18 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE SULTAN, THE VAMPYR AND THE SOOTHSAYER by Lucille Turner


AMAZON UK £4.99    / £10.99
AMAZON US $6.16   / $15.99
AMAZON CA $6.99 / $17.87


Ottoman Empire
15th Century 
Europe

In 1442, a certain Vlad Dracul is detained by Murad II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Vlad is the prince of Wallachia, a country stuck between Hungary and the borders of the Ottoman Empire. In the ongoing struggle between the Ottomans and what little remains of the Byzantine Empire, whoever controls Wallachia has something of an upper hand. To ensure Vlad’s loyalty, his two younger sons, Vlad Jr and Radu, are taken as hostages. He will never see his boys again—he cannot betray his first loyalty to the Emperor in Constantinople. Instead, the two Romani princes are educated as Turks, and soon enough the sultan’s heir, Mehmet, begins to take an interest in the two young prisoners – and especially in Radu.

This is an interesting and well-written book, depicting the world of the Ottoman court in technicolour. Glorious descriptions of settings and interiors go hand-in-hand with well-developed characters, revealing just how much research the author must have done prior to putting pen to paper. Murad, Vlad Sr, the Grand Vizier Halil Pascha, all take on shape and form, but it is Vlad Jr who is the protagonist, a complicated person burdened with the affliction of night-walking and seizures. He is also bitter and angry— with his father for abandoning them, with Mehmet for taking advantage, with himself for not being able to protect his brother from Mehmet.

I must admit to having some trouble in fully accepting the portrayal of Mehmet. He is all of ten when Vlad and his brother end up as hostages, and already, as per this novel, he has murdered one brother and spent numerous nights sodomising young boys, plus is now the acting regent. Yes, Mehmet was very young when his father first made him regent, only twelve, but his appointment was initially in name only, with the real power residing with the Grand Vizier. Here, he appears older, and far more ambitious than a boy that young would be. I also find the timeline a tad confusing: in some cases, each chapter follows more or less immediately on the preceding chapter, in others it becomes evident time has lapsed – but is difficult to know how much. Likewise, I don’t fully understand the role of the soothsayer. The central story doesn’t need this addition, rather it distracts from the convoluted political machinations and the growing enmity between Mehmet and Vlad.

However, despite the above, Ms Turner delivers a fascinating read. The prose flows beautifully throughout, and in particular in the chapters featuring the ailing sultan, Murad. These are the chapters in which Ms Turner’s obvious skills in descriptive writing shine through, leaving me with images of shaded courtyards and shuttered walls, of women flitting by in veils while the sultan reclines on his divan and tries to ignore the problems caused by his son and heir. Recommended for all those with an interest in the Ottoman Empire – or with a somewhat “exotic” setting in general.

© Anna Belfrage


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17 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: MASK of DUPLICITY by Julia Brannan


AMAZON UK £0.00    / £7.70
AMAZON US $0.00   / $13.88
AMAZON CA $0.00  / $18.35

Romance
18th Century / 1745
England

Jacobite Chronicles Series

There is a great deal to say about this novel, the first in the Jacobite Chronicles, and most of it good.

Beth lives happily enough in her deceased father's house with the servants as her friends, but the return from the army of her half-brother, Richard, is not a cause for celebration. Coerced into approaching their estranged family, Beth is forced into the role of a society lady who has to follow convention when all she wants to do is run home to Didsbury. However, she makes new acquaintances including the foppish Sir Anthony Peters, but is all as it seems?

Beth Cunningham is a very likeable character who manages to be sweet, strong, and sympathetic without descending into sentimentality, and you have to like her. She is quick-witted and clever. Her brother, and indeed almost every other main character, is the opposite: you do feel for Beth being stranded among them all.

Sir Anthony Peters is, from his first appearance, obviously important, not only to the plot but to London society, however, one of my two criticisms would be that we are never told why this close confidante of the king should ever cultivate the acquaintance of the Cunningham family. They consist of an over-bearing snob, two ageing spinsters and a third sister who was widowed far too young and lives in the past, never seeing a future. They are a thoroughly unlikeable lot but we never discover why Sir Anthony bothers with them. 

On the whole, the novel is written very well. The story flows, the details are addressed for the most part, and the characters are nicely drawn and addictive. Beth is brilliantly done, and she carries the story. The point of view has a habit of slipping, quite alarmingly in the final dénoument of the story, with no fewer than six characters having their say, rather than sticking to the thoughts of just one. 

However,  these points can be completely forgiven. The perfectionists, and those not keen on unsettling 'adult' scenes, will perhaps think otherwise, but that would be their loss as the story and the potential that is set up by the book are otherwise excellent and quite carry you away. It is a longish read, but it still manages to end too soon, and although the reader can see where it is heading, you remain eager to learn how it gets there. I am very much looking forward to the second instalment of The Jacobite Chronicles  - maybe the secret of why Sir Anthony retains connection with those awful Cunninghams will be revealed? 

© Nicky Galliers
This novel may appear incorrectly formatted on some e-reader devices

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16 February 2017

THE ERRANT HOURS by Kate Innes

AMAZON UK £2.99    / £8.99
AMAZON US $3.99   / $13.50
AMAZON CA $ 4.96 / $17.43

No specific category
13th Century
England

The French woman is dying during childbirth. She is mistress to an English nobleman. Ursula the local Shropshire midwife is also due to give birth, but attends the hapless mother. One of their babies lives, the other does not.

Skip forward quite a few years: Illesa, Ursula’s daughter, is finding it hard to keep the small family farm going and her elder brother is in trouble again. She must trust to her wits and a book, Saint Margaret, that her mother gave her. Then she finds herself in the company of a man who is kindred to the King’s Chancellor, and who is to organise a celebration for Edward I’s victory over the Welsh, a task he struggles to ensure goes well (anyone who has organised such an important event can wholeheartedly sympathise with him!) Twists and unexpected turns follow, keeping the reader guessing as page after page is swiftly turned.

Running through the plot is the fortune (or misfortune) of St Margaret who was martyred in the 4th century, and a 6th century Welsh tale – both of which are skilfully woven into the narrative, and do have a reason to be there, but to say why here could be a spoiler so I am saying nothing more.

The research for this novel appears to be meticulous, and it was a delight to encounter something different to the norm in the form of an obscure actual incident, which so added to the pleasure of this wonderful story. Kate Innes writing holds the reader throughout – a delightful read, very highly recommended and most definitely a Discovered Diamond!

©Helen Hollick

Note: this novel may appear to be incorrectly justified as an e-book on some devices
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15 February 2017

The Loyalist's Wife & The Loyalist's Luck by Elaine Couglar

The Loyalist’s Wife and The Loyalist’s Luck By Elaine Cougler


THE LOYALIST'S WIFE
Amazon UK £4  £14.19
Amazon US $3.95 $18.00
Amazon CA $29.77

THE LOYALIST’S LUCK
Amazon UK £4.00 £15.53
Amazon US $4.86 $21.83
Amazon CA $29.57

Family Saga
American War of Independence
Colonial America

Loyalist Series # 1 & 2

As a Brit, I usually think of the American War of Independence, the break from Britain, with a British eye, and always from the British side of history. Ms Couglar’s two novels, The Loyalist’s Wife and The Loyalist’s Luck, are a refreshing change because they explore a different angle – that of not all Colonists wanting to throw out British rule.

John and Lucy are a young couple living in the Frontier Territory of New York State. (Even that is different to me, a British reader only familiar with New York as a bustling, over-populated city!) John makes the decision, in the first book, The Loyalist’s Wife, to enlist to fight the rebels, in consequence leaving Lucy on her own to face the threat of Reavers, miscreants loyal to only themselves. For Lucy, this was the fate of many a woman when her husband, sons, brothers went off to fight in whatever war was going on at the time.

In the second book, The Loyalist’s Luck, Lucy and John flee to Canada from the resulting success of the Revolution. As with all refugees they can only take what meagre possessions they can grab in a hurry, and hope that luck brings them the ability to start a new life in a new home, but Lucy, yet again, finds herself having to rely on her own wits in order to survive.

These two novels are, perhaps, more of an exploration of Lucy’s strong character and her determination to win through, than the Revolution itself, or John’s part in it, but as a look at life in the American Colonies during that turbulent period these are two very highly recommended novels.

© Helen Hollick


The Loyalist’s Wife also has a Chill With a Book Award.


14 February 2017

A Discovered Diamond Review of THE GYBFORD AFFAIR by Jen Black

A Regency Romance for St Valentine's Day!

AMAZON UK £ 2.12
AMAZON US $ 2.62
AMAZON CA $ n/a

Regency Romance
18th Century
England

This Regency Romance is set in the north of England, in County Durham but as it also takes place among polite society, location actually makes little difference - this little community offers as much intrigue as London or Longbourne. And it owes something to Jane Austen in presenting us with a charming uniformed young man and a rather reserved, upright Marquess. So you can see the plot unfolding well ahead of you, but that really is of no consequence. As ever, it is the journey that matters, not the obvious destination.

Frances, Lady Rathmere, is a delightful heroine with enough common sense and strength to satisfy the modern reader and yet enough delicacy and sensibility to be acceptable to the time in which the novel is set. A widow when we meet her, she enjoys more freedoms in society and is yet aware of the very strict boundaries of those freedoms. That doesn't mean to say she always remains within them...

Jack, our Marquess hero, is strong enough to be the perfect foil to Frances and yet he is damaged and broken when he bursts into the story, grief-stricken by the death of his wife of only ten months. He has fled London for the peace of a run-down family estate adjoining Gybford, and hence he and Frances meet.

There were a few typos in the version I read, but that apart, this novel is the kind you want to curl up with on a winter evening under a blanket. It is a classic Regency Romance, one of the better written of the genre that I have come across, with characters that are distinct and memorable. They do exactly what you expect of them and in this genre that is what you want. It owes more than a passing nod to Pride and Prejudice and that is no bad thing. If you love Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy you will adore Frances and her Jack.


 © Nicky Galliers
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13 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE FALCON FLIES ALONE by Gabrielle Mathieu



Amazon UK £3.81 £12.50
Amazon US $4.64 $15.99
Amazon CA $ n.a / $20.87

Fantasy / Thriller 
20th Century
Switzerland

As the sun rises on a quiet Swiss mountain village in 1957, runaway Peppa Mueller wakes up naked and stranded on the roof of her employer’s manor, with no idea how she got there. As she waits for help, she struggles to piece together fragmented memories of the previous night. Did she really witness the brutal massacre of a local family? Did she kill them? Her fear of sinister house guest Dr. Unruh fuels her panic—as do electrifying flashes of a furious falcon, trapped inside her.
Wanted for murder, Peppa flees the police, intent on finding out if there’s a scientific explanation or if she’s just going mad. Her godfather, world-renowned chemist Dr. Kaufmann, risks his career to help her. In the meantime, Peppa fights her attraction to the handsome priest from India who offers her shelter. With their help, she not only finds Dr. Unruh but places herself at his mercy. His experiments may be the reason Peppa now shares her body with a bloodthirsty bird of prey—but the revenge she plans could kill them both.

The first of a trilogy, The Falcon Flies Alone is slightly outside the Discovering Diamonds guidelines that novels we review should be set pre 1950. This one, providing the reader is happy to suspend ‘realism’ belief, is good enough to be included as it is a compelling read. Well-paced, nicely set in Switzerland (makes a change from the usual venues!) and a cleverly designed plot makes this a rewarding read. Although possibly more fantasy than history, and maybe a bit too ‘adult detail’ for some readers (drugs etc) but for all that as an adventure into a psychological thriller other-worldly-type first novel of a series, this one is highly enjoyable if you like your history entangled within fantasy.

©Anne Holt
this novel may appear incorrectly formatted on some electronic devices.

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12 February 2017

It is the SECOND SUNDAY of February: which means...

No reviews on a Sunday 
but today is our...



THE JANUARY 2017 BOOK OF THE MONTH IS:

This month's selection is a personal choice by



See the review HERE

CONGRATULATIONS LUCIENNE!


All books selected will automatically be short-listed for our 
(to be revealed 31st December 2017)
LOOK OUT FOR!
  • Cover of Month announced on the FIRST Sunday of the month
  • Book of the Month announced on the SECOND Sunday in the month
  • Guest Spot - posted on the THIRD Sunday in the month
  • Reader's Voice - posted on the LAST Sunday in the month