Celticlady's Reading Room

I love books of any type, ebooks, print in a variety of genres. I review and have been since 2009...

Best Historical Fiction Book of the Year, well in my opinion!

Ribbons of Scarlet: A Novel of the French Revolution - Heather  Webb, Sophie Perinot, Stephanie Dray, Kate Quinn, Eliza Knight, Laura Croghan Kamoie

What is Ribbons of Scarlet about? It is about empowering women. From royalty to fruit sellers the reader learns about six different women with different lives with the same goal. It is the eighteenth century where women have no place in politics, but these women put themselves right in the middle of the French Revolution. 

We have The Philosopher by Stephanie Dray; Sophie de Grouchy Condorcet (Grouchette) was a prominent salon hostess from 1789 to the Reign of Terror. She was well-connected and influential before, during, and after the French Revolution. Her salon became a meeting place for those opposed to the autocratic regime and she survived the Revolution, publishing her husband's works.

The Revolutionary by Heather Webb takes on Louise "Reine" Audu, a fruitseller who participated in the French Revolution. She along with others led the Women's March on Versailles. The march started by women who were upset about the high price and scarcity of bread. She was part of the delegation that met with the King but was later arrested and jailed. Her stay ended with her going "insane".

Then we have The Princess by Sophie PerinotMadame Élisabeth was a French princess and the youngest sibling of King Louis XVI. She stayed with the royal family when they fled Paris during the Revolution. She had the ear of the King and often tried to advise him. As a result of being the sister of the King, she was executed.

The Politician by Kate Quinn features Manon (Madame) Roland who was a French revolutionary, salonnière, and writer. Along with her husband, Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière were both supporters of the French Revolution. They were involved in the Girondist faction but fell out of favor during the Reign of Terror and was executed on the guillotine

The Assassin by E.Knight has Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d'Armont, also known as Charlotte Corday was another figure in the French Revolution. Jean-Paul Marat was a member of the Jacobin faction who exerted power via his newspaper. Charlotte felt that his death would save the people of Paris. She did kill him and was executed for her crime.

Lastly, The Beauty by Laura Kamoie protagonist is Charlotte-Rose-Émilie Davasse de Saint-Amarand who was the daughter of a courtesan becomes a heroine when she takes on Robespierre. 

Let's just say that I love any and all stories by these talented authors. How they could take six powerful French women and combine their stories into one fantastic novel beats me but they did. I knew about the French Revolution, King Louis XVI  and Marie Antoinette but nothing about any of the heroines in the book. I was sad for the women who were executed and in such an inhumane way but I was happy that they were an important part of the history of France. Each of these authors is talented in their own right but writing together, very powerful! Well researched and put together, one of my favorite books of the year!

Things I did not know!

The Secret Life of Mrs. London - Rebecca Rosenberg Perlov

I found The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg to be a very readable book. I have read a previous book by the author and really liked that one also. This book is fiction based on fact.

That said what is the book about? It is the story of Charmian Kittredge London, wife of Jack London the prolific author. Charmaine is Jack's second, younger wife, and they spend their time smoking, drinking and writing. Charmain types as Jack talks although Charmaine did have her book published through Jack's publisher. They are competitive and there is a lot of jealousy and intense emotion between the two.


She is the woman behind the man, if you will, and ensures that his writing gets done, she also nurses him through his alcoholism. Even with the jealousy and strong emotions, their marriage is one that has endured. She was an active partner in the Beauty Ranch, their spread on Sonoma Mountain in Glen Ellen. They wanted their ranch to be self-sufficient and a provider of food products for the ranch.

They become friends with Houdini and his wife Bess and Charmaine becomes enamored with Houdini and they are intimate friends without the sex but after Jack dies their affair becomes intense. 

Jack is an alcoholic and becomes extremely strange at the end of his life, he has his lower limbs swelling, from the drinking and an infection in his foot. What exactly caused his death may be a question that still needs answering, there is talk of suicide but never proven. 

After Jacks's demise, Charmaine is left on her own. With her writing skills, Charmian published articles for Mid-Pacific Magazine, along with The Log of the Snark and Our Hawaii plus going on to promote Jack's writings. He finished his novel Cherry and had i it published with Cosmopolitan magazine.


Did I like the book? I didn't think I would but as I got into it I was definitely hooked, I love Charmain because she was definitely a strong woman and even though Jack was jealous of her talent, he let her be her own person. The writing is great and definitely well researched. I read The Call of the Wild when I was a child and I never paid much attention to Jack's writings so reading this book gave me an idea of who Jack really was. I really enjoyed it and I look forward to reading more by Rebecca!


A Girl Named Anna - Lizzy Barber

A Girl Named Anna by Lizzy Barber is a suspenseful story of two teen girls, Anna who lives a very sheltered religious life with just her mother and Rosie who's family is enmeshed in the disappearance of her elder sister Emily. 

Anna has always wondered why her mother never lets her go to Astroland. She flat out refuses to let Anna go to many places. She is all about cleanliness and godliness. Anna has a boyfriend William, and he convinces her that yes she can go, she is 18 after all. Once there Anna experiences a weird thing, it is almost a Deja Vu feeling that she has been there before.

Rosie and her family have suffered the disappearance of Emily at Astroland, it has pulled at the fabric of her parent's marriage, their daily lives. Every year they are interviewed by the media, the same questions every year. The family has no clue as to what happened to three-year-old Emily, only that it is been 15 years and still no clue. Rosie is determined though to find out the truth. The funds that are for the search for Emily have virtually dried up and hope is running out.

This book was a story of two families tied together with the disappearance of one little girl. The character of Anna's mom was pretty strange. The reader comes to find out later in the book that she was involved in a religious cult. Anna, on the other hand, is a meek girl, living with her mother's fear.

The concept of Emily's abduction was kind of scary but a very real thing, but who did it, why and what happened to Emily. Alternating chapters tell the story of the two girls and how they are entwined.  Can Rosie find out what happened to her sister before her family is further torn apart? The story started out a bit slow but as I read, it became more exciting and I could not put it down. I read it in two sittings!


A Great British Mystery!

The Brief - Simon Michael

The Brief by Simon Michael is a legal thriller that takes place in the '60s, a British whodunnit. The British are known to tell a great story, especially the mysteries. This one is no exception. A story of crime and corruption right in the legal system. 

Barrister Charles Holborne is not a popular person, as he is a Jewish East Ender, not wanted in the "prestigious Establishment profession". He gets a high profile case that he hopes will help turn around his life. But when his wife is murdered, he becomes a suspect and he must run for his life, trying to find out who the killer is. He gets the help of a clerk in the office that he works in to help him as he has nowhere else to go but to her.

A good British mystery is one that keeps you guessing until the end. The characters were well written and the British legal system explained so it was more understandable. I liked this book and do want to read the next one in the series as I think that The Brief is a good start to the series. Loved it as I love a great British mystery!

Simply Dead

Simply Dead - Eleanor Kuhns

Will Rees, his wife, and family live in the house that his wife inherited and that the Shaker community covets. He married into the Shaker community, even though the Shakers don't seem to accept him that much. He had previously investigated a murder in the community and it seems that he will be doing it again as the daughter, Hortense, of a midwife,  goes missing. 

There are two men who are looking for her. Will finds her in the snow without shoes or a coat. He and his wife Lydia are suspicious of the circumstances. They hide her away in Zion, the local Shaker community. There is an eye witness and it appears that the description of the witnesses matches that of Josiah Wooten, a nasty man who lives with his wife and two sons. 

Will investigates the family and is surprised by what he finds. He has gone to the Wooten home in a blizzard, puts his life at risk yet again. He is determined to not only find out why Hortense went missing but also investigate the murder of the Shaker sister and what the correlation is between the two incidences. He is concerned about the welfare of his family and that they could be in danger.

The author writes in such a way that you can almost feel like you are in the snowy woods of 1790's Maine. A community that is set far apart from the rest of the country. There is a cast of characters that are believable. The story is suspenseful and you also get a feel for what it is like to live in a Shaker community. There are also some twists to the story that was not expected. I love a story that does that, I don't want to figure out who did what in a mystery, I like being surprised.

This is only the second Shaker Murders book that I have read but I found that I really did not miss not having read the previous ones in the series. I want to start the series from 

After You've Gone

After You've Gone - Kay Kendall

After You've Gone by Kay Kendall is a story about Walter MacGregor, Wallie for short. Why Wallie, she is named after her father. She is a 23-year-old girl in 1923 who has a great sense of adventure, she loves Sherlock Holmes stories. She came across a picture of a man and has asked her father, a judge, about the man. One day a man comes to the door asking to see her father. This man turns out to be her Uncle Rory, the man in the picture. Rory is her father's brother and they have been estranged for over 20 years.

Rory tells Wallie that he is afraid that someone is trying to kill him. When an unfortunate accident claims Rory's life, Wallie is determined to investigate. She does not believe that it was an accident but that Rory was murdered. With the clues she has dug up, she goes on a day trip with her Aunt Ida. Aunt Ida is her deceased mother's sister. She is a formidable woman who is constantly correcting Wallie for her behavior. A young woman in the '20s has a certain way she should behave. She does agree to go on the day trip to Galveston. She wants to find out about the people that her Uncle Rory worked for. 

She finds that the people that Uncle Rory worked for and hung out with are pretty dangerous. There are gangsters, Al Capone is mentioned, flappers and bootleggers as the country is in the midst of Prohibition. Wallie has now put herself and her overbearing aunt in a dangerous situation. Mixed into all of this is two young men who are pursuing her. So this story is a thriller, as she may be in danger, a romance, which young man will she chose, and Wallie's journey from an ingenue to a young woman who is courageous. 

This book is a prequel to the Austin Starr Mysteries, sets up the relationship between Wallie and her granddaughter. I found that this book was easy to read and fun, Wallie has a great sense of humor and a predilection for adventure and danger. I enjoyed the relationship between her and her Aunt Ida. Propriety and adventure do not often go together but in this book, it works. I really enjoyed reading After You've Gone. I think that the title works well also as it is after Rory is gone that Wallie learns about a family member who had not been part of her young life.

The Perfect Son - Lauren North

The Perfect Son by Lauren North is a psychological thriller, my favorite genre, about a young woman whose husband was killed in an airplane crash. She lives alone with her son, and her grieving consumes her making her life unbearable. She feels that she is a bad mom because of it. She and her husband had moved to a remote town in a tranquil English town, her husband's deceased mom's home, it is isolated which does not help her to overcome her grief.


She wakes up in the hospital with a stab wound in her stomach and her son missing.

She has a grief counselor, Shelley who Tess befriends, who is there in the hospital with her. While in the hospital, Tess tries to piece together the events that led her to the hospital.


The story starts 1 day after Jamie's birthday. Jamie is Tess's son and we learn that Tess is in the hospital. Then we go to 55 days before Jamie's birthday. The book goes on in this vein, counting down the days before the fateful day that changes Tess's world. I found this way of telling the story interesting. I enjoyed the author's style and found the story suspenseful and sad at the same time. Sad because I could not imagine what Tess was going though, suspenseful because I kept turning the pages, finished the book in two sittings. To me, if an author can keep me in suspense and be surprised by the ending, then this is a good author! I really enjoyed the book! Keep writing Lauren!

Ah Ireland!

Kilegeen - Eileen O'Finlan

Ah, Ireland! I was contacted by the author, Eileen O'Finlan for a review of Kelegeen and of course since it was about Ireland, I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen health issues, it was a year before I actually got time to read it.

The Great Hunger, or An Gorta Mór1845-1849, was a time of starvation and despair. Crops failed because of disease. As people were running out of food, they started getting ill from the diseases that come from starvation. In the book, Meg O'Connors family is one of the families that was affected by the blight. They tried to stay upbeat looking toward getting married, Meg and Rory Quinn found ways to help support the family during this terrible time. Meg, her mother, and her sisters took in sewing and Rory carved little trinkets and other pretty things out of wood. An unfortunate accident for Rory takes that talent away as his hand is smashed.

Father O'Malley the parish priest for Kelegeen is one of those priests that should be a saint. He does his rounds to all the families as they become ill along with an English doctor, Martin Parker. These two men become friends and they both do what they can to help the people suffering from hunger and disease. Father O'Malley has demons of his own, he had been engaged to be married to Siobhan. She was murdered by an English soldier and after that Father decides to become a priest. 

Not only did the residents of Kilegeen have to deal with the potato blight, but they also had the English. Their land was taken away and they had to pay rent, if they did not have the money to pay, their homes, which in most cases were hovels, were torn down. The Irish language was outlawed, and the Catholic religion barely tolerated. 

After the famine went on for years, Meg and Rory decided that she would go to America if their crops failed again. By this time there had been so many deaths for their own families and others in the community, that this is what people were doing. Go to America and send back money and bring their families over. This was how the book ended, I sure hope the author continues the story as I want to see how the O’Connor and Quinn families fare. This book is so well written that the story of the famine and how the families are affected just tugged at the heartstrings. The characters are well written and the story very well researched.

I am of Irish descent and doing my ancestry tree and there are a lot of people in the family that were in Ireland during this time frame. As I got further into the story I could almost feel the emotions and the heartbreak. Looking for a historical fiction read? I think you should put this one on your TBR stack, preferably at the top! I read this book in only a few sessions and I really enjoyed it! 

An Eye for a Lie (Inspector Richter #1) - Cy Wyss

Tian is a killer, all-around bad person. He ends up dead and Richter is the prime suspect. His gun has been confirmed as the weapon. Enter FBI Special Agent Vessa Drake, who is assigned to his case. Vessa must make sure not to get attracted to Richter, her past history should prohibit it. Vessa tries to figure out whether Richter is the good guy or bad guy. Did he do it or was he framed? The closer Vess gets to Richter, she does try to keep things professional but is finding it difficult. More bodies pile up and lots of different suspects turn up making Vessa wonder if Richter is being set up. Is there a mole in the department? The investigation into the deaths continues to its surprising conclusion.

I enjoyed the book, finished it in record time three days, which is good for a person who falls asleep reading. I found the ending to be exciting and unexpected! If you love a good mystery and/or looking for a new author to read, then this is a book for you. Loved it and highly recommend it.

The Heart Keeper - Alex Dahl

The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl is one of those books that hits you at the end and does not let go. Alison is the mother of Amalie who drowned. Alison is consumed with grief that won't let go. She has a hard time moving on because she feels guilty as her daughter died on her watch. They were at the beach, Amalie was in the water and Alison fell asleep so Amalie went too far out and no one saw her. So now that Amalie's organs have been donated, one of those recipients, Kaia, who had been very sick received the heart.


Alison's marriage to Sindre is disintegrating, they are both grieving in their own way. Sindre, a former soldier, is grieving in a different way than his wife. He appears to have PTSD from his service military service. With the help of her stepson Oliver, Alison is able to find Kaia and her mother Iselin. She has not been able to work due to her daughter's illness. Even after the surgery, Kaia still needs medical monitoring. There are certain things she is not allowed to do. Iselin has a younger sister who is a Dj in Paris. 


Alison becomes obsessed with Kaia after meeting her. Her stepson, Oliver, was key to finding Kaia and her mother.  He tells her that he has learned, in his class, about transplants and the phenomenon known as cellular memory. Alison is looking for any cellular memory and on the lookout for this phenomenon, like certain things she says, her movements that are similar to Amalie. Alison spends a lot of time with Kaia and Iselin, taking Kaia shopping, picking her up at school and even babysitting. 


The story is told in alternating chapters, we learn more about Alison and her marriage to Sindre. As well as Iselin's life. A single mother, no father in the picture, who has lived 7 years for her only child. They lived in the same house for the whole time with a nosy landlady. By nosy I mean, her peeping in the windows and coming to conclusions as to why a young girl would scream out in the night with nightmares. Iselin, even after the surgery feels like she needs to 'hover' over her daughter. As she gets closer to Alison, she feels emboldened to do something with her life. She is an artist and with Alison's help, she starts getting orders for her paintings which helps her financially.


I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I enjoyed the style of writing, the psychological aspect of the story was done extremely well. I liked how Dahl was able to tell a story of such loss and the consequences of grief and how some characters in the book handled it but with a compassion that is endearing. At times dark and scary, I did not see the ending coming and I like that, it keeps the suspense alive until the end. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone but to the reader who enjoys a psychological thriller! 



Lady Assassin!

Milady - Laura L. Sullivan

Milady by Laura L. Sullivan is one of those books that the reader has a hard time putting down. I like many others have watched the Three Musketeer movies. I always thought that they were awesome, three friends going around and taking care of the bad guys. I don't remember anything about a woman assassin who takes on the Musketeers.

As the story goes one, it starts in 1628 In Paris. The first sentence "The things a woman has to do to make her way in this world" Clarice, a young widow finds herself in a whorehouse as part of a house of prostitutes run by Mrs.Fox. Thus starts the story of the life of Milady de Winter. We learn in alternating chapters the beginning of Milady's spy life. Spying for Cardinal Richelieu puts her in danger over and over. How did she become the most feared female assassin? What was her role with The Three Musketeers? She was taken from her father for his own gains. Sent to a woman who teaches her the things she needs to know to become a successful assassin for the Cardinal.

Written beautifully, in different times of her life, her loves and hopes and also her losses. It is a historical adventure of a strong, beautiful woman who is fearless and who was treated badly by  D’Artagnan. This story is told in two different timelines, 10 years apart, with her doing things that were more often than not dangerous. The book is true to the time. Very well researched. The only thing I can say is that the author has made The Three Musketeers to be villainous and all-around bad boys. I remember them to be more for the downtrodden and very romantic. Didn't find that here. Does it matter? Not to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it! 

Agatha Christie Murder Mystery!

Death in a Desert Land - Andrew Wilson

Agatha Christie is tasked, by letter, to what was then called Persia, now Baghdad, to investigate the death of Gertrude Bell. Her death was determined to be suicide. Gertrude was an English writer, traveler, political officer, administrator, and archaeologist. She played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern state of Iraq, a very well respected woman in the Middle East. Gertrude felt that she was being followed and her life in danger so whether she committed suicide or was murdered has never been determined. 

She was also in competition with another archeologist, Mrs. Woolley. Katharine who had an official position as an illustrator for the excavation at Ur. Katherine's first husband committed suicide, many speculate it was because Katherine suffered from Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, which meant that she could not have children. 

In Death in a Desert has Agatha trying to figure out why Gertrude died finds herself in a totally separate murder mystery. Agatha befriends Mrs.Wooley and while Mrs.Wooley is brilliant and temperamental Agatha is still able to have empathy for her. A young girl gets into an argument with Mrs.Wooley and ends up dead. Mrs. Wooley is leaning over the body of the young women and of course, Mrs. Wooley becomes a suspect and is locked into her room. When the investigators are able to get there, they find that there is a young man who says he killed Sarah Archer. 

Both suspects are kept locked in their rooms until the police can figure out who the true killer is. Agatha visits her in her room and begins to suspect Katherine's behavior to not be normal. Could she have been poisoned? There are substances that could be taken that would change a person's personality and that would explain a lot of things

There are a lot of well-fleshed characters that make this story very believable. I did not know until the end of the book, that this novel was based on the real lives of Gertrude Bell and Mrs.Wooley and her husband Leonard, and that the murder mystery was interwoven with the real events of these people. This is the first book I have read in this series and I think that I will go back and start from the beginning! A worthwhile read, a clean mystery but still a suspenseful who dun it. I really enjoyed the book and read it in a few sittings!

Bone Deep  - Sandra Ireland

Bone Deep is a novel that is a contemporary retelling of a Scottish legend of two sisters who were often by an ancient water mill that now is the home of Mac, a retired academic and writer. These sister's had a sibling rivalry that turned deadly. Mac is working on a new collection of folktales that include these sisters. Mac is a widow and her son wants her to live in an assisted living type place but she refuses.

Mac is having frequent bouts of memory loss and wants to complete her work so she hires a young woman, Lucie, to help her type up her notes and other duties. She moves into the Miller's Cottage. Lucie left home, her mother actually threw her out after she realized that Lucie was having an affair with her sister's fiance. So she just wanted to earn a living and to try to get past all of this. So dealing with Mac seems to be the way to do this.

The story is told in the point of views of Lucie and Mac. We learn more about Lucie and the affair and also Mac and the old mill and her deceased husband and how he died plus the story of the sisters. There are secrets, secrets and more secrets from these two women and it is how they come to terms with these secrets that make the story. This book is dark at times, gothic kind of read that should appeal to anyone who loves this genre. 

I read some reviews that said it started out slow, I didn't feel that way. I just felt that it was a bit lengthy getting into the story but that was ok because it set up the story to its satisfying but not expected conclusion. Lots of twisty turns but that is what makes a great story right? The ending blew me away! Never saw it coming. Great psychological thriller! I enjoyed the book immensely!

The Impaler's Wife - Autumn Bardot
Vlad III Dracula, known as Vlad the Impaler was the second son of Vlad Dracul, who became the ruler of Wallachia in 1436. Vlad and his younger brother, Radu, were held as hostages in the Ottoman Empire in 1442 to secure their father's loyalty. The relationship between Vlad and Radu deteriorated as Radu became Islam and a friend of Mehmed II, ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Vlad's father and eldest brother, Mircea, were murdered after John Hunyadi, regent-governor of Hungary, invaded Wallachia in 1447. Vlad was held in captivity in Visegrád from 1463 to 1475. The stories of his cruelty began to spread from Germany during that time. Whether they were true or how bad he was is pure speculation. I guess you have to remember that it was in medieval times and cruelty was normal for the time. 
His second wife was Ilona Szilagy, the main character in the book was a cousin to  King Matthias Corvinus, king of Bohemia, Hungary, and Croatia. Vlad is determined to marry into the Szilagy family. Vlad and Ilona had a tumultuous relationship and marriage. They had two children, Vladut and Nicolae. Vlad seized Wallachia in late 1476 but was soon murdered, decapitated. This was the ending of the book, I would like to see a sequel because it appears that there is a lot more to tell of Ilona. 
The story had a lot of war, Vlad was definitely a warrior, sex, murders, and court intrigues. The book went back and forth from when Vlad was young to the present day and his marriage to Ilona. I knew the stories of Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, but had never read much about him. There are a lot of characters in the book, lots with names that I could not pronounce. That did not stop me from enjoying the story thoroughly. Of course, there are a lot of stories about Dracula related to vampirism, those were the stories I knew about, not Vlad the person. I loved Bardot's writing, even though there was a lot of war scenes, she mixed in the daily lives of Vlad and Ilona. She put a personal touch to Vlad and Ilona, the book did not read like a history book like some historical fiction books do.  I think that I would love to read more about Ilona. If you like historical fiction and want to read about the love between Vlad and Ilona then this book is for you. I highly recommend it! 


A haunting story!

The Missing Years - Lexie Elliott

Ailsa Carter is a 30 something journalist, who inherits the Scottish manor where she was born after her mother dies. She is always wondering what happened to her father. The kicker is she only gets half the house and the other half is left to her father, so she must find out what happened to her father 27 years ago.


"My father is happily living in Australia with a lady called Sarah or Susan. They have a handful of charming children with the exception of the last, who even in his early twenties is something of a handful (they call him their "late bloomer") though of course, my father struggles endlessly with thoughts of the child he left behind. But he's come too far to be able to see a way back to her." 


Statements like the one above are at the beginning of every chapter, I realized after I finished the book that these were just things that Ailsa was imagining happened to her father. She moves into the manse temporarily, the locals are not very friendly to her, her family has been the 'talk' of the towns since her father disappeared. Threatening notes and dead animals appear on her doorstep and live animals won't come onto the grounds past the gate. 


This book has some interesting and sinister characters, undertones of supernatural make this a story worth reading. I love the writing style, including the statements at the beginning of each chapter, it made her father seem like a real person and had me curious. So what did happen to Ailsa's father and what is going on with the 'Manse"? Will Ailsa be able to overcome her issues both personally and with her father? I encourage you to pick up a copy of this amazing book! Now I have to read The French Girl!

Normal People - Sally Rooney

I apologize to the author but I could not read this book. I found it rather boring. I will be donating the book to my local library.