Friday, October 26, 2012

"Spirit Of Lost Angels" by Liza Perrat

  • * * * * *
  • File Size: 541 KB
  • Print Length: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Perrat Publishing; 1 edition (May 11, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

This debut novel from author Liza Perrat marks the beginning of what I think wil be a glowing career as a writer. I honestly feel that the quality of the writing will put the author up in the ranks of historical fiction nobility. Yes, that's how good I think this book is! I was so sad when it ended. I need more!

Victoire is the book's main character and life presents trials and tribulations for her family - the CharpentiersTheir homestead is destroyed by fire. Mother is the villages midwife and herbalist. Father is a carpenter whose work becomes more difficult to find and who travels  to find work. While he is away working he is crushed by the wheel's of a noblemen's carriage and barely makes it home before he dies of his injuries. Losing her father inculcates a hatred for the nobility on the mind of young Victoire. As a way to rise above their poverty Victoire's mother teaches her how to read and write - hoping that knowledge will be her salvation and her escape from their small, impoverished, village way of life.

Victoire's mother deeply mourns the loss of her husband and vows publicly that "God does not exist" and that she will never enter a church after the funeral for her husband. It is at this time that Victoire begins her education in the ways and uses of herbal medicine and midwifery. The villagers, however, believe that a woman who refuses to enter a church is surely in league with the devil and that her use of herbal medicine is the work of the dark one. As a result Victorie's mother is drowned on the village's riverbank - the banks of the Vionne river. Before she is murdered she manages to pass her pendant of an angel to Victoire - and leaves her daughter to unlock the meaning of the pendant and the significance of the angel.

As an orphan, the care of Victoire falls to the village priest who finds employment for her in Paris as a maid in the house of a noble family. In short order the Baron, the master of the house, takes Victoire as his mistress and - as things happen- Victoire finds herself pregnant by her despised employer. Her daughter, Rubie, is birthed with the help of the cook of the household, Claudine. Feeling that she has no other option, Victoire leaves Rubie on the steps of a church to become a foundling rather than to have them both thrown out of the house by the Baron. Victoire leaves the angel pendant and a letter with her daughter in the hopes that it will be kept for the little girl - so that Rubie will know that her mother did love her but felt she had no choice but to leave her in the hopes of providing her with a better life that she could offer her by herself.

Upon the death of his wife, a fellow villager, Armond, marries Victoire to help care for his children, one of which is Victoire's childhood flame, Leon. Their early relationship becomes a secret as together Victoire and Armond build a prospering business as inn keepers. They have children, a beautiful set of twins. The fates again cast their hands and within several years Armond is dead and Victorie lapses into a severe depression, just as her mother had when her husband died.  Her twins drown in the Vionne River as Victoire dozes near the river bank - they is nothing that she can do to save them and she has no memory of the event.

Her severe depression causes the village to believe that Victoire is possessed and she is sent to the infamous Salpetriere asylum in Paris. This a place from which few people who walk in ever walk out. A place of unspeakable filth and depravation. Since she is considered a child murderer her life is especially bad inside the walls of this awful place. It is here, however, that she is befriended but a wealthy patron. They both craft an escape and Victoire finds herself, implausibly, financially well off thanks to the woman's generosity. 

As Victorie rebuilds her life she discovers the meaning of the "lost angels", has a surprising reconciliation, finds her Rubie and some modicum of ease.  This is a story of strife, loss, neglect, pain, sorrow, suffering and remorse, but it is more than that. It is also a story of love, triomphe, healing and recovery. It's a story of redemption and second chances and it is about the good that can occur even in the bleakest of lives. 

I can't help but think that this will be the first in a long line of huge success' for Liza Perrat. She weaves this tale with consumate skill and finesse and her characters are all very well developed and they are believable people. It's a book that will leave wishing it had been so much longer! From the first page to the last it rivets your attention.

I can't recommend this book more highly! If the review seems filled with hyperbole it's because I truly was amazed at what an outstanding read this was. You won't regret reading this book - it's mich more that it's modest price!

Partial disclaimer:
I was offered a free copy of this book for review by the author but I opted to pay for it myself instead. It's a modest price for such an incredible read.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Sacred Treason" by James Forrester

  • * * * * *

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (October 1, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402272660

James Forrester is the nom de plume of Dr. Ian Mortimer whose non-fiction books have delighted me for many years. A couple of my many favorites of Dr. Mortimer's is "The Time Traveler's Guide To Medieval England" and "The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England".

Dr. Mortimer, writing as James Forrester, has now taken his unique and admirable writing talents to the realm of historical fiction. His  Clarenceux Trilogy begins with Sacred Treason which has, gratefully, now been published by SourceBooks, a publisher that I have come to rely on for excellence in historical fiction publications.

Set in 1563, as Elizabeth's reigns over a Protestant England, political intrigue, religious strife and citizen unrest remain hallmarks of the kingdom's daily life. The main protagonist, a 'secret' Catholic by the name of William Harley, holds the eminent position of Clarenceux King (senior officer at arms). It is in the stormy hours of a late night that a Catholic friend, Henry Machyn, knocks on Harley's door to press a manuscript into his hands, begging for him to guard the book and saying that he (Machyn) will soon be dead. Intrigued by what he has been  charged with guarding, William Harley, begins to investigate the contents of this obviously important book; finding within it's pages clues that involve religion and the security of the crown.

Alerted by the importance of this manuscript well known figures such as spymasters Sir William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham hunt down the Clarenceux (William Harley) whose life is quickly upended as his house is sacked, a servant murdered and his family forced to go into hiding. With no idea what the real importance of the book is Harley and Henry Machyn's widow, must race to unearth the clues that hide within the books pages before he loses his reputation and, quite possibly, both of their lives.

The hunt for the clues leads these two hunted people through the back alleys of London and into the parlors of some very interesting people- each of whom holds a piece the book's puzzle in their collective knowledge.

As you might expect from one of Britain's premier historians, this book is a thriller that is impeccably fast paced, highlights superbly written plot lines and well developed characters that combine with Forrester's unique grasp on the historical facts to produce a novel that is gripping throughout and has the added benefit of an ending that is worthy of the book!

The novel began just a tad slow - but it was just a few pages before I could not put the book down! It's a fast paced page turner that can't help but grab you and pull you in! While I don't necessarily read historical fiction to actually learn history, given the author's knowledge and abilities, this book does have the added benefit of his expert knowledge of the period which lends itself to the historically correct 'feel' of the book. It's a romp through time that you will not regret taking!

Don't miss out on reading this book! I'm now eager to read book two which I hope Sourcebooks will also release before too long!