Showing posts with label England. Show all posts
Showing posts with label England. Show all posts

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Traitor's Arrow by David Field (The Medieval Saga Series Book Two)

 

Publication Date: 
April 25, 2022

Length:

222 pages

Summary:

I have always been interested in what really happened in the forest all those years ago when King William Rufus mysteriously died from an arrow wound. His brother Henry racing to Westminster to seize the royal treasury seemed like a cold hearted act to me. Field portrays this from a new perspective using some real historical people and facts and some fictional ones as well. While no one can ever be sure what really happened, Traitor's Arrow manages to give an entertaining story of the rise of Henry I due to the demise of his wicked brother, while also portraying him as a sympathetic character, only doing what he needed to save England and usher in a new era of stability.

Will Riveracre, or as he is now known in Book Two, Sir Wilfrid de Walsingham, having been knighted and land bestowed to him, is content to live out his days with his family. The current King William Rufus has other plans for him and needs constant support to field off his enemies in foreign and domestic entanglements. Wilfrid is unable to have a moments peace when William is king and longs for the day he can finally be left alone in his advancing years. Trying his best to walk a line between his family and his loyalty to the King, he eventually finds himself a prisoner for two years, scared and alone and far from home. When William Rufus meets his demise in the forest with the mysterious arrow and Wilfrid is brought before the new King Henry, he is amazed to discover he has been tasked with Henry's request of finding out what happened and clearing Henry of any wrong doing in the death of his brother.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Pyramid Murders by Fiona Veitch Smith (Miss Clara Vale Mysteries Book Three)


 

For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring, The Pyramid Murders, by Fiona Veitch Smith.  If you subscribe to Amazon Prime the first two in the series are free to read. So I might go back and tackle those too. 

Hope you have found something you can't wait to read this week! 

June 13, 2024

Historical Mysteries



Description courtesy of Amazon

A night at the museum, a dead body and a trail to Cairo. Sounds like a case for Miss Clara Vale!

1930Miss Clara Vale, chemistry major turned detective, is taking a night off from sleuthing to attend the launch party of a new exhibition at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle. But when the piece de resistance, a rare ornate sarcophagus, is finally opened and it turns out the mummy inside it is a fake it looks like there is no rest for Clara after all...

Later that night, she is summoned back to the museum and asked to investigate a series of stolen Egyptian artifacts. Using her scientific and forensic prowess, Clara, with her trusted assistant 
Bella in tow, embarks on a trail that will lead from Newcastle to London and along the river Nile to Cairo.

But she is not the only person hunting for stolen antiquities and when she uncovers an international smuggling ring with a penchant for murder, it becomes clear that Clara's own life is in danger too.

Can Clara catch the smugglers before they get away with another murder among the pyramids?

Monday, May 20, 2024

When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman (The Plantagenets Book One)

 

Publication Date:

February 6, 1996

Length:
750 pages


This is my second read for this wonderful book. I felt like the first time I read it so quickly and was much less informed about the period so when I recently finished the fourth book in the series, Lionheart, about Richard I, I decided to go back and read this one again. I hadn't reviewed it either and wanted to do that before tackling the last book, A King's Ransom. I'm so glad I did because it really helped me solidify the timeline of the Anarchy period in my mind. Also, these books are so dense you can't possibly remember everything so it always feels new.

Summary:
The story begins with the sinking of the White Ship and culminates in the ascension of King Henry II of England. Covering a span of roughly thirty years of turmoil and chaos Penman manages to make it look easy to get all the important facts in along with the emotions and feelings of the time. When Henry I loses his only son and heir in the shipwreck he is distraught and calls daughter Matilda home from the only home she has really known, Germany, as the former wife of the Holy Roman Emperor, who has died. Although Henry hopes that Matilda will take his place someday, the barons are not convinced and many side with Stephen of Blois, Matilda's cousin and the only other in line that can take on the role of King.

As far as the history is concerned, the book follows a solid timeline: Stephen becomes king, Matilda fights to regain her stolen crown, towns caught in the middle are destroyed, lives uprooted, and anarchy reigns. All the major battles, Lincoln, the Rout of Winchester, Oxford Castle, culminating in the Siege and Treaty of Wallingford solidifying Henry's triumph are amazingly told.  While Penman is exceptionally detailed and skillful in recounting all of this, it isn't the heart of the novel. I will leave the summary with this: the Anarchy was a time of horrible unrest where innocent lives were sacrificed again and again as two heirs are caught in their struggle to prove they are the rightful heirs to the throne. 

My Thoughts:

When historical fiction is done well you finish the book feeling as if you have lived through the time. You feel as if you know the characters inside and out as real people. This is how I always feel reading Penman's books. Having read others set in this time period I say there is no contest as to which author gets it right. Matilda's personality has suffered throughout history as being one of stubborn, haughty, and arrogant, only thinking of the title denied her. In this book she is still those things but with a much more human air. Her relationship with her brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester shows how much she relied on him and his judgement, both as a battlefield commander and as a trusted advisor. Her loyalty to her fellow nobleman, Brien fitz Count is touchingly portrayed and although a romantic involvement is hinted at, Penman never fully accepts the premise that it went any further than deep conversations and intense trust. 

One of my favorite parts of the novel is Matilda's escape from Oxford Castle in winter. I could feel the cold, the exhaustion, and desperation of the group as they attempt to evade Stephen's men who are completely unaware that such a feat is even in the realm of possibility. Penman recounts the harrowing night minute by minute and you feel as if you are with them.

Stephen is portrayed as the man caught between being too nice and too harsh. His inconsistency is shown throughout the story in a way that made me feel sorry for him while also being incredibly exasperated too. His interaction with his wife, also Matilda, and their son Eustace is realistic and heartbreaking as they come to the realization that Eustace is not the man they hoped he'd be. He is cruel and narcissistic and disappoints them. While Henry, Matilda's son is the perfect choice to succeed Stephen, this puts Stephen in yet another dilemma from which he is hard pressed to make difficult choices. Time and again his weakness for pleasing others comes to the surface but then he overreacts when he senses people are doubting him. I found myself identifying with this very human side in a way I didn't in other books about the period. It gave me great insight into how hard it must have been to rule effectively in a time when weakness is not tolerated and Kings must stay true to their threats or risk being undermined at every turn. 

Penman included a few fictional characters who show up in subsequent books. Ranulf, his wife Rhiannon and her family are distant relatives in Wales and Ranulf is Matilda's brother, one of Henry I's many illegitimate sons. While I enjoyed their story as a way to learn more about the Welsh, they were not a huge excitement factor for me. Ranulf's story seemed to serve as the romantic part that I guess she felt needed addding. He appears in many of the following books though so his storyline is not one to skip. 

I am currently finishing the last book in the Plantagenet story written by Penman. These are books that are sure to be classics. I do not doubt that I will read them again one day. If you start with this one you will not want to wait to buy the next in the series. I found myself peeking back into book two, Time and Chance, and having to force myself not to go down that rabbit hole! You will be hooked and find you are spoiled for her writing as you tackle other stories. 







Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Passionate Tudor: A Novel of Queen Mary I by Alison Weir

 


For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring The Passionate Tudor by Alison Weir. It is her latest fictional take on another famous queen. She always has wonderful research and excellent narrative for these historical fiction books so this one is sure to be good. I know so much about Queen Mary I already so it's not on the top of my TBR pile yet. But I wanted to share it because others might be interested. 

Hope you have found something you can't wait for this week!


May 28, 2024

Historical Fiction


Description courtesy of Amazon

The New York Times bestselling author of the Six Tudor Queens series explores the dramatic and poignant life of King Henry VIII’s daughter—infamously known as Bloody Mary—who ruled England for five violent years.

Born from young King Henry’s first marriage, his elder daughter, Princess Mary, is raised to be queen once it becomes clear that her mother, Katherine of Aragon, will bear no more children. However, Henry’s passion for Anne Boleyn has a devastating influence on the young princess’s future when, determined to sire a male heir, he marries Anne, has his marriage to Katherine declared unlawful, brands Mary illegitimate, and banishes them both from the royal court. But when Anne too fails to produce a son, she is beheaded and Mary is allowed to return to court as the default heir. At age twenty, she waits in vain for her own marriage and children, but who will marry her, bastard that she is?

Yet Mary eventually triumphs and becomes queen, after first deposing a seventeen-year-old usurper, Lady Jane Grey, and ordering her beheading. Any hopes that Mary, as the first female queen regent of England, will show religious toleration are dashed when she embarks on a ruthless campaign to force Catholicism on the English by burning hundreds of Protestants at the stake. But while her brutality will forever earn her the name Bloody Mary, at heart she is an insecure and vulnerable woman, her character forged by the unhappiness of her early years.

In Alison Weir’s masterful novel, the drama of Mary I’s life and five-year reign—from her abusive childhood,marriage,andmysterious pregnancies to the cruelty that marks her legacy—comes to vivid life.










Monday, April 29, 2024

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie (Miss Marple Mysteries Book One) Read Christie 2024 April Selection

 

Publication Date:
October 1930

Length:
256 pages

Summary:
This is the first Christie story to feature Miss Marple and for that reason alone I wanted to read it. Reverend Lawrence Clement narrates the story. He is the vicar of St. Mary Mead and lives with his wife Griselda who is a much younger and cheerful lady. His nephew Dennis lives with them. Clement dislikes the church warden he works with, Colonel Protheroe, and that sentiment is shared by many in the village. When Protheroe is shot to death in Clement's office one evening while the vicar is called away, Clement is pulled into finding out who did it and why. 

Prior to the shooting, Clement observed Protheroe's wife, Anne in a romantic encounter with one Lawrence Redding, an artist who is just visiting the village and although he doesn't out them at the time, he now wonders if they had anything to do with the murder. 

The police are unable to narrow down a working timeline of the murder due to conflicting notes and reports of the actual time of the gunshot. Miss Marple, local villager and shrewd amateur detective of sorts has her own theories. She believes there are seven people who could have had the means and motive and begins to zero in on their wherabouts and likelihood of guilt. The hardest clue to discern the answer to is the sound of the gunshot itself. Witnesses claim to have heard the sound coming from the woods, not the vicar's house. Also, at least one of the suspects was seen near the woods, but not carrying a pistol. It is tough for Miss Marple to puzzle out.

Meanwhile, Clement, who despises the Inspector Slack assigned to the case, finds his curate, Hawes, dying from an overdose and confessing to stealing from the church accounts. He also has a note that appears to confirm his guilt. Can Miss Marple narrow her suspect list down to find the real murderer in time? Or is is Hawes?

My Thoughts:
I liked the narration of Clement and his way of thinking. He is an interesting character and it is fun to hear his depictions of his wife and the local, colorful people in the town. Sometimes he doesn't sound much like a vicar in that he is very human, but that is what makes him interesting. Miss Marple doesn't figure in the story nearly as much as him, although we definitely see her personality come through with her sleuthing skills. 

I found the women in the story to be a bit shallow and irritating: Griselda, Clement's wife, Lettice Protheroe, the Colonel's daughter, and Anne Protheroe, the Colonel's wife all seem a bit scatterbrained and helpless. 

I thought the story moved a bit too slowly and had a lot of repetition sometimes when going through the clues but the ending made up for it. It was cleverly done as always and although I did suspect someone correctly I was wrong about the how and why. Overall it turned out to be a good, intriguing story with all the loose ends wrapped up neatly. Everyone who is a Christie fan needs to read it just because it is the first Miss Marple story. 






Wednesday, April 24, 2024

A Royal Murder by Verity Bright (Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery Book 9)

Publication Date: 
Februrary 28, 2022 

Length:
290 pages

Summary:
This ninth book in the series doesn't take us to an exotic location but does include plenty of royal excitement. Eleanor is attending the royal regatta boat races with her friend Tipsy Fitzroy. Tipsy has taken it upon herself to "help" Eleanor with her image...clothes and bearing. Eleanor, who is new to the whole lady persona she inherited upon her Uncle's death and the acquisition of his money and home, Henley Hall, obliges without enthusiasm. 

Hoping to enjoy the day peacefully, she stumbles into another murder mystery when the King's cousin, Lord Xander Taylor-Howard drops dead after drinking a glass of champagne during the after races ceremony. At first everyone thinks it might be an innocent tragedy but it soon becomes apparent that foul play is involved. 

Because of her past track record with solving suspicious deaths, Eleanor is asked to help Sir Percival, the head of the royal police, in solving the murder. She is surprised but happy to put her skills to use. She is also thrilled to be in the company of Detective Hugh Seldon, her love interest and someone she has worked with before, usually without Seldon's approval. 

As they follow the clues they have many options before them: was it gambling debts owed? Family secrets? A Russian mobster? Or a jealous lover's husband? So many suspects and directions to pursue. Of course Clifford the butler and her adorable staff pitch in when they can especially Clifford, who is always one step ahead of everyone else with background knowledge and insight. 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this one. I like it when my cozy mysteries move to a special location outside of England or America but this time the story was fun and intriguing enough that it didn't need that. The clues were interesting and kept me guessing right up until the end. There was a twist that I expected right before it was revealed and although I got the gist of it correct, there was still another piece that I didn't see coming. I absolutely love the characters in these stories, especially Clifford and his witty comments. The Henley Hall staff is so cute and work so hard to make everything perfect and beautiful and I always learn little things about the time period and running a country estate in the 1920's when they are cleaning or cooking something. 

The royal link doesn't factor in a whole lot, I think it is just there to make the story seem more surprising. But it works because it's more fun to read about Lord Xander than just plain old Xander, right? I will be reading and reviewing the next three books this year as the season dictates with their theme. The latest book 18, Murder in Mayfair, will be released in June. Wonder if I'll ever catch up?

 





 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Conquest by David Field (The Medieval Saga Series Book One)

 

Publication Date: 
March 4, 2022

Length:
288 pages

Summary:
The first book in a great series, Conquest sat in my Kindle awhile as I read books six and seven first. This one just didn't interest me as much but now that I have finally finished it I'm so glad I did. I really had no working knowledge of the Norman Conquest before the date 1066 and how it was the beginning of the England we know today. But William the Conqueror and his defeat of the Saxon way of life wasn't something I cared much about. With his usual, practical yet entertaining way, Field has managed to make me not only care but now want to seek out more about this turbulent time period.

Will Riveracre, son of the local miller in the village of Sandlake, wants only to marry a nice girl and live his life quietly and peacefully. Although his family is not the most well off in the area, they are content with their lot in life, beholden to the local nobility, or Thegn, who rely on the villagers to supply their way of life at the local Manor.  Accustomed to years of tradition and societal hierarchy, everyone generally accepts their place and with little working knowledge of political machinations outside of their immediate surroundings, cannot imagine things any other way.

Unaware of the brewing threats around them to the North, South, and across the English Channel, the Riveracres and the other villagers are naively of the opinion that as long as they have their men on the ready to defend the current Saxon King Harold Godwineson against any overt threat that could materialize, life will go on as it always has. Suddenly overnight though it seems that they are under attack from Viking Harald Hardrada of Norway and William of Normandy, both who claim to have a right to rule England themselves. Will and Selwyn Astenmede, the Thegn's son, are eventually embroiled in the fighting, both unsure of who to back as the outcome of which warrior will come out on top is so uncertain. Choosing the wrong side will have deadly consequences for the defeated. 

Throughout the next year the young men will manage to carve out personal lives with wives and children, while fighting for their way of life. As the battles tear apart the villages and towns caught in the middle, Will and Selwyn try to defend their families, maintain loyalty to their people, but also placate the wrath of William the Conqueror as he tears through the land, showing no mercy to anyone who doesn't bow to his authority. It will be up to Will to eventually convince the people that they must accept their conquest or die fighting it. This doesn't make him popular, but keeps him alive at great cost to himself and his old way of life. 


My Thoughts: 

Normally I prefer not to have fictional characters in these types of stories but Will and Selwyn were interesting and colorful enough that they fit in seamlessly into the storyline. It made me much more sympathetic to the local, terrorized people and how jarring it must have been when all the fighting and plundering of their way of life began. I had no idea how ruthless William of Normandy was either. I grew to really dislike him a lot and although he probably was doing what many other warriors have done who came before him, I found Field's portrayal of him to be one of a fearsome fighter alternating with an almost petulant, child like man who pouts when he doesn't get the immediate respect he feels he deserves. He is completely unforgiving to the Saxon people who don't want him there and scorns anything to do with their way of life.

Field is good at giving battle descriptions without veering off too much into super detailed facts which moves the story along. These books are great at giving one a snapshot of the facts, timeline, and personalities involved but leave enough so that you can pick and choose which subject or person you want to know more about and then go get more on that one area from another source. He also includes such interesting side stories I'd never heard about. There is a mysterious priest, hiding a great secret, a mistress, Edith Swan Neck, who was a real person with a famous shrine to the Virgin Mary, and people at court with William who factor into the fictional cast of characters. Another great read and I'm looking forward to the next book, Traitor's Arrow, which will tell the story of Henry I, son of William the Conqueror and his own rise the the throne.


Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (Book One Tommy and Tuppence Mysteries) Read Christie February 2024 Selection

 

Publication Date: 
January 1922

Length:
320 pages

Summary:
This is the second Tommy and Tuppence book I've read and they are becoming favorites of mine. It is also the second book published by Christie. Tommy and Tuppence are not in many of her books, only five total but they are a great addition to her detective characters.

When the story begins, it is 1920 and the Great War has just ended. Childhood friends, Tommy Beresford and Prudence "Tuppence" Cowley are reunited in London and share their personal stories of their latest adventures. Tommy, a former soldier and Tuppence, a war volunteer, commiserate together about their need for jobs and money. While they both would love to be independently wealthy, they realize that probably isn't going to happen anytime soon. As they talk further they decide to pool their intellect and talents and form a company, "The Young Adventurers, Ltd," aimed at solving any problem thrown their way, and soon have a client, Mr. Whittington. Before Tuppence can ascertain much information from him, she shocks him by giving him a false name she innocently pulls out of her memory, a "Jane Finn." This name completely surprises Whittington and he responds by angrily giving her money to keep quiet. Tuppence is shocked, not understanding why he is so upset over the seemingly made up name.

A friend of Tommy's from the intelligence community, Carter, tells Tommy the story of the real Jane Finn, who has disappeared after trying to deliver a secret letter to the American embassy in London, and that the letter was given to her on the fated ship, the Lusitania. Tommy and Tuppence decide to search for Jane, along with her American cousin, the very wealthy, Julius Hersheimmer. Carter warns them that they are likely to come up against a mysterious man, "Mr. Brown," who is the likely kidnapper of Jane and an evil man. No one knows his true identity and he tells them to be careful. 

Their sleuthing soon becomes dangerous, leading them to shadowy Russian politicians, secret back rooms, mansions with highly placed nobility, and kidnapping. Each of their lives are in danger, along with a tense sense of time running out to find the real Jane Finn alive. Throughout the case, their personal feelings grow for one another, making the resolution to the mystery even more high stakes.

My Thoughts: 
This story was a lot of fun and the identity of "Mr. Brown" was kept secret very well right up until the end. In fact, I was originally convinced I was right and then at the last moment I was proven incorrect! Switching back and forth between Tommy and Tuppence's experiences, as well as adding many colorful characters made it necessary to really pay attention and held my interest throughout. The plot was complicated and well drawn. I thought it was much better than many of her other stories I've read for this reason. 

My only real problem with the story was the part where Tuppence calls herself "Jane Finn." Although this is explained away as the plot unfolds, it was a bit of a stretch to me that it all happened the way it did. Without this element the story would not have worked, but still it did kind of bother me as far fetched. But it is fiction, so I went with it!

Even with the dark behavior of many of the villains, the story manages to retain a light heartedness that isn't there in some of her books.  It often felt much more like a cozy mystery. Tommy and Tuppence both come across as relatable, likeable young people who are clever, resourceful, and brave. It's too bad Christie didn't write more stories with them as the main detectives. I will be reading more of their books in the future.


Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters (Cadfael Chronicles Book 5)

 

Publication Date: 
January 1, 1996

Length:
217 pages

Summary:
Brother Cadfael, resident herbalist of Shrewsbury Abbey is helping to prepare for an upcoming wedding to be held there. Nobleman Baron Huon de Domville and Lady Iveta de Massard are hardly a young couple in love though. The groom is many decades older and is unattractive and harsh. The bride, innocent and used for an advantageous match between families, is desperate and dreading her future life. In love with another, Joscelin Lucy, a squire of Domville's, she hopes something will save her from her fate. 

As the time draws near, it seems her wish is granted when Domville is found strangled in the woods, apparently headed to an unknown destination, suspiciously alone and not in the company of any of his servants. Lucy, who was previously accused of theft by his employer when Domville suspected a romantic entanglement with Iveta, is accused of murdering Domville to save himself and goes on the run to avoid the gallows. 

Aided by his friends Simon and Guy, he is able to remain free for a time and is taken in by the Saint Giles leper colony, disguised in a location that no one, not even the Sheriff's men want to go. Biding his time while trying to figure out what to do, Lucy becomes attached to a mysterious leper and a young boy, Bran, who give him hope and compassion. 

Meanwhile, Brother Cadfael is on the case and investigating the mysterious death of Domville, not  willing to believe Lucy is guilty. His sleuthing leads him to mysterious plants, a previously unknown hunting lodge, and another woman in the mix. He has precious little time to figure out how these things all tie together if he is to save Lucy. 


My Thoughts: 

The story was well written as always in Peters's eloquent style, with lots of description and at least a few vocabulary words I had to look up. That makes her stories top notch as cozy mysteries go and Cadfael is always entertaining. There wasn't a whole lot of twists and turns until the last two chapters but they more than made up for the slower pace. Iveta's evil Aunt and Uncle are convincing villains, using her for their gain and Domville is given a back story that I didn't see coming. 

I had wanted to read this particular Cadfael mystery for awhile simply because the title intrigued me. I am reading the stories in order but really wanted to get to this one. While I enjoyed the mystery and ending a lot, I was a bit disappointed that Peters didn't include a little more history and insight into the actual disease of leprosy and the colony in the story. I realize the focus is on the crime and solving it but I thought she could have included more about the time and treatment of the disease then. 

I will continue with these mysteries as they are set in a time period I love, The Anarchy between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda. Shrewsbury is a great setting for the story and Cadfael is a solid character, always getting his man (or woman) in the end.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

The Wintringham Mystery (Cicely Disappears) by Anthony Berkeley

Publication Date: 
1927

Length:
260 pages

This story was originally published as a serial in the The Daily Mirror, in 1926. It was then called The Wintringham Mystery but later renamed Cicely Disappears, when published in book form. Personally I prefer the original title much better. Famously, Agatha Christie entered and won a contest through the paper which asked for ideas about how to solve the book's mystery. (Actually, her husband entered the contest, but it was Agatha who was behind the actual idea.) She could not solve it and this fun fact made me want to read the book even more. I had not heard of this author before but he is just one of many writing during the wonderful Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Recently reissued it is considered a classic. 

Summary:

Stephen Munro is a former army officer who is forced to take a job as a footman to support himself. Completely unsuited to the job and having to humble himself to learn his duties he is nonetheless determined to do his best. He takes up his employment at the country manor house of Lady Susan Carey and to top off his ineptness for the job, is subjected to the embarrassment of some former friends arriving for a weekend stay and recognizing him in his new role. The ultimate humiliation is when his love interest, Pauline Mainwaring appears with her new fiance and Stephen is forced to confront his feelings towards her all while trying to remain an aloof, neutral footman. 

As the weekend unfolds, a seance is suggested, just for fun, by one of the guests. When Lady Carey's niece, Cecily disappears after the lights go out, everyone feels it must be a prank she is pulling on them for fun. But with time it begins to feel suspicious when she doesn't reappear. Stephen, Pauline, and some of the other guests begin to work together to find Cecily and discover an intricate, sinister plot hiding within the cozy Wintringham manor. 



My Thoughts: 

I really enjoyed this book. The character of Stephen was endearing and I enjoyed the chemistry between him and Pauline. It was written in a simplistic style which reminded me a bit of the old Nancy Drew stories I grew up with. One of the things I always enjoy about older novels is the strong vocabulary. This book had this sprinkled into the story and gave it that classic feel without being too difficult to read quickly. 

The mystery was pretty detailed and I certainly didn't figure things out. I thought it was cleverly done and kept you guessing right up to the last chapter. It would definitely fit into the "cozy" genre in that there was nothing too gruesome of shocking. A good read and by an author that was new to me which is always a good thing. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Abandoned Queen by Austin Hernon (Berengaria of Navarre Medieval Trilogy Book Two)

 


For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring The Abandoned Queen by Austin Hernon. I purchased book one and intend to read it this year. Books two and three are out in 2024 and this is the second in the trilogy. At first I saw it as a romance type book but then I read the sample of book one and it was actually a pretty good start as a historical fiction book. The author is an older gentleman who has written another series about William the Conqueror's son, Richard. 

I hope you have found something you can't wait for on this Wednesday!


February 2, 2024

Historical Fiction


Description courtesy of Amazon books

Berengaria follows her king into the deadly heart of the Crusade

1191

Having married 
Richard the LionheartBerengaria of Navarre is now preparing herself for the turbulent life of a queen.

Though he has not yet secured an heir, Richard is determined not to settle down until he has recaptured Jerusalem from the Saracen forces. Vowing to stay by his side for as long as possible, Berengaria accompanies him on the perilous voyage to the Holy Land.

Caught up in battle plans, Richard has barely a moment to spare for his new bride. And after witnessing a sea battle and a deadly siege in Akko, Berengaria is left disturbed by the king’s ruthlessness.

Surrounded by misery and bloodshed, the young queen begins to understand the true cost of war. And as Richard becomes ever more consumed by his ambitions, she starts to wonder whether their marriage will ever have a chance to flourish…

Will Richard survive his brutal Crusade? Will he and Berengaria return to England in triumph?

Or will the horrors of war tear their marriage apart?

The Abandoned Queen is the second historical novel in The Berengaria of Navarre Medieval Trilogy: Early Plantagenet novels set during the Third Crusade and the reign of Richard the Lionheart.



Saturday, January 20, 2024

The King's Commoner: The rise and fall of Cardinal Wolsey by David Field (The Tudor Saga Series Book Two)

 

Publication Date: 
July 24, 2019

Length:
271 pages

This is the second book in Field's Tudor series and although I have purchased the first one about Henry VII, I wanted to read this one first because I didn't know a lot about the story of Thomas Wolsey. 

Summary:
The story begins when Thomas is very young and becoming painfully aware of his place in society. Born in 1473, he is the son of a common butcher of modest means, ridiculed by the upper classes who attend mass with him and are jealous of his cleverness and academic wit. This becomes more apparent as Wolsey grows into manhood, completing his degree in divinity at the young age of fifteen and uses his skills and connections to work his way to becoming chaplain for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He soon finds himself in the service of King Henry VII who appoints him royal chaplain. When his son, Henry VIII becomes king, Wolsey is firmly entrenched as a valuable asset to the Tudor ruler and uses it to his great advantage, steering events in his favor while maintaining the needed reverence due to the King. 

Because Henry VIII is still young and impressionable, he finds himself relying heavily on Wolsey's guidance and affirmation. In the beginning, Thomas is able to amass great wealth and power by making himself invaluable to the King. As time passes though, he finds Henry is growing into his own as a man and ruler and it starts to become more difficult to manipulate things in his direction. Henry grows increasingly more set in his ways and through a series of events with France and Spain, he and Wolsey begin to have conflicts that bleed into their previously trusting relationship. When the King decides to rid himself of Queen Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn, Thomas is expected to deliver the annulment necessary to make this happen. He cannot. And he finds himself in real danger from Henry's wrath. 

My Thoughts: 

I love that Field's books include real people presented in an authentic way so that I feel like I'm getting to know them and their thoughts, not just reading historical events. In this book though it caused me to be conflicted about the main focus because halfway through I really started to dislike Wolsey both as a man and as a religious figure. This is probably exactly what was intended and shows Field's capability as a writer. Unlike Simon de Montfort in The Conscience of a King, Wolsey does not come off as a sympathetic figure at all. We see him begin with promise, incredibly smart, talented, and impressive at a young age.  As he grows more entrenched in royal favor and wealth he comes across as scheming and cynical. It makes it hard to feel badly for him when Henry turns on him.

I can't recommend these books enough if you need a good, solid, chronological timeline of English history. I can't wait to see what the future holds for Field's books as I'm really hoping for a series of books that take place surrounding events from de Montfort through the Tudor years. The three Edwards and Bolingbroke would be wonderful as they seem to be under represented in the historical fiction world. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Justice For the Cardinal, all about Thomas Cromwell and his devotion to Wolsey, his mentor, and the events after this book and Wolsey's downfall.


Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Can't Wait Wednesday: Wolves of Winter by Dan Jones (Book Two Essex Dogs Trilogy)

 



For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring Wolves of Winter by Dan Jones. This is book two in his Essex Dogs Trilogy. I am looking for good historical fiction about the Hundred Years War between England and France and finding it difficult to come across. I am not a huge fan of books that are based solely on the battles of a certain time period but with this subject that is to be expected. Dan Jones is the author of many great books and his research is always solid and reliable. This might be one to try. I hope you have found a book you can't wait to read this week!

January 30, 2024

Medieval Historical Fiction/War Fiction




Description courtesy of Amazon books

The epic sequel to Essex Dogs, continuing the New York Times bestselling historian's trilogy of novels following the fortunes of ten ordinary soldiers during the Hundred Years' War.

1347. Bruised and bloodied by an epic battle at Crécy, six soldiers known as the Essex Dogs pick through the wreckage of the fighting—and their own lives.
 
Now a new siege is beginning, and the Dogs are sent to attack the soaring walls of Calais. King Edward has vowed no Englishman will leave France ‘til this city falls. To get home, they must survive a merciless winter in a lawless camp deadlier than any battlefield.
 
Obsessed with tracking down the vanished Captain, Loveday struggles to control his own men. Romford is haunted by the reappearance of a horrific figure from his past. And Scotsman is spiraling into a pit of drink, violence, and self-pity.
 
The Dogs are being torn apart—but this war is far from over. It won't be long before they lose more of their own.
 
From a vast siege camp built outside Calais' walls, to the pirate ships patrolling the harbor, and into the dark corners of oligarchs' houses, where the deals that shape—and end—lives are made, this captivating and darkly comic story brings the fourteenth century vividly to life.