Lally Brown, The Countess, Napoleon, and St Helena
Fact and Fiction Mixed with Memoirs
‘The Countess, Napoleon, and St Helena’ is a strong minestrone. This kind of soup is a good opportunity to get rid of scraps and it can make a delicious dish. The question is if it works in literature.
Honestly, I’m not entirely convinced, even if there were some interesting points. What stroke me at first was the discrepancy between the countess’ and Ms Brown’s reaction to St Helena, specifically the nature. The reason might be to find in their different situations. Countess Françoise Elisabeth (Fanny) Bertrand saw this as a prison for her as well as l’Empereur. Did she want to go? Did she have a choice? Probably not. This wasn’t a period when married women had an option to declare their wishes.
Nobody wants to go past the Cape of Good Hope, but that was the situation for Napoleon and his entourage.
Ms Brown wanted ‘to bring history alive’ and she did that through the media of Fanny’s diary. This certainly gives insight into Napoleon’s character. His rages and his frustration, his gardening venture, and his amorous escapades. The fictional diary also presents dry shopping lists and gossip, as well as housing problems and childbearing agony.
John Anthony Miller, The Widow’s Walk
Tentative Love story with a Mystery Attached
Newly divorced, Audrey Taylor feels that her life is out of sync. Her job as an editor is the only thing that keeps her going. Then she inherits a run-down Victorian mansion in a small coastal town. That is her chance to get away and make a new start. She takes it, even if she is reluctant. Her employer allows her to establish a home office, which allows her to move.
The Mansion needs a lot of work, and thus a treasure map falls into her hands. Apart from that, the unusual setting makes her feel that the house could be haunted.
The mystery that unfolds goes far back in time, and it whets Audrey’s interest. Through her research, she meets new people and forms unexpected friendships and acquaintances. Will she find the treasure? Is it worth looking for?
It is easy to like Audrey and feel with her through disappointments and hopes, tentative feelings, and her attraction – sometimes to the wrong persons. Miller takes his readers captive from the first words to the end of this romantic mystery.
S L Baron, The Scarlet Destruction
Myths of the World, Creation and Destruction
Fiona Albright enjoys her life and chosen path as a barista. She doesn’t want life to change but it has something in store for her that she’d never believe if somebody were to tell her.
Gabriel LaCroix enters her life and does exactly that. He points out that she suffers from amnesia and that it endangers her as well as the world they share.
Fiona must go through a difficult path to understand her position and accept her duty. Will she, or won’t she?
SL Baron rolls out a world that is suffering. A world that could be perfect, only the people who live in it are out to destroy themselves and one another. The violence is overwhelming, and Baron brings her vision home to the reader. Clad in Mythical features, it is easy to grasp the allegory. We need only to throw a glance at what’s happening in this world. A warning voice that tells us to beware of the destruction we could trigger. This is another superb book from the hands of SL Baron.
Jennifer Irwin, A Dress the Color of the Sky
Addiction Can Destroy but May Also Give Insight
Self-loathing may be the hardest thing to overcome as it prevents healing. Prudence Aldrich has a history of abuse and is married to a self-centred alcoholic. The worst possible combination for a vulnerable soul. Her wish is to go back to what she perceives as an idyllic past when she first met her husband. To facilitate this wish she enters rehab.
Ms Irwin confronts her readers with the stark reality of abuse in flashbacks that shows the various phases of and reasons for Prudence’s problem. The therapy sessions are woven into the bleak past to show the reader as well as Prudence a way forward.
Will she take that path, and will she heal?
Years of abuse must be dealt with, and it is a painful journey with many pitfalls. Ms Irwin aptly shows the stark reality and clarifies many theories about abusers and their victims. This is done in impeccable writing that plays on the readers’ emotions. A Dress the Color of the Sky makes a strong impact, whether you are unfamiliar or familiar with the reality of addiction.
SS Bazinet, Living Takes it out of You
Survival in a Time of Plague
In the second instalment of The Madonna Diaries, we dive deeper into Dory’s tormented mind and find the many reasons for his suffering. Between him and his brother Milton looms their father. Unlike a certain biblical brother, Milton will do everything to save Dory.
SS Bazinet rolls out toxic family relations that go far back and can create difficulties for both brothers. At the same time, there are healing forces to reckon with. Will Dory and Milton go under in a Miltonian hell, or will they survive? Is it possible to heal old and festering wounds? Remember, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.
Ms Bazinet brings across her vision in her memorable and thoughtful prose. Living Takes it out of You takes you on a spiritual journey that is both scary and visionary. It is amazing to realise that the two first parts of this trilogy were published before the current pandemic broke out. The fear and the irrational reactions to the Madonna Diaries’ virus tally with what we see in the current situation. In other words, Ms Bazinet has a deep insight into human psychology.
Eva Pasco, Etta’s Fishing Ground
Contemporary Nineteen-Seventies: At the End of the Rainbow
Etta’s fishing ground has more to offer than the random smallmouth bass. It has a gallery of vivid characters and gives the reader a many-faceted insight into the fifties and the seventies without ever moving away from Foster, Rhode Island.
It is nothing new that love can derail the best laid plans. Neither is it surprising that false impressions can derail the closest relationships. Ms Pasco manages to give an age-old story new twists and make the life and love of ordinary people extraordinary.
That alone is enough to blaze a trail and immerse any reader in a human drama of depth and psychological insight. Add to that Ms Pasco’s crisp and inventive prose and you have a whirlwind of a book that keeps surprising and enchanting the reader.
Maureen Turner, Amy, Nephilim Freedom Fighter
What Makes a Nephilim Freedom Fighter?
With Malchediel kidnapped, Amy is distraught. Her last hope of seeing her beloved again is crushed, and she cries herself into a stupor.
Enter Ruby, a Nephilim and member of the NFF. She invites Amy to visit the headquarters in Bath. Amy accepts and eventually joins the NFF, hoping that she might have a better chance of seeing her lover again.
Added to the mix are demons, deaths, and worldwide destruction. All that creates a perfect action movie to play out in your mind. The tension rises as Amy must use her newfound skills and confront her worst fears.
Will Amy and Malchediel meet again? To find out, you’ll have to read the second part of the Wings Unfurled trilogy.
Ms Turner knows how to write a thrilling and colourful fantasy. The biblical theme adds to the excitement: there’s nothing like the fight between good and evil, heaven and hell.
SM Revolinski, Undercover Actress
Beware of Showing your Acting Skills or the FBI Might Get You
Deborah Barnes has landed her first good role on Broadway, but the fates, in the shape of the FBI, have other ideas.
They think her acting skills so impressive that she’d be perfect to infiltrate the mob, terrorists, and the criminal underbelly of Las Vegas.
To find out if she has the stuff to do so, you must read Undercover Actress.
Revolinski, a multi-genre author, clearly enjoys spinning a tale. His pen creates hardboiled mobsters (some with a heart), gruesome terrorists, nuclear scientists, spies, prostitutes, Middle Eastern heroes and villains, as well as brave detectives, and, of course, his protagonist, the beautiful and sexy Deborah Barnes.
A trilogy, full of thrills, a crime and terrorist caper to while away a few hours of wacky escapism.
© HMH, 2022