Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Today Mercedes Rochelle reviews Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I by Samantha Wilcoxson. The author has very kindly offered a signed paperback copy as a giveaway.  To be in with a chance of winning this wonderful prize, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Good luck!


'God save the Queen! God save our good Queen Mary!'
When these words rang out over England, Mary Tudor thought her troubles were over. She could put her painful past - the loss of her mother and mistreatment at the hands of her father - behind her.
With her accession to the throne, Mary set out to restore Catholicism in England and find the love of a husband that she had long desired. But the tragedies in Mary's life were far from over. How did a gentle, pious woman become known as 'Bloody Mary'?


Forever condemned by her appellation “Bloody Mary”, Henry VIII’s eldest daughter always seems to get short shrift when talking about the Tudor world. Samantha Wilcoxson has tried to make up for this in her novel with the curious title “Queen of Martyrs”. Is she a martyr herself, or is she lording it over other martyrs, so to speak? It’s hard to say. Mary certainly seemed to feel like she was never quite loved enough, never quite strong enough or healthy enough or wise enough. 

She was constantly on the verge of a migrane which would condemn her to bed for a number of days. After her glorious entry into London, Mary was stunned that her popularity diminished so quickly—though even she seemed to understand that her unfortunate choice of husbands had something to do with it. But, true to her Tudor heritage, she was determined to have her way regardless of the consequences. That went for religion as well, though it was difficult for me to determine just what percentage of the population welcomed a return to the old faith. Never mind; it didn't matter. She knew best.

I was expecting more details about Mary's antipathy for her sister. In this novel, although the subject was broached, Elizabeth's dire situation didn't get all that much attention. Her release from the Tower was almost an afterthought. How much danger was Elizabeth in? Did she meet Philip while she was incarcerated? Since this book wasn't about Elizabeth, we'll have to go elsewhere to get an answer. The main concern here was Mary's unhappy marriage, her poor health, and her dependence on her cousin Reginald Pole—a bad influence, as far as I can see! 

I almost felt sorry for Mary’s misfortunes until she decided to overcompensate by burning more and more heretics when her policy fell short. It’s hard to justify those actions to a modern reader, and I would assume it wasn’t any easier to justify it to her contemporaries. No matter how hard she tried, she just didn't seem able to redeem herself. It was a sad story about a sad princess who didn't seem to learn from her mistakes. Maybe she was a martyr after all.

*

About the Author: Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer with British roots. When she is not reading or travelling, she enjoys spending time at the lake with her husband and three teenagers. The Plantagenet Embers series debuted with 'Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York'. It has been selected as an Editors' Choice by the Historical Novel Society and long-listed for the 2016 HNS Indie Award. 'Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole' is the second novel in the trilogy, continuing the story of the Plantagenet remnant in Tudor times. This novel has received 5-stars from Readers' Favorite and a Discovering Diamond award. The final installment in Plantagenet Embers, 'Queen of Martyrs', features Queen Mary I and her story of the counter-reformation in England. Some of the secondary characters of the Plantagenet Embers series are explored in novellas, including 'The Last Lancastrian' featuring Margaret Beaufort and 'Once a Queen' which focuses on the final decade of Elizabeth Woodville's life.
Links: Amazon; Facebook; Twitter; Blog

About the Reviewer: Born and raised in St. Louis MO, Mercedes Rochelle graduated with a BA in Literature from University of Missouri. She learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.She is the author of The Last Great Saxon Earls trilogy.
Links: Website; Blog; Facebook page; Amazon page.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

A Suggestion of Scandal by Catherine Kullmann


Today Claire Lyons reviews A Suggestion of Scandal by Catherine Kullman. The author has very kindly offered a paperback copy as a giveaway.  To be in with a chance of winning this wonderful prize, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Good luck!


If only he could find a lady who was tall enough to meet his eyes, intelligent enough not to bore him and who had that certain something that meant he could imagine spending the rest of his life with her.
As Sir Julian Loring returns to his father’s home, he never dreams that that lady could be Rosa Fancourt, his half-sister Chloe’s governess. Rosa is no longer the gawky girl fresh from a Bath academy whom he first met ten years ago. Today, she intrigues him. But just as they begin to draw closer, she disappears—in very dubious circumstances. Julian cannot bring himself to believe the worst of Rosa, but if she is blameless the truth could be even more shocking, with far-reaching repercussions for his own family, especially Chloe.
Later, driven by her concern for Chloe, Rosa accepts an invitation to spend some weeks at Castle Swanmere, home of Julian’s maternal grandfather. The widowed Meg Overton has also been invited and she is determined not to let the extremely eligible Julian slip through her fingers again.
When a ghost from Rosa’s past returns to haunt her, and Meg discredits Rosa publicly, Julian must decide where his loyalties lie.



A respectable governess finds herself in the centre of an outrageous scandal – what is a woman to do when her involvement could lead to the ruin of herself and those she cares for? This Regency fiction is a beautifully written romance with so much more going on than you expect…

I truly enjoyed this wonderfully crafted and deliciously devious book – so many characters all with a past and with a plan for their futures. The Regency period is explored with great care, through the confines of the story, but still giving lots of food for thought to the reader about the situation of women both in terms of financial security and social position. I loved the large number of strong and interesting female characters, spanning different generations and social standing.

Descriptions of the clothing, buildings, interiors and furniture as well as travel and even hair styles give a very evocative and visual experience for the reader. The book is largely set in two wealthy family estates, but there are many glimpses of other aspects of the period that you really can imagine and therefore feel the atmosphere.

There is a gentle humour and the subtle romance emerging all the way through the trials and tribulations of the scandal itself, with a few unexpected twists and turns to keep your attention. I liked being challenged during the unfolding story – not all the characters are as simple as it first appears and the ease with which I dubbed their behaviour as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ was turned on its head as more of their personal story is revealed. Some characters are very complex and as their personal situations and choices are revealed the reader gains a wider understanding of how the rigidity of society in the Regency period was in fact a surface image, and the way many people actually lived their lives was in stark contrast to these public expectations.

There are a lot of side characters in the book, and they give the story and the period setting a deeper richness, allowing us to see how people entertained themselves, the living conditions, social expectations and politics. The writing has a certain formality which works well with the subject matter and feels very like an authentic work from the period – until the sex scene of course! I can imagine that there more stories to come from this motley crew… I have questions about several of the women and how they will fare in the Regency period and would like to find out what happens to them – will they find financial security or even real love?

A Suggestion of Scandal would suit people who enjoy historical fiction and romance, also those with an interest in the changing role of women. It is a well-researched and intelligent book, inspired by a real event.  When we read it in the Virtual Book Club, two members had never read a Regency Romance before and both are now happy converts!

About the Author:

Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-six years before returning to Ireland. She and her husband of over forty years have three adult sons and two grandchildren. Catherine has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.
After taking early retirement Catherine was finally able to fulfil her life-long ambition to write fiction. Her debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, published in 2016, is a warm and engaging story of a young woman’s struggle to survive and find love in an era of violence and uncertainty. It takes us from the ballrooms of the Regency to the battlefield of Waterloo.
In Perception & Illusion, published in March 2017, Lallie Grey, cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride.
In her new book, A Suggestion of Scandal, governess Rosa Fancourt finds her life and future suddenly at risk when she surprises two lovers in flagrante delicto,. Even if she escapes captivity, the mere suggestion of scandal is enough to ruin a lady in her situation. In Sir Julian Loring she finds an unexpected champion but will he stand by her to the end?
You can find out more about Catherine at her website www.catherinekullmann.com/ where, in her Scrap Album, she blogs about historical facts and trivia relating to the Regency or on her Facebook page fb.me/catherinekullmannauthor

Catherine’s books are available worldwide from Amazon as e-books and paperback. Amazon links include:
Amazon.com: https://goo.gl/J3hRIf




About the Reviewer

Claire has run Mrs Average Evaluates for five years now, and still writes a regular book review in a local magazine. Her passion is to share great writing and encourage wide reading for learning, pleasure and escapism. She also runs her own business, has four young children and a dog to keep her busy. You are most welcome to join her friendly FB Group, and she’s always on the lookout for Guest Posts on the website.





Wednesday, 17 October 2018

By the Gate by Jeanette Taylor Ford

Today Kate Braithwaite reviews the second book in the River View series, By the Gate by Jeanette Taylor Ford. The author has very kindly offered a paperback as a giveaway to a winner in the UK or an ebook to a winner elsewhere in the world To be in with a chance of winning this wonderful prize, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
Good luck!


When farmer Elwyn Price discovers a long-buried skeleton in the field he hires from Lucy Baxter, it sends DI Cooke and DS Grant on a seventy year old murder investigation. The two detectives follow leads in various parts of the country, gradually unravelling a dark mystery. But how will their discoveries affect Lucy Baxter’s family and other residents of the village of Sutton-on-Wye?
In By the Gate by Jeanette Taylor Ford, the idyllic English village of Sutton-on-Wye are shocked at the discovery of a skeleton in a local farmer’s field. When crime scene investigators confirm that it is the body of a young woman,  strangled seventy years ago, a search for missing persons from the time period turns up a series of unsolved murders.
Thanks to some elderly people with remarkable memories, DI Cooke and DS Grant are gradually able to find the truth about a wartime serial killer and secrets that have been kept by two friends for seventy decades.
By the Gate is the second in the River View series of mystery novels based in and around Sutton-on-Wye. Characters from the first book, Aunt Bea’s Legacy, make a welcome return, and although By the Gate works perfectly well as a stand alone read, the appealing characters will have readers who missed the first book keen to pick it up and find out more about Lucy Baxter’s arrival in Sutton-on-Wye.
The characters and locations are great strengths here. The book certainly has a cosy mystery feel, particularly as the likeable detective duo Cooke and Grant travel around the country, interviewing witnesses and enjoying a great deal of tea, cake and hearty pub food. A hint of romance for Grant is a welcome addition to the story. Ford also does an impressive job of bringing older characters to life in her fiction. Sam Williams, for example, has just lost his wife of fifty years, but was also, long ago, the boyfriend of the girl whose body is found in the field. He’s a very strong and sympathetic character. Anyone looking for a murder mystery with a good plot and an escapist read in a gentle, bucolic English setting, would be well-served to pick up a copy of By the Gate.


About the Author: Jeanette Taylor Ford is a retired Teaching Assistant. She grew up in Cromer, Norfolk and moved to Hereford with her parents when she was seventeen. An undiagnosed Coeliac, Jeanette was a delicate child and missed a great deal of schooling, but she had a natural ability to write good stories, even at the tender age of nine or ten. When young her ambition was to be a journalist but life took her in another direction and her life’s work has been with children – firstly as a nursery assistant in a children’s home, and later in education. In between she raised her own six children and she now has seven grandchildren (soon to be eight!), a beautiful great-granddaughter and a mischievous great grandson.
Jeanette took up writing again in 2010; egged on by a Facebook friend. To date, she has published eight novels for adults, a fantasy for children and a little book of short stories and poems. Aunt Bea’s Legacy is the seventh book and the first of a series.
 Music has always played a big part in Jeanette’s life; she plays the piano and has conducted church choirs over many years and taught choir at her local school for a couple of years. Currently, she is a member of a local ladies’ choir. She also embroiders, teaches people how to do Family History and does card crafting.
She lives with her husband Tony, a retired headmaster, and two cats, in Derbyshire with a Nottinghamshire postcode, England. (I never know whether to tell folks I live in Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire!)
You can find Jeanette on Facebook, her books are available from Amazon in the UK and US.

About the Reviewer: Kate Braithwaite was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her first novel, Charlatan, was longlisted for the Mslexia New Novel Award and the Historical Novel Society Award. The Road to Newgate was released by Crooked Cat in 2018. Kate lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. 
To buy the book.
Social Media Links: FacebookTwitterWebsite.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Dangerous Friends Trilogy by Jennifer Young

Today Claire Lyons reviews The Dangerous Friends Series by Jennifer Young. The author has very kindly offered ebooks of all 3 books of the trilogy as a giveaway to one very lucky winner. To be in with a chance of winning this wonderful prize, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Good luck!




 When Bronte O'Hara finds an injured man in her kitchen in the run-up to an international political summit in Edinburgh, a world she thought she'd left behind catches up with her. But once the man has made his escape, the police seem less interested in finding out where he went and how he came to be there than they are in Bronte's past - more specifically, her ex-boyfriend, Eden Mayhew. Eden's an anarchist, up to his neck in any trouble around - and he's missing. The police are keen to find him, certain that he'll come back. Who can she trust - and what has Eden's disappearance got to do with the handsome stranger?

There are currently three books set in modern day Edinburgh, following the lives of Bronte O’Hara and Marcus Fleming… and it’s complicated!

Bronte is a wonderful character, and I immediately liked her – I suspect she’s a bit like my younger self. Working in a large bank doesn’t sit very well with her values or her private life – to add to her woes she comes home to find a man unconscious on her kitchen floor… and so begins a rip roaring tale of deceit, passion, environmental activism, spies and even romance! It’s a very compelling and fast paced story with twists and turns at every corner. I was a little daunted at reading all three, but once I started I just had to know what happened next and read them all back to back.

Each book would stand alone, but I recommend reading them together if possible as the love story needs the slow build of understanding and affection, of two people learning to accept their differences and making sense of their inexplicable need to save each other. To get the deeper emotions and to see more clearly why they behave the way they do in the later books, it would help to have started at the beginning. It also makes finally meeting some of the family members a real treat as you will have heard about them in snippets in the earlier books.


The supporting cast of characters are just as well defined and polished as Bronte and Marcus – they each play an important role in the first and subsequent books (even the dead have an influence). I enjoyed the intensity of the story and the modern topics that Jennifer tackles with sensitivity and care. Despite being challenging subject matter the books aren’t overly graphic or gratuitous and I liked being allowed to imagine my own scenes in addition to what we are told, rather than being spoon fed every word. Jennifer manages to contain issues within the stories without making sweeping judgements or giving ‘lectures’ to the reader, there is a healthy dialogue throughout all the books highlighting different ideas and opinions which allows the reader to come to their own conclusions.


One aspect I particularly enjoyed was having an independent and flawed female lead, there is a good mix of both men and women being ‘saved’ in various ways and there are several strong female characters which made a refreshing change.  Although not a coming of age book, I did recognise the changes that Bronte goes through as an undercurrent to the stories, as she battles with a complicated series of events in her life and has to decide what she wants, and then fight for that. Getting to know her is a pleasant thread throughout the stories and I really hope there are more to come!

This series would suit people who like a crime novel, and edgy romance rather than sex scenes. The writing is crisp and fresh, and the Scottish setting is very evocative. They tackle modern policing methods, activism, international politics, the slave trade, environmental issues and the aftermath of violence.

About the Author: Jennifer Young is an Edinburgh-based author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her books are rich in a sense of place -- visit Majorca for a romantic adventure, Italy for some new adult romance, or Edinburgh for dark deeds and romance in Scotland's capital. 

Her Dangerous Friends series focuses on the adventures of former political activist Bronte and her policeman boyfriend, their romance at odds with their very different outlooks on life.

You can follow Jennifer on Facebook  or Twitter, or via her website and blog

Blank SpaceAfter Eden and Storm Child are all available from Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited.


About the Reviewer:
Claire has run Mrs Average Evaluates for five years now, and still writes a regular book review in a local magazine. Her passion is to share great writing and encourage wide reading for learning, pleasure and escapism. She also runs her own business, has four young children and a dog to keep her busy. You are most welcome to join her friendly FB Group, and she’s always on the lookout for Guest Posts on the website.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Aunt Bea's Legacy by Jeanette Taylor Ford

Today Claire Lyons reviews Aunt Bea's Legacy by Jeanette Taylor Ford. The author has very kindly offered a paperback giveaway to a winner in the UK or an ebook to winner elsewhere in the world.  To be in with a chance of winning this wonderful prize, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Good luck!


Lucy’s Aunt Bea leaves her lovely old house to her niece under the condition she lives in it for a year. A suggestion that her aunt died in suspicious circumstances leads Lucy to move in to try to find out what happened, despite her fiancĂ© Jim, who doesn’t want to live in the country. Lucy soon falls in love with the house and the village and enjoys taking over her aunt’s business, ‘Aunt Bea’s Pantry’. Into the mix comes Kenny Baxter, Lucy’s neighbour, who she is increasingly drawn to. But is the house haunted, or is someone trying to frighten her? Lucy becomes unsettled and unsure and begins to doubt even the man she is falling in love with – could Kenny be behind the mysterious happenings, and why?


So Aunt Bea has died unexpectedly and left her niece an old house and business, but they are not where Lucy currently lives – and there are some unusual terms to her Will… Set in modern day Britain, Aunt Bea’s Legacy is a wonderful, rich story about family, relationships and following your hunches.

I so enjoyed this book, it really has a bit of everything, there is more than one romance a lot of drama and it gets pretty spooky too. I enjoyed the slow and deliberate building of tension, as on the surface it feels like an ordinary romance… and then the spooky bits start and the characters develop and it becomes something much more unexpected. Did Aunt Bea die of natural causes? Or are Lucy and the local police right to be suspicious… It all seems so out of character, and then Lucy starts to read some disturbing notes left by Aunt Bea, was she being followed or spied on?

At the same time as grieving and reminiscing over a loved relative, Lucy has to manage a long distance relationship and the crystallising idea that he may not be the man for her, but who can she trust to talk to in this new village where someone may have hurt a lovely old lady?

There are quite a few characters in the book, and this is the first in a series (Jeanette is on Book 3 already!) so I’m hoping to meet some of those on the ‘edges’ as I suspect they all have stories to tell. The main characters are carefully created and more of their past and idiosyncrasies are revealed throughout the book. As each one is introduced they all bring something to the story, and are well described and believable, you could draw a map of the village from the clear imagery.  Of course the house is the central character of the book, and although I still don’t understand why they slept in separate bedrooms, it has a real presence and influence on Lucy and how she feels about her life and her future. As someone who has strong reactions to buildings, I could understand that feeling – that you’re where you should be.

There is a good mix of humour and a few more eccentric people that add colour, preventing the book becoming scary or too serious. Even the periphery characters are well described enough that you can easily imagine them, I particularly liked the policeman.  Throughout the whole book you are rooting for Lucy, she is easily likeable and empathetic. The story has many threads that are well woven together and it reaches a satisfying conclusion.

This book would suit people who like romance with a bit more going on and fans of a cosy mystery, and there is no gore or too much sex.  It’s also good if you like to get to know a fictional area and its people - I do now feel connected to the village, and there is something going on with that field I want to know more about…



About the Author: Jeanette Taylor Ford is a retired Teaching Assistant. She grew up in Cromer, Norfolk and moved to Hereford with her parents when she was seventeen. An undiagnosed Coeliac, Jeanette was a delicate child and missed a great deal of schooling, but she had a natural ability to write good stories, even at the tender age of nine or ten. When young her ambition was to be a journalist but life took her in another direction and her life’s work has been with children – firstly as a nursery assistant in a children’s home, and later in education. In between she raised her own six children and she now has seven grandchildren (soon to be eight!), a beautiful great-granddaughter and a mischievous great grandson.
Jeanette took up writing again in 2010; egged on by a Facebook friend. To date, she has published eight novels for adults, a fantasy for children and a little book of short stories and poems. Aunt Bea’s Legacy is the seventh book and the first of a series.
 Music has always played a big part in Jeanette’s life; she plays the piano and has conducted church choirs over many years and taught choir at her local school for a couple of years. Currently, she is a member of a local ladies’ choir. She also embroiders, teaches people how to do Family History and does card crafting.
She lives with her husband Tony, a retired headmaster, and two cats, in Derbyshire with a Nottinghamshire postcode, England. (I never know whether to tell folks I live in Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire!)
You can find Jeanette on Facebook, her books are available from Amazon in the UK and US.

About the Reviewer

Claire has run Mrs Average Evaluates for five years now, and still writes a regular book review in a local magazine. Her passion is to share great writing and encourage wide reading for learning, pleasure and escapism. She also runs her own business, has four young children and a dog to keep her busy. You are most welcome to join her friendly FB Group, and she’s always on the lookout for Guest Posts on the website.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Lady of the Tower by Elizabeth St John

Today Paul Bennett reviews The Lady of the Tower by Elizabeth St John. The author has very kindly offered a paperback copy of the book PLUS 2 e-book special novellas as a giveaway to one very lucky winner. To be in with a chance of winning this wonderful prize, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Good luck!







Orphaned Lucy St.John, described as "the most beautiful of all," defies English society by carving her own path through the decadent Stuart court. In 1609, the early days of the rule of James I are a time of glittering pageantry and cutthroat ambition, when the most dangerous thing one can do is fall in love . . . or make an enemy of Frances Howard, the reigning court beauty.
Lucy catches the eye of the Earl of Suffolk, but her envious sister Barbara is determined to ruin her happiness. Exiling herself from the court, Lucy has to find her own path through life, becoming mistress of the Tower of London. Riding the coattails of the king’s favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, the fortunes of the St.Johns rise to dizzying heights. But with great wealth comes betrayal, leaving Lucy to fight for her survival—and her honor—in a world of deceit and debauchery.
Elizabeth St.John tells this dramatic story of love, betrayal, family bonds and loyalty through the eyes of her ancestor Lucy and her family’s surviving diaries, letters and court papers.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  A fascinating tale of the period when England said goodbye to the Tudors and hello to the Stuarts. The protagonist, Lucy, grows up in a household where she is treated with contempt by her guardian and by her scheming sister Barbara. In a time when women had very little say in their futures and where the intricate, backstabbing antics of the Royal Court, Lucy struggles to survive.  Married to an important member of the King's retinue of courtiers, she finds herself living in the infamous Tower of London, the wife of the Tower Gaoler.

The author paints a vivid picture of life in the early 17th century. I was drawn in by the descriptive, and indeed the educative nature that arises from the pages. Lucy, a woman, dares to formulate and even more daring, lets her opinions known. It was indeed a world dominated by men of noble birth, not very unlike the world we live in now (substitute rich for noble). In Lucy's words, "I so tire of these court behaviors, where the men who rule think only of their own affairs and not of those of the citizens of this land." Words that I utter every day. 

I chose to read this book not knowing much of the period, at least not from the perspective of the court of King James and his son Charles. I now know a lot more, and if there is one thing I love to do is to learn history. If I can do that and be entertained along the way, then so much the better. The author has done those things while at the same time preparing the way for a sequel. After all of the pain, anguish, fear, and even the joys of her life, Lucy emerges as one of the more interesting characters I have come across in my historical-fiction reading. 

5 stars



About the author:

Elizabeth St.John spends her time between California, England, and the past. A best-selling author, historican and genealogist, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, and Castle Fonmon to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few fortresses and stately homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family still occupy them - in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that's a different story...  

Follow her on Twitter @ElizStJohn

Facebook: Elizabeth J StJohn



About the reviewer: Paul Bennett


Let me begin this intro-bio by revealing that I love to be up in the wee hours of the morning.  Coffee is best at that time of day which also coincides nicely with the inspiring actions of my Muse.
My interest in things ancient had been kindled earlier by movies such as Ben Hur and Spartacus (flawed and incorrect as it is).  My buddy Harry and I would use rolled up newspapers as swords as we fought against the evil Roman legions.  A slightly more educated spark came from my reading of Heinrich Schliemann’s excavation of Troy.  This curiosity was ratcheted up a few notches when I started classes at Wayne State University.  Professor Milton Covensky was instrumental in making me a history nut with his teaching style and through his book Ancient Near East Traditions.  Of course being less than proficient in math and the sciences also helped me decide what to major in.  Thusly I became a Classical Civilization major and even learned (but long since forgot) ancient Greek.  My favorite assignment/memory was from a class on life in ancient Greece and Rome.  For the final exam I had to write an essay on the Watergate scandal from three perspectives and style; Herodotus, Thucydides and my own.  It was certainly the most fun I ever experienced in a final exam. J  However; I did not complete my degree as I was overtaken by the need to live a little. So, I quit school and my job and took a year and a half sabbatical from anything practical.  The next 18 months were spent in frivolous activities such as traveling to California a couple times and smoking a lot of weed.  Sometimes the two coincided, for example, when driving past Whittier, CA my buddies and I thought it would be cool to find Richard Nixon’s house and smoke a doobie in front of it and it would have been except for the fact that he lived practically next door to the Marine base at Camp Pendleton.  We were rather surprised to see a marine guard station on the road ahead of us; fortunately we had time to do a U-turn before meeting up with the Semper Fi guys with guns.

Once I re-entered the practical world I found that historical fiction filled the vacuum left after quitting school.  Authors like Mary Renault (The King Must Die; etc.) and Mary Stewart (her Merlin/Arthur trilogy) fanned the flames of curiosity but it wasn’t until after I married and raised a family that this love affair really took off.  Nowadays I am inundated with books and authors that feed my need for things ancient.  Colleen McCullough’s series on the fall of The Roman Republic for example sent me on a search for more works of this sort and boy have I ever found them.  So many authors, so many books, call to me these days that I have had to create a spreadsheet to keep track.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Triumph of a Tsar by Tamar Anolic



Today Renny de Groot reviews the alternative history novel, Triumph of a Tsar by Tamar Anolic.
We have a wonderful giveaway of paperback copy of the book as prize. 
To enter, simply leave a comment below or on our facebook page. Good luck!



Triumph of a Tsar is a work of alternate historical fiction in which the Russian Revolution of 1917 is averted, and the hemophiliac Alexei, son of Tsar Nicholas II, comes to the throne. In August, 1920, sixteen-year-old Alexei is enjoying his birthday celebrations when Nicholas dies suddenly. Overnight, Alexei becomes tsar of an empire that covers one-sixth of the world’s landmass.
Thank you to the author Tamar Anolic for a complimentary copy of this novel.
It’s been a while since I read a story of Russia, although those I have read stay with me in a way so many books don’t. The detailed psychological and philosophical explorations one can expect tend to set Russian novels in a category of their own.

With this novel, Triumph of a Tsar, the author takes us on a journey in the traditional style of the great Russian novelists. The sweeping portrayal of Russian aristocracy woven with true historic events evokes a strong sense of place and time to the point where we forget that this is alternative historical fiction. Anolic has created a world peopled by characters that are believable in their behaviours and actions. The protagonist, Alexei is thrust into a role before he is ready, and yet he steps up to assume the mantle of responsibility in a way that we can see and feel. Despite those who would see him fail, he learns and grows. We, the reader, find ourselves concerned about his concerns; his health, his enemies, his family and most of all the survival of his country.

As in any good book, we need to feel connected to the story and characters, and Tamar Anolic has successfully given us that connection as we consider Alexei taking great risks while he attempts to do what he feels is right amid contradictory priorities and advice. Who amongst us has not gone against the guidance of others to forge our own path?


The author uses dialogue to great effect in moving the story forward. We hear from the characters themselves how they are coping with the unfolding dramatic events. As WWII threatens Russia, Alexei calls his family together:
“During a pause in the food service, after the borscht and pickled fish had been cleared, Alexei called the table to order. “Thank you for coming,” he said. “I know you’re all busy with the war effort, and I want to thank you all for everything you’ve done. Having the imperial family visibly involved has made a large difference, both in morale, and in our fighting strength.”
He took a deep breath. “I’ve asked you all here on something of a more personal note. The Germans have already invaded Russia’s frontiers, and they’ve set their eyes upon both of our capitals- first Moscow, and now St. Petersburg. I fear that as members of the Imperial family, we will become the Germans’ targets- not only our persons but our palaces as well.”
 
“You think the Germans would bomb our palaces?” Ioann asked. “They’re our homes!”
 “That’s precisely the point,” Alexei said. “Besides, our palaces are huge buildings that make for easy targets for the Luftwaffe.”
This is a well researched piece of writing. The story flows and while it offers an alternative to what really happened, it still provides enough history to leave the reader satisfied.

Congratulations to Tamar Anolic on creating a fascinating book. I give it four stars and recommend it to anyone who is interested in something a little bit different.

Triumph of a Tsar by Tamar Anolic is available from Amazon in the UK

About the Author
“Triumph of a Tsar” is Tamar’s second novel. She has a history of writing about the Romanovs. Her first book, the nonfiction biography entitled “The Russian Riddle,” was the first biography of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. In addition, one of her short stories focuses on Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich and his sons: “Rumors of War,” published in The Copperfield Review in May, 2017. Tamar’s first novel, “The Last Battle,” was published in 2017.
Links: website; Amazon US

About the reviewer:
Renny deGroot is a first generation Canadian of Dutch parents. Her debut novel, Family Business, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.  Her second novel, After Paris, has also been well received, with the current interest in all things WW1.  Renny has a BA in English Literature from Trent University.
Renny lives in rural Ontario with her elderly Chocolate lab, Great Pyrenees and young Golden Retriever.
You can find Renny's books on Amazon in Canada and the US.