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Amy M. Bruno "Historical Fiction Junkie" (Atlanta, GA)

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The September Queen
The September Queen
by Gillian Bagwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.91

14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another hit for Gillian Bagwell!, 3 Nov 2011
This review is from: The September Queen (Paperback)
When I read and reviewed Gillian Bagwell's first novel, The Darling Strumpet, last year I knew she would be an author to watch, and boy was I right! Gillian's sophomore novel of the woman who helped King Charles II escape from the grasp of his enemies and return to his rightful place on the throne of England is an extraordinarily engrossing read!

At twenty-five years of age, Jane Lane still lives at home, is unmarried and unsure of what she wants in life. All she knows is that she isn't ready to settle down and become a wife to a man that she doesn't feel passion for. When the exiled and penniless Charles Stuart lands in England to fight for his crown Jane's royalist family supports his cause and her brothers take up his fight. She's envious of the freedom their gender enables them and desires more than anything to be able to fight for her king, so when the opportunity arises and Jane is the one person who can help Charles escape from Cromwell's army, she doesn't hesitate to accept the challenge. Risking her life and the lives of her family Jane and her cousin race Charles to safety - sidestepping danger and capture along the way.

Charles would not be Charles if he wasn't charming a lady out of her chemise and Jane succumbs most willingly to his magnetic allure, and a passionate love affair between the two begins, ignited by the dangerous circumstances they find themselves.

I have read quite a few HF novels on Charles II, but none that dealt with this part of his life or his time with Jane Lane, so this was quite a treat for me. Jane was a fabulous heroine and the sacrifices she made to restore Charles to the throne are what earned her a place as an important figure in the history of England and I am so glad to have read about her. Gillian did a wonderful job of bringing Jane and Charles's story to life, and it's such an important story to tell because it shows us that despite the limitations of the female gender in the 17th century a woman can and did affect the history of the world.

My congratulations to Gillian for another fabulous historical fiction novel! I loved The September Queen, it had everything that I look for in a novel - drama, romance, danger and adventure. I devoured it in two sittings and my copy is now sitting comfortably on my keeper shelf. Highly recommended!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 15, 2012 6:00 PM GMT

To Serve a King
To Serve a King
by Donna Russo Morin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing hystorical mystery!, 31 Jan 2011
This review is from: To Serve a King (Paperback)
Author Donna Russo Morin brings intrigue to the court of King Francois I of France in her third historical novel, To Serve a King.

Young Genevieve's life changes when her parents are killed in a fire at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and King Henry VIII decides she is to be reborn as a spy, his own "beautiful weapon". Raised in seclusion, by a cold and callous woman she knows as her aunt, Genevieve is taught how to decipher messages, weaponry and languages. Also brainwashed into believing King Francois I killed her parents and that King Henry VIII is an all-powerful supreme being, she would do anything to avenge her family and please her benefactor, which means infiltrating the court of Francois I as a lady in waiting to Anne d'Heilly, the king's mistress.

But Francois I is not the monster she had been expecting. A learned man and patron of the arts, Francois is a true Renaissance king and the fact that he is also charming, generous and sincere is unarming to Genevieve. She had been bred to believe the worst of this man and here he was slowly becoming a father figure to her, causing Genevieve to question her mission and torn between the two biggest forces in her life.

To Serve a King is a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing read! I loved the quotes that began every chapter, the characters were well developed and the descriptions of Francois' opulent court were breathtaking. I loved reading about Francois I and now want to know more about him. A fast paced read with a clever and tenacious protagonist, I found it hard to put down! Any fan of historical mysteries will love this exciting read by Donna Russo Morin!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2013 7:03 PM BST

The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II
The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II
by Gillian Bagwell
Edition: Paperback

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars spectacular debut novel from Gillian Bagwell!, 12 Jan 2011
When I first saw mention of the upcoming release of The Darling Strumpet , a novel on Nell Gwynn, I knew immediately I had to read it. You see, she's my favorite royal mistress and I try to read everything I can on her. Being a debut novel I wasn't sure what to expect, but I need not have worried because author Gillian Bagwell blew me away!!

The Darling Strumpet recounts Nell's impressive rise from the streets of London to the most coveted position in the land, that of mistress to King Charles II, the Merry Monarch and tells it in such an entertaining way that the reader is kept in absolute rapture from start to finish! Nell's spirit was captured perfectly by Bagwell and this book just reminded me why I adore Nell so much. Her tenacity, keen wit and charm, big heart and refusal to make amends or feel ashamed of her role as royal mistress make her so likable, you can easily see why she was a favorite of Charles II.

Being that the novel is just as juicy as the orange on the cover and with knowing that there are many YA readers that visit this blog, I feel I would be remiss in not disclaiming that there are some pretty racy scenes. They didn't bother me so much and I didn't feel they overwhelmed the story but they are pretty detailed, so I just thought I would mention it.

I enthusiastically recommend The Darling Strumpet and if her debut novel is any indication of the fabulousness we can look forward to in future books by Gillian Bagwell then consider me hooked!!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 16, 2012 10:06 PM GMT

Queen Hereafter (Margaret of Scotland)
Queen Hereafter (Margaret of Scotland)
by Susan Fraser King
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars another great book by Susan Fraser King!, 16 Dec 2010
What struck me the most when I read Susan Fraser King's first novel, Lady MacBeth , was the way she was able to suck me in within the first page. Well, I can happily say that the same thing happened with her newest release, Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland.

Margaret, the daughter of an exiled prince and granddaughter to Edmund Ironside, was raised in the strictly religious Hungarian court. Her father is called back to England, but dies shortly after and following a series of events she and her family leave England and travel to the court of King Malcolm III of Scotland for protection. However safety comes with a price that only she can pay with her hand in marriage. As dutiful as Margaret is, she is less than thrilled at marrying this rough, brutish man who ignores and disgusts her but resolves herself to the inevitable and vows to be the best queen possible. It's hard to think that with the rocky start to their relationship and given that they seem to be total opposites, Margaret and Malcolm have one of the most successful (with all of their eight children living to adulthood)and happy marriages in royal couple history. And though the people of Scotland did not want a Saxon queen, they come to love her for her charity and kindnesses. After reading about the innate goodness in Margaret, it comes as no surprise to me that she is now known as a Saint.

In Queen Hereafter we also reunite with Lady MacBeth and meet her granddaughter, daughter of the murdered King Lulach, Eva. Eva, an accomplished bard, knowing her destiny lay elsewhere, she leaves the court of her grandmother and answers Malcolm's summons that she come to his court as a royal hostage to keep Lady MacBeth in check and behaving. As Malcolm is Lady MacBeth's enemy she is loath to send her beloved granddaughter to the lion's den, but word has come to her that Malcolm has commission a historical account which would not paint MacBeth and Lulach in very glowing terms and Eva could be in a position to secretly find out more about the document. But when Eva and Margaret grow close she begins to feel bad about betraying her new friend and when she gets caught its Margaret who will seal her fate.

Wonderfully written and hard to put down Queen Hereafter is a fantastic read that I highly recommend to any lover of historical fiction!

The Lady's Slipper (Macmillan New Writing)
The Lady's Slipper (Macmillan New Writing)
by Deborah Swift
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique plot makes for an enjoyable read!, 15 Dec 2010
It's amazing that the theft of one little harmless orchid could set off a series of happenings that will turn three lives upside down!

Alice is still in deep mourning over the death of her little sister Flora and has grown moody, introverted and spends most of her time among her paints and flower paintings. When Richard Wheeler shows her the rare Lady's Slipper orchid growing on his land, she feels she must save it and ensure its survival.

But Alice is not the only one with a plan for the orchid.

Richard Wheeler, a former member of the Puritan army who has given up his money and possessions to become a Quaker and live more peacefully after the horrors of war believes the orchid should stay where God placed it and Sir Geoffrey Fisk, a nobleman and land owner who has a painful skin condition wants the flower for medicinal purposes.

But possessing the orchid does not come at a cheap price as these three will come to find out and will leave one fighting for their life and another losing their sanity.

The unique plot of The Lady's Slipper is what initially made me want to read it (plus the great cover) and it did not disappoint! Deborah Swift has written an engaging novel about life in England after Cromwell, the Quakers, and a rare flower that changed the lives of those who came in contact with it. I can definitely recommend this book and am very much looking forward to reading Swift's next work, The Gilded Lily!

The Princeling: The Morland Dynasty, Book 3
The Princeling: The Morland Dynasty, Book 3
by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.03

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars series redeems itself after a disappointing book two, 21 Oct 2010
In The Princeling, book three in the Morland Dynasty series, introduces readers to a new generation of Morlands. Paul's grandson, also named Paul and his wife Elizabeth are now the owners of Morland Place and an aging, yet still feisty Nanette is holding strong as the family matriarch.

England is now ruled by the Protestant Elizabeth I and the hot button topics of the day are what the new Queen will do regarding the topic of religion, her choice of husband and how she is going to handle the antics of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. Readers follow the Morlands' adventures at the court of Elizabeth I, to Scotland and the court of Mary Queen of Scots, the wilds of Northumberland and of course, home at Morland Place. As the country's religious discord heightens it creates an inner conflict of the Catholic and Protestant factions in the Morland family.

Having been really disappointed in book two, The Dark Rose, I believe the series redeemed itself with The Princeling. I really enjoyed this generation of Morlands and the book held my attention from start to finish. One thing about this series is to never get too attached to a member of the Morland family because Eagles has no qualms about killing them off!

Next up in the series is The Oak Apple, which takes place during the time of Charles I and the English Civil War. There is no release date yet for the Sourcebooks re-issue.

by Annemarie Selinko
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.85

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for any historical fiction lover!, 10 Oct 2010
This review is from: Désirée. (Paperback)
In his memoirs, dictated while he was in exile on the island of St. Helena, Napoleon named his first love as Desiree Clary, a silk merchant's daughter from Marseilles. In the breathtaking novel simply titled Desiree, author Annemarie Selinko chronicles the life of the woman who was Napoleon's fiancee, a woman who rose from being a commoner to becoming a wife of a General to Queen of Sweden and Norway.

As a little girl Desiree received a diary from her beloved father and through it she narrates her story. Desiree first meets Napoleon through his brother Joseph, who will later become her brother-in-law, and takes a fancy to the young and determined General. Even though their relationship would die young and he would break her heart, Napoleon and Desiree would remain in each other's lives until his quest for world domination ended in his exile to St. Helena.

Desiree is a mesmerizing look at the rise and fall of Napoleon told from the woman who first held his heart and knew him like no other. It is touching and beautifully written and no historical fiction readers' library is complete without this exceptional, un-put-down-able novel!

The Jewel Of St Petersburg (Russian Concubine)
The Jewel Of St Petersburg (Russian Concubine)
by Kate Furnivall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.68

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable!, 6 Aug 2010
Author Kate Furnivall has written an utterly engrossing story of Valentina Ivanova, a daughter to the finance minister to Tsar Nicholas II, set in St. Petersburg during a time of great civil unrest in Russia's history. The working class and poor are getting more desperate every day as they fight starvation and disease or get injured, maimed or killed at the un-safe factories they are forced to work in while the upper class grow more rich and spend more extravagantly. The Revolutionaries are killing off government officials left and right and Valentina's father is among the targets.

Valentina, though born in the upper class, is more interested in taking care of people than of dresses and parties and dreams of one day becoming a nurse. She is a bright, strong-willed girl whom I liked immediately and the rest of the characters were just as engaging - the endearing engineer, Jens; Arkin, the Revolutionary with a heart, Valentina's sad mother Elizaveta and her unfortunate sister Katya. With exceptional descriptions of 20th century St. Petersburg, from the opulent homes of the Russian nobility to the squalid homes of the working class and the underground tunnels beneath the city, Furnivall draws the reader in and the fast-paced action keeps you flipping the pages quickly to see what happens next.

Having thoroughly enjoyed my first book by Kate Furnivall, I am now on a mission to own them all! If you like your historical fiction exciting, enthralling and unputdownable, then this is the book for you!

Valentina's story doesn't end here, check out The Russian Concubine, which is the sequel to The Jewel of St. Petersburg and tells the story of Valentina's daughter.

by Vanitha Sankaran
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.93

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A kernel of beatuy captured forever", 29 July 2010
This review is from: Watermark (Paperback)
What a great year 2010 has been for historical fiction writer debuts! I have been really blown away by the shear awesomeness of these first timers and know that I will be reading them for years to come! And author Vanitha Sankaran is no exception.

Sankaran has painted an exquisite and beautiful tale about a mute Albino girl named Auda, who is the daughter of a papermaker in Narbonne, France in the 14th century. Born during a time of religious persecution and intense superstition, Auda's affliction causes her to be a target and she has to be extremely cautious when leaving her house or risk being called a witch and handed over to the Inquisition.

My knowledge of watermarks and the paper making process itself were very limited prior to reading Watermark and it was fascinating to me to read about the history and the way it was made back then. One thing that I thought was very interesting was that watermarks were sometimes used by heretics as a means of conveying secret messages. I felt like I really learned a lot from reading this book and for me that is always a plus and one of the main reasons why I read historical fiction.

Auda is an extremely likeable character, with her passion for the written word that any reader can relate to. She has spirit, bravery and fortitude and is inspiring to read about - all good qualities for an awesome heroine in my book!

Watermark is a strong, solid debut from an emerging new talent and I HIGHLY recommend it!

FTC: Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy to review.

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey
The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: The tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey
by Leanda de Lisle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.39

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an exemplary account of the lives of the Grey sisters, 20 July 2010
Author Leanda de Lisle has written an utterly captivating account of the lives of, Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey in The Sisters Who Would Be Queen. Seriously, this is how non-fiction is done!

The fate of the Grey sisters exemplifies the danger of being born perilously close to the throne of England. All three would eventually fall victim to the English crown, though in different ways.

Lady Jane, the most notable of the Grey sisters, was born the eldest and as such was the one the family vested much time and money in. In a sense, she was the son they never had and she was ever mindful of the responsibility placed upon her. She was deeply religious and had a passion for learning.

One thing that de Lisle opened my mind to was that perhaps Jane wasn't the total helpless pawn when she was offered the throne. Although Jane was very hesitant to take the crown and bypass Mary and Elizabeth and even her own mother, she nonetheless saw this as the only way to keep the Catholic Mary from ruling England and destroying everything that her brother, the Protestant Edward had done. Jane was just as strong in her religious convictions as Mary was, which was proved when after the plot to place Jane on the throne failed and Jane was give a chance to spare her life by converting to Christianity, she drew strength from her own faith and was executed on February 12, 1554.

De Lisle then goes on to tell the stories of Katherine and Mary, whose own lives would prove just as tragic as their sisters'. The remaining Grey sisters would dare to defy queens of England for love and would spend the rest of their lives suffering the consequences. One thing is for sure, Tudor queens are not to be messed with!

I highly recommend The Sisters Who Would Be Queen to anyone who enjoys an exquisitely researched and well-written historical account, and of course, lovers of the Tudors!! I really enjoyed de Lisle's writing style and was entranced in the story of the remarkable, yet heartrending, Grey sisters.

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