Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Ringmaster's Daughter by Grace Elliot

The Ringmaster’s Daughter by Grace Elliot. 

I had the pleasure of reading this novel at a very early 'beta' stage, before the final edits took place. The resulting book is well edited and rolls along at a cracking pace. It's a fast paced, very enjoyable Georgian Historical Romance set in Foxhall Gardens, a fictitious pleasure ground. The location at the outset of the novel is a seedy run down place but is due for a major refit and uplift to entertain a much grander and more wealthy clientele. 

Many other novels of this genre refer to similar gardens at ‘Vauxhall’ but the plot of The Ringmaster’s Daughter is unusual in that it is centred on the operation of the gardens itself, rather than the gardens being included in the plot as a venue for the ‘usually upper-class’ protagonists to drop in to sample the pleasures, or to experience nefarious deeds in the secluded and darkened walkways. 

Grace Elliot shows us those famed gardens from the perspective of the operators and workers of the site, and gives us a much more down to earth view of the performing areas. Via Henrietta (Henry, the son her father never had) we experience the hard life of the performers who entertained in the circus ring; we engage in the never ending grooming and training tasks for the performing animals; and empathise with Hetty as she senses the highs and lows of gaining a rapt audience during an era when female performing was frowned upon. Hetty takes on the enormous challenge of becoming a successful performer at a time when heckling was common, and a woman stepping out of the normally accepted role made her ‘fair game’ for sexual exploitation. Mr. Wolfson’s ultimatums for improvements to her act she meets with gritted teeth and a whole lot of style. His attraction is something else she must contend with, and grace Elliott has ensured she does so in a very natural way. Mr. Wolson, an at times typically arrogant hero, also has a very human and vulnerable side to his nature. He is easy to identify with as he works out ways to combat antipathy towards his efforts to improve the seedy grounds he first encounters and make them into a site of high class, superior quality entertainment. A man of conscience, it makes his growing love for Hetty not easy path to take. Grace Elliott includes a cast of nice characters and nasty ones- all portrayed very well

If you enjoy a quick, fairly uncomplicated Georgian romance that’s refreshingly different then I certainly recommend The Ringmaster’s Daughter. 

I gave this a 5* rating on Amazon and Goodreads. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Warhorn by J. G. Bauer

Warhorn by J.G. Bauer

I love learning something new in a novel and since I know very little about this period in history - 220 B.C. - it was definitely challenging to keep up with the many factions involved in the struggle for supremacy across the Iberian plain, a domination which aims to leave the area in settled peace and harmony. I desperately wanted to leave off the novel reading to begin some research of the era, but that was tempered with the urgent need to carry on with the story of Caros and find out how J. G. Bauer would develop the character of the young man who vows to avenge the brutal killing of his entire family. 

The times are very bloody indeed. The description of the fighting and battle strategies are explained in great detail, sometimes too lengthy for me- the gore and devastation to man, woman, child and beast leaping off many of the pages in graphic horror. Caros transitions from being a young trader to a battle-hardened warrior who uses his deadly falcata with unerring accuracy, his combatant skills coming so naturally to him at a very swift pace. However, I like that J.G. Bauer ensures that Caros does not magically escape all injury- for me that would have been farcical in such violent and turbulent times. 

Battle scars gained toughen up the warrior even more even though he must live through some heartbreaking consequences. His rapid progress to being noticed by the upper echelons of the armies didn’t disappoint me, and that the young Hannibal singles him out seems fitting. Caros becomes the kind of unassuming hero who draws friends and admirers easily from his fellow comrades and also from his enemies. Named ‘Claw of the Lion’ early on in the novel is well earned by the time the story closes. 

It is not only a story of war, though, the love of a young woman –Ilimic- is also a painful transition for Caros to work through. There are many characters in the novel some of whom are very likeable, his friend Neugen for one. Other characters are much less attractive but well portrayed. My only problem with the read was that the editing could have been sharper: this would have avoided occasional spelling and points of view problems. 

If you want a detailed historical novel of battle frenzy this is definitely your kind of read.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Beggars Can't Be Choosier

Beggars Can’t Be Choosier by D.W. Wilkin

I love the title which instantly made me wonder who was going to be the beggar and I enjoyed the read to find out the ‘who and why’ of their beggar state. I really enjoyed how D.W. Wilkin has used the simple plot of: an ‘almost nobody’, in possession of a fortune, seeks the respectability of the ‘TON’ by marrying impoverished nobility.

I found it very easy to identify with Brian, The Earl of Aftlake, who makes the most of his circumstances, his noble character remaining true throughout- even in the face of some rather enticing temptations. That said, I found very little character development for him throughout the story, yet he continued to be likeable. Katherine Chandler can never be termed a wimpish Regency heroine. Her plans from the outset of the book are quite enterprising for the times and, for me, she comes across as feistily feminine throughout the novel. She, too, is an engaging character who only deals with a few minor setbacks along the way of the story. There are only a few instances where she needs to change her way of thinking, notably so towards the end. Katherine is a woman who makes things happen, to improve what she feels should be her true place in society.

The author’s writing style generally follows the form of Regency speech patterns which I’ve read in classic novels written about the period; a style which I found very entertaining. The historical detail with regard to the ‘TON’ is delightful to read and well researched. However, I found instances in the story which took another re-read to understand the sentences or paragraphs fully- for me something just not quite right about them. Some of the phrases seemed incomplete, or something was lacking in the cadences of the speech which interrupted my reading flow.

I’m not going to recount the story - as I feel that leads to too many spoilers – but I was wondering exactly what D.W. Wilkin was going to come up with towards the end of the tale to resolve the main focus which was ‘how does true love fit into the marriage bargain’. For me, the conflict of this issue could perhaps have been more developed, more instances where Katherine becomes challenged over her initial plans. The small mystery of Katherine’s true lineage is divulged towards the end, D.W. Wilkin giving sufficient clues along the way for the reader to pick up on, and if the reader has read Regency plots before then it’s not difficult to work out who is related to whom, even though his cast of characters is quite large.

There’s a very neat rounding up of monetary detail at the end of the story which makes me want to quote that ‘alls well that ends well’. If you’re looking for an easy Regency read, I can definitely recommend this one!
 When a fortune purchases a title, love shall never flourish, for a heart that is bought, can never be won.

The Earl of Aftlake has struggled since coming into his inheritance. Terrible decisions by his father has left him with an income of only 100 pounds a year. For a Peer, living on such a sum is near impossible. Into his life comes the charming and beautiful Katherine Chandler. She has a fortune her father made in the India trade.

Together, a title and a fortune can be a thing that can achieve great things for all of England. Together the two can start a family and restore the Aftlake fortunes. Together they form an alliance.

But a partnership of this nature is not one of love. And terms of the partnership will allow both to one day seek a love that they both deserve for all that they do. But will Brian Forbes Pangentier find the loves he desires or the love he deserves?

And Katherine, now Countess Aftlake, will she learn to appreciate the difference between happiness and wealth? Can love and the admiration of the TON combine or are the two mutually exclusive?


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Igboland launches today!

Today, 19th February, is the ebook launch of 'Igboland' from the pen of my Crooked Cat friend - Jeff Gardiner.

This is an excellent read which I particularly recommend to anyone who is interested in the history of Africa.I love learning through my novel reading and this book didn't disappoint me.


Lydia and Clem Davie arrive in an Igbo village in Nigeria in July 1967 just as civil war breaks out, but Lydia has trouble adjusting to life in West Africa: a place so unfamiliar and far away from everything she truly understands.

Initially, most of the locals are welcoming and friendly, until one or two begin a frightening campaign of anti-white protests. Lydia's life is changed irrevocably after she meets enigmatic Igbo doctor, Kwemto, and war victim, Grace. Through them Lydia learns about independence, passion and personal identity. Conflict and romance create emotional highs and lows for Lydia, whose marriage and personal beliefs slowly begin to crumble.

Will this house in a Nigerian bush village ever seem like home?

image acquired from Jeff's Facebook launch party page.

Jeff Gardiner is author of 'MYOPIA', a novel about bullying and prejudice. Jerry is bullied for wearing glasses, but soon comes to realise that being short-sighted is not necessarily a disability. He learns a great deal about himself and about the boy making his life a misery.
Jeff is also author of 'A Glimpse of the Numinous' - a collection of short stories (horror, humour, romance and slipstream). One review stated: "... his stories are genuinely fascinating, weird and original."

Here's what I thought on reading 'Igboland'...

Igboland by Jeff Gardiner - 5 stars

This was a great read! I like to learn something new in a novel and Igboland did this very admirably. The political struggles in Africa, especially in Nigeria, are displayed in Igboland from the viewpoint of a white woman who is essentially there on her missionary husband’s visa. It’s easy to identify with Lydia and feel her insecurity as she settles into her role in a life which would be daunting for anyone, never mind when the land is in the turmoil of recently launched civil war. In some ways, it’s especially so for a young, recently married woman who has been brought up in quite narrow circumstances. Growing up in a strongly Methodist family the expectations put upon Lydia seem quite demanding, the ‘freedoms’ of the later 1960s almost bypassing her. Clem, her husband, isn’t a character I particularly warm to, but the portrayal of him is consistent in that he remains loyal to Lydia, in his own fashion. I find it entirely believable that Lydia falls in love with another. The tragic aspects are quite gut-wrenching; decisions made for Lydia rather than her needing to choose for herself. (I hate spoilers in reviews, so I am remaining vague over details in the book which may also have you reaching for a tissue, or a drink to ease a parched throat). It’s definitely a book I can recommend… and for those who love reading African history, a book to add to your shelves!
Get your own copy from Amazon, today, and read for yourself about Lydia and Clem.

Use this link HERE

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Today, I'm welcoming two of my friends from The Wild Rose Press- Margo Hoornstra and Jannine Gallant.

All the pleasures and none of the pain, that’s what Cynthia Buckingham wants in a relationship these days. A one-night stand with Jonah Colt seems to fit that bill perfectly. Newly divorced, she’s too busy planning her daughter’s wedding for any serious involvement. Besides, her true passion is helping victims of PTSD reclaim their lives.
Waking up after spending the night with a woman he barely knows, Jonah is stunned to realize sex for the sake of sex isn’t enough for him anymore. A veteran of more military battles than he cares to count, he wants to forget it all and focus on peaceful civilian life. Except flashbacks won’t allow it.
Falling for Cynthia makes Jonah regret his weakened state, but he’d rather hide the truth than face it. When she sets aside everything she believes in to help him heal, can he accept her help–and her love?

Margo Hoornstra hails from the Midwest, land of the—this year at least—never ending snow storms. It’s beautiful to look at but has put a crimp in her second love besides writing, long walks outdoors.

Daycare owner, Miranda O’Neill, isn’t looking for a miracle. But that’s what it’ll take to convince Cole Matheson the American Dream isn’t a trap designed to suck the life out of him. She wants a house with a white picket fence. He wants adventure. She yearns for babies of her own. He’s perfectly content claiming his aging hound as his only dependent. The one thing they agree on–they can’t keep their hands off each other.
Six months ago, they’d admitted love wasn’t enough and parted ways. But when Cole finds himself in charge of his nephew for the ten longest days of his life, only one person can save him.
Will Miranda put aside her heartache to jump into the fray? Can Cole find any redeeming qualities in a demon in a diaper? Either way, both know they’re just asking for trouble.

  • Jannine’s Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
  • Asking for Trouble - Free on Amazon
  • Contemporary Romance
  • Asking for Trouble Length: 111 Pages
  • Asking for Trouble Release Date: December 26, 2013
Jannine Gallant lives in beautiful Lake Tahoe where she enjoys hiking and snowshoeing in the woods around her home. Her stories are set in small towns and reflect the beauty of nature.

 Both ladies have shared a little with us today. First up is

Excerpt #1 – Only If You Dare

Cynthia glanced over at the table set in a far corner and the man who occupied one of its two chairs.
Eyes perfectly adjusted to the dimness, her gaze joined—
Tall, dark and very good looking.
The hostess set down her menu. “Enjoy.” Sending a lingering gaze toward Jonah, she walked away.
“It’s nice to see you again.” Her greeting was automatic, though she soon realized how very much she meant those words.
Well etched cheekbones, a strong chin, the hint of a dimple on the right side of his mouth when he smiled. The description of very good looking hardly did him justice.
After a quick kiss that left Cynthia wanting more, his hand rested briefly on her shoulders as he helped her off with her coat. “How bad was work?”
She started to form a pat not that bad response when she caught the sincerity in his eyes as he awaited her answer. Her honest answer. “It was tiring.”
“I have just the thing.” Ushering her into the seat across from him, he placed her coat, with his, on a nearby chair.
“Do you now?”
If he was surprised when she took hold of his hand as he returned to the table, he didn’t show it. Not knowing what else to do, she squeezed before letting go.
“A good hot meal, of course.”
“That sounds wonderful.”
Don’t be so nice to me or we’re going to have real problems.
“But, before that, a tall glass of wine.” With an expert hand, he lifted a chilled bottle from a bucket set beside the table. Pouring the light, white wine into two stemmed glasses, he picked up one he handed to her and kept the other for himself.
“To you.” She hoisted it toward him. “For knowing just what I need today.”
You, Jonah Colt, are just what I need.

and now comes...

Excerpt #1 – Asking for Trouble

Rising to his feet in one smooth movement, Cole gave her a hand up. His palm was warm and a little rough as it curled around her fingers. With an extra tug, he brought her close against his chest.
“Oops, I guess I don’t know my own strength.”
For a moment, she leaned into him. The afternoon had been relaxing, but stimulating at the same time, like the man standing before her. With Cole, there was always the question of what he’d say next, what he’d do next…
His free hand rose to touch her hair before his thumb stroked along her jaw in a whisper soft caress that sent a quiver sliding through her.
Drawing in a breath, she forced herself to step back. “Why don’t you get the horses while I wake Jackson?”
A pained look flashed through his eyes and was gone. “Sure.”
When he released her and turned away, she pressed shaking hands against her thighs to steady herself. After a long moment, she bent and picked up the rose, then lifted Jackson into her arms and hugged him close, breathing in his clean, baby scent.
No more innocent outings with a man who had the power to trample her heart beneath his boots. She’d been a fool to think she could spend time with Cole without falling in love with him all over again. Truth was, it would be a short drop into heartache. She touched the rose to her lips. Because she’d never stopped loving him the first time around.

My very best wishes to Margo and Jannine for a successful tour! 


Sunday, 9 February 2014

I loved, loved, loved, this book! - The Beltane Choice

Happy Sunday to you! 

A new review on 
5.0 out of 5 stars Celtic Wow!, February 7, 2014

I loved, loved, loved this book! The time period was new to me but the author brought out details of life, rituals, customs and war. The love story involved only heightened my love for this book. I was spellbound with the story and couldn't put it down. The characters were well developed and I either loved or hated them
as it was meant to be. I would highly recommend this book!


Monday, 3 February 2014

It's Hijack in Abstract

Happy Monday Moments to you! 

Today, Larissa Reinhart has brought along some information about her novel 'Hijack in Abstract' and is going to tell us about....

Visiting Cherry Tucker’s South

Nancy, thanks so much for having me on your blog today! I’m a Southern writer, and in consideration of visiting a UK writer’s blog, I thought some of your non-US readers might be interested in a tourist’s point of view of the Cherry Tucker series. Hijack in Abstract is the third in the series, but all the books are centered in the fictional Forks County, Georgia, particularly in Halo, where Cherry Tucker lives.

Forks County is commuting distance from Atlanta, which is both an aggravation and a convenience for the locals. And when I say locals, I mean folks who have born and buried generations in Forks County. For a writer of mysteries, Forks County gives me the best of both worlds. A small, Southern setting close to a big city makes for a good by-pass for cozy crime.

In Hijack in Abstract, Cherry leaves Forks County to paint the portrait of a rich immigration lawyer in Atlanta. Cherry’s a classical portraitist by trade, but a small town, country girl at heart. Wealth makes her uncomfortable and she’s headed to the wealthiest part of Atlanta...

Atlanta is a city of neighborhoods, and Buckhead is the ritziest. It’s in the top ten most affluent neighborhoods in the United States, second to Palm Beach in the South. It’s a major shopping center in Atlanta, where the most popular malls and designer boutiques are located. Designer restaurants and clubs make it a hopping area at night. Several international consulates are located here as well as the governor’s mansion. Buckhead also has an interesting mix of high rise condo living as well as a forested area of winding roads hiding homes with at least six zeroes attached to their price tag. 

Uh, yeah, Cherry Tucker is not born for Buckhead. She doesn’t suffer snobs gladly. But she does make friends at that Buckhead mansion, particularly a chauffeur recently immigrated from Eastern Europe, and she takes him to a beloved Atlanta institution...

The Varsity.
Established in 1928 near Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) in Midtown Atlanta, The Varsity was a drive-in burger and “dog” joint for college students.
The Varsity still retains that retro diner vibe and still serves the same, delicious, cheap food. However, the Varsity is probably most famous for their catchy lingo used by the servers to get the food out quickly. You’ll be greeted at the counter with a “What’ll ya have” and be expected to have your order and money ready. A typical meal is a Heavy Dog, Strings, and a V.O. (a hotdog with extra chili, french fries, and a Varsity Orange, their original orange soda).

When not working on the Buckhead lawyer’s painting, Cherry’s back in Forks County splitting her time with solving the murder of a junkie copper thief who witnessed a hijacking, clearing her name from “pervert” status after painting a nude triptych, and helping a friend in trouble with the law. Not to mention, dealing with ex-boyfriend and family issues. So where does Cherry like to catch some down time?

The Waffle House
Another Atlanta eatery institution. This fast food diner chain located all over the south, has spread throughout the United States, but founded in Atlanta in 1955. Like The Varsity, Waffle House also has their own lingo for food. Most famously, their hash browns which can be served “scattered” (spread on the grill), “smothered” (with onions), “covered” (cheese), “chopped” (diced ham), “diced” (tomatoes), “peppered” (jalapeƱo peppers), “capped” (mushrooms), or “topped” (with chili). Or just get them “all the way” and be done with it.

Red’s County Line Tap.
Actually fictional, Red’s represents the honky tonk turned modern bar found throughout rural Georgia. Because many towns were controlled by blue laws (laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol for religious reasons), the tavern and bar culture is not as prevalent here as in the North. However, many small, older towns had old, sometimes scary looking, honky-tonks located just over the town line. Hence, Red’s. But because this is modern day Georgia, Red’s has been converted into a family establishment, serving pimento cheese burgers and sweet potato fries along with Cherry’s favored hot wings and beer.

If you get a chance to travel to Atlanta, be sure to visit Buckhead and The Varsity, and try some of the older establishments outside the city limits. Let me know if you’re coming and I’ll recommend more places for you to see and to eat beyond Cherry Tucker’s world.

Anyone else have favorites in the Atlanta area?

Nancy says: I've never been to Atlanta but you describe it so well, Larissa. I've been to Minnesota, and the West Coast from LA all the way north to Canada (Vancouver) but maybe someday I'll hop across the Atlantic and pitch up in Atlanta since I love the way you describe it. The Varsity is a building to enjoy and preserve!

Humor, Hijackings and a Handful of Hunks . . . 

With a classical series sold and a portrait commissioned, Cherry Tucker’s art career is in Georgia overdrive. But when the sheriff asks Cherry to draw a composite sketch of a hijacker, her life takes a hairpin as the composite leads to a related murder, her local card-sharking buddy Max Avtaikin becomes bear bait and her nemesis labels the classical series “pervert art.”
Cherry’s jamming gears between trailer parks, Atlanta mansions, and trucker bars searching for the hijacker who left a widow and orphan destitute. While she seeks to help the misfortunate and save her local reputation, Cherry’s hammer down attitude has her facing the headlights of an oncoming killer.

“The fast-paced plot careens through small-town politics and deadly rivalries, with zany side trips through art-world shenanigans and romantic hijinx. Like front-porch lemonade, Reinhart’s cast of characters offers a perfect balance of tart and sweet.” – Sophie Littlefield, Bestselling Author of A Bad Day for Sorry
“Reinhart manages to braid a complicated plot into a tight and funny tale…Cozy fans will love this latest Cherry Tucker mystery.” – Mary Marks, New York Journal of Books
“I love this series! Cheeky, clever, and compelling—keeps me reading way too late. This book has one of the most original—and fun—love triangles you’ll ever come across.” – Kaye George, Agatha Award-Nominated Author of the Imogene Duckworthy Mysteries
“Cherry Tucker is back – tart-tongued and full of sass. With her paint-stained fingers in every pie, she’s in for a truckload of trouble.” – J.J. Murphy, Author of the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries
“Witty, fast paced dialogue sandwiched between vivid descriptions and interesting characters made Hijack in Abstract come to life before my eyes. Larissa Reinhart and Cherry Tucker have a lifelong fan. My recommendation—don’t miss this one!” – Christine Warner, Author of Bachelor’s Special
“Artist Cherry Tucker just can’t help chasing after justice, even when it lands her up to her eyeballs in Russian gangsters, sexy exes, and treacherous truckers. A rambunctious mystery as Southern as chess pie and every bit as delectable.” – Jane Sevier, Author of the Psychic Socialite 1930s Memphis Mysteries
“A true work of art…I didn’t want this book to end! I was so caught up in Cherry’s crazy life, I wanted to just keep reading. You will, too.” – Gayle Trent, Author of Battered to Death
“Cherry Tucker’s got an artist’s palette of problems, but she handles them better than da Vinci on a deadline. Bust out your gesso and get primed for humor, hijackings, and a handful of hunks!” – Diane Vallere, Author of the Style & Error and Mad for Mod Mystery Series
“Reinhart took me on a fun rollercoaster ride…I haven’t had this much fun trying to solve a mystery in a while and it sure beats playing a game of Clue any day!Four out of five stars.” – Literary, etc.

Growing up in a small town, Larissa Reinhart couldn’t wait to move to an exotic city far from corn fields. After moving around the US and Japan, now she loves to write about rough hewn characters that live near corn fields, particularly sassy women with a penchant for trouble.
HIJACK IN ABSTRACT is the third in the Cherry Tucker Mystery Series from Henery Press, following STILL LIFE IN BRUNSWICK STEW (May 2013) and PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist. QUICK SKETCH, a Cherry Tucker prequel to PORTRAIT, is in the mystery anthology THE HEARTACHE MOTEL (December 2013).
Larissa lives near Atlanta with her minions and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit. Visit her website or find her chatting with the Little Read Hens on Facebook.
Larissa’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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 Thank you for visiting Monday Moments, Larissa and best wishes on your tour for Hijack in Abstract!