Friday, 26 April 2019

#BookReview — The Moss Maiden of Kinderhook by Mark C. King #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalMurderMystery @MarkCKingAuthor

The Moss Maiden of Kinderhook
By Mark C. King

Kinderhook, New York - 1826

If monsters are real, then anything is possible.

Like all his peers, seventeen-year-old William Sharp grew up hearing fairy tales about the Moss Maiden, a folklore creature that rewards the good and punishes the wicked. But those were just stories to scare children…weren’t they?

Then why are people dying? What is haunting the forests of Kinderhook Village?

Though frightened and overwhelmed, William will uncover secrets that will call on him to do more than he could imagine. He’ll have to contend with horrors beyond his most disturbing dreams. 

For the sake of his family, the girl he loves, and his very life, William will have to face the nightmare that is the Moss Maiden of Kinderhook!

“We are dealing with a deadly monster and only the truth — pleasant or not — will help you defeat it.”

Seamus MacGowan’s words may not be what the inhabitants of Kinderhook wanted to hear, but someone needs to speak plainly about what they are dealing with, and he is, after all, a monster hunter. Seamus knows that the Moss Maiden would never kill indiscriminately — she only targets the wicked.

Until a few days ago, William Sharp’s only concern was how to tell his parents that he had no intention of becoming a lawyer or a doctor. Instead, he felt a calling towards the land. And besides, how could he leave Marie, the young woman whom he had fallen in love with, to the wolves?

When a family falls from grace, nothing can stop the descent. They say that Marie Holland’s father was a criminal who, instead of facing up to his crimes, took his own life. The shame would be with them forever. Their place in society had been stripped from them 12 years ago, and they had never got it back. Marie and her mother were the outsiders. They were pitied, but not welcomed. Marie’s mother had turned to drink, which brought only more shame. And yet, Marie dared to imagine a life with the young man she has been in love with since she was a little girl.

The arrival of the Moss Maiden, and the fear that came with her, drives this young couple closer together. If life was so fleeting, then why should they not declare their love? However, as the villagers collectively come together to destroy the Moss Maiden, secrets are revealed that will change the lives of the young couple forever.

From a gruesome discovery in the forest to the harsh coldness of the truth, The Moss Maiden of Kinderhook by Mark C. King is one of the most compelling Historical Mystery / Mythological stories that I have ever read.

King’s enchanting narrative and his elegant turn of phrase captivated me from the opening sentence. The plot is tautly gripping, and the villagers’ fear of the supernatural made this story not only powerfully compulsive but utterly irresistible.

Kinderhook is a place where superstition and the mythological collide, and nothing is as it seems. King skillfully describes a village under siege from a threat they do not understand and cannot see. The villagers quickly realise that the ghost stories may not be stories after all. King is a master at writing suspense, and at times the tension in this book was almost unbearable. Who would be next to succumb to the monster? However, The Moss Maiden of Kinderhook is more than just a ghost story with a murderous twist, running alongside it is a tender, yet forbidden love story.

I adored the characterisation of William Sharp. He is compassionate and is not one to go along with the crowd. While others ridicule Marie, he defends her. He is incredibly empathetic and just so likeable! Marie’s character really pulled at my heartstrings. With the death of her father, her life was turned upside down. She cares for her alcoholic mother, and she has to put up with the vilest abuse from her peers. William is her only friend and the only person whom she can rely on, but even then, she thinks herself unworthy of his attention and love. King has approached Marie’s characterisation with scrupulous care. His insight into human frailty and indeed for the human condition has to be commended. He writes with diligence and care, which made all of his characters highly appealing.

Another character worthy of note is the monster hunter, Seamus MacGowan. Although Seamus is only a secondary character in this book, and a stranger to the village, he is no man’s fool. He sees what others don’t want to see. His character certainly gave me pause for thought as the story progressed.

I applaud King for his attention to the historical detailing in this book. He has skilfully depicted Kinderhook in the early 19th Century as well as the people who lived there. His understanding of the mythological and superstition is also worthy of mention.

Although there are several murders in this book, King writes with a keen sense of who his audience is. It would certainly appeal to young adults, as well as those who love a good murder mystery.

If you are looking for your next great Mythological / Historical Murder Mystery, or are looking for something new, then look no further than The Moss Maiden of Kinderhook. Fans of Washington Irving’s The Legends of Sleepy Hollow will love it too.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
The Moss Maiden of Kinderhook

Mark King
Mark King is an easy-going writer with a talent for finding enjoyment in most any situation. He’s a lifelong reader whose literary interests include historical fiction, science fiction, adventure, thriller, and mysteries.  He grew up in California, but now lives in upstate New York with his wife.  When not working or writing, he can be found watching movies, having fun with friends, eating ice cream, and of course reading.

Connect with Mark: Facebook • Twitter

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

#BookReview — Lies of Gold by Jan Selbourne #RegencyRomance #HistoricalRomance

Lies of Gold
By Jan Selbourne

Their love affair ended in anger and painful consequences. Lady Katherine Ashford has guarded a secret through years of abuse. Fighting wars and hard living has numbed Julian Ashford. Then fate steps in. A traitor is smuggling gold across the Channel to Napoleon Bonaparte and Julian is ordered back to Halton Hall and Katherine. It’s her secret and the increasing danger that rekindle the love they once shared, then a murder reveals the shocking truth of the gold smuggling. However, nothing could prepare them for the devastating betrayal when they finally face the mastermind behind this sordid operation.

“I left England because you told me I wasn’t good enough for you…”

But now Julian Ashford is back, although he is disgraced and one step away from a cell in Newgate Prison. At least, that is what his so-called family, who reside in Halton Hall believe. 

It had been one week of forbidden love, just one week, and then Katherine Ashford had sent the only man she had ever loved away. It had been for the best. There was no future for herself and Julian. Katherine was married, and if their secret affair were discovered, then she would lose her son. Nevertheless, it had broken her heart to return to her husband — the honourable, gallant, as well as being a good friend to the Prince Regent, Charles Ashford, the Earl of Ballingford. Honourable and gallant? If only le bon ton knew the truth about Charles. Charles had been a cruel man, to both Katherine and her children. She had silently rejoiced when he fell from his horse and died. At last, she had thought, she would be free. However, even then, freedom had been denied her, for Charles had bestowed the guardianship of her son to his brother, the Honourable Martin Ashford. Martin had immediately taken up residence at Halton Hall and made life as difficult for Katherine as he could. All she could do was bide her time and wait the seven years for her son to come of age. Just seven years. Seven years of being subservient. Seven years of fear that Martin would take her son away from her. Seven years.

Julian could recall not one happy memory of Halton Hall, and he is loathed to return there. However, needs must, and the Devil has the whip. So here he was. In the one place he hated above all others, and the one place he had vowed never to return. But unbeknown to the residence of Holton Hall, Julian has not returned home to escape a prison sentence. He is here to find the traitor who is smuggling gold across the channel to fund Napoleon Bonaparte’s cause.

Katherine is determined to avoid Julian at whatever the cost. For it was not only memories that Katherine took away from their one week of love. Julian cannot know the secret that she has kept from him for ten years. He must not find out the truth, ever.

Lies of Gold by Jan Selbourne is the unashamedly enthralling story of forbidden love, secrets, lies, redemption and a traitor’s gold.

Wow! Where do I begin? What a book! What a story! Selbourne has not only written an engrossingly enthralling epic, but she has also created a cast of characters that seemingly leap off the page. Like all great romances, and I consider Lies of Gold a great romance, there is a dashing hero that is, of course, flawed, and a wonderful heroine. Katherine has endured a very abusive marriage, made worse by the time this story is set in. Katherine has no rights, she is her husband’s property, and he can do with her what he will. Although Charles has only a very brief life in this book before his unfortunate accident, his actions have long-lasting effects not only for Katherine but for her children as well. Selbourne has taken great care in her portrayal of Katherine, and she has an insightful understanding of the effect such abuse has. Katherine, is a broken woman, a ghost of what she once was. She is a vastly different woman to the one Julian fell in love with ten years ago. Julian’s reaction and his tenderness towards restoring her faith in him, and indeed in life itself, was profoundly moving, and it made Julian’s character all the more loveable.

I thought the portrayal of Katherine’s son, Stephen, was simply marvellous. Like his mother, Stephen had a very turbulent relationship with his father, and because of this, he has not reached anywhere near his potential. With Julian’s gentle praise, Stephen slowly comes out of his shell, and we have a glimpse of the wonderful man he will become. I enjoyed watching Julian’s and Stephen’s relationship develop throughout this book. 

Alongside the romance is a tantalising hunt for the traitor. Selbourne has a writer’s intuition for what makes a book enjoyable, and as the plot thickened, I found myself utterly engrossed as Julian and Baker — Julian’s loyal sergeant — closed in on the smuggling ring.

Lies of Gold is not only an absorbing and heart-warming romance, but it is also a grand adventure, filled with deplorable villains and likeable rogues. I cannot praise this book enough. I enjoyed every minute of it.

If you are looking for your next Historical Romance read, then do yourself a favour and check out Lies of Gold. You won’t be disappointed.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
Lies of Gold

Jan Selbourne

Jan Selbourne was born and educated in Melbourne, Australia and her love of literature and history began as soon as she learned to read and hold a pen. After graduating from a Melbourne Business College her career began in the dusty world of ledgers and accounting, working in Victoria, Queensland and the United Kingdom. On the point of retiring, she changed course to work as secretary of a large NSW historical society. Now retired Jan is enjoying her love of travelling and literature. She has two children, a stray live in cat and lives near Maitland, New South Wales

Connect with Jan: Website • Facebook • Twitter • Linkedin

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

#BookReview — Arthur Dux Bellorum (A Light in the Dark Ages Book 4) by Tim Walker #Arthurian #HistoricalFiction @timwalker1666

Arthur Dux Bellorum
(A Light in the Dark Ages Book 4)
By Tim Walker

From the ruins of post-Roman Britain, a warrior arises to unite a troubled land.
Britain in the late Fifth Century is a troubled place – riven with tribal infighting and beset by invaders in search of plunder and settlement. King Uther is dead, and his daughter, Morgana, seizes the crown for her infant son, Mordred. Merlyn’s attempt to present Arthur as the true son and heir of Uther is scorned, and the bewildered teenager finds himself in prison. Here our story begins…

Arthur finds friends in unexpected quarters and together they flee. Travelling through a fractured landscape of tribal conflict and suspicion, they attempt to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, whilst keeping a wary eye on Saxon invaders menacing the shoreline. Arthur’s reputation as a fearsome warrior grows as he learns the harsh lessons needed to survive and acquire the skills of a dux bellorum, a lord of war.

Tim Walker’s Arthur Dux Bellorum is a fresh look at the Arthurian legend, combining myth, history and gripping battle scenes. Although in a series, it can be read as a standalone novel.

“We live in dangerous times…”

When King Uther Pendragon died, his daughter, Morgana, placed her son upon the throne. However, Mordred is just a child, and therefore it is Morgana that rules the kingdom, and she will quash her enemies, even if they are of her blood, if it serves her purpose to do so.

Artorius’ destiny, if you can call it that, was nothing more than a conjurer’s trick that had been planned and executed by the overly zealous healer, although some say sorcerer, Merlyn. But it is not Merlyn that languishes in prison. For it was not he that pulled the sword from the stone. Merlyn does not have to suffer the squalor and indignity of a prison cell.

Artorius' succession to his father’s throne may not have gone exactly the way Merlyn had envisaged, but he wasn’t one to give up. He would vanquish Morgana and her son. All he had to do was to break Artorius out of prison and then convince the other tribes that Artorius is Uther’s son and therefore is the heir apparent and should be sat where Mordred sits. However, such things are easier said than done. Merlyn must use his wit and cunning to achieve that which seems, on the face of it, impossible.

From a dark and filthy cell to the coronation of one of the most celebrated legendary kings of all time, Arthur Dux Bellorum (A Light in the Dark Ages Book 4) by Tim Walker is the story of a young teenage boy, who despite all the odds, takes the throne that is rightfully his.

Following in the footsteps of the great Arthurian authors, Walker has penned a story that is as rich in historical detail as it is in all its mythological traditions. Drawing on the works of Monmouth, Nennius and Welsh folklore, Walker has presented a hero who has to desperately fight a seemingly invincible foe to win his throne and take his place in British history.

Walker’s compelling narrative caught my attention from the opening sentence. Walker’s careful blend of mystery, treachery, deceit, war, honour, and the knightly code made this book unputdownable. The skilfully described battle scenes were so real in the telling that I could almost taste the terror and the chaos as our intrepid hero fought for not only his life, but for the throne and the kingdom which was rightfully his. All of which is set against a very believable historical backdrop.

The forces of good and evil run through the heart of this book. Morgana’s desire for power is as seemingly unstoppable as the tide. She is determined to secure her son’s throne. However, one could surmise that it is not in Mordred’s interest that Morgana is so despotic in her ambition to vanquish her enemies, but in her own insatiable lust for power. Morgana is often portrayed as the anti-hero in the story of Arthur, but I thought Walker brought a refreshingly new take on the character. She is deplorable, but at the same time she drives this story forward, and I found myself holding my breath as she continued to plot and scheme to thwart her adversaries.

In comparison to Morgana, her half-siblings, and in particular Artorius, came across as level headed and for the most part compassionate. Artorius does struggle with some of the things he has done, particularly in the heat of battle, which I think gave his character a tremendous depth, and made him very believable. Likewise, Merlyn was a character I enjoyed reading about. His ingenuity and his use of the tools available to him made his story compulsively readable. I enjoyed following his progression throughout this wonderful book.

There are several secondary characters that fans of Arthurian fiction will be familiar with — Gawain, Percival, Bors and Tristan — all of whom Artorius looks up to for advice. I thought these characters were well fleshed, and I look forward to reading more about them in the next edition of this remarkable series.

Like a heroic poem from times of old, Tim Walker’s Arthurian saga continues to mesmerise. A must read for those who love everything Arthurian, but also for those who have a keen interest in the Dark Ages.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.


Pick up your copy of

Arthur Dux Bellorum
(A Light in the Dark Ages Book 4)

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is an independent author based in Windsor, UK. His background is in marketing, journalism, editing and publications management. He began writing an historical series,A Light in the Dark Ages (set in Fifth Century Britain), in 2015, starting with Abandoned, set at the time the Romans left Britain. This was extensively revised and re-launched as a second edition in 2018.

Book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, was published in 2017 and the third installment, Uther’s Destiny, was published in March 2018 (winner of One Stop Fiction book of the month award, April 2018). The adventure continues from March 2019 in the fourth book, Arthur, Dux Bellorum.

His creative writing journey began in July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. In September 2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London. These stories combine his love of history with his experiences of living in London and various Thames Valley towns.
In 2016 he published his first novel, a dystopian political thriller, Devil Gate Dawn,following exposure through the Amazon Scout programme. In 2017 he published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, followed In 2018 by a second adventure, Charly & The Superheroes.
Connect with Tim: Website • Facebook • Twitter • Amazon Author Page.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Book Review – The Briton and the Dane (The Briton and the Dane #1) by Mary Ann Bernal #HistoricalFiction @BritonandDane

The Briton and the Dane
(The Briton and the Dane #1)
By Mary Ann Bernal

King Alfred the Great has thwarted the Viking threat against his kingdom of Wessex. Signing a treaty with the formidable Danish King Guthrum, he succeeds in pushing the heathen army back to the rolling fens of East Anglia.

An uneasy peace holds sway: The King establishes a standing army under Lord Richard, who takes command of the citadel at Wareham.

Richard and his army are accompanied by his daughter, Gwyneth, an impetuous and reckless young woman – at once striking, intellectually gifted, but dangerously vain and imprudent.

While Richard broods on the Viking threat, Gwyneth falls in love with an enemy prince - only to discover that she has been betrothed to a Saxon warrior twice her age. 

Refusing to countenance her grim fate, she flees the fortress, but is soon kidnapped by a Viking warrior and taken to the camp of King Guthrum while Saxon search parties scour the land. 

In captivity, a hostage to fortune, and the focus of political intrigue, Gwyneth is submerged in a world of expediency, betrayal and black treachery. Slowly, she realizes the truth is suspect, nothing is what it appears and her reality cannot be trusted. 

And all the time, against this background, she desires nothing more than to be reunited with her dashing Danish prince.

“Do you not see the men and women who seek the protection and safety of these walls? Do you not see their fear? Does this not prove that the Norsemen are raiding again?”

It was only a matter of time before the Norseman once again began to raid the rich and fertile land of Britannia. However, such things, were of no concern to Gwyneth of Wareham as she listened to the sea crash upon the shore. However, that fateful night, which hinted not at the events that were to unfold, would change the course of her life forever.

When Gwyneth saw a shadowy figure stumbling towards the surf, she felt compelled to follow him — instantly dismissing any danger she might have found herself in. When this mystery man collapses in front of her, Gwyneth feels compelled to help. It was only then that Gwyneth saw the arrow sticking out of his shoulder.

Who was this stranger? What had he done? What did he intend to do? As Gwyneth nursed the warrior back to health, there was only one thing that she knew for sure — she could fall in love with a man like this.

Alas, this was a man’s world, and Gwyneth was her father’s daughter. She must marry where he tells her, even if her heart does belong to someone else.

Erik of Esbjerg had not expected to fall for his would-be rescuer, but he did, and now he has to fight if he wants to keep her. It is that, or watch her marry a man that is not him.

With a sweeping elegance, I soon found myself utterly enchanted with The Briton and the Dane by Mary Ann Bernal. Gwyneth was a character that I immediately loved. She is young, feisty, and something of a free spirit. She cannot be tamed. Her wilfulness, often bordering on defiance made her a fascinating protagonist and one I enjoyed reading about, although I did feel sorry for the monks, whose patience Gwyneth put to the test on more than one occasion! Gwyneth’s story was also a lovely reminder of the joyful experience of first love.

The Briton and the Dane has a large cast of characters. There is not one but three romance stories within the cover of this book. Gwyneth’s brothers, the lovable David and the serious Stephen all have rather complicated love interests — David in particular! I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these supporting characters, and they helped to give the story depth. I especially enjoyed Stephen and Elizabeth’s story.

Bernal has a very engaging narrative and style, which held my attention throughout the course of this book. The political intrigue and the threat of war between King Guthrum and King Alfred (later to be known as The Great) gave this novel a sense of urgency. Peace was fragile, and war was on the horizon, add to that the complicated romance plot of our young intrepid protagonists, made The Briton and the Dane unputdownable.

I have read three books in The Briton and the Dane saga, and I have enjoyed them all. Bernal is a natural storyteller and writes fabulous escapism fiction.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
The Briton and the Dane

Amazon UK • Amazon US

Mary Ann Bernal

Mary Ann Bernal attended Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, where she received a degree in Business Administration.  Her literary aspirations were ultimately realized when the first book of The Briton and the Dane novels was published in 2009.  In addition to writing historical fiction, Mary Ann has also authored a collection of contemporary short stories in the Scribbler Tales series. Her latest endeavor is a science fiction/fantasy novel entitled Planetary Wars  Rise of an Empire. Originally hailing from New York, Mary Ann now resides in Elkhorn, Nebraska.

Connect with Mary Ann: Website • Whispering Legends Press • Twitter.

Monday, 8 April 2019

MONDAY, 8 APRIL 2019 #BookReview — The Swan’s Road: The Atheling Chronicles Book #1 by Garth Pettersen #HistoricalFiction #AngloSaxon @garpet011

The Swan’s Road:
The Atheling Chronicles Book #1
By Garth Pettersen

In the eleventh century, Cnute, the Viking king of Engla-lond and Scandinavia, sails with his son, Harald, and his shield brothers to Rome. Thrown off course by a storm, they follow the route up the Rhine.

When Harald hangs back to assist Selia, a beautiful Frisian woman, his path turns perilous. Newfound enemies, retainers of Robert the Devil, Duke of Normandy, pursue them. Harald, Selia, and their companions fail to rendezvous with King Cnute, and are forced to travel cross-country on horseback. If Duke Robert's plan to assassinate Cnute succeeds, an invasion of Engla-lond will follow.

Can Harald and Selia reach Rome in time to warn the King?

“So tell me, how does a son of the illustrious King Cnute come to be in Friedland rescuing my niece from Norman abductors?

All roads lead to Rome, especially when your father, who so happens to be King Cnute, has made an alliance with Conrad, the Holy Roman Emperor. However, what was meant to be a long but worthwhile journey takes a sinister turn.

“Stay out of trouble,” that had been King Cnute’s warning to his son, Harold. Harold tried, he really did, but when he met the beautiful Selia, he feared there was more to her story than what the eyes saw. And he was right. Robert, Duke of Normandy, plans to make Selia his wife, whether she likes it or not. Taken by force, Selia is determined to escape the clutches of the vile Bertrand deZouche, Captain of Arms to the Duke of Normandy, before she is forced to wed Robert. Perhaps, this young Anglo-Dane would help her escape before it is too late.

From the dangers of a storm out at sea to the perilous streets of Rome, The Swan’s Road: The Atheling Chronicles Book #1 by Garth Pettersen is the enthralling story of Harold Harefoot as he battles to save his father from assassination and the woman he loves from marriage to a man she despised.

Having already read The Dane Law: The Atheling Chronicles Book #2 I was looking forward to going back and reading book #1 in the series. I was immediately transferred back to the world of Harold and his family. Filled with non-stop action and with a narrative that threatens to mesmerise, The Swan’s Road was impossible to put down — in fact, I read it in one sitting! 

The historical detail of this book has to be commended. Pettersen writes with a keen eye for historical accuracies of the time this book is set in, although he does use a little poetic license to make his historical characters fall in line with the direction he wanted his story to go in. Pettersen certainly has a visceral understanding of what makes historical fiction worth reading. His descriptive prose brought this era back to life, and his ability to flesh his characters and make them breathe only demonstrates what a great writer he is.

As before, I adored the characterisation of Harold. He is a very noble yet humble man, who is honourable and above everything else, kind. It is no wonder that Selia falls in love with him. The love story between Harold and Selia is a slow simmering build, which gave this story a sense of depth and realism. The journey the two them go on is fraught with danger and adventure, which propelled the story forward and kept me turning those pages.

Pettersen’s masterful style pulls the reader into the story immediately. The Swan’s Road is told in the first and third person, which really worked for this book. I enjoyed reading about Cnute and The Duke of Normandy. Their perspectives gave this story its background and depth. Although I have to admit, it was Harold’s story, told in the first person which made this book an enchanting epic.

If you are looking for an absorbing, yet heartwarming historical fiction novel, then The Swan’s Road: The Atheling Chronicles Book #1 is the book for you.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
The Swan’s Road:
The Atheling Chronicles Book #1

Garth Pettersen

Garth Pettersen is a Canadian writer living in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. When he's not writing, he's riding horses and working with young, disabled riders.

Garth's short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies, and in journals such as Blank Spaces, The Spadina Literary Review, and The Opening Line Literary 'Zine. His story River's Rising was awarded an Honourable Mention for the Short Story America 2017 Prize, and his fantasy novella, River Born, was one of two runners-up in the Wundor Editions (UK) Short Fiction Prize. His debut novel, The Swan's Road (Book #1 of the Atheling Chronicles) published by Tirgearr Publishing was released in 2017 and Book #2, The Dane Law, in September of 2018.

Connect with Garth: Website • Goodreads • Twitter.

#BookReview — The Potential For Love by Catherine Kullmann #RegencyRomance

The Potential For Love By Catherine Kullmann When Arabella Malvin sees the figure of an officer silhouetted against the sun, for ...