I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up Of Honest Fame but it certainly wasn’t what I got. If you twisted my arm I suppose I’d say I’d expeI don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up Of Honest Fame but it certainly wasn’t what I got. If you twisted my arm I suppose I’d say I’d expected maybe a Regency romance with few surprises; a pleasant, amusing read to take me through the Easter weekend. But, from page one I was gobsmacked both by the authorial prowess and the plot. With each turn of the page my delight and pleasure increased as I realised I was in the hands of a superb writer, a story teller of the first degree. I’ve not read anything like it before although my book shelves groan beneath the weight of historical novels upon them. It has action, romance, superb historical accuracy, convincing, well rounded characters and a plot that won’t let you put it down. As the story unfolds the characters grow in strength and stature just as real people do as your acquaintance with them deepens. The writing style, which initially took a little getting used to, is refreshing in today’s fashion for a quick throw away read and, in many ways, is very Dickensian but without Dickens’ old-maidish sentimentalities. You are in good hands with M. M. Bennets and, although some parts of the descriptions of worn-torn Europe are harrowing and powerful, they are so masterfully drawn that, instead of skipping tedious pages of clichéd landscape, you are forced to stop and take a proper look and consider the futile effects of war upon the world and those who live in it. If I didn’t know better I’d suspect the author of having been there. This story pulls no punches and the terror of the Bonaparte years is brought vividly to life but I like that. There is no point in writing about historic events if you are going to shy away from ugliness. I have been considering it for a few days now and have reached the conclusion that Of Honest Fame is the finest example of literature set in this period that I have ever read. It is certainly in my top five and I’ve read all the classics. I downloaded a free Kindle version but I will be ordering a hard copy and it will stay on my shelf – always. ...more
If I hadn’t been lucky enough to win my copy of Nancy Bilyeau’s The Crown in a book giveaway I would have bought myself a copy so, when it came, I droIf I hadn’t been lucky enough to win my copy of Nancy Bilyeau’s The Crown in a book giveaway I would have bought myself a copy so, when it came, I dropped what I was doing and began reading straight away. The intrigue and danger of Tudor England provides a perfect setting for a historical novel and this one doesn’t disappoint. There was no other time in English history when it was more dangerous to be a nun or a monk and there must be a thousand stories waiting to be told, each one different but all equally as terrifying. In a time when new religious rules were being made and broken everyday and the religious houses of England were in peril, Joanna Stafford breaks out of Dartford Priory to attend the burning of her cousin for treason against the king, and her headstrong act plunges her into a dangerous adventure. As an unwilling agent to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, her quest takes her far and wide across the English countryside. There are a few Americanisms (a very few) that perhaps an English editor could have helped with but, on the whole, I found the setting and the characters convincing, the historical detail accurate and the narrative gripping. It is what you might term a ‘page turner.’ Other reviewers have likened it to Dan Brown but I found it far better. This book doesn’t need sensationalism to be a success and the twists and turns of the plot are much more credible. It is not graphic enough to make the reader wince but that doesn’t mean you won’t share Joanna’s torment and understand her pain. Nancy Bilyeau helps her reader experience the English reformation through the eyes of those who suffered the most; the inmates of the falling religious houses that had survived unscathed for centuries until Henry VIII’s greedy eye fell upon their riches. ...more
I don't generally read thrillers/horror etc but was drawn to Phil Rickman's work by The Bones of Avalon, set early in the reign of Elizabeth I. As I eI don't generally read thrillers/horror etc but was drawn to Phil Rickman's work by The Bones of Avalon, set early in the reign of Elizabeth I. As I enjoyed that hugely and admire Mr Rickman's flawless writing style I decided to give his other work ago. Curfew is very different to The Bones of Avalon, set at the end of the last century and superbly told. Now, it might be because I am new to supernatural but I found it totally horrifying, I'm sure those hardened to the genre wouldn't. I loved the chilling atmosphere, the brooding tump, the mix of characters, the clever way the author draws out his story, pulling the reader further and further in. The cleverest thing was the manner in which he offers both a rational and a supernatural explanation for what was happening, intertwining both hypothesis so well that you are left not quite sure ......more
I had never heard of Phil Rickman before I stumbled, quite accidentally, upon this book. As a writer and historian myself, I am a harsh critic and hav
I had never heard of Phil Rickman before I stumbled, quite accidentally, upon this book. As a writer and historian myself, I am a harsh critic and have grown weary of predictable, run of the mill historical novels. Most are unconvincing both in characterisation and plot and when I picked up The Bones of Avalon I did not expect it to be any different. But I was wrong; Phil had me at the first line.
The Bones of Avalon is set in the 1560’s; a time of religious uncertainty, Popish plot and counterplot. The people walk in fear, trusting no-one in an England still reeling from the heretical burnings and hangings of Mary Tudor’s Catholic reign. Now, she is dead and another Tudor takes the throne. Another queen, the bastard daughter of Anne Boleyn – Elizabeth. Haunted by her mother’s death, uncertain if she will succeed or fail, the young Elizabeth allows herself to trust few men. Two of whom are Robert Dudley – mistrusted by the council, a wild card adventurer and rumoured to be the queen’s lover; and her consultant and astrologer, Dr Dee, a mild mannered scholar and dreamer. They are sent to Glastonbury to discover the missing bones of King Arthur, lost during the dissolution in Henry VIII’s reign, so that Elizabeth might fulfil a prophecy. Without its abbey Glastonbury is desolate, the town decaying and as soon as Dudley and Dr Dee set foot there, mystery and superstition unfolds. By the time I reached the end of the first chapter I knew I was in good hands. Mr Rickman’s first person narrative is authentic enough to make me forget I was actually reading. The fumbling investigative powers of Dr Dee endears him to the reader and the primitive, wary people of Glastonbury instil the plot with ambiguity. It was delightfully refreshing to find Robert Dudley illustrated, not as a broad shouldered, devil-may-care, wife killing braggart, but as an ordinary man, torn, confused, afflicted with sickness and, throughout it all, a stalwart friend to Dr Dee and loyal to his queen. The author’s knowledge of the period is indisputable, his understanding of 16th century uncertainty is flawless but, for me, the best thing about this book has to be the atmosphere. I am not a believer in the supernatural but Mr Rickman had me doubting my own sound good sense. He gave me goose bumps such as I have not experienced since childhood. An undercurrent of human evil runs through this book, illustrating mankind’s capacity to destroy that which they don’t understand as an evil far stronger than the supernatural. Although the author never infers that supernatural power truly exists, The Bones of Avalon is unsettling; it has you looking over your shoulder. It is a book to read with the doors and windows locked.
Phil Rickman has written an intelligent book. Some may find the length off putting, it certainly isn’t for lightweight readers but, if you have the ability to let go of disbelief and embrace the mindset of the late 16th century, then you will love it as much as I. A whopping five stars – brilliant.
The Companion of Lady Holmeshire by Debra Brown A Review by Judith Arnopp
In early Victorian England, a baby girl is found in a basket on Squire Carring
The Companion of Lady Holmeshire by Debra Brown A Review by Judith Arnopp
In early Victorian England, a baby girl is found in a basket on Squire Carrington's doorstep, her identity unknown she is brought up as a servant. Eventually Emma rises to the post of companion to the Countess of Holmeshire and, while some look askance as she accompanies the unconventional Countess to formal tea and dinner parties, a small core of friends remain staunchly supportive. The narrative visits the grandeur of early Victorian English homes and contrasts them with the social deprivation and squalor of the poor. At a sumptuous Midsummer Night’s Dream ball the strands of this wonderfully crafted mystery are untangled and brought neatly together when the truth about Emma’s past emerges.
This is an elegant novel. I was quickly absorbed into it, finishing it over the course of a weekend. The characters are well drawn, the settings refined and the plot reminiscent of Jane Austen. The attention to historical detail is remarkable; the writing equal to the complexities of a plot which is as good as any Georgette Heyer novel.
If you fancy a gentile romp among Victorian England’s fragrant, rain-washed roses and graceful parlours then I recommend this novel to you. ...more
As usual with Philippa Gregory's books once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. At the same time I also found it disappointing in some ways.As usual with Philippa Gregory's books once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. At the same time I also found it disappointing in some ways. I won't bother going through the plot as most people know the story already; the beginning and ending are great but the middle becomes rather plodding and repetitive. The book could have been a lot shorter. By far the best thing about The Boleyn Inheritance is the structure. I enjoyed the layered narrative and also appreciate the way PG keeps her work free from tedious pages of description. Most of the time her writing remains sharp and engaging. Would I recommend this book? Of course I would, Philippa Gregory is head and shoulders above most historical novelists of this period BUT I think this could have been better....more
I (and many others) have waited a long time for this book and pre-ordered it so as to get my hands on it as soon as possible. It is set in my favouritI (and many others) have waited a long time for this book and pre-ordered it so as to get my hands on it as soon as possible. It is set in my favourite period and I love the beligerent character Uhtred and the way Bernard Cornwell has brought the historical characters to life. But, although I read it avidly, quickly, longing for the buzz of the early books, it never came. Although I have given this book four stars, it would have got five if it hadn't left me feeling a little short changed.
The events that this book covers could have been tagged onto the last in the series, I felt a bit cheated. It's probably a case of the publisher trying to squeeze another book out of what has become a very popular series but it hasn't worked for me. I will of course buy the next one, they have us over a barrel really, we are all longing for Uhtred to take back his birthright, Bebbanburg castle, and I think we have waitied long enough. Even an author with Bernard's skills (and it does pain me to be negative about my favourite author) cannot wring much more from this series without alienating his faithful band of followers. Come on, Bernard, pull out all the stops for the next one and get that castle back into Uhtred's hands! And do it quickly please....more
When psychoanalyst Jerry Simpson rescues a young girl from an abusive existence and takes her home with him to Canada it soon becomes apparent that thWhen psychoanalyst Jerry Simpson rescues a young girl from an abusive existence and takes her home with him to Canada it soon becomes apparent that the girl is suffering from more than trauma. She is mute, locked in an autistic world that Jerry and his colleagues find impossible to infiltrate. They quickly stop seeing her as a fascinating case study and fall beneath the spell of her child like innocence. But when Inez is found leaning over Jerry Simpson’s dead body and is accused of his murder, Jerry’s partner, Caitlin, is motivated to discover not who killed him but why he was killed. Caitlin is forced to confront and overcome uncomfortable suspicion, damaged trust and inner emotional conflict to penetrate Inez’ psyche to discover why her lover died.
When I began to read this book I had no idea what to expect. It is not my genre of choice and I am unfamiliar with both the setting and the psychological problems that Inez suffers. As a consequence it was a real adventure for me; a journey into a world that I soon found totally absorbing and it was immediately apparent that I was in very capable hands.
The Girl in a Box is an intelligent read. I don’t usually enjoy flashbacks but here they serve to illustrate the perplexed state of Caitlin’s mind. Sheila Dalton’s characters are fascinatingly complex and interact so naturally that you forget you are reading a book at all. The narrative is beautiful, her descriptions delicately evocative yet she never shies away from the truth of any situation. The violence is harsh, the love making sensuous and at times the narrative is uncompromising but what makes it wonderful for me is the way Sheila reveals Caitlin and Inez’s inner trauma. Their pain is understated, the scenes lightly but powerfully written providing total credibility and heightening the stunning impact of the final chapters.
I highly recommend this book whether you enjoy psychological drama or not. The characters linger long after the turn of the final page. Like people that you have met once and may never meet again, you worry about them and wonder how they are. This is not a book that you will want to give away, put it on your book shelf and read it again and again. ...more
A nice little collection of stories but dont expect the blood tingling love scenes that makes Mary's other books stand out. A nice way to pass an hourA nice little collection of stories but dont expect the blood tingling love scenes that makes Mary's other books stand out. A nice way to pass an hour....more
The latest in a rush of Mary Middleton's romances to be published on Kindle. The wildly unpredicatable Jonathan Barberis-Jones brought to his knees byThe latest in a rush of Mary Middleton's romances to be published on Kindle. The wildly unpredicatable Jonathan Barberis-Jones brought to his knees by love. I recommend this one, but dont stray too far from a cold shower....more
This story takes you from the sunny streets of Florence to the white sands of the Carribean. A stormy romance, fraught with problems and misunderstandThis story takes you from the sunny streets of Florence to the white sands of the Carribean. A stormy romance, fraught with problems and misunderstandings in the tradition of Mills and Boon. Very sexy....more