This week, M: (clicking on the names will take you to the author website; book titles will take you to the books on Amazon)
There's a lot this week, so I'll rattle through them ...
Marie MacPherson The First Blast of the Trumpet is the first in a trilogy about the famous firebrand John Knox. This book is so much more than that, though, as it not only tells Knox's story but that of his kinswoman, Elisabeth Hepburn, who wants to marry her love, but ends up as a prioress at the time of the Scottish Reformation. I loved this book. It's proper, solid, historical fiction with a cast of rounded characters, great sense of time and place, all backed up with impeccable research which sits lightly on the page, and deftly describes the machinations of the Scottish court during this period. Marie throws just enough Scottish dialect into her dialogue to make the characters come alive. I have the second volume of this trilogy and I can't wait to get stuck into it.
Sarah Maine I've had The House Between Tides sitting on my old tablet for a while and had forgotten all about it. I must bump this up the list. "Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland - now in ruins. As Hetty dives headfirst into the repairs, she discovers a shocking secret protected by the house for a hundred years. With only whispered rumours circulating among the local villagers and a handful of leads to guide her, Hetty finds the power of the past is still affecting her present in startling ways." This book was declared Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year 2018 and with over two hundred reviews, it must be doing something right. I can't wait to read it!
Tess Makovesky I know Tess in real life and have done for a while but I didn't tell her that I'd bought and read Gravy Train on Kindle. It's not my usual read, being a crime 'caper' novel set in modern-day Birmingham, but it's such a good read. Peppered with all sorts of 'low-life' characters, it follows a stash of money as it passes from one hapless wannabe criminal to the next. There is genuine pathos in some scenes, some genuinely nasty and horrifying characters and then there's Sandra, whose life is all about the ever-so-nearly moments but she needs the help of her creepy 'Uncle' to help her succeed. The author adds some really comedic moments into the story but there are some dark scenes too. I found myself rooting for Sandra and her dreams for a better life...
Amy Maroney "Renaissance-era artist Mira grows up in a Pyrenees convent believing she is an orphan. When tragedy strikes, Mira learns the devastating truth about her own origins. But will she find the strength to face those who would destroy her? 500 years later, art scholar Zari unearths traces of a mysterious woman named Mira in two 16th-century portraits. Obsessed, Zari tracks Mira through the great cities of Europe to the pilgrim’s route of Camino de Santiago—and is stunned by what she finds. But will her discovery be enough to bring Mira’s story to light?" The Girl From Oto is simply a stunning and delightful read. An original idea, part historical fiction, but with a dual timeline, it's skilfully plotted and it was a joy to read. I gave it five stars in my review.
Milana Marsenich If I were pushed to compile a top ten of books I've read this year, I'm confident that Copper Sky would occupy the top slot (although, the year is only half over, so you never know). On the face of it, this is a bleak tale about the harsh life in an early 20th-Century copper mining town in Montana. Kaly remembers her sister's death, but she also half-remembers that something terrible happened to her that day, too. Kaly wants to make a life her unborn child, while her friend Malika wants to escape the life which has been mapped out for her. Danger lurks, and not just in the daily hazards at the mine. The writing is exquisite, the setting and period feel are spot on and, though the characters' lives are bleak, there is a glimmer of hope running through this tale.
Kathleen McGurl I read The Emerald Comb on Kindle, and here's a portion of my 5* review of this dual timeline book which involves a modern-day woman trying to solve the mysteries of the past: The 21stc sections are written in a light, contemporary style, with cultural references that will, in years to come, put them firmly in their time setting. A different voice is used for the earlier time, and this different narration style works well as a device. There's no jarring as we go from old to modern times and the difference in tone eases the switch from one to the other. I was able to read this book quickly without skipping any of it, a testament to Ms McGurl's writing skills, which she makes seem so effortless. The plot is worked out so precisely that not a single detail is wasted - everything matters & all is tied up at the end.
Jean Mead Every so often, authors set up discounts on the price of their books and I downloaded Hannah while it was on special offer. It's sitting on my Kindle, although I have sneaked a look at the opening pages, and it promises to be a great read: From what I've gathered from the blurb, the year is 1823 when the story begins in the grand mansion, Croxton Hall in Dorset. This is where fifteen-year old Hannah, defying her father, leaves home to become a kitchen maid, and the book goes on to tell a sweeping tale of love, loss and betrayal which sees Hannah finding herself staring at the shadow of the hangman's noose. The story takes the reader from the glorious Dorset Downs to the dripping walls of a filthy prison and beyond. I'm really looking forward to settling down with this one.
Sue Moorcroft A Summer to Remember was a joy for me to read on Kindle, since it's set in an area of Norfolk with which I'm very familiar. It's the perfect holiday read, beginning with a jilted bridegroom, his brother who had a bit of a thing going with the bride's cousin and now, after being dumped by her boyfriend in the worst way possible, that cousin has come back to the sleepy Norfolk village to lick her wounds. Unfortunately, in so doing, she opens up a lot of old wounds, too. Some of the locals embrace her, some of them hate her for reminding them of the wedding that never was, oh and there's some unfinished business on the romance front... memorable characters, wonderful scenery, and a believable tale of every day life, albeit one laced with drama. Loved it.
Toni Mount I won a paperback copy of this book and what a delight it was to read Medieval Medicine by Toni Mount, a medievalist who really knows her stuff. I'm keeping it on my research shelves because it is packed full of really useful information about medical practice in the middle ages. However, it is also a really accessible read, and Toni has a lovely way with words; some of her asides are very droll indeed. As I said in my review, "everything is here: from the diagnosis, treatments and medical knowledge to the various occupations and titles of those who practised medicine. The notes are detailed and helpful, with sources listed and page numbers given for further reading." Toni has written a number of nonfiction books and also writes a fiction series, medieval thrillers featuring Seb Foxley.
April Munday I 'met' April on Twitter and I love her blog posts where she explains, among other things, the anatomy of a castle. Beloved Besieged is a great book which is clearly a product of meticulous research. "Limoges 1364 - After Elaine is rescued from a rioting mob by Joscelin, a handsome English pilgrim, neither expects to see the other again. Out of sight proves not to be out of mind, however, nor out of heart. Their unspoken love for one another continues to grow over the years they’re apart. When their paths cross again, Joscelin is a knight in the army laying siege to Elaine’s home. He has to get to her before anyone can harm her… or worse." I liked the way the characters sat firmly within their time period and I felt that in particular, Joscelin's inner struggles made him very much a man of his time. Beautifully researched and written.
And that's it. Gosh, what is it about the letter M that produces such amazing authors? I hope you find your next good read from this list. Join me next time for N-P 😊