Roma Amor by Sherry Christie

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Whenever I think of Caligula, I see John Hurt’s I,Claudius portrayal, one of a madman ruling an empire.  In Roma Amor, we find a different Caligula, one who is still working out how to be Emperor while trying to keep at bay the tormenting demons in his mind.  This story, while it is certainly about Caligula, is more than that.  Marcus Carinna returns to Rome, a successful military campaign completed and hostages in tow and finds himself in a struggle to find the truth about his family and the truth behind Caligula’s rise to power.  It is also a tale of loyalties, mostly misspent loyalties, to the greater good of Rome.  I found it easy to like Carinna and likewise felt the pain and anguish he experiences throughout the book.  Indeed, that is one of the strengths of the story, that the characters, real and fictitious, are believable; no matter their station or role.  The plots and subplots keep the reader guessing as Carinna and Caligula head into a clash of wills; a clash that an emperor usually wins…but I will leave it at that.  3.8 stars

Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

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With the deposing of Edward II, the ruler over England is now Edward III, though he is ruled by his mother Queen Isabella and her lover, the formidable Lord Mortimer.  Adam now serves the young King, his loyalty is resolute even though he still harbors great affection for Mortimer.  In this, the third tale of Adam and his wife Kit, the author brings to life the increasing tension in the royal court as Edward III comes of an age where he longs to shed his keepers and take up the mantle of kingship on his own.  It is a story filled with twists and turns; the emotional frailties of the human spirit; the battle for control of the crown; the longing for home and loved ones.  It is also a story of love and romance; Isabella and Mortimer, Edward and his young wife Phillipa, and most especially between Adam and Kit.  The author is on her game when it comes to the foibles and joys of the bonds of love.  An eloquent, page turning drama awaits the reader, though I must admit to having to stop turning pages when Kit and Adam are – well you’ll see for yourself.  🙂  I’ve come to appreciate the amazing talent Anna Belfrage has exhibited in drawing me into the stories she writes, and Under the Approaching Dark is another fine example of that talent.  5 stars

The First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson

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I attended Knox Presbyterian Church in Detroit, MI when I was young; indeed it was the church in which I was married, so, reading about the life of John Knox seemed like an interesting thing to do.  What I found, in The First Blast of the Trumpet, was far more than just a historical fiction biography.  Scotland in the mid-16th century was filled with religious and political turmoil.  It was an era of burgeoning church reform; building on the Lutheran reformation in Germany.  It was also a time when Henry VIII of England wanted Scotland for his own.  In this turbulent atmosphere the author has produced a wonderfully crafted tale; one that propels the reader into a world where the Church is beginning to lose it’s grip on the populace; a world where Scotland is struggling to maintain its independence; a world where the reader experiences life in a Cicstercian Abbey.  While this is the story of John Knox, the main character in the first book of this trilogy, is Elizabeth Hepburn, Prioress of St. Mary’s Abbey.  I fell in love with Lisbeth right from the start, a jaggy thistle with romantic dreams but whose future was not hers to control.  As the story progresses and the jaggy thistle grows up, Elizabeth becomes what was a rarity in a male dominated society; a strong woman able to defy and even defeat her male counterparts and overlords.  Yet, she is also a woman troubled by that romantic streak she maintains in memory and even in hope.  The story is also full of the dramatic tension between the corrupt officials of the Church and the reformers.  John Knox was destined for a life in the Church but doubts about the teachings of the Church and the influence of others leads him to turn his back on the Church and by extension his Godmother, Elizabeth.  Naturally, the Church responds viscerally as heretics are now burning for their sins.  This emotion packed look into the early life of Knox; this tale filled with unexpected turns; this work replete with characters who draw you into their world, comes with Hoover Book Reviews highest recommendation.  4.8 stars

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention? forewarn? my peeps and fellow travelers of the enchanting use of archaic Scottish throughout the book.  I jalouse you may want to keep Google nearby if you want to ken the meanings.  🙂

 

 

Rosa by Jeanette Taylor Ford

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Every once in a while I am drawn out of my cocoon, the comfort zone of my favorite reading genres.  In this case I was asked by the author to give Rosa a try despite it being a modern day mystery/romance tale…far from the ancient times, places and subject matter I usually frequent.  Rosa certainly got my attention right away as the story sort of begins at the end giving the reader a kind of heads up that there may be opportunities to try and guess what’s going to happen next.  However, the author doesn’t make it easy to guess correctly as she provides many clues, twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages.  The characters are well thought out as are the descriptive portions of the narrative as the reader follows Rosa around the estate and surrounding countryside.  I won’t go into spoiler mode about the eventual solving of the mysterious goings on at the manor…suffice to say that it caught me by surprise having formed a different outcome in my own mind as I read the tale.  I guess it is okay to step outside one’s normal habits and try something different on occasion.  4 stars

The Fire and the Light by Glen Craney

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I found myself in unfamiliar territory regarding location, time and subject while reading The Fire and the Light, not that that is a bad thing.  The 13th Century is not my normal reading period, French history is not my usual subject and the Albigensian Crusade is just a distant history lesson long since forgotten.  What I found in picking up this book is a marvelous story by Mr. Craney.  He has taken the bits and pieces of this historical event and has crafted a tale worthy enough to be thought of as actual history, rather than fiction.  The characters are superbly written, from the spiritual leader of the Cathars, Esclarmonde, to the dastardly members of the Church seeking to destroy her and her band of heretics.  The emotions and the conflicts engendered by the Cathar beliefs are true high points in the narrative; the giving up of everything, including those you love, the willingness to die for those beliefs, the extreme suffering endured…all of this and more kept me enthralled and entertained throughout the tale.  Once again, I found myself immersed in a setting so brutally real that I would put the book down for a bit, catch my breath before returning to it.  4.7 stars and a Hoover Book Review “Highly Recommended Award”

 

 

The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn

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The sequel to The Serpent and the Pearl continues the trials and tribulations of the three main characters, Giulia Farnese, Carmelina and Leonello, all of whom play prominent roles in the lives of the Borgia clan.  Kate Quinn has delivered a masterful look at the historical timeline of Pope Alexander, the sixth of that name, and has filled in the gaps with stunning results. Edge of the seat drama coupled with exquisite glimpses of the pomp of the Vatican Court and the powerlessness of those who serve.  Hardhearted cruelty, tenacious loyalty and love being found in all the wrong places are some of the highlights that await you, dear reader.

In all of the Kate Quinn books that I have read prior to this I have felt a twinge of envy for her very talented Muse and The Lion and the Rose was no different.  Kudos for another well written series.  4.8 stars

 

 

Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn

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There are times when this humble scribe finds it difficult to articulate or to even come close to the right words to use.  This is one of those times.  Kate Quinn has delivered a masterpiece of a series that culminates in Lady of the Eternal City.  There aren’t many books that reduce me to tears or has me screaming in disbelief but  Kate has done those things to me repeatedly throughout.  On top of the emotions, she also has me believing that this is the way things might have actually happened.  That’s what comes out of a fiction so well written; so well researched.  I cannot recommend the Empress of Rome series highly enough but you must begin with book one; otherwise you will miss out on the muse inspired character developments, the emotion touching prose, the elegance of language that permeates all four books.  I, for one, will have this series on my To Read Again List.  5 Stars