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Posts Tagged ‘historical’

scoundrels-kissScoundrel’s Kiss

Carrie Lofty

Kensington Publishing – January 5, 2010

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Scoundrels-Kiss-Carrie-Lofty/dp/1420104764

Author site: http://www.carrielofty.com

 

When I read the synopsis for Carrie Lofty’s ‘Scoundrel’s Kiss’ and saw that the story was set in the year 1201 I questioned whether I was the right reviewer for the book. I have long been a fan of the Historical Romance genre, but since this was a completely new time period for me, I’ll admit to being afraid I’d have to wade through pages of unfamiliar dialects and customs, hence detracting from my enjoyment of the story. I needn’t have worried. From its opening scenes I was completely swept away by this 13th Century tale of addiction and deception, of love and abuse.

In a life she can barely remember, beautiful and intelligent Ada worked as a foreign languages translator for noblewoman, Dona Valdedrona. Due to a case of mistaken identity, she was kidnapped and tortured. She turned to opium as a means of coping with the horrors she endured and the nightmares that would seemingly plague her for the rest of her life. Her need for the drug soon consumed her, and there was nothing she wouldn’t do to satisfy her addiction. In her new life, she lies and steals to obtain what she cannot beg or borrow.

Gavriel, a novice monk in the prestigious Order of Santiago, hides within the hallowed halls of a monastery in Ucles to try and escape some nightmares of his own. A former slave warrior, he took vows of chastity and nonviolence in the hope of atoning for the sins of his past. Healing Ada of her addiction remains his final test before he can become a full-fledged member of the order. What is at first merely a mutual temptation of the flesh soon becomes a battle of wills, but the pair discovers they must unite if they are to survive danger that lurks in unexpected places and defeat enemies neither knew they had.

Reading this extremely well plotted novel was much like watching a really great action adventure movie. Ada and Gavriel find themselves in danger from their first encounter, and things go from bad to worse for them as the story progresses, leaving the reader on the edge of her seat. Add to that elements of betrayal and deception, a few well placed love scenes, and political intrigue and you have a genuine nail-biting, can’t-put-downable reading experience. 

Though the characters are well drawn, I’ll admit it took me awhile to warm up to Ada. Headstrong and tough as nails, she seemed overly nasty at first. But as I journeyed deeper into her past I was able to understand her flaws better and I so loved watching her evolve into the character she became in the end. The equally flawed Gavriel, with his endearing blend of strength and self-doubt, came alive for me from the start. He is one of the hottest heroes I’ve come across in quite some time and I must admit Ada’s was not the only heart he captured! The story is populated with a cast of secondary characters that are no less lifelike than the hero and heroine, and the reader gets a sense of real people with very real struggles and triumphs.

In short, Carrie Lofty has created a dynamite story with interesting, likeable characters and a richly layered plot. By turns scorchingly sexy and tantalizingly tender, Scoundrel’s Kiss not only sizzles, it sparkles.

Honeybee

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the-climbing-boyThe Climbing Boy

By Mark Lichterman

Metropolis Ink (c) 2003

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Climbing-Boy-Mark-Lichterman/dp/0958054363

 

After reading the synopsis for Mark Lichterman’s THE CLIMBING BOY, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I felt pretty certain the story would educate me on the dreadful working conditions of young orphan children sold into apprenticeship in the 1800s, but what I didn’t know was the depth of feelings this enchanting little story would evoke in me. At just 180 pages, THE CLIMBING BOY is a short novel that is anything but short on plot.

Orphaned at the age of four, Zachariah is sold into apprenticeship to a chimney sweep for the cost of back rent owed on his late mother’s flat: a sum of one pound. Thus begins his life as a climbing boy. The life of a climbing boy is grueling and perilous, not only in the immediate dangers of being suspended by a rope harness and lifted down into zigzagging, sometimes stories-high chimneys, but also in the long term ill effects of breathing in soot and chimney dust on a daily basis. Add to that Zachariah’s master’s cruelty and you will find a boy’s life that is much more an existence than a childhood. Even so, eight-going-on-nine-year-old Zachariah maintains a positive outlook on life and a sweet disposition that makes him a favorite with many of his customers.

Set in London, England in 1843, the bulk of the story takes place in the span of just one day — December 24, the day before Christmas. The tale begins with Zachariah awakening from a beautiful dream of his deceased mother’s love to enter into the reality of his now bleak and loveless existence. Throughout the day, the reader follows Zachariah and his master, Johnson, as they go about their work. Turning the pages, the reader feels a full spectrum of emotions (the terror of being suspended in a chimney that sways precariously in the wind, the heartbreak of a child being denied a gift he really wanted, and the joy of a stranger’s kindness to name but a few) as the story builds to a delightful, fairy tale ending.

I found myself drawn deeper and deeper into the life and heart of this wonderful character until he truly felt like someone I knew and loved. The cruel Johnson is equally well drawn, and though I hated him at times, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him in the end. That’s how talented a storyteller Mark Lichterman is. His poignant fictional details blend with the hard truths of what, sadly, was reality for many children of that era, to create a beautiful story that, while being educational, is also sweeping and unforgettable. I highly recommend this heartwarming tale to anyone who enjoys seeing the good guy win. I know I certainly did.

–Honeybee

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edge-of-winterThe Edge of Winter

By Luanne Rice

Bantam Books (c) 2007

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Edge-Winter-Luanne-Rice/dp/055358765X

 

For my family, the third week in July is Lake Week. Every year I look forward to this seven-day hiatus from my real life; a week of beach, bonding with family, and of course, books. On the day before we left, I searched through my TBR pile for the perfect beach read, thinking something sunny and glamorous and oh so romantic would be just the thing. I don’t know what made me grab Luanne Rice’s The Edge of Winter. Set in a small Rhode Island community in late February, the book hardly seemed to fit the bill. But after skimming the first two pages I found myself at the point of no return, and so I packed the book into my beach bag, along with my sunglasses and my jumbo-sized coffee cup. I’m so glad I did. Filled with complex relationships, The Edge of Winter is a heartwarming story of hope, redemption, and second chances.  

For fifteen-year-old Mickey Halloran, it has been a winter of changes as she and her mother, Neve, rebuild their lives in the wake of a painful divorce from the father who seems to have forgotten her. As if being abandoned by her father wasn’t bad enough, Mickey and her best friend, Jenna, seem to be growing apart. As they brave the elements and ride to a secluded cove in a state park one frozen February morning in the hope of spotting a rare snowy owl, Mickey senses their childhood love of bird watching is something Jenna might be outgrowing. Leaving the park, Mickey is injured when her bicycle skids on a patch of ice. She is aided by Shane West, a reclusive surfer boy she knows from school, and park ranger, Tim O’Casey. When Neve shows up at the emergency room, Mickey learns that a warrant has been issued for her father’s arrest for nonpayment of child support. Mickey struggles to work through her feelings of betrayal. When it seems things can’t get much worse, her beloved snowy owl is injured and Neve, Tim, Shane and Mickey, along with Tim’s elderly father, Joe, WWII veteran and bird rehab specialist, must all pull together to save the owl. Thus begins an emotional journey that explores the relationships between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, best friends, and lovers of all ages.

Though painted on the canvas of a stark winter beach, the setting is utterly beautiful, sprinkled with wildlife, glittering waves, and the first hints of spring. The characters are well drawn and likeable, and the plot is multilayered and symbolic. The owl’s damaged wing seems to represent the faltering relationship between Tim and Joe, while a mysterious WWII U-boat that lies beneath the cold, still water represents the deep secrets of the past. The author skillfully weaves all of the story elements together to an ending that is both satisfying and memorable.

I found The Edge of Winter to be a most heartwarming and compelling read, and I’m anxious to check out many more titles by this talented author.

— Honeybee

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the-last-sin-eaterThe Last Sin Eater

By Francine Rivers

Paperback, 1999

Tyndale House

ISBN-10: 0 8423 3571 4

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Sin-Eater-Francine-Rivers/dp/0842335714

Allegory, Appalachia and Advocates: I’ll use these three words to describe this unique novel. I bought this book a year ago after reading other books by Francine Rivers. I had no idea what the book was about and to be honest, it’s not the type of title that normally appeals to me, but since her other books were so good, I bought it. I guess I must have read the first chapter or two because I found a bookmark placed between pages 20 and 21. I can’t remember why I set it aside originally, but I’m glad I decided to give it another try this week. The book starts off kind of slow and it took me a couple of chapters to get used to the mountain dialect, but it quickly grew on me and the book became enjoyable to read. The premise of the story fascinated me and I feel I got to know the characters right away. I was easily drawn into their lives. The author keeps interest high by hinting of things to come and leaving questions unanswered for a time then returning to them in later chapters.  Events and ideas are masterfully woven together and as an added bonus – – – I loved the ending!!!

Set in the mountains in the 1800’s Cadi Forbes narrates the story of her ancestors and an ancient burial practice involving a sin eater. According to the author’s note “The sin eater was a person who was paid a fee or given food to take upon himself the moral trespasses of the deceased and their consequences in the afterlife. Sin eaters were common in the early nineteenth century in England, the Lowlands of Scotland, and the Welsh border district. This custom was carried over by immigrants to the Americas and practiced in remote areas of the Appalachian Mountains.” Chosen by lot the sin eater in this story became an outcast who lived apart from all others high in a mountain cave and only entered the community at the time of death. Children and adults were cautioned never to speak of him and never, ever dare peek at him during a burial service, for doing so, it was feared, would bring curses down on them. This fictional account tells the story of the last sin eater to be appointed deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Strong, stubborn, Cadi Forbes has done something she thinks only the sin eater can help her with. She has lost a sister and her mother’s love, and after the passing of her dear granny she just can’t rest until she finds this man. Her journey is one of discovery, intrigue, and redemption, as she seeks the truth that turns her isolated community inside out.

Although normally only summoned in times of death, Cadi is determined to seek the sin eater out in life to beg him to take away the guilt for what she has done. Who is this sin eater? Does he help the dead? Can he help the living?

In the midst of the wondering and worrying about the sin eater Cadi becomes soul mates with Fagan the son of the feared and self-proclaimed community leader, Brogan Kai.  To truly help Cadi, Fagan must come to terms with family secrets in a community where questions are unwelcome but truth finds a way to push up to the surface. It’s never easy to confront your own family or to hear of their hand in tragic events. Will Fagan stand for truth even if it means going against his kin? This is a book filled with suspense and a book filled with hope. Readers are reminded that freedom can stand stronger than oppression, fear, and guilt. Readers soon realize that Fagan has his own secrets and his own reasons for seeking the sin eater. The two children work together with the help of an elderly neighbor and a local outcast to try and find answers. As they are seeking this sin eater, they learn that a “Man of God” has come to the area? Just as they have their own reasons for meeting the sin eater they are both curious to find out what this man of God has to say. Does he speak the truth? Will what he says be accepted by the people and what will happen if they won’t listen? Will a child lead the way? And . . . if tradition is broken what will become of the man they call the sin eater? I won’t answer these questions nor tell too much more of the plot because it unfolds as it goes and I’d hate to spoil it for anyone.

If you like a book full of rich descriptions and wonderful characters this is a book for you. These characters have depth and personality. You will grieve with them, pity them, fear for them, and rejoice with them. There are many characters to like in this book. There are plenty to dislike as well. Even the unlikeable characters are well portrayed and well defined by the author.  Themes in this book include mistakes and forgiveness, standing up for what’s right and going against the establishment, folklore and truth. The story is compelling and will make some readers stop and think about truth, traditions and why we do what we do when we do it. I was pleased to see that Rivers addresses the Appalachian culture with honesty and care. She does a great job presenting the tribal character of a mountain culture and easily moves the reader from feeling pity for these people to really relating to the emotions and frustrations they face due to tradition, isolation and a lack of options. Although the notion of the sin eater was new to me, the ultimate redemption presented is a familiar truth. I enjoyed my time with Cadi and Fagan and found myself cheering them on in more than one chapter.

This is a Christian novel that can also be classified as historical fiction. The biblical references are accurate and well placed. The historical aspect was well researched and respectfully presented. The biblical references are so entwined in the story that they don’t come off as preachy or forced. I believe even readers who don’t normally read Christian literature would enjoy this compelling story. The book contains adventure, danger and coming of age of the two younger characters. The characters are presented in a realistic way and placed in a captivating setting that fits the time period and honestly portrays the traditions of the mountain people.

I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the mountain flowers, herbs and plants. It was interesting to be exposed to some of the truths, traditions, fears and beliefs of the mountain people. Although this book doesn’t take long to read, it is suspenseful, heartwarming, and well written. I recommend it for all readers. It would be a good choice for a family read aloud or a book club selection.

–Pearl

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