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on 10 October 2004
I was so pleased that my friend recommended LJ Brown's first book "Housecarl" to me, as it really opened my eyes to historical novels. These were not the type of books I thought I would enjoy. Boy was I wrong.
LJB's first novel was so descriptive in content and so thought provoking, it left me hungry for more. I have since become a big fan of these types of books and have constantly looked out for more work by LJB. Well, the wait is finally over, Cold Heart, Cruel Hand is on the shelves, and doesn't dissapoint.
Ranulf, with his wife and son, have joined up with Hereward the Wake on a small island in the Fens. This small army of Saxons is the last pocket of resistence against William the Conquerer, the last hope against norman rule. Friends of Ranulfs that were present in Housecarl, once again join forces to aide this small army. The odds are stacked heavily against them, but every man has their own reasons for loathing King William, and all are willing to fight for their freedom from Norman rule, or pay the ultimate price trying.
Equally, King William needs to destroy Hereward the Wake and his small army of Saxons, and thus prove his ultimate power over England. If it were just a matter of strength, then William could crush this army like a bug, but first he must find a way to get to the enemy. Not an easy task, as the Conquerer finds out at a great cost.

The battle scenes are once again written with such detail that you feel as if you are there witnessing the events as they happen. The book is full of twists and turns that find you holding your breath in places, anticipating how things will end, and finding another turn that takes you in another direction. There are evil foes that Ranulf has to endure, and freinds in unexpected quarters.
This book has been worth the wait, and I am indebted to LJB for whetting my appetite for historical novels.
His write up says he is a lawyer. If he is as good a lawyer as he is a writer, then he is for sure a force to be reckoned with. If he is not as good a lawyer as he is a writer, then he should take up writing full time, we would then not be left waiting two years between books. Roll on book 3 or at least the movie of the first 2 books to keep us going in the meantime. Two thumbs up...
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on 27 August 2004
I loved Mr Brown's first book. It is an amazing portrayal of life and war in and around the time of the Norman Invasion in 1066.
It is an old saying that the second book is harder to write than the first but this does not appear to be the case with Mr Brown. His writing style has soared in confidence in his portrayal of life after the Norman Invasion. This is a novel which takes you along at pace.You will visualise it so clearly it would be criminal not to turn it into a film for those who are not so keen on reading as the rest of us. It would be a film with the potential of Braveheart.
The book itself is deeply oppressive detailing the harshness of life under the Normans. The brutality is endemic and the drudgery of life for the Saxons is starkly highlighted. In Hereward's camp the players act out their lives in the cetainty that the Norman killing machine will eventually seek them out and destroy them as the last pocket of resistance.
The story is underlain with a forlorn but nonetheless dogged determination not to give in to the enemy. It is that indomitable spirit that makes the British what they are- the very essence of guts and courage.
Oh! And in a book full of bad guys there is one character who truly drips evil. He makes your flesh crawl. You can feel the poison ooze out of the pages and his vindictive atmosphere pervades the whole story. I kept looking round to make sure he wasn't behind me!
This naked malice is in stark contrast to a father's love for his son and his desperate race to find him and reunite his family.
I can thoroughly recommend this novel to you and I will use that hackneyed cliché - It truly is a book you won't be able to put down.
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on 13 July 2005
Cold Heart, Cruel Hand Laurence J Brown, Paul Mould Publishing 2004, ISBN 09528708-9-4
Ranulf Redbeard rides again! This time the sole survivor of King Harold's Huscarls finds himself fighting alongside Hereward the Wake. There have been many takes on Hereward's story with every author striving to understand this complex man who became one of England's first folk heroes. Author Laurence Brown, with his vivid style and enthusiasm, sticks quite close to the story as written down in the primary source De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis, even to the extent of using the Latinised names for some of the English resistance fighters. Again there are problems with the finer points of detailed research but, as with Housecarl, you can easily put this to one side and enjoy getting swept along in the high adventure.
The book ends with the fall of Ely and the Cap of Refuge to the Normans. The question now is; where will Ranulf Redbeard go next? Hereward carried on his fight for several more years after Ely fell, but many of his comrades left England to emigrate to Constantinople and joining the Varangian Guard. Now isn't that an idea for the next book! Though maybe he will join Earl Waeltheof in his many adventures? Hmm, I'll just have to wait and see won't I!
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on 5 September 2012
The second of Mr Browns books i have read. The first(Housecarl)i enjoyed, the second was even better. Linking two strands of the Norman invasion i found excellent. Ranulf wanting to avenge Hastings, and hereward the wake avenging lost family. This book beefed out ranulf and put a heart into the warrior and killing machine. There was hardly a hiccup in the excitement and swiftly moving story line. I will eagerly await the next installment now Ranulf is overseas. It's a great pity Mr Brown didn't give Hereward the wake his own story prior to meeting Ranulf, i think it would have been a cracking yarn.
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on 17 April 2013
Loved this book. Hereward is a reletively unknown English hero who missed the Battle of Hasting due to being exiled but managed to return and resist William the Conquerers genocidic? policies across England
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on 23 February 2007
This is the story of Hereward the Wake, the last leader of the resistance against William the Conqueror. He has been stripped of his rightful lands and title by the Bastard. He continues to fight against him and seems to constantly outwit the Normans on his island of Ely in the Fens of East Anglia. He has plenty of help especially when Earl Mortar and Ranulf Redbeard join his cause.

There are many subplots going on behind the scenes and it makes the storyline that much more intriguing. There were many typos, including grammatical, spelling, editing errors but withstanding those the novel was very riveting. I would suggest if this author does any more writing he find better proofreaders & editors, etc.

While this story is based on fact it is historical "fiction." I too noticed the errors of Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent, and Robert of Mortain being described as King William's "cousins" while they were in fact his half-brothers. I'm not sure if the author did this deliberately or not.

However, it is still very much a worthwhile read and a genuine page-turner. I recommend it to anyone interested in this time period. Two other excellent novels of Hereward the Wake are "An Endless Exile" by Mary Lancaster & "Green Saxon Darkness" by Pamela Cottrel.
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on 11 July 2004
Having a general interest in History I discovered that a local man had written a novel about the Battle of Hastings and the lead up to that fateful event. That book was 'Housecarl' by Laurence J. Brown and having bought the book I duly settled down to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, not bad for a first novel if a little rough around the edges. Since then I occasionally have the pleasure of meeting the Author and have badgered him since 'Housecarl' about a sequel and lo and behold it has finally arrived 'Cold Heart, Cruel Hand' - and a great read it is too!
Once again we find the main hero to be the Saxon Ranulf Redbeard and the story involves his wife Alice, his son, Hal and their involvement in the rebellions that took place after William the Conquerer won at Hastings. There are several other minor characters who have important roles to play but I wont go into detail as it would spoil the story except to say that to be a Saxon in those days must have been challenging and Laurences book puts it over well.
Having bought it then - I took just 4 evenings to read it - I couldn't put it down as the story just flowed so well. As someone who's more into Astronomy and Space and Science Fiction I was amazed at how well the story caught my attention and held it - surely the mark of a good author. The flow of the story made me wonder seriously if it could be turned into a major blockbuster movie as it seems to have all the elements that are found in some of the more famous films of recent times so I hope this becomes an option.
Meanwhile all I can say is to order the book from Amazon and see for yourself.
Paul L Money
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on 8 August 2011
Lawrence J Brown's second novel "cold heart,cruel hand" was recommended to me by a friend and it has lived up to his fullsome praise. the other reviewers have covered the plot lines so i can concentrate my comments on the author's style and historical aspects.anyone writing this type of fiction will inevitably be compared to Bernard Cornwell who has written extensively on historical events and landmark battles. this author,L.J.Brown has not only created a piece of historical fiction which can stand comparison with the master but has in many ways excelled him.
The main aspect of this novel's success is the decision to focus the thrust of the action through not one central character but two. In a novel concerned with Hereward the Wake it was refreshing to have the viewpoint of another main character to give a slightly different slant to the incidents and emotions exposed by the sensitive,albiet,at times bloody prose of this fine storyteller.L.J.Brown conveys to the reader the violence of the age and the human cost of these dark days in our history,but more than this he allows his main characters to display all the flaws and foibles of Everyman.We are presented with realistic men and women,an area that Mr Cornwell could do well to copy as his female characters tend to the beautiful,fiery, passing lovers of the hero.Here we have people who are realistic in their weariness of conflict,their desire for happiness and their tiredness of the effort required of them as they strive to make a life free of cruel control under a hard handed ruler.
A well written slice of history brought to our attention in an entertaining and sensitive novel.
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on 3 April 2013
Well written - held my attention - historical facts, as much as is known, are accurate - recommended to lovers of medieval history
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on 9 September 2010
Being a huge fan of this period of history I read the other reviews and thought I couldn't go wrong here so I ordered a copy and took it on a recent trip to France. Had my suspicions after the first few pages but by around p30 I just gave up. The characters are wooden and predictable, the story cliched tripe and to top that it's abysmally written. Ok, perhaps I didn't give it much of a chance, but seriously, I have only once before not finished a book. This was one of those moments where you feel cheated for having parted with hard-earned cash.
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