4 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Mystery, Nancy Campbell Allen, Romance

Bee Reviews: The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

thesecretoftheindiaorchidFormat: Kindle edition

Published: 1st August 2017 by Shadow Mountain Publishing

Genres: Historical fiction, Romance, Mystery

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Anthony Blake is in love with his best friend’s sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover spy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies-including his own-has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honourable earl for the façade of a flirtatious playboy.

Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most exotic regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn’t as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned.

She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won’t confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

Somehow the fact that this novel is part romance completely missed me when I requested an ARC. Had I known it was a romance novel, I would have skipped it, because I’m human and we tend to stick with what we know. But I’m glad I picked it up because I ended up thoroughly enjoying it!

It’s so difficult writing characters who are complex and likeable, but, for me, the author nailed it perfectly. A book is always easier to read when you like the characters you’re supposed to.

She always insisted that if a man and woman have love and affection, a desire to put each other above all else, that life is liveable under any circumstances.

In terms of the plot, I enjoyed reading about the history between Sophia and Anthony, their funny encounters across the voyage to India, and about the mystery that was to unravel – a missing document containing information that could put all of their lives at risk.

The fact that this novel is set in India also sets it apart from other novels of this genre. It was interesting reading Sophia’s take on being in a completely new country. I managed to devour this book in mere hours and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a light read with a very satisfying ending.

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5 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Ian Mortimer, Sci-Fi

Bee Reviews: The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer

theoutcastsoftime coverFormat: Kindle edition

Publication: 15th June 2017 by Simon & Schuster UK

Genres: Historical fiction, Sci-Fi

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

December 1348. With the country in the grip of the Black Death, brothers John and William fear that they will shortly die and go to Hell. But as the end draws near, they are given an unexpected choice: either to go home and spend their last six days in their familiar world, or to search for salvation across the forthcoming centuries – living each one of their remaining days ninety-nine years after the last.

John and William choose the future and find themselves in 1447, ignorant of almost everything going on around them. The year 1546 brings no more comfort, and 1645 challenges them still further. It is not just that technology is changing: things they have taken for granted all their lives prove to be short-lived.

As they find themselves in stranger and stranger times, the reader travels with them, seeing the world through their eyes as it shifts through disease, progress, enlightenment and war. But their time is running out – can they do something to redeem themselves before the six days are up?


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

This is by far the most quotable novel I have ever read. Mortimer is definitely one of the most skilled writers of our time, in language and through his imagination. His ability to manipulate the reader to feel exactly how he wants them to feel is to be admired.

To hate yourself is to squander the privilege of being alive.

So this poignant story follows two men faced with purgatory if, in the next six days of their lives, they’re unable to perform a pure good deed. The trick is, for each of the six days they live, they’ll be ninety-nine years in the future. Aside from the barrier this presents in terms of language, fashion and technology, good deeds somehow become harder to achieve through the centuries.

There’s so much beauty in the world, don’t close your eyes to it just because you’ve lost your own small patch of happiness.

This is an excellent piece of historical fiction that highlights the changes, both small and substantial, that have taken place over the last few centuries. Funny and factual, I would definitely recommend this novel to people who enjoy reading historical fiction.

People need a common enemy. War is one of those things that binds us together. You could say that men need someone to oppose – otherwise we start fighting among ourselves.

Another dimension of this novel is that it is highly philosophical. John and William together embrace the prospect of dying while pondering the existence of humanity. I feel as though this dimension of the novel should have a whole genre of its own, a “books that make you think” genre, because that would suit this novel perfectly. Rarely do I come across a book that I read, and I feel a changed person afterwards. This is one of those books.

I finally understand the beautiful secret of dying. It is that one may, at last, escape the tyranny of time.

I’m exceptionally impressed by what a good read this book turned out to be and I hope to explore more of Mortimer’s work because if it’s anything like this novel, I’m sure it’ll turn out to be a great read.

4 Stars, Alison Weir, Book review, Historical fiction

Bee Reviews: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens, #2) by Alison Weir

ab1Format: Kindle edition

Published: 18th May 2017 by Headline

Genres: Historical fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

A novel filled with new insights into the story of Henry VIII’s second—and most infamous—wife, Anne Boleyn. The second book in the epic Six Tudor Queens series, from the acclaimed historian and bestselling author of Katherine of Aragon.

It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

Okay so I’ve never picked up Phillipa Gregory book in my life even though I have all twelve of her books on my shelves, but I think Alison Weir can give me my fix of Tudor historical fiction novels.

Where do I start with this book? It was enormously long, it took me several weeks to finish, but I enjoyed almost every minute of it. Weir’s writing had a way of magically transporting me 500 years back in time. My experience of reading this novel has implanted scenes in my mind as clear as memory – the views from Hever Castle, the hustle and bustle of Margaret of Austria’s court, every turn of the page was a new experience.

I thought I knew a lot about the Tudors prior to reading this book, but how I was wrong. There was so much to learn, and the facts made this novel all the more interesting. This is Weir, an acclaimed historian, weaving together the facts of Anne Boleyn’s life with a bit of imagination to deliver a novel that’s thrilling from start through until finish.

The only bit that was frustrating as a reader was the length of the novel allocated to Anne Boleyn’s wait for Catherine of Aragon’s and Henry’s marriage to be dissolved. But I think this is a great reflection on how frustrated Anne Boleyn probably felt. I also wasn’t sure about Henry’s characterisation at first, but it was interesting to see the renowned monarch in a different portrayal to that which I had initially imagined.

I would definitely recommend this detail-packed novel to others interested in historical fiction, and I can’t wait to read the prequel Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen.

4 Stars, A J Mackenzie, Book review, Crime, Historical fiction, Mystery

Bee Reviews: The Body in the Ice (Romney Marsh Mystery #2) by A J Mackenzie

the body in the ice coverFormat: Kindle edition

Published: 20th April 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre

Genres: Historical fiction, Mystery, Crime

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Christmas Day, Kent, 1796

On the frozen fields of Romney Marsh stands New Hall; silent, lifeless, deserted. In its grounds lies an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of a horse pond.

It falls to the Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace in St Mary in the Marsh, to investigate. But with the victim’s identity unknown, no murder weapon and no known motive, it seems like an impossible task. Working along with his trusted friend, Amelia Chaytor, and new arrival Captain Edward Austen, Hardcastle soon discovers there is more to the mystery than there first appeared.

With the arrival of an American family torn apart by war and desperate to reclaim their ancestral home, a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes, ancient loyalties and new vengeance combine to make Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor’s attempts to discover the secret of New Hall all the more dangerous.

The Body in the Ice, with its unique cast of characters, captivating amateur sleuths and a bitter family feud at its heart, is a twisting tale that vividly brings to life eighteenth-century Kent and draws readers into its pages.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

I think I’ve found my new favourite crime series. Aside from the fact that the setting of this novel is local to me, which has an appeal in itself, everything about The Body in the Ice is perfect.

Widow Amelia Chaytor and Reverend Hardcastle are my favourite detective duo. They’re fun, witty and solving a mystery alongside them was a thrilling experience. The Mackenzie team have a way with magic that makes even the minor characters lovable and endearing, from Rodolpho the Cowardly Dog, to her endearing if a little mad mistress, Capurnia.

There’s an art to writing a crime novel and these authors possess it. Everything from the carefully crafted characters to their pasts and the particular roles they play in the novel. The Mackenzie team are meticulous authors and this quality goes a long way in their writing.

I can’t wait to dive into the prequel, The Body on the Doorstep, and the sequel, The Body on the Boat when it’s released!

4 Stars, Book review, Crime, Historical fiction, Horror, Lauren A Forry, Mystery

Bee Reviews: Abigale Hall by Lauren A Forry

abigale hall coverFormat: Kindle edition, 376 pages

Published: April 11th 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing

Genres: Historical fiction, Gothic, Crime, Mystery, Horror

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Amidst the terror of the Second World War, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca have had their share of tragedy, losing their mother to the Blitz and their father to suicide. But when they are forced to leave London to work for the mysterious Mr Brownawell at Abigale Hall, they find that the worst is yet to come…

There are tales that the ghost of Mr Brownawell’s bride-to-be haunts the desolate mansion, and in the village there are shocking rumours of maidservants meeting a terrible fate within its walls. But is it superstition that Eliza should be afraid of or is there something real and deadly lurking in the dark, dusty rooms of Abigale Hall? Yet vicious, cold-hearted housekeeper Mrs Pollard will stop at nothing to keep the mansion’s terrible secrets, and she exerts a twisted hold over Rebecca.

To save herself and her sister descending into madness, Eliza must wage a desperate battle to escape back to London and uncover the horrifying truth before Abigale Hall claims two more victims. Taut and suspenseful, Abigale Hall is a thrilling debut from Lauren A. Forry.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

It’s difficult to believe that this is a debut novel because, really, it’s too good to be true. This novel was fast paced all the way through with the author giving away enough to keep you guessing – but never more than that.

Packed with horror among other things that will send chills running down your spine, Abigale Hall is everything it should be of its genre, plus a little more. There were times when I was clutching my Kindle close to me, screaming in anticipation, something that no novel has ever made me do before.

There are more mysteries for Eliza to unravel than that of Victoria’s ghost, Mr Brownawell’s wife-to-be before she met her untimely death. Rebecca, Eliza’s sister, is a mystery in herself, as well as the lingering question of what really brought Eliza and Rebecca to the haunted manor in the first place. And will Peter, Eliza’s sweetheart, ever make it to save the two girls?

Everything about Abigale Hall is well thought out, and if this is Forry’s debut novel, I can’t wait to see what else she churns out. Dripping with suspense right the way through, I would definitely recommend this to fans of horror/mystery stories.

Warning: if you’re going to delve into this novel, just remember, fairytale endings don’t exist.

3 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Romance

Bee Reviews: Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

cover108951-largeFormat: Kindle edition

Published: March 1st 2017 by Rhiza Press

Genre(s): Christian Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction

Rating:  ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Plain Jane O’Reilly is good at being unnoticed. Detested by her stepmother and teased by her stepsisters, Jane has learned the art of avoiding attention. That is until Price Moreland, an American with big dreams, arrives in her small town.

Does she dare to hope someone might notice her?

However, Price Moreland may not be the prince that the whole town thinks him to be. Was his desire to be a missionary a God-given call, or just a good excuse to run from his past?

Complete with an evil stepmother, a missing shoe and a grand ball, Unnoticed takes the time-old Cinderella fairy tale and gives it an Australian twist.


Review

A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve read a lot of Christian fiction novels in my time – they’re quite enjoyable in a historical context – but this is definitely the most Christian one I’ve read so far. This is by no means a criticism as it can still be enjoyed by anyone, but more a heads up if it’s not really your thing.

Something I wasn’t sure I could get with was the author’s continuous use of description. You could probably go pages without any real action or dialogue, just the characters reflecting on themselves, which is important but also could happen in other ways. Additionally, miscommunication as a plot line can only be used so many times – and this novel certainly exceeded this.

Aside from this, the characters were pleasantly enjoyable. They were all written in-depth, a far cry from the original telling of Cinderella where people are evil because they just are. Deed certainly displays her deep understanding of human nature in this novel which makes it such a good read. My favourite parts included Deed exploring issues with the Christian community, and when the characters you thought were wicked turned out not to be so wicked after all.

5 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Kate Atkinson

Bee Reviews: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

kate atkinson life after lifeFormat: Paperback, 622 pages

Published: January 30th 2014 by Black Swan (first published March 14th 2013)

Genre(s): Historical fiction, Sci-Fi

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.


Review

I had so many high hopes for this novel, I was worried Atkinson wouldn’t be able to meet my expectations. But every single hope was surpassed with flying colours.

“He was born a politician.”

No, Ursula thought, he was born a baby, like everyone else. And this is what he has chosen to become.

Let’s start with the negatives: some parts did drag. It wasn’t the number of times Ursula’s story was restarted, which was a necessity in a story as complex as this, but it was the ways the story would diverge from what the reader was led to believe was the centre of the story: Ursula. But really, this story was about something a lot bigger than the protagonist, only the reader wouldn’t know this from the first half of the novel.

Her heart swelled with the high holiness of it all. Imminence was all around. She was both warrior and shining spear. She was a sword glinting in the depths of night, a lance of light piercing the darkness. There would be no mistakes this time.

This book was full of wonders I’ve never previously experienced in a book. It brings up questions we don’t often ask, and bears answers we don’t expect. This novel is definitely one for the thoughtful, the ones who question if there’s really more. Heartwarming, tear-jerking and hilarious all at the same time, if this story and its infinite exquisite characters don’t touch you, nothing else will.