#SPFBO 7 : My Second Batch of Books

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SPFBO 7 got off to a great start.  I’ve read my first batch of books – you can find my feedback here plus links to reviews for all four books.  I have to say my first batch was very good and has set the bar high.  Let’s see what comes next – I’m hoping for lots of good reads.

For those of you unfamiliar with SPFBO here and here are two posts that might provide some enlightenment.  Basically, SPFBO is the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, brainchild of Mark Lawrence.  300 hopeful authors submit their word babies.  10 Judges are allocated 30 books each.  Each judge chooses a finalist, the competition narrows to 10 hopeful candidates.  Alas, there can be only one winner so following an intense reading session where all the judges read and score each others finalists a winner finally emerges.  

The main change for myself this year is that I am joining up with the wonderful Critiquing Chemist and her lovely boffin.  We are very excited to start reading our batch (at the moment equally divided between the two blogs).  I love this part of the competition, it’s full of expectations and hope.  As in previous years  I will give a brief introduction to the books and authors that I’m picking up that month together with an update at the end of the month where I may roll some books forwards and cut others.  I know!  It’s a part of the competition that I’m not overly fond of but it is unavoidable.  Personally, I like to think that as the competition begins we already have 300 winners who each took that bold step to throw their hat into the ring and join in.  So, enjoy yourselves, take the opportunity to make friends and become part of the community.  

This month the four books that I will be reading from me second batch are:

Berserker (Apocosmos #1) by Dimitrios Gkirgkiris 

Berserker

Alex is a game developer though he’d much rather stream RPG classics or spend time with Louie. That’s his adorable corgi.
He also hates people. Not in a homicidal way but rather in an extremely-antisocial one.
Unless you hurt Louie.

In such an instant, Alex is pulled in the Apocosmos, where our whole world is just a blip in a colorful tapestry of million others.
A multiverse ruled by a strict system.
Where Norse, Greek, and Celtic pantheons clash.
Where dwarves craft, dragons hoard, and vampires don’t glitter.
A world that is as cruel as epic.

Alex wants none of that though. He just wants to earn an early retirement somewhere in Spain.
There’s money to be made in the Apocosmos.
Alex will take advantage of the market just like he did in his MMORPG days, in what seems like an error-proof plan.
But it’s a zero-sum game and some would do anything to eliminate competition.
 

DGAbout the Author

The three things Dimitrios would grab in case of a fire, would be his Lord of the Rings book collection, his Chrono Trigger SNES game, and his dog, Poko.

July 2020 marked the beginning of his author career with the release of the Mana Trilogy, an epic fantasy saga focusing on world and civilization-building.

Dimitrios was born in Thessaloniki, Greece and is now living in Berlin with his partner and his doggo.

Twitter : pixelsindistres
 
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Stone Magus (Hidden Gems Saga #1) by Stephanie C. Marks

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In life, love, and family, there is always strength in numbers.

Something is off balance between the Windsong Sisters, and for Opal and Ruby, the terrible might of their powers may just lead them to catastrophe—or clarity. As half-elf mages in the service of the Order of Aiuna, the sisters spend their days collecting and preserving anything that magic touches, and as their mission takes them further back into their past, the darkness that awaits them there threatens to destroy everything they hold dear.

Despite the dark smoke rising around them, Opal is finding it hard to ignore the flames flickering between herself and Baerdun. There’s just something about it that makes her feel weak, and not just in the knees. With so much happening around them, it’s becoming much harder to keep her head above water and her heart her own.

After everything they’ve lost—what if they lose themselves as well?

Enter a world where shadows exist within and without, and follow Opal, Ruby, and Baerdun down a path that will either bring them together or force them apart.

SCMAbout the Author:

Twitter : SCMarks5
 
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Book of Secrets (Merged Series #1) by Claudia Blood 

BoS

Joshua Lighthouse never wanted to save the world, but now he has no choice.

Three hundred years ago, the human world and the world of Myth underwent a cataclysmic Merge. Those who survived – both human and Others – formed factions. Joshua led one faction, the Human Protection Agency, which is charged with maintaining the safety of the humans in his city. He secretly protects an artifact more powerful than even he knows…

About the Author :

In spite of a busy life wrapped around a military husband, two young children, a dog, bunnies, and a day job, Claudia Blood manages to pen epic, urban, and science fantasies.

 
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Dragonbirth byRaina Nightingale

Dragonbirth

In a world where dragons are considered demons and Dragonriders are hunted and killed as witches…

A devout village-girl, Silmavalien, meets a dragon hatchling and discovers a love she could never have dreamed. At the same time, her world is ripped apart as she discovers the gods she has worshipped and everything she has ever been taught or believed is a monstrous lie. Not knowing what to believe – or even if she can trust her engaged, Noren, with her new secret – she must find a way to care for herself and her dragon, Minth, in a wild and hostile world, a world which only grows stranger as the days pass.

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Finally, good luck to everyone.  Don’t forget, if you want to pay me a visit here on the blog you’re more than welcome.  Just email or leave a comment.

#SPFBO Review : One of Us, The City of Secrets by ML Roberts

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One of Use by ML Roberts was the fourth book I read this month as part of the SPFBO Competition.  My three other books as part of Batch One were Deathborn by CE Page,  Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes and Stranded by Rosalind Tate.  At the end of the month I will be posting an update and highlighting which book or books will be rolled forward and which will be cut.

OneofUs

So, I would briefly describe One of Us as YA high school/urban fantasy.  Mostly set within the school grounds it involves a young girl who starts to think her imagination is playing tricks on her.  

The story is told by Olivia, fifteen years of age (I think).  Her mum asks her a favour, to befriend the daughter of one of her clients who has recently moved to the area and is new to school.  Of course, being 15, and not even as part of the in-crowd, choosing friends based on your parents’ wishes doesn’t do anything for your social standing.

Olivia’s best friend is Mindy, they’re fairly average students, not the popular girls, not particularly sporty or clever, but doing okay.  Abigail stands out a little bit, for all of the wrong reasons, and Olivia tries to avoid bumping into her at all.  Pamela is one of the ‘super popular’ girls and incredibly mean.  She seems to have made it her own mission in life to make the new girl’s life hell.  This aspect of the story is very ‘mean girls’ until, unexpectedly, revenge becomes the dish of the day.

On top of skirting around trying to avoid other students Olivia has plenty of other things on her mind.  She spotted a story in a news article saying that a local boy (who Olivia knows and used to go to the same school) has died in a surfing or swimming accident.  Olivia is distraught by the news but soon starts to suspect that she imagined the story.  The article seems to have disappeared and nobody at the school seems to be aware.  At the same time we are shown a memory of Olivia and her brother out driving when a strange occurrence takes place.  The car is hit by an object, Olivia’s brother thinks a branch, Olivia on the other hand thinks she sees a man lying in the road, a man with long silver hair and wings.  There are other strange occurences but I won’t go into them here. Then things escalate, starting at the high school dance, Abigail is attacked.  We find out more strange news from Olivia’s flashbacks and there’s talk of a haunted house.

Now, my feelings on One of Us are a little mixed.  I struggled to get into the story at first (although I did think the opening chapter was quite an intriguing hook).  The early stages of the story felt very teenage angst-y and the dialogue felt clunky, there was a lot of wild speculation on the part of Olivia for almost everything and anything that happens and for perhaps half the book very little really took place other than glimpses of things that didn’t really add up to very much.  As the story began to hot up the writing improved, to such an extent that I was intrigued and quite keen to read forward to discover what was going on.  The pacing improved, in fact things became a little bit crazy, it felt almost like a Scooby Doo adventure at one point but with an all girl cast and absent Scooby – and witches and fae instead of wannabe criminals shaking their fists and muttering ‘if it wasn’t for those pesky kids’.  I can’t deny that it was actually entertaining in a chaotic sort of way, not sure it was entirely realistic in some respects but it did keep me turning the pages.  But, and yes, there is a but.  I’m not sure even now what the motivations of the ‘evil ones’ was or what they were really trying to achieve.  I have what feels like a sketchy understanding of things being hidden around the city, protected by Others using magic barriers and the like and also that there are those who want to access these hidden elements (creating unspeakable risks)- although I have very hazy notions of why that is at this point.  

Criticisms aside, I think this would probably work well with the right audience.  I think the high school vibe is well done, the insecurities and fear of being ostracised, the bullying, etc and there’s an adventure type feel to the direction the story took.  I’m assuming that another book is planned although it isn’t clear at the present but this one definitely concludes with certain things remaining open not to mention talk of portals and the fact that Olivia may herself have something more to her than at first meets the eye..

I received a copy from the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

 

 

#SPFBO Saturday : Guest post from Bjørn Larssen

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As part of the SPFBO Competition each weekend I am hoping to post guest blog posts inviting authors taking part in the competition to visit my blog to either write an article, discuss covers, take part in an interview or post an excerpt or teaser for their work.

This weekend is my first visit and I’m really happy to be hosting a guest post submitted by Bjørn Larssen in which he discusses the thought processes that led him to come up with the wonderful cover we’re now familiar with.  A cover that was also submitted into the SPFBO Cover Competition and won Silver place from the public vote. Bjørn is the author of Children (The Ten World #1).  The description for which can be found here.

Firstly, I’d like to thank Bjørn for agreeing to take part and providing us with an insight into the amount of work that goes into putting together a successful cover.

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Everything began with a shot of Meghan and Harry walking in front of photographers. Meghan, an actress, did the smiling and waving thing. Harry’s mouth formed a grimace, his best attempt at a smile. He gazed to the side, eyebrows furrowed. He was not holding Meghan’s hand; she held his.

Harry was never going to become King; he’d forever remain “the son of.” At best, potentially useful as a point of access to those who have actual power. He knew all that, saw no escape, knew this was going to be how the rest of his life would unfold, and he was terrified.

Magni, son of Thor, was neglected, cast away, ignored by his father. He was also a giant, flame-haired, bearded blacksmith who carried his favourite hammer around. He looked like the father he despised – and the last time he had seen Thor was when Thor had destroyed the town Magni and his mother lived in. Magni made a vow to become the opposite of Thor, rejecting everything his father stood for.

Someone like Magni could never be accepted as simply a strong man who likes working with iron though. He was not a person – but “the son of,” hated or loved at first sight, preconceptions about him made before it transpired he even had a name of his own. At best, potentially useful as a point of access to the “real” Gods. He knew all that, saw no escape, knew this was going to be how the rest of his life would  unfold, and he was terrified.

I wanted Magni on the cover and now I knew what he should look like.

Portrait

Most covers of indie fantasy books are paintings. I had the blurb for the artist ready – here’s the photo. Give me those haunted eyes, the apprehension, add darkness and fire. I approached two artists whose earlier work I adored. When I received their price quotes, I slightly passed out. Those prices, when I thought about it, were completely reasonable, when compared with how much time and work it would take. But in order to afford their fees, I’d have to postpone the book by at least six months in order to save money.

The probability of me finding a model with red hair and beard, clad in medieval clothing, with that look in his eyes and the right facial expression, seemed near-zero. To my excited disbelief, I found him. I stared at the photos (there was a whole series!), picked one, bought it, and started working. The cover couldn’t just have Magni on it. It needed to convey the message “this is a Norse mythology retelling from the point of view of the son of Thor (pictured), oh, and despite the title it is also not at all suitable for children.”

I added layers – a flock of birds to represent Odin’s ravens; tree branches; fire. After consideration I took out the birds, because representing Odin’s two ravens using fifty or so bird silhouettes felt unclear even to me. I replaced the branches with an actual peek of a forest at night. Added more fire (when in doubt, always add more fire) for that fantasy je ne sais quoi. My inner graphic designer (I worked as one for nearly fifteen years) was delighted. As a reader, all I could tell was that it was a fantasy book that featured some bloke with green eyes. The only reason why I knew it had something to do with Norse Gods was that I wrote the book.

I tried various pseudo-runic fonts and cringed from here to New Zealand at how cheap they made the cover look. I changed the title to Children of the Gods, because Gods = possibly Norse Gods, might work. I showed the result to some people and all of them praised it – but they all already knew what the book was about.

But it was so pretty.

lynn_children_compositeA few weeks before the release date a friend told me about a lengthy series of vaguely homophobic vampire erotica called Children of the Gods. Now I really had a branding disaster in my hands. Calling the book Children didn’t really explain what it was about, but getting it mixed up with a series of 46 (by now 51) vampire romances? The publishers of those had massive marketing budgets (and potentially a lawyer). My book would never appear in Amazon search above the 47th position. I was happy to go back to the original title – but now the cover again conveyed, without a doubt, that it contained a green-eyed man.

Trees

Children is the first book in The Ten Worlds series. I commissioned a logo for the series from Brad Bergman. It was supposed to appear on the spines and front covers, small, just for branding. When it arrived, I was blown away. It just fit, an illustration rather than a logo, Yggdrasil, the Tree of life, surrounded by clearly Norse symbols. I blew the logo up, placed it on a burgundy red background, made it golden, then replaced the gold with fire. (When in doubt…) The typography was simple, not to distract from the Tree. I barely bothered to say a quick “bye” to poor Magni.

Childrentree

When the book came out, many of the reviewers couldn’t compliment the cover enough. It was a triumph. I loved it, the readers who followed me after Storytellers (my debut) loved it, and all seemed great until a stranger asked me what sort of book it was.

It didn’t occur to me that the reviewers were approached with the question “would you like to read a Norse mythology retelling from the point of view of the Gods’ children?” They knew what they were getting, they’ve read the blurb, and then they read the book. The readers who followed me knew what I was writing. A new potential buyer saw a (beautiful) drawing of a (burning?) tree on red background.

Hoping that it was a one-off, I asked other authors in a group I am a member of – what do you think this book is? I thought the problem was the typography and I needed to make it “more fantasy.” But most of those I polled answered “epic fantasy.” I got the genre right, but not the subgenre. I created a wonderful cover for some other book.

When I explained what it actually was, most people suggested putting Thor’s hammer on the cover. This didn’t work for multiple reasons. Children is the first book in a series. What would I do with the second or third? Multiple hammers? But the reason why they were mentioning Thor’s hammer was that they saw it on Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. Which was why I couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t even look like an homage, just a shameless attempt to coat-tail on Gaiman’s success.

I decided to ask people who had read the book instead. What did they think it was? Their answers could be summed up with “a very dark Norse fairytale.” One of them used the word “grimdark.” No, I thought, confused. Grimdark was all about blood-dripping axes and burning battlefields and cackling warriors raping the daughters of their enemies, and so on. I knew that, because I had read two grimdark books. It turned out that they didn’t cover the entire genre.

The new brief I gave myself said: Grimdark. Norse. Fairytale.

I found the right typeface, Noatún – very different from the pseudo-runic hand-drawn letters, yet just Norse enough to clearly convey the message. Grimdark – no blood-dripping axes for me, but obviously saturated, bright colours were not right. It needed to be subdued. Fairytale – I browsed through many images until I decided on one. Yggdrasil, the Tree, stil fit, but it shouldn’t be pretty and fierce. Instead, I would use an image of a moss-covered tree in a foggy forest. I filtered, layered, worked on the photo until it no longer looked like a photo. The fog turned silver. Just to hammer (sorry) the message home, I added “A NORSE MYTHOLOGY RETELLING” under the title. There it was. My fitting, striking, informative cover.

lynn_tree_compositeIt killed the sales.

There are weeks when I sell more books, then fewer. But when I change nothing but the cover, the number drops to zero, and remains there, it’s easy to guess what the reason could be. I analysed the cover, trying to figure out what I’d done wrong this time. On the thumbnail, the “Norse Mythology Retelling” was illegible. Without that, potential readers saw a blurry, green tree. Their first thought was never going to be, “oh, this is very clearly a grimdark fairytale-like Norse mythology retelling.” I lost the attraction of the red “epic fantasy” tree and failed to convey what the book actually was – again. Oh boy, I thought. If I went with a painted portrait of Magni, I would now be commissioning the fourth painting.

Raven

Back to the photoshopping board we go. Again.

The blurb was fine, but the imagery wasn’t, so the image search and Amazon search became my best friends. Grimdark fantasy. Norse grimdark fantasy. Norse inspired fantasy. Books about Norse mythology. Heathenry symbols. Ásatrú symbols. Viking symbols.

The list I already had seemed, sadly, quite complete. Apart from Odin’s eyepatch I only added Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse – who makes a brief appearance indeed – and Odin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn.

In the book, ravens are mostly present because of their absence. My characters’ paranoia about being potentially watched by or listened to by Odin’s ravens is justified. Huginn and Muninn are an extension of Odin; the all-seeing-eyes that might be near… or not. Menacing, dark, fairytale-like – if that fairytale was written by Brothers Grimm on a really cloudy day.

I chose blue that was simultaneously saturated and subdued, moving from fire to ice. The colour was both striking and cold. I added layers of trees, but not pretty, green trees; dark and menacing. The raven himself is a painting I luckily didn’t have to commission. Once I added firefly-like lights, I tested it on a few more people who haven’t read the book, and sighed with relief.

lynn_raven_composite

The final (for now) cover couldn’t possibly be more different from what I started with. This one, however, works. And I got another reminder, or three, that cover design is a very different form of art from graphic design.

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Thanks so much for visiting today, I loved reading about your own book cover journey and hope everyone else does too.

Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned (Reed Lavender #1) #SPFBO

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Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes is the second of the books I’ve read this month as part of the SPFBO Competition.  Stranded by Rosalind Tate was the first book I read and my review can be found here.

Graves

Graves Robbed is the start of an Urban Fantasy series with what I found to be quite a unique concept. Reed Lavender is a detective with a difference.  He looks like your regular run of the mill human being but his family are far from the mundane.  Nephew to ‘Death’ he is only partly human.  A story which is still in the making and I imagine more will be revealed with each instalment.

I enjoyed this.  I’ve read Capes before and I do like his style of writing.  With this particular story there is no hand holding.  You’re thrown pretty much into the plot and just need to run with it.  Lavender is working a case involving a runaway – his unique genealogy gives him the ability to talk to the dead – which can come in very useful in murder cases and the like.  He can also call on Death although this isn’t always terribly helpful, that being said, having a bunch of cousins who you can use in tricky situations does have it’s benefits.  I would also mention that he has a couple of tricks up his sleeve and that help to protect him but I won’t elaborate too much here.

So, Lavender’s case leads him to uncover something much more sinister taking place in the city.  Something that seems to involve summoning something dark, strange cult like behavior, sacrifices and kidnapping.

The setting is much as you would expect with urban fantasy.  Contemporary, modern day but with plenty of supernatural aspects including Gods and reapers.

As with most urban fantasy I usually find the first book is more involved with getting to know the main character and the world and Graves Robbed is consistent in that respect.  To an extent being thrown straight into the action left me a little bit perplexed to begin with, especially in terms of the other characters and becoming familiar with who everyone was, but I fairly quickly found my feet.

The plot is a little scattered, maybe a little too busy for the actual size of the book.  I think this is slightly under 150 pages and there’s quite a lot of action involved.  I must confess that when I first started to read I initially felt like I’d missed something, maybe a prequel or something with a little more background but I don’t think that is the case.  As it is I think the shortness of the story works against it a little bit, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough time to become familiar with the characters and keep on top of the storyline.  Basically, and this is a fairly consistent theme with me when it comes to novella length stories – I think I would have liked a little more.  Not padding just for the sake of it, but a bit more time setting up the people and their relationships to each other.  That is, of course, a personal preference.

However, criticisms aside I did find this a good read.  I liked the idea of a character that is related to Death and I enjoyed meeting Lavender’s cousins.  I think there is so much potential for this series and I would pick up the next instalment to see what the author comes up with next.  I would also mention that this first instalment doesn’t conclude the story, things are still very much in the air and in fact Lavender’s situation has become even more complicated by the final page and I suspect he might regret some of the promises he has been handing out like candy.

Overall, I think if you like UF this is a series that you will enjoy.  It’s short, entertaining, easy to get along with.  I suspect the second and third instalments will really flesh out the characters and place and probably drop a few more clues as to exactly who Reed Lavender really is and what he’s truly capable of.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Stranded (The Shorten Chronicles #1) by Rosalind Tate #SPFBO

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Stranded is the first book in my first batch of books as part of the SPFBO Competition.

Stranded

This is historical fiction with light fantasy elements and a hint at romance not yet realised but slowly coming to fruition.

Sophie Arundel has arrived at University, with her pet dog Charlotte.  It’s her first day, she’s allocated a room and as she makes her way across campus she spots a former classmate – Hugo – although the two were from completely different circles and not exactly what you’d class as friends.  To cut a long story short, the two of them, plus the dog, after entering what they believed to be a lift, are taken back in time to an alternate history.  The lift was a portal that disappeared not long after dropping our two main characters into the middle of the countryside with little idea of when and where they were.

From here the book is predominantly about coming to terms with the different period, living in a world where social norms are much more restricted, trying not to offend everyone whilst at the same time as trying to figure out the mystery of the portal and how and when it might become available again, on top of which there is an unknown person who seems to be taking Sophie and Hugo’s meddling badly and is issuing threats.

In a nutshell I’d liken this to Pride and Prejudice (the characters) meets Downton Abbey (the setting) meets ‘insert cosy mystery of your choosing’.

After a slightly rocky start I found myself enjoying this.  The author clearly enjoyed writing a period style novel and, although I’m not an expert on the time, seems to have researched the time well – although, as this is an alternate history you need to exercise a little leeway because a number of events, highly significant to our own history and pertinent as driving forces of emancipation, have not occured and therefore certain elements are slightly skewed.

What shone through in particular from this was that the author enjoyed the period and telling a story that is descriptive in terms of setting, house and clothes etc.  In fact, I mentioned above that I found the start a little rocky and I think that could simply be because the author wasn’t quite in her element in a more modern setting and found her feet as soon as our characters were taken back in time.  I also enjoyed the other little nods – for example the dog being named for one of the Bronte sisters because of the main character’s love for Jane Eyre.

The setting.  1925, grand house, upper class family.  You could be forgiven for thinking that Sophie and Hugo have fallen on their feet as they’re lavished with attention, clothing, food, events, etc.  In fact this is where the Downton Abbey comparison came from.  It really does have a feel of that particular drama and I’m not pointing that out as a criticism as such, more a simple observation that at times this almost feels like an alternate style fanfic.

The plot.  Well, as the story begins we pretty soon learn that a number of people have also come through the portal, in fact the ‘Lady of the Manor’ herself and indeed the local landlord and the head gardener at the house are all from similar modern backgrounds.  Sophie and Hugo spend some  time trying to figure out what links the travellers in particular but to be honest the mystery of the portal plays second fiddle to the developing friendship (potentially budding romance) between Sophie and Hugo and the ever increasing number of faux pas made by Sophie as she tries to come to terms with the restraints of the period – the corsets being the least of her problems.  As I mentioned this is an alternate reality and certain ‘key’ events have not taken place leaving our travellers with the dilema, should they be unable to return to their own lives, of having an uncertain history ahead of them.  On top of this someone, unknown, is taking an interest in their investigations and sending warning notes.

The characters.  I struggled a little to really like Sophie.  I feel a little unfair saying that because she isn’t a bad character so much as slightly annoying in that for someone who has travelled to an alternate place she seems to have very little self control or self preservation.  She is constantly blundering around offending people willy nilly – okay, I think it might have been a lot more useful if the lady of the house had sat her down and outlined some of the pitfalls, but, even with that lack of guidance you would think Sophie might have acted a little more cautiously.  Hugo on the other hand, and quite in contrast to how he seemed initially, seems to be a studious fellow with an infinite knowledge of the period therefore much more comfortable when it comes  to fitting in – not to mention, let’s be honest, men didn’t suffer the same restrictions really, particularly in terms of reputation.

As I mentioned the author is clearly comfortable writing an historic style novel.  She certainly got her teeth into the period and it was obvious that she enjoyed writing this.  The pacing is fairy even and I had no problem with forging ahead.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, firstly, although this is a portal story and alternate history it’s very light on fantasy.  The main element of the story seems to be about Sophie’s struggles to fit in and even the mystery is relegated to the background.  I’m not really sure why the author felt the need to include a dog in the story.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore dogs and I’m always happy to have them included when and wherever possible but this felt more like a plot device not to mention a little unrealistic at times in both the way Sophie behaved and her expectations in terms of the dog.  There is also an element of Sophie and Hugo struggling very little indeed.  They definitely landed on their feet being treated like favourite visitors and lavished with attention – which is probably why I railed against Sophie so much.  She could have found herself in a totally different situation by mere fluke, perhaps a scullery maid for example, getting up in the early hours to light fires, etc, instead of being drawn baths and helped to dress by her very own lady’s maid.  I don’t know, the fact that neither character seemed to have any real regard for how lucky they seemed to have been, or how very precarious their situation could have been irritated me slightly.  Finally, the mystery feels a little like an afterthought, the characters don’t seem to have any urgency at all about getting back ‘home’ in fact they both become very settled with almost indecent haste.   Also, if you’re picking this up expecting romance then be warned that this is very subtle, clearly the two main characters are becoming attached but there is no real romance at this point.

Okay, criticisms aside, this is an easy to read, cosy, period mystery.  I would describe this as charmingly easy. It’s perhaps not a book that I would instantly pick up off the shelves but I had no problem reading this one.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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