May 15, 2016

The Service of the Dead by Candace Robb

T I T L E: The Service of the Dead
S E R I E S:  Kate Clifford(Nº 1)
A U T H O R: Candace Robb
P U B L I S H E R: Pegasus Books
P U B L I S H--D A T E: May 2, 2016
I S B N: 9781681771274
Historical Mysteries

Political unrest permeates York at the cusp of the fifteenth century, as warring factions take sides on who should be the rightful king--Richard II or his estranged, powerful cousin in exile, Henry Bolingbroke. Independent minded twenty-year-old Kate Clifford is struggling to dig out from beneath the debt left by her late husband. Determined to find a way to be secure in her own wealth and establish her independence in a male dominated society, Kate turns one of her properties near the minster into a guest house and sets up a business. In a dance of power, she also quietly rents the discreet bedchambers to the wealthy, powerful merchants of York for nights with their mistresses. But the brutal murder of a mysterious guest and the disappearance of his companion for the evening threatens all that Kate has built. Before others in town hear word of a looming scandal, she must call upon all of her hard-won survival skills to save herself from ruin.

Kate Clifford is a strong and bold female protagonist who struggles to maintain an independent lifestyle at a time when options for women were either rare or nonexistent. Her brother is constantly trying to get her to remarry. She grew up on the northern border of England near Scotland where her family was involved in a blood feud with a Scottish family. Growing up under those circumstances, Kate developed skill with a bow and a dagger. She always has her two wolfhounds with her and they are no docile pups.

     Though this era is fraught with political intrigue, it does not take center stage in this story. The author does a great job of melding historical facts with fiction in this story. As well as incorporating family drama with the politics of the time. I look forward to seeing where the author will take this series.
     Kate's household also has some interesting characters. Her cook has a violent past, there is a thief that is generous, a servant with a wicked smile, and two charges that are bastards. Kate Clifford brings together a household in a time when England was filled with strife and struggle.
     I am quite eager for the next novel in this series and what adventures it will bring for Kate.


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May 14, 2016

A Second Daniel by Neal Roberts

T I T L E: A Second Daniel
S E R I E S:  In the Den of the English Lion(Nº 1)
A U T H O R: Neal Roberts
P U B L I S H E R: Booktrope
P U B L I S H--D A T E: August 28, 2015
I S B N: 9781513704913
Historical Mysteries

London 1558. An Orphan from a far-off land, is renamed "Noah Ames", and given every advantage the Royal Crown can bestow. London 1592. Now an experienced barrister, Noah witnesses what appears to be a botched robbery outside the Rose Theater, a crime he soon suspects to be a plot against Queen Elizabeth herself. Steadfast in his loyalty to the Queen, Noah must use every bit of his knowledge and skill to lure her most disloyal subject onto the only battlefield where Noah has the advantage-a court of law-though in doing so he risks public exposure of his darkest secret, a secret so shocking that its revelation could cost him everything: the love of the only woman who can offer him happiness, his livelihood, even his life.

     I do love a great historical mystery and this one was very enjoyable. It is set in Tudor England at the time of Queen Elizabeth I which is one of my favorite historical periods. It is a good blend of both true life events and fictional ones.
     The same goes for the characters as well. I really liked the fact that the villain in this one was Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex who was real and had been one of the Queen's favorites before losing his head. Although, he hasn't fallen quite far yet in this story, he is definitely racing down a path to meet his destiny with the executioner's ax.  
     The other characters both real and fictional have depth and are interesting. Besides Noah, I really liked Jonathan and the four Jesters as well Sir Henry Neville. In the beginning, I wasn't quite sure if I liked Marie, but she grew on me as I progressed the through the story.
     There just is just enough suspense to keep you turning the pages and just enough wit and humor to make this one very enjoyable. There is even a chase scene and a bit of action thrown in. This book will keep you wondering what is going to happen next.
     All in all it was a fun read and I do recommend it to those that love both historical fiction or mysteries.


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May 5, 2016

A Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden

T I T L E: A Lady in the Smoke
A U T H O R: Karen Odden
P U B L I S H E R: Random House Publishing-Alibi
P U B L I S H--D A T E: March 29, 2016
I S B N: 9781101886403
Historical Mysteries

Following a humiliating fourth Season in London, Lady Elizabeth Fraser is on her way back to her ancestral country estate when her train careens off the rails and bursts into flames. Though she is injured, she manages to drag herself and her unconscious mother out of the wreckage, and amid the chaos that ensues, a brilliant young railway surgeon saves her mother's life. Elizabeth feels an immediate connection with Paul Wilcox—though society would never deem a medical man eligible for the daughter of an earl.
After Paul reveals that the train wreck was no accident, and the inspector who tried to prevent it dies under mysterious circumstances, Elizabeth undertakes a dangerous investigation of her own that leads back to her family's buried secrets. The more she learns, the more she must risk. Not only are her dowry and her reputation at stake; Paul's very life hangs in the balance when he is arrested for manslaughter. As the trial draws near, and Parliament prepares for a vote that will change the course of the nation, Elizabeth uncovers a conspiracy that has been years in the making. But time is running out for her to see justice done.

     A Lady in the Smoke was a bit different but a great mystery. It seemed to be a combination of two genres - Literary Fiction and Historical Mysteries. I found that fascinating.
     I have never really been interested all that much in the history of railroads whether in England or the United States and so haven’t given them much thought. However, I found the historical information in this story to be quite interesting. I haven’t read any tales in the past that included any such material so in that sense I found it to be a bit different than the norm.
     The feel and flavor of the Victorian age was executed quite well. From what I have read in the past on this era it was very accurate.
     The mystery itself was intriguing. The characters had depth and dimension. Overall, a very enjoyable read. I will be on the lookout for more to come from this author.


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May 3, 2016

The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power

T I T L E: The Dragon Round
A U T H O R: Stephen S. Power
P U B L I S H E R: Simon and Schuster
P U B L I S H--D A T E: July 5, 2016
ISBN: 9781501133206

A swashbuckling adventure with a dark side for fans of George R.R. Martin and Naomi Novik—when a ship captain is stranded on a deserted island by his mutinous crew, he finds a baby dragon that just might be the key to his salvation…and his revenge.
He only wanted justice. Instead he got revenge.
Jeryon has been the captain of the Comber for over a decade. He knows the rules. He likes the rules. But not everyone on his ship agrees. After a monstrous dragon attacks the galley, the surviving crewmembers decide to take the ship for themselves and give Jeryon and his self-righteous apothecary “the captain’s chance”: a small boat with no rudder, no sails, and nothing but the clothes on his back to survive on the open sea.
Fighting for their lives against the elements, Jeryon and his companion land on an island that isn’t as deserted as they originally thought. They find a baby dragon that, if trained, could be their way home. But as Jeryon and the dragon grow closer, the captain begins to realize that even if he makes it off the island, his old life won't be waiting for him and in order get justice, he’ll have to take it for himself.

     Normally, I’m not much on stories with a nautical theme, however, I was lured by the dragon. I am also a fan of George R R Martin and Naomi Novik, so I couldn’t wait to read this book. And it was good, I didn’t love it, but it was good. I just didn’t really find that the comparison to those two authors was a correct.
     The writing was done well. However, it got a bit confusing with all of the characters and there wasn’t really one that I liked very much, except for Gray the dragon and she didn’t speak. In some parts, fighting the crabs in particular, reminded me a lot of Land of the Lost.
     In my opinion the world was sort of dark and depressing, with the main focus on making money. I realize that the city was a merchant town, but it was just hard for me to feel much for the world or the characters. Now, even though I’ve said that, I do feel that both the world and the characters have a lot of potential to develop into something much more than they currently are. Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t really one that stood out, not even the main character.
     Having said all that I do think that those readers out there that really enjoy sailing and ships will really enjoy this book. It just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.


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