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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review: Before the Crown by Flora Harding


Before the crown there was a love story…

Windsor Castle, 1943

As war rages across the world, Princess Elizabeth comes face to face with the dashing naval officer she first met in London nine years before.

One of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, Philip represents everything she has always been taught to avoid. Instability. Audacity. Adventure.

But when the king learns of their relationship, the suitability of the foreign prince is questioned by all at court.

He is the risk she has never been allowed to take. The risk not even the shadow of the crown will stop her from taking…

Step through the palace gates and discover a captivating historical novel of royal secrets and forbidden love exploring the tempestuous courtship between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the wake of WWII.

Kindle Edition, 267 pages
Published Dec. 10th, 2020 
by Harper Collins, Australia
4/5 stars


Fans of The Crown will enjoy a more detailed look at the courtship of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Beginning when she was only 13 years old (Philip is 6 years older) it was an eye opener into proper protocol for the royal family.

I’m not really what you’d call a diehard royal follower but I find them an interesting bunch - tuning in to weddings and such. While this is a work of fiction it was an entertaining read that had me feeling a wide range of emotions into the plight of these 2 individuals whose life choices needed approval for the good of the realm.

Before the Crown was a slower paced book and I enjoyed glimpsing inside Buckingham Palace, seeing another side of King George VI and his wife and even Princess Margaret. Also this book explored more of Prince Philip’s background through family and conflicts that arose.

This is the author’s debut, so hats off to writing a story where we all know the ending already. The journey to the alter was not smooth, there were obstacles to overcome, approval to be won and internal struggles to be fought. A wonderful debut that will appeal to fans of the Royal family and those that love a fairy tale ending.

My thanks to Harper Collins (Australia) for an advance digital copy (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Review: Don't Look for Me by Wendy Walker

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn't be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn't want to be found. Or at least, that's the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

The night Molly disappeared began with a storm, running out of gas, and a man in a truck offering her a ride to town. With him is a little girl who reminds her of the daughter she lost years ago. It feels like a sign. And Molly is overcome with the desire to be home, with her family—no matter how broken it is. She accepts the ride. But when the doors are locked shut, Molly begins to suspect she has made a terrible mistake.

When a new lead comes in after the search has ended, Molly's daughter, Nicole, begins to wonder. Nothing about her mother's disappearance makes sense.

Nicole returns to the small, desolate town where her mother was last seen to find the truth. The locals are kind and eager to help. The innkeeper. The bartender. Even the police. Until secrets begin to reveal themselves and she comes closer to the truth about that night—and the danger surrounding her.

Hardcover, 342 pages
Published September 15th 2020
 by St. Martin's Press
4/5 stars

Don't Look for Me is a story of grief and the effect it has on everyone in the family.  Sometimes its just easier to blame somebody else then to deal with it.  So on the 5th anniversary of her daughter's death does Molly Clark deliberately walk away or does something more sinister happen?

Don't Look for Me is a mystery with some unreliable characters. There are a lot of characters to keep straight but it's possible especially as the desire to read just one more chapter was prevalent the whole way through.  With enough red herrings I was kept theorising over and over again.

This is my first time readying Wendy Was, I picked this up from the library after reading rave comments on social media, so fingers crossed that it would live up to the hype.  It did!!  If you are looking for a fast paced mystery I recommend giving this one a turn.



Monday, November 16, 2020

Review/Giveaway: His Castilian Hawk by Anna Belfrage

For bastard-born Robert FitzStephan, being given Eleanor d’Outremer in marriage is an honour. For Eleanor, this forced wedding is anything but a fairy tale.

Robert FitzStephan has served Edward Longshanks loyally since the age of twelve. Now he is riding with his king to once and for all bring Wales under English control.

Eleanor d’Outremer—Noor to family—lost her Castilian mother as a child and is left entirely alone when her father and brother are killed. When ordered to wed the unknown Robert FitzStephan, she has no choice but to comply.

Two strangers in a marriage bed is not easy. Things are further complicated by Noor’s blood-ties to the Welsh princes and by covetous Edith who has warmed Robert’s bed for years.

Robert’s new wife may be young and innocent, but he is soon to discover that not only is she spirited and proud, she is also brave. Because when Wales lies gasping and Edward I exacts terrible justice on the last prince and his children, Noor is determined to save at least one member of the House of Aberffraw from the English king.

Will years of ingrained service have Robert standing with his king or will he follow his heart and protect his wife, his beautiful and fierce Castilian hawk?

Publication Date: September 28, 2020
Troubador Publishing
4.5/5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

Available on Amazon


I was excited to hear about this new series by Anna Belfrage. Her Graham Saga is one of my absolute favourite series - historical, family drama, mystery, adventure all mixed with some time travel.

His Castilian Hawk is the start of another series set during the reign of the first King Edward and it’s during the Welsh conflict that this book centres on. It didn’t take long to get sweep away into the pages. With an unlikely couple, Robert FitzStephan and Eleanor d’Outremer, who are forced upon each other. I felt a real connection with these two, different backgrounds both conflicted, one committed to the King and the other part Welsh. Throw in a disgruntled Edith, some treason worthy secrets and it’s a match well worth watching.

With so many layers going on Anna has once again delivered a yummy historical drama that was authentic, emotional and entertaining. Her knowledge of history shines through once again. There are scenes of battle and of love - if you've read any of her books you know exactly what I mean.

I can’t wait to see what’s next as this series continues with The Castilian Pomegranate. If you haven't read an Anna Belfrage book I highly recommend both The Graham Saga and The King's Greatest Enemy

My thanks to Amy at HFVBT for the invite to be part of this tour. Also to the author for a print copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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About the Author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.

More recently, Anna has published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. While she loved stepping out of her comfort zone (and will likely do so again ) she is delighted to be back in medieval times in her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love.

Find out more about Anna on her website or on her Amazon page. You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


click on banner for more stops, including interviews and excerpts on this tour



Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two paperback copies of His Castilian Hawk! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open internationally and ends on November 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Castilian Hawk


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Review: The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

A broken family, a house of secrets—an entrancing tale of love and courage set during the Second World War.

After Rebecca’s mother dies, she must sort through her empty flat and come to terms with her loss. As she goes through her mother’s mail, she finds a handwritten envelope. In it is a letter that will change her life forever.

Olivia, her mother’s elderly cousin, needs help to save her beloved home. Rebecca immediately goes to visit Olivia in Cornwall only to find a house full of secrets—treasures in the attic and a mysterious tunnel leading from the cellar to the sea, and Olivia, nowhere to be found.

As it turns out, the old woman is stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her house is made habitable again. Rebecca sets to work restoring the home to its former glory, but as she peels back the layers of paint and grime, she uncovers even more buried secrets—secrets from a time when the Second World War was raging, when Olivia was a young woman, and when both romance and danger lurked around every corner...

A sweeping and utterly spellbinding tale of a young woman’s courage in the face of war and the lengths to which she’ll go to protect those she loves against the most unexpected of enemies.

Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: November 17th 2020 
by Simon Schuster
4/5 stars

Right from the beginning I was draw in after being introduced to Rebecca. A sympathetic character mourning the loss of her mother. The old house overlooking the sea is one I would classify as a character, it had secrets to share because we all know secrets don’t stay hidden forever.

Jump over to a distant relative, Olivia, elderly and a force to be reckoned with. Her personality was not just nasty, her companion, Gabriel, well... lets just say they made a good pair. The past story line interested me, I was curious as to why Olivia was the way she was. What happened during WW2 in Cornwall?

This is my first time reading Jane Johnson (not for lack of desire, I have a couple books on my shelf). As the puzzle pieces clicked into place I find myself anxious to read more of her books. Her characters are authentic with issues relevant today as they were in the past. An interesting plot that kept me guessing

The Sea Gate is a story of the war that extends past Europe, it’s about discovering oneself and coming to terms with the past. New beginnings and heartache. While I am usually partial to the past story lines the present day one had me just as intrigued.

The Sea Gate releases next week and is available for preorder.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster for a print ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Cover Reveal: Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

 One of my highly anticipated books of 2021 has revealed the cover and blurb (and I want now).


Letters Across the Sea is the next book by bestselling historical fiction writer Genevieve Graham.


Letters Across the Sea is the story of a Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour who are growing up in Toronto, against the backdrop of the Depression, and then the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and a wave of hate that would ignite the Second World War.

Graham, who is from Nova Scotia, has written several novels that highlight Canadian history. Her other books include At the Mountain's Edge, Tides of Honour, Come From Away and The Forgotten Home Child.

Letters Across the Sea will be available on April 27, 2021.

You can read an excerpt from Letters Across the Sea by clicking here

It's about the last stand during the Second World War, when Canadians fought against the Japanese in Hong Kong in 1941.

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Monday, November 2, 2020

The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge #0) by Ken Follett

It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns.

In these turbulent times, three characters find their lives intertwined. A young boatbuilder's life is turned upside down when the only home he's ever known is raided by Vikings, forcing him and his family to move and start their lives anew in a small hamlet where he does not fit in. . . . A Norman noblewoman marries for love, following her husband across the sea to a new land, but the customs of her husband's homeland are shockingly different, and as she begins to realize that everyone around her is engaged in a constant, brutal battle for power, it becomes clear that a single misstep could be catastrophic. . . . A monk dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a center of learning that will be admired throughout Europe. And each in turn comes into dangerous conflict with a clever and ruthless bishop who will do anything to increase his wealth and power.

Hardcover, 913 pages
Published September 15th 2020
 by Viking
4.5/5 stars

 Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourite reads, I love getting lost in a story with characters that I've come to connect and cheer for.  Add the historical element and well...I'm in my happy place. We so much hype and positive feedback about this new book I find it hard to write a review.

With The Evening and the Morning I was once again ready to me immersed though it has been awhile since I've tackled a book this size. I will confess that I finished the last 300 pages by listening to the audio book.  John Lee is the reader and again did a stellar job.

I was pulled right in with the first chapter, a Viking attack is the start of a journey for a young man left with nothing.  Follett had the right blend of history, setting and customs that kept me entertained.  There was heartache, love and betrayal, trust issues, violence and power struggles that kept me on my toes. The characters were developed nicely, and even though this had a large cast it wasn't hard to keep everyone straight.  Definitely a great read during this weird year of 2020 to get lost within the pages off.

Even though this is a prequel there is no reason to read Pillars of the Earth first. I might do a reread (via audio book) of Pillars before proceeding with World Without End.

This book is part of my 2020 Reading off my Shelf Challenge.