historical fiction

Review of ‘Hidden in the Shadows

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When the hidden village, shelter for Dutch Jews hiding from the Nazis, is attacked, Woulter, whose task was to guide everyone to safety, runs away in panic, leaving not only the survivors to fend for themselves, but abandoning Laura, a young Jewish girl he loves dearly. Laura barely escapes with her life, and has to go from place to place to stay out of German clutches.

Hidden in the Shadows by Imogen Matthews is a love story set in World War II, based on historical events and stories told to her by her relatives who survived.

A fascinating tale that will grab your attention from the first page, told mainly from the point of view of Woulter (in third person) and Laura (in first person), this story shows how love and determination can endure and survive even the horrors of war.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, the sequel to The Hidden Village. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Ike and Kay’

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Ambulance driver, Kay Summersby, is assigned to drive two-star general, Dwight Eisenhower, in 1942, in the run-up to the invasion of the European continent. The relationship soon becomes more than professional and threatens to up-end both of their lives.

Ike and Kay by James MacManus is a fictionalized account of the true wartime relationship of the American supreme commander and his British driver, a story that made headlines at the time. MacManus has penned an account that rings true and adds new depth to a little-remembered anecdote of the period.

A captivating read. I received a free review copy of this book, and I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Last Letter’

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For 17 years Katherine Arthur has had conflicting feelings about her mother who, after their father left them on the prairie, seemed distant, uncaring, and remote. Now, after nearly two decades, she comes upon a bunch of letters that tell the true story of those turbulent times, and in particular, a last letter from her missing father that puts them into startlingly clear perspective. She is faced with a dilemma; can she finally forgive her mother after so much time has passed?

The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop, though fiction, is based in part on the history of the author’s own family. Told from two perspectives; the present (1922) from Katherine’s point of view, and the events of 1905 from her mother’s viewpoint, it gives a frightening, and fresh new perspective on frontier life and its impact on the families that had to endure incredible hardships and conflict.

The first book in a series, it chronicles our past in a refreshing—though disturbing—new way. An enlightening read that I highly recommend.

2019 Readers Choice Awards

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I’m so excited because my book, Buffalo Soldier: The Iron Horse, was just nominated for the 2019 Readers Choice Awards contest by TCK Publishing!


Please vote for it at https://www.tckpublishing.com/2019-readers-choice-voting-page/

My book can be found under Category 14, Historical Fiction. It should be the first book on the page.

Review of ‘The Viper Amulet’

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After evading Emperor Nero’s agents, disgraced and impoverished, Theodosia Varros flees Rome with her lover, Alexander, a young slave, Lycos, and her childhood friend, Stefan. They end up in Greece, a strange culture, where she finds an enemy she did not expect, Alexander’s son, Nikos.

Even in Greece, though, Theodosia and her friends are not safe from Nero’s search for her, and she must continue to hide from his agents, while at the same time dealing with the new threats.

The Viper Amulet by Martha Marks continues to harrowing journey begun in Rubies of the Viper, with even more daring adventures, close escapes, and betrayals. A captivating heroine, and an in-depth exploration of ancient Rome and the surrounding lands and their turbulent histories.

A real page-turner. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Rubies of the Viper’

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When her brother is murdered in Rome, Theodosia Varros inherits the family properties. An independent-minded Roman woman of Greek ancestry, she finds herself at odds with the stultifying society and the many people who wish to manipulate her. Her unlikely allies are her slave steward, Alexander, an enigmatic Greek, and Stefan, another slave who had been her friend in childhood. When she finds her own life in danger, she realizes that she must solve her brother’s murder if she is to survive. But, her enemies are many, and powerful.

Rubies of the Viper by Martha Marks is a riveting historical mystery set in the Rome of Nero, and it explores the dark underbelly of the so-called Roman civilization.

I guarantee that you won’t be able to put this one down. I give the author five stars for this great read.

‘Vixen’ nominated for Readers Choice Award

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Vixen  I am excited to announce that my novel, Vixen, has been nominated for the Readers Choice Award in the Historical Fiction Category. I encourage all of my readers to go to www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-voting/ and go to category 14 (Historical Fiction) and vote for it. Vixen can be found near the bottom of the category page. Your vote will be greatly appreciated. Again, a reminder, go to    www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-voting/ and vote.

‘Vixen’ Nominated for 2017 Readers Choice Award

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Vixen  I am excited to announce that my historical novel, Vixen, has been nominated for the 2017 Readers Choice Award in the Historical Fiction category. Please go to www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-vote/ and cast your vote. It will be greatly appreciated.

Review of ‘The Falcon Rises’

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With her tribe in turmoil, attempting to regain their homeland, and her twin sister missing, Nefert, queen of one of the tribes of Egypt’s desert, must use all her wits to secure assistance from the Egyptians, and their devious queen, Tiye. When Nefert learns Tiye’s true aim, she realizes that it will take all that she has to win, and survive, and to take her rightful place as Queen Nefertiti, sharing the throne of Egypt with Amenhotep.

The Falcon Rises is book 2 in the Desert Queen series by M. L. Bullock, chronicling the journey of Nefertiti during a pivotal era in Egypt’s history. This narrative provides a fictional account of the intervals between the chronicled history of Egypt’s royal dynasties, in a credible and authentic manner. This look behind the scenes and between the sheets will keep your attention riveted from the first page to the last.

I give this book five stars.

Review of ‘Lionslayer’s Woman’

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After machinations by a thwarted suitor, an imperial purge leaves a stoic philosopher and his servants dead, and his wife and younger daughter held captive. The oldest daughter, Galeria, and her Parthian slave, Cyra, are determined to rescue them, a seemingly impossible task, until they are joined by Nexus, a former slave, devastated by the death of his lover, and Decaneus, a Dacian warrior, given the name Leonis after he slew a lion with his bare hands. Together, these four go up against the might of imperial Rome and overcome the barriers of sex and status in a story that will give you new insights into the so-called grandeur of ancient Rome.

Lionslayer’s Woman by Nhys Glover is a book that I categorize as multi-genre. It’s historical fiction at its best, an adventure story from start to finish, and a rough and tumble romance novel, that shows the barbarity of Rome, a level of viciousness that at times rivaled the barbarian kingdoms on its borders. Four amazing main characters who come to terms with each other and themselves during the course of their adventures, and a well-developed cast of supporting characters, inhabit a universe and act out a theme that is, in a word, captivating.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Men With a Mission’

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With the introduction of conscription in 1960, and the increasing possibility of its involvement in the conflict in Indo-China along with its ally, the United States, the Australian Defence Ministry recognized the need of a special unit within its armed forces to conduct ‘off the books’ missions to support national interests and security. Major Jack Roberts, who had served as an observer during the partition of Vietnam following World War II, was selected to command and train this special unit.
Roberts chose as the first members of his team, a group of diverse young men and a beautiful and patriotic young Vietnamese woman, and trained them on an isolated island.
Men With a Mission by Gordon Smith is the story of Roberts’ activities from the beginning of what we know as the Vietnam War through the immediate post-war period. It addressed the increasing American involvement and the problems faced by the Western allies as they struggled to deal with a culture and war they failed to understand. Incidents of misbehavior of US-backed forces in Vietnam, the actions leading up to the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia, and the ‘secret’ war in Laos are all presented with rich detail. Against this backdrop of cultural misunderstanding, political corruption, and the long war, the team’s activities, and their subsequent history unfold.
While the theme of the book is somewhat epic, and extremely educational, the fact that it’s presented as semi-fictional (I found it hard to distinguish fact from fiction), it suffers from the ‘telling’ of the story rather than ‘showing’ the reader what happened through the dialogue and actions of the protagonists. Some of the most moving incidents, for example, lose a lot of their impact due to the lack of a ‘personal’ focus that would come from them being portrayed through the eyes of those involved.
Done in a more action-oriented style, this book could easily be transformed into a movie in the style of ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ or ‘Apocalypse Now.’ The author has a good command of the language, and has obviously done a lot of research—having served as a soldier in the war during the 60s and 70s, and a diplomat in China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia from 1983 to 2005, I can attest to the accuracy of many of the incidents portrayed. Changing the style of presentation would make this not just an interesting book, but one that would fill many of the gaps in the history of the region and its conflicts that currently exist.
I received a free copy of this book. While I give it high marks for the theme and research that went into it, the excessive ‘telling,’ forces me to give it three stars. I hasten to add, however, that this is an author with great promise, and look forward to reading future offerings.

Review of ‘Olivia, Mourning’

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When young Olivia’s father died, he left 80 acres of land in Michigan to any of his children willing to cultivate it. Olivia decides that she wants that land, but she has a problem; she’s only 17, she’s female, and it’s 1840, a time when women are expected to concern themselves with finding a proper husband and raising his children. Not to be denied her dream, she convinces Mourning Free, the son of runaway slaves who does odd jobs for the people in her small town, and who she has known since they were both small children, to accompany her as her partner in the venture. Because of their racial differences, of course, he must pose as her hired man.

In Michigan, Olivia and Mourning start to make a go of it, and develop more than friendly feelings for each other. A neighboring family, though, has other plans for Olivia, plans that end in tragedy.

Olivia, Mourning by Yael Politis tells the story of Olivia and Mourning as each endeavors to cope with the often prejudiced and unrealistic expectations of a society in transition. It’s a story of irrational prejudice, irreconcilable views on gender roles, and the strength of the human will, set against a realistically described social backdrop. The characters, though flawed in many ways because of their upbringing, inspire empathy and admiration as they struggle with society’s strictures and their own fears.

This is a book that, once you start reading, you’ll find difficult to put down until you finish, And, after you’ve finished, you’ll want to know more.

Some readers will not like this book because it ends with something of a cliff hanger. It is, nonetheless, strongly written and is a good portrayal of the era in which it’s set. In many ways, most of the problems, including to a limited degree what happened to Mourning Free, are implied if not explicitly explained, and it does set up well for the sequels.

I give the author three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Liberty Boy’

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Dublin is on edge after the failed rebellion against British rule. Jimmy O’Flaherty is keeping his head down, just trying to make enough money to buy passage for him and his mother to America. Then he meets Kitty Doyle, who he thinks is a trouble maker, while, she thinks he’s spying for the English. The problem is, they fall in love.

Liberty Boy by David Gaughran is a story of English-Irish conflict from a street-level perspective. Chocked full of the history of the time, with gritty dialogue and entertaining characters. Interesting historical fiction.

I give Gaughran four stars for this one.


Review of ‘Push Not the River’

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Push Not the River by James Conroyd Martin is an epic tale of Poland in the late 1700s, based on the diaries of Lady Anna Maria Berezowska, a member of Polish aristocracy.

When both of her parents die within a short span of time, Anna must leave the only home she’s ever known. With Russian Empress Catherine’s armies poised to dismember the Polish state, Anna’s only protection is her Aunt Stella. When her ailing aunt is unable to provide the protection she needs, especially when she is maneuvered into marriage with a dissolute and abusive man, she turns to Jan, also a member of the aristocracy, but a supporter of more democracy and freedom for the peasantry, which puts him at odds with a large segment of his fellow aristocrats.

With Poland’s fate hanging in the balance, and a new-born son to protect, Anna must make decisions. The decisions she makes transform her into a major player in Poland’s quest for freedom. At the same time, she must deal with the machinations of her fiery cousin, Zofia, who is not sure where she stands on any issue but living a life filled with fun, wealth and frivolity.

With its main focus on Anna, this semi-autobiographical bit of historical fiction is populated with characters who, while sometimes larger than life, are limned in such a way to be relatable. Some you’ll love and admire; others you’ll want to see drawn and quartered; but you won’t forget any of them.

I give this opening volume of the trilogy five stars.

Review of ‘Bleeding Kansas’

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Quaker farm boy, James Deeter, fled his Pennsylvania home a step ahead of Union army recruiters. He wants no part of war; just wants to head west and live his dream life as a cowboy. Deeter ends up on the Kansas-Missouri border and dragooned into a band of southern sympathizers led by rebel leader William Quantrill. Along with the rest of the bloody crew, when they attack Lawrence, KS in retaliation for Union army actions against their families, Deeter is forced to do the very thing he’s sworn not to do—kill.

Bleeding Kansas by Dave Eisenstark is an interesting fictional take on the bloody wars in Kansas during the Civil War, especially those centered in the abolitionist stronghold of Lawrence, and the story of a young man’s coming of age in a time of violence and bloodshed. Told with wry humor and down to earth language from young James Deeter’s point of view, it introduces actual historical figures, such as the James and Younger brothers, who became famous outlaws after the Civil War, in a non-pedantic way, unfortunately at times, seeming to sympathize for the bloody paths they chose.

The history of the era is also woven credibly into the narrative, told in the way a young farm boy would have viewed it. Actually, a nice way to get your history lesson.

An enjoyable book, which I received as a gift. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Circling the Sun’

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Beryl Markham was brought to Kenya from England as a child. Abandoned by her mother, she was raised by her father and the Kipsigi tribe. Growing up in such an environment, she became a strong-willed, unconventional woman, unafraid to tackle things thought unfit for a lady, becoming one of Africa’s first female horse trainers and a license pilot in an age when most women didn’t even drive. What Beryl had trouble with, though, was love. From a loveless marriage to a love triangle with the man married to her best friend, she drifted from one failed relationship to another. She did, however, find one love—one that freed her metaphorically as well as physically—flying.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain is a novelized account of Markham’s life from childhood until her first attempt to fly solo across the Atlantic. An amazing piece of historical fiction that brings her to life in ways that straight historical reporting would never be able to do. Meticulously researched, and obviously written with a great degree of passion, you’ll find yourself rooting for Markham as she faces one challenge after another.

This book explores an aspect of colonial Africa from the period before World War 1 to World War 2 that is not often found in historical fiction, or even nonfiction histories, and it is well worth the few hours it takes to read it.

I received this book as a gift—one of my better gifts this year. This one’s an easy five stars.

Review of ‘Malika’s Revenge’

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Malika Khalova is a 27-year-old heroin addict and prostitute in a Tajik village near the Afghanistan border that’s used as a transit point for the heroin trade. Her life consists of waiting for the next unwashed heroin smuggler to abuse her in exchange for a fix, until she meets Oleg, a small time Russian gangster who has fled to the region from Moscow, one step ahead of the KGB. Oleg has thrown in with the local Tajik heroin mastermind, and he ends up in the village to do his new master’s bidding. When he meets Malika, his life changes; changes in ways he has no way of anticipating.

Malika’s Revenge by Phillip Strang is a riveting story that could very well have been ripped from the small stories we occasionally see in the back sections of our Western newspapers. The degradation of the drug trade, and the constant state of war among the predators who conduct that trade form the backdrop for a story of survival. For Malika is, if nothing else, a survivor. She’s driven to survive through sheer will power, and the desire to take revenge on those who have abused and dehumanized her.

From the machinations of local warlords to the intrigue of the Russian mafia, Strang has woven a colorful tapestry, in blood-red for all the blood that has been shed, is being shed, and will be shed in the future in this desolate region.

This is a book that will satisfy most adventure junkies, and will delight lovers of contemporary historical fiction.

I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Secret Chord’

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David, King of Israel after Saul, slayer of Goliath; one of the only ancient figures whose life is chronicled almost from birth to death in the Bible, but there is little else to prove his existence. Geraldine Brooks in The Secret Chord, though, paints a compelling fictional picture of the man and the myth through the voices of those closest to him, his wives, children, and most importantly, through Nathan the prophet, a man who was probably closer to him than any other.

A book that neither venerates nor execrates, it shows a complex personality who is often at war with himself, and pulls no punches in its description of society in the Second Iron Age of Israel. Nor does it spare David, as it moves from his youth as a beautiful, but ambitious singer/musician to his days as a bandit, and then his tumultuous reign as king, when he sways between being a merciless tyrant and a benevolent father figure. An addictive read, this book will pull you in and not let you go.

I received this book as a gift, but was so touched by it, I had to share my feelings. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu’

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Pharaoh Khufu, called Cheops by the Greeks, was the second ruler of Egypt’s fourth dynasty of pharaohs, and the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza. For centuries this structure has been shrouded in mystery, and its secrets guarded by an ancient tribe of Nubia, the Medjay.

When a German engineer is suspected of stealing one of the pyramid’s most sacred relics he is killed by a Medjay warrior, but the relic is still missing. The quest to retrieve it pulls American software engineer Michael Doyle, on vacation in Egypt to see the pyramids, into a deadly cycle of murder and intrigue as he and the dead engineer’s daughter, Anna Schulze flee a relentless pursuit from Egypt to Germany to Russia, and to a final confrontation in Egypt, as they try to solve the pyramid’s mystery, and stay alive in the process.

Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu by Alexander Marmer is a compelling story that weaves ancient Egyptian history with a modern mystery as Michael and Anna engage in a race against time to find the stolen artifact and redeem Anna’s late father’s reputation. Though the action is fast-paced, the story gets bogged down in places when the author narrates interesting, though not always necessary, historical facts. At times, because the timeline switches back and forth between the two main characters and their Medjay pursuer, it gets a bit confusing, but in the end, patience is rewarded as the story comes to a logical and satisfying conclusion.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give the concept five stars, but must detract a few points for the execution—too much telling rather than showing, with a final rating of 3.7 stars overall.

Review of ‘Rise to Power’

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The story of David, King of the Israelites, is one that has fascinated people for ages. The Songs of David rank among the classics of ancient literature. But, what did the slayer of Goliath think of himself? In Rise to Power, book one in the Chronicles of David, by Uvi Poznansky, we read the truth of David’s rise to power in his own words.

With his hands stained in blood, David chronicles his ascent to the throne in words that were not permitted of his biographers. Nearing the end of his life, he feels compelled to tell the ‘whole truth.’ Told in modern language, the reader is treated to a glimpse inside the tortured mind of a complex, driven man; driven by blind ambition that competes with a desire to be virtuous, forced to flee for his life from Saul, the first king, a man he both hates and loves in equal measure.

A story that once you start reading, you’ll be unable to put down. Readers who are turned off by less than obsequious treatment of biblical figures will find this novel disturbing, but the author’s deft touch with the language is compelling. I give it four stars.