By Honor Bound

By Honor Bound by Scotney St. James 1989 Avon Books

This historical romance has a unique version of history with Richard III more of a tragic king than the villain Henry VII painted him, but the victor gets to rewrite history to make himself the hero.

The story begins at Nottingham Castle where Marganna Tudor, the illegitimate daughter of Owen Tudor’s daughter, is living with her Aunt Margaret, Lady Stanley, who wants her to spy on King Richard III and find out the location of the late king’s sons, Edward and Richard.

While she is playing the harp, Lord John Rathburn, mistaking her for his mistress, Bronwyn, fondles her and whispers words of love. In retaliation, Marganna sings a bawdy ballad about northsmen, Rath’s homeland, but he joins in, insulting her with his own verses.

He follows her and finds her in the King’s chamber. She has stolen a letter with news of the boys. While dancing he discovers the letter and the king orders Rath to take her to his northern castle and hold her prisoner. Bronwyn and his best friend, Will, accompany them.

Marganna tries to escape several times but Rath’s kisses confuse her. Rath realizes he no longer has any desire for Bronwyn and loves Marganna. When Donal, a Tudor loyal, arrives, Rath won’t allow him to enter. They travel to Rathburn Hall, and she ends up going to Nappa Hall where she meets the young princes. They become friends when she acts out Robin Hood with them.

Caught in a storm on their way home, they make love, and she confesses she is illegitimate. She longs for a husband and home of her own. Richard III arrives and tells them Lady Stanley is spreading the rumor that Rath kidnapped Marganna. They are forced to marry. They fight and love. Donal kidnaps her and beats her to reveal the whereabouts of the boys. She thinks she is lying when she tells him Rathburn manor, but when she escapes and tells Rath, he is furious because the boys are there. He only realizes she had no choice when he sees the bruises on her body.

When Henry VII invades Wales, Rath and others take the boys to the coast and safety. Rath leaves to join Richard. Marganna says good-bye to the boys and learns Rath is ill and a prisoner. She goes to Henry VII to beg for his life.

The history plays an integral part of the story, which I deem important in this genre. The facts are easily inserted into the description and dialogue. The romance is well-written, but the reader also will understand English history by the final page.

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The Earl’s Unsuitable Bride

The Earl’s Unsuitable Bride by Lauren and Devon Royal 2020 Historical Romance

This is a sweet version by Devon of her mother’s steamier “When an Earl Meets a Girl” and sex is limited to kissing and closed bedroom doors.

The year is 1666 and Royal provides plenty of history for that period along with clothing and castle descriptions that any historian will love. Charles II has just returned to the throne, and a fire rages through London to add to the drama of the period.

Colin Chase is the Earl of Greystone, the title and land given to him by Charles for his loyalty. It is in disrepair and requires him to marry heiress Priscilla who is cold as ice. He has already used part of her dowry to begin repairs on his home.

Amethyst Goldsmith makes jewelry in her father’s shop. He has no son and has betrothed Amy to Robert, his apprentice, who Amy loathes. He is only too eager to marry Amy, bed her, take over the business and the large family safe of gold and jewels used in the jewelry business.

Colin meets Amy when he brings his sister, Kendra, to purchase a birthday present for her. Amy shows her a treasured creation of her own, and Colin asks her to make him a signet ring. They are instantly attracted to each other but both betrothed.

The fire changes their lives. Amy loses her father but saves the family chest of gold and jewels. Colin rescues Amy and nine children from the fire and takes them to his brother’s home. The Chase siblings are loud and love practical jokes. Kendra befriends Amy and plots for her to marry Colin, who won’t go back on his betrothal to Priscilla.

It is about half way through the story when we meet Priscilla, who doesn’t like pranks. Kendra and Amy run into Robert, who is determined to marry Amy and claim her wealth. The plot picks up pace when Robert kidnaps Amy. Will Colin rescue her in time and then what?

Some historical novels provide a lot of information on that time period and this is one of them. It’s a good one to read if a writer wants to learn about the 17th century. Before writing a historical novel, writers need to do their research, but be careful. Some things written in fictional books, are not accurate. Double check your information.

#Royal #romance #historical #bookreview

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Curtain by Agatha Christie 1975 Pocket Book Mystery

IMG_6455 (2)The first Hercule Poirot book was in 1931, and he was retired. This book is 44 years later, which would make Poirot a very old man. It is subtitled “Hercule Poirot’s Last and Greatest Case”

Poirot dies at the end so it is his last case. I’ve only read two other books but I’ve seen a couple of movies of other stories with him as the lead character, and I can say this is not his greatest case.

Poirot knows who the killer X is but won’t tell Hastings, who muddles through the narrative as he returns to Styles, the site of their first case. The other inhabitants are introduced in Christie manner. George and Daisy Luttrell are the owners; Dr. Franklin and his invalid wife, Barbara; Judith Hastings, who works for Dr. Franklin and is Hastings’ estranged daughter; bird watcher Stephen Norton; Sir William Byrd Carrington, who is waiting for his manor house to be completed; nurse Elizabeth Cole; and womanizer Allerton.

Poirot has a file of five previous murders in which someone confessed or was convicted of a crime. He is convinced that X was responsible through psychological manipulations and is at the Styles house. He doesn’t tell Hastings the identity because they have no way of stopping the murders, and none of the three choices will help: warn the victim of the crime; warn killer you know; or catch the killer red handed. None will work without knowing the motive.

Christie states the murderer must have motive, opportunity, means, and escape. Anyone writing a mystery should keep these four requirements in mind. She also misdirects the reader about the crimes and motives and waits until the end to reveal the truth. I was tempted to look at the ending in this mystery, but read the book from page 1 to the final page in order.

Hastings has plenty of conversations throughout the book, and I wondered about their importance. He also tries to patch up his relationship with Judith, but fumbles several attempts. The remarks shared between the characters provide the clues to the identity of X and the motive, but it takes a long time to reach the final chapters where three people die, including Poirot. A letter from Poirot reveals everything to Hastings who has remained in the dark throughout the story.

#Christie #mystery #bookreview

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The Haunting of a Duke

The Haunting of a Duke by Chasity Bowlin – Regency Romance

Lord Rhys Brammel discovers Emme Walters sleepwalking in his home. He thinks she is a fake psychic his mother has invited to Briar Hall to discover if he killed his wife, Elise. He returns her to her room using a secret passageway. Both are attracted to each other but separated by rank.

Bowlin introduces a cast of characters including Rhys best friend, Michael, his cousin, Alistair, and others who have a part in the past that haunts the manor. They participate in a seance led by a fake, who is murdered during the performance. She also adds an aunt who hates Emme, an evil stepfather, and a sister who can see visions of the future.

Rhys doesn’t trust Emme, but Michael sees her talking to Melisande, the sister of Rhys who was raped and murdered. Emme discovers the same man who killed Melisande also killed Elise. When someone tries to kill Emme, Rhys is determined to protect her and find the murderer.

Besides the physical attraction, Rhys must come to terms with Emme’s powers to converse with the dead. She is also possessed by Elise, who threatens to harm Emme. This additional genre of fantasy or ghosts adds to the romance and is important to the plot of the story to solve the past murders of Melisande and Elise.

The sex scenes are spicy, and the story well plotted as the relationship deepens in proportion to the increase in danger when they close in on the killer. It was a fun read, and the ghosts added to the story and kept me turning the pages.

#Bowlin #romance #supernatural #bookreview

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The ABC Murders

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie 1963 Pocket Books Mystery

IMG_6452 (2)This story is told from Captain Hastings first person point of view with a third person POV from the killer. A letter is sent to Private Investigator Hercule Poirot giving him the place, Andover, and date of a murder. When a shop owner Mrs. Ascher is hit over the head and murdered, her drunken husband is the primary suspect, but Poirot discards him quickly. He begins to question her niece Mary Drower and neighbors, but no one saw anyone in the shop during the time of the murder.

He waits for the second letter naming Bexhill by Sea on the 25th, and a young woman Betty Barnard is strangled. More suspects, including a sister Megan, and boyfriend, Donald Fraser, are added to the list of suspects. The characters are diverse, which is key to any story. You want your reader to be able to keep the characters easily identified.

The third letter arrives late because of an error in the address, and Sir Carmichael Clark is found hit over the head while on a walk. His wife has cancer and a young woman, Thora, works for him. His brother Franklin is questioned.

Christie uses the term alienist, because the crime is attributed to a mad man. There is a popular show The Alienist which deals with serial killers. Poirot does not buy into the theory that the killer is a madman and takes time to “reflect on the killer” and search for a motive.

For writers, a killer needs a motive to make the story interesting in a mystery. Mad men work best in thrillers where we know who the killer is, and the story is about how to stop him. Poirot says the killer is a gambler, and his luck must turn. He introduces a couple who think they know who the killer is based on the news stories and report it to the police.

The letter for Doncaster arrives, and Poirot takes all the relatives and friends who may have seen the killer to the town to hopefully, ID him. The reader needs to remember Poirot is a genius and does nothing without a reason. The murder occurs but the man’s name does not end in D.

Poirot interviews the suspect and disagrees with the police who are not as clever. The final confrontation reveals Poirot’s extraordinary ability to solve a crime and uncovers the killer.

Poirot is an example of the retired or private investigator who does a better job than the police in solving a crime. Christie allows the reader to discover all the evidence and figure out the killer before or on the reveal. Again, it is not the obvious choice.

#Christie #mystery #bookreview

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Impossible Dream

Impossible Dream by Gemma Jackson 2018 Historical

This historical drama is set in 1898 Dublin where Georgina Corrigan Whitmore is the abused wife of Capt. Charles Whitmore. He has five sons by his previous two wives and is draining Georgina of the money he received when he married the heiress. He is planning to leave on a three-year voyage with his sons and leave numerous debts and scandal for her to deal with alone. His cruelty is overlooked by his grown sons, who turn her home, the one thing guarded by her deceased parents, into a brothel.

She takes in three orphan girls, one who is the daughter of her friend, also abused by her husband and in hiding from him. This evil man rapes a young girl who is brought to Georgina’s home by her youngest stepson.

Jackson sets up this horror to show how Georgina begins to take back her life. It is a tough journey for her, but she helps other women after being contacted by the Brides of Breeding, a group of titled women who help other women escape unwanted marriages or abuse. They need a home to train young women of useless gentry into independent working women who can demand pay for their skills.

Jackson makes us feel for Georgina as she endures the shame and violent abuse, and the reader will celebrate when she overcomes her fear of her abusive husband. The many characters help to explain society in 1898, and anyone writing about the roles of gentry and servants should read this book if they want a realistic version of the unfair relationships and helpless role of women in this time period.

#Jackson #chicklit #historical #bookreview

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Perils at End House

Perils at End House by Agatha Christie 1931 Pocket Books Mystery

IMG_6456 (2)This is an Agatha Christie mystery starring Hercule Poirot, who is retired in this story. My mom liked Poirot. He was funny with his vain mustache and obsessive compulsive nature, and in this book, he wasn’t afraid to admit his errors. The story is told through his friend Captain Hastings and reminds me of Dr. Watson telling the stories about Sherlock Holmes.

The two gentlemen are on vacation in St. Loo, England, when a young woman, Nick Buckley, the owner of the nearby End House, loses her hat, and Poirot discovers a bullet in her bonnet. When Nick explains that she has been the victim of several mysterious accidents, Poirot forgets retirement and must help prevent a murder.

Nick has narrowly escaped a heavy painting falling on her, a rolling rock hitting her, a mishap with her car, and now the bullet. She has her maid, Ellen, living with her and friends Frederica Rice, art dealer Jim Lazarus, lawyer Charles Vyse, and neighbors Bert and Millie Croft, who also witnessed a will made out by Nick but lost in the mail before Vyse could receive it.

Poirot convinces Nick to invite her cousin, Maggie, to join her. but she is shot three times while others are watching the fireworks. For her safety, Nick is placed in the hospital, but she is almost poisoned with a box of chocolates with Poirot’s card inside.

Through Poirot’s interviews, the various motives are discovered, but he is unable to discover the murderer. Nick was secretly engaged to pilot Michael Seton whose plane went down. He had recently inherited millions.

Christie throws in a fake will that suddenly appears, a faked death, a ghostly appearance, and a twist she is known for at the very end. She also plants subtle but important clues along the way.

For anyone who wants to write mysteries or enjoys reading them, Christie is a must. She makes reading the story easy by listing the characters in the front of the book, which is one way to help keep a lot of characters and suspects clear in the reader’s mind. Twice in the book, Poirot makes a list of suspects and gives them motives for the crime, making it easier for the reader to play amateur sleuth.

#Christie #mystery #classic #bookreview

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Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not by Kristen Middleton 2018 Suspense Horror

This is a good sample for those writing horror or suspense stories. Middleton begins with the villain confronting a pedophile who thinks he’s meeting a boy. Abused by him as a child, he kills him and makes his death look like a suicide. Then he vows to get the woman he blames for his abuse. This makes it clear why he wants revenge and that he won’t stop at just confrontation.

The woman is widow Amanda who lost her first and second husbands. Her first, Brad, wanted children and she wanted to wait so he divorced her. Her second husband is the father of her son, Kevin, 8, and he died of a heart attack. Amanda is returning home to Summit Lake with their dog, Lacey, after Brad dies in a tragic accident and leaves her everything.

Middleton gives us plenty of backstory and suspects. Her mother and father were alcoholics and made her young life a challenge. She would sneak out with her best friend, Tara, who is separated from her cheating husband, Josh. They meet up, but then Tara goes out of town on business or did she? Her mother has a new husband, Rocky, who is very protective of his family. There is also her high school boyfriend Parker Daniels who has a son, Austin, 12, who lives close to Brad’s home and befriends them. Throw in the town gossip and a young couple expecting a baby and you have a small town mystery.

Trouble begins immediately when Amanda finds a card with a cryptic message inside her car after visiting the lawyer. She hears someone whistling in the woods behind her mother’s home and receives a phone in a box on the porch that belonged to Brad and contains pictures of children. Amanda is shocked to realize Brad was a pedophile, but it explains why he was estranged from his two brothers. The police investigate each incident and suspect. Incidents escalate as the villain taunts and tortures Amanda.

The final confrontation calls upon Amanda to defend herself and her son and reveals the reason why the villain needs to kill them. I had a problem with two characters introduced at the last moment who didn’t seem to fit the villain’s need to “cleanse” and were there for revenge, but the ending was satisfying.

Suspense is a tough genre to write and takes some practice. I would recommend trying different endings and different twists to find the best one for your story.

#suspense #horror #Middleton #bookreview

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Surrender My Love

Surrender My Love by Johanna Lindsey 1994 Avon Books

IMG_6800 (2)In this story, alpha male Selig Haardrad is not only tall but beautiful, and women swoon over him so much he’s lost count of the women he’s bedded. His sister Kristen is married to Royce and they are aiding King Alfred. Selig goes with an envoy to arrange several marriages to strengthen bonds of peace but is bashed over the head and left for dead. Two women take him to castle where Erika is in charge while her brother is away looking for a bride and a husband for her. Sadistic Wulmuth arrests Selig as a spy. He drifts in and out of consciousness as Erika asks questions. He angers her when he proposes he bed her, and she has Wulmuth whip him. Just as she is about to change her mind, her nephew breaks his arm, and she is distracted. She remembers afterward and has her bodyguard Turguis take the beaten Selig to the healer, who laughs at his pain. Selig only remembers the sadistic laugh and links it to Erika as he fights a fever and loses weight. He logically but mistakenly attributes Erika with his pain and wants to punish her.

Kristen comes for him and Selig blames Erika for his near death condition. Erika feels guilty for what has happened to him and admits she is the cause. Kristen hits her but Selig claims his right to punish her. She is taken prisoner. He wants revenge. He makes her wear chains to humiliate her and makes her bathe in front of him as he recovers. They begin to be attracted to each other, and a kiss confuses both of them. They should hate each other, and this conflict keeps them apart.

Ragnor arrives to rescue her and to avoid war, King Alfred has Selig marry Erika. She has to convince her brother she did it of her own will. He threatens her with gang rape if she doesn’t. A new slave reveals Erika’s jealousy. Kristen and her parents know Selig loves Erika and help with the romance. Then the man who nearly killed Selig arrives and kidnaps Erika.

This worked best because Selig is gentle with women, and it goes against his nature to hurt Erika in any way. She doesn’t know this until Kristen tells her so she reacts in fear and hatred to his idle threats. Alpha males need to have a gentle side or a weakness or they come across as bullies in a story.

#Lindsey #review #romance #historical

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Wicked At Heart

Wicked At Heart (Officer & Gentlemen Book 3) by Danelle Harmon 2012 Regency

Damon deWolfe, Lord Morninghall, falls prey to a vicious prank when he is 15 and attending Oxford. The Dean’s daughter meets him for a tryst only to be caught by her father who expels him. He can’t return to Morninghall where his mad mother thinks he’s the devil’s son and has been abusing him since a child. He joins the Royal Navy instead. Because of the abuse, he hides his heart behind a cold, violent exterior. After killing Admiral Bolton’s son in a duel, he’s assigned a prison ship filled with French and Americans captured in the War of 1812.

Lady Gwyneth Simms is a crusader and visits the prison ship to make a record of the awful conditions aboard. He kisses her, and she gives him a knee to the groin. He suffers from panic attacks but thinks he’s having a heart attack. Gwyn’s little sister suffered from the same thing, and she recognizes his symptoms.

This could have been a typical rake with a heart of ice melted by a kind, patient women, but Harmon weaves several subplots into the main plot to add layers to the story. Bolton wants Damon dead to avenge his son’s death and pays two of the men on Damon’s ship to incite a mutiny.

In addition, one of the Americans is Connor Merrick, who escapes and as the Black Wolf helps other prisoners escape. His sister Maeve is Lady Falcona, married to a British Naval commander and is a friend of Gwen. These small subplots tie together in the final confrontation.

Every writer should learn the skill of creating subplots and tying them to the main plot to make a simple story more complex and add tension to the story.

The story utilizes a minimal number of settings with the ship, Gwyn’s home, and Morninghall with each trip back to the ship increasing in danger not only for Gwyn but for Damon. The reader also sees Damon’s heart of ice slowly melt as he helps a boy, believes in Gwyneth, and ultimately realizes he not only is loved but is capable of love.

#Harmon #review #romance #Regency

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Dark Justice

Dark Justice by Jack Higgins 2005 Berkley Press Spy thriller

IMG_6499 (2)The story begins with Henry Morgan trying to assassinate the President of the United State and being stopped by Blake Johnson, the White House Basement Security. Morgan has cyanide in a gold tooth and commits suicide.

The story shifts to England where Morgan was born but recently converted by Dr. Ari Selem. Higgins introduces his alter ego, Sean Dillon and his coworkers Charles Ferguson, Hannah Berstein, and Mr. Roper who have a “license to kill.”

By watching Morgan’s mother, who is pushed off a dock, a familiar tactic in London, they focus on Russians Greta Novikova and Yuri Ashimov, former KGB, who are working for billionaire Josef Belov, who took over for Baron Berger, killed in the previous story.

Dillon refers to the chess game of the good guys and bad guys trying to find out what the other is doing as “the game” and each side recruits thugs to gain an advantage. Because of the body count on the bad guy side, Higgins has to keep recruiting new bad guys or the world wouldn’t need the good guys.

Higgins takes us to the Middle East and to Ireland as they follow Selem to find out how they are recruiting young Arabs to become terrorists. Belov recruits Dillon’s old enemies to take him out.

Higgins reveals the circumstances that brought Belov and Ashimov together, and he shares the history of Russia and the rise of terrorism for the readers. He provides information on guns, planes, and a history of wars.

Bernstein has a moral dilemma about torture, and they send her to St. Paul Cathedral to talk to a priest. Dillon sits in the back and listens to her “confession.” I found this interesting because in the previous story Dillon made a confession in this same way, and the bad guy sat in the back listening to every word he said. This is a terrible place to spill secrets and obviously, Dillon knows it. And if the church isn’t bad enough, the characters like to meet at their favorite pubs and share details about upcoming missions.

A worse blunder is taking Selem to a secret hideout that isn’t a secret to anyone, and the neighbor is more than happy to show the bad guys a drainage tunnel to get onto the grounds. And convenient for them, Ferguson and Selem like to step outside on the balcony facing the woods where the bad guys are hiding. Selem is killed and Ferguson wounded.

When Bernstein is nearly killed, this sparks the retaliation that leads to the final confrontation.

Higgins is a good writer and provides plenty of cloak and dagger situations. He uses modern history to create the situations that require spies and the battles that no one else wants to dirty their hands through murder. But I sensed a change in Dillon toward the end. Is he growing weary of killing?

#Higgins #spy #thriller #review

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