The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith

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The sequel to I Am Livia continues to follow the reign of Octavian/Augustus Caesar and is told from the perspective of three of the important women in his life; Livia, his wife; Julia, his daughter; and the daughter of Cleopatra and Antony, Cleopatra Selene.  Once again I was enthralled with the author’s ability to take a period of history and make it come alive with all of the emotion, the fears, the makings of a dynastic family amid constant turmoil.  The portrayals of the main figures in this at times triumphant; at times tragic tale, are redolent with realism; it could have happened this way.  Livia is a true help mate for Tavius; Julia a daughter whose frustration at being just a tool for her father searches for passion; Cleopatra Selene brought up with no hope of plotting her own future finds purpose and happiness.  The Daughters of Palatine Hill is a masterful rendition; the author possesses the knack for keeping the reader thoroughly entertained; a page turning delight as the story progresses to Julia’s banishment.  A well done tale indeed.  4.8 stars and a Hoover Book Review hope that there is more forthcoming from Phyllis T. Smith.

 

Fire and Steel – King’s Bane 1 by C.R. May

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The 6th century was a time of migration as many groups sought to better their prospects by moving to a more favorable location.  Of course, those favorable locations were either; already occupied, or being sought by more than one group.  This was especially true of northern Europe and the island of Britain.  Fire and Steel brings this migratory/conflict filled era to life in the person of an English/Angle/Engeln warrior, Eofer; nicknamed King’s Bane for his killing of the Swedish King during an attempt by the Swedes to migrate.  The English, under their king, Eomaer, are making plans to relocate from their home on the Jutland Peninsula to the bountiful, fertile island across the sea, Britannia but need to settle things with their enemies, The Jutes and The Danes first.  A tale packed with action; be it crashing shield walls, individual combat or heroic deeds, the author paints a picture filled with bloodied swords and spears but also the picture of the camaraderie of the ale house and the loyalty to one’s lord or king.  In King’s Bane 1, Mr.May has set the stage and I eagerly await the next act.  4.4stars

Divided Empire by Brian Kitchen

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A scintillating story of adventure in the late 4th century as agents of the Emperor try to piece together a plot to bring back Pagan worship to Britannia and to retrieve a document that identifies the leaders.  Plenty of twists and surprises as Flavius and friends find there is more to it than meets the eye and people aren’t always who or what they seem.  Action galore awaits as the team travels in pursuit of a mysterious woman and a gang of vicious cut throats who also want that document, at any price.  Well written characters and a nice descriptive narrative have me convinced to read book two.  3.8 stars

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 Portuguese Affair (The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez Book 3)Ann Swinfen

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The third book in this marvelously crafted series finds Christoval/Kit part of an expedition being led by Francis Drake and John Norreys; the goals are to play havoc with what remains of the Spanish Navy after the defeat of The Armada and to place the rightful King of Portugal (rightful in the eyes of England) back on his throne.  From the outset, Kit is faced with disease, death, suffering and the very poor decisions made by the leaders of the force they command.  The author has once again published a story that while it is easy to read, is full of drama and excitement.  Imagine you are on a ship heading back to England, having had very little success in the mission and filled with the unwanted remnants of the conscript army with no food and only a little water.  The author places the reader alongside Kit making it possible to experience the untold misery; not only to the poor soldiers but to Kit’s over burdened mind.  There is much that Kit goes through that would have brought low many others.  A tale that has the reader turning the pages in anticipation of the twists and turns of the plot and in appreciation of an author with a great imagination and the wherewithal to put that imagination on paper.  It is also a tale that has the reader reaching for book four as the author has once again penned a last sentence full of mystery and foreboding.  5 stars

The Wolf Banner by Paula Lofting

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It seems that just about everyone wanted to rule England…the French, the Godwins, Edward and his heirs, the Danes.  It also seems that anything that could go wrong for Wulfhere does go wrong.  In the sequel to Sons of the Wolf, the author pulls out all the stops and delivers a scintillating run up to the cataclysmic events coming in 1066.  Wulfhere is a prime example of the range of emotions the author uses to bring the reader into the mindsets of the main and bit players in this chaotic, uncertain time.  A champion fighter, respected thegn and loyal servant to the King, Wulfhere endures much turmoil and suffering and has to dig deep to survive everything thrown at him.  The author also gives the reader a penetrating glimpse of the dance between the parties vying for power; be it the throne of England or the Earldom of Mercia.  Duplicity, underhanded dealings, and the pragmatic approach to the politics of the day are dealt with in an informative and entertaining fashion.  A page turning delight awaits, dear reader.  4.3 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”