The Blood of Princes (The Craft of Kings #2) by Derek Birks

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A savage tale of love, treason and betrayal.
A bloody struggle for power at the heart of the royal court.

In April 1483, the sudden death of King Edward IV brings his 12 year old son to the throne.
Restless young lord and ex-mercenary John Elder is newly-appointed to the service of Edward, Prince of Wales, and charged with the boy’s safety. His first task, escorting the new king to London for his coronation, seems a simple one but the accession of a boy king raises concerns among the leading noblemen of the land.
As old jealousies and feuds are rekindled, the new king’s uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, seizes control and plunges the kingdom into crisis. But is Gloucester young Edward’s enemy, or saviour?
While John, outlawed and trapped, must wait to see how events unfold, other members of the battle-scarred Elder family are drawn, one by one, into his conspiracy. Soon they are mired so deep in the murky underbelly of London society, that there seems no hope of escape from the tangle of intrigue and murder.
In the end, all lives will hang upon the outcome of a daring incursion into the Tower of London itself.

REVIEW

I’m of the opinion that if you Google the phrase “adrenaline rush”, you should be directed to a page describing Derek Birks’ fictional 15th century family, The Elders. Throughout the tales in both the Rebels and Brothers series, and in the Craft of Kings, the reader is treated to intense emotional upheaval, traumatizing losses, hopeless situations; and yet the Elders persevere in the face of all the changes and challenges. I may have stated in my review of one of the prior books, that Eleanor Elder is at the top of a long list of my favorite fictional characters…after reading The Blood of Princes, I now have to add Lady Margaret Elder (Meg).

It’s tough enough being proclaimed an ‘outlaw’. Now, John Elder faces impossible tasks,.. keeping his family intact, rescuing Tower imprisoned Princes of the Realm, and by the way, staying alive. Book 2 is a certified roller-coaster ride through the transition from Edward IV to his son; but wait, there’re more contestants to the throne, more loyalties tested, more oaths sworn or forsaken, and a whole lot more danger to life and limb. The author has once again delivered the entire package, so dear reader, fasten your seat belts. The adrenaline is about to start coursing through your veins.  5 stars

 

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The Reaper’s Kiss (The Ripper Legacies Book 3) by Robert Southworth

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London 1891
Sir Simeon Harkness has joined his son in the pursuit of the infamous killer. With his resources, it is not long before the scent of new lines of investigation are detected. The Ripper can feel the oppressive breath of his pursuers upon his skin. He must hide his tracks and remove those that once called him master. The hunt is on but the Ripper will not go quietly to the gallows.

REVIEW 

True confession time. I know very little about the real Jack the Ripper, only that it has remained a mystery to this day. Therefore, based on that scant amount of knowledge, I can, without a doubt, or fear of recrimination, state that the version of The Ripper portrayed in Mr. Southworth’s series is real enough for me.😎  The Reaper’s Kiss, the finale of the three, is a page turner filled with wonderfully descriptive scenarios, as the search for the evasive Cronus cult leads to many places, and to many treacheries. Surprises? Oh my, yes, there are many of those. The kind of surprises that makes one put the book down for a moment to regain ones composure. Camaraderie, lost friends, brutal action, plain old nasty villains, long hid emotions; yes my fellow readers, The Reaper’s Kiss is an excellent ending to a well done series. 5 stars

 

 

 

The Alchemist of Lost Souls (Bianca Goddard Mysteries, #4) by Mary Lawrence

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A dangerous element discovered by Bianca Goddard’s father falls into the wrong hands . . . leading to a chain of multiple murders.

Spring 1544 Now that she is with child, Bianca is more determined than ever to distance herself from her unstable father. Desperate to win back the favor of King Henry VIII, disgraced alchemist Albern Goddard plans to reveal a powerful new element he’s discovered–one with deadly potential. But when the substance is stolen, he is panicked and expects his daughter to help.

Soon after, a woman’s body is found behind the Dim Dragon Inn, an eerie green vapor rising from her breathless mouth. To her grave concern, Bianca has reason to suspect her own mother may be involved in the theft and the murder. As her husband John is conscripted into King Henry’s army to subdue Scottish resistance, Bianca must navigate a twisted and treacherous path among alchemists, apothecaries, chandlers, and scoundrels–to find out who among them is willing to kill to possess the element known as lapis mortem, the stone of death . . .

REVIEW

I’ve read a few novels that take place during the reign of Henry VIII, and have watched the Tudor series on Netflix.  The Alchemist of Lost Souls (and the earlier books in the Bianca Goddard series) is a definite departure from the Royal Court and the mercurial antics of Henry. The author paints a vivid picture of life in the least desirable haunts of London and the precarious and often violent existence of the folk who live there. Colorful characters abound in this fascinating mystery, and what is especially nice is their usage of the language of the times, the idioms, the curses, the names etc,etc. I was captured from page one, the ongoing mystery with many twists and turns, surprises, and a peculiar denizen of the Thames, The Rat Man. The main character, Bianca, daughter of an alchemist, finds herself enmeshed in solving a series of crimes that have implications involving friends and family, all the while experiencing her first pregnancy, with her husband away with Henry’s army. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this wonderfully descriptive, and creative tale. The only problem is that this is book four of the series, and now I have to go back and read the first three.  Oh wait, that’s not a problem, that’s three future treats for me to devour. 🙂  5 stars

 

 

Praetorian: Lions of Rome by SJA Turney

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Rufinus is dead, crumpled at the base of a cliff in far-off Dacia. Or so the world believes. Back in the west, secretly in the entourage of the fierce Septimius Severus, the young hero moves in the shadows with fellow conspirators in an attempt to finally bring down the would-be tyrant of Rome: Cleander.

Under assumed names and in a variety of roles, the former Praetorian conspires with some of the most important men in Rome, bringing the city to the very brink of disaster in a grand and complex plot to cause the fall of the untouchable chamberlain.

And as governors, prefects, Praetorians and consuls work their secret plots in the seedy underbelly of Rome, Rufinus finds he has an opportunity to settle old scores along the way.

The empire is suffering. Rome is seething. Rufinus is back.

REVIEW

In the most complex Praetorian yet, Mr. Turney has delivered yet another masterpiece bringing together every element in the city of Rome, in a taut thriller to bring down the vile Cleander. There are a lot of moving pieces on the game board as the Septimus Severus led conspiracy plays a long waiting game; everything has to be right for them to succeed. It is this long wait that could have been a negative as far as slowing the pace of the narrative, a lessening in the number of stars awarded. But, my dear readers, just as Rufinus chafes at the wait, you must also. Like Rufinus, I was growing impatient, but like Severus, the author knew best…the last quarter is justification for the wait. In fairness, the drawn out grain part, while causing anxious moments for the conspirators, and the occasional sigh by me, is in retrospect necessary to the narrative. When you’re going after the most powerful “right hand man of The Emperor” since Sejanus, you better be sure all your plans are laid out in meticulous detail.  Besides, dear reader, the last quarter of the book is pure Turney excitement magic.

Book four of this series is also a prime example of the research that the author employs in all of his books. The descriptions, for example, of the streets of Commodus’ Rome makes the reader feel like he’s walking down familiar byways. In addition to that level of detail, you have a more complete Rufinus. He is now an elite warrior/spy exuding confidence in all of his tasks – a killer when necessary – a wearer of many masks – yet still possessing a compassionate outlook and a questioning mind. Yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, ready yourself for time well spent as you read Lions of Rome.  5 Stars

The Brotherhood of the Black Flag: A Novel of the Golden Age of Piracy by Ian Nathaniel Cohen

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Michael McNamara has one last chance to fight for king and country.
His once-promising career in tatters, McNamara leaves the newly-United Kingdom behind in search of a new life. With no other skills but the sword, he joins forces with a pirate turned pirate hunter determined to rid the Caribbean of the Brotherhood of the Black Flag once and for all.

Eager for the adventure and a worthy cause to fight for, McNamara pits himself against treacherous seas and battle-hardened buccaneers…and uncovers an international conspiracy that threatens thousands of lives.

The Golden Age of Piracy is about to end…but not without one final reckoning.

REVIEW

A swashbuckling tale with an intriguing plot awaits you my fellow readers. An interesting array of well drawn characters fill the pages from the main protagonists to the bit players giving the story an authenticity that held my interest from page one.  The action, both on land and especially at sea, is well conceived. The author has done his homework on the workings of 18th century ships, and the nuances involved in a well fought sword duel. The plot, the redemption of a notorious pirate and his bid to rid the seas of those who still rain death and destruction flying the Black Flag, is well played, and full of twists and turns which leads to a very exciting conclusion. Yes, a swashbuckling delight indeed. 4 Stars

The Sugar Merchant by James Hutson-Wiley

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When Thomas’s family is annihilated in a raid, his life changes forever. Wandering for days, starving and hopeless, he is rescued by a monk and is taken to live at the abbey of Eynsham. There he receives a curious education, training to be a scholar, a merchant and a spy. His mission: to develop commerce in Muslim lands and dispatch vital information to the Holy See.
His perilous adventures during the 11th century’s commercial revolution will take him far from his cloistered life to the great trading cities of Almeria, Amalfi, Alexandria and Cairo.

But the world in which he lives is chaotic. Struggling with love and loss, faith and fortune, can Thomas carry out his secret mission before conflict overtakes him?

Spanning the tumultuous medieval worlds of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, The Sugar Merchant is a tale of clashing cultures, massive economic change and one man’s determination to fulfill his destiny.

The 11th century world through which Thomas Woodward travels is changing; marked by the emergence of a disruptive commercial revolution. In the Mediterranean, the great Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam meet, often in cooperation and peace but, at times, in bloody conflict. It is an era of migration, globalism and multiculturalism leading to a robust interchange of technology, ideas and the basic tools of international trade. But, the interests of the Christian west are on a collision course with those of the Muslim world. War is coming. The Church is rallying the nobles of Europe to embark on an ‘armed pilgrimage’ to reclaim the Holy Land. Now, Thomas and his Muslim and Jewish partners’ lucrative sugar trade is in jeopardy. Thomas’s own secret and dangerous mission, directed from Rome, will become filled with even greater peril.

REVIEW

An intriguing tale of the 11th century, one that takes in bits of history that are not usual fare for this reviewer. The world of commerce, the world of mingling religions, the world of manuscript preservation – all of these story lines blended into the adventures of one remarkable protagonist, Thomas Woodward. The author gives a finely detailed look at not only the intricacies of world trade, but also the climatic clashes of the three “peoples of the book”, and the magnitude of the changes wrought by that clash.  While the main focus is on the trading enterprise, the huge demand for the new sensation, sugar being the ingredient that brings success to Thomas and his partners, it is also a cloak and dagger (or in Thomas’ case, a staff) espionage tale that adds a nice element of entertainment to the narrative. An excellent weaving of history and story telling, the reader is drawn into the inner turmoil Thomas experiences as his business success threatens his mortal soul. I recommend The Sugar Merchant – a delightful, yet thought provoking tale.  4 stars

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The Druid by Steven A. McKay

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Northern Britain, AD430

A land in turmoil. A village ablaze. A king’s daughter abducted.

In the aftermath of a surprise attack Dun Buic lies in smoking ruins and many innocent villagers are dead. As the survivors try to make sense of the night’s events the giant warrior-druid, Bellicus, is tasked with hunting down the raiders and thwarting their dark purpose.

With years of training in the old ways, two war-dogs at his side, and unsurpassed skill with a longsword, Bellicus’s quest will take him on a perilous journey through lands still struggling to cope with the departure of the Roman legions.

Meanwhile, amongst her brutal captors the little princess Catia finds an unlikely ally, but even he may not be able to avert the terrible fate King Hengist has in store for her.

This, the first volume in a stunning new series from the bestselling author of Wolf’s Head, explores the rich folklore and culture of post-Roman Britain, where blood-sacrifice, superstition and warfare were as much a part of everyday life as love, laughter and song.

As Saxon invaders and the new Christian religion seek to mould the country for their own ends one man will change the course of Britain’s history forever. . .

. . . THE DRUID.

REVIEW

When an author embarks on a new journey, a new set of stories and characters, it is a somewhat risky proposition. Can the author carry over the same creativity, the same character development, the same blend of historical authenticity and believable fiction. In The Druid, Mr. McKay has successfully ticked all of those boxes. It is at once a thrilling adventure, a romp through a volatile period of Britain’s history, but it is also a character driven tale. Bellicus is a complex man; a warrior, a healer, a teacher, a bard, a spiritual leader in an age where his kind are on the decline. The task awaiting him tests all of his abilities and his emotions as events unfold. One of the features I enjoyed was the inclusion of Merlin (or, more correctly The Merlin), and Arthur as important bit characters. Stripped of the more mythical renderings, they are more down to earth, so to speak.

So, my dear readers, if you were wondering if The Druid would be a continuation of the excellence in McKay’s Forest Lord series, wonder no more. 5 stars

The Dane Law by Garth Pettersen

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After a peaceful year running their Frisian estate, Harald and Selia are called to Engla-lond.

Their return is marked by violence and intrigue. The king has vowed to Queen Emma that their son, Harthacnute, will inherit the throne, but the atheling is cruel and reckless. Many view Harald as the better choice, which makes him a target for the unseen supporters of his half-brother. King Cnute urges Harald to be prepared to assume the throne should Harthacnute prove inadequate. Harald resists being swept up by forces beyond his control, but doubts he will survive the reign of King Hartha.

And what of his older brother, Sweyn?

REVIEW

Oh, the lengths one will go to if one longs for the crown, either for them self or their progeny. The Dane Law, as the blurb indicates, is the story of King Cnute’s sons and the tough decision to choose his successor. Well, that’s the main plot.  The author has crafted a tale that is so much more than that. It is also a love story, a story of determination and survival, a story of the duplicitous nature that is a royal court.  And, oh what a duplicitous lot of characters we have, my peeps.  Mind you, not all of the main characters are shady, unscrupulous, and single minded, but they sure make for an interesting, enjoyable, entertaining read.  Of the many things that I have found over the years that I’ve been reading and reviewing books, is the utmost pleasure derived from well developed characters, and The Dane Law certainly fulfills that criteria.  Of course, I felt like punching out the evildoer or at least screaming at their evil deeds and intentions, a sure sign that the author has done their job. 🙂

Another aspect of The Dane Law that, as a historian, I really appreciated was the use of  contemporary spellings of names and places. To me that reinforces the whole idea that England has such a long and varied history, and how that place evolved over the centuries to become what is is today, and the many other cultures influenced by that evolution. I might not know how to pronounce some of the names and places, however, I enjoy reading them all the same.  So, my dear reader prepare for a far flung adventure that has one turning pages in anticipation of what comes next in this tale, a lead up event to the Godwinson/William confrontation.  5 stars

The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell

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Their lives are ones of quiet contemplation—and brutal murder.

Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out—and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton, set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again—and again.

When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | CHAPTERS | INDIEBOUND

REVIEW

As the blurb indicates, our intrepid duo find themselves tasked with solving a murder. This time within the confines of a very secluded, snowed in, Cistercian Monastery. Their task becomes even more grisly – the culprit isn’t finished yet. The tale, as befits a whodunit, is full of suspects, motives, and frustration on the part of Barling and Stanton. The author also paints a vivid picture of the austere, Spartan-like atmosphere of the lives of The White Monks and the harsh existence of the lay laborers. It is certainly a page turning mystery, each new chapter revealing another clue, or in some cases the horrible death of one I thought might be the killer.  🙂 In one of the more poignant moments in the series to date, we are brought face to face with the mysterious past of Aelred Barling, but as Eric Idle said repeatedly, “Say no more.” – no spoilers allowed.   I enjoyed the first book, The King’s Justice, I enjoyed this one even more.  5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 5 copies of Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

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The Tory by T.J. London

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THE TORY BY T.J. LONDON

Publication Date: April 11, 2018
Peperback & eBook; 517 Pages

Series: The Rebels and Redcoats Saga, Book #1
Genre: Historical Fiction

It is the winter of 1776, and Captain John Carlisle, one of His Majesty’s not-so-finest, has gone back to the scene of the crime to right a wrong so dark it left a permanent stain on what was once an illustrious career and left a man broken, defeated, in search of justice…

In an effort to win back his commission, he must discover the true nature of the relationship between the Six Nations of the Iroquois and the Colonial Army. Undercover as a war profiteer, John travels to the treacherous Mohawk River Valley and infiltrates local society, making friends with those he’s come to betray.

But a chance meeting with a beautiful half Oneida innkeeper, whose tragic history is integrally linked to his own, will provide him with the intelligence he needs to complete his mission—and devastate her people.

Now, as the flames of war threaten to consume the Mohawk Valley, John has the chance to not only serve King and country, but to clear his name. When the truth he uncovers ties his own secrets to those in the highest positions of the British military and threatens the very life of the woman he’s come to love, he will be forced to make a choice…

“The pages fly as you immerse yourself in this fantastic adventure.” – RT Book Review

MY REVIEW

At first I was slightly hesitant about reading this book, at least for the time being, as I am in the process of writing my own novel set during the American Revolution. However, once I determined that the subject matter for The Tory was sufficiently different from mine, my reticence disappeared. Besides, the author and I share hometowns, so how could I say no.  🙂

I  was riveted to this tale from the beginning; a different look at the Revolution, one that takes place on the frontier and features the involvement of the Iroquois Confederacy; especially the tribe that sided with the colonists, The Oneida. I can’t say enough about the emotional suffering, mental anguish, and physical trauma that the two main protagonists endure in this tense drama. There are many sub-plots that are seamlessly weaved into the narrative that highlight the very complicated, increasingly dangerous situation facing John and Dellis. It is, boys and girls, a page turning tale, though I did stop once in a while to catch my breath.  🙂  Meticulously researched, engaging subject matter, and best of all, a tale that will continue in the sequel, The Traitor, I think you will thoroughly enjoy The Tory.  5 Stars

 

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About the Author

T.J. London is a rebel, liberal, lover, fighter, diehard punk, and pharmacist-turned-author who loves history. As an author her goal is to fill in the gaps, writing stories about missing history, those little places that are so interesting yet sadly forgotten. Her favorite time periods to write in are first and foremost the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, the French and Indian War, the Russian Revolution and the Victorian Era. Her passions are traveling, writing, reading, barre, and sharing a glass of wine with her friends, while she collects experiences in this drama called life. She is a native of Metropolitan Detroit (but secretly dreams of being a Londoner) and resides there with her husband Fred and her beloved cat and writing partner Mickey.

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Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 3 sets of both books in Paperback, 3 sets of both books in eBook, and a $50 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 16th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– Only one entry per household.
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