Sunday, 25 November 2018

#BookReview — The Black Lions of Flanders (The King's Germans Book #1) By Dominic Fielder #HistoricalFiction @Kings_Germans

The Black Lions of Flanders
 (The King's Germans Book #1)
By Dominic Fielder

In the war of the First Coalition, friend and foe know one simple truth:
 trust your ally at your own peril.

February 1793.

Private Sebastian Krombach has joined the army to escape the boredom of life in his father’s fishing fleet. Captain Werner Brandt yearns to leave his post and retire into civilised society and Lieutenant Erich von Bomm wants nothing more than to survive his latest escapade that has provoked yet another duel. Each man is a King’s German; when they are called to war, their lives will become inextricably linked.

The redcoats of the 2nd Battalion, 10th Regiment, must survive the divisions that sweep through their ranks before they are tested in combat. On the border of France, the King’s Germans will face an enemy desperate to keep the Revolution alive: the Black Lions of Flanders.

“I pardon the authors of my death, and pray God that the blood you are about to shed will never fall upon France…”
The reputed last words of King Louis XVI

On 21 January 1793 at the Place de la Révolution, King Louis XVI of France met with Madam Guillotine. When his head was held up the crowd cheered:

“Vive la Nation! Vive la République!”

However, executing King Louis XVI was only the beginning. France, with her new Revolutionary Government, had set her eyes on the rest of Europe. Eleven days later France declared war on Britain. King George III of Britain and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) was forced into a war. Only time will tell if George III's Hanoverian troops — The King’s Germans — will be enough to make the French rethink their plans.

Dominic Fielder’s debut novel The Black Lion of Flanders (The King’s Germans Book #1) is a historical triumph. The storytelling is vivid, violent, and victorious. Fielder has brought this era back to life in his masterfully written and vastly entertaining tale.

Like a master puppeteer, Fielder has a firm control of a large cast of characters. Drawing inspiration from complicated historical figures, and, up until then, one of the most turbulent times in French history, Fielder has taken the somewhat ambitious decision to describe both sides of the war. This was a risk, for sometimes the constant chopping and changing of sides can confuse the reader, but Fielder pulled this off wonderfully. Helped, without a doubt, by some very memorable characters such as the Dragoon Captain, Beauvais and the beautiful, yet resourceful, Countess of Marboré.

Fielder has an excellent eye for human detail — nothing is beyond the telling. His portrayal of the harshness of a soldier’s life spares no detail, nor does he spare his readers from the driving ambition of historical figures such as Charles François Dumouriez.

There is also a richness in the descriptive text. Fielder describes this troubled time with great respect to the history but also with a wonderful insight of his readers. 

The Black Lion of Flanders (The King’s Germans Book #1) is very much a story where everything seems to be balancing on the blade of a bayonet. I sympathised with many of the characters, and I despised a few. But more importantly, I was swept along in a story that was so utterly compelling from start to finish that time simply flew by as I lost myself within the pages of this remarkable book.

Reading this book was like taking a step back in time, and as a bystander I watched this story unfold. Together with the political intrigue, the soldiers unrest and resentment, the poor preparations of the British Army, as well as the complicated alliances, this story is a must read for those interested in this era of history.

I Highly Recommend.

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

Dominic Fielder

Dominic Fielder (1968-present) was born in Plymouth to parents of families from Roman Catholic and Protestant backgrounds. Then such things mattered to others but not to a first-born son who knew only love and a stable happy family. Two brothers made for a warm and somewhat idyllic childhood. He was bright but a disengaged student preferring instead to spend time with his dad at the family book business (the Bookstall) where a love of literacy flourished. Having finished sixth-form at Devonport High School for Boys, he passed opportunities to join first, the Tank Regiment, then the Royal Air Force, settling instead on a career in banking. Three years later, fed up with counting other people’s money, he travelled to Australia for a year, working for a time in the Outback and thoroughly enjoying life!

On returning to the UK, he drifted into work at his family’s Comic Shop (Kathies Comics). Despite fifteen years of hard work, the business failed and so did his marriage. Working a series of odd jobs, with odd hours, he finished a degree course in History, gaining a First and drifted into the world of education. Now he divides his time unequally between private tuition, running the family book business which has survived for sixty years and writing. More important than all of these, is spending time with his son. With what free time he has, he enjoys cycling, walking and horse-riding on the moors that surround his home in Mary Tavy, Devon.

His passion and interest for as many years as he can care to remember has been ‘little model soldiers’, painting them, researching facts about the regiments and playing wargames with them. For a dozen years or more, Dominic ran a series of ‘Megagames’ where people would arrive from all corners of the globe to game out World War Two scenarios for a week. Such events needed a strong narrative and his first attempts at writing were contained within the pre-game intelligence and the post-action reports. His writing project, ‘The King’s Germans’ is a few steps further down that road. For the person who drifted from one task to another, it’s a commitment to write twenty-two years of the history of Hanoverian soldiers in the service of King George III.    

Connect with Dominic on:  Facebook • Twitter.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

#BookReview — The Swan Keeper #HistoricalFiction #Montana @milanamarsenich

The Swan Keeper
By Milana Marsenich

From USA Today featured novelist and Western Writers of America Spur award finalist Milana Marsenich, The Swan Keeper is an historical, coming-of-age novel set in 1920s Montana.

On her eleventh birthday, Lilly’s family visits the Cattail Marsh to see the newly hatched cygnets. The family outing turns tragic when Dean Drake shows up with his shotgun. Lilly sees him kill her father, injure her mother, and slaughter the bevy of trumpeter swans. The sheriff, her mother, sister, and best friend all think Lilly is trying to make sense of a senseless accident by blaming Drake. But Lilly knows the truth. Left alone she must bring him to justice.

All you needed was love. If you had love, anything was possible. Or at least that is what Lilly used to think. She was eleven when it happened. It was on her birthday.

Lilly can still see him when she closes her eyes. She can see Dean Drake as he raises his gun and fires at the lake and the trumpeter swans that are upon it. It haunts her. Just as the swans haunt her.

However, the swans were not the only casualties that dreadful day. Lilly had seen what Dean Drake did. She knew. But no one believed her. And no one will listen.

If it were not for the swans, then Lilly knew she would never have had the courage to carry on. Pearl, an injured swan, needed her, as did the swans at the lake. She was the swan keeper now, and it was her duty to protect them, as it was her duty to bring the man who murdered her father and shot her mother to justice.

The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich is one of the most hauntingly beautiful books that I have ever read. From the first sentence, I was utterly captivated. 

The prose is as elegant as a swan upon the water. Majestic. Timeless. Beautiful. Ms Marsenich's use of language enthralled me. It was like sipping the most exquisite wine — only this wine was made of words. Marsenich uses all the senses, from touch to taste, but particularly the sense of smell. Marsenich does this remarkably well. You know when the antagonist is near before he is even mentioned because you can smell him. The writing jumped from the pages, and I found myself in Montana in the late 1920s. Reading this book was as effortless as it was enchanting. I cherished each word, each sentence. This is the kind of story that you simply cannot put down until the end.

Lilly is such an imaginative child. Life for her is full of wonder and possibilities. Nature calls her. It talks to her in a way that it does not for most of us. The swans fascinate her to such an extent that she can imagine herself being one. They are her escape. They are her everything. She can think of no better birthday than a picnic by the lake. What happens next changes Lilly’s life forever, and the fact that she isn’t believed makes this story all the more heart-breaking. I adored the characterisation of Lilly. She is such a sweetheart and so incredibly caring, not only towards the swans but to her mother as well, who is nothing but a shell since the attack. Her young heart is terribly broken by what she witnessed and what she knows, but her determination and her drive to find tangible evidence that Dean killed her father shows her strength of character. Marsenich’s portrayal of Lilly was absolute perfection. Alongside this desperate longing for justice there is this vulnerable little girl, who is innocent, but beginning to understand about love for someone who is not a relative. Her relationship with Jerome — her slightly older best friend — gives the reader hope that in the future Lilly will be loved the way she deserves to be.

The antagonist, Dean Drake, is very manipulative, and his treatment of Lilly is nothing short of appalling. He is the nightmare that has stolen her dreams as well as her father and mother. Dean is the ruthless hunter whereas Lilly is the innocent swan. The two contrast each other very well. This book is very much about light and darkness. This is a story of an evil man and a pure and beautiful swan keeper.

If you are looking for your next great read, then The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich will not disappoint.

I Highly Recommend.

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

Milana Marsenich 

Milana Marsenich lives in Northwest Montana near Flathead Lake at the base of the beautiful Mission Mountains. She enjoys quick access to the mountains and has spent many hours hiking the wilderness trails with friends and dogs. She has an M.Ed. in Mental Health Counseling from Montana State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. She has previously published in Montana Quarterly, Big Sky Journal, The Polishing Stone, and Feminist Studies. She has a short story included in The Montana Quarterly book: Montana, Warts and All, The Best From Our First DecadeCopper Sky is her first novel.

Connect with Milana: Website • Facebook

#BookReview — Sons of the Wolf: Sons of the Wolf : Book #1 by Paula Lofting #AngloSaxon #HistoricalFiction @Paulalofting

Sons of the Wolf:
Sons of the Wolf : Book #1

By Paula Lofting

On the battlefield, Wulfhere fights for his life but elsewhere the enemy is closer to home, sinister and shadowy and far more dangerous than any war.
1054, pious King Edward sits on the throne, spending his days hunting, sleeping and praying, leaving the security of his kingdom to his more capable brother-in-law Harold Godwinson, the powerful Earl of Wessex. Against this backdrop we meet Wulfhere, a Sussex thegn who, as the sun sets over the wild forest of Andredesweald, is returning home victoriously from a great battle in the north. Holding his lands directly from the King, his position demands loyalty to Edward himself, but Wulfhere is duty-bound to also serve Harold, a bond forged within Wulfhere's family heritage and borne of the ancient Teutonic ideology of honour and loyalty.

Wulfhere is a man with the strength and courage of a bear, a warrior whose loyalty to his lord and king is unquestionable. He is also a man who holds his family dear and would do anything to protect them. So when Harold demands that he wed his daughter to the son of Helghi, his sworn enemy, Wulfhere has to find a way to save his daughter from a life of certain misery in the household of the cruel and resentful Helghi without compromising his honour and loyalty to his lord, Harold.

Sons of the Wolf is a panoramic snapshot of medieval life and politics as the events that lead to the downfall of Anglo Saxon England play out, immersing the reader in the tapestry of life as it was before the Doomsday Book. With depictions of everyday life experienced through the minds of the peoples of the time; of feasts in the Great Halls to battles fought in the countryside, it cannot help but enlighten, educate and entertain.

Bloody. Brutal. Brilliant.

The greatest warriors of the land descended from wolves. Sea Wolves — that was what their enemies had called them. They were fearsome creatures, the stuff of legends. But such things were not talked about anymore. For Englalond is a Christian country now. Nevertheless, when the moon is at its fullest, and if you listen carefully, you can still hear the Sea Wolves as they howls, for such men will never be silenced.

As the cries of the dying fall silent on Dunsinane Hill, Wulfhere can finally return home to Horstede. Although he is glad to leave the bloodshed behind him, he fears what kind of reception he will receive, for his wife is yet to forgive him for his gross betrayal.

At court, it has become increasingly apparent that pious King Edward will never produce an heir. So who will be king when Edward dies? With the Godwin’s once again the most prominent family in Englalond, the nobles of the land can do nothing but speculate. Will the next King of Englalond hail from Wessex, or will he, God-forbid, hail from Normandy? 

Wulfhere’s loyalty to Harold Godwin is without question, and although he does not always agree with him, he will stand and fight, for the wolf inside of him cannot be silenced any longer.

From the peaceful tranquillity of Wulfhere’s land in Horstede to the slaughter at Hereford in 1055, Sons of the Wolf (Sons Of The Wolf #1) by Paula Lofting is one of the most compelling stories set in this era that I have ever read.

When flicking through the pages of The Doomsday Book, I have often wondered who were these people whose names have been preserved for all eternity. It seems that Lofting has asked herself the same thing, for she has taken some of these names and breathed life back into them.

This is a story about love and hate. Loyalty and betrayal. It is a story that is forever timeless but somehow new. The writing is elegant, the descriptions beautiful. Lofting’s words wrapped around me and suddenly I found myself in this new place, where the customs seemed unfamiliar, but the love for one’s family is the same as it ever was. Lofting’s attention to detail has to be commended — from what her characters wear to how they reacted in times of terrible struggle. There is an integrity in her writing. It was believable. This is a long book, but reading it was effortless. I became immersed in the story and the hours flew by. The narrative was flawless.

I thought Wulfhere was exquisitely drawn. Wulfhere is a flawed character, but for me, that made him all the more credible. He makes many mistakes, but he pays for them. He does not run away or pass the blame. He owns his mistakes, and at the end of the day, he only wants what is best for his children. His feud with his neighbour, the vile Helghi, brings tension to the story. There is always this element of expectation. What is Helghi going to do next? Helghi is a wonderful antagonist to pit against Wulfhere. Wulfhere is honourable, Helghi is not.

Wulfhere’s daughter, Freyda, surely tests his patience. However, I felt a great sympathy for her. She is young and thinks herself in love. While Wulfhere battles to keep her safe, she fights him every step of the way. It is a believable, and an incredibly emotional relationship the two of them have which I found incredibly compelling.

Both Wulfhere and Helghi are historical characters, but I think it was the drawing of some more well-known ones such as Harold Godwin, which closed the deal on this book for me. Lofting has taken the sources and presented Harold as I have always imagined him to be. He is honourable, loyal and he loves his country. I am trying my hardest not to become too attached to Lofting characterisation of Harold, for I know how his story ends!

If you are looking for your next fix of historical fiction, then pick up a copy of Paula Lofting’s Sons Of The Wolf. You won’t regret it.

I Highly Recommend.

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

Paula Lofting

Paula has always wanted to write since she was a little girl coming home from school to sit at the table with her notebook. A prolific reader, she loved nothing better than to spend weekends with a book in her hand. Earliest influences such as Rosemary Sutcliffe, Leon Garfield, Charles Dickens, C.S.Lewis, inspired an interest in history. It became her lifelong wish to one day write and publish a book, but not being able to type, and having no funds for a typewriter to learn on, this ambition was reluctantly put on hold. With the advent of PC's and a need to retrain and use a computer, this old ambition was stirred and she decided to rekindle her love of writing at the grand old age of 42. At this point, she had reached a turning point in her life and studied nursing, and also decided to write the book she had been promising herself she would one day write. Her début novel, 'Sons of the Wolf' was first published with the assistance of Silverwood Books in 2012. More recently she has republished it with her new publishing company Longship Publsihing. in kindle. It is a story set in the years leading up to the Norman Conquest of England and the first in the Sons of the Wolf series. She has always admired the works of Sharon Penman and Bernard Cornwell, and Mary Stewart, amongst many others. History is a great love of hers and her interest in the subject goes beyond that of the keyboard. She also enjoys Anglo-Saxon re-enactment with Regia Anglorum, also a great source of research for her writing.

Paula loves to hear from readers, you can find her: Website • Blog • Facebook • Twitter.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

#BookReview — The Dane Law: The Atheling Chronicles #2 by Garth Pettersen #HistoricalFiction #Vikings @garpet011

The Dane Law:
The Atheling Chronicles #2
By Garth Pettersen

After a peaceful year running their Frisian estate, Harald and Selia are called to Engla-lond.

Their return is marked by violence and intrigue. The king has vowed to Queen Emma that their son, Harthacnute, will inherit the throne, but the atheling is cruel and reckless. Many view Harald as the better choice, which makes him a target for the unseen supporters of his half-brother. King Cnute urges Harald to be prepared to assume the throne should Harthacnute prove inadequate. Harald resists being swept up by forces beyond his control, but doubts he will survive the reign of King Hartha.

And what of his older brother, Sweyn?

"It is a short space God gives us and few men get to follow paths of their choosing..."

Cnute, King of Engla-lond, Danmark and Nordvegr, made a deal with his second wife, Emma of Normandy, that when he died, their son Harthacnute would inherit the throne of all the Kingdoms. This is a deal that Cnute now profoundly regrets. Harthacnute Cnuteson is arrogant, impulsive and he has a violent temperament if he does not get his own way. Cnute fears that Harthacnute would destroy everything that he had worked so hard to achieve. He would bring war, and division.

Harald Harefoot has made a life for himself on his Frisian estate. He is the second son of Cnute and his first wife Ælfgifu. Harald has no ambition to become the next King of Engla-lond. But, he cannot ignore a summons from his father.

With his wife beside him, Harald sails to Engla-lond leaving the safety of Frisia far behind him. However, he discovers that many in his father’s court would like to see him crowned King when his father dies, instead of Harthacnute. Even his noble father, tells Harald to be prepared to assume the throne. Allies, Harald may have, but then so does Harthacnute, and there are those who will do anything to make sure Harald is never crowned King.

From the tranquillity of Harald’s Frisian estate to the dangerous world of Ragnall mac Ragnail’s Hall, The Dane Law: The Atheling Chronicles #2 by Garth Pettersen is a masterful retelling of one man’s courage to stay alive while those around him are plotting his death.

Pettersen has skilfully brought the historical characters of this era back to life within the pages of this remarkable book. The Dane Law has it all — political intrigue, ambition, scandal, and treason. From the opening chapter I was enchanted, and I soon lost myself in the pages of this wonderful retelling of the latter part of King Cnute’s reign.

Told in both the first person and the third, Petterson has cleverly woven together a story of this often overlooked time in British history. There are many characters in this book, each with their own agenda. Reading this book was like watching a game of Hnefatafl play out. But, the question is — who will play the part of King? Who will defend him? Who will attack? Will Harold be triumphant in this medieval game of thrones?

Petterson’s extensive research into this time and these people has to be commended. He has brought Cnute, his family, his allies, as well as his enemies back to life.

There is a useful Glossary of places, people and long-forgotten words at the beginning of the book. I thought it was refreshing to see the archaic language throughout this story. It certainly kept the story very authentic in the telling.

The Dane Law is book 2 in The Atheling Chronicles. I have not read book 1, but this did not hamper my enjoyment of the story at all. The Dane Law stands firmly on its own.

Fans of Michael Hirst’s Vikings series will love this book.

I Highly Recommend.

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

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.

You can find Garth: Website • Goodreads • Twitter.

#BookReview – A Novel of the French Indian War (The Mallory Saga Book 1) By Paul Bennett #HistoricalFiction #MustRead @hooverbkreview

Clash of Empires: A Novel of the French Indian War (The Mallory Saga Book 1)
By Paul Bennett

In 1756, Britain and France are on a collision course for control of the North American continent. The eventual result can be described as the first world war, known as the Seven Year’s War in Europe and the French and Indian War in the colonies. The Mallory family uproots from eastern Pennsylvania, and moves to the western frontier, where they find themselves in the middle of war. Daniel, Liam, and Liza (the three Mallory siblings) become involved in the conflict in ways that lead to emotional trauma for each. The story focuses on historical events and includes historical characters. Clash of Empires is an exciting look at the developments leading to the events of July 1776, which are chronicled in the sequel as we follow the exploits and fate of the Mallory clan.

“If history teaches us anything, it is that it will repeat…”

Thomas Mallroy was not content with his life as a farmer. He wanted more. The frontier was the only place for someone like him. Thomas longed for the adventure and the freedom a trading post would bring.

But Thomas’ need for adventure comes at a terrible cost to his family. For the frontier was where the battle lines between the French and the British had been drawn. And as the local Indian tribes take sides, the frontier is no longer a place for an Irish-American and his family. 

From the comfort of a small farm in eastern Pennsylvania to the horrors of The French and Indian War (1754–63) Clash of Empires (The Mallroy Saga #1) by Paul Bennett is a story of one family’s battle to stay alive in the midst of Hell.

Set in a wild yet beautiful landscape, The French and Indian Wars are captured in this magnificent retelling. Like a bard from days gone by, Bennett recounts the events of this terrible seven-year war through the eyes of the Mallroy family.

This untamed frontier is Liam Mallroy’s idea of freedom. He could breathe here. It is no wonder that his feet led him to the Mohawk tribe. Here, is where he belongs. Liam’s story really drives this book forwards. His tale is terribly tragic, yet strangely majestic. It is Liam's struggle, which takes Clash of Empires from being a great story to a future classic.

There is a huge cast of characters in this novel and yet, I never once had to look at the character list at the back of the book to keep track of them all. For a cast this size, it is easy to confuse the reader, but Bennett has masterful control. He has a firm grip on all of his characters, and they all bring something important to the narrative. Although the focus is on the Mallory family, Bennett gives the same attention to detail with regards to his supporting characters. The writing is vibrant and rich. Bennett’s descriptive prose was wonderful to read. The story was incredibly compelling. The chapters were long, but they were split up into very readable sections, which I think makes this lengthy book seem a lot shorter than what it actually was. Bennett’s retelling of the famous battles was skilfully done — he writes fabulous battle scenes.

As for the antagonists, and there are many in this book, Bennett has made a calculated decision to show both sides of the argument. So the story of Pontiac and his struggle against British military occupation certainly helps to give a broader understanding of what the Native Americans were facing and why they were fighting. The frontier was their home, and they were determined to keep it. But on the other hand, I didn’t want the protagonists to meet a gruesome end by a tomahawk. As a reader, it was interesting to feel so torn between the two sides. I wanted everyone to come out alive, maybe not so much in Chogan’s case, but I am not going to give away the plot, so I will leave that there.

I think this story can proudly sit alongside James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. Bennet writes in a similar style to Cooper. Of course, it is about the same era so if you have read or watched The Last of the Mohicans, then there are some names and battles that you will be familiar with. However, saying that, I thought Clash of Empires (The Mallroy Saga #1) brings something new to Historical Fiction about this war. I have to say that I thought his characterisation of a young Washington was amazing.

Clash of Empires (The Mallroy Saga #1) is simply unputdownable. This story is something very special. I, for one, cannot wait for book 2.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.                                                           
The Coffee Pot Book Club

Paul Bennett
Paul’s education was of the public variety and when he reached Junior High he discovered that his future did not include the fields of mathematics or science. This was generally the case throughout his years in school as he focused more on his interest in history; not just the rote version of names and dates but the causes. Paul studied Classical Civilization at Wayne State University with a smattering of Physical Anthropology thrown in for good measure. Logically, of course, Paul spent the next four decades drawing upon that vast store of knowledge working in large, multi-platform data centers, and is considered in the industry as a bona fide IBM Mainframe dinosaur heading for extinction. Paul currently resides in the quaint New England town of Salem, Massachusetts with his wife, Daryl. The three children have all grown, in the process turning Paul’s beard gray, and have now provided four grandchildren; the author is now going bald.

For more information, please visit the Mallory Saga Facebook page. You can also find Paul on his BlogTwitter, and 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 ...