Saturday, 2 June 2018

Free classic Four feathers: "Fear is not lack of courage. Courage is willingness to do what needs to be done regardless of fear"

Mason's 1902 classic adventure about British army officer Harry Feversham's endeavour to overcome the false label of "coward". Four times filmed.  I saw the movie years ago. The book is a joy to read. You do not see that the writing is over a century old.

As a young boy Harry is present during the Crimean War Veteran dinners at his father's estate. The former officers are discussing people who were cowards in battle. When years later Harry himself is an officer and newly engaged he all of a sudden resigns his commission while the next days his regiment is ordered off to the Sudan. People become aware he had prior knowledge and they send him white feathers to brand him a coward. His fiancée adds one of her own before breaking off their engagement.

Harry has a conversation with one of the Crimean officers who ensures him that fear to die in battle is not cowardice but using your brain and that being afraid would not mean one would not do something heroic. Courage is not the lack of fear - but the willingness to do what needs to be done regardless of fear. Harry was afraid he would damage the good reputation of his father and Ethne if he ever would show fear like the guys had done in his dad's war comrade's tales.

Harry disappears.

While the movie with Heath Ledger focussed on the adventures of Harry the book evolves around his former fiancée Ethne. She is now courted by Harry's friend Durrance but realises she is still in love with Harry although no one has ever heard from him again. She realises that she has been too harsh on Harry and feels like she destroyed his life. Then Durrance goes blind and Ethne accepts his marriage proposal because she does not want his life to be destroyed as well.

In the meantime tales reach her from Sudan that Harry is saving the men who accused him and does deeds more courageous than would ever have been expected from him. He seems to want to redeem himself and erase the past.

So what will happen now? Will Harry survive? But what of his best friend who is about to marry the love of his life?

Good psychology and adventure. Old fashioned honour. Writing style feels very modern. Very different from the movie. A theme set in a story written just after the Sudan war and during the Boer War I believe. An era where the military power of Great Britain was still a lifestyle. CAn really recommend.

Friday, 1 June 2018

When the heroes are not the good guys according to the law - two novels by Addison Kane

Dark Side of the Sun

Imagine a Mafia romance set in the world of Pride and Prejudice. It is a very good read because you keep wondering what the intentions of Gregory are. And the guy is scary. I really wondered why the women fell for him. Yes he is very good looking but is rude, lethal and bossy.

 "Bastard-born gentleman, Gregory Harrow, has decided that the Baroness of Iliffe will be his and his alone. It matters not what the young widow is hiding from, who he must kill, or what lies he shall weave to have his way" Amazon

A Trick of the Light

This is the second novel I read from this writer and I am very enthusiastic. She builds their world so well, installs a feeling of belonging and creates such "lovable" characters you hate to see the book ending. What is even more skilfully done because the heroes and heroines are not law abiding citizens and coming from a country where guns are outlawed the violence one would expect me as the reader to turn against them. Instead reading on you root for them. The whole group of secondary characters certainly make the story come alive.

"Prohibition has a stranglehold on legitimate business, but for small towns willing to play dirty, and country boys looking to make a pretty penny on shine, Prohibition has been a boon. For Monroe County, it’s the very life blood that keeps their backwoods community afloat.

But something isn’t right about the new girl in town. Charlotte Elliot swears, she drinks, and she’s trying too damn hard to fit in with the simple folk. The moonshining backbone of Monroe, Matthew Emerson, is less than thrilled when the blonde comes knocking on his door." Amazon
The writer did such a good job that people who you really would detest become the people you are rooting for while reading the books.

"The Templar's Cross: A Medieval Mystery" - review

1420 Scotland:  Sir Law Kintour is wounded in battle and lost his liege. He has returned from the war in France injured, broke, and in need of a patron but the new earl, son of his liege, just sees a man with a bad leg and refuses to employ him as a knight. In desperation, he reluctantly accepts a commission to find a nobleman's runaway wife. He enlists the help of a fellow Scot with whom he escaped after their defeat at the Battle of Verneuil. But this man is soon murdered, and Law discovers he has been lied to. As the murders continue to mount, powerful interests come into play. When the Sheriff of Perth considers him a convenient scapegoat, it gives Law no choice but to untangle the lies and find the killer or hang for the murders.

The book is a quick read. Sometimes I had the feeling I was missing something and the end was a bit sudden.

It is full with Scottish words that are for me as a Dutch person who has been in Scotland often not that difficult but for some it might be quite a hurdle. But sometimes I was at a total loss too. Like when people are described as having a tryst what is nowadays the word for some causal sex meeting and then it is later said the guy is gay. Turns out in the language of that century a tryst was a meeting in  general. And I guess a lot of modern people do not know the names of the medieval clothing.The writer however added a glossary at the end of the book (what I discovered a bit late on my Kindle. Move it to the start of the novel!)

Were they really eating kale as a staple food? The writer used to write historical novels so I trust her for it. Some healthy Scots. I like kale but not more then once a month.

A first novel in a three-set series. Not that good but good enough to try the others as well.

Timetravel to the barbary coast "Captive" by Brenda Joyce

I even like my time travel fantasy novels to be correct historically.This book is set around the time the American navy stopped the Barbary coast corsairs. Comes across as quite well researched - at least the American part - and it is a very good story.

Sometimes you are in a museum and you look at a painting thinking "What a very handsome man that guys was. Too bad he is dead for centuries". I did last week. In this novel that is exactly what Alexandra, a student in naval history does. Somehow however she has the feeling the ghost of the man talks to her. (I just looked the guy up on Wikipedia. If he had talked to me I had committed myself to an asylum. But hey this is a fantasy novel. A timetravel fantasy novel).

Alexandra travels all the way to Ghadaffi ruled Libya to find our what happened to Xavier the man in the painting. When she is in Tripoli she faints and waked up in the early years of the 19th century.

The story is enthralling but there were four elements that annoyed me:

--- minor spoiler alert ---

1) The book is written during the Ghadaffi-era and it is obvious that the American writer had not that much sympathy for Arabs. There are only two people in the whole story that are mentioned in a positive light: a eunuch in the harem and the first wife of the ruler. For the rest people are depicted as being very cruel. And what is wrong with 'Being almost too handsome for a man?'
The cities on the coast of North Africa would attack Western ships for the cargo and the sailors would be held for ransom. As an alternative a country could pay a kind of protection money. When you read the accounts written by some of those sailors it is obvious that even while the crew was enslaved an educated man and one with a will to make something of his life could rise to quite a good job and even some personal wealth. Some became the secretaries of the barshaw or the bey.  The common sailor would be put to work on manual labour and that could indeed mean an early death but having been pressganged in the navy you were also lucky if you survived. Life was a lot harder and more cruel than it is now. The slaves who had to build Meknes died very fast. The writer described the situation of the slaves like a kind of concentration camp or POW camp during the civil war. I think that was not always the case although slavery for years on end - when no-one paid your ransom - is terrible. But I think the writer shows prejudice against the Arabs in the book. The guy who marries her seems quite nice and if driven over the edge by how Alexandra behaves.

2) Alexandra knows Xavier will be executed because he had dealings with the wife of the ruler so what does Alexandra do when the son of the barshaw marries here? Exactly: try to contact Xavier all the time in person while a message could be send via her slave. Why put someone deliberately in danger? Someone you do not know personally.

3) Oh and the plot that her husband allows her a year to mourn is quite silly. One in those countries mourning was three months and two why would a guy in that position allow such a long period.

4) The sexscenes are quite explicit when they are in bed together but during one bad occasion we have to guess what happened.

Now it looks like I did not like the book: I do. It has you reading it for hours. And when you look things up the whole naval part is nicely done. It is just that the leading lady is stupid :)

Who wants to sniff up some historical fact have a look here: