Captured by Her Enemy Knight by Nicole Locke – an historical romance of particular intensity

 

This is the story of Cressida, who is seen in the year 1297 at large in England. She is a warrior, a weapon trained from childhood in the arts of war. This historical novel is in the genre of romance, and much of it concerns the relationship between Cressida and Eldric, a knight. This book is a powerful tale of two lives intertwined by faith and an attraction that goes beyond the usual expectations. As they explore the past, the events that they know of and some that they can only guess at, they exchange stories of brutality and worse; this is in no way a courtship of delicate manners but a physical narrative of several differences. Revealing events over a few days with implications from the past, this is a book of intensity in its descriptions of a woman and a man in close proximity. The writing is lively and vivid, with such clever descriptions that it is easy to visualise the woman and man and their intimate setting. Their situation, it soon transpires, has far reaching implications not only for their own lives, but also the fate of many others. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this unusual historical romance.

 

The book opens with Cressida seeking a sight of her employer who she identifies as her father. She is a younger woman who has talents best suited to the role of warrior, and it soon appears that she has a great deal of battle experience, not in set piece conflicts but in the picking off of specified targets for assasination. She is determined to find and contact her father, who has made her “The Archer”, a sophisticated killing machine. She is an expert in every weapon except the sword; she can keep watch for extended periods and kill men to order. She can hide in high places, and picks a tree which overlooks the port with its coming and going of boats. A few hours later she feels herself pulled out from the tree by rough hands, and despite her desperate attempts to free herself which include inflicting injuries on her captor, she is taken up to a boarding house and secured as a prisoner. Eldric of Hawksmoor is a man who she has watched for years, a huge and powerful warrior with great responsibility to King Edward himself. For complex reasons her father has in the past instructed her, as part of her role, to kill Eldric and others, but she has instead chosen to observe him, discovering an attraction for him that she cannot explain. Eldric meanwhile is torn between the unexpected discovery that his long term adversary who he has sworn to kill in revenge for his friends is female, and his sworn duty to take the Archer to London and the King. He feels a powerful attraction to her, especially when he discovers her past history, but he soon realises that she will fight him with every ounce of her strength. 

 

This is a strongly written tale of mutual attraction in nearly impossible circumstances. It seems to be one of a sequence of books which feature some of the characters alluded to in this story, but it certainly stands alone as a complete novel in its own right. It is a skillfully written novel of character and setting, with two unusual but fascinating main characters.    

 

 

The Love Detective – Next Level by Angela Dyson – Clarry P and positive female characters

 

This is the second novel to feature Clarry Pennhaligan working as a private detective; as it was the first book I had read from Angela Dyson I had read so  I can definitely say it works as a standalone novel. A contemporary view of London life and in particular the varied experiences of some women, with some dangerous moments, perilous situations and a dash of romance, Clarry gets to grips with her case as she investigates a young woman’s secrets. It also has large doses of humour and realism as Clarry realises and relates to the reader that she is hardly a glamorous detective, and her clothes choices are sometimes a little haphazard. I really enjoyed this fast paced, exciting and genuinely funny book, and was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

 

Clarry is capable of getting herself into some complicated situations as she accepts the seemingly straightforward job of checking on the friendships of a difficult daughter, as the narrative switches from situation comedy moments to gentle thriller with pursuit across the more interesting parts of London. To add to the challenge her worthy assistant is a seventy year old friend whose lovelife is far more exciting than Clarry’s own, which is fortunate as Fran can call on the expertise of a variety of gentlemen who offer computer skills and driving a memorable vehicle on a search for the truth of some interesting people. 

 

The pace rarely lets up as Clarry tries to navigate the etiquette of escaping an anniversary party, deals with drunken rugby players, climbs ever higher in a mysterious building and investigates a group of unusual women. Some comic set pieces includes an outing in a hearse and a visit to a new age shop for notelets and information. As financial irregularities come to light, Clarry looks further into a group with interesting motivations, and finds out more family secrets. The tone turns a little darker as a midnight meeting exposes a threat which will become very real. Lots of interesting characters flit across the story as Clarry tries to follow the convoluted mystery that surrounds Vanessa. 

 

This is a well written and well paced novel which maintains interest throughout and includes so much. Clarry as the main character is an essentially interesting person as she navigates part time work and being an amateur detective, without any great trauma in her past life and a positive collection of friends. This essentially a light hearted read with genuinely funny dialogue, which handles the dark side of the investigation well. I liked the range of characters as older women are seen as capable, funny and attractive, while the main character is seen as having insecurities and doubts as she pursues the truth. An elderly couple who help with the detecting are realistically depicted, as is the landscape of a small bit of London which the author obviously knows well. For me this book achieves a good balance of humour, mild peril, gracious living and positive female characters who take the lead in a very readable novel. I shall definitely look out for more books by this author, and I recommend it as an unusual contemporary detective novel. 

Inceptio by Alison Morton – a thriller fantasy offering a chilling alternative view of life and history

Tough, articulate and determined; human, bewildered and sometimes anxious; Carina Mitelia is a present day hero in an alternative setting. Creating a slightly different world is one thing, staying very firmly this side of fantasy is another achievement. As Karen Brown becomes Carina Mitela, she slips from being advertising executive and volunteer park ranger into a fighter who must survive in her new role, new identity and new country. Full of physical action and subtle cultural hints, this is a novel which creates a new world order in which women rule and have to fix situations, while watching their backs for political tricks. A fascinating tale of the Roman way of life recreated for the twenty first century, this is an adventurously plotted novel in which there are mobile phones and sophisticated surveillance methods, yet the language is Latin. Self confessed “Roman nut” Alison Morton has created this novel as part of a series which pushes the boundaries of expectation, but which essentially revolves around a battle for survival. I soon became immersed in the world of Roma Nova, and I was grateful to be sent a copy of this novel to read and review, the first in the series.

Karen Brown leads a life in New York which is filled partly by her volunteer role as a patrol officer in Kew Park. When she defends an elderly man, an Indigenous, from some teenagers by some clever manoeuvres, she finds herself in trouble. As she briefly mentions in her narrative an alternative history of the United States in which the War of Independence did not happen and the British only left in 1867, the reader begins to appreciate that the subtle differences  in the world order means that the orphaned young woman has a link with Roma Nova. This is a state which is made up of the ruling party of the original Roman Empire, which has survived over many centuries to retain their power via women, who are the hereditary rulers of the successful and now peaceful country. Karen is contacted by Conrad who explains that she has family links in the country, and so begins a tense period where the diplomatic and legal possibilities run alongside brutal attempts on her life. As she battles to survive, she discovers that choices are forced upon her which will mean that she accepts a whole new identity, but that she must still be on guard, and indeed take the offensive if she is to fulfil her new role.

This book for me represents the best sort of fantasy, near enough to real life to be understandable, but offering a new element of a world view to expand and allow new adventures. There is a fair amount of physical violence, and there are times when I wondered if Karen/Carina has nine lives, as she is forced to do battle to survive so many times. This is a firmly female led thriller, and though Karen is more of a victim having to be rescued to begin with, as the book proceeds she becomes her true self as she takes control. A fighter in all senses, the Carina Mitela novels and indeed their predecessors, The Aurelia Mitela adventures, feature strong women in familiar yet challenging circumstances, and I would love to read more of them.

 

This book features the main protagonist learning Latin as a contemporary language, which reminds me of my couple of attempts to at least learn enough to translate the words of choral pieces and similar texts. Maybe when I have written a paper for a conference and submitted a dissertation and such like, I could think of having another go!