Review of ‘Undercover’ by Barbara Winkes

‘Undercover’ by Barbara Winkes is the first in a new series, and features Kendall Mancini, boss of a crime family, but with a heart of gold. Jess/Robyn, an FBI agent is sent in undercover to try and stop a war between the powerful families in the city. Her aim is to convince Kendall to turn away from crime and work with the authorities to bring down the murderous elements within the families. What she didn’t expect was the attraction between them. Keeping secrets was always going to be dangerous, but now it is personal too. 

I liked that the story was told from two points of view. We got to know Kendall and Jess/Robyn intimately and could therefore empathise with their dilemmas. We also knew their secrets and the painful decisions each had to make. The author cleverly ratcheted up the tension, making me wonder whose side I was on. Did I want the head of a crime syndicate to prevail? Or the law enforcement officer? As their romance grew I wanted it to work out for them, whatever the cost. 

I thought I knew where it was going, but the author managed to  twist it all and surprise me again and again.  It was a very good story with relatable characters. It ended in a way that makes me desperate to read the next in the series.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Dark Queens’ by Shelley Puhak

As a history graduate I thought I was well versed in the history of Europe. But as I found out reading this book, the important roles played by women have been erased in some cases, and my knowledge was sorely lacking. Brunhild and Fredegund were strong, powerful women who started out as pawns in the games of others, but went on to influence early medieval Europe. Merovingian France was forever changed by them and as a result the whole of Europe. 

I found their stories fascinating – Fredegund a slave who ended up a Queen, and Brunhild, a Princess who found a strength and ability to outmanoeuvre the men around her. This book can be read by those with a general interest in history. It can also be read by those with an academic interest in history. The author gives a detailed bibliography and notes section at the back. So if the reader so wishes, they have the tools to find out even more and look deeper into the subject. But if a desire to find out more about forgotten women, whose influence on European history is the aim, then this book does that too.

This book has expanded my knowledge of an era and of characters forgotten over time. It is written in a very accessible style and I found myself taken back there, imagining a time and place, and the people living that reality. 

I was given this ARC by LoveReading to review.

Review of ‘Velocity’ by Gun Brooke

I love it when I find a new series to obsess about. ‘Velocity’ is the second book in Gun Brooke’s Dennamore Scrolls series, but it can be read as a standalone too. I haven’t read the first book, ‘Yearning’,  but I definitely need to now. ‘Velocity’ is the story of a town and its discovery of an alien background they didn’t know existed. Holly Crowe is astounded to find alien artefacts whilst out taking photographs one day and is determined to find out more. Claire Gordon, a local mechanic with a love of science fiction finally finds some meaning and purpose when she too is let in on the secret. As they join others everything begins to make sense. But will it lead them into danger and peril? 

This was an intriguing story, with superb world-building and imagination. I love sci-fi and this hit all the right buttons for me. There was love, romance and family too. The group were trying to solve a puzzle and I was completely engrossed in their journey towards discovery. The blend of different characters worked extremely well. We had some sapphic characters and their relationships, but we also had tight family bonds and friendship. I want to find out what happens next to them and can’t wait for the next instalment. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Front Page Murder’ by Joyce St. Anthony

Irene Ingram is now editor in chief of the Progress Herald. Her father has left to report on the war in the pacific, and her fiancé is in training somewhere, preparing to join the battles in Europe. She may be a great reporter and ready to take on the role, but it’s the early 1940s. Many of the residents in her small town don’t agree. A woman in a position of power is extremely unusual and not always welcomed. Irene is determined to prove them wrong and gets the chance to show her skills, when a sudden and unexplained death hits close to her. With anti-Semitic attacks springing up in the previously quiet and welcoming town, Irene and her friend Peggy begin to investigate. 

I liked the historical World War 2 time-frame. It was very well described and it felt so contemporary even though it was set in the 1940s. These characters felt real.  She managed to make the reader feel a part of the time too. It was a fantastic story and so believable. I really liked Irene . She was strong, daring and clever, and I want to read more of her stories.

This book gave a very different perspective. We found out about the women who stepped up and took on responsibilities outside the home. Through Irene’s eyes we saw the barriers they came up against. 

The mystery was well told and kept me gripped throughout. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review .

Review of ‘A Fatal Night’ by Faith Martin

‘A Fatal Night’ by Faith Martin is the second book I’ve read in this series, and I’m growing very fond of WPC Trudy Loveday and Coroner Dr Clement Ryder. The young police officer and elderly county coroner make an interesting pair, and their methods and investigations make for fascinating reading. This story is set over Christmas and New Year of 1962, when a ‘big freeze’ stopped Britain in its tracks. Snow and ice blocked the roads and many died. And it is one of these deaths that Trudy and Clement seek to investigate. As with any investigation, lies abound, and it is up to them to get to the truth and find the killer. 

I really like the dynamic between the two characters. The blend of youthful enthusiasm and a determination to learn, with the experience and wisdom of someone who has seen it all, really works. The setting of 1960s Oxford is also very appealing, as it gives an insight into the time, as well as the problems faced by a young woman in the police force back then. I enjoyed the story immensely, and it is exactly the kind of cosy mystery I want to read in these times. However unsettled it may seem for us in real life,  you can always count on a cosy mystery. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Fog of War’ by A.L. Lester

‘The Fog of War’ by A.L. Lester is a historical paranormal romance set in England after the First World War. As Dr Silvia Marks settles back  into life in the small English village where she grew up, she tries to forget the grief tearing at her heart. The disappearance of her lover during the war has left her scarred. With the help of army nurse Walter, she becomes the local G.P. and runs her own practice. When a friend from the battlefield hospital comes to stay, she begins to see some purpose again. But a strange mystery with one of her patients throws everything up in the air. She must decide if she had the courage to find out what’s going on. Because doing so has far-reaching complications. 

This was an imaginative story, with an interesting premise. I liked the time period, as it was a time when women began to venture out into the workplace due to the lack of male labour available. Sylvia was strong and capable, but was still struggling with heartbreak. Lucy came into her life at just the right time, and she had a positive influence on her. The paranormal element was intriguing and there is so much scope to develop it further in the next books in the series. I was certainly very curious as to where it would lead. I enjoyed the book and eagerly await more.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Others’ by Annette Mori

‘The Others’ is a thought-provoking dystopian story, full of tension and adventure. Em is a scientist, and along with her wife Lise, has been hiding in a bomb shelter for ten months. The world, and specifically the United States, went crazy after the last election, and the other superpowers took advantage. Now that the cities are presumably destroyed, groups of survivors try their best to live with what is left. Once on the outside again Em and Lise become aware of other people who managed to keep going. But who can they trust? And what will life mean after the war?

Annette Mori uses truth and imagination and mixes them to make a compelling story that kept me up into the wee hours reading. There are some tense and disturbing moments – some of them not too far off the mark from our reality. And that makes the story all the more powerful. The main characters were appealing, strong women, and it is through their interactions with the people they meet, that we see just what it takes to survive. I was hooked from page one and couldn’t put it down.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘In Our Words’ edited by Victoria Villasenor

‘In Our Words’ is a wonderful anthology of queer stories from black, indigenous and people of colour writers. The selection by Anne Shade is inspired and I loved reading such a variety of well-written stories. I now have some authors, new to me, that I feel compelled to seek out for my next book purchases. Although I enjoyed them all, there are a few stories that took my breath away.

My favourite was ‘Granddaughter of the Dragon’ by Brey Willows. It was a beautiful story of family, love and freedom. Freedom to be who you are and embrace it. Willows is a masterful storyteller, and manages to take the reader to places where anything is possible.

I also loved ‘Sweet Potato’ by Briana Lawrence. The author used imagery and language with such skill that I could see, touch and taste everything her characters did. I certainly want to read more from this particular author in the future.

‘Art Appreciation’ by La Toya Hankins was an empowering story, with a message of hope. I enjoyed the interaction between the two main characters and appreciated how the author developed the characters over the course of a short story.

‘The Depth of Love’ by Anne Shade was an emotional story, with a twist of mythology thrown in. It was a feel-good tale with romance and left me smiling. I would love to know more about the particular mythology she explored in a novel.

This is an excellent anthology, with something for everyone.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘A Woman To Treasure’ by Ali Vali

‘A Woman to Treasure’ is a cracker of a story. It’s an adventure, a mystery and a love story all rolled into one. Levi Montbard has loved history her whole life, and goes all over the world in search of antiquities. Her fascination with the Templars is particularly important, and when some writings come into her possession, the adventure really begins. Yasmine Hassani is a university professor, with a special interest in women’s studies. She’s an unusual woman in her culture, as she has so far resisted the expected marriage and children route. When she becomes aware of Levi’s quest she has to decide to take a leap, in more ways than one. 

Ali Vali has written a wonderful mystery, with well-researched historical detail and a heart-warming romance at its core. It has beautiful settings  in various parts of the world, with a fantastic group of characters. I particularly loved Louisiana and Morocco, and getting to know Levi and Yasmine’s families there. The story was brilliantly plotted, with stories and revelations that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. The romance was sweet and endearing and gave me such feelings of joy when they as much as held hands. It was lovely to see the characters grow and change as they got to know each other, becoming who they were meant to be. An excellent book and one I can highly recommend. 

I was given this ARC to review.