Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Virgin to Victoria by Trisha Hughes – Review

Title – Virgin to Victoria
Author – Trisha Hughes
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 308 Pages
Publication – 25th April 2018
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Virgin to Victoria is a powerful retelling of the history of the British monarchy, beginning with Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth I, as she comes to the throne. Charting Elizabeth’s incredible journey, Virgin to Victoria travels in time through the confusion of the Stuart dynasty, the devastation of a Civil War led by Oliver Cromwell, horrific battles for the throne and the turbulent Hanover dynasty with its intricate family squabbles. Despite her amazing legacy, Elizabeth failed England in one vital area. She never married, nor did she leave an heir to the Tudor family. In making this one fateful decision, the Virgin Queen left the path open for a take-over and life would never be the same. Victoria did not ask to be Queen. It was thrust upon her by a series of events that removed all others who stood in line for the throne. She assumed it reluctantly and, at first, incompetently. Parliament was sure that the 18-year-old could be relied upon to leave the job of running the country to the professionals. Couldn’t she?

Review

Virgin to Victoria is the follow-up to Vikings to Virgin: The Hazards of Being King by Trisha Hughes. You don’t need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one but I highly recommend it simply because it’s one hell of a read.

So Virgin to Victoria..another history book you might think.. no not just a history book. What the author gets spot on for me is the way she writes, it’s like she’s talking to you one on one..rather than just regurgitating information in a text-book style you get a fact filled educational ride that quite honestly makes history fun and interesting.

What I particularly like is the way the author keeps things clear for the reader..If I’ve learnt anything it’s that King’s and Queen’s have a habit of naming their children after themselves or relatives so the same names pop up time and time again so it would be easy to get confused.. Trisha Hughes manages to keep things on track well by reminding you of key facts as and when to jog your memory.

Something that really stuck me is the high death rate of not only commoners at the time due to disease but that fact the royals did not escape it. Disease wasn’t the only thing that royals had to worry about..the act of child-birth posed its own dangers to not only the mother but the child also and mortality rates were shockingly high. This really shows you how much of a business being a King or Queen is..as soon as they come to the throne they need to produce an heir and the pressure must have been immense to say the least and even after a miscarriage you’d be expected to continue and try again..I can’t even imagine what this must have felt like but it did help me connect with the characters from history and made them more real for me… you really feel for them at times.

Being a relative of a King or Queen wasn’t good either..everyone is a pawn in the big game and marriages were made to build connections rather than love and because of this overwhelming need to strengthen their hold on the throne it’s very apparent becuase there was a limtied nubmer of royal families inbreeding occurred leading to many life limiting medical conditions..it’s quite scary when you read it.

The book flows well and I loved that key events are repeated so you can easily put the book down and come back to it later to read about the next ruler and have your memory refreshed.

Some of the most interesting bits about this book have to be the theories around Queen Elizabeth I (I’ll not spoil that if you’ve never read about it) .. The fact 3rd September seemed to be a very important date in history and how a man named Buckingham seemed to have the worst luck ever!

Overall the book is well written and sets out the facts in a fun and easy to read way. I can’t recommend the book enough.

My thanks go to the author and The Book Guild for the chance to read and review the book! This is most certainly one book I’ll be buying my dad (if you follow my blog you’ll know that’s only something I do when the book is simply amazing) because he’s not getting my copy 🙂

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

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Caligula (The Damned Emperors) by Simon Turney – Review

Title – Caligula (The Damned Emperors)
Author – Simon Turney
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 480 Pages
Publication – 8th March 2018
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Everyone knows his name. Everyone thinks they know his story.

Rome 37AD. The emperor is dying. No-one knows how long he has left. The power struggle has begun.

When the ailing Tiberius thrusts Caligula’s family into the imperial succession in a bid to restore order, he will change the fate of the empire and create one of history’s most infamous tyrants, Caligula.
But was he really a monster?

Forget everything you think you know. Let Livilla, Caligula’s youngest sister and confidante, tell you what really happened. How her quiet, caring brother became the most powerful man on earth. And how, with lies, murder and betrayal, Rome was changed for ever . . .

Review

Caligula is a very different book than I expected from Turney, it shows his true skill at storytelling to continually grow as an author and to keep churning out hit after hit even when moving away from his normal style of writing.

This story is told from the eyes of Livilla, Caligula’s sister. This gave the tale a real emotional feel and I easily formed a connection with her. This is the history I like.. not a text book..I need it to feel real.

The tale of Caligula is a dark one..he’s been watching is back for years..he’s learnt in that time how to play the great game but as we learn of the constant death and betrayal in his life we see him slowly loose his humanity and he becomes the tyrant we know.

What the author does well is building that connection with the characters, especially Caligula. You feel sorry for him..he just doesn’t know who he can trust so in the end he loses control and simply removes anyone who may be a threat..be it real or perceived.

It’s a real tale of how power can corrupt and warp even those with the best intentions and that when pushed to the limit what would you do to survive?

Truly a magnificent read, insightful¸ powerful, emotional and gripping from the start. This is unlike any book on Caligula you’ve read before..it challenges our preconceived views and the tale will certainly stick with you.

How much do I enjoy Turney’s work? Well I own a hardback copy and a kindle version of Caligula plus I bought a copy for my dads birthday..If me buying 3 copies can’t even convince you to buy one then I don’t know what will! 🙂

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

Blog Tour – Warrior of Woden by Matthew Harffy.

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for Warrior of Woden. Book 5 of The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy.

Here’s the blurb

Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 596 Pages
Publication – 1st April
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Oswald has reigned over Northumbria for eight years and Beobrand has led the king to ever greater victories. Rewarded for his fealty and prowess in battle, Beobrand is now a wealthy warlord, with a sizable warband. Tales of Beobrand’s fearsome black-shielded warriors and the great treasure he has amassed are told throughout the halls of the land.

Many are the kings who bow to Oswald. And yet there are those who look upon his realm with a covetous eye. And there is one ruler who will never kneel before him.

When Penda of Mercia, the great killer of kings, invades Northumbria, Beobrand is once more called upon to stand in an epic battle where the blood of many will be shed in defence of the kingdom.

But in this climactic clash between the pagan Penda and the Christian Oswald there is much more at stake than sovereignty. This is a battle for the very souls of the people of Albion.

The tour has already started so you can check out the previous stops here :-

Historical Fiction Reviews

History… The Interesting Bits!

Review

I’m going to be honest from the start..this book killed me..my heart feels as shattered as Beobrand’s. So much happens in this book not only to excite you but also to crush you.

This series continues to go from strength to strength and it shows real skill by the author to keep the series going with such exciting plots.

So what is in store this time for Beo? Well war is fast approaching and Oswald must march to stop Penda’s advance.

Lets just say things don’t go the way Beo would like but he does get to show what he’s made of and he certainly makes sure the enemy remember his name.

What this tale really does well is show the growth of Beobrand. He’s older now.. his connection with men stronger but as the book goes on you can really see how events have taken a toll on Beo. He’s tired of this life but peace seems to be something he will never know.

I really enjoyed the addition was ÁstÍgend. I won’t spoil it for you but he stole the show for me, his character shining above others easily.

I also loved the development of Cynan the once thrall who really shows his worth to his lord and there’s a little side story with him that plays out that really give him some depth.

Ok so let’s get down to it..yeh this author holds no favourites and characters will die.. and you know it isn’t going to be pretty. It hit me hard this time..it was a death I didn’t see coming although I knew it could always happen to anyone. The great thing about Harffy is how he uses death to build on the emotional side of his characters which helps you form a  connection with them.

Another cracking tale that really knocks you for six. Brutal has always been my word of choice for The Bernicia Chronicles and I stand by that.

 

Follow to tour :- (Links will be added when posts go live)

What Cathy Read Next – 19th April

The Secret World of a Book Blogger – 20th April

Jemahl Evans – 21st April

Parmenion Books – 22nd April

Author bio

Harffy_Matthew_preview

Matthew grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

Links to buy

 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2I4PeTA

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2Gf2V1P

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2umk5ZO

iBooks: https://apple.co/2G7vhyW

 

Follow Matthew Harffy

 

Website: http://www.matthewharffy.com/

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: @Matthew Harffy

 

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Eagles of Dacia (Praetorian #3) by S.J.A. Turney – Review

Title – Eagles of Dacia (Praetorian #3)
Author – S.J.A. Turney
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 412 Pages
Publication – 16th November 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

At the mercy of the scheming Imperial Chamberlain, Cleander, Rufinus is dispatched to Dacia, a land of untamed beauty at the edge of the Roman world, with orders to investigate the two legionary commanders there for signs of treason.

Uncertain what to expect from his mission, the two generals, or the land itself, Rufinus travels east with Senova and his faithful hound, Acheron. But machinations and skullduggery are afoot in Dacia, and the young praetorian is walking into the heart of empire-changing events.

As the generals Clodius Albinus and Pescennius Niger work to put the province right following recent invasions and revolts, Rufinus begins his investigation, suffering insubordinate soldiers, unseen attackers and dangerous locals.

At the edge of the world, Rufinus is about to stumble across a web that will put him in direct danger and threaten the empire to its core.

Welcome to Dacia.

Review

It’s a welcome return to the world of Rufinus. He’s had quite a wild ride hasn’t he so far. Well the great game continues and Rufinus is in for the toughest trial yet.

Cleander is powerful man and Rufinus just so happened to get on his bad side.. because of this he’s charges with a mission..the mission is basically just a way to keep Rufinus as far away from Rome as possible.

One lucky thing for our hero is he’s sent away with Senova his lover and Acheron his ever faithful hound. I still love Acheron..I always get excited when I see the name pop up as those scenes are the highlights of the story for me. Acheron steals the limelight at every turn.

Senova develops well in the book.. even Rufinus see changes in her and not all of them he likes. Being a freed slave there’s a stigma attached and Rufinus tries to shield her from this as much as he can but Senova only see’s this as Rufinus being embarrassed about her past.

Cleander sends Rufinus to Darcia to test the loyalties of the border legions and what is uncovered could blow the empire apart.

Enemies are everywhere and Rufinus finds himself stuck. Never quite sure who to trust and If you’ve read any of the authors work before you’ll already know Rufinus won’t get out of this without at least a few scars.

Along the way Senova is given a slave boy Luca who becomes much more to her than that and he was a great addition to the tale although it just gives Rufinus one more thing to worry about.

It’s difficult to put into word the epic life or death struggle Rufinus finds himself in as it would give too much away but some things I really enjoyed about the plot were the never-ending twists..nothing is ever simple and you really do get sucked in wondering if Rufinus will ever be able to get out of this with his head intact.

The Praetorian series is a brilliant adventure, each book links so well with the last but at the same time is completely new and fresh..it grows each time into a bigger adventure and I’m excited for more.

Overall I love the series, the plots are interesting and gripping. The writing flows well with a decent amount of time given to descriptive elements without it becoming boring or repetitive. The characters grow each time and I feel we see real changes in them as they develop as you would growing up naturally.

A great little series to get stuck into.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

The Rescue And Other Tales: includes The Escape and The Prisoner by Steven A. McKay – Review

Title – The Rescue And Other Tales: includes The Escape and The Prisoner
Author – Steven A. McKay
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 80 Pages
Publication – Sept 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Three short tales from the bestselling Forest Lord series, two of which are in the exclusive Kindle Singles Program, published in paperback for the first time.

THE ESCAPE

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. This 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.

“A short tale of Little John that packs a wallop as vicious as his quarterstaff!” – Parmenion Book Reviews

THE PRISONER

When two lawmen – fabled former outlaws themselves – are sent to a snowy English village to arrest a rapist it seems a straightforward task, but is all as it first appears?

Can Robin Hood and John Little complete the mission they’ve been given, or will their own innate sense of justice lead them down an unexpected path?

“A delightfully crafted, deceptively simple little glimpse of life in early 14th Century England.” – 5 Stars, Steve Denton of Speesh Reads

THE RESCUE

When a faithful friend goes missing from an English village it’s up to an unlikely hero to find out what’s happened in this action-packed tale.

“Once again Steven A. McKay delivers a story that, although short, hits like an arrow in the guts.” – Stuart S. Laing, author of Jezebel’s Chains

Review

I’m a big fan of Steven’s work and I’ve read each of the stories included in this bundle in kindle format previously. Why I’m I reviewing this bundle? Well I purchased 2 signed copies from the author, 1 for me and 1 for my dad (he loves the books too and Christmas is fast approaching). I can honestly say I’ve got all Steven’s books as paperback and always felt the collection wasn’t complete..This was a collection of tales I’ve been hoping would be released.

I’m going to try hard not to cover old ground..instead I’m going to focus on this version of the tales rather than the single editions and give an overall option.

What we get is a very neat and tidy looking book packed full of adventure. These are the kind of tales that really get me pumped up, short and full of action.

The tales themselves go side by side with the authors Forrest Lord series and are a perfect introduction to the author if you’ve never read his work and want to have a taster first.

One thing I particularly liked is the author included a suggested reading order, perfect for a long series if you are just starting out.

As much as I loved the main novels from McKay I think the shorts really show his talent. Providing such good stories in very few pages that really suck you in.

The Escape features our big friend Little John as the main character, it was a tale I’ve been bloody well waiting for but it was so worth it. 19 pages.. but that’s 19 pages of action and adventure. Little John has such a pleasing personality and the plot was perfect for the character.

The Prisoner again features Little John but this time Robin is here too 27 pages but you get a wallop of an ending!

The Rescue is the author’s way to let others have the limelight again as the focus shifts away from Robin once again, this time the girls play their part in an action packed, gory tale. I’m not going to spoil if for you but this tale shows the girls are just as tough as the boys.

The main thing a like about these tales is the author doesn’t lose any of the humour I’ve become used to from his longer works, if anything these books give a bit more dimension to the characters as the author focuses on individuals rather than Robin and his whole band of outlaws.

Short stories can easily go wrong, not enough plot, no real development and sometime you just find yourself thinking did this story really need written? Well that’s not this book. This collection hits the mark just as Robin’s arrow do!

Fantastic little collection that can be yours in time for Christmas, it’s the perfect quick read..let’s hope my dad agrees, he’s not tech savvy so I’m not worried this review will spoil the surprise on Christmas day ha.

Let’s hope we see some more shorts from the author..I want to see The Abbey of Death in paperback too 🙂

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

Distant Echoes: stories of people, places and times past – Review

Title – Distant Echoes: stories of people, places and times past by writers from the Historical Novel Society
Author – Dorita Avila, Anne Aylor, Anna Belfrage, Richard Buxton, Christopher M. Cevasco, Lorna Fergusson, Cj Fosdick, Mari Griffith, Patricia Hilton-Johnson, Lisa Kesteven, Vanessa Lafaye, Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger, Yvonne Lyon, Jeffrey Manton, Nicky Moxey, S. Pitt, Jasmina Svenne, L C Tyler.
Genre – Historical Fiction/Short /Stories
Length – 171 Pages
Publication – Sept 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Gripping and thought-provoking stories of people, places and times past by writers from the Historical Novel Society.

A new anthology of nineteen award-winning and acclaimed historical fiction short stories.

Distant Echoes brings you vivid voices from the past. This haunting anthology explores love and death, family and war. From the chilling consequences of civil and world war, to the poignant fallout from more personal battles, these stories will stay with you long after the last page.

This selection of winning and shortlisted stories from recent Historical Novel Society writing awards includes The House of Wild Beasts by Anne Aylor (winner of the Historical Novel Society Short Story Award 2014), Salt by Lorna Fergusson (winner of the HNSLondon14 Short Story Award) and Fire on the Water by Vanessa Lafaye (winner of the HNSOxford16 Short Story Award).

Review

If I had to pick one word to describe this anthology it would be heart-rending..the tales were all so beautifully raw and emotive. At the end of the book I wasn’t sad as such.. it just knocked the wind from me and brought me back down to earth. My life has been so far relatively pain free..not everyone has been so lucky.

It’s a very personal collection of tales, In very few word you find yourself immersed like the events are playing out right in front of your very eyes. While it might be a quick read I found myself drifting in-between stories, rereading bits, contemplating events in my own life that seem so trivial now. It left a lasting impression.

It’s hard to pick a favourite from the collection but The Happy Island by Christopher M. Cevasco really hit me hard and I won’t forget it any time soon.

I challenge you to read this book and not be touched by it.

A major plus for this book is although this is a collective work by a number of authors it all fits together nicely. While the stories differ in setting the tone filters throughout the book to make it an easy flowing read.

It’s a touching collection of thought-provoking tales that I highly recommend.

I was lucky enough to be given an ARC copy of the book by Corazon Books to read but how could I read this and not buy my own copy..for me it was worth every penny.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

The Abbey of Death by Steven A. McKay – Review

Title – The Abbey of Death
Author – Steven A. McKay
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 97 Pages
Publication – 26th Sept 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

He wanted to find peace in prayer, but some men serve God best with a sword in their hand.

Will Scaflock wants only to live in peace. He had more than his share of adventure when he went by the name Will Scarlet and fought corrupt authority alongside Robin Hood. Now widowed and alone, and estranged from his adult daughter, he has taken holy orders and sought refuge in a remote Benedictine abbey.

But even there, trouble and violence follow him. The abbot, John de Wystow, is a good man but a weak leader, and easily undermined by a faction of dissident monks. When the rebels, led by Brother Robert de Flexburgh, run riot in the local community—stealing, drinking, fornicating—Scaflock’s old instincts return. Reluctantly taking charge of the abbey’s moral defence, he finds himself embroiled in a series of fierce clashes with de Flexburgh’s rowdy gang.

As the abbey’s tranquillity is shattered, its cloisters stained with blood, Scaflock is forced to reconsider the direction of his life. Has he really left Will Scarlet behind him—or has he simply been running from reality?

Review

I’m a big fan of Mckay and as much as I knew the end was neigh for the Forrest Lord series featuring Robin Hood I couldn’t help but feel a little down.. I loved the every bit of the series and it was just a shame It had come to an end….Luckily for me the author knows what his readers want and gives them another short that sits alongside the series.

This short is set years after the events of the main Forrest Lord series, Will Scarlet has moved on.. he’s older now and as the world moves on around him he struggles to find his place.

Will ends up turning to religion and is now Brother Scaflock.

We all know Will though don’t we? If he doesn’t find trouble..trouble will find him.

There’s a good plot involving some unruly monks and town’s people who are at their wits end but when things turn violent one night and the stakes are raised Will becomes gods tool. You really do feel like he was sent to the abbey for a purpose in life.

Will has his internal battles. He’s convinced he has no place in this world and he can’t seem to shake his old life.. but let’s be honest we don’t want him too!

What I really like about the book is it gave me a little closure..it’s what I needed to really say goodbye to the character. The end of Will’s tale just felt right and I was left with a big smile at the end.

What the author gives us is another cracking short that builds on his larger works. It’s got the edge to it that makes it dark and gritty at times but over everything else it’s just fun and riveting. As a young kid I grew up on stories of Robin Hood and these books keep the little boy inside me giddy with anticipation every time I read them.

I’m really looking forward to what the author comes up with next as he moves away from Robin Hood and his band of outlaws.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.