Saturday, 26 January 2019

#BookReview — The Cold Light of Dawn (The King’s Greatest Enemy #4) By Anne Belfrage #Medieval #HistoricalFiction


The Cold Light of Dawn
(The King’s Greatest Enemy #4)
By Anne Belfrage


After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.





“My, my, how high the gutter-rat has clambered. You owe everything you are to me de Guirande. Best not forget it…”

Adam does not need any reminders of how much the Earl Of March has done for him. Mortimer saved Adam from an abusive father and gave him not only a purpose but a life beyond his wildest of dreams. However, Adam’s loyalties are no longer with his liege lord but with the young King Edward. Why is that so difficult for Mortimer to understand? Adam cannot serve two masters.

As Regent, the Earl of Marsh has power beyond his imagination. He is king in all but name. However, the King will not stay a child forever, and Edward is beginning to resent the Regent’s and his mother’s rule. So why does Mortimer continue to provoke Edward? For everyone knows that when the lion roars the hawk will fall — and it is a very long way to fall. It is said that *those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But, Mortimer saw what happened to Despenser. He knows how this could end and yet… Adam can do nothing but watch as this fated tragedy plays out in front of him.

From the extravagance of a coronation to the horrors of the executioner’s rope, The Cold Light of Dawn (The King’s Greatest Enemy #4) by Anna Belfrage is an extraordinary work of historical fiction. 

Belfrage draws the reader into the fourteenth century, letting them feel the emotions of the protagonists as well as helping us to understand on an intimate level what life was like for those who were closest to the throne at the beginning of Edward III reign.

Belfrage is incredibly adept at creating characters that her readers care about while skilfully merging their lives with the history of their time. The portrayal of Roger Mortimer, the Earl of Marsh has to be commended. Here is a character that is incredibly flawed but at the same time so exceedingly wonderful. In his quest for glory and riches, he loses something of himself along the way. His dreams are always just out of reach, but still he strives to reach them, and like Icarus, he does fly too close to that sun, and when he falls back to earth nothing will ever be the same. Kudos, Ms Belfrage for bringing to life a character whom I had only ever read about in history books. You gave him back his life and made him breathe. What more could a reader ask for?

Likewise, the portrait of a divided nation, inflamed by jealousy, greed and hatred is remarkably vivid in the telling. Mortimer’s quest for power and then his fear of losing that power, makes this book a riveting read. However, this story is not told from Mortimer’s point of view — the narrative is still that of Adam’s and Kit’s.

With so many historical characters in this book, it was sometimes hard to remember that Adam and Kit are fictional. Adam is a cripple in a court where abled men are celebrated. His struggle to accept his limitation is profoundly moving. Adam wants to be as he always was — strong, healthy, and the best knight in Edward’s stable. The reaction of men whom he thought were friends rings remarkably true. He disability means he is no longer one of them. He is a man to be pitied or ridiculed. His journey towards accepting what he can do and not lamenting about what he cannot was not only emotional but also uplifting. As Adam finds out, there is life away from Edward’s court, and he does not need a sword in his hand and an opponent defeated at his feet to find happiness and peace of mind.

Kit continued to grow as a character. I liked her from the first introduction in book #1 and that like has not diminished. She is a remarkable woman, much like her husband, Adam. Kit is the outsider who finds herself in the circle of the Royal household. The contrast between how she lives and treats people compared to how the Dowager Queen and the Queen treats their subjects is as vast as a chasm. To them, she is a servant, someone who can keep their secrets but is, at the same time, expendable. Kit's goodness and grace does her credit. She is a caring woman, who is a wonderful protagonist and I enjoyed reading about her.

The Cold Light of Dawn is simply impossible to put down. It is one of those books where you don’t want to get to the end because if you are familiar with the history of this time, you know where the story is going and I for one did not want to go there. It was like listening to a clock ticking down the hours, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. All I could do was watch as the drama played out in front of me. One more page became one more chapter, and then one more!

The King’s Greatest Enemy series has been utterly compelling from start to finish. I cannot find the words to praise it enough. It is utterly enchanting. Historical Fiction at its very best.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club

* Santayana, George, The Life of Reason: the Phases of Human Progress (1905).



  
Anna Belfrage



Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.  She has recently released the first in a new series, The Wanderer. This time, she steps out of her normal historical context and A Torch in His Heart is with a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.


Find out more about Anna by visiting her website, or herAmazon page.

#BookReview — The Briton and the Dane: Concordia (The Briton and the Dane #4) By Mary Ann Bernal #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance @BritonandDane




The Briton and the Dane: Concordia
(The Briton and the Dane #4)
By Mary Ann Bernal


Travel back in time to late Ninth Century Anglo-Saxon Britain where Alfred the Great rules with a benevolent hand while the Danish King rules peacefully within the boundaries of the Danelaw. Trade flourishes, and scholars from throughout the civilized world flock to Britannia’s shores to study at the King’s Court School at Winchester.

Enter Concordia, a beautiful noble woman whose family is favored by the king. Vain, willful, and admired, but ambitious and cunning, Concordia is not willing to accept her fate. She is betrothed to the valiant warrior, Brantson, but sees herself as far too young to lay in the bedchamber of an older suitor. She wants to see the wonders of the world, embracing everything in it; preferably, but dangerously, at the side of Thayer, the exotic Saracen who charms King Alfred’s court and ignites her yearning passions.

Concordia manipulates her besotted husband into taking her to Rome, but her ship is captured by bloodthirsty pirates, and the seafarers protecting her are ruthlessly slain to a man. As she awaits her fate in the Moorish captain’s bed, by sheer chance, she discovers that salvation is at hand in the gilded court of a Saracen nobleman.

While awaiting rescue, Concordia finds herself at the center of intrigue, plots, blackmail, betrayal and the vain desires of two egotistical brothers, each willing to die for her favor. Using only feminine cunning, Concordia must defend her honor while plotting her escape as she awaits deliverance, somewhere inside steamy, unconquered Muslim Hispania.




 

Someone should have told Concordia that when wishes come true they can leave a very bitter taste.

It had been very easy to fall in love with the young and handsome man from Hispania, but alas, their romance was never meant to be. It was nothing but an inexperienced girl’s foolish dream.

Several years have passed, and Concordia has not seen or heard anything more of Thayer, but not for one moment has she stopped loving him. Since that night, Concordia has worn the necklace Thayer gave her. He was still the first thing she thought about in the morning and the last thing at night. She wished ardently to speak with him, to see him, just one more time.

Concordia marries a man whom she regards as a very dear friend. She should be content. Nevertheless, her heart still belongs to Thayer. Desperate to please his young wife, Brantson takes her on a voyage — their destination, Rome. However, they never make it, for their boat is boarded by Saracen pirates. What was to be an adventure of a lifetime, soon turns into a harrowing nightmare.

If Concordia is to survive, then she must use her wits and her body, but there is no telling if even that will be enough. If only Thayer were here to save her. He would assure her safety and if nothing else, return her to her homeland.

From the comfort of King Alfred’s Great Hall to the terror of captivity in a foreign land, The Briton and the Dane: Concordia (The Briton and the Dane #4) by Mary Ann Bernal is the unforgettable story of one woman’s quest to find true love and in doing so find herself as well.

Set firmly in the 9th Century, The Briton and the Dane: Concordia, drew me in from the opening sentence and held me enchanted until the very end. Bernal’s narrative was not only utterly irresistible but incredibly vivid in the telling. This is a story that threatened to mesmerise. It was so compelling that I read it in one sitting. There was no way I could put this book down once I had started.

Concordia is an unlikely heroine. She is spoilt and conceited. However, there is an endearing innocence about her, and for anyone whose first love was unrequited, there is a recognition of her daydreams and her heartache. She pines terribly for Thayer. As a character, Concordia certainly does her fair share of growing up as the novel progresses. Her relationship with Chad, the Saracen pirate, gave this story an unexpected twist. Of all the men in Concordia’s life, Chad, although not the most honest, is more than a match for our fiery young heroine’s free spirit.

The antagonist of this tale is an unlikely one. Thayer speaks with a double-tongue. He is not what he seems and Concordia learns a harsh but terrible lesson which is to not take anyone at face-value. Her love for him is pure, but his love for her is about control and dominance. He is the serpent who promises much but delivers nothing but heartache.

Bernal paints a dazzling portrait of what life was like in 9th Century Hispania. There is an elegant sweep of historical brilliance, giving this book an almost sensual grounding of time and place. Bernal has certainly woven the history into this incredibly enthralling tale. I was particularly interested in Bernal’s depiction of the Emirate of Cordova (Emirate of Córdoba). This was a time of power struggles and dynasties, but it was also the beginning of a political decline of the emirate. I think Bernal has captured the essence of this era very well through her fictional portrayal. The tension between the Muslim community and the Christian one is evident throughout this story, and indeed history tells us that there was much unrest, particularly at the Christian border. 

Although this is book #4 in the series, Concordia stands very firmly on her own two feet. So, if you are looking for your next fix of historical fiction, then why not check out The Briton and the Dane: Concordia (The Briton and the Dane #4) by Mary Ann Bernal.

I Highly Recommend.

Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
  




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.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Book Review — Viking Warlord: A Saga of Thorkell the Great, by David K. Mullaly #Vikings #HistoricalFiction

Viking Warlord: 
A Saga of Thorkell the Great
By David K. Mullaly


Viking History Comes Alive…

Thorkell inn ha′vi is a rarity during the late Viking Period. He is an old Dane who has survived many raids and two invasions, and he has lived to tell about battlefield triumphs, family dishonor, the defiance of a king, personal banishment, and being named regent of a country--twice. His only remaining desire is for his name and deeds to live on in the sagas of the Norse people, so he will share his story with his family and a famous story-teller. Then he wants to die with a sword in his hand.

This is an historical novel that reflects everything that we actually know about the man, an extraordinary individual who ultimately has to deal with aging and his own mortality. He’s always been able to plan and anticipate the future, but he may come to understand that accepting the unexpected is the biggest challenge.

Although fantasy can provide a guilty pleasure, there are no dragons or trolls or magic in this story, no super-heroes. There are real Vikings, and a clear vision of what life was like for ambitious men and women in the Norse culture.



“Unfolding in front of me is a familiar scene: a battlefield teaming with furious and desperate men…”

The dead haunt Thorkell inn ha′vi’s dreams. He sees his enemies, his friends, and his family. However, in the cold light of day, they are lost to him, for they have travelled on, either to the Christian Paradise or Oden’s great hall in Valhalla. The battles they faced, the loves they lost will be forgotten as time marches forever forward, never once looking back.

Cnut once demonstrated that no man could stop the tide. The same can be said for the seasons. Faced with his mortality, Thorkell fears, more than anything, that his story will be forgotten and that, he will not allow. So Thorkell sends for the gifted story-teller from Isaland, Eyolf Dadaskald. Thorkell gathers his family in his great hall and begins his tale at the beginning — for everyone knows that is where all good stories should start.

Viking Warlord: A Saga of Thorkell the Great, by David K. Mullaly is the masterful retelling of the life of Thorkell inn ha′vi.

What a compelling story this is. It had me gripped from the opening sentence and kept me enthralled until the very last word. I have read many books set in and around the time of King Cnut, but occasionally I stumble upon a book that takes my breath away. Viking Warlord: A Saga of Thorkell the Great, is such a book. Words cannot express how great this book was although I shall do my best to try! Never have I felt such a strong connection to a historical character portrayed in fiction, especially one that I knew little about. The portrayal of Thorkell inn ha′vi is inspired. Here is a man who is not only a great warrior, but one filled with principles and an intelligent wit that looked outside of the box for victory. Mullaly has portrayed Thorkell as a compassionate man, who tries to avoid unnecessary death whenever possible — if he can get the English to pay him and his men to leave them alone then so much the better. Thorkell is not a mindless barbarian. He is honourable when others around him lose their heads. He pillages, but he has principles. I really cannot praise Mullaly enough for this monumental work of scholarship. His eye for human fragility and detail has to be commended. There is no doubt that this book is an enthralling epic and the protagonists are larger than life.

I thought Mullaly’s portrayal of Cnut was fabulous. We meet Cnut in this story when he is just a boy. He is young and impressionable, but there is a quiet strength about him that seems to flourish under Thorkell’s care. Cnut, the man, is a different story altogether as he learns the skills needed to appease a people who have been threatened to comply with his demands but secretly oppose him. His treatment of Thorkell seemed to depend on the mood of the country. No one was safe, not even the most trusted of advisors, if Cnut could see a political gain by replacing them by men more favoured by his subjects. For anyone interested in the early years of Cnut’s life then this book is a must-read. 

I adored the portrayal of Eyolf Dadaskald — the famous story-teller. Thorkell is relying on him to keep his story alive, but Eyolf is, like Thorkell, an old man. I found Eyolf rather endearing, especially when he kept falling asleep while Thorkell is recounting the story of his life! Old age catches up with even the best of them.

Mullaly approaches the history of this time with scrupulous care, and it is backed up by confident research. There is a realism throughout this story which is almost tangible. The death of Archbishop Aelfheah was particularly chilling, as was Thorkell’s refusal to fight under the man who killed his father, which made for a compelling subplot. Mullaly is one of those authors who has an intuitive understanding of what makes history worth reading. Likewise, the narrative has a fast-pace and it is incredibly persuasive. This book has an energy about it that threatens to mesmerise.

There is much in this book to recommend, and if you are a fan of Michael Hirst’s Vikings series, then Viking Warlord: A Saga of Thorkell the Great is one you should definitely have on your to-read list. This is story-telling at its very best. I wish I had written it.

I Highly Recommend.

Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.





Amazon UK • Amazon US


David K. Mullaly

After teaching English and creative writing for a few decades at both the high school and the college levels, I imagined writing something substantial, but I had no clue for a subject. My involvement in buying and selling Viking artifacts, and doing the historical and archaeological research needed to be knowledgeable about them, certainly expanded my horizons. However, it wasn't until I stumbled on the figure of Eadric of Mercia that I found a subject I believed I could present in a genuinely different and hopefully interesting way. 

As a side note, while I was learning about the Vikings, I came to the conclusion that I likely have some Norse blood in me. I'm Irish on both sides of my family, going way back, but I have blond hair, blue eyes, a red beard, and skin that just doesn't like the sun--which doesn't sound at all like Celtic physiology. In fact, the Vikings, primarily from Norway, invaded and in some cases settled in Ireland, especially along the east coast.

So, I tell myself that I am part Viking, but I have absolutely no interest in getting a DNA test to confirm or refute my theory. I like the idea of having some Viking ancestry, and I'll leave it at that. Science has its place, but so does a good story.

Connect with David: Goodreads • Amazon Author Page

Saturday, 19 January 2019

#BookReview — Under the Approaching Dark (The King's Greatest Enemy #3) By Anna Belfrage #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance @abelfrageauthor


Under the Approaching Dark
(The King's Greatest Enemy #3)
By Anna Belfrage


Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over.

After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster.

In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much.

When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers.




Two kings in one land make for an uncomfortable fit…

The hated and feared, Hugh Despenser is dead, and the feeble King Edward II has finally been usurped. As the crown is placed on Edward III’s head, Adam de Guirande hopes, like many others, that finally the country will know not only stability but peace. However, nothing is assured, especially when the king they have crowned is only fourteen years old. What does he know about running a country? As the nobles pay homage to King Edward, they also look to the Regent to lead them. Sir Roger Mortimer is now the de facto ruler of England. But with great power comes great responsibility. Many fear, and quite rightly too, that Mortimer will use his position to increase his wealth, as well as his influence. 

Adam is torn between his king and the man who gave him everything. Mortimer was his liege lord, but not anymore, for Adam has sworn his allegiance to King Edward. Adam, like others in court, watch nervously as Mortimer favours his friends and shuns everyone else. Adam cannot help but fear for Mortimer’s future, for the Wheel of Fortune is forever turning. Past events should surely hint at a warning of what is to come. Despenser had it all and look where he is now. But there seems to be no stopping Mortimer’s ambition. Adam is but a spectator as the young King becomes increasingly resentful towards his Regent. Adam knows that Edward will one day snatch the lead rope from Mortimer’s hand and take control of the bridle. It is not a case of if, but when. And when that happens, God help any man who sides with Mortimer. Adam knows that one day soon he will have to choose between them. The question is, will he stand with Edward? Or, will he side with the Kingmaker?

Kit de Guirande has already lost a son to this medieval game of thrones. Will she lose her husband as well? If only Edward would allow Adam to be relieved of his duties at court, then all would be well. But Edward relies on Adam too much. So Kit must grin and bear it, for now at least... 

From the terror of the Scottish raid on the newly crowned king’s camp at the Battle of Stanhope Park to the attempted rebellion of Henry of Lancaster, Under The Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage is a medieval triumph.

This book is filled with memorable characters, non-stop action, a narrative that is as elegant as it is appealing and a story that is so riveting that time ceased to matter. This book, this series, is absolutely irresistible.

Belfrage writes with authority, but also incredible sensitivity. There is a great depth to the writing as well as a beautifully balanced perspective of what this time in history was like. The court of Edward III has been brought gloriously back to life in this remarkable retelling. 

Told through the experiences of Adam and his wife Kit, Under The Approaching Dark, has much to recommend it. The struggles that our two brave protagonists faces are enough in itself to keep a reader turning those pages, let alone the intrigue, danger, and the ever-present threat of a rebellion at Edward's court. The cruel Despenser may be dead, but his associates are still very much alive, and while they breathe both Kit and Adam’s lives are in peril.

Aside from the constant threat of death, or worse, the gentle and passionate love story of Adam and Kit continues throughout this book. Their romance makes this series a must-read for anyone who loves historical romance fiction. I cannot help but compare it to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Adam’s and Kits relationship is as intense and as tantalising as Jamie’s and Claire’s. But this is more than just a romance book, Under the Darkening Sky is a comprehensive interpretation of the early days of King Edward III’s reign. It is a story not to be missed for it is a gripping account of war, ambition, betrayal and love. It is utterly engrossing from start to finish.

I thought the interpretation of the usurped Edward II was fabulous, and surprisingly he has his own moment of true heroism, which made him almost endearing.

Belfrage has written a compelling book about an extraordinary time in English history. This book and this series continue to hold my fascination, and I cannot wait to read book 4!

I Highly Recommend.

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

  






Anna Belfrage



Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.  She has recently released the first in a new series, The Wanderer. This time, she steps out of her normal historical context and A Torch in His Heart is with a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.


Find out more about Anna by visiting her website, or herAmazon page.

#Book Review — The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance #HistoricalFiction #WW2 @swiftstory @KathrynGauci @JohnMcKay68 @AUSXIPMaryD @MarionKummerow @RobertaKagan



The Darkest Hour:
WWII Tales of Resistance

By Roberta Kagan • Jean Grainger • Marion Kummerow • Ellie Midwood • Alexa Kang • Mary D. Brooks • Deborah Swift • Kathryn Gauci • John R. Mckay • Ryan Armstrong



WW2. When the world falls to terror and tyranny reigns…

...how far would you go to resist?


Would you risk your own life or the lives of the ones you love?

From a young Jewish woman in love fighting her way out of the Warsaw ghetto, to a Czech assassin rising above his fears for an attempt on a Nazi Hangman’s life, to a daughter who vows to avenge her family by taking down a Japanese commander, and a French boy's touching act of defiance no matter how small.

Come and get a glimpse of the invisible side of WWII - the Resistance, those who refuse to bow down to brutality.

Hold your breath and hope for the best in the darkest of times, when our heroes and heroines risk all to defy evil so the light of freedom will shine over their countries again.

This collection includes ten never before published novellas by ten of today’s bestselling WWII historical fiction authors.

Foreword by Terry Lynn Thomas, author of The Silent Woman, the USA Today Bestseller.

Featured Stories:

Bubbe’s Nightingale by Roberta Kagan
Catriona’s War by Jean Grainger
Reluctant Informer by Marion Kummerow
Killing the Hangman by Ellie Midwood
The Moon Chaser by Alexa Kang
Enemy at the Gate by Mary D. Brooks
The Occupation by Deborah Swift
Code Name Camille by Kathryn Gauci
V for Victory by John R McKay
Sound of Resistance by Ryan Armstrong



“…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”
Sir Winston Churchill
House of Commons 4 June 1940


There were those who refused to bow down to tyranny, but not all of them wore uniforms. Some of them were ordinary people from different walks of life. These brave few risked everything, including their lives and the lives of those they loved. Some acts of defiance were small — chalking the letter “V” onto walls. Others, hid those who were persecuted. A few took up arms, and they died fighting for their country, for their compatriots, and for themselves. These men, woman and sometimes children are known by a collective name. They were called The Resistance.

The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance has brought together some of the finest World War II Historical Fiction authors. These authors have donated their time and their skills to bring about this remarkable collection of short stories about The Resistance. All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

From the fall of Czechoslovak to the occupation of China, The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance is a compelling account of those who chose not to surrender, but to fight on, no matter what the consequences.

I am going to approach this review the same way I approached the book — one story at a time.


Bubbe’s Nightingale by Roberta Kagan


Bubbe Ruchel never talked about the past. However, Bubbe is suffering from dementia, and she does not want her story to be forgotten. 

Kagan approached this story with great sensitivity and grace. The brutality of the Warsaw Ghetto was vivid in the telling, but so was the determination of The Jewish Resistance.

Bubbe is a superb heroine. She lost everything, her world was turned upside down, but she approached the future with resilience and courage. Running alongside the hardship and terror of the Ghetto is a sweet but tragic love story, which made this tale even more heartbreakingly beautiful.

Kegan has given a sense of what the Warsaw Ghetto was like, and with the limited word count, she has made a very informed choice of what to include and what not to. Reading about the atrocious treatment of the Jews during World War II can sometimes overwhelm, but in Bubbe’s Nightingale, there is a good balance between the terrible barbarities and the quieter, gentler moments of everyday life. There is also a sweet love story, which gives some light relief. This was a great novel to start the anthology with.


Catriona’s War by Jean Grainger


Catriona McCarthy’s father, Kieran, told her to wait for his return. Only he didn’t come back. No one knows what has happened to him, just that the enemy has captured him and in all likelihood he is dead. If that were not enough for Catriona to get her head around, she is now being asked by the British if she will continue what her father started.

What a wonderfully compelling tale Catriona’s War is. I adored Catriona. She is such a strong woman who seemed to relish being thrown into the deep end. Her relationship with Schroeder, a German officer, was incredibly enthralling. I thought her portrayal was magnificent.

The story was fast-paced and the narrative was clear and concise. The ending was more than satisfying. An enjoyable read.


Reluctant Informer by Marion Kummerow

 

Sabine Mahler believes that if she minds her own business, then the feared Gestapo will leave her and her family alone. However, that all changed the day Frau Klausen became her new co-worker.

Reluctant Informer is a compelling but also a harrowing account of one woman’s fight to save her husband. This story demonstrates not only the brutality of the Gestapo but also the risks that The Resistance took to thwart them.

As a character, I thought Sabine was wonderfully portrayed. She really is caught between a rock and a hard place. I found myself thinking, what I would do if I had been her? Each page turn had me holding my breath, wondering what new horrors would await her.  The writing was absolutely absorbing. 

Kummerow certainly has a remarkable eye for historical detail. This was such a great story. I cannot praise Reluctant Informer enough.


Killing the Hangman by Ellie Midwood 


The Man With The Iron Heart — that is what Hitler called him. The Czech’s called him by a different name — The Hangman. When Jozef and Jan received their orders, they know what they have to do. They have to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich. 

I am a big fan of Ellie Midwood’s writing, and I am glad to say that she did not disappoint. Her portrayal of Heydrich was chilling. Here was a man who radiated power and terrorised everyone, including those who worked with him. He answered only to Hitler, Göring and Himmler, and was one of the principal architects of the Holocaust. Midwood has painted one of the darkest figures within the Nazi elite very well.

Midwood has based her story around Operation Anthropoid, and the two soldiers who carried out the assignation attempt of Heydrich have been immortalised in this book. I thought Midwood’s depiction of Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš was outstanding. What these men were asked to do was incredibly dangerous, one could say suicidal. I thought the contrast between the antagonist, Heydrich, and the protagonists, Jozef and Jan, was brilliantly executed.

There is no doubt that Midwood has a novelist eye for human detail and fragility, and she always writes such crystalline prose, making her work a real pleasure to read. Killing the Hangman is an excellent addition to this fabulous anthology.


The Moon Chaser by Alexa Kang 


When the Japanese raped Nanking, Yuan Wen-Ying was determined to avenge her countryman. However, it will be no easy task, and it will come at a great personal cost.

Kang has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading. The Moon Chaser was a compelling read from start to finish. To fit such a fabulous story in such a limited word count is indeed worthy of mention. The Moon Chaser is a gripping account of the Resistance in China.

Yuan Wen-Ying is a fabulous heroine. She is a very intelligent young woman who has suffered an immense personal loss. Yuan Wen-Ying is the type of protagonist that inspires sympathy. This was a spectacular portrayal of a character that I really came to care about.

The writing is elegant. The narrative is engaging. What a wonderfully brilliant story. 


Enemy at the Gate by Mary D. Brooks


At thirteen years old, Zoe had no notion that one day she would be a part of The Resistance. However, fate plays a cruel hand, and now Zoe is determined to free as many Jews as she can.

Zoe is a headstrong protagonist that sometimes does things before she fully thinks about the consequences, which made her very endearing. How she survives, I have no idea. She certainly has her share of near-misses! Zoe considers herself a Spartan, and she models herself on that idea of fearlessness — and boy, does she hate those Athenians — almost as much as the Italians! She is a very refreshing character. Zoe’s anger at the injustice she witnesses and her desire to free her country makes her a very convincing patriot. 

Brooks has delivered a very plausible account about the occupation of Greece. The narrative was brilliant, and this short-story is an example of historical fiction at its very best. Enemy at the Gate is undoubtedly an enthralling tale.


The Occupation by Deborah Swift.


It was a sad day for the Islanders when the German Army invaded. Many of the Islanders had left before the occupation, but there had only been limited space on the boats. Céline Huber and her best friend Rachel were two of the unlucky ones. The German invasion of Jersey brought about many changes and sacrifices, but the one thing Céline would not sacrifice was her friend, despite what that may mean for her. 

How I loved this book! The Channel Island’s hold a special place in my heart and this book captures the spirit and the endurance of these remarkable Islanders. Céline’s story is utterly compelling. Her bravery sums up many of those in occupied countries during this time. There was no way she was going to give up her Jewish friend to the Nazis. She would rather die than do that. The antagonist of this tale, the cruel and sadistic Horst, was in direct contrast to Céline’s gentle nature. The fact that Horst is Céline’s brother-in-law makes the contrast even more evident, especially when compared to his brother. The young German doctor, Leutnant Müller is also worthy of mention. He is an unlikely protagonist. His compassion is certainly noteworthy, and his disgust at the way Horst treats the prisoners of war is a reminder that not all German soldiers bought into Nazi ideology. 

Swift writes with an elegance as well as with authority. I thought it was a fabulous portrayal of what Jersey was like under the long five years of occupation. Kudos, Ms Swift.


 Code Name Camille by Kathryn Gauci


Nathalie Fontaine is determined to join La Résistance in Paris. Paris is a city under occupation. No one is to be out past curfew, and German soldiers can stop and search anyone, any time they choose. Nathalie immerses herself in Parisian culture while working for La Résistance. However, something soon becomes very clear. There is a double agent in their midst. The question is… Who?

Code Name Camille was impossible to put down. I was utterly immersed and committed to this story from the opening sentence to the very last word. This is a vastly entertaining tale, with a very compelling plot. When it became evident that there was a double-agent I was trying to guess as to who that was — it turned out I was wrong!

Gauci has written an extremely readable tale. Great Characters. Great narrative. Great Story.


V for Victory by John R McKay


When Charles Mercier sees the victorious German Army march along the Champs-Élysées he decides that when he grows up, he is going to join the German Army, after all, he cannot join the French one, can he? However, after an inspiring speech by his teacher, Charles is reminded that he is a son of France. With some stolen chalk, young Charles is determined to do his bit. He will go out at night and chalk the letter “V” onto buildings and monuments. Vive la France. 

Mckay has penned a lucid account of what life was like in occupied France from a child’s perspective. Charles was a character that matured as the story progressed. He is incredibly naive at the beginning. Charles does not understand the consequences of his actions. He thinks he might have a telling off for scribbling on the wall. He does not even consider that he could receive a bullet instead. Likewise, he doesn’t understand why they can’t listen to the radio anymore.

Mckay has a beautiful eye for detail and a compelling style to his narrative. He writes with imagination and energy which made V for Victory utterly engrossing. I thought it was fabulous.


 Sound of Resistance by Ryan Armstrong


When Charlie’s mother is killed in a car accident, he has no idea just how much his life is going to change. He finds himself in Germany, under the care of his sadistic uncle. Charlie is an American. He does not hold with Nazi ideology. However, he has to tread carefully, for his uncle is a man not to be crossed.

Sound of Resistance is a gripping account of courage under impossible circumstances. Charlie is a wonderful protagonist to pit against his evil uncle. Charlie sees Erich for what he really is — a bully and a coward. However, at the same time, Armstrong explores Erich’s motivation for acting the way he does. Erich seems to have a conscious. He only sleeps three hours a day so one can only surmise that he doesn’t sleep because of what he does. Erich cannot get through a day without taking what he calls “magic pills.” It seems there is a lot more to him, then initially meets the eye, I would like to learn more about him. Nevertheless, he is still deplorable, and a thoroughly disagreeable man.

The narrative of this tale is very engaging and I was utterly engrossed in this story of good vs. evil. 

The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance is a beautiful book that you can start either at the beginning and read through to the end, or read one or two of the stories that take your fancy. Each book has a short synopsis at the beginning which gives you an idea of the flavour of the tale that is to follow. I recommend that you read them all for they are all wonderful. If you are looking for a lovely scope of Resistant stories, then this is the book for you.

I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.

The Coffee Pot Book Club.





*** All proceeds will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum In Washington DC *** 



Roberta Kagan

I’m an American writer of Jewish and Romany decent. I write Historical Fiction and Historical Romance, most of which is set during the holocaust. Although I never discount the horrors of the time period, the main focus of my work is on ordinary people who prove to be strong heroic characters in unfathomable circumstances.



Connect with Roberta: Website • Twitter • Facebook


Jean Grainger

Jean Grainger was born in Cork, Ireland. She has been a tour guide of her beloved home country, a teacher, a university lecturer and a playwright. She began writing fiction at the suggestion of her clients on tours, many of whom were sure all the stories she told them would make for a great book. Her first book, The Tour, has become a Number 1 bestseller on Amazon. It tells the story of a disparate group of American visitors to Ireland, who, along with their Irish tour guide have a life changing experience in the magical Emerald Isle. 

Her second book, So Much Owed, is a family saga set during the Second World War. The story centres on the Buckley family of West Cork and how their lives are pulled in different directions as they become embroiled in the war. It is a sweeping family saga of intrigue and romance against the background of occupied Europe.

In her third novel, Shadow of a Century, she tells a tale of a battered old flag found in New York in 2016, a century after it was used during the Easter Rising, when Ireland made her final bid for freedom from Great Britain. This tells the story of a journalist who uncovers a story, one with much more to it than a flag. 

Her fourth novel, due out in Spring 2016, Under Heaven’s Shining Stars, is set in the 1970s in Cork, Ireland and is a novel about friendship. Three boys, Liam, Patrick and Hugo, though from very different backgrounds are united in a deep but often times challenging friendship. As their lives progress, only by staying strong, can they prevail. Or fail.
Her novella, Letters of Freedom, tells the story of Carmel, stuck in a pointless marriage, when a figure from her past emerges and changes everything with a ‘like’ on Facebook. This quick read will touch your heart. 

She lives in Cork with her husband and her two youngest children. The older two come home occasionally with laundry and to raid the fridge. 

Connect with Jean: Website


Marion Kummerow

Marion Kummerow was born and raised in Germany, before she set out to "discover the world" and lived in various countries. In 1999 she returned to Germany and settled down in Munich where she's now living with her family.

After dipping her toes with non-fiction books, she finally tackled the project dear to her heart. UNRELENTING is the story about her grandparents, who belonged to the German resistance and fought against the Nazi regime.

It's a book about resilience, love and the courage to stand up and do the right thing.



Connect with Marion: Website • Twitter 

Ellie Midwood

Ellie Midwood is a best-selling, award-winning historical fiction writer.
She's a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew and a doggie mama.

Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.

Connect with Ellie:


Website • Amazon • Goodreads  • BookBub • Facebook.


Mary D. Brook

A geek with too many imaginary friends who speak different languages (knew those language classes would come in handy). Historical romance and urban fantasy storyteller and addicted to stories and song about strength and courage. I play well with others (for an introvert) but then retreat to talk and write about my imaginary friends. Passionate about lots of things that inspire the mind (art/design, psychology, science and tech) that sets my muse on fire (she's a busy lady!). You can find me here: 



Connect with Mary: Website • Twitter


Deborah Swift

I am a novelist living in the Lake District in England. I write historical fiction but read widely - contemporary and classic fiction. I choose my books carefully, so I don't read many duds. If I do, they are not reviewed here, as a gesture of respect to other writers.


Connect with Deborah: Website • Twitter

Kathryn Gauci

Kathryn Gauci was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After graduating, Kathryn spent a year in Vienna, Austria before moving to Greece where she worked as a carpet designer in Athens for six years. There followed another brief period in New Zealand before eventually settling in Melbourne, Australia.

Before turning to writing full-time, Kathryn ran her own textile design studio in Melbourne for over fifteen years, work which she enjoyed tremendously as it allowed her the luxury of travelling worldwide, often taking her off the beaten track and exploring other cultures. The Embroiderer is her first novel; a culmination of those wonderful years of design and travel, and especially of those glorious years in her youth living and working in Greece – a place that she is proud to call her spiritual home.

Her second novel, Conspiracy of Lies, is set in France during WWII. It is based on the stories of real life agents in the service of the Special Operations Executive and The Resistance under Nazi occupied Europe. To put one’s life on the line for your country in the pursuit of freedom took immense courage and many never survived. Kathryn’s interest in WWII started when she lived in Vienna and has continued ever since. She is a regular visitor to France and has spent time in several of the areas in which this novel is set.



Connect with Kathryn: Website • Twitter

John R McKay

John R McKay was born and raised in Wigan, Greater Manchester and after serving in the Royal Air Force for seven years he joined Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service in 1997 until leaving to take up other pursuits, including writing. 

He has two daughters and lives with his wife, Dawn.
John's debut novel, the thriller 'The Journal', tell the story of a young man trying to come to terms with the death of his partner whilst avoiding a killer. It takes the reader from modern day England back to the two world wars, where the mystery of what is happening to him can be revealed.

His second novel, the acclaimed 'The Absolution Of Otto Finkel', is a historical novel covering largely unknown events of World War 2 and how war affects people in different ways. John has carried this premise for many years and is extremely proud now the work has been completed and published by Pegasus.

His third novel 'Mosquitoes' is a break from his normal genre and is a contemporary study of how a man can 'lose the plot' when circumstances in his life change suddenly. A black comedy, Mosquitoes is a uniquely written story, told from the perspective of a man unable to cope with the both the pressures of modern society and those he puts on himself.

John has recently completed his fourth novel, 'The Sun Will Always Shine' which is a return to historical fiction, telling the tale of two brothers during the First World War who are the keepers of a dangerous secret.

All four books are now available to purchase through Amazon in paperback and Kindle at very reasonable prices.

He cites his modern literary favourites as Sebastian Faulkes, Robert Harris and Wilbur Smith.

He is currently working on his fifth novel, which he is hoping to release in 2017.

John would like to thank Kellie Dennis of BOOK COVERS BY DESIGN for the excellent artwork for his books.



Connect with John: Twitter • Facebook

Ryan Armstrong

I have always enjoyed reading and writing. I write in the evenings. I have a three year old and a five month old - both boys. I am fortunate to have a supportive wife who lets me have time to write and listens to my rough drafts as I work out plot lines. I majored in history and am a romantic guy. So, I wrote "Love and Hate" a (necessarily dark but meaningful) historical fiction novel with a heavy love story element.