Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Acts of Faith: Part 1 of The Inquisition Trilogy by Martin Elsant

Reviewed by Ray Palen

The British Jewish historian Cecil Roth, who was educated at Oxford, wrote a book that was of special interest to author Martin Elsant. The book was entitled History Of the Marranos and of the many figures covered in it was one Diego Lopes of Pinancos in Coimbra, Portugal. Ironically, Mr. Elsant is a former radiologist living in Jerusalem and Mr. Roth died in Jerusalem in the year 1970.

While much of ACTS OF FAITH is dedicated to the descendants of Diego Lopes, Martin Elsant includes two quotes prior to his Author’s Notes from different sources. One in particular I found quite interesting: “Folded under the dark wing of the Inquisition…the influence of an eye that never slumbered, of an unseen arm ever raised to strike. How could there be freedom of thought, where there was no freedom of utterance? Or freedom of utterance, where it was as dangerous to say too little as too much? Freedom cannot go along with fear.” – William H. Prescott, The Age of Phillip II and the Supremacy of the Spanish Empire, 1858.

It is easy to pick up a history book or click on Wikipedia to find out about Diego Lopes. I prefer, whenever possible, to read historical fiction — an infusion of actual history within the opportunities that allow for creativity when re-examining historical events. I believe that this is what Martin Elsant is doing with ACTS OF FAITH, retelling historical events during one of the most difficult times in human and religious history — The Inquisitions — in such a way that it feels as if the reader is enjoying a book of fiction, filled with all the expected plot twists and turns.

Lies She Never Told Me: A Novel (Historical Fiction Book 3) by John Ellsworth

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A historical type story that begins on the Great Lakes in July of 1915 when an excursion steamer capsizes and sinks. Hundreds of people are thrown into the water and many drown. However quite a few are saved and many by Knowles Graham a seventeen year old who jumped from his motorcycle right into the water to help out.

Strangely enough his bike and clothes had already caught the eyes of a group of “not too law abiding” cops. They ended up stopping Knowles and not only arrested him but pretty well beat the tar out of him before throwing him in jail. Shortly thereafter the same cops brought in another young man and threw him into the cell with Knowles after beating him pretty badly also. Knowles gave a lot of aid to the new man and together they made it through the night.

The other young man was Alphonse Capone who would later in life again run into Knowles Graham when they were each on opposite sides of the law. Knowles through some more good work that he does in saving a cop becomes not only a cop but moves all the way up through the system of government to eventually become Senator Graham from Illinois.

The Point of Light (Historical Fiction Book 1) by John Ellsworth

Reviewed by Allen Hott

In this fictional accounting of the atrocities of World War II Claire Vallant lives through those horrendous days. She was able to not only recount verbally but also by pictures memories of the happenings. Claire was a young French girl who quite by accident began her career in photography by taking some pictures in a hospital. She was then “hired” by many of the visitors at the hospital to take photos of relatives and friends. Little did Claire realize what this beginning would grow into?

She falls in love with Remy whom she had known from grade school and together they join the French Resistance to fight as well as they can against the advancing German Army. Together they made reconnaissance missions where Claire would take pictures of the German soldiers who had been sent ahead of the oncoming army that planned to take over Paris and all of France.

Because Remy’s father was the foreign minister to Paris Remy was forced to join the German army even though in his heart he was a French resistance fighter. As the story goes on he has the parents of a young French girl taken hostage and he secretly hides away the young girl because he doesn’t want her to be killed also. As he fights alongside the Germans he does everything in his power to prevent many of their atrocities and is a true rebel at heart.

The Eye That Never Sleeps by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Traversing back in time to New York City circa the late nineteenth century, Clifford Browder’s The Eye That Never Sleeps poses a decidedly brilliant take on the historical crime thriller with an enticingly twisted narrative that brings together history, mystery, and masterfully fleshed out characters.

A growing mystery is afoot in the expanding metropolis of 1869 New York City when three banks are robbed within a nine-month period. Of particular concern is the robbery of the Bank of Trade which is considered the heist of the century. Moreover, the thief has the gall to brag about the robberies by way of sending to the president of each bank gloating rhyming verses and a key to the bank within days of the wake of each masterminded robbery.

Meanwhile, unfortunately for the bankers, the police department has been overwhelmed by the heavy caseloads of other criminal investigations which leaves the city’s bankers in growing desperation. Looking for answers, they turn to private operative/ detective Sheldon Minick who agrees to take on the case for a substantial retainer which enables the financially strapped detective to pay bills and bring meat to his table.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Reviewed by Allen Hott

I have been reading and hearing about this one for quite a-while and was not too sure that I wanted to read it. Thought it would be too poo-poo or womanly if you prefer. But not only was I surprised but really I have to agree with everyone else. Where the Crawdads Sing is truly a great read.

“Marsh Girl” or Kya Clark which is her real name lives quite a different life from most folks. She grows up in the marshland outside of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. She has one of the strangest lives that can be imagined. Her family lives in a run-down shack and is pretty much bossed by the father of the family. But one day her mother leaves (because of the father’s actions) and never returns. Then as time passes each of Kya’s brothers and sister also leave.

Unsheltered: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

Reviewed by Teri Davis

UnshelteredA single run-down home is what combines two families about one-hundred years apart. Unfortunately, the house is in poor condition for both families. Part of the house with water for the kitchen and bathroom appears to be leaning in mid-air no foundation under this addition. Fortunately, the other part seems somewhat more substantial.

Willa Knox finds that her plans for this stage in her life as she planned. By now, she had expected herself to be a successfully published author and her husband, Iano being comfortably tenured at a college or university. Instead, Willa finds herself jobless with no prospects and her husband as an adjunct professor at a college with the two barely able to make ends meet. She believes her son is successful in life with career and family and her daughter, Tig, is just hopeless.

One-hundred years ago, Thatcher Greenwood moved into the house along with his wife and of course, his mother-in-law. Both are disappointed in Thatcher. They both expect to lead a high-class and wealthy lifestyle which could be difficult on a science teacher’s salary. Thatcher chooses to teach evolution in his classroom based on Darwin’s recent discoveries. Along with his neighbor, the two continue
It does seem strange with both families suffer from the uncertainty of the future, both with worry about the house, feeling of the insecurity of becoming unsheltered is a fear.

A Casualty of War: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries) by Charles Todd

Reviewed by Teri Davis

A Casualty of WarThere are certain authors that you just can’t wait to read their next books. Charles Todd is one of those that many people who enjoy authentic historical fiction feel anxious in waiting for the next book. Personally, I feel that Todd truly seizes your mind immersing you in the World War I battlefield with the nurse, Bess Crawford. There is no male or female preference, just dumping you onto the war torn areas so much that you can smell it.

World War I, was coming to an end and for nurse Bess Crawford returning home is now within her future. While waiting for the transport, she chats with others and happens to meet a memorable soul, Captain Alan Travis, He is a wealthy Englishman from a prestigious family who have made money in Barbados.

Surprisingly, while is still working near the Frontlines, Bess finds again that one her patients as Captain Travis. While he is injured this time, he claims that his cousin, James Travis attempted to kill him. She agrees to investigate only to find nothing about this Lieutenant Travis. She does wonder if his possible concussion confused him and whether the Lieutenant even exists.
A while later, Bess meets Captain Travis for the third time. He again claims that his cousin attempted to kill him. He is badly wounded this time. Whether Bess believes it or not, someone did shoot at him.

Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

Reviewed by Teri Davis

CarolineMany of us have either read, heard, or watched Little House on the Prairie. These stories are told from Laura’s perspective. Did her mother, Caroline see things the same way? For author, Sarah Miller, her hours of research recreates the Little House experience, but from Caroline, not Laura.
Imagine moving in a horse-drawn covered wagon, likely carrying the equivalent of your entire household in a large car or van, along with two young girls, ages four and five, and being pregnant. Also, you probably can only move about fifteen miles a day. Any takers?

Their adventure begins in the Big Woods of Wisconsin during February of 1870 with her husband, Charles eager to sell his land and move his family to the Kansas Indian Territory. The reason for leaving in February is the hope that most of winter is over and opportunity for owning a large amount of land, even if far from their family and friends. The hope is that the sooner they arrive in Kansas territory, the sooner they can build a house, establish themselves in this unknown land and possibly even plant before the following winter.

The Reckoning: A Novel by John Grisham

Another very great story written I would say perfectly by the master himself. Grisham is very good at building stories, often moving back and forward in the time frame of the hero’s life, but never losing the main thread of the story. Perfect dialogue and always enough descriptive plotting to keep the reader alert and anxious for more.

 In The Reckoning the story is about a southern family and is pretty much centered on Pete Banning, the head of that family. Pete is the owner of his family’s cotton farm which has been in his family for many, many years. It all begins with Pete getting up one day and walking down to the family church where he walks in and with one bullet to the chest area kills the family minister.

Pete’s wife, Liza, had been put into a mental institution some time previously and was pretty much non-responsive to anyone or anything around her. So the only people close to Pete to rally for him in his defense were his sister, his children, and his friends. No one however could stand up to the pressure of the state’s judicial system and the feelings of the entire local residents.

 What all happens in the next portion of the book is how Pete is put on trial, convicted, and electrocuted in an electric chair that is set up in the county courthouse! Pete had done the deed for what he believed in his mind was the right thing to do.

The next part of the story actually moves backward and follows Pete’s life before all of this. He had been a very gallant soldier and not only fought hard in the Pacific in World War II but he actually had also been taken prisoner and had ended upmaking it through the famous Bataan Death March. That forced march instituted by the Japanese had killed many U.S. and Filipino soldiers.

However Pete had managed to live through the march.  Later he and another prison managed to escape from the huge prison camp that they were placed in. While hiding in the woods he was rescued by a band of guerillas who were fighting the Japanese from their various hideouts all over the Bataan woods. Pete and his buddy joined the guerillas and were eventually rescued and sent back to the states.

Pete had first been declared a prisoner and then later declared dead by the military so the folks at home had no knowledge of his escapades or that he was even alive until he returned.

 There is so much more of this great book as the Bannings have to fight to try to keep their property from the wife of the slain pastor. It becomes a real part of any Grisham as it gets very involved with the legal system and how it works for and against folks.

But then there is even more as the winding down of the story contains some very important facts that come out from the death lips of one of the Banning family.  And as they always say……And that is the rest of the story!!

Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel by Mark Sullivan

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Beneath a Scarlet SkyThis is a really great read. It is the story of a young Italian boy, Pimo Lella, who while growing up in Italy during the World War II Invasion by the Nazis lives quite a life. And one of the most interesting parts is that Pimo is a real life person and the story is his true story.

There were many Italians who were upset with the Nazi takeover of Italy and most of them fought against that takeover in their own way. The Lella family was one group that did all they could by working as a spy network and even used a radio to transmit information that was hurtful to the German army.

However perhaps their biggest achievement was raising Pimo to be one of Italy’s best spies. He started as a guide when he would help people get out of the country by taking them up into the mountains. There they were helped by a catholic priest, Father Luigi Re, who offered a sanctuary to those fleeing and helped them get into Switzerland, a neutral country. Those journeys are an interesting part of the story.

When he got to the age he was going to have to enlist in the ORG.TODT which was a branch of the German army that Italians served in. Pimo fought hard against it but was convinced by his family that it was the safest thing for him to do and that they had plans for him to help in their spy network.

Shortly after joining and getting out of boot camp he was summoned by a German general who had seen him repair the General’s automobile when the driver couldn’t do it. General Leyers immediately told Pimo that he was to report to headquarters the next morning to become his driver! Pimo’s family was thrilled because they knew with Pimo’s skills and hatred of the Germans he would be an important part of their spy network from a great spot. General Leyers was one of the highest ranking officers of the German army and actually was close to Adolf Hitler

The story than goes on and tells the true story of how Pimo works as a spy while driving the General all over that part of Europe. He is able to get lot of information back to his family about German troop movements and even some of their planned invasions of other areas.

While the war continues Pimo because of his closeness to the General not only meets Mussolini but many other high German officials. And he also meets the love of his life, Anna! Anna works as a maid for Leyer’s Italian girlfriend and Anna and Pimo within a short period of time fall in love.

There is much more to this great story and how this Italian boy who grew into a freedom fighter for the Italians lived his life. It is not all peaches and cream as there are some very sad moments in the book but it is still a great read. To the best of my knowledge Pimo is still alive at 93 and lives in Italy.