The Sailing Master – Book One – Coming of Age by Lee Henschel Jr.

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Years ago I read Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series and was captivated by the vivid portrayal of life on a British warship. In The Sailing Master-Coming of Age I found that same vivid portrayal and was once again transported to an age when nations relied on their navies for protection and for exploration. The author gives a wonderful account of what it took to man and sail a warship, often in chaotic conditions. While O’Brian focused on the doings of and the relationship between the captain and his surgeon/spy, the focus here is on the crew; especially the young boys who live a rough existence doing the bidding of officers and crew.  The protagonist, Owen Harriet, is taken on as cabin boy for his uncle, the captain of the frigate Eleanor. It’s a tough learning curve for a 12 year old when he finds himself alone and fearful. However, his innate intelligence is put to use as he is tutored by Eleanor’s sailing master, and in a nice twist he gets involved in espionage with a mysterious diplomatic passenger.  The author, by his descriptive abilities, makes the reader feel the roll of the ship in heavy seas, entertains the reader with the conversational patois of the crew, and shows the reader the best and the worst qualities of the men on Eleanor. I really enjoyed this book, a tale of many layers, and not just a few surprises. 5 stars

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Alba is Mine by Jen Black

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An entertaining tale that puts the reader in the midst of an attempt to claim the kingship of Alba.  Finlay was once the principal heir of Malcolm II, but was pushed aside for the scheming Duncan. The ensuing struggle is played out on many levels; not just the political angle, but also on cultural and even personal levels. The author has imbued the story with a bounty of great characters who bring out the sense and feel of 11th century Scotland.  Along with the intrigue and chaos there is also the story of two people struggling to reconcile their duties as noble born with their past, and with the love growing between them. Indeed, dear reader, you will be thoroughly engrossed in this tale of Alba.  4 stars

The Cold Light of Dawn-The King’s Greatest Enemy IV – by Anna Belfrage

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It is with great pleasure that I begin this HFVBT of the latest from Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy.

First, a brief summary:

After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king.

My Review:

One of the things I like to do while driving is to look for hawks in the trees or soaring overhead. There is a small copse of trees in the median between the north and south bound lanes of I-95 near exit 19 in MA where I have observed a pair of red tail hawks perching near each other. Today confirmed that they are a breeding pair as they were going at it when I drove by. I thought it was so romantic that I decided to name them Kit and Adam after the main protagonists in Anna Belfrage‘s series The King’s Greatest Enemy.  It is only fitting given the fact that throughout the course of this brilliant series, it becomes very apparent that Kit and Adam really, really like each other. An important aspect to the story, their struggles; emotionally and physically, are but a piece of the tense filled atmosphere surrounding the royal court. Thinking that Edward III is still too young to rule without their guidance and powerful influence, Mortimer and Isabella seek out the plots that would bring them down. Adam is torn between his love (and first allegiance) for Mortimer and his sworn oath and loyalty to Edward; Kit is torn between her duty to Queen Phillipa and her feelings toward Isabella. Throw in a few plot twists – strained friendships; return of old enemies; extreme physical endurance, to go along with the strains and schisms at court and you, my dear reader, are in for a page turning, emotional roller coaster ride of a tale.  5 Stars and the highly sought after Hoover Book Review’s “It’s tough to put this book down” Award.

About the Author

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Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 26
Review at Historical Fiction Reviews

Tuesday, February 27
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, February 28
Review at A Holland Reads

Thursday, March 1
Feature at What Is That Book About

Friday, March 2
Review at Book Drunkard

Monday, March 5
Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, March 6
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, March 7
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, March 9
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Monday, March 12
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, March 13
Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, March 15
Feature at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 16
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, March 19
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, March 21
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, March 22
Review at Back Porchervations

Friday, March 23
Feature at Button Eyed Reader

Monday, March 26
Review at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, March 28
Review at Broken Teepee
Review at Impressions In Ink

Friday, March 30
Review at Bookramblings

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a complete set of The King’s Greatest Enemy series to one winner & two winners will win a paperback copy of The Cold Light of Dawn! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Wrath of the Furies by Robert Southworth

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Powerful men will do whatever it takes to maintain or increase their power – even if it destroys an entire Legion.  Wrath of the Furies follows the exploits of a newly appointed magistrate; charged by Hadrian to administer justice to all segments of Roman society, no matter how rich or poor.  Lucius is not a brave man, nor is he a powerful one, but he does possess the intelligence and perseverance to succeed.  A fast paced mystery awaits the reader as Lucius and his crew struggle to identify the man or men responsible for the destruction of the legion while a brutal killer hunts the same men. A tale paved with frustrating stops and starts for the investigators; twists and turns in the plot, surprises galore and an exciting, climatic conclusion.  I look forward to the sequel.  4.3 stars

That Woman by Wayne Clark

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That Woman

2017 Book Excellence Awards Finalist for Fiction

2017 Winner 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading

A brief synopsis of the tale:

Kidnapped in France and brought to America as an indentured servant, a young woman takes on the brutal merchant king of New York’s East River waterfront…

Illness suddenly deprives 17-year-old Sarah Da Silva and her older brother Jacob of a mother. Before Sarah has come to terms with that loss, her merchant father grows frail and increasingly desperate in the face of impending bankruptcy. On the rainy night their father scours the docks of Bordeaux, France, to make his final bid to save his family, his children are kidnapped and forced onto a ship bound for New York City where they’ll be separated and sold to the highest bidder as indentured labor.

Purchased by a grotesque merchant whose wealth, backed by a team of henchmen, allows him to dominate the chaotic East River docks, Sarah strikes back the only way she can. Vowing to never allow him to put his hands on her again, she presses a knife to his fat neck. She demands her freedom, a roof over her head and the means to start a business. Her leverage? Knowledge obtained on the voyage that would bring the big man to his knees forever. He yields to her demands but privately swears to become her worst nightmare.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

My review:

I’ve been studying American history for near 60 years.  Granted that most of what I was taught in school was rote dates, events and people, not a deep look into the causes of those events or what it was actually like to live during those events.  That’s why I love well researched historical-fiction.  A good author can transport the reader into those lives; the conditions they live in; their hopes and fears.  I was transported in That Woman to a time, and place that I know a bit about having published a novel that covers The French & Indian War – an event that takes place almost immediately after the conclusion to That Woman – and was able still to come away with fresh insights as to colonial life in New York during the mid 18th century. I also came away with the thought that the characters were written superbly – they belong in that time and place.  The tale moves along at a brisk pace as Sarah seeks to recover from the ordeals she has suffered.  The plot, set against the backdrop of the mercantile world of the busiest port in the colonies, has many elements and a few nice twists making That Woman a compelling read and a look at some history that is often ignored.  4.3 Stars

 

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Award-winning author Wayne Clark was born in 1946 in Ottawa, Ont., but has called Montreal home since 1968. Woven through that time frame in no particular order have been interludes in Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Germany, Holland and Mexico.

By far the biggest slice in a pie chart of his career would be labelled journalism, including newspapers and magazines, as a reporter, editor and freelance writer. The other, smaller slices of the pie would also represent words in one form or another, in advertising as a copywriter and as a freelance translator. However, unquantifiable in a pie chart would be the slivers and shreds of time stolen over the years to write fiction.

For more information, please visit Wayne Clark’s website and blog. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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The Great War Won-Who Desires Peace by James Emerson Loyd

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A meticulously researched tale of WW1, The Great War Won is a page turning look at the year 1918 and the behind the scenes machinations of the various powers attempting to end the war. The tale is told mainly through the eyes of a German Intelligence Officer, General Von Treptow, though not exclusively as Britain’s Minister of Munitions, Churchill, and the newly arrived American commander, General Black Jack Pershing are also part of the narrative.  The characters are a joy to read; from those in the military to the many civilians involved in the action and suspense.  Fast paced action, witty repartee and a historical perspective that delves into the collapse of Russia and the rise of the many Socialist/Bolshevik factions seeking to destroy the world order makes for not only an entertaining read, but an informative one as well.  While the plots, subplots, and various twists and turns thereof kept this reader enthralled, I was also taken by the flashbacks to points earlier in the War – the Churchill encounter during The Battle of the Somme is but one fine example of background character development utilized by the author.

I didn’t know what to expect when I was approached to read and review this story (the first of a trilogy).  WW1 hasn’t typically been an era I usually read about, but Mr Loyd has reeled me in.  I will definitely be reading the remaining two book in the series.  4.7 Stars

Sailing to Sarantium – The Sarantine Mosaic Book 1 by Guy Gavriel Kay

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I read a lot of fiction, mostly historical-fiction, but also some fantasy/historical-fiction; fiction that takes on the feel of history, events that could have happened, cultures and people that could have existed.  Such is Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay; a work that has the look and feel of a Roman/Byzantine world, but that also carries a look at contemporary issues such as religion and it’s hold on humanity through the ages.  An excellent example of this can be found in a discussion between an architect and the Patriarch concerning the proposed ideas for the dome of a new sanctuary, “Deference becomes you,” said Artibasos, mildly enough. “It might be worth cultivating.  It is customary – except perhaps among clerics – to have opinions preceded by knowledge.” I don’t know about you, my peeps and fellow travelers, but that speaks volumes to current affairs in 2018 America, if not the world.

I read a lot of different authors; a lot of different writing styles and strengths, some who move me with their descriptive abilities, others with the depth of their characters, or their grasp of fine dialogue.  What I have found in my reading of Mr. Kay is an author who moves me with all of those things, but especially the beauty of his narrative; his “way with words”.  I cannot begin to count the number of times I would read a passage, pause, reread, and then pause again to allow the flow of words to both fill me with wonder, and with just a smidgen of jealousy (I too, fancy myself as an author).

Sailing to Sarantium is a complex tale, filled with surprises; with the full range of human emotion, and human experiences – emotions and experiences that can be carried over to modern times – a time of wonder, but also a time of uncertainty. I can hardly wait to read the sequel.  5 Stars  – BTW the chariot race chapter is worth the price of admission.  🙂