I’d like to welcome Clare Flynn to the blog today on her blog tour for “Sisters At War”, a heart-tugging tale of the sisterly bond between Judith and Hannah amidst the chaos of war.
BLOG TOURBOOK REVIEW
This book is proof that you can take the simple relationship of two ordinary young women, two sisters, and turn a spotlight on them in the midst of the incredible chaos around them, and the result? Simply great story-telling.
This family living together at the Laurels, a modest home in Liverpool, during WWII is simple and stunning in the way you are a fly-on-the-wall into their lives. Every conversation is filled with emotion, despair, survival, disappointment, fear, and ultimately, love. I was particularly moved by the next door neighbor who at one point loses his cat, and his grief morphs into other losses in his life. I can relate to this in so many ways and I think anyone else who reads this will get the sense of why characters like this are vital in books. A character on the fringes of these two sisters lives, but so very necessary.
This book also deals with the racial cruelties during the war, and not just those thrust upon the Jewish community by the Germans. I was quite taken back in reading of the treatment of British citizens of Italian descent when Mussolini joined Hitler in the fight. And then I was thrilled with the sudden journey to Australia, a land which must have felt like a peaceful haven while the rest of the world was on fire, even for those prisoners who were sent there.
I definitely hope there is another book to come along. I want to know more about these two sisters and where life takes them after the war.
I give this book five-stars and I received this book through Netgalley.
Book Title: Sisters at War
Author: Clare Flynn
Publication Date: 1st May 2021
Publisher: Cranbrook Press
Page Length: 314 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Sisters at War
By Clare Flynn
1940 Liverpool. The pressures of war threaten to tear apart two sisters traumatised by their father’s murder of their mother.
With her new husband, Will, a merchant seaman, deployed on dangerous Atlantic convoy missions, Hannah needs her younger sister Judith more than ever. But when Mussolini declares war on Britain, Judith’s Italian sweetheart, Paolo is imprisoned as an enemy alien, and Judith’s loyalties are divided.
Each sister wants only to be with the man she loves but, as the war progresses, tensions between them boil over, and they face an impossible decision.
A heart-wrenching page-turner about the everyday bravery of ordinary people during wartime. From heavily blitzed Liverpool to the terrors of the North Atlantic and the scorched plains of Australia, Sisters at War will bring tears to your eyes and joy to your heart.
Clare Flynn is the author of thirteen historical novels and a collection of short stories. A former International Marketing Director and strategic management consultant, she is now a full-time writer.
Having lived and worked in London, Paris, Brussels, Milan and Sydney, home is now on the coast, in Sussex, England, where she can watch the sea from her windows. An avid traveler, her books are often set in exotic locations.
Clare is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of The Society of Authors, ALLi, and the Romantic Novelists Association. When not writing, she loves to read, quilt, paint and play the piano.
There are moments when, as a reader, you know the second a book impacts you. And when that impact comes at the very beginning, well, you know you are about to take an exquisite journey. I have felt this many times throughout the years and when it happens, the books become dear to me, and a must-have for my own personal library. This is one of those times.
Reading the blurb, one might think this is just another retelling of the infamous story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, but I am here to say that this book transcends anything I have read to date on this popular subject. When you read lines such as: “…The king’s eyes fly open and his eyeballs swivel from side to side, his disintegrating ego peering as if through the slits in a mummer’s mask.” or “Henry and I are the most powerful couple in all of England and yet, in the face of death, we are powerless,” you are compelled to soak in every last detail. And last, I have to share this… “It is a dead sort of day, the type of day where the sky is white, and there is not even the hint of a breeze. Clouds muffle the horizon and I want to push them away, thrust back the oppression and the fear, and revel for one more day beneath blue skies, feel the wind on my cheeks, the scent of Hever in the air. Instead I am here, in my palatial prison, with no future, no next week to look forward to, perhaps not even a tomorrow.”
Oh, there are so many many more for you to enjoy on this heavenly journey of words. This is just a small sampling.
The immense beauty of Judith Arnopp’s selection of words and phrases is a lesson on how to write a historical novel. She takes what we already know of Anne and Henry to another level, a rare personal glimpse into their personalities, their fears, their hopes, and their love that turned England upside-down in terms of religion. In this book, Anne draws a reader’s sympathy, as she is portrayed as a young naïve girl thrust down a path that ultimately brings her ruin. The delicate way the author shows Anne’s love for her family home, Hever Castle, and the simplicities of that ‘other life’, the life before Henry, fleshes out her character and makes her tremendously relatable; as does the bond she shares with her brother, George, that is taken completely out of context by those wishing to destroy her.
The Kiss of the Concubine is now among my ‘go-to’ books that I will read again and again. Even this review does not do it justice. Simply put… get this book. It is stunning. A must-read!!
The Earl of Essex. Well, what can I say? I began this book knowing full well the story of this high-spirited ambitious young man fawning after a much older Queen Elizabeth I, but I have to say that Tony Riches has excelled in really giving life to this notorious man in history. There were times I truly felt a sense of compassion and empathy for him, for his vainglorious attempts to prove himself in the eyes of the Queen, and then his failure to learn from his mistakes. Over and over and over, again. He was a man on the brink of glory, but never reached the clouds, ultimately falling into the precipice of his own making.
I loved this book and it is one I could read again and again. This is the first time I have read any of Tony Riches books and I know it won’t be the last. All of his books are on my to-read list and I foresee a binge read in the near future! Tony Riches’ books are a must read for anyone who wants an excellent historical biography about figures in the Tudor era.
I received a copy for an honest review from The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Book Title: Essex – Tudor Rebel
Series: (Elizabethan Series, Book 2)
Author: Tony Riches
Publication Date: 9th April 2021
Publisher: Preseli Press
Page Length: 352 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
ESSEX – Tudor Rebel
(Book Two of the Elizabethan Series)
By Tony Riches
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.
The truth is far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.
Robert Devereux’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.
Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling Tudor historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony’s other published historical fiction novels include: Owen – Book One Of The Tudor Trilogy, Jasper – Book Two Of The Tudor Trilogy, Henry – Book Three Of The Tudor Trilogy, Mary – Tudor Princess, Brandon – Tudor Knight and The Secret Diary Of Eleanor Cobham.
I am welcoming H. D. Coulter to the blog today on her blog tour for “Saving Grace”! Scroll down for details, for a book excerpt, and my review!
Book Title:Saving Grace: Deception. Obsession. Redemption.
Series:The Ropewalk series, Book 2
Author: H D Coulter
Publication Date: 11th May 2021
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 330 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Beacon Hill, Boston. 1832.
“You are innocent. You are loved. You are mine.”
After surviving the brutal attack and barely escaping death at Lancaster Castle, Beatrice Mason attempts to build a new life with her husband Joshua across the Atlantic in Beacon Hill. But, as Beatrice struggles to cope with the pregnancy and vivid nightmares, she questions whether she is worthy of redemption.
Determined to put the past behind her after the birth of her daughter Grace, Bea embraces her newfound roles of motherhood and being a wife. Nevertheless, when she meets Sarah Bateman, their friendship draws Bea towards the underground railroad and the hidden abolitionist movement, despite the dangerous secrets it poses. Whilst concealed in the shadows, Captain Victor Hanley returns, obsessed with revenge and the desire to lay claim to what is his, exposes deceptions and doubts as he threatens their newly established happiness.
Now, Beatrice must find the strength to fight once more and save Grace, even if it costs her life.
Hayley was born and raised in the lake district and across Cumbria. From a young age, Hayley loved learning about history, visiting castles and discovering local stories from the past. Hayley and her partner lived in Ulverston for three years and spent her weekends walking along the Ropewalk and down by the old harbour. She became inspired by the spirit of the area and stories that had taken place along the historic streets.
As a teacher, Hayley had loved the art of storytelling by studying drama and theatre. The power of the written word, how it can transport the reader to another world or even another time in history. But it wasn’t until living in Ulverston did she discover a story worth telling. From that point, the characters became alive and she fell in love with the story.
The following day, Beth collected the new emerald dress from Miss Julie’s and Sarah helped Bea prepare for the gala. There were so many questions she still had after her experience of the meeting house, but now was not the time. Instead, Bea was more concerned with convincing a group of social-climbers that she was as much one of them as it was possible to be.
“May I come in?” Beth peered around the door.
“Of course, come and sit next to me, and help calm my nerves.” Bea reached out a hand for Beth to take. “I wish we could have secured a place for you to come too. I do not know what I am going to say to these people…”
“You’ll have Joshua there; I am sure he will look after you.”
“We saw it before at the May Day dance, men go off in one corner to talk about work and politics, whilst the women gossip in another.”
She feigned a moustache with one of her curls and pretended to take a puff of a cigar. The three women burst out laughing.
On the other side of the room, Grace stirred from her sleep at the sudden commotion in the room. Instinctively Bea rose from her seat but felt the pressure from Sarah’s hands on her head.
“I’ll get her. You stay and make ready.” Sarah turned her head towards Beth. “Do you mind finishing?”
“It would be my pleasure, like the old days.”
Beth waited for Sarah to exit the room with a now-grumpy Grace in her hands. “I am sure you’ll be fine – you have had time to accustom yourself to things here now, and you are in a better place… in your head. You have a stunning gown which I’m sure Joshua will approve of. Besides: it is just one night, if you find yourself in a huddle of gossipy wives, well – allow them to talk, and simply nod your head like so…” Beth lifted her nose up high and pulled a familiar face, causing Bea to burst out laughing, followed by Beth.
“I have missed that, laughing. It has been like living in a fog, clouding every thought or action. But recently it seems to have been dissipating, finding I can smile once more. Enjoy the small things; laughing and playing with Grace.”
“There, done! I haven’t done your hair since the last dance we had in Ulverston, the night you made Joshua fall in love with you.” Beth gave Bea a wink in the mirror.
“I think we both knew there was something there. But so much has happened since. I wonder sometimes if I am the same woman as I was then.”
“A year ago you were still a girl in many ways. Now you are a woman and have lived through so much more. It would make sense you have changed, how could you not? Now you are stronger; you are a wife, a mother and living in a new world.”
Bea shook her hands, as if ridding herself of a wave of emotions. “You are right, I am just being silly.”
“Bea, are you ready?” Joshua shouted from downstairs.
Beth finished pinning the last braid into the sweeping bun and loose curls. “Yes, all done.” She declared, sealing the hair with a kiss.
Bea stood up, smoothed down her dress and looked at herself in the free-standing mirror. She failed to recognise the woman staring back at her, in a glowing green dress that shone in the candlelight, setting off her warm skin and auburn hair. It gave a curve to her body and an elegance to her frame. “I look like one of them.”
“You look as beautiful as you always do – now go down to your husband.” Beth pushed Bea towards the open door.
Bea could see him standing handsomely at the bottom of the stairs, gazing upwards. He seemed not to have changed since the last dance. How elated she had felt seeing him again there, the daring touch of his hand upon hers – and now they were going together to a gala halfway across the world as husband and wife. Standing at the top of the stairs, she saw his expression change to a delighted smile at the sight of her. One hand on the skirt and the other on the banister. She glided down the stairs towards him. In one move, he grabbed hold of her and pressed her against his body.
“You look radiant. I am a lucky man to be presenting you as my wife this evening,” he whispered into her ear. Something changed in him. Suddenly, they were how they used to be. His mouth met hers as though it were their first kiss all over again, pulling her tight against him, and they both felt a sense of yearning stirring between them that hadn’t been there for a very long while.
Bea skimmed her lips against his. “Do you remember the ball in Ulverston?”
“The night I fell in love with you? How could I forget?” He stole another quick kiss.
“It felt like an unreachable dream – that one day you would be my husband, standing here, holding me. I hope you know how much I love you.” He leaned in and kissed her again. She felt his fingers press into her back, urging their bodies into one. His hands travelled over her. One slid downwards while the other went north. Her skin became hot and flushed under the dress as a new yearning surged inside of her. Reluctantly, he paused.
“I love you too, more that you’ll ever know – and now I almost don’t want to go to the gala.”
Bea felt her cheeks become hotter at his implication. She pulled herself away from his grip.
“We had better say goodnight to Grace.” She lead the way into the sitting room, and with a disappointed sigh, he followed behind her.
They had positioned themselves on a chair, Grace leaning in as Sarah hummed one of her tunes, rocking her back and forth.
Bea quietly crept up and crouched down beside them. “Sweet dreams my darling, I will see you soon.” Grace, on hearing her mama’s voice, turned and smiled at Bea, but her eyes widened in awe at the sight of the magnificent green dress.
“She will be fine. You go and enjoy yourselves. I will keep her in with me tonight.”
“If she needs a feed, bring her in.” Sarah smiled, seeing Bea’s anxiety at leaving her child for the first time.
“Sarah and Beth will take good care of her.” Joshua leaned in a little closer, placed a kiss on his hand, and gently laid it upon Grace’s head. “Good night, my sweetheart.”
Bea could hear Grace moaning as she walked towards Beth, holding out Bea’s cloak.
“If we need you, I will send word to you.” Beth replied, reading Bea’s face, and the question written all over it.
“Now – you go and dance the night away.”
Joshua smiled at Beth as he grabbed hold of Bea’s hand, drawing her towards the carriage waiting outside.
The house was lavish, a real spectacle of Mr Goldstein’s wealth and power within the community, sitting proudly on the northern side of Beacon Hill. Carriages waited their turn to deposit strings of guests in front of the two front pillars, made up of the crème de la crème of the city money-makers, amongst them all, a former Ropemaker’s daughter. But tonight, Bea was not just her Da’s daughter; she was the wife of a successful business manager; she reminded herself. She noticed Joshua tilting his head at certain men as they passed by in the hallway. He strolled into the principal room as though he had always belonged there, tall and proud, comfortable in his own birth-class once more.
“Don’t look so nervous,” he whispered into her ear, “you belong here too.”
Bea nodded. Her throat had become dry and her hands were sweaty as she noticed some women staring at the new arrival in their midst.
Joshua felt her body tense against his and guided her towards the refreshment table. “This should help.” He handed her a glass of champagne and took one for himself.
The bubbles popped in her mouth and caused a fizzy sensation on her tongue. She couldn’t help but giggle. “That’s better.” He lent forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
She smiled. As the champagne disappeared, so did the fear.
“Shall we dance, Mrs Mason?”
“I think we shall, Mr Mason.”
Joshua guided her onto the dance floor as the music began. It was a quadrille. Joshua beamed at her, seeing how much of her old self had returned. Then they both remembered: they still didn’t know the steps confidently to a quadrille! A laugh slipped out from Bea, and she tried to cover it with a dainty cough. They watched the other couples do their steps first, and with their turn, in the middle, Joshua took her hand and leaned in close so that no one else could hear: “I love you.”
A passionate happiness surged through her body, and for the first time since their courting days, she wished they were alone. Instead, she waited for their next turn and whispered the same sentiment. She stared at him with wonder. How did she deserve such a man?
“Are you alright?” Joshua whispered, observing a wave of emotions flashing across Bea’s expressions.
“More than, this is wonderful.” She smiled up at him as he placed his arm around her waist, pulling her closer.
“Come with me.” He took her hand in his and weaved them away through the crowd, issuing small nods to anyone he knew.
“Where are we going?” He replied with only a mischievous glance. One of the side doors to the now-empty hall stood ajar, and he pulled her through quickly.
“What- I don’t think they’ll allow us to be in here.” Her eyes darting around the room, making sure they were alone.
It had a musky smell, with a fire crackling in the stuffy air, and worn leather books lining the walls. He let go of her hand and closed the door behind them. Then, in a single movement, he pressed her back against the door and kissed her. It was deep and passionate, reawakening the earlier sensation in her body at the foot of the stairs. She wanted to give in to the moment, to allow all the past inhibitions and trauma behind.
“I’m perfectly happy.” She stroked the side of his face, staring into his sea-blue eyes.
There was a moment of relief and joy reflected in his expression. “I know.”
I received an ARC copy of Saving Grace from the author for an honest review.
Having not read the first installment of this series, which I think is a must for this story, I, at first, felt a little off with the backstory of Bea and all that happened to her in Ropewalk. First and foremost, I do think it is necessary to read Ropewalk first.
That being said, the author does a good job of leading you into the lives of Bea and her husband as they embark on a new life in Boston, away from the former tragedies they left behind in England… or at least, they think. I felt for a long time this was more a story of a husband and wife trying to reconnect after tragedy instead of a story about the little girl, Grace, who lends her name to the title. There was a lot of back and forth, a struggle of reaching out, and of hesitation, between the couple for a long time into the story.
Where I felt the story really really blossomed was the introduction of Sarah’s backstory. I truly wished there was a book all on its own for her voice, and the words leapt from the page with passion and emotion. Her story was necessary to Bea’s story in the end, though, and drew them together in a mutual understanding; all with the goal of saving Grace, literally and figuratively.
What I loved about the story? Everything about Sarah and her struggles. What I didn’t love about the story? I felt a little disconnected to Bea for a long time into the book, but I soon discovered the reasons for her disconnect from those around her and the author skilfully has the reader feeling the same detachment. If that was what she was going for, then bravo!
I give this book four stars and look forward to catching up in reading Ropewalk and finding out what happens next in the third book.
I took some time to truly think about what I wanted to say about this book. This is difficult. To be honest, I bought the audio version solely on a whim and because I adore Meryl Streep. I thought, “Well, anyone who was able to get her to narrate a book . . . well, this must be astounding!’
However, I must admit there was several times I almost stopped listening, not because of the narration (which was perfection), but for the storyline. While I must give kudos to Colm Toibin’s originality, I have to say that I was quite taken back by portraying Mary as a cynic who often time appears not to have a clue what is going on with her son. While true, many of his family did not accept him as the Messiah, Mary was not one of those. In reality, she “kept all these sayings in her heart” KNOWING who he was, and BELIEVING in him. Mr Toibin’s writing style is unique, told in a continuous breath of Mary’s thoughts, and was sometimes confusing and tiresome. From a historical POV, perhaps this might be referred to as alternative history, at least in my opinion. I did not enjoy it, save for the exquisite voice of Meryl Streep.
I am thrilled to welcome to the blog today, Anne O’Brien, the historical fiction author of the newly released “The Queen’s Rival”, as well a vast catalogue of books ranging in settings, from the War of the Roses all the way to the Regency era.
I had the privilege of reviewing Anne’s book, which is later on in this post. If you want to jump ahead, click HERE.
Sunday Times Bestselling author Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history.
Today she has sold over 700,000 copies of her books medieval history novels in the UK and internationally. She lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire. The area provides endless inspiration for her novels which breathe life into the forgotten women of medieval history.
Publication Date: 15th April 2021(paperback) September 2020 (Hardback and ebook)
Page Length: 531 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
One family united by blood. Torn apart by war…
The Wars of the Roses storm through the country, and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, plots to topple the weak-minded King Henry VI from the throne.
But when the Yorkists are defeated at the battle of Ludford Bridge, Cecily’s family flee and abandon her to face a marauding Lancastrian army on her own.
Stripped of her lands and imprisoned in Tonbridge Castle, the Duchess begins to spin a web of deceit. One that will eventually lead to treason, to the fall of King Henry VI, and to her eldest son being crowned King Edward IV.
I received a copy of The Queen’s Rival on Netgalley for an honest review.
First and foremost, I applaud Anne O’Brien for tackling this topic, that of the War of the Roses, from the unique viewpoint of Cecily Neville, the Duchess of York, and I give her even more credit for presenting this book in the format that she chose. I must say, I have never read a historical novel done in this way and I was astounded at the perfection in which we are offered an insight into the minds of so many involved in this history. To be honest, I wasn’t sure at first that I was going to like reading letter entries from one character to another, a story being told this way, but after the first few, I was hooked. I think this is a remarkable way to get into a character’s mind, after all, what can be more intimate than a letter from one person to another. And then, with the smattering of news reports from the England’s Chronicle to round out the storyline and the personal messages of recipes betwixt sisters (Cecily, Anne, and Katharine), well, I think this was genius. The story starts from the Duke of York’s rebellion against Henry VI, and his fleeing to Ireland, leaving his wife, Cecily, and their three youngest children at Ludlow Castle to face the forces of Lancaster. All told in letter form as she writes to her sisters, Anne, Duchess of Buckingham, and Katherine, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, as well as other letters dispersed throughout between many other characters (Marguerite, Queen of England; Richard, Duke of York; etc.) From that development, we learn a great deal about Cecily’s mind set as she maneuvers her children, her sons, in an attempt to bring her husband’s wishes about in securing the throne of England under their rightful Yorkist claim. Through this intimate way of communication, you truly delve deep into hearts and minds, and feel the passion of Cecily, not only for the royal blood she possesses but her love for her husband and her children, as well as her passionate dislikes. I think the only thing that confused me a bit about the book is the title – “The Queen’s Rival” – Although I understood, I suppose, that Cecily was the rival of Queen Marguerite, and then eventually, in some respect, the rival as Queen Mother to her son’s wife after he became King; however, the title did not imbue, to me, what the story was truly about, that is, this brave and strong woman, Cecily, Duchess of York. Again, perhaps it was just my thoughts but that being said, the title did not at all distract from the brilliance of the story. I loved the depth and incredible research and the daring approach that Anne O’Brien took in retelling this tale in a very unique form. I highly recommend this book and give it five stars!!
CONTINUE FOLLOWING THE BLOG TOUR
Thank you, Anne, for stopping by The Hist Fic Chickie today and congratulations on your book, I truly enjoyed the read!!
For more info on the blog tour, you can stop by THE COFFEE POT BOOK CLUB to check out the next stop on the tour…. or you can click here:
After giving a resounding five stars for Songbird by Karen Heenan, her first book in The Tudor Court Series, I’ve had to take a step back from the next book, A Wider World. While the story continues with one of the characters introduced in Songbird, a young minstrel called Robin, who comes into contact with Bess and Tom through his own servitude to Cardinal Wolsey, I must say that I had a hard time connecting with his character. I was completely lost within the first few chapters as each chapter flip-flopped back and forth in time, from his beginnings back and forth to his current situation as an arrested heretic on his way to the Tower of London. I think it might be a good idea for a person to read Songbird first, and then A Wider World, to get some kind of bearing, which perhaps is what Ms Heenan wants in the first place. After pushing though the story, I came to the conclusion that I just particularly did not like Robin’s character and I think that is the reason that I did not enjoy his story. The opening quote at chapter one is “He that is discontented in one place will seldom be happy in another,” and I think this Ms Heenan portrays this quite well in his story. I want to like the character and enjoy his journey when I read a book, and I did not connect with him at all.
That all being said, Ms Heenan is a gifted writer and does well in her descriptions and immersion in history and revealing to us as readers another world… and in Robin’s case, several worlds as he travels the continent and becomes acquainted with the ‘wider world’. For Ms Heenan’s skill alone in offering a well-told story, another view of Tudor life, I give this book four stars. I received this copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
What a way to retell a story about King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn!! If you’ve ever wanted to know about the inner workings of the household, told from a servant’s POV, one who was closely linked to the infamous King and his wives, well, this is the book to get. This is the story of Bess Davydd, a young girl bought by Henry VIII to become a minstrel for his court, a songstress whose voice is as a nightingales. During the storyline, you are offered brief glimpses and encounters with the royals (i.e. Henry and Anne) but the story is much more about Bess and her love interests – Tom, another bought minstrel, and Nick, a nobleman. The story is compact, well-developed, and stretches into the depths of emotions separating commoners from the high-born, as well as showing the commonality, the human element. If I have one negative, and perhaps it is only from my POV, I struggled with wrapping my head around her age, of how young she is when she starts to experience “love” and with her sounding like a woman at the age of ten to fourteen. I mean, I get it, I know from my own research into history that girls at that age and in that time period were wives and mothers by the time they were fourteen, even younger, but I did struggle a bit with it. However, my own feelings did not overwhelm the overall story, to which I enjoyed thoroughly. I give this book five stars and will highly recommend to anyone who loves books about the Tudor era.
I had to take a few days to really ponder over this review for “The Last Blast of the Trumpet”; to sort of let the words sink in and absorb them into my mind and soul. Another reviewer compared this book to Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” books and to a certain extent I must agree. I adored Mantel’s books and while Macpherson’s novel, to me, has similarities to her incredible series, there are unique differences that will draw in fans of “Wolf Hall”. Such as, the total immersion into the life of John Knox, as Mantel did with Cromwell. I found myself vacillating back and forth between liking his character and not liking his character, the same as I did with the entire novel. There were times I could not put it down and other times I felt tired over the abundance of flourishing words. Abundant but necessary. I admire Macpherson’s ability to tackle the atmosphere of the time in the use of the language, having the characters actually speak as they might have spoken by using certain phrasing and verbiage only used by Scots. For that I say, bravo, Ms Macpherson, for I am a lover of the beauty of words. That being said, I must use a caveat here and say that the tiredness I felt was from an audacious application of alliteration throughout the entire novel. At first I loved it but after the tenth or so time I found myself trying to locate the next alliterative phrase which distracted me from the storyline. However, I’m not sure this will be a hindrance for most, it was just something that irritated me since I am the OCD sort.
Now, for the story itself. As most other reviewers re-summarize the story, I shall just hit the highlights. During the Tudor era, John Knox was the foremost religious reformer and revolutionist against Catholicism, pitting him against Mary, Queen of Scots, and aligning himself with supporters such as Queen Elizabeth of England and her renowned advisor, William Cecil; all against the backdrop of Scotland. I, like most other reviewers, found the sections dealing with his home-life drawing me closer to his character while his religious life made me feel quite the opposite. To this I say, bravo, again, Ms Macpherson for developing such a well-rounded character, a true three-dimensional person who leapt from the page. The other details of the storyline, including the well-known aspects of Queen Mary, were detailed and immersive, revealing things I did not know or bringing them back to mind, such as the fact that Prioress Elisabeth Hepburn was Knox’s godmother.
I definitely recommend this read and think anyone who loved Hilary Mantel’s books will love this one, as well. It is deep, well-researched, and a good book for reflecting on a powerful and influential man in not only Scottish history but world history. As this is the third in the series and where I began, I am looking forward to going back to book one and two to fill in the rest of the history of his life.
Stealing the Holy Grail by S. M. Perlow, a book I requested from Netgalley, was a heart-pounding gallop through another rendition of the King Arthur stories. I am a sucker for a great Camelot story, and this one did not disappoint. This one takes on the story of Perceval and his quest for the Grail, as he tries to prove worthy not only to become a knight of the Grail but to achieve the love of the Grail Princess, Cera. When, at last, his quest is complete and her love is won, both entertain thoughts of the Grail’s true purpose in the world. Cera and Perceval, knowing and understanding the Grail’s meaning, that of life itself, swear to bring this gift to the world instead of hiding it away in a box meant only for worthy knights on a grail quest. But as in all the Camelot stories, danger lurks and evil fights against the good. This time, in the personage of Merlin and a hell-raising fighter named Roan, both of whom lend their souls to the Devil’s bidding. I loved the accents of historical fiction woven into the storyline, as well as the fantastical and lyrical threads of the myths. Nimue, as the Lady of the Lake, and Cera, as the ultimate protector of the Grail, portray incredibly strong women with a will of their own and minds fixed on their purpose. This is a book I won’t forget for a long time. The writing was flawless, beautiful, raw, heart-wrenching, viseral, and inspiring. I was so thankful to see on the last page instead of reading “The End”, finding the words “Book One”; which means I will anxiously await the next in the series. These books will go on my shelf, right next to my copy of “The Mists of Avalon.” Bravo, S. M. Perlow, bravo!!!
Now on pre-order, release date March 25, 2021, get it here: