The French Orphan

The French Orphan, first published 2012, 2nd Edition 2013, e-book assumed published, copyright and written by Michael Stole.

The plot centers around a young, penniless orphan enrolled in a theological school in Reims whose mission was to indoctrinate sons of nobles into the ways of the church. For some unapparent reason he becomes close friends with Armand, a handsome popular fellow student. As time evolves, the reader discovers that Pierre actually is the son of a man who had been the Marquis de Beauvoir, but confusion existed because he had married an Englishwoman who was not catholic (at this time of extreme religious animosity). Further complications evolved from the fact that Pierre’s father’s older brother who was dominated by his son Henri, was deeply in debt and jeopardized most of his remaining estates by taking one heavier loan to pay his pressing debts. Cardinal Richelieu was involved in his usual clandestine manner to attempt to gain all of these properties. Henri, a vicious person to whom life meant nothing if the individual stood in his way, wanted the Marquis title with the monies and estates attached. As the action unfolds, the reader learns that Armand’s father had been a dear friend of Pierre’s father and actually had enrolled him in the school hoping the two boys would become friends. As may be determined from these few sentences, the plot is quite as complicated as the old manner in which English and French Family titles were held and dealt with by reigning Kings and the impossibly powerful Cardinal Richelieu of France. The situation was further roiled by the fact that the French King was particularly more attracted to young males than to members of the distaff side, but also was still much attached to his sister who was the reigning Queen of England. Pierre and Armand sneak away from the school and the resulting action intensifies. It is replete with espionage, betrayal, distrust, deceit, feats of bravery and love interests by characters acting the appropriate parts, all leading to only a degree of closure that requires the now involved reader to await the next volume to ascertain further knowledge of whether all will end satisfactorily for Pierre and his lovely amour.

Discussion: This is an interesting tale that is nicely paced and peopled by characters who should appeal to readers who have a tendency to enjoy a plot embracing a protagonist whose serendipity overcomes all odds so that seemingly he eventually will accomplish his goals and live happily with his true love. The author seems well-versed in the muddled history of the period, and aware of the ill-fated Knights Templar and the long standing rumors about their ultimate ending. If the prospective reader is a historical fiction aficionado, is one who enjoys the type of story described, and doesn’t mind having to wait for the action to continue, this book definitely is for you.

3* 5* Well-plotted/written/characterized historical tale; -2 as described.

A Spell of Murder

A spell of Murder ISBN: 9781838880958 Bookouture, London copyright and written by Kennedy Kerr.

The story follows the activities of two local but very modern witches as they attempt to solve a murder that appears to involve some manner of witchcraft. Their home belonged to their parents in the small town of  Lost Maiden’s Loch, named for the small lake in Scotland which had gained its name from  a young maiden who mysteriously had drowned in its waters. The sisters’ parents had been quite knowledgeable of the dark arts, even purportedly have taught the subject. The two young presumed witches are thirty-year-old Temerity Love, owner and proprietress of Love’s Curiosities and her 2-year-older sister Tilda, each quite accomplished in different most unusual subjects. Temerity was the proprietress of a small antique shop, Love’s Curiosities, in their home, but more importantly was a world renowned clairvoyant who had the gift of psychometry or psychic provenance that allowed her to gain extensive history of an item merely by touching and/or holding it – a talent of immeasurable importance in the antique and collectors’ world. Tilda was an authority, verifier and dealer in rare books as well as an Herbalist. Thus, their designation. The plot involves a number of prominent characters living in the town as well as the Laird, his home, wife and former wives, his sons, two of his old mansion’s remaining staff members, the town’s police officer, his quite newly arrived replacement along with Temerity and Tilda and their unusual knowledge as they attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of a relatively newly arrived school teacher.

Discussion: As aptly explained by the author, this is a tale about “a little Scottish village alongside one of those strange, sometimes enormous lochs. A gossipy, cozy village where, sometimes, strange things happen and two local witches are on hand to investigate…” This reader found the description basically to be quite accurate and, for the most part, the story enjoyable. The only detracting features were insertion of ‘Americanisms’ in an otherwise Scottish tale and a sense that the charming picture developed in the book’s earlier chapters would have continued unabated if a little more judicious editing had been employed in the last third of the volume.

3* Charming mystery tale with slight caveat.

Strategic Entanglements

Strategic Entanglements assumed published, copyright and written by D. K. Knightley.

The author has set forth this initial book in the planned Kendra Veiss series that introduces her and other characters in another world in the year 2977. This world is composed of the dominant empire of Basur who had defeated and literally destroyed Askar, a medium-sized militant nation and left in this state although it’s ideological enemy. Askar gradually had climbed out of its devastated position and was again proving problematical. Both nations retained Counterintelligence agencies including Clandestine Operations, State Security and similar branches. The plot centers in Kendra’s position as an operative in Basur’s clandestine operations and her hot/cold sexual attraction to Aran Reiner, her Askar counterpart, especially after having been abducted by his operatives and submitted to torture. Kai Ansurian, an apparently good friend of Aran but seemingly a Basur-Askar Double agent, presents a somewhat similar problem after sexually attacking her not un-pleasurably during her torture sessions. Additionally, he also was helpful in her survival before release. A number of other supportive characters also are introduced and the story provides no ending per se, but rather serves as an introduction to the next volume in the series scheduled to appear in the near future.

Discussion: The author is described as presenting “A red-hot battle of the sexes designed for sophisticated readers looking for something original and out of the ordinary.” From what this reader seems to have been able to assemble from relatively diverse social intercourse, she has provided a vehicle that should have great appeal for these individuals. If the potential reader has not attained the more advanced levels of this mental state, however, the following notes may be helpful. Kendra’s at times almost hostile verbalization and actions with respect to attitudes of male dominance certainly are understandable after the horrible results of such activity she encountered within her own home. Similarly, such chauvinistic attitudes, even without her life experiences, are totally understandable and justified. It is only in the manner in which she often uses them that is difficult to accept. It would appear that she held almost a ‘death wish’ associated with some latent desire to be dominated as demonstrated by her totally unrealistic actions that repeatedly placed her in a dangerous, even untenable, position from which some dominant male’s activity was required to extract her. Additionally, the basic direction of the tale was a little difficult to discern. Besides depicting a highly intelligent and totally modern, courageous young woman fighting male chauvinism, an underlying tone of hesitant titillation seems prominent. For example, a rather extended scene seemingly slanted toward raising the expected titillation, proceeded during the torture period but was followed by quite clinically explicit descriptions that, perhaps purposely, nullified its apparent direction. Another feature of this volume that readers who prefer at least partial closure to parts of a story, may find the tale a little annoying in that it’s serial nature dictates that one must wait with baited breath until the author has been able to furnish the next episode.

Summary: If the prospective reader is not deterred by the above listed features, they will discover a well-written tale incorporating tension and sexual, as well as other, intrigue between attractive characters in a foreign land of the future. A good first novel.

3* 5* “…battle of the sexes …for sophisticated readers”       -2* for some as described.

King of the Blind

King of the Blind ISBN: 9780980689488 Matrayah Media, 2018 Australia, written by Caiseal Mor.

The author opens his tale with a few words from a very wise old man who once told him there was “a way to avoid all of the trials and tribulations of mortal existence. Those who know this secret are always merry and forever blessed with good fortune. They are well-loved and welcomed.” He further instructed that “if you carry a pocketful of this magic ingredient with you, you’ll never go hungry and you’ll never want for laughter, music and good company. The secret that unlocks all these wonders is a simple one. Gratitude.” The author further states “This is the story of a man who learned how to be grateful.”

The tale then is presented of Turlough O’Carolan, purportedly the most famous of harp players of the 1700’s, an era when such travelling entertainers were much in demand. Actually, this is a story within a story as told by Turlough’s faithful servant who had accompanied him on his travels for many years. It includes quite precise descriptions of the devastating stages and effects of the often encountered Small Pox disease which had blinded Turlough; quite complete descriptions of various houses and dress of the day; Harps of the time compared with more modern versions; the gradually increased influence of music from the continent; the Irish involvement in many insurrections; involvement of the ‘Good People’ who only the English would designate as ‘Fairies’; and more.

Discussion: This is a charming Irish tale replete with whisky, blarney-tinged facts, stories hinting of the fallacies of Bonnie Prince Charles and his battlefield inadequacies as well as those of other Kings; the inter-relationship of the King’s soldiers and the rebellious Irishmen; humor; music and a romance of sorts. All contained in a tale which takes too much time ‘in the telling’. However, if it were shortened, it wouldn’t be an Irish tale.

5* Charming blarney tinted tale of music, mirth, history, romance.

Hope of Ages Past

      Hope of Ages Past ISBN: 9780999881101, an e-book 1st edition 2018 by Zeno Publishing written by Bruce Gardner.

The author has presented “An Epic Novel of Enduring Faith, Love, and the Thirty Years War” fought in Germany between the newly advancing members of the Lutheran faith and the proponents of the long-established Catholic church. The story’s protagonist, around whom part of the story centers is Peter Erhart as he follows a calling to the ministry rather than following his father’ desires to have him be an accountant. The young man first becomes an assistant Lutheran pastor and with training from his particularly gracious mentor a seemingly gifted orator gradually ascending in position. The second protagonist sharing the trials and tribulations of the horrendous conflict and resultant chaos is Anna Ritter, a peasant girl who falls hopelessly in love with Peter, although he is married to the lovely Ursula, the mother of his two small children. Most of the early action takes place in the wealthy trade center of Magdeburg and the surrounding area and gradually shifts to Leipzig. The tale is a brutal account of the destruction of Magdeburg and the results thereof as affecting all of its citizens and particularly Peter, Anna and their immediate families followed by their subsequent activities as they continue on to again meet in Leipzig.

Discussion: This is a book of historical fiction featuring fictitious protagonists but populated additionally by numerous historical figures. The whole has been rendered into a highly readable account of the actions of individuals under the most devastating circumstances. The prose appropriately and graphically descriptive, the characters easily acceptable and empathetic and the horrendous actions taken in the name of religious faith almost impossible to understand, as are some of the Godly reactions of ‘true believers’. For any person interested in this rarely described era, this is a scholarly book, written in an interestingly manner about a rarely illuminated era in history that is a MUST READ.

5* Must read historical novel.

Munching on the Sun

Munching on the SUN ISBN: 9781775111122 an e-book copyright and written by Mark Paul Oleksiw.

The story opens with a young man reciting a bit of the dramatic play Frankenstein on an empty stage in an equally empty theater at midnight. The single spectator is the Dramatics Professor who overheard the intruder’s entrance and came to see what was happening. From this unusual beginning the reader finds him/herself proceeding through the life of a very conflicted and confused young student as he and his friends advance through their senior school year. He is an extremely disciplined young man from a loving family and with an older sister with mental challenges. Through his dedication, he has succeeded in advancing her to a seemingly relatively normal manner of existence. He is tremendously well-liked and a natural mentor-of-sorts to his classmates. Much of his enduing problems stem from the fact that he becomes totally enthralled with a girl recently arrived with her strict family from India. Their evolving relationship, both reminiscences and on-going, along with his unusual interaction with his sister as well as his classmates, provides, a basis for the strange tale as it unfolds.

Discussion: The author has set forth a most unusual story in an intriguing manner that makes a reader want to follow to its termination. For most readers, this is sufficient. However, for a few who are inclined to think more deeply with respect to a character, questions about Lucas, the protagonist, surface and will not ‘go away’. Obviously this is more than a young person’s ‘coming-of-age’ tale and a reader would like to have some basis provided to account for his singular attributes – his dedication, and ability, to raise his sister’s mental acuity; his almost mesmerizing effect upon his fellow students; his actions with Kara; his tendency to react violently to certain stimuli. Similarly, some hint of an explanation for Kara’s unusual actions would be so helpful in providing some explanation for an initial reaction and her often wraith-like appearances. Granted, much of the story depends upon reminiscences, but frequently the reader is not sure which are fact and which fiction. Another feature that is difficult to dissemble is the educational level of the group. Much of the material indicates their senior level of secondary school. Yet much of the academic structure is more specifically of university level. But perhaps this feature only is troubling to individuals acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of academia.

3* 4* Fascinating tale in spite of missing and confusing elements.