Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Historical Fiction Enticements 5/29

Of Carrion Feathers
Katherine Pym

Of Carrion Feathers takes place in London 1662 during the worst of the nonconformist uprisings, and plots are rampant against the king.

Oliver Prior is a man jaded and alone. While still a lad, his parents abandon him after his sister is killed, and this loss haunts him into adulthood. With nothing to live for, Oliver Prior enters the Crown’s burgeoning spy network.

Beatrice Short’s goal is to go on stage, but she must work as a servant. While cleaning, she finds ciphers and invisible script. After the king’s undersecretary finds her snooping, he recognizes her brilliance in breaking code and blackmails her into going undercover as a spy.

Beatrice does not want to be a spy.  Since the king returned from exile, he had brought the French way of the theatre, which put women on stage.  Beatrice wants to be an actress, but as a servant, she doesn't have the coin to take music and dance lessons. After getting caught by the Undersecretary, he strikes a bargain with her. If she spies, and breaks code, the Crown will pay for her lessons.

Beatrice reluctantly agrees. She is paired with Oliver Prior, and they go undercover to a bakeshop. For most of their mission, neither knows the other works for the Undersecretary--a wily, controlling fellow. Beatrice figures it out much sooner that Prior, since she's so smart, but when Oliver finds out, he is furious.

While Oliver and Beatrice bond to discover the backbone of insidious schemes to kill the king, they learn who runs the plots. He is a man steeped in hate, and he must be put down.

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What the Silk Mercer’s Daughter Saw
A Theo Bryght, Runner Mystery
Jolie Beaumont

A dead racehorse in provincial, mercantile Chester is definitely not Theo Bryght’s cup of claret.

But when the Bow Street Runner learns that the owner of the racehorse, Mr. William Halsey, is a lovesick young man whose matrimonial hopes may have been slain along with his poisoned horse, Bryght agrees to take on the case.

To Chester he therefore goes, and in Chester the Runner is quickly confronted with the news of another death—the untimely demise of Mr. Thomas Steele, a wealthy silk mercer who happens to be the father of Emily Steele, the young woman that William Halsey loves.

Is there a connection between the two incidents, as the whispers wending their way through Chester’s mysterious, medieval Rows seem to suggest? Or can at least one of the deaths, the poisoning of Thomas Steele, be laid at the door of a new arrival in town, Alexander Steele, the estranged heir to the Steele fortune? And what about Halsey and Emily Steele—will love conquer all, or will these two crimes drive them apart forever?

To complicate matters even further for Theo Bryght, who is no stranger to dashed hopes and disappointed dreams himself, his investigations take an unexpected and personal turn when he discovers that in Chester he has a second chance to win the love of his life, Lady Charlotte Ashe.

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Running with Crows - The Life and Death of a Black and Tan
DJ Kelly

It is 1921. In Ireland a war of bloody reprisals wages between Republican volunteers and Royal Irish Constabulary. The Constabulary, their ranks augmented by Great War veterans – dubbed The Black and Tans – face daily ambushes and sieges. Outrages are perpetrated by both sides in this struggle for an independent Ireland. Meanwhile, in Dublin’s Mountjoy Gaol, 33 year old Constable William ‘Mitch’ Mitchell awaits execution for the murder, in a quiet Wicklow town, of respected magistrate Robert Dixon. Fearing he will never again see his lovely young wife Alice or get to hold his newborn daughter Kitty before he goes to the scaffold, former soldier Mitch reflects upon his life and the people and circumstances which have led him to his fate.

A little-known fact is that at least a quarter of the notorious Black and Tans were Irish. Mitch too is an Irishman; raised in Dublin’s Monto slum district, where his first love affair ends most cruelly; introduced to petty crime as an adolescent in Bermondsey’s foul tannery district; defending King and Empire from India to the trenches of the Western Front until badly wounded at The Somme. DJ Kelly’s fact-based novel tells the true and hitherto untold story of the only member of the British Crown Forces to be hanged for murder during the Irish War of Independence, and asks: did he actually kill the magistrate or was this perhaps an awful miscarriage of justice.

'A fascinating book ... impressive research ... What Kelly has done is to put a face and a real story to one of the most notorious paramilitary groups ever ... an absolutely fascinating read ... a thoroughly researched book.’ David Lawlor, Associate Editor, Irish Evening Herald

‘An excellently written novel, fast-paced and with a compelling storyline ... utterly believable and not easily forgotten ... I heartily recommend this book.’ Dr Chris Lawlor, West Wicklow Historical Society

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A Notable Occupation
Patricia O'Sullivan

"Every day more British war ships appeared in Narragansett Bay, blockading Newport's harbor. Trade was cut off, and just about everyone in our little Synagogue community began to leave for safer havens inland. But it was not just the Jews who were fleeing Newport. Hundreds of Christians were leaving as well. Shops and houses were boarded up, ships no longer crowded the port, and church bells fell silent. Only the fog remained unmoved by the British threat. The fog and Herr Marck."

Rachel Meares is unhappily married to a German smuggler, in love with a British physician, and forced to spy for the American rebels by her African slaves, who know too many of her secrets, including how her brother and father are running guns to the Americans from a Dutch island in the Caribbean. There seems to be no escape for Rachel from her marriage or from Newport when the rebel spy blackmailing Rachel decides to take matters into his own hands.

Set against the British occupation of Newport in Narragansett Bay and of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean Sea during the American War for Independence, A Notable Occupation is a story about a young Jewish woman trying to find love in a time of war.

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A House Near Luccoli
D.M. Denton

A Novel of Musical Intimacy and Intrigue in 17th Century Genoa

Published by All Things That Matter Press

High expectations, magnificent music, reckless choices, and the paradox of genius defined the life of one of the most legendary and undervalued figures of Italian Baroque music.

In 1678 the charismatic composer, violinist and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice and Turin. Three years later, having lost a prime position at the city’s la Teatro Falcone and residence on the city’s street of palaces, la Strada Nuova, his professional and personal life have begun to unravel again. Yet Stradella is offered—by the very man he is rumored to have wronged—a respectable if slightly shabby apartment in a house near la via Luccoli, and another chance to redeem his character and career.

He moves in with a flourish met with curiosity and consternation by the caretakers who are also tenants, three women whose reputations are only of concern to themselves.

One of those women, Donatella, unmarried in her mid-thirties, cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small terraced garden, painting flowers and writing in her journal. Like the city she lives in there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule not cure for what ails her.

At first she is in awe of Stradella and certain she will have little to do with him. Slowly his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go.

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