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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Royally Romanov by Teri Wilson

Title: Royally Romanov
Author: Teri Wilson
Publisher: 17 July 2017 by Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books.
Pages: 304 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: romance
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

In this charming modern day retelling of the 1956 classic Anastasia, a museum curator falls for a mysterious man who may or may not be a long lost heir to Russia’s imperial Romanov dynasty.

Finley Abbot is organizing the most prestigious art exhibit of her career at the Louvre museum—a retrospective of art from the House of Romanov. But the sudden appearance of Maxim Romanov threatens to turn her into the biggest laughingstock of the art world. When she finds herself falling in love, she realizes there’s even more at stake than her career. How can she trust a man with her whole world when he can’t remember a thing about his past?

After suffering a violent blow to the head, Maxim’s only clue to his identity is a notebook containing carefully researched documentation in his own handwriting indicating that he is the sole surviving descendant of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, previously thought dead in the murder of her family during Russia’s Bolshevik revolution. His struggle to put the mysterious pieces of his past back together leads him to Finley. At first, she’s convinced Maxim is nothing but a con artist. But there’s something undeniably captivating about the beautiful, brooding man who claims to be searching for his identity—something Finley can’t quite bring herself to resist. When he reveals a secret about one of the imperial FabergĂ© eggs in the collection, she accepts he may actually be telling the truth. But as soon as Finley and Maxim act on their feelings for one another, Maxim is confronted with evidence that calls into question everything he’s begun to believe about himself.
My Thoughts

“Everyone’s into the Romanovs. Their story is one of history’s most famous unsolved mysteries.”

“What if there was more to the story?”

I admit to always having been fascinated by the Romanov’s, the last ruling family of Russia before the revolution. The intrigue continues over the supposed survival of Anastasia. Therefore I readily sign up for any new, fictional or otherwise, read regarding this. Knowing this is a ‘chick lit’ (after my last few heavy reads, I was in need of some ‘light and fluffy’ as I like to call it!) I was pleasantly surprised to discover this book contains so much more than romantic escapism.

In equal parts this is a romance AND, importantly,  a rewrite of the classic story, ‘Anastasia’. This is the second book in the Royally series, but the books are in no way related and this most definitely reads as a standalone. What a delightful surprise to discover that there were bonus and legitimate historical references.

‘July 17, 2018 will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the execution of the Tsar and his family ... the Century Rule was instituted here in France after so many claims were made on notable pieces.’

So on the one hand you have this simmering romance but at the same time, this engaging mystery that could possible change history! What fun! A  mysterious, exciting, romantic love story!!!! I was hooked. Add to the usual recipe of romance, an assortment of clues and it proves a fun adventure. The inclusion of things such as the famous Romanov FabergĂ© eggs, and the female lead working at the Louvre make for some credible facts.

‘The Louvre was the biggest museum in the world. The tour guides and docents were fond of telling visitors that the museum was so immense that it would take one hundred straight days to see every piece of art in the Louvre’s extensive collection. And that would leave a mere thirty seconds to look at each one.’

The tragic end to this famous Royal Family has always intrigued and produced many ensuing legends. What the author has done here is create a credible storyline of a man who may indeed be the grandson of the Archduchess Anastasia. It’s a great to journey along with Maxim and Finley as together they seek to investigate and discover the truth behind who he really is.

‘what about the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, who’d been the Tsar’s mother’

Does the combination work? I believe it does. Yes there is some humour but instead of detracting from the story it provided lighter moments:

‘...meeting a man who gave her serious Mr. Darcy vibes.’

In conclusion, Royally Romanov is a good romantic story with a most worthy and interesting twist on a classic tale - that little bit of  mystery that will engage you through to the very end.

‘She ate, drank, and slept the Romanovs twenty-four hours a day. She’d been chasing them through decades of history’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

Title: Beneath a Burning Sky
Author: Jenny Ashcroft
Publisher: 29 June 2017 Little Brown Book Group UK Sphere
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 5 crowns


When 22-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon, she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it's in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls - impossibly and illicitly - in love with her husband's boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it's thieves after ransom money, but she's convinced there's more to it. As she sets out to discover what's happened to the sister she's only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she's ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what's become of her....

My Thoughts

"Beneath a Burning Sky" is Jenny Ashcroft's debut novel, and what a debut it was! Initially I was interested in this book because it takes place in Egypt and I love to learn about this ancient place - fact or fiction. This story was set mostly in Alexandria during the end of the 19th century, when Egypt was still under British rule. Not really knowing what to expect from a debut, I was transported to another place and time in this beautifully written tale.

Jenny Ashcroft has written a wonderful story, a fabulous historical romance in colonial Egypt, one that is full of intrigue and mystery, love and hate. There is an interwoven plot that will keep you guessing right to the very end. There are wonderful descriptions of Egypt at the turn of the century, but this book is really all about the characters and their relationships. This is most definitely the driving force - the life of an expat during the 1890s.

There are many characters and each have their contributions to make. From the disappearance of the main character’s sister - who did it? How? Why? Where? - to the brutality of a violent marriage (you will really despise Alistair). But at the heart of this tale is a love story and what a classic it is. Edward is the personification of the dashing hero and his relationship with Olivia will most certainly pull at your heartstrings.

‘I’m trying to keep you safe.’ His soft voice was baffled. ‘You cannot know the dangers of this land, the things people do.’

The flip story of Nailah, whilst a little difficult to follow at times, helps provide the voice of the Egyptians, demonstrating the contrast between the ruling British and the downtrodden Egyptians. However, this is such a well crafted mystery that at the end, when all the puzzle pieces start to come together, you will understand more and more her role and those of her family and friends.

Jenny Ashcroft is to be congratulated on how easily, and seemingly effortlessly, she brings to life the tense atmosphere of colonial rule. She evokes such a range of emotions through her characters  that their stories will stay with you long after the final page is turned. It’s fast paced and addictive with characters that will grow on you - you will want to despise Alistair, slap Jeremy, swoon over Edward and rally behind Olivia - just to name a few.

'Life wasn’t long enough to waste with unhappy decisions.'

Am I gushing? Yes I am - it was absolutely brilliant. Whether or not historical fiction is your thing it doesn’t matter for this is so much more than that. The harsh brutality of life at times, the intriguing mystery and the quest for true love will sweep you away to a time and place long gone.

'For lies were all she had to give. The truth, always terrifying, had never felt more impossible than now.'

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release