By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea

By Sword and Storm (The Munro Scottish Saga Book 3)

Two of the best historical fiction books I’ve read in recent years are Margaret Skea’s Munro Scottish Sagas, Turn of the Tide,  and A House Divided, both of which transported me  back in time to 16th century Scotland and France, specifically to the world of the feuding clans of Cunninghame and Montgomerie.

By Sword and Storm is the third book in the Munro Saga. It stands well on its own but I recommend reading the earlier books to get the whole picture of what happened in the years before. It is now 1598 and the Munro family, Adam, his wife, Kate, and children, Robbie, Maggie and Ellie  are living in France. Adam and Robbie are in the Scots Gardes, serving Henri IV of France: Adam is a colonel  and Robbie is a sergeant.  The Scots Gardes were an elite Scottish regiment whose duties included the provision of a personal bodyguard to the French King.

The story is well grounded in research and based on historical facts, seamlessly interweaving fact and fiction. It is  complex novel with several plot lines, locations and characters, some based on real historical figures and others fictitious, such as the Munro family. There’s a useful list of the main characters and a map at the start of the book and a glossary and historical note at the end.

As the story begins the French Wars of Religion are drawing to an end and the Edict of Nantes has established religious freedom, placating the Catholics whilst making concessions to the Huguenots – but not in Paris or at the French court, where Protestants are still banned from openly practising their religion. When Adam saves Henri’s life as a shot is fired from the crowd, he and his family are summoned to live at the French court, despite their religious beliefs. Life in Paris holds many dangers for the Munros, especially for Robbie when he falls in love with a girl from a Huguenot family.

Back in Scotland some members of the Cunninghame and Montgomerie factions are still feuding, notably Hugh Montgomerie, the Laird of Braidstane and William, the son of the head of the Cunninghame clan, whilst other clan members try to maintain the peace.  James VI has banned duelling but that doesn’t deter Hugh and William. Meanwhile, Hugh’s wife, Elizabeth, pregnant and left on her own in the depths of winter with only her children and a servant for company, faces her own dangers.

There is so much to enjoy in this book – first of all the story itself, expertly narrated, full of tension and surprise, and also the characters. But I also loved the personal touches, revealing what life was like in the 16th century,  how both ordinary people and royalty lived, and the dangers that faced them in their daily lives, particularly for women in childbirth and sickness and for those who dissented from the established religion.

I loved all the details about the French court, in particular about Henri’s mistress and the relationship between her and Kate. As in the earlier books Margaret Skea writes such beautifully descriptive passages, bringing to life the details of the French court and of the landscape in both Scotland and France as well as the dangers of travelling by sea.

This is ostensibly the end of the Munro saga – but Margaret Skea has revealed on her blog that she is hoping to revisit the Munro story at a later date. I hope she does, but if not this is an excellent end to the series.

  • Format: Kindle Edition – also available in paperback
  • File Size: 1339 KB
  • Publisher: Corazon Books (Historical/Saga) (11 July 2018)
  • Source: Advance copy from the publisher
  • My rating 4*

Six Degrees of Separation from Atonement to Out of Bounds

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Atonement

This month the chain begins with Atonement by Ian McEwan, a book I’ve read and loved! This is a love story and also a mystery. It revolves around the lives of  two sisters, Briony and her older sister, Cecelia. It has vividly-drawn characters and harrowing descriptions of war with reflections on the process of writing and the interpretation of novels.

Kew GardensThe Gardens of the DeadThe Black Friar (Damian Seeker, #2)He Who Whispers (Dr. Gideon Fell, #16)CauldstaneOut of Bounds (Inspector Karen Pirie, #4)

Briony is an admirer of Virginia Woolf and stream-of-consciousness writing and that brings me to the first link in the chain – Virginia Woolf’s short story Kew Gardens with its descriptions of people in the Gardens on a sunny day as they pass by a flowerbed.

My second link is to a book also with the word ‘gardens‘ in the title –  The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick, featuring Father Anselm, a barrister turned monk. Another book, also crime fiction, that features a monk is –

The Black Friar by S G MacLean, set in the 17th century, in which the body of a man dressed as a Dominican friar, is found bricked up in a wall in Blackfriars, once a monastery. He was actually an undercover agent going under the name of ‘Gideon Fell’.

In He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr, one of his series of locked room mysteries/impossible crimes, Dr Gideon Fell is an amateur sleuth.  A body is found lying on the parapet of a tower, once part of a chateau since burnt down.

My next link takes me to another book featuring a tower – Cauldstane by Linda Gillard, a ghost story, set in a Scottish tower house in the Highlands owned by Sholto MacNab, a retired adventurer. It’s also a story of loss and revenge, of good versus evil and the power of love. Meredith, Sholto’s second wife, was killed in a car crash.

There is also a car crash in my final link, another crime fiction novel, Out of Bounds by Val McDermid, the 4th Inspector Karen Pirie novel, in which a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma. A routine DNA test reveals a connection to an unsolved murder from twenty-two years before.

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My chain is made up of a mixture of books that I’ve read or are on my TBR shelves and a mix of short stories, historical fiction and mostly crime fiction. Beginning with a book set in the 1930s and 40s the chain moves through the centuries from the 17th century to the present day linked by the titles, monks, names of the characters, towers and car crashes.

Next month (1 September, 2018), we’ll begin with Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson.

The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson

The early life of Henry VII

Harper Collins|31 May 2018|544 pages|e-book |Review copy|4*

Ruined Stones by Eric Reed

Poisoned Pen Press|2017 |226 pages|paperback|Review copy|3.5*

WWW Wednesday: 18 July 2018

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading: The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson. I know very little about Henry VII, so I’m thoroughly enjoying reading this book. It begins in 1471 as Henry, then aged 14,  and his uncle, Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, are at sea off the coast of South Wales on course for France, when a storm forces them to land in Brittany. There they found refuge with Francis, Duke of Brittany for the next 14 years.

 

Synopsis

When Edward of York takes back the English crown, the Wars of the Roses scatter the Lancastrian nobility and young Henry Tudor, with a strong claim to the throne, is forced into exile.

Recently widowed and vulnerable, his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, forges an uncomfortable alliance with Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Swearing an oath of allegiance to York, Margaret agrees to marry the king’s shrewdest courtier, Lord Stanley. But can she tread the precarious line between duty to her husband, loyalty to her son, and her obligation to God and the king?

When tragedy befalls Edward’s reign, Richard of York’s ruthless actions fire the ambition of mother and son. As their destinies converge each of them will be exposed to betrayal and treachery and in their gruelling bid for the Tudor crown, both must be prepared to pay the ultimate price…

I’ve recently finished: Camino Island by John Grisham, which was not what I expected. It begins well with a daring robbery but then slows down almost to a snail’s pace.

Camino Island

 

Synopsis:

The most daring and devastating heist in literary history targets a high security vault located deep beneath Princeton University.

Valued at $25 million (though some would say priceless) the five manuscripts of F Scott Fitzgerald’s only novels are amongst the most valuable in the world. After an initial flurry of arrests, both they and the ruthless gang of thieves who took them have vanished without trace.

Now it falls to struggling writer Mercer Mann to crack a case that has thwarted the FBI’s finest minds.

My next book is most likely to be No Further Questions byGillian McAllister. I thought  her first book Everything But the Truth was brilliant, so I have high hopes for this book.

 

Synopsis:

The police say she’s guilty.

She insists she’s innocent.

She’s your sister.

You loved her.

You trusted her.

But they say she killed your child.

Who do you believe?
_________________

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

Pan Macmillan, Mantle|3 May 2018 |603 pages|e-book |Review copy|4*

Six Degrees of Separation from Tales of the City to Fear in the Sunlight

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)

Completely Unexpected TalesDon't Look Now and Other StoriesThe Man in the PictureThe Picture of Dorian GrayOscar Wilde and the Candlelight MurdersFear in the Sunlight (Josephine Tey, #4)

This month the chain begins with Tales of the City, the first in a series by Armistead Maupin – yet another book I haven’t read or even heard of before! But it brought to my mind another book of tales –

Completely Unexpected Tales by Roald Dahl, described on the back cover as a collection of macabre tales of vengeance, surprise and dark delights. I used to enjoy these tales in the TV series, Tales of the Unexpected, years ago.

That takes me to the second link in the chain which is another collection of short stories, Don’t Look Now and Other Stories  by Daphne Du Maurier. The title story is a supernatural tale involving a British couple on holiday in Venice to escape the pain of their young daughter’s recent death.

Another book set in partly in Venice is The Man in the Picture: a Ghost Story by Susan Hill . The narrator is having a meal with his old college professor one bitterly cold January evening in  Cambridge, listening to a strange tale of a Venetian painting, of death and damnation.

And so to the fourth link both by its title and its subject – a story of the supernatural, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, a Gothic horror story in which Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty.

Oscar Wilde is the main character in Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders by Gyles Brandreth, a detective story of corruption and intrigue in which Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle investigate a murder. This is a book that mixes fact and fiction by using real people as characters. As does my last book –

Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson, set in the 1930s, in which writer Josephine Tey joins her friends in the holiday village of Portmeirion to celebrate her fortieth birthday. Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, are there to sign a deal to film Josephine’s novel, A Shilling for Candles.

 ~~~

My chain is made up of a mixture of books that I’ve read or are on my TBR shelves and a mix of short stories, ghost and horror stories and crime fiction. Books about the supernatural, books set in Venice and books  that mix fact and fiction.

Next month (August 4, 2018), we’ll begin with Atonement by Ian McEwan. Hurrah – a book I’ve read and loved!