India Black and the Widow of Windsor by Carol K. Carr

reviews 1 Comment 21st August, 2014

india blackIndia Black and the Widow of Windsor (Madam of Espionage Mysteries 2) by Carol K. Carr

When Queen Victoria attends a séance, the spirit of her departed husband, Prince Albert, insists she spend Christmas at their Scottish home in Balmoral, a deviation from her usual practice. The prime minister suspects Scottish nationalists are planning to assassinate the Queen-and sends the ever resourceful India and the handsome British spy French to the Scottish highlands undercover.

French will take the high road, looking for a traitor among the guests-and India will take the low road, disguised as a servant in case an assassin is hiding among the household staff. For her part, India doesn’t need a medium to predict that someone at Balmoral is determined that this Christmas will be Her Majesty’s last… (back cover)

When Queen Victoria suddenly decides to spend her Christmas in Scotland, the prime minister gets worried that nationalists try to assassinate the queen. He enlists the help of India and French to prevent that from happening. India will play the part of housemaid to an old marchioness who spends most of her waking hours snuffing anything possible.

Finally I got to read the second book! And it didn’t disappoint me! Can’t believe it took me so long.

It was fun seeing India trying play the servant part. She’s surely no servant material. The old marchioness was so much fun! I loved the interaction between India and the marchioness.

We see more flirting between India and French which started in the previous book. I’m curious to see how this will turn out but I hope we get to see them together at some point. I also want to know more about their past. There was some hints but I hope we will learn more at some point.

I think this was little tamer book than the first one and less snarky but not too much. But we don’t see India as a madam here so that may explain the tamer aspect.

4/5

Published: Berkley (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 309
Source: my own

Mailbox Monday (18.8)

meme 7 Comments 18th August, 2014

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is now hosted on its own blog.

All the books were bought from my shopping trip to Helsinki.

books

The Queen Of Four Kingdoms by Michael of Kent
The Path of Anger by Antoine Rouaud
The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen by Susan Bordo
Fatal Rivalry, Flodden 1513: Henry VIII, James IV and the battle for Renaissance Britain by George Goodwin
13 by Kelley Armstrong

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

reviews 2 Comments 15th August, 2014

sisters of treason

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Freemantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for. (publisher)

Jane Grey is executed after reigning only for nine days and her family is left behind tainted as traitors. The remaining Grey sisters grew up in the court under the suspicious eyes of the queen(s) but their mother’s confidante, Levina, looks after them.

The story is told by 3 people: Katherine Grey, Mary Grey and court painter Levina Teerlinc and it worked well for this book.

My favourite was definitely Mary and I really wished it could have ended happily for her. Being crook backed definitely didn’t make things easy for her and people can be so cruel. And yet she remained kind and gentle despite everything. Her sister’s death had deep impact on her and taught how dangerous it can be to have royal blood in your veins.

Katherine was the type that thinks with her heart and not with her head, and it can be dangerous when you’re so close to the throne. She was little shallow and empty headed and I wished she would have listened Mary’s warnings. Her chapters were my least favourite and I think the weakest link in the book.

I really liked how the sisters’ mother Frances Grey was portrayed. She was shown as caring and loving mother who deeply mourned her daughter and it was nice to see her friendship with Levina who was “just” a court painter and not noble born.

This was truly enjoyable book and I look forward reading The Queen’s Gambit which I already own.

4/5

Published: Simon & Schuster (2014)
Format: ebook
Source: netgalley

Mailbox Monday (11.8)

meme 6 Comments 11th August, 2014

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is now hosted on its own blog.

These are new books I’ve got in the past month or so. I can’t remember the last time I’ve bought a crime book! But it sounds so good I had to buy it.

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (bookmooch)
Blood Loss by Alex Barclay (purchased)
The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Murder that Changed the World by Greg King, Sue Woolmans (purchased)
Drakenfeld by Mark Charan Newton (purchased)
Legacy by Susan Kay (bookmooch)

Missing from the photo:

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick (bought)
The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France by Eric Jager (bookmooch)

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion

reviews 2 Comments 31st July, 2014

A Triple Knot

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion

Joan of Kent, renowned beauty and cousin to King Edward III, is destined for a politically strategic marriage. As the king begins a long dynastic struggle to claim the crown of France, plunging England into the Hundred Years’ War, he negotiates her betrothal to a potential ally and heir of a powerful lordship.

But Joan, haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution at the hands of her treacherous royal kin, fears the king’s selection and is not resigned to her fate. She secretly pledges herself to one of the king’s own knights, one who has become a trusted friend and protector. Now she must defend her vow as the king—furious at Joan’s defiance—prepares to marry her off to another man.

In A Triple Knot, Emma Campion brings Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent” to glorious life, deftly weaving details of King Edward III’s extravagant court into a rich and emotionally resonant tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal. (publisher)

I have to say that I read pretty much anything about Edward III or the Black Prince and I really want to read more about them but I only barely could finish this.

Even if Ned, The Black Prince or Queen Philippa wasn’t portrayed like I’ve thought them to be, I could have liked this. Even The Black Prince throwing tantrums at every possible moment wasn’t enough but I just couldn’t like Joan. What a naïve, little idiot. Over half of the book she spent pining for Holland and the other half she was scared of Ned. She moved very quickly from being scared of Ned to lusting after Holland was dead. Just saying…

Joan and Holland were honestly surprised about how much their marriage was being objected. Like Holland said at some point “I didn’t know the King cared that much” or something like that. Umm, you marry the king’s cousin without permission and you think he won’t mind? Idiots.

The book would have been much more interesting told from Queen Philippa’s POV and to see why she did the things she did. Joan just wasn’t interesting enough to carry the book.

1/5

Published: Broadway Books (2014)
Format: ebook
Source: netgalley

The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty

Uncategorized 4 Comments 24th July, 2014

02_The Bone Church

The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty

In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.

But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.

The book follows two timelines where Felix tries to rescue Magdalena from Czechoslovakia, first during WWII in 1943-1944 and then in 1956. Felix is a hockey player star who played for the national team and during the war he gets involved with an attempt to assassinate Joseph Goebbels and years after he goes back to Czechoslovakia looking for Magdalena and her son who were partially Jewish.

I really enjoyed reading this book and there was never a dull moment. There’s assassination attempts, gunshots and lot of other stuff going on. We get to see in what conditions people lived and hide during the war and under the Soviets.

Chapters jump between the years and at times it was really confusing and some of the religion stuff went over my head. The whole The Infant of Prague and some of the more religious things went over my head but good thing that there wasn’t that much about that. Also I hate when books end like this! It hints what happens to the characters but doesn’t really tell anything. I want to know how it will end!

But this was really enjoyable read that read very fast wanting to know what happens next.

4/5

Published: Pier’s Court Press (2014)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

 

The Bone Church_BlogTour Banner FINAL copy

You can check the tour schedule here.

About the author

Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.

For more information, please visit Victoria Dougherty’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and Pinterest.

Mailbox Monday (30.6)

meme 6 Comments 30th June, 2014

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is now hosted on its own blog.

I haven’t done mailbox monday for some time so these are books that I’ve got past month or so.

IMG_1662

The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B by Sandra Gulland
The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau
Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 by Richard Brooks
My Lady Viper by E. Knight
Disa Hannuntytär by Kristiina Vuori
Näkijän tytär by Kristiina Vuori
Sunneva by Kaari Utrio
A Brief History Of The Vikings by Jonathan Clements
Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson
Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

Fire & Sword by Louise Turner

reviews 2 Comments 12th June, 2014

02_Fire & Sword

Fire & Sword by Louise Turner

On the 11th June in 1488, two armies meet in battle at Sauchieburn, near Stirling. One fights for King James the Third of Scotland, the other is loyal to his eldest son, Prince James, Duke of Rothesay.

Soon, James the Third is dead, murdered as he flees the field. His army is routed. Among the dead is Sir Thomas Sempill of Ellestoun, Sheriff of Renfrew, whose son and heir, John, escapes with his life.

Once John’s career as knight and courtier seemed assured. But with the death of his king, his situation is fragile. He’s the only surviving son of the Sempill line and he’s unmarried. If he hopes to survive, John must try and win favour with the new king.

And deal with the ruthless and powerful Lord Montgomerie…

Young John Sempill is pulled into a war by his father. But when his father is slain in battle, John’s troubles are just beginning trying to secure his inheritance. John finds a wife but soon learns that it can be difficult being married to someone who’s family was on the other side during the war.

I was looking forward reading this book because I haven’t read many books set in Scotland and not in this era. This was not fast-paced book but it was still very interesting through the book.

John is very likeable character. As a boy he didn’t live up to his harsh father’s expectations but he grew up to be a strong, dependable leader who looked after his people. When we first meet John’s wife Margaret I don’t think we’re supposed to even like her. She’s like a whiny brat with even more idiotic friends. She’s decided to hate John long before she even mets him, so it’s no wonder they have rocky start. At least Margaret grew somewhat during the book…

There was also some very interesting minor characters like Hugh, Lord Montgomerie and his wife Helen. Hugh was someone who did things his way, he could be both good and bad which made him very interesting getting to know.

This was great debut novel and I’m looking forward reading author’s next books.

4/5

Published: Hadley Rille Books (2013)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Fire & Sword_Final Tour Banner copy

You can check the tour schedule here.

About the author

Born in Glasgow, Louise Turner spent her early years in the west of Scotland where she attended the University of Glasgow. After graduating with an MA in Archaeology, she went on to complete a PhD on the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent. She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management. Writing has always been a major aspect of her life and in 1988, she won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF competition with her short story Busman’s Holiday. Louise lives with her husband in west Renfrewshire.

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

reviews 3 Comments 15th May, 2014

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

From one of America’s most imaginative storytellers comes a passionate tale of love and treachery, spanning the days of Catherine de Medici’s court to the twenty-first century and starring a woman drawn back, time and again, to the past.

In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years René le Florentine is occasionally called upon to put his vast knowledge to a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen’s rivals.

But it’s René’s other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later. That’s when Jac L’Etoile—suffering from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking Rene’s secret to immortality.

Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, not just in this life but in her next.

Set in the forest of Fontainebleau, crisscrossing the lines between the past and the present, M.J. Rose has written a mesmerizing tale of passion and obsession. This is a gothic tale perfect for fans of Anne Rice, Deborah Harkness, and Diana Galbadon.

In 1500’s France, René le Florentine becomes perfumer to Catherine de Medici after she saves him after he’s been accused of murder. But being a royal perfumer isn’t his sole passion, it’s trying to capture person’s dying breath to make an elixir that will bring person back to life.
At present-day France Jac promises her dying brother to continue his work trying to figure out the dying breath mystery that he was doing for a wealthy couple. Even as Jac starts to have suspicions about the couple, she can’t leave the project that her brother was working on.

I haven’t read the previous books in the series, or any of author’s books, but this could be read as stand alone just fine.

I found the perfume making world much more interesting than I thought I would. There was lots of telling how it was made and some of it just flew over my head, but it was really interesting.

I loved René’s story and loved seeing how he grew and how he ended up doing some things he didn’t wan’t to do. He stayed loyal to the queen through everything and I was so sad to see where it led him and what it cost him.

It took more growing into Jac and I’m not sure why but I just didn’t feel that kind of connection with her that I felt with René. I don’t know if it would have been different if I had read the previous books and known her better. Her issues with Griffin was starting to annoy me but I felt like there’s something I don’t know about them.
I loved seeing how Jac’s and Rene’s lives were connected as well as their love lives.
I really liked this book and I’m sure to read the other books in the series too!

4/5

Published: Atria Books (2014)
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 384
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

 You can check the tour schedule here.

About the author

M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of fourteen novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com. The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.