27 Jul 2018

First Line Fridays 34: The Regency Brides Romance Collection

Sooo much has been going on recently, last week I was coming back from holiday, so I took a break from posting. Today, I spent several hours an an annual Joust and Tournament event held at my local castle. Yup, that's one of the good thinks about living in Britain: we often have castles and other historic buildings within a few miles of us.
Possibly expect some pics from that soon, either here on the Facebook page.

Today I am sharing a first line from one of the stories in the Regency Brides Romance Collection , a collection of seven short Regency stories which was published late last year by Barbour. I'm onto the fourth of the seven stories called The Gentleman Smuggler's Bride by Michelle Griep. 

Ah, I'll bet you though I was going to share something from a Medieval book, didn't you? Nope, not today. This particular story is set in Cornwall with shades of Poldark: so without further ado here is my first line. 

1815 Port village of Treporth, Cornwall, England

          Pretend I am courageous. 
          Pretend my heart still beats. 
          Pretend all manner of blissful things 
          … and that I shall find him alive.
"Recreasing a worn scrap of foolscap, Helen Fletcher tucked the paper into her valise, then snapped shut the clasp, wishing most of all she’d never received such horrid news. No one had ever warned her about the dangers of parchment."

Good eh? Yes I know, I cheated and that this is actually several lines. About 5, but I felt it was necessary because it begins with those verses, and that the scene setting line ought to be included.

 As usual don't forget to click the link to see what the other members of the group are reading, or share your own first line.


18 Jul 2018

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter Review

Haven Manor #1
5th June 2018, 386 Pages, Bethany House 
Print, Ebook and Audio 

Genre: Historical Fiction 
Setting: Regency Britain (Marlborough & London, 1816) 

When Katherine "Kit" FitzGilbert turned her back on London society more than a decade ago, she determined never to set foot in a ballroom again. But when business takes her to London and she's forced to run for her life, she stumbles upon not only a glamorous ballroom but also Graham, Lord Wharton. What should have been a chance encounter becomes much more as Graham embarks on a search for his friend's missing sister and is convinced Kit knows more about the girl than she's telling.

After meeting Graham, Kit finds herself wishing things could have been different for the first time in her life, but what she wants can't matter. Long ago, she dedicated herself to helping women escape the same scorn that drove her from London and raising the innocent children caught in the crossfire. And as much as she desperately wishes to tell Graham everything, revealing the truth isn't worth putting him and everyone she loves in danger.

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Well, this was certainly a very unusual Regency novel. Not many balls or engagements here.
Basically, Kit and her best friend Daphne fled from the censure of 'society' years before acquired a secluded manor house in rural Marlborough, where she lives 12 years later with Daphne, a Frenchwomen called Jess with a colourful past, and a passel of children, illegitimate and seemingly unwanted by their parents. 

By taking in the children, Kit is and her friends see themselves as helping the aristocratic mothers, who would otherwise be shunned by society, and their children, who would face a bleak life.
However, she uses some rather dubious methods to support them, and has become so jaded by what she as seen that she has developed a bitter and twisted attitudes towards aristocratic men, believing them all to be worthless, irresponsible hypocrites and predators.

That is until Graham Wharton, the son of an Earl appears unexpectedly on the scene. Graham is a young man who is deeply bored with parties and balls and the normal activities of society, but also a deeply moral man who does not gamble or dally with young ladies.
He prefers to spend time with his two boyhood friends and sees an expedition to the country as a chance for an adventure.
The chemistry between the him and Kit was well-written from the start. Graham shows a better way, but still wants to help and his caring and largely non-judgemental attitude is key to moving the story on. It seems he is the father figure many of the children need, and the person to chip away at Kit's defenses by proving there are good and honourable men in the world.

His kindness and generally non-judgemental attitude is usually a winning one. Although he does call Kit out on her faults nearer to the end. By which time both and many important lessons about true love, redemption, healing and finding their place in the world.
Its just an very good story on a difficult subject, which is tightly plotted and well-told. Some might find this novel 'preachy' towards the end, and there is a lot of talk of prayers, but that goes with the territory in this genre.

I thought some of the passages which explored the spiritual themes were very good, and well handled. Kit was wracked with guilt over her past mistakes, which she felt had ruined her friend's life as well as hers, and saw what she was doing as a way of atoning for them: but also used that as a way to justify the less than savoury aspects of that.

My main complaints were all the Americanisms in the story. There were just so many, and I found them really jarring and annoying. Nor were they just in the dialogue with the British characters talking about 'going to the store' and 'giving candy' to the children.
It was in the mannerisms as well- there was a reference to Daphne teaching the children life-skills like 'how to hold their fork properly': because they all eat the American way with only a fork, and another reference to a character telling another their tea 'needs more cream'. No, it does not. Tea needs milk, not cream.

This author's works are far from the only Regency or British set novels riddled with Americanisms, but its as issue for me. I mean, I liked the book overall and look forward to the next one (Daphne's story!), but I do wish there was not this need for British characters to talk and act exactly like Americans in British Fiction.
What's wrong with being a little more authentic? I'm sure its not beyond the capacity of American readers to understand different words or mannerisms.

I was sent a free copy of this book via the Publisher's UK distributors, and purchased the audio-book of my own volition.
I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own

14 Jul 2018

Miss Serena's Secret by Carolyn Miller: Kregel Blog Tour Review

Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope #2
Kregel, 226 Pages, 24th July 2018
 Print and Ebook 

Genre: Historical Fiction 
Setting: Regency Britain (Derbyshire & London, 1817-18)

With devastating scars in her past, Serena Winthrop is sure no man can be trusted—especially not men like the far-too-smooth Viscount Carmichael. His reputation as a charmer and a gambler is everything she despises. And the young artist makes sure that this disreputable heir to an Earldom knows of her deep disapproval whenever they encounter one another.

Henry, Lord Carmichael, is perfectly aware of his charms to the women of the ton. He's gambled with plenty of their hearts as easily as he does their husband's money—it's all in good fun to him. But lately he's been wondering if there's more to life—and confronting the idea that his actions might not prove worthy of the admirable wives his friends have found.

When Serena's brother-in-law asks his best friend to protect his young ward, Henry promises to be on his best behavior and not woo her. But the more he learns of her, the more he realizes she might be his best reason for changing his character. Then the lady's art leads her to London infamy. Now Henry must choose between the life mapped out for him as the Earl apparent, and the love of his life. And Serena's secret may mean the end of his titled family line.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Carolyn Miller became one of my favourite Regency authors with her first series, and this second series is proving to be just as good. I love her rich plots full of historical detail, witty dialogue and treatment of flawed, yet sympathetic characters. Plus, the faith elements are woven seamlessly into the story without appearing too preachy.

This story followed Serena, the younger sister of Katherine Winthrop from the last story, and the male protagonist is one of Johnathan Curlew 's (the hero from that story) friends. Henry, Viscount Carmichael. I won't call him a rake, he seemed to be more of a lovable rogue at the beginning.

He's a struggling nobleman commissioned by his friend John to look out for his young sister in law, Serena. She's supposed to be very young. No more than about 18 or 19, or something, and recently escaped an unfortunate situation involving a sleazy Art Teacher.. Serena is a talented artist: although her negative experience and the censure of society leave her unsure of her vocation.

Many adventures, rendezvous, polite dinners and society functions later, and of course Serena and Henry (one of my favourite names), are in love, but there's much keeping them apart. Henry's estate is struggling, his father threatens to disown him if he does not marry the person he wants, and Serena wants nothing to do with a man who gambles: nor does she believe he can ever trust a man again. Although Henry is very sweet, kind and reaches out to her with acceptance, and introduces her to his family. 
His sister and her two lovable children: lovable and typically forthright, who immediately ask of their new friend is going to marry their favourite Uncle.

The title, in some sense refers to 'secrets' or rather the difficulties that have to be overcome on both sides,. Henry's problems are not a 'secret' per-se, but he wants to change to earn the love of a good woman: and because he knows he's not the man he wants to be. He needs to grow up and face the responsibility of running his estate, only to be faced with illness in his family.
Again, there were shades of the Classics, and Austen here: but the novel is not just aping them. Its an independent creation.

As before, I loved how the landscape and details about the region were used in this story: in this case its a mention of a local stone, a type of Agate which is only found in parts of the county of Derbyshire. One would almost not believe the author is, in fact, Australian.

The only minor niggle that I had (which other reviewers have pointed out), is some uncertainty over the precise details of certain events relating to Serena, and a hint at some behaviour on the part of Henry which did not seem consistent with the way he was presented in the story before. I just could not really believe he had done such a thing before his reformation. Also, younger readers might need to be aware of a couple of scenes towards the end relating to adult themes, and the consummation of marriages. There is nothing graphic, but might be a bit embarrassing for some.

Overall though, this was another wonderful story and addition to the latest series. I downloaded an ebook of this title courtesy of Kregel Blog Tours and was not required to write a positive review, all opinions expressed are my own.

13 Jul 2018

First Line Fridays 33: The White Horse King by Benjamin Merkle

I was going to feature the book I am about to start reading on my Kindle, but instead I decided to feature a book which I just purchased on Kindle on sale. I've read it in paperback (parts of it), but I've been after the Kindle edition for years. 

The White Horse King is a non-fiction biography of the Saxon King Alfred the Great which was published way back in 2009. As far as I know, its the only biography of a major figure in Medieval British history from any major US based Christian Publisher. 

The title, incidentally, pays homage to G.K.Chesterton, an author from the early part of the 20th century and creator of the Father Brown stories. He also wrote a poem about King Alfred called The Ballad of the White Horse, written in 1911. You can listen to it read out on Youtube, or read it for yourself, here.

 The unlikely king who saved England.

Down swept the Vikings from the frigid North. Across the English coastlands and countryside they raided, torched, murdered, and destroyed all in their path. Farmers, monks, and soldiers all fell bloody under the Viking sword, hammer, and axe.

Then, when the hour was most desperate, came an unlikely hero. King Alfred rallied the battered and bedraggled kingdoms of Britain and after decades of plotting, praying, and persisting, finally triumphed over the invaders.

Alfred's victory reverberates to this day: He sparked a literary renaissance, restructured Britain's roadways, revised the legal codes, and revived Christian learning and worship. It was Alfred's accomplishments that laid the groundwork for Britian's later glories and triumphs in literature, liturgy, and liberty.

The first line today comes from Chapter Four. Each chapter is named and this one is entitled 'Danegeld' . 

The Kindle edition of the book is, as far as I am aware, still on sale for only $1. So if you want a copy, just pop over to Amazon, or your favorite Ebook retailer, since its on sale on Nook, Kobo and Google Books as well.

Don't forget to click the Meme to see what other members of the group are reading, or comment with your own First Line.


10 Jul 2018

The Orphan's Wish by Melanie Dickerson Review

Hagenhiem #8 
June 26th 2018, 352 Pages, Thomas Nelson 
Hardback, Ebook and Audio 
Genre: Historical Fiction 
Setting: Medieval (Germany, Early 1400s)

Orphaned and alone, Aladdin travels from the streets of his Arab homeland to a strange, faraway place. Growing up in an orphanage, he meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion, and their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break.

Even as a child, Aladdin works hard, learning all he can from his teachers. Through his integrity, intelligence, and sheer tenacity, he earns a position serving as the duke’s steward. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to steal as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune.
Yet once Aladdin departs, Lady Kirstyn becomes a pawn in a terrible plot. Now, Aladdin and Kirstyn must rely on their bond to save her from unexpected danger. But will saving Kirstyn cost Aladdin his newfound status and everything he’s worked so hard to obtain?

An enchanting new version of the well-known tale, The Orphan’s Wish tells a story of courage and loyalty, friendship and love, and reminds us what “family” really means.

My Rating:★★★★


After a hiatus of over a year, this new Dickerson Fairytale retelling came out.   I have to admit I was not very keen on the last two books, The Silent Songbird and The Noble Servant. With this one though, I would say things are back on form, as we Brits would say.
 I don't know the story of Aladdin well, which this is a retelling of, but I thought it kept true to the spirit of what I know of the story, including a Genie, of sorts.

It follows Kristyn, one of the 8 children of the Duke and Duchess of Hagenhiem (the family which feature in most of the other stories in this series). She has a severe dose of Middle Child syndrome. She's quiet, a little shy, and feels she often isn't noticed by her parents, especially when her naughty younger siblings take all the attention.
Her only real friend is Aladdin, a young Saracen boy who was rescued from the Holy Land from a band of thieves, as a child, and bought to Germany by a pilgrim (NOT a Crusader: there were no Crusades in the Middle East at that time), and a priest.

Kristyn and Aladdin play together as children, striking up a lasting friendship. His intelligence eventually comes to the attention of Kristyn's father, who hires him. Aladdin however, strives for better things. He wants to make his fortune to prove himself worthy of love and marriage, and goes off to become a merchant: and he can't do that as a Duke's steward.

Over the years, many adventures follow, as love and faith are tested, and the story explores a number of important themes, including self-worth, identity and how the past can influence the future.
For example, everyone says Aladdin is 'perfect', because he's smart, honest, and good at almost everything: and that sets up an expectation of perfection: something which is, of course unattainable. He has to really mature and learn about life to realise that.
I also rather appreciated the fact that the Romance elements were more in the background this this novel. It wasn't just mushy kissing or longing looks all the time. The romance developed over time, and the hero and heroine were apart for long periods.

I was initially concerned that the main conflict of the story seemed to be resolved halfway through: but it was not, and there was enough tension through the rest of it.
Apart from a couple of details which I wasn't sure about historically and the occasional use of the word 'gotten', there wasn't much I found objectionable in this story.
Very enjoyable and recommended to fans of Fairy-Tale retellings, Medieval stories, and books by this author.

I requested this title from the publisher via Booklook Bloggers, and purchased the audio book of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own

6 Jul 2018

The Innkeeper's Daughter by Michelle Griep: Review

Bow Street Runners #2 
March 1st 2018, 320 Pages, 
Print and Ebook
Genre: Historical Fiction 
Setting: Regency England (Dover & London 1808)  

Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambling gentleman to expose a high-stakes plot against the king—and he’s a master of disguise, for Johanna Langley believes him to be quite the rogue. . .until she can no longer fight against his unrelenting charm.

All Johanna wants is to keep the family inn afloat, but when the rent and the hearth payment are due at the same time, where will she find the extra funds? If she doesn’t come up with the money, there will be nowhere to go other than the workhouse—where she’ll be separated from her ailing mother and ten-year-old brother.

Alex desperately wants to help Johanna, especially when she confides in him, but his mission—finding and bringing to justice a traitor to the crown—must come first, or they could all end up dead.

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Oh my goodness, I did like this book. I almost forgot it was supposed to be in the same series as Brentwood's Ward which was published almost 3 years before. Though each title in the series can be considered a standalone title.

Anyhow, its a wonderful story with great characters, and a plot that is a lot more complicated than it seems. At the heart of the novel is Johanna Langley, an Innkeeper's daughter who is struggling to keep her family's business, burdened by debt, afloat.
Desperate to attract more customers, she is glad when Alexander 'Morton', supposedly the son of a merchant from Sheffield arrives, but actually a lawman working undercover: but not so pleased about a band of traveling musicians.

Events and people converge on the small inn, and the city of Dover with a possible smuggling operation, the dealings of a local aristocrat whose attentions Alexander seeks. He has been told something more sinister then smuggling is going on.
In the course of the narrative, loyalties, love and faith are tested, and not always certain. The trustworthiness of almost every character gets thrown into doubt at some point.

Both Johanna and Alexander have a active faith, and the religious themes and matters of faith are dealt with very well in this story, without being too preachy and overbearing. Several passages stood out including: 
 “Are you under the impression that what you have or have not done is what gives you worth? Because that is nothing but a vile lie. God stamps His value on everyone—on you-- by virtue of His grace.

One though, I had a problem with: in the context of this novel it was fine, but the implications need to be considered.
At one point, Johanna's mother tells Alex that it can never be right to abandon that which you love to accept that you don't for the sake of duty.
OK, that's all well and good, but what happens, say, if that applies to a man who has a wife he does not love and a mistress he does? By that standard, he should abandon his wife and family, and leave with his lover.

Still I digress. With The Innkeeper's Daughter, Michelle Griep has written a tremendous novel, full of adventure, drama, intrigue and romance, and without some of the negative content which plagued its predecessor (a totally unnecessary rape scene right in the middle of Brentwood's Ward soured the flavour of that one for me).
Which is not so say the characters are perfect, far from it, they are realistically flawed and the novel does not shy away from the darker aspects of human nature and behaviour.

There were a few of the expected Americanisms, although most of those were in the narration, rather than the speech of the characters. I did wonder about Johanna's referring to her mother as 'Mam' as I always thought that was more of a Northern English term. Still there was little to jar readers from the narrative in any of the above.

Yet there is a hopeful tone to it overall. I heard there might be another novel in this series involving Alexander's mysterious, almost ghost-like (for his tendency to appear suddenly and without warning) colleague Thatcher. Generally, I'd recommend it to all fans of Regency with a hint of mystery.

2 Jul 2018

A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason- Review

370 Pages, 5th March 2018
Bethany House, Print Ebook and Audio  
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance 
Setting: Victorian England (1887, Derbyshire) 

When stable hand Nolan Price learns from his dying mother that he is actually the son of the Earl of Stainsby, his plans for a future with kitchen maid Hannah Burnham are shattered. Once he is officially acknowledged as the earl's heir, Nolan will be forbidden to marry beneath his station.

Unwilling to give up the girl he loves, he devises a plan to elope--believing that once their marriage is sanctioned by God, Lord Stainsby will be forced to accept their union. However, as Nolan struggles to learn the ways of the aristocracy, he finds himself caught between pleasing Hannah and living up to his father's demanding expectations.

At every turn, forces work to keep the couple apart, and a solution to remain together seems further and further away. With Nolan's new life pulling him irrevocably away from the woman he loves, it seems only a miracle will bring them back together.

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Well, this book was something of a rollercoaster. Not an emotional rollercoaster, it’s not one of those novels which relies on non-stop action, drama or peril to play on the emotions of readers. What I mean by a rollercoaster is how my opinion of the book changed. There were points when I was not sure if I’d like it: and when I really did not like the protagonist, Nolan Price: but I was enthralled and very satisfied by the end.

It needs to be stated from the start this this is not a typical Historical Romance because *spoiler alert* the protagonists get married very early on, but circumstances seem determined to keep them apart. Nor is does it fit the mould of a lot of other Victorian Inspirational novels. Some have called it a ‘rags to riches’ story, and I would say at the heart of it is a story about broken families coming together and healing.

What I came to enjoy about it the most was the emotional development of the character, particularly Edward, the Earl of Stainsby, ostensible the ‘villain’ of the piece. Now, I must confess that in some stories I have found myself sympathizing with and even quietly rooting for the villain, especially when he or she does not seem especially villainous or has not done anything too heinous.
I believe I saw Edward, fundamentally, as a man wronged and that was what made him the way he was.
Although I could understand Nolan’s love and loyalty for the women who raised him, I did think her actions were ever adequately explained, and I do think she was partly responsible for the pain that made Edward such an ‘ogre’.
Probably, because of that, I sympathized with him at times more than Nolan, who seemed very single minded in pursuit of his goals and ambitions and not above using emotional blackmail to bring them about.

Perhaps Edward was like that too, but I don’t know, I found myself to be more forgiving of him: and I do like the way he started to change under the influence of the wonderful Duchess Iris. An amazing character, reminiscent of the uncompromisingly blunt Lady Violet from Downton Abbey. All the major characters must face their own weaknesses and shortcomings to make things right though, which provides some good balance.

I had a couple of minor gripes: one of them with the inevitable Americanisms (words like ‘gotten’ which crept in) although I would say there were fewer of them in this novel than in others I have read. Also, some of Nolan’s attitudes seemed conspicuously anachronistic- for example, he deplored hunting and seemed to entirely eschew alcohol. 
At one point, when offered a drink of wine he said something about not drinking ‘spirits’- which might be a valid position, but its inaccurate, since wine is not a 'spirit'. 'Spirits' is the word used to refer to alcoholic beverages which are distilled to make them stronger, and wine is not distilled.  Its just fermented.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen alcoholic beverages wrongly referred to as ‘spirits’, and it’s just kinda annoying.

Overall, A Noble Heir was a nice simple story, and a good option for someone looking for something a bit different in the Historical Fiction/British Fiction Genre.

I requested the title from Netgalley, and was not required to write a review, or a positive one. All opinions expressed are my own.

1 Jul 2018

Christian Fiction by Century- Part 2. Conquest to the Tudors

Taking my cue from other Bloggers, I'm making a list of Christian Fiction books arranged by Century and Historical Period. I have several such lists on Pinterest, arranged by country, which you can visit here. 

This one covers the entirely of the Middle Ages, from the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the 15th Century Reformation. 

1066- 1199: Norman Conquest, Eleventh and Twelfth Century 

From the most famous date in English History to the end of the Twelfth Century- also incidentally the year in which King Richard the Lionheart died.






 The Crusades, Robin Hood and the Magna Carta: 1096- 1300 

The period of the Crusades in the Middle East, which ended in the late thirteenth century, and books which relate to the Magna Carta of 1215, as well as the Robin Hood legends. 




 The Thirteenth Century: 1200-1299

Books set in this period, but not related to any of the above. Includes general historical Fiction and Romance. Alongside the Magna Carta, this was the period in which the England Parliament was established, in which King Edward Longshanks tried to conquer Scotland: and also the century in which Italian poet Dante wrote his Divine Comedy (which is not meant to be funny).



The Fourteenth Century: 1300-1399

This famous period saw the beginning of the Hundred Year's War and the Black Death: it was also the age of Chaucer, and is well represented in fiction.









The Fifteenth Century: 1400-1500

The end of this century marked the ascension of the first Tudor King of England, in 1485, which is a useful cut off point. Its before the Reformation, during the period known as the European Renaissance. Yes, the Renaissance is counted as having begun in 14th century. 



Crime and Mystery 

 My final list is for novels which are set in any of the centuries outlined above, but are Historical Mystery novels, rather than traditional historical Fiction. All except the book shown at the very bottom are set in 14th century England or France. 
The novel right at the bottom of the list is set in 12th century Russia. There are no more books in the series now, but hopefully there will be in future.





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