Book Review: ‘The Christmas Will’ by A.S. McGowan

An enjoyable historical fiction with mystery and a hint of romance.

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Set in Chicago and Boston in the 1860s, ‘The Christmas Will’ is the story of Ester Woods, who rises above prejudice and discrimination only to have it follow her. It is a story that explores the lot of women in pre-Civil War America, where men made the rules and women bore the consequences, yet it is also a story that celebrates the free thinking women who stood up against such strictures and embraced their intelligence and talents, and who dared to hope for more than just being someone’s wife. 

As an Australian, I found some of the grammar and word choices awkward, although I know that the author has followed accepted patterns of American English, so I was determined to not allow it to detract from the story that was being told.  I would, however, encourage the author to have non-Americans among her editorial team or beta readers, so that matters of local usage are less distracting for readers who are accustomed to more international patterns and usage of English.

 This is an enjoyable read. I do appreciate the way in which the author has blended elements of historical fiction and  mystery to make the story complex and intriguing.


‘The Christmas Will’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

 Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Falling For Elizabeth Bennet’ by Debra Ann Kummoung

A new reinvention of Pride and Prejudice – don’t expect the same story!

In this reinvention of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, the author has reworked the same characters and some elements of the story to create an original work based on Austen’s classic, but not consistent with it. I did enjoy some of these new twists and turns, and appreciated the author’s exploration of the stigma associated with epilepsy in the 18th century. 

I found myself conflicted not by these alterations, but by the fact that the entire story is written in present tense, which gives the story the feeling of a running commentary rather than a developed storyline. While that may be a matter of personal preference, I didn’t feel as though the narration did justice to the storyline or the important ideas the author wanted to develop and explore.

I also found it odd that the characters kept on using each other’s names every time they spoke during a conversation, which felt stilted and quite redundant. 

All in all, this was an enjoyable enough read, but probably better for a reader less fussy about writing style than I am. 


Falling for Elizabeth Bennet has been awarded a Bronze Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Miss Abigail’s Room’ by Catherine Cavendish

A beautifully dark novella.

Catherine Cavendish Miss Abigails Room‘Miss Abigail’s Room’ is a Victorian Gothic mystery suspense story embellished with some gloriously macabre moments. The author builds the suspense steadily, creating tension that is almost palpable by the end of the book. The reader’s suspicions grow alongside those of Becky, the main character, but the ending of the book still comes with a surprising twist that, in keeping with the conventions of gothic horror, leaves the reader both shocked and satisfied.

I really enjoyed the way in which the author depicted life both “upstairs” and “downstairs” in the house, and the ways in which the different threads of the story were woven together to create one complex, elegantly constructed story.

To craft a story that is reminiscent of Poe, Dickens and Downton Abbey at the same time is quite an achievement.Acorn Award I Golden

Well worth reading, this beautifully dark novella has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Cut Of The Clothes’ by Erato

An interesting and entirely absorbing historical fiction novel.

Erato The Cut of the ClothesThis historical novel explores the friendship between ‘Prinny’ Prince George and Beau Brummel, the leading men of London fashion during the reign of George III. It is a turbulent story of the crests and troughs of the prince’s personal relationships and social fortunes, written from his point of view, providing very personal insight into the thoughts, feelings and inner conflicts of a man who was obligated to live his life in the public eye.

This novel is very well written. The writing is vivid and lively, effectively evoking the sights and sounds of London society and making almost tangible the sensations of fabrics, textures, and settings. The characters are complex and fascinating, although not necessarily likeable. The skill of the author is such that despite his flaws and selfishness, the reader is still strongly positioned to sympathise with the prince and to almost will him to overcome the adverse situations in which he finds himself.Acorn Award I Golden

This book is very interesting and entirely absorbing. I have awarded it a Gold Acorn for excellence.

Find your copy on Kobo, Nook or  Amazon.

Book Review: ‘Locksley Vol. 2 – Sherwood’ by Mark Brownless

This new retelling of the Robin Hood legend is engaging and full of action.

Mark Brownless Locksley 2 SherwoodThis second instalment of Mark Brownless’ new retelling of the Robin Hood legend is as engaging and full of action as the first. As the tension between the rebels in Sherwood Forest and the soldiers of Guy of Gisborne escalates, the reader is drawn deeper into the forest and positioned alongside Robin of Locksley’s band, ready for battle.

The characters are developed with more complexity as the story progresses, so that the reader sees their humanity as well as their heroism. The author has explored more of the back stories behind key characters such as Robin and Little John, and the growing familiarity with them further engages the reader’s loyalties.

Unlike many of the older accounts of Robin Hood that I remember, this one features strong and independent female characters who make valuable contributions to the outlaw cause, rather than looking prettily helpless and needing to be rescued or defended.  This certainly doesn’t come across as a 21st century construct based on feminist sensitivities or politics, though – it feels genuine and respectful, and reminds the reader of the historical fact that there were indeed women living  and fighting for the cause alongside the men, and they were equally as brave and committed to resisting the corrupt agents of government that ruled over them all.

I’m really enjoying this series, and I’m looking forward to the next instalment.Acorn Award I Golden

‘Locksley Vol. 2 – Sherwood’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Prince of Sorrows’ by D.K. Marley

A tragic story, very well told.

D.K. Marley Prince of SorrowsWhen one sets out to retell an old, world famous story, it is essential that both the plot and the characters are crafted well enough to keep the reader engaged when they already know what’s going to go wrong and how things are going to work out. This first first title in a ‘Fractured Shakespeare’ series by D.K. Marley does not disappoint in its new delivery of the ages-old story of Hamlet.

‘Prince of Sorrows’ is a novelised retelling of the story of Hamlet with a much less ‘Anglicised’ feeling about it than Shakespeare’s play. In fact, this story feels so authentic and well-developed, it actually seems as though it’s more like the original story from which Shakespeare might have drawn his plot and characters. The characters are complex and intricately drawn, and bear names that are definitely more Scandinavian than those used by Shakespeare, yet many are not entirely dissimilar. The story is just as dramatic as the play itself, capturing the intrigue of politics within the castle of Elsinore and the rollercoaster of Amleth’s thoughts and feelings as the tension increases and the story reaches its climax.

Even as a reader who knows Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ extremely well, I enjoyed this adaptation of the play to prose. It’s a tragic story, very well told.Acorn Award I Golden

‘Prince of Sorrows’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Locksley Vol. 1 – Brotherhood’ by Mark Brownless

‘Locksley’ is an entertaining and very worthwhile read.

Mark Brownless Locksley 1 BrotherhoodThis book takes me back to the days of watching Robin Hood on TV in old black and white movies, and in the cartoon series in which Robin was a fox. The legend of Robin Hood is one I grew up with, and yet ‘Locksley’ delivers a fresh and interesting portrayal of the character and the stories that surround him.

This is only a short volume, but it is a most enjoyable one. It captures some of the history of the time at which the stories are set, framing legend with the history with which it is so richly entwined. It is well-written and the characters are nicely developed.

Acorn Award II Silver

‘Locksley’ is an entertaining and very worthwhile read which has left me keen to read the next instalment. It has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.