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

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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.

Book Review: 'A Man's Word' by Martin Jensen

The third book in Martin Jensen’s ‘King’s Hounds’ medieval historical mystery series, ‘A Man’s Word’ is an intriguing murder mystery set in the village of Thetford. The mystery is complex and challenging, presenting a variety of possible suspects and motives which are further obscured by the transient population visiting the town for the court sessions and the markets. 

Like ‘The King’s Hounds’ and ‘Oathbreaker’, the narrative is enriched with local colour and characters who add further dimensions to the story, and with historical detail that brings the context and setting of the story to life. Being immersed in the story causes the reader to consider the  facts and develop theories about investigation, which increases their engagement and investment in the plot while Winston, Alfalfa and Halfdan conduct their inquiries and develop and test their theories.

This is a most enjoyable and satisfying mystery read.