21 January 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: BLOOD OF THE WOLF by Steven McKay



AMAZON UK £2.99    /£8.99
AMAZON US $3.76  / $11.99
AMAZON CA $n.a / $15.74

Saga / Series / Adventure
13th Century
England
Forest Lord Series #Final

Blood of the Wolf is the final part of McKay’s popular Forest Lord series about Robin Hood. He bucks the trend and sets his in the time of Edward II and the location as Barnsdale Forest in Yorkshire. That in itself is refreshing as the scope for cliché that dogs Robin Hood tales is much reduced.

In this story Robin Hood finds that the tables are totally turned on him – he is the sheriff’s man and he is hunting a band of cut-throat outlaws. The irony is lost on no one. His band has dispersed and has to be collected together in a nice passage and they set off after the outlaws.

This Robin Hood is far from the Lincoln green romantic that we have come to expect. He is not too good to be believed and has an edge, as well as an ability to really rile his wife. He is not perfect, in his work or as a fighter and he does not have it all his own way.

The story gallops on at a great pace that never lets up as we traverse the north of England with him. There is enough back story to make this a decent stand alone novel and McKay writes this so it is not intrusive or trips up the flow. It is a rugged 'boy’s book', including some explicit language, with little delicacy about it... but then Robin Hood in his Hollywood romantic guise should not just belong to the girls, should he?

© Nicky Galliers Discovering Diamonds
 
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20 January 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: LORD OF IRELAND by E.M. Powell

AMAZON UK £3.98 / £8.99
AMAZON US $4.91 / $9.25
AMAZON CA $ n.a / $15.93

Adventure / Series
12th Century
Ireland
Fifth Knight Series

The Fifth Knight Series. Norman Ireland is rarely the setting of a novel, so it was very refreshing to pick up a book firmly placed on the Emerald Isle and further enhanced by the sympathetic protagonist, Benedict Palmer, and his wife, Theodosia. These characters have a rich backstory as presented in previous books of the series, and it is probably of benefit to read them first to fully understand their motivations and reactions.

In 1185, Henry II sent his son, John, to Ireland to pacify the natives – and ensure a certain Hugh de Lacy wasn’t growing too big for his boots. The young prince was accompanied by Gerald of Wales, and these three real-life characters form the base round which EM Powell’s well-constructed novel pivots. John is as disagreeable and inept as one would expect – gifted with cunning rather than intellect – Gerald of Wales is a delightful waste of space, more interested in his creature comforts and proving his prejudices versus the savage Irish, and Hugh de Lacy is enigmatic and silently powerful.

Sir Benedict has been ordered by King Henry to accompany John, and while Benedict is less than delighted by all this, he has no choice but to comply. He leaves with a heavy heart but can comfort himself with the knowledge that Theodosia remains safely at home. Ha. By now, Benedict should know his wife better. Where he worries about her, she worries about him, which is why she disguises herself as a nun and somehow makes it across to Ireland where she ends up as Gerald of Wales’ private secretary & nursemaid rolled into one.

Benedict is shocked when he recognises the nun tending to Gerald’s needs. He is just as shocked by John’s behaviour, and as to Hugh, Sir Benedict is not entirely sure the man can be trusted. Soon enough, Benedict finds himself in quite the tight corner: his beloved wife’s well-being is threatened, and Palmer must take to desperate means to save Theodosia from an aggravated John and his determination to proclaim himself King, not Lord, of Ireland.

The historical and geographical setting is beautifully presented, the protagonists are well-developed and as the story proceeds, it becomes increasingly difficult to put the book down. All in all, a great read – maybe with the one single objection: Prince John is so bad, so depraved, he hovers close to becoming a caricature. Surely the man had at least one redeeming feature? One moment of decency?
Or maybe he didn’t.

©Anna Belfrage 

19 January 2017

FOR KING AND COUNTRY by Charlene Newcomb

AMAZON UK £ 4.16 / £12.50
AMAZON US $ 5.24 / $14.99
AMAZON CA $n.a / $19.37

Saga / Series
Crusades
Battle Cross Series #2

It’s well over a year since I read Ms Newcomb’s first book in her Battle Cross series, Men of the Cross. Set during the Third Crusade, this book introduced Henry de Grey and Stephan l’Aigle, two young men who find themselves in more ways than one while fighting the infidel in the Holy Land.

Now Henry and Stephan – together with the enigmatic Robin – have returned to England, only to find the enemy lives and breathes at home as well, in this case as the grasping Prince John, younger brother to the imprisoned King Richard – and determined to make England his own.

We all know the general story of Richard and his younger brother, we all know that England was ravaged by strife, with some men siding with John, others with their king. This is the complicated mess to which Henry and Stephan return, and soon enough it becomes apparent it will be very difficult to identify friend from foe – even within the immediate family.

Ms Newcomb has stepped outside the normal restrictions imposed on novels set in these times in that her Henry and Stephan are not only comrades in arms, they are lovers. In a sequence of beautiful scenes, she breathes careful life into their passion, moments of tenderness and love that make it abundantly clear theirs is not a short-term relationship, theirs is the love of a lifetime.

Unfortunately, Henry is the heir to estates and is expected to marry. Fortunately, the young bride, Elle, is no more interested in marrying Henry than he is in marrying her, which leads to a creative approach to things.

While Henry’s marital issues are a recurring theme throughout the book, the central plot is based round Prince John’s determination to fight his brother for England. In secret, he is arming and provisioning various castles – among them Nottingham – and this is where Sir Robin, loyal knight to King Richard, takes the lead, forming a band of men to create as much havoc as possible.  Men such as Tuck and Little John, Allan and Will take on shape, becoming very different creatures than the outlaws we know from the old tales of Robin and his Merry men. And yes, there is a Marion too.

Beautifully written, chock-full of historical details imparted elegantly throughout, For King and Country is a compelling and wonderful read. I am happy to note Ms Newcomb is planning further books in the series – I for one will be eagerly awaiting them!

© Anna Belfrage Discovering Diamonds




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18 January 2017

FIRE AND STEEL By David Cook


Amazon UK £3.95 / £9.99
Amazon US $4.88 / $18.00 
Amazon CA $ n.a $23.65

Military / Anthology / Epic
Napoleonic / 18th-19th Century

Fire and Steel isn’t one book but five novellas amalgamated under the banner of The Soldier Chronicles, which covers a period of almost twenty years of conflict in Ireland, Malta, Holland, Spain, and culminating in the Battle of Waterloo.

David Cook’s writing is powerful, and in each episode he introduces new characters in new situations and in different locations. In each story there is a battle and for the more sensitive reader be warned - these are described graphically and bring out the horrors of warfare with such skill that you feel as though you are there, which not all readers who do not enjoy bthe reality of battles may not appreciate.

The only blemish on the presentation is one badly spaced line towards the end of the last story. My one disappointment was that there was not enough of each episode as each could well have made a full-length novel and even a series. The author has the ability to enthral for a lot longer than a hundred or so pages!

An excellent anthology. Highly recommended.

©Richard Tearle Discovering Diamonds



(This novel may appear incorrectly formatted as an e-book on some devices.) 


17 January 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR By Jen Black




Amazon UK £2.65
Amazon US $3.50
Amazon CA n.a

Romance
Victorian / Edwardian -  19th Century

Artistically talented Daisy Charlton dreams of furthering her art studies in London. Whiled doing so she is helping her uncle catalogue his art collection, but when one of the paintings goes missing, it is suspected that she might have had a hand in it. Well, suspected by Mr Adam Grey, who offers to take on the investigation into the disappearing paintings.

The theft is the first of many, and Adam finds himself working with Daisy, though he worries she is too young and vulnerable to assist in a crime investigation, but he is attracted to her  and is more than happy to spend time in her company.

Daisy does not know what to make of Adam. Rumour has him a cruel employer who dismisses people over misdemeanours; more rumours describe him as a womaniser. Initially Daisy is too innocent to sort the truth from the lies – but she is also attracted to this man with silver eyes.

Ms Black delivers an superbly executed romance firmly rooted in an excellently depicted historical setting. The 19th century comes vividly alive, and Daisy and Adam both rise above the clichéd cut-outs to become characters it is easy to relate to and care for. The plot is well-constructed, the dialogue enjoyable and the villains agreeably villainous. A book warmly recommended for readers who enjoy a well-written historical romance.

©Anna Belfrage 

(This novel may appear incorrectly formatted as an e-book on some devices.)

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16 January 2017

OUT OF TIME by Loretta Livingstone

Amazon UK  £1.99  / £5.95
Amazon US   $2.47  / $10.69
Amazon CA $n.a $13.95

Time slip / adventure / series
20th century / 12th century
England
series #1

May 2006. Marion settles to rest in the shade of an ancient tree in the grounds of Sparnstow Abbey, leaving her daughters, Shannon and Chloe to explore the historical site… and then finds herself back in 1191 when the Abbey is a busy community and John, youngest son of Henry II is on the prowl.

Time travel stories are not always easy to write – the characters, situations, and the research, has to be thoroughly believable for the time slip element to work. And this novel works, it works very well indeed. The dialogue, for the past and the present, is convincingly written, bringing the medieval world to life as much as the modern scenes. Admittedly the plot is a little contrived in places, and I could make a few nit-pick quibbles about plausibility, but this is fiction and not meant to be taken as serious historical literature, and anyway the subject matter itself of Time Travel is not exactly 'fact' is it? This is a highly enjoyable and readable story. Ms Livingstone has proved her worth as a creditable, skilled, and entertaining writer.

Out of Time is a light and easy read, ideal for a holiday, or to read on an otherwise tedious journey. My only ‘complaint’ is that the story itself is too short, I could happily have read on for another one-hundred or so pages. But hurrah! I believe there is to be a sequel...!

©Mary Chapple Discovering Diamonds
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15 January 2017

SUNDAY

No reviews on a Sunday 
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