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BOOK REVIEW: The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements

Monday, March 27, 2017



BLURB:


1648: Civil war is devastating England. The privileged world Katherine Ferrars knows is crumbling under Cromwell's army, and as an orphaned heiress, she has no choice but to do her duty and marry for the sake of family.


But as her marriage turns into a prison, and her fortune is decimated by the war, Kate becomes increasingly desperate. So when she meets the enigmatic Ralph Chaplin, she seizes the chance he offers. Their plan is daring and brutal, but it's an escape from poverty and the shackles of convention. They both know if they're caught, there's only one way it can end..


MY THOUGHTS:


I absolutely loved Katherine Clements’s debut novel The Crimson Ribbon which was inspired by the true-life story of Elizabeth Poole, a mystic and writer during the English Civil War who became famous for her boldness and vision (she told Oliver Cromwell not to execute the king, for example).


It was one of my Best Books of 2013, and so I was excited to hear Katherine Clements had published a new book, also set during the English Civil War.


The Silvered Heart tells the story of Lady Katherine Ferrars, an impoverished noblewoman-turned-highwaywoman. The book begins when she is only thirteen, and is travelling to her wedding with the son of another aristocratic family. The Cavaliers and the Roundheads are at war, though, and so the roads are dangerous. Her carriage is held up by highwaymen, and young Kate barely escapes with her life. The events of that day foreshadow what will happen to her later, as she struggles to survive the imploding of her world. 


I have always loved books set during the English Civil War and never understood why it has not become as popular a period as Tudor or Elizabethan times. It has everything. Bloody battles, betrayals, executions, kings-in-hiding, star-crossed lovers, spies, witch-hunts, highwaymen and, of course, the legend of the Wicked Lady - a woman who tried to shape her own fate by taking to the roads. The character of Lady Katherine Ferrars is fascinating. She’s headstrong, impetuous, romantic and, at times, both selfish and unkind. This makes her seem so real – she just gallops off the page. 


The Silvered Heart is an exciting and engaging mix of drama, romance, and history – I really loved it and hope Katherine Clements is writing another book. 

BOOK REVIEW: Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

Wednesday, February 15, 2017



BLURB:


Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.


Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...


Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone..


MY THOUGHTS:


The final book in Juliet Marillier’s latest magical historical trilogy, Den of Wolves wraps up the story of Blackthorn and Grim beautifully. It draws together the familiar narrative strands of Blackthorn’s quest for justice and her fear of drawing too close to anyone with the situation of a young woman who does not seem to fit into her world. Blackthorn is a wise woman who has suffered terribly in the past, and Grim is her huge but gentle sidekick who worships the ground she walks on. Their story began with Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns, which you must read first, and, as always with Juliet Marillier, is a wonderful mix of history, romance, and fairy-tale-like enchantment. I’ve really loved this series, and am sad that there will not be any more stories about the damaged healer and her taciturn giant of a companion. I’m only comforted by the knowledge that Juliet Marillier is working on a new project. I can only hope we are not kept waiting too long!



BOOK REVIEW: The Summer Bride by Anne Gracie

Saturday, February 11, 2017



BLURB:


Fiercely independent Daisy Chance has a dream—and it doesn’t involve marriage or babies (or being under any man’s thumb). Raised in poverty, she has a passion—and a talent—for making beautiful clothes. Daisy aims to become the finest dressmaker in London.

 

Dashing Irishman Patrick Flynn is wealthy and ambitious, and has entered society to find an aristocratic bride. Instead, he finds himself growing increasingly attracted to the headstrong, clever and outspoken Daisy. She’s wrong in every way—except the way she sets his heart racing.

 

However, when Flynn proposes marriage, Daisy refuses. She won't give up her hard-won independence. Besides, she doesn't want to join the fine ladies of society—she wants to dress them. She might, however, consider becoming Flynn's secret mistress. . .

 

But Flynn wants a wife, not a mistress, and when Flynn sets his heart on something, nothing can stand in his way. . 



MY THOUGHTS:


I’ve been eagerly awaiting the last book in Anne Gracie’s ‘Chance Sisters’ quartet, and now I’m all sad that the series is over. All four books have been delightful, full of wit and romance and poignancy, with each of the four young women so distinctly different in their personalities and each travelling a very different route towards happiness. 


If you love sparkling Regency romances, Anne Gracie is a must-read! Start with The Autumn Bride, which introduces the characters and situation, and then read them in order. 


BOOK REVIEW: Sophia’s Secret by Susanna Kearsley

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


BLURB:

When bestselling author Carrie McClelland visits the windswept ruins of Slains Castle, she is enchanted by the stark and beautiful Scottish landscape. The area is strangely familiar to her but she puts aside her faint sense of unease to begin her new novel, using the castle as her setting, and one of her own ancestors, Sophia, as her heroine. Then Carrie realises her writing is taking on a life of its own and the lines between fact and fiction become increasingly blurred. As Sophia's memories draw Carrie more deeply into the intrigue of 1708, she discovers a captivating love story lost in time. After three hundred years, Sophia's Secret must be told.


MY THOUGHTS:

A parallel narrative set in Scotland, filled with spies and secrets and forbidden love, Sophia’s Secret (also published as The Winter Sea) is just the kind of book I love to read. 

A young author named Carrie McClelland is writing a novel about the Jacobite invasion of England in 1708, but is struggling to bring her work of fiction to life. 


On a whim, she travels to Scotland for research and finds herself inexorably drawn to the ruins of an old castle that she knows had a key role to play in the rebellion. Slowly she finds herself drawn into the stories of the past, and makes a number of baffling discoveries that logic simply cannot explain. Meanwhile, back in the past, Sophia finds herself drawn into the dangers of the secret mission to return the Stuarts to the throne, risking everything to be with the man she loves.


I really love this period of history, and I also loved Susannah Kearsley’s deft mix of suspense, romance, and magic. Her books are smoothly and swiftly paced, and the heroines of both narrative threads are strong and interesting and likeable. I’ll be reading more of her work, that’s for sure. 


Enjoy books with dual timelines? Then you may enjoy some of the many other wonderful books with parallel narratives that I've read and reviewed.


Any suggestions for me to read? Please give me your recommendations!

BOOK REVIEW: The Other Daughter – Lauren Willig

Saturday, December 03, 2016



BLURB:

Raised in a poor yet genteel household, Rachel Woodley is working in France as a governess when she receives news that her mother has died, suddenly. Grief-stricken, she returns to the small town in England where she was raised to clear out the cottage...and finds a cutting from a London society magazine, with a photograph of her supposedly deceased father dated all of three month before. He's an earl, respected and influential, and he is standing with another daughter-his legitimate daughter. Which makes Rachel...not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past-even her very name-is a lie.



MY THOUGHTS:

I met Lauren Willig at the Historical Novel Society conference in Chicago a few years ago, and bought her first book The Secret History of the Pink Carnation on the strength of the cover and the blurb. Since then, I’ve read all sixteen of her books, which just keep getting better and better.


The Other Daughter is the story of Rachel Woodley, a poor young English woman who is devastated when her mother dies, leaving her an orphan. Clearing out her mother’s house, she discovers a news cutting with a photograph of her dead father. Except that the newspaper article is only three months old, and the man in the photograph is an earl. Photographed with him is his daughter, who is just the same age as Rachel. 


Realising that everything she thought she knew about her life is a lie, Rachel sets out on an elaborate game of revenge and retribution. She assumes a false name, and slowly insinuates herself into her half-sister’s glamorous social circle. Her deception soon begins to have unexpected ramifications, including Rachel falling in love with her sister’s fiancé. The result is a suspenseful and romantic historical novel with great period detail and characters. 


I also loved Lauren Willig's novel THE ASHFORD AFFAIR - you can read my review here.


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK.

BOOK REVIEW: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Tuesday, November 29, 2016



BLURB:

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. 


She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin. An equally hunky—and equally dangerous—dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. 


Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen's sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren't so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn't exactly what she had in mind . . .


Lament is a dark faerie fantasy that features authentic Celtic faerie lore, plus cover art and interior illustrations by acclaimed faerie artist Julia Jeffrey.



MY THOUGHTS

Maggie Stiefvater made her name with a series of teen werewolf romances that were a cut above the usual, with acutely realised characters and luminous prose. Lament is similarly a book about a teenage girl falling in love with someone not of her world, though in this book the romantic hero is an assassin sent from the faerie world to kill her. It’s a clever premise, and once again Stiefvater’s teenage characters feel real and alive. 

BOOK REVIEW: The Secret Lives of Emma by Natasha Walker

Saturday, October 22, 2016


BLURB:

Thirty-something Emma Benson is a free spirit. For her a good life means a life of sensuality. So it's a surprise to everyone when she marries David, a successful businessman, and settles down in the suburbs. One year on, and she's trying so hard to be loyal to her man. Not easy to do when you're passionate and uninhibited. 

But then, while sunbathing in her garden, her neighbour's eighteen-year-old son appears. And Emma has found her new project. She will be his perfect teacher. 

MY THOUGHTS:

Natasha Walker is the pseudonym of John Purcell, and The Secret Life of Emma is a hugely successful series of erotic novels about free-spirited Emma and her sensual adventures. The series encompasses three books – Beginnings, Distractions and Unmasked – and I read the third. Emma has fled her life as a suburban banker’s wife in Mosman and headed to Italy to try and discover what it is she really wants. She meets a young Italian artist and begins a steamy affair, while her husband David follows her, regretful about his own affair with her best friend. Amatory adventures abound, until David learns to accept Emma for who she is and they discover a new world of sensual exploration together. The Secret Life of Emma is definitely for Adults Only, but it has a lot to say about sexual freedom and honesty, and the importance of being true to oneself. For anyone who has ever dreamed of running away to Italy and having a scorching-hot illicit affair. 


BOOK REVIEW: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Thursday, August 04, 2016



THE BLURB:

Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty's dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.

MY THOUGHTS:


A picaresque romb through the music-halls and demi-mondes of the Victorian era, Tipping the Velvet is bawdy, brave and, at times, heart-breaking. It tells the story of Nan King, an ordinary girl from a good lower-class family, who becomes enraptured with Kitty Butler, who treads the boards dressed as a boy. Soon the two girls become friends, then lovers, then partners … and Nan has set out on an adventure through the darker recesses of London. A whole new world is revealed to Nan – and so to us – as she endeavours to find a place where she can be herself. Tipping the Velvet has been turned into a play and then into a BBC drama series, and launched Sarah Water’s glittering career. Utterly brilliant (if a little confronting at times.)


BOOK REVIEW: Gallant Waif/Tallie's Knight by Anne Gracie

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Anne Gracie is one of Australia’s most popular historical romance novelists, for good reason. Her style is smooth and pleasurable to read, and her heroes and heroines feel like real people, with all their faults. Gallant Waif and Tallie’s Knight were her first published works, and have her trademark warmth, humour and poignancy. 

In Gallant Waif, orphan Kate Farleigh accepts a job to keep house for a reclusive lord who had been badly scarred in the Peninsular War. He is angry and embittered – disinherited by his father and dumped by his fiancée – but Kate is determined to put his life back into order. 

In Tallie’s Knight, dreamy Tallie has a life of drudgery caring for her cousin’s three adorable children. One day, to her great surprise, the Earl of d’Arenville decides he must have a wife – and chooses Tallie because of her kindness to her charges. And so begins a wonderful romantic adventure story that moves to the Continent and back, and is filled with many humorous encounter and characters. 

BOOK REVIEW: TOWER OF THORNS by Juliet Marillier

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Juliet Marillier’s books are an enchanting mix of romance, mystery and historical fantasy. Tower of Thorns is the second in her new series ‘Blackthorn & Grim’ which tells the story of the damaged and disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her faithful companion Grim. Both have been badly hurt and betrayed in the past, and they carry the scars deep inside them. In this episode of the series, the two friends are asked to help a noblewoman who has a strange and uncanny problem – a creature has taken up residence in an old tower and howls all day, driving the people of the land mad. Bound by the fey to help anyone who asks, Blackthorn has no choice but to do what she can – even though the task will tax her to the limits of her strength. As always, Juliet Marillier’s prose is luminous, and the story both powerful and poignant. The books in this series can be read and enjoyed on their own, but I’d recommend beginning with Book 1: Dreamer’s Pool.



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