Audiobook Review: ‘The First Queen of England, Part 2’ by M.J. Porter

Elfrida, or Ælfryth, was the first anointed and crowned queen of England, ruling alongside her husband, Edgar, in the 10th century.

‘The First Queen Of England’ Part 2 is the second instalment of Elfrida’s story, and shows just how strong and resilient  she was in a world dominated by patriarchy, politics and warfare. 

Just like the first book in the series, this book is very well written and is entirely consistent with the historical context of the story, even though it is undoubtedly fiction. 

It is a significant achievement on the author’s part to reanimate characters from the long-distant past in such a way that the reader feels as though they know them and can understand their concerns, cares and motivations. It is pleasing to witness the dynamics of the characters as they mature, and intriguing to observe the intricacies of the machinations and politics at court and the personal impact on the queen and king as individuals as well as rulers. 

The narration by Sheila Daly Payson is most enjoyable. Her voice is pleasant and her reading is fluent. Her characterisation of the different roles is effective, and really brings the various characters to life. 

As richly detailed and intriguing as part 1, ‘The First Queen Of England, Part 2’ is a most enjoyable story. This is in every aspect a very pleasurable audiobook experience, and is also available as an ebook or paperback. 

Book Review: ‘The Sorceress’ Vengeance: The Dragon’s Heir Trilogy Book 2′ by JB Richards

‘The Sorceress’ Vengeance’ is the second instalment in The Dragon’s Heir trilogy, a fascinating and original blend of fantasy, paranormal romance and fairy tale that makes for a most diverting and intriguing read.

This sequel to ‘The Curse of the Dragon Stone‘ continues the story of Kirin, the dragon’s heir, and his family’s quest to overcome the curse that has befallen them. 

Themes of loyalty and enmity are explored as Kirin, Tyriel and the Fabiosa sisters are set against a darker, angrier power that seeks to undo them. The inner conflict that plagues Kirin reminds the reader that each of us has choices to make about which side of our own nature we allow to control us, while the plight of his family serves as a sobering cautionary tale about the unintended consequences that one’s actions and decisions can have in the lives of others. 

The events of the story create a balance of anticipation and tension that is both tantalising and compelling, keeping the reader fully engaged throughout the book. Even as this part of the story closes, the remainder of the tale beckons, leaving the reader longing for more. 

Comfortably read in a little over two hours, this novella is an ideal fantasy escape for a quiet afternoon or evening. 

Book Review: ‘The Lost Ancestor’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

A family’s search for a long-lost great aunt turns into a riveting investigation for Morton Farrier, a forensic genealogist with a passion for discovering the truths and intricacies of the past. 

This case takes the reader back to 1911 and into the upstairs/downstairs world of a family and estate that rivals those of Downton Abbey for both prestige and drama. It is a world with which we have become very familiar through TV and film as well as novels, but in this book, the author immerses the reader in both the historical story and in Morton’s investigation with a sense of familiarity and first-hand observation that is quite remarkable.  

As with the first book in this series, this is a very well written story that, once started, demands to be read regardless of other priorities. It is interesting, dramatic and suspenseful, with some completely unexpected twists. 

This is a top quality, highly recommended read. 

Book Review: ‘Highland Raven’ The Celtic Blood Book 1 by Melanie Karsak

Historically, very little is known of the early life of Gruoch, later known as Lady Macbeth. Immortalised by Shakespeare as a conniving, power -hungry shrew, audiences have been fascinated by her for centuries. 

Karsak weaves a kinder tale of the young Gruoch in this excellent work of historical fantasy. History, magic and fantasy combine to tell a story of a young woman searching to discover her destiny and calling in life, while still learning who she is and the power she holds over men. 

This story is so powerfully and beautifully written that it is easy to forget that this is fiction, and to believe that this really is Gruoch’s story. We see Gruoch’s strengths and vulnerability, her loyalty and hatred, her past and glimpses of her future. As readers, we love those she loves and despise those she hates, and we become deeply invested in her hopes and dreams. 

The author has also incorporated some lovely nods to Shakespeare’s play, littering quotes and references to the text throughout the narrative. This very cleverly lends credibility and legitimacy to Karsak’s story, reinforcing that sense of reality and closeness to Gruoch that the reader feels from almost the first page onwards. 

The story delivers a fascinating blend of mystery, fantasy, romance, and adventure in an expertly crafted package that is almost impossible to put down once started. 

‘Highland Raven’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Audiobook Review: ‘Escaping from Houdini’ by Kerri Maniscalco

The third in Kerri Maniscalco’s Victorian macabre mystery series, ‘Escaping from Houdini’ is set on the Etruria, a cruise ship travelling from London to New York in 1899 with Audrey Rose Wadsworth, her beau Thomas Cresswell, and Uncle Jonathan Wadsworth aboard.

A series of gruesome murders present this Victorian forensic science team with a series of challenges and mysteries that must be solved before arriving at their destination. 

The story is intricate and complex, dark and dangerous, and completely captivating. Themes of distraction, illusion and deception interweave like a macabre carnival dance. The personal consequences and implications for Audrey Rose, Thomas, and other passengers on the ship are compelling, keeping the audience engaged both mentally and emotionally in the drama as it unfolds. 

Nicola Barber’s narration is expressive, fluent and most enjoyable. Barber has a definite gift for characterisation and drama  that makes her storytelling lively and most enjoyable.  

An excellent audiobook experience, ‘Escapting From Houdini’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Available as a novel or audiobook

Book Review: ‘The First Queen Of England’ by MJ Porter

Elfrida, or Ælfryth, was anointed and crowned queen of England in the same ceremony that her husband, Edgar, was crowned King in 973 AD. 

‘The First Queen Of England’ is the first instalment of Elfrida’s story. This is a really well-written book, based on sound research and good knowledge of the historical context of the story. 

Historically, there is quite limited information available on the early life of Elfrida, but Porter has penned a well-crafted and believable personal story which, while it is fictional, is consistent what is known of both Elfrida and Edgar and their families. 

This task brings with it many challenges, not the least of which is diffusing a cast of characters from the different perspectives and accounts of history which have been the subject of discussion and debate for centuries. In presenting lead characters who are engaging and interesting, but also flawed and fallible, the author has given the reader people with whom they can relate at a very human level, despite their differences in social status and experience, and the changes in society that have occurred during the vast amount of time that stands between them. 

The supporting characters are likewise portrayed with not only their attractive qualities and strengths on public display, but also their motivations and interests exposed to the reader’s scrutiny. This gives the reader a rich insight into the machinations and social engineering of life at court and among the nobility in 10th century England. The characterisation is detailed, insightful and razor sharp, revealing the author’s considerable talent at filling in the blanks on the pages of history and creating characters that are complex and often quite delightful in the way they play their roles.  
Porter paints the settings and events in vivid colours and textures that seem almost tangible, bringing Elfrida’s home in Wessex and the King’s court at Winchester to life in such a way that each place is depicted clearly and then becomes familiar to the reader as the story progresses. 

A richly and intricately detailed work of historical fiction, ‘The First Queen Of England’ is an immensely enjoyable read. It has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘The Cracksman Code’ by Jane Jago

The Cracksman Code is a terrific read.

On more than one occasion, this story will warm your heart right before lurching it into your throat and leave you holding your breath.

Part thriller, part heartwarming portrait of a family bound by loyalty and their own way of doing things, the strands of this story blend seamlessly into one immensely enjoyable story that leaves the reader feeling like a member of the family. It’s a story that immerses the reader in both the professional and the personal sides of operations that, while they are in pursuit of justice, are nevertheless just outside of legal boundaries.

The Cracksman family are entirely realistic and believable, each with strengths and flaws that play off the other characters’ qualities in a very familiar way. At the same time, they do have some remarkable talents and involvements that make them anything but your standard family-next-door. Similarly, their friends Anna Marshall and Sam Henderson are very normal people who do extraordinary things out of their commitment to the same kind of loyalty and values embraced by the Cracksmans. 

Clever and witty writing highlights the warmth of the friendships and family relationships and contrasts powerfully with the acute tension created in the action and suspense sequences of the story, making this a book that is hard to put down. 

There is some adult content, so this book is not suitable for young readers.

’The Cracksman Code’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here