Tuesday 18 June 2024

Book Review - West of Santillane by Brook Allen

West of Santillane
By Brook Allen

Publication Date: 8th March 2024
Publisher: Dawg House Books 
Page Length: 377 Page
Genre: Historical Biographical Fiction

Desperate to escape a mundane future as a Virginia planter’s wife, Julia Hancock seizes her chance for adventure when she wins the heart of American hero William Clark. Though her husband is the famed explorer, Julia embarks on her own thrilling and perilous journey of self-discovery.

With her gaze ever westward, Julia possesses a hunger for knowledge and a passion for helping others. She falls in love with Will’s strength and generous manner, but, like her parents, he is a slave owner, and Julia harbors strong opinions against slavery. Still, her love for Will wins out, though he remains unaware of her beliefs.

Julia finds St. Louis to be a rough town with few of the luxuries to which she is accustomed, harboring scandalous politicians and miscreants of all types. As her husband and his best friend, Meriwether Lewis, work to establish an American government and plan to publish their highly anticipated memoirs, Julia struggles to assume the roles of both wife and mother. She is also drawn into the plight of an Indian family desperate to return to their own lands and becomes an advocate for Will’s enslaved.

When political rivals cause trouble, Julia’s clandestine aid to the Indians and enslaved of St. Louis draws unwanted attention, placing her at odds with her husband. Danger cloaks itself in far too many ways, leading her to embrace the courage to save herself and others through a challenge of forgiveness that will either restore the love she shares with Will or end it forever.

Sometimes life happens when you are busy making plans. If Phillip Carrington asked to court her, Julia Hancock had firmly made up her mind to accept. Yet, the two-faced nature of someone who was supposed to be her friend ensured that such a thing would never come to pass. She would have to look for a husband elsewhere.

Then, without warning, a marriage proposal is presented. Captain William Clark, an American hero, has asked for her hand in marriage. Hers! William is no Phillip, he is a grown man and a great deal older than her, but age is just a number when you are in love, and Julia was definitely in love.

Prepare to be enchanted by Brook Allen’s West of Santillane, a captivating tale that delves into family, slavery, and political controversy from the viewpoint of Julia Hancock Clark.

Historical narratives frequently centre around men, leaving the women of the time overlooked; however, their stories often prove to be even more captivating than those of their male counterparts. Julia Hancock, wife of the renowned William Clark, exemplifies this phenomenon.  

Julia’s social standing is greatly enhanced by her status as a planter’s daughter in Virginia. She is highly educated, exceptionally well-read, and proficient in household management. Seeking an advantageous marriage for Julia, her father believes there is no better candidate than the famous William Clark, even though Julia’s mother feels uneasy about the significant age disparity. Julia first encountered William at the age of nine, and now she’s excited to see him and swiftly becomes enamoured by his charisma. The narrative that follows is a mix of hardship, loss, grief, and love. Julia’s story has been patiently waiting to be told, and Allen is the only author who can do it justice. Julia is a relatable character that readers can connect with right away. She possesses firm opinions, a compassionate heart, and an indomitable spirit. Julia’s story is not only captivating, but it also mesmerizes and leaves the reader yearning for more.

Captain William Clark is something of a national hero having jointly led a two-year exploration of the Pacific with the Corps of Discovery, with Meriwether Lewis. The reader doesn’t receive a complete understanding of the expedition’s events, as that would require a separate story. Nonetheless, the expedition and the publication of their discoveries play a significant role throughout the narrative. William effortlessly handles fame, but his current priorities are his courtship and marriage to Julia, as well as advancing his career. President Jefferson designates him as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Louisiana Territory, a role he is thrilled about, though Julia’s father has reservations about her living in Louisiana so far away from home. William is quite a complex character for a reader to get grips with. He is a loving husband and father, a fair man when it comes to Indian affairs, earning the readers’ admiration, but his cruelty toward his people (slaves) taints his character. Allen has not romanticised William in any way, he is what he is, a product of his time and it is wise for the reader to remember this, although it is very difficult not to judge him harshly.

One of the underlying themes in this story is the presence of slavery. Even though the country had just freed itself from English rule, slavery remained prevalent, undermining the notion of true freedom. Julia never really thought about her father’s people until her actions resulted in devastating consequences for two boys she used to play with. Until now, she had always seen Ares and Virgi as nothing more than her friends, without considering their skin colour, and now they have been punished for something she had done. The memory of injustice and cruelty will forever be etched in the mind of a very impressionable nine-year-old girl. Many years later, she attends a speech given by abolitionist, James Mitchell, a Methodist minister, and upon meeting him, she becomes resolute in her decision to never marry a planter who owns slaves, as she finds the practice utterly repulsive. Despite not marrying a planter, she does end up falling in love and marrying Captain William Clark, who happens to be a slave owner. Despite Julia’s efforts to conceal her abolitionist views from her husband, she cannot tolerate witnessing him administer cruel punishments. William treats his horses better than he treats his slaves, and this comes as a shock to both Julia and the reader. It seems so out of character for William to beat his slaves. His excuse for such behaviour is simple, they are his to do with what he wants and this ingrained attitude, so prevalent at the time, leads to incredible tension in their marriage. Allen skillfully uses Julia’s character to reveal the distressing truth about the insignificance of a slave’s life to their owners. The treatment of York by William, who had accompanied him on the expedition and was the first African American to cross the continent and see the Pacific, is a clear illustration of the power dynamics between slave owners and their enslaved individuals. Conversely, Julia treats her husband’s people with respect and kindness, and they reciprocate in the same manner. The way her relationship with Chloe was depicted was exceptionally well executed.

This novel portrays politics as a power struggle accompanied by corruption. Though not based in Washington, the presence of President Jefferson resonates throughout this tale. Both William and Meriwether Lewis face a two-fold consequence when they are offered their positions by the President. With figures like Frederick Bates involved, it is wise to anticipate and outsmart political manoeuvrings, but the threat comes seemingly too late for Meriwether. With his rapidly declining health and Bates’ continued interferences, Meriwether faces financial ruin. Meriwether’s initial strange demeanour melts away as the reader uncovers the hardships he faces, which in return prompts sympathy. Allen’s authentic portrayal of Meriwether was flawlessly executed, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

West of Santillane by Brook Allen is a novel that will evoke strong emotions, so make sure you have tissues nearby. While there are moments of horror and intense passion, this story also explores life in Louisiana during this era and has breathed new life into Julia Hancock Clark. Once you have read it, this story will stay with you forever.

Pick up your copy of
 West of Santillane

Brook Allen

Author Brook Allen has a passion for history. Her newest project, West of Santillane spotlights history from a little closer to home. It’s the story of Julia Hancock, who married famed explorer, William Clark. Each character of this thrilling, adventurous period was researched throughout southwest Virginia and into Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota. It launches in March of 2024.

Brook belongs to the Historical Novel Society and attends conferences as often as possible to study craft and meet fellow authors. In 2019, Son of Rome won the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year Award. In 2020, it was honored with a silver medal in the international Reader’s Favorite Book Reviewers Book Awards and also won First Place in the prestigious Chaucer Division in the Chanticleer International Book Awards, 2020. 

The Antonius Trilogy is a detailed account of the life of Marcus Antonius—Marc Antony, which she worked on for fifteen years. The first installment, Antonius: Son of Rome was published in March 2019. It follows Antony as a young man, from the age of eleven, when his father died in disgrace, until he’s twenty-seven and meets Cleopatra for the first time. Brook’s second book is Antonius: Second in Command, dealing with Antony’s tumultuous rise to power at Caesar’s side and culminating with the civil war against Brutus and Cassius. Antonius: Soldier of Fate is the last book in the trilogy, spotlighting the romance between Antonius and Cleopatra and the historic war with Octavian Caesar. 

Though she graduated from Asbury University with a B.A. in Music Education, Brook has always loved writing. She completed a Masters program at Hollins University with an emphasis in Ancient Roman studies, which helped prepare her for authoring her Antonius Trilogy. Brook teaches full-time as a Music Educator and works in a rural public-school district near Roanoke, Virginia. Her personal interests include travel, cycling, hiking in the woods, reading, and spending downtime with her husband and big, black dog, Jak. She lives in the heart of southwest Virginia in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Connect with Brook:

Climb aboard! Don't miss the heart-pounding climax of the Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail series. Rolling Home is the final installment.

Rolling Home: A Pioneer Western Adventure
By David Fitz-Gerald

Publication Date: 15th June 2024
Publisher: David Fitz-Gerald
Pages: 254 Pages
Genre: Western Historical Fiction

Climb aboard! Don't miss the heart-pounding climax of the Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail series. Rolling Home is the final installment.

In the heart of the rolling village, dissent brews as the stubbornest naysayer refuses to continue the journey. With an ominous early snowfall and memories of the ill-fated Donner Party haunting the pioneers, Dorcas Moon faces a new wave of challenges. Just when she believes things can't get worse, a disastrous river crossing claims their wagon and submerges their belongings.

As the rolling village approaches the final leg of the journey, the looming threat of outlaws intensifies. The notorious bandit known as The Viper and his ruthless brothers are determined to rob the greenhorns, sell their stock, and kill every last one of them. The pioneers had heard tales of their brutality, but now, with Dorcas' daughter kidnapped and Dorcas captured, everyone is in danger.

What will become of Dorcas Moon, her family, and their friends? Will anyone survive the perilous journey?

Rejoin the expedition and witness the thrilling end to a gripping saga.

Pick up your copy of
Rolling Home

David Fitz-Gerald 

David Fitz-Gerald writes westerns and historical fiction. He is the author of twelve books, including the brand-new series, Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail set in 1850. Dave is a multiple Laramie Award, first place, best in category winner; a Blue Ribbon Chanticleerian; a member of Western Writers of America; and a member of the Historical Novel Society.

Alpine landscapes and flashy horses always catch Dave’s eye and turn his head. He is also an Adirondack 46-er, which means that he has hiked to the summit of the range’s highest peaks. As a mountaineer, he’s happiest at an elevation of over four thousand feet above sea level.

Dave is a lifelong fan of western fiction, landscapes, movies, and music. It should be no surprise that Dave delights in placing memorable characters on treacherous trails, mountain tops, and on the backs of wild horses.

Connect with David:

#WesternFiction #WesternAdventure #AmericanWest #NewRelease #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

Monday 17 June 2024

Book Review - Ash Fall: A Novel of the Knights of Malta (the Siege of Malta Book 3) by Marthese Fenech

Ash Fall

A Novel of the Knights of Malta
(the Siege of Malta Book 3) 
By Marthese Fenech

Publication Date: 8th September 2022
Publisher: BDL Publishing
Page Length: 660 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Fate meets fire. The world ignites.

1565. Malta stands on the precipice of one of the bloodiest battles in history. An elite Ottoman army, 50,000 strong, prepares to depart Istanbul, the seat of the Empire. Deeply conflicted, Demir must sail alongside the host determined to conquer his mother’s homeland and crush the Order of St John once and for all. Testing his loyalty is the knowledge that Angelica, the half-sister he has never met, dwells on the tiny island.

As the Maltese garrison braces for the incoming storm, knights and civilians stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the walls. Domenicus and Robert volunteer for the ramparts of Fort St Elmo, the most precarious position on Malta. Angelica finds herself locked outside the city gates and scrambles to a hilltop citadel, where she helps establish a makeshift infirmary. Katrina takes up a bow and stands a post, shielding her town as the Ottoman tide crashes against it.

For several blood-soaked months, Malta is the stage upon which fierce combat rages. Heads are fired from cannons, field hospitals set ablaze, knights crucified, and soldiers melted where they stand. As the land exhales swirling ash, and narrow streets choke on rubble, no one escapes the fiery currents of war unscathed. The body count surges. Hope scatters with the smoke. Outflanked and outnumbered, can the defence hold out until a much-delayed relief force arrives from Sicily?

Vastly outnumbered, the Knights of Malta, once again come face to face with their adversaries, the Ottoman Empire. Having already suffered the loss of Rhodes four decades earlier, following a lengthy six-month siege, they now find themselves confronted with the same impending danger. They are aware of their significant numerical disadvantage. But they had God on their side, although the question as to where He was at Rhodes they do not linger over.

Malta plays a crucial role in the Ottoman Empire’s strategic plans for European conquest. It is seen as an important link between Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples, enabling further territorial expansion. And after all, they have Allah on their side, like they did in Rhodes. Along with that, they have Dragut, the notorious Ottoman corsair and skilled naval commander with extensive experience battling Christian knights.

Marthese Fenech’s Ash Fall is the thrilling finale of her highly praised The Knights of Malta series.

The depiction of the siege preparation was skilfully done. While the knights order the evacuation of the old and infirm, the wealthy also take their chance to escape. This serves as a reminder of the class divide explored in previous books. The plight of those left behind made for a very sobering read.

Just like the previous novels in this series, Ash Fall has undergone meticulous research. From the clothes they wore to the weapons at their disposal, Fenech has brought the era back to life. Fenech has stayed true to the historical context and depicted it with her expected writing prowess. The siege’s brutality, the immense loss of lives, the torture, and the crucifixions make for a difficult read. The reader experiences the chaos and brutality of siege warfare, witnessing the complete disregard for both life and death. This book is dominated by intense battles, with no relief, as even when the reader is removed from the front line, the makeshift hospitals and the unbearable suffering of the injured and dying persist. 

There is a prevailing sense of fear among the general population, and the islanders are genuinely concerned about depleting their supplies, weapons, and manpower. Amongst all this chaos, all this bloodshed, there are the characters that have made the first two books so very memorable. In the first two books of the series, Augustine and Angelica, along with the rest, encounter immense hardships including slavery and persecution. However, in this instalment, there’s a chilling sense that they’re bound together and they would prefer death over separation. Consequently, this amplifies the significance of the narrative. As a reader, we can only hold our breath as the Ottoman Empire strikes at the very heart of the land that the protagonists call home.

Unlike the previous two novels, this book features a significantly larger cast of characters. Fenech has incorporated into her story, and rightly so, the leading historical figures associated with this siege. This gave the story a strong sense of realism. But for the most part, the story is centred around the novel's principal players, namely the Montesa family. The Montesa family are devoted to their homeland almost as much as they are devoted to each other. As a reader, I have come to know this family very well, and it was like witnessing old friends having to go through a seemingly unrelenting traumatic experience. As expected, their bravery matched their unwavering devotion to one another.

Several of the characters suffer life-changing injuries, which sometimes left me questioning the narrative. Even though Robert has a horrific injury, he loses an eye, and he briefly experiences psychosis from the pain, he recovers and resumes fighting rapidly. Remarkably, he was still the best marksman they had, despite the challenge of his one eye needing time to compensate for the loss of the other. I was left somewhat confused by this, and it momentarily disrupted my immersion in the story. Although I acknowledge the necessity of utilizing all available resources for defence, I question the feasibility of Robert’s quick recovery from a medical standpoint.

The concepts of duty and love were both brilliantly explored. At times it was difficult to tell the two apart. Not only are the main characters fighting for Malta, but they are also fighting for the people they hold dear, such as their family and friends. These two deep-rooted emotions are the most challenging for Demir. His reluctance to participate in a war against Malta stems from having family there, even if they are unaware of his existence. However, his obligation and loyalty to his sultan compel him to serve. He faces death several times, and yet always he is conflicted but what he has seen and what he knows. He frequently finds himself pondering over who holds more significance - an unknown sister or the country he was born to serve. As with the other novels, Demir continues to hold a special place in my heart. His depiction was truly wonderful.

The conclusion of Ash Falls can only be understood by those who have read the beginning of the series. There’s a sense of closure and fulfilment as if everything that occurred in the story was meant to culminate in this ending. The way this series concluded was beautifully portrayed. Marthese Fenech is an incredibly talented writer and one I do not hesitate to recommend, especially if you love quality historical fiction.

Pick up your copy of 
Ash Fall

Marthese Fenech

Marthese Fenech was born the youngest of five to Maltese parents in Toronto. She has traveled extensively across five continents, visiting sixty-five countries. Her research for her novels has taken her on numerous trips to Malta, Turkey, Italy, France, and Spain--a wealth of fascinating places that introduced her to her characters and their cultures in a most authentic way. She also spent time writing the trilogy while living in Singapore.

When she was twelve and on a six-month stay in Malta, she enrolled in an all-girls private school run by nuns. She lasted three days before getting kicked out for talking too much. Back in Toronto, she started her own business recording, editing, and selling bootleg heavy metal concerts. She later worked with special needs children and adults, where witnessing small miracles on a daily basis was part of the job.

A former kickboxing instructor, Marthese has a Masters in Education and currently teaches high school English and history. She speaks fluent Maltese and French. As part of her research for Eight-Pointed Cross, she took up archery, and ended up accidentally becoming a certified instructor. She has a passion for adventure, photography, running, snowboarding, surfing, scuba-diving, climbing, and yoga.

Friday 14 June 2024

When the two secret lives collide, it has far-reaching and fatal consequences that will change Mia's life forever.


The Fortune Keeper 
By Deborah Swift

Publication Date: 24th November 2022
Publisher: Quire Books
Pages: 412 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction 

Count your nights by stars, not shadows ~ Italian Proverb

Winter in Renaissance Venice

Mia Caiozzi is determined to discover her destiny by studying the science of astronomy. But her stepmother Giulia forbids her to engage in this occupation, fearing it will lead her into danger. The ideas of Galileo are banned by the Inquisition, so Mia must study in secret.

Giulia's real name is Giulia Tofana, renowned for her poison Aqua Tofana, and she is in hiding from the Duke de Verdi's family who are intent on revenge for the death of their brother. Giulia insists Mia should live quietly out of public view. If not, it could threaten them all. But Mia doesn't understand this, and rebels against Giulia, determined to go her own way.

When the two secret lives collide, it has far-reaching and fatal consequences that will change Mia's life forever.

Set amongst opulent palazzos and shimmering canals, The Fortune Keeper is the third novel of adventure and romance based on the life and legend of Giulia Tofana, the famous poisoner.

'Her characters are so real they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf'
~ Historical Novel Society

NB This is the third in a series but can stand alone as it features a new protagonist. Other two books are available if reviewers want them.

Trigger Warnings:
Murder and violence in keeping with the era.


From Chapter 7

Venice, December 1643

Brother Mario walked through the Mercerie towards the Piazza San Marco, a light snow dusting the shoulders and hood of his black habit. As he went, he frowned at the number of hawkers accosting passers-by with their Pulchinello masks and disguises ready for the Christmas festivities. Christendom here had turned into the work of the Devil.
Perhaps he should send for the Town Guard again. It had worked well on that bunch of heretics at the Palazzo d’Ambrosi. Venetians thought they had the power, with their riches, and their titles, but Mario knew only God had the power. And He had given it to the Inquisition.
Gingerly, Mario tottered up the slippery narrow passage between the grand frontages of two palazzi, his feet raw and red in his monk’s sandals. He was at war with the city of Venice. Partly because there was too much water and the damp got into his bones, and partly because there was no solid foundation to stand on, either physically or spiritually. It was a place that thought it was a law unto itself. There were plenty of religious men in Venice, but all seemed oblivious to the heathen state of their sinking city. 
He pulled his black cowl further down over his forehead, the feeling of it giving him security – he kept his face well-hidden as he went about God’s business in this city of masks. His sandals slid as he climbed up the icy steps to the colonnade of San Marco, and he let out a yelp and almost fell. A man put out an arm to steady him.
Mario gave him a thin, ‘Bless you’. 
His saviour was a nobleman in a mink-trimmed doublet, and a hat with a garnet brooch as big as a knuckle. Mario eyed the man sourly. Not even an attempt to obey the sumptuary laws! So much wealth on open display had the power to hurt him with a twisting pain in the pit of his gut. 
Two decades a friar. That rich aristocrat should have been him – before his elder brother Domenico had been duped out of their money by his second wife, Agnese. After his death she’d siphoned it off to feed a convent in Rome. Bad enough that now, as the youngest son, he was condemned to a life of penury in the Church, without the added humiliation of the de Verdi fortune being dribbled away on a few miserable nuns. Still, he’d have his revenge now.
He limped onward. Winter was terrible for his chilblains and his feet throbbed.
Once in the Piazza he gave a wide berth to the dark-skinned Arab pressing jars of oil of Attar onto two painted courtesans. How did they stand it? They were far too scantily-clad for the cold. He cheered himself with the thought he could afford to buy the whole stall with the bag of coin that hung from his belt and clanked under his surplice. 
He kept his head bowed against the too-sharp winter wind as he spied the clock tower where he was to meet with Signor Imbroglio, the assassin. He was nervous, but consoled himself by muttering, the words of Exodus 21; ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,’ as he played his rosary.
His brother, Luca, who had employed Imbroglio before, had sent a message by courier instructing Mario where to wait, and even now the bells were resounding, striking twelve. He propped himself against the stone wall under the archway by the clock and waited, anxiously scanning the hurrying crowds. 
Domenico had been a brute, of course, but neither of them had forgiven Agnese, not just for the suddenness of his death, surely by an inheritance powder, but for the fact his entire fortune had all gone to her. So as soon as he’d seen her treacherous face, he’d written to Luca and told him she was in Venice. Luca was a lazy dog. His answer was to pay someone else to deal with it, and he, Mario, had fallen foul of it. Luca had instructed Mario to meet Luca’s man Imbroglio. The man who’d helped Luca in Naples with one of his troublesome tenants. 
Needless to say, the tenant was no trouble now. 
Grateful to enjoy the warmth of the wall, Brother Mario scanned the Piazza again. He didn’t know what Imbroglio looked like, but Imbroglio would no doubt know him, from his habit and the fact he was loitering there obviously waiting for someone. After the bells had died away a cough from behind him made him turn, startled. He hadn’t expected the man to come from behind.
He was looking up into a pair of dark glittering eyes under a stark white half-mask. The mouth visible beneath it curled upwards, though in a smile more of terse politeness than pleasure.
“Brother Mario.’ It was a statement. ‘Let us walk.’
Imbroglio set off in the direction of the newly completed arcade of the Procuratie Nuove on the south side of the Piazza, and Brother Mario hurried to keep up, following the man in the flapping faded cloak and the ancient sun-scorched tricorn hat that barely hid his collar-length hair. There was something familiar about the man, but he couldn’t place him. Of course many men wore masks in public. It was de rigeur in the times leading up to Christmas. But he couldn’t help wishing he’d seen his face. He wracked his brains, but nothing would come.
Once they were away from the merchants and shoppers Imbroglio paused for Brother Mario to catch up and walk beside him past the Campanile, and on down another darkened arcade away from the salt stink of the sea. Puddles of ice cracked beneath his feet.
‘So, you have a task for me, I hear,’ Imbroglio said, above the whistle of the wind. He was thin, the jawbones of his face jutting under the edge of his mask. It made Mario feel like a lumbering bear.
‘It’s delicate,’ Mario lowered his voice. ‘There’s a woman, Agnese de Verdi, calls herself di Napoli—’ 
‘Yes, yes.’ Imbroglio cut him off. ‘Your brother told me. I made some enquiries. She is the woman he says bought poison from Giulia Tofana. Though nothing could be proved. Agnese de Verdi is living above the lantern-maker in the Giudecca.’ His mouth grimaced in distaste. ‘Not a good area.’
Brother Mario baulked. How did the man know so much? ‘She’s far better provisioned than you might suppose from her lodgings,’ Mario said defensively. ‘Appearances are deceptive.’
‘And you have brought the sum I asked for?’ Imbroglio asked. ‘Half now, half when the deed is done.’
Mario drew out the pouch of coins and Imbroglio stretched out a bony hand for it.
‘It’s not so simple,’ Mario said, refusing to let the bag go and clutching it to his chest. ‘A woman of such wealth – I suspect she has made a will. She donates to the Convent of Maria Assumpta in Rome. That will, and any documents relating to the de Verdi family must be found, and destroyed.’ 
Imbroglio raised his chin. ‘So you want to hire a thief too, do you?’

Pick up your copy of
The Fortune Keeper 

Deborah Swift

Deborah Swift is a USA TODAY bestselling author who is passionate about the past. Deborah used to be a costume designer for the BBC, before becoming a writer. Now she lives in an old English school house in a village full of 17th Century houses, near the glorious Lake District. Deborah has an award-winning historical fiction blog at her website www.deborahswift.com.

Deborah loves to write about how extraordinary events in history have transformed the lives of ordinary people, and how the events of the past can live on in her books and still resonate today. 

The first in her series about the Renaissance poisoner Giulia Tofana, The Poison Keeper, was a winner of the Wishing Shelf Book of the Decade, and a Coffee Pot Book Club Gold Medal, and the latest in her WW2 Secret Agent series, Operation Tulip, is coming soon.

Connect with Deborah:

#FortuneKeeper #HistoricalFiction #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

Thursday 13 June 2024

Read for FREE on NetGalley, courtesy of BooksGoSocial - Everything’s Got Soul by Brian Thomas

 Everything’s Got Soul: A Philosophical Adventure
 by Brian Thomas

Publication Date: 8th May 2024
Publisher: Shaving in the Rain 
Page Length: 48 Pages
Genre: Young Adult / Historical Fiction

Why is the Earth beautiful?

In Victorian London, teenagers and scientists join forces to keep the leading tycoon of the industrial age from poisoning the planet and selling slaves. This steampunk adventure will change the way you look at science … and teenagers.

When Jack, a young pneumatic messenger, crosses paths with the enigmatic Dido, a Black aristocrat, it turns out to be more than a recruitment into a resistance group. Dido and Jack will fall in love as they find out why the world is beautiful.

Everything's Got Soul is a Young Adult novella written for adults who are young-at-heart.

Read  Everything’s Got Soul: A Philosophical Adventure for FREE at BooksGoSocial on NetGalley

If you are not a member of NetGalley you can sign up HERE! and start your reading journey today. Be sure to check out the other books for FREE at BooksGoSocial on NetGalley HERE!

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Read for FREE on NetGalley, courtesy of BooksGoSocial - A Farewell To Imperial Istanbul The Ottomans : Story Of A Family (The Ottoman Dynasty Chronicles) by Ayşe Osmanoğlu

A Farewell To Imperial Istanbul
The Ottomans: Story Of A Family 
(The Ottoman Dynasty Chronicles)
By Ayşe Osmanoğlu

Publication Date: 29th May 2024
Publisher: Hanedan Press
Page Length: 351 Pages
Genre: Historical Middle Eastern Fiction

Set against the majestic backdrop of Imperial Istanbul in the aftermath of the First World War, A Farewell To Imperial Istanbul is a captivating tale of family, duty and the resilience of the human spirit.

İstanbul, 1922: As the Ottoman Empire crumbles in the wake of the Great War, the fate of the Imperial capital and the House of Osman come under threat.

Emboldened following their victory in the Turkish War of Independence, the Turkish Nationalist Government in Ankara abolishes the Ottoman Sultanate, marking the end of over six centuries of Ottoman rule. The Ottoman Caliphate endures for now, but Istanbul, stripped of its Imperial mantle, mourns its lost glory. Prince Nihad fears for the nation and the fate of the Imperial family, while his son, Prince Vâsıb, envisions a hopeful future defined by peace following the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne.

As the new Republic of Türkiye emerges from the ashes of the once-mighty Ottoman Empire, Istanbul and the Ottoman Dynasty confront the crossroads of history, their destinies entwined with the shifting tides of the Bosphorus. Yet, amidst these perilous currents that separate East and West, where the deep waters threaten to engulf the city’s Imperial past and sweep away its soul embodied by the Imperial family, the Ottoman Dynasty must navigate a new and uncertain course.

The history of the Turks and their vast and powerful Empire has been intertwined with the Ottoman Dynasty for over six hundred years. But can the Imperial family survive the tempest of change as the world enters a new era?

Read A Farewell To Imperial Istanbul for FREE at BooksGoSocial on NetGalley

If you are not a member of NetGalley you can sign up HERE! and start your reading journey today. Be sure to check out the other books for FREE at BooksGoSocial on NetGalley HERE!

Ayşe Osmanoğlu 

Ayşe Osmanoğlu was born and raised in England. She is a member of the Ottoman Imperial family, descended from Sultan Murad V through her grandfather and Sultan Mehmed V (Mehmed Reşad) through her grandmother. After reading History and Politics at the University of Exeter, she obtained an M.A. in Turkish Studies from SOAS, University of London, where she specialised in Ottoman History. 

Ayşe lives between Türkiye, France and the United Kingdom with her husband, five children and mischievous cat. Her research and literary works concentrate on the late Ottoman period, exploring narratives embedded in her imperial heritage.

Her debut novel, 'The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus,' was published in May 2020, and 'A Farewell To Imperial Istanbul' was published in spring 2024 to commemorate the centenary of the Ottoman family's exile.

Connect with Ayşe:

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Book Review - Between the Clouds and the River by Dave Mason

 Between the Clouds and the River
By Dave Mason
1942: Twenty-four year old Bernhardt Lang is swept along by the currents of war, until an unexpected ally helps him live a life of his own making, in a place he could never have imagined himself existing.

1965: Twelve year old Joseph Holliman is drowning in a life no one should have to endure. When he crosses paths with Frank Gardner, everything he thinks he knows about the meaning of family is changed.

Between the Clouds and the River is a journey from the burning sands of war-torn North Africa to the forested, snow-capped mountains of Montana and British Columbia, a compelling and emotional tale of deception, revelation, identity, and belonging that reminds us all that love is the only truth.

Germany was the superior country, and victory was assured - that is what Bernhardt Lang had been led to believe. Bernhardt had no desire to participate in the war; he was tired of others dictating his actions. However, upon his capture by the Allied forces, he was taken aback by the respectful treatment the Americans showed towards their German prisoners.

Even though he was just twelve, Joseph Holliman had a much tougher time than the other children in his class. With the strike of a match, and the help of an old, falling down, shed, Joseph finds himself indebted to Frank Gardner – after all, he had burnt down his shed. It was arranged that Joseph would go with Frank every Saturday, and help him rebuild the shed.

The search for identity in Between the Clouds and the River by Dave Mason is beautifully portrayed through the captivating journeys of Joseph and Bernhardt.

While the conditions are better than expected, Bernhardt still faces difficulties as a prisoner of war. While they were given adequate nourishment and medical care, they were still assigned work tasks, and Bernhardt soon became proficient in logging and chopping down trees. Although he admired the efficient management of the American prisoner-of-war camps, he couldn’t escape the fact that he was still a captive, under someone else’s command. The only thing Bernhardt desired in life was the ability to determine his own path and have full autonomy over his choices. Upon the announcement of the war’s conclusion and the release of all POWs, Bernhardt was overcome with panic. He had spent years trying to escape his home, and who knew what was left of it to go back to. Remaining in America appeared more beneficial, as it offered the chance to start anew and have control over one’s mind and actions.  

Following Bernhardt as he attempted to blend into the world around him was fascinating. Thankfully, he had some knowledge of English but had a significant journey ahead to completely hide his past and true identity. He worked diligently to mimic others, suppressing his German words and accent. With the help of Helen, who escaped the confines of the camp with him, Bernhardt became John, and together they drew a line between their old and new lives. Bernhardt’s ability to adapt to a new life while fearing recapture and deportation to Germany, after the war, was truly inspiring. Although Bernhardt faced challenging situations that made it appear he was not capable of convincingly posing as an American, his perseverance and resolve consistently helped him overcome the most difficult circumstances.

Contrary to the common portrayal of Germans as villains in World War Two stories, this novel challenges readers to consider different perspectives on history. Historians tend to present one side of the story more favourably than the other, shaping the perspective. It is a welcome change to read a WWII novel that presents a German soldier’s perspective of wanting to distance himself from the Nazi ideology and simply lead a quiet existence. Bernhardt’s admirable kindness and intelligence make it impossible not to sympathize with him, as he is reluctantly drawn into a world of violence. 

Despite his initial apprehension, Joseph soon discovered that his time at Frank’s was enjoyable and allowed him to acquire practical expertise. The shed was being fixed almost too quickly, and Joseph found himself desperately trying to hold onto those Saturdays, wishing that they would last for longer and that he didn’t have to go back home. The atmosphere at home was far from enjoyable, as Joseph’s father enforced strict discipline through both harsh words and physical reprimands, while his mother had departed many years ago. At home, Joseph lived in constant fear of his father’s wrath, knowing that one small mistake could trigger his anger, and he had no choice but to endure it until it passed. However, Frank’s house presented a contrasting atmosphere. Joseph had the opportunity to acquire valuable skills from Frank, such as building and mastering the art of hammering nails. Frank also encouraged his creativity. Joseph loved to read, and so Frank provided him with books to read, and stories to escape into, setting his imagination free to come up with worlds of his own. 

Joseph and Bernhardt’s narratives intertwine beautifully. Initially, it’s hard to grasp the connection between two people leading completely different lives, but as the story unfolds, similarities emerge, revealing that they share a common struggle. Although leading different lives, at different ages, and in different years, both of them find themselves caught in circumstances they long to break free from. They must fight to discover their own paths and remain steadfast before others intervene. 

A fight for survival, spanning through the ages, Between the Clouds and the River by Dave Mason is a deep-felt story of identity, whether trying to find and display it, or hide it deep down to stay alive. Carefully crafted, this novel delves into the journey of self-discovery and finding one’s true place in the world. This is the type of novel that you’ll want to savour while reading, one that you won’t want to rush through, as you won’t want to reach the end and have nothing left to read. The story is exquisitely told and the characters are unforgettable. I highly recommend it. 

Coming Soon...

Dave Mason

Born in England and raised in Canada, Dave Mason is an internationally recognized graphic designer and a cofounder of a number of software companies. His first novel, EO-N, is the recipient of twenty-one literary awards including the Hemingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction, and has been acquired for film and television. He divides his time between Chicago, Illinois, and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. 

Connect with David: