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Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Witch of Leper Cove by Deborah Bogen

It's the 13th century and The Church is under attack. In response Pope Honorius creates The Holy Inquisition, sending his Dominicans out into the world to root out heresy. Even the tiny English hamlet of Aldinoch is not safe. 

Alice, Aldinoch's healer and young Lily Bigges' mentor, has been accused of heresy. She languishes in the dank dungeon beneath Guildford Castle, awaiting her fate. 

Lily and her brothers, Wyll and Edric, realize they must free Alice, but what can they do? In this tale of betrayal, adventure and courage, chances are taken and unexpected allies are found...will that be enough to save the Witch of Leper Cove?

Review by Mirella Patzer

Lyllie, Edric, and Wyllym suddenly find themselves orphaned and alone in the town of Aldinoch, England in the 13th century. The siblings are separated and given to local residents to raise. Lily finds herself under the guidance of Alice, the town's healer, while Wyll is sent to work hard and Edric enters the Church. Alice is kind and wise, and she tends to a group of lepers who are isolated from the community. The lives of the three siblings continue to intertwine as they each struggle to adjust to their new circumstances. A local cleric who is bent on rising to power within the church commits a fraud and he sets Alice to take the blame. What follows is an exciting, spellbinding, rush of conflict that kept me flipping pages, hooked completely on the story.

This is the kind of book that all will enjoy - young adults as well as adults. The history was well researched and weaved into the story with veracity. It is an enduring tale of love and loss, danger and victimization. More importantly, it is about strength and the will to survive despite the adversity life can throw at us. A truly lovely story! One to savor and enjoy. I loved it!

Amazon USA      Amazon Canada      Amazon UK

Monday, May 25, 2015

Gwnedolen by Diana Souhami

Gwendolen, an exceptionally beautiful, young upper-class Englishwoman, is gambling boldly at a German resort (winning big, then losing just as soundly) when she learns from her twice-widowed mother that their fortune has been lost. The eldest in a family of sisters, Gwendolen is now responsible for all of them, and, though a fine archer and rider, she has little more than her good looks to offer. When an extraordinarily wealthy aristocrat proposes marriage, she accepts, despite her discovery of an alarming secret about his past.

This novel is Gwendolen's passionate later-life letter to the man she did not marry, and reveals what happened across the brutal and transformative years of her early twenties. That she is also the heroine of George Eliot's novel Daniel Deronda (and is writing to Deronda) will intrigue and delight legions of Eliot fans, but debut novelist Diana Souhami has brilliantly and movingly breathed fresh life into a classic in ways that will appeal to readers entirely unfamiliar with Eliot's fictions.

Review by Mirella Patzer

Gwendolen by Diana Souhami is based upon the classic novel, Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. The novel is written in an epostilatory style as the main character, Gwendolen, is writing a letter to the man she has been obsessively in love with for years. In her story, she reveals the horrors of her unhappy and abusive marriage. I have never read the classic, so I have no pre-conceived expectations about the story. 

The first half of the novel started off well, introducing Gwendolen who is gambling and meets Daniel Deronda for the first time. Their first encounter introduces Gwendolen's unrequited love that will endure an entire lifetime. Her love is never fulfilled, however, when she learns her family has become impoverished and she must marry well in order to take care of her widowed mother and younger sisters. She marries a wealthy and titled nobleman who soon becomes overly controlling and very abusive. 

I found the first half of the book gripping and definitely a page turner. The pace in the second half of the story slows down a bit and changes course from action to deep introspection and self-appraisal on Gwendolen's part. She reflects on her life, her love, her husband, her fate. The character of Daniel Deronda was never fully developed, but I found him interesting and I would love to have learned more about him. This was a very interest, albeit unusual novel. It has intrigued me enough to read one of George Eliot's novels.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Contrition by Maura Weiler

In this sweeping, heart-wrenching and inspiring tale, twin sisters separated at birth reconnect through art, faith and a father who touched the world through his paintings.

When journalist and adoptee Dorie McKenna learns that her biological father was a famous artist, it comes with another startling discovery: she has a twin sister, Catherine Wagner, who inherited their father's talent. Dorie is eager to introduce her sister's genius to the public, but Catherine is a cloistered nun with a vow of silence who adamantly refuses to show or sell the paintings she dedicates to God. 
Hoping to get to know her sister and research the potential story, Dorie poses as an aspiring nun at the convent where Catherine lives. Her growing relationship with Catherine helps Dorie come to terms with her adoption, but soon the sisters' shared biological past and uncertain futures collide as they clash over the meaning and purpose of art. Will they remain side-by-side for the rest of their lives, or will their conflicts change the course of the future?

Find out in this beautifully detailed story that takes you on a spellbinding journey of the heart. 

Review by Mirella Patzer

Contrition is a fabulous debut novel about twin sisters separated when they were small children. A talented, but struggling artist, stuggles to raise his twin daughters alone. Dorie he gives up for adoption, and Catherine he keeps. Catherine has inherited her father's talent for art, while Dorie works as a journalist. In search of the secrets of her past, Dorie searches for her sister and finds her, a nun in a convent. But when she meets her sister, she is met with silence. Catherine has taken a vow of silence and has not spoken a word for years. While visiting at the convent, Dorie discovers that her sister is an incredibly talented author, but Catherine refuses to sell or let anyone beyond the cloister's walls see her work. 

As their two lives collide, the two sisters must delve deep into their hearts to discover the key for happiness. It is a journey of reckoning, ultimate forgiveness, deep understanding, and most of all love. With its stunning ending, the story pulls at the heartstrings, poignant and unforgettable. An unforgettable tale written with insight. A great newcomer in the genre of women's fiction!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dunaway's Crossing by Nancy Brandon

"Miss Bea Dot! You all right? What happen to you?" California's husky voice penetrated the darkness, first as a tinny, distant sound, as if on the other end of a telephone line, but gradually growing clearer. No one ever had trouble hearing California. Bea Dot's mind cleared at the warmth and gentle pressure of her housekeeper's wide palm on her back. Opening Paragraph

Synopsis:

Finalist for the 2013 Georgia Author of the Year Award

Bea Dot Ferguson has a life many in Savannah envy: a wealthy husband, a luxurious house, a baby on the way. But appearances are deceiving. To hide a terrible secret, Bea Dot married a man she didn’t love—only to suffer his brutality later on. When her cousin Netta invites her for a visit in rural Pineview, Georgia, Bea Dot jumps at the chance to escape. But she soon learns she’s traded one perilous situation for another—Pineview has been infected with deadly Spanish influenza. As the epidemic escalates, Bea Dot and Netta must fight for survival. With the help of Will Dunaway, a recently returned Great War veteran, Bea Dot draws upon strength she never knew she had. As she and Will desperately try to avoid contagion, their mutual attraction grows, making them both the target of her husband’s wrath. A sweeping Southern tale of hope and betrayal, love and loss, Dunaway’s Crossing is a moving testament to the strength of the human spirit.

Review by Mirella Patzer

Dunaway's Crossing by Nancy Brandon is a novel of the American south, in and around Savannah Georgia, in the aftermath of World War I. In this poignant tale of love and flight from domestic abuse, the author evokes a time and mood unique to the unusual setting. There is plenty to laud about this story. First, it's simply told and an easy read. I was able to sit back and let the story sweep me away without struggling to comprehend or difficult vocabulary. Second, I loved the unique setting. The American south truly is unique and any story that can churn up the feel and mood of the times, truly is a work of art. This book definitely does that. And third, it's a nice story, well paced, richly told, and one that is believable and realistic. Complex characters face numerous challenges both personal and societal. it's not hard to see why this book finalled in a writing contest. A nice easy read with plenty of depth. Lots to enjoy here!
 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Never Isn't Long Enough by F. Diane Pickett

The rebuilding of the South after the Civil War brought industrialization, urbanization, and technological advances to rural American farms. "Never Isn't Long Enough" captures how these transformations affected the romance between a young farm girl and a wealthy older man called to God and commerce. "Life on the farm, the coming of the automobile, moonshiners, the Roaring Twenties, the movie house ... they're all here! 

The Civil War had a devastating impact on the south. Author F. Diane Pickett has written an entertaining and informative novel about the aftermath of war and the rebuilding of lives and the restoration of the American south. Based on her own family history, we see the south through the eyes of characters who were forced to endure and adapt and progress.  

At times poignant, at times humorous, there is plenty of historical detail and accuracy that brings the era alive. At the heart of the story are a manly mountain man named Pick and a young adventurous woman named Faye. 

At times, the novel reads more like non-fiction than fiction, however the tale is so endearing, it kept me reading to the end. A nice historical story!

Review by Mirella Patzer
Historical Novel Review

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tides of Honour by Genevieve Graham

A novel of love, loss, and honour amidst the horrors of war and its aftermath.

In the summer of 1916, Private Daniel Baker marches into battle with the boys of Nova Scotia’s 25th Battalion. Out of brutal necessity, Danny has steeled himself against the trials and horrors of war, but he is completely unprepared to meet the love of his life in war-torn France.

Audrey Poulin has the soul of an artist. She lives alone with her grandmother in the quiet French countryside, where her only joy is in her brush and palette. When, by chance, she encounters Danny, the handsome young soldier captures her heart and inspires her painting. The young lovers believe that only together can they face the hardships the war brings.

But love is just the beginning. Mere months later, Danny is gravely wounded at the Battle of the Somme, and his future is thrown into uncertainty. Soon, he and Audrey find themselves struggling to build a new life in Halifax, a city grieving its lost men. As the grey winter of 1917 sets in, Danny’s lack of purpose and Audrey’s isolation continue to mount, pulling the two apart just as a new catastrophe threatens their existence.

Heartrending and enthralling, Tides of Honour is a novel of love and second chances set against Halifax’s most devastating moment of the First World War.

Review by Mirella Patzer

France, 1916. When Audrey Poulin encounters a troop of Canadian soldiers, she gives them shelter and food for the night. Among them is Private Daniel Baker. An instant enchantment arises between them and by the time he has to depart, they are deeply in love with each other. As the war rages, the young lovers exchange letters and they promise to wed as soon as Danny can return. But destiny intervenes and Danny is severely wounded. He releases Audrey from her pledge to marry him. But Audrey's deep love for Danny won't allow it. She travels from France to Nova Scotia, a vastly different life and setting from the French countryside where she grew up, and there she falls in love with the village and her new family. The aftermath of war is far reaching and Danny grows ever more despondent, bringing conflict and loss into their lives. It takes a major Canadian disaster for the two lovers to find themselves once more.

This multi-layered novel and its intriguing subplots makes this one of the best novels I've read this year. It's more than a love story. The tale successfully incorporates World War I, the Halifax explosion, and two different countries and blends it with subthemes of love, art, family, loss, PTSD. Rich, compelling, and totally engrossing - this novel is definitely one to read! Historically accurate and brilliantly researched, the story is alive and vivid. Loved this novel and I highly recommend it to everyone from all nations, but especially to Canadian readers! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Stranger's Secret and Laurie Alice Eakes' Traditional Cornish Pastie Recipe!

"The storm left more than missing roof tiles and downed tree branches in its wake. A mast, splintered like a twig in the hands of a giant's child and tossed upon the beach, a handful of spars, and masses of tangled rigging bellowed a tale of desruction. That not a box, barrel, or chest floated on the returning tide amidst the skeleton of the wrecked ship testified to destruction well beyond the ravages of the sea." Opening Paragraph
Synopsis:

As a grieving young widow, Morwenna only wants a quiet life for herself and her son. Until a man washes ashore, entangling her in a web of mystery that could threaten all she holds dear.

Lady Morwenna Trelawny Penvenan indulged in her fair share of dalliances in her youth, but now that she's the widowed mother to the heir of the Penvenan title, she's desperate to polish her reputation. When she's accused of deliberately luring ships to crash on the rocks to steal the cargo, Morwenna begins an investigation to uncover the real culprits and stumbles across an unconscious man lying in the sea's foam—a man wearing a medallion with the Trelawny crest around his neck.
The medallion is a mystery to David Chastain, a boat builder from Somerset. All David knows is that his father was found dead in Cornwall with the medallion in his possession after lying and stealing his family's money. And he knows the widow who rescued him is impossibly beautiful—and likely the siren who caused the shipwreck in the first place—as well as the hand behind whoever is trying to murder David.
As Morwenna nurses David back to health and tries to learn how he landed on her beach, suspicion and pride keep their growing attraction at bay. But can they join together to save Morwenna's name and estate and David’s life? Can they acknowledge the love they are both trying to deny?

Review by Mirella Patzer

Young and widowed, Morwenna Penvenan struggles to maintain her estate for her young son. Before she married, Morwenna was a bit of a wild child. Marriage to her husband provided her with security and comfort, but after his death, Morwenna is on the verge of losing everything due to poverty and some criminality occurring on her property. Someone is sending false signals to ships which sends them crashing onto her beach. The thieves then steal the cargo. And suspicion falls on her. On one such occasion, she encounters a nearly drowned man, badly beaten, who has washed up on her shore. His name is David Chastain and he wears a medallion with her family crest. She runs to get help, and when she returns, the man is still there, but the medallion is gone. She takes him to her home and begins nursing him back to health. As he recovers, Morwenna learns he is searching for answers to his father's death. Bit by bit, their destinies become entangled, and soon they become each other's allies. As suspicion threatens Morwenna, it is David who is the only one who believes her. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Its pages are filled with secrets, mystery, betrayal, and blosomming love. Morwenna is a wonderfully strong heroine, courages in the face of adversity, honest among thieves and liars, honorable in her interactions. Written in an easy to read, and pleasing prose, it was a quick, romantic read! A beautiful love story with an unforgettable heroine. Highly recommended!   

I'd like to extend a very warm welcome for historical fiction author, Laurie Alice. She has provided us with a traditional recipe for Cornish Pasties and explains a little about her latest novel I just reviewed above. It truly is one of the best books I read this year. 


Cornish Pastie

Cornwall: The Fascination with a Recipe

Once upon a time, a librarian gave a teenaged bookworm girl a book called Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier. Dubious because of the title, the girl took the book politely, settled in a chair . . . and barely came up for air until she finished the last word. What fourteen-year-old girl could resist a story about a young woman cast upon the world, a mysterious dark stranger, and smugglers? Not this one, that’s for sure. Thus was born my lifelong fascination with Cornwall.

Cornwall, I learned over the next many years of reading novels, legends, and nonfiction set in that land, is a county at the far southwest corner of England. It’s a peninsula thrusting a finger into the Atlantic Ocean, with the English Channel to the south and the Bristol Channel to the north. Along the eastern border is the Tamar River, which runs nearly from sea, to sea, stopping short of making this land an island. I say “land” rather than county, for many years, Cornwall was separated from Britain by language, dress, and culture. The people thought of themselves as Cornish, not English. After all, this was the land that gave rise to King Arthur. Cornishmen spoke a Celtic language rather than one derived from Saxon, as did those in the counties east of the Tamar. Cornishmen even had their own foods. The Pastie

When I discovered this, I felt a personal connection with Cornwall. To me, a pastie was something I had eaten. We have pastie shops in Michigan where I grew up. Cornishmen settled in my native state, especially the northern area where the copper mines exist. A pastie is essentially a meat pie and something my family still makes. With all this interest in and connection to (however loosely) Cornwall, how could I not write books set in this intriguing county? Smugglers? Wreckers? Ancient mines and natural caves tangling and twisting beneath the rocky soil. My imagination runs wild just thinking about this wild land. Until around 1700, Cornwall possessed it’s own language. Although that language had been considered dead for several decades before the setting of my Cliffs of Cornwall books, I hunted high and low to find a Cornish-English dictionary to get a feel for the people’s background. I bought books on Cornish names and read through them hunting for ones that translated well into English and weren’t too weird in their native incarnation.

When I asked my critique partners about some potential names for my hero in A Lady’s Honor, the names were so foreign-sounding my widely read fellow authors told me those sounded like the names of aliens in a science fiction novel. So I did change the spelling of Ruan, to Rowan for the sake of the reader. By the nineteenth century, Cornwall was fairly civilized. Fairly, not completely. Britain was at war with France only a hundred miles away across the English Channel and Cornwall possessed miles of unguarded coastline with inlets for tucking boats and caves for hiding goods like silk, tea, and brandy, making smuggling a common and lucrative practice.

As for the wrecking—the practice of luring ships to their doom in order to plunder the cargo—so much a part of A Stranger’s Secret, I found conflicting resources on whether or not it took place. Some Cornishmen claim it never did. Others in original sources from the time period, declare it absolutely did. From what I have read of Cornish history, especially with the staggering poverty as mine after mine paid out and closed, I suspect wrecking was what kept many a family supplied with food and clothing in a harsh climate little good for farming.Smuggling and wrecking are lawless and dangerous activities and not in the least romantic. Struggling against these rebellions in a wild land steeped in legend and bombarded by the sea, however, calls to my romantic soul.

Pasties

Crust

2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cut shortening (I use butter)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
½ c. water

Mix with fork until soft and crumbly.

Chill.

Filling

1 lb ground beef (I prefer chopped steak)
3 smallish potatoes cut into Cubes
3 carrots chopped
Whole onion chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper

Divide dough and roll into 8 inch circles.

Fill with ½ cup filling and fold dough in half

Pinch edges to seal.

Place (I use a spatula to lift them) onto a Greased cookie sheet

Pierce several holes in the top with a fork. Sprinkle with salt if desired.

1 hour at 350

Remove from oven and let stand for a few minutes so they don’t’ fall apart.

Makes about 8 pasties.

Note: Pastie shops in Michigan offer a variety of fillings including vegetarian ones.