Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: A Soupçon of Poison by Ashley Gardner

A novella kick-starter of a new series from Ashley Gardner (aka Jennifer Ashley) about a talented cook, Kat Holloway, in 1880 London who is accused of murdering her wealthy employer.

I absolutely love Gardner's other historical mystery series about Captain Lacey, but this new series with fresh characters is very promising. I don't even love novellas all that much, nor am I a big fan of when protagonists are set up and falsely accused of murder, but this really wet my appetite for more and I can't wait for the first full length novel in the series coming out sometime this year. As ever, Gardner's excellent characterization and clever plots peppered with history are what make this short tale shine. I'm dying to know more about Daniel McAdam! I predict this is going to quickly be added to my list of favorite series.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

A middle aged, retired Sherlock Holmes in the 20th century finally meet a worthy partner who both compliments and challenges his talents. And she's a troubled teenage girl.

It's very well written, a little slow paced at first but I enjoyed reading about Mary's "training" as Holmes' apprentice. Excellent characterization, clever plot. I liked the different take on the time period setting, by moving it forward into the 20th century, it set it apart from Conan Doyle's work. However, overall, I thought it was very in keeping with a traditional Holmes tale.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Review: The Dutch Girl by Donna Thorland

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.

Release date: March 1, 2016

Donna Thorland just keeps getting better and better. While each of her novels involves new main characters and can be read independently, there are some common elements which link them all, and this one takes place soon after Turncoat ended. Kate Grey, the protagonist of Turncoat, has a minor role in The Dutch Girl as she takes up the Widow's work and recruits the reluctant Anna Winters into her network of spies.

One of the main themes of Thorland's stories which has always prevented me from giving them five stars, is the "love at first sight" element. The instant attraction I can understand, but the instant love was hard to get on board with. The Dutch Girl finally makes a change from this as the two main characters share a history, but society's class-ism and subsequent events kept them apart. Now, political events and Anna's role as a spy for the Rebels within the Dutch community will divide them.

Thorland's novels are so much fun, because there's always so much going on in them. It's hard to go wrong with clever characters, witty dialogue, and a multi-dimensional plot. One of the things I love about them is that Thorland always picks a different setting for each book. I don't just mean geographical locations, but also the cultural setting. Philadelphia Quakers, Boston pirates, Manhattan theater and Native Americans, and now, Dutch New York. You can be sure that the historical setting does not get neglected in the fast-paced story line. Whatever setting she goes with next, I can't wait to read it.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Upcoming Historical Fiction Releases

The Girl in the Glass Tower by Elizabeth Fremantle

Release Date: June 2, 2016

Arbella Stuart is trapped behind the towering glass windows of Hardwick Hall. Kept cloistered from a world that is full of dangers for someone with royal blood. Half the country wish to see her on the throne and many others for her death, which would leave the way clear for her cousin James, the Scottish King

Arbella longs to be free from her cold-hearted grandmother; to love who she wants, to wear a man's trousers and ride her beloved horse, Dorcas. But if she ever wishes to break free she must learn to navigate the treacherous game of power, or end up dead.

Hereward: The Bloody Crown: (Hereward 6) by James Wilde

UK Release Date: 28 Jul 2016
US Release Date: TBA

1081. And so the bloody battle for the crown of the Holy Roman Empire begins.
In Constantinople, three factions will go to any length...will kill any seize the throne.
Outside the city's walls, twin powers threaten a siege that will crush the once-mighty empire forever.

To the west, the bloody forces of the most feared Norman warlord are gathering.In the east, the Ottoman hordes are massing and lust for slaughter.

And in the middle of it all, as the sands of time run out, Hereward and his English spear-brothers prepare to make what could be their final stand . . .

Altar of Blood: Empire IX (Empire series) by Anthony Riches

UK Release Date: 10 Mar 2016
US Release Date: TBA

The Tungrians have no sooner returned to Rome than they find themselves tasked with a very different mission to their desperate exploits in Parthia.

Ordered to cross the river Rhenus into barbarian Germany and capture a tribal priestess who may be the most dangerous person on the empire's northern border, they are soon subject to the machinations of an old enemy who will stop at nothing to sabotage their plans before they have even set foot on the river's eastern bank.
But after their Roman enemy is neutralised they face a challenge greater still.

With two of the Bructeri tribe's greatest treasures in their hands they must regain Roman territory by crossing the unforgiving wilderness that was the graveyard of Roman imperial strategy two hundred years before. And capture by the Bructeri's vengeful chieftain and his warband can only end in one way - a horrific sacrificial death on the tribe's altar of blood.

The Imperial Wife: A Novel by Irina Reyn

Release Date: July 19, 2016

The Imperial Wife follows the lives of two women, one in contemporary New York City and the other in eighteenth-century Russia.

Tanya Kagan, a specialist in Russian art at a top New York auction house, is trying to entice Russia's wealthy oligarchs to bid on the biggest sale of her career, The Order of Saint Catherine, while making sense of the sudden and unexplained departure of her husband.

As questions arise over the provenance of the Order and auction fever kicks in, Reyn takes us into the world of Catherine the Great, the infamous 18th-century woman who may have owned the priceless artifact, and who it turns out faced many of the same issues Tanya wrestles with in her own life.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Upcoming Historical Fiction

Monsoon Summer: A Novel by Julia Gregson

UK Release Date: 30 June 2016
US Release Date: August 9, 2016

Oxfordshire, 1947. Kit Smallwood, hiding a painful secret and exhausted from nursing soldiers during the Second World War, escapes to Wickam Farm where her friend is setting up a charity that will send European midwives to the Moonstone Home in South India.

At Wickam Farm, Kit meets Tomas Thekkeden, an Indian doctor finishing his PhD at Oxford University. They quickly fall in love with each other to the chagrin of their parents. But Kit and Thomas are excited for the future and hungry for adventure. Against their parents’ wishes, they secretly marry and move to India where Kit plans to run the Moonstone Home.

But far from being a romantic adventure, Kit’s life in India isn’t what she imagined. Her relationship with Tomas and his large, traditional family begins to unravel, her job is fraught with tension, and she is faced with a newly independent India—which now resents England for withdrawing so quickly—where riots have left millions dead. Kit tries to form close relationships with her colleagues, but soon learns her limits when her naiveté lands her in a frightening and dangerous situation.

The After Party: A Novel by Anton DiSclafani

Release Date: May 17, 2016

Joan Fortier is the epitome of Texas glamour and the center of the 1950s Houston social scene. Tall, blonde, beautiful, and strong, she dominates the room and the gossip columns. Every man who sees her seems to want her; every woman just wants to be her. But this is a highly ordered world of garden clubs and debutante balls. The money may flow as freely as the oil, but the freedom and power all belong to the men. What happens when a woman of indecorous appetites and desires like Joan wants more? What does it do to her best friend?

Devoted to Joan since childhood, Cece Buchanan is either her chaperone or her partner in crime, depending on whom you ask. But as Joan’s radical behavior escalates, Cece’s perspective shifts—forcing one provocative choice to appear the only one there is.

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

Release Date: June 21, 2016

April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York. She is excited, exhausted—and about to meet royalty. . . .

So begins the unforgettable story of Charlotte Bill, who would care for a generation of royals as their parents never could. Neither Charlotte—LaLa, as her charges dub her—nor anyone else can predict that eldest sons David and Bertie will each one day be king. LaLa knows only that these children, and the four who swiftly follow, need her steadfast loyalty and unconditional affection.

But the greatest impact on Charlotte’s life is made by a mere bud on the family tree: a misunderstood soul who will one day be known as the Lost Prince. Young Prince John needs all of Lala’s love—the kind of love his parents won’t…or can’t…show him.

The Woman in the Photo: A Novel by Mary Hogan

Release Date: June 14, 2016

1888: Elizabeth Haberlin, of the Pittsburgh Haberlins, spends every summer with her family on a beautiful lake in an exclusive club. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains above the working class community of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the private retreat is patronized by society’s elite. Elizabeth summers with Carnegies, Mellons, and Fricks, following the rigid etiquette of her class. But Elizabeth is blessed (cursed) with a mind of her own. Case in point: her friendship with Eugene Eggar, a Johnstown steel mill worker. And when Elizabeth discovers that the club’s poorly maintained dam is about to burst and send 20 million tons of water careening down the mountain, she risks all to warn Eugene and the townspeople in the lake’s deadly shadow.

Present day: On her eighteenth birthday, genetic information from Lee Parker’s closed adoption is unlocked. She also sees an old photograph of a genetic relative—a 19th Century woman with hair and eyes likes hers—standing in a pile of rubble from an ecological disaster next to none other than Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. Determined to identify the woman in the photo and unearth the mystery of that captured moment, Lee digs into history. Her journey takes her from California to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, from her present financial woes to her past of privilege, from the daily grind to an epic disaster. Once Lee’s heroic DNA is revealed, will she decide to forge a new fate?
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