Posted in Book Review

A Murder by Any Name

Book Title: A Murder by Any Name: An Elizabethan Spy Mystery

Author: Suzanne M. Wolfe

Time Period: Late 16th Century

Setting: London, during the reign of Elizabeth I

My Rating:

I loved everything about this book. Starting with the cover…which I admit is THE thing that caught my attention in the first place, to the colorful 16th century language of not only the court royals but the common folk as well. The main character, Nick Holt, is extremely likable. What makes his likability so unusual is that, although he is of noble blood and is a spy for Queen Elizabeth, he also has a compassionate nature and can make even the lowest servant feel at ease. And although he himself has shady dealings as a tavern owner who frequently visits women of less-than-stellar reputations, he’s not a complete rake.

Of course, I can’t speak of characters without mentioning Nick’s sidekick and true star of the show, Hector, Nick’s Irish Wolfhound. I always love when authors not only include animals in their stories (after all, they are so much a part of our world) but give them real personality and a human connection that pet owners can truly relate to.

The murder of a young noblewoman is at the heart of this story, and I’ll admit I was stumped the whole way through the story, trying to figure out who the culprit was. Ms. Wolfe does an amazing job at weaving an intriguing story that keeps you guessing and mixing it with historical tidbits and facts that don’t feel like a historical information dump.

Well researched and artistically written, A Murder by Any Name is a great start to this Elizabethan Spy Mystery Series. It will be interesting to see where Nick and Hector go from here.

Purchase your copy of A Murder by Any Name: An Elizabethan Spy Mystery by Suzanne M. Wolfe here.

Posted in Book Review

The Mermaid and the Bear

Book Title: The Mermaid and the Bear

Author: Ailish Sinclair

Time Period: Late 16th Century

Setting: Scotland, during the reign of King James VI

My Rating:

Before I go any further, I just have to say, this is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. Yes, it is written in one of my favorite time periods, and yes it takes place in one of my favorite places in all the world, but when you combine that with the almost poetic style of Sinclair’s writing—sigh!

Ok, I know it sounds like I’m gushing, and maybe I am, but deservedly so. Sinclair’s development of characters is charming, making you love the characters she loves and hate the characters that she hates. Or, if she doesn’t hate them, she sure does a good job at making me do it for her.

Isobell is an English girl trying to escape the prospects of an abusive marriage to a wicked man. She comes up with a plan to escape to Scotland, leaving her privileged life behind to serve as a kitchen maid on the estate of the young Laird, Thomas Manteith. Isobell finds solace in the beautiful and spiritual countryside of Scotland and I loved viewing her world and experiencing it all over again through her eyes. From the flowering trees, the birds and other wildlife to the ancient stone circles and rocky cliffs of this magical land, Sinclair’s writing is a treat for the senses.

The storyline is beautiful too. The love Isobell shared with her “light of the world and salt of the earth” as she called him, was well written, leaving no room for doubt of the love they shared for each other, yet without some of the awkward details that other stories offer.  And while I enjoyed experiencing all the wonderful sights (and feels!) with Isobell, I was always waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop”, and Sinclair did not disappoint!

I have read several books having to do with witch trials, from the North Berwick witch trials in Scotland, to the Salem witch trials in America. All have been well written, but Sinclair’s description of not only the treatment of the accused witches and the bodily harm that they endured, but the spiritual, mental and emotional trauma that these accused women (and men, at times) must have endured, is brilliant.

I also enjoyed Isobell’s exploration of Celtic spiritualism, Catholic rites and Reformed practices as she sought for her own truth. It is an excellent example of Scotland’s own spiritual journey throughout history.

I will read this book again. Now that I know there is a beautiful end for Isobell (admittedly not the end I was expecting!), I will read it for the pure enjoyment of meandering the deeply moving countryside of Scotland once more.  

If you would like to see more of Ailish Sinclair’s writings or see her beautiful pictures of Scotland, visit her on her blog at https://ailishsinclair.com/

To purchase a copy of The Mermaid and the Bear click here.

Posted in Book Review

The Bridled Tongue

Book Title: The Bridled Tongue

Author: Catherine Meyrick

Time Period: Late 16th Century

Setting: Elizabethan England

My Rating:

Alyce Bradley is practically past her prime in terms of making a good match. When she is faced with marriage to a man that repulses her, the offer of marriage from another man, though rumored to be a womanizer and a pirate, almost appeals to her.

Alyce makes her choice, and has to live with it. And slowly she is making it work. But when jealousy and bad blood cause Alyce to be accused of damnable deeds, she will face the most difficult trial of her life.

She is not the perfect, beautiful protagonist that you see quite often in fictional stories, which is one thing that makes this story unique. Alyce has a sharp tongue, is quite practical and solemn, and has a hard time showing her affection. But she has likable qualities, and the one I found to be most admirable was her ability to bite her tongue when those around her were being rude to her. I found myself quite often thinking of all the things I would have said in response to the characters that verbally mistreated her, had I been in her shoes! (Yeah, I probably would have been accused of witchcraft for being insolent, incorrigible, or whatever other bad qualities that get attached to women who aren’t demure and meek. LOL)

Meyrick gives you a wonderful insight into the everyday life of a late 16th century English household and the workings of a manor house. Her attention to detail concerning the court systems, jails and commerce of the time period are wonderfully described making you feel as if you are experiencing it for yourself. She demonstrates perfectly how tittle-tattle, jealousy, and revenge played a large part in the witchcraft accusations in the 16th century, and it is easy to see how one might find themselves on the wrong side of the law, just because a neighbor (or worse-a friend or relative) had it out for them.

Alyce had so much stress in her life. From a husband whom she was trying to get to know and understand in the small snatches of time they were allotted together, to a jealous sister, and a delusional former suitor. I fretted throughout the story as to how she was going to get out of her predicament. Meyrick really knows how to build the tension and keep you guessing as to what is going to happen next. I worried myself to find out how all the loose ends were going to come together to resolve the conflict in poor Alyce’s life. I am a sucker for a knight in shining armor and I tend to lean toward the whole rescued damsel in distress trope. Alyce’s husband tries to be that for her but can’t. And I’m ok with that. I was still pleased to see the author give Alyce the happy ending that she deserved!

This was my first exposure to reading books from this author. I do plan on reading more of her wonderfully detailed works.

For more information about author Catherine Meyrick visit her at: https://catherinemeyrick.com/

To purchase The Bridled Tongue visit:

Posted in Book Review

The Secret Heir by Janice Broyles

Ok, so this book is not about England or Scotland, nor is it medieval to 16th century. However, The Secret Heir is an excellent fictionalized retelling of a historical story about the ancient kingdom of Israel, and the enigmatic shepherd boy who rose from lowly sheep herder to the mighty warrior, King David. It’s ok to get out of our comfort zones from time to time, right? 😛

David is a young man, anointed to be king (unbeknownst to the current king) stuck on the Judean hillside, watching his father’s sheep. He longs to be more useful to his father than just another shepherd and to fulfil the role for which he has been anointed. When he receives a summons to come and play the lyre for the troubled king of Israel, David is one step closer to the life he longs to live. But he is also closer to danger as he endeavors to keep a secret from the king that could cost his life and the lives of his family.

In The Secret Heir, David comes to life as more than just a Biblical character. Anyone familiar with David knows he struggled with insecurities, depression, and loneliness. Yet, we see a clearer picture of how he used his music and poetry to draw strength from God and overcome his weaknesses.

David Slaying Goliath ~Peter Paul Rubens~ Wikimedia Commons

One of my favorite parts of The Secret Heir was when David, fresh from the hills of Bethlehem, comes face to face with the intimidating, well-trained Philistine giant, Goliath. It was very easy to become emotionally involved in this scene; for Janice breathed new life into this old, familiar story, and I felt as if I were right there on the battlefield with David. <chills>

David and Michal ~Virginio Grana ~ Wikimedia Commons

Another interesting piece of this story is that of Michal, the daughter of the paranoid King Saul. Michal often gets a bad rap in history and Ms. Broyles opens our eyes to the young woman who, like so many females of her time, was just another pawn in a very dangerous political game.

This is a story of a warrior, fueled by the love for a woman beyond his reach, driven by a desire to be someone great, and anointed by God who saw him as something more than he was.

The Secret Heir follows the life of David of Bethlehem from shepherd to warrior. I look forward to the release of Janice’s next book in this series, tentatively called The Runaway Heir.

Janice Broyles, Ed.D is an author and instructor at Livingstone College. She is a Michigan transplant currently living in North Caroline with her husband and two children. Learn more about Janice and her books at her website:

www.janicebroyles.com

Or, connect with her on Facebook at Janice Broyles, Author or on Twitter at @JaniceBroyles1

The Secret Heir can be purchased at Barnes&Noble or Amazon.