Saturday, December 28, 2013

Top 10 Books of 2013

2013 was another great reading year for me.  I read 100 books in a year for the very first time (yay me!).  I rated a number of books at least 4 stars, with a few of them earning 4.5 or 5-star ratings.  Below are the ten books that stood for me (click on the title to read my review, where applicable):

Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

(1)  The Golden Dice by Elisabeth Storrs (Historical Fiction).  The Golden Dice is a fabulous work of historical fiction set in ancient Etruria. 

(2) The Geneva Option by Adam Lebor (Contemporary Thriller).  This novel, the first in a planned series, is fast-paced, intriguing and features an awesome heroine, Yael Azoulay. 

(3) The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan (Fantasy).  The first novel in Sullivan's Riyria Chronicles, which focus on the early years of Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn's (who readers of Sullivan's amazing Riyria Revelations will already be familiar with) partnership. 

(4) The Rose and The Thorn by Michael J. Sullivan (Fantasy).  This is the second novel in the Riyria Chronicles.  I can't wait for more novels in this series!

(5) The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn (Historical Fiction).   Beautifully written historical novel set just before, during and after World War I.

(6) The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway (Historical Fantasy).  This book is a thoroughly enjoyable tale of time travel, adventure and romance.

(7) Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole (Historical Fiction).  Spanning WWI and WWII, this beautifully written love story is told through a series of letters.  

(8) The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy (Historical Fiction).  Alternating between a small village in coastal Nova Scotia and the front lines of France during WWI, this novel showcases the horrors of WWI and what life was life back home for the families of soldiers fighting in it. 

(9) The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson (Children's Fantasy). While written for children (9-12 year olds) I think any fan of young adult fantasy novels would find this novel enjoyable. 

(10) The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas (Historical Mystery).  This mystery is set in the Northern English city of York during the height of its siege by rebel forces during the English Civil War and features a midwife as the lead character. 

Honourable Mentions:

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (Historical Fiction).  Set in what is now Canada during the 17th century, The Orenda is a powerful novel of one Aboriginal Nation (Huron) and early European settlement.  

A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift (Historical Fiction).  Set in England and Spain during the 17th century

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (Science Fiction).  I do not normally read Science Fiction, but this book was awesome and now I plan to read more in the genre. 

Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle (Historical Fiction).  Great historical novel about Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth and final wife.

Did any of these novels make your best of list? 

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 End of Year Book Survey

It's time for the 2013 End of Year Book Survey, hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner.  I first took part in this survey last year and had so much fun that I've decided to participate once again.   There are two parts to the survey, (1) Best Books of 2013 and (2) Book Blogging/Reading Life in 2013 (optional), although, like last year, I've elected only to respond to part one.   th: Responses do not have to be limited only to books published in 2013.  

So, without further ado, here are my survey results (where applicable, click on the book's title to read my review):

1. Best Book You Read In 2013?

Best Book OverallThe Golden Dice by Elisabeth Storrs (Historical Fiction)

Favourite Fantasy: The Crown Tower and The Rose and The Thorn (Books One and Two of the Riyria Chronicles) by Michael J. Sullivan

Favourite Thriller:  The Geneva Option by Adam Lebor

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Longbourn by Jo Baker.  I liked this one well enough, but I certainly didn’t feel the love for it that so many other readers did. 

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.   I tend to shy away from hyped novels — this one received a lot of attention on both my Twitter feed and in my favourite bookstore — because, after finishing them, I usually end up wondering what all the hype was about, but The Rosie Project was a delight to read and worth every bit of hype it received.  

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.  Everyone that I recommended this book to enjoyed it every bit as much as I did.  

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

The Riyria Chronicles by Michael J. Sullivan, the first two books of which (The Crown Tower and The Rose and the Thorn) were released this year.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Adam Lebor — Lebor’s first novel, The Geneva Option, made my list of favourites for this year.   I'm looking forward to continuing with his Yael Azoulay series.  

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.   I haven’t read any books within the horror genre in years, but decided to try Joe Hill’s latest release due to all the great reviews it was receiving.  Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the book. 

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I think I read this one in less than a day.  I just couldn’t stop reading it.

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I’m not much of a re-reader, but I’ll likely re-read Persuasion by Jane Austen next year.  It’s my all-time favourite novel and I’ve already re-read it several times. 

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden.   The vivid description of the setting in this novel is captured by the book's cover. 

11. Most memorable character in 2013? 

Definitely Professor Don Tillman from The Rosie Project and Nora Simms from Woman of Ill Fame by Erika Mailman.  I fell in love with both of these characters right from the opening page. 

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

I have two: The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn and Oleanna by Julie K. Rose.  Both of these works of historical fiction eloquently convey a strong sense of time and place. 

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, which covers a period of Canadian history (before Canada was Canada) I had limited knowledge of.  Like Three Day Road, one of Boyden's previous novels, I think The Orenda should be on every Canadian's to be read list.   

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? 

Divergent by Veronica Roth.  Although I’m glad I waited as I timed my read of Divergent (and Insurgent) to match up with the release of the trilogy’s final installment, Allegiant.  

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

I’ll often take notice of passages/quotes as I’m reading, but since I never highlight them or write them down I don't have any to share.

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest: Isabella-Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer (218 pages)

Longest: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (704 pages)

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?

The ending of Allegiant by Veronica Roth (anyone who's read it will know what I'm talking about)

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

This friendship made my list last year too — Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn from Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Chronicles, a prequel series to his fantastic Riyria Revelations which chronicles Hadrian and Royce’s early years together.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously:

The Golden Dice by Elisabeth Storrs, which is the follow-up to The Wedding Shroud

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (recommended by Kaley from Books, Etc). 

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Historical Fiction.  I’ve read 103 books so far in 2013, and of these 75 were works of historical fiction.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

I’ve had a crush on Hadrian Blackwater since I first read Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations series last year.  That crush continues with the release of the Riyria Chronicles this year.  

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, who brings a 17th century Huron Indian community to life in vivid detail.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, Allegiant by Veronica Roth, Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat, and Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review: Woman of Ill Fame by Erika Mailman


Looking for a better life, Nora Simms sails from the East Coast to gold rush San Francisco with a plan for success: to strike it rich by trading on her good looks. But when a string of murders claims several of her fellow “women of ill fame,” Nora grows uneasy with how closely linked all of the victims are to her. Even her rise to the top of her profession and a move to the fashionable part of town don’t shelter her from the danger, and she must distinguish friend from foe in a race to discover the identity of the killer.

November 11, 2013 (e-book publication date) | ASIN: B00GM1VHV2

My Review

When I was first asked if I was interested in being part of the virtual book tour for Woman of Ill Fame I have to admit I was a little hesitant.  Historical novels featuring a prostitute as the central character have never really been my thing.  However, since I enjoyed Erika Mailman's other historical novel, The Witches Trinity, I thought I would give Woman of Ill Fame a try, and I am glad I did! 

Set in Gold Rush-era San Francisco, the heroine of this novel is Nora Simms, a free-spirited prostitute who sails from New England to California, where she hopes to make her fortune.  Though she is the victim of theft almost immediately upon her arrival in San Francisco, Nora doesn't let the loss of all her worldly possessions deter her from her achieving dreams.  Determined to establish herself as one of San Francisco's premier prostitutes, Nora takes steps to improve herself so she can find employment in a high-end parlour house.  The murders of several "woman of ill-fame" with whom Nora had contact serve to make her doubly committed to finding herself a more reputable and safe place to practice her trade.  But Nora's realization of her dream doesn't provide her with any greater safety, as the murders continue and, this time, they are even closer to home.  Can Nora uncover the murderer's identify before she becomes his next victim? 

In Woman of Ill Fame Erika Mailman does a great job of bringing mid-19th century San Francisco to life.  Mailman's descriptions give readers a flavour for the roughness of the town, a place where just about anything goes as people aspire to make their fortunes. While I enjoyed the novel's setting, it is the heroine that truly makes this book shine.  In Nora Simms, Erika Mailman has created a character who readers will immediately fall in love with and who will stay with them long after the final page has been read.  Nora is a kind-hearted soul who always seeks to help others, especially those less fortunate than she, expecting nothing in return for doing so.  She is unashamed of her chosen profession and seeks to get ahead on her own merits rather than accepting handouts from friends.  Nora's also smart, sassy, and laugh out loud funny.  Her relationships with Mehitabel, her first landlord, and Abe, a former miner turned stable hand, showcase Nora's tender side.  While I guessed the true identity of the murderer fairly early in the novel, following Nora as she attempted to uncover the truth proved entertaining and suspenseful nonetheless. 

All in all, Woman of Ill Fame is a highly entertaining novel that features a truly memorable heroine, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to any fan of historical fiction.  

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a digital copy of this novel as part of Erika Mailman's virtual book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Be sure to check out the tour schedule here for links to other reviews and giveaway opportunities.

About the Author

Erika Mailman is the author of The Witch’s Trinity, a Bram Stoker finalist and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book, and Woman of Ill Fame, a Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award nominee. While writing The Witch’s Trinity, she learned she was the descendant of a woman accused twice of witchcraft in the decades predating Salem.

For more information please visit Erika Mailman’s website and blog.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review: Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen


As thirty-fifth in line for the throne, Lady Georgiana Rannoch may not be the most sophisticated young woman, but she knows her table manners. It’s forks on the left, knives on the right—not in His Majesty’s back…

Here I am thinking the education I received at my posh Swiss finishing school would never come in handy. And while it hasn’t landed me a job, or a husband, it has convinced Her Majesty the Queen and the Dowager Duchess to enlist my help. I have been entrusted with grooming Jack Altringham—the Duke’s newly discovered heir fresh from the Outback of Australia—for high society.

The upside is I am to live in luxury at one of England’s most gorgeous stately homes. But upon arrival at Kingsdowne Place, my dearest Darcy has been sent to fetch Jack, leaving me stuck in a manor full of miscreants…none of whom are too pleased with the discovery of my new ward.

And no sooner has the lad been retrieved than the Duke announces he wants to choose his own heir. With the house in a hubbub over the news, Jack’s hunting knife somehow finds its way into the Duke’s back. Eyes fall, backs turn, and fingers point to the young heir. As if the rascal wasn’t enough of a handful, now he’s suspected of murder. Jack may be wild, but I’d bet the crown jewels it wasn’t he who killed the Duke…

Berkeley Hardcover | August 6, 2013 | 304 pages | ISBN: 978-0425260029

My Review:

Heirs and Graces, the seventh installment in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness mystery series, finds Lady Georgiana Rannoch at Kingsdowne Place, the home of the Duke of Eynsford, in 1934. The Duke’s mother has recruited Georgie to educate her son’s recently discovered heir, Jack, in the ways of high society. This task is not without considerable challenges given that Jack has only recently arrived from the Australian Outback, where he was raised. Georgie, however, is soon confronted with a bigger challenge when the Duke is found dead with Jack’s knife stuck in his back. While it appears that Jack has the most reason to want the Duke dead, Georgie is convinced that he isn’t the culprit. Can the real murderer be found before it’s too late?

In Heirs and Graces Rhys Bowen once again delivers a fun and clever read. Lady Georgiana is one of the most refreshing heroines in historical fiction. She’s intelligent, sensible, and portrayed in a manner consistent with the fact that she’s the daughter of a duke and a member of Britain’s royal family. Like its predecessors, Heirs and Graces is full of quirky and eccentric characters both old and new, many of whom are easy to love, including Georgie’s non-aristocratic grandfather. Darcy O’Mara, Georgie’s longtime love interest, also makes an appearance. One of my favourite aspects of this series, which is reflected in this novel, is that rather than overshadowing the main plot Georgie and Darcy’s relationship complements it. The mystery itself is well developed and, even though there are a number of clues pointing to the murderer’s true identify sprinkled throughout the book, the ultimate resolution is still unexpected.

Overall, Heirs and Graces is as great addition to the Royal Spyness series.

Note: This review first appeared in Historical Novels Review (Issue 66, November 2013).  I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Winter To Be Read Pile


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.   This meme features a different top 10 list every week.   This week's list is:

Top Ten Books on My Winter To Be Read Pile

I love making reading lists, but I'm not all that great at sticking to them because my reading decisions are strongly influenced by my mood at the time I'm deciding what to read next.   So, while I'm currently planning on reading the books listed below this winter, unless I'm committed to posting a review on a certain day I very well may not get to them until the spring, summer, fall or even next winter :-)

(1) The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas.   Due to be released in January, this is the follow-up to Thomas' excellent debut, The Midwife's Tale.  

(2) A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman.   This novel picks up where Lionheart, Penman's novel of Richard I, left off.   Due to be released in early March, I'll be reading this one as soon as it's released :-)

(3) The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick.  I meant to read this one last summer, but never got the chance. 

(4) The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England.  I loved Mortimer's The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England so I'm very much looking forward to reading this one. 

(5) Hild by Nicola Griffith.   Historical fiction that follows the life of the woman who became known as St Hilda of Whitby.

(6) Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes.  I've heard great things about this book and can't wait to crack it open.

(7) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardago.   Another book that I've heard fabulous things about.

(8) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.   I've had this book on my shelf since it was first released, but have put off reading it until the whole trilogy was available.  Since the third book is due to be published this spring, it's high time I picked this one up.

(9) Golden Fool by Robin Hobb.  I love Hobb's novels.  I started this one, the second in Hobb's Tawny Man trilogy, a few weeks back but had to put it aside to tackle review books.  I'll pick it back up early in 2014.

(10) Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness.  I really enjoyed Harkness' A Discovery of Witches and was super eager to read this one as a result.  When I first started it way back when it was released I had to put it aside because I wasn't in the mood for it.   The final book in the trilogy is due out in summer making the winter the perfect time to (finally) read this one.

What books are on your winter TBR pile?

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review - Isabella: Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer


She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.

12 year old Isabella, a French princess marries the King of England - only to discover he has a terrible secret. Ten long years later she is in utter despair - does she submit to a lifetime of solitude and a spiritual death - or seize her destiny and take the throne of England for herself?

Isabella is just twelve years old when she marries Edward II of England. For the young princess it is love at first sight - but Edward has a terrible secret that threatens to tear their marriage - and England apart.

Who is Piers Gaveston - and why is his presence in the king’s court about to plunge England into civil war?

The young queen believes in the love songs of the troubadours and her own exalted destiny - but she finds reality very different. As she grows to a woman in the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, she must decide between her husband, her children, even her life - and one breath-taking gamble that will change the course of history.

This is the story of Isabella, the only woman ever to invade England - and win.

In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, ISABELLA is thoroughly researched and fast paced, the little known story of the one invasion the English never talk about.

Cool Gus Publishing | September 12, 2013 | 218 pages (print)

My Review

Isabella of France, Queen consort of English King Edward II, is best known for her affair with English baron Roger Mortimer and, with Mortimer's help, for ousting Edward II from the throne.   Although early to mid-14th century England is not a period in which I'm overly familiar, I've read enough works featuring Edward II to have an understanding of the basic facts, and to know that Isabella, sometimes referred to as the She-Wolf of France, is not well regarded by history.  As such, I gladly accepted the opportunity to review Colin Falconer's latest work of historical fiction, Isabella: Braveheart of France, which chronicles Isabella's life from her final days as a young girl in France to the overthrow and imprisonment of her husband.  

Falconer's novel, at least in the early pages, presents Isabella as a sympathetic figure.  Married to Edward II at the age of 12, Isabella wants nothing more than to love her husband and be loved by him in return.   But Edward already has a favourite, Piers Gaveston, a man detested by England's barons.   Despite not having Edward's heart, Isabella keeps faith with her husband and, using the training in the art of politics provided by her father - French King Philip IV - continues to offer her support in his rule of England.  When Gaveston is killed Edward is devastated, but Isabella sees it as an opportunity to win her husband back to her side.  Her hopes are short-lived, however, when a new favourite - Hugh le Despenser - takes Gaveston's place.  While Isabella had come to accept Gaveston being a part Edward's life, she despises Hugh le Despenser as much as Edward's barons do.  Ultimately it is Despenser's hold over Edward and the King's failure to take heed of the advice of both Isabella and his barons that compels Isabella, who has begun her affair with Roger Mortimer, to rebel.   It is also at this point of the novel where my sympathies for Isabella began to wane, as I felt she allowed Mortimer far too much influence over her decisions.  

Overall, Isabella: Braveheart of France is good book.  I think Falconer does a nice job of showcasing Isabella's struggles to make her marriage work and to fulfill her duties as Queen consort.  While I didn't always agree with Isabella's decisions, especially those made later in Edward II's reign, Falconer was able to make me understand her reasons for taking them.  I also liked Falconer's portrayal of Edward II who, although clearly not cut out for kingship, was steadfastly loyal to the few people he trusted.  While Isabella is the novel's principal protagonist, the reader is exposed to enough of Edward to garner an appreciation for why his barons took such issue with his rule.  Even though I liked the book overall, I nevertheless did have a few issues minor issues with the story.  The quick pace of the book makes it an easy read, but I found some events were covered a little too quickly.   This ties into my next issue, which is that novel introduces a number of different barons without providing an adequate explanation of who they are or how they fit into the story.  Given that it is Isabella and the barons who ultimately bring Edward II down, additional explanation as to who's who and the source of their grievances against Edward would have been helpful.  In the end, however, the novel's strengths outweighed the few issues I had with it and for this reason I found it a satisfying read.  While Colin Falconer has written a number of works of historical fiction, Isabella: Braveheart of France is the first of his works I've read and it won't be the last. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Releases I Can't Wait to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.   This meme features a different top 10 list every week.   This week's list is:

Top Ten 2014 Releases I Can't Wait to Read 

(1) King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman [edited to change title.  I know the book cover doesn't match] 

(2) Mirror Sight by Kristen Britain 

(3) Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen 

(4) Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

(5) The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

(6) The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn

(7) At Break of Day by Elizabeth Speller 

(8) Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

(9) Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

(10) Ember Island by Kimberley Freeman

What 2014 releases are you looking forward to?

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Book Review: Daughter of the God-King by Anne Cleeland


The Cursed Tombs of Egypt Hold Many Secrets…

Miss Hattie Blackhouse has never been close to her parents… and no wonder, since the Blackhouses are renowned scholars who spend most of their time excavating ancient tombs in Egypt. But news of their disappearance forces Hattie to leave England and embark on a voyage that will reveal the long-buried secrets of her past. An encrypted senet board and a gold medallion lead Hattie ona perilous quest to track down her missing parents-and discover why people associated with the Blackhouses continue to turn up dead. What she uncovers is a secret that could alter the course of history…

Filled with intrigue, romance, and ancient secrets, Anne Cleeland's thrilling novel takes you on an unforgettable Egyptian adventure.

Sourcebooks Landmark | November 5, 2013 | 368 pages | ISBN: 140227985X

My Review

Daughter of the God-King takes places in the early 19th century, at the time of the Congress of Vienna and Napoleon’s exile on the Isle of Elba. The novel’s heroine, Hattie Blackhouse, is the daughter of famous Egyptologists who are always off exploring the Valley of the Kings while she passes the time in remote, uneventful Cornwall. When her parents go missing after discovering the tomb of an Egyptian princess, Hattie sets out for Egypt in an attempt to uncover the truth behind their disappearance. But Hattie soon learns that there is much more to her parents’ disappearance than meets the eye, and she quickly finds herself the centre of various intrigues.

While Daughter of the God-King is a quick-paced historical adventure with a spirited heroine, the stated premise of the novel – Hattie’s quest to discover the fate of her parents – often takes a backseat to the story’s romantic subplot. This subplot focuses on Hattie’s budding relationship with Monsieur Berry, a man who worked for her parents. Given that very little about Berry is revealed even by the novel’s end, he fails to come across as an appealing romantic lead. Though there is much to like about Hattie, her lack of emotion over the disappearance and presumed death of her parents is off-putting, especially given her focus on her romantic entanglements instead. As a result, the reader may, at times, feel little sympathy for her. The various political intrigues that form part of the novel’s plot are interesting, although much more could have been done with them.

Although certain aspects of Daughter of the God-King didn’t work as well for me as I’d hoped, I think readers looking for historical adventure that includes a prominent romantic storyline will enjoy this novel.

Note: This review first appeared in Historical Novels Review (Issue 66, November 2013).  I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I have some winners to announce!!  Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for the opportunity to host each of these great giveaways.   Winners have been contacted via email and were selected using

Banquet of Lies by Michelle Diener:  Cyn209

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt: Shannon of River City Reading

The Loyalist's Wife by Elaine Cougler:  Svea of Muse in the Fog Book Review


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Monday, November 18, 2013

Book Review: Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat


Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.

1943. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.

When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.

As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France.

Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.

A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit. 

Perrat Publishing | October 1, 2013 |  324 pages

My Review

Wolfsangel is the second novel in Liza Perrat's L'Auberge des Anges series, the novels of which are set  in the fictional French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne during tumultuous periods of French history.  While the first book in the series, Spirit of Lost Angels, takes place at the height of the French Revolution, Wolfsangel takes place during World War II when France was occupied by the German Army.  The heroine of Wolfsangel is Céleste Roussel, a young woman with a fiery spirit who, determined to do her part to undermine the German occupation of France, joins the French Resistance.  Despite her dedication to the Resistance cause, Céleste can't help but fall in love with a young German officer stationed in her village.  Knowing romance with a German could undermine her efforts to help family and friends imprisoned by the Germans, Céleste must decide if pursuing a relationship with the German officer is worth the price she might have to pay for doing so. 

Much like she did with Victoire Charpentier in Spirit of Lost Angels, in Céleste Roussel Liza Perrat has once again created a strong, sympathetic heroine who readers will root for.  Céleste is a well-developed character, one whose passion for and commitment to the Resistance is always evident.   When it comes to Céleste's romance with Martin, the German officer who captures her heart, Perrat effectively conveys Céleste's internal struggles as she seeks to come to terms with her feelings for a man who she knows should only be viewed as an enemy.  As a result, the reader understands that Céleste's actions with respect to Martin are not undertaken lightly. While the romance component of the narrative wasn't my favourite part of the storyline, it was well-drawn, felt realistic, and never overshadowed the aspects of the novel I found most appealing: Céleste's involvement with the French Resistance and her attempts to help family and friends caught up in the harsh realities of the War. The threat of capture and possible death never deterred Céleste, her compatriots in the Resistance, or like-minded residents of Lucie-sur-Vionne from striking back at the Germans in any way they could.  I enjoyed learning of the ways in which French citizens sought to thwart the Germans.  Another aspect of this novel I enjoyed was how it showcases everyday village life during the Occupation and how citizens not willing to collaborate with the Nazis struggled just to make ends meet.  Most significantly though, I liked how the novel highlights the lengths to which ordinary citizens would go to help their fellow man, including complete strangers.  

Well-written, with an engaging storyline and interesting characters, Wolfsangel is recommended to anyone interested in World War II-era historical fiction. Although Wolfsangel is the second novel in a series, it isn't necessary to read Spirit of Lost Angels first as the events of each novel are separated by 150 years.  For those interested in learning more about the first novel, which I can also recommend, you can check out my review here

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review 

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: At Break of Day by Elizabeth Speller

It's time for Waiting on Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine that spotlights books we are eagerly anticipating the release of.

My pick this week is:

 At Break of Day by Elizabeth Speller
Little, Brown and Company | January 14, 2014 (Canadian Release Date)

In the summer of 1913, the world seems full of possibility for four very different young men. Young Jean-Baptiste dreams of the day he'll leave his Picardy home and row down-river to the sea. Earnest and hard-working Frank has come to London to take up an apprenticeship in Regent Street. His ambitions are self-improvement, a wife and, above all, a bicycle. Organ scholar Benedict is anxious yet enthralled by the sensations of his synaesthesia. He is uncertain both about God and the nature of his friendship with the brilliant and mercurial Theo. Harry has turned his back on his wealthy English family, has a thriving business in New York and a beautiful American wife. But his nationality is still British. Three years later, on the first of July 1916, their lives have been taken in entirely unexpected directions. Now in uniform they are waiting for dawn on the battlefield of the Somme. The generals tell them that victory will soon be theirs but the men are accompanied by regrets, fears and secrets as they move towards the line.   Synopsis from

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Monday, November 11, 2013

A Few Thoughts On A Rough Passage to London by Robin Lloyd


Lyme, Connecticut, early nineteenth century. Elisha Ely Morgan is a young farm boy who has witnessed firsthand the terror of the War of 1812. Troubled by a tumultuous home life ruled by the fists of their tempestuous father, Ely's two older brothers have both left their pastoral boyhoods to seek manhood through sailing. One afternoon, the Morgan family receives a letter with the news that one brother is lost at sea; the other is believed to be dead. Scrimping as much savings as a farm boy can muster, Ely spends nearly every penny he has to become a sailor on a square-rigged ship, on a route from New York to London—a route he hopes will lead to his vanished brother, Abraham.

Learning the brutal trade of a sailor, Ely takes quickly to sea-life, but his focus lies with finding Abraham. Following a series of cryptic clues regarding his brother's fate, Ely becomes entrenched in a mystery deeper than he can imagine. As he feels himself drawing closer to an answer, Ely climbs the ranks to become a captain, experiences romance, faces a mutiny, meets Queen Victoria, and befriends historical legends such as Charles Dickens in his raucous quest.

Sheridan House | October 7, 2013 | 376 pages

My Thoughts
  • A Rough Passage to London is based on the life of 19th century American sea captain Elisha Ely Morgan.  Ely first goes to sea in the hopes of locating his missing brother, but he takes to sea life almost immediately and manages to work his way up from ordinary sailor to captain and ship owner.  Through it all, however, Ely never stops seeking information on his lost brother, which ends up putting him in the direct path of some very dangerous men.  
  • Ely Morgan led an interesting life.  Not only was he named ship's captain at a young age, he travelled a route (New York to London) that enabled him to become friendly with writers and artists such as Charles Dickens, and to meet English royalty.  Robin Lloyd is an ancestor of Ely Morgan's and he fashioned this story, in part, from the various tales of Morgan he was told while growing up, as well as from primary sources such as letters written by Morgan himself.
  • It is obvious that Robin Lloyd undertook a significant amount of research to write this novel.  This is especially evident when it comes to the operations of a packet ship, which are described in significant detail.  One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is that much of it takes place during the transition from the Age of Sail to the Age of Steam.  I've always been drawn to novels set during the Age of Sail, and I found the evolution from sail to steam that is portrayed in this novel to be educational.    
  • In the first half of the novel I found the events of Ely's life were passed over too quickly, with situations only cursorily described before Lloyd moves on to the next one.  By the half-way point, however, this began to change.  As a result, I found the last half of the novel significantly more engaging than the first and that it moved at a much faster pace.  I would have preferred for less focus to have been placed on Ely's attempts to locate his brother, or at least for this aspect of the narrative to have been resolved earlier, as my favourite parts of the book were those that dealt with life on board a ship and the politics while on land. 
  • Robin Lloyd does a good job with developed Ely Morgan's character over the course of the novel, showing how Ely matures from a green hand to a confident captain.  While the focus of the book is on Ely, Lloyd generally does a good job with the secondary characters. The brief appearances or cameos made by historical figures are memorable.  I especially liked the few pages that featured Queen Victoria's tour of one of Morgan's ships. 
  • Fans of novels set during the Age of Sail will likely find A Rough Passage to London an engaging read.  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Book Review: Royal Inheritance by Kate Emerson


Audrey Malte is illegitimate, though her beloved father-tailor to King Henry VIII-prefers to call her "merry-begot," saying there was much joy in her making. Then Audrey visits the royal court with her father, and the whispers start about Audrey's distinctive Tudor-red hair and the kindness that the king shows her. Did dashing Henry perhaps ask Malte to raise a royal love child? The king's favor, however, brings Audrey constraint as well as opportunity. Though she holds tender feelings for her handsome music tutor, John Harington, the king is pressuring her to marry into the family of treacherous, land-hungry Sir Richard Southwell. Audrey determines to learn the truth about her birth at last. The answer may give her the freedom to give her heart as she chooses . . . or it could ensnare her deeper in an enemy's ruthless scheme.

Gallery Books | September 24, 2013 | 368 pages | ISBN 9781451661514

My Review

Royal Inheritance, the latest novel in Kate Emerson’s Tudor Court series, tells the story of Audrey Malte. Although raised to believe that she is the daughter of John Malte, tailor to King Henry VIII, as Audrey grows older and interacts more regularly with members of King Henry’s court, she starts to question her origins. The king is overly generous towards her, even though a young woman of her background should receive little if any notice from a monarch. In addition, Audrey’s colouring, which is nothing like John Malte’s, is remarkably similar to both the king’s and that of his daughter Elizabeth. Could Audrey really be the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII?

Royal Inheritance is told through the eyes of Audrey herself, who, while suffering from a prolonged illness, recounts for her young daughter the story of her life. This narrative technique generally works well, although it does remove some of the tension/suspense from the main story given that the reader already knows how certain aspects of the plot will turn out. Audrey Malte is a likable heroine, and her quest to learn the truth about her background is intriguing. The cast of supporting and tertiary characters is extensive, but each character is generally well drawn. Emerson does a commendable job with the characterization of Henry VIII in particular, especially during the later years of his reign.

While readers looking for new insights or fresh perspectives on the Tudors will not find much that differentiates this novel from the multitude of others set at Henry VIII’s court, the story is nevertheless an engaging one, and fans of Emerson’s previous Tudor Court novels will undoubtedly be pleased with this latest addition to the series.

Note: This review first appeared in Historical Novels Review (Issue 66, November 2013).  I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book Review: The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy


From a hardscrabble fishing village in Nova Scotia to the collapsing trenches of France, an astonishing debut novel about family divided by the great war.

Nova Scotia, 1916. Angus MacGrath, a skilled sailor and navigator, is lost—caught between a remote wife, a disapproving father, and a son seeking guidance. An ocean away from his coastal village, missing is Ebbin Hant, Angus's adventurous brother-in-law and best friend. Ebbin's unknown fate sets Angus on an uncharted course with profound consequences for those he loves and those he comes to love.

In search of his own purpose and hoping against all odds to find Ebbin, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing and enlists. Assured a safe job as a military cartographer in London, he is instead assigned to the infantry and sent to the blood-soaked mud of the front-line trenches in France, where he begins his search.

At home his young son, Simon Peter, once wide-eyed about the war—clipping stories and sneaking propaganda—must navigate uncertain loyalties ina village succumbing to war fever. Separated by the ocean they once sailed together, Angus and Simon Peter search for what it takes to survive, each trying in his own way to return to the other. Every character in this exquisitely told story seeks to protect what matters most in the face of war's upheaval.

Drawing on extensive research and years of sailing in Nova Scotia, and inspired by the silent testament of sacrifice in the battlefield cemeteries of France, P. S. Duffy brings us a breathtaking work of historical fiction, epic in scope but intimately rendered. The Cartographer of No Man's Land is a novel about the immutable thirst for meaning in a shifting, uncertain landscape.

Penguin Books Canada |  October 29, 2013 | 352 pages

My Review

Set on the front lines of World War I Europe and also in a small Nova Scotia fishing village, P.S. Duffy's The Cartographer of No Man's Land is a engaging novel of life during war.  The narrative shifts between the stories of Angus MacGrath, an officer with the Canadian Army stationed in France, and that of his young son Simon Peter, who must get through life back at home in Nova Scotia without his father to guide him. 

Duffy does an excellent job developing the novel's principal characters, especially Angus.  When Angus joined the Army he was under the impression that he would serve as a cartographer in London, a position that would allow him to safely search for information on his best friend and brother-in-law, Ebbin, who has been reported as missing in action.  Angus, however, ends up as an infantry officer in France, serving in the trenches with his battalion.  While this turn of events provides Angus with ample opportunity to uncover Ebbin's fate, it is a situation in which he is uncomfortable as he doesn't feel he has what it takes to adequately lead the men under his command.  As the novel progresses, however, it becomes evident that Angus is a good officer, one who is committed to the welfare of those who serve under him.  

I've read a number of novels set during WWI, many of which do an excellent job of conveying the horrors of life in the trenches.  The Cartographer of No Man's Land is no exception to this, but what distinguishes it from the other novels I've read is that it also showcases the guilt many injured soldiers felt about being out of harms way while their comrades were still fighting, and how they yearned to get back to the front lines to help them (even in cases where they were medically discharged from the military).  I also enjoyed how Duffy characterized the various men who served with Angus.  Another aspect of this novel I particularly like is the fact that it focuses on the war efforts from the Canadian perspective.  A good portion of this novel takes place in the lead up to the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which was won by the Canadians and is considered the most significant battle in Canadian history, and its aftermath.  When the narrative shifts back to Nova Scotia the reader is able to gain an appreciation for life in wartime Canada, including how Canadians of German descent were treated, how little understanding or sympathy there was for those soldiers who returned home with less than sound minds, and how difficult it was for soldiers to readjust to life away from the front lines.   

While I enjoyed both Angus and Simon Peter's stories, I think it is Angus' tale that makes The Cartographer of No Man's Land such an engaging book.  There is a lot going on in this novel, but it never feels as if it is too much as Duffy does a good job of tying everything together.  I do think more could have been done with respect to Angus' wife, Hettie, especially given Duffy alludes to certain aspects of Hettie's life that the reader may wish were explored further.  Ultimately, however, this novel isn't about Hettie and as a result the fact that her character didn't receive more attention did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. 

Well-written, with interesting story lines and characters, The Cartographer of No Man's Land is highly recommended to anyone looking to read a great work of World War I-era historical fiction. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tiny Cathedral Windows - The Spanish Guitar: A Guest Post by Author Deborah Swift

I'm super pleased to welcome author Deborah Swift to the blog today for a guest post on the Spanish guitar.   Deborah is currently touring the blogosphere with her latest novel, A Divided Inheritance.  If you haven't already checked out my review for this fantastic novel, you can do so by clicking here.

Take it away, Deborah! 

Much of the research I do for my novels never sees the light of day. I first posted about Spanish guitars on my blog whilst I was writing A DIVIDED INHERITANCE, but it seemed a shame to let the research lie there without giving it another outing.

Up until the 17th century there were no real guitars - the only instruments similar to a guitar were the lute and, in Spain, where the novel is set, the vilhuela.

In the early 17th century the Guitarra Morrisco became popular in Spain in the Moorish areas where what we know now as flamenco guitar and dance began. This type of guitar spread to other European countries where it became known as the Baroque Guitar or sometimes simply the Spanish Guitar.  A good example of this sort of Baroque guitar can be seen in Vermeer's painting "The Guitar Player."

Vermeer's "The Guitar Player"
Also evident here is the inlaid decorative edge and "rose" or fretwork, which was a feature of this period in many instruments. In the 17th century there were specific craftsmen who made a living carving this sort of decorative panel. They are so beautiful and intricate. 

They are crafted from of wood, or for the more detailed ones, parchment, cut in ornamental layers to give a three dimensional effect.


I was tempted to invent a "rose" carver just so that I could feature a description of someone making one of these, but unfortunately I have quite a few craftsmen populating my novel already – what with swordsmiths and lace-makers and tile-painters!

The designs of these ‘roses’ are similar to those of "rose" windows such as in the great cathedrals, but in miniature.

As it is, in the book my Spanish guitarist is a "bit-player" in my cast of characters - nevertheless, I think the look and feel of the guitar is important to the book, and I listened to a lot of flamenco guitar whilst writing.

Pictures and more information from

About the Author

Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

For more information, please visit Deborah’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift


A family divided by fortune.  A country divided by faith.

London 1609…

Elspet Leviston’s greatest ambition is to continue the success of her father Nathaniel’s lace business. But her dreams are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – who has his own designs on Leviston’s Lace.

Zachary is a dedicated swordsman with a secret past that seems to invite trouble. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London. Elspet believes herself to be free of her hot-headed relative but when Nathaniel dies her fortunes change dramatically. She is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary – determined to claim back from him the inheritance that is rightfully hers.

Under the searing Spanish sun, Elspet and Zachary become locked in a battle of wills. But these are dangerous times and they are soon embroiled in the roar and sweep of something far more threatening, sending them both on an unexpected journey of discovery which finally unlocks the true meaning of family . .

A Divided Inheritance is a breathtaking adventure set in London just after the Gunpowder Plot and in the bustling courtyards of Golden Age Seville.

Pan MacMillan | October 23, 2013 (UK) | 528 pages

My Review

Deborah Swift's latest novel, A Divided Inheritance, transports the reader back to early 17th century London, England and Seville, Spain.  The story opens in London, where Elspeth Leviston lives with her father, a lace merchant.  Believing that she will carry on the business after her father dies, Elspeth's assumption is put to the test when Zachary Deane, a man claiming to be her cousin, shows up at her home and is taken under the wing of her father.  While Elspeth's father is determined to teach Zachary everything he needs to know about the lace trade, Zachary doesn't prove to be the most dependable of pupils.  In  an effort to force him to mature, Elspeth's father sends Zachary on a grand tour of Europe.  Soon after Zachary leaves, however, Elspeth's father suddenly passes away, leaving her with an uncertain future and tying her to Zachary in a way she never imagined.  Determined to force Zachary to give back what she feels is rightfully hers, Elspeth sets off for Spain to find her cousin.  But life in Spain proves to be more demanding and dangerous than either Elspeth or Zachary imagined, and they soon find themselves caught up in events well beyond their control. 

One of my favourite things about this novel is that it is rife with historical detail. It is obvious Swift put a good deal of research went into the writing of this book.  This research is never just dumped into the story; it is skillfully woven into the narrative.  As a result, the detail enhances the reading experience and helps to make the reader feel as if they are living events of the novel right alongside the story's protagonists.  The novel's characters are another strong point.   All characters, whether they be primary or secondary, possess significant depth.  Elspeth and Zachary in particular, the novel's principal characters, are well-drawn and developed.  While it is obvious from the outset that Elspeth possesses a quiet strength that will serve her well in troubled times, Zachary initially comes across as an irresponsible and uncaring young man.  Yet, despite his faults, Zachary isn't unlikeable.  This ensures that the reader's sympathies don't lie solely with Elspeth.      

Complementing the novel's main plotline is one that ties into the religious turmoil of early 17th century Spain.  This component of the narrative focuses on the Ortega's, a family of Moriscos (Muslim converts to Christianity), whose lives and livelihoods are endangered by the rising threat of expulsion from Spain.  Linking directly to Zachary and Elspeth's story, the plight of the Ortega family showcases the intolerance and destructive power of the Spanish Inquisition.  Not being overly familiar with this period of Spanish history, this element of the book was not only interesting to read but also highly educational.  

Despite coming in at over 500 pages, A Divided Inheritance doesn't feel long.  Swift's prose is fluid and the narrative never drags, making the book difficult to put down.   While A Divided Inheritance is the first of Deborah Swift's novels I've had the pleasure to read, it definitely won't be the last. 

Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction, especially those interested in Jacobean England and/or Inquisition-era Spain. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A Divided Inheritance is currently on tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  Click here to check out the tour schedule. 

About the Author

Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

For more information, please visit Deborah’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

October Reading Wrap-Up

While I didn't accomplish as much as I'd hoped to blogging-wise in October (this seems to be a recurring theme LOL), I still managed to have a great reading month.   Here's a list of the books I finished (click on the title, where applicable, to read my review):
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell;
  • Rough Passage to London by Robin Lloyd (review to come);
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth;
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth;
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth; and
  • The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy (review to come)

Of these novels, I was most impressed with Colossus: The Four Emperors and The Cartographer of No Man's Land.   Unfortunately, the Divergent trilogy did not end on a high-note for me.   I really enjoyed the first two novels in the trilogy - Divergent and Insurgent - but the final novel, Allegiant, was a disappointment. 

What were the highlights (or lowlights) of September book-wise for you?

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Few Thoughts On Banquet of Lies by Michelle Diener PLUS a Giveaway


A young noblewoman flees to London and poses as a servant to evade a murderer in this richly detailed and “compelling” (Publishers Weekly) historical novel.

Frightened for her life after her father, a British spy, is murdered, Giselle Barrington flees with the secret document her father gave her for safekeeping. Needing to hide from those now chasing her, and knowing that no one would look for a wealthy young society lady in a kitchen, she takes a job as a cook for a nobleman, determined to use her anonymity to uncover the murderer. Life below stairs gives her a new perspective on the hard realities of servants’ lives, even though she’s a highly paid one. And when her employer is drawn not only into her investigations, but also to her, they find themselves faced with the power imbalance between servant and master.

Gallery Books | October 22, 2013 | 352 pages

My Thoughts
  • Michelle Diener's latest novel, Banquet of Lies, is set during the Regency period and features as its heroine a young woman - Giselle Barrington - who is forced to flee home to London from Sweden after the murder of her father.   In possession of secret documents her father entrusted to her before his death, Giselle is forced to hide her true identity in order to keep the documents (and herself) safe from her father's enemies.  Unable to assume her place in society, Giselle takes a position as a cook in the home of a nobleman, Lord Aldridge.   It's a position Giselle hopes will allow her to uncover the truth about her father's murder without revealing who she really is.  But Giselle's new employer and co-workers quickly realize there is much more to Giselle than meets the eye.  Can Giselle continue to keep her identity secret?  Can she discover the truth about her father's death? 
  • Banquet of Lies is a fun novel that readers will quickly devour.  Giselle is resourceful young woman, one who is determined to solve the mystery of her father's death even if means she places her own life in danger.   
  • In addition to the mystery aspect of the novel, Banquet of Lies also features some romance.  This romance, which builds slowly as the novel progresses, helps to give the book a lighter feel even though certain aspects of the plot deal with heavier themes. 
  • Giselle is a heroine readers will be able to easily empathize with, but one of my favourite elements of this novel is the cast of supporting characters.   Giselle's fellow servants, with the exception of the butler, are a delight, and I enjoyed Giselle's interactions with them.   Lord Aldridge's associates, Lord Dervish and the Durnhams, prove to be equally compelling characters even though they aren't featured prominently in the novel.   My favourite supporting character, however, is Georges, chef to a Duke and good friend of Giselle's.  George doesn't appear until closer to the end of the story but he injects some timely humour into the narrative.
  • Although Banquet of Lies is an enjoyable novel, I didn't find certain components of the narrative to be plausible -- Giselle's ability to successfully pass for a cook being one of the big ones.   While this won't necessarily be an issue for all readers, I generally prefer plausible storylines to those that leave me thinking "well, that never would have actually happened."  Despite this, Banquet of Lies has enough going for it that I'm now planning to read more of Michelle Diener's novels, especially those that feature some of the supporting characters found in this book.  
  • An engaging novel with a likeable heroine, a solid cast of characters, and a quick-paced narrative, Banquet of Lies is recommended to historical fiction fans looking for something fun, fast and thrilling. 
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Banquet of Lies is currently on tour.  Click here to check out the tour schedule

About the Author

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction. Her Susanna Horenbout and John Parker series starts with IN A TREACHEROUS COURT.  Set in the court of Henry VIII, it features the real historical figures of artist Susanna Horenbout and Henry's Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the King's Robes, John Parker.  It was followed by KEEPER OF THE KING'S SECRETS, also featuring Susanna Horenbout and John Parker, and DANGEROUS SANCTUARY, a short story with the same characters, set between the two books, is currently available as an ebook only.
A new historical novel, set during the Napoleonic Wars in London in 1811, THE EMPEROR'S CONSPIRACY, was released on November 27th, 2012.

Michelle also contributed a short paranormal story to the ENTANGLED Anthology entitled BREAKING OUT. All the proceeds of the sale of ENTANGLED go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Michelle grew up in South Africa, and now lives in Australia with her husband and two children.

For more information, please visit Michelle's website.  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.


I'm pleased to host a giveaway for one copy of Banquet of Lies.  Giveaway details are as follows:

- Giveaway open to US residents only;
- To enter simply leave a comment below with your email address;
- The giveaway will be open until midnight (EST) on November 10, 2013;
- The winner will be selected using

Good Luck! 

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