Friday, 19 July 2019

Review of "Blood On The Stone" by Jake Lynch - Oxford during Charles II comes to life during a murder investigation

March 1681. Oxford is hosting the English Parliament and King Charles the Second with his whole court. The country is in an uproar over the supposed Papist Plot and the king seems too lenient towards his Catholic brother according to some. Do keep in mind that a few generations ago Bloody Mary burned the protestants.

In this powder keg that is about to explode a Member of Parliament is found stabbed to death and Luke Standys, Chief Officer of the Oxford Bailiffs and brother of one of the king's officers has to solve the case and diffuse the situation.

This is not an easy novel. It is full with British English period words. So if you are an American who cannot survive anything away from your own American English do not complain just skip. For all the people up for a challenge: I liked having to look things up with the online dictionary or Wikipedia. Yes English is not my mother language but nevertheless I am near native. The novel also paints an extensive background of the culture, the landmarks and the political situation in those days in Oxford. Not surprisingly because the novel is written by an academic from Oxford.

The novel made me feel like I timetravelled because it paints the situation so vividly. The writer also described Luke in detail. You really get to know him.

But all of this make it a novel that reads slowly. So if you were looking for just an easy who-done-it that you can finish in a few hours look elsewhere. If you are really interested in history you will like the novel.

A 5 stars out of 5 and the novel is very cheap on Amazon

March 1681. Oxford is hosting the English Parliament under the ‘merry monarch’, King Charles II. As politicians and their hangers-on converge on the divided city, an MP is found murdered, triggering tensions that threaten mayhem on the streets.
Luke Sandys, Chief Officer of the Oxford Bailiffs, must solve the crime and thwart the plot. On his side is the respect for evidence and logic he absorbed in his student days, as a follower of the new science. On the other, a group of political conspirators are stirring up sectarian hatreds in their scheme to overthrow the Crown.
Struggling to protect all he holds dear, Luke leans heavily on his cavalry officer brother, his friends, and his faithful deputy, Robshaw. But he has a secret, which may be clouding his judgement. At the moment of truth, will he choose love or duty?

Preview / Review of "The Woman in the Veil" by Laura Joh Rowland - a detective novel set in Victorian era London

London, June 1890. Just after the death of Prince Albert and the infamous Ripper case. Sarah Bain, a photographer, and her friends homosexual Lord Hugh Staunton and former street urchin Mick O'Reilly are crime scene reporters for the Daily World newspaper who do a bit of sleuthing on the side.

One night they are called to the bank of the Thames where the body of a naked woman is found by a whore and her punter. On close examination however Sarah discovers that the woman is still alive and she is rushed to hospital. But with a disfigured face and amnesia the next question is her identity and who has left her for dead. Sarah's fiancé Detective Sergeant Barrett is given the case to solve.

But are the people claiming to know her speaking the truth? Is Sleeping Beauty really unaware of who she is?

On the background there is also the mystery in Sarah's own life.

The central theme of the novel is the (lack of) love of parents and the yearning of children for love.

The story is entertaining and has a good plot. The characters however are not that much fleshed out. It keeps pace and you can finish it in a day or two.

4 stars out of 5. This is an ARC review

Pub Date

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Review of "In the Shadow of the Storm" by Anna Belfrage - a romantic adventure of two people trying to survive a revolt in medieval England

England around 1321: King Edward the Second is a weak king who is heavily influenced by male favourites. The current favourite is Hugh Despenser the Younger and the barons of the realm despise the man.

In those days England had a feudal system with the king as the big boss and under him and sworn loyal to him the higher nobility. Under those lords and loyal to them there were knights who would own a few manors that were like large farms and who served like officers in the army of the lords. In case of war these knights would bring their men-at-arms to act as soldiers. This whole system was tied together by sworn allegiances of the lower ranked to the one a step higher on the ladder.

Kit and her mother lived on such a manor in a very rural area. Just after the death of her mother she is snatched from home and forced to marry a knight who was chosen by his lord to marry his mistress. That mistress turns out to be Kit's legitimate half-sister (she finds out a knight is her true father) and her double ganger who has run away with a lover. The wife of her father wants to keep that a secret and threatens Kit to kill her and her tenants if she does not do as she is told end pretends to be her half-sister.

So far the book reads like a romance novel. But then it turns into an action adventure.

Luckily for Kit the man she is forced to marry is a very nice person and also good to look at. But their happiness is threatened by what now is called the Despenser War. Her husband's lord and the one who saved him as a young boy from harm plans to lead a rebellion against the king and although Kit's husband thinks that is wrong he is pledged to follow his lord.

When I was a few pages in I realised I had read the book a few years ago but remembered it to be a very good story so read it again. As far as I can see it is also historically correct and it sheds a light on a part of English history I was not familiar with.. I can certainly recommend it.

5 stars out of 5

Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Lord Roger for his life and all his worldly goods, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Lord Roger thinks she is. So when Lord Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be.

England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down...

Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and Lord Roger, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods.

Kit has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name.

Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Lord Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can.

In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.