Archive for the ‘historical fiction’ Category

Roman Games-Bruce MacBain

In Book Reviews, historical fiction, mystery on November 22, 2010 at 12:18 am

Detective Thriller In The Reign Of Domitian

One of the emperor’s main snitches is dead–murdered–and Domitian wants to know who to kill for the crime.  While he may choose many men of the Senate who had served with Verpa to investigate the crime, he chooses Pliny The Younger to conduct the investigation, despite the fact that he’s not a trained crime investigator but a vice prefect.  Pliny is a man who has spent his adult life dealing with the law, but he’s more of a probate lawyer than any policeman.  But he’s got a lot of people to suspect: Verpa was disliked by many, including his concubine, fellow senators, his slaves, and even his son, who like all Roman males from good families stood to inherit a fortune when his father died.

Roman Games, by Bruce MacBain, is an interesting story about life in Roman times.  His descriptions make the reader feel like they can imagine being in Rome during the rule of Domitian.  In addition, the story is full of well-written characters.  Pliny transforms from a bookish man of the law to a man bent on finding the murderer and exposing the reasons for the crime.  What he finds in his investigation is not only the motives for Verpa’s murder but a conspiracy that stretches all the way to Domitian himself and involves senators, those closest to the emperor, and even the Vestal Virgins. Rome will forever change because of it.

MacBain weaves a tale that stretches from the lowly slaves who tend to every Roman need through the Senate to the seat of power in the Roman empire itself.  A murder mystery/detective thriller at its heart, Roman Games has the added layer of life in Rome, which makes it unique and quite interesting.

Roman Games was provided for review by the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, through NetGalley.


The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga, by Edward Rutherfurd

In author information, Book Reviews, historical fiction, Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 1:00 am

History and Fiction Meet on the Liffey Plain……

Edward Rutherfurd takes readers back in history to explore the misty-green, magical land we know today as Ireland, focusing on Dublin and surrounding areas.  Spanning eleven centuries, The Princes of Ireland begins in Dubh Linn, 430 AD, and introduces the characters whose families will carry the saga through the mid 1500’s.  Rutherfurd blends historical fact and fiction seamlessly together, creating the paths the descendants of Celtic, Nordic, and English lines take over the course of years.  Quite lengthy, the novel boasts 770 pages, but in actuality, there are three major time periods dealt with, each with its own characters and events.  Because of this, the story doesn’t feel overdrawn; it stays fresh and flowing, but I must admit, during the second storyline set in the 1100’s, I had to force myself to read through portions.  This was the only section I struggled with, and I very much enjoyed the novel overall.

Edward Rutherfurd has written a number of novels including Sarum, Russka, London, and The Forest, and I will definitely check out another of his works, as this novel was well crafted.  More than an evening’s commitment, The Princes of Ireland, is involved.  This broad appreciated the pronunciation guide and maps, but they are not necessary to understand or enjoy the story.  I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Recommendation:  * * * * _ If you have the time and inclination to get involved in a great, but longer, novel and have an interest in history, Edward Rutherfurd’s, The Princes of Ireland, will surely satisfy.


The Taking-Erin McCarthy

In Book Reviews, historical fiction, romance novels on October 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

Wild, Campy, and Commonplace in The Crescent City

Erin McCarthy’s novel, The Taking, is the story of Regan, an heiress, and her fantastical love affair with a voodoo priest named Felix.  The story takes place in New Orleans, and the story is, in parts, as mysterious and wild as The Big Easy is said to be.  Complete with demons, curses, spells, and a dead woman come to haunt a house and its owner, The Taking has a little bit of every kind of supernatural mojo, except vampires, it seems.  A romance at heart, the story is also in some ways a paranormal mystery, of sorts, but also blends in a bit too much of the everyday, resulting in a bit of a hodge-podge of a story.

The story begins with Regan as an unhappy wife to Beau Alcroft, a New Orleans lawyer.  She plans to leave him because she doesn’t love him, but her plans are given credence when she meets Felix, a practitioner of voodoo who is hired to read tarot cards at her husband’s law firm’s Christmas party.  Felix senses her unhappiness and gives her a reading that lets her know her decision is the right one for her.  He feels an instant attraction but denies it.  Shortly after the party, Regan leaves her husband and buys a house she’s loved for years.  She moves in and finds herself haunted by a young woman named Camille who used to live there and fell to her death from a bedroom balcony.  Very quickly, strange things begin to happen to Regan, and she turns to Felix for help.

Felix is instantly attracted to her, but fears being with her.  He is cursed and doesn’t believe he will ever be able to love her or have her love him back.  But they fall for one another and then the wildness begins to happen.  In the end, however, this book is a romance, and they live happily ever after, demons and ghosts are gone, and all is wrapped up nicely.

The Taking is in some parts quite interesting and in other parts too campy and even common.  There is the gay friend of Regan, who seems to spout every gay cliche available, including the screeching Shut up! when he is surprised at something said. Also, the vocabulary is downright pedestrian.  Regan comments on her marriage at one point by saying it blew to be married to Beau.  This kind of stuff is pretty common language for literature and not very well written.

The romantic hero, Felix, is ok, but he doesn’t burn up the pages sexually.  For a Creole, voodoo man, he seems pretty tame, actually.  The heroine, Regan, is also pretty commonplace.  Nothing in her seems to be any different than many females who exist in real life.

Overall, The Taking has some interesting parts to it, but the camp is too over the top and the commonplace is just too common.  It’s a strange combination that doesn’t really work for this Broad.

Louisiana Voodoo And A Creole Lover….Except There’s Not Much Voodoo, and Loverboy’s Not A Creole Anymore.  Go Figure.

Regan Henry Alcroft consents to having a tarot reading done to bolster enthusiasm at her controlling husband’s business soiree, not out of any belief in such things, but as an excuse to escape his presence, but when the mystical Felix LeBlanc unmasks her inner turmoil, revealing truths he could not know, Regan is shaken.  His direct confrontation of her fears, and his veiled warnings solidify her desire to free herself from her husband’s tight hold over her life.

Regan moves forward in her new life, free from her marriage and feeling alive for the first time in years; however, things are not what they seem.  Strange and frightening things are happening in her new home, and Regan finds herself turning to the mysterious voodoo practitioner for help.  But Felix LeBlanc carries his own secrets, and as the two become more entangled in the bizarre occurrences surrounding Regan and in their desire for one another, Felix must try to protect the woman he is falling in love with and convince her that sometimes evil is found in the most inconspicuous places.

The Taking offers readers a bit of mystery, eerie creole magic, and unchecked passion.  McCarthy blends these elements well, especially written within the discovered journal entries of the tragic Camille, a young woman devastated by her family’s death and the greedy ambition of both men if her life.  This trio of characters from the 1800’s resurfaces in the present day to conclude unfinished business, with Regan a pawn in a demonic game of winner-take-all.

While McCarthy’s characters do work well in the story together, none stand out as fantastic in her present day setting.  Felix was, frankly, flat out boring at times, and Alcroft wasn’t nearly dastardly enough as a fallen angel turned demon.  The story barely had Felix practice any of his Creole voodoo magic, and Regan comes across as self-conscious and crazy, as she accepts that her face can morph into someone else’s, or that ghosts can haunt her in very real ways, but rejects Felix’s confession of his cursed past and explanation of the other-worldly events consuming her life.

Where McCarthy impressed was in the writing of the novel’s opening passage, which was another long ago journal entry penned in the aftermath of plague by a fictitious priest.  Absolutely fabulous in its wording, it left this broad hoping that McCarthy will unleash an entire novel of that calibre.  OOOh, Lah Lah.

Recommendation:  * * * _ _


The Eagle and The Dove-Jane Feather

In Book Reviews, historical fiction, romance novels on October 1, 2010 at 12:10 am

We Do Love Those Sheiks

This time we go old school romance with Jane Feather’s 1991 romance novel, The Eagle and The Dove.  This is the story of Abul, Lord Hassan, the caliph of Grenada in 1492, and a Christian girl name Sarita, who is a gypsy living in Spain.  Abul has a main wife and four other wives, who all come along with children, but when he sees Sarita on a mountain road in Spain outside her camp, he is struck by her beauty and strength.  Even before she speaks to him, he is mesmerized by her and must have her.  When her gypsy lover is killed by her group’s leader, Tariq, who plans to force Sarita to marry him, she flees her camp and is picked up on the road to Cordova by Abul and his guards.  He takes her back to his land and instead of imprisoning her, as Sarita thinks he will, he provides her a home in a tower and handmaidens to see to her wishes. She will not be held against her will, and despite the fact that he promises never to force himself on her, she cannot abide by staying in his land, where she is a second class citizen and merely a member of his harem.

Abul is patient with her, living up to his word not to force her to give in to him, and he charms her with his care and presence.  He falls madly in love with her, so much so that it begins to affect his relationship with his first wife and the son they have together, a boy who will one day take over as caliph, and begins to endanger the political well-being of Grenada, the last of the Moorish kingdoms holding out against the Catholic Spanish rulers.

Abul is a strong male character and very appealing.  Feather writes him as a powerful hero, but one with a side that yearns for someone to share more than his bed with.  Sarita is a very spirited character, but quite submissive, overall.  This book is a guilty pleasure type of book for me as a female living in the 21st century.  I better be careful; they’re going to take my bitch card from me if I keep liking this type of story.  But I’ll just remind the ladies at the monthly Independent Women of the 21st Century meeting that the book is historical romantic fiction since it’s set in the waning days of the fifteenth century, right before Isabella and Ferdinand (of Christopher Columbus fame) united Spain and drove out the last of the Moors.

One very interesting feature of this story is the author’s use of vocabulary.  I don’t think I’ve read another romance novel that has such an advanced vocabulary.  I was impressed by this since the lack of any words above the basic high school level is a common feature of the romance books that have been published recently. However, the use of more advanced words is a double edged sword if it’s not done correctly.

There are only two negative things about this book.  First, the dialogue doesn’t always match the characters or the time period in which the story is set.  A 15th century gypsy girl wouldn’t be claiming things are spurious.  So while the vocabulary used by the writer is impressive, it’s misplaced at times. Second, the sex is barely there in this book, and when it’s there, it’s vague.  One minute he’s rising above her, and the next minute she’s shuddering.  But it must keep in mind that when this book was written, romance novels didn’t contain steamy sex scenes as they do now.  However, if Christine Feehan (who writes one hell of a sex scene) could write some sexy lovemaking scenes for Abul and Sarita, this book would be one of the best romance novels out there.

The story of The Eagle and The Dove does everything that The Cobra and The Concubines doesn’t:  it stays consistent throughout, with characters developing far more naturally and pleasingly.  If you like the sheik theme in romance novels and want a good story wrapped around it, then The Eagle and The Dove is a book you should try.

My Kingdom for Your Love……

When Gypsy girl, Sarita, flees her tribe and the protection they offer, she is taken into the world of Moorish Grenada in the late 1400’s.  The Caliph of Alhambra, her captor, entranced by her beauty and captivated by her fiery Gypsy ways borders on obsession with possessing his young prisoner.  But enemies abound in the world of the seraglio, and Sarita must learn that seclusion and power are not mutually exclusive.  As Sarita acquiesces to the Lord Caliph, he in turn falls desperately in love with his Christian captive, which sets in motion a diabolical plan to usurp his authority, weaken his hold on Grenada before the Catholic Spaniards, and doom his love to burn as a heretic at the hands of ruthless Inquisitioners.

Jane Feather’s The Eagle and the Dove is very well written.  A well crafted romance with substantial storyline is delightful to read amongst a sea of flimsy stories and weak characters.  Feather develops both her male and female characters, adding a depth to them which moved this book from a dime store romance to a romantic novel.  Feather also shines in her use of vocabulary and dialogue within the story.

Both Sarita and Muley Abul Hassan have wisdom to offer the other as well as humility and compromise to learn in themselves, which Feather accomplishes without writing overly dramatic scenes or dialogue.  (The key word here being “overly”)  One of the most interesting aspects of Feather’s novel is that she requires her hero to make a choice between love and duty.  Many writers do the same ; where Feather stands out is in her decision to make his action carry a real consequence.

Recommendation:  ***** The Eagle and the Dove is a great romance novel.  Jane Feather’s story earns my highest rating.  Romance readers ….Read it and Rejoice!


Zipporah, Wife of Moses, by Marek Halter

In author information, Book Reviews, fiction, historical fiction on August 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Behind Every Great Man…….

Marek Halter takes the little information found in Deuteronomy about Zipporah and creates a wonderful novel which is not difficult to read, but is, in fact, well written.  Halter tells the story from Zipporah’s perspective, showing the Biblical events that lead to the Exodus in a new light.  Wholly fictional, none should balk at the “liberties” taken by the author, in his re-creation of those time honored events.  Having Zipporah be different from those around her worked well in the story, as it gave Moses a common experience with her.  This broad certainly appreciated the strength and dignity Halter wrote into Zipporah.  She was wise, faithful, humble, modest, and full of love, which are qualities to love in a heroine.  That Zipporah was a real woman caught up in the other-worldly events unfolding around her family only furthered my appreciation of Halter’s willingness to develop her character and story.  Also, quite interesting was Halter’s interpretation of the supporting characters.  Jethro truly was a wise old sage, yet Halter added a mischievious hint, which made him more lovable.  Sefoba and Orma, Zipporah’s sisters, were opposite ends on the spectrum, with Sefoba loving and kind, and Orma selfish and cruel.  Most suprising (although it shouldn’t be from reading Deuteronomy…) were Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister.  While holding Moses up as Yahweh’s chosen, they simultaneously use, then disobey and devour the man.  While claiming Yahweh as their righteous and just God, they perpetuate hate, prejudice, and injustice.  Together, these characters set the backdrop for Zipporah as she strives to help her husband, Moses, sort through his separate pasts as an Egyptian prince, a Hebrew slave, and a foreign shepherd in Midian to embrace his destiny as the Deliverer of Yaweh.

Recommendation:  ****_  (which is 4 out of 5 stars)

Zipporah, Wife of Moses, is the second book in the Canaan Trilogy by Halter.  The first is called, Sarah, and the third, Lilah.  I will definately check them out and offer reviews in the future.