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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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

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

A Daughter’s Promise #NewRelease by Ann Bennett #TuesdayBookBlog

Daughter'sPromise

A daughter’s promise to her dying father, uncovers wartime secrets that cast dark shadows over three generations of one family.

In 2015, 90-year old Grace Summers receives some old sketches – the work of her deceased husband, Jack. One sketch is of a beautiful Indian woman in a street in Kuala Lumpur. This brings back bitter-sweet memories of the 1940s, when Grace met and married Jack, whose world had been torn apart by his time as a prisoner of war in Burma.

In 1988, Grace’s daughter, Louise, embarks on a journey to Burma to fulfil a promise she made to Jack on his death-bed. She meets a young Burmese man, Zeya, an activist, and gets caught up in pro-democracy demonstrations, with tragic consequences.

In 2015, Louise and her daughter Eve, retrace Louise’s steps to Myanmar, to research Jack’s wartime experiences and to search for the girl in his sketch. But they are unprepared for the long-buried secrets their journey will unearth…

Once again, Ann Bennett has written a moving story set in the East, where past history resonates through a family.  In her competent hands, an accurate description of the turbulent history of Burma plays out in a tale of sadness and secrets.

In A Daughter’s Promise three women’s lives have been affected by the tragic life of Jack Summers who was imprisoned by the Japanese army and made to work on the notorious Burma railway during the second world war.  Grace looks back to the days when she nursed Jack on his return to England and found herself falling in love with him.  Their daughter, Louise recollects her terrifying visit to Burma during pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988 and the secrets she has kept ever since, while grand-daughter Eve, finding herself at a crisis in her life, is determined to make her own journey to present day Myanmar in order to discover what happened to her grandfather.

The relationships between the generations are sensitively explored and we share their investigation into the mystery of the beautiful Indian woman whom Jack had painted.  At first the reader might find Jack irresponsible but as the contents of his wartime diary are revealed, the true horror of his experiences and his selfless actions to help others, engage our sympathy.  And from this tragic background comes the germ of happiness for Eve and Louise.  A captivating story of 20th century love and suffering, which is well worth reading.

A Daughter’s Promise is available this week on Amazon UK

My Review of The Foundling’s Daughter by Ann Bennett

The Work of Art: A Regency Romance by Mimi Matthews #RBRT #NewRelease

work of art

An Uncommon Beauty…

Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

An Unlikely Hero…

Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.
Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?

Phyllida Satterthwaite is presented to us surrounded by a cacophony of misbehaving dogs, all of whom she owns and cares about. Insisting on bringing them to the London home of her uncle Edgar Townsend, she must soon find a husband to provide for her, now she is penniless.  It is apparent that she puts animals before people and she seems unaware of her beauty, only thinking herself odd because of her mismatched eye colours.  But for one person, the Duke of Moreland, she is a work of art, which he wishes to add to his collection.

It might have gone according to Townsend’s plan had it not been for the noble actions of Captain Arthur Heywood, but what use is he, so badly injured from the battle of Albuera that he can hardly walk. Yet Arthur and Philly are drawn together because they don’t fit into the artificial society of Regency London.  Arthur fears a terrible fate will befall Philly and he is prepared to use his wealth, and power to keep her safe.  But can there be a happy ending?  Arthur is damaged, physically and mentally, while Philly is an innocent, gentle girl who longs for independence and a safe place to look after her animals.

As with all Miss Matthews’ novels, it is the conversations between hero and heroine which catch the imagination. As love grows, problems increase. Philly is still in danger and Arthur is not fit enough to protect her.  There are credible misunderstandings and a complex plot but the intimacy of this delightful couple is such a pleasure to read.

The Work of Art can be pre-ordered on Amazon Uk for delivery on July 24th

You read my review of The Lost Letter, a Victorian romance by Mimi Matthews here