Friday, 29 January 2016

How to Capture a Duke #BookReview


All she had to do was find a fiancé.
In four days. In the middle of nowhere.

How To Capture A Duke is a historical romance by Bianca Blythe.

What is the story? 

It isn't easy being a member of the Ton, especially when you would rather be knee deep in mud, digging up the Roman remains in the orchard at your Grandmothers manor house. Not to mention that you are - in fact - a woman.

Fiona Amberly's Grandmother is seriously ill. Her dying wish is to see her granddaughter happily married and her future secure.

To appease her Grandmother, Fiona states that she is secretly engaged. She makes the excuse that her betrothed has gone to war to bravely fight Napoleon. But the war has now ended and she can no longer "kill off" her fictional betrothal as she had intended. And now questions are being asked. Where is this mysterious Captain Knightly?

Percival Carmichael had never expected to become the Duke of Alfriston, but with the death of his cousin, he has been named heir. It is time he found a wife and his aunt has the perfect person in mind - all he needs to do is get himself off to London and propose.

Fiona is riding back to her archaeological site when she sees a tree blocking a road. She stops a passing coach in a bid to warn the driver. Unfortunately the driver sees not a lady but a scruffy looking scoundrel with a knife in her hands. He mistakes her for a highwaywoman and flees, fearing for his life.

Fiona suddenly comes up with an auspicious plan. If she were to 'borrow' the handsome passenger, then maybe he would come around to the idea of playing Captain Knightly, just for a couple of days...

What did I think?

I had so much fun with this book. It was incredibly amusing. The kidnapping of the Duke of Alfriston, had me in tears, it really was hysterical.

Blythe has created two really real and believable characters in Fiona and Percival.

Percival has come home from the war wounded, he has lost part of his leg, and I felt that Blythe was really sympathetic to his character. His on-going pain and trauma made him a very real and believable character. I really felt for him when he was subjected to abuse from not only the Ton, but also members of his own family, because he was now, in their eyes, damaged. Likewise, he never planed to be a Duke and has been thrown in to the deep end, so to speak. He is under an awful amount of pressure by his family, to do the right thing. Duty binds him and it feels like his life is no longer his own.

Fiona was wonderful. She came across as a really strong character, but there was an air of vulnerability about her that made her really likable. She very quickly becomes swept along with circumstance, with some funny, but ultimately, disastrous consequences.

How To Capture A Duke was a really enjoyable read. It is a beautiful historical romance story that will make you laugh out loud. I highly recommend. 
 




About the author

Born in Texas, Wellesley graduate Bianca Blythe spent four years in England. She worked in a fifteenth century castle, though sadly that didn't actually involve spotting dukes and earls strutting about in Hessians.

She credits British weather for forcing her into a library, where she discovered her first Julia Quinn novel. Thank goodness for blustery downpours.

Bianca now lives in Massachusetts with her boyfriend, though she will admit to craving warm scones and clotted cream. She's not certain she can admit to reading about handsome, roguish dukes, at least in a location where her boyfriend might stumble upon the fact.

But if any readers are stumbling upon this, rest assured that she does write about rather swoon worthy heroes :-)


http://www.biancablythe.com
 

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Join Up by Tudor Robins #bookreview

 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Treasure of Gwenlais : The Rienfield Chronicles Book 1 #bookreview

I love historical fiction. I love fantasy fiction too.

 The Treasure of Gwenlais : The Rienfield Chronicles Book 1
 by M.T. Magee, combines both genres.

Lets have a quick look at the story.

It is said that it is easier to hate, than to try and understand a race that is so different from our own. The Rabkin are such a race. They are a frightening species, feared by the humans, for they are renowned to be exceptionally swift killers and a deadly force to be reckoned with.

Prince Caleb of Heathwin, longs for peace and security for his kingdom and he has secured a fragile alliance between his people and these mysterious creatures.

But dark forces move against this delicate alliance. Unexpectedly a tribe of Rabkin attack a small defenceless village in the neighbouring  kingdom of Gwenlais. These Rabkin are different from the others - they have no respect for life or for death - and they bear different markings to the resident Rabkin tribes. They are strangers, outsiders, mercenaries.

Princess Laurel of Gwenlais is just seconds away from death. The Rapkin have murdered her much loved mother - the Queen of Gwenlais - and they are now hunting her. Prince Caleb saves the princess just in time. This blatant disregard for life shocks him, and knowing the Rapkin as he does, he cannot understand it.

Laurel and Caleb have always been close, despite living in separate kingdoms, and the events that are about to unfold draws them closer together. But their newfound love is as fragile as the peace between the kingdoms and there is an unknown enemy that threatens to destroy everything...


 What did I think?

The joy of Kindles is that it tells you roughly how long a book is going to take you to read. According to my Kindle it was going to take me just over 31 hours to read The Treasure of Gwenlais. So either my reading speed is exceptionally slow or this book was incredibly long. Turns out it was the latter! I have to be honest, I would not normally even attempt to read a book that is this long - I just have not go the time to devote such a large portion of it to one book, but the description of the story intrigued me. After doing some quick calculations in my head, I realised that each chapter was going to take me over an hour to get through. So I quickly decided that if Chapter 1 did not hook me in, then I would give the rest of the book a miss. Two hours later I looked up from the book to check the time, and realised that I was late for an appointment!

I absolutely adore the world that Magee has created. I am trying to think of something to compare it to - think of the dramatic backdrop of Game of Thrones, a pinch of Narnia, a dash of Lord of the Rings and a very large splash of the greatest romance you have ever read and you may be getting somewhere. Actually, I don't think even that description gives it justice. Dare I say...this book is an original?? If there is such a thing.

The attention to detail is exquisite. It is almost an hour-by-hour chronicle of what is happening in these peoples lives - but instead of becoming bogged down in the detail, which is always a risk when writing like this, it just gave me a thirst to read more. It became almost like an addiction. This book monopolized all my spare time and I became ever so slightly anti-social for a week or so!

Magee is obviously passionate about her Irish and Scottish ancestry and the world she has created has a whisper of the kingdoms of the ancient Celts. Although in her world, it is perfectly acceptably to drink tea and eat dainty sandwiches! Rightly so. And occasionally a man eating plant will try to kill you...such is life.

Every single one of the characters that you meet in this book is not only unique, but also believable. She breathes life into every single person she talks about, be it a hero or villain. King or servant. Human or Rabkin.

I adored this book. I loved the world, the characters, the plot, the intrigue and the romance. What a beautiful, beautiful story.

I am so glad I took a chance and read Chapter 1. What an adventure I would have missed out on if I had passed it by. Now hurry up, Magee, and write book 2. I want to find out what happens next!


 

  


 

 About the Author

My name is M.T. Magee and I live in New England on our small farm with my husband and son. We raise an assortment of silly goats, quiet rabbits, far too many ducks and chickens, and a high strung Border collie cross named Gronk. I have always loved fantasy and fell in love with Tolkien at age eleven. I read all of his works at age twelve. I have been writing stories since I was ten years old and have always wanted to be an author. After fulfilling my dream of becoming a nurse, marrying the love of my life and having two wonderful sons, I have finally been able to fulfill my dream of publishing my first book. My youngest son is severely disabled and I am his full-time caregiver. The long winter months here in New England make it virtually impossible to go out very often, so I used this time to begin my story, The Treasure of Gwenlais. Fifteen months and 1144 pages later, I am very happy to present my story to all of you. I love strong female characters, who are still able to convey a sense of vulnerability and be very relatable. I also love strong male leads who are not afraid to show their soft side. Love of family is important to me as I am sure it is to everyone and I convey this in my story.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Oswald: Return of the King (The Northumbrian Thrones) #bookreview

Edoardo Albert , Oswald : Return of the King, is an epic tale of the life of Oswald, as he seeks to reclaim his father’s kingdom in Northumbria.

What's the story?

The second book in The Northumbrian Thrones series follows the young prince Oswald as he seeks to regain the throne taken from his family by Edwin

The exiled family of King Æthelfrith of Northumbria arrive, after much hardship, on the island of Iona, where the monastery founded by St Columba has become a center of worship and learning. Amid the violence and turbulence of Dark-Ages Britain, the island appears a sanctuary to the hunted princes and Oswald, having become firm friends with a novice named Aidan, enters the church along with his younger brother, Oswiu.

As befits a young prince, Oswald learns to fight and soon becomes renowned for his courage, earning the title Lamnguin, the Whiteblade. However, the peace of Iona leaves Oswald torn between becoming a monk or returning to Northumbria to reclaim the kingdom that is rightfully his. When news reaches Iona that his half-brother, Eanfrith, has been killed by Cadwallon, the king who defeated Edwin, Oswald sails back to Northumbria and meets Cadwallon in battle, defeating and killing him. 

Oswald, now the undisputed king of Northumbria, gives Aidan the island of Lindisfarne as a base from which to take the faith to the English. But Penda, the last great pagan king in England, is raising troops against him . . .

What did I make of it?

I was really looking forward to read this book. It has had some fantastic reviews. The opening chapter suggested that I would not be disappointed. Unfortunately, I very quickly became disheartened.  I became very confused about who the protagonist of the story was meant to be – I thought it was Oswald - but there were so many characters that this wasn’t clear to begin with. Thank goodness for the Dramatic Personae at the front of the book, without this I do not think I would have read passed Chapter 4. Once Albert settled into his story and concentrated more on Oswald, I began to enjoy it a little more.

Oswald: Return of the King is the second in a series that explores this historical landscape and I do feel that I would have benefited greatly from reading book one of the series first.

Albert’s historical knowledge is extensive– he has really taken great care in researching the era and he paints a very vivid picture of Britain in the 7th Century. Albert is a very skilled writer and has a knack for creating beautiful imagery.

I found the antagonist – Cadwallon – very trying, for he winged and whined and was, for want of a better word, delusional. However, I found the supporting characters, particularly Oswald’s brother, Oswiu, very engaging.

Albert has created a very believable political landscape and his battle scenes are very vivid and well thought out.

My advice is to read - Edwin: High King of Britain – first. Then, maybe, you will not become as lost as I was at the beginning of the book!

About the author

Edoardo Albert is a writer of Sri Lankan and Italian extraction based in London. The best response to his writing was when he reduced a friend to helpless, hysterical, rolling-on-the-floor-holding-his-stomach laughter. Unfortunately, the writing in question was a lonely hearts ad. He hopes to produce similar results in readers, without inadvertently acquiring another wife.

Friday, 22 January 2016

The Breaking Dawn #bookreview

I am so excited today because I am back in my beloved Dark Ages with Jayne Castel The Breaking Dawn.
 
I love reading books by other authors in this era and Jayne Castel writes so passionately about her area of interest. She bases her stories on actual 7th Century historical figures and the protagonist of The Breaking Dawn is Cynddylan ap Cyndrwyn - the Prince of Powys (Wales).

Let's waste no time and have a quick look at the story.

Summer AD 641, Mercia, Britannia

Merwenna of Weyham's betrothed has gone to war. He promises her that he will return and when he does they will be married. But the months drag on and there is no word. She fears the worst, but she cannot wait any longer to find out his fate. She travels with her brother to Tamworth - the seat of Penda, the Mercian King - and their liege lord - only to discover that she is too late and her betrothed is dead.

Lord, Prince Cynddylan (Dylan to his friends) has allied himself with the King of Mercia. But the alliance is fragile and he is wary, for he trusts Penda about as far as he could throw him.

Dylan remembers Merwenna betrothed and it is he that breaks the news to her that the man she thought to marry is dead.

Dylan is attracted to Merwenna from first sight, but she is grieving and a peasant whereas he is a warrior who will, when he returns to Powys, be crowned King.

Fate intervenes and Merwenna finds herself at the mercy of Dylan. She does not fear for her life so much as she fears for her heart, because there is something about this Welsh prince that she cannot resist.

But dark forces are plotting against the Prince. Merwenna is determined not to lose another man she loves to war. She will do everything in her power to protect him, the way he once protected her.

So what are my thoughts on the book?

The Breaking Dawn is a beautiful historical romance set in one of my favourite periods. Castel paints a vivid picture of Mercia in the 7th Century. It is very easy to get lost in the world that she has created.

The Breaking Dawn has all the ingredients for a great romance story. The only issue I really had with it was how quickly Merwenna seemed to get over the death of her betrothal. She clearly loved him, and risked her father’s anger to find him, and when she discovers that he is dead, she weeps and grieves and thinks her life is over. However, one minute she is crying and the next she finds herself in the arms of a prince - it all happens rather suddenly. Although, she can be forgiven for this... I think any woman would find it difficult to keep her head when Dylan is around!

The romantic tension between the protagonists is very well written. I would go as far to say it is one of the most believable relationships that I have read about in the last six months. It is beautiful.

The story is fast moving and a real page-turner. I started reading it before I went to bed, but I set the alarm early so I could finish it before breakfast. It is one of those books.

I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

If you love historical romances then you will not be disappointed in The Breaking Dawn. Although be warned - this is the type of book where you need to find yourself a couple of hours of solitude, turn off your phone, make yourself a hot chocolate and curl up under a blanket next to a warm fire - because you are not going to want to put this book down.

 

About the author

JAYNE CASTEL writes Early Medieval Historical Romance and Historical Fiction set in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England.

Two of her novels DARK UNDER THE COVER OF NIGHT and NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK, reached the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards in 2013 and 2014.

Jayne writes historical romance adventures about warrior heroes and strong-willed heroines. She weaves powerful love stories into meticulously researched stories about honor, valor, loyalty and vengeance.

Her KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series spans a decade and the reigns of three kings: Raedwald, Sigeberht and Annan. The series is a 'must-read' for anyone who loves reading historical romance set in a warrior-dominated culture.

 

Book Review - The Doom Assigned: King Richard III in Victory

Book Review time....Yay!


Once again I find myself reading about the House of Plantagenet (1126 - 1485). The Plantagenet's gave us some of the most famed British monarchs of all time, as well as a few controversial ones as well! The Plantagenet reign came to an end on the 22 August 1485, when King Richard III was killed by the Lancastrian Army, lead by Henry Tudor, at Bosworth Fields.

On the face of it, Henry Tudor and his army should not have won at Bosworth, he was outnumbered. But Richard had an adder in his nest - also known as William Stanley - who betrayed his king and placed Henry Tudor on the throne of England and the rest, as they say, is history. But I often wondered what would have happened if Richard had won?


Author, Richard Unwin, has asked himself that very same question in his book, The Doom Assigned: King Richard III in Victory, (I am going to call it The Doom Assigned from now on).


I have read several articles written by Richard Unwin, and he takes a very different view to what historians commonly agree on as to what happened that fateful day in August. He has come to the conclusion that although Stanley may well have wanted to betray the king, the common people who were under his command, would not have taken a sword against their regal monarch in favour of a foreign invader. He believes that when Stanley finally joined the battle, he was in fact, coming to the aid of Richard. The Kings Army, seeing Stanley’s regiments charging towards them, thought, mistakenly, that they had been betrayed. 


Back to the book…
The Doom Assigned is an alternative history. A history in which Richard III's army does not make this disastrous mistake, instead they welcome the help from Stanley, and the fields at Bosworth is theirs.


I have not read an alternative history for a very long time. I believe the last one I read was Robert Harris, Fatherland, so I was looking forward to read The Doom Assigned.

After I got over my initial - that is not what happened -  chanting voice that seemed to be racing around my head, I began to enjoy it.


The story follows the - I want to say fortunes and misfortunes, but it is more like...that was lucky, incredibly lucky, and that's a stupid thing to do, don't do that again - adventures of a young squire, Robert de la Halle, the son of the king’s armourer. 



After the victory of Bosworth, Richard orders the Lancastrian's traitors, and those awful Tudors, to be hunted down and brought to justice. This war would end…for once and for all. Richard demands peace for the rest of his reign.


Robert finds himself in the thick of the action and he seems to inadvertently invite trouble. He certainly does not seek glory; his only wish is to serve his king to the best of his abilities.

The story takes you from shores of Morecombe Bay, to the siege of Pembroke Castle where the traitorous Jasper Tudor, has taken refuge. You experience the court of the King of Portugal and the struggles of a squire who has been awarded the dilapidated Staunton Manor. You find yourself immersed in bloody battles, both on land and at sea. Young Robert, also struggles with family secrets and first love, as well as a very naughty monkey - yes, I said a monkey - Robert learns a valuable lesson...one should never take a monkey hunting and drugging the said monkey is probably not such a good idea.


King Richard is determined to bring order to his kingdom, and to make the people of his kingdom love him. But Lady Margaret Stanley is intent upon revenge and threatens to destroy everything that Richard is working so hard to achieve.


When I started reading The Doom Assigned, I did not realise it was part of a series, thankfully it is a stand alone book. I did not, at any point, feel that I needed to read the other books that came before, in order to understand what was going on.


Richard Unwin historical knowledge is staggering. It is very clear from his writing that he has researched his area of interest well. He is very descriptive in his writing, however, sometimes I felt a little overwhelmed by this and I wasn't really that interested in what they were wearing or the genealogy of certain characters, who were not, I felt, that important to the story. For me, this slowed a perfectly good story down, and make no mistakes I thought the story was great. I really enjoyed it. The demise of Henry Tudor was breathtakingly haunting and it is one of those images that will stay with me for a long time.


Robert is a believable character, who is young, a little naive, courageous and very loyal to his king. I liked him, and it was nice to read a story from this era that was not from a highly born nobles perspective.

The epilogue was a pleasant surprise and I love the way the author has thought long and hard about what would have happened to the royal family if Richard had held on to the throne of England.

The Doom Assigned: King Richard III in Victory, was an enjoyable book and I must now hunt down the rest in the series.

If you are interested in the War of the Roses with an alternative ending, then this is the book for you. Why not check it out today?
 



About the author

 Richard Unwin is a retired Technical Author with an interest in English history, poetry and literature. His interest in medieval history, and particularly the life of King Richard the Third, goes back to his early youth. He is a member of the Richard III Society and a local Historical Society in Manchester, England where he lives. He particularly looks for, and exploits in his writings, those elements of history, which though popularly believed, can be shown to have an alternative but logical explanation.
 For more information about Richard Unwin, check out his website, here.

Owen - Book One of the Tudor Trilogy #bookreview


The House of Plantagenet reigned from 1154 until 1485 and they are, to date, the longest reigning royal dynasty in English history. Their long, and mostly successfully reign, finally came to an end on 22 August 1485 when Henry Tudor beat King Richard III on the fields of Bosworth - The Battle of Bosworth marked the dramatic climax to The Cousins War, or The War of the Roses as it is now more commonly known.

Philippa Gregory has done an awful lot bringing this fascinating period back into the spotlight. You may have read her books or you may have seen the British television series, The White Queen. If you have not, then you really should.

Philippa Gregory always writes from the view point of the women from that era, but I have often wished someone would write a really good novel from the male standpoint, and I think I may have just found the author that not only writes about that era, but does so to such a standard that he leaves you wanting to read his books over and over again.

The book I have the very great privilege of reviewing today is Tony Riches "Owen - Book One of the Tudor Trilogy."

When we usually think of The Tudors, we immediately recall Henry VIII..."Divorce, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived."... Or we may think of Elizabeth, "The Virgin Queen," and how she protected the shores of England from the Spanish Armada.

But, there is so much more to the Tudor dynasty than these two colourful characters.

Tony Riches takes his readers on a journey back to 1422.

King Henry V is dead and a young, handsome, Welsh nobleman - Owen Tudor - who was a soldier in King Henry's army - becomes the Keeper, of the beautiful Queen Catherine's, household.

Catherine's infant son, Prince Henry, has just been crowned King of England and France. But with the  death of his father, Henry V, the court is full of whispered accusations and a greed for power, because there is a lot to gain if you can manipulate the King, more in your favour.

This story is about how a humble Welshman falls in love with his Queen, who, despite all the reasons that she should not, returns his feelings. They marry in secret and their marriage stays a secret for many happy years, for Owen knows that if their marriage were ever to be discovered, it would be his head on the block.

Written in the first person, you witness the beginning of the Cousins War through the eyes of Owen Tudor.

Tony has weaved an incredibly evocative tale that immersed me in the time that he was writing about. I could almost smell the stench and feel Owen's desperation as he lounges, apparently forgotten, in Newgate Prison. I grieved with him as he lost members of his family. I felt his fear as he look towards a future, that he could not possibly predict anymore, and I have to admit I was shouting "NO," in my head, as the final chapter closed.

Some books have the power to stay with you and this is one of them. I have read this book twice and I know it is going to be one of those books that I read again and again.  And I really hope that the BBC will one day discover this book, because I would truly love to watch it come alive on the screen.

Do I recommend it? What do you think? It is in my top five favourite books that I have read this year, and I read a great many books. I cannot wait for the next in the series. So, if you are looking for something to read and love Philippa Gregory then I highly recommend you put Owen- Book One of the Tudor Trilogy at the top of your reading list.








About the Author

Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales with his wife and enjoys sea and river kayaking in his spare time.
For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his popular blog, The Writing Desk and his Wordpress website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

King Arthur's Sister in Washington Court #bookreview

Today I am going to talk about a rather wonderful book called King Arthur's Sister in Washington Court by Kim Iverson Headlee.




Those of you who read a lot of Arthurian literature may well have come across Kim's work before, The Dragon's Dove Chronicles, perhaps?


King Arthur's Sister in Washington Court ( I am going to call it KASIWC from now on ), caught my eye because it sounded really intriguing. Arthurian legend meets baseball - what a concept!


Kim, I think, set herself quite a challenge when she wrote it, because this is a sequel to Mark Twain's  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - so hats off to her for that.


The story is about Morgan le Fay, Queen of Gore, and is set in the year AD 600, (Morgan was lucky enough to survive the purge in Mark Twain's book). We all know of Morgan's magical prowess and she has vowed revenge upon the Yankee, Hank Morgan - who in Mark Twain's book caused a great deal of trouble for Arthur and his court.


Morgan casts a spell which is supposed to take her to 1879 Connecticut - she wants to stop Sir Boss (Hank) from ever traveling back to her time and destroying her world, but her spell goes drastically wrong and she finds herself in Washington DC In the year 2079.


She adapts remarkably quickly to modern life - she survives her first encounter with a flying limousine - which she is convinced is some sort of magical dragon. And thank goodness for magic, for she would never have been able to walk in stilettos without it!


Morgan lands on her feet and becomes the Campaign Manager for the American President, Malory Beckham Hinton - whose ambitions are so great that Morgan believes that one day the President will rule absolutely and elections will be a thing of the past.


Somehow, Morgan ends up being the owner of the London Knights - the world-champion baseball team and after that things really get interesting...


Morgan's stormy relationship with Sandy, the general manager of the Knights, is hysterical - I have lost count how many times she fired him! The story is packed with action and you never quite know what Morgan is going to do next ...will she throw the game by using magic or will she refrain herself this one time?


She also tells some incredibly amusing anecdotes about the Knights of her brother's Round Table.


To be absolutely honest, although the title and synopsis intrigued me, I was a little bit wary to start with, simply because baseball is not a national sport where I come from. The only encounter I have ever had with baseball is on my children's Nintendo Wii and I must admit, it wasn't my finest of moments. Oh, and of course, there was that Kevin Costner film, however all I learnt from Field of Dreams was "If you build it, he will come," but apart from that, I know nothing! However, my lack of knowledge did not in any way hamper the enjoyment of the book. So please do not be put off if you are not a baseball fan.


Likewise, you do not have to read Mark Twain's book to understand what is going on in this one. KASIWC stands firmly on its own two feet.


KASIWC is an incredibly well crafted piece of work, of that there is no doubt. The story is told in the first person by Morgan herself, and boy, does she have strong opinions on just about everything - some of which may be a little controversial - but hey, she is from a different era, what can you do?


It is laugh out loud funny, but at the same time some of topics that Kim explores really made me think about how little things have actually changed between Morgan's world and our own. It gave me pause for thought.


There is humour, romance, drama, magic, King Arthur and his Knights, and baseball - what more can you ask for?


I read this book in a day - and I haven't done something like that in a long time - I simply could not put it down. Which I think, in itself, says a lot about the book.


Would I recommend it? Absolutely.


So, if you are looking for something to read that is a little bit different, then what are you waiting for? Click on the links and check out Kim Iverson Headlee, King Arthur's Sister in Washington Court, today!