26 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of THE WOLF OF DALRIADA by Elizabeth Gates


Amazon UK $8.99
Amazon CA n/a

Family Drama / Adventure
1793
France / Scotland

It is 1793... As Europe watches the French Revolution’s bloody progress, uneasy Scottish landowners struggle to secure their wealth and power. And, in Dalriada – the ancient Kingdom of Scotland – fractured truths, torn loyalties and bloody atrocities are rife. Can anyone ride the maelstrom of these dangerous times? Only, it seems, Malcolm Craig Lowrie – the legendary Wolf of Dalriada.

In remote Argyll, people cry out to the young laird for protection against the evil of the Clearances. And there is also a beautiful Frenchwoman – staked as a child on the turn of a card – now living in thrall to her debauched captor, Sir William Robinson. But can the Wolf of Dalriada safeguard his people? Can the Wolf defeat enemies who, like the spirit of Argyll’s Corryvrecken Whirlpool, threaten to engulf them all?”

Part political intrigue, part romance, part mysticism, this debut novel, The Wolf of Dalriada, explores the upheaval of the period of the French Revolution and it is refreshing to see life in this era from the different perspective of Scotland rather than the more usual London/Paris Scarlet Pimpernel-type romantic adventure.

Perhaps a little clichéd in places with the baddies being bad and the goodies being good, and the occasional stumble with the flow of the writing where intrigue is key over action, but some of the scenery and ‘backdrop’ to the story is very nicely described so lovers of Scotland will appreciate this aspect. There could be some polishing to this debut novel, but the author has talent and a good technical editor could help bring out that talent to make Ms Gates an author to definitely watch in the future.

An entertaining tale.

© Ellen Hill
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25 May 2017

SWEARING ALLEGIANCE by Jana Petken


Amazon UK £2.79 £12.00
Amazon US  $3.45 $16.99
Amazon CA $22.64

Military
WWI / Irish Uprising
England and Ireland

This is a thoroughly researched novel that begins with the Irish rebellion in Dubin in 1916 and moves to the front lines of World War I. It is the first of The Carmody Saga, a fictional family, but the events with which they become entangled are all too real. The week long “rising” in April 1916 and its aftermath, is followed by imprisonment in Frongoch, in North Wales, for young Danny.

Danny's father is shot whilst collecting important research papers from the College of Surgeons and the family moves to his mother-in-law's home in Greenwich. Danny's older brother, Patrick, training to become a surgeon like his late father, joins a hospital ship. Their sister, Jenny, is injured in a Zeppelin raid. Meanwhile a close family friend, also a medic, treats injured soldiers.

Later Danny becomes a reluctant recruit to the British army. The depictions of the horrors of war are graphic. The rivalries and romances of the family members drawn with conviction. The many twists and turns of fate and fortune that afflict each member, and the way each responds, kept me turning the pages. This powerfully written novel provides moments of pleasure and pain, drama and horror that never fails to excite.

Given this is book one, and occupies two very turbulent years in Irish and British history, it is hard to imagine how Ms Petken will match the excitement as the family leaves the war behind. Of course, there is the violence of the guerrilla warfare that preceded Irish independence, and the brief but bloody civil war that followed. Danny, the passionate believer in Irish Independence, will surely have a part to play in these events that formed the Irish nation. What, though, of the other family members with their careers in medicine? Perhaps you can see that I am completely hooked, and desperate to read the next instalment.


© Frank Parker

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24 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of Rosette by Cindy Rinaman Marsch


 Amazon UK  £9.66 £3.07
Amazon US $3.10 $13.99
Amazon CA $18.32

Fictional Biography
US Settlement
1888

"Almost-spinster schoolteacher Rosette Cordelia Ramsdell married Otis Churchill on a Michigan farm in 1857. Her real-life journal recounts two years of homesteading, history hints at the next six decades, and the novel explores the truth. We meet Rosette in 1888 as she revises the wedding-day page of her journal. In lush detail, in the voices of Rosette and others, the novel traces how we both choose and suffer our destiny, how hopes come to naught and sometimes rise from the wreckage."

All novels are a labour of love, especially independently published novels, and this one takes that a little further being the story of the author's ancestor, derived from diaries and other records found by the family.

Rosette's story is one that must have played out hundreds of times to hundreds of girls, a story of growing up and living in the 'wild west' on land that was newly reclaimed from nature in small, close-knit communities that had to cooperate to survive. Drama was breaking a cart and helping each other was a matter of course. Laura Ingalls Wilder would recognise this world and feel at home here.

Although this is a story that is far from unique, what we have here is a valuable piece of social history in that is has survived to be re-told. Ingalls Wilder wrote her own story, and so did Rosette, but not for the consumption of anyone other than her own family, and as such, she didn't explain the everyday terms and words that she uses, which is why the author does that for us.

The style that this novel is written in reflects the style of that diary, it is not a 'he said, she said' scene by scene tale of adventure or derring-do with a plot building chapter by chapter, but this is a more re-telling style, recounting life as seen through the eyes of the characters. Because of that you never really get into the head of each character, but you do get a good sense of how the main protagonists are viewed by those around them.

A gentle story of family life in an era where life was hard and yet simple pleasures mean everything. A wonderful snapshot into a lost world.



© Nicky Galliers



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23 May 2017

Nȧȧpiikoan Winter by Alethea Williams



Amazon UK £5.62 £13.67
Amazon US $7.00 $19.95
Amazon CA $26.08

Family Drama
19th century
American Settlement /Native American

Based on the memoirs of a Hudson Bay Company fur trader, this novel centres around two people, Buffalo Stone Woman, a captured slave to a Native tribe, and Donald Thomas who is seventeen years old and who is sent, because of his linguistic skills, to live among the Native Pikani tribe in the Rocky Mountains in order to develop trade. There, he discovers Isobel, a Mexican landowner’s daughter who was captured many years previously by the tribe – and known now as Buffalo Stone Woman. Inevitably, a relationship grows between the two of them, which creates difficulties for the trade partnership which he is supposed to be seeking and encouraging.

Some of the scenes are graphic and unsettling, the Native names can be difficult to get your head around (I merely skipped over them) but Ms Williams writes with great skill, confidence and what appears to be highly detailed research. Her understanding of the differences between the two cultures is handled with dexterity, and makes this a recommended, very enjoyable read.

© Ellen Hill





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22 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The House at Zaronza by Vanessa Couchman


 Amazon UK £1.99 £8.99
Amazon US $2.55 $11.99
Amazon CA $16.06

Romance / Family Drama
1914 - 18
Corsica

It is delightful when one of the main characters is a place, not a person, when the scenery is described in as much detail and as vividly as the lead protagonist and the plot.

In the present day, Rachel Swift goes to Corsica, the place where her mother was born, with the intention of researching her family history. She finds some letters, which are anonymous but passionate and written to ‘Maria’. Gradually she uncovers the desperate love between the couple, the mountains they must climb to be together and the heartbreak they must endure.

Maria becomes a nurse when war breaks out – but more than this I am not saying, because it will spoil the story.

The House at Zaronza is an emotional, absorbing and powerful read, a story of betrayal, misunderstanding and a love story, all wrapped in the tragedy that these can, so often bring, especially when war is the main background.

The story is of the island during these turbulent years, and of the people – local inhabitants, invaders and who had to live, die, and survive.

This is a debut novel, and although written with passion and skill it could perhaps, as with all new authors, have benefitted from an additional structural edit, for the pace ebbs and flows a little, especially at the beginning. But do persevere – even if only for the delight of the descriptive scenery. Vanessa Couchman has a huge potential talent, and will be an author to watch, I think.

© Mary Chapple





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20 May 2017

Its the Third Weekend in May


This weekend please welcome

A TRIBUTE TO RICHARD ZIMLER 
by Christoph Fischer

click here

Richard Zimler




PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE

JANUARY    :  A Tribute to Rosemary Sutcliff by Helen Hollick


   
APRIL           :  A Tribute to Harriet Doerr by Inge H. Borg

MAY              :  A Tribute to Richard Zimler by Christoph Fischer

JUNE            :   A Tribute to Ellis Peters


WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR!
  • Cover of Month announced on the FIRST weekend of the month
  • Book of the Month announced on the SECOND weekend in the month
  • Guest Spot - posted on the THIRD weekend in the month
  • Reader's Voice - posted on the LAST weekend in the month  

19 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of ROMA AMOR Sherry Christie

 

 Amazon UK £2.39 £18.53
Amazon US $3.06 $22.96
Amazon CA n/a

Family Drama / Romance / Adventure
Rome 37 AD

Headstrong and hot-tempered, Marcus would rather prove his courage by leading legions against Rome's enemies. Yet when his father calls him home from the frontier, he has no choice but to befriend Caligula - the man he blames for not saving his brother.
Caught in a web of deceit, conspiracy, and betrayal reaching from Palatine mansions to the city's grimy, teeming streets, he will uncover a dark secret that threatens his family, the woman he desires, even his life... and may bring chaos to the young Roman Empire.”

Rome at the time of Caligula, we are all familiar with the ‘Fiddling while Rome burns’ character, and to a certain extent have we had enough novels about this period and character? I think not, because each vividly written story brings a new and different angle to this period of history when life was cheap, and the chap in charge of it, the Emperor was more volatile than Vesuvius!

Marcus Licinius Carinna has been fighting on the edges of the Empire, but is called back to Rome by his father who is one of Caligula’s advisors, and his recently deceased brother was a close friend to Caligula. Marcus is to take his brother’s place as Caligula’s friend. And then the plot thickens, to coin a phrase.

Ms Christie’s characters are well portrayed, with the everyday life in Rome equally as intriguing, from slave to Emperor. The streets, the homes, the palaces are all well drawn and feel believable. There are some exciting descriptions and scenes, some romance, some fighting, some adventure… enough to please most readers who enjoy novels about Rome.

I enjoyed the novel, it was absorbing and very good entertainment.


© Ellen Hill



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18 May 2017

Darcy by Any Other Name by Laura Hile



Amazon UK £4.00 £15.59
Amazon US $5.12 $22.58
Amazon CA $29.69

Fantasy
'Jane Austen' Regency 
England

The delightful Mr Darcy and insufferable Mr Collins exchange words in Netherfield gardens when a storm breaks and both men are struck by lightning. When they wake each man finds himself in the body of the other. With only tuppence to his name, Darcy can find only one good thing in the bizarre drama – as Collins, he is living at Longbourn with Elizabeth and her family.

If you can accept this body swap twist, then reading the book is both interesting and entertaining. If Darcy soon realises his misfortune, Mr Collins takes a little longer to see himself as the master of Pemberley. With no immediate way of resolving the situation, neither of them chooses to reveal what has happened.

The language is suited to the time period, though there are one or two Americanisms which do not sit well in a Regency tale, and a few typos – but they do not detract from the story. The book is very long, over 600 pages, and would perhaps have been better if the middle section had been tighter and shorter.

The moral quotes in the folly inform the reader, if not Mr Collins, that each man was intended to appreciate and learn from the other’s situation in life. Darcy’s attempts to woo Elizabeth while looking like Collins showed much more clearly how one can fall in love with the spirit of a man rather than his appearance. It is doubtful if Mr Collins learned anything at all from the experience and I wished that Mr Bingley had been more perceptive to the changes in his friend.

Most enjoyable and entertaining.

© Jen Black


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17 May 2017

DARK WHISKY ROAD by Jen Black



Amazon UK £1.20
Amazon US $1.50
Amazon CA n/a

Romance
Victorian
England

“For an ex-duchess, obeying orders proves difficult. But Melanie has little choice. Scarred and cheated out of her widow's entitlement, she accepts a post as housekeeper in remote Gavington House where widowed Lord Jarrow rears his young daughter. He has secrets, and Mel's curiosity will not let her rest until she has discovered what it is that occupies both him and his friend Mangerton. Soon she is embroiled in lying to the Excise men, and wondering if she dare risk falling in love again.”

Maybe Dark Whisky Road is a little melodramatic, and reminiscent of Jane Eyre in places, but what the heck? This is a thoroughly enjoyable true-to-the-genre romance.

I confess I initially selected the book because of the lovely piebald horse on the cover, which shows that cover content is as important as the narrative, but soon found myself engrossed in the struggles and doubts of our wonderful heroine, Melanie Grey. Forced to leave her wealthy life as a duchess, Melanie finds a position as a governess and housekeeper for a widower and his daughter. And so the plot continues from there, leading to the Excise Men and other such nasty baddies.

There are fascinating and well-created characters in this story, most of them with secrets or struggles to overcome, and of course there is an anxious budding of love. We meet the typical-genre necessity of brooding heroes, unsure heroines, dastardly anti-heroes, remote settings and misunderstandings

Jen Black writes with a crisp, refreshing style and elegant descriptions which take her reader right into the scenes she is creating. Her characters are equally well written, Melanie in particular is not the typical feisty beauty who has it all – she is vulnerable has her fears and none of the modern feminist views we often come to expect in novels. In this story she is ordinary – and I very much liked her, and Ms Black, for it!


© Helen Hollick




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16 May 2017

BEYOND DERRYNANE by Kevin O'Connell



Amazon UK £4.54 £11.21
Amazon US $5.57 $15.99
Amazon CA $20.74

Fictional Saga (adult content)
18th Century
Ireland / Vienna

This work of fiction deals with one of the less frequently mentioned aspects of Irish history. Throughout most of the eighteenth century the lives of Irish Catholics were constrained by so called 'Penal Laws' which prevented them from participating in certain professions; they were forbidden to practice their religion or own property, and education was denied them. Despite this, a handful of wealthy Catholic families managed to hold on to their wealth and continue to trade out of small ports in the South West of the island with the Catholic nations of Europe – France, Spain and Portugal in particular. Not permitted to serve in the British king's army, their men signed up instead to the armies of Britain's enemies – the previously mentioned three nations and the Austro-Hungary empire.

One such family was the O'Connells of Derrynane in County Kerry. The most famous member of this clan, memorialised in the name of Dublin's principle thoroughfare, was Daniel O'Connell. He, however, came to prominence in the first half of the nineteenth century, after the Penal Laws were removed, along with Ireland's independent government, by the Act of Union.

The principle protagonist in this novel is Daniel's aunt, Eileen. Married and widowed before her 17th birthday, the real Eileen later married a man from Cork but was widowed for the second time when he was killed for his opposition to the Penal Laws. This second husband had served as an officer in the Hungarian Hussars, attached to the court of Empress Marie Theresa in Vienna.

This version of Eileen's early life covers that first marriage and the six years between it and the second. Following the tragic end of her first marriage, she and her older sister, Aby, are sent to serve in the Court of Marie Theresa, where their uncle is already well established as a General in the army with the honorary title of Baron. Aby becomes Lady-in-Waiting to the Empress and Eileen governess and riding tutor to the Empress's two youngest daughters.

The novel falls naturally into two sections, the first dealing with the first marriage, and the second with life in Vienna. I found the use of language a little disconcerting at first, with its convoluted sentence structures laced with numerous qualifying clauses. The author tells us this is a deliberate attempt to replicate the writing of the period. I have to say that I soon became used to it. The subject matter very quickly held my interest despite the distraction of the sentence construction.

My interest flagged a little during some of the passages dealing with life at court. I suspect, however, that there will be many readers who will enjoy this; those who are fans of the television series Versailles, for example.

A warning: Eileen is portrayed as someone who enjoys sex in all its many forms. Indeed, her first experience, on her wedding night, provides the excuse for a brutal assault by her elderly husband. Subsequently, both are shown enjoying a very active sex life before the old man's untimely death by a heart attack. In Vienna Eileen forms a relationship with a Swedish officer and, again, embarks on a series of sexual adventures. Not that this plays more than a subsidiary role in her life, but it does make it impossible to recommend the book for younger readers, or those who dislike sexual content.

Eileen's second marriage offers plenty of opportunity for further adventures (sexual and otherwise!) and there is, in this volume, a brief introduction of one of her brothers (also called Daniel) to life as a cadet in Louis XV's École Militaire in Paris, which promises to offer another fascinating thread in the history of this remarkable Irish clan.

© Frank Parker





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15 May 2017

THE MAGICIAN'S BRIDE by Jen Black


Amazon.UK £0.99
Amazon US $1.24
Amazon CA n/a

Romance / Fantasy / Adventure

Viking

“Gisla might have won her freedom, but can she stay out of the evil magician’s clutches? There seems nothing that can save her from Karli Olafsson except a handsome stranger who doesn’t believe in magic…. His name is Olli.

This wonderful Viking romp will suit any reader who likes a bit of magic and adventure mixed in with the romance.

Gisla is a woman with determination and courage, and beyond all else is set on avoiding a marriage she does not want, particularly as it is to a less than pleasant magician, Karli Olafsson. Olli Ketilsson, on the other hand, is a young, slightly immature man who has flawed edges. Then there is Flane, Olli’s foster father, who relies on his ship’s crew to aid Gisla when she needs help. The escapes and escapades come at page-turning speed, overdone for real life, but this isn’t meant to be taken seriously as fact, it is a fun, romantic pleasure read and as such, it excels.

Set in the Norse settlement area of the west coast of Scotland, Cumbria in northern England and Dublin, the story gives a believable picture of these rough and unruly times when Pagan ritual ran alongside early Christian.

The Magician’s Bride is a light, easy read absolutely ideal for satisfying e-book entertainment while travelling or lazing in the sun somewhere. For less than $2/£1 or free on Kindle Unlimited how can you go wrong?


© Anne Holt




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13 May 2017

Its The Second Weekend in May

No reviews at the weekend


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12 May 2017

CAMELOT'S QUEEN by Nicole Evelina



Amazon UK £3.20 £9.81
Amazon US $3.99
Amazon CA $18.30

Fantasy / Fictional Saga
Arthurian
Britain

Guinevere's Tale Book 2

This is an engrossing continuation of the first book in the series, Daughter of Destiny. Full of mysticism, fantasy, romance and adventure seen through the eyes of Guinevere herself. The characters are believable and engaging – the nice ones and the nasty ones!

Ms Evelina skilfully blends the few facts we know of the period with beautifully written fiction. She creates such an emotive and strong voice for Guinevere that this series is surely a must for all lovers of the fantasy side of Arthurian fiction.

Guinevere is now married to Arthur, the king, a marriage she did not want, but the couple come to respect each other and realise that their own feelings must rise above what is good for the kingdom. But of course life, especially in the world of fiction, is never as easy or straightforward as that.

I did spot a couple of anachronisms and typos but frankly this is such an engrossing story these were easily ignored. Easily read as a stand-alone.

© Mary Chapple





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11 May 2017

MADAME PRESIDENTESS by Nicole Evelina


Amazon UK £3.51 £10.20
Amazon US $3.97 $11.49
Amazon CA $18.43

Biographical fiction / American History
1872
USA

“Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books. Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to "become ruler of her people."

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it's not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they've so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud "Notorious Victoria" as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, "Mrs. Satan's" radical views on women's rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time - a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century - but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.”

How many Americans, let alone us Brits on this side of the Pond have heard of this extraordinary lady, Victoria Woodhull? I would guess at a mere handful only. Familiar with our own Ms Pankhurst and Women’s Suffrage here in Britain I was interested to discover this US equivalent theme, and ended the book by wholeheartedly wishing that Ms Evelina could stray into the realm of Alternative Fiction and place Ms Woodhull as elected President!

Do not be put off by the thought that this might be nothing more than a novel about political events and women’s rights – it is both these things but primarily it is about a little-known part of American history which is both intriguing and fascinating. Written in Ms Woodhull’s voice, Ms Evelina deftly weaves the historical facts into the fictional inventive via a highly enjoyable and talented style of writing which vividly echoes Ms Woodhull’s own courage and determination.

The inclusion of an author’s note outlining what was fact and what was fiction in this novel was as engrossing as the story itself. What a pity that today’s political upheavals cannot be equally as enthralling as this most excellent novel!

© Helen Hollick



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