21 April 2018

It is the weekend...

No reviews over the weekend 
but did you miss...

by Barbara Gaskell Denvil

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20 April 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Cry of the Heron by Dick Allan

A tale of love and envy on eighteenth century England's waterways

AMAZON UK £9.99  
AMAZON US $3.19 

Family drama / nautical

George Cartwright’s father dies after an altercation with Billy, the son of his rival, Nathaniel Cryer. A heart attack was the cause, but Billy finds himself accused of murder and is sentenced to transportation, but is apparently drowned during the sea voyage.

The feud between the two families expands as the Cartwrights do well for themselves while the Cryers’ desire for vengeance grows  darker.

Set in the harsh world of the bargemen of the late eighteenth century, the descriptions of river and canal life seem well-researched, depicting the trade and daily life of these water-world highways that were essential to the expanding trade of the industrial revolution.  

The story is perhaps a little ‘tell’ not ‘show’ in style, and there were a few clich├ęs and oft-used phrases (‘mind’s-eye’, ‘smouldered with rage’) which are a shame, as I think the author has the ability to be more imaginative with his words, as shown by his delightful descriptions of the rivers, canals, boats and wildlife. And perhaps a run-through by an editor would have picked up the inconsistencies of using fourteen-year-old but 12th Century (twelfth century would have been better).

However, as something a bit different, and for lovers of all things boats, this is a tale worth reading – especially if you happen to be taking a vacation along the backwaters of the English canals.

© Anne Holt

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19 April 2018

Queen’s Courier by Jen Black

AMAZON UK £1.20 £8.99
AMAZON US $1.66 $14.53

Fictional saga
1500s Tudor

Jen Black’s novels are a delight to read, not merely because of the enjoyment of ‘romance’ but because she is adept at diversifying from one period to another with apparent ease. This one is set in that troubling Tudor era where England and Scotland do not see eye-to-eye. Here, the future Mary Queen of Scots has her life mapped out by her mother, Mary of Guise and the English monarch, Henry VIII. But not all maps are reliable or pre-ordained, nor do the map-makers necessarily agree with each others’ marks on the charts they hope to produce.

The Queen’s Courier is a sequel to Abduction of the Scots Queen, where Matho Spirston had kidnapped Mary, an infant, and given her into the care of Margaret Douglas - Meg - the daughter of the Earl of Angus and Henry VIII’s sister, with Meg then being blamed for the deed. But it is not necessary to read this first novel (although I would recommend it!)  

Matthew, Earl of Lennox, champions Meg but he is greedy for power, and as the niece to the English King, Meg herself  is obliged to retain her virginity and follow the King’s permission for marriage. As for the future Mary Queen of Scots, Henry wants her as wife to his son, Edward. Her mother has different plans.

The author, in addition to being able to write delightful novels, is skilled at taking the reader right into the feel of time and place, by painting visual pictures within her narrative. Her research is well done, as is her depiction of the unsettled politics of the period, with all the upheaval of war, intrigue, scandal, plot after counter-plot and the dangers of being an appointed spy where messages had to be taken in utmost secrecy between Scotland, London and France.

Jen Black’s characters are believable, the diplomacy, the scheming, the hopes, dreams, nightmares and dangers all zip along at a good page-turning pace. The only regret I had is knowing the eventual fate of Mary Queen of Scots!

© Ellen Hill

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18 April 2018

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Whippoorwill by R L Bartram

AMAZON UK £3.99 £7.84   

Family drama
1800s / American Civil war

Cecile ('Ceci') Prejean is a fourteen year old tomboy, much to the annoyance of her plantation owner father. He assigns his Creole slave Hecubah to teach her the ways of a lady. This she achieves and a ball is held for Ceci's eighteenth birthday, where she meets – or, rather, re-meets – handsome Trent Sinclaire, a graduate from West Point. The inevitable happens and just a few weeks before their wedding, civil war breaks out and Trent is recalled to take his place as Lieutenant in the Union army.

When Ceci's widower father and her sister are killed accidentally in New Orleans, she is approached by Henry Doucet, spy-master to the Confederate army. Ceci and three other girls are trained and given the names of birds as their call signs: Ceci's is Whippoorwill.

This fast-paced story deals well with the use of female spies by both sides and Ceci's transformation from tomboy to efficient spy is interesting. For me, Hecubah is the outstanding character – world weary, wise and funny.

The cover cleverly shows Ceci both in 'Southern Belle' and Southern spy mode with an additional image of her and Trent. I found, however, that my imagination was stretched somewhat with Hecubah's sudden and dramatic reappearance into the story, and there were one or two minor niggles for this Brit reader, particularly with the use of American South-type dialogue, but nevertheless this will be of interest to the many fans of the American Civil War and romance of the ‘Gone With the Wind’ era genre.

© Richard Tearle

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