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.’
HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY REVIEW January 2014



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.


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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.




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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?

Friday, 2 November 2018

#free #book: Book 2 of the multi-award-winning epic Historical Fiction series The Troubadours Quartet


1151: the Holy Land, where one book is worth more than a man's life
Estela, the troubadour, is following the destiny of her beautiful voice. Dragonetz, her passionate knight, has a dangerous mission to fulfill. Divided by the times they love in, they fight to be together.
Imprisoned in Damascus, Dragonetz suffers the mind games inflicted by his anonymous enemies, as he is forced to remember the traumatic events of the crusade, two years earlier. His military prowess is as valuable and dangerous to the balance of power as the priceless Torah he has to deliver to Jerusalem, and the key players want Dragonetz riding with them - or dead.
Instead of remaining safely at home, Estela is desperate to rescue Dragonetz at all costs. She sets out for the Holy Land, never realising that the person she thinks will be her knight's saviour might actually be his doom. Can Estela get him out alive, despite Nur-ad-Din, the Muslim Atabeg; Mélisende, the Queen of Jerusalem; and an avenger from the past? Will she still want to, when she knows what they've done to him?
Once more, 'the master of historical intrigue' whirls the reader off into medieval mayhem. Jean Gill's details of crusading strategy and riding a camel are as convincing as the pangs of medieval childbirth. She brought medieval France to life in Song at Dawn; now she adds 12th century Damascus and Jerusalem with equal aplomb.


Review of "The Soldier's Girl" by Sharon Maas: WWII in the Alsace



Advertised as a tragic love affair this novel turns out as something rather different. You expect her to fall in love with a German while her childhood friend is in the resistance and she is send back to the Alsace as a spy. And then I wondered when that was happening.

What you can distil from this novel is the love of the writer for the area where she herself also spend many happy years. The part of the novel situated before the outbreak of war, where a child Sybil lives on a wine château, is the best part of the novel.

It was also interesting to read what effect the annexation had on the region, I knew it was swabbed between Germany and France several times but never would have imagined not only the renaming of streets but even of people. A name is so much part of your individuality!

I did know that there had been heavy fighting in the Ardennes but did not know about the Vosges and Alsace region.

But that love affair? No chemistry between her and the resistance fighter. He is described as dirty and stinking, That is all.

And the German officer? At first he is just annoying , unattractive and his mates are ridiculous. Then suddenly he shows a different side. Suddenly Sybil is in love. Right? But will you do what she does to him when you are in love? I do not think so. What happens had my stomach revolting. In her case I think I would have gone mad with guilt and horror. That guilt is mentioned but it is all done so clinical so distant so short. Apart from the fact that I felt very sorry for the man in the end the book seemed a love affair for a region but as a lovestory it failed.

The story left me completely cold apart from the heartbreaking scene towards the end which hunted me even in my dreams.




Unusual regency novel: Review of "A gentleman's promise" by Penny Hampson

The beautiful gentleman on the cover of this book I could get an ARC of to review, caught my attention. It is a regency novel, or a kitchen maid literature as they call them here: a romance novel set in the 19th century in the better classes. But this one turned out to be slightly different. For one there is a strong gay element in it, there is no sex in it, the pace is slow and the main characters are developed into three dimensional people

Richard inherited an estate from a distant cousin but the evening he arrives there the lost heir, a teenager, and his sister arrive as well after they have travelled all the way from Greece. Someone tried several attempts to kill Richard since he was declared the new viscount and now Emma and Richard start wondering if the deaths of the other heirs were accidents after all. They hope to solve the mystery.

Richard is pictured as a man who is very orderly and really wants to avoid adventure (illustrated by his behaviour with sorting his cloths and rearranging the figurines on the mantle piece) . He likes Emma but thinks she is very unsuitable as a bride. Way too adventurous.
Emma seems to have an too modern take on independence for women to seem fitting for the time period. But the writer comes up with a solid reason and also the fact that she had to survive such a dangerous trip will have shaped her.
At first the story seemed too slow for me but that turned out well after all as it was all building up to certain character developments.

Richard's sister and brother-in-law, Emma's grandmother they all serve a shaping role in the characters of the main characters. The war in Portugal against Napoleon, the Elgin marbles, molly houses they all picture a time period.

I do agree with earlier reviewers that the interaction with the main villain is strange.

4 stars out of 5



No not set on an alien planet but in Egypt and Sudan in 200 BC

Rasha is abducted from her home in Raheem. She manages to escape and flees. Her beloved Bassam is coming back from a trade expedition  when he hears that she is abducted and sets off to rescue her and bring her safely home.

This novel reads like a science fiction/fantasy story and only by some details can you deduct when and where Rasha and Bassam are. But often you are at a loss. Only because I have been in Petra I wondered if Raheem was Nabatean Petra (now Jordan) and saw it confirmed only at the end of the story. You can only deduct by the mentioning of what we know as the Stone of Rosetta that the story is set 200 BC. The Nile river is mentioned as the Nilus and towns like Elefantine and the Pyramids but a lot of the animal life is using local words. Oh we are talking about hippo's?This intensifies the feeling of being on an alien planet.

Positive:
- You learn new things about Egypt like the fact there are so many more pyramids and to realise that in 200 BC they were already relics from a distant past.
- The feeling of being submerged in the past with no knowlegde from the 21st century.
- That also in those days people travelled to far away places to trade and interacted with different cultures.

Negative:
- It is impossible to connect the ancient names to real places. I often wondered if they were in Sudan or even more south.
- The whole story is more or less two groups journeying. That can make the story a bit slow and you as a reader needing a break and reading another novel in the meantime.

3 stars out of 5

This was a free ARC provided by Netgalley