Rags of Time by Michael Ward #BookReview #HistFic

Rags of Time

London  1639.

Thomas Tallant, a young and ambitious Spice Merchant, returns from India to find his city in turmoil.  A bitter struggle is brewing between King Charles I and Parliament, as England slides into civil war. The capital is simmering with dissent. The conflict is ready to boil over.

But Thomas soon has other troubles to contend with. A wealthy merchant, Sir Joseph Venell, is savagely killed; then his partner Sir Hugh Swofford plunges to his death, in the Tallant household.  Suspicion falls on Thomas, who is sucked into a mire of treachery and rumour within the City of London. As the merchant struggles to clear his name, he becomes captivated by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, whose passion for astronomy and mathematics is matched only by her addiction to the gaming tables.

Pursued by the authorities, Thomas races to unmask the real killer who claims a third victim to implicate him further, toying with his future in a deadly cat and mouse game.  In a desperate race against time, Elizabeth applies her powers of logic and deduction to unearth the clues that will point to the killer, but her way is barred by a secret message from the grave.  Can she crack its code before Thomas, now a wounded and exhausted fugitive, succumbs to the chase?  And, if she succeeds, has Thomas the strength to face his tormentor and win his life and reputation back?

Rags of Time is the first book in an engaging and entertaining new historical crime series, set during the upheaval of the 17th Century. Recommended for fans of Andrew Taylor, CJ Sansom and SJ Parris.

My Review

It is always good to find a new writer of historical novels which have been carefully researched and yet take you straight to the heart of a thrilling murder mystery. Set in the last few years leading up to the English Civil War, it is a dangerous time when, for religious and political reasons, you can never be quite sure who is your enemy and who is your friend. Tom, who has been travelling the world as a spice merchant for the Tallant family, is perhaps rather naïve in his judgement of others. He soon finds himself, unfairly incriminated in a strange murder and he desperately tries to find the real culprit. But his life is complicated by meeting Elizabeth, an educated young woman, who enjoys smoking a pipe and studying the planets at night.  Will this enigmatic heroine be able to work out who is deliberately putting his life in danger?

The story gives us a vivid picture of mid-seventeenth century London life and the plot moves rapidly from one important event to the next. In addition to the complex politics of the day which Tom must navigate as an MP, we also learn about his time spent in Amsterdam during the tulip bulb boom and collapse. After many dramatic scenes and dangerous escapades, we learn the truth and I am thrilled to read that this is the first of a series of crime mysteries set in this fascinating historical era.

Michael

Michael Ward

Mike Ward is an English creator of historical fiction. Born in Liverpool, he was a BBC journalist and journalism academic before turning to non-factual writing.

His debut novel ‘The Rags of Time’ is located in London in 1639. It marks the start of a tumultuous 40 years – civil war, regicide, republic and royal restoration. Politics, religion, commerce, science, medicine – none are left untouched by this ferment of change.

Mike believes it’s the perfect setting for his hero Thomas Tallant’s series of adventures, starting first with ‘Rags’. He is currently working on its sequel.

Listed Dead (A Bunch Courtney Investigation) by Jan Edwards #TuesdayBookBlog #NewRelease

Listed Dead now available on Amazon UK

Listed Dead

November 1940. The Battle of Britain has ended and the horror of the Blitz is reaching its height when two deaths on the Sussex Downs bring Bunch Courtney and Chief Inspector Wright together once more.

What could possibly link a fatal car crash with the corpse dumped in a derelict shepherd’s hut? The only clue our pair have is the handwritten membership list of a supper club meeting at London’s Café de Paris.

Two people on that list are now dead and the race is on to solve the mystery before any more end up on the mortuary slab.

Listed dead is third in the Bunch Courtney Investigates series.

My Review

You can tell from the title that this volume of investigations by Bunch Courtney and Chief Inspector Wright involves more than one fatality. Not only are people losing their lives in combat or in city air raids but now there is a murderer about, working through a list of rich young people whose supper club meets up at the Café de Paris in London.  When the first deaths occur close to Bunch’s home, she discovers she knows the victims so she will be indispensable, assisting William Wright with his investigations. He doesn’t seem keen for her to follow up leads but that is probably because she is putting herself in great danger.

The lifestyle of these self-centred young people contrasts with the suffering of the military forces and also with the ordinary folk, but it reflects the social structure of the Sussex countryside before the war. Now in 1940 there is another dimension and people like Bunch put many hours of hard work into the war effort.  She juggles care for her Land Girls who run the estate, worry about her sick mother and determination to find the murderer.  Her relationship with William moves between close companionship and detachment reflecting the complex social rules and busy working life they have.

This series gives an interesting picture of the home front during World War Two and the difficulties experienced when people’s homes and land were taken over by the military authorities. We feel the fear and danger of a London air raid and the attempt to continue country life as it had been pre-war.  In Listed Dead, Bunch finds herself in several frightening situations as she gradually works out the intriguing mystery. A most enjoyable read.

Listed Dead on Amazon Uk

My review of  In Her Defence by Jan Edwards

The Opium Smuggler: Sword and Steampunk by Celine Jeanjean (The Viper and the Urchin Book 7) #NewRelease

 

Opium

An impossible smuggling route
A smuggler who won’t quit
Will Adelma’s stubbornness bring her success or get her killed?

Adelma has one dream: to set herself up as a smuggler. But as the daughter of a fisherman, that’s easier said than done.

As she slowly starts to network in the smuggling world, she comes across a man who loudly mocks her looks. What’s a self-respecting wannabe smuggler to do? Punch his lights out, of course. Preferably in front of an audience—adding humiliation to injury.

But the man turns out to be far more powerful than she realised, successfully ensuring no one in the smuggling world will give her work.

With no options left, Adelma turns to one of the most dangerous people in Damsport. No one knows where The Widow comes from, whether she’s truly a widow, or how she came to operate Damsport’s largest criminal network.

The one thing everyone knows? You don’t mess with the Widow, and if you work for her, you better make damn sure you’re successful. The consequences of failure don’t bear thinking about.

Except that Adelma’s first smuggling job is going to be a route that no seasoned smuggler has ever survived. That’s enough of a challenge, but it’ll be even harder with someone after her, determined to make sure she fails.

Adelma’s too stubborn to quit, but will she be able to pull off the impossible, or will she get herself killed in the process?

This novel tells the back story of Adelma, the fisherman’s daughter who became a smuggler and helped Rory and Longinus in earlier books of The Viper and the Urchin series. It can be read as a standalone, but it means a great deal more if you already know of Adelma as the hard-drinking, tough fighter with a hidden soft spot. At the beginning of The Opium Smuggler when we meet one-year old Adelma, “her looks were from her father, an ugly man, even if her eyes wide and dark were her mothers. Jeremiah her father teaches Adelma to trust no one and to react to any threat with retaliation.

After her father’s death, she is determined to become a successful smuggler, but making an enemy of Assurak, one of The Widow’s trusted captains, causes Adelma to lose everything. She can still cadge a drink and a place to sleep with Kriss at The Old Girl’s Arms and her unlikely friend Mercy, an agrophobic book-worm, helps her research Teraverre, the port where she hopes to prove her skills as a smuggler. But wherever Adelma goes, there like a bad penny, Radish turns up. He’s been a successful smuggler himself but now he’s relaxed and somehow gets under her skin.

I started the book feeling that it would not be as interesting without Rory and Longinus but gradually Adelma’s plight won me over and I hoped for her happiness and success. Celine Jeanjean’s vivid descriptions of the Damsport Rookery and the contrasting perfection of Terraverre fill your mind with pictures you believe in and the exciting adventure at sea was gripping.

My Review of Slave City in which Adelma first appears

The Opium Smuggler on Amazon UK

The Fear of Ravens by Wendy Percival (Esme Quentin Mystery Book 4) #NewPaperback

Fear of Ravens

When Esme Quentin is engaged to research the history of an ancient mill owned by her client, Anna Brannock, she stumbles upon a bitter family feud, tales of witchcraft and a century-old allegation of murder.

​As Esme digs deeper, the past begins to converge on the present, when Anna becomes the target of a disturbing campaign, echoing menacing events from many years before.

Can a 19th century curse still wield its formidable power? What connects Anna with the 24 year-old mystery concerning the whereabouts of the charismatic Ellen Tucker?

​Esme must uncover the truth to save Anna from becoming a 21st century victim, in a cruel repetition of her ancestor’s merciless fate.

My Review

I welcomed the chance to return to Devon and join Esme Quentin in another historical research project, veiled in mystery and menace.  The history of the old mill, which Anna Brannock hopes to refurbish, reveals tales of witchcraft which may connect to the disappearance of Ellen Tucker at Halloween twenty-four years earlier.  But the story also links to Anna’s immediate family, revealing divisions within their marriages.

Esme is concerned about the health of Anna, who is expecting her first baby, and she is determined to discover the truth behind the myths.  The sources she finds in a local history centre and on the internet, reveal how lucky we are in the UK in the availability of historical information for a determined researcher. But the search darkens after the accidental drowning of a visiting detective and Esme’s friend Maddy begins to wonder about her father’s recent death.

This is a particularly thrilling adventure, difficult to put down, as the past resonates in the present.  It is a book to appreciate on many levels, as a delightful description of a lovely part of the west country, as a study of genealogical skills and particularly as an atmospheric murder mystery tale.

The Fear of Ravens on Amazon UK

My Review of The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival

The Tea Planter’s Club by Ann Bennett #NewRelease #TuesdayBookBlog

Tea Planter

From award-winning author Ann Bennett, comes a heart-breaking story of love and loss set in World War 2 Burma.

In 1980, Edith Mayhew, proprietor of the Tea Planter’s Club in Calcutta, is preparing to sell up after years of decline. She thinks back to 1942 when her sister Betty vanished having fled over the mountains from Burma to Assam to escape the Japanese invasion. Whilst packing, Edith comes across some letters which may hold clues to Betty’s mysterious disappearance.

The discovery propels Edith on an epic journey to Assam, where she is forced to face devastating secrets of love and betrayal from the war years.

My Review

Edith and Betty had grown up close, as their parents were too busy drinking and enjoying themselves to look after the girls, but Edith, the eldest was the sensible one, while Betty was the beauty.  Arriving in Calcutta in 1938, a terrifying stabbing in the street drives them into The Tea Planters’ Club, where Gregory, the kind, courteous, British owner provides them with a suite. The two young women seek employment and reasonable accommodation, but meeting Robert Furnvall, a handsome, wealthy businessman from Rangoon, quickly changes Betty’s plans. She flirts outrageously with Robert, ignoring Edith’s feelings and within a week they have married and set out for Burma.  Edith hides her sadness, working hard in a boring office but when she decides she can no longer afford to stay at the Tea Planter’ Club, Gregory asks her to marry him and help him running the hotel. Theirs is a marriage of friendship and respect but in Rangoon, Betty finds her new husband boring and the colonial life tedious.

Both women are aware that war is approaching the East as the Japanese army invade Malaya. Both Gregory and Robert join the forces but while Edith maintains the Club for army officers, Betty is conducting an illicit affair. Soon Betty has to flee Rangoon as a refugee and her experiences change her character dramatically.  Edith anxiously awaited her sister’s arrival in Calcutta but now in 1980 she still wonders what happened to Betty. As she begins to pack up the hotel, she finds a hidden letter which might help her find out more. She travels up to Assam to a tea plantation where refugees were seen in 1942, hoping for news.

It was difficult to put this gripping story down, as Edith wins our sympathy immediately and yet gradually we find qualities in Betty which even she was unaware of. The story describes the frustrating life of many of the colonial wives, seeking a purpose or idling their lives away with gossip and partying, while the native populations long for independence.  As the dramatic events of World War Two destroy their way of life, relationships become the most important thing.  There is suffering and sadness within this novel but also a great mystery is solved in a satisfactory way with the promise of happiness for those who are left.

The Tea Planter’s Club is available at Amazon UK

My review of The Planter’s Wife by Ann Bennett

A Mountain of Memories by ChristineCampbell #Historical fiction #Mystery #Romance

Mountain of Memories

 

A childhood trip from Edinburgh to explore Caitlin’s family’s history results in tragedy on a mountainside above the village of Kinlochleven.

As an adult she is still affected by the events that took place there, though most of her memories of that day were lost as a result of its trauma.

Over a century earlier, Caitlin’s great-great grandmother, Mhairi, watched the village of Kinlochleven being born, suffering through its birth pangs.

Caitlin and Mhairi’s lives are linked by their common heritage, and as their stories become intertwined, Caitlin is drawn back to the question that has haunted her for eleven years.

What really happened on that mountainside?

A historic story folded into a contemporary story, the two linked by family, location and events.

My Review

I know from previous reading that a novel by Christine Campbell will be about realistic characters dealing with human problems. There will be soul searching and suffering but also kindness and love. In A Mountain of Memories, the understated hero, Matt, is dependable and considerate. He supports Caitlin as she endures physical pain and panic attacks rooted in a traumatic event that occurred when she was 13. A family trip to Kinlochleven to see the home of her great great grandmother Mhairi Merry resulted in a tragic accident in which Caitlin had also been injured.

We move back to 1904 to meet Mhairi, a hard-working, spirited crofter’s daughter, who like Caitlin, grew up, alone with her father. Life for Mhairi and her father is about to change dramatically as hundreds of Irish navvies and their families arrive to build an enormous dam for the production of the first hydro-electric power in Scotland. The work is dangerous, and their living conditions are harsh but locals like James Merry resent and distrust the newcomers. Despite this, Mhairi makes friends amongst the women and soon she meets “the most beautiful man she ever did set her eyes upon.”

I was fascinated to read about the experiences of Mhairi and her kin in such a dramatic era of change in the Highlands and really hoped for her happiness but I also enjoyed accompanying Caitlin as she tried to solve the mystery of her lost memories.  The outcome is life-changing and upsetting but it strengthens the relationships she has with those she can trust. An unusual, thought-provoking read.

A Mountain of Memories can be found on Amazon UK

My review of Searching for Summer by Christine Campbell

And her more recent novel Gold Plated

To be a Cat by Matt Haig #BookReview #Children’sFiction

To be a cat

One of my favourite books in my early teens was Jennie by Paul Gallico. It describes a boy who is hit by a car and finds himself transformed into a tough street cat.  It is a realistic tale with great pathos.  To be a Cat is different. Barney Willow is an unhappy boy who wishes to be a cat because cats seem to have a happy go lucky life.  For a year, his father has been missing and when he goes to school he is bullied, not only by a horrible boy called Gavin Needle but also by the new Headmistress, Miss Whipmire.  These larger than life characters are reminiscent of Roald Dahl, but in every other way, this story is warmer and more reassuring.  Barney has a dear friend, Rissa, who always has his back. She is really worried about him and her family are also supportive. Barney’s Mum may seem disinterested, surviving as a single mother, but she really cares for him. So becoming a cat, may in fact have thrust him into a far more dangerous world.  This really imaginative story with delightful interludes in the voice of the author provides, humour, invention and a darned good plot.

To read my Review of Matt Haig’s adult book How to Stop Time

To Be A Cat on Amazon UK

Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews (Victorian Romantics Book 1) #TuesdayBookBlog #NewRelease

fair as a star

A Secret Burden…

After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy–or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.

A Longstanding Love…

As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.

During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry’s wedding. But in her darkest moment, it is Mark who comes to Beryl’s aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings–or betraying his brother?

A violet by a mossy stone

Half hidden from the eye!

Fair as a star, when only one

Is shining in the sky.

My Review

Beryl Burnham is a more vulnerable heroine than Mimi Matthews’ previous main characters. She carries a burden which stops her from looking forward to her imminent marriage. Sir Henry Rivenhall is an eminently suitable fiancé whom she has known for some years, but will he be an understanding husband?  On the other hand, his brother Mark, the curate, is her best friend. He appreciates her subtle whitework embroidery, featuring the plants of the English countryside and she can talk to him about anything, well almost anything, but not her darkest secret. Mark Rivenhall has told his brother of his feelings for Beryl, but he knows he has no chance of gaining her heart. Perhaps it will be best if he leaves the parish of Shepton Worthy.

Meanwhile, Beryl’s spirited younger sister, Winnifred, is involved in a feud with Sir Henry, who intends to sell the magnificent steed she loves to ride. The ordinary people of the parish establish the surroundings and village problems for the reader and the stunning Paris wedding gown which arrives for Beryl emphasises the importance of her future life as a baronet’s wife.

I loved the sensitivity in which Beryl’s unhappiness is expressed and the hope that she finally achieves in this delightful first novel of a new romantic series.

 

Rosie’s Book Review Team ~ 6 years old #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Book Reviews

2014 was a special year for me. I had started my social history blog and I was a busy volunteer setting up an exhibition in our local Workhouse on its time as a World War One Hospital. We had bought a holiday home in Portugal and travelled to and fro, several times during the year.  I was also an avid reader and liked to follow authors and book bloggers on Twitter for new books to read.  And that was how I found Rosie Amber.

When she challenged some of her followers to review one of the books submitted to her, I couldn’t resist. I believe the book I chose was The Red Canvas Chair, an intriguing American crime thriller by N A Granger. When Rosie then invited some of us to join her team and review many other books of our choice from novels submitted to her, I was thrilled to be included.  Soon I was writing more book reviews than history posts, so I decided it was time to set up my own book blog Lost in a Good Book

Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team receives a wide range of submitted genres, including young adult, fantasy, historical, romance, steam punk, mystery etc.  Not all of the books appeal to me but often I will challenge myself to try a new type of book and frequently discover an exciting new novelist to follow.  Of the 14 books Rosie is featuring this week I have read and enjoyed 8 of them.  In addition, I have to mention other favourites: –

Crazy Amy

Rose Edmunds Crazy Amy series of corporate espionage

Reluctant Detective

Christine Campbell’s Reluctant Detective series set in Scotland

Parish

Mimi Matthews spirited historical romances

Passionate

Passionate Travellers by Trish Nicholson, incredible journeys throughout history

Cunning

The Cunning Woman’s Cup an amazing story by Sue Hewitt

Book Reviews

The Detour: A road trip with my mom, her pug and a 1986 Volvo by Jennifer Ammoscato #BookReview #RBRT

Detour

Michael Garland’s is so good at getting lost that the thirty-year old coder lives an almost virtual life. He works from home, shops exclusively online—and does not drive. The poor man is shocked to discover his mother’s last wish is that he bring her ashes in the old family Volvo from San Francisco to her childhood hometown of Lebanon, New Hampshire. Guilt for reaching his mother’s deathbed too late will fuel the trip—with additional gas supplied by his mother’s Pug, Puddles, he must bring along. Armed with a GPS, a series of ever-more detailed lists, and the support of his best friend, Savannah, he embarks on an emotional side trip that will change his life.

My Review

I started this book expecting a light amusing story, which it certainly is but it is also much deeper. It is about friendship, loyalty and love.  We share Michael’s courageous adventure into the real world departing from his safe organised home. This is something we can all appreciate as we cautiously put out a toe from Lockdown.

Clearly Michael has some form of Asperger’s syndrome. He is highly intelligent and has been brought up by a warm, caring mother, but expressing emotions or trying something new is not part of his life.  As he sets out on his long journey across America, we share Michael’s fears of the traffic and the possibility of bedbugs in the hotel, but we also see that he is growing in confidence and independence. There are many amusing incidents often including Puddles the Pug but everything always works out in the end.

I always enjoy reading about journeys, all the more so at present, and I particularly warmed to Michael’s caring friend, Savannah. I can really recommend this book to put a smile on your face and make you feel good.

The Detour on Amazon UK

Ammoscato

Author Jennifer Ammoscato – solving the world’s problems one cosmo at a time.

Jennifer Ammoscato is a paid, productive member of society. Frankly, it’s not enough. Therefore, May 2015 saw the launch of her debut novel, “Dear Internet: It’s Me, Avery” (The “Avery Fowler 2.0” series, Book I).

During the day, she is an intrepid writer/editor for the public relations department of a Canadian university. By night, she fights crime and the urge to organize closets and stuff herself with salted chocolate caramels.

Dreams do not inspire Jennifer’s books. In fact, they tend to terrify her. In particular, the ever- popular naked-at-school or I-have-a-final-exam-and-didn’t-study dreams. She usually just makes stuff up.

She is married to her husband, Ezio. As opposed to someone else’s husband (insert name here). She is the proud mom of two very tall sons, Dante and Christian.