Category Archives: Historical

Review: A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong

Title: A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong
A Rip Through Time Book One
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Historical, Time-Travel, Mystery
Length: 346 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In this series debut from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, a modern-day homicide detective finds herself in Victorian Scotland—in an unfamiliar body—with a killer on the loose.

MAY 20, 2019: Homicide detective Mallory Atkinson is in Edinburgh to be with her dying grandmother. While out on a jog one evening, Mallory hears a woman in distress. She’s drawn to an alley, where she is attacked and loses consciousness.

MAY 20, 1869: Housemaid Catriona Mitchell had been enjoying a half day off, only to be discovered that night strangled and left for dead . . . exactly one hundred and fifty years before Mallory is strangled in the same spot.

When Mallory wakes up in Catriona’s body in 1869, she must put aside her shock and adjust quickly to her new reality: life as a housemaid to an undertaker in Victorian Scotland. She soon discovers that her boss, Dr. Gray, also moonlights as a medical examiner and has just taken on an intriguing case, the strangulation of a young man, similar to the attack on herself. Her only hope is that catching the murderer can lead her back to her modern life . . . before it’s too late.

In A Rip Through Time, New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong introduces a brand-new series mixing mystery, romance, and fantasy with thrilling results.

Review:

A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong is an outstanding time-travel mystery.

In 2019, Vancouver Homicide Detective Mallory Atkinson is in Scotland to be with her beloved nan who is dying. While taking a much-needed break, Mallory is strangled in an alley and inexplicably travels back in time to 1869 Victorian Scotland. She awakens in the body of housemaid Catriona Mitchell who was murdered in the same place as Mallory’s attack. Unable to figure out how to return to her own life, Mallory uses the excuse of her head injury to explain her “memory loss” about herself and her day-to-day activities. She also uses her modern-day policing knowledge to assist her boss, undertaker Dr. Duncan Gray and his friend Detective Hugh McCreadie, as they work together to solve the murder of a crime beat reporter. Mallory also makes a shocking discovery that will pit her skills against a diabolical killer.

Mallory is an intelligent woman who utilizes numerous skills as she attempts to convince those around her that she is Catriona. But as she has little information about the young woman whose body she inhabits, Mallory  missteps and mistakes t are quite noticeable. She also cannot contain her curiosity about the murders that Gray and McCreadie are trying to solve. Mallory finds an unanticipated ally in Gray’s half-sister Isla Ballantyne who is very much ahead of her time.

A Rip Through Time is an intriguing historical mystery with an ingenious storyline. Mallory is a vibrantly developed protagonist who makes the best of her very unusual circumstances. Duncan, Isla and Hugh are wonderfully drawn secondary characters who are quite appealing. The investigations evenly paced and very interesting. The time period and place are vividly life-like and realistically depicted.  Old and new fans of Kelley Armstrong are sure to enjoy this first installment in the A Rip Through Times series.

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Filed under A Rip Through Time, A Rip Through Time Series, Historical, Kelley Armstrong, Minotaur Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Time Travel

Review: The Texas Job by Reavis Z. Wortham

Title: The Texas Job by Reavis Z. Wortham
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical (30s), Action, Adventure
Length: 418 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Some men are destined for danger

Texas Ranger Tom Bell is simply tracking a fugitive killer in 1931 when he rides into Kilgore, a hastily erected shanty town crawling with rough and desperate men—oil drillers who’ve come by the thousands in search of work. The sheriff of the boomtown is overwhelmed and offers no help, nor are any of the roughnecks inclined to assist the young Ranger in his search for the wanted man.

In fact, it soon becomes apparent that the lawman’s presence has irritated the wrong people, and when two failed attempts are made on his life, Bell knows he’s getting closer to finding out who is responsible for cheating and murdering local landowners to access the rich oil fields flowing beneath their farms. When they ambush him for a third time, they make the fatal mistake of killing someone close to him and leaving the Ranger alive.

Armed with his trademark 1911 Colt .45 and the Browning automatic he liberated from a gangster’s corpse, Tom Bell cuts a swath of devastation through the heart of East Texas in search of the consortium behind the lethal land-grab scheme.

Review:

The Texas Job by Reavis Z. Wortham is an action-filled novel which takes place in 1931.

Texas Ranger Tom Bell finds more than the fugitive he is searching for when he rides into a booming oil town. He discovers the sheriff has no interest in fighting the crime in his town so Bell takes matters into his own hands. He is soon the midst of ruthless criminals, corruption and gangsters as he looks into the mysterious deaths plaguing the wives of greedy husbands. Bell ends up in the crosshairs of ruthless gangsters who do not want him to find the answers he is searching for.

The Texas Job is an entertaining adventure set in the lawless oilfields of east Texas. Tom is a dedicated lawman who is somewhat larger than life as he evades the criminals who are after him. The criminals are rather one dimensional as they go to extreme lengths in their quest for riches. The storyline is a little convoluted with a plethora of characters. The oil town is richly detailed and springs vividly to life.  Reavis Z. Wortham brings this well researched novel to a dramatic conclusion.

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Filed under Action, Adventure, Historical, Historical (30s), Poisoned Pen Press, Reavis Z Wortham, Review, The Texas Job

Review: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Title: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (70s), Literary Fiction
Length: 367 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A searing and compassionate new novel about a young Black nurse’s shocking discovery and burning quest for justice in post-segregation Alabama, from the New York Times bestselling author of Wench.

Montgomery, Alabama, 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend intends to make a difference, especially in her African American community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she hopes to help women shape their destinies, to make their own choices for their lives and bodies.

But when her first week on the job takes her along a dusty country road to a worn-down one-room cabin, Civil is shocked to learn that her new patients, Erica and India, are children—just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling the family’s welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her role, she takes India, Erica, and their family into her heart. Until one day she arrives at their door to learn the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same for any of them.

Decades later, with her daughter grown and a long career in her wake, Dr. Civil Townsend is ready to retire, to find her peace, and to leave the past behind. But there are people and stories that refuse to be forgotten. That must not be forgotten.

Because history repeats what we don’t remember.

Inspired by true events and brimming with hope, Take My Hand is a stirring exploration of accountability and redemption.

Review:

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a poignant literary novel that is loosely based on real life events.

In 2016, Dr. Civil Townsend travels back to her hometown in Montgomery, Alabama after learning someone dear to her has been diagnosed with cancer. During her drive, she reflects on the events that changed so many lives during her first job as a nurse in 1973. Although she is from a middle-class Black family, Civil decides to work for a birth control clinic that services poor women in the area. Her first patients are India and Erica Williams, whose living conditions shock Civil. The young girls live with their father Mace and grandmother Patricia in a ramshackle shack out in the country.  Although harboring doubts about giving birth control shots to girls of such young ages, Civil follows her boss’s orders. She is also moved by their plight and she successfully finds them a better place to live and assists Mace in finding employment. After a discussion with her childhood friend, Tyrell “Ty” Ralsey, Civil realizes she might be doing more harm than good by giving those shots. She then makes a decision that sets in motion events that define and haunt her throughout her life.

Civil does not realize how privileged she is until she meets the Williams family. Although aware poverty exists around her, her father has shielded her from witnessing it firsthand. Civil’s questions are not welcomed at the clinic and she quickly leans to keep her thoughts to herself. But after she learns the troubling information about the birth control shots, she and her friend Alicia take matters into their own hands. This sets off a chain of events that eventually exposes and alters common practices in federally funded birth control centers across the United States.

Take My Hand is an emotionally compelling novel that seamlessly moves back and forth in time. Civil is a compassionate young woman who firmly believes that women should be in charge of their reproductive health. India and Erica are wonderful young teenagers who quickly adapt to the changes in their lives. From the Williams’ filthy shack to government housing to the courtroom, the settings spring vividly to life. The storyline is incredibly moving and fully captures readers’ attention from beginning to end.  With impeccable research, Dolen Perkins-Valdez shines a bright light on a shameful period in American history.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Dolen Perkins Valdez, Historical, Historical (70s), Literary Fiction, Review, Take My Hand

Review: Sister Stardust by Jane Green

Title: Sister Stardust by Jane Green
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Genre: Historical (’60s), Fiction
Length: 311 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In her first novel inspired by a true story, Jane Green re-imagines the life of troubled icon Talitha Getty in this transporting story from a forgotten chapter of the Swinging ’60s

From afar Talitha’s life seemed perfect. In her twenties, and already a famous model and actress, she moved from London to a palace in Marrakesh, with her husband Paul Getty, the famous oil heir. There she presided over a swirling ex-pat scene filled with music, art, free love and a counterculture taking root across the world.

When Claire arrives in London from her small town, she never expects to cross paths with a woman as magnetic as Talitha Getty. Yearning for the adventure and independence, she’s swept off to Marrakesh, where the two become kindred spirits. But beneath Talitha’s glamourous facade lurks a darkness few can understand. As their friendship blossoms and the two grow closer, the realities of Talitha’s precarious existence set off a chain of dangerous events that could alter Claire’s life forever.

Review:

Sister Stardust by Jane Green is a fictionalized novel that sweeps readers into the glamorous but tragic world of Talitha and J. Paul Getty Jr.

It is the late 60’s and Claire Collins dreams of leaving her small town behind for a glitzy life in London. Lucking into jobs in popular clothing stores, she meets a man whose involvement in the up-and-coming music scene leads to an unexpected meeting with Talitha Getty. Claire impetuously journeys to Morocco with a band that knows Talitha and she is soon living a wild and free life at the Getty’s home in Marrakesh. Claire’s drug-filled and free-love time with Talitha ends with tragedy but will their friendship endure?

Claire and her brother Robbie’s life after their mother’s untimely death is even more miserable after her father remarries. Neither want or need a stepmother and their homelife with their father’s cold new wife becomes untenable once they are of age. After a vicious row, Claire leaves for London where she is finally able to break free of her formerly staid life. She is definitely not expecting what awaits her in Marrakesh but she and Talitha become close friends.

Talitha and Paul split their time between Morocco and Rome. She is social butterfly who loves the parties while Paul would rather spend time alone. Morocco is her chance to indulge in her love of the limelight and she seizes every opportunity to entertain their friends. Talitha enjoys having Claire with her Marrakesh but are either of them prepared for what awaits them?

Sister Stardust is a captivating novel that vibrantly depicts the music scene and wild party vibe of the 1960s. Claire is an eager participant in her time in Marrakesh but is she fready for the crazy life that Talitha enjoys?  Talitha and Paul’s story arc is an accurate portrait of their marriage and decadent lifestyle in Marrakesh. The storyline easily captures the reader’s attention and tightly holds it until Jane Green brings the novel to a poignant conclusion.

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Filed under Fiction, Hanover Square Press, Historical, Historical (60s), Jane Green, Rated B+, Review, Sister Stardust

Review: The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

Title: The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical (20s), Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Why would the world’s most famous mystery writer disappear for eleven days? What makes a woman desperate enough to destroy another woman’s marriage? How deeply can a person crave revenge?

In 1925, Miss Nan O’Dea infiltrated the wealthy, rarefied world of author Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie. In every way, she became a part of their life––first, both Christies. Then, just Archie. Soon, Nan became Archie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted wife, desperate to marry him. Nan’s plot didn’t begin the day she met Archie and Agatha.

It began decades before, in Ireland, when Nan was a young girl. She and the man she loved were a star-crossed couple who were destined to be together––until the Great War, a pandemic, and shameful secrets tore them apart. Then acts of unspeakable cruelty kept them separated.

What drives someone to murder? What will someone do in the name of love? What kind of crime can someone never forgive? Nina de Gramont’s brilliant, unforgettable novel explores these questions and more.

Review:

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont is a clever historical mystery that reimagines Agatha Christie’s unexplained eleven-day disappearance in 1926.

Famed mystery writer Agatha Christie leaves home one evening and seemingly vanishes into thin air. Police quickly located her prize automobile and the car’s location raises questions about suicide. When this theory is disproven, large search parties begin looking for the missing author. The newspapers feverishly cover the story, other mystery authors try to solve the mystery and people who dabble in the paranormal attempt to find her.  The publicity pays off when someone recognizes her and calls the police to reveal her whereabouts: a spa hotel in Harrogate.  In The Christie Affair, Nina de Gramont offers an imaginative scenario for Agatha Christie’s still puzzling disappearance.

Agatha is married to Colonel Archie Christie and they are the parents of a darling seven-year-old daughter. He is a businessman and Agatha’s star is rising as a successful mystery author.  The night  she vanishes coincides with Archie informing her of his plans to divorce her. He is having an affair with Nan O’Dea and he plans to marry her after their divorce is final. After dropping the bombshell news on Agatha, Archie and Nan depart for a  weekend party at a friend’s home. Meanwhile, later that evening, Agatha leaves and vanishes for eleven days.

Nan is in her twenties and through a series of intriguing flashbacks, her sweet yet ultimately doomed romance with Irishman Finnbarr Mahoney is revealed. Nan lives in England but her father is from Ireland and it is while visiting her uncle that she meets Finnbarr.  Their budding romance is interrupted by World War I and after his return, Finnbarr’s bout with the Spanish Flu.

Inspector Frank Chilton, who is also a WWI veteran, is called out of retirement to help look for Agatha. He is a kind man who is also struggling with the aftermath of the war. By sheer coincidence, Frank stays at the same hotel where Nan is staying. A bit of drama interrupts his search when a newly married couple dies under suspicious circumstances while honeymooning at the hotel.

The Christie Affair is a captivating historical mystery with an ingenious plot. The characters are well-rounded with relatable strengths and weaknesses. The story unfolds from Nan’s perspective and she is a surprisingly sympathetic character. The storyline weaves back and forth in time and after a bit of a slow start, the pacing gradually picks up steam. With truly jaw-dropping revelations and stunning plot twists, Nina de Gramont brings this brilliant novel to a superb conclusion.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (20s), Mystery, Nina de Gramont, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press, The Christie Affair

Review: The Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart

Title: The Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 376 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Where the Crawdads Sing meets The Four Winds as award-winning author Donna Everhart’s latest novel immerses readers in its unique setting—the turpentine camps and pine forests of the American South during the Great Depression. This captivating story of friendship, survival, and three vagabonds’ intersecting lives will stay with readers long after turning the final page.

It takes courage to save yourself…

In the dense pine forests of North Carolina, turpentiners labor, hacking into tree trunks to draw out the sticky sap that gives the Tar Heel State its nickname, and hauling the resin to stills to be refined. Among them is Rae Lynn Cobb and her husband, Warren, who run a small turpentine farm together.

Though the work is hard and often dangerous, Rae Lynn, who spent her childhood in an orphanage, is thankful for it–and for her kind if careless husband. When Warren falls victim to his own negligence, Rae Lynn undertakes a desperate act of mercy. To keep herself from jail, she disguises herself as a man named “Ray” and heads to the only place she can think of that might offer anonymity–a turpentine camp in Georgia named Swallow Hill.

Swallow Hill is no easy haven. The camp is isolated and squalid, and commissary owner Otis Riddle takes out his frustrations on his browbeaten wife, Cornelia. Although Rae Lynn works tirelessly, she becomes a target for Crow, the ever-watchful woods rider who checks each laborer’s tally. Delwood Reese, who’s come to Swallow Hill hoping for his own redemption, offers “Ray” a small measure of protection, and is determined to improve their conditions. As Rae Lynn forges a deeper friendship with both Del and Cornelia, she begins to envision a path out of the camp. But she will have to come to terms with her past, with all its pain and beauty, before she can open herself to a new life and seize the chance to begin again.

Review:

The Saints of Swallow Hill by Donna Everhart is a captivating historical novel which takes place in the turpentine camps of Georgia during the Depression.

Delwood “Del” Reese is a hard worker but his penchant for womanizing soon becomes his downfall. Barely escaping with his life, he lives an itinerant life before hiring on at a Georgia turpentine camp. Del immediately upsets the status quo by working alongside the Black men who “cat face” the pine trees. He and woods rider Crow intensely dislike one another and their rivalry intensifies after Del’s promotion makes them equals.

Rae Lynn and Warren Cobb have a small turpentine operation on their farm in North Carolina. Rae Lynn works as hard as Warren because of their lack of workers. Warren is well known for his clumsiness and eventually he is in a tragic accident. Rae Lynn flees the farm disguised as man so she can work in a turpentine camp in Georgia. Through a series of unfortunate and almost deadly events, Rae Lynn’s deception is discovered.

Commissary owner’s wife Cornelia Riddle is stuck in an abusive marriage but meeting Rae Lynn becomes a saving grace. Despite her best efforts not to anger her husband, she is often the target of his frustration. When Rae Lynn’s deception is uncovered, their friendship is the only thing that makes her life tolerable. With Del and Rae Lynn’s encouragement, Cornelia makes a decision that is truly life changing.

The Saints of Swallow Hill is an atmospheric historical novel that is quite fascinating. The various characters are vividly drawn and for the most part, very appealing. Rae Lynn has not had an easy life but she is compassionate and stands by her convictions. Del undergoes tremendous growth after his life altering experience. Cornelia is a sympathetic character that is caught in untenable situation.  The turpentine camp work is hard, the conditions deplorable and workers are often in debt to the company who hires them.  In spite of the hardship and poverty, Donna Everhart brings this vibrant, historically accurate novel to an uplifting conclusion.

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Filed under Donna Everhart, Historical, Historical (30s), Kensington Books, Rated B+, Review, The Saints of Swallow Hill