Monday, February 25, 2013

Journey of the North Star by Douglas Penick

This fascinating historical novel brings to life the Chinese court of Zhu Di, the Yong Le Emperor, who reigned from 1403-1424 and made China a world power. The story is narrated by the fictional eunuch Ma Yun, who served in the emperor's court. Replete with military campaigns, religious ceremonies and the philosophical foundation that informs the Emperor's decisions through times good and bad, Journey of the North Star will appeal to readers interested in Eastern religions, history, philosophy and the political outlook that still influences China today.

Set in early fifteenth-century China, and narrated by a eunuch, this novel delves into the colorful world of the long-ago dynasty of Emperor Yong Le. Rich and sumptuous, one cannot help but feel for the loyal eunuch who had no life of his own other than to serve his master.

Douglas Penick successfully transports the reader into the Forbidden City and the rich court. This comes as no surprise due to the fact the author has spent much of his life teaching and studying Asian culture. Authentic, compelling, and honestly told, this is a novel written with great insight and detail. A most enjoyable historical tale. Definitely recommended to anyone interested in ancient China.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Gods of Mischief by George Rowe

This is the high-octane, no-holds-barred, true story of a bad guy turned good who busted open one of the most violent outlaw motorcycle gangs in history.

George Rowe’s gritty and harrowing story offers not only a glimpse into the violent world of the motorcycle outlaw, but a gripping tale of self-sacrifice and human redemption that would be the stuff of great fiction—if it weren’t all true. Rowe had been a drug dealer, crystal meth addict, barroom brawler, and convicted felon, but when he witnessed the Vagos brutally and senselessly beat his friend over a pool game, everything changed.

Rowe decided to pay back his Southern California hometown for the sins of his past by taking down the gang that was terrorizing it. He volunteered himself as an undercover informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and vowed to dismantle the brotherhood from the inside out, becoming history’s first private citizen to voluntarily infiltrate an outlaw motorcycle gang for the U.S. government.

As “Big George,” a full-patched member of the Vagos, Rowe spent three brutal years juggling a double life—riding, fighting, and nearly dying alongside the brothers who he secretly hoped to put away for good. During this time, Rowe also became entwined in a tumultuous relationship with a struggling addict named Jenna, never once revealing that he was actually working for the Feds. The road to redemption was not an easy ride. Rowe lost everything: his family, his business, his home—even his identity.

To this day, under protection by the U.S. government, Rowe still looks over his shoulder, keeping watch for the brothers he put behind bars. They’ve vowed to search for him until the day they die.
Gods of Mischief is a gripping, tell-it-like-it-is memoir of George Rowe, a man who once lived a life of criminal activity and turned his life around, doing his best to right the wrongs in his community. A savvy drug dealer and ruthless small businessman, George Rowe was forced to take a hard look at the path of his life when his 8 year old son point blank asked him if he was a drug dealer. From that moment on, he did his best to put his adverse lifestyle behind him.

Because members of the Vagos Motorcyle Club had previously tried to recruit him, George enters into an agreement to become a confidential informant for local law enforcement. His task is to infiltrate the Vagos MC and gather evidence. Understanding the danger and consequences, George accepts and lives the lifestyle for several years, putting his life in danger more than once.

This book is a revelation, giving readers an intimate look into the functions and dysfunctions of outlaw motorcycle clubs like the Vagos, their club rules, their attitudes and beliefs, and their ruthless behaviour. More importantly, one cannot help but admire George Rowe for not only changing his own life, but for having the courage to aid law enforcement in bringing to a halt the rampant crimes and danger suffered by townsfolk, albeit temporarily. It was his own way of making amends, of sacrificing 3 years of his life by going undercover, of trying to do what was right despite his own sad background. I’m glad that George Rowe took the time to pen his tale now that he is in hiding and in Witness Protection.

I was completely engrossed in his story, unable to put the book down, and reading it in two sittings. The author has a blunt writing style, adding vividness and impact to the storytelling. What I liked most about George Rowe, that despite his gruff exterior, he is a man with heart – taking care of his girlfriend Jenna and her child, sticking with her despite the agony of her drug addiction and the havoc it played upon his life and that of her father. It speaks to George Rowe’s credibility and integrity. This is a great story of redemption and personal triumph and I highly recommend it. I truly loved this book! Bravo George Rowe – I applaud your courage wherever you are.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Accabadora by Michela Murgia

Formerly beautiful and at one time betrothed to a fallen soldier, Bonaria Urrai has long held covenant with the dead. Midwife to the dying, easing their suffering and sometimes ending it, she is revered and feared in equal measure as the village’s Accabadora. When Bonaria adopts Maria, the unloved fourth child of a widow, she tries to shield the girl from the truth about her role as an angel of mercy. Moved by the pleas of a young man crippled in an accident, she breaks her golden rule of familial consent, and in the recriminations that follow, Maria rejects her and flees Sardinia for Turin. Adrift in the big city, Maria strives as ever to find love and acceptance, but her efforts are overshadowed by the creeping knowledge of a debt unpaid, of a duty and destiny that must one day be hers.

This novel was a pure joy to read. It sweeps the reader into a unique time and setting, telling a powerful story. It is no surprise that it has won numerous prestigious literary awards, has been translated into numerous languages, and is an international bestseller.

The story is about a young Sardinian girl named Maria whose poverty-stricken mother sells her to a childless widow named Bonaria. Unbeknownst to Maria, Bonaria is an Accabadora; a woman summoned to mercifully end the lives of the severely ill, elderly, or dying at the family’s request and approval. 

An Accabadora

Dressed in black with their faces covered, Accabadoras secretly enter the room of the ill or dying and suffocate their patients with a pillow or bludgeon them to death with a wooden mallet or matuolo. 

Although highly respected for conducting merciful acts of euthanasia, the lives of these angels of death were lonely and isolated. Kept on the peripherals of society, they were dependent upon their neighbors for food and clothing as they could not be paid for their grisly work.  

As Maria grows to womanhood, she is oblivious of Bonaria’s role as an Accabadora. One day, a crippled young man begs for Bonaria to end his life. The family refuses to consent, but the young man’s pleas grow more desperate until he finally convinces Bonaria to perform her act of mercy, going against his family’s wishes. When Maria accidently discovers Bonaria’s abhorrent act, she flees her home and Sardina to Turin. After some time, however, she receives a message to return home to deal with Bonaria’s final request – one that will weigh heavily upon her and test her conscience.

This is a profound story of humanity in all its aspects – humble village life, what constitutes a mother’s love, and issues of life and death. The ancient setting of Sardinia weaves a mood throughout the story, bringing to life the culture and simplicity of life. From the start, this story grips the reader, challenging one’s values about life and death, euthanasia, and the strength of love. From beginning to end, this novel will move you, fill you with questions, and make you laugh and cry. It is a story that will linger long after the last page has been read. A must to read!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien

Book Blurb  

1415 Katherine de Valois, the jewel in the French crown. An innocent locked up by her mother, Queen Isabeau, and kept pure as a prize for the English king slaughtering her kinsmen on the battlefields of Agincourt. No matter the cost, Isabeau is determined to deliver Katherine into the loveless arms of Henry V. But the Valois blood is worth less than she had brokered. Henry will take Katherine, not for her beauty, not for a treaty of peace - for nothing less than the glittering French crown itself. For Katherine, a pawn in a ruthless political game, England is a lion’s den of greed, avarice and mistrust. And when the magnificent King leaves her widowed at twenty-one she is a prize ripe for the taking. Her enemies are circling, her heart is on her sleeve, her hand in marriage is worth a kingdom. This is a deadly game. The players Duke of Gloucester, Edmund Beaufort and Owen Tudor. Who will have her? Who will stop her? This is the story of Katherine de Valois. England s most coveted prize. The forbidden queen who launched the most famous dynasty of all time...  


I am unfamiliar with the marriage of King Henry V and Katherine de Valois, maybe because it was so short, so I had no preconceived ideas about the characters or their story.  Told from Katherine’s viewpoint, she tells of her youth as a neglected and unloved French Princess, the youngest child of Isabeau and Charles, one mad and the other morally bereft. Katherine and her elder sister, Michelle, are sent to be raised in a convent, where love, affection and even basic companionship is in short supply. Michelle hardens her heart and expects nothing, whereas Katherine retains a longing to be loved, one which she cannot shed no matter how cold people are towards her. At eighteen, her uncaring mother informs her she will marry Henry V of England.

However, instead of relishing her new freedom, and a luxurious life at court, [well, compared to a medieval convent] Katherine only wants Henry to love her.  Unfortunately for her, Henry is polite and considerate, but emotionally cold, ruthless and focused entirely on war. Katherine spends a lot of her time brooding that Henry does not catch her eye when they are in a room full of people, or send for her while away on campaign, and his letters are formal and not filled with poetry. 

The narrative is quite beautiful, and Ms O’Brien is an exceptional writer with an attention to detail, nuance and atmosphere I found enviable. It was her heroine who annoyed me!  For the first third of the story I lost patience with her needy craving for affection, and had to remind myself she was very young and ill-equipped for her role.

Katherine displays a spark of rebellion, and against Henry's instructions,instead of remaining in the draughty, cold Palace of Westminster as Henry decrees, she waits until he is fighting in France to take herself off to the far more comfortable castle at Windsor. She also visits Henry’s stepmother, and discovers he has had the poor woman imprisoned for witchcraft so he could use her dowry to pay for his new bride and fight his wars.

Katherine packs up her entourage and goes to France, but what she finds there changes her life forever. As I read on, I developed a better understanding of the young and naive Katherine, who was ill-equipped for the scheming royal court, and who sometimes worried that in her darker moments, she may have inherited her father’s madness.

Katherine clearly suffers from terrible abandonment issues and when the first man to show the widowed queen some attention declares love, she is willing to give up everything to be with him. Her power hungry brother-in-law, Humphrey of Gloucester, puts obstacles in her way so she cannot marry, which may appear cruel and self-serving, but in truth he prevented her from making a terrible mistake.

When her would-be lover withdraws rather than abandon his ambitions, Katherine is made to see the real man beneath the courtier. Has she learned her lesson, or will history repeat itself and her pathological need for love prove to be her downfall? I won't reveal any more of the story for it deserves to be read.

My only criticism, is that I felt Katherine’s emotional turmoil and craving for attention was overplayed, and the story could have been told in considerably less than six hundred and nineteen pages.

However, Owen Tudor is magnificent and the author’s mastery of the sexual chemistry between them is perfect. Her research is impeccable, although I would have liked an Author’s Note outlining what was fact and what had been embellished. One of the problems with historical fiction is that you have to work with the facts as they exist, so invention becomes a necessity.  

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is being released by Claymore Books in early 2013 under the name Anita Seymour
GOODREADS: =============================================

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Grammarian by Annapurna Potluri

In the fall of 1911, Alexandre Lautens, an ambitious French philologist, sweeps into a remote part of India to study the Telugu language. Hosted by a local wealthy landowner and his family, Lautens arrives at a moment of change for the Adivis: Mohini, the younger and strikingly beautiful daughter is about to marry, an act which will inevitably condemn her older sister, who suffers from being plain and disfigured, to spinsterhood. Intellectually curious by nature, the elder sister Anjali is beguiled by Lautens, and as they find an intimacy within language, an unexpected relationship develops. After Anjali confesses that her disfigurement – a lasting injury from polio – has kept her from swimming since her childhood, Lautens surprises her with a trip to the beach. Regardless of what might have happened between them, Adivi is outraged when he hears word of their outing. Thinking his daughter a tramp and Lautens a predator, both are swiftly kicked out, left to fend for themselves—separately—as they try to navigate what really happened. Lautens returns to France, never sure if he should have remained part of Anjali’s life. Anjali flees too, seeking a life of political activism she never knew possible. Despite a life brimming with independence and bravery, Anjali never loses sight of the man who, however briefly, filled her heart.

For those who like lush foreign settings, engaging prose, and a poignant story, The Grammarian by Annapurna Potluri definitely delivers. From its opening pages, the flow of the writing made the story visually come alive in my mind. Cultural values pertaining to beauty and non-beauty enhanced the characterization of the poor, afflicted, Anjali, a young woman disfigured from polio at an early age. Through the author’s rich prose, I could empathize with Anjali’s plight and feel her lingering sadness.

When a simple act of kindness destroys Anjali’s life, and she and Lautens are banished from the Adivi home, the story truly becomes affecting and we are shown the heroine’s courage and the hero’s loss.
This was a lovely debut novel from a talented writer and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future. This is definitely a book to savour.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Galdir: A Slave's Tale by Fredrik Nath

"Highly Commended" in the Yeovil Literary Prize 2011

A Roman slave with a serpent tattoo uncovers his true barbarian identity... A battle for power among Frankish warlords leads to a mass exodus across the Rhine... All the while, Marcus Aurelius' Roman army pushes further north, changing everything. These seemingly unrelated events meet in a cataclysm that alters the course of history. In the background, the ageing witch Chlotsuintha predicts it all. Or is she the one pulling the strings to shape her people's future? When Sextus escapes Rome with a pocketful of gold and a knife, how could he even have dreamt of what the fates might have in store for him? Pursued by Roman soldiers for the murder of his master, Sextus enlists the help of a retired gladiator, and falls in love with the gladiator's niece. An invading German army drives them further north, where Sextus discovers his true birthright, and his real name - Galdir. He becomes caught up in a bitter feud as one of the heirs of a dead Frankish warlord; but the blood feud must be put aside when the Romans invade and besiege the Frankish capital. 'Galdir' is enthralling Roman fiction - a tale of love, brutal battles and conflict, in which a mystical prophecy winds its way through an epic saga of struggle against Rome, and the consequences of resistance by the Frankish people, its Warlord and its witches.

Galdir is the story of a Roman slave named Sextus whose journey through life takes him from the lowest ranks of society to the greatest heights as a Barbarian warlord. The novel is written in two parts. The first takes place in ancient Rome where Galdir is a slave in the days of Marcus Aurelius. After murdering his master for raping a young girl, he flees Rome. Frantic to elude his captors, he shaves his head to disguise himself. It is then he discovers the serpent tattoo on his head and begins the journey to discover its meaning and his roots. Slowly, Sextus, who soon learns his real name is Galdir, gains respect and rises to power as a warrior and war chief.

At each stage, the novel is full of intrigue and rich battle scenes. Despite all the fighting, the author writes every combat with rich detail, yet without exploiting the violence and gore. This makes the book palatable for both men and women readers. Written with great detail, the novel is engrossing and full of action. A wonderful tale of adventure!

The City of Women by David R. Gillham

Whom do you trust, whom do you love, and who can be saved? 

It is 1943—the height of the Second World War—and Berlin has essentially become a city of women. 

Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime. But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. Her lover is a Jew.

But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets.  

A high ranking SS officer and his family move down the hall and Sigrid finds herself pulled into their orbit.  A young woman doing her duty-year is out of excuses before Sigrid can even ask her any questions.  And then there’s the blind man selling pencils on the corner, whose eyes Sigrid can feel following her from behind the darkness of his goggles.

Soon Sigrid is embroiled in a world she knew nothing about, and as her eyes open to the reality around her, the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse. She must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two. 

In this page-turning novel, David Gillham explores what happens to ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times, and how the choices they make can be the difference between life and death.

In 1943 Germany, with most men engaged in war, the city of Berlin has become a city void of men, with only women and children and the elderly living within its boundaries.

In David R. Gillham’s novel The City of Women, he takes us into the heart of Germany, and through the eyes of an unforgettable character named Sigrid, he introduces us to the moral and daily challenges faced by women struggling to maintain a semblance of normality during the darkest days of World War II. This he accomplishes with immense insight and depth.

With her husband Kaspar away fighting somewhere, a young stenographer named Sigrid remains at home to care for her mean-spirited, difficult to please, mother-in-law. With food, clothing, and other necessities of life in short supply, she meets a Jewish man named Egon who peddles goods in the black market and enters into a passionate affair with him.

As the American and British begin bombing the city, more and more, Sigrid is forced into bomb shelters. As life becomes more difficult, and never knowing who can be trusted, Sigrid is inadvertently drawn to a young teenager named Ericha and soon finds herself delivering items and supplies to house where Jews are being hidden. As the book progresses, Sigrid’s life becomes riddled with danger.

This dark novel is impossible to put down. Readers can experience the emotions of the times, the bomb sirens, the sound of low flying aircraft about to let loose their deadly charges, the hunger and hardship, and most of all, the fear. Sigrid’s actions leave the reader questioning her moral choices, yet keenly aware of how the harsh times affected her ability to make decisions and forced her to act in ways contrary to her spirit. Mesmeric characters, a desperate setting, and a plot that keeps moving toward a riveting conclusion, makes this book a must read. This one is sure to be a bestseller.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Victorian Beauty by Jen Black

Book Blurb

Damaged physically and sexually, Melanie the Dowager Duchess of Yaxley escapes from an abusive son in law to become a housekeeper in a remote Northumbrian village. The Master of the house, Jarrow, is a widower with a delightful daughter, but few funds. Jarrow has his scars, but he also has a secret life that unnerves Melanie when she discovers what it is that occupies his nights. This historical romance with its great sense of time and setting, leads the reader through the clash of the scarred personalities, troubles with excise men to a resolution which surprises them both. Slowly Melanie realizes that Jarrow might just be the man who can make her believe in second chances.


At the beginning of this story we are made aware that although Melanie is applying for, and getting a housekeeping post in a remote country house in Northumbria, she has a secret - in fact several. She has left an abusive husband and carries the mark of their relationship on her face, though she doesn’t brood on the past or tell us how this happened.  

What we do know is that she is also an aristocrat and yet she is content to wash her taciturn employer’s clothes, cook his meals, clean his house and be a governess to his daughter as an ‘invisible’ servant rather than endure her former life.

Jarrow too has something hidden, maybe in his past, but most certainly his present, which is alluded to but not explained and when Melanie discovers what it is, she fears for his future.

Jen Black’s characters are beautifully crafted, and her air of mystery pervades the entire book making it impossible to put down. There are no wilting virgins in this novel, both the main characters are grown-ups with tragedies they have learned to overcome and then to live with, so when they come together at the end we cannot help feel they deserve their happiness.

A definite keeper and one which I hope will be available in paperback before long.  My Kindle and my E-Reader are close friends, but I still like to see my favourites on my shelves.

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is being released by Claymore Press in early 2013 under the name Anita Seymour


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

All This Talk of Love by Christopher Castellani

It's been fifty years since Antonio Grasso married Maddalena and brought her to America. That was the last time she would see her parents, her sisters and brothers--everything she knew and loved in the village of Santa Cecilia, Italy. She locked those memories away, as if Santa Cecilia stopped existing the day she left. Now, with children and grandchildren, a successful family-run restaurant, and enough daily drama at home, Maddalena sees no need to open the door to the past and let the emotional baggage and unmended rifts of another life spill out.

But Prima, Antonio and Maddalena's American-born daughter, was raised on the lore of the old country. And as she sees her parents aging, she hatches the idea to take the entire family back to Italy--hoping to reunite Maddalena with her estranged sister and let her parents see their homeland one last time. It is an idea that threatens to tear the Grasso family apart, until fate deals them some unwelcome surprises, and their journey home becomes a necessary voyage.

Writing with warmth and grace, Christopher Castellani delivers a seductive feast for readers. All This Talk of Love is an incandescent novel about sacrifice and hope, loss and love, myth and memory.

All This Talk of Love is a poignant novel about an Italian-American family and their family dynamics. At the heart of the story is Maddalena, the matriarch, a woman with an abiding love for her adult children, Frankie and Prima.  

Maddalena speaks with Frankie every night on the phone, at the end of which they tell each other, “I love you.” It is this that the title is based upon. Each character faces adversity in their lives. Antonio and Maddalena still grieve the death of their 15 year old son. Maddalena is losing her memory. Frankie struggles in a Boston university. Prima is an overprotective mother who guards her children and even spies on their friends.

When Prima decides to surprise her family with a trip back to Italy, Maddalena is unhappy and refuses to go, afraid to face the secrets she left there before she immigrated to America.

The author tantalizes the reader by revealing secrets gradually throughout the novel, enriching the story with details that shed light on character motivation. More importantly, he manages to relay the strong sense of family prevalent in the Italian culture. Through Maddalena he captures the feelings of many immigrants who gladly left the old country, happy to leave bad memories behind, or like Antonio who longs to return to his roots and all that was once familiar, or like Prima, who is American born but whose roots and passion are firmly implanted in the homeland of her ancestors. As a first generation Italian-Canadian, these feelings and experiences exist in my own family, and those of my friends and relatives.

I read this novel without having read the previous two books in the series, but had no trouble understanding the story.

All This Talk of Love is a family saga of love and loss and buried secrets. It rings with authenticity of the Italian culture and our integration into America. It leaves readers with much to ponder about the human spirit and family dynamics. An excellent novel.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Just Doll by Janice Daugharty

The author of six previous novels, Daugharty turns to historical fiction in this story set in south Georgia a dozen years after the Civil War. Feisty, flirtatious 17-year-old Doll Baxter has been trying to make a going concern of the family farm, but the bills are mounting. When handsome, wealthy Daniel Staten offers to bail her family out of financial difficulty in return for her hand in marriage, she reluctantly agrees. As the new mistress of Daniel's plantation, Doll must contend with a longstanding, formidable housekeeper, who shows an unhealthy interest in Doll's new husband, and her own homesickness for the happy bustle of her mother's house. Most of all, she is faced with acknowledging her deep attraction to her new husband, who blithely takes off for days at a time, seemingly unaware of the fact that getting married might mean he should soften his independent streak. The skillful Daugharty brings to her idiosyncratic, visceral narrative both a great eye for physical detail and a deep wisdom about the push and pull of married life. 

Just Doll is a novel set in an impoverished area of southern Georgia in the 1800’s. The main industry for inhabitants of this area is the extraction of turpentine from the surrounding woods.

Seventeen year old Doll Baxter lives with her widowed mother and sister on a mortgaged farm upon which they struggle to make a living. A very wealthy neighbor named Daniel Staten comes calling and proposes to Doll, but she refuses him. When Daniel offers to pay off the family mortgage and back taxes and support her mother and sister, Doll knows she cannot refuse. She gives Daniel a long list of conditions including having her own bedroom and the ability to return home whenever she wants. As time passes, Doll begins to fall in love with Daniel, but when she discovers his philanderer of the worst sort, cavorting with whores and mistresses, Doll leaves him, eventually demanding her own home to raise their children.

The author has done a commendable job in demonstrating the hardships faced by southern people after the Civil War. The novel touches upon racial issues, extreme poverty, and the plight of women. The story spans several decades and takes the reader through adversities faced by the couple. It is a peak into a time in history where there was true suffering and hardships faced.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

WWII Diaries by Ruby Side-Thompson

Book Blurb

Imagine yourself seeing hundreds of Messerschmitt war planes overhead and hearing the explosion of bombs being dropped around you. Wondering if this is the day one will fall on your house.

Ruby Side Thompson’s personal diary was written during the terrifying World War Two London Blitz. Her diary is a true and detailed account of what she experienced during that horrific time. The diary chronicles Ruby's struggle to survive in the midst of a horrendous war, where London is bombed nightly.

Ruby speaks candidly about her unhappiness enduring an unsatisfactory marriage. She was the mother of seven sons, two of whom were enlisted in the R.A.F. One of which became an amputee as the result of hitting a land mine and the other son was captured and sent to a concentration camp as a prisoner of war. Her tale is a mix of the commonplace and the historic as seen through her eyes.

The diary was an outlet for Ruby’s thoughts and feelings that could not be spoken out loud; however, in publishing the diary it gives readers an honest and unfiltered look back at a time that may have been long since forgotten.

This is volume one of a four volume series written by Ruby Alice Side Thompson.


I read this book because I wanted to discover what life was really like during the War for the people on the ground, however having read the introduction by her Great Granddaughter, I realised this was a personal venture by the author and not specifically about the war. Ruby was born in 1884, and wrote forty three diaries between 1909 and 1969. Primarily, it is about Ruby’s secret life - the woman she sees herself as and wants to be as opposed to the one the world perceives.

However, I don’t hold the self absorbed character of her journals against her, as she didn’t write with the intention of publication, but as a release from the frustrations of a life which had turned out a bitter disappointment.

For the first few chapters I was intrigued with this lady who, at the age of fifty-five had raised seven sons in America and has returned to live in Romford, Surrey reluctantly - which is not explained in this volume. She and her husband Ted are living with the two youngest, twins Cuthie and Artie who are both twenty one.

Both boys join up and are sent away to war, and although Ruby misses them, and worries for them, especially when Cuthie is reported missing in action, her writings are more about herself.  He is found in a PoW camp a month later, but Ruby’s celebrations at this news are quite restrained. She made more of the fact the local priest said Mass for Cuthie when they thought he was dead.

She was born in London and as a young woman went to Bayonne, New Jersey, a city she evidently loved and considered her true home. When War was announced she seemed determined to return there, even planning her escape route by enlisting the help of the five sons who lived there with the immigration process and even planned her wardrobe.

This dream doesn’t so much die, as shrivel, with the simple words, ‘I have reversed my decision.’ I wanted to know what changed her mind but will never know.

After Chamberlain’s famous speech of 3rd September 1939, she sprinkles her writing with news items, the invasion of Poland, sinking of ships in the Atlantic, strafing of farm animals but German pilots, the occupation of Norway and then in 1940, the London bombings begin.  Ted serves shifts at the bomb shelters, leaving Ruby alone for long periods while the raids are going on. She describes her fears very well and this must have been a horrifying time for her when the possibility of death and invasion by Hitler was a real possibility.

The main theme of Ruby’s diaries, at least the 1939-1940 one is her hatred for Ted.  And she does hate him, for she spends whole paragraphs saying what a fool he is and how he wearies her - in fact she hates him so much, when he castigates her for some trivial reason or another - which he does frequently - she cannot summon the energy to contradict, argue or even placate him. He simply isn’t worth the bother.

What I did find incomprehensible, was that when Ted regularly treated his almost grown sons to a tirade of their faults and list of duties toward him as their parent, Ruby made no attempt to defend them either.

Ruby is a thinker, and maybe she thinks too much and it has made her discontented, but she formulates an interesting theory about Ted’s fanatic Catholicism. That he uses it as an excuse to look down on women because the Roman Church has deemed them sinful and the root of mens' problems.

Ted is certainly a misogynist, and kudos to Ruby that she hadn’t done away with him years before.  Her reaction is to condemn men in general, decry them as fools in that they created this awful war that only they can remedy - she wants nothing to do with it.

In a way I sympathise, and cannot help feeling sorry for Ruby, but her journals are sad and depressing - not to mention repetitive.  The Kindle version of this book was free on Amazon, but I'm not tempted to pay for the other three.

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is being released by Claymore Press in early 2013 under the name Anita Seymour
GOODREADS: =============================================

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Folly at Falconbridge Hall by Maggi Andersen


Vanessa Ashley felt herself qualified for a position as governess, until offered the position at Falconbridge Hall. Left penniless after the deaths of her artist father and suffragette mother, Vanessa Ashley draws on her knowledge of art, politics and history to gain employment as a governess. 

She discovers that Julian, Lord Falconbridge, requires a governess for his ten-year-old daughter Blyth at Falconbridge Hall, a huge rambling mansion in the countryside outside London. Lord Falconbridge is a scientist and dedicated lepidopterist who is about to embark on an extended expedition to the Amazon in search of exotic butterflies. An enigmatic man, he takes a keen interest in his daughter's education, but Vanessa feels that he may disapprove of her modern methods. As she prepares her young charge to enter into the modern world, Vanessa finds the girl detached and aloof. 

As Vanessa learns more about Falconbridge Hall, more questions arise. Why doesn't Blythe feel safe in her own home? Why is the death of her mother, once famed society beauty Clara, never spoken of? And why did the former governess leave so suddenly without giving notice?


Set in late Victorian times, Vanessa Ashley is the niece of Lord Gresham, but a family rift leaves her almost destitute on the death of her parents from influenza.

Vanessa takes a post as governess to ten-year-old Blythe at Lord Falconbridge’s home on the outskirts of London.  Her new employer’s wife died in a carriage accident in Paris and as an Amazon explorer who takes frequent trips to South America, he needs someone who will be a permanent force in his daughter’s life.

Vanessa soon discover that the previous governess, Miss Lillicrop left under a cloud and not only is Blythe  insecure and fearful, stories about a young woman having hanged herself in the Falconbridge woods doesn’t help an atmosphere of mystery surrounding the house.

Vanessa herself is, however, practical and not easily ruffled and she tries to ignore her attraction to her handsome if distant employer, who plans another expedition into the Amazon rain forest to search for butterflies. Vanessa soon forms a bond with young Blythe, a quiet but intelligent child who believes fairies inhabit the folly in the garden. However when Julian Falconbridge asks Vanessa to become his wife, for Blythe’s protection before he leaves, Vanessa is torn. Will she spend her life yearning for the love of a man who sees their marriage as a practical solution to his daughter’s need for a parent, or is there a chance he has feelings for her?

Ms Andersen’s story contains all the elements for a perfect Victorian romance with an intriguing sensual element which is very well written and not at all cheesy. The handsome, but distant widower who carries a secret pain about his first marriage but who would do anything for his beloved child; the mysterious country house with a secret; a disappearing woman, and an antagonist who lurks in the shadows.

A satisfying and heartwarming story to take on holiday and read in a lounger with a margarita, or one to cuddle up with in a wing chair by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate.

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England released by Claymore Press under the name Anita Seymour

  Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is being released by Claymore Press in early 2013 under the name Anita Seymour ============================================= BLOG: FACEBOOK: GOODREADS: =============================================

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Contessa's Vendetta by Mirella Sichirollo Patzer

I'm very excited to announce that today, February 1st, and tomorrow, February 2nd, The Contessa's Vendetta, my historical suspense/thriller novel about an ultimate betrayal and a dark plot of revenge, is free today on Amazon!

Don't have a Kindle? If you have a smart phone, all you need to do is download the Kindle app and then download my book! 

Click here to download! 

Please tell a friend or two! I hope it will be as much fun reading it as it was to write. 

The eReader Cafe