Historical Reviews

A Play of Knaves

[openbook booknumber=”0425211118″][rating:3/5]

In the pages of Margaret Frazer’s national bestselling Dame Frevisse series, the player Joliffe has assumed many roles on stage, to the delight of those he entertains. Now, in the company of a troupe of traveling performers, he finds himself cast in the role of sleuth…

In the spring of 1435, Joliffe and his fellow players are sent to the village of Ashewell not only to stage plays, but to uncover some dark secrets about the town’s three wealthy families: the Ashewells, the Medcotes, and the Gosyns. A rivalry has been brewing among the families, entangling the entire town in a web of seduction, deception, and blackmail.

Matters go beyond the breaking point when someone turns to murder to settle their grievances. And if one murder is good, why not another? If all the world is a stage, then it’s up to Joliffe to bring the curtain down on this tragedy – before another man takes his final curtain call…

The book A Play of Knaves is one of a series of historical mysteries that follow the player Joliffe as he ends up in a variety of situations that require some serious sleuthing to stay out of trouble.

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The Masqueraders

[openbook booknumber=”1402219504″][rating:5/5]

Born to a father set on having adventures, Prudence and Robin Tremaine have lived a life on the run. They constantly are moving (often fleeing) from one place to another, and often have to do so in disguise. After Robin and his father take part in the failed Jacobite rebellion they split up and flee into the country side. Robin meets up with his sister, who stayed out of it, and they decide to swap genders to thoroughly hide Robin in the last place anyone will ever look – in a set of petticoats – to prevent him from being hanged. Prudence then becomes Mr Peter Marriot and Robin becomes Miss Kate Marriot.

Together they travel to London and hope to meet up with their father there. That’s when they meet Sir Anthony and Letitia, Letty is currently attempting to elope with a Mr Markham only to find that he is a brute and not worth marrying, her attempt to change his mind on this score proves dangerous though. With the siblings help (a false swoon by “Kate” and a swift uppercut with the hilt of a sword by “Peter”) they rescue Letty and restore her to Sir Anthony, a friend of her father’s. In that meeting “Kate”, er, Robin falls hopelessly in love with Letty and “Peter”, er, Prudence falls hopelessly in love with Sir Anthony. Now, in true Georgette Heyer fashion, the stage is set for a romp unlike any other!

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A Christmas to Remember

[openbook booknumber=”0425211843″]

[rating:3/5]

Lillian Warwick is a curmudgeony old woman who suffers a bad fall and is forced into the care of her daughters and granddaughter. After the fall she finds herself reliving old memories of times gone by and remembers her own history and past mistakes. Will acknowledging the pain in her past allow her to acknowledge the reality of her future? Lucy Bates is a nurse in training at the hospital where Lillian was admitted. She too has some big decisions ahead of her as she struggles with thoughts of quitting nursing school and going back to waitressing full time. She isn’t helped in this by her less than supportive husband, who undercuts her commitment and confidence at every turn. But, with the coming of the Christmas season and following New Year both of these women, and their families undergo a transformation worthy of the spirit of the holiday season.

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Arabella

[openbook booknumber=”1402219466″]

[rating:5/5]

Impetuosity is Arabella’s only fault. That and being young and naive. At the same time she has very strong convictions about right and wrong and follows through on them, again to a fault. After Frederica Arabella is my next favorite heroine. She is not a push over, nor is she vapid or overly frivolous. Being young and naive ends up being only endearing, and her convictions are admirable considering the time and place she is in. Her impetuosity though is what got her into trouble in the first place.

Arabella is one of eight children in a large family living in a country parish. Her father, the Vicar, is a strict man who raises his children to love, respect and care for all of their fellow creatures. She is from a respectable family, but her fortune is very, very small. Through a happy circumstance her godmother writes and says that she is willing to bring Arabella under her wing in London and sponsor her for a London Season!

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Wilderness Tips

[openbook booknumber=”0553560468″]

[rating:4/5]

In Wilderness Tips, Margaret Atwood writes ten short stories that are at once poignant and deeply disturbing. Each story illustrates one moment in a person’s life that changes them forever. They grow from young and idealistic to old and bitter in the space of a few pages and all of the stories ended up being dark in one way or another. They all carried themes of loss, missed opportunities, mistakes, dead ends and sad realizations.

They all took place in Canada, with some containing native Canadians and some transplanted from England or Europe. They almost all featured promiscuity and sexual affairs, often as the norm, and they all had one hard earned life lesson to impart. The tales spanned the decades from “the war years” of World War II up until the late eighties and early nineties and all of the changes that took place in that time. The women’s movement took special prominence in these stories as they described the changes they in particular experience over that span of sixty years of human history.

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