Book review: The Wilderness Between Us by Penny Haw (@PennyHaw)  #RBRT #women’s fiction

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As a member of Rosie’s Book Review team, I received a copy of this book from the author for a fair and honest review.

The story: A close-knit group of long-time friends plan a several days’ hiking trip together in the remote and mountainous Tsitsikamma region of South Africa, along its southern border. When one of the group members, Michelle, can’t make the trip because of her duties as a high court judge, she has her daughter Clare go in her place. Clare is an anorexic, which is a poorly guarded secret, and has isolated herself from people because of her disorder. She agrees to go, so she can spend time with her father, Geoffrey, but it is clear from the outset that she feels and wants herself to be apart from the group.

Although the story is Clare’s, it is also that of Faye, the middle-aged wife of Derek, who is an emotional batterer. Faye has little belief in herself or her independence after years of marriage to him and feels fearful and helpless. When Clare develops a migraine, she stays behind at the group’s first overnight camp. The rest head off on a long hike, unaware that Derek has not told them that unseasonal rains have been predicted, which could create dangerous floods of the rivers they have to cross. After a few hours of hiking, Faye, feeling guilty about leaving Clare alone and wanting to be away from the ever-badgering husband, decides to head back alone to the first camp. The rains do come and the rivers flood, wreaking havoc with the hiking group, and Clare is seriously injured when she falls from an overlook of a river near the first camp. Faye takes control for both of them, building a shelter when she finds Clare is too badly injured to return to camp, nursing the young woman and sleeping by her side to keep her warm. Together, they discover that they share a common emotion – shame – which keeps them trapped in their situations. Despite the differences in their ages, both women, but Faye especially, uncover the reasons for their shame and also find courage through their growing relationship.

This is a terrific book, entwining and describing with flashbacks the intricacies of the interpersonal relationships of the group and the lack of personal awareness in both Faye’s and Clare’s lives. Faye’s manipulation by Derek, who is wonderfully created as an overbearing person acting out his insecurities, and Clare’s extreme control of her life through her anorexia, develop through the backstory so the reader comes to understand how they reached this point. Anorexia is by its nature difficult to understand, and the author does a brilliant job explaining Clare’s descent into the illness. The reader can feel the physical challenges facing the members of the hiking group and the stark, isolated and challenging environment in which they find themselves. And one can’t help but cheer as Faye’s newly discovered resilience and resourcefulness helps to support Clare, as she faces increasing weakness and the possible outcome.

The story is gripping, tense and well-wrought, in terms of the characters’ complex narratives, the beauty of the South African wilderness, and the constant danger surrounding the hikers. Spoiler: Not all will survive.

This book is a powerful celebration of human resiliency, and I highly recommend it.

Five stars.

About the author:

Penny Haw lives in South Africa and began her career by writing articles and columns for newspapers, magazines and websites, such as Business Day, Sunday Times, Financial Mail, Sunday Independent, and The Weekender. Her first book, Nicko, The Tale of a Vervet Monkey on an African Farm, was published to high acclaim in 2017 and is now included in middle-grade school curricula. The Wilderness Between Us is her debut novel of literary fiction and will be published by Koëhler Books on July 31, 2021 and is available on Amazon.

The author can be found

On twitter: @Penny Haw

And online at two sites: https://pennyhaw.com/news  and https://pennyhaw.com

Where the Pilgrims Worshipped

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This past weekend my husband and I were given a wonderful tour of the First Parish Church/Meetinghouse in Plymouth, MA, by Peter Santaw. Although I grew up in Plymouth, I had never visited this place and it was only with the research for my historical novel, The Last Pilgrim, the Story of Mary Allerton Cushman, did this oversight occur to me!

During the Pilgrims’ first winter in Plymouth 400 years ago, the colonists worshiped in a small wooden structure at the bottom of First Street, now called Leyden Street, near the harbor. Two years later, the fort constructed on Burial Hill in 1622 – the site of which is just above and behind the current church –served as a place of worship until the Pilgrims built their first church (a simple square structure) on the north side of Town Square in 1648.

The beams of the fort were not wasted, however, and were incorporated into the Old Fort House/Harlow House about a half-mile away.

As the congregation grew and the 1648 Meetinghouse fell into disrepair, it was replaced in 1683 by the second Meetinghouse. That building was set on common land at the highest point in what was, and still is, Plymouth’s Town Square, placed so it faced Leyden St. and Plymouth Harbor.

                      Fort 1622,  First Meetinghouse 1648,  Second Meetinghouse  1683

                                                Plan for Second Meeting House

Until 1744 the church and the town were one entity, with the Meetinghouse serving both the religious and civic needs of the town. In 1744, however, the town gave the church the land upon which the second Meetinghouse sat and build a courthouse for civic proceedings, creating a division between church and state.

The townspeople build a third church in 1744, to replace the 1683 structure. That church remained in use for nearly one hundred years, until 1831, when the fourth Meetinghouse, a large gothic wooden church, was constructed.

The fourth Meetinghouse burned to the ground in 1892, and the congregation made plans for a new meetinghouse, one that became a reality thanks to donors throughout America. The cornerstone was laid in 1896 and the fifth Pilgrim Meetinghouse was completed in 1897 and dedicated on Forefathers’ Day, December 21, 1899. This is the structure we toured.

Third Meetinghouse 1744, Fourth Meetinghouse, 1831, Fifth (and current) Meetinghouse 1897

   Fifth Meetinghouse, 1908

                                               Fifth Meetinghouse, 2021

The building is now designated as a Meetinghouse rather than a church, as the result of its donation to the town of Plymouth, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior in 2014. Today, 124 years after its completion, it remains the centerpiece of Plymouth’s historic Town Square.

                                            ******

As Peter Santaw, our docent, explained, the fifth Pilgrim Meetinghouse was designed during a period when the Arts & Crafts Movement was flourishing in Boston. Designed in the Romanesque Revival style, the Meetinghouse’s 88’ high Norman-inspired tower and flanking faux buttresses symbolically reflect the type of church with which the Pilgrims would have been familiar in England.

The exterior reflects the Romanesque Revival style, with an 88-foot-high Norman-inspired tower and flanking faux buttresses reflecting the type of church with which the Pilgrims would have been familiar in England. The church has ten carillon bells and the tower also houses a Paul Revere bell, cast in 1801 and recast after being damaged during the 1892 fire that destroyed the fourth Meetinghouse.

In keeping with the Arts and Crafts style, unique stained glass Tiffany windows celebrate the Pilgrim epic and Pilgrim values, which have become the core values of America.

Meeting of Pilgrims with Massoit                                    Trial of Oldham and Lyford, Bradford presiding

The sanctuary’s center chancel window is called the Signing of the Compact and depicts the signing of the Mayflower compact, the original American instrument of democratic government. The town-meeting concept was established by the Pilgrim Fathers, as was the annual election of officers. It is flanked stained glass windows depicting Civil Liberty and Religious Liberty.

In addition, the sanctuary features carved quarter-sawn oak and is one of the finest examples of hammer-beam construction in the United States. The hand carving of the beams and the pulpit is extraordinary!

At the present time, the interior of the church needs major repairs. A leaking roof did major damage over the years, during a time when the congregation could not afford to fix it. Not wanting to see the meeting house further decay, they gifted it to the town. A new $2 million dollar roof has been installed and now attention can be paid to the inside. The plaster walls are made with horsehair and must be repaired according to historical guidelines. Unfortunately, humidity degrades this plaster, so air conditioning and dehumidifiers must be installed for any interior repairs to hold up.

I hope you enjoyed our tour!

Book Review: No Woman Is an Island: Inspiring and Empowering International Women by Jean Gill (ed), Linda Gallard, Lorna Fergusson, Clare Flynn, Helena Halme, and Liza Perrat #RBRT #women’s literature #historical fiction

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No Woman is an Island is a collection of five novels written by different authors and edited by Jean Gill. I agreed to review this as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, for which I received a copy in return for a fair and honest review.

These novels span time, beginning in the Middle Ages. Each is a stand-alone written by five internationally recognized authors. The books do have a common theme: the challenges women face, often created by the opposite sex. Some are real physical threats, others are more psychological. Some come from within. The good thing is that each has a satisfying ending, but with twists. And as the title says, they inspire and empower. I enjoyed each one in a different way, like a surprising variety of baked goods from a patisserie to go with cups of warm and steaming coffee.

In this blog and another four are the individual reviews.

You can find No Woman Is An Island on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Island-Inspiring-Empowering-International-ebook/dp/B094473R67/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=No+Woman+is+an+Island&qid=1627400608&sr=8-1

Four stars out of five

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Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat

Héloïse is a midwife living in the French village of Luci-sur-Vionne in the mid-twelfth century.  Her midwifery and skills at healing with various herbs have gained her the respect of many of the villagers, but there are whisperings that because of these skills and because she was born a bastard, she might be a witch. She is married to a handsome stonemason, Raol, and some of the most vicious gossip comes from a jealous woman who works in the local pub. When Raol returns from Florence, where the Black Plague is rampant, he brings with him a peddler who carries the disease. People in the village begin to die, and, terrified that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage by treating the victims, Raoul forbids her to help. She disobeys, opening chasm between them. The village devolves into grief, hysteria, and mayhem, abetted by the local priest. They need a scapegoat and Heloise is a perfect target.

Héloïse places her faith in the protective powers of an angel talisman, given to her by her mother and said to be made of the bone of a saint. The villagers become more suspicious when she does not become sick, even while caring for those dying of the plague. Is it the talisman or Héloïse’s common sense approach to cleanliness and treating the sick? How can she prove she’s no servant of the devil and save the village?

The author’s research has created a stunning tale of a medieval French village, herbal cures, midwifery, and the Black Plague in compelling detail.  Indeed, this reader is as weighed down with misery as much as Héloïse, as the story progressed from bad to worse. The author pulls you into it with her usual flair for description and emotion.

Another wonderful, historically fact-based and compelling novel from Liza Perrat.

About the author (Amazon)

Liza Perrat grew up in Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.

When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her family for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist. Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably, the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004. Her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France.

I highly recommend her other books: The Silent Kookaburra, The Swooping Magpie.  Wolfsangel, and Spirit of Lost Angels among them.

Liza Perrat can be found:

On twitter: @LizaPerrat

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Liza-Perrat-232382930192297/

On her website: http://www.lizaperrat.com

Blood Rose Angel can be found on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015XW42JO/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i3

Have You Ever Been Kissed by an Alpaca?

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Hubs and I traveled to Maine recently for an author luncheon in Eastport, where I was the featured author, and for a vacation with my grandson and his parents. We stayed in our favorite place, Boothbay Harbor.

The author luncheon was held in a hall next to the Eastport Methodist Church, which is why the backdrop looks like I should be preaching. It was an off-the-cuff talk about The Rhe Brewster Mystery series and my historical fiction novel, The Last Pilgrim.  The attendance was good, according to the organizer of the event, but I think they just wanted to get out and about as Maine just opened up!

We had rented a small cottage in Boothbay Harbor and enjoyed eating seafood for the entire week. Not as much lobster as we wished, however, because the lobster prices are sky high. But we ate them almost every day anyway, whole steamed or lobster rolls.

May you always have lobster!

And what would a trip to Maine be without going to Damariscotta for oysters?

The other highlight of the trip, aside from my grandson’s antics, was a visit to an alpaca farm. Who knew they raised alpacas in Maine?  They had two types of alpacas at the farm:  huacaya – their coat is short, dense, and crimpy, ‘teddy bear like’ and they are shorn yearly; and the suri, which have a silky coat with no crimp and ‘pencil like’ locks, and they are shorn every two years.

You can tell them apart because the huacaya have what looks like pom-poms on their heads while the suri have bangs.

 

Both types have soft, padded feet, and a three-compartment stomach like a typical ruminate. They also have no horns, claws or incisors, so they are less likely to hurt their owners! Their life span is about 20 years and they are adaptable to any climate.  They are also pretty neat animals, since they all only pee in one place in the yard or field.

The alpacas are also very friendly. I was ‘kissed’ several times by one of them – a very whiskery kiss!  This is the one that kissed me. You can see where she was shorn in May.

Alpacas are known for their fleeces. Alpaca fiber is incredibly soft, breathable and versatile. Each animal produces approximately five to fifteen pounds of fleece yearly. Depending upon its weight, quality, and cleanliness, an alpaca fleece can command $150 – $400.  The owners of the farm we visit send their fleece to a company that washes and spins it into yarn. That fiber is then spun into yarn, which they sell at the farm.

 

Of course, as a knitter, I had to buy some. The yarn is the natural color of the alpaca and if you run out, there’s no problem matching the color since you can just call and give them the name of the alpaca whose yarn you want. No color matching, it’s always the same!

My grandson was rather nonplussed with the alpaca but did enjoy an animal closer to him in size – a chicken!

Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #Biograpghy The Real George Eliot by Lisa Tippings @penswordbooks

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Another strong (female) author who was way ahead of her time!

Rosie Amber

The Real George Elliot by Lisa Tippings

4 stars

The Real George Eliot is a biography written by Lisa Tippings. For as long as I can remember, I have known that George Eliot was the pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans, The Mill On The Floss being her most famous book.

I believe my love of the book and author began from a BBC costume drama shown on Sunday afternoons during my childhood; however, I can recall very little of the story and in my mind the image of a mill and a stream get muddled with another childhood image, Constable’s Haywain. So reading this book and learning about the life of Mary Ann and how much of her upbringing and experiences probably influenced her writing was very interesting.

The book also contains several black and white photographs from landmarks and places associated with Mary’s life. I haven’t spent any time…

View original post 222 more words

A shout-out to new followers

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The pouring rain from Tropical Storm Claudette has kept me at my computer and I am facing the fact I have been remiss in recognizing a slew of new followers. So here is a first installment. With gratitude for their follows!  There are some blogs in here that I know will interest some of you!  Have fun!

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Josbees at https://oddbitsaboutbooks.wordpress.com, who writes about graphic novels and books by Anton Checkov, Anthony Trollope, Arthur C. Clark and other well-known authors. This woman is an omnivore when to comes to reading and has insightful things to say about their books.

Catalyst Food at https://catalystfood.wordpress.com. This is a foodie blog and the photos made me salivate. Take a gander!

Sophia Lorena Benjamin at https://sophialorenabenjamin.wordpress.com. The author is an award winning poet and invited you to a daily dose of God’s touch in a minute…

Patricia Furstenberg at http://alluringcreations.co.za. Pat is writer of contemporary books and novels where history meets fiction and a dog: page-turner Silent Heroes, bestseller Joyful Trouble, beloved children’s literature The Cheetah and the Dog, poetry and haiku – Jock of the Bushveld, Christmas Haiku – and short stories inspired by the history of Romania.

Marvin Praise – sorry, only a gravatar

Dee Min at https://createdbydeesign.com  Dee wrote “This is therefore a brave and intentional space for creative self-expression inspired by my relationship with God. I am motivated to write from observing some of what I believe God created-by-design—nature, family, love, relationship.” She writes haiku and recently posted pictures of her spectacular garden, which almost rivals the4 bigger one of my fellow blogger, Geoff Le Pard.

Franklin Fardin at https://usplaza.wordpress.com/. He is an affiliate marketer of Amazon. I am also a content writer of ladies fashion. Now it is my part-time profession. He has some pretty nice stuff on his blog, for all you clothes shoppers.

Wassim Kotob at Ravenful/Designed by Creativity( https://ravenful.com.) This is an online source for trending articles. I read one entitled How Successful People Spend the First Hour of Their Day. Articles cover Business, Health, Travel, Tech, Motivational, Style and Entertainment. Really interesting!

Mylcha Tirambulo at https://pnoydreamdesignfoundation.wordpress.com/ This is a blog about spectacular modern and not-so-modern house design. You should visit it! Spectacular photos!

Sharon Kehl Califano at http://infjphd.org/ She blogs gorgeous photos wherever she travels or lives. Her latest is one on doors – wonderful!

Dua, Wazifa, Ilm, and Taweez at http://infjphd.org/ have a blog with advice about love, marriage, and getting your love back!

Zehrakoltd  at https://zehrakoltd.wordpress.com This is a brand new blog with excellent photographs. She writes about markets, immunizations, healthy diets and fathers – based in Thailand. This young woman is talented!

lnn61@yahoo.com

Athira at her blog Crosswalk (https://crozwalk.wordpress.com) This gal is a poet, for all of you who like blogs devoted to poetry. You will enjoy reading her creativity.

Alfresh at https://home.blog   This blog is designed to connect Appalachian Mountains high school students with global leaders in design and technology using remote collaboration technologies.,

Corpus Christi Outreach Ministries at https://ccoutreachministries.wordpress.com/ This blog belongs to a retired firefighter who came to South TX by way of the Navy. He started a jail ministry in Kingsville- then a church in 1987. He broadcasts on three radio stations, mainly KCTA radio for about 20 years. He self-funds as a retired firefighter and does not take support from outside. In 1992 he started a street outreach and worked with the homeless in our area of C.C. and men struggling with addiction.

Chef Verse at https://chefverse.wordpress.com  OMG, you need to see this blog – the food is incredible and easy to make. I have a couple of chefs in my followers and it’s always a salivating pleasure to see what they are creating.

Sandeep Dhawan at https://insightful.co.in. Commander Sandeep Dhawan  is a veteran of the Indian Army and he blogs about geopolitics in his part of the world – very interesting and insightful.

C.B. Powell at https://cbpowellwrites.com  She is a writer of science-fiction, fantasy epics, and other speculative fiction works, and a performing guitarist in the South West of England, who has posted blogs on dialogue, exposition, world-building, etc. She also has links to two of her novella, Heritage and Blank.

Peter Whitaker at https://petercwhitaker.wordpress.comApart from writing and travelling he also enjoys art. He has done a bit of painting and drawing and more recently digital image manipulation. He is responsible for every image on his website, all of his my book covers, and the social media adverts. You can check out his covers and books (Sorrow Song Trilogy – historical fiction – and several other books of fantasy, a thriller, etc) on his blog.

Sara Gethin at https://saragethin.com Sara Gethin grew up in Wales and worked as a primary school teacher. Not Thomas, her debut novel for adults, was shortlisted for the 2017 Guardian’s Not the Booker prize, the 2018 Waverton Good Read Award, and was optioned for television. Her second book, Emmet and Me, came out in May of this year. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Colm Tóibín International Short Story Award and she has written four children’s books under the name Wendy White, and the first of these won the Tir na-nOg Award in 2014.  Someone to definitely check out!

Memorial Day – Don’t Forget to Give Thanks

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This weekend is our celebration of Memorial Day, and given the past year, we are eager for cookouts, picnics, swimming, and lots of fun with other people.

But this is also the time we remember all those who fought for our country – men and women, living and dead, all races, colors, and creeds.

So take a little time to give a prayer of thanks. And heartfelt thanks to those families whose loved ones did not come home. We share your pain.

Here is my favorite rendition of the iconic Lee Greenwood song, God Bless the USA.

Book Review: Foxe and the Path into Darkness: An Ashmole Foxe Georgian Mystery by William Savage (@penandpension) # RBRT #Georgian era #historical mystery

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I had been awaiting this latest Ashmole Foxe mystery since the author told me it was on its way. I am an unrepentant fan of this mystery series, and I bought a copy for review.

Ashmole Foxe Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in Norwich, England, during the Georgian era. He is well-to-do from the sales of his bookstore and also his ability to find and sell rare books for significant profit. All of this he finds mundane, and over the years he has acquired a solid reputation for solving murders, which has become his raison d’etre.

The story:

Ashmole Foxe is tasked by the City Alderman to locate the mayor of Norwich, Robert Belton, who seems to have disappeared. Belton is well limned by the author as a middle aged man who became mayor by luck rather than talent, since the title and the task is awarded traditionally by seniority. The unexpected deaths of several more senior alderman moved Belton to the top of the list.  It is clear even to Belton that he is not worthy of the job, being regarded as a lightweight by the other Alderman, and furthermore, not having the wealth required by a Mayor to pay for the traditional mayoral social duties. His wife thoroughly dislikes him, and he has taken a prosperous business handed to him at his father’s death and run it into the ground with poor management, theft, and disinterest. His attempts as mayor to make changes in Norwich are met with resistance from his fellow Aldermen, and he does what he usually does – drops whatever he is fixed on and moves on to something equally unlikely to succeed. This is the man Foxe is to find, even though it is clear that his wife doesn’t want him found and the Aldermen are only asking because of the difficulty in not having a mayor to lead the city.

The job comes at a perfect time for Foxe, who has been listless and bored for several months, all of the women in his life – none of them truly serious relationships – having moved on. In the course of receiving this task from Alderman Halloran, a close friend, Foxe is reacquainted with the younger of the two nieces who live with Halloran, Miss Lucy Halloran. Both nieces have recently returned from an extended stay in Paris, and Lucy has morphed from a “dear, awkward, wayward, unconventional and bright” girl to a desirable and beautiful woman in Foxe’s eyes.  Foxe is instantly smitten and rendered speechless. Lucy displays some of her youth in berating Foxe for not having corresponded with her in Paris, souring their initial meeting.

The two story lines become intertwined as Foxe soon discovers a complex tangle of events with no real leads. He makes little progress, reaching one dead end after another, until Lucy helps him find the right threads. As usual, he uses the street children of Norwich, Mrs. Crombie, the manager of his bookstore, and Mistress Tabby, an herbalist and Wise Woman, to help him track down clues and news. The descent into darkness is both Foxe’s own, as he despairs of ever winning Lucy’s affection, but also that of Robert Belton, as the reader learns.

My take on this book:

There were several lovely aspects of this book, in addition to the colorful characters populating Foxe’s world, ones I have grown to enjoy. First is an exquisite description of Norwich through Foxe’s eyes, as he takes his roundabout walk to his favorite coffee house each morning. The author’s historical knowledge of Georgian times and Norwich, in particular, is prodigious and his characters are memorable. The second is the total frustration that grows in the reader when every step taken by Foxe is a false one. And third is the character of Belton himself, whose point of view opens the book.  I think his point of view is a necessary prequel to what follows. And finally, there is a lot of physical action at the end of the book. For a Georgian mystery, which moves at the pace of the time, this is a sea change.

The only unsettling aspect, to my mind, is the relationship between Foxe and Lucy. She begins with a childlike temper tantrum, and yet Foxe falls immediately in love with this seventeen-year-old. Foxe is in his early thirties, by my reckoning, and is a man of the world! Even though the age of consent at the time was twelve for girls, I found the age difference and the speed with which Foxe was consumed by physical thoughts of Lucy a little disconcerting. But this is probably my own view through modern eyes. I might add, having read the other books, that is past time for Mr. Foxe to have a serious, reciprocated relationship, so bravo to the author.

All in all, I highly recommend this book as a worthy addition to this mystery series, and anyone who has read the previous books will heartily enjoy this one. It is dark, but also surprising. To those who haven’t yet met Ashmole Foxe, you can start here without any problem since the author brings the reader up to date.

4.5 stars

 About the author:

William Savage grew up in Hereford, on the border with Wales and took his degree at Cambridge. After a working life largely spent teaching and coaching managers and leaders in Britain, Europe, and the USA, he retired to Norfolk, where he volunteers at a National Trust property and started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels and another of his loves was history, so it seemed natural to put the two together and try his hand at producing a historical mystery. To date, he has focused on two series of murder-mystery books, both set in Norfolk between 1760 and around 1800.

Norfolk is not only an inherently interesting county, but it also happens to be where the author lives, which makes the necessary research far easier. The Georgian period had the attraction of being an era he had never studied intensively, and so far he has not regretted his choice. The period has far exceeded his expectations in the richness of incidents, rapidity of change, and plentiful opportunities for anyone with a macabre interest in writing about crimes of every kind. He cannot see himself running out of plot material any time soon!

William Savage’s blog is Pen and Pension:  http://penandpension.com I highly recommend his blog for his fascinating posts on all aspects of life in Georgian England.

You can also find him

On Twitter: @penandpension

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009908836774

Foxe and the Descent into Darkness can be found on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Foxe-Darkness-Ashmole-Georgian-Mystery-ebook/dp/B08ZYNTSJV/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Path+into+Darkness+by+William+Savage+author&qid=1620657877&sr=8-1-fkmr1

 

Book Review: The Drowning Land by David M. Donachie (@DavidMDonachieAuthor) (#RBRT) # Historical # Fiction # Fantasy

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I was provided a copy of this book by the author for a fair and honest review.

The Drowning Land is prehistorical fiction, set in northern Europe a little over eight thousand years ago. It combines adventure, a romance, and disaster against the setting of a land that literally is sinking beneath the sea.

It is based on an event that UK archeology teams described in 2009, where a huge underwater slide created a sudden and catastrophic tsunami that engulfed Doggerland. Doggerland connected Great Britain to the European continent and was a rich habitat for the Mesolithic populations. It is now submerged beneath the southern North Sea. When the author heard this description, his mental image of peoples looking up at the onrushing wave triggered his desire to write a story about it. The author describes all this at the end of the book, and I wish it had come as a prologue. My lack of knowledge led to some confusion in my reading of the story.

The story:

Edan, one of the two main characters, is the member of a Mesolithic tribe, dark-skinned, blue-eyed, short and wiry. For millennia, the tribe has migrated with the seasons between the coastal ‘Summer Lands’ (Doggerland) and the highlands in the winter, following the rigid rule of tribal tradition and despite the fact that the Summer Lands are gradually being poisoned by rising salt water. Edan rescues a ‘troll’ named Tara from another predatory tribal group with wolves as their totem, led by a war-chieftain named Phelan. Tara is at least partially Neanderthal, based on her description. She has foreseen the drowning of their lands and is on a quest at the direction of her tribes’ elders to discover if the spirit world can be aroused at a sacred place – a site about which Tara has only minimal information. In rescuing her, Edan accidently kills one of Phelan’s followers, and he and Tara become separated from his tribe as they flee from Phelan’s people and the rising seas everywhere, while trying to find the place Tara seeks. Their odyssey through increasingly drowning lands is one of growth and change, and, not surprisingly, of love, and will determine their fate and that of the Summer Lands.

The author has done considerable research in making his historical fiction plausible – the living spaces, the food, the implements used and the weapons. The humans that populate this world are also very believable. Edan and Tara are compelling characters with weaknesses and strengths, and after the first few chapters, which are slowly paced, I became completely engaged in their saga. His descriptions of the different lives of various tribes – hunters, gatherers, fishermen – ring true, as well as the zeitgeist of this prehistorical time, a tribute to the author’s ability to imagine himself living eight thousand years ago. It reminds me a great deal of a favorite of mine, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel.

Issues for me:

  • The author describes the history of Doggerland and the peoples who populated it at the end of the book. I wish it had been placed at the beginning, since my lack of knowledge led to some confusion.

  • The map at the beginning shows the land described by the author with the names of landmarks in the story, but I had no clue what I was looking at and where it was located relative to the larger picture of the land at that time. I badly needed a compass on that map!

  • There were some slower parts to the book, which might have been eliminated with some judicious editing.

Despite the issues, I was hooked once I got into this story. I loved the characters and the alternating points of view between Edan and Tara worked for me, allowing me to get into their heads. The author has brought the landscape and history of Doggerland to brilliant life. I strongly recommend The Drowning Land as an informative and entertaining read, a definite must for historical fiction buffs.

And I think the cover art is fabulous.

About the author:

David M. Donachie is an artist, author, and games designer. He has written short stories of countless types since he was old enough to hold a pencil — many appear in his self-published anthology, The Night Alphabet, and in numerous anthologies. He lives in a garret (really a top-floor flat, but a garret sounds a lot more romantic) in Edinburgh with his wife Victoria, two cats, and more reptiles than mammals.

Yes, this is the only picture I could find and I don’t think he has those ears!

You can find the author

On his website: https://www.teuton.org/~stranger/ and https://twitter.com/bayushi_hituro

On Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DavidMDonachieAuthor/photos

And, although rarely, on Twitter: (@DavidMDonachieAuthor

You can find The Drowning Land on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Drowning-Land-David-M-Donachie-ebook/dp/B08SQZ2133/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2TXT2L6MODEYT&dchild=1&keywords=the+drowning+land&qid=1620072936&s=books&sprefix=the+Drowning+Land%2Caps%2C158&sr=1-1

Book Review: Burke in Ireland by Tom Williams (@Tom CW99) #rbrt #historical espionage #Ireland

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I was given a copy of this book for a fair and honest review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

This is the fifth book in the James Burke series by this author. I haven’t read the previous four but I had no problems – the book is fine as a standalone.

In the late eighteenth century, with England seemingly beset on all sides, the War Office needs agents to spy for them and James Burke isn’t given a choice. It’s no business for a gentleman, but Burke is half-gentleman, half soldier, and well suited to the job of spying. The four prior books haven’t been written in chronological order but when Burke is posted to Argentina, he is introduced to the world of espionage.  He has also been to the Iberian Peninsula, to Egypt, and to Paris, after Napoleon is exiled to Elba. Burke in Ireland is Burke’s first real introduction to the practice of espionage, and the author admits that this is a dark book compared to the previous four, which have Burke on the side of the angels and the villain getting his just desserts in the end.

England needs spies everywhere, and Burke is a chameleon. So he is sent in 1793 to Ireland, which is a hotbed of Irish Nationalists. Burke must discover which of these men are plotting with the French to bring down English rule and/or planning for an uprising. Burke fits right into Dublin society, operating smoothly between different strata, and discovers it’s easy to identify the Nationalists. Getting to those who do more than just talk about Irish independence is another matter, and Burke manages to ingratiate himself with a member of the Irish elite who provides him with an ‘in’ to those he is seeking. Along the way, he turns in the names of a number of minor spies, who are sent to jail, tried, and hung, if their offenses are serious enough. Burke struggles with his moral ambiguity, since the English were treating the Irish badly at that time – trials are rigged, Catholics tortured. Nevertheless, he finally decides that the safety of England trumps all, despite the ongoing tension that he will be discovered and possibly killed.

His “in’ is Patrick Geraghty, a well-to-do Dubliner who, after some time accepts Burke as a true Nationalist with Jacobin leanings. Geraghty is a huge man with an air of menace who drinks prodigiously and lets things slip while in an inebriated state. His beautiful daughter, named Siobhan, captures Burke’s attention and the couple become affectionate. Geraghty approves of this relationship, but his wife does not, despite the fact her husband beats her regularly. Thus Geraghty becomes the real villain, and the plot he arranges to spirit a true Nationalist out of the country, with the encouragement of Burke, becomes a dangerous and tortuous journey for everyone involved, not the least of which is Burke himself.

James Burke was a real person, but his story is entirely fictitious. But many of the characters in incidents cited in this book are historically accurate. The Alien Office which sent Burke to Ireland was real and became Britain’s first semi-official intelligence operation, a forerunner to MI5 and MI6. Wolfe Tone, Willam Drennan, Whitley Stokes, and Joseph Pollock were all true Irish Nationalists. Two men (Jackson and Cockayne) were spies for France and England, respectively. Archibold Rowan, a main character, was imprisoned in Newgate for sedition and libel but made an escape to France, his account of which is wrapped into Burke’s story.

In short, I found this book full of tension and historically fascinating, especially given my knowledge of Ireland’s “troubles” many years later and my experiences in that country (which I love). The descriptions of life in Dublin, especially the pub scenes, Newgate prison, and general society were vivid. The characters were very finely described and can be visualized by the reader. The web of spies in Dublin at the time is both brilliantly presented and nearly overwhelming in its detail. Clearly, the author did a lot of research for this book, and I loved being educated.

Burke in Ireland is not a light book to read, and to a reader looking for high tension and colorful conflicts on every page, it might seem dry. But it does what the author intended. I recommend it strongly to aficionados of historical novels and of Ireland’s history in particular.

About the Author (from Amazon)

Tom Williams used to write books for business. Now he writes novels set in the 19th century that are generally described as fiction but which are often more honest than the business books. (He writes contemporary fantasy as well, but that’s a dark part of his life, so you’ll have to explore that on your own – ideally with a friend and a protective amulet.)

His stories about James Burke are exciting tales of high adventure and low cunning set around the Napoleonic Wars. The stories have given him the excuse to travel to Argentina, Egypt, and Spain and call it research.

Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate, and dance tango, all of which (before covid) he thought he did quite well. In between, he reads old books and spends far too much time looking at ancient weaponry.
You can find Tom Williams

On twitter @TomCW99

On his website: https://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk

Or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams