Category Archives: Review

Love Is In The Air And So Is Danger: A Review of THE GISBORNE SAGA by Prue Batten

Prue Batten was the first writer from the Armitage fandom that I interacted with, during FanstRAvaganza2. She posted chapters of a fic to her blog, at the time called Mesmered, during that year’s celebration of fan creativity that retold the story of Guy of Gisborne through the eyes of a woman named Ysabel. It was completely addicting and I was a bit bereft when it was over because I had to know what became of them. Eventually that story became this series, The Gisborne Saga, and it’s still addicting. This was supposed to be up yesterday but I was again caught up in Prue’s beautifully told tale and I lost track of time.

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The phrase “sweeping epic romance” is frequently used to describe books that aren’t really but in this case it’s perfect. Ysabel de Moncrieff is living with cousins in France when her mother dies and her father sends his steward, Guy of Gisborne, to bring her home to England. They forge an uneasy bond on the journey that is strengthened when Ysabel saves Gisborne’s life. He spends the remainder of this book and the other two repaying that debt, and a few others of a different nature.

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This Gisborne is inspired by Armitage’s but he is as far from the slightly ridiculous BBC henchman as he possibly can be. He tells her stories to pass the time and Ysabel finds herself both fascinated and infuriated by this man who her father trusts with her safety. Guy sees no need to explain everything to her and so we find out when she does that his ambition is animated by a broken and bitter heart. This is not a “bad boy saved by the love of a good woman” story, though. The world they live in is far more complicated and they endanger each other as often as they save each other.

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Prue is also the author of the fantasy series The Chronicles of Eirie and she brings the lush world building from that setting to this one, a place we think we should know if we read Medieval romances. From the atmosphere in Le Mans after Henry II fled  to the rough passage of a small vessel in the Mediterranean the world we see through Ysabel’s eyes is incredibly vivid if confounding.  The political intrigue is tightly woven with the reality of being a woman who is seen as a commodity, something this woman won’t accept. Ysabel de Moncrieff is one of my favorite Gisborne heroines and spending time in her world, with the Gisborne that she loves, is absolutely worth it.

Prue Batten’s Gisborne Saga is archived here. Her four book cycle The Chronicles of Eirie is archived here. Miniature tales from the worlds in these books are available through Bo Press Books here. You can follow Prue Batten at her blog or on her Facebook page.

Love Is In The Air: Reviews of IN CONSEQUENCE and A HEART FOR MILTON

Trudy doesn’t know I’m doing this (well, okay, she does now) but I thought that since we’re talking about love and romance this month it would be a good time to review two of the most romantic North & South novels in the archive, Trudy’s own In Consequence and A Heart for Milton. I can’t remember which one I read first as fan works on Wattpad but to refresh my memory before writing this piece I read them in the order she’d published them.

Both of these books take a single moment from Gaskell’s original and reimagine the story from that point. She knows these characters well – their doubts, their fears, their secret longings – and their interior moments are the focus of her retellings. I loved reading Mr. Thorton’s thoughts as he readied himself the day of their wedding in A Heart for Milton. I loved reading Margaret’s debate with herself after she accepted his proposal in In Consequence. I loved the love letters they sent each other, I loved the choice of rings, I loved their getting to know each other as newlyweds. Trudy’s novels are breathtakingly romantic.

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A Heart for Milton begins with Margaret’s visit to the Thorntons before she leaves Milton after the death of her father. She gives Mr. Thornton her father’s Plato as in the Gaskell but he decides to give her a small token in return, a copy of The Economy of Cotton. What he hides in its pages, and she discovers on her way to the train station, kicks off the plot. Together the lovers face the derision of others on each side of their match, Hannah Thornton and Aunt Shaw especially, and their devotion to one another grows. Margaret in particular discovers what she truly values in Mr. Thornton as she’s speaking in his defense to her London relatives (a still-smarting Henry makes an appearance, as well). Their wedding and their wedding trip are beautifully and sweetly told.

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As In Consequence opens, Margaret remembers the conversation at Mr. Thornton’s dinner. The events of the day of the riot at Marlborough Mills are woven tightly together but spin off from the Gaskell when the rock thrown by Boucher hits a different target. The proposal in the wake of the riot plays out differently, and there are different players opposed to their match, but in this case they also have strong supporters in her parents. Margaret’s devotion to Mr. Thornton is tested early on by tragedy and she questions if she will ever come to love him as he loves her. Does she? You’ll have to read it to find out. If you are a fan of romance with a capital R, I highly recommend both of these books.

Trudy Brasure is a founding partner of this blog and is archived here. You can follow her on Twitter @TrudyBrasure.

Jazzbaby1’s note: Trudy is my partner in this site and my friend. I’ve received no compensation for this piece and the copies of the books I worked from were purchased.

Love Is In the Air: A Review of THE TEMPEST

I first read The Tempest by Charlotte Hawkins a couple of years ago when it was still a stand-alone book and before the author spent months revising it into its current form. It was a good story the first time, but with the revision it has become more complex, with the back story fleshed out a little differently. The previous version was more fan fiction-y than this one, an extension of the universe of the BBC’s Robin Hood series though some details were changed. The revision goes even further. It is not necessary to have Gisborne as played by Armitage in your head as you read but the Guy on these pages still has enough in common with him that of course he’ll be there, along with a strong-willed Original Character, Cassia DeWarren.

Because, really, would you want to picture anyone else? Guy doesn't think so.

Because, really, would you want to picture anyone else? Guy doesn’t think so.

Cassia and Guy are each outcasts in their own ways. He’s still the hated and feared henchman of the Sheriff of Nottingham, of course, and she comes from a long line of healers. The dangerous charge of witchcraft haunts her family, setting up a rare moment where the reviled Gisborne performs an act of kindness that Cassia doesn’t forget.

One of my favorite romance tropes — the proud man humbled and dependent on someone he sees as an inferior — is a major plot driver and is played for laughs in a few instances. As the two characters bond over their losses and discover a mutual enemy, Cassia’s pride takes some hits, as well. Hawkins is particularly sensitive in describing the delicate balance between the relative freedom that has allowed Cassia to become the woman she is and the bonds of duty that threaten her budding romance with Guy. I absolutely rooted for Cassia as a character, especially when she was putting Guy in his place, and for them as a couple.

Does true love eventually win? There are as many scorching love scenes as there are fiery arguments between these two stubborn people, and there are two more books in the trilogy so whatever happens is bound to be a bumpy ride. Armitage Authors Network is giving away paperback copies of The Tempest and My Lady Gisborne,  the second book in Charlotte’s Gisborne trilogy, this weekend to one commenter on either this post or tomorrow’s interview with Charlotte Hawkins.

Christmas at Rakehell Manor

For a romantic escape from the holiday rush, Elizabeth Hanbury’s most recent release will do the job admirably. [Elizabeth told Armitage Authors about her experience discovering Richard Armitage when North & South first aired here.]

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Christmas at Rakehell Manor

I had been meaning to read a book by Elizabeth Hanbury for some time and had a couple of titles on my kindle. The blurb for this one really appealed to me. I love Regency stories and this hit all the right buttons.

Hugo, Marquess of Rakehell Manor (Raikhill Manor), named for its reputation of orgies and strange goings on, is hoping to spend time at his home so he can pretend the Christmas season is not happening. Along comes a neighbour who insists he take in his niece and friend as there is fever in his household. Hugo is railroaded into accepting, but it determined to ignore his guests as much as possible during their stay.

Enter Pru, a gentleman’s daughter, but due to being more or less alone in the world and determined to make her own way ( as a cook, companion, nurse etc) has come to visit her Uncle Nicholas, only to find she has to stay at Rakehell. She and her elderly friend Hermione accept the situation and slowly find that things are not always as they seem and to certainly not trust gossip.

There is an instant attraction between Pru and Hugo as each makes a mark on each other’s lives and begin to heal each other with a few mishaps and misunderstandings along the way. The story is romantic, tender and heartwarming, all the right boxes ticked for a Regency holiday romance. I have started reading another of her books immediately, wondering why I hadn’t before!

— Guest review by Angela Smith, a long-time Armitage admirer.

Angela gave Christmas at Rakehell Manor a five-star rating at Goodreads. For a look at what other novels Elizabeth Hanbury has written, check out her Amazon author page. Here.

Two Regency Christmas Stories

To usher in the holiday season, The Armitage Authors Network is happy to introduce two Christmas tales written by Saralee Etter, who has been a fan of Richard’s since 2011.

Her Very Major Xmas

 Her Very Major Christmas

What will it take to heal two damaged souls and bring them together? A Christmas miracle, along with the charming writing of Saralee Etter. This sweet Regency novel tells the story of two people who have suffered loss who find solace in each other over the Christmas holiday. Major Harry Joslin, injured and disfigured in the war, has had a baronetcy he did not anticipate or want thrust on him upon the death of his cousin Tristram. He comes to Churston Hall a stranger, alienated from all around him save his loyal groom. Tristram’s widow Rosalind has recently lost her husband and the country she called home; coming from India with no family of her own, she is forced to live with her husband’s grandfather and other relatives who regard her as a foreigner and treat her as an afterthought.

Harry and Rosalind grow to know and care for each other, even though there are matchmaking mammas, pouting debutants, and irascible grandfathers to deal with. The love story is spiced by the customs and trappings of a Regency Christmas, and comes to a quite satisfactory ending on Christmas day after a smashing plum pudding. If you enjoy Regency novels that capture the spirit and spice of the time, you will quickly devour this novel.

— Review by Nancy Klein, author of How Far the World Will Bend and Grant What I Wish.

Lydia's Xmas

Lydia’s Christmas Charade

It’s almost Christmas Eve and all the guests at Bellingham Manor expect the announcement of Lydia’s engagement to Lord Danville. Lydia’s father is satisfied with the arrangement, but Lydia is not at all content to marry someone whose heart belongs to someone else. When Lord Danville’s loyal friend tries to smooth over Lydia’s ruffled concerns, he initiates much more in the realm of love and match-making than he ever bargained for.

Saralee’s story is a brief romp through a few troubled days. It’s no easy task to create engaging characters in such a short space, but I could relate to Lydia’s honest confusion and her desire for self-determination and I loved the hero’s bold wit and easy candor. I enjoyed discovering how their destiny as a love match would unfold.

Sprinkled throughout the story are the historical details that set the story in the elegant Regency era. This is a sweet romance that can be read in one evening.

— Review by Trudy Brasure, author of A Heart for Milton and In Consequence.

Master of the Mill by Cate Toward – a retelling of North and South

A fantastic reader review of Cate Toward’s MASTER OF THE MILL by Fanny Thornton! Check it out at DistRActed Musings!

DistRActed in ReAlity

As part of the celebration of North and South I am contributing my review of Master of the Mill by Cate Toward.

Caty and I had a chat awhile back discussing her take on Thornton.

I started reading this story when it was first serialized and the way she wrote Thornton had me visualizing Armitage as Guy of Gisborne.
When it was published last January I was able to read it all the way through and appreciate her take on the story.

We find ourselves at the beginning of this story in Northern Milton. Margaret has lost her mother, Mr. Hale his wife and they are in dire straits due to the loss of Mrs. Hale’s annuity. Nevertheless Margaret is determined to supplement their income instead of relying on relatives.  Mr. Bell had suggested Milton but left for the West Indies upon their arrival.

This is the North and South…

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How Far the World Will Bend

How Far the World Will Bend  – review by Trudy Brasure

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The Armitage Authors Network is thrilled to introduce How Far the World Will Bend by Nancy Klein for our first review.

If you haven’t read any of Nancy’s works, you’re missing out. Beloved by many for years at C19 and Wattpad for her Thornton and Guy stories, Nancy took the indie publishing plunge and released How Far the World Will Bend as an e-book in July.

This was the fanfiction-turned-published book that helped instigate the idea for this blog.

And what a story to be introduced to the wider North and South-loving public! This is not your traditional sequel to the story. Nancy loves to create variations of Gaskell’s tale, with new twists and turns.

As the title of her work hints, Nancy throws in some time-travel magic to swap Victorian Margaret for a slightly more modern-minded “Meg” from the 1920s. Meg finds herself in 1850s Milton with a mission to save the Master from a fateful riot. And this Margaret is not as resistant to the allure of the cotton mill master of Gaskell’s story that we all love to imagine looks and sounds just like Richard Armitage in a cravat!

I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t certain I would thoroughly enjoy a N&S variation with a time-twist, but it didn’t take long for me to be swept up by the unfolding story. And who am I to balk at a little science fiction added to a love story? With all the Outlander mania, time-travel romance is all the rage!

The romance between John and ‘Margaret’ develops a little differently than the original, and it’s entrancing to read. Nancy is a skilled storyteller, and she has a knack for evoking powerful images that linger in the mind. There’s a particular scene where a look across a crowded theater had my heart thudding, and then there’s an unforgettable scene where they finally kiss …

Kiss

( no, not like this gentle kiss)

… and THIS kiss rates just a notch below spontaneous combustion on the passion meter! Phew!

There’s not much of the plot that I can reveal without spoiling the adventure of reading this creative story, but if you enjoy Thornton angst and intensity, I believe this story will deliver. How Far the World Will Bend also deftly pulls at the heartstrings of deep emotions about destiny and loneliness. This tale has the honor of being the only North and South fan fiction that ever made me cry. (But don’t worry – it all ends well!)

I’ve given this a five-star rating at Amazon. It was pure enjoyment to read. If you loved North and South and have a heart for romance, I recommend this piece of romantic drama highly.

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How Far the World Will Bend by Nancy Klein (cover by Judy Worrall) is available at Amazon.

 

Trudy Brasure is co-founder of The Armitage Authors Network and is author of A Heart for Milton and In Consequence.  The reviewer confesses that Nancy Klein is a personal fandom friend and her editor. However, no favors or moneys were exchanged for this glowing praise; the reviewer swears that she has not exaggerated her experience in reading this book.