Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview BAD GIRLS FROM HISTORY: WICKED OR MISUNDERSTOOD? by Dee Gordon (@penswordbooks) Brief biographies of fascinating women, ideal to dip in and be inspired to learn more. #Women’shistory

Hi all:

Now I’m getting behind not only with my reading but also with the posting of reviews (by the time you read this I might be publishing more reviews per week, to keep up), but that isn’t a bad thing, is it?

Bad Girls from History. Wicked or Misunderstood? By Dee Gordon
Bad Girls from History. Wicked or Misunderstood? By Dee Gordon

Bad Girls from History: Wicked or Misunderstood? By Dee Gordon

You won’t be familiar with every one of the huge array of women featured in these pages, but all, familiar or not, leave unanswered questions behind them. The range is extensive, as was the research, with its insight into the lives and minds of women in different centuries, different countries, with diverse cultures and backgrounds, from the poverty-stricken to royalty. Mistresses, murderers, smugglers, pirates, prostitutes, and fanatics with hearts and souls that feature every shade of black (and grey!). From Cleopatra to Ruth Ellis, from Boudicca to Bonnie Parker, from Lady Caroline Lamb to Moll Cutpurse, from Jezebel to Ava Gardner.

Less familiar names include Mary Jeffries, the Victorian brothel-keeper, Belle Starr, the American gambler, and horse thief, La Voisin, the seventeenth-century Queen of all Witches in France but these are random names, to illustrate the variety of the content in store for all those interested in women who defy law and order, for whatever reason.

The risqué, the adventurous and the outrageous, the downright nasty and the downright desperate all human (female!) life is here. From the lower strata of society to the aristocracy, class is not a common denominator. Wicked? Misunderstood? Nave? Foolish? Predatory? Manipulative? Or just out of their time? Read and decide.

Author Dee Gordon
Author Dee Gordon

About the author:

Dee Gordon is passionate about her East End roots and about Southend on Sea, her home for thirty years. Both these passions are highlighted in her books about these areas, and she has been writing full time since selling her London-based recruitment business in 2000. The writing fits round her caring role (she has an adult autistic son who is deaf and has other disabilities) and the many talks she gives in the local community to raise money for local charities. For more info about Dee and her books visit

My review:

Thanks to Alex and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although totally unplanned, I find myself writing this review on the International Women’s Day 2018. One can’t help but wonder about the title of the book, not so much the wicked or misunderstood part (some definitely seem to fall into one of the two categories, while many share characteristics of both, although that depends on the point of view), but the Bad Girls. In my opinion, it makes perfect sense for the argument of the book, as the expression bad woman has a certain meaning and connotations attached to it (very moralistic and misogynistic), while perhaps bad girl allows for a more playful and varied reading. And it has nothing to do with age (the catalogue of historical figures examined by the author includes a large number of women who died quite young, but there are others who lived to ripe old ages as well). It is, ultimately, a matter of self-definition. But I digress.

This book shares a collection of brief biographies (the vast majority are under a couple of pages long), of women, organised in a number of chapters that group women in several categories (although some overlap and the author has to make a choice as to which group a particular figure belongs to). These chapters are: 1) Courtesans and Mistresses; 2) Madams, Prostitutes, and Adulterers; 3) Serial Killers; 4) ‘One-Off’ Killers; 5) Gangsters, Thieves and Con-Artists; 6) The Rebel Collection – Pirates, Witches, Megalomaniacs, Exhibitionists. The book also contains a brief bibliography (I guess otherwise a second volume would have been necessary just to include all the sources), and there are pictures of the women (portraits, photographs, illustrations), and also documents, newspaper cuttings, letters…

Although I was familiar with quite a few of the women featured (in the case of Mata Hari, for example, I had read a book about her not long ago, although in many others I still discovered things I didn’t know) there were also quite a number that I had heard the names of but didn’t know much about, and others that were completely new to me. I have no doubt that most people reading this book will think about other women they would have added to the collection, but I would say all of the women included deserve to be there. This is not a judgment of character though, as that is not what this book is about. The author’s style is engaging and, despite the briefness of the vignettes, she manages to make these women compelling (and horrifying in some cases), and she is at pains to try and paint as balanced a picture as possible, rather than just present them according to the prevalent morality of their time. Reality and legend are sometimes difficult to tell apart, but the author, tries (and at times acknowledges defeat and provides the most interesting versions of a woman’s story available).

Among the many women in the book, I was particularly intrigued by Jane Digby (1807-1881), a lover of travel and an adventurer who also had a talent for choosing interesting men, Enriqueta Martí (1868-1913), who lived in Barcelona and who, according to recent research might not have been guilty of the horrific crimes she was accused of (I won’t talk about it in detail, but let’s say that, if it was true, she was not called The Vampire of Barcelona for nothing), Princess Caraboo (aka Mary Baker: 1791-1864), who knew how to come up with a good story, or Georgia Tann (1891-1950), that I felt intrigued by when I read that Joan Crawford (who has featured in one of my recent reads) had been one of her clients. But there are many others, and of course, this is a book that will inspire readers to do further research and look into the lives of some of these women (or even write about them).

The women in each chapter are organised in alphabetical order, and that means we jump from historical period to historical period, backward and forward, but there is enough information to allow us to get a sense of how society saw these women and how class, patronage, social status, money… influenced the way they were treated. There are personal comments by the author, but she is non-judgemental and it is impossible to read this book, especially some of the chapters, without thinking about the lot of women, about how times have changed (but not as much as we would like to think, as evidenced by recent developments and campaigns), and about how behaviours that from a modern perspective might show strength of character, intelligence, and independence, at the time could condemn a woman in the eyes of society, ruining her reputation and/or destroying her life.

A book to dip in to learn about social history and the role of women, and also one that will inspire readers to read more about some of these women (and others) that, for better or worse, have left a mark. A great starting point for further research into the topic, and a book that will make us reflect about the role of women then and now.

Thanks to Pen & Sword and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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New books

#NewBook Amber Wake by PS Bartlett (@PSBartlett) and Ronovan Hester (@RonovanWrites) Pirates, collaborations and more.

Hi all:

As you know on Fridays I bring you new books and authors and today it’s a great pleasure to bring you a new novel Amber Wake. One of the authors, PS Bartlett has visited us before, and this time she’s teamed up with Ronovan Hester, a colleague whose site Literary World Interviews I visit and contribute to regularly. And I couldn’t resist asking him about how he found the process of collaboration…

The floor is yours, Ronovan!

Author Ronovan Hester
Author Ronovan Hester

If anyone tells you a collaboration between authors is an easy thing because it’s almost like doing half the work . . . you need to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Come up with a basic storyline together.
  2. Agree on the characters: what they are; how they act and believe; and the direction to lead them.
  3. Divide the book up into parts and after each one is drafted get together to go over it and both of you leave satisfied with it.

With those three things in mind, you have a good chance of having a decent time with your collaboration. If you don’t you might end up with bad feelings over your darlings in the book cut or changed by the other author. Then it comes down to who has the final say.


Here is a short excerpt for Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling written by PS Bartlett and me.

“Where is he? I must see the boy!” I ordered, slamming my duffle on the deck.

“He’s well, Cap’n. We took good care a’ the lad. He’s been tended to. He’s laid up and restin’ in his hammock since Mister Jacobs and Mister Carbonale brung him to me,” said Mister Gimby, upon meeting me at the gangplank as I boarded the ship.

“What are you men playing at here? Once I assess Adam’s condition, I’ll be on my way with him. I believe Chambers will be expecting me!” I shouted at the men gathering around me.

“What are you standing about for? Out of my way! What the hell are you all doing?”

“No point makin’ objections, Cap’n Wallace. We done taken a vote, which by the way was a mighty big change from what we’s used to,” Gimby said. “The fact remains, you’re the Cap’n, and the Majesty’s Venture is your ship.”

“Mister Gimby, this ship belongs to the Royal Navy.” The main deck of the sixty-gun ship was now crowded with her crew. I was surrounded. The dim lantern light illuminated the whites of their eyes, all of which were focused on me. I imagined they were waiting for my objections, but instead, I found myself full of gratitude. Suddenly, I was consumed with a fire of my own. The burn reached my head with bloody and enlightened thoughts of murderous revenge. Ruin me and burn me out, my Irish ass! If Chambers and Hawthorne’s cronies had it in for me, I’d gladly give them the criminal they desired.

“Captain,” Miles said with a grin. “The vote’s been cast. We’re no longer sailors of the Royal Navy, and…we’re taking this ship. Those who were in opposition of our choice to withdraw our commissions are now safely tucked away in places they won’t be found until morning. One look at what they’d done to the boy, and I’m afraid there was no other choice to make.”

“Nobody treats Adam that way, Cap’n. That boy’s an innocent, and these gents don’t hold with beatin’ on children,” Gimby said.

“Well, since they’ve set a torch to my home, I’ve nowhere else to go tonight anyway.” I rubbed my brow roughly and paced before them, imagining the hell I could raise with a Royal Navy patrol galley and a crew of skilled fighting men by the reins. At the conclusion of that thought, the decision was made. “So, gentlemen, if we’re no longer sailors of the Royal Navy, then what would you call us?” I asked, pressing my knuckles into my hips with a smirk.

“Well, I suppose that’s yet to be determined, old friend.” Miles rested his hand on my shoulder and glanced at me with a raised brow.

“Well, then, gentlemen; due to our change in circumstances, whoever the hell we are, I strongly advise we leave now!” I shouted, followed by a deafening round of cheers all around me.

“Aye, Cap’n,” Gimby said. “We’ll follow ye anywhere…as long as it ain’t up against that fleet in the harbor. We ain’t ready fer that fight—at least, not just yet.”

The helmsman’s wink and smile told me, however, that if necessary, he was more than ready to do battle when the time came. Gimby was the most seasoned of the crew and saw no reason to sit idly by, waiting to be shot like fish in a barrel. A seasoned sailor like Gimby would certainly never shy away from a good fight.

“Then we’ll set sail before the moon hits high.”


So what’s the deal?

Looking at the excerpt, you wouldn’t see any type of collaboration issues in the background because things fit together nicely. There is a reason for that. My co-author Bartlett and I did go back and forth on some issues, but ultimately changes were made because the book is a part of a series and for the greater good of future books that exist, and the future that is already in place for Captain Wallace. It’s a collaboration so there has to be give and take.

You aren’t going to like every change or compromise in a collaboration. There are some things I didn’t like that changed, and there are some things Bartlett compromised on that I know she would rather have in the book. However, she understood I was part of this book, and I understood this is a series for her and I am only a part of that adventure.

If you keep those three things I mentioned before in mind you’ll have a good time.


PS Bartlett at a Book Fair
PS Bartlett at a Book Fair

I want to thank Olga for time here on her site to share my experiences about collaboration and mention my debut novel, Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling, a Historical Adventure.

Amber Wake by PS Bartlett and Ronovan Hester
Amber Wake by PS Bartlett and Ronovan Hester


The autumn of 1705 brings Royal Navy Captain Gabriel Wallace to face off against an enemy within the ranks of the Admiralty itself that threatens his career, his reputation, his family, and something even more far-reaching in its plot.

Court-martialed and with Admiral Chambers, the mastermind fearfully known as the Chambers of Hell, out for his destruction, Wallace finds he has allies willing to face the might of the mightiest power on earth, with some allies in the most unlikely of places. The crew of his former command, the Majesty’s Venture, mutinies from the Royal Navy. With capture by his enemies close behind, Wallace agrees to become captain once again.

With a ship at his command, Captain Gabriel Wallace sets out to fulfill his mission, the completeness of which only he knows.

Now a pirate by situation, Wallace sets out for the Colonies and the Caribbean. Will his crew remain loyal as they leave the rule of the Royal Navy behind? Will his lifelong friend, Miles Jacobs, follow Wallace blindly without knowing the whole story? Finally, will the young Lieutenant Maddox Carbonale stay under the command of Wallace or have plans to lead instead?

With these questions in his thoughts, Gabriel Wallace wages war on Chambers and goes after the largest haul in the history of the Spanish Main. Whom does Wallace meet along the way? To whom are his loyalties to: vengeance or something more powerful?

If you love tales of adventure, of the sea, of the struggles of men, and nods to history, this is your book. Read Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling and you’ll have a new appreciation for all of The Razor’s Adventures Pirate Tales.

Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling on

Amber Wake; Gabriel Falling on Amazon.UK

Amber Wake; Gabriel Falling on Amazon.CA

Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling on Amazon.IN


You may connect with Ronovan through:

Amazon Author Page: Ronovan Hester

Amazon UK Author Page: Ronovan Hester

Personal Blog:

Author Site:

Book Review Site:

Twitter: @RonovanWrites

Facebook: Ronovan Writes

Google+: Ronovan Writes

LinkedIn: Ronovan Hester Ronovan

Pinterest: RonovanWrites



Ronovan Hester is a writer living near Athens, Ga, home of his alma mater, The University of Georgia, where he received a B.S.Ed. in History Education. Ronovan puts his love of history and his over 20 years of writing experience to use in his debut Historical Adventure set in 1705 England, American Colonies, and Caribbean co-authored with P.S. Bartlett.

Ronovan’s devotion to history and writing sometimes competes with his love of tacos and fresh fruit. At times, all his favorite things work hand in hand in mouth during long binge writing sessions that have been known to last nonstop for over 24 hours. Rather than see a sleep disorder as a hindrance, he uses the time for creative purposes, or watching old TV shows on online.

Ronovan enjoys putting elements of history, if only as nods to the past, in all of his book projects. He currently instills that love of history and learning in his son daily as he helps him through his college prep courses, meaning hours of homework every night, even while not yet a teenager—his son, not Ronovan. Now if he could find a very good mute for that trumpet his son just began learning.

Thanks so much to Ronovan for talking to us about collaborating with other authors, thanks for the sample and the book, and don’t forget to like, share, comment and CLICK!


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