The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair #BookReview #RBRT #NewRelease

The Mermaid

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and The Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

My Review

Scotland in 1597 was not a place to be a woman, especially a woman of faith, opinions or healing gifts.  But Isobell has fled from her London home to avoid marriage to a cruel Englishman and has found kindness and friendship in a Scottish castle.  Hiding her wealthy background, she starts work as a kitchen maid but her clumsy mistakes reveal her lack of experience.  While Bessie, the housekeeper guards her secrets, Isobell must be more cautious with Agnes, the spiteful governess and Christen, the aristocratic lady of the house.

Soon Isobell is captivated by the impressive castle and its fairy tale setting and she finds meeting the Laird is an overwhelming experience. It is a pleasure to read of their growing romance despite misunderstandings but as they grow closer, others gather to cause pain and suffering.

This carefully researched story is based on true events in Aberdeen when cruel men gained power over innocent women by accusing them of witchcraft.  It is a horrifying story from our history, mirrored in other parts of the United Kingdom.  Thankfully in The Mermaid and the Bear the sadness is tempered by love and kinship in a believable and satisfying conclusion.  An enchanting novel.

The Mermaid and the Bear can be pre-ordered for release on Oct. 18th at Amazon UK

Ailish

Ailish Sinclair

Ailish Sinclair trained as a dancer and taught dance for many years, before working in schools to help children with special needs. A short stint as a housekeeper in a castle fired her already keen interest in untold stories of the past and she sat down to research and write.

She now lives beside a loch with her husband and two children where she still dances and writes and eats rather a lot of chocolate.

To learn more about the beautiful Scottish countryside, castles and the Standing Stones please go to  Ailishsinclair.com

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The Paperboy: A rural detective mystery (Peter Hatherall Mystery Book 6) by Diana J Febry #RBRT #BookReview

Paper Boy

A stand-alone murder mystery featuring DCI Peter Hatherall.
A young mother brutally stabbed in a busy park in front of her son.
A paperboy shot in an isolated farmhouse twenty-four years previously.
DI Fiona Williams is baffled when her senior officer, DCI Peter Hatherall makes a connection between the two cases.
As details of Hatherall’s involvement in the old case emerge, her loyalty is tested to breaking point and she starts to question his decisions.
When the murdered woman’s son goes missing the time for hesitating is over.

My Review

This standalone detective story begins with a tragic event but already we know that cause of this sudden stabbing is another murder 24 years earlier.  Readers of the previous Peter Hatherall mysteries will enjoy seeing Peter as a young inexperienced copper and as we read of the mismanaged case in 1994, we begin to see the connection to this new investigation.  DI Fiona Williams, who is first on the scene, cannot understand why her boss DCI Hatherall is linking an old case solved in the past, to this event, when there are other leads to follow.

As we read about the movements of the culprit, we also observe the careful detective process.  Handicapped by accusations that he is using old resentments to cloud his judgement, Peter tries to convince his friend, Fiona, that the answer lies in a blurred photo kept by the recent victim.  Before they can solve the case there are two abductions, while Fiona and Peter deal with major problems in their home lives.  The characters of the detectives and the victims are strongly drawn and I became involved in their believable predicaments.

Although a good read on its own I am now tempted to read earlier books from the series to learn more about this likeable detective.

The Paper Boy can be purchased from Amazon UK

The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norrie #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

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Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

My Review

Coming to this book as a retired primary school teacher, I rejoiced to hear the voices of these 5 different children and to read the response of their families to the school’s fairy tale project; but this story has a wider context allowing us into the homes of families from varied cultures, structures and beliefs in the turbulent context of post-Referendum Britain.  Set in outer London at the beginning of a new school year, the protagonists all live within a few yards of each other, but initially have very little knowledge of their neighbours.

As the children bring home a letter about a future performance to involve all the pupils with perhaps the aid of friends or families, an incident occurs bringing two of the girls together.  Alka, a quiet beautiful Indian girl spends time with clumsy, self-centred Sky, whose kind, slightly insecure mother, Teresa, attempts to unite the girls.  Soon, Nathan, a bright Chinese boy will join them and their co-operation sparks great interest in the project. Nearby, Mandeep lives in a busy, happy household with his delightful grandma and in a small flat live Safiya and her daughter Xoriyo. Although Somalian, Xoriyo has grown up in England, but in this new school she has chosen to remain mute, concealing her intelligence and excellent English  Through the experiences of Safiya, we witness the increasing racism and her struggle to relate to Teresa, whose attempts at friendship are awkward and embarrassing.

This is a book of humour, pathos and relationships.   It is a story to give hope in our troubled times for understanding and education.  Jessica Norrie has great perception and knowledge about the lives of our diverse society and although life is not a fairy tale, the parallels of monsters and happy endings are a lesson for us all.

The Magic Carpet can be found on Amazon UK

Jessica N

Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching creatively in multicultural schools, was published in July 2019, and she is working on a third. She divides her time between London and Malvern, blogging, singing soprano, and walking in the forest and hills.

Intrigue & Infamy (The Victorian Detectives Book 7) by Carol Hedges #NewRelease #BookReview #RBRT

Intrigue

Book Description

It is 1866, the end of a long hot summer in Victorian London, and the inhabitants are seething with discontent. Much of it is aimed at the foreign population living in the city. So when a well-reputed Jewish tailoring business is set aflame, and the body of the owner is discovered inside, Detective Inspector Lachlan Grieg suspects a link to various other attacks being carried out across the city, and to a vicious letter campaign being conducted in the newspapers.

Can he discover who is behind the attacks before more people perish?

Elsewhere, Giovanni Bellini arrives in England to tutor the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Haddon, ex-MP and City financier. But what are Bellini’s links to a dangerous Italian radical living in secret exile in London, and to beautiful Juliana Silverton, engaged to Harry Haddon, the heir to the family fortune?

Romance and racism, murder and mishap share centre stage in this seventh exciting book in the Victorian Detectives series.

My Review

Never has a Victorian murder mystery seemed more appropriate for the time of reading.  Once again Carol Hedges captures our imagination with her tale of honest policemen, hard-working women and dastardly villains.  At a time when Italy and Germany are hotbeds of revolution as they try to build up unified national identities, foreign residents of London are subject to racist attacks by an unknown group.  Meanwhile, Juliana Silverton has ensnared her perfect husband and she can look forward to a happy successful marriage provided no scandal is revealed about her or her fiancé, Harry Haddon. But in the house of Harry’s father, Sir Nicholas Haddon, his second wife despairs as her young’s son’s loyalty is lost to a new young Italian tutor.

As the elegant Juliana tries to preserve her future, she is threatened by a jealous friend while Harry finds the bullying he received at Eton, continues into his adult life.  They must both summon courage and sang-froid to achieve happiness together. As more innocent people are attacked in the city, thank goodness we can rely on the careful detective work of our old friends Jack Cully and Lachlan Greig.

Intrigue and Infamy recreates the glitter and sparkle of sumptuous 1860s London, contrasting it with deception and secrecy and we are shown how so many people struggled against prejudice, misfortune and cruelty. Another compulsive read!

Intrigue and Infamy can be purchased at Amazon UK

My review of Diamond and Dust Book one of the Victorian Detectives series.

 

The Spider and the Stone: A Novel of Scotland’s Black Douglas by Glen Craney

Spider

As the 14th century dawns, Scotland’s survival hangs by a spider’s thread. While the clans fight among themselves for the empty throne, Edward Longshanks of England schemes to annex the ancient northern kingdom to his Plantagenet realm.

But one frail, dark-skinned lad stands in the brutal monarch’s path.  James Douglas is cherished by his fellow Scots as the Good Sir James. Yet his daring raids across the border inflict such havoc that the English brand him the Black Douglas and nearly bankrupt their treasury to capture him.

As a boy, James falls in love with the ravishing Isabelle MacDuff, whose clan for centuries has inaugurated Scottish monarchs on the hallowed Stone of Destiny. Yet their world is upturned when James befriends Robert Bruce, a bitter enemy of the MacDuffs. Forced to choose between love and clan loyalty, James and Isabelle make a fateful decision that draws the armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn.

Isabelle MacDuff will crown a king.

James Douglas will carry a king’s heart.

Both will pay an unthinkable price for Scotland.

Here is the little-known story of Scotland’s War of Independence and the remarkable events that followed the execution of William Wallace, whose legend was portrayed in the movie Braveheart. At last, James Douglas takes his rightful place with Wallace and Bruce in the pantheon of Scottish heroes. This thrilling epic leads us to the miraculous Stone of Destiny, to the famous Spider in the Cave, to the excommunicated Knights Templar and Freemasons, to the suppressed Culdee Church, to the initiation of Christ in Britain, and to the unprecedented Declaration of Arbroath, which inspired the American Declaration of Independence four hundred years later.

My Review

I have always been intrigued by the story of Robert the Bruce and yet he seemed a shadowy figure, but the Black Douglas, or James Douglas the Good, as the Scots called him, is an even more mysterious character. In this saga, Glen Craney interweaves, known facts with imagination and mysticism to play out the tortuous life of love and devotion of James Douglas. Ever loyal to his friend and later King, Robert, he suspends his own happiness for the sake of Scotland.  In Isabelle Macduff he has found his one true love, but she also puts her country before her own desires.

This is a story of guerrilla warfare, skirmishes and bloody battle.  The cruelty of the English Kings and disloyal Scots is met by brotherhood, sacrifice and persistence.  The intensity of the plot is lightened by fascinating historical figures such as the She-Wolf, Isabella of France, who married an unworthy English King, and humour is provided by Ned Sweeney, the lively and faithful monk.

The intense suffering of the women is matched by the heroism and violent death of so many of the soldiers.  Every scene rings true as if you were there struggling through the mud or shivering in a castle too, and I wanted James and Belle to find a way to free Scotland and themselves.  A recommended read for those who wish to know more about early Scottish history and the hand of fate.

The Spider and the Stone can be found at Amazon UK

My Review of The Virgin and the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

Flower of the Day #FOTD

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Kniphofia at RHS Wisley, or Red Hot Poker as I would call it,

inspired by Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.

Flower of the Day #FOTD

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Fuchsia inspired by Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.