My First Reviews 2022

Val Penny, The First Cut (Jane Renwick Series)

A Case Hanging on the Perpetrator’s DNA

Jane Renwick, born Smith, carries a troubling childhood with her but has pulled herself out of trouble and achieved a good life. She’s found friends and colleagues, including her wife Rachel Anderson, at her job as DC in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

A series of murders occur, committed by an unknown. They take place in Edinburgh, and it is up to the combined forces of local police and MIT Glasgow to catch the murderer before he kills again.

Ms Penny brings her usual storytelling skills to the fore with twist and turns, notably the genetic complications that keeps Jane from taking an active part in the case. All in all, Ms Penny leaves it up to the readers’ perception to figure out, who’d done it. Her characters are fleshed out, believable humans that appeal to any bookworms’ emotions. We have the privilege to shift back and forth between Jane Renwick’s and the killer’s heads.

*

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Rebecca Bryn, The Chainmaker’s Wife

Suffragettes, Strikes, Riots, and The Great War

It isn’t easy to change from employee to employer, but that is exactly what Jack and Rosie must do at the beginning of The Chainmaker’s Wife. It causes them both anxiousness, but their way to deal with it is different. Their situation isn’t made easier through national strikes, riots, and the shortage the trouble causes. Marion, Matthew’s widow, does her part to make life difficult. Rosie and Jack come close to irreconcilable differences.

Marion takes an active part in the suffragette movement and draws Rosie with her. Then comes the Great War, and Jack volunteers.

In The Chainmaker’s Wife, Ms Bryn draws a harrowing picture of a country in war with itself – and with the world. The reader experiences the brutal reality of rioting, police violence, imprisonment, betrayal, war, and pain.

It is no surprise that Ms Bryn’s characters leap off the page and let you feel their pain. Everybody does things they must regret, but there is still space for tender moments and joy.

A wonderful second part to The Chainmakers Trilogy. I’m looking forward to the third instalment.

*

*

Toya Richardson, Wild Desire

Infinite Affinity in a Magical Forest

Coming back to your childhood home is never easy. For Mila Stubbs, who returns to take up a job as a forest ranger, it quickly becomes a nightmare. Her former tormentor, Drake Scott, is ready and waiting.

Elias Crane knows that the only woman for him will come to him, but he doesn’t know when. Then Mila appears and he knows.

Their connection changes Mila’s life forever.

In her paranormal romance, Ms Richardson pulls all stops. We get the opportunity to tap into good and evil in equal measure. The forest and its creatures play a vast role, and the frontier between nature and technology gone rampant confronts us.

A sweeping panorama, bursting with festering hatred, drama, abduction, destruction, and true love, Wild Desire will entrance its readers.

*

*

Vicky Whedbee, Sarah’s Song

Appalachian Family Saga built Around a Mystery

Sarah steps up to care for her siblings after a fire ends her parents’ lives. Her beloved Pawpaw, Samuel, takes in the orphans and gives them a caring refuge. Underneath the calm surface, simmers secrets and pain, as well as wishes for revenge. Still, the family stands together through work and hardships. Rural Tennessee is the locality where this family saga unfolds.

Ms Whedbee is a gifted writer and forms a plot arc that draws the reader in from the first fiery moment to the end. Her portrayal of the main characters’ deep faith rings true, and her knowledge of the period (the nineteen forties to the fifties) comes across on every page. This isn’t a dry history lesson. Neither is it a sob story. I think it fair to say that the antagonist is as vile as they come. We meet and get to adore personalities that are true to life.

I admire the way Ms Whedbee uses the local vernacular to add verity and spice to her writing in the flawless dialogues.

*

*

CW Hawes, The Nine Deadly Dolls

Voodoo, Terrorism, Cigars, and Fine Wines

Bobby Joseph Frieden received nine little voodoo dolls. So did his uncle who died soon after. He turns to PI Justinia Wright for help. Her brother, Harry wants her to start investigating but, true to form, Justinia prefers her cigars and Harry’s excellent cooking.

That can’t go well, and soon the investigating team, Justinia, Harry, and Bea has several murders on their hands.

That is enough to fire Justinia’s wrath. She and her crew go all out to solve the case.

‘The Nine Deadly Dolls’ may be written in a traditional manner, but the food, wine, and wisecracks do wonders and keep you fascinated.

*

*

Sue-Ellen Welfonder, Sins of a Highland Devil

Romantic Highland Saga with layers of Myth

Three Clans, three leaders and their respective sisters take centre stage in Sins of a Highland Devil. For generations, the McDonalds, Camerons, and the Macintoshes have fought about the right to rule the Glen of Many Legends. Now the King has forced the issue, the clans must fight to the death to win their claim.

The political tension goes much further and the whys and wherefores run in the background of this romantic saga.

Catriona MacDonald crosses the path of James Cameron, not for the first time. The straightforward clan tension between them has added layers of passion and attraction, something they both deny.

Will the battle of clans bring release? To find out, you must read this magical story of love, ghosts, ancient helpers, wily Scotsmen, bloodthirsty Lowlanders, and the beautiful Highland nature.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder brings her characters to life with consummate skill. The narrative is full of wonders and beautifully crafted legends, unexpected encounters, and a landscape whose beauty can move the earth.

*

*

Sheena Macleod, Tears of Strathnaver

The Highland Clearances, Greed or God’s Voice?

Mhàiri enjoys an idyllic existence with her family. Yes, there are hardships, but the nearness to nature compensates, as does the freedom that they possess. Their way of life is suited to the landscape, and they have everything they need.

Time is against them. The Highland Clearances have begun, and the inhabitants of Strathnaver must shed unwanted tears.

Sheena Macleod brings truth and pain to the narrative of a bleak part of Highland history. We suffer with the families that all have one wish – to be left alone. Women as men must learn to live with their longings – or go to foreign lands in the hope of finding a suitable way of life.

The characters spring to life in Ms Macleod’s pertinent writing. She poses the inevitable question if greed and progress should take the lead, or if nature is better off if left alone.

*

*

Uvi Poznansky, The David Chronicles Trilogy

A Soul Beckoning for a Beacon of Light

Who was David? Who was the shepherd turned king? Was he caught up in ambition and women, or was he a poet searching for his god? Maybe he was an ordinary man with an extraordinary fate. Maybe he was all of the above.

In the David Chronicles Trilogy, Ms Poznansky searches for answers. In doing so she opens a pit of depravation. She shows us an ageing man who looks back and a young man who strives to conquer the world. Both are David, and both are searching for answers that they may never be able to accept.

David carries Goliath’s head with him, but not only that. He longs to go back to being an entertainer, but his fate takes him where he must go. Without his music, he is lost. The poet and musician becomes a king and a reluctant soldier.

It is possible to discuss whether the Aramaic language contained modern-day American swearwords, but it isn’t the issue here. To find the essence of the man David, Ms Poznansky uses every language known to man. The plot arc is massive, taking the reader from the playful performer to the decrepit old king, showing all the aspects of his rise to power, his fall from grace, and his final time as an ageing monarch. A tour de force of an accomplished author.

*

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© HMH, 2022

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