Book Review: ‘Storm at Keizer Manor’ by Ramcy Diek

The story opens at a point where the relationship between Annet and Forrest is complicated by their different pasts and by their different aspirations for the future. As is often the way, their feelings for one another really only crystallize when they are blindsided by events that change everything for them. 

As the narrative progresses, the reader is reminded of the importance of both communicating one’s love for another so that nothing is left to assumption or doubt, and of making the most of every moment, not taking each other for granted. 

This book delivers a fascinating study of the contrasts in moral judgements and social expectations of women between the 19th and 21st century, and challenges the reader to contemplate how they might cope if they found themselves in a different time, and without electricity, cars or smart phones. Annet is challenged not only by the differences between the two time periods, but also by the prejudice with which she is treated by those who have no understanding of her origins or culture. 

The story is quite well structured and progresses at a good pace. The characters are realistic and varied, and generally quite well developed, although I did feel that Forrest was a little too prone to dithering about and moaning without really developing or progressing the story much at a crucial part of the plot when he could have heightened the drama and suspense had he responded differently. 

The use of alternating points of view enabled the reader to have quite deep insight into the thoughts and feelings of both Forrest and Annet, engaging in their circumstances and becoming quite invested in how the complications of the story might be resolved. 

Overall, this was quite an enjoyable and interesting book. 

Storm at Keizer Manor’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here

Audiobook Review: ‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ by Kerri Maniscalco

The sequel to ‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’, this is equally gripping and dramatic historical fiction set in Romania, with the majority of the story taking place at the school of forensic medicine that is housed in the castle that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler. 

The book blends history, folklore, horror and forensic mystery genres in a uniquely twisting tale in which Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell once again seek to solve a series of mysterious deaths.

The action is well paced, heightened by plenty of suspense and intrigue. There are plenty of mysterious characters and viable suspects, and the story is so well constructed that the truth almost imperceptible until it is revealed. 

The narration by Nicola Barber is excellent, and gives a great deal of listening pleasure. 

‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy of the audiobook or novel here

Book Review: ‘These Savage Bones’ by Kaitlin Hillerich

The problem with committing to a relentless quest for truth and justice is that sometimes you get exactly what you wanted. 

When the ssudden, tragic loss of her beloved uncle unleashes a chain of events in Esperanza’s life that she could never have foreseen, she is confronted by a web of lies that challenges everything she thinks she knows. 

Esperanza is smart, fiercely independent, and headstrong, a young woman way ahead of her time and society in Mexico, 1875. Her spirit and loyalty are admirable, yet they can also be seen to cloud her judgement and cause her to overlook things in her life which she has always taken at face value. 

This story leaves the reader considering not only the unintended consequences of the characters’ actions, but also the difficulty of what to do with the calaveras that tumble fromthe family closet once the door is opened. 

A blend of mystery, historical fiction, and a bit of romance, ‘These Savage Bones’ is an interesting and thought-provoking tale that can be enjoyed in a couple of hours. 

This book has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

‘The Hangman’s Daughter’ by Oliver Pötzsch

Superstition and fear are a dangerous combination, especially when they are allowed to rule over common sense and legal considerations. 

This is a fascinating historical tale full of mystery, intrigue and twists. There are moments of gut-wrenching sadness and others of macabre fascination. The story centres around Jakob Kuisl, the town’s hangman, his daughter Magdalena, and the other residents of 17th century Schongau in Bavaria, where children are disappearing and a local woman is suspected of witchcraft. 

While the story itself is fictional, it is strongly founded on the history of the author’s own family: Jakob Kuisl was one of the hangmen in the family line from which Potzsch is a descendant. This close connection gave the author access to books, documents, items and family records which add significant authenticity to this novel.

Perhaps it is this connection that enabled the author to recreate the social issues of the 17th century with a sense of urgency and bring his characters to life in a vivid and realistic way— or perhaps it’s just that the story is really well constructed and narrated in such a personal, intimate way. Whatever the reason, this is an excellent read. 

‘The Hanman’s Daughter’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Blood of Roses: Edward IV and Towton’ by J.P. Reedman

While some history textbooks are interesting and quite easy to read, it is also fair to say that many are written by historians who do not seem to mind that their works are either lofty, dull, or both. 

The beauty of historical fiction is that it has the power to make history accessible to those who otherwise would know little of the events presented in its pages, and to create interest in those men and women who made history through their words, actions and achievements. 

Reedman’s historical fiction is both very readable and enjoyable. 
‘Blood of Roses: Edward IV and Towton’  tells the story of the events during the Wars Of The Roses that resulted in the coronation of Edward, Earl Of March as King Edward IV. The author has brought history to life on these pages, transforming historical figures into vividly portrayed characters and the reader into an onlooker during those pivotal moments in English history. 

Readers who have read and studied the history of this period in detail will find the fictionalised story to be interwoven seamlessly with the account of historical events. Reedman’s narrative is smooth and fluent, and the plot and action of the story are well paced and exciting. 

For all those reasons, ‘Blood of Roses: Edward IV and Towton’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Fast Five: Historical Fiction Book Recommendations

Step back into the past with these excellent historical fiction reads.

I, Richard Plantagenet 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KKUXNYY

The First Christmas
http://www.amazon.com/First-Christmas…/dp/B078HV168L/

Arthur, Dux Bellorum
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NTP9ZTT/

The Artist 
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BJKPWNB/

Miriamne the Magdala 
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0793T93TD/

Audiobook Review: ‘The King’s Hounds’ by Martin Jensen

‘The King’s Hounds’ is a murder mystery set in Oxford during the reign of King Cnut. An unlikely duo, Winston and Halfdan form a friendship that is still in its early stages when they find themselves assigned the job of investigating the murder and reporting their findings to the king, a task complicated by an abundance of suspects and plenty of obstructions along the way. 

The reader is immersed in the sights and sounds of medieval England, culturally divided between those of Anglo-Saxon and Danish/Viking origins just as Cnut has come to the throne, which places the events of the story in the year of 1016. The resulting climate of distrust and resentment adds further difficulty and intrigue to the case: the king himself is not above suspicion in the death of a prominent Anglo-Saxon thane. 

The characters are very well developed, and are characterised effectively by the narrator. The contrast between the conservative Winston and the rogueish Halfdan creates some entertaining moments, but also enables each of them to play to his strengths when challenged by the various situations and problems they encounter. 

The story is interesting and entertaining, and quite well told. The dialogue is a little stilted at times and not quite consistent with the way people spoke during that period of history, but this may be accounted for by the fact that the book was translated from Danish into English. 

The narration by Napoleon Ryan is noticeably slow, but before I was far into the book, I began to feel that this was something of an advantage, because it gave me time to take in all the detail of the story. 

An enjoyable and interesting book, ‘The King’s Hounds’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy of the audiobook or the novel