Book Review: Catching the Eagle by Karen Charlton

Easter Monday, 1809: Kirkley Hall manor house is mysteriously burgled. When suspicion falls on Jamie Charlton, he and his family face a desperate battle to save him from the gallows.

When £1,157 rent money is stolen from Kirkley Hall, it is the biggest robbery Northumberland has ever known. The owner sends for Stephen Lavender, a principal officer with the Bow Street magistrate’s court in London, to investigate the crime. Suspicion soon falls on impoverished farm labourer, Jamie Charlton, and the unpopular steward, Michael Aynsley.

Jamie Charlton is a loving family man but he is hot-tempered and careless. As the case grows against him, it seems that only his young brother, William, can save him from an impending miscarriage of justice.

But William is struggling with demons of his own. Desperate to break free from the tangled web of family ties which bind him to their small community, he is alarmed to find that he is falling in love with Jamie’s wife.

Set beneath the impenetrable gaze of a stray golden eagle whose fate seems to mirror that of Jamie’s, Catching the Eagle, the first novel in the Regency Reivers Series, is a fictionalised account of a trial that devastated a family and divided a community.
My review
I loved this story, even as the injustice involved made me angry. Jamie Charlton is a poor farmer who is accused of stealing the farm rents from the local lord. Whether he committed the crime is actually irrelevant as he is the favored suspect. As a poverty-stricken tenant farmer, he has no defense against the laws of the day, which favor the gentry and titled.
As his family fights for his freedom, they are involved in their own lives and struggles. Jamie’s brothers are arguing over how to help him, while his wife and son are just trying to survive. His brother William is desperate to get away from all the family drama and live his own life. Their oldest brother, John, is more worried about maintaining a good reputation for the family and keeping the family farm going. His wife Cilla is trying to keep her four children fed. His oldest son, Jack has befriended a wild animal and believes his family’s fate is tied to that of his new friend.
If you read the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book, you know how the book ends, as Catching the Eagle is a fictionalized account of a real family’s story. However, the ups and downs through the book will keep you coming back. It had me hoping for a different ending. In fact, despite some emotional scenes in the story, I didn’t cry until the end of the book. This is in no way a “happily-ever-after” and is very disturbing when you remember that there was a time when England’s law system was based more on class than justice.
Apparently, this is the first in a series. I’m very curious about what subsequent books will involve. Oh, and this story takes place in northern England, on the Scottish border, so the characters reminded me of the Scots in my favorite historicals. That was a big bonus.
About the book
Title: Catching the Eagle
Author: Karen Charlton
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing
Release date: Dec 8, 2011
Pages: 364
Where I got the book: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4.5 stars, Great for fans of historical fiction

Book Review: The Hermetica of Elysium by Annmarie Banks

1494 Barcelona. As Torquemada lights the fires of religious fervor throughout the cities of Spain, accused heretics are not the only victims. Thousands of books and manuscripts are lost to the flames as the Black Friars attempt to purge Europe of the ancient secrets of the gods and the bold new ideas that are ushering in the Renaissance.

Nadira lives a dreary life as servant to a wealthy spice merchant until the night a dying scholar is brought to the merchant’s stable, beaten by mercenaries who are on the hunt for The Hermetica of Elysium. To Nadira, words are her life: she lives them as her master’s scrivener and dreams them in her mother’s poetry. She is pursued as passionately as the fabled manuscript for her rare skill as a reader of Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew that makes her valuable to men who pursue the book to exploit its magic.

Kidnapped by Baron Montrose, an adventurous nobleman, she is forced to read from the Hermetica. It is soon revealed to her that ideas and words are more powerful than steel or fire for within its pages are the words that incite the Dominicans to religious fervor, give the Templars their power and reveal the lost mysteries of Elysium.

As Nadira begins her transformation from servant to sorceress, will she escape the fires of the Inquisition, the clutches of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI and the French king, Charles VIII? And will Montrose’s growing fear of her powers cause her to lose her chance for love?

I liked this book, although it did take me a few chapters to get into it. There were also a couple of continuity issues that had me flipping back and forth through the book trying to figure out what I’d missed. Neither really had any affect on the story. The first was that when Nadira first encountered Baron Montrose, the text reads that he had a large scar on his face. That scar is never mentioned again, but another soldier is repeatedly called, “the scarred man”. I looked back at the original scene three different times, but still couldn’t find any mention of another man with a scar or find another way to read the scene that might name another soldier as the one with the large facial scar.

There was also a scene in which the Baron and his soldiers entered a room and bolted the door. Then a few minutes later, when they needed privacy, although no one had left the room, he got up and bolted the door. Nothing that changes the story; it just interrupts the flow.

As for the actual story, it started a little slow for me, but picked up quickly. Nadira speaks and reads several languages in a time when most people can’t even read. As an educated person, she is thrust from an obscure life as a servant to a life full of danger and intrigue where she will soon come face-to-face with some of the most powerful men in the world. She is kidnapped more than once, and I could almost see her rolling her eyes at one point as she realizes she’s been stolen again.

I couldn’t really get a handle on Baron Montrose. I’m not entirely sure he’s strong enough to be the man that Nadira needs. I like most of the other main characters, though. Nadira picks up a motley crew on her adventures across the continent and I’m curious to see how everyone will work together in the next part of the story.

About the book
Title: The Hermetica of Elysium
Author: Annmarie Banks
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing
Release date: Dec 8, 2011
Pages: 396
Where I got the book: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 4 stars