24 May 2019

First Line Friday: A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews

I've been off for a couple of weeks again. Today I am including the first line from the most recent chapter of the book I am currently reading. A Modest Independence is the second title in the Parish Orphans of Devon series set in the Victorian period by Mimi Matthews. 

This book is quite unusual for me to include here, because its not actually inspirational or religious fiction, but a General Market title. 

He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

Today's First Line comes from Chapter 17. 

Don't Forget to Click the Link and Comment with Your Own First Line

Happy Weekend, and Happy Reading

22 May 2019

The Governess of Penwythe Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

The Cornwall Novels #1
Thomas Nelson, April 16 2019,  354 Pages
Print, Ebook and Audio 

Cornwall, England, 1811
Blamed for her husband’s death, Cordelia Greythorne fled Cornwall and accepted a governess position to begin a new life. Years later her employer’s unexpected death and his last request to watch over his five children force her to reevaluate. She can’t abandon the children now that they’ve lost both parents, but their new guardian lives at the timeworn Penwythe Hall . . . back on the Cornish coast she tries desperately to forget.

Jac Trethewey is determined to revive Penwythe Hall’s once-flourishing apple orchards, and he’ll stop at nothing to see his struggling estate profitable again. He hasn’t heard from his brother in years, so when his nieces, nephews, and their governess arrive unannounced at Penwythe Hall, he battles both grief of this brother’s death and bewilderment over this sudden responsibility. Jac’s priorities shift as the children take up residence in the ancient halls, but their secretive governess—and the mystery shrouding her past—proves to be a disruption to his carefully laid plans.

Rich with family secrets, lingering danger, and the captivating allure of new love, this first book in the Cornwall Novels series introduces us to the Twethewey family and their search for peace, justice, and love on the Cornish coast.

My Rating : ⭐⭐⭐

I'm an established Sarah Ladd fan, so requesting this book was a given. Mrs Ladd has branched out with a new series set in Devon, which is becoming a very popular setting for Regency novels, thanks to the Poldark series.

This delivers a lot of what readers have come to expect in Cornish novels: with smugglers, intrigue and some stunning, dramatic landscape.

The hero Jac was a stereotypical grumpy and reclusive relative, who suddenly has the children of his long estranged brother come and live with him, which comprises most of the action in the book with money struggles and family drama, as well as some hilarious faux pas by the children whom Jac grows to love.
In one passage, one of the little girls suggests they 'should listen harder' when eavesdropping on adults, before being chided by her older sister that it is unladylike behaviour.

Delia provides vague shades of Jane Eyre a governess with unexpected local connections and something of a shady past.
Then there were the six young charges of Delia. Child characters always bring a refreshing, honest and often funny view of unfolding events.
All of the characters have to learn lessons in trust and love whilst facing circumstances that could either drive the unconventional family apart, or bring them closer together.

The romance in this book was slow-burning, and most of the book went by at an easy pace, which allowed for more character development. The only reasons my lower rating were that there were quite a few Americanisms and phrases that came across as clunky and unnatural. For example, at one point a character says the children are "well cared after". Shouldn't that be "cared for" or "looked after"?

The ending also came across as a little but rushed perhaps a little far-fetched. On a couple of occasions I also found it hard to keep up with some of the characters. I think there were too many minor characters with walk on roles, and it could become confusing to remember all their names and relationships to the main characters.

None of this really puts me off this author, or the book to a great extent. Its still a good book which makes good use of the setting, its just not my favourite. I think I preferred The Weaver's Daughter. Lovers of Regency fiction and Poldark fans should enjoy it.

I received a copy of this title from the Publisher or their representatives including Netgalley. This did not effect my review and all opinions expressed are my own.


19 May 2019

Lord of Her Heart by Sherrinda Ketchersid

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
May 14th 2019, 244 Pages 
Print and Ebook 

Genre: Historical Fiction, Medieval 
Setting: Northern England 1198-99 AD

Lady Jocelyn Ashburne suspects something is amiss at her family’s castle because her father ceases to write to her. When she overhears a plot to force her into vows—either to the church or a husband—she disguises herself and flees the convent in desperation to discover the truth.

Malcolm Castillon of Berkham is determined to win the next tournament and be granted a manor of his own. After years of proving his worth on the jousting field, he yearns for a life of peace. Rescuing a scrawny lad who turns out to be a beautiful woman is not what he bargained for. Still, he cannot deny that she stirs his heart like no other, in spite of her conniving ways.

Chaos, deception, and treachery threaten their goals, but both are determined to succeed. Learning to trust each other might be the only way either of them survives.

Minor Heading: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have a bit of an ambiguous relationship with Medieval Fiction. Some I love, sometimes I really can't stand it even if its set in my favourite period.

Thankfully, this new book fell into the former category. I ended up really liking it. It proved to be an excellent debut novel with an engaging plot, with a blend of romance, adventure and mystery. Sometimes its hard for newbie authors (or any authors) to blend together the various threads and numerous characters into a cohesive whole, but thus author does it very well with a story that's divided into certain parts starting out with more intense action, and settling into domestic scenes.

What's more, most of what happened was pretty credible. In some stories like this, a lot of suspension of disbelief is required, and even the romance was not too cliched or mushy for the most part. The combat and jousting scenes well also pretty well written. I also liked the way that Jocelyn was written as a strong woman: but what she did was plausible and within the bounds of the time. 
Not like a modern feminist superhero: who is great at every form of combat without training and can take out whole armies or something or doesn't want to get married because its 'oppressive'.

There were only a few minor niggles. First off, whilst I generally like the cover: those costumes don't do it for me. The man's armour just looks off. Sorry.
My second point is not aimed at this book in particular, but just generally. Why is it assumed that normal way of using knives in the past was throwing them? Knives are not intended to be thrown: unless its part of a Circus act or something.
From what I've heard, throwing a knife is a really inefficient and inaccurate method of combat.
If someone wanted a projectile weapon, or something that could be used from a distance, there are much better options than knives. A bow, short spear, or even a slingshot would do the trick.

I'd certainly be willing to read future books by this author, and would happily recommend this one. 

I received a promotional copy of this title from the publisher/author or their representatives. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

13 May 2019

Of Fire and Lions by Mesu Andrews

Waterbrook Multnomah, March 5th 2019
Print, Ebook and Audio

The Old Testament book of Daniel comes to life in this novel for readers of Lynn Austin's Chronicles of the Kings series or Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series.

Survival. A Hebrew girl first tasted it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago as the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. She thought she'd perfected in the many years amongst the Magoi and the idol worshippers, pretending with all the others in King Nebuchadnezzar's court. 

Now, as Daniel's wife and a septuagenarian matriarch, Belili thinks she's safe and she can live out her days in Babylon without fear--until the night Daniel is escorted to Belshazzar's palace to interpret mysterious handwriting on a wall. The Persian Army invades, and Bellili's tightly-wound secrets unfurl with the arrival of the conquering army. What will the reign of Darius mean for Daniel, a man who prays to Yahweh alone? 

Ultimately, Yahweh's sovereign hand guides Jerusalem's captives, and the frightened Hebrew girl is transformed into a confident woman, who realizes her need of the God who conquers both fire and lions.

My Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Of Fire and Lions was the first novel I have read by this author. I'm getting to like Biblical Fiction now more than I used to, and the Book of Daniel. Well, it really does cover some very turbulent times earth-shaping events from the perspective of a Jewish exile who rose to the heights of society in Ancient Babylonia, but remained faithful to his God.

Who can forget the story of King Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the great statue, Daniel in the Lion's Den, and the Fiery Furnace. Its all here, alongside some hints of Romance and family drama.
Adding Daniel's wife, and having much of the story written from her standpoint adds an interesting and emotional flavour to the story.

Abigail (the said wife of Daniel), takes on a Babylonian name, and struggles with the terrible hand that fate deals with her. Though sometimes its the King, not fate. Even in later life she struggles to come to terms with her past, and to repair her relationship with her children who she was forced to live apart from for several years.
She grows and develops a lot as a character, and is the perfect companion to Daniel: at times and almost otherworldly figure.

It terms of historical accuracy, this novel seemed pretty good. The descriptions of places and buildings, and even religious rites were authentic.
My only niggle, and its a minor one, was the use of the term 'Palestinian'. There was no such place as 'Palestine' in 500BC: the region in the modern day Holy Land was not called that until Roman times.

Overall this was a very good story told from the perspective of a strong but vulnerable woman. I would certainly be open to reading more by this author.

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

1 May 2019

Pendragon's Heir (Parts One and Two) by Suzannah Rowntree: Two Reviews for the Price of One.

The Door to Camelot: Pendragon's Heir #1 
March 18th 2019, Ebook Only 
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.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


 I've recently been honoured to act as an early reader for Australian author Suzannah Rowntree as she republishes a novel which she wrote several years ago entitled Pendragon's Heir as a Trilogy. The Third installment is due out later this month.
The Door to Camelot is an Arthurian tale which crosses over into 1900, when a young woman discovers she is, in fact, the daughter of King Arthur, who was sent from ancient Britain through a portal to save her from the enemies of Camelot and her father
It reminded me in sort parts of the recent movie The Kid who Would be King, with Giants and errant knight chasing fighting characters in the modern world with courage, heroism and a touch of fantasy and romance thrown in.

The book is also clearly immersed in the Literature of the Arthurian legends: with Tennyson and Chesterton quoted at the beginning of the chapters, as well as some older authors, such as the Tudor period writer Edmund Spenser.

Recommended for lovers of historical fiction, fairy tales and good old fashioned adventure yarns. This is the first part of the longer story retold as a trilogy- and I get the feeling its just about to get really intense.

So open the door and travel to Camelot today, to step into the richness and drama of the glorious Medieval tales retold with an interesting modern spin. Also a great taster to anyone who is not familiar at all with the legends. 


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