Review: A Queen from the North

Title: A Queen from the North (A Royal Roses Book)

Authors: Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese

Published: 2017

Format: Ebook

Set in an alternate universe where the Wars of the Roses (between the Houses of York and Lancaster) never truly ended, the Unified Kingdom of England, Scotland, and Wales is still caught in the aftermath of the conflict. Arthur, the widowed Prince of Wales, needs to marry again to provide heirs to the throne, but is Lady Amelia Brockett, the daughter of a Yorkist earl and nearly twenty years his junior, the right woman to be the next Queen?

While this is, ostensibly, a romance novel, the romance isn’t the only plot worth following. The novel is as much political drama concerning the history (and the present) between the north (York) and south (London) of England, as well as the Commonwealth, as it is about the two people trying to navigate through courtship and engagement in the eyes of not only their family and friends, but also the public and the press.

Admittedly, for me, the political drama could be more intriguing than the romance, but that might just be my inner history nerd trying to parse together the differences between this novel’s universe and the English history we are all familiar with. While the Battle of Bosworth Field happened (ending the reign of Richard III and the Yorkist camp), history is altered from there. And while it would be easy to make comparisons between things happening in the novel and events happening today, they are still grounded in the history of the world the authors created, making them fit into the novel as organic events, not thinly veiled commentary on our world.

As for the main couple, Prince Arthur and Lady Amelia, they were believable as well. Well rounded, flaws and all, the authors made them human enough that the reader became invested in their lives and their world. And it appears there may be more books to come in this series, which has me excited. And maybe hoping to get a little more of the history of the world, if only for my inner history nerd’s happiness.

I give it 5 pages.

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Book Review Red Hammer 1994 by Robert Ratcliffe

Title: Red Hammer 1994

Author: Robert Ratcliffe

Format: Kindle

Published: 2013

When I first saw this book, I was hoping it would be like one of my favorite books from the 80s, The Third World War by General Sir John Hackett (published 1979.) For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed in that respect. I’ve always been a fan of alternate history and “what if” stories. This appeared to fit nicely into that category. Red Hammer is based on the premise of a nuclear war fought in 1994. A struggling Russia elects an ultranationalist President who wishes to return Russia to the forefront of the world stage. He orders his military to plan a first strike nuclear option to cripple the United States.

Russia’s preparations are largely ignored, except for a couple of government officials who see what is happening and try to raise the alarm. Their warnings are mostly ignored and seen as paranoia or leftover Cold War mentality. As the first missiles are launched, the government is caught off guard, and has to scramble to react. An American President who cannot make up his mind and wants to believe it is all just a huge misunderstanding causes the plans to save the government to be largely ineffective.

As the war continues, we follow a bomber crew, a missile submarine crew, and several surviving government officials. I won’t list all the players here as the only disappointing element of the book was the lack of depth in the characters. They were pretty much stereotype cutouts without much to make them interesting as individuals. The author did do an amazing job of describing the escalation of the missile exchanges, and a couple detailed descriptions of the damage such weapons will cause.

Even with the cardboard cutout characters, it is still an excellent read. The “what if” aspect is very interesting and explored in depth. The ending leaves you wondering if the author intended it to be a series or not. I, for one, would love to see what happened next. I would give this book 3 out of 5 pages due to the lack of character development and the foggy ending.

 

 

 

 

Book Review – Dreadnought

Dreadnought
Cherie Priest
Paperback, 2010

Dreadnought is the followup to the incredibly popular Boneshaker, possibly Cherie’s most famous novel.
I love Dreadnought. It’s easily a 5/5 book. So when I found out that there was a sequel, I got really excited.
Dreadnought starts in Virginia with Mercy Lynch, a war nurse getting a couple letters. One tells her that she’s a war widow, the other is from her long estranged father, requesting her visit him in what we know as Washington state.
The book is part alternate history, part Steampunk and part Dieselpunk, with a smattering of western and a groaning of zombie thrown in for good measure. It’s an interesting combination, but I wasn’t disappointed in it.
See, in this book, the Civil War has been going on for about fifteen plus years. Texas was its own republic, with its own problems because of Mexico. Mercy gets her letters and military widow pension and for some reason, decides she needs to cross the country to visit her father, since it was his dying wish.
She then embarks on… pretty much the worst trip ever.
The dirigible she’s on crashes into what becomes the front lines of the war and she loses her suitcase. Every town she gets to, her red cross cloak – worn to help her get safe passage no matter who controls the territory she’s in – seems to draw her business. (At one point she even gets almost bit by one of the un-dead/un-humans.)
After what seems like an eternity, she makes it to Memphis and the Mississippi river, which she takes north to St. Louis before boarding the Dreadnought on a trip west. But that trip is frought with peril, too. The back and front of the train are carrying secret cargo and blocked off. Raiders and another train are coming in to attack, and somebody on the train keeps sabotaging the cars, disconnecting them in motion.
Also, 500 Mexicans are missing and that causes quite a bit of trouble in her trip.

So my comments. First of all, if you didn’t read Boneshaker, you can totally read this book. There are a few comments that relate it back to the first book, but if you hadn’t read them, you wouldn’t have caught it, and honestly, it didn’t really matter – they tell you enough to have played along on your own.
If you have read it, you’ll like how they tie in some things that are going on. I actually am really looking forward to reading the next book. I want to see how they link the stories together since they’re so different.
With that said, the book spends quite a bit of time – as in most of the book – with Mercy stuck on some form of transportation. While this isn’t that bad, it’s a little tedious after a while. I’m sure it would have been for Mercy, too, what with the trip taking weeks by train. But it does limit what can happen. For instance, on the “weeks and weeks” she spends on the train west, the only action we can get is her sleeping or playing cards or walking between the moving train cars.
And that was another thing. This was supposed to be a special train, all souped up and everything. Based on train speeds of the time and the way the book implies Mercy’s time on it, I question why the train trip took so long.
Also, this may be a weird comment, but the fact that Mercy and I share a last name was a bit distracting. I can’t fault the author for it, but I will say that it pulled me out of the story a few times, especially since they generally referred to her by last name instead of first. I didn’t include that in the rating, though.

Even with the book’s problems, I can’t help but wonder what is going to happen in the next one. So considering it’s #2 of 4 (I think), and I can’t stop thinking about how this is going to hook to the first one and continue on, I am going to give it a four out of five. It doesn’t stand as well as the first one on its own, but you’re definitely going to be sorry if you miss out on some of this stuff.

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