July 30, 2014

The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander

A wonderfully unique and exciting novel!

From the Back Cover

In 1688, torn by rebellions, England lives under the threat of a Dutch invasion. Redheaded Calumny Spinks is the lowliest man in an Essex backwater: half-French and still unapprenticed at seventeen, yet he dreams of wealth and title. When his father’s violent past resurfaces, Cal’s desperation leads him to become a coffee racketeer. He has just three months to pay off a blackmailer and save his father’s life - but his ambition and talent for mimicry pull him into a conspiracy against the King himself. Cal’s journey takes him from the tough life of Huguenot silk weavers to the vicious intrigues at Court. As the illicit trader Benjamin de Corvis and his controlling daughter Emilia pull him into their plots, and his lover Violet Fintry is threatened by impending war, Cal is forced to choose between his conscience and his dream of becoming Mister Calumny Spinks.


If I had to describe this book, I would say it was fun and unique. The opening pages with the unique voice of the protagonist, Calumny Spinks immediately gripped me. I always enjoy a story with odd an unusual quirky characters, and this novel has them in abundance.

The novel is set in 17th century England during the revolution and a pending Dutch invasion and around the time the coffee industry was taking hold. There were plenty of secrets, lots of dissention, and extremely colorful scenes from start to finish. With its unpredictable plot, great storyline, and lovable main character, there is much to enjoy. For a unique reading experience, I definitely recommend this wonderful novel. 

City of Devils by Diana Bretherick

From the Back Cover

The brightest mind in early criminology meets the darkest killer, in this debut mystery set in the heady, cultivated world of nineteenth century Turin.

Turin, Italy 1887. When James Murray, a young Scottish doctor fascinated by the workings of the criminal mind, travels to the vibrant city of Turin, it is to study with Cesare Lombroso, the world-renowned criminologist. But just hours after his introduction to the unconventional Lombroso, the discovery of a horrifically mutilated body in the nearby Piazza Statuto—and a note that appears to implicate the celebrated criminologist himself—changes everything.

With the help of his fellow apprentice, Ottolenghi; a local investigator, Tullio; and Lombroso’s beautiful but enigmatic housekeeper, Sofia; Murray must put his learning to the test and endeavor to understand the mind of a malevolent serial killer, if he is to stop the rapidly escalating bloodbath and clear the name of his mentor.

Have Lombroso’s many enemies attempted to frame him? Are the notes an accusation or a challenge? And will Lombroso’s own influential theories about criminal behavior hold the keys to Murray catching a cunning and ruthless killer?


Set in 1887, the City of Devils’ protagonist is based on a real historic person named Cesare Lombroso who founded a bizarre museum of bizarre human oddities. The story takes place in the beautiful city of Torino (Turin). When a body is found at the foot of a statue, all clues point to Lobroso as the culprit, and this whodunit begins. 

Author, Diana Bretherick, won the 2012 Good Housekeeping new novel award with this story. The author’s style is engaging and very descriptive. The novel is a bit elongated, but it keeps the reader captivated and guessing to the very end. There were plenty of secrets and clues and red herrings, as well as great characters and a mild love story weaved into the plot.

For those who love mysteries with a bit of the odd and unusual in exotic settings, then this is the novel for you. A very nice debut novel for this author!

July 28, 2014

East India by Colin Falconer

A Novel of Mutiny, Murder, and Madness!

The Shipwreck of the Batavia

In any other circumstance but shipwreck, rape and murder, a man like Michiel van Texel would never have met a fine lady such as Cornelia Noorstrandt.

He was just a soldier, a sergeant in the Dutch East India company’s army, on his way from Amsterdam to the Indies to fight the Mataram. Such a woman was far above the likes of him.

But both their destinies intertwine far away from Holland, on some god-forsaken islands near the Great Southland. When their great ship, the Utrecht, founders far from home, surviving the Houtman Rocks is the least of their worries.

As they battle to survive and the bravest and the best reveal themselves for what they are, Cornelia’s only hope is a mercenary in a torn coat who shows her that a man is more than just manners and money.

He makes her one promise: ‘Even if God forsakes you, I will find you.’

But can he keep it?

Described by one critic as ‘Jack and Rose in the seventeenth century’, East India will keep you wondering until the final page.

Mirella Patzer

In the novel, EAST INDIA, internationally bestselling author, Colin Falconer, has written a fictionalized accounting of a terrible tale of depravity and barbarity that is known the world over – that of the shipwreck Batavia in 1629 that became one of the most incredible stories of shipwreck ever recorded and one of the bloodiest chapters in Australia's history.

Some survivors of the shipwreck made it to some tiny islands that lacked water and food and they suffered dehydration, starvation, and heat illness. Others remained on the ship and were either washed off deck, drowned when the ship collapsed, or failed trying to swim to the islands. 48 people packed into a longboat set off to make a 2000 journey to Batavia to get help. For the people left on the islands, they would face bloodshed, rape, and murder at the hand of the madman and his group of henchmen who seized control. The group began to systematically reduce the survivors to preserve food and water. First, they exiled groups of people to various nearby islands without sufficient food or water, hoping they would perish. When that failed, the group of murderers began drowning people in the ocean. One group of people on one of the islands who had survived on seals, seal’s blood, and urine, became the victims of a secret slaughter by these henchmen. Soon the murders were no longer conducted in secret. One boy was beheaded for sport, and the women were herded into a tent and used as sex slaves.

With his usual style of sharp, succinct writing, Colin Falconer captured the facts of this dreadful drama, skilfully mixed it with a little fiction, and created a powerfully passionate novel that shocked me and held me in its grip! In fact, I read the entire book in one sitting, unable to stop reading. The plight of the survivors at the hands of a few controlling madmen is one that I will not soon forget, and Falconer tells it like it is with blunt honesty and intense narrative.

I have long been a fan and follower of Colin Falconer. I found this novel as spell-binding, expertly written, and compelling as all his others. His tales offer something of interest to both men and women. With poignant characterization, dazzling dialogue, and impeccable research, there is something for everyone that will please. I can’t say enough about this book. Although it is a dark tale, there is a bit of a love story within that lends the tale some closure so the reader is left with a feeling of satisfaction! Nothing short of brilliant, Colin! Can’t wait for your next book on Cleopatra!

Following is a documentary on this shipwreck. It's a bit long at almost an hour, but it's worth watching.

July 26, 2014

The Shadow of War: The Great War Series Book 1 by Stewart Binns

The Shadow of War is the first novel in Stewart Binns's new series 
which will see a book release for each year of the First World War.

June 1914

The beginning of another long, prosperous summer for Britain. But beneath the clear skies, all is not as it seems - as the chill wind of social discontent swirls around this sceptered isle.

Shots ring out in a distant European land - the assassination of a foreign aristocrat. From that moment the entire world is propelled into a conflict unlike any seen before.
This is the story of five British communities, their circumstances very different, but who will all share in the tragedy that is to come. All that they have known will be changed forever by the catastrophic events of the Great War.

This is a story of love and comradeship, of hatred and tragedy - 
this is the story of the Great War

The Shadow of War, the first novel in The Great War series from Stewart Binns, is a thrilling read and perfect for those who enjoy the writing of Conn Iggulden and Bernard Cornwell.


The Shadow of War is Stewart Binn’s newest novel, the first of several that will cover the years that span World War I as it pertains to Britain. It takes place in a relatively short time frame, from June to December 1914, the months leading up to the start of the Great War. In this opening novel, Binns introduces the reader to several characters of diverse social ranks, roles, and genders, and some of the key politicians of the era. In the author’s usual easy style of writing, he relays the facts that led up to the conflict, so this is very much a story of the war as experienced by his main characters.

Stewart Binns has written a very factual fictionalized tale that gave me a glimpse into the era and how the war affected those directly or indirectly involved. It took me several chapters to “get into” the book, but then it truly caught and held my interest. It is truly a book that educates while entertaining, a talent of this bestselling author.

For those who would love to learn more about the Great War, and Britain’s role in it, then this is a good book to start with. Very interesting and definitely recommended!

Visit the Author:

July 21, 2014

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

A #1 Indie Next Pick and Library-Reads Selection

Magic, adventure, mystery, and romance combine in this epic debut in which a young princess must reclaim her dead mother’s throne, learn to be a ruler—and defeat the Red Queen, a powerful and malevolent sorceress determined to destroy her.

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend . . . if she can survive.

This book will be a beautifully designed package with illustrated endpapers, a map of the Tearling, and a ribbon marker.


I rarely read historical fantasy novels, but I’m very happy that I read this one. It truly is a well written story with a powerful heroine. The story is set in a dystopian futuristic medieval world called Tear. I enjoyed the story of Kelsea, a young woman who suddenly comes of age and is sent off to face her destiny as a queen and hidden magical skills/gifts that she possesses in addition with an uncanny talent for leading.

What makes this book shine is the brilliant dialogue and the characterization, especially of the guardsmen, who come across as powerful warriors who are doing their duty by escorting her to the kingdom to be crowned. Slowly, their doubts about the young and na├»ve Kelsea begin to change into admiration as she shows courage, savvy, and fairness. 

The Queen of Tearling is the first book of a series and definitely worth reading. The ending is satisfying but leaves many unanswered questions for the next installment. I really liked this novel which will soon be made into a movie…So that should tell you the storyline is pretty darn good!

July 18, 2014

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Freemantle

Excellent! Definitely not your typical Tudor story!

From the author of Queen’s Gambit, which People magazine called, “A must-read for Philippa Gregory fans,” a gripping historical novel about two sisters who tread as dangerously close to the crown as their tragic sister, Lady Jane Grey, executed after just nine days on the throne.

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Freemantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

From “a brilliant new player in the court of royal fiction,” (People) Sisters of Treason brings to vivid life the perilous and romantic lives of two little known young women who played a major role in the complex politics of their day.



Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Freemantle is set in 16th century England during a time of political upheaval. At the heart of the story are three women, the sisters Mary and Catherine Grey, and painter Levina Teerlinc. Through their collective points of view, the story unfolds. The main story plot are the struggles of the two sisters to avoid court intrigue and politics. Still reeling after the beheading of their Sister, Lady Jane Grey, Catherine and Mary find themselves pulled into court intrigue despite their attempts to keep their distance, where a single swipe of the quill or a few angry words, or even worse, the truth, will spill out and see them imprisoned in the Tower or executed.

Although I had not read the previous book, The Queen's Gambit, it made no difference – this story definitely stands alone. At first I was a little apprehensive because of the over-abundance of Tudor novels on the market currently, and I am getting a little weary of them, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The author has taken us deep into the viewpoint of two lesser known women in England’s history. So for that aspect alone, I found this book unique and refreshing. Brava Elizabeth Freemantle for bringing to life women other than those married to Henry VIII!

I did not expect to become so involved in this story, but I did. Lots of detail, spectacular writing, and an engaging plot kept me involved right to the very last page. Definitely a book not to overlook, especially if you are a fan of English history! I'm definitely looking forward to reading The Queen's Gambit! 

July 15, 2014

Successio by Alison Morton


Roma Nova - the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century - is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure. She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad's lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real. Trying to resolve a young man's indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun at the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life –


In this third book in Ms Morton’s saga of the Roma Nova aristocracy, Carina Mitela’s life does not get any easier. Not only does she have to cope with wayward teenage children and an even more rebellious step-daughter, she is faced with an indiscretion of her husbands that comes back to haunt them all. Nicola Sandbrook, the daughter Conrad never knew he had, is not only resentful but has inherited the sociopathic tendencies of her paternal grandfather, Caius Tellus.

She is bent on a twisted revenge of her own imagination and determined to bring down the family she was never a part of. One aspect I found surprising in this heavily family oriented society, was the way Conrad doesn’t present a united front with his ex-partner, wife and six children – no he takes Nicola’s side through guilt, misplaced loyalty and a preponderance to use his position as Legate to conceal evidence against this unspeakable and destructive girl.

Conrad definitely has issues, but I found myself unsympathetic toward him and his ‘reasons’ and squarely on Carina’s side as she goes to battle in protecting her children against all threats. Threats Conrad appears happy to ignore.

Carina has the battle of her life ahead of her, in fact one that at times I wondered if she could survive.  Her daughter Allegra and stepdaughter Stella both have their own voice in this story and show all the signs of being interesting characters for future volumes in the Roma Nova saga. Interestingly the two sons play a minor, almost invisible part.

A worthy addition to the list and one which kept me reading.

Anita Davison is an historical fiction author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is released by Claymore Press under the name Anita Seymour

BLOG: http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/anita.davison?
GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/AnitaDavison
TWITTER: @AnitaSDavison

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