Guest Post: Lyndsay Faye – A Study in Seamstresses

lyndsayfaye-thefatalflameSome of my favourite historical crime novels of the past few years have been Lyndsay Faye’s Timothy Wilde books. Set in in late nineteenth-century New York City and featuring one of the first copper stars, who would later go on to become the NYPD, both Gods of Gotham and Seven for a Secret blew me away. Their protagonist, Timothy Wilde has captured my heart and I can’t wait to read his next adventure, The Fatal Flame. The book was published last month and I’m really stoked to have Lyndsay Faye visit the blog today and talk about seamstresses and their role in women’s struggle for equality and independence.  Read More …

Katherine Clements – The Silvered Heart

katherineclements-thesilveredheart1648: Civil war is devastating England. The privileged world of Katherine Ferrers is crumbling under Cromwell’s army and, as an orphaned heiress, she has no choice but to marry for the sake of family.

But as her marriage turns into a prison and her fortune is forfeit, Katherine becomes increasingly desperate. So when she meets a man who shows her a way out, she seizes the chance. It is dangerous and brutal, and she knows if they’re caught, there’s only one way it can end…

The mystery of Lady Katherine Ferrers, legendary highwaywoman, has captured the collective imagination of generations. Now, based on the real woman, the original ‘Wicked Lady’ is brought gloriously to life in this tale of infatuation, betrayal and survival.

After her wonderful debut novel The Crimson Ribbon, which focused on the Parliamentarian side of the English Civil War, Katherine Clements presents us with an account of those on the losing side with her second novel The Silvered Heart. Using the story of the legendary Wicked Lady as a frame, Clements tells the story of Lady Katherine Ferrers, a noblewoman who lost everything due to the Civil War and as a consequence was reputed to have turned to highway robbery. It makes for an exciting story, but one that delivers a surprisingly strong emotional punch as well.  Read More …

Author Query – Katherine Clements

katherineclements-thesilveredheartLast year Katherine Clements arrived on the scene as an exciting new voice in historical fiction. As I knew I wanted to include Katherine’s books in this year’s historical fiction month on the blog, I decided to go for a triptych. So this is the second of three Katherine Clements posts, after yesterday’s review of The Crimson Ribbon and before tomorrow’s review of The Silvered Heart. Katherine chooses to write in a fascinating era of British history, the Civil War, and I was very much looking forward to asking her more about that and about her research. She also shared a surprising tidbit about Kate’s silvered heart pendant in her latest book. Enjoy the interview and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for my review of The Silvered HeartRead More …

Katherine Clements – The Crimson Ribbon

katherineclements-thecrimsonribbonMay Day 1646. The Civil War is raging and what should be a rare moment of blessing for the town of Ely takes a brutal turn. Ruth Flowers is left with little choice but to flee the household of Oliver Cromwell, the only home she has ever known. On the road to London, Ruth sparks an uneasy alliance with a soldier, the battle-scarred and troubled Joseph. But when she reaches the city, it’s in the Poole household that she finds refuge.

Lizzie Poole, beautiful and charismatic, enthrals the vulnerable Ruth, who binds herself inextricably to Lizzie’s world. But in these troubled times, Ruth is haunted by fears of her past catching up with her. And as Lizzie’s radical ideas escalate, Ruth finds herself carried to the heart of the country’s conflict, to the trial of a king.

The English Civil War is an era of British history that I’ve only started to learn more than the bare bones about in the past few years. Reading The Bleeding Land and its sequel Brother’s Fury by Giles Kristian and some of Andrew Swanston’s Thomas Hill novels showed me that these decades in the middle of the seventeenth century were pivotal in Britain’s history and created massive changes to British society and left deep scars on its populace. It’s a fascinating era and Katherine Clements’ debut novel The Crimson Ribbon, set in perhaps some of the most dramatic and traumatic years of the Civil War, couldn’t fail but catch my interest when it came through the mail. And though it took me over a year to read it, I’m glad I made the time, because Clements weaves a stunning tale.  Read More …

Jen Williams – The Iron Ghost

jenwilliams-theironghostBeware the dawning of a new mage…

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin – retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking…

Last year Jen Williams’ The Copper Promise, the first book in this series, surprised me with the insane amount of fun it was. I loved the effervescent Wydrin, the conscientious Sir Sebastian, and the troubled Lord Frith. This meant I was very much looking forward to returning to these characters in The Iron Ghost. And Williams delivers on the promise of the first novel with this second book. The Iron Ghost is just as much fun as The Copper Promise, while upping the drama and narrative stakes. Wydrin remains brilliant, but I liked the more pronounced roles of Frith and Sebastian in this outing.  Read More …

Sarah Hilary – No Other Darkness

sarahhilary-nootherdarknessTwo young boys.
Trapped underground in a bunker.
Unable to understand why they are there.
Desperate for someone to find them.
Slowly realising that no-one will…

Five years later, the boys’ bodies are found and the most difficult case of DI Marnie Rome’s career begins.

Her only focus is the boys. She has to find out who they are and what happened to them.

For Marnie, there is no other darkness than this…

Last year, Sarah Hilary burst onto the British crime writing scene with her debut Someone Else’s Skin. I was blown away by the book, falling in love with its main character, DI Marnie Rome and her main DS, Noah Jake. I’ve been impatiently waiting for the moment that I could read the next book in the series, as I couldn’t wait to spend more time with Marnie and Noah and to see what sort of intricate case Hilary would come up with to follow up her fantastic debut.  Read More …

Jenny Blackhurst – How I Lost You

jennyblackhurst-howilostyouThey told her she killed her son. She served her time. But what if they lied?

I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don’t you?

My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute for my crime, and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address and a chance to rebuild my tattered life.

This morning, I received an envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I truly believe he’s dead?

If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

When I was handed the advanced review copy for How I Lost You my first reaction was “This book is going to make me cry, isn’t it?” In fact, it didn’t. Instead it kept me reading way past my bedtime and completely glued to its pages. How I Lost You is a gripping story, with characters it’s hard not to love.  Read More …

Karen Maitland – The Raven’s Head

karenmaitland-theravensheadVincent is an apprentice librarian who stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to destroy his master. With the foolish arrogance of youth, he attempts blackmail but the attempt fails and Vincent finds himself on the run and in possession of an intricately carved silver raven’s head.

Any attempt to sell the head fails … until Vincent tries to palm it off on the intimidating Lord Sylvain – unbeknown to Vincent, a powerful Alchemist with an all-consuming quest. Once more Vincent’s life is in danger because Sylvain and his neighbours, the menacing White Canons, consider him a predestined sacrifice in their shocking experiment.

Chilling and with compelling hints of the supernatural, The Raven’s Head is a triumph for Karen Maitland, Queen of the Dark Ages.

The Raven’s Head is Karen Maitland’s latest historical novel, one that I’d been very much looking forward to reading. I have enjoyed Maitland’s writing on The History Girls blog and have wanted to read her work since reading reviews for Company of Liars. Earlier this week I read her previous novel The Vanishing Witch, which I really enjoyed, and I was interested to see how much of the unique style of that book was particular to that story and how much was part of Maitland’s authorial voice. Based on the sample I’ve read so far (n=2) Maitland definitely has a distinctive and consistent writing style, one that really suits my reading tastes.  Read More …

Author Query – Karen Maitland

karenmaitland-theravensheadOne of my favourite non-SFF blogs is The History Girls. And one of my favourite History Girls is Karen Maitland. I’ve been wanting to read her ever since I saw reviews for Company of Liars, but as is so often the case never got around to it. Today marks not one, but two book birthdays for Karen however, with the paperback release of last year’s The Vanishing Witch and the release of her latest novel, The Raven’s Head. I was fortunate enough to receive review copies for both of them. I reviewed The Vanishing Witch yesterday and check back for my review for The Raven’s Head tomorrow. But today I get to bring you an Author Query with Karen in which she has some fascinating answers to offer to my questions.  Read More …

Karen Maitland – The Vanishing Witch

karenmaitland-thevanishingwitchTake one wealthy merchant. Add one charming widow. And one dying wife.

The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It’s a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust?

The dour wool merchant?

His impulsive son?

The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes?

Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones?

And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it’s time to fight back, it’s all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.

I’ve wanted to read Karen Maitland’s work for years, ever since I read reviews for Company of Liars, but as often happens in a reviewer’s life, I never got to it. This made me doubly excited when this ARC for The Vanishing Witch appeared in my mailbox, but it was a big book – 688 pages in my proof copy – and it languished on my To Be Read pile. Now with the paperback for The Vanishing Witch out tomorrow, not to mention Maitland’s latest The Raven’s Head, this seemed a good time to read it. It was a wonderful read, super atmospheric and very much what I expected Maitland’s writing to be based of what I’ve read of her non-fiction articles on The History GirlsRead More …