Muse is my introduction to Mary Novik. An excellent read which kept me enthralled, sitting at the kitchen island long after I finished lunch (when I a...moreMuse is my introduction to Mary Novik. An excellent read which kept me enthralled, sitting at the kitchen island long after I finished lunch (when I always read) to finish a chapter.
Novik's prose draws you into the era, evoking the glorious and, more often, inglorious times. Muse highlights how helpless a woman was about her destiny; the Church and men bore absolute authority over her life and death.
I will definitely seek out Novik's debut novel, Conceit. (less)
I'm assuming the author wrote this novel in "Jane Austin" style. It just didn't work. The endless narratives about clothing and tea time were disengag...moreI'm assuming the author wrote this novel in "Jane Austin" style. It just didn't work. The endless narratives about clothing and tea time were disengaging. The subtle hints of dangers hadn't appeared by 1/2 way through the book. The plot did not move along or engage my interest.(less)
The plot was predictable, with the same plot devices used numerous times. The characters (99%) of them were cardboard evil without redeeming features....moreThe plot was predictable, with the same plot devices used numerous times. The characters (99%) of them were cardboard evil without redeeming features. If they found redemption (most didn't), it was a sudden event. (less)
Elizabeth Egerton Wilder's historical fiction novel Granite Hearts is the rendering of the life of a pioneering family on the outskirts of a small tow...moreElizabeth Egerton Wilder's historical fiction novel Granite Hearts is the rendering of the life of a pioneering family on the outskirts of a small town, Prospect, Maine, beside the Penobscot River. Sean Ryan is the product of a Irishman and Micmac mother. Gertie, his new wife, is the child of Irish parents.
Sean lived in his entire life in the settlement of Smythville, a settlement founded by his Uncle Jacob, the patriarch of the Ryan family. Gertie's parents are Irish immigrants and none too fond of the "half-breed" community. However, money was short so Gertie was permitted to work with Sean's mother at Smythville school.
Many Micmacs were relocated to reservations. Jacob was determined this fate would not befall his extended family. It is here, in Smythville, Sean and Gertie are married according to the laws of Maine. This legality observed, the remainder of the wedding festivities are conducted in Micmac tradition. Gertie's parents do not attend the wedding. Her relationship with her father is poor, but she is saddened by the likelihood she will never see her mother again.
That evening they leave for their new home where they hope to have a fresh start. The bias against the Micmacs is strong in the area surrounding Smythville. Gertie has a job as a schoolteacher awaiting her. Sean plans to obtain work at a new fort being built as a laborer and, eventually, apprentice as a stonecutter.
With Gertie's schoolteacher position comes a tiny rustic cabin. Their elderly neighbor, Nana Hodge, soon becomes a major influence and close friend. The Ryans are able to purchase their home and 3 acres through gifts of money and monthly payments to Nana. Sean succeeds in getting seasonal work on the fort foundations, while Gertie teaches.
An early pregnancy and adoption of a toddler ends Gertie's career and Sean becomes the sole breadwinner.
Granite Hearts reads somewhat like a memoir of a family which struggles financially, a mother who contends with raising 4 boys to adulthood, isolation, discrimination, marital bliss and hardships, a husband often absent days and nights working, alcohol addiction, setbacks, personal growth, establishing a permanent home, extended family relationships and friendships and the impending civil war.
It is a pleasant read, however, much of Granite Hearts is written in passive tense and includes small details which do not add substance to the overall story. The first 3 chapters confused me as I thought the initial characters introduced in Chapter 1 were the protagonists in this novel. This is not apparent until Chapter 4 when Wilder sets the focus on Sean and Gertie Ryan.
While writing this review I discovered Granite Hearts is a sequel to The Spruce Gum Box, which might explain my original thoughts that the majority of Chapters 1 through 3 are unnecessary. The sheer number of characters introduced in these chapters made it difficult to connect the dots throughout Granite Hearts. I understand, in hindsight, Wilder might be refreshing readers' memories but, for new readers, the "information dumping" poses a problem.
I was gifted a copy of Granite Hearts by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.(less)
The Soldier's Seed is Book 1 of Sharyn Bradford Lunn's historical fiction novel series Southern Skyes.
The Soldier's Seed opens in Sydney Town, New Sou...moreThe Soldier's Seed is Book 1 of Sharyn Bradford Lunn's historical fiction novel series Southern Skyes.
The Soldier's Seed opens in Sydney Town, New South Wales, 1803, with Nicholas Thomas, an English farmer turned soldier in the New South Wales Corps. The Corps' mission is guard transported convicts and colonize. The Corps and the Royal Marines, who arrived a year earlier, have a bitter rivalry. The Marines, unwilling to supervise convicts, were replaced by the Corps a year later.
During the 14 year stint in Sydney Town, the Corps became a powerful operation, with the acting governor allocating large land grants to his officers, who, in turn, became rum traders bringing wealth and influence. This does not sit well with the Royal Marines, who are more than delighted to inform the Corps they will be moving out to Van Diemen's Land to establish a settlement to ward off rumors of French colonization. The worst of the offenders will be transferred to Van Diemen's Land, including those who previously conspired and failed to seize control of Norfolk Island.
Nicholas hates Sydney Town, New South Wales and the Corps. His dreams of wealth and adventure turned to dust in the inhospitable climate and prominent corruptness. His only goal is finish his term in one piece and return home to Kent to a pastoral life of farming. With the impending result of his indiscretions with the local shopkeepers wife due in mere weeks, Nicholas volunteers to transfer to Van Diemen's Land. It's not his first choice but, given the circumstances and shopkeeper's threats, it seems the lesser of the evils.
The Corps on Van Diemen's Land will be under the command of a young Lieutenant Bowen, a former Royal Marine. Nicholas has not meshed well with his fellow corrupt Corps, who are quite happy to lay a beating on him and verbally berate him given an opportunity. This move to Van Diemen's Land could prove the solution to all of his problems in Sydney Town. Governor King is in a hurry to beat the French to Van Diemen's Land and this suits Nicholas perfectly. Staying in Sydney Town holds no promise of gaining wealth and he's not eager to stick around should the shopkeeper's wife's baby prove to be his child.
The voyage from Sydney Town to Van Diemen's Land is miserable on an overcrowded whaler and plagued by incessant seasickness. Nicholas is so physically and emotionally depleted he is prepared to die on the deck, but a black freed slave turned whaler doesn't permit him the option. Buck and Nicholas become fast friends, although it is obvious it will be of short duration. Before they part, Buck gifts a carved whale tooth to Nicholas, which will have meaning in the far future.
Bowen's orders from Governor King is to establish a new colony and this is what he sets out to do. Shelters and gardens are established and free settlers begin to work their land. Convicts, however, true to their previous history are uncooperative with authorities until the threat of reduced rations and lack of shelter finally inspires them to act in their own interests. Once they have built themselves housing, they return to their recalcitrant state.
As the settlement grows, disharmony between officials and rum conspiracies amongst the soldiers are reminiscent of Sydney Town. Occasionally, aboriginals are spotted, but they seem merely curious and harmless. Little does Nicholas know the part the aboriginals will play in his life.
Nicholas is a slow learner and has a liaison with a free settler's wife until the day he sees a beautiful convict named Maggie working the gardens. She becomes pregnant, but Nicholas' request to marry her is denied. He sees no option other to run away with her. He know the penalty for desertion, but his love for Maggie and her child overpowers the consequences if caught.
The Soldier's Seed is quite literally titled, as it follows Nicholas and his child's destiny. However, it isn't until the second half of the novel that Lunn begins to focus on Nicholas and his life. Much of the novel up to that point is a rendering of the historical inception of Tasmania which, although thoroughly researched, does not move Nicholas' story forward.
Personally, I feel that if The Soldier's Seed had focused primarily on Nicholas' story continually, with the colonization of Tasmania more of a background story, this novel would have more cohesion. I found myself waiting and wanting to read more about Nicholas, which took too long to delve into. (less)
Frail Blood is loosely based on the murder trial of a young woman in Southern California, although the author states the characters and locales are so...moreFrail Blood is loosely based on the murder trial of a young woman in Southern California, although the author states the characters and locales are solely products of her imagination.
Alma, a servant in the Machado household, is seduced by the youngest son, Joseph. A simple girl, Alma believes Joe loves her and will marry her after they become intimately involved. After she discovers Joe has discarded her for another woman, Alma is determined to make sure what Joseph did to her doesn't happen to another.
She straps on a pistol and confronts Joseph at the Machado house on an evening when she knows the family is out. She's not even sure why she brought the pistol, other than to maybe ensure Joseph listens to what she has to say.
As it turns out, she doesn't say anything but, rather, fires a single shot at Joseph. The last sight she sees is Joseph clutching his shoulder and falling. Overcome with fright and horror, she flees into the woods where she is later captured.
Malachi Rivers is Alma's defense attorney. A man with notorious past swirling around his relationship with his ex-wife and his abusive father, he resides in Placer Hills in the hopes of leading a quiet anonymous life.
Prosecution Attorney Charles Fulton, together with his band of protégés, is full of confidence his case against Alma is solid and she will hang for her crime.
Rivers and Fulton share a mutual dislike and actively antagonize each other at every opportunity.
Emma Knight is the new owner of the town's newspaper in partnership with her uncle. Emma scores a coup when Alma tells her she shot Joseph. Emma prints a damning article outlining Alma's confession. An article that makes Malachi's defence all the more difficult.
Malachi sends Emma a rather rude and condescending letter about a woman's place in the world and staying out of the realm of matters best left to men.
Emma is a fierce advocate for the equality between men and women and women's rights to independence. Her convictions are vexatious for her parents, who believe 6 months in Europe will bring Emma to her senses so she can be married off to a properly suitable gentleman. Emma is not enamoured by these plans or her parents' attempts to control her life.
After some persuasion from Emma's uncle, Malachi decides Emma is less detrimental to his case if she is actively involved in the defense. Up until now, she's only made a nuisance of herself in guise of a news reporter.
A professional agreement is made between Malachi and Emma that she will assist him with investigation of the murder. Despite butting heads on every issue regarding women's rights, a personal agreement quickly develops. A mutual desire for a more intimate relationship beckons.
Malachi balks at first. The last thing he wants is a committed relationship. He is scarred by his previous marriage. Emma is eager to explore the sensual side of life, believing she has as much right as a man to experience physical love. She leads Malachi to believe she is not unfamiliar with such matters when, in fact, she is a virgin.
Robertson's novel is billed as a "Historical Romance Thriller". "Romance" may be a bit of a misnomer as Frail Blood contains several detailed erotic scenes.
When it is revealed Joseph sustained 2 gunshot wounds, with the second a fatal shot through the heart, Malachi is still determined to defend his client on the basis she suffered an excess of feminine emotion when she shot Joseph.
Emma despises his tactics as an affront to equality and sets out to penetrate the mysterious Machado family. Her probing unveils a new definition of "dysfunctional family" and her life in danger.
Readers comfortable with erotic scenes will find Frail Blood an entertaining read. I do not recommend Frail Blood for readers sensitive to such content. (less)