(Review) A Sword Among Ravens, The Long-Hair Saga Book 3 by Cynthia Ripley Miller

Publisher and Publication Date: BookLocker. December 9, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Mystery. Romance.
Pages: 267.
Format: Pdf copy.
Source: I received a complimentary pdf copy from The Coffee Pot Book Club. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction.
Rating: Very good.

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Link @ Amazon/CA
Link @ Amazon/AU
Link @ Barnes and Noble
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About the Author:

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages, and books. She has lived in Europe and traveled world-wide, holds two degrees, and taught history and English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com, and The Scriptor. She is a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist with awards from Circle of Books-Rings of Honor and The Coffee Pot Book Club. She has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website, www.cynthiaripleymiller.com

Cynthia is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, and A Sword Among Ravens, books 1-3 in her Long-Hair Saga series set in Late Ancient Rome, France, and Jerusalem. Cynthia lives outside of Chicago with her family, along with a cute but bossy cat.

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Summary:

In a grave, on the edge of a Roman battlefield, an ancient sword has been discovered. Legend claims it belonged to King David of Israel and carries a curse—those who wield it will tragically die—but not the chosen. AD 455. Arria Felix and her husband, Garic the Frank, have safely delivered a sacred relic to Emperor Marcian in Constantinople. But now, Arria and Garic will accept a new mission. The emperor has asked them to carry the sword of King David of Israel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where Arria will dedicate it in her murdered father’s memory. As Arria and Garic travel into the heart of the Holy Land, they face many challenges and dangers. Their young daughter is missing then found in the company of a strange and suspicious old monk. A brutal killer stalks their path. And a band of cold-blooded thieves is determined to steal the sword for their own gains. But when Arria confronts the question of where the sword should truly rest—old friendships, loyalties, and her duty are put to the test like never before. At every turn, Arria and Garic find themselves caught in a treacherous mission wrapped in mystery, murder, and A Sword Among Ravens.

My Thoughts:

I felt drawn to read this book because I am a Christian and enjoy reading early Christian history. I also enjoy reading stories about the Roman Empire. The time period for this story is the late period of the Roman Empire (27 B.C. to 476 A.D.) It is the early part of the Byzantine Empire (330 A.D. to 1453 A.D.)

Several things I love about this story:
1. “The Author’s Note” shares helpful information about Roman names for the months and days; and background information of the “Places” and “Points of Interest.” I love the websites that are included to read further history. I believe it is important for an author to share at least a little about what they’ve learned during the process of writing a book. Miller has shared in brief her research.
2. The female lead character is Arria. She is an intelligent, wise, and capable person. She is respected and admired by all except one family member. Arria is a character who I admire because she already has positive traits, but she continues to develop as a strong person and leader.
3. The object of every character’s interest is the sword of David. Some characters are out for their own agenda. Arria genuinely cares about doing the right thing. She and Garic make a commitment to the emperor. Their mission sets in motion a busy story with other characters who come in to play. I love the form and direction of the story. I love the plot. I love the conflicts in the story. The conflicts are both internal and external. I love the mystery of the sword.
4. The violence is graphic. This is a violent culture. Roman soldiers and the Huns were barbaric in their fighting and torture. It is important to depict the reality of the time period. I believe Miller has achieved this.
5. I enjoyed reading about the descriptions of historical places.

What is passable in the story is the romance of two couples. I’m not moved by either pair. I like to read about tender affection in a loving couple. Affection is not necessarily sex. Sex is one form of affection but there are other forms.

What I didn’t like about this story:
1. When “He” or Nemesis is suddenly introduced I felt completely lost. Who is this person? Why does he matter in the story? Is he actually another character but going by a different name? It took a while but his purpose is revealed.

Themes in the story: courage, death and dying, revenge, love, honor, marriage, ambition, and loyalty.


(Review) The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet, The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet Book #1 by Katherine Cowley

Publisher and Publication Date: Tule Publishing. April 22, 2021.
Genre: Austenesque. Regency Period. Pride and Prejudice-Bennet family. Mystery.
Pages: 338.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from the author. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of Jane Austen stories.
Rating: Excellent.

To pre-order the book: April 22, 2021 @ Amazon

About the Author:

Katherine Cowley is a mystery author and a writing teacher. Her first novel is a Jane Austen-inspired Regency mystery. Katherine Cowley read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when she was ten years old, and she loved it so much that she reread it a few months later. She loves history, chocolate, traveling, and playing the piano. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband and three daughters. A number of her short stories have been published, and she teaches writing at Western Michigan University.

Katherine is represented by Stephany Evans of Ayesha Pande Literary.

Goodreads/Website/Facebook/Twitter

Summary:

Mary Bennet is the middle sister in the Bennet family. Her older sisters are Jane and Elizabeth. Her younger sisters are Kitty and Lydia.
The Secret Life of Miss Bennet resumes with the Bennet family less than a year since Jane’s marriage to Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth is married to Mr. Darcy. Lydia is married to Mr. Wickham. Lydia is the first of the Bennet sisters who married.
Mr. Bennet, the patriarch of the Bennet family has died. The story begins with the planning of his funeral. Mr. Collins the male relative of Mr. Bennet has already moved into the Bennet family home.
The family is in a whirlwind of activity. They are planning the funeral. Mr. Collins is moving into the home and making changes. The unmarried daughters are left with possibly their only choice: to live with unknown relatives. Mrs. Bennet is going to live with her sister.
Mary is offered a chance for a different life. But, who is the woman behind the kind opportunity?

My Thoughts:

In Pride and Prejudice, Mary is a serious, somber, pianoforte playing young woman. Her appearances in the story is minimal. She is easy to ignore. The older Bennet sisters are close. The younger Bennet sisters are close. Mary is closed-off in the middle. However, Mary is a bare-bone character who Katherine Cowley can breathe a fresh life.

Several reasons why I love this story:

1. The Bennet sisters and their mother are portrayed true to form in the personalities set forth in Pride and Prejudice.
2. I love the focus on Mary. Other characters do not distract my attention from her.
3. Mary has a depth of character that is continuing to be revealed. Even by the end of the book, there is much more to be discovered about her abilities, talents, and character.
4. Mary is an imperfect person. At times, I am embarrassed for her brash mannerisms. Nevertheless, she is a person who is unpretentious. She is honest and direct. She does not allow emotions to overtake logic. To me, Mary is a breath of fresh air.
5. The mystery in The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet is a surprise twist. Mary who seems uncomfortable in her own skin. Mary who seems to have low self-confidence. She shows an understated part of her character that is innovative for serious tasks and to help solve a mystery.
6. At the end of the story, I didn’t want it to end. I thought, “wait a minute, I want to know more-more about Mary Bennet’s continuing story.” I am so glad for books two and three in the future!

Themes:

Family honor, sacrifice, loyalty, honesty, courage, death, grieving, compassion, self-worth, perseverance, and education.

(Review) The Canterbury Murders: A Stanton and Barling Mystery, Book 3 by E. M. Powell

Publisher and Publication Date: Crosshaven Press. November 12, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 318.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from Crosshaven Press. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of the Middle Ages in England. Readers who love murder mysteries.
Rating: Very good to good.

To read information about the history of the 12th Century in England: The History of England.

From The Guardian, a display at the British Museum.

Landing page for the book tour: The Canterbury Murders.

Link at Amazon .
If you are in the program, the Kindle Unlimited is free.

Link at Audible.

About the Author:

E.M. Powell’s historical thriller and medieval mystery Fifth Knight and Stanton & Barling novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers.

The third Stanton & Barling mystery, THE CANTERBURY MURDERS, will be released in November 2020.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

E.M. Powell is represented by Josh Getzler at HG Literary.

Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Summary:

A fire-ravaged cathedral. An ungodly murder.

Easter, 1177. Canterbury Cathedral, home to the tomb of martyr Saint Thomas Becket, bears the wounds of a terrible fire. Benedict, prior of the great church, leads its rebuilding. But horror interrupts the work. One of the stonemasons is found viciously murdered, the dead man’s face disfigured by a shocking wound.

When King’s clerk Aelred Barling and his assistant, Hugo Stanton, arrive on pilgrimage to the tomb, the prior orders them to investigate the unholy crime.

But the killer soon claims another victim–and another. As turmoil embroils the congregation, the pair of sleuths face urgent pressure to find a connection between the killings.

With panic on the rise, can Barling and Stanton catch the culprit before evil prevails again—and stop it before it comes for them?

THE CANTERBURY MURDERS is the third book in E.M. Powell’s Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. Combining intricate plots, shocking twists and a winning–if unlikely–pair of investigators, this series is perfect for fans of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael or C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake.

My Thoughts:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, was murdered at the altar of Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170. He was slain by four knights who had heard Henry II state, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest.” Saint Becket was considered a martyr and canonized in 1173. The tomb where Saint Becket was buried became a shrine. Pilgrims visited the burial site. Relics were removed and taken.

In The Canterbury Murders, the Canterbury Cathedral where Saint Becket was murdered and lay entombed is the setting for another gruesome murder in 1177. A stonemason who had been working on the fire ruined cathedral lay slain. The stonemason has a pregnant wife who also works on the cathedral mixing mortar.

Aelred Barling, the king’s clerk and his assistant, Hugo Stanton, had worked on another murder case together at Yorkshire. The two men usually spend their days reading legal paperwork and delivering documents. The two men go on pilgrimage to Saint Becket’s tomb, and they work together to solve the new murder case.

All of I have mentioned in the above paragraphs under My Thoughts is the first reasons why I enjoyed this story. The time period, setting, historical background, Barling and Stanton, and the murder to solve. However, the middle of the story seemed to trudge along for a while. The ending held surprises and my interest.

The Canterbury Murders is a story that piqued my interest to read about Thomas Becket and 12th century England. I am a fan of books on the Middle Ages. I’ve read several books both fiction and nonfiction in this time period. I have not read a book about Thomas Becket.

This book is number three in the series, but it’s a solid stand-alone story.

I love the background stories in the book. For example, Stanton’s romantic entanglement with an infamous woman.

Themes in the story: betrayal, death, courage, revenge, love, murder, abuse, and the occult.

Giveaway:

Enter to win a paperback copy of The Canterbury Murders by E.M. Powell! Two copies are up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Direct link to the giveaway.

(Review) The Gentleman and the Thief, The Dread Penny Society Book 2 by Sarah M. Eden

Publisher and Publication Date: Shadow Mountain Publishing. November 3, 2020.
Genre: Historical romance. Inspirational fiction. Victorian era. Mystery.
Pages: 368.
Source: I received a complimentary ARC paperback from the author and publisher. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of clean Victorian romance stories.
Rating: Excellent.

The Dread Penny Society series is 3 books. However, The Gentleman and the Thief is also a standalone story.
Book one in the series: The Lady and the Highwayman.

Book three in the series: The Merchant and the Rogue.

Link for the book at Amazon: The Gentleman and the Thief.
Link at Audible: The Gentleman and the Thief.
Link for the book at Barnes and Noble: The Gentleman and the Thief.

Link at Goodreads: The Gentleman and the Thief.

Author Info:
Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today best-selling author of witty and charming
historical romances, including 2019’s Foreword Reviews INDIE Awards Gold
Winner for Romance, The Lady and the Highwayman, and 2020 Holt Medallion finalist, Healing Hearts. She is a two-time “Best of State” Gold Medal winner for fiction and a three-time Whitney Award winner. Combining her obsession with history and her affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting deep characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library.
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Summary:
A standalone novel in The Dread Penny Society set in 1865 London
brimming with secrets, scandal, suspense, and romance.

From the moment Hollis Darby meets Ana Newport, he’s smitten. Even though he’s from a wealthy, established family and she isn’t, he wishes he could have a life with her by his side. But Hollis has a secret: the deep coffers that have kept his family afloat for generations are bare, so he supports himself by writing penny dreadfuls under a pseudonym. If not for the income from his novels, he would be broke.
Ana Newport also has a secret. Though she once had a place in society thanks to her father’s successful business, bankruptcy and scandal reduced his fortune to nothing more than a crumbling town house. So Ana teaches music during the day, and at night she assumes the identity of the “Phantom Fox.” She breaks into the homes of the wealthy to reclaim trinkets and treasures she feels were unjustly stolen from her family when they were struggling.
When Hollis’s brother needs to hire a music tutor for his daughter, Hollis
recommends Ana, giving him a chance to spend time with her. Ana needs the income and is eager for the opportunity to get to know the enigmatic gentleman. What neither of them expects is how difficult it will be to keep their respective secrets from each other.
When a spree of robberies rocks the city, Ana and Hollis join forces to solve the crimes, discovering that working together deepens the affection between them. After all, who better to save the day than a gentleman and a thief?

My Thoughts:
The setting is London, England. Victorian period-mid 1800s.

What I love most about the story is the additional Penny Dreadful stories (alternating in sections). There are 2 included inside the main story of The Gentleman and the Thief. Light gray pages set these additional stories apart from the main story that is white pages. The gray color helped me to differentiate. These 2 stories are A Ghost of a Chance by Lafayette Jones and The Gentleman and the Thief by Mr. King. These 2 stories are never more than 11 pages a piece (at a time). These 2 stories are entertaining, fun; and it felt like finding an extra Christmas gift under the tree.

In the main story, Ana Newport is a young woman with a sad past she has not managed to forgive. Her feelings and actions make her imperfect. I love imperfect characters like Ana because she is a likable person but is also imperfect and flawed. She needs help. She needs a solid trustworthy friend.

Hollis Darby is an admirable person. Ana is attracted to his compassion and kindness and so am I. Females love tenderness and he is strong in this trait. He is also hiding a secret which makes him imperfect, real, and believable.
I love the chemistry between Ana and Hollis. It is sweet, tender, and enchanting.

I love old sayings and expressions. The Gentleman and the Thief often includes them in the dialogue. For example, “I’ve a bee to tuck up your bonnet.” Page 122.

Over-all, a wonderful story I love!

(Review) A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden

Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow/an imprint of HarperCollins. December 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. Mystery. Detective. Fine art. Victorian.
Pages: 416.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from William Morrow, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers who love detective/mystery stories.
Rating: Very good.

A Trace of Deceit is book 2 in the series. Book 1 is A Dangerous Duet.

Amazon link

Barnes and Noble link

Link for the tour page: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About the Author:
Karen Odden received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays and chapters to books and journals, including Studies in the Novel, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and Victorian Crime, Madness, and Sensation; she has written introductions for Barnes and Noble editions of books by Dickens and Trollope; and she edited for the academic journal Victorian Literature and Culture. She freely admits she might be more at home in nineteenth-century London than today, especially when she tries to do anything complicated on her iPhone. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and won the New Mexico-Arizona 2016 Book Award for e-Book Fiction. Her second novel, A Dangerous Duet, about a young pianist who stumbles on a notorious crime ring while playing in a Soho music hall in 1870s London, won the New Mexico-Arizona 2019 Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. A Trace of Deceit is her third novel. She resides in Arizona with her family and a ridiculously cute beagle named Rosy.
Website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Pinterest/ BookBub/ Goodreads

Praise:
“Odden’s third effort injects a refreshing level of complexity, both in character development and plotting, into what one typically expects to find in historical cozies. This will appeal to fans of Victorian mysteries, as well as those interested in art history.” –Booklist (starred review)

“Odden keenly evokes the physical as well as cultural milieu of Victorian England, and peoples her setting with fully realized and intriguing characters. This book will delight readers who like their mysteries cloaked in well-researched history.” –Publishers Weekly

“…this thrilling, action-packed story [is] an absolute delight to read.” –Historical Novel Society

“Odden’s literary brushstrokes vividly portray the misogyny and gender bias experienced by women in Victorian society, especially a woman battling to exercise her artistic talent. ” –Washington Independent Review of Books

“Fans of Anne Perry, Deanna Rayborn, and Tasha Alexander will root for Karen Odden’s newest heroine, Annabel Rowe—aspiring painter and now amateur sleuth—investigating the murder of her art forger brother. The novel’s a delightful mix of mystery, history, and romance, served with a delicious helping of lush period detail, while chemistry between Annabel and the investigating Scotland Yard detective add spice to the adventure.” –Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series

“A darkly thrilling story filled with suspense and secrets, a courageous heroine, an edgy climax, and an atmospheric setting that perfectly captures the underbelly of London’s art world in the Victorian era. A Trace of Deceit is an absolute winner!” –Stefanie Pintoff, Edgar Award winning author

Summary:
From the author of A Dangerous Duet comes the next book in her Victorian mystery series, this time following a daring female painter and the Scotland Yard detective who is investigating her brother’s suspicious death.

A young painter digs beneath the veneer of Victorian London’s art world to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder…

Edwin is dead. That’s what Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard tells Annabel Rowe when she discovers him searching her brother’s flat for clues. While the news is shocking, Annabel can’t say it’s wholly unexpected, given Edwin’s past as a dissolute risk-taker and art forger, although he swore he’d reformed. After years spent blaming his reckless behavior for their parents’ deaths, Annabel is now faced with the question of who murdered him—because Edwin’s death was both violent and deliberate. A valuable French painting he’d been restoring for an auction house is missing from his studio: find the painting, find the murderer. But the owner of the artwork claims it was destroyed in a warehouse fire years ago.

As a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art and as Edwin’s closest relative, Annabel makes the case that she is crucial to Matthew’s investigation. But in their search for the painting, Matthew and Annabel trace a path of deceit and viciousness that reaches far beyond the elegant rooms of the auction house, into an underworld of politics, corruption, and secrets someone will kill to keep.

My Thoughts:
This is the first book I’ve read by Karen Odden. I’m hoping to read other books she’s written in the near future.

Several reason why I love this story!
~I became quickly apart of the story.
~Annabel Rowe is a painter. She has an artist vision. She describes her environment as an artist because she looks at color and shape through an artist’s discerning eyes.
~When Annabel is told about her brother’s death I felt her reaction believable. Her reaction is not over the top in hysterics. Her reaction is not without emotion. Annabel, in being true to her character and personality, shows a remarkable strength in hearing the news. In the days and weeks after his death, I saw her grieving as important. Grieving is hard work. Grieving takes physical and emotional strength. A great part of her character is in how she handled herself during this event. I consider Annabel a person of high character. She is an admirable person.
~I love the unique blend of this story: Victorian, fine art, mystery, detective, family saga, and romance.
~The romance is gentle and real. I love how the couple grew close as partners and friends.

There is a sad memory that is reflected on but is not developed for the larger part of this story. It is something that happened in the past. I am glad people can read about this character’s sad story of abuse and understand how it affects life. This particular type of abuse causes a soul wound.

Giveaway:
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away one paperback copy of A Trace of Deceit! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on October 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Direct link to the giveaway.