The Mansfield Trilogy

Lona Manning’s historical romance novel ‘A Contrary Wind’ is an excellent variation on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, and now stands as the first book in The Mansfield Trilogy. 

‘A Contrary Wind’ is not new to this blog: the book was awarded a Gold Acorn review in January 2019, and won a silver award in the annual Golden Squirrel Awards in the same year. 

That a second and third book have been written to follow and further develop Fanny’s story will delight all who have read the first instalment in the series.

This is a series that even devoted fans of Jane Austen will enjoy for its consistency with the language and style of Austen, even though the story does divert from that of Mansfield Park and follow its own original path. 

What other reviewers have said about ‘A Contrary Wind’:

“…Excellent.. it’s a novel which certainly deserves a place on the bookshelves of a Jane Austen fan.” — Jane Austen Centre, Bath

“Manning …. emulates Austen’s writing style so well that she often seamlessly incorporates exact passages from the original into her narrative…. Many try to emulate Austen; not all succeed. Here, Manning triumphs.” BlueInk Review Starred Review

“Highly recommend it. Extremely well written, extremely clever, the way she incorporated details from the original Mansfield Park.” — First Impressions podcast

“Brava to Lona Manning for her thoughtful twists and skillful execution in this variation. This story was in no way predictable and it kept me guessing almost until the end!….   – Meredith Esparza, Austenesque Reviews

“A Contrary Wind is well-written, keeping close to the style of Austen. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it. I never lost interest and enjoyed the occasional comic relief.”  — Historical Novel Society

Book Review: ‘The Spyglass File’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

This is the fourth full length novel featuring Morton Farrier, forensic genealogist. The books in this series all explore an historical mystery while Morton also researches his own genealogical background. 

This is an intriguing story, extremely well told. 

A captivating blend of WWII intrigue, family secrets and investigative mystery fiction, this is yet another riveting instalment in a most excellent series. 

Book Review: ‘The Day I Saw The Hummingbird’ by Paulette Mahurin

This book held definite appeal to me as I have long admired the work of Harriet Tubman and all those who worked to liberate slaves and help them to freedom. ‘The Day I Saw The Hummingbird’ immerses the reader in the life and experiences of Oscar Mercer, born into slavery in a sugar plantation in Louisiana in the years preceding the American Civil War. 

Oscar’s story is heartbreaking, terrifying and inspiring as the author positions the reader as an eyewitness to the tragedies, but also the courage and kindness, experienced by Oscar as he grows to understand that compassion is as powerful as hatred, and that wisdom and loyalty are qualities that should be as highly prized as one’s own freedom.

This story is beautifully told, with evocative language and vivid imagery that causes the reader to develop deep empathy not only for Oscar but also for all others in similar positions. The story also highlights a truth that is often overlooked: even in the deep south, there were many white people opposed to slavery or, at the very least, opposed to the cruelty with which so many were treated. Indeed, a broad range of human responses to slavery are depicted in the actions of different characters in this book, showing that it is one’s individual choices and personal ethics that set one person apart from another in terms of character and integrity, and that it is both possible and imperative to stand up for what is right rather than settle for convenient wrongs.

This is an important story that everyone should read in their lifetime, and which should be in personal bookshelves and library collections alongside ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. 

Book Review: ‘Annabelle’ by Elexis Bell

In this book, two distinct narratives unfold: what Annabelle does, and what drives her to do it. 

The storytelling is intuitive, drawing on the reader’s instincts and assumed knowledge to build empathy and understanding with Annabelle and to evoke anger, grief and sorrow not just for her suffering and pain, but rather for that of all who have suffered in similar ways. 

The story is very well written, boldly narrated by the character from whom it takes its title. Annabelle is a young woman who displays tenacity, conviction, and a desire for justice that proves, as it so often does, to be a far more powerful motivator than self-preservation.

While this book delivers an important and timely story that needs to be told and understood, it does contain some scenes of violence and of sexual assault, so it is not suitable for young readers, nor for readers whose own trauma may be triggered by that content. 

Like Annabelle herself, this is a story that points the finger directly at not only the perpetrators, bit also those who enable and protect them with their silence, and demands justice for their transgressions. 

Book Review: ‘The Mistress of Pennington’s’ by Rachel Brimble

Set in the early years of the 20th century amidst the campaign of the Suffragette movement and aa growing awareness of the inequality of women in a “man’s world”, the story of Elizabeth Pennington’s struggle to be acknowledged as an equal by her father is one that captures the challenges and frustrations of the generations of women who worked together to change the way the western world operated. More than a hundred years after the events that frame the story, in a world that has changed so much and yet seems to have progressed so little at the same time, readers can still be inspired and challenged by the commitment and aspirations of Elizabeth and other characters in this book. 

Magnificent and luxurious, the eliteness of Pennington’s department store in Bath and the exclusivity of its clientele provide Elizabeth both enormous opportunity and significant frustration as she fights to bring the business into a new century and to make it increasingly relevant to a rapidly changing society. 

Through Elizabeth’s experiences as businesswoman, daughter, lover and friend, the reader is confronted with a number of issues that women faced, often finding them insurmountable, and thus gains a clearer understanding of why so many women fought so hard to achieve greater equality— not just the right to vote, but also to be treated with respect, to be able to make their own decisions, and to overcome all sorts of deeply-ingrained discrimination that plagued them. 

Even though Elizabeth is of a much higher social class than most of the readers, she is relatable and believable in her frustrations and responses to the society in which she lives. The cast of characters are realistic and believable, presenting a fair representation and cross-section of the working and upper classes that existed in society at the time. 

While there is some adult content, making it suitable for an adult audience only, this is a most enjoyable work of historical fiction that it well worth reading. 

New Release: ‘Slick Filth’ by Erato

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed ’The Cut of the Clothes’ by Erato, it is a pleasure to be able to introduce the author’s new release. 

‘Slick Filth: A Story of Robert Walpole and Henry Giffard, to Which is Appended the Farce of The Golden Rump’ by Erato is a story of satire, assassination attempts, politics and censorship in 18th century England.

“Sir Robert had composed the most seditious, disgusting, obscene, shameful thing I had ever seen.”

It’s 1737 and England is on edge: someone has tried to assassinate the king at the theatre, and every stageplay is a satire of the royal family. Enter Prime Minister Robert Walpole with a cunning scheme that will grant him power to censor anything that goes on stage — by writing the filthiest play ever conceived. All he needs to pull it off is a patsy, which he finds in Henry Giffard, the proprietor of the theatre at Goodman’s Fields. But will Giffard cooperate with the Prime Minister’s plan, or will obscenity and satire be allowed to overrun the British stage?

Based on true events, Slick Filth includes a recreation of the notorious play The Golden Rump, which so offended Parliament that new censorship laws were enacted for the first time in England’s history. The book is typeset in historical fonts, making you feel like you’ve been pulled back in time to watch the drama unfold first-hand.

Available in hardcover only, this book is more than just a book but an art project of itself, set in 18th century type with added “errors” for the sake of both authenticity and humour. 

‘Highland Blood’ The Celtic Blood Book 2 by Melanie Karsak

In this excellent sequel to ‘Highland Raven’, Karsak continues the magical, mystical story of Gruoch as she continues to learn of her destiny amid the complexity of both worlds to which she belongs. 

Find your copy here.

As with the first book in this series, Gruoch’s story is so beautifully written  and expertly crafted that the reader becomes deeply invested in the events and characters of the story, sharing Gruoch’s fears, pain, and hopes as her life takes compelling twists and unpredictable turns. She is a complex and powerful woman, strong and admirable, and steadfast in the face of conflict and danger. Yet, she is never portrayed as perfect, never unrealistically good, and never so contrived as to not be believable. 

There are some lovely references to Shakespeare’s ’Macbeth’, woven seamlessly into the narrative. This establishes close ties between that story and this one, even though the events of this series thus far happen before those in the famous play.

The story delivers a fascinating blend of history, mystery, fantasy, romance, and adventure in an deeply engaging read that, once started, demands to be consumed. 

Book Review: ‘The America Ground’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Morton Farrier, forensic genealogist, takes the reader on another fascinating journey into history as he investigates the story behind a mysterious portrait with connections to the present that are stronger and more significant than he first considers possible. 

Morton’s own family story progresses too, providing continuity from one book to the next and keeping readers of the story invested in his quest for his own personal truths. 

A perfect blend of historical fiction, murder mystery and crime fiction, this is yet another excellent installment in an outstanding series. 

Book Review: ‘The Old Gilt Clock’ by Paulette Mahurin

Find your copy here.

There are times, particularly in the face of conflict or adversity, in which one might be tempted to ask, “What can one person do?”

The story of Willem Arondeus is testament to the fact that one person can do a very great deal to oppose hatred or wrongdoing, both through their own efforts but also by inspiring and encouraging others to also stand against evil. 

 Willem’s life story is well written and makes compelling reading. A man well acquainted with prejudice and hatred, Willem has been brought to life by the author in a manner that is both realistic about his flaws and empathetic about his suffering, credibly portraying him as a very normal person with a profound commitment to doing what was right.

This book adds a personal dimension to history and confronts the reader with the sense of helplessness experienced by the Dutch people of the time, and with the anger and resentment they harboured toward the Nazis and those who dumped with them. It made me reflect on what I know of my own grandfather, who was also a member of the Dutch resistance during the German occupation of the Netherlands in WWII, and to feel.somehow even more strongly connected to Willem and his friends as a result.

This is often an uncomfortable read, but it is an important one. Because stories like this are told, our generation is reminded to be vigilant against evil, to stand with the oppressed, and to ‘do some good ‘.

Book Review: ‘Ambrosius: Last of the Romans’ by Tim Walker

Find your copy here.

Sequel to ‘Abandoned’ and the second book in Walker’s ‘A Light In The Dark Ages’ series, this book brings to life Ambrosius Aurelianus, the man who united the Britons and became their king after the withdrawal of the Romans, and who led them in the defence of Britain against the invading Angles and Saxons. 

The story is dynamic and interesting, full of action, political strategy and war, reflecting the turbulent nature of a time dominated by tribal loyalties and vigorous competition for control of the land that the Romans left behind. 

Walker breathes life into characters that, while they existed in history, are often only shadowy figures known for particular feats of war or achievements in government. That the reader can visualize them, become familiar with them, take an interest in their personal well-being and success, and feel loyalty to them is testament to the talent and skill of the author in recreating places, scenes and events from the past.