Saturday, 5 January 2019

Review of a cross between a detective and a romance story: "Last duke standing" by Cheryl Bolen

This lovely new book is a cross between a detective story and a romance novel.

When one morning the Duke of Fordham is found dead in his bed, his brother who was a third son inherits the title and the money. The fiancée of the recently departed Freddie,  Lady Georgiana Fenton, does not believe in a family curse but proves to Alex the new Duke that his brother was smothered. Both set out to find the murderer but can Georgiana rule Alex himself out? He had a lot to gain did he not?

The detective part is well done. The romance part as well with a hero who intrigued with someone so unlike his former love interests and a heroine who has to deal with a brother who resembles her dead fiancé but is a total different person.

The writer paints a society where conservative and reformists split parliament and families and where actresses are kept by wealthy men who pass them on just like we give a cat to a friend. The reformist and the Whig party triggered me in wanting to read up on that.

There is one flaw in the storyline however although it does no harm to the story: Georgiana has read a lot of medical books while trying to nurse her mother back to health after she had suffered from what we call a stoke. That knowledge she uses to determine that Freddie is murdered. She does that by opening the lid of the eye of the corpse. Later on in the book she is said to faint upon seeing blood and has trouble helping dress wounds. Ehhh... I think that opening a dead eye and gazing into a bloodfilled eyeball would make me faint. So I think this is a mistake by the writer. Easily remedied by asking the brother to check the colour of the eyeball for her.

Publishing date: 15th of January 2019

5 stars out of 5 for a novel in this genre.

The Deathly Portent (A Lady Fan Mystery, #2) > Review

This is the second instalment in the Lady Fan detective series. The freshly married Lady Ottilia and her husband Lord Francis are travelling towards his country estate when their carriage breaks down and is in need of repairs by a blacksmith. But in the nearest village the blacksmith has been just murdered and the villages are intend on blaming the local witch, a young woman. Waiting for the new part for their carriage Lady Fan tries to save the witch and solve the crime.

The setting is a small, rural village and a select group of villages are the suspects.

As I do not believe in people having a second sight that was not the most intriguing thing to me.

It is a detective story that reminded me of the old pocketbooks from the fifties and sixties.

I am more a fan of book 1 and book 3 of this series.

Free preview below.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

#free book: "Sub-Sahara"

In this military thriller, a freak storm reveals a city hidden deep under the largest sand dunes of the Sahara.

A silver pyramid at the centre of the city is emitting a strange energy signal.

The race is on to secure the energy source and other treasures of the city.

James Cavill and his team of private Special Forces are charged to get there first and secure the treasure for the benefit of all humanity – little do they know what they’ve just walked into…

A #Free Kindle book in which the Sherlock Holmes story is reversed "Moriarty Meets His Match (The Professor & Mrs. Moriarty Mystery Series Book 1)"

Professor James Moriarty has one desire left in his shattered life... revenge.

All he wants is to shame the man who ruined him and stop the brute from harming anyone else. Then he meets amber-eyed Angelina Gould and his world turns upside down.

An exploding steam engine kills a man at the International Exhibition. While Moriarty examines the wreckage, Sherlock Holmes appears, sent to investigate by Moriarty’s enemy. Holmes finds evidence that points at Moriarty, who realizes he must either solve the crime or swing it for it himself. He soon uncovers evidence of fraud and an unscrupulous company promoter. As he pursues those leads, he bumps into the alluring Angelina at every turn. She’s playing some game, but what’s her goal? And whose side is she on?

Between them, Holmes and Angelina push Moriarty to his limits -- and beyond. He’ll have to lose himself to save his life and win the woman he loves.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Review of Book 1 of the Lady Fan-mysteries series "The gilded shroud" by Elizabeth Bailey

Earlier this week I read part 3 in the Lady Fan -mysteries series as an ARC. That novel was that good I decided to purchase the earlier instalments as well. This novel is the first one in the series. Because I read a later book I know who Ottilia is going to marry and that at least a few people are innocent but the mystery was not spoiled by reading a book later in the series. In this first novel Lord Francis and his mother are better described than in book three probably because the writer assumes we know by then how he looks like. In this first novel the sexual attraction he oozes is a lot more evident. I understand the writer wrote romance novels for ages. I would suggest to keep the tasty dish aspect of Lord Francis more like this first novel than the more background one is the later versions.

So what is this first novel all about?
A young widow has just become the companion of a dowager when the daughter in law of that dowager is murdered. Ottilia and the second son try to solve the mystery. There are many possible suspects and family secrets to unearth.

A good detective story with a nice romantic subplot. I also liked the moments of humour like when two old gossips are questioned.

There was however one thing that made me wonder: how can Ottilia and Francis know the countess had intercourse when she has been in her bed for hours afterwards? Now they have rapekits for that but with hours passing and wrapped in sheets the conclusion that the murdered could see while she was in that bed that she had just been f...ed and not just sleeping evaded me. Smell I could have comprehended but view? Covered by a duvet?

Talking about smell. The novel is nowhere explicit in either sexual things or violence but it is explained quite well that you can smell that someone died due to the loss of bowel control. The first one walking into the scene is oblivious to that due to a headcold that blocked her nose.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Three historical novels by Irina Shapiro

 The Folly

The story begins when the two bodies of the wife and son of a nobleman are dragged from a pond on the estate. Then the story continues in a flashback manner.

A young girl's reputation suffers from a scandal and her father forces her to marry a middle aged baronet. After the wedding she meets his son.

The story is set just after Waterloo and is a great read: mystery, romance, historical details. Very well done.

 Precious Bones

A writer with relationship problems feels a weird connection to a skeleton that is found in an old Tudor house. She decides to buy the house and retreats there to write her next novel. For her next book the characters seem to come to life while she is writing the novel.

Precious Bones is in fact two storylines in one cover: the love affair in the Tudor Era and the life of the writer in today's times.

A nice read that gives you a good idea about the Tudor days.

The Inheritance

An American woman inherits a Scottish castle and finds out about her heritage. She
also hopes to find out what happened to the lady of the castle in the 18th century.
When you know about the Scottish Uprising not much news.
Beautiful cover but the dress in mediaeval instead of 18th century.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The world of Jane Eyre in a detective setting: "The Opium Purge" by Elizabeth Bailey

One morning Lady Ottilia Fanshawe and her husband Lord Francis wake up to a winter wonderland. The garden of his mother's dowerhouse is covered with a thick layer of snow and in the snow an angelic woman is dancing. She seems to be wearing a sparkling dress and a red cape flies around her thus creating the vision of a fairytale princess. When Lady Francis runs downstairs to see who it is she discovered the child inside the house after having broken into it. The young woman is very beautiful but seems a bit strange and childlike.

Not long after that,  the first dead person shows up and Lady Fan, as Ottilia is called by many, helps her husband and her brother with finding the cause of death. When that is clear she uses all her detective skills to find the killer.

The book is situated in the countryside in mostly either the Dower House of the estate of an earl, her brother-in-law, or a three story country house that is the direct neighbour. The era is the end of the 18th century but the only clue to that is a hint to the violence of the French Revolution.

Due to the links to Barbados and mad women in the attic it had a strong Jane Eyre-influence.

The use of laudanum and the effect of opium are a key element in the story. Slavery is discussed as well.

Although several deaths occur none is described in a very violent manner and there are no bedscenes to worry the prudish readers. It is a classic style detective novel.

What I noticed was the higher level of English used in the book. A lot or contemporary, now a bit archaic, words but also just words I had to look up in my Kindle Dictionary. My excuse is that English is not my native language but I can imagine some American readers complaining. I did find it making the story more believable and thought provoking.

I was very impressed and as this was book 3 I think in a series and I had not read the other ones I ordered the first one in the series immediately after. Ok I will know she will marry the lord but the who-done-it in the earlier novels is not spoiled by flashbacks in this one.


Review of "Her Desert Doctor" by Marie Tuhart

The heroine travels to a desert country because her best friend is about to marry the king there. She has been a nurse but went back to college to become a hospital administrator. Upon arriving in the country she is welcomed by the brother of the king who is himself a trained doctor and the country's Minister of Health. Sparks fly.

This romance novel was like a box of candy of all kind of different romance genres: A royal family, an exotic country, a nurse and doctor storyline and a kink titbit. I wonder why is contemporary romance writers feel the need to introduce floggers and clubs.

The story has no weird cultural mistakes and is not that bad. If you are into light reads and like to be able to finish a novel in a few hours this might be something for you.

As you guys know I like to review books for Netgalley a site that provides me with free copies to do just that.

This one is a 3 out of 5 stars. Not bad but also not memorable.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Free today: Botticelli's Muse

A provocative historical fiction about Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, his conflicts with the Medici family of Florence, and the woman at the heart of his paintings.

In 1477, Botticelli is suddenly fired by his prestigious patron and friend Lorenzo de’ Medici. In the villa of his irritating new patron, the artist’s creative well runs dry—until the day he sees Floriana, a Jewish weaver imprisoned in his sister’s convent.

But events threaten to keep his unlikely muse out of reach. So begins a tale of one of the art world’s most beloved paintings, La Primavera, as Sandro, a confirmed bachelor, and Floriana, a headstrong artist in her own right, enter into a turbulent relationship.

Free book: "Spanish Lavender", a love story set during the Spanish civil war

FREE BOOK: Elizabeth is visiting her parents in Málaga when the Spanish Civil War breaks out. All foreigners are told they must evacuate - the Nationalist soldiers are coming and no-one is safe. But Elizabeth’s ambition is to be a photo-journalist and she decides she will stay, despite her parents’ objections.
Alone in the devastated city of Málaga, she begins to regret her hasty decision until she meets two young men, Juan, an idealistic Spaniard and Alex, a pragmatic Englishman. Amongst the death and carnage she falls in love with Juan, but as they try to make their escape along the Carretera del Muerte, the highway of death, they become separated.
Not knowing if her lover is alive or dead she must choose between staying and risking death at the hands of the Nationalists or fleeing back to England with Alex.

'Tragic, uplifting and beautiful, Spanish Lavender doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war, but neither does it concentrate on them. It is vital to remember that Spanish Lavender is a story of love. A riveting read.’

Da Vinci code meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.: Free today the novel "Keys of Life: Uriel's Justice"

A London Museum tour guide points to an angel with no halo in Da Vinci’s painting, Virgin on the Rocks, whose name is Uriel. Archangel Uriel fights for justice against an ancient evil. Two people discover their important pieces to a great puzzle along their journey to possess the Keys of Life. Da Vinci code meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.

 Cordy McDermott isn't your typical veterinarian - unless your veterinarian also happens to have a black belt in karate. After rescuing an Egyptian princess from being sold as a sex slave, Cordy finds herself in the crosshairs of death, tangled in a harrowing battle dating to Biblical times.

Across the world, a young, brawny archeologist stumbles upon an ancient relic at the Egyptian temple of Abu Simbel after a mysterious dream. On the run, Ash and Cordy team up in a thrilling race against time to keep balance from falling in favor of an enemy bent on vengeance and absolute control.

Monday, 19 November 2018

#Free detective novel about a #barrister at the court of Elisabeth I of England: "Murder by Misrule"

Brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss -- and in danger.

Bacon must put down his books and investigate the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray's Inn in order to regain the queen's favor. He recruits his unwanted protégé, Thomas Clarady, to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a wealthy privateer, Tom will gladly do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder.

The first clues point to a Catholic conspirator, but other motives for murder quickly emerge. Rival barristers contend for the victim's legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets.

Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve. Even Bacon is at a loss -- and in danger -- until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

One of Kirkus Reviews' Best Indie Books of 2014.

Don't dally: jump right into the first book in this award-winning mystery series!
(Source: Amazon)

Review to follow shortly.


A great murder mystery set at the court of Queen Elisabeth I - review of "Let slip the Dogs" by Anna Castle

"It’s Midsummer at Richmond Palace and love is in the air -- along with the usual political courtships and covert alliances. Secret trysts, daring dalliances, and a pair of famous French hounds keep Francis Bacon and his gallant team busy while trying to catch one devilishly daring murderer."

I really like this novel. It is set at the court of Queen Elisabeth I of England and filled with real historical figures who are depicted true to their real personality. You might think that that narrows down the search for the murderer but the fact that we know a certain person died of old age does not mean he or she was innocent does it?

Sir Francis Bacon, who is a real historical figure and one of the best legal minds of his times, and his two young sidekicks try to solve the murder of the man found dead in an orchard but in the meantime they all fall in love. Trumpet and Tom have to blind-side her new husband and Sir Francis has to keep his homosexual affair hidden because the queen loathes scandals. But they are not the only couples. Thus creating very humorous scenes where every haystack and shed is "occupied" when the lovers seeks a quite place. The fact that one of the leading roles is gay is something my gay friend will appreciate. He always complains that in mean stream novels hardly any homosexual people take the lead.

The fact that the story is so well researched historically (I am reading the biography of Sir Walter Ralegh at the moment as well) offers us glimpses iof court life. The wigs of the queen, the hard working lives of the ladies-in-waiting, the fact that the queen could order nobles to marry each other etc.

This is book 5 in a series and I had not read the prior ones but that is not a problem. However it was such a joy to read it I ordered the first one in the series as well. And that one is FREE.


Review of "The Liberty Bride" by MaryLu Tyndall, set during the War of 1812

The publisher of this novel asked me to read and review this book. It was a bit different than what I thought it would be.

Let me start with some explanation. I am from Europe, the Netherlands, where religion is a very private thing unless you are a militant Muslim or a Jehova's witness. A lot of people do believe in God or Allah but most will not go public about that. Due to my European roots American patriotism in novels can sometimes grind a bit when it is overdone. Maybe I am more on the English "side" ;-)

Now back to the novel:

First of all romance novels are nowadays often filled with a lot of sex. This one is not! More than a kiss does not happen.  For a short love story the novel does try to be layered and not be shallow. Both parties have trouble reconciling their political beliefs with the fact that they are falling in love with a traitor. After a bit of a slow start a lot of action takes place and to the credit of the writer the lines between the parties get blurred because people respect or befriend people on the other side as well. This writer uses her romance novels also as a way to bring people to Jesus by talking about salvation. It brings depth to the story but for readers from cultures where you do not shout your religion from the rooftops the open referring to God over and over again can be a bit much. Maybe also because in my very strict religious upbringing it can border with blasphemy to preach on every corner of the street as Jesus warns in the New Testament.  I guess it is a difference between American and Dutch culture (I have played wargames online where American players posted daily bible quotes in between "ok we go and kill the purple group" and "Are your armies ready?").

Secondly for people who are not American (or English) the setting of this novel might be a bit confusing. I thought "Americans fighting the British'? Oh it is set during the American revolution. I did not get the traitor thing in a certain scene and then a president Madison was mentioned and I had to open Google. So no American Revolution but the War of 1812 (never heard of to my shame as I am an avid amateur historian). Apparently after the American Independence the British kept supporting the Indians and so a part of the US wanted a war over Canada. After a couple of cities were attacked by the Brits who did not want a war with problems with Napoleon at home and the Americans not gaining what they wanted, a peace treaty was signed and the USA was in isolationists politics for the next century. So the book was an interesting history lesson as well.

I think this novel is a good read for people who likes their stories "clean". Also for people who like to read something in a real historic setting especially Americans who might like to read about the events that let to the composing of their national anthem. For all the foreigners in a second edition it might be handy to include a short introduction explaining the historical setting like "It is ... years after the war of independence and now..."

What makes me wonder: is the period one of the persons is under cover not overly long?