Jun 072016


After the long Great War leaves behind a shattered Europe without an entire generation of men, Great Britain permits women to serve their country as soldiers, sailors, and especially pilots.
It’s the spring of 1940 and Briley Bannatyne envies her older brother Mackinley. He’s about to embark on a grand adventure, training to become a pilot officer in Britain’s Royal Air Militia. When tragedy strikes, a badly hurt Mackinley convinces Briley to take his place in the Air Militia. Service is harsh – nothing like the radio shows where brave Air Militia pilots hunt pirates over the skies of Britain. Kendrick is one of these marauders, captured after Briley shoots him out of the sky. Brash, charismatic and mysterious, Kendrick becomes her unexpected friend and ally.
On a continent already battered by war, a terrifying new enemy emerges that conquers much of Europe before turning its sights on Britain. All that stands between the unstoppable Black Legion and invasion is Briley and a handful of brave pilots. Can Briley and her friends turn back the Legion, and will Briley’s friendship with the pirate become the key to saving Britain…


Review: 5/5 stars

Although Tony Russo published previously, this is the first book of his I’ve read. What drew me to the story was a young girl becoming a fighter pilot in an alternative, historical world. Heck ya! A girl being in a predominate male environment always grabs my attention. Briley is spunky, hard working, and feminine. She’s everything I wanted to be at that age. I think that’s why I gravitated towards Mr. Russo’s narrative.

We see headstrong Briley lie her way into the military and put herself out there for failure at every opportunity. She’s definitely not a Mary Jane. Not everyone likes her right off the bat. She’s a farm girl, she’s small, she’s born out of poverty, there’s probably dung and grass still matted in her hair! Briley is forced to prove she’s good enough – that’s something we do every day of their lives. Briley even has to prove to HERSELF she’s good enough. As a reader, I felt as though I was along for the journey. There was just enough military jargon and plane dynamics to make her world feel real. When she’s flying around in the plane, Mr. Russo’s description of what she did made sense. I saw her pull the throttle, trying to keep ahead of the crazy flight instructor. I saw the massive city where pilots fly over to salute the residents. I even loved that hint of romance. It was done well without being overwhelming.

To me, believably is my biggest pet peeves. Mr. Russo does that well.

I am a fan – please finish writing book 2 because I want to see what happens – especially between her and that handsome pirate!



Barnes and Noble



 Posted by at 5:51 am
Sep 172014

I was given the opportunity to read The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar by Kim Rendfeld and all I have to say is wow!



perf6.000x9.000.inddReview: 5/5 stars


Normally I steer clear of anything during this period because of the sheer barbarism of the era along with the subject matter. Either authors are too technical or don’t put forth the amount of effort needed to make the world feel real. Ms. Rendfeld breaks both molds.

Immediately she creates a tight family unit we immediately care and identify with. Leova is a mother struggling to protect her child after a savage raid by Charlemagne’s men. Everything she has ever known (husband, village, way of life) is taken away from her. She is sold into slavery by her jealous sister-in-law and forced to do the best she can in an unknown and controlling world.

As a mother, my heart broke for this character. She felt real, thanks to Ms. Rendfeld’s beautiful storytelling. The world is flush with detail and tiny tidbits. Nothing was left out. I cringed when her daughter was sold as a slave and forced into compromising situations. I felt the stress and fear of not known if your master would sell you or your children at a moment’s notice. So many glorious ups and downs. I told myself I would read up to the end of the chapter before bed only to blow through three or four and realize twelve came and went hours before.

As stated by another reviewer, this story shouldn’t be a full 5 stars due to the abrupt ending. After so many trials, the end felt a bit flat. We are presented with a nice little happily ever after which came off feeling forced. But that detail only takes it down a small amount. The Ashes of heaven’s Pillar is sure to suck you in. Since I can’t give 41/2 stars, I am giving it 5. Seriously, it is that good.

Thank you for killing off the evil guy towards the end of the book – really made my night. I wanted to murder him in so many ways.
I was utterly amazed by the world building this author did. The hours of work and research is unfathomable. Wow. Don’t hesitate to check this story out. You will NOT be disappointed.



772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of the Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to defend her and her family instead sell them into slavery.

In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family. Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion – but he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.

Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, “The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar” explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed “The Cross and the Dragon” tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.

Amazon review

Barnes and Noble Review

 Posted by at 3:17 am
Jul 222014


91yRfentOmL._SL1500_Intractable Heart: A story of Katheryn Parr

1537. As the year to end all years rolls to a close, King Henry VIII vents his continuing fury at the pope. The Holy Roman Church reels beneath the reformation and as the vast English abbeys crumble the royal coffers begin to fill. 
The people of the north, torn between loyalty to God and allegiance to their anointed king, embark upon a pilgrimage to guide their errant monarch back to grace. 

But Henry is unyielding and sends an army north to quell the rebel uprising. In Yorkshire, Katheryn Lady Latimer and her step-children, Margaret and John, are held under siege at Snape Castle … 
The events at Snape set Katheryn on a path that will lead from the deprivations of a castle under siege to the perils of the royal Tudor court. 

Katheryn Parr has for many years been depicted by historians and novelists alike as a staid, rather dull woman. Her role little more than a nursemaid to a succession of elderly spouses, but she was much more than this. 

The novel, Intractable Heart, is told via four narrators, Katheryn’s step daughter, Margaret Neville; Katheryn herself; her fourth husband Thomas Seymour; and her step-daughter Elizabeth, later to become Queen Elizabeth I. 

Katheryn Parr emerges as an intelligent, practical woman; a woman who sets aside her love for Thomas Seymour to do her duty and marry the aging king. 
Katheryn becomes Henry VIII’s partner in all things, acting as Regent for England during the French war, embracing and guiding Henry’s three motherless children, and providing a strong supporting voice for religious reform. 

It is not until the king’s death, when she is finally free to follow the desires of her heart that her life descends into chaos … and wretchedness. 


I had the privilege of reading and reviewing this novel for Ms. Arnopp. As my readers know, I enjoy giving honest reviews for anyone interested. I do warn you, they are without bias.

Book+and+PenReview: (4 out of 5 stars)

Now, let me start off by saying I am not the targeted audience for this story. Normally I enjoy historical fiction where the main character is not historical figure. That saying, I started this book with an open mind. At first the narrative from Margaret as young girl felt clunky due to the level of awareness but Ms. Arnopp made the story feel as if a child was writing it, which I have to say isn’t easy for every writer to pull off. I had a hard time attaching and contemplated putting the book down. However, once we got into the story where Margaret is older and also where Katherine took over, everything smoothed out. The detail and personality of Katheryn flew off the pages with each word.  She was no longer a historical figure but a human being. The amount of research astounds me. I felt like I knew her and was a part of the world.  Great job!


Ms. Arnopp joined me for an interview where I was able to pick her brain and shuffled through her writing desk (I wish!). Enjoy 🙂


What made you gravitate towards Katheryn Parr for a historical figure?

When I first decided to try my hand at writing a full length novel I didn’t want to go near the Tudors.  Although the period has always fascinated me, I thought there were far too many novels set in that era already. But after so many of my readers asked if I had ever thought of writing any ‘Tudor’ novels, I decided to oblige.

The first of my books set in Tudor England is The Winchester Goose and in that I cover Queens Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. While I was working on The Goose I became hooked and went on to cover Anne Boleyn in The Kiss of the Concubine. They have both been very well received, The Winchester Goose was recently the number one bestseller in historicals and number seven in the overall Kindle chart. This made me very happy.

I have considered the remaining two queens but Katherine of Aragon would need a mammoth sized book and I’ve never found Jane Seymour as interesting as the others. We know very little about her so it would have to be heavily fictionalised.  Katherine Parr seemed the ideal next candidate but it wasn’t until I began to researcher properly that I realised just how interesting her life was. She was a strong, resourceful woman who ‘managed’ Henry very well indeed.


NPG 4451; Catherine Parr attributed to Master JohnYou also wrote about Anne Boleyn – What drew you towards her as a historical


Poor Anne. She has so many books about her but none of them seem to be very fair. Her story is so unbelievable I don’t think it needs any embellishment; all I do is bring her and Henry to life, give them a voice. I am not interested in the public side of their life, the glitz and glamour doesn’t fascinate me at all. I hone in on the private relationship, the man and woman beneath the King and Queen. I don’t believe Anne was the scheming arrogant woman she is so often portrayed to be (and certainly not a witch or incestuous). I wanted to give her the chance to put her own side of things. I put a lot of thought into every event of her life that I cover in the novel and concentrated only how it might have seemed from her perspective. Writing it in the first person meant I had to leave out many things that she wouldn’t have witnessed, things that happened behind her back, but at the same time that allowed me to illustrate how she may have really ‘felt.’


Where did your love of history come from?

I think I was born with it. As a small child I had a big picture book of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. We often came to Wales on holidays and I always I loved it when my parents took me to castles and churches. I studied it to A level at school. In a way, I’ve been researching all my life although I did no serious historical study until I went to University as a mature student where I studied for a Master’s in Medieval History. If I hadn’t done that I would never have dared attempt to write historical.


How are you drawn to a story line? Does it start with a person/place/ event?

Sometimes it can be something really small; an inscription on a tombstone, a message in the margin of a book, or a painting. With the well-known figures like Katheryn Parr and Anne Boleyn it is more of a desire to give my interpretation of their lives and attempt to get readers to see them as real people, rather than unlikely fictional characters. I don’t know if I succeed but it is fun trying.


Where does that inspiration stem from?

I don’t know. Sometimes a sentence or a scenario pops into my head from nowhere and I think about it for a while until I am sure I can take it far enough to turn it into a story. Sometimes I run through it with my partner and that helps it grow. I never have to dig very deep to find my next subject. They are often born during the research or writing of a previous book. The one I am working on now, A Song of Sixpence, is about Elizabeth of York. I’ve been meaning to write about her since about 2009 but have only just got around to it. It is going very well. Henry VIII has just been born and I am enjoying bringing his childhood to life.


How do you begin researching?

I never stop. Even if I am not working on a book I am reading history. Once I have decided on a project I gather together all the information I have (my library is huge) and when I’ve exhausted that I buy more books, or go to the university library and dig out thesis’ and things.

I like to read from every angle, every opinion counts and then I find a path through the middle. With so many conflicting opinions I have to make the decision which theory I agree with and go with that. This probably upsets people who have a different idea but I can’t help that. I am creating a possible scenario, and not at all insistent that it is actually what happened.

I also like to visit relevant places; castles, abbeys, monasteries etc. This can be difficult since I live so remotely in West Wales and the Tudors rarely ventured this far but it was great for my earlier work. I was at a Tudor event at Raglan Castle recently and seeing the re-enactors in all their gear was a great help. My holidays always turn into research trips and my research trips into holidays – which is excellent.


Do you outline or wing it?

I have a very rough outline of my fictional story. A time-line for the main historical characters showing where they were at relevant times (as far as records show). Then I wing it. Sometimes the back story ends up somewhere very unexpected but with the historical characters I can’t really do that. I have to keep to the record as far as we know it, the fiction comes in when I put thoughts and feelings into their heads.


Lastly, what advice do you give other historical authors?

I wouldn’t be so presumptuous. I think every writer approaches it differently and there is no right or wrong way to do things. My main advice would be to keep going. Don’t be put off my detractors, if your books are good enough there will be a market for them, it is just a case of finding them. It is tough out there but once you’ve decided on your genre (romance, fiction, time-slip) and discovered your niche the negative criticism won’t matter half so much. It is important to remember every writer gets bad reviews at some point, all we can do is hope there aren’t too many. I also think readers appreciate interaction. I know some authors prefer to remain aloof or even incognito, but I have had so many messages from readers thanking me for taking the time to talk to them. I am naturally very shy, and not very good at face to face meetings but on-line I find I am much braver. My readers are lovely. I owe them everything and will never forget that.


Now most blog hops stop here and you continue on, but Ms. Arnopp graced us with even more tidbits about her and our beloved, ill-fated leading lady – Katheryn Parr.


8cc8251a56290ad8986c16.L._V155136130_FIVE things readers may not know about Judith Arnopp:

1.) She is mum/step mum to seven children (happily grown up now).

2.) She is married to her best friend.

3.) She once met and shook hands with Prince Charles.

4.) She is a vegetarian and keen environmentalist.

5.) She used to be able to recite Romeo and Juliet from start to finish but these days her memory isn’t as sharp and she forgets big chunks of it.



FIVE things readers may not know about Katheryn Parr:

 1.) Katheryn was the first queen to become a published author.

2.) Katheryn was married four times.

3.) During her second marriage she was held under siege at Snape Castle during the Pilgrimage of Grace.

4.) Katheryn was an important Protestant reformer.

5.) Henry placed her as Regent over England when he rode off to war against the French. An honour only one other of his queen’s enjoyed, Catherine of Aragon.



About Judith:

Judith lives in rural Wales in the UK with her husband John and two of her grown up sons. She studied creative writing and Literature at university and went on to study for a master’s degree in medieval studies. She now combines those skills to craft medieval historical novels, short stories and essays. you can find out more about her on her webpage www.juditharnopp.com

Her first novel Peaceweaver was published in 2009 and is the story of Eadgyth Aelfgarsdottir who was queen to both Gruffydd ap Llewellyn of Wales and Harold II of England in teh years leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Her second novel, The Forest Dwellers, is set just after the Battle of Hastings and tells the story of a family evicted from their homes in Ytene to make way for William the conqueror’s hunting ground. Ytene is now better known as The New Forest.
Her third novel, The Song of Heledd, is based on fragments of a 9th century Welsh poem called Canu Heledd. It tells the story of Heledd and her sister Ffreur and the disastrous destiny of a dynasty of Welsh kings.
She is presently working on a Tudor novel The Winchester Goose.




 Posted by at 9:36 pm
Jan 122014
4.0 out of 5 stars
91lWWcLn92L._SL1500_So Sweet 🙂
This is a cute little story of growing up, loss and the sweet childhood romance that blossoms into something more.

The story begins with Penelope getting ready to take her daughter Belle to a going away party in Scotland. They’re sitting on top of the family bakery looking out at the Scottish coastline when the daughter asks the mother to retell the story one more time.
Here we are introduced to a young Penelope who finds out about the death of her parents. Because of her parents’ will, she is sent to Scotland to live with relatives. During that summer, she blossoms and thrives, developing a sweet romance with Gavin. But perfection can never stay that way and she’s sent back to the states.

Years later, she runs into Gavin once more but has too much time passed between them? I will let you answer that.

This is told mainly through narrative, which took away from the story feeling real. I would have liked more delicious detail (because you can obviously eat detail – right?) to make Penelope’s world come to life. It was like taking a huge romance book and smooshing into 56 pages – all you end up with is plot. Also, the sentences use repetitive language, pulling me out of the narrative a few times. Could use some fine tuning.

However, it is a fast read and leaves you with an “awww” at the end. I really hope the author continues to write because she has a lot of potential.


Amazon Review

 Posted by at 7:16 pm
Jan 112014


5 out of 5 stars for this wonderful Historical Romance!


I am stickler for historical novels set in certain time periods to have heroines who fit into the world. Too many authors take a setting a put a girl with modern sensibilities into the era and force society to bend around her. So when I received this book for free through a contest on the author’s webpage, Ms. Shalaby made my day when we are introduced to Rhianna, a clergyman’s daughter who

1.Knows and accepts her place in society

2.Acts like a girl of the era.


She isn’t outwardly stubborn or rebellious nor does she rant about and bemoan her circumstances. All those thoughts are kept inside her head, where they should be! In fact, she is at peace with them. Even when she meets the oh, so handsome hero of the story, Rhianna keeps her distance emotionally for as long possible. Any girl of her class would, from birth, know her chances with a man of his station were slim to none- despite him having other ideas. While the hero is run of the mill Mary-Jane, all readers will instantly fall in love with him. (I know I did). Classic style romance novel.
Also, the writing is very reminiscent of the Austen period. The sentences flow like poetry. The author paints such lovely descriptions I am never left without a perfect mental image of every contour she draws my eye towards. Dresses, ballrooms and drawing rooms are all given that level of description to bring the scene to life.

Thank you for keeping the romance clean and sweet. Rhianna is a story I will keep for my daughter to read when she’s older. It is a story I will pawn off on my friends to enjoy.

Definitely a fan and will closely follow this author.



Barnes & Nobles

 Posted by at 5:21 pm
Jan 102014

41J62n69WaL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-69,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I received a free copy from the author in a birthday promotional.

The beginning starts a bit rough and wordy. In my mind, I was simplifying sentences as I read. But you can tell the author gets into his groove around the third page or so.

Unbeknownst to us, our feline companions are far more productive in our happiness and well being than we’re aware. The author drags the secret of that revelation to the very last page which made a nice reveal. And of course they do all this with very little praise or appreciation from us. The narrator (a female I believe?) comes off sarcastic and jaded, obviously very good at her task, taught from birth – a power passed down from mother to child.

I found this idea VERY refreshing and new. It kept my attention from beginning to end. If the author wanted, I think there is the potential for more plot lines around this premise. Can you imagine a whole fantasy story with these cats as main characters? I could.

There were a few snags. The author repeats a lot of phrases and words which pulled me out of the narrative a few times. Those could have been smoothed out by more editing. For example:

“As I grew wise, I learned I could guide…” and in the next sentence: “It’s not a difficult thing to learn…”

That sort of thing.

A Glimmer of Perspective is a great read. I recommend to anyone owned by a feline 🙂 4 out of 5 stars!


Amazon Review

 Posted by at 8:43 pm
Jan 072014

9c16a1abb8b40ad8976f10.L._V371311376_SY470_I received Rhianna from the author herself in a contest. I devoured that story and immediately wondered if her second book was as good. Boy is it!

The story continues with Audra, sent to London to officially become marriageable material even though she’s already emotionally engaged to Crispin, a boy she has been in love with for years. Still, she goes determined to enjoy herself and the experience. What Audra does not realize is her chaperone has other plans in store for the young girl. Mystery, romance and plenty of historical details makes this another book to be loaned out and treasured.

What I adore about this book is the way we are always in her head and thoughts. Amidst a well researched and richly detailed world, we get to know the girl and her motives. She’s young and in love – what else would fill a young girl’s head during her coming out? Her greatest fears become ours in a narrative that fits well into the era. While Audra is headstrong (her background supporting it) she is also docile. Ms. Shalaby again creates a character that belongs making the plot believable.
I look forward to the author’s other works.


Amazon Review

Barnes and Noble


 Posted by at 9:54 pm
Jan 072014

Fragonard,_The_Reader I am looking to review new and previously published books. With three million books published last year, we need to help the indie presses and authors as much as possible. If you are self published or published through a small press and your genre falls within these catagories, submit a request for review by clicking the tab above.

Include the title, word count, genre and basic synopsis. Attach your manuscript in a doc or ebook file. Also link me your author facebook and website so I can add them to my author links.

I will let you know if I decide to pick it up 🙂

Genres: Historical Romance – any era, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Space Opera. I am up for those lovely sub genres of these areas as well.

I have accounts on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Just be warned – I will give HONEST opinions of the story – not fluff.



 Posted by at 9:27 pm