Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: Christmas in America by Holly Bush, Piper Huguley, Joanna Shupe, and Donna Thorland

This is a compilation of short historical romance stories set during Christmas time. Since each story is independent of each other with what I felt was varying degrees of writing quality, I'll do a short review of each one.

Into the Evermore started off really well with a great hook to catch your interest but after that it was a little boring. It was like it climaxed at the opening and then nothing really happened after that. Additionally the writing quality wasn't great and probably needed an editor, or a better editor. Particularly in the beginning, there are a few paragraphs where literally every sentence in the paragraph starts with the same pronoun.

The Cowboy's Christmas was also a little lack luster. The characterization seemed good on the surface but I felt like there wasn't much depth. The writing was okay but the dialogue could be a little hokey sometimes.

Miracle on Ladies' Mile was an excellent Mr. Selfridge-esque story set in the Gilded Age. Great writing with compelling characters you just want to know more about. Just the right amount of humor in it too.

Christmas at Mount Holly. No surprise I loved this one. Donna Thorland is a great storyteller and she did not disappoint. We finally get a bit more of a glimpse into The Widow's backstory, an absolute must read for anyone following Thorland's series.

There's some very sexy scenes in here so not one for the clean romance fans (I say bring it on though).

So although I didn't love the first two stories, I adored the second two, and I guess that means the rating averages out to about 3 stars.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Review: 1066 Turned Upside Down by by Joanna Courtney, Helen Hollick, Annie Whitehead, Anna Belfrage, Alison Morton, Carol McGrath, Eliza Redgold, G.K. Holloway, Richard Dee

It appears that another group of authors has attempted to do what the H Team has done in compiling short stories from each author on a major event in history, except this group is doing it with an alternate history twist. These short stories explore how things would have gone down in 1066 England if Edgar was crowned instead of Harold, or if William of Normandy had lost at Hastings, and several other "what if" speculations.

It also differs from the H Team's books because these are truly individual short stories. Each tale has nothing to do with one another (apart from being based on the events of 1066), which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of unrelated short story compilations out there which people really enjoy. But it's disappointing when you also consider that most of the stories are so short that you really don't get an idea of how history would have been radically different if these "what if" scenarios had happened. I felt like it posed more questions than it answered. I would have liked each story to not only present an alternate event, but also show us how the succeeding events thereafter would have been different as a result. Don't just show us how the Battle of Hastings would have been different if Harold had won, show us what would have happened after that - how would it have changed England? If they had done that, I wouldn't have minded each story having nothing to do with the next, as it allowed more than one alternate history scenario to be explored.

There were author's notes and discussion suggestions that attempted to explore the resulting events a little bit, which were informative and enlightening, but it just wasn't the same, and wasn't what I was expecting. I did enjoy them though, and actually wound up thinking this might have been a better project had they just approached it with academic essays instead of trying to make them into fictional short stories.

Don't get me wrong, the writing quality from all these stories is very good. But to me, the short stories felt like something that was just quickly thrown together to make each author a few extra bucks on the self published ebook sales, and give them some more exposure. I guess I was hoping for something a little more in depth. However, for only $1.99, it's probably worth the read for those really interested in this topic.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Review: America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

When I first started this novel, I wondered how the life of the daughter of one of our founding fathers, and not the man himself, could possibly fill such a long book (over 600 pages). Sometimes authors like to take a lesser known relation of a historical figure and give them a voice but it just doesn't work out well because their life just isn't as interesting. I figured it would be all about Thomas Jefferson himself and his affair with his slave, Sally Hemmings, and when things like that are told from a third party perspective, it tends to be lacking. But while that was one of the sub plot lines, Martha Jefferson's own story was not lacking and no less fascinating than any novel on Thomas Jefferson himself could be. It's actually amazing how much the authors managed to fit into only 600-some pages.

The beginning was a little bit of a slow start, but the writing was excellent, and the character development is what really makes this book great. I did often wonder why Martha was so dedicated to a father who frankly could be rather selfish sometimes. I understand it had to do with losing her mother, but I couldn't help feeling like at some point enough should just be enough. That's not necessarily criticism though, I appreciated that Martha was a flawed character, it made her human. And not just Martha, but all the characters were so well formed, so complex, so believable, and so sympathetic. Combined with a surprisingly eventful plot, I just couldn't wait to see what would happen next and how the characters would handle it. So much had already happened in just first half of the book, and I knew there was so much more to come, it truly felt like something of an epic saga.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Upcoming Royalty Historical Fiction

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

UK Release Date: 1 Dec 2016
US Release Date: January 31, 2017

Jasper Tudor, son of Queen Catherine and her second husband, Owen Tudor, has grown up far from the intrigue of the royal court. But after he and his brother Edmund are summoned to London, their half-brother, King Henry VI, takes a keen interest in their future.

Bestowing Earldoms on them both, Henry also gives them the wardship of the young heiress Margaret Beaufort. Although she is still a child, Jasper becomes devoted to her and is devastated when Henry arranges her betrothal to Edmund. He seeks solace in his estates and in the arms of Jane Hywel, a young Welsh woman who offers him something more meaningful than a dynastic marriage. But passion turns to jeopardy for them both as the Wars of the Roses wreak havoc on the realm. Loyal brother to a fragile king and his domineering queen, Marguerite of Anjou, Jasper must draw on all his guile and courage to preserve their throne - and the Tudor destiny…

The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

Release Date: March 7, 2017

As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.

While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina’s machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero’s determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become—an Emperor who became legendary.

The Revolution of the Moon by Andrea Camilleri (Author), Stephen Sartarelli (Translator)

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Sicily, April 16 1677. From his deathbed, Charles III's viceroy, Anielo de Guzmán y Carafa, marquis of Castle Rodrigo, names his wife, Doña Eleonora, as his successor. Eleonora de Moura is a highly intelligent and capable woman who immediately applies her political acumen to heal the scarred soul of Palermo, a city afflicted by poverty, misery, and the frequent uprisings they entail.

The Marquise implements measures that include lowering the price of bread, reducing taxes for large families, re-opening women's care facilities, and establishing stipends for young couples wishing to marry—all measures that were considered seditious by the conservative city fathers and by the Church. The machinations of powerful men soon result in Doña Eleonora, whom the Church sees as a dangerous revolutionary, being recalled to Spain. Her rule lasted 27 days—one cycle of the moon.

In the Name of the Family: A Novel by Sarah Dunant

UK Release Date: 2 Mar 2017
US Release Date: March 7, 2017

1502 and Renaissance Italy is in turmoil. Backed by the money and power of his aging father, Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia is soaring like a military comet, carving out a state for the Borgia dynasty. From Florence, a young diplomat, one Niccolò Machiavelli, is sent out to shadow him. The relationship he forges with the dynamic, violent young warrior allows him—and us—to see history in the making.

At the same time, the pope’s beloved daughter, Lucrezia, is on her way to a third dynastic marriage in the state of Ferrara, where she must quickly produce an heir for the Este family in order to survive. Cesare holds his sister dear, but obsessed by conquest rather than conciliation, he pays little mind to her precarious position. As the Borgia enemies gather in Rome, ready to strike, the pope grows older and more cantankerous.

Victoria: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin

Release Date: November 22, 2016

In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….

Pharaoh: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Wilbur Smith

UK Release Date: 22 Sep 2016
US Release Date: October 18, 2016

Pharaoh Tamose lies mortally wounded. The ancient city of Luxor is surrounded, All seems lost.

Taita, advisor to the Pharaoh, prepares for the enemy’s final, fatal push. The ex-slave, now general of Tamose’s armies, is never more ingenious than when all hope is dashed. And this is Egypt’s most desperate hour.

With the timely arrival of an old ally, the tide is turned and the Egyptian army feasts upon its retreating foe. But upon his victorious return to Luxor, Taita is seized and branded a traitor. Tamose is dead and a poisonous new era has begun. The new Pharaoh has risen — and he must be stopped…

Friday, August 26, 2016

Upcoming Historical Fiction

A Song of War by Kate Quinn, Christian Cameron, SJA Turney, Libbie Hawker, Stephanie Thornton, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and Russell Whitfield

Release Date: October 18, 2016

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.
A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.
A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.
A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.
A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.
A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.
A goddess' son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

Dragon Springs Road: A Novel by Janie Chang

US Release Date: January 10, 2017
UK Release Date: 9 Feb 2017

In 1908, Jialing is only seven years old when she is abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate near Shanghai. Jialing is zazhong—Eurasian—and faces a lifetime of contempt from both Chinese and Europeans. Without her mother’s protection, she can survive only if the estate’s new owners, the Yang family, agree to take her in.

Jialing finds allies in Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, and Fox, an animal spirit who has lived in the haunted courtyard for centuries. But Jialing’s life as the Yangs’ bondservant changes unexpectedly when she befriends a young English girl who then mysteriously vanishes.

Always hopeful of finding her long-lost mother, Jialing grows into womanhood during the tumultuous early years of the Chinese republic, guided by Fox and by her own strength of spirit, away from the shadows of her past. But she finds herself drawn into a murder at the periphery of political intrigue, a relationship that jeopardizes her friendship with Anjuin and a forbidden affair that brings danger to the man she loves.

The White Russian: A Novel of Paris by Vanora Bennett

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Evie, a rebellious young American, leaves New York in search of art and adventure in jazz-age Paris, where her bohemian grandmother, long estranged from the rest of the family, lives. But her grandmother’s sudden death just after her arrival leaves Evie compelled to carry out her relative’s dying wish: to find a man from her past known only as Zhenya.

The quest leads Evie deep into the heart of the Russian émigré community. With the world on the brink of war, she becomes embroiled in murder plots, conspiracies and illicit love affairs as White faces Red Russian, and nothing is as it seems.

Stolen Beauty: A Novel by Laurie Lico Albanese

Release Date: February 7, 2017

In the dazzling glitter of 1903 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer—young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish—meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria—and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family—and their history—alive.

Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies

Release Date: February 23, 2017

1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband's death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza's only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she's determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince's handsome, brooding younger brother. Brought together by their desire to improve conditions for local people, Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families - and society - think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what's expected, and following their heart. . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ebook Deals

Click the cover to view and buy the book in the Kindle store. While I only post links to the Kindle store, often times you can find the same titles on sale at other stores.

Disclaimer: Ebook prices are subject to change anytime. I can only promise they are under a certain price at the time I post them.

US Kindle Deals, fiction under $4, non-fiction under $6:


UK Kindle Deals, fiction under £3, non-fiction under £4:

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