Posted in Book Reviews

The Son: Philipp Meyer

More likely than not, you’ve seen at least the commercials for ‘The Son’, which AMC has made into a series. It stars Pierce Brosnan (my mom’s all time favorite celebrity crush).

The novel takes place as three, separate generational stories. Each is told via a member of the McCullough family in an every other chapter format. Story #1 is that of Eli McCullough. We follow Eli from a boy until far into adulthood. In 1849, 13-year-old Eli is kidnapped by Comanche Native Americans. Readers follow this brutal path with him as he fights to survive.

Story #2 is that of Eli’s son, Peter. Without having had as tragic a life as his father did, Peter finds it difficult to relate to the man they call The Colonel. Where Eli is strong, Peter is weak. Most of the Colonel’s endeavors make Peter cringe. But, a time comes when, in Peter’s eyes, the Colonel has gone too far. Then, Peter has to make a choice between family and conscience.

Story #3 is of J.A. McCullough. She is the Colonel’s great-granddaughter and only gets a few years to have with him. At the time of J.A.’s story, women are seen & not heard, at home & far from the workplace. But, as the family runs short of male heirs, it’s up to her to salvage the family’s name and wealth.

While each story contains its own drama, each character is quiet similar to the one before him or her. The McCulloughs fight for what they have, want, and/or can’t have. Sometimes they take the hardest road and a few times the easiest. During the time period for all combined, their families story could be of any family in the South trying to make their way. Few survived. But, in our (fictional) historical account, the McCulloughs were one of the few.

First, sensitive readers beware, there is an incredible amount of violence & sex throughout the book. Due to the time period, racial slurs were the norm. The book has them in abundance towards all groups excluding Caucasian.

By far the most violent is the time period of Eli with the Comanche. It is downright brutal. Perhaps it’s historically accurate. I never fact-checked and read it as fiction. Eli is both likeable & detestable depending on which stage of his life you’re reading about. Peter is the most likeable and could be considered a hero, I suppose. J.A., to me, was the least likable. She doesn’t come across as the type of person that anyone would want to know.

The plot was well-developed and, though I read reviews by some who disliked the format, I had no trouble with the switches in time and the back & forth of the chapters. The only thing I double-blinked about was the dialogue with the Native Americans. It was portrayed as if they spoke fluent English which is difficult to believe.

Putting the gratuitous violence aside, I enjoyed the mystery side of the plot. It truly had me guessing as to where the author was going with it. I did, however, think the book was way too long. I would have rather read about only Eli & Peter. But, at over 500 pages, it was a bit much. I preferred the book over watching the series. I have to give it 4 stars for being ambitious and original.

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Clifton Manor: Episode 2: Victoria Spencer

Book 2 of 6 in The Clifton Manor Series

April 1912 is a well-known period mostly due to its association with the Titanic. In Episode 2, we have our dear Lord George boarding the vessel for its maiden (& only) voyage. George’s intent was to travel to America in order to investigate some family matters. Historically, we do know there were survivors. Here in a fictional world, is George going to be one of them?

Isaac Sterling was quickly introduced during the first episode. This episode features him purposely putting himself in danger during a hunting trip. While out with Jane’s fiancée, Robert, as well as Lord Clifton, Issac is shot in the arm by a drunken Robert. Milking his injury for all it’s worth, Isaac finds it has endeared him the household. Although we don’t know exactly what Isaac is up to, there’s no doubt he will take full advantage.

Anna Holden continues to pine for George. Internally, she is struggling with her feelings towards him. On the outside, she tries to maintain proper decorum in the house. Once word of the Titanic tragedy hits the Manor though, she is unable to hide her grief.

Distraction for Anna arrives in the form of James. With unexplained ties to Isaac, James as begun working at the Manor. Unable to deny his physical attributes, Anna decides to at least befriend James in George’s absence. Given the social issues and class separations, is fantasizing about a life with George even realistic?

For the first time, we ae treated to an in-depth look at Lord Clifton. Man of the Manor that he is, his role has been in name only so far. Now we see a father, worried for his son, fed up with the women of the house’s greediness, trying to play fair to both sides. Weighed down with the current sate of things, he turns to an old friend for a bit of guidance as we see the further extent of Lord Clifton’s depression.

Lady Elizabeth, as third child, has been singled out by Lady Clifton. As he mother, she is taking it upon her self to find Elizabeth a suitable mate. Fully believing that Elizabeth is incapable of doing so on her own, Simon Tatherwick is chosen for Elizabeth. Unfortunately, he isn’t exactly a gem. When he & Gladys have a nasty run-in, Gladys will need to decide whether to disobey Lady Clifton for Elizabeth’s sake or to ‘know her place’.

Episode 3 will hopefully shine light on George’s fate, Isaac’s motives, & the romantic lives of the residents of Clifton Manor.

Lord George is definitely the center piece of the episode. Everyone in the Manor is attached to everyone else so George’s fate affects them all. I’m not sure how to feel about Anna & her man problems. In this era, social standing was the most important thing in life. I can understand her feelings. But, the romantic in us all want her to end up with George.

Sensitive readers should note that Gladys & Simon’s meeting does turn a bit sexual (not in a good way). There is a bit of sexuality regarding Isaac as well. None of it is graphic or too out there, but it is mentioned nonetheless. I continue to be intrigued by the series & will be continuing on to the end. I have no idea if it will be continued with a Season 2. I didn’t see it listed on Amazon. This Episode is a 4 stars from me.

Posted in Book Reviews

Clifton Manor: Episode 1: Victoria Spencer

Episode 1, Season 1 ‘Clifton Manor’ Series

In 1912’s Yorkshire, large mansions and sizeable staff are the norm among the wealthy. Clifton Manor is no exception. Episode 1 of the 6 Episode series introduces us to all the major players & a bit about their role in the Manor.

Anna Holden has taken a job at the Manor working in the kitchen. A step down from her previous job, Anna had no choice to accept any available offer due to a yet-to-be-determined issue. Lady Clifton, the matriarch, has many secrets. Day-to-day operations of the household are lightly overseen by her as she heavily relies on senior staff to keep the wheels turning. Her children are more involved in household matters than their mother & seldom seen father.

George ‘does the books’. At the time Anna joins the ranks, George is beginning to question the ledgers and wondering about differing amounts recorded in the family finances. Feeling a change needs to be made, he rolls up his sleeves and digs deep into dark corners. Elizabeth is the baby of the family. Despite her title & net worth, Elizabeth would rather spend her days visiting the staff. Often overlooked, Elizabeth is the one tender-heart in a sea of selfish ones. Jane, their sister, should be worried about her upcoming wedding. Though a matter of convenience, it is an important affair. However, she seems preoccupied with matters from her past.

While we get to know the family & prominent staff members, we get peaks into the façade the family shows the world & the dysfunctional behind the scenes. As with any series, we are left with questions to explore & initial opinions on the fictional world we’re in. Why is one padlocked door forbidden to all staff members? What’s up with the family money? How many skeletons are in the closets of the Manor? Episode 2 will certainly reveal more details.

Set-up by installments like any other series, ‘Clifton Manor’ reads like a nifty soap opera. Romance & mystery around every corner, back-stabbing, betrayals – you name it. I happened upon the series by chance while searching for a new series. While there wasn’t a major ‘wow’ factor, I thought it was well-done and enjoyed it. There’s enough in this first episode to make me want to tune in to the same channel again.

I am especially fond of Elizabeth. Every family needs a person who cares for everyone more than themselves. We have to keep in mind that the time period relies heavily on Class Status and prejudice abounds. Regardless, ‘Episode 1’ is definitely worth the time and with colder weather on its way, it’ll be a good way to spend your time. I give it 4 stars.

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The Heiress of Linn Hagh: Karen Charlton

Karen Charlton begins her Detective Lavender Mysteries with Book #1, ‘The Heiress of Linn Hagh’. Our story takes place in England, 1809. Historically speaking, it’s a time of high society, large homes, proper manners & ruthless class bias. Well respected Detective, Stephen Lavender, has been summoned to Bellingham to investigate the disappearance of an heiress. He’s brought along his righthand man, Constable Woods.

Traveling by coach, Lavender is lucky enough to meet Spanish beauty, Magdalena. Business comes first, but Lavender can’t shake her from his mind. Perhaps he’ll need to add romance to his to-do list. But, the heiress is top priority.

Bellingham is a town divided distinctly by class. Helen Carnaby, the aforementioned heiress, is higher on the totem pole than most. Living in sprawling Linn Hagh, their prestigious residence, Helen has been staying with her brothers, George & Matty, & sister, Isobel. As a blended family, they’ve certain had their share of turmoil, but most townspeople aren’t aware of what a den of vipers it truly is in reality. What has everyone puzzled & the reason for Lavender being brought in, is the fact that Helen disappeared in the night, from a bed chamber locked from inside. No windows were open. No intruders were found. Helen vanished behind a locked door.

Being that a family of gypsies lives deep into the Carnaby’s property, rumors of faeries & magic abound. Never one to be superstitious, Lavender knows there’s a more logical & sinister explanation. Who would want to remove Helen? Suspects add up quickly. Being that two of her three siblings dislike her for having a different mother, could her inheritance be a motivation? What of the gypsies? Obviously Lavender & Woods have their work cut out for them with only  old-fashioned, 1800s detective work to rely on.

Historical fiction can often be bogged down with era-specific rhetoric & vast descriptions. Karen Charlton has avoided the traps of both of those. She stays perfectly in line with the time period & doesn’t mix any present tense in whatsoever. While Woods & Lavender reconstruct the crime, our author is careful to explain how they came to their conclusions & they all made perfect sense.

As for our leading man, he is everything we want in a hero. Dashing, patient, smart & kindhearted this detective performs his role to perfection. Woods plays the great sidekick in true Sherlock/Watson style without stealing any similarities from that duo. A well-developed supporting cast of characters brings heart & depth to the plot. Every bit of the story is squeaky clean without violence or racy scenes. As for the plot itself, it is original & mixes family ties, mystery, & history to bring us a great story with a class. I’ll be looking for more adventures of Lavender & Woods. It’s 4 star novel.

Posted in Book Reviews

The Mapmakers Children: Sarah McCoy

18490777Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, has been blessed with a talent for art. Following her father’s political stance, she seeks to use her talent to assist slaves. The Underground Railroad needs mapmakers so she learns to hide maps in paintings. The country is on the brink of the Civil War. Knowing her work is dangerous, Sarah is fully aware that her map making will put those she loves most in danger.

Fast forward to the present.   Eden & her husband move into an old house in the suburbs. Like Sarah, she is barren & wants a child. Rooting around in the old house unearths a discovery.  A porcelain, doll head is hidden in the root cellar. Apparently, it is what’s left of a doll from the time of the Underground Railroad. Eden is about to find a past of secret messages, danger and deliverance as she & Sarah’s worlds collide.

Sarah Brown is not a fictional character. However, she is an unsung heroine. Eden, her fictional counterpart, is a work of imagination. No matter how many people we learn about from this era, there are always new ‘faces’ of the abolitionist movement who are worth knowing. Sarah Brown is one.

Historical novels that switch between past & present are underrated. I believe it takes an incredible amount of talent to remember who’s who & which era you’re detailing currently.

In ‘Mapmaker’, we are treated to two heroic female leads, who are role models for bravery & morals. Though it wasn’t a grand time in US History, the Civil War did bring about enormous change & becomes a main character, itself, in the novel. Had it not been for people such as Sarah, the War might have turned out differently & with even more lives lost.

Besides equality, the book’s theme is most definitely family. Both Eden & Sarah desperately wanted their own families. They both valued life as evidenced in their want to have children & Sarah’s protecting the lives of enslaved people. It’s refreshing to read a Civil War Era novel that focuses on the positives that came forth from it instead of only the death & destruction.

‘The Mapmaker’s Children’ is well-written, true to life, & maintains a high-quality writing standard throughout. Sarah McCoy has found her niche in her writing. It is a 5 star novel.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

 

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The Annunciation: Ron Teachworth

_225_350_Book.1409.coverAs part of an art restoration project, a group of young, Catholic men & women are travelling to Florence, Italy. Together, they will assist in restoring some art work in the San Marco Convent. Olivia Gianetti is among them. Her entire life has been devoted to God & she plans to fulfill her call as part of the Felician Sisters. Among the seminarians is a young man named Finn. Unbeknownst to either of them, this trip will change their lives forever.

Not long after arriving, Finn & Olivia begin to become attracted to one another. Fearing repercussions, they hide their feelings. Soon, though, they’re madly in love. This whirlwind courtship will have to be delayed for a moment as things at San Marco begin to get interesting.

While the students are looking to the future, a group known as the Piagnoni is focused on the past. Devout Catholics who detest the more modern practices of Catholicism, the Piagnoni are determined to change the futre of the Church. Their plan is simple: assassinate the Pope. Lucky for them, the Pope is planning to visit Florence to greet the art restoration group. Quickly, they devise a way to get one of their members to infiltrate the convent. A plan is set in motion.

What follows will affect all the students in the project as well as the Catholic Church itself. Caught in the middle are the new lovebirds, Finn & Olivia. Can the Piagnoni be stopped or will the Pope lose his life? Can Finn & Olivia sort out their feelings in light of their impending calls to celibacy?

‘The Annunciation’ is a well-rounded read with a little bit for everyone. Despite the romantic angle, it is squeaky clean. Understandably, I’m sure it’s something more than one seminarian has struggled with in their lives. Not everyone is meant to be a nun or priest. They do move incredible fast & talk of marriage in less than a month. It makes you wonder how serious they really were about their calling.

The angle dealing with Church History was certainly fresh & has a Dan Brown feel to it. However, the historical facts were overdone. Not every character needed a complete biography, but received one anyway. It became a daunting task. I know there are many people serving the Church but they could’ve been a bit more irrelevant.

All in all, it’s a very enjoyable novel & I would recommend it with a 4 star rating. I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Posted in Book Reviews

The Bracelet: Dorothy Love

_225_350_Book.1421.cover Celia & Ivy grew up together, more like sisters than cousins. Both lost their mothers when they were young. Together they thrived under the watchful eyes of Celia’s father, David, & their housekeeper, Mrs. Maguire. But, that’s where their similarities end.

While Celia has chosen a path of love & helping others, Ivy has become an introvert, more content to hide away & read. Engaged to the dashing Sutton, Celia busies herself with wedding preparations & her various charities. Ivy participates, but at a distance with a guarded heart.

But, as Celia’s engagement becomes more of a reality, things begin to grow darker for their family. David’s health is steadily declining & a nosy reporter has started digging into the family’s troubled past. He believes that the death of Ivy’s mother & of another, unnamed woman, were more sinister than the cousins have believed. Does the family residence hold secrets of murder?

Strange notes then gifts are delivered to the family residence. Celia’s intrigue gets the best of her & she simply must know if the reporter is really onto something. As she delves deeper into the past, will her family survive what comes to the surface?

‘The Bracelet’ had a great plot & Celia is a fabulous lead heroine. Ivy’s character is intricate & at times a bit confusing. There are quite a few members of the supporting cast so readers will need to be on their toes to keep up.

Set in the pre-Civil War Era, one must keep in mind that certain racial & social barriers were in place. There are a few racial remarks, but they aren’t overdone or graphic.

At times the book is a bit wordy & in my opinion, it is unnecessarily long. I wish the author had spent more time developing the mystery aspect of the plot instead of the romance. Once we knew Sutton & Celia were to be wed, it was pretty obvious that they were in love. It wasn’t necessary to keep driving the point home.

Regardless, it is still a good work of fiction & historical fiction fans will be pleased with it. I give it 4 stars.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.