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David Wilkin (La Habra Heights, CA USA)

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Venetian Encounter Georgian Romance & Murder Mystery. (Georgian Romance & Murder Mystery Series Book 1)
Venetian Encounter Georgian Romance & Murder Mystery. (Georgian Romance & Murder Mystery Series Book 1)
Price: £2.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique and Quick Regency enjoyment, 20 April 2014
This is a quick afternoon Regency read. And following true to form, we are given a tale that touches all the bases to bring in a solid story by Ms. Howarth. We have our hero with a secret, and our heroine with an even greater one, that our hero's secret enables him to suss out. Others suggest that this might be a plot we have seen elsewhere but that is not so. Enough twists and turns, and historical fact and good fiction make this completely unique in every way.

Our Historical guest stars are caught right at the apex of a critical time in their lives so they serve as background and in such a way that they propel the story forward as well as giving us a very impressive glimpse into a period of history that we historians know exists but few delve into the last days of Lord Hamilton and his beautiful wife Emma (considered the most beautiful woman in the world in her day) as they are recalled from the court of the Kingdom of Naples.

It is Naples that we see up close, and Venice a little later that we get a very small taste of. Almost two books, but what takes place in Venice between our heroes is the culmination of their paths and handled with finesse and enticement that those who want to be a part of a good tumble will enjoy as the bantering our Beatrice and Benedict like heroes enter a physical stage that leaves them changed forever. And for the much needed culmination of their own character development that we have seen Ms. Howarth build chapter by chapter that makes the reader believe that this book may be much longer than it actually is.

Character is what drives a good tale and this does have it as I mentioned. We only lack a little when we jump ahead from Venice and what has occurred their to the end, seeming to rush where even more depth could have been painted in with greater detail, but big broad bold strokes have been applied and our heroes stand on these additions to their traits. But the reader does wonder, what might Ms. Howarth have given should we have seen another chapter or two before the adorable conclusion of adoration.

The Death of Carthage: Second Edition: 2
The Death of Carthage: Second Edition: 2
by Robin E. Levin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fact in a Novel, 12 April 2014
This is book is not like the tales of Mccullough or Scarrow. It is of a different time and style then either of those. It is told first person from four perspectives and as such it takes some time to adjust to the difference inherent in Ms. Levin's style than tales of warrior heroism one might think is invoked from the title and subject matter.

For it is a tale of the 2nd Punic War and then the 3rd, but seen through the eyes of people who you might expect a different tale from. That it is delivered in hands that are shown to have care and affection with the material means that the tale will educated and lift you up in a time where desolation was to be had by all.

Using the writings of Polybius and others, Ms. Levin reminds us that war at this period was brutal and had brutal side effects. There was no Geneva Convention. Slavery was certainly apart of what one saw and expected in this age. And here Ms. Levin is able to point out the issues that such a practice brings to the world.

We meet characters along the way that help tell us the story, and with the exact wording of what occurred at various times, our historical knowledge is elevated beyond what most novels on the subject would give.

We see the large world of Rome as it changes from a small city-state with allies, to the empire that it rose to become. Conquering its enemies, and sometimes its friends. Treating the vanquished by showing that assimilation of a culture is a means to takeover a kingdom.

With four sets of eyeballs, our narrators, we see several different events come to life across a stage of over 80 years of history during very turbulent times. Ms. Levin has given a gift that is worth the time and effort to read this tome and find out about it with all the bother of one single hero who is unaffected by the changes that do take place. Here we find men with cares and woes that are completely affected and we are made to learn what such would be like if we were caught up in that war-torn world that led us on the path to our own now. This one is for all lovers of history.

The Only Blue Door
The Only Blue Door
by Joan Fallon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Children of WWII paid terrible prices as well, 4 April 2014
This review is from: The Only Blue Door (Paperback)
The Only Blue Door is a side of Historical Fiction that I usually don't delve into. Ms. Fallon does not talk about the events of WWII in regards to battle, or the soldiers that typically I would read when looking into the era. She takes on the challenge of what the plight of children were in the war town world of the era.

This is a subject matter that is handled with deftness. And when telling a tale from the views of children, we of adults must take extra care to work towards truth while telling such. Childhood is many years and miles from us, and to remember that period of our lives, as well as to cast the protagonists in a time of great personal tragedies, takes all the skill of master.

Ms. Fallon gives us a premise that requires some suspension of disbelief, though with the pandemonium of the Blitz as a backdrop, and a bureaucracy little ready to deal with the massive amounts of tragedy that was swamping them, one can take on faith that such plot devices as Ms. Fallon employs could easily have existed. The Catholic Church takes in on the chin in The Only Blue Door, so if you have strong religious feelings, be prepared for some harsh realities of how children perceive the strictness that the church may have embraced. It is not the Church of Padre Rufino Niccacci of Assisi.

But our journey, like the branches of a vine that twist and turn and rewind back onto itself, comes to fruition. It gives us glimpses into different parts of the war that have little bearing on the battles, except perhaps there outcomes and as minor subplots. We see the parts of the world that equate to A Town Called Alice of Australia during the war, and after when scarcity, little discussed in near all tales of the period, is certainly a theme that has to be given credence to bear on the tale that has evolved in this page turner.

Pacing is like the hundred yard dash, not in it's brevity, but that as the war begins, the tale is slow to show us what will happen, for the tale is not of the war, but of the children who will grow as the war continues and ends. Here as in a race, those first steps from a standing start are slow, but as we near the end, the runner gives his all and increases his effort going his fastest. And in such a tale, reaching the climax, a lot must happen at once to bring in those pieces of the vine back to a semblance of beauty.

For those who would like to view more to their history than one battle or another, one tale of heroism involving the soldiers, sailors and airmen, and even adults of World War II, then this tale of three heroic children might be something to sit down with and begin. A chance to see more of the world than you might ever have imagined existed when such monumental events were taking place, yet for the heroes of this tale, these were the most monumental moments of their lives.

The Empress Emerald
The Empress Emerald
by J G Harlond
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars From 1900 to 1940 the tales of the world and a man well worth the meeting, 30 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Empress Emerald (Paperback)
In the Empress Emerald, we have a tale spanning the life of a man, and by extension the events that surround that life that affect him personally as well as those that are occurring about the globe that changed everyone's lives as well. With the device from the title, Ms. Harlond uses the Empress Emerald which is a necklace to weave itself about the main character like a cloak that will protect and shield our hero, Leo Kazan, as well as be the fire, albeit green since it is an emerald that burns within his breast as well.

Without providing spoilers beyond the most general, the story is that of the years of Leo from when he was born at the opening of the 20th century to Britain's entry into the war. It weaves the identity of India, Russia, Spain and England together in a gordian knot of plots, intrigues and tales so that little slivers of all are brought together to unite in a fine tale that shows that such a large thing as an empire, or two, will naturally result in certain individuals living lives that cross borders. And in such a turbulent time with one world war occurring, and another just beginning, the backdrop of history is food for the author to fuel our imaginations and for us to visit places and see sights that are seldom glimpsed.

It is not just solely Leo's story, for he has a rather large impact on others as well, and here we find a secondary tale that becomes the equal of our Heroes. Naturally we find that Leo has a love interest that is so well connected that it defies time, miles, and tragedies, to bind our two lovers. They are Bashert, soulmates, in every sense of the word. That Ms. Harlond is able to provide us a compelling tale that we can enjoy their affection for each other, leaves the reader with a need to turn the page to find how this part of the tale will play out.

With charm and dignity, out hero and heroine show that the world that was torn apart and tried to reknit itself, only to be ripped to shreds again, is a place where the hope of love, the gift of life can flourish. Did flourish.

A well written book with a clear narrative voice that gives it style. It is a true work of historical fiction. Where suspense or mystery might have fought to take over the stage, such was not the case, giving more to the development of our characters that made their lives of love all that more profound.

Were we to meet Leo again and see more of his unique life, and how things change with the War and after, knowing that more of the tale is there to be found would be a consummation of the man and his closest family that we have begun to know. Where Emerald has ended, at the brink of the war, we who live now after it has gone, know that there is much historically to relate and having met Leo here in this exceptional tale, also know that he is a character who would have a lot to do during the years of the war and after.

The Ringmaster's Daughter: A Georgian Romance (The Foxhall Series Book 1)
The Ringmaster's Daughter: A Georgian Romance (The Foxhall Series Book 1)
Price: £2.17

5.0 out of 5 stars A Visit to Vauxhall, or Foxhall if you will, in a way that is refreshing as it is unexpected, 19 Mar. 2014
This tale by Ms. Elliott combines the tropes of a Romance Novel with villains in abundance, with the mid Georgian period to give us a historical novel as well. The setting where most of the story takes place is the south side of the Thames on a site called FoxHall Gardens. One is quick to think that the tale is that of Vauxhall gardens, and one where a later Becky Sharp is going to be at home at.

That we have a plot of the gardens needing to be renovated gives us those extra scenes that help us to see and appreciate them as they are built. But they are not the central pillars of our story. We have a heroine who finds she has skills beyond what she ever had known and grows into a role she was meant for.

We have a hero with a past that causes his thoughts to be overshadowed by that past and cause events in the present to play out in ways all would rather be different were the hero able to realize the difference between truth and fiction all the more quickly. That these two individuals go beyond mere attraction to love and caring shows the skill which Ms. Elliott is able to weave. To bring trouble to their path so that all is not easy makes the drama and conflict cause the reader to need to turn the page and find out what resolutions may be lurking after a tense or intense tete a tete.

Those who are enamored of romance and would like a visit to the later half of the 1700s and a side of London not usually seen, should pick up this work and delve through it for the treasures that lie within.

WARHORN: Sons of Iberia
WARHORN: Sons of Iberia
Price: £2.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Caros rises rapidly and guides us along an era and area with few tales, 9 Mar. 2014
Warhorn is an attempt to bring us into the world of the Second Punic War. Where this does begin to succeed the authors notes cites the liberties he took with the timeline to make the story flow better, and that actually diverts you from what might have been an even stronger piece.

Supplemental characters are brought on stage often to illustrate the harsh realities of the time. The Barbarous nature of the era. And readers should be prepared for this is a time where might is right, and might does rule. Especially when you are in the border lands of two giant empires positioning for control of ultimately all of the Mediterranean, though that will come later. This is the beginning of that long war.

To tell us about this period and take us through it, we are introduced to Caros, the son of a merchant. The story opens when tragedy has struck his family. Caros is our advocate to learn of Hannibal, he of the elephant fame, and who we know will ultimately lose to Rome. Thus usually in fiction told of the period we see the world through the eyes of Rome. We know Scipio Africanus will be victorious ultimately. We also know that Hannibal was a military genius.

Here Caros shows us that there were actions like the pawns in chess moving about ahead of the first fight at Tagus and then the siege of Saguntum. That Mr. Bauer changes the timeframe perhaps makes a wronger tale with a great many heroic fight scenes and tales of the siege.

There however is a certain realism to our heroes that Caros transcends. Here is a man who has had some training with a weapon, and the intelligence to learn the life of a merchant. He instantly has the skill of a battle hardened warrior of many campaigns, and the craft of a leader of thousands of men. Skills that are not acquired over one season of warfare. Given some backstory to these skills beyond what we learn might have provided us with a greater appreciation of our hero. Instead he appears more blessed than even Hannibal who trained for his generalship from childhood is eclipsed by our Caros. When overlooking this the story flows to surround us with details and subplots that give us an idea what the Inerian Peninsula was like at the time.

Even to the very end, where Caros faces the end of his own personal journey, we see a harsh world revealed with a conclusion that is necessary for our heroes personal growth. Reading this tale of fighting, great battles, and a period long gone, should bring a reader who has had a large selection of Pro-Roman Historical and Military Fiction to see that the grass may be no greener from the side of their many foes, but is as equally filled with heroism, sacrifice, and wonderment. For those with a shared love of this period you will see that Bauer does not disappoint and a perusal of his story is worth the effort.

Murder in Mind
Murder in Mind
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A trip to Florence this year. Bring your knives., 2 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Murder in Mind (Kindle Edition)
This was a rare find indeed. A mystery that draws you in just as the characters involved are drawn in. Set in Florence in the late 1400s, the time of the Borgias. And all are chess pieces in the great game between the powers of the Pope, his son, and the French, along with those in Florence who crave to continue their independence and those who would end the Republic.

I don't want to give away too many spoilers. The cast of characters are so deep that you will see a large panoply of Florentine life and a touch of politics that Machiavelli not only wrote of in the Prince, but you will see him on stage in a few scenes as well.

That the author is able to weave a tale that is believable to a great extent and leaves you guessing for most of the tale is a grey testament to her skill. Some may see the villains unmasked before Ms. Pasch does so but still the telling has very masterful elements with strong men and women in roles to watch.

And that the big players, Cesare and Pope Alexander are in Rome, it is left to those uniquely concerned with matters in Florence to resolve matters there. That gives us even a more intimate feel for the era and the events.

Would we like more? Yes. This is a book that is worthy of a future reread to delve deeper into its nuances.

The Prodigal Son (The Graham Saga Book 3)
The Prodigal Son (The Graham Saga Book 3)
Price: £3.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Alex the 20th Century 17th century Lady of the Manor, 26 Feb. 2014
Here we have a tale where a time transported strong woman meets the 17th century and the 17th century just doesn't know what's hit it. Our heroine is out in her third sojourn in this tale, which can standalone, but in the midst of so much entangled in the history of one person and her family might be perceived with greater dimension when encompassed as part of the entire tale.

Alex has come from the future and met a man fully immersed in his own time. The strength of their love story and the building of their family in this time is the story. The surrounding tale of the Scottish Covenanters is nearly secondary, for the struggle of a woman convincing her man that deep seated moral cares become secondary to real fears for the protection and succor of ones family could take place in many settings. The time is not as intrinsic to the plot as is the story of the family and as the subtitle relays, it is the story of the Graham's their saga.

We see this also in that the love between our hero and heroine are present from the beginning of the tale, the subplot of the Covenanters only mildly brought forth, even though it returns and returns, it is never as epic to us as the tale of the interactions of husband and wife. That alone is enough to keep the pages turning. The area where I might fault this, is in the heroine using more modern input to increase the strength of her family. Whether that is a knowledge of history, or technology, little of that is present beyond some adherence to a change in diet and an adherence to cleanliness. Some of my favorite tales are those where an uptime brings knowledge to that previous time and aids themselves and the people there with the changes they can bring. Our heroine seems little inclined to add her knowledge to aid her husband's farm.

Aside from that, one can read the Prodigal Son and become rapt up in the tale of Alex and her family, wanting to quickly discover what has come before and what is to come after if not already a fan of the series. Ms. Belfrage creates a strong woman who loves life, her husband and her children, not necessarily in that order. Strong enough that this is a heroine you'll want to meet and get to know better.

The Beltane Choice (#1 - Celtic Fervour Series)
The Beltane Choice (#1 - Celtic Fervour Series)
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars If Love is Your thing, look no further, 22 Feb. 2014
That I title this review about love, is I think the theme and plot of our tale. Those who have taken the effort to investigate Nancy Jardine's tale will find that they are in the midst of the turmoil attraction fosters in two souls caught up in a dangerous game and time. Our tale is set in an era where much is going on, and generally it is told from the Roman Conquerors viewpoint. Even now with the man movies we see released about the era when England was invaded by the Romans, we only see the view of the Celts who lived on the island as secondary characters. Or in the case of Boudicca, a figure that will fail.

Here for those who want to see a love story develop, and then, as classic tropes have, barriers bar the way, Jardine provides a tale that will delight and give you a bang. Though getting there, you will encounter a great deal of tsuris leading to the very edge of a cliff, not once, but multiple times, so that when our couple finally finds happiness, the trouble has been well worth it.

That the tale suffers and does not receive a full five stars is in the surrounding tale of Rome, and in the dialogue. Our premodern hero and heroine have a few too many modern words in their vocabulary that are in the arsenal of skilled authors, but would ever fit in the mouths of ancient Celtic tribespeople. They take you out of the story wondering where a tribal warrior, or maiden would learn such a concept.

Jardine also dilutes the strength of the love story where it could have been stronger with the lack of urgency by the threat of the Romans. This is not a piece of ancient military fiction, for their are many of those now about with love stories added on. This is the reverse, a love story in the times of war. Constant warfare in the case of tribal disharmony, and the threat of the Romans. A threat made real surrounding all that occurs in Jardine's work. And therefore when the Romans are mentioned I begin to wonder why are the warriors not acting more expeditiously to deal with the threat. A legion is thousands of men and as the book shows nearly unstoppable, yet to not give the entire detail of our story away, our warriors recognize the threat but do not work hard enough to prepare for it. The pace and speed that they do work at seems more to do with ensuring that the calendar of events that the author has chosen is met, and this works for the true story of love and romance.

Putting that aside, and knowing that in history, the Celts, as so many others, have been consumed by time and culture, one can look at the big picture and see that this is a preparation of things to come. That there will be a dynasty of love and romance founded here in the defiant Celtic tales that Jardine has to spin for us. Tales that will entertain many when reading this first, or the others that follow.

Royal Secrets (The Royal Series Book 3)
Royal Secrets (The Royal Series Book 3)
Price: £2.92

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fine mix of romance, history and the many twists of intrigue, 19 Feb. 2014
Royal Secrets introduces us to Justine Thornton and Richard Gantry, the Viscount of Axebury.
The time is the earlier part of Charles II's return to England, the Restoration Era. Francine Howarth gives us a love story where our heroes have already decided in their minds that they are enamored of each other.

Saying that, we wonder if romance is necessary as our couple already are committed in their minds to the endeavor, but as we all know in our own lives, the heart often encounters doubts from the walls our minds also place as barriers between ourselves and those whom we love.

Were that all, the book would be as one dimension and the world could be hither or yon. Yet we are in the England that has seen a hundred years of Protestantism and Catholicism could return as quickly as a King's Whim. And changing a Royal's Mind could bring great rewards, or playing with such fire could leave one scorched!

Justine and Richard could be safe in the country, as their parents believe themselves to be, yet the country is less than a day's ride from court, and court has too many ties to leave them, and their families alone. A love story could bloom without intrigue and plot twists aplenty. But when they are stirred in the pot, the stew that is created is that much more enriching. Sampling this hearty tale of `Rebel' Thornton and her dashing lover will be a fulfilling experience for all who take the time to indulge.

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