20 January 2018

The Weekend 'Did you miss...:?


It is the weekend - so no reviews,

but did you miss....






and did you find a few moments 
(perhaps during coffee break or lunch)
 to read our series of Diamond Tales?


Don't worry if you missed them - they are all still here! Start with Richard Tearle's Diamond Story.

And why not browse our INDEX PAGE, to see what else of interest you might have missed?


see you all Monday, when we have our Mid-Month Extra post
this month an interesting article by Inge H. Borg



19 January 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Wolf Banner by Paula Lofting




AMAZONUK £2.41 £10.99
AMAZONUS $2.99 
AMAZONCA $n/a

Fictional drama / military
1066 era

Book two Sons of the Wolf series

“1056...England lurches towards war as the rebellious Lord Alfgar plots against the indolent King Edward. Sussex thegn, Wulfhere, must defy both his lord, Harold Godwinson, and his bitter enemy, Helghi, to protect his beloved daughter.
As the shadow of war stretches across the land, a more personal battle rages at home, and when it follows him into battle, he knows he must keep his wits about him more than ever, and courage and fear must become his armour…”

One thing Ms Lofting does very well is create believable detail of time, place and action. Her research is impeccable, her depictions of everyday life in the mid-eleventh century are detailed, and her battle scenes are vividly realistic.

Book two of her Sons of the Wolf series include an interesting set of characters – some real people from history, others imagine, what makes them all interesting is that most, particularly the main characters, are not perfect people, they have their flaws, their good side and bad side. 

Some of the characters I liked very much, others I did not, which also gives this tale of upheaval, trauma (and hope!) that genuine feel of reality. There are scenes of joy, scenes of fear, scenes of laughter and scenes of terror, all blended into the factual elements of the actual period, in this case King Edward (the Confessor), Earl Harold Godwinson and the Welsh King Gryffud, with a few rampaging Viking Danes thrown in for good measure.

This is a second book, and I believe there is to be a third, which could explain the rather too many, in my view, loose ends that were left dangling, and I did feel I would have benefited from reading the first book to have made better sense of some of the sub-plots and what was motivating the characters in this one. The Wolf Banner is a somewhat lengthy and maybe some disciplined pruning would have benefited the tale, as some parts are a little over-flowery or drawn-out, giving it a slight 'romance' feel.

That said, for the energy the author has put into recreating those turbulent years that led to those fateful days of 1066, and the rich, knowledgeable, detail of the period this is a worthy read, especially by those who enjoy this particular period of history. Possibly not a book for readers who are squeamish about battle-scenes though. (Which is a shame as they are very realistic!)


© Mary Chapple

<previous   next >

click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest

18 January 2018

Earl of Shadows By Jacqueline Reiter

Shortlisted for Book of the Month



AMAZON UK £3.99 £7.99

AMAZON US $5.26 $8.99
AMAZON CA $n/a

Biographical Fiction 
1780s
Engand

I approached reading Earl of Shadows with slight trepidation, since it is set in a period of history I know little about. But within a few pages, I was intrigued by the two brothers, William and John Pitt, and the very human flaws rendered fascinating by the author's deft characterizations. A chapter or so later and a devastating blow to their family surrendered them to the fates. With me firmly at their side, each started on a path that would ultimately lead to their own destruction…and redemption.

Ms Reiter’s exceptional research is an effortless foundation for a tale of two brothers – William is charismatic, brilliant and set on a meteoric career in politics. His older brother, John, Earl of Chatham, is destined to be subordinate to the mercurial and clever William. If that was not enough to serve up conflict aplenty, a sea change in English society upsets their world order, and an embittered political confrontation plays out in their daily lives. But it is the small and compelling details that turn this from a fascinating biography into enthralling historical fiction.

At about Chapter Five, I put the Earl of Shadows aside for an hour or two and rolled up my sleeves to familiarize myself with the political and social climate of England in the late 1780s (which to be honest, I had not considered since high school history). But such was the detail written into the novel that I wanted to understand the background, while absorbing the characters and emotional drivers of the two brothers and their fatalistic love-hate relationship. I would recommend anyone not familiar with this period of history to do the same; it significantly heightened my enjoyment of the book.

The beauty of the writing is the events told through the eyes of a flawed character. John is well aware of his weaknesses, and yet is driven to continue to repeat his errors throughout his life. And, reflected in the glory of his successful younger brother, the Earl of Chatham continues to struggle to feel good about himself, his marriage, his role in the world.

Throughout the novel, the 18th Century is brought vividly to life by an author who obviously loves the period and has saturated her knowledge of history with colorful details and glorious interludes that bring us right into the action (I particularly enjoyed the carriage flight and fight along Pall Mall between White’s and Brooks’s clubs). The Court scenes are lavish and detailed, glowing with fabrics and jewels and pools of golden candlelight. And yet in the corners lurk the shadows, and even in a happy marriage with the lovely Mary, John still carries his angst with him.

Without spoiling the end, I thought Ms Reiter brought this beautifully wrought novel to a fitting close at exactly the right point in the Earl of Chatham’s life. And as he mournfully returned to the shadows, part of this flawed but compelling man stayed with me in my heart; the true sign of a great novel. I hope there is more to come. Let me know when, so I can read up on the Walcheren Campaign. Actually, I think I need to go and read about it now. 


© Elizabeth St.John


<previous   next >

click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest

17 January 2018

Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle by Heera Datta

Shortlisted for Book of the Month



AMAZON UK £2.34 £9.99
AMAZON US $3.09 $9.99 
AMAZON CA $12.66

Family Drama / Biographical Fiction
19th century
London

Catherine Dickens, wife of the great Charles Dickens and mother of his ten children, suddenly finds herself abandoned by her husband after twenty-one years of marriage. He provides her with a house and even a financial settlement on condition that she sign a draconian agreement that separates her from her minor children and forbids her from speaking publicly about the matter. (Or the 18 year-old actress he has taken up with.) Of course, Mr. Dickens speaks publicly and often about his wife as well as issuing press releases vilifying her as an unfit mother and even suggesting she had a mental problem.

The problem for Ms. Datta was to create a character in the respected author and champion of under-privileged women, who would do such a terrible thing to an undeserving wife; and also to create a character for Catherine that would show why she didn’t fight, why she passively signed an agreement that left her bereft of her children and painted her as the one at fault in the failed relationship. The author succeeds brilliantly.

We see Catherine go through a range of emotions, in turn miserable and hopeful, angry and accepting, pitiful and passive. But we never see her step outside the role of a women who has been so dominated by a controlling man that she has little will of her own. We may not admire her but we never despise her. We want to cry with her for the repeated blows and give a great cheer when she finds a little joy.

Ms. Datta digs deeper into the pathos of Catherine’s situation to discover that when she is with old friends she is uncomfortable. She worries they wonder how she has adapted, if she knows about the actress, and what kind of mother she really was. But she is also uncomfortable with prospective new friends who don’t know who she is because she has nothing to talk about with them, no husband, no children, no household concerns. It is another, cruel layer of aloneness.
It is always fascinating for authors to read about great figures of literature, but I believe anyone who reads this book will never see Charles Dickens in the same light again.


This is a sad book, but well worth reading. I heartily recommend it.


© Susan Appleyard



click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest


16 January 2018

Blind Tribute by Mari Christie

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


AMAZON UK £3.04 £11.79
AMAZON US $4.02 $19.99
AMAZON CA $27.49

Family Drama /Military
1800s
American Civil War

Shortlisted for Book of the Month 

I think I am in love. With a cantankerous, opinionated, brave, intelligent man named Palmer Harrold Wentworth III. Fortunately, we are of an age. Unfortunately, he doesn’t exist, and even if he did, he’d have been long dead, seeing as he was born 1805 or so. My infatuation with Mr Wentworth, or Harry as his friends call him, is testament to what a fantastic job Ms Christie has done in presenting her protagonist.

Blind Tribute is not an easy book to read. Set in the United States during the Civil War, it is the story of Harry, born a Southerner but since many years living in the north. As the spectre of civil war looms ever closer, Harry initially refuses to take a stand, torn apart by his ancestral ties to the South and his new family and life in Philadelphia. However, as Harry is the chief editor of a newspaper, he cannot avoid the issue of declaring his opinions forever. When the Confederate Army opens fire on Fort Sumter the die is cast and Harry has to choose.

One of the first casualties in any war is the truth. This is perhaps even more valid during a civil war, when brother may end up fighting against brother, both of them convinced they have truth on their side. Harry therefore decides to dedicate himself to presenting the truth of the war, and to do so he returns to Charleston, determined to be as close as possible to the unfolding events.

Obviously, he does not receive the welcome of a prodigal son. His relationship to his father soured over forty years ago and is not exactly improved by what Wentworth senior perceives as Harry’s defection to the Yankees. While not about to deliver any spoilers, let’s just say that Harry’s time in the south ends most abruptly. I have still to recover from the intensity of those particular chapters.

Harry’s experiences in the south leave him a diminished man—in some ways. In others, he grows, having to shed the man he was before the war to emerge another, wiser man. But it is a painful journey of self-discovery Ms Christie subjects her protagonist to, his losses piling up along the way.

That Ms Christie has done extensive research is evident from the first page. In particular, I am impressed by how well she presents the complexities of the war, whether they be political or economic. The conflict as presented by Ms Christie is not black and white, it is a multitude of hues of grey, with one notable, very black, exception: slavery. Heart wrenching descriptions of slave auctions, of the punishment inflicted on slaves, turn this reader’s stomach—and Harry’s.

Blind Tribute is a long book with quite the cast of well-developed characters, all the way from Harry to his utterly obnoxious wife. At times, pace is slow but the hypnotic quality of Ms Richie’s flawless prose, the way she paints detailed pictures of her settings, is addictive and I find myself turning page after page after page, entirely submerged in the world of Harry, whether it is the genteel salons of Philadelphia or the abandoned rooms of an old plantation.
Ms Christie has written a book that I will never forget. It has touched my heart, my soul, my intellect, not something I experience all that often. Blind Tribute is, quite simply, the best book I have read this year.  

© Anna Belfrage




click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest

15 January 2018

The January Mid Month Extra - Inge H. Borg


The Minefield of Writing Historical Fiction
by Inge H. Borg


In the “good old days” before the self-publishing boom, advice from largely inaccessible agents used to be “write what you know.”

I obviously disregarded those sage words—and consequently never found an agent or a publisher to bring me fame and fortune. And to this day, some friends and (dare I say ‘awed’) readers of KHAMSIN, The Devil Wind of The Nile, do ask, “Have you been to Egypt?”

Khamsin plays out in 3080 BCE. I may be old, but not that ancient – nor have I ever imagined to be Nefertiti reborn. Be that as it may, the “feel” of Ancient Egypt has to be there – or your soul, your ba, shall be cursed “never to cross the field of rushes to find eternal peace.”

That leaves RESEARCH; and plenty of it. So, what really happened at the dawn of this amazing civilization which seemingly sprung up out of nowhere as a fully formed society? Nobody knows for certain.

So if we (the historical fiction writers) blithely assume we can just fabricate stuff, we have another think coming. There are plenty of people (I am excluding historians and archaeologists here) who do know a lot more than we writers do. Hence, we have to present our stories in such a way they feel authentic without the much maligned info-dump just to show off what we have learned; and that’s when the trouble is likely to start.

For me, time-lines became a blur of contradictions and "facts" were constantly superseded by new findings. Take Dynasties 00 to 03, for example. (Khamsin deals with the dawn of Dynasty 01). Every publication I hungrily perused for indisputable dates listed a different year, even century, for those dynasties. Of course, we are dealing with things of five-thousand years ago; and the pox on those inconsiderate scribes who didn’t think to save their scrolls in The Cloud.

Take the names of kings (the title pharaoh only appears after Dynasty 05), their wives/consorts, and the ancient places. Most major settlements were described by the Greek priest Manetho (written in Greek, of course). But he, too, was a few thousand years late to the party and—so they say—had quite an imagination.

Another Greek, the historian Herodotus, gave us Memphis, Thebes, and Abydos, among others. The pyramid of Mycinerus? Really? Did Menkaure (also Menkaura or Mencaure) speak Greek? One therefore needs to choose between the various spellings for the same thing and stick consistently to one name.

It all started when I happened upon publications by individual archaeologists describing, nay, expounding their latest and greatest findings. One stumbling block was the often apparent hesitation of their colleagues to accept contradictions to their research. Likely for fear that those might usurp their own published and accepted scientific papers (perhaps even endanger tenure). Hello! Are those theses chiseled onto modern Rosetta Stones, and are therefore forever indisputable?

When I started my saga, I had no Internet. “You need to read William Budge,” the librarian suggested. Great Horus! Little did I know how outdated his writings were. And as I wormed my way past Howard Carter et al, I finally stumbled upon the illustrious albeit highly opinionated Dr. Zahi Hawass, then the Cairo Museum Director. (And if my imagined character, Dr. Jabari El Masri, of Books 2-5 seems to exhibit similar traits, I deny any parallels – although he, too, wears a jaunty Fedora. Sue me.)

Mostly, I wrangled with the familiar names of the ancient sites (now changed to Arabic): Hierakonpolis, Herakleopolis, Heliopolis. “Wait a minute. These are all Greek names again,” I sputtered. I had a heck of a time to find the original name for the northern capital built by Menes. Ineb-hedj (City of White Walls). Yes, it’s the ancient name for the well bandied-about Memphis. It definitely wouldn’t have been Memphis in 3080 BCE.

I resorted to appendices and a glossary for readers who wanted to know “the real thing.” But one must consider the casual yet still knowledgeable reader. Chucking authenticity aside, I decided to stick with a few Greek names for the better-known gods, such as Isis and Horus (this was before a name like “Isis” became such a maligned word).

Some quite successful authors do slip up. For instance, I read (but obviously did not review) Book 1 of a popular Egyptian series where the enthusiastic author has a desert girl dream of a snarling bear. Hello! Even if this was a typo meant to be a “boar,” neither animal did exist in Ancient Egypt, especially not in the desert. Also, the author’s young Nefertiti notices a rival’s “apricot” cheeks and “strawberry” lips. Such fruits were not known at the time. Most readers and reviewers didn’t seem to care as long as “boy got girl.”

So, what is an innocent soul like me – a former Austrian mountain goat transformed from California sailor to Arkansas hermit - doing traipsing in and out of this ancient historical minefield? Sometimes, I think, just maybe, I should be writing erotica instead (it sells better). But, I suspect, that too would require a certain amount of research.

In the end, the storyline itself must prevail, with the exotic backdrop enhancing rather than challenging the reader’s experience.

No matter how well written and received, reviews are ultimately vital to bolster an author’s visibility, especially on Amazon. Even less complimentary opinions help. Although authors are exhorted to bite their tongue and never to comment on them, we do have a secret weapon to our disposal for sweet (albeit mostly private) revenge.

One rather brutal review stands out for me. It was written by a reviewer who subsequently changed his name for unknown reasons. Pity. It was such a splendidly telling name. I abbreviate and borrowed it for Book 3 – and made him the Keeper of the Penises (for my antagonist’s embezzled collection of Greek statuary).

It all turned out well, though, and Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile (Book 1 – Legends of the Winged Scarab) spawned other storms. From the modern-day action/adventures of Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea (Book 2), to After the Cataclysm (Book 3 in which the Yellowstone Supervolcano blows its top), to The Nile Conspiracy (Book 5 dealing with the – real –Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile – endangering Egypt’s water supply).

Today’s ability to self-publish (without the outrageous fees so-called “vanity presses” some years ago tried to extract from desperate writers) is a fabulous chance for us. Add to this the many readers/bloggers willing to review and champion The Indie, there is the wonderful opportunity to read tremendously talented writers whose manuscripts would have previously languished on the shelves of obscurity. I, for one, am happy for the chance to see my passion recognized by at least a few (more, of course, would make me even happier).

The morale of my story: If one writes HF, one has to do intense research. In the end, one must know more than will ever be used in the novel – but this knowledge is sure to lead us safely through the Minefield of Writing Historical Fiction.



About the Author:

Born and raised in Austria, Inge H. Borg completed her language studies in London and Paris. To continue her study of French (in a round-about way), she accepted a job at the French Embassy in Moscow. After Ms. Borg was transferred to the States, she has worked on both coasts, and after several years of living in San Diego, she finally became a US citizen.

Ms. Borg now lives in a diversified lake community in Arkansas (call it her happy exile), where she continues to write historical and contemporary fiction. Her hobbies include world literature, opera, sailing and, of course, devising new plots for future novels.

Author Pages -- Inge H. Borg
Twitter: @AuthorBorg


Discovering Diamonds Review: Khamsin: 
https://discoveringdiamonds.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/khamsin-by-inge-h-borg.html



13 January 2018

The Weekend 'Did You Miss'?


It is the weekend - so no reviews, but did you find a few moments 
(perhaps during coffee break or lunch)
 to read our series of Diamond Tales?


Don't worry if you missed them - they are all still here! Start with Richard Tearle's Diamond Story.

And why not browse our INDEX PAGE, to see what else of interest you might have missed?


see you all Monday, when we have our Mid-Month Extra post
this month an interesting article by Inge H. Borg



12 January 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy



AMAZONUK £0.99 £10.99
AMAZONUS $1.29 £13,99 
AMAZONCA $n/a

Fictional Saga /Military
Saxon England

Bernicia Chronicles Book 4

Continuing this impressive saga, our hero, Beorbrand, now scarred in body and mind, has many memories that haunt his past, but decisions, no matter how hard, have to be made for the future…Is his decision to lead his men to fight the right one? The outcome of battle – whichever way it falls – could bring much grief. Is the duty of honour worth it?

For readers who have been following this absorbing series, Book Four will be a must – it can be read as a stand-alone, but I would suggest starting at the beginning to enjoy the full flavour of these characters, the detail of the period and Harffy’s highly regarded writing skill.

This story contains battle scenes, which if you relish the detail of the upheaval of the Anglo -Saxon world you will enjoy, but might not be suitable for the more ‘sensitive’ readers who shy away from the violence that inevitably comes with war and battles – although Harffy handles these scenes with great skill and sensitivity.

An engaging, richly researched, strong story with vivid, but also flawed, characters which make them one-hundred percent believable.

A definite must for Anglo-Saxon readers who like their heroes to be truly heroic!


© Ellen Hill


click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest

11 January 2018

The Chosen Man by J.G. Harlond

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


AMAZONUK £1.85 £1.88
AMAZONUS $2.43 $18.50
AMAZONCA $n/a

Nautical / Fictional Saga / Thriller
17th century
Rome / Amsterdam / Europe

In the mid-17th Century, Holland suffered from a financial 'bubble' whereby tulip bulbs were sold for prices that would have bought a small house before the bubble burst and they became worthless. This is fact and is the backdrop for J G Harlond's entertaining novel in which she attributes the phenomenon to a plot devised by the Spanish who were at war with the Dutch. The Vatican is also involved.

Ludovico da Portovenere – Ludo – is the man chosen by the conspirators to engineer the disaster. He is recruited by a  modest  priest who only wants to return to England.  Ludo is an Italian merchant: resourceful, not averse to some dodgy dealings, charming and expendable.  Accompanied by a Spanish lad, Marcos, who wishes to better himself and a beautiful Spanish woman, Alina, of diminished status whom he rescues from slavers. Whilst depositing the priest to his home, Ludo arranged for Alina to marry a weak-chinned son of an English nobleman. Needless to say, money changes hands but Ludo intends, one day, to return for her.

Here the book splits in two: Alina's trials in a strange country are inter-weaved with Ludo's successes in Holland. Add in a perverted steward and a cook who may or may not be a witch and we have some grand characters who all contribute to a tumultuous finale.

I had one or two minor nit-pick niggles, but nothing that spoiled my enjoyment of this, recommended read. The cover proclaims this to be part of a trilogy, though there are no indications within the pages of the back cover blurb as to any further volumes.


© Richard Tearle
<previous   next >

click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest

10 January 2018

The Ballade of Mary Reede - Or the Twilight of the Buccaneers by N. C. Schell


AMAZONUK £5.42 £11.50
AMAZONUS $7.16 $13.95
AMAZONCA $33.36

Nautical / Pirates / Fictional Saga
18th Century
Caribbean

Twilight of the Buccaneers series: Book 1

One summer in 1752, the son of an old shipmate visits John Tanner at his home in the hills of New England. This lad brings with him a small chest with the message that perhaps it’s time to tell the story. What’s inside awakens a host of memories and emotions – some good, some bad – but his friend is right. Nearly three decades have passed since Captain Johnson published his account of the pirates, and he omitted many details to protect John and others. Better to record the full story now, before it’s too late.

Captain Charles Johnson first entered John’s life at the age of ten. The successful investor had once sailed with William Dampier and later journeyed to the Levant. He also has a particular fascination with pirates, attending their trials, collecting anecdotes, and interviewing them in their gaol cells before they hang. When John turns thirteen, Johnson provides him with the opportunity to learn the trade of ship’s carpenter. Once John receives his papers, Johnson offers him the position of master carpenter aboard the Rachel, a brig he helped to build.

Rachel sails for the Caribbean, where the threat from pirates has lessened since Governor Woodes Rogers arrived at New Providence. She is a happy ship and all goes well until a topsail schooner is sighted off the island of Turks. John’s best friend, able seaman Candy Jones, suspects those aboard the strange sail are pirates, perhaps even some he knows. He hopes not, as he took the King’s Pardon and has no intention of going back on his word.

After the captain is rowed over to the pirate ship, some of the cutthroats board the Rachel. Two in particular catch John’s attention. The first is Black Mike Magoon, whom John likens to a “maddened highland bullock.” He once sailed with Blackbeard and is just as crazy and violent. The other has a handsome face and keen eyes that always watch what’s happening around him. Mark Reede is quiet and polite, but prefers people call him by his surname. When John finds himself on Black Mike’s bad side, Reede saves John’s life. Doing so is to honor their captain’s wishes, but the intervention heightens the animosity between the two pirates and Black Mike vows a day of reckoning will come – sooner rather than later.

After Captain Jack Rackham comes aboard Rachel, the looting begins, a trial is held, and volunteers are asked to join their merry band. But John and Candy aren’t given an opportunity to decline Rackham’s generous offer. Both are forced; neither signs the pirates’ articles and each vows to do only what he must to survive. Reede is given the responsibility of protecting and teaching John. As the days pass, John enjoys his time with Reede, yet is also perplexed by feelings that don’t make sense. Although the pirates successfully raid other vessels and trade with maroons and smugglers, their seizures incense the authorities and before long pirate hunters are on their trail.

This is by no means just a pirate tale. It’s also about the maroons and smugglers, people whose lives intersected with pirates. The meaning of nautical jargon may stump a few readers, but its use never impedes the story’s flow. Schell incorporates a mock trial into this narrative, but as a wonderfully descriptive way of showing how pirates entertained themselves and sat in judgment of sea captains and their treatment of the sailors under them. His interpretation of how the animosity sparks between Reede and Magoon is plausible and enlightening. The same is true of what happens to Anne Bonny after she is condemned to hang.

Having Charles Johnson, the author of the most famous pirate history ever published, participate in this story is both delightful and refreshing. His role may be minor, but it is definitely an important one that is easily believed. Schell instills life into this historian’s book so it is no longer mere words on the page. His portrayal of these men and women is as vivid and realistic as the world he weaves around them. He is a master at creating unique, memorable characters be they major or minor ones. Although I share Irish roots with Anne Bonny, it is Mary Reed who has long been my favorite of this famous duo and this story is an admirable and realistic portrayal of her life. As for the minor characters, my favorite is Trinket, a pirate who comes back from the dead.

The Ballade of Mary Reede is the first book in the Twilight of the Buccaneers series. It is a well-crafted, captivating tale rich in historical detail and pirate lore. The love story is both heartwarming and heart wrenching, and even though history tells us how the story must end, never once does Schell permit us to stop hoping that love will triumph. His re-imagining of John’s farewell to Mary is a poignant moment that stays with you long after the story ends.

© Cindy Vallar



click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest


9 January 2018

Pleasing Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


AMAZON UK £2.63 £8.07
AMAZON US $3.46 $13.93 
AMAZON CA $12.48

Historical Fiction
17th Century
London

Walking into Deb Willet's fascinating world is a gradual, glorious immersion into the sight, sounds and emotions of 17th century London, and as the novel progresses, this world becomes more and more real, until the characters move in and take over. I loved the smooth blending of detailed research and well-written fiction; it is apparent that Ms. Swift is a talented historian with a gift for making the past come alive.

For those of us who know something of this time, it was delightful to relive such contemporary events as the Whores' Petition to Lady Castlemaine; while for readers who are not familiar with this period, the highly accessible characters and engaging language welcomes even those new to Historical Fiction. I loved the character of Deb - she always tried to find the best in some very difficult situations, dealing with conniving Dutch spies, lecherous Mr Pepys and the quicksand of her relationship with Mrs. Pepys.

Pleasing Mr Pepys brings us into a cast of strong characters, all of whom try to influence Deb to serve their own dubious motives. Whether she’s being persuaded to spy on Mr Pepys’s writings, defending her virtue to his (rightfully) suspicious wife, or questioning her own Royalist convictions, she thoughtfully tries to find a way out of difficult situations while maintaining her own integrity. And in the background is the clamor and clatter of London…fortune-tellers, actors, shopkeepers and clerics all come alive and weave in and out of country-girl Deb’s introduction to life in the city.

A novel of difficult quests and lost opportunities, I found it a real page-turner, anchored by Deb's adventures. She fell in love, lost her love, and yes...there is a very satisfying ending.

Highly highly recommend. This is one for my keeper shelf, and I know I shall return again to Deb Willet and her world.

© Elizabeth St John





click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest