Monday, 10 May 2021

MARGARET'S REMATCH - Regency Romance - EXCERPT

Mr James Westfield was not an idle man and was never known to neglect his duty, unless, of course, it concerned his sister-in-law, in which case, like any man facing an unpleasant task at hand, he was in no hurry to fulfill it.
    It was no secret within their small family circle that James Westfield disliked Margaret Fairfax with a passion that completely defied his common sense; and the fact that he allowed his emotions to affect him to such a degree so as to render his actions non-existent was rather shocking for a man who always prided himself on doing his duty and who had never been known to avoid responsibility before.
    No one, who had any notion of his steady character and exemplary conduct, would ever believe upon hearing that it had taken James Westfield almost four years to act upon a solemn promise, concerning his sister-in-law, given to his late wife under the most grievous of circumstances.
    On this particular afternoon, Mr Westfield was seated within the solitary comfort of his study with a cup of tea, a frown rapidly taking hold of his face, and a newspaper reluctantly put aside for later perusal, as he was once again pondering the unfortunate matter of his sister-in-law and her impending return to Northbrook Hall.
    He had been prompted into this unpleasant contemplation by a report of the most alarming nature that he had received early in the morning: it concerned her latest display of shocking indiscretion and impropriety, made his tea taste bitter, the aforementioned lady’s arrival as unwelcome as ever, and the longing to read the newspaper greater still.
    It so happened that while Margaret’s elder sister, Isabella, held such a special place in his heart, she herself occupied a singularly inferior position in his esteem; and as far as his heart was concerned, it had been quite hardened against her. It appeared that he had made up his mind to dislike her and nothing short of a miracle would ever change that.
    The roots of his dislike went back to their very first meeting during which Miss Margaret – no more than ten years of age at the time – spoke with great outrage on the subject of Mr Westfield’s intentions of marrying her sister; she had been quite against the whole thing and told him as much without a hint of compunction then or thereafter.
    Mr Westfield had been shocked and offended by her impertinent address, not having been accustomed to such preposterous and unjustified (in his opinion) displays of sisterly affection. The scene had created an inevitable rupture between the young lady and her prospective brother-in-law, which both parties eagerly maintained to this day.
    However, looking back at the letter, which contained the unfortunate report, Mr Westfield knew that, unless he wished to see Miss Margaret’s reputation and name ruined forever, he had to put his personal sentiments aside and fulfill the task entrusted to him by his dearest Isabella without any further delay.

COMING SOON!

Saturday, 1 May 2021

MARGARET'S REMATCH - COMING SOON!

After the loss of her sister, Margaret Fairfax settles at Northbrook Hall – the country estate of her brother-in-law, Mr. Westfield, whose dislike of her is legendary. There she faces a major challenge of reconciling their many differences and proving to him that despite the rumours of schemes and scandals that followed her from London, she is worthy of his regard and affection. With time and many an exertion on her part and that of her new family, Margaret succeeds in altering Mr. Westfield’s opinion of her and even of attaching his heart. In fact, she is on the point of triumph when her deceitful friend arrives determined to ruin it all.


COMING SOON!

Thursday, 15 April 2021

SIXTH REVIEW for ALMENDRA'S QUEST

A great and very detailed review from Emmy Foster on Goodreads:

3,5 stars from me, and a big thank you to the author, because I enjoyed this read. 

Almendra's Quest was my first introduction into Farida Mestek's Highland Court Chronicles fantastical world, and what a good one! I must admit this story surprised me in probably every way possible. Highland Court Chronicles is a true YA fantasy book. Most of the story unfolds during a journey from one fantastical place to another where MC Almendra comes face to face with mysteries, violent enemies, magical wonder and surprising friends.

When I started the story, for the first few pages I wasn't quite sure if it was labelled properly as YA and I wondered if it would have been better off as a late middle grade.....I was wrong. Not only is the MC in her late teens, and goes on a journey that a middle grade student should never realistically take on by themselves, but the story also contains a few villainous situations that might be just a bit outside of the middle grade comfort zone (this is not to say that the story is very gory, but there are one or two moments in the story where the details might be a bit too much for a young student under 10 yrs).

The reason I originally wondered about the category is because Almendra has a very playful, young and slightly naive personality which comes especially to the foreground at the beginning chapters. Throughout the book we see how come she's developed this way though, and that the themes of the story are a bit more mature. So that was surprise one for me.

Surprise two was Mestek's humorous tone, which I absolutely loved. I would probably pitch Almedra's Quest as: Harry Potter & Terry Pratchett's stories had a high fantasy hero's journey baby. I LOVED the interactions between Almedra and her animal companion Woo the wolf. I really enjoyed her excited, but cheeky nature and her passion and it was so easy to root for her from the beginning of the story till the end.

The rest of the surprises I think I'll have to leave unsaid as they have to do with the plot twists and the ending. However, I will say that throughout the first 1/3 of the book I thought I had the story quite well figured out and that knew roughly how it would end. ......I was wrong. Highland Court Chronicles had some very surprising plot twists, and I quite enjoyed the ending. I'll be looking forward to book 2 in the series.

So if I loved it, then why not 4 stars? I really missed more frequent chapter headings. The book consists of a few big parts, and I like to finish a reading session with the ending of a chapter. Because there weren't many clear chapters, I ended up either reading really big chunks in one go, or having to finish in, what felt like, the middle of a story. So that's something I would have preferred.

Another thing is that I sometimes felt like the big important moments in the story felt just a little anti-climactic. Not all of them, and the story definitely gave me 'the feels' in a good way and was immersive, but I felt like sometimes it could have done with a little longer lingering on certain moments, if that makes sense.

Sexual content: none
Coarse language: none
Violence and gore: moderate

In conclusion
My three favorite aspects of this story were:
1. The super creative, non-cliché, worldbuilding that was just done SO well, and was such a breath of fresh air;
2. The surprise plot twists in the second and third parts of the book;
3. Farida Mestek's humour that just made the tone for this story so very enjoyable.

So if you like a classic fantasy story, and the above three things sound like fun to you, then I would definitely say Highland Court Chronicles may very well be your thing!

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Henry Chadderton through other people's eyes

Lady Sophia –

There is not a single woman, young and unattached, recently engaged or happily married these ten years, whose head has not been turned by the man. I declare his appearance always causes a stir in my drawing-room and all the young ladies inevitably flock towards the entrance in order to be the first to get a glimpse of his dashing person, while all the young men take a note of his carriage, his hairstyle and his attire so as to adopt them the next day. Well, I can hardly blame them. Henry Chadderton is vastly handsome, charming and witty, and his manners are excellent. He always smiles, pays compliments, tells anecdotes and dances every dance with a new partner. In fact, one hardly remembers that his father is a tradesman, for in all respects, but that of his birth, Henry Chadderton is a perfect gentleman. His fortune is large; he has several estates and the finest cottage that he inherited from his grandparents. I wish he would take one of my nieces off my hands for I have ever so many. It is a pity, though, that he prefers to spend so much time in the company of his gentlemen friends and, from what I gather, has no intention of taking a wife.


Eliza Grant – 

We grew up together, Henry and I. Henry's father has been my guardian since I turned five and I love Henry as a brother. He is the most caring, funniest and absurd person that I know. Mr. Chadderton says that he is obstinate and headstrong and only ever does what he pleases and that it was a mistake to give him so much freedom as a youth and indulge his every whim for now he is quite ungoverned. But I think that Henry is a sensible man and as such one can rely on him and trust his judgment. I always do. When I was a child he gave me riding lessons and, when his father was away, taught me how to fish and shoot, for, I dare say, my accomplishments in the latter he would disapprove of. It is a pity that once I left school I was not allowed to stay at Spencer Lodge anymore, even though Henry said that I was the only woman who would ever set foot inside the house. But Mr. Chadderton believes that now when I am out it will be highly improper if we were to live under the same roof as we are not blood relations. I do not agree, but I cannot act against my dearest guardian's wishes. He has been as much a father to me as Henry a brother and I am determined to act in such a way as would leave him in no doubt of my deepest affection, gratitude and deference. 


Emma Montford – 

Well, you shall certainly hear no encomiums from me on the subject of the illustrious Mr. Henry Chadderton. He is a commoner and a scoundrel and neither his money nor his fancy dress will change that. I was once duped by him like the rest of the world and I paid a high price of a broken heart and tears that would not dry. But I have long since availed myself of the knowledge of his true person and am thus at liberty to warn others against him, for I speak from experience rather than appearances. They say that he is a devil at cards and that he has no conscience. But his dueling skills, I've heard, are lacking and nowadays he has a weakness in the person of my brother Edward. It is beyond my comprehension in what manner he became the man's dearest friend, but I am certain that the only reason why Edward has become his friend at all was to aggravate me. He has always suffered from neglect and was always overlooked by all our friends and he must have envied my place in the family. Naturally, when Mr. Chadderton offered him his friendship, instead of refusing, he chose to accept it, knowing perfectly well how much his association with the only person who had ever snubbed me, would injure me. 


Mr. Hartley – 

I'm afraid I have made quite an exhibition of myself the other day, frothing at the mouth with pique and calling for retribution. I was not myself, having consumed a large quantity of port that was made by the Devil himself. I was all aflame with passion and could not control the imaginings of my agitated mind. Therefore, I beg you to forgive me for such an unbecoming display and forget whatever I might have said in the feverish agony that consumed me. You must not think that I am plotting against Henry and his plaything. I confess I despise Montford with all my soul and I wish him nothing but ill. However, whatever ill might befall him, it shall not come from me. You must believe me when I tell you that I am not the villain of this story. For it was not I who betrayed the most devoted and lasting of friendships. But how can I speak ill of my dear friend? How can I scheme and act against someone I consider a brother? I shall not be responsible for any blemishes that may ever darken Henry's good name! I shall not bear the blame for such treachery! I shall never turn my back on him and he will always be welcome in my home that I now share with my darling wife!


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Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Edward Montford through other people's eyes

Sir Charles Montford – 

It is not easy in my advanced age to reconsider my opinion, least of all learn that I have erred terribly throughout my entire life. But the last few months proved that I knew none of my children as well as I thought I did. Presently I am questioning myself whether I have been a good parent and a just father to them. Emma will have something to say on this head, I am sure, but after that infamous trick of hers I do not know what else she expected me to do. In any case, it is Edward and not she who has every reason to complain of the past abuse. And yet he never does. No, he continues a grateful, humble and loving son that I always had and never cared for. I have been most unfair towards him and always treated him with disdain and neglect. Charles, my eldest, was always a favourite with me and Edward, well, I do not think that I ever paid him any attention. But he is a good boy. A fine person. Of sound reason and affectionate heart. It was Edward's timely counsel and unfailing support that made it possible for me to endure Emma's betrayal and stop me from committing a grievous mistake.


Charles Montford – 

I must admit that I was wrong about Edward. Though, of course, not on all accounts. After all, just because he has recently assisted me with a delicate matter does not change the fact that he is no match for me. He is not a horseman or a gambler, he doesn't care for shooting, never tried boxing and I do not know but that he wants to remain a bachelor. He certainly has shown no interest in any young lady as of yet, even though I know for a fact that Lady Sophia was rather keen on the idea of a match between him and one of her nieces. But, perhaps, this is for the best as Edward is not of a sociable turn and would only embarrass his wife in society. He always preferred books and isolation and I think father encouraged him to exercise his fondness for both as it saved him from the necessity of spending our family’s considerably dried up funds on his formal education and worldly pleasures. But, I dare say, Edward has always been happy with his lot. At any rate, he has never complained. Not even when I chased him about the estate with my whip. Such fun I used to have. Well, he certainly hasn’t forgotten the taste of it. And if he ever gets any dangerous ideas, I will be there to beat them out of him. 


Emma Montford – 

You might as well be scandalized by my report – all my friends are – but Edward is the worst brother on Earth. He cares nothing for me. Nothing. He is disobliging and disagreeable in the extreme and he is friends with the very person who treated me in the most injurious, disgraceful and disrespectful fashion. Which goes to show that Edward cares neither for his sister nor her honour. I wager you have never thought that shy, mild-tempered, harmless Edward should one day betray his own kin. Well, to find that he should continue to associate with Mr. Henry Chadderton at all was a shock. But to find that he should keep the man's company after the warning I had given him is beyond provoking. I simply cannot comprehend why he didn’t cut his acquaintance when it was no longer necessary to maintain it. But after everything that has passed between Chadderton and our family I cannot forgive Edward for associating with him of his own free will. How can one trust such a brother? How can one rely on him? Father should never have sent me with Edward to London for he didn’t have my interests at heart at all. And now I have every reason to believe that he set my father against my husband in the most infamous manner. Well, on his own head be it. I am certainly not going to put in a good word for him with papa or reconcile him with Charles when he decides to come back to his senses and his family.


Mr. Jude Hartley – 

I'd rather cut my right hand off than speak of Montford. I loathe that son of a devil and I do not wish to hear his name or see his face as long as I live. I fear it is inevitable, considering our present circumstances, but if he is not a complete thickhead, he shall never cross my path again. Or else I shall expose him and Chadderton to the world. Let them both be hanged. This is the only justice that I can hope for now that my own bit of revenge did not work quite the way I expected it would. I dare say I was too much affected by the shocking turn of events to think properly of the consequences of my actions; and as I was struck by what I believed an excellent scheme, that would injure Montford exceedingly, I proceeded to act upon it with too much passion and too little sense not to suffer for my carelessness later. But though Edward Montford is too noble to expose me in turn – he does look the type to enjoy martyrdom – there is Chadderton who shall not hesitate to betray me again; and as I am not keen on the idea of public exposure and castigation I am bound to keep silence. But I swear on my life that I shall find other means by which to destroy the both of them. 


Lady Sophia – 

Well, all I can say is that he is no gentleman and when it comes to ladies a perfect savage. You can take my word for it for he treated my niece Mary very ill. He danced with her every dance, sat down with her, read to her, had long walks with her, let her draw his profile and after a passage of almost a week failed to propose to her! I have never in all my life met with such ill-treatment and to think that he is the son of Sir Charles, who is always so gallant and attentive! In fact, it was Sir Charles himself who asked me to think of a suitable wife for his younger son. He did warn me that Edward was extremely shy and taciturn and has not been out and about much. But I had expected him to inherit some of his father's ways with women.


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Tuesday, 23 March 2021

FIFTH REVIEW for ALMENDRA'S QUEST

A lovely review from a fellow writer (R.P. Lauer) on Goodreads:

Highland Court Chronicles: Almendra's Quest by Farida Mestek is a YA fantasy novel in a similar vein as say, Harry Potter. I wish I could give a better compassion title, but YA is not my strong suit; to be honest, when I think of YA, I tend to think of either teen romance, or dystopian future sagas, neither of which strike my fancy. So I have probably unfairly avoided the category altogether, leaving my knowledge rather lacking.

With this being my second YA ‘fantasy’ this year, I am seeing that there is a section of this classification that I absolutely need to explore, because just like The Wing Thief, this novel was a real pleasure to read! Farida does an excellent job of setting up a very rich world, with extended lore and extremely likable characters; the star of this tale being a true gem! Lady Almendra of the Upper Kingdom is sassy, sweet, compassionate, somewhat awkward, and ultimately a character I cannot help but want to root for.

I would classify this as a true fantasy adventure, with the bulk of the story being a journey from one point to another; though there may be a detour or two along the way. Lady Almendra has a companion in the form of a wolf, and she is also accompanied by a really solid, and equally likable messenger (of sorts). There are plenty of exciting moments, reveals and turns along the way.

My only criticisms are a few typos and other minor editing errors, and there is a slight anti-climatic nature to the story, but none of this disrupted my overall enjoyment in reading. There is clearly more that this author has to say in the universe she setup, and I hope with all of my heart that she continues on; I absolutely want to read more in the future!

There is a companion piece to this, Nermina's Amulet, which I did read and will also review. I read that first, but have since been told that it was intended as further reading, not pre-reading. Ooops.

Monday, 15 March 2021

NEW BOOK - SINS & SECRETS - OUT NOW!

Robert Hayward is an extremely pious young man. He is determined to live a life of devotion, obedience and self-denial, devoid of all passions and pleasures. His ambition is to become a clergyman. His mission in life is to atone for his mother’s sins.

His plans are irrevocably ruined when Frederick Wainright returns to England. He disrupts his well-established routine, disturbs his peace of mind, provokes sensations Robert has never allowed himself to feel before, and gradually seduces him into his bed.

Following his newly-awakened desires, Robert accompanies Frederick to London. However, he gets more than he bargained for when Frederick’s past affairs and a secret that he intends to keep from Robert at all costs threaten to tear them apart.

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