English Civil War

#BlogTour | Killing Beauties by Pete Langman #KillingBeauties #Review #RandomThingsTours @elegantfowl @annecarter @Unbound_Digital

Posted on

Hello Sunshines! I have the pleasure to be today’s stop on this wonderful blog tour for; Killing Beauties by Pete Langman. I can’t wait to share my review with you all, so grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy.

England, 1655. Following the brutal civil wars the country swelters under a cloud of paranoia, suspicion and the burgeoning threat of rebellion. With the fragile peace being won by Cromwell’s ever-efficient Secretary of State John Thurloe, the exiled king Charles Stuart sends two spies on a dangerous mission to wrest back the initiative. These spies are different, however: they are women. Their task? To turn Parliament’s spymaster into their unwitting accomplice.

Killing Beauties is a dark tale of subterfuge, jealousy and betrayal.

It is sometimes said that women are written out of history, but often they are not yet written in. Killing Beauties is based on the true stories of two female spies from the 1650s and gives them the voice that only fiction can.

***

I know the old saying says; ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ and usually I don’t jump onto a blog tour or take on a review by the cover alone, but I did instantly love it it’s so darkly gothic I was fascinated. Add an intriguing blurb, a historical tale all about unknown women from history then you have me hooked.

Set in 1655 during the English Civil War where the country is full of spies, danger, back-stabbing, death, and rebellion ready to tear the country apart even more then it is already. Exiled King Charles II wants more than anything to wrestle his country back and for eventual peace, something that looks set to be very difficult with Cromwell’s spy-master; Thurloe lurking bout in the shadows. So Charles sends his own spies into infiltrating Thurloe, but these aren’t just any ordinary spies they are women. Something which not only surprised me as I didn’t know that there were female spies in the period even existed, and now has made me want to learn more.

Anyone who follows me knows that I love reading about seemingly unknown historic women, I had never heard about Susan Hyde or Diana Jennings, in fact, I hadn’t known that King Charles had a league of female spies – a fact that I will definitely be reading more about. Killing Beauties isn’t a hugely taxing book to read and it is very enjoyable getting to know the author’s impersonation of these two fascinating women, there are times when the story sort of feels a little flat or vague at times but I looked past that and enjoyed the journey that the author was taking us on.

I really enjoyed this, it’s dark and gothic, Killing Beauties is based on the true life’s of Susan and Diana, their characters are well defined, they all work well with one another throughout and make the reader instantly like them and wanting them to succeed in their mission, even though this is predominately a work of fiction there is a strong sense of in-depth research that has gone into the story, which only makes the reader discover more about this fascinatingly complex era and the women who staying within the shadows to do a man’s job.

The overall story could have done with a bit of fattening up, there are gaps and moments which did keep me hanging on and wondering only for the story to move past and on to the next part of the story, something which is a real shame, but I liked Langman’s writing and the story did capture my attention.

Overall this is an interesting historical, not the strongest which I have read as it does have its weak moments but certainly, one to read for anyone who loves their women’s history, as there is promise for more.

***

Link

***

About The Author

Pete Langman is a writer, academic, cricketer and sometime rock and roll guitarist who holds a PhD on Francis Bacon (the other one) and was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at 40. His non-fiction encompasses Cricket, Parkinson’s Disease, Music, History of Science, literature and culture, and has appeared in publications ranging from The Guardian to Guitar and Bass Magazine. He lives between Leiden and Brighton with his partner Dr. Nadine Akkerman, award-winning author of Invisible Agents, who supplies him with historical expertise and who keeps asking if they can have a cat now, please.

Website / Twitter / Goodreads 

***

Blog Tour Schedule

#Review : Severed Knot by @CryssaBazos #SeveredKnot #HistoricFiction #HistoricalRomance

Posted on

Hello my lovely readers! I have the massive pleasure to be sharing my review of this amazing book, my goodness this is good! I know that I have babbled a fair amount through this review, but when you come across such stunning quality like we have here, then it is very hard not to rabbit on a bit, apologies in advance.

Barbados 1652. In the aftermath of the English Civil War, the vanquished are uprooted and scattered to the ends of the earth.

When marauding English soldiers descend on Mairead O’Coneill’s family far, she is sold into slavery. After surviving a harrowing voyage, the young Irish woman is auctioned off to a Barbados sugar plantation where she is thrust into a hostile world or depravation and heartbreak. Though stripped of her freedom, Mairead refuses to surrender her dignity.

Scottish prisoner of war Iain Johnstone has descended into hell. Under a blazing sun thousands of miles from home, he endures forced labour in the unforgiving cane fields. As Iain plots his escape to save his men, his loyalties are tested by his yearning for Mairead and his desire to protect her.

With their future stolen, Mairead and Iain discover passion and freedom in each others arms. Until one fateful night, a dramatic chain of events turns them into fugitives.

Together they must fight to survive; together they are determined to escape. 

My goodness this is good! Honestly, this is way beyond the meagre word of ‘good’ there is a shining star-like quality about this book and I can’t seem to find the appropriate words to describe what I want to say. I feel like after reading this my whole perception of what a historical should be like has changed, Cryssa you may have ruined me for other authors now.

I was completely blown away by just how incredibly hard-hitting and powerful this book is, its thrilling, heart-breaking, emotional, original, cleverly written, there is a sadness that pulls you in and then amongst the heartache there is a real wit and natural humour, plus a soul melting romance; Mairaid and Iain will undo you with their tantalizing love. This is how a historical should be written; meticulously researched history, gripping plot, beautifully crafted characters, gorgeous scenery. Ms Bazos is a master at dynamic and realistic historical which take the reader on a gorgeous journey to the end.

Cryssa Bazos, I bow down to your excellence, this is stunning!

Set in 1652, just after the English Civil War; Scotsman Iain Johnstone and his band of soldiers have been captured by the English first kept on as POW then sold into slavery and transported to Barbados, where he, his brother in law; Glencross and their comrades find themselves owned by a sugar cane plantation owner. Forced to work in the fields, doing back breaking work in the burning heat, practically starved and beaten they have found themselves in the inner circle of hell.

With the English invading her precious Ireland, Mairead O’Conneill is sent to live with her aunt, uncle and cousins in the country to try and protect her from the English. Unfortunately, the English arrive at the house and take her and her cousins; Bronagh and Ciara prisoners, which sees them sold into slavery and sent to Barbados – on the same ship as Iain, which is where our couple first meet. Mairead is heartbroken not just to be stolen away from her home, branded like a work horse and sold she is separated from her cousins and finds herself amongst strangers who most hate her. She made a promise to her cousins that one day they, all three of them will be reunited and find their way back home.

My heart goes to all of them, they are stolen away and treated like cattle, it is heart-breaking to witness such brutality toward them. Iain is a proud man and the mere thought of being ‘owned’ and being slave does make him feel like he has failed not just him but his men. He vows that whatever it takes he will find his way back to Scotland, that he will not die as a slave he will escape. I love Iain, no matter what he is faced with he sticks to his guns, he shoulders a lot of responsibility, but he is loyal, Protective and caring for his men. He does come across as a growling, brooding, monosyllabic bear at times but that is just to cover the raging emotions below the surface.

Mairead is so strong, she is patriotic, loyal, feisty and defiant. She faces everything with a brave and stubborn tilt of her chin and gets on with whatever is thrown at her. Like Iain she has faith that she will see home again, she won’t be defeated and she won’t be used like the other girls have been.

They are a brilliant couple, they have to face so much together but yet they feed of one and other, they see kindred spirits in each other. Those little moment when they are able to just be themselves and don’t have to worry about what is going on around them, is so beautiful. You will be cheering these two on the moment you meet them, if ever there were a couple who deserved a happy ever after then these two are it.

Severed Knot is astonishing, it is far more then just your standard historical romance there is a real life and death, raw, gritty and deadly undercurrent to it, that is all consuming. You feel every emotion, sadness, fear, heartache, pain, laughter, joy, happiness, empathy – all the human emotion that makes a great story is all here. At times it’s intense, violent and difficult reading, especially when it comes to how Mairead and Iain are treated. I will say it is not for the faint hearted, but if you are like me who likes to become entrenched in historic realism then you need to read this book.

Ms Bazos has done an astounding job at reeling the reader into her world, its all so vivid and real you can see the plantation in your mind, you can practically feel the heat of the sun burning into your back as you watch Iain and his comrades toil away in those sun baked fields. You can feel smell the evil that is emanating around the whole Vale property, it’s intense and graphic and will certainly give you goosebumps.

Honestly, I cannot praise this enough. Severed Knot is one of those books that you just know from those first few pages will be a classic. It will be enjoyed again and again, I know that I will be pulling off my bookcase again. I can say for a certainty, that this will be going on my best books of the year.

I am just so in love with this book, I cannot recommend this enough. If you love your more daring, brutally honest and tenderly loving historical’s then this is the book for you.

This was an Arc from the author in exchange for an honest review, thank you so much Cryssa.

Severed Knot is to be released on 7th June and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

Review – Counterpoint; Theo, Earl of Suffolk : The Lydiard Chronicles 1603-1630

Posted on

Theo Howard, Earl of Suffolk is torn. Betrothed to a child to satisfy his family dynasty, he longs for the freedom to make his own choice. And when he attends a lavish party at his family’s newly-restored palace, he is immediately attracted to Lucy, a beautiful young lavender-seller. But in this enchanted world of Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream, all is not as it appears. Theo’s headstrong sister Frances is determined to sabotage her own arranged marriage, and aided by the cunning of Frances and her friend Barbara St.John, perhaps Theo can find his own path to happiness and true love.

When I wrote The Lady of the Tower, the story revealed itself in the narrative of my ancestress, Lucy St.John. But, as with all novels, other characters appeared, and their voices grew strong and insistent, demanding their own story be told. And so, a novelette was born. This is Theo’s counterpoint to chapter six in the novel, in which Theo falls in love.

A counterpoint is a melody played in conjunction with another, or an opposing viewpoint in an argument. Our lives are complex, and each one of us carries within us a counterpoint to another’s story. Here is one to Lucy St.John, the lady of the Tower.

My View

What a wonderful taste into this authors work, as this is the first I have read by Elizabeth St. John and I will definitely be reading more from her. I hadn’t read her full-length story; The Lady in the Tower but, I didn’t find that to be a hindrance or feel that I had missed out on something as this is very cleverly written. In fact, I found I was intrigued even more by the character’s and the story want to learn more about them and their antic’s.

This is a short story which basically follows Theo; Earl of Suffolk as he meets and falls in love with lovely Lucy the Lavender seller. This is written in first person and we see the events through Theo’s eyes. To please his family, he is betrothed to a woman whom his family deem worthy of the Earls of Suffolk dynasty. But Theo is feeling suffocated by it all, he just wants one moment where he can do what he wants and for a few moments be who he wants to be. Which is when he meets beautiful and spirited lavender seller; Lucy St John at a party at his families newly refurbished home. He is instantly drawn towards her, but with his tenacious sister Frances set to cause a scandal, will Theo have the future he wants with Lucy?

What a wonderful little peek into another’s world, that is how I saw this when I read it. I have never read a ‘counterpoint story’ before and I thoroughly enjoyed the sneaky dip into Theo and Lucy’s world. What I particularly like about this is that it is loosely based on the author’s ancestry, something which I can relate to completely as this is something I am doing myself. It is quite the inspiration seeing an author who has taken her ancestry and created a book out of it. I really like that!

I found Ms St. John’s writing to be clever and vivid to the senses plus brilliantly detailed that the era has come to life as you read, even though this is a short story you get a real sense of the author’s love for the story and the era.

A very enjoyable read, one that gets the taste-buds watering for more.

This was a complimentary copy via the author in exchange for an honest review.

Counterpoint; Theo Earl of Suffolk is available to purchase at Amazon.

Review – Traitors Knot by Cryssa Bazos

Posted on

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.
My goodness me, what a book! This is absolutely superb, it’s fresh and new and exactly how I like my historical romances to be. The Traitor’s Knot is the first book I have read by this author, and it won’t be the last. I haven’t read a story from the English Civil war for years and The Traitor’s Knot and Ms Bazos has just re-awakened my interest in the era. This is one of those books that you hear about and read about and instantly like the look of and as soon as you start reading it, from the first page you are hooked – well this is what happened to me when I read this.
With the English Civil War at an end with the execution of King Charles I, the country is left in an uneasy and somewhat dangerous stalemate as parliament have control of the country. The parliamentarians are bringing in more and more laws that are making regular peoples lives difficult and the secret royalists are refusing to comply with the new order, which is making day to day living very dangerous for everyone.
During the Civil War James Hart was a well-respected and talented member of the cavalry in the royalist’s army he personally aided the Prince of Wales and the future King Charles to get to safety. Now that the parliament are in charge of the country he is now a ostler in a local inn, James is a proud royalist and vows that he will never bow down to that usurper Cromwell. James becomes a highwayman known as the ‘Highwayman of Moothill’ he takes what he can from those supporting parliament and he is putting it away for the day that King Charles II will be restored to the throne.
A smile flitted at the corners of his mouth. “You’re concerned for me.”
“I am not,” she said, crossing her arms. “You are a festering canker.”
“So you mean to heal me, then?” James asked.
“No poultice will draw out that poison.” James smiled wryly.
“I’ll give you that.”
On one of his attack’s as he robs the Reverend Richards – who is a big supporter of the parliamentarian ways and a man that James detests, he meets the spirited and courageous Elizabeth Seton. He is enchanted the moment he sets eyes on her, she is like a drug to him no matter how much he tries he can’t keep away from her.
James is such a great character, he is epitome of charming, he’s got a certain arrogance about him but instead of that being highly irritating he is more like a cheeky lad. He is this handsome, mysterious and seductive man who hides behind so many masks not just the physical one he wears as the highway man, He has been through his personal trials and those have stayed with him and made him the man he is.
Elizabeth Seton is a healer, she has from her mother the old ways but unforunately due to her how the country is now and who she is – she is the proud daughter of a royalist who died in a uprising – Elizabeth isn’t trusted and unable to use those skills that she has honed. After the death of her beloved father – an act which has brought bad tiding on to the Seton name, then when her mother dies of a broken heart Elizabeth realizes that she no longer stay n her child hood home, the only home she has ever known she is stuck in a rut there is no way she is going to go and live with her sister and her parliamentarian brother-in-law so she goes to live with her aunt Isabelle; her mother’s sister. Once there she finds that all isn’t as peaceful as it may seem, there is danger and evil lurking behind every corner.
“Why do you steal from them?” she asked. “You have a decent living, a roof over your head. You don’t appear extravagant in your lifestyle. A wife to support? Children to feed?” James’s brow lifted slightly. “I wouldn’t have asked to call on you if I did. I do have some standards.” Elizabeth felt her cheeks flush…
On her way to her aunt’s her carriage is stopped by none other than a highway man, being a bit of a firebrand Elizabeth can not believe the gall of this man and let us just say she gives him a piece of her mind – something which she does on repeated occasions with anyone who get’s in her way or when she sees an injustice. Apart from fuming over the vagabond nerve she is instantly transfixed by him, something about his arrogant charisma and his icy grey eyes – plus he is only taking from the parliament supporter!
It’s not long into her stay that Elizabeth really comes into her own, she is able to help people with her healing skills – something that she was never able to do back home. But you can see that Elizabeth is restless she hates how her fellow secret royalists are treated and she wants to do more and then in a turn of events she starts harboring and helping fugitives. She risks her very life for these people but also in doing this her and James become closer, she knew right from the beginning who is was – that he was the highwayman that had a bounty on his head. There shared patriotic and rebellious nature bring them closer together and soon a firm and unbreakable bond forms. But can this bond and their love stand against what is yet to come in their lives?
The relationship between Elizabeth and James is as pure as you can get, their personalities are so alike. Elizabeth and James’ love reminds of that part of Wuthering Heights when Cathy admits to Nelly she loves Heathcliffe and that lovely thing she says “My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath…. He is my heart….I am Heathcliffe..” that sums up Elizabeth and James to me, they have this special and all encompassing love that takes so many different turns through the story and yet, how they feel for each no matter what they have gone through always is so true. Bazos has done an absolutely stirling job with them, not just as a cute as a button couple but their individual personalities shines through.
James froze. That voice—with its unmistakable soft lilt. The most beautiful sound he had ever heard….
James reached out his hand to touch her, half-afraid that she was a spirit and he lost in a dream. Elizabeth met him halfway. In a heartbeat, James pulled her into his arms and held her fiercely. He squeezed his eyes shut, awash in emotion. Elizabeth burrowed her face into his shoulder and clung to him tightly. “I thought I lost you,” Elizabeth’s voice was muffled in his chest…
The story line is strong and enjoyable, it has many layers of what’s going on and each different segment of the story blends seamlessly with the other’s parts to create this stunning and original story of true love. I found Bazos to be a skilled and intelligent writer who enthuses her work with rich and textured detail, she takes you on a dramatic and heart wrenching tale of finding love and holding on to that love in the midst of true terror and tribulations. I have said I before, but I do love historicals that are rich in historical detailing and this is right up there with some of the best I have read, Bazos takes you on a journey through a time that was full of darkness and danger and amongst that danger you have a beautiful romance between two character’s who are hugely likable and your rooting for them to get their much needed happiness.
I enjoyed the Traitors Knot so much and I cannot recommend it enough and I will certainly be reading more from Cryssa Bazos.
This was an Complimentary copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Traitor Knot can be purchased at Amazon.