Thursday, October 27, 2022

Queen Victoria's Granddaughters: 1860-1918 by Christina Croft

Publication Date:  October 28, 2013

Length:  423 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 out of 5 stars


All my life I've been obsessed with Queen Victoria. It amazes me how many lives she influenced as queen and as the grandmother of an empire. She and her descendants linked countless nations through marriages and children and their personal sagas provide endless material for writers.  They endured highlights and hardships most of us cannot fathom. And at the end of an era it all came crashing to a halt with the fading of the Imperialist age. Christina Croft is excellent and so knowledgeable about this time period. 


This book spans the years before and during World War I, culminating with the painful and tragic end of Alix and Ella, the two unfortunates who ended up in Russia during the Revolution. Queen Victoria  produced  twenty-two granddaughters, five of which became monarchs through their marriages:  Maud of Norway, Empress Alix of Russia, Sophie of Greece, Marie of Romania, and Ena of Spain. The author includes details about each granddaughter with a family lineage synopsis at the beginning of each chapter. Although more information is naturally found surrounding the more well known women, lesser known granddaughters are equally covered with details about their personal lives and interactions with the Queen. As the twentieth century dawns, the lives of all the women are changed and altered in ways both good and bad. The book moves in a chronological time order so that we see history unfold along with their personal lives. The family dramas, alliances, and feuds are covered in detail so that the reader has a sense of the anguish and sadness that was present surrounding the shifting loyalties between relatives who only yesterday were loving family.  


Pretty much all of it! The quick reminder before each chapter of who's who in the family is a great help to keeping everyone straight. There are so many marriages and babies etc. not to mention romantic entanglements between family members that you need this quick update every few pages. I especially loved that I was learning history along with the personal stories of the women. While the book focuses on them, it never strays from their importance in the historical timeline. By the end of the book one will know the major events going on in the world that contributed to the downfall of these various countries and kingdoms ruled by the husbands or relatives of the women. Croft does a good job of moving the book along while being sure to include personal details of all the women. It is an ambitious task to cover this many people equally and with I'm sure a scarcity of primary sources for all of them. 


I have to confess I didn't really care about some of the women. While I appreciate the idea behind the book I'd like to see Croft tackle the biographies of just the five monarch granddaughters. She has written about so many of Victoria's relatives and offspring that I know she'd be great at this. It has already been done in Julia Gelardi's excellent book, Born To Rule, but still, I'd love to read Croft's take on the same subject. Other than this, there isn't much negative to take away here.

RECOMMEND? OR NOT? Yes, absolutely! If you have any interest in the British monarchy, reasons for the start of World War I, or in Queen Victoria herself I highly recommend this book or anything by Croft. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

A Witness to Murder by Verity Bright (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery) Book Three


Publication Date:  September 11, 2020

Length:  264 pages

My Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆


I am working my way through these books as I have a moment between longer reads. They are just so much fun and although I don't really need to do a review for each one I want to because they all have a different theme. It's fun to check in with the characters and see what new mischief they've gotten themselves into. 


We find our heroine, Lady Eleanor, adjusting to her new life at Henley Hall. In the six months since arriving, she has already been instrumental in solving two murders and with the help of her much loved butler, Clifford, and her darling bulldog, Gladstone, she has created a world for herself among the people of the village of Chipstone. Ellie's parents have been missing for a number of years and she has led a life of adventure prior to returning to her late Uncle's estate to take over the running of the place. Ellie always seems to find herself embroiled in drama and this time she is contemplating a time of solace and calm, determined to stay away from dead bodies. Fate has another idea and before she knows it, she is thrust into another case: this time involving politics. It seems a local contender for Parliament has collapsed and died after eating poisoned fudge at a dinner party. Ellie tries to ignore the crime but the cook for the estate where the murder occurs is so distressed over being accused of serving the tainted fudge that she feels she owes it to the woman to step in and help clear her name. Nothing about it will be easy.

Not only is Ellie involved in solving the murder, she is asked to run for the deceased man's seat in Parliament by a local women's group. This being 1920 there isn't a lot of support for women in higher office. When she attempts to win over the local electorate she is both pleasantly accepted by some and rebuffed by those who want to maintain the status quo. As Ellie delves deeper into both the motive for the murder and making political speeches she starts to believe there is more going on than she first realized. Someone is trying to stop her and is possibly blackmailing the alleged murderer. At one point, Ellie is even accused of being involved herself. When another suspect is attacked and killed, Ellie and Clifford must hurry to unravel the clues and find the real culprit.


These books are always a refreshing break from long, serious reads. This one in particular was fun with Ellie running for office and simultaneously entertaining two romances. Lancelot, a local aristocrat, and Detective Seldon vie for her attention in very different ways and it is fun to guess which one will prevail. Clifford and Gladstone are always a major part of the plot as well as the loveable staff at Henley Hall and the local townspeople. Ellie is beloved by everyone for her kindness and down to earth demeanor. 

This particular book was cute with Ellie running for office and seeing her interact with the common folk in a charming way. I also discovered something that I thought was fun....each book takes place during a particular season of the year. I guess when I read the first two I didn't pay attention to the pattern. This book was set during fall and the next book is during winter with a Christmas theme. I can't wait to read it between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It will be just the thing to get into the holiday spirit. 


Sometimes I get a bit annoyed with how Ellie always seems to say and do just the right thing with everyone. She is a little too perfect with just the correct response no matter who she is with. Yes, I get it is a cozy mystery, not a period drama but....her character is a little one dimensional at times. She is clumsy and lovingly out of place as a lady of the manor and that is refreshing but she is a bit too on point with her response to each situation. Other than that there isn't much to bother me. I don't expect perfection!

RECOMMEND? OR NOT?   Yes, absolutely! If these kinds of books are your cup of tea then you will love this series. And even if you don't normally read this genre you might be pleasantly surprised to try it. The dialogue between Ellie and her butler, Clifford is clever and a cut above the average cozy mystery book. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon


Publication Date: October 4, 2011

Length: 116 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


If you've read any of my reviews before then you know I'm a huge Outlander fan. What I probably haven't said before though is that I'm a huge Lord John Grey fan. At the risk of the wrath of fellow Outlanders out there I am going to be honest....I enjoy the character of Lord John Grey more than Jamie Fraser sometimes. He is fascinating with his aristocratic background, military prowess, and the interesting situations he always finds himself in. Many loyal Gabaldon readers don't even like or read the LJG books but I can't understand why. They fill in a lot of gaps from the big books and as the series has progressed he has become an important figure. In honor of Halloween this month I wanted to review my favorite LJG story, A Plague of Zombies. It is a novella added to her collection in the book Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, but you can buy it as a stand alone as well. The previous title was Lord John and the Plague of Zombies.  I've probably read this book at least four times and each time I do I discover something else I over looked. It is unique, creepy, and has an exotic location I absolutely love...Jamaica. So much so that when I visited Jamaica in 2019 on our cruise I couldn't get enough of the beautiful place. Having read this story before it was even more special. So Happy October and here's to many more additions to the LJG saga.


Lieutenant Colonel Lord John Grey has been sent to the island of Jamaica to help put down the restless stirrings of a slave rebellion. The current Governor Warren is only too glad to let Grey step in and take charge of the frightening situation as the rebels are slowly encroaching on the capital of Kingston, and thus ruining Warren's daily existence. A prominent plantation owner, one Mr. Abernathy, was found a few days before with his throat slit and the English slave owners are beginning to fear for their lives. As Grey tries to acclimate himself to the bug filled, creepy crawly infested surroundings, including a very unwelcome snake, he comes to realize that the superstitions and culture of the island are going to make it hard to convince the inhabitants that this is not, in fact, a matter of spiritual rituals or ghosts run amok, but rather a simple case of someone trying to use fear to channel things in their desired direction.

When Governor Warren himself is targeted and Grey is accosted by a deathly figure, Lord John realizes there is more at stake than he thought. Strange happenings continue to occur right in the Governor's mansion and then someone in the house is murdered. All seem to be connected to zombies and the supernatural but Lord John is too practical to believe it. He is definitely shaken and fearful but not enough to stop him from delving into the unknown, including pursuing information from the maroons living in the mountainous region surrounding Kingston. 

As he further investigates, Grey begins to find there is a great deal of government corruption and mismanagement and that the convenient explanation of bloodthirsty zombies is a ruse. With his usual courage and insight he traces the roots of a conspiracy that is wide ranging with deadly consequences. 


As I stated above I love anything Outlander and Lord John related. But I think this story was especially intriguing to me because I knew from the beginning it was a mystery with a reasonable explanation. I love authors who inject superstition into a story and make you think there is something supernatural going on, only to reveal the truth behind the curtain. This story had a touch of history as well with the addition of the maroon population. I hadn't heard of this group before reading this book and it set me on a path of discovery. When I eventually visited Jamaica it was amazing to see and tour their Rose Hall plantation and to imagine what life must have been like for the slaves who fled into the mountains to escape their horrible situation. Gabaldon's writing and historical research is always superb and my favorite thing about her is the way she assumes the reader is smart enough to figure things out without lots of specific explaining of details. Her stories always unfold piece by piece and it is up to us to put them together and figure out what is happening. Perhaps this is why I often read and re-read her books because each time I find little things I missed before. 

I also love the way she infuses characters and events from the big Outlander books into the short stories. The murder of Mr. Abernathy and Grey's meeting with Geillis Duncan are exciting and creepy if you've read the first three in the series. It is fun to glimpse a little peek into a storyline that Jamie and Claire are not even a part of. 


Not much! Really that it was so short. I have found myself disappointed each time I've come to the end of her novellas and would like for her to continue to write more. The Lord John bigger books are great but it seems she is done with his backstory at this point. I am hoping she will write some new stories to fill in the gaps of other minor Outlander characters.

RECOMMEND? OR NOT?  Yes, if you are an Outlander fan already. Maybe, if you are not.  I say this because at first glance this story would have seemed ridiculous to me had I not already known and loved the character of Lord John. It would be very short and very odd to the person unschooled in Outlander trivia and so I really think it's best to read the first three Outlander books before diving into the novellas. 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

A Christmas Deliverance by Anne Perry

Thank you to Net Galley for loaning me this book.

Publication Date:  November 8, 2022

Length:  224 Pages

My Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐☆☆ 3 out of 5 stars


I am still new to this book blogging world and so one of the fun discoveries for me has been Net Galley. You just go online to their website and enter your information and you can request early copies of books that haven't been released yet. So amazing! I still can't believe I've been able to read this book before it even hits the shelves in November. I have loved Anne Perry books for over 20 years. So this one was a no brainer. I still have to read about four more of her Christmas books and I knew there would be some spoilers here by reading them out of order but I just couldn't resist. They always get you into the holiday spirit. 


Crowe is a doctor running a clinic for the poorest, downtrodden members of London society. He spends his time healing those who cannot or will not go to a more prestigious doctor for medical help and has taken on Scuff, a former street urchin who has grown into a young man interested in medicine. Crowe and Scuff do not discriminate and will help anyone so when a young society lady, Ellie, is involved in a carriage accident not far from the clinic, they bring her there to recover. Crowe gets to know and care for Ellie and when her father comes to collect her he feels a void in his personal life for the first time. He is, in fact, in love. Knowing things will never work out for he and Ellie, Crowe vows to forget her but still finds reasons to walk through her neighborhood, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. One day he does, but it is not what he expected. 

He witnesses an argument between Ellie and a young man whom he recognizes as Paul Dolan, the wealthy son of a local businessman. As he learns more of her situation, Crowe realizes that Ellie's father is probably connected to the Dolan family through their own financial ventures and  concludes that Ellie may be feeling pressure to marry this very aggressive, controlling man. Confronting Ellie's father at her home about the altercation he witnessed on the street, Crowe hopes to convince Mr. Hollister that Ellie is in danger. Unable to assert any authority with her father, Crowe decides, with the help of Scuff, to quietly investigate Dolan's links with Hollister in the hopes of finding out anything to free Ellie from this perilous engagement. As they delve further into the business practices of both men, Crowe and Scuff find themselves, and the clinic, the target of unscrupulous policemen, dispatched to silence them. When an alarming discovery is made Crowe realizes Ellie may be in more danger than he anticipated and will stop at nothing to save her. 


All Anne Perry books have a certain rhythm to them. Especially her holiday books. They have recurring characters involved in solving a crime, usually murder, and they find resolution in the end. This alone makes for a reassuring, satisfying read every time. Add in the Christmas message and spirit and you will always come away feeling content. Without giving away spoilers, this book also adds a new character into Crowe and Scuff's lives that warms the heart in an extra way. As the book draws to a close it is Christmas Eve, moving into Christmas Day and she reminds us of the importance of faith and family. The touching scenes between Crowe and Ellie were nice, especially if you know Crowe's backstory from her other books. He has had a hard life and you just want to root for him. Scuff is the same way and so it is nice to see them together. 


I felt like there wasn't a lot to the mystery. This was my main reason for giving it 3 stars instead of 4. It kind of fell flat and I found myself waiting for more to be revealed. It was one of the most simplistic books of hers I've ever read and there really wasn't much to solve. Usually in her books there is an exciting twist at the end. Not so here. Although I will always champion her novels, I'm feeling like the Christmas ones are a struggle for her to produce each year. She is currently writing two other series, Daniel Pitt and Elena Standish and so I think these yearly holiday books are becoming an obligatory afterthought. That is unfortunate because I so look forward to them. I can't imagine writing so many books at a time. It might be better for quality to take precedence over quantity. Nevertheless, this was still a heartwarming book and if you are like me and know all the recurring characters it is always nice to see how their lives are progressing. 

RECOMMEND OR NOT? Yes, you still can't go wrong here!

If you love holiday themed mysteries and especially if you are an Anne Perry fan you will enjoy the book. It is a quick read at barely 220 pages so even if it doesn't thrill you it won't take up too much of your time. Even though I loved reading it early I have to admit that this book would be even more enjoyable after Thanksgiving, during the Christmas holiday season. I have yet to read one on Christmas Eve so maybe that is a good reading goal this year with the ones I've yet to tackle.


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

October Reads: 5 Sinister Stories For That Halloween Spirit


While Halloween is by no means my favorite holiday, it is nevertheless an important part of October and can be a lot of fun to celebrate. I'm not exactly a gal who reads horror books or watches a lot of scary movies, but I am a mystery buff and especially enjoy stories with creepy characters and spooky settings. In honor of Halloween I'd like to share some of my favorite classic books that will maybe make you look over your shoulder a bit. Some I read years ago but they stuck with me as a little more disturbing than your average mystery book. What are your favorite spooky stories this time of year? 

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

Amazon Book Summary:

I threw the piece of paper on the fire. She saw it burn ...Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries - and there he dies suddenly. In almost no time at all, the new widow - Philip's cousin Rachel - turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet ...might she have had a hand in Ambrose's death?

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Amazon Book Summary:

Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread the undead curse. The battle begins between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Amazon Book Summary:

Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to an isolated mansion on Indian Island by a host who, surprisingly, fails to appear. On the island they are cut off from everything but each other and the inescapable shadows of their own past lives. One by one, the guests share the darkest secrets of their wicked pasts. And one by one, they die…

A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon

Amazon Book Summary:

Lord John Grey, a lieutenant-colonel in His Majesty’s army, arrives in Jamaica with orders to quash a slave rebellion brewing in the mountains. But a much deadlier threat lies close at hand. The governor of the island is being menaced by zombies, according to a servant. Lord John has no idea what a zombie is, but it doesn’t sound good. It sounds even worse when hands smelling of grave dirt come out of the darkness to take him by the throat. Between murder in the governor’s mansion and plantations burning in the mountains, Lord John will need the wisdom of serpents and the luck of the devil to keep the island from exploding.

The White Witch of Rose Hall by Herbert G. De Lisser

Amazon Book Summary:

A very striking and curious story, founded on fact, of the West Indies of the early nineteenth century. Robert Rutherford is sent to the Islands to learn the planter's business from the bottom. He becomes an overseer at Rosehall, the property of a young widow, Mrs Palmer, whose three husbands have all died in curious circumstances. She takes a violent fancy to Rutherford, who is also embarrassed by the attentions of his half-caste housekeeper, Millicent.

His housekeeper is urging him, with some success, to fall in with West Indian habits, when Mrs. Palmer arrives. Millicent defies her and threatens her with the powers of Takoo, an Obeah man. Mrs. Palmer, herself skilled in Obeah magic, puts a spell on the girl, which Takoo's rites, shattered by the white woman's stronger magic, are powerless to remove.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Enemy in the House by Mignon G. Eberhart

Publication Date:  January 1, 1962

Length: 216 pages

My Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐☆☆ 3 out of 5 stars


I absolutely love historical fiction set in the West Indies, especially Jamaica. They are hard to find, let alone find one that is also a mystery. So this book was right up my alley. Throw in that it is considered a classic, having been written in the 1960's, and I just had to read it. I also had never heard of this author and when I went to do a little research was surprised to find how many stories she penned in her lifetime. You'd think she'd be a more familiar name. Maybe the whole mystery vibe had been done so much she was just one of many by the time her books were being published. I planned for it to be an Agatha Christie type book and to some degree it is but it is also different in its own way. The book synopsis leads you to believe it will take place in South Carolina as well but I found most of the book was set in Jamaica. Which was just fine with me. 


Amity Mallam is a southerner living in South Carolina during the American Revolution. Her father has fled to Jamaica, leaving her to run their plantation alone. It is a daunting task, especially since rebel leaders are bent on seizing the property of loyalists for themselves and Amity is feeling overwhelmed. To further complicate matters, Amity's father has remarried since her mother's death to a woman named China, who produces a son, her half brother Jamey. Even though her father has not changed his will and Amity continues to be the heir of the family fortune, it is problematic in that she must bear the burden of her father's absence. Her Uncle and Aunt Grappit and cousin Neville are at present living with her but known for being self serving, are not much comfort. 

Even though Amity is interested in another suitor, Charles, who is China's brother and away at present, she decides to marry her rebel cousin, Simon Mallam for practical reasons, and to find out what has happened to her father. Simon professes to have loved her since they were children and Amity feels gratefulness and affection for him, if not true love. Surprising her with their unexpected arrival on the ship, China, Jamey, and Charles follow Amity as she travels to the family sugar plantation, Mallam Penn, in Jamaica. On the way, China informs Amity that the Parson who married her and Simon was found dead at the bottom of a hill with his neck broken. At first glance it would seem the Parson was the victim of a drunken accident but China reveals that the same night, the family lawyer, Mr. Benfit, was found shot to death. It seems odd and coincidental to Amity that both were present at the wedding and both are now dead. 

Arriving in Jamaica, Amity discovers her Aunt, Uncle, and cousin have seemingly followed her there. She is immediately suspicious and when they tell her their news about her father she is alarmed. Her Uncle relishes in his role as Amity's paternal influence although she is less than impressed with him. He is arrogant and condescending and Amity finds herself unwilling to trust he has her best interests at heart. As mysterious happenings begin to haunt the plantation and a girl is murdered, Amity is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of what has befallen her father and to learn who might be out to sabotage her and her family. She knows the two murders back home of the pastor and the lawyer must be connected to everything else and it will take a lot of sleuthing to figure out how it all fits together. 


Well, obviously as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the huge draw for me was the setting. The 18th century, American Revolution, Jamaica, haunted plantations, yes please! I also found the additional murder mystery to be intriguing and Eberhart does a skillful job of not giving the game away too quickly. I was truly lost for most of the book trying to figure things out. She added a few surprises along the way that really shocked and kept me guessing. The manners and mores of the time were adhered to well and I thought her romantic touches were nice between some of the characters. 


The ending. I hate to be so blunt and I won't give any spoilers away but so much felt unresolved. The main events were taken care of nicely but I literally turned to the last page and was shocked to find it was over. It was kind of odd. It felt a bit like a short story that had another sequel coming. There were characters that still felt in a bit of danger and you were left wondering if they made it out okay and to safety. Others were those you hoped got more of what was coming to them but unfortunately you don't get to find out. It was very strange. Almost as if the author just wanted to be done with it and hoped the reader would accept not knowing the full story. 

RECOMMEND? OR NOT? Yes, with a few reservations....

If you are needing everything fully wrapped up at the end you might be a bit disappointed. But overall I liked this book. The mystery was interesting, the setting unusual, and the plot intriguing. I gave it three stars for the reasons I've already stated but still think it was great for those of us who love historical mysteries. I would like to read another one of her books to fully appreciate her writing and see if I continue to be interested. 



Tuesday, October 4, 2022

You'll Thank Me Later (5 Books My Teachers Made Me Read in High School)


Mrs. Graves was my ninth grade language arts teacher and she was tough as nails. I can still clearly remember sitting in her class and being handed the synopsis of the school year. We were to write a term theme and pick a book from the list she presented. It was going to take six weeks to write and then type (pre computers people, typewriters!) We had to learn how to research using the card catalog in the school library (I can hear kids today asking, what is a card catalog?) and document our information on index cards. It sounded terrible. 

I chose To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Thirty years later, I still have that term paper. It is in the attic in a box somewhere because it was special enough to keep. Students simultaneously hated and loved Mrs. Graves. She made us read and work and read and work and write and write and write. It was terrible. And fun. And rewarding. It prepared me for the rest of high school and beyond. And introduced me to a classic book I love to this day. My husband mentioned this topic for my post this week (thanks honey!). He said, "You should write about books we were required to read in high school." I wonder how many of us were reading these books, still read these books, and if kids now are reading them. I know my own boys have read a few from my list. Hopefully they will continue being presented to kids because they are timeless and wonderful even if we don't thank our teachers for making us read them at the time. What books did you have to read and do you still love them today?

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

I loved this book because of the beautiful and complicated relationships presented between Scout, her lawyer father, Atticus, brother Jem, and Boo Radley, the town recluse. The dynamic courtroom drama as her father defends a black man accused of rape by a white woman are as memorable as you will find in a novel. Being from Texas, it resonated with me in many ways, showing the prejudice of the time while also maintaining the pride in being Southern. It highlights the best and worst attitudes of the time. A classic for sure. 

2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding 

I'm pleased that this is still required reading at my sons' high school. I wasn't too sure about this book, being a girl, but ended up loving it and have re-read it over the years. You can't help but feel desperate for the stranded boys and the spiral into chaos that results in tragedy. As a parent, I have even more appreciation now for the situation they find themselves in. It is also a timeless lesson for all of us as to what can happen without law and order in society. 

3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 

I'll admit I didn't really understand the point of this book at the time. It still is the shortest classic I've ever read and is quite depressing. But something about George and Lenny's life and the Great Depression era stuck with me. It was realistic and raw and when you are a teen that kind of thing usually speaks to you. Not exactly my favorite required read but one I'm glad I was made to tackle. 

4. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Another book I didn't fully appreciate or understand until I was older, it still was great to be introduced to it as a teen. Hester's predicament and the community's reaction both angered and annoyed me but was also an intriguing look into Puritan society. It fueled my love of historical fiction from that era. 

5. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Sad to say this book is still relevant. Though Orwell was mocking the leaders of the Russian Revolution, the underlying themes of dictators, utopian dreams, and arrogance of the elites still happens in our current world. I've returned to this book more than once as it is timeless, humorous, and clever. As a teen it was way over my head historically but I got the gist of how people's true nature can overtake them and cause them to slide into tyranny. And the animals were a cute way to represent it.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Gracelin O'Malley by Ann Moore

Publication Date:  January 1, 2001

Length:  400 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆  4 out of 5 stars


This is one of my favorite eras to read about. The struggles of the Irish during the 1840's potato famine is a subject I never tire of learning new things about and it provides such amazing stories of heroic people living through heartbreaking conditions. Throw in the nasty English overlord and you've got a great historical fiction novel. I'm not crazy about books that are named after the main character, but that didn't stop me from trying it. 


Grace is a typical country Irish girl living with her father and brothers on their family farm. Losing her mother at the age of fifteen has taken its toll on the family although they try to make the best of things. Due to difficult circumstances, Grace is forced to marry an English squire, Bram Donnelly, but her young, girlish innocence leads her to believe love will bring them a happy and fruitful marriage. Grace thinks Donnelly will save her family from ruin and is optimistic about the future. Ignoring his past and stories of his violent behavior she plunges headlong into disaster. When the potato famine arrives and threatens her beloved county and the people she's grown to know and love, Grace attempts to save them in any way she can, feeding and tending to them with concern and devotion. Her husband is not pleased and as she defies him, her safety is at risk. Dramatic events ensue as her brother and childhood friend involve themselves in the political machinations of the time and she is forced to choose between saving her family or the new life she thought she was dedicated to. Throughout it all, the famine is taking its toll on everyone and everything around them and Grace is helpless to stop it.


This book incorporated a great balance of history and fiction. I learned a lot about the famine but also the politics of the Irish at the time. Using her brother, Sean, as the radical Irish revolutionary was a great contrast between Grace's more innocent, kind persona and Sean's fiery, unapologetic desire to change the status quo. When Grace is installed at Donnelly's estate I felt a sadness for her that the author invoked with the way he belittles her and kills her dreams for a happy future. The ending makes it obvious this is a sequel and it has the feel that the story is just beginning. I love that when a book can make you want to go out and immediately get the next one. The use of Irish Gaelic was a nice touch as well and phrases are sprinkled throughout the story. It is not as in depth as Outlander but it definitely has the same feel to it. 


There aren't a lot of negatives except that the character development tended to be one sided and I'd have liked to have gotten more involved with Bram's background and some of the minor characters as well. Overall it is a solid well written story though so not a lot to add here!


I think most historical fiction lovers would enjoy this book. No, it's not a deep read but certainly not YA either. Especially if you love stories about the potato famine you'd want to read it. And the sequels look interesting. I've looked ahead but won't leave spoilers here. Enjoy!