Wednesday, 8 April 2020

#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 one interminable moment she thinks he is her brother, against all odds home from Waterloo. But it is Major Thomas Ferraunt, the rector’s son, newly returned from occupied Paris who stands in front of her.

For over six years, Thomas’s thoughts have been of war. Now he must ask himself what his place is in this new world and what he wants from it. More and more, his thoughts turn to Miss Malvin, but would Lord Malvin agree to such a mismatch for his daughter, especially when she is being courted by Lord Henry Danlow?

As Arabella embarks on her fourth Season, she finds herself more in demand than ever before. But she is tired of the life of a debutante, waiting in the wings for her real life to begin. She is ready to marry. But which of her suitors has the potential for love and who will agree to the type of marriage she wants?

As she struggles to make her choice, she is faced with danger from an unexpected quarter while Thomas is stunned by a new challenge. Will these events bring them together or drive them apart?





"Be honest with yourself and, when the time comes, be honest with him. There is no place for dissimulation within love, and if you feel you must pretend to be someone other than you are, then he is not the right man for you."

Lord Henry Danlow is the perfect suitor. He is charming, titled, and she has caught his eye. But while others may have rejoiced at such a match, Arabella “Bella” Malvin found Lord Henry’s attention somewhat disturbing. Lord Henry does not seem interested in anything Bella has to say, and besides, when she is with him, she cannot help but wish she were with another.

Major Thomas Ferraunt had been through Hell and back. Five long years of war on the continent had left him with his fair share of scars — both the visible kinds and the ones that could not be seen. Now, he is at a crossroads. He wants a family, a home, a woman to adore for the rest of her life. These things, the army cannot give him. If only he were brave enough to tell Bella how much she means to him. But who was he trying to fool? He was 
shooting for the stars. He had no right to imagine a life with Bella.

If only Lord Henry were Major Ferraunt, then Bella would embrace his advances, and she would marry him. If only…

From a bittersweet reunion to an unforeseen danger, The Potential For Love by Catherine Kullmann is a Regency Romance triumph.

This richly detailed and emotionally charged tale is brought to life in all of its glorious splendour by Kullmann. With an enthralling narrative and a novelist eye for human fragility and frailty, Kullmann has presented her readers with a romance that is as tender as it is believable. I adored how Kullmann, with a seemingly effortless dip of her quill, penned a story that is not only beguiling but one that is near on impossible to turn away from. I was thoroughly enchanted with this novel from beginning to end.

The Potential For Love is a slow burn of desire and passion. It is a love story about a couple who should know better than to fall in love with each other. In a world where breeding and your standing in society was considered more important than your morals, or your rakish behaviour, the romance between Arabella Malvin and Major Thomas Ferraunt was decidedly refreshing. Thomas is no handsome rake. He is the rector's son. And yet he is worth a hundred Lord Henry’s.

I adored Kullmann's portrayal of Bella. Bella is a very insightful young woman who does not suffer fools gladly. She realises that all that glitters is not gold and her head is not turned by wealth and titles. She is, however, acutely aware of her place in the world and the expectations that her family have of her. Bella is extremely concerned that she will lose all control of not only her finances but also her freedom if she chooses to marry the wrong man. Bella's careful consideration of Lord Henry's courtship demonstrated Bella's level of maturity. In contrast, her relationship with Thomas is irresistible. Their story is one of awakening desires and shy first kisses.

Where do I even begin to describe how wonderful Thomas' depiction was. Thomas is a refreshing hero. So often in Regency Romances, the story is about a rake who is reformed by the young and innocent debutant, but in this story, Thomas is a man of integrity. He is the kind of person you would want your daughter to marry. He is kind. He is thoughtful. He is genuinely likeable. Thomas is undoubtedly swoon-worthy material. I thought Kullmann's depiction of Thomas was sublime. I loved him.

As with all romances, there is a complication, and in this case, a very dangerous one, who threatens to destroy the protagonists’ relationship. I am not going to give away any spoilers, but the antagonist in this tale is a seemingly unlikely one, and the lengths he is prepared to go to achieve his aims are quite extraordinary. I did fear for Bella's safety on more than one occasion. Kullmann has given her readers a very coldly calculating antagonist who sent shivers up my spine. Kudos, Ms Kullmann.

The historical detailing in this novel has to be commended. Kullmann has written her book with a keen sense of time and place. Kullmann also writes with both elegance and authority, which gives her story a sense of realism. And not only does Kullmann write with sensitivity to the era but she also has a novelist intuition for this book’s intended audience. 

I felt that there is an essence of Jane Austen's 
Sense and Sensibility in this story, which made The Potential For Love absolutely irresistible. There is an edge of satire in Kullmann’s portrayal of le bon ton, as there is in Austen's books. Kullmann also cleverly describes the plight of women in the early 19th Century with objectivity. However, unlike Austen, Kullmann has delivered what modern readers expect from a Regency Romance. The story is compelling, and it is incredibly fast-paced — this is the kind of book that can be enjoyed while drinking a warm cup of hot chocolate.

If you are a lover of quality Regency Romance, then The Potential For Love by Catherine Kullmann certainly deserves a place on your bookshelf and in your heart. I loved every syllable, every word, every sentence. It is, in all ways, a real treat.

I Highly Recommend.



Pick up your copy of
The Potential For Love


Catherine Kullmann

I was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, I moved to Germany where I lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. I have worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.

I have a keen sense of history and of connection with the past which so often determines the present. I am fascinated by people. I love a good story, especially when characters come to life in a book.

I have always enjoyed writing, I love the fall of words, the shaping of an expressive phrase, the satisfaction when a sentence conveys my meaning exactly. I enjoy plotting and revel in the challenge of evoking a historic era for characters who behave authentically in their period while making their actions and decisions plausible and sympathetic to a modern reader. In addition, I am fanatical about language, especially using the right language as it would have been used during the period about which I am writing. But rewarding as all this craft is, there is nothing to match the moment when a book takes flight, when your characters suddenly determine the route of their journey.

Connect with Catherine: Website • Twitter • Goodreads.




Sunday, 5 April 2020

#BookReview — Waltz in Swing Time by Jill Caugherty #HistoricalFiction #NewRelease

Waltz in Swing Time
By Jill Caugherty


Growing up in a strict Utah farm family during the Depression, Irene Larsen copes with her family’s hardship by playing piano. Even when an unthinkable tragedy strikes, Irene clings to her dream of becoming a musician. When a neighbor's farm is foreclosed, Irene's brother marries the neighbor's daughter, who moves in with the Larsens and coaches Irene into winning leading roles in musicals. Clashing with her mother, who dismisses her ambition as a waste of time, Irene leaves home.
During a summer job at Zion National Park, she meets professional dancer Spike, a maverick who might be her ticket to a musical career. But does pursuing her dream justify its steep price?
Alternating between Irene’s ninetieth year in 2006 and her coming-of-age in the thirties, Waltz in Swing Time is a poignant tale of mother-daughter relationships, finding hope amidst loss, and forging an independent path.





"I never chose to spend my final days in a Disney Land for seniors."

Irene Stallings may well have one foot in the grave, but she was still humming. Did they not understand? It was just her body that was failing?

Irene could not deny that the Golden Manor was beautiful with its cathedral-style windows and potted plants. And of course, there was bridge night, craft days, and best of all there were people her own age for her to talk too! Sometimes there was even a pianist who played the old favourites. What more could she possibly want?

Irene would tell them if they let her. She wanted Harold. She wanted his stupid jokes and for him to take her in his arms like he used to. And she wanted to pirouette across a stage before an audience. She wanted the colour, and the music, and the jazz, and the dance. 

Irene knows what they think. They think she is losing her mind. All those hours spent outside in the courtyard talking to herself does indeed look suspicious, but what they fail to notice is the tape player in her hand. Irene is not talking to herself. She is leaving a legacy for the only person who would understand.

While those around Irene get ready to celebrate her 90th birthday, Irene allows her mind to escape back to 1930s Utah, where it all began...

From a wheat farm in the community of Paradise, Utah, to the blessed relief of a longed-for sleep, Waltz in Swing Time by Jill Caugherty is the utterly enthralling story of one woman who dared to risk it all and follow her heart.

The strong foreshadowing at the opening of this novel hints this tale will be an especially tragic one. Death is a foregone conclusion when a book is set in a home for the elderly, but the enormous dragon in the room which no one dares to talk about is as loud as an empty space where a piano once stood. I realised from the opening chapter that Waltz in Swing Time was going to demand every conceivable emotion from the reader. Still, nothing prepared me for how much of an emotional roller-coaster I had unwittingly found myself riding. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to scream at the injustice, and I had only just finished Chapter 4!

The story itself fluctuates between loud crescendos that then tapers into a sorrowful diminuendo. Of course, there are also moments in this book where the pianist abruptly stops playing, gets up, slams the piano lid down and storms out the room while the reader is left gasping and wondering what on earth just happened. This constant change in dynamics and time signatures is what made this book so very entertaining and immensely successful. The pages practically turn themselves — I was wholly bewitched with this symphony of colourful sights and sounds. 

This book is told in the first person from Irene's point of view, but she does pay homage, as she dictates her memoirs into a microphone, to some of the people who were so very influential in her life. Wylie, for example, is only mentioned a dozen times. Still, he is instrumental in showing Irene that she could change her stars and could get an education, which bucks the convention of the ideas a woman perhaps aspired to in the 1930s. Irene also has first-hand knowledge of what her life will be like if she were to settle down and marry at a young age. Irene goes from admiring and being somewhat jealous of Mae, a schoolfriend and neighbour, to pitying her when Irene realises the sacrifice she had made by marrying. Mae is a fabulous singer, but she no longer has the time for such trifle enjoyments, and as the music leaves Mae, she loses that sparkle that once made her shine brighter than a star. Irene is determined not to let what happened to Mae, happen to her.

I adored Irene. She is the kind of heroine that you cannot help but love. She is spirited, courageous and funny. She is talented, quick and ambitious. Irene knows what she wants, and nothing will stop her — not her friends, not her parents, nor her boyfriend. I really admired Irene for her tenacious determination to become the woman she wants to become despite the considerable opposition that she faces. Her mother does not want her to leave the farm. She wants Irene to settle down and get married. Irene's father is somewhat bemused by his daughter's ambition but indulges her, as father's often do. It isn't until Irene meets Spike that she realises that this is the young man who she was holding out for, but even then, she does not give up on her dreams. I thought Caugherty's depiction of Irene was simply marvellous.

And then there was Spike! Oh, my goodness! Caugherty has gifted her readers with a larger-than-life character who is not only an incredible dancer and a notorious flirt, but he is also filled with ambition. Like Irene, he comes from nothing and yet that does not stop him from carving out the life he wants. I adored everything about his characterisation — he is so much fun and so full of life — one could not help but like him. 

Caugherty explores the agonies of death and the consequences of it in this book in great detail. Indeed, at times, death leads the narrative. Irene's relationship with her mother deteriorates very rapidly because of a death, and they lose each other because of the subsequent grief that her mother drowns in. The person Mrs Laresen becomes is a shadow of who she really is. All that Mrs Laresen has left is cold bitterness and contempt, which is incredibly tragic in itself but more so when she has nowhere to tunnel that bitterness. Unfortunately, she ends up throwing it at Irene. As I read this book, I could not help but wonder if Mrs Laresen saw the image of her younger self in Irene, and she did not like to see the reminder. Irene is full of dreams and ambition, and her soul is filled with music. Mrs Laurence's dreams were buried six feet under.

The mother-daughter relationship is a theme that is explored in great lengths during this novel. There are moments when Irene realises she is watching history repeat itself — Irene's daughter, Deirdre, is very similar in personality to her grandmother. Deidre is a very controlling and opinionated woman who likes to take charge, be in control. Deidre is a complete contrast to her mother but also her own daughter, Amy. Like, Irene, Amy will live her life the way she thinks she should and not the way her mother wants her to. Ironically, while Deirdre is telling her grown-up daughter how to live her life, she conveniently forgets that she refused to live the life her father wanted her to live as well. Irene watches all of this with an almost amused detachment. She loves both her daughter and granddaughter, and she knows that it will somehow all work out for the best.

The historical detailing in this book has to be commended. Caugherty has captured the very essence of what life would have been like on a wheat farm in Utah during the Great Depression of the 1930s. To watch as everything you have worked for is destroyed must have been utterly soul-destroying. This was a terrible time in American history which Caugherty has depicted with great skill and diligence. Kudos, Ms Caugherty.

I was blown away by this debut novel. I could have read a thousand pages more, and I still would not have had enough of this story and these characters. I loved every word, every sentence, every syllable. I was captivated from the opening sentence to that final full stop. Waltz in Swing Time by Jill Caugherty is an absolute triumph.

 

I Highly Recommend.

 



Pick up your copy of

Waltz in Swing Time

Amazon UK • Amazon US

 


 

Jill Caugherty

 

Jill Caugherty is the author of the novel WALTZ IN SWING TIME, set in Depression-era Utah.

Jill’s short stories have been published in 805Lit and Oyster River Pages, and her debut short story, “Real People,” was nominated for the 2019 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers.

Jill holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University, an M.S. in Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and an MBA with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School.

An award-winning marketing manager with over twenty-five years of experience in the high tech industry, she lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and daughter.

 

Connect with Jill: Website • Twitter • Goodreads.

 

 

Friday, 3 April 2020

#BookReview — The Rooming House Diaries - Life, Love & Secrets by Bill Mathis. #HistoricalFiction #LGBTQ

The Rooming House Diaries - Life, Love & Secrets
 By Bill Mathis


Six diaries and some correspondence are found in an old Chicago rooming house. The diaries span the 20th century. Written by the immigrants who built the place in 1887, their children and several roomers, they tell the stories of everyday people struggling, surviving and succeeding at life amidst the historical backdrop of World Wars I & II, the Great Depression, prejudice, demographic changes in the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood, and epidemics, including AIDS. It's rich, deep, at times raw, yet shows the humanity, spirit and love of family, both blood related and non-DNA.

It's a novel of changing times and attitudes; family secrets covered up for over one hundred years; religious, ethnic and gender prejudice; the changes in Chicago, a neighborhood and our nation; the joys of diversity and the richness of our society, warts and all




"So, now we got us an eighteen-year-old Mexican from Tiawano and an albino banker from Roseland living on the third floor..."

Josef Sawicki knows that his time on earth is coming to an end. But before he dies, he wants to pen his memoirs so that his story will not be forgotten. What the old man did not realise was that he had started a tradition that would go on for three generations. This is the story of the Sawicki family and the Rooming House that was their business and their home.

The Rooming House Diaries - Life, Love & Secrets by Bill Mathis is an emotionally charged story of a seemingly inconsequential rooming house and the people that lived there.

 

With a sweeping, yet intimate narrative — composed of a memoir, diary entries and letters — and a crystalline understanding of what makes reading entertaining, Mathis has presented his readers with a book that is as mesmerising as it is powerful. This novel spans three generations and over one hundred years of history — it begins in a small village in Olsztyn, Poland (East Prussia) and ends with the AIDS Crisis of the 1980s. In the pages of this remarkable book, Mathis has penned a story that is as lucid in the telling as it is rich in the historical detail. Mathis takes his readers on a poignant journey of discovery and has written an unputdownable tale.


Six fabulous protagonists tell the story of The Rooming House, but I am just going to focus on two of them as well as one of the secondary characters. The first protagonist I want to talk about is a wonderful lady called Mae Sawicki. Mae married Hank, the son of the original owner of the Rooming House. Mae was like a fresh of breath air on a hot summer’s day. She was immensely likeable, full of good humour and a character that was an absolute pleasure to read about. Mae does face several trials and tribulations throughout this book, but her sense of joy and her love for her family is never diminished. The one thing I really liked about Mae was how she saw the world. She becomes very liberal in her views, especially when she is a very old woman, and in the end, she doesn't seem to care where you are from, and what your story is, all she is interested in is who you are now. With this approach to life, it is very easy to understand how she becomes a motherlike figure to several lodgers, for she is filled with tenderness and compassion. Sometimes she takes a little while to like and trust, but when she does, then there is nothing she would not do. She is the truest of friends. Mae is an incredible heroine.

My absolute favourite character in this book is a young Mexican called Manny Rodriguea. Manny's back story is incredibly moving — it is one of poverty, physical abuse and prostitution. Manny, however, is one of the most complex, and the most caring character in this book. He is this wonderful young man who is desperately trying to escape his past and start again. Being a Mexican in Chicago in the 1960s is a challenge — being gay makes it twice as hard. I adored everything about this character. He is the most caring and compassionate man who anyone would be proud to call a son, but whose own father fails to see the gem that Manny is. Despite a very dubious background, Manny is a very reserved young man, which more than likely saves his life. He ends up helping those who have AIDs die with dignity and respect. Manny is a character that will stay with me for a very long time.

Tommy is a source of violence and danger in this book, and although he is not one of the main characters, I feel I have to spend a little time scrutinising his depiction. Even from a toddler, Tommy is a threatening menace. He is uncontrollably violent, and his parents have no idea how to handle him — and it is not because they are bad parents, or that they are doing something wrong. In today's society, Tommy would have been under a paediatrician for his mental health — he shows signs of extreme Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). Back in the late 1940s, children's mental health and disorders such as autism were only just being recognised, and it wasn't really understood. To write about a child who has an extremely violent mental health condition such as this, but then to express it so vividly and in a historical setting would, I think, be a challenge for many very experienced authors. Mathis' depiction of Tommy was staggeringly realistic.

Tommy is a character that will not attract sympathy from a reader, and I don't think Mathis wanted to make his readers sympathise with him. Tommy has very few redeemable qualities. He is excessively violent. He is narcissistic — he takes no responsibilities for his actions and blames his parents, particularly his father, for everything. He also becomes a violent sexual predator at a very young age. There are scenes in this book where Tommy is sexually abusing a younger child which was incredibly difficult in the reading, and it did make me feel physically sick. But what I was fascinated in was how, when discovered, this sexual abuse was dealt with. There were no therapists for either child and instead, Tommy is sent away to a boy's home because his parents do not know how to deal with him. The guilt that Tommy's parents feel and the grief that they have to go through to come to terms with the fact that Tommy isn't, nor will he ever be, the person whom they had imagined he would become is very sensitively approached and drawn. I thought Tommy's portrayal was incredibly convincing and the emotional rollercoaster that his parents go through is very real in the telling. They certainly had my sympathy.

The historical detailing of this book has to be commended. Over a hundred years of history is crammed into this book. I can only imagine how many hours Mathis spent researching all the different eras. However long the research took it was most definitely worth it. This book is a monumental work of scholarship. But it is not just the historical detail in this book that has to be commended. It is the hours researching the historical sociocultural anthropology / sociology as well. L. P. Hartley once wrote that "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." They also thought differently as well, and so, therefore, there are incidents of blatant racism and homophobia throughout most of this book because that is what society was like back then. But Mathis balances this awful prejudice by giving his readers Manny — who is both a Mexican and gay — which I thought was really well thought through.

Mathis gives us a glimpse into the lives of some very ordinary people. We become privy to their most cherished aspirations. We lament in their defeat and celebrate their success. This is a book that demands every conceivable emotion from its readers. I laughed out loud. I cried. I felt moments of anger and disgust. But I also felt a sense of hope, a sense of life, for that is what this book is about, it is about life in all its honest, ugly, beautiful detail. 

At times The Rooming House Diaries - Life, Love & Secrets by Bill Mathis does make for some emotionally challenging reading, but it is also immensely successful. This is the kind of book that deserves to be read again and again and again, and it is one you want all your friends to read as well so you can all chat about it over coffee. It is undoubtedly worthy of a place on your bookshelf.

I Highly Recommend.

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


Pick up your copy of
The Rooming House Diaries


Bill Mathis

Bill Mathis won the 2019 Pencraft Runner Up award for Family Fiction. Bill began writing after he retired from careers in YMCA camping and foster care. His books involve family, warts and all, usually some LGBTQ characters, diversity and non-DNA family. He resides in Beloit, Wisconsin and enjoys writing, reading, volunteering and traveling.

Connect with Bill: Website • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads.


Thursday, 2 April 2020

#BookReview — The Sign of the Blood (A Dangerous Emperor, Book #1) by Laurence O'Bryan #HistoricalFiction #AncientRome

The Sign of the Blood
(A Dangerous Emperor, Book #1)
By Laurence O'Bryan


A compelling tale of power, destiny and desire from an award winning, #1 Amazon bestselling author.
Cool mist settles over the legion sneaking toward the Persian army. Constantine, the son of an emperor, the Roman officer leading this raid, tells his men to halt - something is wrong. Have they been seen in the pre-dawn light? Before long, the battle rages. Eventually he frees a slave named Juliana. She is half Persian and half Roman. As they are pursued to Britannia over land and sea, he learns that she can see the future - his future.
It is 306A.D., long before Constantine the Great converted to Christianity and became the first Christian emperor.
To ensure he survives, he must now eliminate his enemies. But who must die first? The priestess, Sybellina, who joined them in Rome and practices dark and seductive magic? Or the brutal legion commanders who surround his father? Or, as Juliana suspects, are those who want him dead even closer?
An electrifying historical novel about Constantine’s bloody rise to power, the woman who helped him, and the real reason he supported a persecuted Christian minority, a decision which changed the world into the one we know.




"Everything would have been so different if the Persians hadn't come."

But come they did, and Juliana's life was irrevocably changed forever. No longer free, she is sold into slavery. Her life is now at the mercy of her master. 

Constantine dreams of the day he can escape Galerius' grasp and stand on the battlefield next to his father. But right now, he must concentrate on staying alive. A chance discovery may well help him take control of his destiny once and for all. If he can defeat the Persians, if he can bring honour to his name then maybe, just maybe, his father will name him as heir and one day he too will become an Emperor.

From the Battle of Satala to the death of an Emperor, The Sign of the Blood (A Dangerous Emperor, Book #1) by Laurence O'Bryan is the unforgettable story of Constantine the Great's rise to power.

With an elegant turn of phrase and a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading, O'Bryan has given his readers a Constantine that is incredibly real in the telling. Constantine is a young man who wants to achieve recognition, who wants to become a man whom his father, Emperor Constantius Chlorus, would be proud of. At the beginning of this tale of Emperors and Empires, Constantine is at the mercy of Emperor Galerius. Historical sources tell us that there were numerous plots by Galerius to end Constantine's life but without much success. O'Bryan gives his readers a very lucid account of Constantine's struggle with being at the mercy of Galerius, and also his subsequent flight from the man who had blighted his life for many years.

Constantine is a very likeable character in this story. He is an honourable and kind man whose struggles with his destiny and what that destiny might mean for everyone around him. He is appalled by acts of unnecessary violence by men such as Governor Martinianus, and he cannot stand aside and remain silent about the injustice that he bears witness to. O'Bryan has certainly painted a portrait of how and why Constantine became who he was.

The other protagonist in this tale is a young girl, who has both Persian and Roman blood running through her veins. Rescued from the Persians by Constantine, Juliana's story is tragically moving. From slave to free woman, Julianna is the kind of protagonist a reader can get behind and root for. Although fictional in the telling, Juliana brings so much to the narrative of this novel, and she really drives the plot forward. Through her, O'Bryan describes what life was like for a slave and how it wasn't just a brutal master a slave had to fear — sometimes it was the other slaves as well. I feared for Juliana's life on more than one occasion, she really does go through the mill — it is one trauma after another. O'Bryan has her respond to the events that befall her in a very human way. Juliana is a strong character because she has to be if she wants to survive, but the emotional trauma that she suffers is evident throughout this book.

There are a host of secondary characters in this novel, which bring something unique to the story, and they all have their parts to play. I thought O'Bryan's portrayal of Lucius Aurelius Armenius was sublime. O'Bryan's depiction of the priestess, Sybellina, brings something very sinister to the plot as well.

Writing historical fiction set during the Roman Empire is incredibly challenging. The "history" of the period is often not consistent with the sources — for inscriptions, and the scribes who documented the history are often biased in their account of events. There are primary sources aplenty but the authenticity, the truth, is often hidden behind almost two thousand years worth of political propaganda. Therefore, I have tremendous respect for authors who write about the Roman Empire. But, I am particularly respectful of those who write about the Crisis of the Third Century which saw the Roman Empire's near collapse under the combined pressures of civil wars, peasant rebellions, political instability and barbarian invasions. This was a time when Roman resilience was tested to its limits. O'Bryan's book begins just after this crisis in 297 AD. He has portrayed the turn of the 4th century with a lavish sense of opulence. Nothing, it seems, is beyond the telling — from the Persian camp to the grandeur of the Imperial Palace. O'Bryan takes us on a journey of historical discovery and architectural brilliance. He writes with such skill and authority that I could almost smell the stench and fear of the slave markets — the metallic taste of blood on the battlefields.

It is the battle scenes that are portrayed with such vivid attention to the historical detail where O'Bryan seemingly comes into his own — they are lucid, evocative, and all too graphic in the telling. The fear, the despair, and the adrenaline of the soldiers as they fought to stay alive rang clearly out through the crystalline prose and expressive narrative. It is clear to see that O'Bryan was in his absolute element as he composed these scenes. The ambush by the Roman army of the Persians camp was especially vivid in the telling. Kudos Mr O'Bryan. Kudos, indeed.

There are many distressing scenes in this book that some readers will find very upsetting. O'Bryan does not shy away from the absolute horror that women and children faced when captured by the enemy. Nor does he sugarcoat what it was like to be a slave during this era. The romantic notions of The Roman Empire, the staggering architectural triumphs, and the extravagant lifestyle that the Imperial family and the patricians lived are overshadowed by the brutality of what life was like if you were a plebeian or a slave. Therefore, it is fitting that O'Bryan explores the fragility and frailty of the human condition throughout this book. We see humanity at its best and its worst. This attention to detail, along with a story that is impressive as it is splendid, made this novel unputdownable. 

The Sign of the Blood (A Dangerous Emperor, Book #1) by Laurence O'Bryan is a book that is especially hard to turn away from. It captured my attention from the opening sentences and did not let go of me until the final full-stop. It is an enthralling story from start to finish.

The Sign of the Blood is a must-read for fans of battle heavy Historical Fiction and for anyone with an interest in Constantine the Great and Ancient Rome.

I Highly Recommend.

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


Pick up your copy of
The Sign of the Blood



Laurence O'Bryan


My roots go back to a small estate deep in the Mountains of Mourne near the Silent Valley, in County Down, Northern Ireland.

I went to school in Dublin, drank way too much, studied English and history, then business, then IT at Oxford University.

My research has taken me all over the world, from San Francisco to deep in the Muslim world. There are secrets everywhere. I enjoy writing about them. I hope you enjoy reading about them.

I grew up learning Latin and loving books such as Robert Graves', I, Claudius. I spent over twenty years studying Roman history, reading every book about Constantine the Great I could find, and visiting numerous sites where my Roman series is set, including, Jerusalem, Rome and Istanbul.

My books have:
* Achieved #1 ranking on Amazon,
* Been translated into 10 languages.

Laurence is also the founder of BooksGoSocial.


Connect with Laurence: Amazon Author Page  Twitter  Goodreads.

#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 ...