[Review and Excerpt] The Tacksman’s Daughter by Donna Scott

Publisher and Publication Date: Atlantic Publishing. The paperback was published January 10, 2022. The Kindle edition was published January 3, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 368.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers who have an interest in Scottish history.
Rating: Very good.

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

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

Donna Scott is an award-winning author of 17th and 18th century historical fiction. Before embarking on a writing career, she spent her time in the world of academia. She earned her BA in English from the University of Miami and her MS and EdD (ABD) from Florida International University. She has two sons and lives in sunny South Florida with her husband. Her first novel, Shame the Devil, received the first place Chaucer Award for historical fiction and a Best Book designation from Chanticleer International Book Reviews. Her newest novel, The London Monster, was released in November 2020. To learn about new releases and special offers, please sign up for Donna’s newsletter.

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Summary:

Scotland, 1692. To escape a brutal winter storm, King William’s regiments descend on the small village of Glencoe. Caitriona Cameron, the tacksman’s daughter, cannot forget her unpleasant encounter the last time English troops appeared. She senses the army’s arrival might not be as innocent as it seems, but her warnings go unheeded. Not even MacIain, the MacDonald clan chief, listens. After twelve days of billeting in the villagers’ homes, the soldiers attack, committing one of the greatest atrocities in Highland history.

Cait escapes the assault with the help of Sergeant Edward Gage who is accused of being a traitor for not taking up arms against the MacDonalds. Edward is hunted by his debauched half-brother, Alexander, who stands to lose everything if King William attaints their father for his treasonous past deeds. With bad blood between them, Alexander sets out to capture Edward to prove his loyalty and save himself from ruin.

Cait and Edward travel to Edinburgh to confront the men they suspect are behind the attack, unaware that Alexander is headed there as well. Although Cait is convinced the chief of Clan Campbell is responsible, Edward suspects something much more sinister—that the orders came from higher up, possibly even from the king himself.

As accusations of betrayal, deceit, and treason abound, they are all trapped in a web of intrigue and danger, but not everyone will escape.

Excerpt:

MEET EDWARD, the hero~
The snow found its way inside Edward’s collar and shirtsleeves. He pulled at his broad-brimmed hat, praying for some protection from the wind. His feet were wet and numb from having accidentally stepped in a shallow stream he’d thought was frozen over. He and the others had been marching for weeks now, since December, to meet the Earl of Argyll’s regiment in Inveraray. Sir John Dalrymple, the Master of Stair, had sent the orders, conveniently forgetting—or not caring—that it was the middle of winter and almost impossible to travel through the snow-covered passes. If Edward and his men didn’t perish from trying to navigate the dangerous Highland terrain, they’d die from the cold. Now with the regiments joined, Argyll’s men marched ahead, most of them Scottish and faring slightly better cocooned in green plaids with their blue wool bonnets protecting their ears from the wind’s frosty teeth. Edward tugged his hat lower, hoping to ease the icy burn on his forehead.
Alexander, his brother, marched farther up front, his shoulders hunched liked all the others, the wind forcing his head down, his chin to his chest. Even with the north and south sides of the glen framed by tall ridges, there was no respite from the freezing gusts. The only sounds were the howling wind and the crunch of their boots as they made their way through the snow.
After a while, Edward found it difficult to tell if the noises were real or if his mind had simply allowed their interminable rhythm to play in his head.
“Edward!” Alexander called to him with an urgent wave. It was an unnecessary gesture, for Edward could spot his brother in any crowd. It was like looking in a mirror. They were both a half a head taller than most men, their shoulders straight and broad, their hair long and dark. The only remarkable difference lay in their eyes—Alexander’s the colour of weak tea and Edward’s blue. Like his mother’s.
The regiment stopped. Edward edged by some soldiers to join his brother. “What is it?”
Alexander nudged his chin towards the brae. “It looks like Highlanders near Argyll’s troops. Could mean trouble.”
Edward scanned the sloping hillside down to the edge of the loch. There were men there, maybe twenty or so, but they didn’t appear to be armed. “They don’t seem as if they mean harm. I see no weapons.”
Alexander laughed without humour. “They are Highlanders. Each one of them has five blades hidden in his plaid.”
Edward blew into his hands, then rubbed them together. “A bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?”
“They are armed. Trust me. Come.”
They trudged through the snow to Argyll’s men and reached them just as Captain Campbell yelled, “Order your muskets! Order your pikes! Rest on your arms, men!”
One large Scot descended the hill first, the others trailing behind. Edward guessed he was in his early thirties and seemed to have the respect of his men. He was likely not the clan chief, but he displayed the confidence of a man in charge.
Alexander moved slightly, resting his hand on the hilt of his sword. He was always so distrustful, too quick to attack.
“Stay your hand, brother,” Edward urged under his breath.

Praise for the Book:

The Tacksman’s Daughter is a fascinating read, at the heart of which is a truly horrifying historical massacre. The author brings the times alive in vivid detail, skillfully (and often humorously) weaving in ancient Gaelic language. Readers will be riveted!”—KD Alden, author of A Mother’s Promise

“. . . it’s a gripping read, and the author has a real skill for keeping the reader turning pages.” –SS, Penguin RH

“[Scott] does an excellent job of transporting her reader back to the seventeenth century Highlands. The dialogue felt so authentic, and the characters and Scottish landscape really jumped off the page.” -KK, Simon and Schuster

My Thoughts:

One of my favorite settings in a story is Scotland. I’m also fond of Ireland, Wales, and England. The time period is another favorite because of the history of this time: the Jacobite group and the current ruling monarch in England. These are strong reasons for me to become swept up in the story.

Another reason I fell in love with the story is the character, Caitriona or Cait. She is both beautiful and wise. She has a hidden talent rare for a female and this gives her an interesting and enticing bonus.

The two brothers are Alexander and Edward. They are polar opposites which also create elements for the story. Plus, when there are characters who are so opposite in nature it causes each to become larger in the eyes of the reader. What I am saying is if the very bad and mean character were not so very bad and mean he would not make the very good character look so good. I hope that makes sense. It is like placing a diamond beside a piece of coal. The diamond seems to be more brilliant and beautiful beside that piece of coal rather than placed alone. It is the same with the two female characters. One of them is feisty and wise. The other is innocent and naive.

What did I learn or take away from the story?
A. That people see sometimes what they want to see in another person. Love often obscures vision.
B. Freedom and truth is worth fighting for.
C. When a person is deceptive, their behavior will eventually show who they really are as a person.

How do I wish the story had ended?
A. I wish the brother with the terrible qualities had changed his character to positive attributes.
B. I wish the lovemaking scenes held tenderness, gentleness, and patience. In this story there are two brothers with two very different ways of engaging in sex. I had hoped to find a more gentle and patient nature in one of the brothers. I’m not saying he is a brute, but I am tired of lovemaking scenes in stories being all about quick fiery passion. One of the best love scenes in a story I’ve read is in the book, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway understands that women don’t always want a quick fiery pop of sex.

Themes in the story: family honor, courage, deception, revenge, romance, survival, war, rebellion, beauty, greed, loyalty, jealousy, redemption, obsession, bravery, and betrayal.

(Review) To Crown a King by Raedene Jeanette Melin

To Crown a King
Publisher and Publication Date: Skjaldmaer Publishing. December 10, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 298.
Source: NetGalley ebook copy. I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers who enjoy reading about Scottish history.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon 
Kindle copy is $3.99

 

Raedene Jeannette Melin website
True facts about the main character, Christina.
Lady Christian Bruce or Christina was born in 1273 (other sites place her birth in 1278.) She was the daughter of the 6th Lord of Annandale, Robert Bruce. Her mother was the Countess of Carrick. The Bruce family were the Lord’s of Annandale. The castle and lands were located just north of the English border. She was the older sister of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. She was the 2nd of ten children. She was actively involved in the Wars of Independence. She was married three times and had four children. Christian died in 1357.
For more information: Undiscovered Scotland.
Wars of Independence, from Britannica.

Summary:
Scotland, 1295.
Edward I of England wants control of Scotland. A man named John Balliol wears the Scottish crown but not for long. Christina Bruce is a daughter of Robert Bruce. When the story begins he is in Norway with her older sister Isabel. Christina lives with her grandfather, also Robert Bruce. She’s betrothed to a man she doesn’t love. She avoids this arrangement. She is a woman of determination and rebellion. In an era when females were under the control of their fathers, Christina is not a woman who will obey.
Throughout the story, Christina seems to be in the right place at the right time to become involved with a strong historical figure involved in the Wars of Independence. For example, William Wallace. Without being said, she has a reputation as a wise person who can be counted on for planning and carrying out missions.

My Thoughts:
To Crown a King is my kind of historical fiction. I love Scottish history. I love this time period. And, to top it off, I read about an ancestral family member in the story. I’m not going to name him, because he made a history defining poor choice. I read somewhere else he later apologized.
Christina is a story hero I love. She has strength, maturity, boldness, wisdom, and insight. She’s an imperfect person and this makes her both enduring, likable, and believable. I do have a slight problem with her being in the right place at the right time so often. This seems staged. However, later in the story this “right place” ends.
I like the story, because it is a story that’s not been told until this book.
I like this story, because William Wallace is a character I enjoy reading. He is a likable fellow. He is shown not as a machismo type, but he’s shown as a thinking, observing, guileful warrior.
To Crown a King shows the Scottish noble families and who they aligned with; of course, sometimes they changed to another leader. This story told me people betray those thought to be trusted.
The story is in an era when the brutality of war and aggression is common. It’s also a time when vengeance and revenge is expected.
The Scottish people did not want their land to be controlled by the English king. They were ready to fight and lay down their lives for freedom. This is the number one theme.
The culture of women is shown. However, Christina is a remarkable character for this era.

 

Book Spotlight for The Fire of Winter by D. K. Marley

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Publisher and Publication Date: The White Rabbit Publishing. June 1, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 355.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the author, but was not required to leave a positive review/spotlight.
Audience: Readers who love Scotland history, medieval era, and the story of Macbeth.

This is not a review but a spotlight.

Amazon link. Free ebook if you have Kindle Unlimited.

The book tour runs July 22 to August 19, 2019 @ Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Direct link for the giveaway: https://gleam.io/competitions/2IeSS-the-fire-of-winter

Summary:
She is known as Lady Macbeth.
What leads her down the path of murder?
What secrets fire her destiny?
Gruah, granddaughter of King Cìnéad III of the Royal Clan Alpin, marries two men in less than six months, one she loves and one she hates; one in secret, the other arranged by the High King of Scotland. At the age of eighteen, she lays her palm upon the ancient stone of Scone and sees her destiny as Queen of Scotland, and she vows to do whatever necessary to see her true love, Macbeth macFindlaech, beside her on the throne.
Amid the fiery times and heated onslaughts from Denmark and England, as the rule of Scotland hangs in the balance, Gruah seeks to win the throne and bring revenge upon the monsters of her childhood, no matter the cost or amount of blood tainting her own hands; yet, an unexpected meeting with the King called the Confessor causes her to question her bloody path and doubt her once blazing pagan faith. Will she find redemption or has the blood of her past fire-branded her soul?
The story weaves the play by William Shakespeare with the actual history of Macbeth and his Queen in 11th-century Scotland.
“…a woman’s story at a winter’s fire…”
(Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV)

Praise:
“This beautifully written reworking of the Macbeth tale told from Lady Macbeth’s point-of-view flows from the page and you quickly become immersed in the politics and intrigues of feudal Scotland as she fights for her rightful place and her true love! A mesmerizing read that grips from start to finish and Gruah is now one of my all-time favorite literary crushes.” – Iain Leonard, ARC Reviewer
“Brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, The Fire of Winter is a tale not to be missed by lovers of Shakespeare, lovers of history, or lovers of the written word.” – Riana Everly, Author of Teaching Eliza and Through a Different Lens

Author:
D. K. Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an English Literature teacher, gave her a volume of Shakespeare’s plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel “Blood and Ink,” an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio. She is an avid Shakespearean / Marlowan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops and is a graduate of the intense training workshop “The Writer’s Retreat Workshop” founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes. She lives in Georgia with her husband and a Scottish Terriers named Maggie and Buster.
Links to the author: Goodreads. Twitter. Facebook. Pinterest.
03_DK Marley

(Review) The Lost Queen, Book One by Signe Pike

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Publisher and Publication Date: Touchstone. September 4, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 544.
Source: I received a complimentary advanced reader paperback copy from Touchstone, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Recommend. Good.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers who love Scottish history. Readers who love medieval history.

Amazon

Website for Signe Pike

Link for news about a television show based on this book: Deadline news.

signe pike

Her memoir Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World, was a “Best of 2010” Pick from Kirkus Reviews and received glowing reviews from Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Adventure Magazine, and renowned spiritual leader Marianne Williamson among others. Pike has been featured on WPR’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge” in an episode on enchantment along with Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, and A.S. Byatt.

She was born in Ithaca, New York and currently lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

Summary:
AD 550. Land of the Britons. Strathclyde, Scotland.
Languoreth, and her twin brother, Lailoken, are the children of a king. Their mother died. Their nursemaid is Crowan. Languoreth is strong-willed and independent. She wants to become a Wisdom Healer like her mother had been. Instead, she will someday marry a man of her father’s choosing and become a queen. Lailoken has a gift of reading signs from the gods. Languoreth can read Lailoken’s thoughts. They are handsome children. They have a close bond. When the story begins, Languoreth, and Lailoken are children destined for greatness.
The timeline of the story is AD 550 to 572.

My Thoughts:
Medieval history is one of my favorite periods to read about. I love historical fiction. These two combined loves led me to read this book.
I have several thoughts:
The Lost Queen has been compared to the Outlander series and Camelot. I disagree. Outlander is a different period in Scottish history and time travel is involved. Camelot is a larger than life story. It’s a famous story. A story with a bit of magic, and a lot of romance. I’ve not read The Mists of Avalon series (so I cannot compare.)
•Languoreth is the narrator or voice in the story. Her brother is a strong character, but it is her thoughts and words that is prominent.
•For most of The Lost Queen, it felt more like a young adult novel. Until the last quarter of the story, the main characters are young people who are headstrong and valiant. Plus, the story lacked a maturity (probably because of the ages of the twins.)
•Languoreth is in love with a young man whom she’s spent only a brief time with. For me, chemistry and lust is something you feel immediate. Love takes time to grow. Also, love over the years takes dips and turns, it develops roots, and it may or may not look anything like the love that was there at the start.
The Lost Queen showed the practice and culture of people living in this time period. I enjoyed reading about the medicinal arts and mysticism.
•Despite how Languoreth feels, and despite her strong-willed nature, she obeys her father in marrying another man. I love characters who do the right thing despite how they “feel.” Feelings often lead people astray. Of course, I’m in my mid 50’s and I’m reflecting back on those feelings that led me astray. Doing the right thing requires courage, humility, and sacrifice. This gave Languoreth a maturity in the story. This was a sign she had blossomed and developed.
•The romantic element is strong but brief. Brief in that most of the romance is in her mind and heart. She remembered their stolen moments and wonders how he truly feels? She wondered if it was something of lasting value?
The Lost Queen covers at least half the life of Languoreth. I can’t imagine what a second novel will reveal? Possibly it will be the story of Lailoken. He is the basis for Myrddin or Merlin.
•I was not swept away in The Lost Queen; however, I was entertained. I recommend this novel and I’m enticed enough to read its sequel.

 

 

(Review) The Second Blast of the Trumpet, Book Two in the Knox Trilogy by Marie Macpherson

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Publisher and Publication Date: Knox Publishing. August 15, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: Ebook. 305 pages.
Source: Complimentary ebook copy from Marie Macpherson. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Very good.

5404227

About the author:
Hailing from the historic honest Town of Musselburgh, six miles from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, Marie Macpherson (née Gilroy) developed a love for literature and languages from an early age. Brought up on the site of the Battle of Pinkie and within sight of Fa’side Castle, she was haunted by tales and legends from the past. Though she has travelled widely, teaching languages and literature across Europe from Madrid to Moscow, she has never lost her passion for the rich history and culture of her native Scotland.​
For more information please visit Marie’s website. You can also connect with her on FacebookGoodreads, and Twitter.

Amazon

Summary:
“The Second Blast of the Trumpet” is the second book in the life of John Knox. John Knox was a zealous crusader for Reformation in Scotland. The time period is mid 1500s.
“The Second Blast of the Trumpet” is not a religious book. It is not spiritual in nature. It is not pro Protestant. It is a historical fiction piece about the man himself, John Knox.

My Thoughts:
•My favorite aspect of this story is I have a better understanding of Knox’s character. He had the gift of speech. He had a way of explaining the Bible in simple language for the common folk. He was a natural orator. He was passionate, strong-willed, pious, bold, dynamic, and vibrant. I also saw his weaknesses. I feel Knox has been portrayed as dimensional and real.
•I enjoyed reading about the complexity of the Bowes family. The relationship between Marjory Bowes and her mother was close. Marjory became the wife of Knox. One of my favorite lines from the book is, “Better to be an old man’s darling than a young man’s slave.”
•The committed love and passion between Knox and Marjory remained steadfast through the story. I loved their chemistry.
•Knox holds his own and has interesting conversations with people who do not share his views.
•”The Second Blast of the Trumpet” showed me the sights, sounds, and smells of this era. It is a descriptive story.
•The historical facts and people of this time were brought to life: King Edward of England, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Tudor, Bishop Gardner, John Calvin, and Mary of Guise.