Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Otho’s Regret by L. J. Trafford – Review

Title – Otho’s Regret
Author – L. J. Trafford
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 469 Pages
Publication – 24th July 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Having spectacularly grabbed the Imperial throne by way of a very bloody coup, new emperor Otho is horrified to discover that there is an emperor already in place. His name is Aulus Vitellius and he is relaxing himself in Germania whilst his two generals, the twisted Valens and the handsome but dim Caecina, march two colossal armies to Rome to claim his prize.

With negotiations between the two emperors becoming ever more entertainingly abusive, imperial secretary Epaphroditus has his work cut out trying to save Otho’s throne for him. Hopelessly outnumbered, all looks doomed until a series of unexpected victories give hope to the beleaguered secretary. With the eastern legions declared for Otho and en route to help, all they have to do is stop Valens’ and Caecina’s armies meeting.

Meanwhile, in Rome, a former palace slave, Antonia Caenis, has returned from Judaea with plans of her own…

Review

Otho’s regret is the third book in The Four Emperors series.

You can read my reviews of book one and two by clicking the links below to open a new window.

Palatine- Book 1

Galba’s Men – Book 2

So after the events of the last book Otho is now emperor. Now while he doesn’t seem to be the most natural at the role he does ooze charisma, he’s fair and likeable which people notice.. the issue is he’s not going to get much of a chance to prove himself.

Persuaded by his generals Vitellius decides he should be Emperor and they set out to take the throne by force if needs be.

Vitellius and his generals have very different reasons for their actions and the author did a great job of breathing life into each of them and developing them as much as she did. The two generals Valens and Caecina have to be my favourite additions to the series so far.

With armies on the march espionage is inevitable with both sides planting spies..the fun twist is there’s more than just two players in this tale…someone is lurking..someone has their own motivations to delay Valens and Caecina but you are kept waiting and wodering as the author builds this suspense keeping you hooked until the end.

One person who has made this series stand out for me is Philo. He’s trying to move on with his life after everything has happened to him.. he’s a little out of the loop with events in the palace but soon gets sucked back in.. he even ends up playing his part in the war that is coming. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ll ever love a character as much as Philo.

Epaphroditus surprised me this time around. I never really fell in love with him until now.. this tale shows a different edge to the character which I really enjoyed.

Trafford effortlessly manages to make the tale light-hearted and fun (especially when Sporus is around) but at the same time develops the uncertainty and fears that are brewing.. Building the suspense so much your heart pounds until everything starts to tumble-down around Otho.

I’ve had high expectations with The Four Emperors series which continues to deliver time and time again. It ticks all the right boxes for historical fiction. It’s descriptive but never too heavy, fun when needed but still deals with the serious side of events.

What Trafford has done superbly is make history fun and exciting with the perfect mix of fact and fiction. It’s books like this that keep my love of reading burning strongly, always stoking the furnace..pushing me further, raising that bar which each installment.

I can’t say I’m an expert.. I just know what I like.. and this book is a shining example of what a 5* star historical fiction book should be in my opinion.

My thanks go to Karnac Books for the uncorrected proof copy for review..This will have pride of place on my book shelf.

You can read more reviews on Goodreads and pre-order your copy of the book today on Amazon or purhcase direct from the publishers Karnac

Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage – Review

Title – Under the Approaching Dark (The King’s Greatest Enemy #3)
Author – Anna Belfrage
Genre – Historical Fiction/Historical Romance
Length – 432 Pages
Publication – 10th April 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II has been forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over… After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster. In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much. When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers. Under the Approaching Dark is the third in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Review

So we are back with Adam and Kit. I must admit I’ve missed these two. This is the third book in The King’s Greatest Enemy series, If you’ve not read the previous books you can read my reviews here –

In the Shadow of the Storm – Book 1

Days of sun and Glory – Book 2

Immediately I was struck by the cover of this book much more so than the previous two, the image and the colours used are definitely to my taste and suit the tale which is a mix of historical fiction and romance.

Hugh Despenser is dead..Finally Adam can relax! Nope.. not a chance.

King Edward II has been forced from the throne and his son Edward now rules as King Edward III. This king is young but he likes to keep those he likes close to him.. Adam included.. He’s sworn to the king and will serve him until the day he dies or is released from service.

There’s a lot of growing tension in this book. First and foremost some of the most powerful lords and businessmen don’t like the fact Mortimer and the Queen mother are acting as the king’s advisers, more so when it’s clear they are lovers even though both are still married! Add to this a brewing conflict with Scotland and a difference of opinion on how it should be handled means rebellion is on the cards.

One issue keeps bubbling to the surface..what to do with the old king? Well this is where Adam and Kit come in, I don’t want to spoil the tale at all but I really enjoyed their involvement in this part of the tale.

As the young king grows it’s clear to Adam that one day this king will not appreciate the input of the Queen mother and Mortimer but they have tasted power and it doesn’t look like they will give up control easily. He even starts to take his frustrations out on Adam during training but as the tale progresses I do feel the king learns Adam’s worth.

An old foe reappears in Kit’s life..and it spells trouble. Again I won’t spoil it but this foe drives a wedge between Adam and Kit by hitting them with a very sensitive issue indeed.

Of course Kit and Adam can get through anything..They may not make it out unscathed but as long as they have each other they will be fight and stay together. They each have their cross to bear during this tale and it can only make them stronger and more determined to be with each other and no other.

For me the book is certainly a 5* story, I won’t lie though..the romance was a little much for my personal tastes but the reason the story still warrants a 5* is because I can understand why it’s there.. the books wouldn’t be the same without it..I feel the book needs this romance and it certainly does build on the truly loving relationship and connection Adam and Kit have which brings that something extra to the tale.

For me this is the best installment in the series so far and it gives Adam more chance to shine. As much as I love Kit it’s Adam who leaves the lasting impressions on me during this books,  I loved the writing and there’s so much going on to really get you hooked in. Well worth reading.

For more information or to purchase check out Amazon or Goodreads.

Insurrectio by Alison Morton – Review

Title – Insurrectio (Roma Nova #5)
Author – Alison Morton
Genre – Historical Thriller
Length – 276 Pages
Publication – April 2016
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

‘The second fall of Rome?’

Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and imperial councillor in Roma Nova, scoffs at her intelligence chief when he throws a red file on her desk. But 1980s Roma Nova, the last province of the Roman Empire that has survived into the twentieth century, has problems – a ruler frightened of governing, a centuries-old bureaucracy creaking for reform and, worst of all, a rising nationalist movement with a charismatic leader.

Horrified when her daughter is brutally attacked in a demonstration turned riot, Aurelia tries to rally resistance to the growing fear and instability. But it may already be too late to save Roma Nova from meltdown and herself from entrapment and destruction by her lifelong enemy…

Review

Have you read Aurelia yet? The previous book in the series. If not click here to read my review – Aurelia (Roma Nova #4)

When we left Aurelia a lot had happened to her and I wondered how easy it would be for her to pick up the pieces.. well now we know. Some time has passed since the events with Caius Tellus and Aurelia has settled down to her role in Roma Nova well. She’s enjoying life albeit a stressful one, a daughter who is coming of age and a partner who yearns to be free of life’s constraints. She juggles this life and work balance well until she finds out Caius is due to be released!

Caius quickly worms his way into Aurelia’s life again by using his charm on the ruler of Roma Nova..Aurelia does everything in her power to rid herself of this man but he’s as slippery as they come.

There’s the added stress of the rising nationalist movement who believe men are being oppressed. I particularly loved this role reversal from what we see reported in the news today.

What I really enjoy about the authors work is that even though the story has a strong female lead and is very focused on how capable women are in general at no point do I feel it’s a dig at men at all, more a celebration of women.

This is a more brutal tale than the last, more death and at times the pain is very close to home for Aurelia. I wasn’t sure how she could continue..but push on she does.

There’s some great scenes in this book between Caius and Aurelia which leave others to wonder who’s side is Aurelia really on, but we know..she would never side with the likes of him..but she needs to earn the trust of individuals in this book which gave her some vulnerability which suited the tale perfectly and it was a joy to read.

The book definitely picks the pace up as events don’t just affect Aurelia now.. they threaten Roma Nova itself and some very powerful people have been removed..what can Aurelia do??

It’s a historical fiction/political thriller, lots of twists with brilliant development of the characters. Some of which we may not see again..or will we?? I hope so.

Morton ticks all the boxes for me, suspense, action, love, death, pain and anguish and one hell of a lead character who is very likeable.

Looking at the book in general one for the other things I love is it’s neither too short or too long for my tastes and the pacing of the tale means it develops quickly but with what feels a natural progression rather than forced.

Super tale to read. Have a look!

My thanks go to th author for the chance to read/review her work. Certainly an author I’ll keep an eye on.

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads.

Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of Being King by Trisha Hughes – Review

Title – Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of Being King: Book 1
Author – Trisha Hughes
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 333 Pages
Publication – Feb 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

In Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of Being King Trisha Hughes provides the reader with a pacey introduction to the many pitfalls faced by the ambitious as they climbed the dangerous ladders of royalty. It is easy to think that monarchs are all powerful, but throughout the Dark and Middle Ages it was surprisingly easy to unseat one and assume the crown yourself. But if it was easy to gain … it was just as easy to lose.From the dawn of the Vikings through to Elizabeth I, Trisha Hughes follows the violent struggles for power and the many brutal methods employed to wrest it and keep hold of it. Murder, deceit, treachery, lust and betrayal were just a few of the methods used to try and win the crown. Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of Being King spans fifteen hundred years and is a highly accessible and enjoyable ride through the dark side of early British monarchy.

Review

What I’ve learnt from this book is it wasn’t easy being King.. but at the same time it wasn’t always a good thing to be related to a King, your likely to be used as a pawn during a rebellion or murdered to eliminate your claim to the throne.

This was a most informative book and I felt the author did a great job of bringing each of these Kings and Queens to life while also giving the reader a great insight to such issues as disease and aliments suffered at the time.  I thought I knew a lot about Henry VIII but after reading this he’s even more shocking than I first thought.

I think what I loved about this book the most was how it’s presented. Rather than focusing on one person this book covers many and that made it different compared to anything else I’ve read.

Some of the rulers covered I’ve read about previously and I thought I might be bored reading things I already know but Trisha’s style of writing made it exciting again and I loved it from start to finish.

This is a historical fiction novel but only in the sense that the author has used dates/events to the best of her knowledge and research. There is of course periods in time where little evidence remains or when we do have sources available there’s generally another which says something different.

My advice to the hardcore historically accurate people, just enjoy the tale for what it is. This book brings together so many periods of time into bitesize chunks manageable by anyone and enables the reader to then delve further if they wish.

This is the kind of book that gives you the juicy interesting facts and ignites the flames of passion for history. I’m a big fan of history. It was probably my favourite subject at school and it’s certainly made me want to revisit a few historical characters.

If you like your history but don’t want to get into something a little too heavy then this is the prefect condensed but action packed and detailed version of history you’re after!

Enjoy!

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads.

The Escape by Steven A. McKay – Review

Title – The Escape: A Forest Lord Short Story
Author – Steven A. McKay
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 19 Pages
Publication – 3rd April 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

All he wanted was a quiet drink…

It’s spring, 1323 AD, and John Little, notorious outlaw, seeks to forget his troubles in a Barnsley alehouse. He didn’t count on the place being packed to the rafters with drunk, belligerent Scottish mercenaries though.
The locals all respect – even fear John – but the strangers from the north only see in him the chance to claim a great bounty.
When the hard stares and furtive whispers turn into explosive violence the chase is on. Without any of his famous friends to help him though, will it mean the end for the giant outlaw?

This new stand-alone Forest Lord tale sees one of England’s favourite sons in a battle for his very life that will hugely entertain all lovers of action and adventure.

Review

So this is a super short fun tale that fits in with McKay’s Forest Lord Series. It slots in nicely between books 2 & 3 so I’d advise not reading this until you’ve finished book 2 at least.

McKay’s Forest Lord series mainly focuses around Robin Hood as you’d expect so this short is a good chance to shine light on Little John.

It’s short at 19 pages but does offer an action packed little tale to read. The plot is really good and it was a really nice change of focus Robin not being involved. Little John gets to show how much of a formidable opponent he is and the image McKay paints is spot on with how I’d imagine the character myself.

I do hope we see more short tales as I think these are the perfect accompaniment to the series.

As usual with McKay you get great writing and can expect a bit of violence but it’s not overly gruesome, which is one of the things I like about this authors books. I know it sounds weird but he manages to add fun to the fight.. That makes sense right? Ha

Overall this is a good short from McKay and it ticks all the right boxes but it really does highlight how much I miss the series. *Sighs*

Definitely one for the fans of the author and let me tell you that ending is what makes it 5*

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads

Blog Tour! – Kin of Cain by Matthew Harffy

Today I’m very glad to be the next stop on the Kin of Cain blog tour. First let me tell you I jumped at the chance and did receive a copy of the book in advance but as always with Harffy’s work it was already on my pre-order list so I’ve paid for my copy too 🙂

Other stops on the tour

1st March – Hoover Book Reviews
2nd March – Speesh Reads
4th March – Parmenion Books
5th March – For Winter Nights
6th March – History…The Interesting Bits!
7th March – Lives and Loves of a Book Nerd

Matthew has kindly wrote a post about what the future holds which will follow on from my review so sit back and enjoy! My thanks go to the author and Yasemin at Head of Zeus for making this blog tour happen!

aria_harffy_kin-of-cain_e

Title – Kin of Cain
Author – Matthew Harffy
Genre –  Historical Fiction
Length – 86 Pages
Publication –1st March 2017
My Rating –5/5 Stars

Synopsis

AD 630. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical tale set in the world of The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Winter grips the land in its icy fist. Terror stalks the hills, moors and marshes of Bernicia. Livestock and men have been found ripped asunder, their bones gnawed, flesh gorged upon. People cower in their halls in fear of the monster that prowls the night.

King Edwin sends his champions, Bassus, Octa and band of trusted thegns, to hunt down the beast and to rid his people of this evil.

Bassus leads the warriors into the chill wastes of the northern winter, and they soon question whether they are the hunters or the prey. Death follows them as they head deeper into the ice-rimed marshes, and there is ever only one ending for the mission: a welter of blood that will sow the seeds of a tale that will echo down through the ages.

Review

When I first read The Serpent Sword I was shocked at how quickly Octa disappeared from the tale, it’s this murder that sets Beobrand on his journey but I was  left wondering who Octa really was.. was he anything like his brother?

Well now we have the chance to see a little of the man himself in a short story set before the events The Serpent Sword.

86 pages is a decent amount of pages for a short tale in my opinion and Harffy doesn’t hold back. For me what I really enjoyed was this tale has a bit of fantasy and mystery to it. The unknown force that is attacking people..is it human or beast.. either way the King wants it dead!

Octa sets out with a band of men to prove himself to his King and one of my favorite characters is included in this group, Bassus! oh how I love that man.

Harffy weaves a tale which includes the death and gore we are used to but it also manages to give some depth to Octa that wasn’t possible before.

The tale is full of suspense, it’s dark, gritty and gruesome..what more could you possibly want?

When I was reading the tale I couldn’t help but see Octa as Beowulf and reading the author note it was really great to see the Harffy’s thought process on this. It really made the tale stand out.

Personally I feel Harffy has loads to offer and I hope to see  more shorts in the future as I feel they bring depth to the authors world and allow them the chance to share some great stories with us the readers. When I commit to an authors work I want to feel like they are committing to me also..to give me their best and Harffy never disappoints.

Kin of Cain is thriller/mystery/fantasy/myth/folklore and so much more wrapped in to 86 glorious pages and it’s well worth the asking price.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon


What the future holds for me and my writing – Matthew Harffy

harffy_matthew

If you’d asked me four years ago what the future held for me and my writing I would have said I hope to find an agent and then get published. In February 2013 I was close to finishing the first draft of my debut novel, The Serpent Sword. I’d never written anything longer than a few hundred words before and I could see no further than completing the book and somehow getting it out in front of readers who hopefully would like it. That was it. I really had no ambition beyond that, apart, of course, from the secret dream of selling millions of books and becoming rich enough to retire to a tropical island somewhere. But we won’t talk about that.

So much has changed in the last four years. I finished The Serpent Sword and found an agent. I then wrote the sequel, The Cross and the Curse, while my newly-acquired agent tried to sell the first book, and, unfortunately, failed. This failure pushed me to self-publish both books, whilst pressing on with the writing that had somehow become part of my life by this point. Both books were doing well and garnered many positive reviews. This finally piqued the interest of a publisher, so I signed a contract with Aria, a new imprint of publisher, Head of Zeus. Aria re-published the first two books and then published book three of the Bernicia Chronicles, Blood and Blade. They also managed to sell the rights for the three novels to Audible, who have now released the audio books for them, narrated by a great actor called Barnaby Edwards.

I have also written a prequel novella, Kin of Cain, which is out now, and completed book four in the Bernicia Chronicles, Killer of Kings, which is due out in June.

I am now well into the first draft of book five in the series, which will also be published by Aria, who have plans to release all the books in hardcover and mass market paperback in the coming months and years. I am even hearing talk of possible translations of the books in the works!

The point of this rambling on about the past and all the great things that have happened in the last four years is that I had no idea what would happen then, and I don’t really know what the future will bring in the next four years. But what I do know is that there will be more novels in the Bernicia Chronicles. Beobrand’s tale marches on into the seventh century and he will see more kings come and go. He will face his foes in the clash of shieldwalls in battles throughout the island of Albion and, who knows, perhaps even beyond its shores.

And when I decide to move on from Beobrand? When I am done with the mead hall and the shieldwall? What then? Well, I would love to write a western, but I am told there is no money in them. If I am ever close to living in my dream where I have enough money to write what I want and not care about how many people will read it, I will probably turn my hand to the American West. I can almost smell the rotgut whiskey and the pungent stench of gunpowder in the air of a rowdy cattle town when the ranchers and their cowhands have rolled in from the dusty trail. If you look carefully, you will see much of the so-called Wild West in the Bernicia Chronicles, but I would relish the chance to write at least one book set on the Frontier of civilization in the 19th century.

If, as is much more likely, I will have to write books that might sell and which appeal to readers of my books, I have an idea for a Viking saga, which actually has elements of a western in it. But I can say no more now, as it is just a twinkle in this author’s eye! It’s either that or romance, which my wife assures me sells better than the violent books I write. I’m not sure I would do very well at that, but I might have to think of pen name if I want to find out!

I am sometimes tempted to write a fantasy. I am a huge fan of writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and David Gemmell, so I have a firm understanding of the genre. And the thing that I like most about it, is that I would not have to stick to historical facts! In many ways, the stories I tell could easily be transposed into a word of epic fantasy. But as I am writing historical fiction, I am constrained by what is known to have happened, the technology available, and when things occurred. Oh, and no dragons or magic!

I would love the chance to be able to just create a plot and write whatever I wanted because I would be in total control and nobody could tell me I had got something wrong, as it would be my creation!

So, what of the future? I think we’ll have to wait and see. But if people keep buying my books, I think I can safely say I’ll continue to write them.

Hopefully others will enjoy whatever directions in which the muse takes me.

Author info:

Matthew Harffy is the author of the Bernicia Chronicles, a series of novels set in seventh century Britain. The first three books in the series, The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse and Blood and Blade are available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and all good online bookstores.

Kin of Cain, a standalone prequel novella set in the same world as the Bernicia Chronicles was published on Amazon and all good online bookstores on March 1st 2017.

Killer of Kings , the fourth of the Bernicia Chronicles, is available for pre-order now on Amazon and all good online bookstores.

Website: www.matthewharffy.com

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: MatthewHarffyAuthor

Cuckoo Clock – New York by Elisabeth Marrion – Review

Title – Cuckoo Clock – New York
Author – Elisabeth Marrion
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 288 Pages
Publication – Sept 2015
My Rating – 4/5 Stars

Synopsis

Kristallnacht 9 November 1938. Doctor Esther Rosenthal’s husband has just enough time to whisper to her before the SA pulls him out of the door and slams it shut behind him. Esther has to leave Germany in a hurry and embarks on a journey taking her through Holland, England, and ultimately to the USA. In Holland she meets a group of children from a Berlin orphanage, the first children to go to England on the Kindertransport. Together with her father Mordechai she joins them on their crossing and accompanies them to Harwich. The Kindertransport comes to an abrupt end on the outbreak of World War II. What will happen to the children still in Harwich without a new permanent or foster home? ‘Cuckoo Clock – New York: Esther’s Story’, is the third book in the Unbroken Bonds series.

Review

The third book in the Unbroken Bonds series didn’t disappoint at all. Elisabeth Marrion once again brings an emotive tale in short, sharp informative chapters.

After reading the first two books in the series I wasn’t sure if this one would live up to the high standards set but I need not have worried.

Esther Rosenthal has to flee Germany with her father and what happens after that is a wild ride indeed as she ends up looking after some children who really need someone to watch over them. The bond they create was beautiful especially her father, he’s a lovely passionate character.

Esther travels the world during some very dangerous times and it was fascinating to see things from her eyes.

What the author really shows well in my opinion  is the changes in people once the war broke out. People’s perceptions changed and not everyone is kind but It also showed how compassionate some people were in such a time of upheaval. 

I also loved the connections throughout the whole series linking them together.

The tale is very fast paced with it’s super short chapters but you are still given enough depth to each character to really fall in love with them. By the end of the tale you’re committed to them and their journey and it was a pleasure to read.

I can’t recommend this series enough.

I’ve always known about the wars fought, I understand many people died but it’s books like this that put some of the emotion into it for readers such as myself who’ve never had to live through these events. It makes you think of the sacrifices people had to make and the troubles they had to endure.

A heart pumping, emotive tale that honestly anyone could read. You can’t fail to be sucked into the Unbroken Bonds series

My thanks go to the author for the chance to read/review their work.

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads.

Click the links below to read my reviews of the other books in the series

The Night I Danced With Rommel

Liverpool Connection