Historical

Indiana Belle

Indiana Belle
Published: April 14, 2016
Author's Twitter: @johnheldt
Providence, Rhode Island, 2017. When doctoral student Cameron Coelho, 28, opens a package from Indiana, he finds more than private papers that will help him with his dissertation. He finds a photograph of a beautiful society editor murdered in 1925 and clues to a century-old mystery. Within days, he meets Geoffrey Bell, the "time-travel professor," and begins an unlikely journey through the Roaring Twenties. Filled with history, romance, and intrigue, INDIANA BELLE follows a lonely soul on the adventure of a lifetime as he searches for love and answers in the age of Prohibition, flappers, and jazz.

Approved 

Assessment:

The cover, with a simple sepia photograph of a woman from the era of the 1920s is effective and evocative. It sums up the story and the main character’s motivation without giving away the plot.

The story starts off a bit on the slow side, with a description of Cameron Coelho’s attraction to the woman in the photograph, and background information on his work on a PhD thesis about the social life in Middle America during the Roaring Twenties. The time travel aspect is introduced through his discovery in Candice Bell’s notes and diary (sold to him by her elderly niece) of references to a mysterious cave that holds the secret to time travel. It’s difficult to know which motivates him more, his attraction to Candice’s beauty or his fascination with the prospect of time travel being real. The author goes into more detail than absolutely necessary as Cameron takes action to find more information—details of him moving through a room, sitting, or taking a drink, don’t really add to the story.

This tendency to map out a character’s every move lessens significantly as Cameron meets the ‘time traveling’ expert, Geoffrey Bell, and travels from 2017 to 1925. A seemingly impossible task is set our hero; he knows that Candice will be murdered, and he is forbidden to try and prevent it because doing so might irreparably change the future, in particular the fact that Geoffrey Bell is the great-grandson of her cousin, who, distraught after her murder, wanders into a destitute part of town where he finds the woman he will marry, and who is Geoffrey’s great-grandmother.

From Cameron’s arrival in 1925, the story picks up the pace. The reader is introduced to all of the major supporting characters, including Tom, the black custodian at the newspaper where Candice worked as a social page reporter, who was wrongly accused of her murder and executed.

The story from the point that Cameron knows that he’s in love with Candice and that there are evil, corrupt men in the small Indiana town where she lives and works, is the strongest section of the book. The author skillfully plants clues and the tension mounts as he has to choose between fulfilling his commitment to Geoffrey Bell or saving innocents from death. While a few of the resolutions felt a bit contrived or were not explained to full satisfaction; such as how the town’s major drug dealer was finally caught and convicted, or what happened to the crooked lawyer who was Candice’s former fiancé, these are minor issues.

The author makes references to previous time travelers that Geoffrey Bell has sent into the past, including a father and son who traveled to Texas, which was the subject of an earlier novel. At one point, reference is made to ‘numerous’ travelers, but it’s never explained.

Finally, Cameron finds a way to avoid tempering with the timeline, things are set on the proper path, and the reader is treated to the news that Cameron is somehow related by blood to Geoffrey’s wife—but, this is also never explained in any detail.

The denouement is, except for the aforementioned unanswered questions, satisfactory. Justice prevails and true love overcomes insurmountable obstacles.

With the exception of the previously mentioned excessive detailed descriptions of character actions, and the few unanswered questions, this is a solidly plotted novel. Action (in a thematic sense) moves forward, characters encounter obstacles and overcome them, and this reader at least was left with the feeling that things worked out the way they should.

I give this book four stars.

The End of Time: A Fabulous Narrative

The End of Time: A Fabulous Narrative
Category:
Author:
Published: February 7, 2016
Volume I: From Waterloo to Meridian A funny time-travel adventure story about pirates, Vikings, an enormous squid, and the secret organization that can change history.   In this rather silly time-travel adventure, Dhlara and Jylling are two ordinary young people living in the modern day, until the Duke of Wellington, a 19th century British general with a fondness for shouting, steps into their lives. He transports (or abducts, depending on who you ask) them to the Ministries of Time, a secret group of organizations that exist at the edge of time which have control over absolutely everything that has ever happened. There, he gives them grave news: Napoleon Bonaparte has gone and ruined a perfectly good history of the world by traveling back in time with a monstrously huge squid that can walk on land. Through utilizing such a dastardly stratagem, Napoleon has won the Battle of Waterloo, and is building upon that victory to rule the entire world. Dhlara and Jylling, says the Duke of Wellington, must stop Napoleon to save all of history and time itself! But soon they meet Melvin the “previously embodied head,” as he prefers to call himself, and they discover that things will only get even more strange.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Misadventures of Martin Hathaway

The Misadventures of Martin Hathaway
Published: December 20, 2016
Author's Twitter: @KathrynCGlen
In this lighthearted adventure, hapless history teacher Martin Hathaway falls through Space and Time to land upon Airship Captain Daisy Fitzgerald McNamara’s coffee table and into the middle of an adventure larger than he could ever dream.   In the first installment of the Misadventures Trilogy, hapless history teacher Martin Hathaway falls through Space and Time to land upon Airship Captain Daisy Fitzgerald McNamara’s coffee table and into the middle of an adventure larger than he could ever dream. Martin Hathaway awakens to discover that he is the center of a battle between the Free People of the Lost Valley and the Clockwork Men of Anatamenwar. Together with the eccentric crew of the A.S. Nephthys, Martin must explore the world of Arnica to discover his origins and ultimate destiny, all while reminding himself not to fall in love with the beautiful but deadly Captain McNamara. His journey is a lighthearted, humorous romp through time-honored fantasy conventions, proving that nothing, drama included, should be taken too seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Child-Stealers – Book 1 of The Cursed Ground

The Child-Stealers – Book 1 of The Cursed Ground
Categories: ,
Author:
Published: January 20, 2015
Author's Twitter: @aroyking
A sudden, vicious attack by a band of raiders shatters the peace of the Till, an isolated agricultural community. But these marauders have carried off more than a few supplies and valuables. They’ve abducted a child, sister of a young man named Boon. To recover the lost child, Boon and a small force of loyal companions take leave of their simple village and march off into a vast, unknown forest in pursuit of the violent child-stealers. The Till has been at peace for generations, but now these farmers and tradesmen must track armed marauders through the wilderness, asking for help from distrustful strangers along the way. They know next to nothing about fighting or weapons, but somehow they must form a plan for confronting their enemies and wresting the stolen child away from them. The Cursed Ground historical-fantasy saga brings to life a long-gone era when humans lived for hundreds of years and all spoke the same language. This series tells the story of a group of defenders who struggle to protect their communities from the growing violence in the world around them. Meanwhile, a small brotherhood is charged with carrying an unpopular message to humankind: The Creator has declared that this violent world will soon come to an end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children of the Keeper – Book 2 of The Cursed Ground

Children of the Keeper
Categories: ,
Author:
Published: May 5, 2015
Author's Twitter: @aroyking
Temper and her brother, Victor, serve as captains on the Keeper’s Guard, the rough-and-tumble security squad that patrols the city ruled by her grandfather, the Keeper of Wit. Today just isn’t her day. As soon as she comes on duty, Temper chases a thief through the filthy alleys of the city, only to fall on her face in the mud as the criminal escapes. Then somebody pelts her with sheep’s dung at the marketplace. And on top of that, she has to confront a band of hecklers harassing a harmless troupe of entertainers in the city center. Maybe such struggles are to be expected among the unruly Borne, a rebellious race long ostracized from the rest of the human family. But darker conflicts are stirring in the city of Wit. Power-hungry conspirators are plotting to wrest the city away from the family of the Keeper, goaded on by his ancient enemy, the Plainspeaker. As if that weren’t enough, Temper and her fellow patrollers discover that outsiders from the enemy race of the Put have entered the city and are promoting their religion: The ancient fellowship known as Friends of the Becomer. And, surprisingly, some of the Borne are listening to these foreign fanatics. Temper is an expert at chasing criminals, at stick-fighting, and at breaking heads, but place too many conflicts in front of a hothead like her, and trouble is bound to erupt. The Cursed Ground historical-fantasy saga brings to life a long-gone era when humans lived for hundreds of years and all spoke the same language. This series tells the story of a group of defenders who struggle to protect their communities from the growing violence in the world around them. Meanwhile, a small brotherhood is charged with carrying an unpopular message to humankind: The Creator has declared that this violent world will soon come to an end.

 

 

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Cliff of the Ruin

Cliff of the Ruin
Categories: ,
Publisher:
Published: November 27, 2012
From post-Civil War New York to Ireland's emerald shores, a lawyer investigates a bizarre case linking an ancient legend to the woman he can't forget.   There are three good reasons why dashing Civil War hero and New York lawyer William Teague cannot tell artist Mae Kendrick he’s in love with her. One, she told him he was dull. Two, she is the niece of an important client. Three, she just hired him to find the man she doesn’t remember marrying. As Will unravels this peculiar case, he makes a shocking discovery about Mae’s childhood, one that shifts the investigation to the land of her birth–Ireland. But on the voyage overseas, circumstances become increasingly bizarre. Mae is taunted by ghost-like visions, and Will is pursued by a beautiful stranger who might be trying to kill him. When Mae suddenly vanishes, Will is forced to enter a thin place, an ancient monastic ruin leading to Ireland’s Celtic otherworld, in what becomes a race against time to find her. But are Will’s war-honed instincts any match for the alluring forces of Irish legend? Can he protect Mae from the apparitions of her past? And just how far beyond the breaking point can secret love be tested? A captivating tale of mystery and self-discovery, Cliff of the Ruin escorts the reader into a mythical world to explore the ever-hazy lines between romanticism and love, regret and repentance, wishful thinking and hope. “Carefully researched and steers well clear of tired stereotypes about the Emerald Isle.”–Historical Novels Review Bonnie McKernan was voted “Best Up and Coming Author” by Affaire de Coeur.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

February 26, 2014

5 Stars

Cliff of the Ruin by Bonnie McKernan is an awesome historical fantasy with complex undercurrents, spiritual depth and many surprises. It takes us from post revolution America, across the ocean to Ireland and into the lair of the Shee (the Sidhe). The story begins like a straight historical novel. Mae lives with her aunt and uncle, and their children, Aaron, a young man, and Charlotte, still a child. All of them are keen to find a husband for twenty six year old Mae, but after a broken engagement, she isn’t particularly interested in taking the risk of opening up again.

Until she meets the man on the riverbank.

Kieran the fisherman was so beautiful, that I suspected some other worldly intervention, but the full truth of what was to become a mystery around this man only became clear at the end. The influence of the Shee grew as the story progressed, and I found myself gradually drawn deeper and deeper into a world where spaces dwelled within spaces and time had a different meaning.

After a shocking revelation about her supposedly dead father, Mae disappears with Kieran for two weeks, then returns with a fever, a ring on her finger and no memory of how it got there. Clearly, Kieran is a scoundrel, and Will, a handsome lawyer friend of Mae’s uncle, is called in to help sort out the mess. Mae must become free of this husband, but the options for divorce for women in the nineteenth century were limited.

To reveal more of the story would do the potential reader a disservice, so I will only say that the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns, and the end provides a dramatic culmination of a rich story. The pacing is impeccable, and there is nothing extraneous yet everything we need to go deeply into the characters which are finely drawn and very real.

Mae, Will, Aaron and Finegal, the old man who befriends them on the ship, positively leap off the page. Each have their secrets, their flaws, and their ghosts from the past, and for Mae and Will in particular, their journey to find the scoundrel husband and force a divorce becomes one of personal reckoning and eventually healing.

Will in particular is an interesting character, his qualities of faith, strength and discipline are endearing, and his words to Mae about love underline the theme of the book.”A love that rests on beauty is meaningless.” He also says that though God is love, love is not God. A distinction that becomes clear in the actions of Petra, a Shee woman who wants to keep Kieran for herself.

The other major theme is that of forgiveness. It is clear from this story that bearing a grudge brings no happiness and rights no wrongs, and that no matter how much others forgive us, we are only forgiven when we forgive ourselves.

There are some lovely passages and snippets of wisdom in the book, like this one from Mae’s aunt when referring to issues in our life that we would rather forget, but need to deal with.

“No. Not forget. We never forget.” Aunt Gwendoline caressed her cheek. “To drain poison from the memory.”

And this lovely metaphor as a description of the state of grace that came over Will when he put his trust in God.

He didn’t need to search for the truth or even test it; it poured over him now and filled him like a dried up sponge becoming new again.

When I first read this wonderful book, I could not be as enthusiastic as I would have liked due to a lack of sophistication in some of the prose, particularly at the beginning. However, the author has earned my great respect by researching the private comments I gave her, and when she found them to be valid, studied the principals involved, then made the changes needed to turn a good book into a great one. I haven’t re-read the book, but she gave me a list of the changes she made and I now have no hesitation in awarding it 5 sparkly stars.

INCEPTIO

Inceptio
Publisher:
Published: March 1, 2013
Author's Twitter: @alison_morton
York, present day, alternate timeline. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe. Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, at a price, and a ready-made family in a strange culture she often struggles with. Just as she’s finding her feet, a shocking discovery about her new lover, special forces officer Conrad Tellus, isolates her. And the enforcer, Renschman, is stalking her in her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why this Renschman is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it… “Grips like a vice – a writer to watch out for.” – Adrian Magson author of the Harry Tate spy thrillers. “Breathtaking action, suspense, political intrigue… Inceptio is a tour de force!” – Russell Whitfield, author of Gladiatrix and Roma Victrix

Reviewed 

4 Stars

Inceptio by Alison Morton take place on an alternate earth where the political boundaries are different, and Europe boasts an extra country created by those who escaped the persecution of pagans when the Roman Empire became Christian. It’s a matriarchal society and the people speak Latin, but other than that it could be any small European country.

The story begins in the Eastern United States when Karen Brown finds herself in the sights of a man who wants to kill her. Why? She isn’t exactly sure, but it has something to do with her receiving an inheritance on her next birthday and some political concerns about her taking over the family business. She discovers that the freedom and safety she took for granted in the EUS is a lie and ends up being rescued by her mother’s family, who whisk her away to this little European country where she starts a new life. The killer finds a way to follow her and, despite repeatedly being foiled, like all the best bad guys, he just keeps on coming back.

The story is basically one of a woman who, after a close escape from a traumatic interaction with a killer, vows never to be a victim again, and she does what is required to make that a reality. Karen’s life goes through many different phases so much so that the second half of the book bears little resemblance to the first, but a common thread runs through it all, a tenacious killer and a love interest.

Apart from the killer, the characters are reasonably well-drawn, but Karen’s transformation from a helpless victim into a highly-skilled special ops cop who succeeds at everything she does is too quick to be entirely believable for this reviewer, and the story stretches believability in other ways as well: Why didn’t grandmother contact Karen earlier? Why didn’t the EUS try a more subtle approach with Karen to start with? The questions around the killer’s motives are answered at the end of the book, and had more depth been given to his personality throughout the story, we might have felt some sympathy for him and found his scenes more solid.

It’s an interesting story and reads well, despite the plot issues. If you’re looking for a story of self-empowerment, then you’ll likely enjoy it. I’d be interested to read the sequel.

And I love the cover.

It just scrapes into the 4 star bracket.