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 Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage (The Graham Saga Book 3) #BookReview

Prodigal

Safely returned from an involuntary stay in Virginia, Matthew Graham finds the Scottish Lowlands torn asunder by religious strife. His Restored Majesty, Charles II, requires all his subjects to swear fealty to him and the Church of England, riding roughshod over any opposition.

In Ayrshire, people close ranks around their evicted Presbyterian ministers. But disobedience comes at a high price, and Alex becomes increasingly nervous as to what her Matthew is risking by his support of the clandestine ministers – foremost amongst them the charismatic Sandy Peden.

Privately, Alex considers Sandy an enervating fanatic and all this religious fervour is incomprehensible to her. So when Matthew repeatedly sets his faith and ministers before his own safety, he puts their marriage under severe strain.
The situation is further complicated by the presence of Ian, the son Matthew was cruelly duped into disowning several years ago. Now Matthew wants Ian back and Alex isn’t entirely sure this is a good thing.

Things are brought to a head when Matthew places all their lives in the balance to save his dear preacher from the dragoons.
How much is Matthew willing to risk? How much will he ultimately lose?

My Review

I have intended to read a book from The Graham Saga for some time but I chose this particular book because of its inclusion of the story of the Scottish Covenanters who risked death and persecution to maintain their Presbyterian faith, especially as this included my own ancestors.

Although it would be best to read this saga from Book One, I was quickly able to enter into the storyline by the author’s reference to relevant parts of the backstory.  Essentially this is an alternative Outlander story; in 2002 Alexandra has been thrown back into 17th century Scotland where she meets handsome, brave Matthew Graham.  In The Prodigal Son we find Alex struggling with the physical demands of life as a mother on a Scottish farm, passionately in love with her husband Matthew but increasingly worried by his reckless support of Alexander Peden, “the Prophet,” who is sought by the English soldiers of Charles II.

This complex plot highlights the clash of opinions about the behaviour of men and women in a marriage between a 21st century woman and a 17th century man but it also shows the power of love and understanding.  There are interesting discussions about beliefs between Alex and her husband and sister-in-law, and her difficulty in coping with mistreatment by the soldiers is accentuated by her modern background.

I found this timeslip story fascinating and now wish to read the first book in the series to discover some of the mysterious events which brought Matthew and Alex together.

The Prodigal Son on Amazon UK

Anna

Introducing Anna Belfrage

No Stone Unturned (The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries Book 1) by Pam Lecky #BookReview

No Stone

A suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

It is winter in 1886. Lucy Lawrence sits in her comfortable home in St John’s Wood with only Horace the cat as a companion. As so often, her husband Charlie is away.  Their marriage which started with her elopement from her Yorkshire home has lost the love and excitement of those early days, but Lucy is loyal and hopes one day that they will be blessed by a child.  But her world falls apart when a policeman takes her to a mortuary in Soho to identify the body of her husband who has been killed in an accident.  There she meets Phineas Stone, a tall distinguished private investigator, who tells the police that Charlie was the lead in his current case.

Soon, despite her misgivings, Lucy is entangled in those enquiries, since Charlie has fallen foul of a dangerous gang of thieves.  She wishes to clear his name, but she is unsure whether Mr Stone is her friend or not.  When a threatening visitor appears, she decides to return to her estranged family in Yorkshire, but this leads her into even more trouble, and she is forced to turn to Phineas for help.

Lucy Lawrence is an excellent heroine, brave and clever, she is determined to discover the truth about her husband’s part in the case of stolen gems and fraud and with the help of her enterprising maid, she goes under cover and solves the crime.  This is the first of a series and I am looking forward to Lucy’s next mystery when she travels to Egypt.

Pam Lecky

Pam Lecky

Pam Lecky is an Irish writer of historical fiction with a particular love of the late Victorian era and early 20th century.  Awaiting the invention of time travel, she has to be content with writing about these periods instead.  Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion; was shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; made ‘Editor’s Choice’ by the Historical Novel Society; long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award; and chosen as a Discovered Diamond in February 2017.  In April 2018, she published a collection of all her short stories, entitled Past Imperfect. With settings as diverse as WW1 era Dublin and a lonely haunted lighthouse, romance, mystery and the supernatural await you.  Last month she published the first Lucy Lawson Mystery aptly named No Stone Unturned.

No Stone Unturned is available at Amazon UK

T is for Dido Twite from Black Hearts in Battersea #AtoZChallenge #TuesdayBookBlog

Hearts  Black Hearts

Joan Aiken was an amazing writer of children’s fiction about the supernatural or alternative history. The long series of fat books which begin with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase are set in Britain in a version of late 17th century history where James II was never deposed in the Glorious Revolution, but supporters of the House of Hanover are active enemies of the monarchy. Wolves have invaded the country from Europe via the newly built Channel Tunnel. The child hero or heroine varies from one book to another, but my favourite appears first in book 2, Black Hearts in Battersea. Here I met Dido Twite, a poor ragamuffin girl who helps young apprentice painter, Simon and the wealthy, Sophie. Dido Twite speaks appallingly, dresses scruffily and is defiantly independent. She also proves to be loyal and brave.  The children deal with wolves, kidnapping and shipwreck.

Part of Dido’s endearing quality is her personal vocabulary.  In distress she exclaims, “Croopus!” Her friendly greeting is, “Wotcher my cully,” and we understand her meaning when she says, “betwaddled,” or “havey-cavey.” It is such a relief when this extraordinary girl reappears in Night Birds in Nantucket and other books in series.

Dido Twite

This will be the last of my #AtoZChallenges for two reasons. Firstly, because I am travelling for several days with limited Internet connection but secondly because I am uninspired by the last few letters of the alphabet.  Perhaps you can suggest suitable book characters you might have included in your list of favourites.

My A to Z favourite Book Characters

S is for Sally Lockhart #AtoZChallenge #MondayBlogs

Although I read the three books of Philip Pullmans’ “His Dark Materials” with great enjoyment, there is something about the Sally Lockhart mysteries which appealed to me more, and that is mainly Sally herself.

Ruby     Tiger

In the first book The Ruby in the Smoke, Sally is a pretty sixteen year old orphan. Her father has taught her military tactics, to ride like a Cossack and shoot straight with a pistol, but he has drowned in suspicious circumstances in the South China Sea, Finding herself alone but determinedly independent in Victorian London she sets out to discover the truth about her father’s death, but this involves the terrifying mystery of a bloodsoaked jewel. Although the story uses the ideas of a Victorian Penny-Dreadful, Sally is a sensible hard-working girl who believes the best of people and treats others kindly. In the following books, Sally matures into a successful business woman. She experiences romance, tragedy and the turbulent politics of the time. She is very much an underrated heroine in an unusual trilogy of young adult books, not for the faint-hearted.

North

Some other heroines I chose for my A to Z are perhaps more conventional:

Anne of Green Gables

Heidi

What Katy did

Maia in Journey to the River Sea

Pollyanna

 

 

 

 

R is for Ratty from Wind in the Willows #AtoZChallenge

Wind  Wind in the

In the first chapter of Wind in the Willows, Mole abandons his spring cleaning and wanders down to the riverbank.  There, through a small hole in the opposite bank he spots,

A brown little face, with whiskers.  A grave round face, with the same twinkle in its eye that had first attracted his notice.  Small neat ears and thick silky hair. 

It was the Water Rat!”

Ratty invites Mole to stay with him, enjoy life on the river and meet his friends, Badger and Toad.

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Something about Ratty reminds me of Cleggie from “Last of the Summer Wine.” He is kind, friendly and well adjusted.  He has a strong sense of manners and responsibility, so he wants to make sure everyone around him feels comfortable and included.  He becomes Mole’s mentor, showing him how to enjoy exploration and new discoveries.  He trusts Badger and does his best to guide Toad towards the straight and narrow, but he is usually unsuccessful!

All my A to Z Challenge posts

 

 

 

Q is for Ramona Quimby #AtoZChallenge #FridayReads

Ramona pest    Ramona 8

Ramona Quimby is an ordinary little girl with normal parents and a well-behaved older sister.  Although set in America, this family could easily be a typical British middle-class family where times are sometimes hard. My favourite book is Ramona the Pest when she anxiously starts nursery school alongside her neighbour, Howie.  Her kind teacher, Miss Binney, tells her to, “sit there for the present,” so she patiently waits to be given the present.  She is fascinated by her classmates corkscrew curls so she pulls them to see them ping which, rather harshly I thought, causes her to be suspended from school. Her vivid imagination makes her a joy to encounter but constantly gets her into trouble. As the series continues we see Ramona longing to grow up quickly, dealing with school bullies and trying to help her family when her father loses his job.

“Come on, Mama!” urged Ramona, “We don’t want to be late for school.”

“Don’t pester, Ramona. I’ll get you there in time.”

“I’m not pestering,” protested Ramona who never meant to pester. She was not a slow-poke grown-up. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happens next.

Perhaps you watched Ramona on the TV programme which was pretty true to the books.  I would be proud to have Ramona as a member of my family.