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A wondrous tale where you will be swept away by the story of The Crimson Amulet

The Crimson Amulet - Adriana Girolami

"I value you far too much to allow the woodlands to entrap you in their deadly embrace." - Lord Zanar offering a typically cryptic line to Polyxena.

The Crimson Amulet is the long awaited second book in the trilogy by Adriana Girolami. I was a huge fan of the original Revenge of the Knights Templar and its re-release as Mysterious Templar. Such a fan, in fact, that I approached this second story with some trepidation.. What if the book did not live up to my lofty expectations?

In addition, it is a well known saying to not judge a book by its cover. But when you know the author created the cover herself through her incredible artistry, perhaps it is not a surprise to learn this talent spills over into her writing.

The first book introduced us to the Duchess of Lorengard-Lorraine, a principality in 1400s Europe. The Lady Polyxena was never a wimpish waif, neither could she be termed as a kick-ass heroine of her time. She is ladylike, regal, but never standoffish. You feel like she is someone you could approach. Beneath this royal veneer and approachability is a character with a heart of steel and courage to match.

By the latter third of the first book, I was fully in support of Polyxena and she became the stand out character for me. Surprising, given my own love of medieval England and the Knights of the Round Table - I really thought I would root more for the male characters such as Arsenio and Duccio. Then of course there is the Duke of Nemours, Polyxena's father. All the men live by the strict code of the Knights Templar, so woe be tide anyone who would cross them and especially the Duchess. Such actions tend to be the perpetrator's last....

The writing in The Crimson Amulet is as fluid and poetic as its predecessor, but it is never flowery, fluffy language that makes you think 'get on with it, author!' - you can tell each word has been carefully thought over. That's why I resisted a strong temptation to rush through the book. It's too enjoyable to skim over it like that (unless you were going to go back and give this a second reading, which this book certainly deserves.)

When the mysterious (well, all men are who would visit your place of residence) Zanar is able to bypass the Duke's men and gain easy access to the palace, we know something is amiss. He is not a local, and so he carries a great question mark over him. Soon, his intentions become obvious, kidnapping Polyxena (she's supposed to go with him willingly, but his actions of threatening to kill the Duke force her hand) and riding off to some remote part of Europe on a goose chase to be linked up with the Duke - dead or alive.

Zanar may have used some magical property to overcome the guards, but charming Polyxena won't be so easy. She is loyal to her love (if you have not read book one I won't spoil that here) and for all Zanar's lordly behaviour, she finds him a rather repulsive man who will stop at nothing to achieve his aims.

Will Polyxena escape the clutches of the evil Lord Zanar? Will she get back to the palace with her father? Will there even be a palace to go back to?

and....what is the Crimson Amulet of the title?

This story is just as multi-layered as its predecessor, with a gripping, riveting tale that makes you think you know where it is going, but you won't. The amulet itself is more than a MacGuffin. In fact, an author in command of their story and characters needs no such plot device to drive it.

Look out for real thrills with the characters Kusen, Salimah and especially, reluctant knight Berthold. But the real star is the plot. The characters just firm up the wonderful narrative.

The series hearkens back to the classics of yesteryear, but beats with a modern, pulsating heart. The passionate scenes are described in such a way that is never over the top, and should encourage as many male readers as female. This is not a woman's book, exclusively - it's a great yarn, epically told without an epic length (though at 300+ pages is satisfyingly long).

This is simply a must-read series. An overused term perhaps, but entirely appropriate here. There's even a bonus chapter of book three in this Kindle version, but I implore you to wait, and read the whole book in full. I know there is a trend for authors to release snippets of their books, free chapter previews and so on, but wait - and your patience will be rewarded.

The original is one of my fave ever novels. Now read this much improved edition!

Mysterious Templar - Adriana Girolami

Think back to the golden age of cinema. Rip-roaring historical blockbusters that combined action with a heart. Were Adriana Girolami's epic Mysterious Templar to make it to the big screen, I would expect some director and screen writer of weight and talent to bring this rich novel to a mass audience. That said, the author's descriptive narrative and wonderful characters set this story above many 'adventure / quest' stories that go nowhere.

 

In full disclosure, I must state that I read the original Revenge of the Knights Templar and approached this, wondering would it be more of the same. If anything, this is the better, far more polished work (not that the other edition wasn't, it is just that time has passed) and the inclusion of the second story - a generous chapter to give you insight into where the tale is going, means that this edition is well worth your time and effort. Never once dry, laced with humour, and always readable, one can only wait impatiently for the soon to be released sequel. Wonderful story, perfect medieval romance. Loved it. --- Below is my review of the original story, Revenge of the Knights Templar A tale of swords and superstitions, of passion and deception, of political machinations and posturing, Revenge of the Knights Templar is an exceptional debut novel by talented author Adriana Girolami.

 

This story has been on my to read list for most of 2014. Now, that I have finally completed reading it, I can say that the wait was worth it. The ability of an author to transport the reader to a different time and place, and do it convincingly, is a task that perhaps only the most seasoned of authors would attempt. So it makes this story all the more remarkable that it sets itself up brilliantly, with the kind of prose I wish I could use in my writing. After the initial few chapters, where most if not all of the main characters are introduced, the pace picks up and doesn't let go. In fact, I had to stop myself from finishing the novel too quickly. It is a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling read, set in the 1480s where, as always, who ever wields power can do so with a silken rose or an iron fist.

 

Our heroine, Polyxena, is destined to become a duchess, but not in the way she envisaged. Her love, the Duke Arsenio is brutally cast aside in a battle of wills and swords, seeing the repugnant Duke of Saxe-Hanover seizing power, with Polyxena, seemingly hapless to play anything but the dutiful wife. Things can't go on like this forever, and with the tyrant becoming ever more tyrannical (as they do!) the evil Duke begins to make mistakes...the biggest of which seem his superstitions. The fate of one cat in the story was a pivotal moment for me. Polyxena, as befits a great heroine, is anything but a housemaid and often voices her displeasure at the Duke's actions - especially with his joy at the arrangement of so many executions of his enemies. Polyxena, understandably, is horrified. One of the condemned is her new love, Duccio.

 

The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution. The characters are believeable, you feel hatred for the evil Duke, love and hope for the beautiful and intelligent Polyxena. I even found my distaste of Flavia coming around to better thoughts later on. Such is this beautifully woven tale. The cover, though stunning, should not hide the fact that the sword fights are realistic in their description, and Miss Girolami places you as if you wielded the sword yourself! I was truly swept into the action of this story, which I will say is as well written as any part of the Lord of the Rings. The author's wordcraft is exciting and perfectly describes each scene. The characters are superbly drawn, and the detail of her vision leaves nothing to chance. You, dear reader, are transported to 1480s Europe, and can do nothing about it!

 

This story is a historical epic, a romance, a thriller, a mystery and is full of great lines, written beautifully and without any hint of pretence. It's not without humour, with great lines such as:

 

"The erotic spectacle stimulated the drunken crowd, who quickly joined the royal pair in a sexually driven bacchanal. An orgiastic atmosphere took over the room while everybody rubbed and caressed anything that wasn't theirs."

 

And stark, great authoritarian lines such as:- "A river of blood will cleanse you of audacity!"

 

Also:- "It's easy to learn cruelty when you live with evil."

 

Truly, I can't wait to read this book again. It's been by far one of my favourite reads of 2014, and one can only wait for Miss Girolami's next book. As for Revenge of the Knights Templar, I thoroughly recommend you read it. Now.

 

 

Enjoyable romance packed choc full of great stories!

Love Minuets - Preethi Venugopala

Certain books can turn out to be quite deceiving, but I mean that in the most positive way I can, because Love Minuets initially seemed to be a musical book or some kind of poetry. Indeed it has a poetic quality to it that people fond of the the kind of imagery an accomplished author can make is the very reason why we read books in the first place.

The stories are short, diverse and very hard to predict in terms of content. But each and every one is enjoyable.

The Veil of Time, The Duke's Muse and Forgotten Memories were amongst my favourites. It is hard to pick an outright favourite because of the diverse stories on offer.

I believe with this collection that the author could reward her current fanbase whilst attracting new ones.

If you like fantasy, it's here. If you like heart warming and gentle tales of love, it's here. If you like to read something truly leftfield, it's here too.

I was surprised at the depth of many of the stories, contrasting with those that were lightweight and I believe intentionally so.

Often an author will want to write a true one of a kind book. I think this is the kind of thing we as readers look for.

Strongly recommended.

Fantastic, uplifting tale of romance in India

Without You - Preethi Venugopala

Without You is the debut novel of Preethi Venugopala and it is an uplifting tale of romance that will stir your heart and fire your passion.

It's obvious from the early pages of this book how passionate the author is about her subjects. The main characters, Anu and Arjun are fun to watch, as their relationship develops and goes through its various ups and downs.

The author's forewarding notes, as well as the quotes that open each chapter are endearing and make you think.

As befitting an Indian author, readers should be prepared for an indoctrination into Indian culture. This is to be welcomed, because the author writes with a style and panache that always engages the reader.

Some lines I liked:-

"If you had given this to Shakespeare, he would have written a thousand sonnets about it." (Anu discussing food).

"Both of us can't bear to live without the other. But we still managed to make our lives a living hell making asinine assumptions about each other." (Anu and Arjun, on the difficulty of relationships.)

Without You is a credible addition to the romance genre, fans of which will see inspiration from all kinds of authors, from William Shakespeare to Jane Austen. There's a hint of Judith McNaught in there too - no bad thing.

It's a lovely story that romance fans will hold dear to their hearts.

On Amazon this book gets five stars.

 

 

Enjoyable romance from an exciting debut author

An Independent Woman - Frances Evesham

Having read a number of historical romances this year, it's nice to read a book that has engaging characters, but also sets the scene perfectly.

We are familiar with the Victorian era through books and films, but rarely is it presented so well, as it is here in the author's debut novel.

I literally felt I was on the streets of Victorian England. Even though the south is mentioned, it's nice that the south west - Bristol in this case, is featured too.

The cover was a real grabber for me - the thoughtful pose of the character but also the beautiful background detail really gives you an insight into the author's setting for this book.

As a romance, it works well. Philomena, like the women of the period, was not allowed to travel outside alone. So she abounds on her adventure into the outside world dressed as a boy. What will be the repercussions of her behaviour? Will she be in some trouble if / when found out, or much worse?

Fortunately the author has penned an engaging drama that has no need to be over the top with, shall we say...'energetic scenes'.

Yes, the hero, Lord Thatcham, takes a liking to Philomena, but even more so when she reveals her true self.

Maybe the ending isn't in doubt, but that hardly matters. For a debut novel the author shows a real command of her world, one I will be happy to revisit.

Great debut book that sweeps you into magical India

Without You - Preethi Venugopala

Without You is the debut novel of Preethi Venugopala and it is an uplifting tale of romance that will stir your heart and fire your passion.

It's obvious from the early pages of this book how passionate the author is about her subjects. The main characters, Anu and Arjun are fun to watch, as their relationship develops and goes through its various ups and downs.

The author's forewarding notes, as well as the quotes that open each chapter are endearing and make you think.

As befitting an Indian author, readers should be prepared for an indoctrination into Indian culture. This is to be welcomed, because the author writes with a style and panache that always engages the reader.

Some lines I liked:-

"If you had given this to Shakespeare, he would have written a thousand sonnets about it." (Anu discussing food).

"Both of us can't bear to live without the other. But we still managed to make our lives a living hell making asinine assumptions about each other." (Anu and Arjun, on the difficulty of relationships.)

Without You is a credible addition to the romance genre, fans of which will see inspiration from all kinds of authors, from William Shakespeare to Jane Austen. There's a hint of Judith McNaught in there too - no bad thing.

It's a lovely story that romance fans will hold dear to their hearts.

On Amazon this book gets five stars.