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100 Pages A Day...Stephanie's Book Reviews

I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way.  I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.

Haskell Himself

Haskell Himself - Gary Seigel
Haskell Hodge is a sixteen year old from New York  who is focused on school and his acting career.  It's 1966 and Haskell is on his own a lot since his mother is a busy realtor who often works late into the night, he is also a loner without many friends.  Heading into his senior year, Haskell's mom drops a bomb, she is going overseas with her boyfriend and Haskell will be moving to L.A. with his aunt and uncle. Haskell absolutely does not want to uproot his life; however, after a strange going away party where Haskell kissed a boy and liked it, he decides it might be best to run away from the embarrassment.  Haskell finds it difficult to adjust to life with a family, but eventually makes it work.  In L.A. he also finds some friends, but he is still worried that he might be gay and the implications of what that might mean for his future.  
 
Haskell Himself is a unique view into the defining year for a young man in the 1960's. Haskell's character is complex and he is at a time in his life where he is changing and growing as well as living in a decade that is redefining lifestyle and freedom.  The writing truly made me feel for Haskell as he went on an emotional roller coaster.  The descriptions of the inner turmoil Haskell faced within his head were wonderfully done and I was amazed as Haskell went from confusion to denial and acceptance.  Along with his sexuality, Haskell also figures out how to be a friend and family member.  I thought these transitions were just as thoughtful. I enjoyed seeing 1960's L.A. through Haskell's eyes, especially since he was involved with acting. I would have loved to see how Haskell actually dealt with being on set for his movie and how he dealt with the possible fame it brought.  Overall, an important and insightful historical coming of age story.
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Salt the Snow

Salt the Snow - Carrie Callaghan
Millie Bennett is a jet setting, free-spirited journalist in the 1930's.  Millie has covered events in San Francisco, Hawaii and war in China.  Now, she is in Moscow working for the Moscow Daily News.  Millie mostly covers fluff stories and works on translations.  However, Millie longs to write stories of the effects of socialism , stories that matter.  Millie is able to experience firsthand the issues that arise with the system of government when her Russian husband, Zhenya is arrested.  Millie assumes that his arrest is due to a story she wrote and desperately tries to get him out.  However, when it is revealed that Zhenya was arrested for lewd behavior, Millie reveals more secrets about her marriage as well as the government. 
 
Salt the Snow introduced me to the fascinating life of the first female war corespondent, Millie Bennett. I never would have imagined that there were female war corespondents in the 1930's, much less one like Millie!  I was pulled into her vivacious character in the very first scene with her arrival home from a party.  Carrie Callaghan's writing brings 1930's Moscow to life, as despondent as it may be.  Millie's spirit never seemed to fit in with the setting.  She always seemed to be a bright and animated character in a dreary and repressed place.  In the first half of the story, the writing bounces back and forth between before Zhenya was arrested and after before settling into a linear timeline.  I found the first half of the story interesting, but not exciting.  I was curious about Millie's interactions with the government, especially the police as well as the conditions for the rest of the population in Moscow.  I was also questioning whether or not Millie truly realized her husbands secret or was simply hiding it from herself.  The pace picked up a bit for me as Millie actions attracted the attention of the police and she decided that what had happened to Zhenya as well as herself needed to be documented, even if it could not be published for a while.  From Moscow, Millie escaped to Spain, I wish her story would have been continued there!  
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Josephine: Singer, Dancer, Soldier, Spy

Josephine: Singer, Dancer, Soldier, Spy - Eilidh McGinness
From a young age, Josephine Baker knew that the world owed her more than what she was given.  Born into poverty and racial segregation in Missouri, 1906, Josephine finds joy in singing, dancing and making people laugh.  However, Josephine longs for freedom and equal rights.  When a opportunity arises to dance in France, Josephine grabs it.  Arriving in France, Josephine basks in the freedom to do as she pleases, go where she pleases and love who she pleases.  Josephine embraces France, learns the language and rises as a star and cultural icon.  When Hitler's influence threatens to destroy all that Josephine loves, she knows she must act and becomes a member of the Red Cross.  Then, she is recruited as an honorable correspondent by the French Intelligence Service by Jacques Abtey, fulfilling her need to help her adopted country in a way only Josephine Baker can.
 
I have been a long time admirer of Josephine Baker and have read several other books about her life and impact during the war.  Josephine: Singer, Dancer, Soldier Spy focuses mainly on her time serving as an honorable correspondent with Jacques Abtey.  Throughout the story, the theme of freedom and equal rights shines through.  The writing takes several large time hops before settling in World War II.  It does take a while to get to know Josephine's character.  Once Josephine arrives in France and begins her life as a spy, the story smooths out and I was pulled into the intrigue and suspense of her missions and I could feel the influence that Josephine held over people.  I was amazed at Josephine's bravery, fortitude and ability to fight for what she believed in.  
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Written in Their Stars

Written in Their Stars - Elizabeth St. John

King Charles I has been condemned to die in the winter of 1649.  John Hutchinson is one of the 59 men to sign his death warrant, encouraged by his wife Luce.  With the death of King Charles, the St. John family is now thoroughly separated by political beliefs while Oliver Cromwell wreaks havoc over the land.  While Luce and John try to create a new government in England, their siblings, Allen and Frances seek refuge with what remains of King Charles court in Paris with the Villiers side of the family and Nan uses her position of Countess of Rochester to play both sides.  While the family is divided politically, their hearts are still tied together.

Written in Their Stars is the third book of the Lydiard Chronicles that recounts the story of the St. John family.  I would highly recommend reading the first two books of the Lydiard Chronicles first, not only because they are wonderfully written, but they also detail the families relationships and loyalties.  Like the previous two books, Elizabeth St. John uses the upmost care and detail to continue the story of her amazing ancestors.  This time, the journals of Luce Hutchinson were the primary source for the material and the author was able to transform Luce's words into an unforgettable family saga that incorporates the tumultuous history of England in the mid 1600's.   I didn't know much about this part of England's history, so I enjoyed learning of the details from both the Royalist and Roundhead sides.  Most of all however, I loved continuing the story of the St. John family and their amazing accomplishments during the time.  I was blown away by Nan's determination in the spy ring, Frances and Allen's fight for survival and betterment of their family and Luce and John's steadfastness.  Above all, their tie to family is what brings everyone through.  Overall, a story of bravery, family and treachery in 17th century England.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.‚Äč

The Wicked Redhead

The Wicked Redhead - Beatriz Williams
In 1924, after a daring escape from her stepfather, Gin Kelley and Anson Marshall make their way to Cocoa Beach with Gin's little sister Patsy.  Gin and Anson believe they are outlaws and need time to heal, however Anson is reinstated as a Prohibition Agent once again and put on assignment up north.  Anson wants Gin to stay put in Florida, but as soon as an opportunity arises to leave for New York, Gin takes it.  However, the opportunity is double sided.  Anson's mother wants Gin to return to New York with her in order to help Anson's brother, Billy recover from the injuries sustained by Gin's father with the catch that Billy now believes that he and Gin are engaged.  
 
Meanwhile, in 1998 Ella Dommerich is on the hunt for the red haired woman who graces the card she found in her new apartment.  Ella would much rather focus on the mystery woman than trying to figure out how to move on with her life after she found her husband cheating,  quit her lucrative career and found a refuge in a Greenwich Village apartment building and it's handyman, Hector.  Even after life altering news, Ella would rather focus on discovering Gin's secrets, although Gin might have a lesson for Ella if she chooses to listen.
 
 
The Wicked Redhead continues the story of Gin and Ella from The Wicked City.  There are also characters thrown in from several of Beatriz Williams' other books, so I would highly recommend reading The Wicked City first. The Wicked Redhead jumps right back into the action with Ella making a tough decision and Gin and Anson on the lam. I still absolutely adored Gin's feisty, strong, witty and unapologetic character even though she seems to have less control over everything.  Ella's character takes a few lessons from Gin and begins to take control and make more decisions in her life.  As with the first book, I did feel a stronger pull towards Gin's story line, however as the story went on and their decisions collided, I could see the parallels better and was racing to read between each point of view in order to know what each woman did next.  Beatriz Williams' writing flows well between each time period giving each woman a distinct voice and captured the spirit of the different decades.  With plenty of romance, action, mystery, danger and suspense, The Wicked Redhead continues to weave together the lives of two woman living decades apart, yet facing many of the same challenges in life.  I can't wait to see what both women will do with their lives next.  
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Blue Girl on a Night Dream Sea

Blue Girl on a Night Dream Sea - Ginny Fite

Elena Labat is a special forces Police in New York City. She is called in to duty when a large scale terrorist attack rocks the City in multiple locations. Elena knows that there is more to this attack then what she can see. After an explosion, Elena is left confused and eventually unconscious. While Elena is unconscious, she is thrown into the world of her ancestor, the story of Hana that her mother told her as a child. Hana lived 4,000 years ago in Lebanon. Hana is unique due to her blue eye color and is coveted by the King. The King has demanded Hana be sent to him on her 12th birthday. Her parents comply and Hana is sent on the dangerous trek through the desert with a guide from Sidon, Danel. Reaching the palace, she is placed in service to the Queen, soon to be given over to the Prince. Hana wants more to her life, freedom and purpose. She will fight for these things, but finds herself needing help after getting kidnapped. Elena enters Hana's life from her coma and helps Hana escape, however when Elena wakes up from her coma she is left longing for Hana's life and reassurance that she is happy.

Blue Girl on a Night Dream Sea is the story of two strong and courageous women 4,000 years apart. The writing alternates viewpoints between Elena in the present and Hana in ancient Lebanon. At first, the connection between the two women is not apparent and it is like reading two separate, though compelling stories. Usually in dual-time stories, I am drawn towards one story more than the other, however I felt equally drawn towards each woman's story and was constantly wondering what had happened to one character while I was reading about the other. I was amazed at how the writing was able to portray both women as strong and firmly rooted within their time period. When their stories finally do intersect, Elena finds a deeper meaning in life and Hana is able to tap into a deep inner strength. I really enjoyed that this was more than just a time-slip story, but a story of two heroic women connected through time. Overall, Blue Girl on a Night Dream Sea is a thrilling dual-time adventure with well-written, amazing female characters.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
 

Beyond the Moon

Beyond The Moon - Catherine   Taylor
Louisa Casson is having a hard time dealing with the death of her grandmother, her only childhood caretaker, and finds herself on South Downs cliffs.  A storm hits and Louisa falls down the cliffs, she is badly hurt and interned at Coldbrook Hall, a private psychiatric hospital believed to be a suicide risk.  Louisa, who was a medical student before she took care of her grandmother struggles to fit in with the uncompassionate staff and irresponsible medical techniques.  Some patients at Coldbrook help Louisa cope.  One patient shows Louisa the abandoned sector of Coldbrook that served as a hospital during World War I, in this section Louisa finds a room that doesn't look abandoned- and it's not.  Inside, she finds Lieutenant Robert Lovett suffering from shell shock and temporary blindness. Louisa finds that she has somehow traveled to 1916 through Robert's room; however Robert is the only one she can interact with.  After another fall Louisa finds herself in 1917, now she is in France as a VAD nurse, Rose Ashby.  While learning the ins and outs of her new life, she frantically tries searching for Robert again, and wondering which timeline she really belongs to. 
 
Beyond the Moon is a sweeping time travel romance. Told through alternating views of Louisa and Robert, it seems like the pair might be doomed to be apart in time or space.  From the beginning, Louisa's journey captivated me.  Her passion and willingness to help others shone through.  When Louisa first found Robert, I was worried that it would prolong her time in the psychiatric unit or make her believe that she really did need to be there.  Robert's character is kind and confident.  I loved the first few times that Louisa and Robert were able to be together in 1916, even though no one else was able to see or interact with Louisa, their friendship and romance was able to progress naturally.  Once Louisa falls into 1917 again, the story picks up pace.  I enjoyed seeing Louisa, now living as Rose Ashby, adapt to life 100 years prior and take on the responsibilities of a VAD nurse.  Here, the historical aspects of the story also come to life as the conditions of the field hospital and the patients they received are described in realistic and historically accurate detail.  Robert's experience on the front and as a Prisoner of War was also absorbing, the scenes in the trenches and on the front lines brought the grittiness of the war to light.  Even though Louisa and Robert are both firmly in 1917, it seemed they might still be kept apart, the suspense of them finding one another again kept me rapt right until the end.  I thought the method of time travel and the explanation for Louisa slipping through time was fascinating as well. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Africaville

Africaville - Jeffrey Colvin
On the bluffs of Halifax, Nova Scotia a group of freed slaves made a settlement for themselves in the late 1800's, eventually dubbed Africaville.  Since then, the community grew; although they remained on the outskirts of town.  In 1933, Kath Ella Sebolt is looking for a way out.  A scholarship to a a college in Montreal is her ticket, however trouble with her best friend Kiendra and a pregnancy with Omar Platt's child could complicate matters.  Kath Ella wants more for her son, Etienne than she had.  Etienne does well for himself, but often struggles with the fact that he is what people would consider 'colored.'  Etienne's son Warner, now in Alabama is surprised to learn who his grandparents were and finds himself tied back to the small community in Nova Scotia. 
 
Africaville is a family saga that captures to trials of four generations of a family in North America.  I was very interested in the community and it's foundations in Canada.  Picking up in the 1930's with Kath Ella, the story was able to depict the many different ways that racism was able to encroach on the residents of Africaville, from limited opportunities for education and jobs to violent retaliation.  For Kath Ella's son and grandson, the focus turns more on identity.  Colvin was able to capture the complex emotional turmoil of two men coming to terms with who they are.  One of the most interesting characters in the story for me was Zera, Omar's mother.  Zera was jailed for a protest and made the difficult decision to send her son to relatives in Africaville.  In a way, it is her legacy that pulls the other three generations together.  I would have loved to know more of her story and the events that led up to her arrest.   I would have also appreciated more information on the families that founded the town on the bluffs and how they came to settle there.  Overall, a sweeping family story of a group of people that history has forgotten.
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Unfortunate Debutante

The Unfortunate Debutante - Laura Beers
After the death of her parents and her brother, an Agent of the Crown, Emma Pearson has been left alone and without much money.  Her father's solicitor Peter believes that he and Emma are betrothed, but Emma would rather work than rely on Peter.  Luckily, a friend of her brother, the Marquess of Downshire finds Emma and offers to take her in as his ward.  Emma accepts and now must complete a Season in London.  However, this is not as easy as it seems as someone seems to be sabotaging Emma at every step.  Bow Street Runner, Simeon Martin is elected to guard Emma.  Although, this is a harder job than Simeon realizes.  Emma  would rather spend her time researching for her news articles on the Anti-Corn Law League that is fighting that laws causing people to starve.  Simeon learns that Emma isn't the typical debutante that he thought.  Emma's behavior infuriates but intrigues Simeon and he finds that Emma might be exactly what he needs in life.
 
The Unfortunate Debutante is the seventy book in the Beckett Files series.  I would highly recommend reading the entire series in order to get to know all of the characters and their roles as The Unfortunate Debutante brings together characters from many of the previous books.  Emma and Simeon take center stage in this story.  Emma quickly emerges as another strong female character in the series, determined to survive on her own and not accepting a marriage to Peter as an easy way out.  Simeon's character has had a difficult storyline, being spurned in the past and making him wary of any relationship.  He's sees Emma as any other spoiled debutante, but quickly learns that she is anything but the fragile young women seeking a rich husband that he thought.  I loved the incorporation of England's history into this Regency spy romance.  Emma and Simeon's involvement with the Anti-Corn Law League increased the suspense and well as situated the story firmly in the early 1800's.  Like many of the romances in this series, their love takes a different path with each of them slowly realizing that the other is what they needed all along.  What I enjoy most about these books are the spy elements, although Simeon is a Bow Street Runner and not an Agent of the Crown, he is still involved with the plots against the Anti-Corn league and of course, keeping Emma safe from what Peter has plotted to get her back.  Overall, another exciting, sweet and original installment in the Beckett Files. 
 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Reluctant Healer

The Reluctant Healer - Andrew Himmel
Will Alexander is a lawyer, an up-and-comer at his firm who is just trying to get through the daily grind. His life changes when he meets Erica, a social worker turned energy healer.  Will and Erica are drawn to one another.  Erica sees a strong energy around Will, one that he doesn't realize he possesses.  Will tries to dismiss Erica's beliefs as eccentricities, however as he is pulled more into Erica's life and healing practice, Will's own beliefs begin to waver as Erica tells Will that he has helped her patients simply by being with them and one of Will's legal clients feels a weight lifted off of his shoulders after Will met with him.  Will begins to realize that there might be something about him that can help others, but his beliefs are still on the fence and his legal mind won't allow him to admit to doing anything, even as he begins to take on his own clients in Erica's practice.  
 
The Reluctant Healer is a book to read with an open mind.  It is the story of a perfectly ordinary man, Will -who thoroughly believes he is an ordinary man despite evidence of the extraordinary.  There isn't a lot of action or suspense in The Reluctant Healer, it is  mostly the story of Will coming to grips with forces within himself yet outside of his control, and slowly changing his worldview and belief system.  Even without a lot of excitement,  The Reluctant Healer still had me intrigued.  I really wanted to know what Will's ability was, how he was going to decide how to use it and if it had any limits.  Since this is a story of Will, his character is really the only one who is fully fleshed.  Erica is a large part of the story, yet I didn't get the feeling that I knew her too well.  Will's choices were what powered the story.  I found some choices very natural and some choices baffling, especially towards the end.  Overall, The Reluctant healer is a story of opening your mind to a world of opportunities beyond what you would normally consider.
 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

In Sight of the Mountain

In Sight of the Mountain - Jamie McGillen
Nineteen year old Anna Gallagher longs for adventure in her hometown of Seattle, Washington.  However, in 1889 young women are expected to be proper and run a household.  Anna's grandfather and brother seem to want this life for her as well. Anna gets a taste of adventure when the great Seattle fire devastates her grandfather's book store.  Anna dreams to climb Mount Rainier and places her hopes in an advertisement for a  climbing party leaving next summer.  Now, Anna just needs the funds and to start training.  With help from her Duwamish friend, Heather, Anna finds the confidence to begin training for the climb and a means to raise money.  When her brother's friend, Ben visits Washington, Anna may find a man that also fits her lifestyle.
 
In Sight of the Mountain is an amazing historical adventure that captivated me from the start and didn't let go.  As an avid hiker, I have always wondered about the women who have paved the path for women to be active in the outdoors.  Anna's character, though fictional is a good representation of the experiences of many of the women who were the firsts in the field.  Anna's spirit is captivating and infectious, making me want to plan for my next adventure.  Through her eyes, the grandeur of the Washington territory came alive as well as the many prejudices that people carried.  The plight of the Duwamish people, the native people of the area was brought to light through Anna's friendship with Heather as well as the limited opportunities for women and the views of the women who took matters into their own hands.  I was enchanted by the mystery of the poem in the book that Anna solved and absolutely delighted by the path of the romance with Ben.  The highlight of the story for me was definitely Anna's journey up the mountain.  While Anna's story might not have turned out exactly how she wanted the first time, her story of grit and determination is one that many people can relate to. 
 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Katherine Tudor Duchess

Katherine Tudor Duchess - Tony Riches
Katherine Willoughby  is the daughter of Maria de Salinas, one of Queen Catherine of Aragon's ladies-in-waiting.  Katherine's father dies when she is young and Katherine is taken in as a ward of Sir Charles Brandon, brother-in-law to King Henry VIII.   Katherine grows up alongside his children and believes that she will one day marry Charles' son, Henry.  However, after the death of Charles' wife, Charles decides to marry Katherine herself and Katherine is made the Duchess of Suffolk at the age of fourteen.  Through Katherine's position, she manages to get to know all of King Henry VIII wives, some more than others.  Although Katherine's life was not easy, she was lucky enough to survive and live a full life. 
 
I am an avid reader of anything concerning Tudor history and have read and enjoyed Tony Riches' books before, so I was more than happy to read Katherine Tudor Duchess and dig into the life of Katherine Willoughby.  The writing is quick paced and immersive.  Through Katherine's eyes, most of King Henry VIII reign is experienced through her point of view.  I was amazed by Katherine's life and the series of events that shaped it.  Katherine seemed to take everything in stride and managed to grow and develop in a world that was not very friendly towards woman.  I was intrigued by her different relationships with each of Henry VIII wives as well as Henry himself and was even more amazed that Katherine survived Henry's reign, but was threatened by his daughter, Mary.  It was interesting to see Katherine find her place in religion and how she may have even helped to shape England's religion at times.  Overall, an amazing story about of one of the surprising Tudor women, Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Distant Signs

Distant Signs - Anne Richter, Douglas Irving
Three generations have lived behind the Berlin Wall in East Germany.  Hans and Margaret are a young couple who met in the 1960's in East Germany.  Due to each of their parents experiences during the War, they have very different backgrounds and beliefs.  These experiences plus the regulations of living in East Germany place a lot of stress on their relationship.  As time goes on, each generation deals with the complications of East Germany in different ways, often clashing and challenging the previous generation; however, everyone seems to know that time marches on and things must change.
 
Distant Signs is a solemn family saga that delves into the impact that the German Democratic Republic had on the people.  Without getting into the politics of East Germany or the people responsible, everything is focused on the characters-  their actions, thoughts and relationships to one another.  This is an intimate portrait into the life of one family.  The story feels more like a series of anecdotes told at a family gathering.  The story mostly focuses on Margaret and Hans relationship, but moves through time beginning with their parents since their lives impacted Hans and Margaret separately.  Both sets of parents had very different experiences during and after War that led them to raise Hans and Margaret differently.  While there is a definite feeling of constantly being watched and having to be careful of what is said and who you talk to and several mentions of meetings, this book could really be set anywhere during anytime.  The writing had a heavy sense to it, while being a relatively short book, this took me longer to read while allowing all of the nuances to set in.  
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Trailing the Hunter

Trailing the Hunter - Heidi Eljarbo
A witch hunter is on his way to the small town of Berg, Norway in 1661.  Clara Dahl is already a few steps ahead of him.  Clara has seen the destruction and murder that Angus Hill imposes on a town after he decided that several of Clara friends are witches and burned them at the stake.  On her way into Berg, Clara notices a young and heavily pregnant woman escape from imprisonment.  Clara follows her into the woods offering help.  She can't find the woman, but does find Christian of Ivershall, the Lord of Berg.  Christian helps Clara and Clara finds a friend in Christian and his mother Dorthea.  Once Clara is set up in town as a teacher, she sets on her mission to educated the women of the town of Angus Hill's true nature.  With help from Dorthea, Clara is able to reach a few women in town.  However, some women have their own motives and will use the witch hunter for their own gain.
 
Trailing the Hunter is a historical fiction novel that shows the impact and destruction that one person with their own agenda and air of authority can inflict on a town.  I had no idea that this book was a continuation of Clara's story from Catching a Witch, which I haven't read.  I had no problem getting a sense of Clara's past experiences with the witch hunter and the Clara's motivation for following him.  I loved Clara's character from the very beginning, she was determined, motivated in her cause and had a well thought out plan for how to help.  Her compassion allowed Clara to connect with and care for the young women that Angus typically accused and give them the skills to stay out of his grasp.  Angus Hill's character showed just how easy it is for one person to infiltrate and poison the minds of people against one another just by using confidence and authority, something that still happens today.  Through the writing I was also able to get a sense of life in 17th century Norway, the towns, dress, politics and religions were all part of the intriguing plot.  The suspense of the witch hunt along with a bit of romance made Trailing the Hunter an intriguing historical fiction read.
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

The Emperor's Assassin

The Emperor's Assassin - Autumn Bardot
Locusta of Gaul grew up in a sprawling vineyard outside of Ancient Rome.  When she was of age, her father sent up an advantageous match for her to an elderly and harsh man.  Locusta learns of her betrothed's true nature and is horrified.  Pricilla, Locusta's servant uses her knowledge of herbs to make sure Locusta will not be bothered by him again.  Locusta is intrigued by Pricilla knowledge of herbs and becomes a student of plants, both helpful and deadly.  Locusta's knowledge soon surpasses Pricilla's and her herbs help many around her, including a servant of a handsome Centurion, Marcus.  Locusta is soon sent to Rome to petition for a tax extension as well as find her match.  The longer Locusta stays in Rome, her reputation for her knowledge of healing and pleasure grows.  Soon, her skills travel to Emperor Nero's ears and Locusta is asked to use her knowledge for murder.  Locusta's fate is now Nero's to toy with.  
 
Locusta of Gaul has been painted by history as the world's first female serial killer.  However, Autumn Bardot knows that there must be more to Locusta's story.  Locusta's story is one of survival, heartache and love.  From her time growing up in Gaul, Locusta learned compassion, however, the poor match for her betrothal left her changed.  I loved Locusta and Pricilla's relationship and how it grew over time.  I was amazed by all of the herbal concoctions that Pricilla and Locusta came up with.  The descriptions of Rome under Claudius and Nero were very detailed and historically accurate.  The treachery, deception, excess and political intrigue was all deliciously shown, especially once Locusta became involved.  Nero's taste for the extravagant was showcased with his Domus Aurea that I had no problem imagining from the descriptions. The religious upheaval of the time was also captured in the writing without getting in the way of the plot.  One of my favorite parts of the story was between Locusta and Marcus, a steamy and passionate romance that began quickly and never lost fervor.  As always, the erotic parts of the story are woven together to fit in seamlessly with the plot.  Overall, The Emperor's Assassin is an intriguing historical fiction that brings to life one of history's overlooked women, Locusta of Gaul.
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Royal Beauty Bright

Royal Beauty Bright - Ryan Byrnes

Read for Veteran's Day task- 24 tasks!

 

The Baker family was not the typical family of Leamington Spa, England in the late 1800's. Mrs. Baker is a widow who runs her own sweets shop, her oldest son, Luther is different from other children. People say he is possessed or a lunatic, what we would now diagnose as autism. Luther's younger brother, Jim protects Luther furiously, but still takes the brunt of his mother's pain and frustration. One day as Jim and Luther are playing with Jim's best friend, Rodney, Luther pushes Rodney and hurts him badly. Rodney recovers but the incident leaves its mark. Years later, a war breaks out. Rodney is fighting on the Western Front and finds a new recruit in his regiment acting strangely. He is surprised to find that it is Luther Baker. Rodney is pressed to protect Luther by childhood friend Ethyl, who is serving as a nurse and trying to find a way to send Luther home. Meanwhile, Jim has taken a job with the British Army Postal Service with his own plan to smuggle Luther out. As Christmas approaches on the Front, Luther cooks up his own plan for survival.

Royal Beauty Bright is a heartwarming tale of compassion that revolves around the Christmas Truce of 1914. Alternating between 1897 and 1914, the timeline immersed me in the lives of Constance Baker, Luther, Jim, Rodney, and Ethyl. Though Luther was met with much adversity in his life, including being tricked into service, the love that Luther shares with his family and friends and they love they return shines brightly through. I loved that Luther excelled at chocolate making and that it paved the way for him to form relationships with other people as well. The depictions of life in the trenches on the Western Front were brutally realistic and showed the impact on the soldier's mental well being. Luther's insights during this time were often the most honest and truthful sentiments during the war, unhindered by what others might think of him. I loved when he told Rodney to write his mother: "Tell her people don't want to kill each other, but they don't know how to stop." As Christmas approaches on the front, I could tell that something had to give. I enjoyed reading the reactions of the men on both sides as they realized that they could take a break from the War and have fun, if only for a day.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.