Tag Archives: historical fiction

Book Review: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

A beautifully-written book that grounds the reader in the lives of the past, To Defy a King is not mere historical fiction but a time machine.

From the Cover:  

The spirited daughter of England’s greatest knight, Mahelt Marshal, lives a privileged life. But when her beloved father falls out with the volatile and dangerous King John, her world is shattered.

The king takes her brothers hostage and Mahelt’s planned marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, takes place sooner than she expected.

Mahelt and Hugh come to care for each other deeply, but Hugh’s strict father clashes with the rebellious Mahelt. When more harsh demands from King John threaten to tear the couple’s lives apart, Mahelt finds herself facing her worst fears alone. Caught between the family she was born in and the family she married into, Mahelt is uncertain if she—or her marriage—will survive.

What I Loved:  To Defy a King completely immerses the reader in the past and paints a vivid picture of what it would be like in the thirteenth century, particularly for a young woman whose life is defined by what the men around her want.  The main character, Mahelt, must contend with this on a daily basis.

I was a little hesitant to start this book because it’s the fifth in the series and I haven’t read any of the other ones.  Fortunately, it didn’t seem to matter.  Everything was wrapped up well enough in this volume that I didn’t feel I’d missed out on anything.

To Defy a King is a rather lengthy book, and the characters are given ample time to develop and show off their depth.  It seems there is nothing that happens without a purpose, so there’s never a dull moment.

This way I would describe the tone of this book is tense.  I felt my entire body going rigid as I read because of everything Mahelt had to go through (but I don’t want to give away any spoilers here).  I guess this could be either a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a relaxing read!

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  The characters, especially at first, are a bit difficult to keep track of.  This is mostly in regard to the families of the two main protagonists.  There is a family tree in the front of the book, which helps, but I don’t like to flip back and forth.  Nor do I like to accidentally spoil something for myself and see when they die or get married before it happens in the story!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love historical fiction with a heady mix of action, adventure, and romance, then To Defy a King is for you.  Four stars.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion about an item when linking to it.

 

 

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Book Review: The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll

Historical fiction, fantasy, and romance collide in this hypnotic book.

The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll is the latest episode in my Bookshelf Cleanout.  I’d acquired this battered copy at a library book sale, and it’d been gathering dust for probably a couple of years.

From the Cover: From Brittany’s misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris’s royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny–while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.

She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and prosperous. But this is a time when women of ability are deemed sorceresses, when Renaissance France is torn by ruthless political intrigues, and all are held in thrall to the sinister ambitions of Queen Catherine de Medici. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle, bearing a secret the Dark Queen will do everything in her power to possess. The only person Ariane can turn to is the comte de Renard, a nobleman with fiery determination and a past as mysterious as his own unusual gifts.

Riveting, vibrant, and breathtaking, The Dark Queen follows Ariane and Renard as they risk everything to prevent the fulfillment of a dreadful prophecy–even if they must tempt fate and their own passions.

What I Loved:  As The Dark Queen tells the story of Ariane Cheney and the comte de Renard, it reveals a tale of passion, duty, and magic.  The characters are very well-developed, even the side characters who could’ve gotten away with being a little flat.  Their depth only continues to increase as the story goes on.

Carroll does an excellent job of establishing the setting in Renaissance France.  The reader can see every building, every chamber, every gown, and even the finer details of the candles and bowls and rings.  She accomplishes this without great lengths of flowery prose, keeping The Dark Queen driven by its plot and characters.

The romance between the two main characters is sweet and compelling, pulling the reader even further into the story.

This was a book I didn’t want to finish because I was enjoying it so much, but it was also one that I couldn’t wait to finish because I was dying to see how it ended.  This book is the first in a series, and I can’t wait to read the rest!

Favorite Quote:  Never trust a man over your cat.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Probably my least favorite parts of the book were the ones that showed Catherine de Medici’s side of the tale.  It wasn’t that these scenes were poorly written, and in fact they served to give a detailed picture of the force Ariane Cheney is up against.  But I was so intrigued by the Cheney side of the story that I didn’t want to read anything else!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a twist of magic and fantasy, you must read The Dark Queen.  The whole idea of my Bookshelf Cleanout is to read the books I’ve got so I can decide which ones to keep.  I think this one is a keeper!  5 stars!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Note:  I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

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Book Review: A Class Entwined (A Matter of Class Book 2)

What do you love in a story?  Is it one that makes you laugh and cry?  One with both romance and adventure?  A tale that transports you to another time and place with vivid detail and excellent description?  How about a book that you can’t stop reading because you want to see how it ends, and yet you never want it to end?  A Class Entwined is all that and more.

From the Back Cover:  Trapped in a loveless marriage far from home, Bridget does what she can to fill her lonely days. She throws herself into charitable work, but her cherished daughter, Emily, is her only true source of happiness.
Meanwhile, Cormac’s own life unravels and he finds himself doing unspeakable things just to survive.
Neither of them dream they will ever meet again, but fate brings them back together in the most unexpected of ways.
Can Bridget rediscover her love for the man Cormac has become? And how will Cormac react when he learns Bridget’s secret?
A Class Entwined is the second book in Susie Murphy’s A Matter of Class series.

A Class Entwined

Note:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

In the continuation of A Class Apartauthor Susie Murphy picks up the story of Bridget and Cormac.  I absolutely adored the first in the series!  When I found out the sequel was about to be released, I literally jumped up and down and clapped my hands.  I couldn’t wait for more.

I wasn’t disappointed.  A Class Entwined picks up with the same engaging characters, captivating scenery, and heart wrenching storyline.  While I can’t say that I did any fact-checking, it’s obvious Murphy did a lot of research to make this story come alive.

Susie Murphy.jpg

What I Loved:  Everything!  Really!

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I honestly don’t have a single complaint about A Class Entwined, except that I wish I’d written it myself.  Susie Murphy is becoming one of my favorite authors.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love romance and historical fiction, I highly recommend both A Class Apart and A Class Entwined.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Five golden stars isolated on white background

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour!

Blog tour schedule

Friday 1st February

The Lit Bitch

Suzy Approved

Saturday 2nd February

Ashley O’Melia

Book Reviews for U

Sunday 3rd February

Pursuing Stacie

History from a Woman’s Perspective

Monday 4th February

Lisa Reads Books

Books of All Kinds

Tuesday 5th February

Coffee, Books and China Cups

Celticlady’s Reviews

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: A Class Apart by Susie Murphy

Romance, drama, suspense, and beautiful scenery reign supreme in A Class Apart by Susie Murphy.  I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

a class apart

From the Cover:  It’s 1828, and Ireland is in turmoil as Irish tenants protest against their upper-class English landlords.
Nineteen-year-old Bridget Muldowney is thrilled to return to the estate in Carlow she’ll inherit when she comes of age. But since she left for Dublin seven years earlier, the tomboy has become a refined young lady, engaged to be married to a dashing English gentleman.
Cormac McGovern, now a stable hand on the estate, has missed his childhood friend. He and Bridget had once been thick as thieves, running wild around the countryside together.
When Bridget and Cormac meet again their friendship begins to rekindle, but it’s different now that they are adults. Bridget’s overbearing mother, determined to enforce the employer-servant boundaries, conspires with Bridget’s fiancé to keep the pair apart.
With the odds stacked against them, can Bridget and Cormac’s childhood attachment blossom into something more?

What I Loved:  A Class Apart is a breathtaking piece of historical fiction that made me turn the pages so fast I thought my fingers might catch on fire.  The descriptions completely transported me.  The characters were clear, believable, and relatable.  There is genuinely something happening in every chapter, so this isn’t a tale of ladies sitting in the parlor and gossiping over tea.  The story encompasses the real truths that the people in Ireland had to face in their time, weaving a heartrending tale that’s impossible not to read.

I usually make notes as I read a book when I know I’m going to review it, but I didn’t want to put this book down long enough to do so.  There’s so much more I wish I could say about it, because A Class Apart deserves heaps of praise.  It’s a true testament to the fact that indie authors can and do take pride in creating literary art.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Nothing!  That it ended, maybe?  I want more!  Since this is noted as the first book in a series, I can’t wait for the next volume!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love to see a place and time in history come to life, if you love romance, glorious prose, and a read that will keep you on your couch well past the time you should have gotten up to make dinner, then A Class Apart is for you.  I wish I could award more, but I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Once A Wanderer Cover - ebook

 

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Author Interview (and Giveaway!): Susie Murphy

Susie Murphy’s new book, A Class Apart, is a brand-new release on Amazon.  Read to the end for your chance to win a copy!

Is there anything that has driven you to write historical fiction instead of something set in modern times?

I have always viewed books as a means of escaping from reality, so in general I’m not as interested in reading or writing about the times we live in. I want to be swept away to another world or another era and get caught up in the lives of people and places that are different from what’s outside my front door. That’s probably why I enjoy fantasy a lot, but I adore historical fiction most of all: the fashion, the big houses, how the people travelled, how they communicated. Even though it’s our own world, it’s poles apart from how we live our lives now. And I just love the idea of attending a ball in a flowing gown and being courted by a charming gentleman! That is, of course, an idealised view of the way things were; I can’t turn a blind eye to the social injustices and poor health conditions of the times, and I do highlight the contrast between the upper classes and lower classes in my book. But it’s all so fascinating – I can’t get enough of it.

Susie Murphy

How much research do you have to do in order to make these books happen?

Tons of research needs to go into writing historical fiction. You’d think I’d have realised this early on in the process but, no, I’d been writing my series for years before that obvious penny dropped. In the summer of 2016, it occurred to me that I should really double check some of the details in my book…and there followed twelve gruelling months of revisions. I had the noble titles totally wrong, my scullery maids were doing the wrong duties, the term grandfather clock didn’t even exist (not until 1876) – I could go on and on. And what I read up on inheritance law almost scuppered the premise of the whole series! I learned my lesson the hard way, and now I don’t include anything in my manuscripts that hasn’t been thoroughly fact-checked.

But there needs to be a balance as well – I don’t put every detail I’ve researched into my books. I read as extensively as I can on a subject to give myself a full understanding of it, and then only include what’s relevant to the story itself. The research provides the framework, but the story still needs to be the focus.

I see you don’t like tea or coffee (gasp!), so what do you like to drink?

I do get very scandalised reactions about this and have even been offered boiling water as an alternative. But I just don’t like hot drinks! I have discovered in the past year that I can be persuaded to have a hot chocolate – but it needs to have marshmallows, and I’ll want a glass of water to go with it. What do I actually like though? Give me two big glasses of milk with dinner and I’m happy. J

Where and when do you do your best writing?

We have a large armchair in the sitting room that has become my nest over the years. More often than not, it is scattered with notebooks, my laptop and a cosy blanket. (However, I have recently had to relinquish it to my husband for the World Cup, as it has the best view for the TV.)

When I’m on a roll, I can write at any time of the day. I like to accomplish something early before breakfast and can happily work on into the wee hours too. The mid-afternoon slump is usually my least productive time.

a class apart

What book are you reading right now?

I’m actually reading a contemporary book at the moment (the irony!). It’s After You by Jojo Moyes, and it was a gift for my birthday. I’m also listening to the third volume of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series on audiobook in the car. While I do read loads of historical fiction (my last book was The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor), I find it’s nice to mix things up now and then.

What’s life like when you aren’t writing?

I’ve been a piano teacher for the past nine years. This generally includes many conversations that go along the lines of, ‘Yes, I know you recognise that as a hashtag, but in music we call it a sharp.’ One of the funniest things about being a teacher is when you bump into a student outside of school and they look at you like you’re an alien – and that’s when you realise that up to that point they believed you existed only in your classroom. There are plenty of challenges in teaching but in the end it’s worth it when you see a student progress and, more importantly, when they see it too.

When can we expect the next installment in the series?

I do have a completed manuscript for the second book in the series, A Class Entwined, but it will need another draft based on the final edits in A Class Apart. After that, I’ll schedule it in with both my editor and cover designer. All things going according to plan, I hope to publish it in early 2019!

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Want to win an ebook copy of A Class Apart?  Leave a comment below, or visit Ashley O’Melia’s Facebook page and find the pinned post.  A random winner will be drawn on July 14th!

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Susie Murphy is an Irish historical fiction author.

In her working life, she has been a library cataloguer, a shop assistant, a market research interviewer, an office manager and a piano teacher, but all she has ever wanted is to add ‘author’ to that list.

She doesn’t drink tea or coffee (but swears she really is Irish).

She has lived for a substantial time in six different counties – she now resides in Kildare but she’s from Tipperary.

She can recite all the colours of Joseph’s amazing technicolour dreamcoat at top speed in one breath.

When she was young, Susie and her mammy won a sandcastle competition on a summer holiday in England – there were some pretty spectacular sand sculptures on display but the judges gave them the prize because they were the only ones who built an actual castle. Susie’s advice since then: always stick to the brief, people.

She wrote her first ‘novel’ when she was eleven. Entitled The Rabbits’ Journey, it was eleven pages long and an unashamed plagiarism of Watership Down.

You can find Susie on Facebook and Twitter.

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