23 May 2017

Nȧȧpiikoan Winter by Alethea Williams



Amazon UK £5.62 £13.67
Amazon US $7.00 $19.95
Amazon CA $26.08

Family Drama
19th century
American Settlement /Native American

Based on the memoirs of a Hudson Bay Company fur trader, this novel centres around two people, Buffalo Stone Woman, a captured slave to a Native tribe, and Donald Thomas who is seventeen years old and who is sent, because of his linguistic skills, to live among the Native Pikani tribe in the Rocky Mountains in order to develop trade. There, he discovers Isobel, a Mexican landowner’s daughter who was captured many years previously by the tribe – and known now as Buffalo Stone Woman. Inevitably, a relationship grows between the two of them, which creates difficulties for the trade partnership which he is supposed to be seeking and encouraging.

Some of the scenes are graphic and unsettling, the Native names can be difficult to get your head around (I merely skipped over them) but Ms Williams writes with great skill, confidence and what appears to be highly detailed research. Her understanding of the differences between the two cultures is handled with dexterity, and makes this a recommended, very enjoyable read.

© Ellen Hill




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22 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The House at Zaronza by Vanessa Couchman


 Amazon UK £1.99 £8.99
Amazon US $2.55 $11.99
Amazon CA $16.06

Romance / Family Drama
1914 - 18
Corsica

It is delightful when one of the main characters is a place, not a person, when the scenery is described in as much detail and as vividly as the lead protagonist and the plot.

In the present day, Rachel Swift goes to Corsica, the place where her mother was born, with the intention of researching her family history. She finds some letters, which are anonymous but passionate and written to ‘Maria’. Gradually she uncovers the desperate love between the couple, the mountains they must climb to be together and the heartbreak they must endure.

Maria becomes a nurse when war breaks out – but more than this I am not saying, because it will spoil the story.

The House at Zaronza is an emotional, absorbing and powerful read, a story of betrayal, misunderstanding and a love story, all wrapped in the tragedy that these can, so often bring, especially when war is the main background.

The story is of the island during these turbulent years, and of the people – local inhabitants, invaders and who had to live, die, and survive.

This is a debut novel, and although written with passion and skill it could perhaps, as with all new authors, have benefitted from an additional structural edit, for the pace ebbs and flows a little, especially at the beginning. But do persevere – even if only for the delight of the descriptive scenery. Vanessa Couchman has a huge potential talent, and will be an author to watch, I think.

© Mary Chapple



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20 May 2017

Its the Third Weekend in May


This weekend please welcome

A TRIBUTE TO RICHARD ZIMLER 
by Christoph Fischer

click here

Richard Zimler




PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE

JANUARY    :  A Tribute to Rosemary Sutcliff by Helen Hollick


   
APRIL           :  A Tribute to Harriet Doerr by Inge H. Borg

MAY              :  A Tribute to Richard Zimler by Christoph Fischer

JUNE            :   A Tribute to Ellis Peters


WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR!
  • Cover of Month announced on the FIRST weekend of the month
  • Book of the Month announced on the SECOND weekend in the month
  • Guest Spot - posted on the THIRD weekend in the month
  • Reader's Voice - posted on the LAST weekend in the month  

19 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of ROMA AMOR Sherry Christie

 

 Amazon UK £2.39 £18.53
Amazon US $3.06 $22.96
Amazon CA n/a

Family Drama / Romance / Adventure
Rome 37 AD

Headstrong and hot-tempered, Marcus would rather prove his courage by leading legions against Rome's enemies. Yet when his father calls him home from the frontier, he has no choice but to befriend Caligula - the man he blames for not saving his brother.
Caught in a web of deceit, conspiracy, and betrayal reaching from Palatine mansions to the city's grimy, teeming streets, he will uncover a dark secret that threatens his family, the woman he desires, even his life... and may bring chaos to the young Roman Empire.”

Rome at the time of Caligula, we are all familiar with the ‘Fiddling while Rome burns’ character, and to a certain extent have we had enough novels about this period and character? I think not, because each vividly written story brings a new and different angle to this period of history when life was cheap, and the chap in charge of it, the Emperor was more volatile than Vesuvius!

Marcus Licinius Carinna has been fighting on the edges of the Empire, but is called back to Rome by his father who is one of Caligula’s advisors, and his recently deceased brother was a close friend to Caligula. Marcus is to take his brother’s place as Caligula’s friend. And then the plot thickens, to coin a phrase.

Ms Christie’s characters are well portrayed, with the everyday life in Rome equally as intriguing, from slave to Emperor. The streets, the homes, the palaces are all well drawn and feel believable. There are some exciting descriptions and scenes, some romance, some fighting, some adventure… enough to please most readers who enjoy novels about Rome.

I enjoyed the novel, it was absorbing and very good entertainment.


© Ellen Hill



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18 May 2017

Darcy by Any Other Name by Laura Hile



Amazon UK £4.00 £15.59
Amazon US $5.12 $22.58
Amazon CA $29.69

Fantasy
'Jane Austen' Regency 
England

The delightful Mr Darcy and insufferable Mr Collins exchange words in Netherfield gardens when a storm breaks and both men are struck by lightning. When they wake each man finds himself in the body of the other. With only tuppence to his name, Darcy can find only one good thing in the bizarre drama – as Collins, he is living at Longbourn with Elizabeth and her family.

If you can accept this body swap twist, then reading the book is both interesting and entertaining. If Darcy soon realises his misfortune, Mr Collins takes a little longer to see himself as the master of Pemberley. With no immediate way of resolving the situation, neither of them chooses to reveal what has happened.

The language is suited to the time period, though there are one or two Americanisms which do not sit well in a Regency tale, and a few typos – but they do not detract from the story. The book is very long, over 600 pages, and would perhaps have been better if the middle section had been tighter and shorter.

The moral quotes in the folly inform the reader, if not Mr Collins, that each man was intended to appreciate and learn from the other’s situation in life. Darcy’s attempts to woo Elizabeth while looking like Collins showed much more clearly how one can fall in love with the spirit of a man rather than his appearance. It is doubtful if Mr Collins learned anything at all from the experience and I wished that Mr Bingley had been more perceptive to the changes in his friend.

Most enjoyable and entertaining.

© Jen Black

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17 May 2017

DARK WHISKY ROAD by Jen Black



Amazon UK £1.20
Amazon US $1.50
Amazon CA n/a

Romance
Victorian
England

“For an ex-duchess, obeying orders proves difficult. But Melanie has little choice. Scarred and cheated out of her widow's entitlement, she accepts a post as housekeeper in remote Gavington House where widowed Lord Jarrow rears his young daughter. He has secrets, and Mel's curiosity will not let her rest until she has discovered what it is that occupies both him and his friend Mangerton. Soon she is embroiled in lying to the Excise men, and wondering if she dare risk falling in love again.”

Maybe Dark Whisky Road is a little melodramatic, and reminiscent of Jane Eyre in places, but what the heck? This is a thoroughly enjoyable true-to-the-genre romance.

I confess I initially selected the book because of the lovely piebald horse on the cover, which shows that cover content is as important as the narrative, but soon found myself engrossed in the struggles and doubts of our wonderful heroine, Melanie Grey. Forced to leave her wealthy life as a duchess, Melanie finds a position as a governess and housekeeper for a widower and his daughter. And so the plot continues from there, leading to the Excise Men and other such nasty baddies.

There are fascinating and well-created characters in this story, most of them with secrets or struggles to overcome, and of course there is an anxious budding of love. We meet the typical-genre necessity of brooding heroes, unsure heroines, dastardly anti-heroes, remote settings and misunderstandings

Jen Black writes with a crisp, refreshing style and elegant descriptions which take her reader right into the scenes she is creating. Her characters are equally well written, Melanie in particular is not the typical feisty beauty who has it all – she is vulnerable has her fears and none of the modern feminist views we often come to expect in novels. In this story she is ordinary – and I very much liked her, and Ms Black, for it!


© Helen Hollick




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16 May 2017

BEYOND DERRYNANE by Kevin O'Connell



Amazon UK £4.54 £11.21
Amazon US $5.57 $15.99
Amazon CA $20.74

Fictional Saga (adult content)
18th Century
Ireland / Vienna

This work of fiction deals with one of the less frequently mentioned aspects of Irish history. Throughout most of the eighteenth century the lives of Irish Catholics were constrained by so called 'Penal Laws' which prevented them from participating in certain professions; they were forbidden to practice their religion or own property, and education was denied them. Despite this, a handful of wealthy Catholic families managed to hold on to their wealth and continue to trade out of small ports in the South West of the island with the Catholic nations of Europe – France, Spain and Portugal in particular. Not permitted to serve in the British king's army, their men signed up instead to the armies of Britain's enemies – the previously mentioned three nations and the Austro-Hungary empire.

One such family was the O'Connells of Derrynane in County Kerry. The most famous member of this clan, memorialised in the name of Dublin's principle thoroughfare, was Daniel O'Connell. He, however, came to prominence in the first half of the nineteenth century, after the Penal Laws were removed, along with Ireland's independent government, by the Act of Union.

The principle protagonist in this novel is Daniel's aunt, Eileen. Married and widowed before her 17th birthday, the real Eileen later married a man from Cork but was widowed for the second time when he was killed for his opposition to the Penal Laws. This second husband had served as an officer in the Hungarian Hussars, attached to the court of Empress Marie Theresa in Vienna.

This version of Eileen's early life covers that first marriage and the six years between it and the second. Following the tragic end of her first marriage, she and her older sister, Aby, are sent to serve in the Court of Marie Theresa, where their uncle is already well established as a General in the army with the honorary title of Baron. Aby becomes Lady-in-Waiting to the Empress and Eileen governess and riding tutor to the Empress's two youngest daughters.

The novel falls naturally into two sections, the first dealing with the first marriage, and the second with life in Vienna. I found the use of language a little disconcerting at first, with its convoluted sentence structures laced with numerous qualifying clauses. The author tells us this is a deliberate attempt to replicate the writing of the period. I have to say that I soon became used to it. The subject matter very quickly held my interest despite the distraction of the sentence construction.

My interest flagged a little during some of the passages dealing with life at court. I suspect, however, that there will be many readers who will enjoy this; those who are fans of the television series Versailles, for example.

A warning: Eileen is portrayed as someone who enjoys sex in all its many forms. Indeed, her first experience, on her wedding night, provides the excuse for a brutal assault by her elderly husband. Subsequently, both are shown enjoying a very active sex life before the old man's untimely death by a heart attack. In Vienna Eileen forms a relationship with a Swedish officer and, again, embarks on a series of sexual adventures. Not that this plays more than a subsidiary role in her life, but it does make it impossible to recommend the book for younger readers, or those who dislike sexual content.

Eileen's second marriage offers plenty of opportunity for further adventures (sexual and otherwise!) and there is, in this volume, a brief introduction of one of her brothers (also called Daniel) to life as a cadet in Louis XV's École Militaire in Paris, which promises to offer another fascinating thread in the history of this remarkable Irish clan.

© Frank Parker





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15 May 2017

THE MAGICIAN'S BRIDE by Jen Black


Amazon.UK £0.99
Amazon US $1.24
Amazon CA n/a

Romance / Fantasy / Adventure

Viking

“Gisla might have won her freedom, but can she stay out of the evil magician’s clutches? There seems nothing that can save her from Karli Olafsson except a handsome stranger who doesn’t believe in magic…. His name is Olli.

This wonderful Viking romp will suit any reader who likes a bit of magic and adventure mixed in with the romance.

Gisla is a woman with determination and courage, and beyond all else is set on avoiding a marriage she does not want, particularly as it is to a less than pleasant magician, Karli Olafsson. Olli Ketilsson, on the other hand, is a young, slightly immature man who has flawed edges. Then there is Flane, Olli’s foster father, who relies on his ship’s crew to aid Gisla when she needs help. The escapes and escapades come at page-turning speed, overdone for real life, but this isn’t meant to be taken seriously as fact, it is a fun, romantic pleasure read and as such, it excels.

Set in the Norse settlement area of the west coast of Scotland, Cumbria in northern England and Dublin, the story gives a believable picture of these rough and unruly times when Pagan ritual ran alongside early Christian.

The Magician’s Bride is a light, easy read absolutely ideal for satisfying e-book entertainment while travelling or lazing in the sun somewhere. For less than $2/£1 or free on Kindle Unlimited how can you go wrong?


© Anne Holt




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13 May 2017

Its The Second Weekend in May

No reviews at the weekend


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12 May 2017

CAMELOT'S QUEEN by Nicole Evelina



Amazon UK £3.20 £9.81
Amazon US $3.99
Amazon CA $18.30

Fantasy / Fictional Saga
Arthurian
Britain

Guinevere's Tale Book 2

This is an engrossing continuation of the first book in the series, Daughter of Destiny. Full of mysticism, fantasy, romance and adventure seen through the eyes of Guinevere herself. The characters are believable and engaging – the nice ones and the nasty ones!

Ms Evelina skilfully blends the few facts we know of the period with beautifully written fiction. She creates such an emotive and strong voice for Guinevere that this series is surely a must for all lovers of the fantasy side of Arthurian fiction.

Guinevere is now married to Arthur, the king, a marriage she did not want, but the couple come to respect each other and realise that their own feelings must rise above what is good for the kingdom. But of course life, especially in the world of fiction, is never as easy or straightforward as that.

I did spot a couple of anachronisms and typos but frankly this is such an engrossing story these were easily ignored. Easily read as a stand-alone.

© Mary Chapple





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11 May 2017

MADAME PRESIDENTESS by Nicole Evelina


Amazon UK £3.51 £10.20
Amazon US $3.97 $11.49
Amazon CA $18.43

Biographical fiction / American History
1872
USA

“Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books. Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to "become ruler of her people."

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it's not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they've so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud "Notorious Victoria" as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, "Mrs. Satan's" radical views on women's rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time - a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century - but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.”

How many Americans, let alone us Brits on this side of the Pond have heard of this extraordinary lady, Victoria Woodhull? I would guess at a mere handful only. Familiar with our own Ms Pankhurst and Women’s Suffrage here in Britain I was interested to discover this US equivalent theme, and ended the book by wholeheartedly wishing that Ms Evelina could stray into the realm of Alternative Fiction and place Ms Woodhull as elected President!

Do not be put off by the thought that this might be nothing more than a novel about political events and women’s rights – it is both these things but primarily it is about a little-known part of American history which is both intriguing and fascinating. Written in Ms Woodhull’s voice, Ms Evelina deftly weaves the historical facts into the fictional inventive via a highly enjoyable and talented style of writing which vividly echoes Ms Woodhull’s own courage and determination.

The inclusion of an author’s note outlining what was fact and what was fiction in this novel was as engrossing as the story itself. What a pity that today’s political upheavals cannot be equally as enthralling as this most excellent novel!

© Helen Hollick



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10 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of CHILDREN OF THE CHIEFTAIN: BOUNTY by Michael E. Wills


Amazon UK £1.99 £7.99
Amazon US $2.45 $12.99
Amazon CA $8.59

 Young Adult / Adventure / Fictional Saga / Nautical
Viking
Constantinople

Children of the Chieftain Series #3

“The young crew of the Viking ship 'Eagle' set out on a new journey when they are given the task of delivering a message in the land of the Rus. But fate has a surprise in store for them when they are ordered to travel on the Viking trading route south to Constantinople, a route fraught with danger. They must face warring tribesmen, deadly rapids and a host of other dangers before they reach their destination. There the adventure continues when they find themselves in the service of the emperor of the Greeks.”

Bounty is the third adventure in this delightful series for Young Adults, continuing
Ahl Brightsword’s story.

The Eagle’s crew are attempting to gather the treasure needed to end their banishment and return to their home, but find themselves joining with a fleet of warriors intent on aiding the Greek Emperor at Miklagard to defend against an invasion.

This is a fast-paced novel intent on drama and action, a prerequisite for attracting the attention of young adult fiction – especially for boys. Mr Wills seems to know his business when it comes to the detail of Viking ships and shipping.

Bounty can be read as a stand-alone, but starting at the beginning with Book One, Children of the Chieftain: Betrayed will heighten the adventure.


© Ellen Hill




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9 May 2017

THE MASK REVEALED by Julia Brannan

Amazon UK £1.99 £6.99  
Amazon US $2.49 $12.99
Amazon CA $16.99

Fictional Saga / Adventure
1700s Jacobite Rebellion
Britain /France

 The Jacobite Chronicles Book 2

“The second in the fascinating series about the lives of the beautiful Beth Cunningham, her family and friends... Britain moves ever closer to the 1745 rebellion and the impending attempt to restore the Stuarts to the British throne. With no other options available to her, Beth marries the effete and tedious social butterfly Sir Anthony Peters. She resigns herself to a future of formal parties and dismal social gatherings, whilst accompanying a husband who is both tiresome and physically repellent to her, but consoles herself with the thought that if she is not to know love, then at least she will have a secure and comfortable life. It may be uneventful, but she will be free of her brother. The ink on the marriage contract is hardly dry, however, when Beth makes a shocking discovery, one that turns her world upside down and throws her whole future into doubt once more. Almost immediately she must make a decision. Will she opt for the safe but dreary life her husband wishes her to lead, or will she fight for a life of passion, adventure and excitement, knowing that in doing so, she risks not only her own life, but the lives of those she loves?”

Beth and Alex continue their fascinating adventures in this second tale of romance and deceit. I thoroughly enjoyed this most exciting sequel to book one (this can be read as a stand-alone but I heartily recommend starting at the beginning with Mask of Duplicity.)

The twists and turns that the characters – and the reader – face keep the pages turning, with that ‘need to know what happens next’ feel. The writing style is excellent, the characters and plot believable. Yes we know the characters will get into scrapes, that there will be misunderstandings and all sorts of difficulties that they get into and out of. And we also know they will probably sort everything in the end because this is a series and the characters will more-than-likely be back for more adventuring, but the pleasure of reading an excellent ‘drama’ series such as this is not knowing how the characters get themselves out of various pickles!

Ms Brannan has obviously studied the period of Jacobite rebellion in great depth for the detail seems authentic for the political, court and wider-world historical fact. Yes the story is romanticised a little – but is that not the stuff that makes fiction entertaining? And this is highly entertaining! A recommended Diamond read indeed!


© Anne Holt


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