’ and ‘dessert’. Indeed, all the characters ate in the American way with only forks, instead of according to the British custom, with a knife and fork held in the right and left hands respectively. In another passage, the heroine sees a character emerging, drunk, from the ‘saloon’ of a pub. Establishments that sell alcohol have never been known as saloons in Britain.

The reference to Aurelie and her Aunt traveling to ‘the London station’ was annoyingly vague. Which London station? There are several major railway stations in London which have existed since Victorian times, King’s Cross, Euston, Victoria to name but a few. It sounds as though the author doesn’t know the names of any railway stations in London, and has just given the general location. Sorry, but I find that lack of detail jarring, and that such oversights damage the credibility of the characters and setting.

I suppose these are only minor details, but they do prevent me from giving the book the higher rating which it otherwise deserves. Mrs. Politano is certainly a talented writer, to be able to write what was essentially a story within a story, with so many twists and turns, suspense and intrigue. I look forward to her next one and recommend this one despite some of the reservations detailed above.

I requested this title from Netgalley and listened to the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

17 Oct 2017

New Release: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

Once Upon A Dickens Christmas #1
September 1st 2017, 192 Pages, Print, ebook and audio

"A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home may bring danger...and love?

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancĂ©, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love"

It's not Christmas, its October, but I decided to read this alongside the audiobook borrowed on Scribd. The description of the book is pretty accurate, its pretty much like a combination of Dickens Bleak House with one of Agatha's Christie's darkest stories 'And Then There Were None' (which was originally entitled 12 Little Indians).

I'm rather in two minds about how some of the characters seemed to be directly lifted from Bleak House, especially Mr. Tallgrass (Mr. Bart. Smallweed, clearly was the inspiration there), and Miss Scurry with her mice, who was clearly based on Miss Flyte with her collection of prophetically named birds.
Whilst I am sure authors borrow from other works all the time, it's not something I'm always totally comfortable with when I spot it. This was still a great book though, and it does not detract from Dickens great tale. To be fair, its hard to beat the classics, so why not use them as an inspiration?

Aside from some of the inevitable Americanisms, and the American narrator of the audiobook who struggled with some of the accents, I did enjoy this book. A lot. Its great little short read for any time of the year, but also ideal reading on a long Winter night over the Holiday season incorporating intrigue, suspense, mystery, but also love and redemption.

I requested the ebook edition of this title from Netgalley for review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

13 Oct 2017

First Line Fridays #12: Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano

I've noticed that First Line Friday posts are all I have been, well, posting for a few weeks now, with far less reviews. Maybe its because I'm not posting reviews of most of the titles I listen to as audiobooks, or that reading time is sometimes limited I seem to keep waking up late, which cuts out some of the time I would otherwise spend reading of an early morning. 
Perhaps I need to buy that LED light to stick to the shelf above my bed, instead of rolling over and going back to sleep now that the mornings have grown dark with the onset of British Autumn. 

Anyway, today I am featuring the first line of the book I am about to start reading (or more likely listening to most of on Audible), which I picked as it was set in the Victorian Period, and and I rather like this stories those with a Gothic bent or some underlying mystery.  I heard about the novel months ago, waited for it to appear on Netgalley then had to wait several days before finally being approved.

The first lines read: 

London, England 1861 
 "Well Miss Harcourt. Are you, or are you not, Nathaniel Droll?"

Happy reading and have a good weekend, untul next time. Hopefully I will get more review up in the intervening days. 

6 Oct 2017

First Line Fridays #11: The Middle Ages Unlocked

That time of the week again, and I've managed to fall behind in my reading Challenge again, but I am making my way through two audiobooks and one paperback, so it's not because of laziness. Today also marks another milestone: The First Line Fridays group has a new home and we are including our posts in a new links list.  

Today is also a first for me: I'm including a non-fiction title on this site which is not Christian, for like the first time ever. Those who follow me on Goodreads will probably have seen this title on there: it's a History book that I have been reading for a while. Not because its a bad book, but just because I only read a few pages every now and again in between other titles. 

The Middle Ages Unlocked: A Guide to Life in Medieval England 1050- 1300. Well, the title is pretty self-explanatory, it's from a British Publisher, and the authors are Polish and Latvian scholars. I've always enjoyed reading about how people lived in the past, and not just about major political events, so a book that covers everything from law to clothing, building styles and the dietary habits of Medieval English men and women is ideal for me. 

What's also interesting about this book though, is that it also examines the lives of the Jewish communities of Medieval England, alongside the English, Normans and other majoritygroups. 
There were several thousand Jews in England until their forced expulsion in the late 13th century. 

Today I am including two first lines, actually the first lines of the first two paragraphs, as I think this gives a better idea of what the book is about. 

"So many people love the Middle Ages. Movies, books,  role-playing games and reenactment, these help us to enjoy - and shape how we see, the period.... The Middle Ages of our imagination of popular culture is not, however, always close the Middle Ages that historians and archeologists know." 

That's my contribution for the week: from now on instead of the little list of links at the bottom we're going to be using the button below. Happy Friday from me, and remember to comment with the first line of the book you are reading.


4 Oct 2017

The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere: Review

London Beginnings #1
Bethany House, June 7th 2017, 352 Pages
Print and Ebook
Warm-Hearted Victorian Romance Brings 1880s London to Life

When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage.

A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he's glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can't wait to leave behind.

The Captain’s Daughter was an interesting story that worked some very interesting details into the plot: such as the work of the Victorian social reformer George Muller, and the popular composers and playwrights Gilbert and Sullivan. I didn’t know HMS Pinafore was originally written by them.

Much of the ‘action’ revolves around the heroine joining a theatre company and the lives of its members, as well as her relationship with two men: one an Anglo-Irish soldier on leave from India, and the other a charming young member of the company. Although I say ‘action’ this is not one of those fast-moving thriller type stories. It’s more a slow-paced, light historical fiction cum Romance.
The Romantic elements are not overwhelming, and the religious elements worked well into the story without being too preachy. My only complaints were that the dialogue did not always seem authentic for the time-period, and there were a few Americanisms. Londoners don’t and never have given directions by saying ‘two blocks away’. It’s not how we measure distance in British towns and cities. We also don’t say ‘someplace’. I did find those jarring at the beginning but got past it.

I would say that overall I prefer Sandra Byrd’s novels set in the Victorian period, as they tend to be more richly detailed and mysterious, but this one was still good. Probably just a matter of taste, as the former have more of a Gothic feel, and this one does not. 

I requested this title from the Publisher via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

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