It's Monday! What Are you Reading?

This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Most of my time last week was spent out in the garden,  but I managed to read two novels and start another in between the digging and the planting.

What I Read Last Week

Shores of Darkness by Diana Norman

For Martin Millet of the Dragoons it began on the turbulent summer day in 1706 when he returned from the French wars to find his Aunt Effie murdered and himself sole inheritor of her lodging house and her serving girl Bratchet, neither of which he wanted. For Daniel Defoe, political hack, failed merchant and debtor, it had begun a little earlier, on the equally inauspicious day when they put him in the pillory for seditious libel and he was accosted by an enormous orange-haired Highlander. The Scotsman is seeking a young kinswoman, Anne Bard, and offers Defoe money to help him find her. Then, surprisingly, a Minister of State does the same, for Anne Bard may be able to answer the question that is tearing the country apart. The ageing Queen Anne is childless, leaving the future king to be chosen between a Protestant Hanoverian and a Catholic Jacobite, neither of whom is popular. What, however, if there were a third choice: another true Stuart, but a Protestant? Defoe, the threat of Newgate hanging over him, can hardly refuse. And since Anne Bard's last known address was Aunt Effie's lodging house, Defoe employs two even more unlikely spies to help him: Millet and his troublesome legacy, the Bratchet. Followed by the mysterious Highlander, their search takes them to Flanders where the Duke of Marlborough is fighting the French, to the court of the Sun King Louis XIV himself, into piracy and finally, unwillingly, into the world of the darkest trade of all. Yet all the time, had they but known it, the answer lies at home, dangerously close to Queen Anne herself.

This was such a good read that I've added another of her novels to my reading pile this week.

The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys  (The French Executioner Series #1)

It is 1536, and the expert swordsman, Jean Rombaud, has been brought over from France by Henry VIII to behead his wife, Anne Boleyn. But on the eve of her execution Rombaud swears a vow to the ill-fated queen - to bury her six-fingered hand, symbol of her rumoured witchery, at a sacred crossroads. Yet in a Europe ravaged by religious war, the hand of this infamous Protestant icon is so powerful a relic that many will kill for it...From a battle between slave galleys to a black mass in a dungeon, through the hallucinations of St Anthony's Fire to the fortress of an apocalyptic Messiah, Jean seeks to honour his vow.

C.C. Humphrey's novels are always entertaining, though a little gruesome in some parts. As this is only a two novel series, I decided to read the sequel straight away. Also both these books are from the library and need to be returned next week. That's one way of deciding what to read next.

What I'm Reading Today

Blood Ties by C.C. Humphreys (The French Executioner #2)

Years have gone by since the events surrounding the death of Anne Boleyn. But her missing hand and all that it represents to the dark world of 16th-century Europe still draws the powerful to seek it out. Jean Rombaud - the French executioner of the first novel - has grown old, both in age and spirit. Wearied by the betrayal of a son and the scorn of a wife, he fights in the seemingly never-ending siege of Siena. Meanwhile, Gianni Rombaud has forsaken everything his ageing father stands for and now kills heathen for the Inquisition in Rome. Then he is summoned by Cardinal Carafa himself. His masters no longer merely want his dagger in the hearts of Jews, they want the hand of the dead queen...But only three people know where it is buried, and one of them is Gianni's father...

What I Hope to Read Next

I'm not sure which one to read first, but Blood Royal is working its way to the top of this little pile.

Gallipoli Street by Mary Anne O'Connor

An Anzac tale of three families whose destinies are entwined by war, tragedy and passion.
At 17, Veronica O’Shay is happier running wild on the family farm than behaving in the ladylike manner her mother requires, and she despairs both of her secret passion for her brother’s friend Jack Murphy and what promises to be a future of restraint and compliance. 
But this is 1913 and the genteel tranquillity of rural Beecroft is about to change forever as the O’Shay and Murphy families, along with their friends the Dwyers, are caught up in the theatre of war and their fates become intertwined.
From the horrors of Gallipoli to the bloody battles of the Somme, through love lost and found, the Great Depression and the desperate jungle war along the Kokoda Track, this sprawling family drama brings to life a time long past… a time of desperate love born in desperate times and acts of friendship against impossible odds.
A love letter to Australian landscape and character, Gallipoli Street celebrates both mateship and the enduring quality of real love. But more than that, this book shows us where we have come from as a nation, by revealing the adversity and passions that forged us.
A stunning novel that brings to life the love and courage that formed our Anzac tradition.

My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young

A letter, two lovers, a terrible lie. In war, truth is only the first casualty. 'Inspires the kind of devotion among its readers not seen since David Nicholls' One Day' The Times While Riley Purefoy and Peter Locke fight for their country, their survival and their sanity in the trenches of Flanders, Nadine Waveney, Julia Locke and Rose Locke do what they can at home. Beautiful, obsessive Julia and gentle, eccentric Peter are married: each day Julia goes through rituals to prepare for her beloved husband's return. Nadine and Riley, only eighteen when the war starts, and with problems of their own already, want above all to make promises - but how can they when the future is not in their hands? And Rose? Well, what did happen to the traditionally brought-up women who lost all hope of marriage, because all the young men were dead? Moving between Ypres, London and Paris, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is a deeply affecting, moving and brilliant novel of love and war, and how they affect those left behind as well as those who fight.

Blood Royal by Diana Norman

Lady Cecily Fitzhenry was ruined in the South Sea Bubble. Her husband, whom she was forced to marry by her archenemy Sir Robert Walpole as punishment for her support of a Stuart rebel, has speculated with her dowry. The only property left to her is a crumbling public house on the Great North Road. Cecily makes it into one of the great coaching inns, spies for the 'Old Pretender' and fights to save her people from the gallows of Walpole's terrible Black Acts. Thanks to a wily lawyer, Cecily becomes the saviour of her country in a way she hadn't expected...

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

France, 1940. Lucile Angellier's husband has been captured as a prisoner-of-war, and all she can do is wait for him - and tend to the household controlled by her domineering mother-in-law. Their small village is soon occupied by a regiment of German soldiers, forcing the locals to coexist with an invading Nazi force. Lieutenant Bruno von Falk takes up lodgings with the Angellier women, and Lucile struggles with her growing feelings for the handsome officer - soon a powerful love draws them together, and they too fall victim to the tragedy of war.

Irene Nemirovsky began writing Suite Francaise in 1940, but her death in Auschwitz prevented her from seeing the day, sixty-five years later, that the novel would be discovered by her daughter and hailed worldwide as a masterpiece.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

A young woman's struggle to save her family and her soul during the extraordinary year of 1666, when plague suddenly struck a small Derbyshire village. In 1666, plague swept through London, driving the King and his court to Oxford, and Samuel Pepys to Greenwich, in an attempt to escape contagion. The north of England remained untouched until, in a small community of lead miners and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth arrived from the capital. The tailor who cut the cloth had no way of knowing that the damp fabric carried with it bubonic infection. So begins the Year of Wonders, in which a Pennine village of 350 souls confronts a scourge beyond remedy or understanding. Desperate, the villagers turn to sorcery, herb lore, and murderous witch-hunting. Then, led by a young and charismatic preacher, they elect to isolate themselves in a fatal quarantine. The story is told through the eyes of Anna Frith who, at only 18, must contend with the death of her family, the disintegration of her society, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit attraction. Geraldine Brooks's novel explores love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of 17th century science and religion to deal with a seemingly diabolical pestilence. 'Year of Wonders' is also an eloquent memorial to the real-life Derbyshire villagers who chose to suffer alone during England's last great plague.


  1. These all sound like interesting stories. I haven't read any historical fiction for a while. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I hope I get to read a few of them this week.

  2. I haven't read any Diana Norman books, though I've read and enjoyed some of the books she wrote as Ariana Franklin. Shores of Darkness and Blood Royal both sound very intriguing!

    1. I hadn't heard of Diana Norman until I read her final Ariana Franklin novel The Winter Siege. Loved that! I'm so looking forward to reading the rest of her novels.

  3. I love Year of Wonders! Geraldine Brooks is one of my favorite authors.

    1. Year of Wonders will be my first Geraldine Brooks' novel. I would also like to read March.

  4. Blood Royal is one of Diana Norman's novels I haven't read yet. I look forward to hearing what you think.

    Also, my attempt to get a copy of Gallipoli Street appears not to have gone through as Fishpond says it's not in stock after all. I'm waiting to see for sure, and if they cancel the order I can get it on Kindle, looks like.

    I love Geraldine Brooks' novels!

  5. I'm eager to start Blood Royal. It's definitely my next read.

    I hope Fishpond comes good with your copy of Gallipoli Street. Other Australian sellers are advertising it as in stock, but without free postage. Harlequin Australia have it for A$22.49 + A$11.50 postage. The price of the postage is not too bad. I've seen some booksellers with international postage at A$26.

    Geraldine Brooks is another author new to me, so I'm looking forward to reading Year of Wonders.

    1. Good to know - that's not a bad price getting it from Harlequin even with the postage. It's $11.99 US on Kindle, but I like having the physical book to read.

      My favorite Geraldine Brooks novel is Caleb's Crossing, which is set in the area she's living now, Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, but in the 17th century. Year of Wonders is also very good.

    2. I prefer physical books to e-books too.

      I've added Caleb's Crossing to my wishlist too. Thanks, Sarah.

  6. Looks like you had a great week. My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You looks good. My kind of book.

    I LOVED Year of Wonders.

    ENJOY all of your books. I am late visiting blogs.

    Silver's Reviews
    My It's Monday, What Are You Reading