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
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
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.
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 random.org:
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
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
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
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
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 Amazon.ca
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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):
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?