Monday, July 21, 2014

HH Review - All Quiet on the Western Plains by Isabella Hargreaves

Title: All Quiet on the Western Plains
Author: Isabella Hargreaves
Publisher: Steam eReads
Language: English

This novella is written in the third person, not a style I’ve read for a while. Perhaps I am more used to the immediacy of writing in the second person, but although I found All Quiet on the Western Plains to be a very interesting book, it reads like the narration of a string of events. However, top marks to Ms Hargreaves for writing in a style which is typical of that era. The research of post trauma distress order after World War One is flawless as far as it goes. I’d like to see the author dig deeper.

I don’t wish to sound as if I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. But it is written in a hands-off style so that a reader cannot be invested in the hero and heroine. This novella would shine after editing by a professional.

It is refreshing to read about the Australian aftermath of WWI, since it is not a topic tackled by many in the romance genre.

Countess of Jersey

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

HH Review - Blinded by Grace - Becky Lower

Title: Blinded by Grace
Author: Becky Lower
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Language: English

Halwyn Fitzpatrick is being pressured by his loving parents to find himself a bride. Now having discovered that the world is a very different place when viewed through a pair of glasses he’s taking a serious interest in the New York debutantes of 1858’s season. Truth be told he thinks having someone else choose a bride for him would be a less time consuming task. All that love business is for others, he is a serious banker and marriage is a serious business.

Grace Wagner is an old family friend. Grace is in dire straits. If she doesn’t marry before she comes of age, her obnoxious step father Simon Huffman will inherit all her wealth. He is a wicked man, one who spends his time gambling away the family money and being cruel to both Grace and her mother.

Forced into a desperate measures, Grace approaches Halwyn with a deal. Marry her, protect her inheritance and in a year they will part and no one will be any the wiser. Halwyn needs a wife, someone to help him furnish his new brownstone. He readily agrees.

It’s not long before Halwyn realises that Simon is an evil man and will stop at nothing to get his hands on Grace’s money. He pushes forward with their wedding plans. Unbeknownst to him Grace has been in love with him since she was thirteen. She even keeps the Harvard handkerchief he gave her many years ago.

Simon will not go quietly when it comes to losing the fortune he needs. A horse is nobbled, and Halwyn is seriously injured. I enjoyed this part of the story very much indeed. Halwyn’s mother is a kind hearted woman who sees what both her son and Grace are not prepared to admit to each other. She ensures that Grace has to help nurse Halwyn back to health.

As a result of the fall from the horse Halwyn has temporarily lost his memory. He forgets the ‘arrangement’ with Grace and thinks theirs is a love match. The growth of tender feelings between the two of them is beautifully written. Halwyn begins to lust after his fiancé while Grace grapples with her attraction to him knowing it is only a false memory on his part.

She confesses the situation, only to discover that Halwyn is in love with her. There are really lovely written parts in this part of the story. I enjoyed the Fitzpatrick family and their need to assist in the journey of love for Halwyn and Grace. I’m a big fan of the family historical romance, especially with loving and fun parents and siblings.

Simon’s drastic measures toward the end put both heroine and hero in peril, but I am pleased to say love wins out.

I enjoyed this book. It has a simple elegance about it and I look forward to reading the rest of Becky Lower’s Cotillion Series.

Countess Esterhazy

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Little Fabergé will do it.

No - Not Jewellery, Timepieces or Treasures!
I'm talking EGGS! Yes those beautiful, wonderful, skilfully crafted, small & not so small, Fabergé Eggs.  These artful creations have been delighting the hearts of Tzar's, Emperor's, Kings, Queens and collectors around the world for centuries.
Anniversary Egg - 1911
And seeing I write Historical Romance Fiction, I have my own story. 
My first introduction to these gloriously designed, painted and crafted eggs, was about 30 years ago, when I was  living in Western Australia. Visiting a friend one day I saw one in her glass case. It was larger than a hen's egg so probably duck egg. On the front of it was painted a tiny picture of her deceased dog. When she told me she had bought it from WA, I had to know where and if we could see them. We phoned and made plans to go and visit the lady.
What I found blew me away. 
Now all these years on, I wish I had taken photos. There were decorated eggs of all sizes and for all purposes. Some opened with little hinges, some were cut away to display the inside  & others left whole. The larger Ostrich/ Emu  eggs were absolutely wonderful.
  The download (1)delicate braids, painted artwork and finish is what impressed me most. All eggs sit on a stand or a leg-base. The artist took the time to tell to tell us how she prepared them, showing us some of the eggs already at several steps of the process. Understandably, the technique is long and tiresome, and one would have to have a castle full of patience - although I'm sure, the completed item is forever rewarding for the artisans. And as an artist, I know the costs of the creator's talent can't always be measured dollars - nor is it calculated in the time spent - often it's so much more.
The Eggs to buy were not cheap- according to the standards of the day - but they were worth every penny. To this day I wish I could have found the money to purchase at least a small one, but alas the budget didn't spread that far back then. For us it was comparable to more than a week of groceries.
So naturally, me being me, after seeing the eggs for myself, I had the desire to follow my creative spark and decided I'd make one or two, or half a dozen. I found a book at the library, read up on technique, tools etc, copied down vital points on construction (the artwork and design I had under control)  ... and now 30 years later, I ashamedly say - I never did get around to making even one!  But I am still in awe of the craft and those delicate creations.
I copied these pictures of some of the original Imperial eggs off the internet. I am really taken with the ones that First Imperial Faberge Egg - Hen Egg 1885have designs actually carved into the surface of the egg's shell.  As Recently as 2011, some of the missing Fabergé Imperial Eggs were still being found.   Lost egg found after 112 years.    This is a picture of the 3rd Imperial Egg. The Hen Egg.  There are 5 still missing, presumed lost after the revolution. Perhaps they are in secret private collections, or are they stored away unknowingly in a shed somewhere around the world.
 images (1) The original Jewel Eggs were made by Peter Carl Fabergé and his company from 1885 - 1917. The house of Fabergé made 50 eggs for the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II, to give to their wives & mothers as the most elaborate & expensive Easter gifts.  Known as the Hen Egg, it is crafted from gold, its opaque white enamelled 'shell' opening to reveal it's first surprise, a matt yellow gold yoke. This in turn opens to reveal a multicoloured, superbly chased gold hen that also opens. Originally, this contained a minute diamond replica of the Imperial crown from which a small ruby pendant was suspended. Unfortunately these last two have been lost. A centuries old tradition of bringing hand coloured eggs to church to be blessed and then presented to friends ans family had evolved through the years and , amongst the highest echelons of St Petersburg society, the custom developed of presenting valuably bejewelled Easter gifts. So it was the Tsar Alexander III had the idea of commissioning Faber to create a precious Easter egg as a surprise for the emperors, and thus the first Imperial Easter egg was born.
The Empress's delight at this intriguing gift with it's hidden jewelled surprise was the starting point for the yearly Imperial tradition that continued for 32 years until 1917 and produced the most opulent and captivating Ester gifts the world has ever seen. The eggs were private and personal gifts, and the whole spectacular series charted the romantic and tragic story leading up to the end of the mighty Romanov's.
More images and information on the Fabergé Eggs and the story of Easter, can be found in this book by Suzi Love.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Could the daughters of Downton Abbey cope?

Imagine the daughters of Downton Abbey losing their home, their parents, their wealth, their status, their friends.
This is what happens to the characters in my historical novel, Kitty McKenzie.
Kitty has lost everything, and as the eldest daughter, she has to now provide and care for her younger siblings, a task she has no experience or knowledge of how to do. From a life of privilege she is faced with all kinds of adversities to overcome.
How will she manage to cope with these new challenges when the only decisions she used to make was what dress she needed to wear and what book to read after dinner?
How was she to create a home for them all, and an income?
She never realised that buried deep inside her was an inner strength that would come to the fore and allow her to manage, even prosper, in an alien world of the working class.

Could Mary or Edith from Downton Abbey have coped so well? I'd like to think they would.