The True Soldier by Paul Fraser Collard

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I have followed Jack Lark to many places and events about which I knew very little; The Crimean War, trouble in Persia, revolt in India, Solferino, Italy, and the stews and gin palaces of London.  Now, because of a promise made to a dying man, Jack is in my neck of the woods; Boston, Massachusetts and just in time for a war I do know about; The Civil War.  Through the influence of the father of the dying man, Jack becomes not only a sergeant in the army, but also the protector of the dying man’s brother. You could say that Jack is less than under whelmed by the readiness and experience of this newly formed unit, and in his own lovable brusque manner attempts to make that point. You could say that his new comrades are less than enthused by his doom and gloom attitude. The author has crafted an engaging tale focusing on the early days of the war with all the pomp and ceremony as the crowds cheer their sons, husbands, fathers, and sweethearts onto what they all believe will be a short, victorious campaign. He has also presented those early days in a well researched manner; I especially enjoyed the riot in Baltimore. It’s not one of those familiar bits of the era and the author portrays it in admirable fashion. Along with that and the 1st Battle of Bull Run the reader is brought into the action in all it’s sound and fury. Jack, at times not knowing what to do with his life, rediscovers the plain facts; he can lead men into that maw of death and destruction, and he can still become a perpetrator of that death and destruction. A marvelous tale indeed with well rounded characters, entertaining plots, and the promise of more Jack to come.

5 stars

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The Last Legionnaire by Paul Fraser Collard

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Ahh, home sweet home.  Jack is back in London; back with his mother; back to Mary.  Settled in and working at the gin joint owned by his mother, life has taken a turn for the good for Jack – or has it? The part of London Jack inhabits has it’s own problems, ones that Jack cannot overcome; ones that drive Jack back to The Devil. If you have followed along with Jack Lark, you know that there is one thing that he is good at, killing.  In The Last Legionnaire, Jack finds himself in another war, ostensibly to find a man and get him out of harm’s way and back to England.  A simple enough mission.  Yeah right.  The author has once again crafted a fast paced, emotional drama that had me pulled in by the end of chapter one.  The horrors of war are laid bare in this French versus Austria/Hungary tussle.  The methods of battle that Jack is used to have been changed by the rifling of musket barrels and cannon.  Massive destructive power now enhanced and much more deadly.  Jack is back in his element, though the price is steep; mentally and physically.

A superb tale full of surprises, and certainly entertaining awaits you dear reader. 5 Stars

The Lone Warrior by Paul Fraser Collard

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Even as a civilian Jack Lark finds himself enmeshed in mayhem.  Caught up in a large scale mutiny by native contingents of the British Army in the city of Delhi, Jack is thrust once more into the gaping maw of bloody warfare.  As in the other books in this enthralling series, the author doesn’t stint when it comes to the brutality on a battlefield, nor in Jack’s battle lust inspired prowess at killing.  The author also continues to refine Jack’s character to a point where the reader can really begin to feel the anguish he suffers; the joy of having someone to live for and the pain that results from it, the conflicting emotional results of his place in the army.  Does he belong there?  Does he belong anywhere?  Many were the times I had to put the book down (okay, close my Kindle), and take a breath.  This series started out great; it has only gotten better. I, for one, can’t wait to read the next one.  5 stars

The Devil’s Assassin by Paul Fraser Collard

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I’ve read some books that are slow out of the gate but build momentum as the pages turn…this is not one of those…this one starts fast and never lets up.  The action is relentless, whether it’s Jack one on one (or 2 or 3) with an adversary or whether it’s a full blown battle scene, the author keeps you riveted.  Now, that’s not to say that this the only reason for reading this book…not at all.  Mr. Collard incorporates some nifty plot twists and surprises to keep the reader guessing.  Briefly, Jack, through circumstances I won’t divulge for spoiler reasons becomes seconded to an army spymaster affectionately known as The Devil.  There is a spy or spies in the camp of the British force in their conflict with Persia and it is Jack’s job to ferret the spy or spies out before a major battle.  I thought I had it figured out, indeed I did have it figured out…oh but wait; no I didn’t…that’s what I loved about this book, the way the author plays out the final scenario.  In addition we get a further glimpse into what makes Jack tick and I suspect that will continue as the series progresses.  Kudos to the author for another sterling effort.  5 stars

The Maharajah’s General by Paul Fraser Collard

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Jack is back.  He survived the Alma River battle on The Crimean Peninsula and being the enterprising and resourceful person he is, assumes the name and rank of an unfortunate Captain who perished before reaching his post in India.  The British colonization of India is not a subject I have read much of, in fact my knowledge of the period can be attributed to Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Rudyard Kipling in the movie The Man Who Would be King, so it was with eager anticipation that I read the second volume of this splendid series; not only because of the location but I wanted to find out how our hero fared in his new disguise.  He emerged from book one knowing that he could indeed lead men in battle and that he is an accomplished killer, both attributes are put to good use in The Maharajah’s General.  Mr. Collard has written a tale that is an easy flowing, riveting one that is hard to put down once you pick it up.  The character of Jack Lark continues to develop into one of my favorite historical-fiction protagonists, one who becomes more sure of himself as he continues the path of deception he has chosen, though it does play a little havoc on any long term relationships.  🙂  5 stars with a Hoover Book Review admonition – read this series, I for one will be continuing with it in book 3, The Devil’s Assassin.

The Scarlet Thief by Paul Fraser Collard

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Other than the fact that The Crimean War took place, I know nothing about it. Heck, my fine American public school education in history barely mentioned Waterloo.  So, once again I ventured into unknown historical-fiction territory as I, after being poked and prodded for months to do so by various sources, finally picked up The Scarlet Thief by Paul Fraser Collard.  I must offer a public thank you to those various sources for their sage advice.  The author has delivered an exciting tale; one of those books that had me reading farther into the night than I had intended; one of those books that had me searching ahead to see how long the next chapter was in an attempt to convince myself to put the damn bookmark in and get some sleep.  Jack Lark, the protagonist in this series, a lowly army orderly finds himself in a position to rise above his station(I am going to be intentionally vague about details so as to not deal out spoilers).  Thus he finds himself as a captain and leader of a fusilier company on the Crimean Peninsula as the British, French and Turkish armies converge on Sevastopol to try to wrest it from the Russians.  Mr. Collard does a fine job in setting up the circumstances leading to this point complete with a nasty piece of work who can threaten to expose Jack’s identity thereby creating an exciting sub-plot during the battle at the Alma River. Now, as good as the book is through the first three-quarters of it, the author really steps it up a notch during the climatic battle including the horrors endured and the heroic actions as the three armies cross the Alma.  It is an excellent example of how battle plans are rendered useless as chaos is the only battle plan that emerges during the ensuing carnage.  I have read many battles by many different authors over the years and this one ranks among my favorites and is a foreshadowing of the horrific battles in the next decade’s Civil War in America.  Kudos to Paul Fraser Collard and my apologies for not getting to this sooner.

5-stars and a hearty Hoover Book Review recommendation.

About the author:

Paul’s love of military history started at an early age. A childhood spent watching films like Waterloo and Zulu whilst reading Sharpe, Flashman and the occasional Commando comic, gave him a desire to know more of the men who fought in the great wars of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. At school, Paul was determined to become an officer in the British army and he succeeded in winning an Army Scholarship. However, Paul chose to give up his boyhood ambition and instead went into the finance industry. Paul stills works in the City, and lives with his wife and three children in Kent.

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