Quote of the Week

“Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? -how did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”

Sydney Smith [1771-1845]

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 1955. Page 419.

[Review] Lucina’s Letters by Barbara Francesca Murphy

Publisher and Publication Date: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd. March 31, 2022.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 222.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from Mindbuck Media Book Publicity. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of family saga.
Rating: Okay.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Summary:

“They did not mean to hurt the boy, much less kill him. They only wanted to teach him a lesson.”

Decades ago, three young girls caused a fatal accident which claimed the life of their young cousin. They swore to never speak of it again, but now, the family matriarch’s passing may lead to that deadly secret finally being revealed in Lucina’s Letters.

Family has always been of the utmost importance to Lucina, and when she learns the truth about the tragedy that ripped her family apart, she struggles to mend those all-important bonds before her own demise. One well-timed letter allows her to pull the strings to bring the family together one last time to her beloved home in Italy, even from beyond the grave—and drag not just one secret, but many, into the light. 

Can the now-grown girls come to terms with their actions that fateful day, their secrets, and subsequently their own struggles in life? Will these revelations bring the family closer together, or tear them farther apart?

Author Info:

Barbara Francesca Murphy was born in Austria in the 1970s. She started writing at an early age, mostly short stories for her family and friends to read. As a child and teenager, she travelled extensively, getting a taste for foreign cultures and countries, fueling her imagination. She graduated from high school in America and went on to study in Austria, then settling in Ireland, where she has been living ever since. Murphy’s first book, Second Chances, was published with Austin Macauley Publishers in 2019. This is Murphy’s second book.

My Thoughts:

I love the idea of the story.

I love the settings of the story: Italy and Ireland.

I did not enjoy reading the story because of several reasons. I have not listed every reason why I dislike this book, nor every reason why I like this book. These are a few.

What I dislike about the story:

  1. Lucina’s Letters is as busy as a beehive because of the number of characters and narrators. The narrators are numerable. I heard their conversations and thoughts. These things made it difficult to become absorbed in the story, and to understand what was going on. I became lost several times. I wondered what is going on. Where is this story going? Who are all these people? What do they have to do with the story? Why am I getting the minutia details of these characters? Which character am I to focus on?
  2. The title of the book, Lucina’s Letters, is one letter addressed to several family members. It is not several letters. It is not a short letter. The letter will be revealed later in the story.
  3. Lucina is not a prominent character. I thought by reading the summary of the book that Lucina would be the number one-center stage-character. She is not.
  4. There is a big switch or shift from the start. The little girls who are the perpetrators -to- the young adult/adult women. There is not a fluid link between the two parts.
  5. I did not have a solid knowledge about the dates (years) in the story. This too caused me to be lost.
  6. The story is told multiple ways: 1st person and 3rd person.

What I like about the story:

  1. I see the process of grieving through the mother of Ewan.
  2. Through the three girls who are the perpetrators, I see how guilt and bitterness impacts.
  3. There is some closure by the end.

Final Thoughts:

After reading Lucina’s Letters, I believe it could easily be a murder mystery, detective story, or horror story. Shifting to these genres might have made the overall story richer and enticing.

~After writing the above review, I remembered something important. Not only can it be considered a trigger, but it will probably cause anger to any animal lover. There is a graphic scene of a dog being murdered! This is so rare to read this kind of scene in a book. It may be a first for me. I just want to give you a warning if you plan to read the book.
Thank you.

Quote of the Week

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes-
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning [1806-1861]

Aurora Leigh. Book VII. Line 820.

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company. 1955. Page 520.

[Review and Excerpt] The Tacksman’s Daughter by Donna Scott

Publisher and Publication Date: Atlantic Publishing. The paperback was published January 10, 2022. The Kindle edition was published January 3, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 368.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers who have an interest in Scottish history.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book tour page: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

Donna Scott is an award-winning author of 17th and 18th century historical fiction. Before embarking on a writing career, she spent her time in the world of academia. She earned her BA in English from the University of Miami and her MS and EdD (ABD) from Florida International University. She has two sons and lives in sunny South Florida with her husband. Her first novel, Shame the Devil, received the first place Chaucer Award for historical fiction and a Best Book designation from Chanticleer International Book Reviews. Her newest novel, The London Monster, was released in November 2020. To learn about new releases and special offers, please sign up for Donna’s newsletter.

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Summary:

Scotland, 1692. To escape a brutal winter storm, King William’s regiments descend on the small village of Glencoe. Caitriona Cameron, the tacksman’s daughter, cannot forget her unpleasant encounter the last time English troops appeared. She senses the army’s arrival might not be as innocent as it seems, but her warnings go unheeded. Not even MacIain, the MacDonald clan chief, listens. After twelve days of billeting in the villagers’ homes, the soldiers attack, committing one of the greatest atrocities in Highland history.

Cait escapes the assault with the help of Sergeant Edward Gage who is accused of being a traitor for not taking up arms against the MacDonalds. Edward is hunted by his debauched half-brother, Alexander, who stands to lose everything if King William attaints their father for his treasonous past deeds. With bad blood between them, Alexander sets out to capture Edward to prove his loyalty and save himself from ruin.

Cait and Edward travel to Edinburgh to confront the men they suspect are behind the attack, unaware that Alexander is headed there as well. Although Cait is convinced the chief of Clan Campbell is responsible, Edward suspects something much more sinister—that the orders came from higher up, possibly even from the king himself.

As accusations of betrayal, deceit, and treason abound, they are all trapped in a web of intrigue and danger, but not everyone will escape.

Excerpt:

MEET EDWARD, the hero~
The snow found its way inside Edward’s collar and shirtsleeves. He pulled at his broad-brimmed hat, praying for some protection from the wind. His feet were wet and numb from having accidentally stepped in a shallow stream he’d thought was frozen over. He and the others had been marching for weeks now, since December, to meet the Earl of Argyll’s regiment in Inveraray. Sir John Dalrymple, the Master of Stair, had sent the orders, conveniently forgetting—or not caring—that it was the middle of winter and almost impossible to travel through the snow-covered passes. If Edward and his men didn’t perish from trying to navigate the dangerous Highland terrain, they’d die from the cold. Now with the regiments joined, Argyll’s men marched ahead, most of them Scottish and faring slightly better cocooned in green plaids with their blue wool bonnets protecting their ears from the wind’s frosty teeth. Edward tugged his hat lower, hoping to ease the icy burn on his forehead.
Alexander, his brother, marched farther up front, his shoulders hunched liked all the others, the wind forcing his head down, his chin to his chest. Even with the north and south sides of the glen framed by tall ridges, there was no respite from the freezing gusts. The only sounds were the howling wind and the crunch of their boots as they made their way through the snow.
After a while, Edward found it difficult to tell if the noises were real or if his mind had simply allowed their interminable rhythm to play in his head.
“Edward!” Alexander called to him with an urgent wave. It was an unnecessary gesture, for Edward could spot his brother in any crowd. It was like looking in a mirror. They were both a half a head taller than most men, their shoulders straight and broad, their hair long and dark. The only remarkable difference lay in their eyes—Alexander’s the colour of weak tea and Edward’s blue. Like his mother’s.
The regiment stopped. Edward edged by some soldiers to join his brother. “What is it?”
Alexander nudged his chin towards the brae. “It looks like Highlanders near Argyll’s troops. Could mean trouble.”
Edward scanned the sloping hillside down to the edge of the loch. There were men there, maybe twenty or so, but they didn’t appear to be armed. “They don’t seem as if they mean harm. I see no weapons.”
Alexander laughed without humour. “They are Highlanders. Each one of them has five blades hidden in his plaid.”
Edward blew into his hands, then rubbed them together. “A bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?”
“They are armed. Trust me. Come.”
They trudged through the snow to Argyll’s men and reached them just as Captain Campbell yelled, “Order your muskets! Order your pikes! Rest on your arms, men!”
One large Scot descended the hill first, the others trailing behind. Edward guessed he was in his early thirties and seemed to have the respect of his men. He was likely not the clan chief, but he displayed the confidence of a man in charge.
Alexander moved slightly, resting his hand on the hilt of his sword. He was always so distrustful, too quick to attack.
“Stay your hand, brother,” Edward urged under his breath.

Praise for the Book:

The Tacksman’s Daughter is a fascinating read, at the heart of which is a truly horrifying historical massacre. The author brings the times alive in vivid detail, skillfully (and often humorously) weaving in ancient Gaelic language. Readers will be riveted!”—KD Alden, author of A Mother’s Promise

“. . . it’s a gripping read, and the author has a real skill for keeping the reader turning pages.” –SS, Penguin RH

“[Scott] does an excellent job of transporting her reader back to the seventeenth century Highlands. The dialogue felt so authentic, and the characters and Scottish landscape really jumped off the page.” -KK, Simon and Schuster

My Thoughts:

One of my favorite settings in a story is Scotland. I’m also fond of Ireland, Wales, and England. The time period is another favorite because of the history of this time: the Jacobite group and the current ruling monarch in England. These are strong reasons for me to become swept up in the story.

Another reason I fell in love with the story is the character, Caitriona or Cait. She is both beautiful and wise. She has a hidden talent rare for a female and this gives her an interesting and enticing bonus.

The two brothers are Alexander and Edward. They are polar opposites which also create elements for the story. Plus, when there are characters who are so opposite in nature it causes each to become larger in the eyes of the reader. What I am saying is if the very bad and mean character were not so very bad and mean he would not make the very good character look so good. I hope that makes sense. It is like placing a diamond beside a piece of coal. The diamond seems to be more brilliant and beautiful beside that piece of coal rather than placed alone. It is the same with the two female characters. One of them is feisty and wise. The other is innocent and naive.

What did I learn or take away from the story?
A. That people see sometimes what they want to see in another person. Love often obscures vision.
B. Freedom and truth is worth fighting for.
C. When a person is deceptive, their behavior will eventually show who they really are as a person.

How do I wish the story had ended?
A. I wish the brother with the terrible qualities had changed his character to positive attributes.
B. I wish the lovemaking scenes held tenderness, gentleness, and patience. In this story there are two brothers with two very different ways of engaging in sex. I had hoped to find a more gentle and patient nature in one of the brothers. I’m not saying he is a brute, but I am tired of lovemaking scenes in stories being all about quick fiery passion. One of the best love scenes in a story I’ve read is in the book, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway understands that women don’t always want a quick fiery pop of sex.

Themes in the story: family honor, courage, deception, revenge, romance, survival, war, rebellion, beauty, greed, loyalty, jealousy, redemption, obsession, bravery, and betrayal.

Quote of the Week

“To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”

William Wordsworth [1770-1850]

Ode. Intimations of Immortality. Stanza 11.

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 1955. Page 409.