I anticipate I’m going to have a few incredibly busy reading weeks ahead (I’m helping with the selection process for the Historical Fiction M. M. Bennetts Award) and I’m also going to be busy preparing for my first book fair (check the post by fabulous author Christoph Fischer who explains everything about the Llandeillo Book Fair here and you can also visit the Facebook page of the event) so I’m not sure what my blog is going to be like (as I had promised I’d be recovering some of the old posts from my previous WordPress site that didn’t manage to survive the move, there will be some of that for sure) but I count on your patience and support as usual. I might share a bit more of my WIP (while I try to work out what the cover should look like. Thanks for the suggestions!), share some reviews as far as I can (I don’t want to disrupt the award process, although I’ll let you know the results), keep looking for ideas and feedback on my non-fiction project… We shall see.
But, as I’ve accumulated a few reviews I thought that would make an interesting post. The three authors I bring you today have visited my blog before. They are women of substance, who blog, research, help their fellow authors, and write wonderfully, and although I’m sure you know them all, if you don’t, for their works you’ll know them…
Enough blah, blah. Here they come:
The Dolan Girls by S. R. Mallery.
Set in Nebraska during the 1800s, whorehouse madams, ladies of the night, a schoolmarm, a Pinkerton detective, a Shakespeare-quoting old coot, brutal outlaws, and a horse-wrangler fill out the cast of characters. Add to the mix are colorful descriptions of an 1856 land rush, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, Annie Oakley, bank/train robberies, small town local politics, and of course, romance. Two, in fact!
Body of review:
I was given a free copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve read two of S. R. Mallery’s books before and I’ve always admired her ease in creating stories emotionally real and characters we care for set in historical eras and around historical events that add dimension and depth to the narration. Most of her stories centre on female protagonists and we experience through them the travails and challenges these women had to face in different times in history, be it because of their class, race, gender, profession or their situation.
Cora and Minnie, the young girls arrived from Ireland with their parents, who plan to get some land in Nebraska but fail, end up alone and living in a brothel after tragedy strikes. Madam Ana treats them like her daughters and the brothel becomes their home and later their business. Cora’s love story is ruined by a terrible event, a baddie with no redeeming qualities (Wes’) rapes her and impregnates her, and she doesn’t trust men again. She focuses her life on the business and her family, and wants to ensure that her daughter will be respected and safe, even against her wishes.
The three Dolan girls, Cora, Minnie and Ellie embody different models of womanhood: Cora worries about society’s views and being respected, and is straight-laced and serious. Minnie is free, unconventional and only worries about doing what’s right and fun, no matter what anybody else might think. Ellie loves education, learning, and is passionate about enlightening the population and not taking no for an answer. Despite their differences, they all have in common their strength, their perseverance, and their determination to live life their own way, no matter what polite society might think.
Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill and Lola Montez make significant appearances and add to the historical interest but their appearance is not an exercise in hero worshiping. The author blends beautifully historical detail, language and décor without dumping information or appearing to quote from a textbook.
The bandits’ train-raid and later arrival at South Benton, Buffalo Bill’s first show, and the Pinkerton detective agency and their work add a good dose of adventure and make it a page turner even for people who wouldn’t consider reading a standard romantic novel.
The male protagonists are heroic but understanding and not overbearing. Their behaviour seemed to me somewhat idealised but well within the conventions of the genre.
The Dolan Girls shows us that winning the West wasn’t only a man’s endeavour, that not all immigrants were the same (Irish not being welcome with open arms), that gender violence is not new, and that women can be strong together.
In sum, a great read and a must for people who love historical romances. Ah, and don’t worry about the ending. You’ll love it!
And if you want to check a preview:
The Challenge (The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles) by Kim Iverson Headlee. The real challenge is to know what you’re fighting for.
The gauntlet is thrown. One must die. Refusal is not an option.
Arthur the high king of Breatein has fallen captive of a longtime enemy, the Saxon warrior-princess, Camilla, who lusts to avenge the death of her betrothed at Gyan’s hands and will stop at nothing, even the black arts, to achieve her goal. Because Gyan and Arthur have grown estranged, she fears that Arthur may side with Camilla and make her his new queen.
Now Gyan must face all her demons – public as well as private.
The Challenge is a part of Kim Headlee’s The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles and although it is the first story of the series I’ve read, that does not impede its enjoyment. It is a short story set in the world of the Arthurian legends and although it mixes fantasy elements (not that there are no fantasy elements in the story we’re all familiar with) it does refer back to older stories and traditions. Considering its length, the story packs an incredible amount of detail, not only of the action and fight itself (with vivid descriptions of weapons and gear), but also of the relationships of the queen, Gyan, with her men, of her feelings about her people and her kingdom, and also of her mental state at the time. She confronts a rival with supernatural strength, but more important than that she also has to fight her doubts about her relationship with the King. And although I’m not going to give you any spoilers, I can tell you that the ending won’t disappoint.
If you fancy a short read, full of action, with a good mix of historical detail and fantasy, and a superb strong female lead, I strongly recommend it.
And the preview:
At the moment of preparing this post it’s FREE so check it out!
And last by not least…
Tales from the Garden by Sally Cronin. Enchanting stories in a magical garden
Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here.
Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
I follow Sally Cronin’s Smorgasboard blog and know she writes on a variety of themes, from the non-fictional: nutritional and health advice, features and reviews about books and writing, advice on marketing and blogging, and also fictional writing. After reading some of the stories she had shared on-line I had to read this book. And the description is correct. These are fairy stories for children of all ages. The characters are the stone sculptures in the garden and their adventures contain in equal parts warmth, pathos, magic and fantasy. We have animals escaping from hunting dogs, impossible love stories between humans and fairies, orchestras made up of the most varied characters, and a wonderful dedication to the author’s mother and her gardens. You will go through a variety of emotions and always feel better and more positive by the end of each story. The book will leave you smiling and that’s something that cannot be said of many books (or things) these days.
The writing is fluid, perfectly suited to the themes and you get the sense that you’ve been taken into the confidence of the characters and have become an honorary inhabitant of this wonderful garden. The pictures —all from the author and her family’s gardens— that illustrate the book help make the reader feel even more at home.
Recommended to any readers who need a bit of magic and wonder in their lives.
Sally, who has a blog everybody should follow, no matter what your interest, also has her own publishing company and you might want to access this and her other books directly. Just in case, this is the link to her books in her blog.
Thanks to the three authors for their varied and fantastic books, thanks to all of you for reading and don’t forget to like, share, comment, CLICK, and of course, if you read, REVIEW!