Thursday 23 April 2020

#BookReview — To Catch a Falling Star (The Graham Saga, Book #8) by Anna Belfrage #HistoricalFiction #TimeTravel @abelfrageauthor

To Catch a Falling Star
(The Graham Saga, Book #8)
By Anna Belfrage

To Catch a Falling Star' is the eighth book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Some gifts are double-edged swords…

For Matthew Graham, being given the gift of his former Scottish manor is a dream come true. For his wife, Alex, this gift will force her to undertake a perilous sea journey, leaving most of their extensive family in the Colony of Maryland. Alex is torn apart by this, but staying behind while her husband travels to Scotland is no option.

Scotland in 1688 is a divided country, torn between the papist Stuart king and the foreign but Protestant William of Orange. In the Lowlands, popular opinion is with Dutch William, and Matthew’s reluctance to openly support him does not endear him to his former friends and neighbours.

While Matthew struggles to come to terms with the fact that Scotland of 1688 bears little resemblance to his lovingly conserved memories, Alex is forced to confront unresolved issues from her past, including her overly curious brother-in-law, Luke Graham. And then there’s the further complication of the dashing, flamboyant Viscount Dundee, a man who knocks Alex completely off her feet.

All the turmoil that accompanies their return to Scotland pales into insignificance when a letter arrives, detailing the calamities threatening their youngest daughter in Maryland – at the hand of that most obnoxious minister, Richard Campbell. Matthew and Alex have no choice but to hasten back, no matter the heartache this causes.

Will they make it back in time? And what will Richard Campbell do?

"Stupid, gallant man."
"All heroes are," Matthew said. "Some actually win." Matthew laughed, somewhat sadly. "Not the ones we remember. Not the ones we write songs about."

What about the ones that lie in a cold churchyard, mourned by their family but eventually forgotten by the world? Unless, of course, you have travelled through time and have lived and loved in two very different centuries.

Alex Graham knew all about that. It has been thirty years since she had fallen through time and unwittingly met her soul mate, Matthew Graham, the man she married and begot nine children with. While Alex does not regret leaving the 21st Century, she does regret leaving Grahams Garden in the Colony of Maryland. If only her brother-in-law, Luke Graham, had simply thanked them for rescuing his son from a lifetime of indentured servitude, but instead he had gifted them with Matthew's former Scottish manor. 

While Matthew counted down the days until he saw his beloved Scotland again, Alex unwillingly prepares to leave her family. However, the Scotland Matthew encounters on his return is not the one that he remembers, and the welcome he expected to receive is not forthcoming.

Torn between her duty as a wife and that of a mother, Alex can only pray that the upcoming war between the papist Stuart king and the Protestant William of Orange will pass them by unscathed…

From an emotional goodbye to the bloody Battle of Killiecrankie and a fight to save a woman accused of murder, To Catch a Falling Star (The Graham Saga, Book #8) by Anna Belfrage is the enchanting story of one family as they battle to stay together in the face of surmounting odds.

To Catch a Falling Star — was ever a book so aptly named? Life is fleeting. The heavens above are not. This novel is as tense as it is powerful, as captivating as it is compulsive. The Graham Saga is a series that has not only captured my imagination, but it has also apprehended my heart in a way that only one other series has done before. With the most scrupulous care, Belfrage has presented her readers with a saga that portrays everything that is wrong with humanity while balancing it with everything that is right. Love. Hate. War. Peace. Suffering. Joy. Pain. Comfort. This is a story that demonstrates the human condition like no other that has come before it. Nobody in the world writes Historical Fiction the way Anna Belfrage does.

The protagonists of this saga, Alex and Matthew, are older, their children are growing up, some already have children of their own and yet, even with their experience, they still don't always get things right. Their relationship is steadfast although there are moments of disappointment with each other. Alex's preening at the attention of John Graham is countered by Matthew allowing Nan's ridiculously obvious flirtation towards him to go unchallenged. While jealousy rears its ugly head, it also allows these two characters to take stock and realise how important they are to each other. I adore Alex and Matthew, and I have done so from Book 1. They are these two beautiful people, from two very different times, who through chance, perhaps even fate, have carved out this most extraordinary life together.

Luke Graham has been the antagonist in this story from the very beginning, but in this novel, we catch a glimpse of what drove him to do what he did. Luke is a character that I initially despised, and I still don't know what I feel about him. Sometimes I find myself incredibly sympathetic, and then at other times…He is so infuriating! Luke has had time to reflect upon his loss, upon his life, and he now recognises what he feels towards Matthew and acknowledges it. He is, and always has been, jealous. In this book, Luke tries to temper that jealousy, to let bygones be bygones, but it is incredibly challenging for him to do so. I am glad that Belfrage has allowed her readers to get to know Luke a little better, although the jury is still out as to whether I can forgive him for the things he put Matthew and Alex through!

There are many secondary characters in this book — most of which are Alex and Matthew's children and their extended families. But I want to focus on Isaac. Isaac is Alex's son from the 21st Century and he, once again, falls through time. Isaac is an emotional mess when he arrives in Seville, Spain. He is trapped in a world he does not understand, nor wants to. Isaac is a product of his time, he hates the way of life he is being forced to live, and yet his depression, his fear of failure prevents him from trying to get back to his own time. Isaac is a character that roused my sympathy, but at times he also disgusted me. As this novel progresses Isaac becomes someone unrecognisable. He does things he would never have done back in the 21st Century, nor would have done if he were not propelled into a war that he should never have participated in. I thought Isaac’s portrayal was fabulous and reminded the readers once again that this saga is a time-travel story, and although Alex embraced the gift that time-travel gave her, for others, it is a terrible life-sentence.

Belfrage has, in this series, explored the devastating consequences of religious persecution, dangerous superstition and political unrest. In this book, Belfrage has explored the threat of the Spanish Inquisition, the looming war between the Catholic King James II of England and the Protestant Dutchman, William of Orange, as well as the burning of Catholic properties in the Colony of Maryland. Belfrage has depicted this era of religious intolerance, and political instability in all of its ugliness. Friend turns upon friend — neighbour upon neighbour. The you are with us or against us mentality is played out in all its vivid detail as Matthew tries to stay out of a war he wants no part of, while his daughter flees from her home in fear of her life because of her religion. The sheer terror of being persecuted because of your belief is portrayed with remarkable realism, as is the struggle to maintain an essence of yourself when faced with the horrors of a battlefield while you fight for a war you don't believe in, nor want any part of. Through characters such as Sarah and Isaac, Belfrage has shown her readers how terribly tragic and unjust the world can be, and how those in power played with lives while trying to profit and enrich their own. Belfrage demonstrates with her elegant prose the consequences of a religion corrupted by the hands of the fanatical. She also shows her readers how history is composed of a complicated network of truths and lies. There were no winners on the battlefield at Killiecrankie, there were just men and boys, whose lives had been forfeited for the sake of a crown, title, and wealth. Where was their belief, their cause, their king, while they lay dying in a field with the carrion birds flying above them? It is a sobering thought.

Staying with the historical detail for a moment, I would like to talk about Belfrage's depiction of John Graham, 1st Viscount Dundee "Bonnie Dundee". To make a historical character breathe again, to give him life, return that twinkle of mischief back into his eyes, is a skill that should never be underestimated, and it is why I have so much respect for Historical Fiction authors. I thought Dundee's depiction was sublime. He is a character that is both hated and loved. He is as complicated as he is loyal. He is in all ways a contradiction. Belfrage has a tremendous eye for human detail, and John's depiction demonstrates once again why she is one of my favourite authors.

To Catch a Falling Star (The Graham Saga, Book #8) by Anna Belfrage is the kind of story that will get a reader hooked. Time ceased to matter as I lost myself in this strangely familiar world where Alex and Matthew reside. This book is a reward for any reader, as is this series which is a gift that keeps on giving. I wait with eager anticipation for the final instalment of The Graham Saga.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
To Catch a Falling Star

Anna Belfrage

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.  She has recently released the first in a new series, The Wanderer. This time, she steps out of her normal historical context and A Torch in His Heart is with a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

Find out more about Anna by visiting her website, or herAmazon page.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx