On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.
As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.
There is definitely a strong familiar feeling to this story. It jumps through different characters point-of-view, and Lizzie’s way of thinking reminds me of The Yellow Wallpaper. This unreliable narration and the flitting between thoughts gives you a rushed feeling, as if you were racing to keep up with her. The story goes on, introducing us to more characters and their ways of thinking. Author Sarah Schmidt has done an excellent job giving each of these characters their own unique voice and yet tied them together in such a way that it flowed almost seamlessly. I was very surprised to find that this was a debut novel as her writing style seems well tested. I can understand how some might not enjoy this book and I feel like it will be very polarizing. I personally enjoy a book that lures me in and then spends the next few hours leading me down a twisting road. I do also enjoy simple A to B stories but this was a welcome break and I will be looking forward to Sarah Schmidt’s next book.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Atlantic Monthly Press in exchange for honest feedback*
July, 1579. Called upon to help a family friend who is horrified at the return of her errant husband after an absence of thirty years, little does Ursula realize that her involvement in the Harrison family's domestic dramas will lead to a case of cold-blooded murder.
Matters become even more complicated when Ursula is summoned to court to assist in negotiations for Queen Elizabeth's possible engagement to the Duke of Alencon. The proposed marriage between the queen and a French Catholic twenty years her junior is causing unrest throughout the kingdom. There are many who oppose the match - but would someone kill in order to prevent it?
Tensions increase when a prominent nobleman is accused of murder. Ursula is convinced the man is innocent - but can she prove it?~Goodreads Blurb
Over all, A Deadly Betrothal is another well written installment of author Fiona Buckley’s Ursula Blanchard Mysteries. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of the series, then no worries. You can easily start here and work your way back or forward. There is enough mystery and twists in order to keep you engaged with the story and the characters are filled out from their historical places into their well formed shapes. I enjoy a good historical fiction story and a murder mystery even more so. Unfortunately, Buckley decided to introduce a rape scene into this story that I feel was not even needed, nor did add anything to the story that could not have been written in another format. Sure it gave two characters a needed face-to-face but that could have been rectified with a simple attempt not a hastily written attack. I would recommend this book with the caveat that readers should skip Chapter 25 and pretend it never existed. There are some character flaws but I passed them over, as there is a chance that these traits make sense in past books. All together it is a fine piece of work, though it could have used the one edit I mentioned.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Severn House in exchange for honest feedback*
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…~Goodreads Blurb
Too often literature focuses its attention on Anne Boleyn as a conniving woman, or as a witch who tricked the King into marriage. There are some who choose to look at her through her daughter’s eyes and see a woman who was torn away from her daughter. Her time spent in the courts of others is usually just a brief mention in order to hurry her along into the arms of Henry the Eighth. I really appreciate the way author Alison Weir has taken the time to show the path that was taken before she became the notorious Queen that we most know her as. But instead of following up with this idea of a woman doing what she had to for her family and for her own survival, it seems strange that it instead slips into a strange world where some of our prominent men are rapists,though this was never proven, and other obviously fictional and unnecessary elements were added in order to make the story more interesting.
I understand that with such a well-written subject it can become difficult to write anything new about the story, I enjoyed the story of her youth and the interesting views of some of the other strong women in her life. It only seems like Weir seems to slip into a caricature of Boleyn that seems old and outdated. This made the book a toss-up for me. On the one hand I enjoyed the new look at young Anne but when she comes of age, she becomes the villain again. It seems to be a very strange route to take. This is going to be one of those books that you will either really enjoy or won’t be able to finish. I finish them in order to be fair but I know many don’t have that requirement.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Ballantine Books in exchange for honest feedback**
When Anna Butterfield's mother dies, she's sent to live with her uncle, a silk merchant in London, to make a good match and provide for her father and sister. There, she meets Henri, a French immigrant and apprentice hoping to become a master weaver. But Henri, born into a lower class, becomes embroiled in the silk riots that break out as weavers protest for a fair wage. ~Goodreads Blurb
Often times there are little parts of history that get forgotten when people write about more exciting big picture stories. I feel as though this book might have been the author, Liz Trenow’s way of correcting that, in regards to the silk weavers’ riots. It illuminated a part of history that I had previously not taken the time to really understand. I’m not often a fan of Georgian historical fiction simply because it tends to lurch towards romantic fiction quite quickly. Another part of me finds that many authors tend to mimic Georgette Heyer and turn her work into more formula writing. Liz Trenow, while managing to write a compelling story and also filling the gaps in my catalogue of information, does slip into more of historical romance than I usually prefer. I had hoped that it would be a strong woman making her way in the world, and I was left with a pair of lovers from opposite sides of the tracks instead. It starts out a bit slow but once it gets going it is worth finishing. I would recommend this for people who enjoy non-formula Georgian historical romance.
*This eBook was provided by Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback*
Essex, England, 1645. With a heavy heart, Alice Hopkins returns to the small town she grew up in. Widowed, with child, and without prospects, she is forced to find refuge at the house of her younger brother, Matthew. In the five years she has been gone, the boy she knew has become a man of influence and wealth--but more has changed than merely his fortunes. Alice fears that even as the cruel burns of a childhood accident still mark his face, something terrible has scarred Matthew's soul.
There is a new darkness in the town, too--frightened whispers are stirring in the streets, and Alice's blood runs cold with dread when she discovers that Matthew is a ruthless hunter of suspected witches. Torn between devotion to her brother and horror at what he's become, Alice is desperate to intervene--and deathly afraid of the consequences. But as Matthew's reign of terror spreads, Alice must choose between her safety and her soul. ~Goodreads Blurb
As much as it pains me to admit it, it probably wouldn’t be a great idea for me to go time travelling. The future might be better, though that has risks of its own. Travelling to the past on the other hand, would see me put in a madhouse or more likely accused of witchcraft. Author Beth Underdown has done a terrifyingly wonderful job of bringing a different viewpoint to the English witch hunt. Before Salem even had a chance to eat some mind altering fungus, they had begun to receive reports about Matthew Hopkins in England, the self proclaimed Witch Hunter General. This all took place during the English Civil War. Unlike the American Civil War, this war was very much over religion. The Protestant leader Cromwell and his Roundheads eventually toppled the reigning monarch and a land that had always been on the edge of all-out Protestant and Catholic war slipped into just that. Throughout all this, Matthew Hopkins was travelling over the country, interrogating those accused of witchcraft. 106. The sheer amount of women killed before Hopkins death is truly upsetting. 106, before he was stopped. Underdown then asks the question, “Was it death or something else that stopped him?”
By using a woman and a sister to look at this terrifying creature, author Beth Underdown has given her readers a more relatable voice to connect to and fear for. One has to pause several times, to wonder if there really are paranormal activities taking place or if we are seeing a manifestation of the paranoia of the time. A delicious thrill that lingers in the mind, this story only lasted me a couple of nights. I wanted to know more and more about what was happening and I think I may have to do more of my own research into this time. I had never really thought about the English Civil War in any real depth but Underdown’s latest book has definitely sparked something for me.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Ballantine Books in exchange for honest feedback**
Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery — Maud to her friends — has a dream: to go to college and become a writer, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman's place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister's stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren't a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn't sure she wants to settle down with a boy — her dreams of being a writer are much more important.
But life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother's plans for her, which threaten Maud's future — and her happiness forever.~Goodreads Blurb
Anne Shirley and I were kindred spirits growing up and when I saw that there was a new historical fiction book about her author’s life, I couldn’t pick it up fast enough. There isn’t a lot about LM Montgomery out there and probably for good reason. It seems obvious to anyone who has read about her life, that she wrote for Anne the happy life that she didn’t always get. Having read all of LMM’s books, I couldn’t help but see correlations between her and Anne’s stories. Along with that came the pangs of nostalgia and sympathy for the characters.
Author Melanie J. Fishbane could easily have played to the hearts of fans of Anne Shirley and her tales, but instead she did her research and kept the story as fresh and clear as she could. She was able to do this without babying the reader. I never felt like I was being spoonfed the story. Even without having read LMM’s books I think this would be a great read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and coming of age stories.
*This book was provided by NetGalley and Razorbill Canada in exchange for honest feedback*
Investigative team Blake and Avery find themselves entangled in a case involving political conflicts, personal vendettas, and England s first celebrity chef.
London, 1842. Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London s newest and grandest gentleman s club a death the club is desperate to hush up. What he soon discovers is a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club s handsome facade. At the center is its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, the Napoleon of food, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.
But Avery is distracted, for where is his mentor and partner in crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death is only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?
Drawn in by the cover and held in by the writing, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was in fact the third in a series. Though the first book seems to have been set in India, this one is held in Victorian-ish London and I really enjoyed it. It stood very well on the strength of its own writing and was able to get away with the few leaning bits that it did have. As someone who loves a good food story and a decent mystery, I found M.J. Carter’s book a great thrill. There are a few characters that I really didn’t connect to and I believe that may be do to my lack of previous knowledge rather than a blight on Carter’s writing.
That all being said and I must say I did enjoy the story once I was able to immerse myself, I have to admit that I found that there was quite a lot of detail that I didn’t need. It reminded me of Dickens and some of the other authors of that time period who were being paid by the word. I understand that the author must have put considerable amounts of research into her story and it seemed as if she pushed all of it into this story. I love finding out little bits and things the author has come across in their research but I think there were definitely times when I could have used less in order to speed things along. I’m looking forward to going back and adding the first two of the series to my TBR list, and would recommend this to fans of the genre and Carter’s following.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam in exchange for honest feedback*
Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are “fallen” women—unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals. Most are ordinary girls whose only sin lies in being too pretty, too independent, or tempting the wrong man. Among them is sixteen-year-old Teagan Tiernan, sent by her family when her beauty provokes a lustful revelation from a young priest.
Teagan soon befriends Nora Craven, a new arrival who thought nothing could be worse than living in a squalid tenement flat. Stripped of their freedom and dignity, the girls are given new names and denied contact with the outside world. The Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has secrets of her own, inflicts cruel, dehumanizing punishments—but always in the name of love. Finally, Nora and Teagan find an ally in the reclusive Lea, who helps them endure—and plot an escape. But as they will discover, the outside world has dangers too, especially for young women with soiled reputations.~Goodreads Blurb
There will always be people who will use their authority over people and their faith to take advantage. In every religion there are bad people. Rarely has it on par with the Catholic Church and the Magdalen Laundries. Following the interest sparked by the film “Philomena” and similar documentaries, author V.S Alexander has attempted to bring some more understanding through historical fiction. Giving us three young girls to see their world through, we watch as they adapt and try to hold on to their sense of self in a religious prison that will do all it can to save their souls, whether they need saving or not.
Of course with a tough subject as religion and the trust given to authorities of faith, there were bound to be moments that rubbed the wrong way. The idea that the blame falls on the girl for tempting a priest instead of berating the priest for having impure thoughts, causes me to grind my teeth. Many of these girls, historically, were sent to the laundries for many different reasons. Some were seen as fallen women, while others had nowhere else to go and no one who really wanted them. It is not a system to which I have ever understood, nor would I survive in such a place. One of the few things that I found difficult about these book is the story line of Sister Anne. A fiendish woman who enjoys the release pain grants her and enjoys inflicting pain on others under the guise of saving them. There were far too many pages wasted on trying to redeem her in the eyes of the readers. She did not need to be given a redemption arc. I also felt that parts of the story were tempered down in order to not upset readers. It seems a very open-shut view of a very complex problem. I would offer this up as a light read about a very serious subject, almost on a young adult level.
Something is keeping Sarah Gale silent despite the risk of a death sentence. Is it guilt? Fear? Love?
Sentenced to hang for her alleged role in a shocking murder, Sarah confronts the young lawyer asked to examine her guilty verdict. She says she is innocent, but she refuses to explain the evidence given in court — the evidence that convicted her. Battling his own demons, Edmund Fleetwood is determined to find the truth — and to uncover why Sarah won't talk.
Darkness hides in Sarah's past, Edmund is certain, but surviving on the streets of London often means that one has to make difficult choices. Does it matter what else she's done, if she's innocent of murder? As the day of execution draws closer, Edmund struggles to discover whether she is the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice, or a dangerous and devious criminal.~Goodreads Blurb
A true-crime fiction novel debut, “The Unseeing” is the story of Sarah Gale’s role in a vicious crime that fascinated London at the time. The Edgeware Road Murder shocked the public in the visceral and graphic manner the body was disposed of. Instead of leaving it to a footnote in the dark times of London, Author Anna Mazzola has brought it back into the light with her debut novel. Already published for over 6 months in the UK, it has been brought to the States by Sourcebooks Landmark. Clearly Mazzola has a real gift for this and hopefully will grace us with another book in a similar style as time goes on.
Typically not a fan of the true-crime fiction genre, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself readily enjoying “The Unseeing.” I did have a bit of trouble in the middle, when I thought everything had been wrapped up neatly, only to find that there was about 45% more book left. With a physical book, you have visual cue to let you know that there is more to come. I would compare it to a procedural crime show that seems to be solved at the 30 minute mark. You know something is going to happen, because it all seems too easy. One of the reasons I try to avoid true-crime fiction is that if the book is too slow or badly written, I have been known to simply google the crime in order to not leave anything hanging and move on. I can honestly say that I wasn’t heading for Google any time soon with this book. From character descriptions to plausible motivations and backstories, whether Mazzola chooses to stick to true-crime or makes the move to another section of historical fiction, I look forward to seeing her next move.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for honest feedback*
Anna Mazzola is a writer of historical crime fiction. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, was published in July 2016. The Times calls it 'sizzling'. The Mirror describes it as, 'a brilliant debut.’
Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a criminal justice solicitor. She lives in Camberwell, London, with two small children, two cats and one husband.
In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.
One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….
After having a full run in the UK “Victoria” has premiered in the US on PBS. Eight episodes about the life of the young queen from coronation to her first child. When I found that the writer for the show was also publishing a book, I had high hopes. While it was quite well written, I found it to be more of a novelization of the show rather than a more in depth look at Victoria’s beginnings. With 404 pages to work with, it seemed a surprise to me that as readers we only just get to the proposal instead of any depth or any real measure of conflict.
Author Daisy Goodwin obviously did quite a bit of research into Queen Victoria’s diaries and the lives of people around her. Her work on the show and her writing style are very well done and I really enjoyed watching the series. I simply felt disappointed that this was more of a companion piece or a teaser for the show rather than a stand alone novel. I would recommend this for people who are torn between watching the show or not. If you enjoy the book, you will love the show. It also is good for people who don’t often get into historical fiction to wet their whistles. I have a couple of Goodwin’s other books on my TBR list and hopefully I will find one that better suits my tastes.
DAISY GOODWIN, a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University’s film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, is a leading television producer in the U.K. Her poetry anthologies, including 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life, have introduced many new readers to the pleasures of poetry, and she was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. That was the year she published her first novel the American Heiress ( My Last Duchess in UK) , followed by The Fortune Hunter and now Victoria. She has also created VICTORIA the PBS/ITV series which starts in January. She has three dogs, two dogs, and one husband.
Freelance Editor & Reviewer