The Viking: My Review

The Viking Book CoverThe Viking by Marti Talbot is certainly not what the reader might expect. As a fan of the History Channel television series The Vikings, and the BBC production The Last Kingdom (based on the Bernard Cornwell books), I was looking forward to a saga focused on the Danish conquest of England. I definitely did not anticipate a love story.

The book begins with that promise. Stefan, a young Viking, is looking forward to his first raid alongside his father, Donar. But the foray into Scotland goes terribly wrong resulting in the death of his father, the retreat of the Viking fleet, and young Stefan stranded on Scottish soil.

Able to speak the language because his mother had been a Scot captured on a previous Viking raid, he finds refuge with a woman, Jirvel, and her daughter, Kannak, who are in desperate need of someone to till the land and help them survive. Jirvel’s husband has abandoned them to their fate, but the three bond out of necessity and form a family unit of sorts.

From there the story definitely shifts to the budding romance between Stefan and Kannak. As they grow and mature their filial relationship changes and the two eventually fall in love. However, just as the two realize their true feelings for one another, Stefan is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Stefan never gives up hope of freedom and returning to Kannak, and despite pressure to marry another, she holds onto her dream of a reunion.

In addition to this story of young love, Marti Talbot also writes of Jirvel’s yearning for Laird Macoran who is Kannak’s real father. Many years before, on the eve of their betrothal, war with the rival Clan Brodie threatens. The only way to keep the peace is for Laird Macoran to accept an arranged marriage with Agnes Brodie. It will be a loveless marriage that will also separate Jirvel from Macoran.

The reunion of Stefan and Kannak as well as Jirvel and Laird Macoran closes out the story and sets up Marti Talbot’s follow-on books about future generations. Younger readers will likely enjoy the storybook ending. For the more mature audience the abrupt plot resolution, its innocence, and the dearth of violence that characterized the historical period likely will temper their reaction to it. However, taken as a whole, The Viking is an easy read and enjoyable tale. It may not be anything that you expected, but it can and should be appreciated for what it is.

 

 

History and Legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers

In honor of Black History Month I thought it appropriate to revisit the history and legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers (see my post, Top Soldier, November 24, 2017.)

These all-black units were formed in the aftermath of the Civil War and served at posts stretching from the Texas frontier to the Dakota territories performing duties that included improving the nation’s infrastructure (the building of forts, roads, and telegraph lines), acting as rangers within our national parks, and participating in the Indian Wars.

Their record of outstanding military service begins in 1866 when six regiments (two cavalry and four infantry) were mobilized in concert with the peacetime restructuring of the Army. Eventually the four infantry regiments would be consolidated into the 24th and 25th Infantry, while the two cavalry regiments would be designated as the 9th and 10th Cavalry. All would adopt the name Buffalo Soldiers.

Native Americans originated the name. Its derivation has been attributed to their comparison of the soldiers’ hair to the hide of a buffalo, but it also reflects their admiration for their courage in battle.

The Indian Wars ended in the 1890’s with the capitulation of the Apache, however, the Buffalo Soldiers also fought in the Spanish-American War and in the Philippines. During World War I their duties were limited to patrolling the border with Mexico, and they did not see any action during World War II.

Military segregation came to an end in 1948 and the last all-black units were disbanded in the 1950’s. Today associations such as the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association proudly carry on that heritage by dedicating themselves to the preservation of the Buffalo Soldiers’ history through educational programs and historical reenactments that inform the general public about their extraordinary record of accomplishments.

During their existence the Buffalo Soldiers have the distinction of having the lowest desertion and Court Martial rates in the Army. Many were recipients of the Medal of Honor. The nation’s highest award was bestowed upon eight members of the 9th Cavalry, four members of the 10th Cavalry, and six members of the 24th Infantry for acts of heroism from 1865-1899 during the Indian campaigns. Additionally, five members of the 10th Cavalry received the honor for their actions during the Spanish-American War.

I dedicated chapters of my book on westward expansion, Palo Duro, to their legacy. They are only now receiving the recognition that they so justly deserve.

 

The Redemption of Jessie James – Book Two of the Memoirs of H.H. Lomax: My Review

the redemption of jessie james book coverThere are few characters in the Old West as colorful as H.H. (Henry Harrison) Lomax. He claims in his memoirs to have been involved in most of the momentous events that occurred during westward expansion and settlement, interacting with the likes of Billy the Kid (see my review of Book One, The Demise of Billy the Kid, dated June 7, 2018) and now the infamous bank robber, Jessie James!

Author Preston Lewis uses his typical wit and humor to reintroduce us to H.H. Lomax as a young boy living in Arkansas with his family during the Civil War. Henry is twelve when the war begins, and sixteen when fate causes him to leave home and seek out Jessie and Frank James in Missouri.

Nearly two-thirds of the book is devoted to these five formative years and Henry’s memories as a boy. There are descriptions of the difficulties that were faced by families just trying to survive, boyhood pranks that have consequences far beyond that of just having fun at someone else’s expense, adolescent love, awakening desires, the loss of siblings and friends to the war, and the viciousness of unscrupulous individuals willing to use sex or any other means, including murder, to get their way.

What they want from Henry and his family is a hidden cache of gold from a Confederate payroll. Rumors of its existence result in constant harassment and threats by a former neighbor turned guerrilla leader, his promiscuous daughter, a Yankee deserter, and Jessie James!

The Redemption referenced in the book’s title hearkens back to Jessie’s hatred of all Yankees and Yankee sympathizers. When the war ends in 1865 the Drake Constitution grants amnesty to irregular units that fought for the Union while holding similar Confederate units and individuals accountable for their actions. Instead of uniting Missourians it further inflamed the biases, loyalties, convictions and prejudices that already existed and it will turn the James brothers into outlaws.

Henry Lomax gets inadvertently involved in the James’ first bank robbery… they threaten to kill him if he doesn’t help or if he ever turns them into the authorities.  He does, however, eventually escape and for the next sixteen years aimlessly wanders the American West in search of fame and fortune. Down on his luck and needing to finally return to his home in Arkansas, he once again runs into none other than Jessie James.

Fearing the worst, Henry is surprised when Jessie (now living under the name Thomas Howard) invites him to meet his wife and children and even buys him new clothes and gives him money to help him get back to Arkansas. Jessie admits to having looked for Lomax after his escape planning on killing him before he could identify Frank or himself, but when no authorities show up he figures Henry has kept his word to remain mum, and this is his way of thanking him. Of course, Jessie hasn’t totally changed his ways and is planning another heist with Charlie and Bob Ford. Fortuitously, Henry declines the invitation to join them. Jessie James will be shot in the back in his own home by Bob Ford for the $10,000 bounty on his head.

Henry’s Arkansas reunion is bittersweet. He visits with those family members still living in his old hometown, discovers that he is revered for killing the bushwhacker who tormented the countryside so many years ago, and apologizes to his childhood sweetheart for leaving her behind. All is forgiven and he is asked to stay. But there are adventures yet to live and stories yet to tell.

Preston Lewis has crafted another chapter in the H.H. Lomax saga that combines homespun humor with vivid historical detail. As to further adventures and recollections of the same, there’s a gunfight in Henry’s future at the O.K. Corral!

 

Rebel: My Review

rebel book coverBook One of the Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles takes the reader to Manassas, Virginia. The year is 1861 and the first major battle of the Civil War is about to take place. The ferocity and carnage at Bull Run will shatter any illusions of a quick victory by either Union or Confederate forces and usher in the protracted four-year struggle that will literally tear the country apart.

Few authors can so vividly bring to life what that first battle between two untested armies must have been like. The horrors of actual combat had not yet registered with the men who would face each other that day. Both sides had drilled and played at warfare, but few had any concept of what it would be like when the artillery shells and minnie balls began to tear their ranks apart. Some fled in terror. Some found the courage to stand their ground even in the face of certain death. Most wept and invoked God or called on their mothers for consolation. Countless numbers cried out in pain or had their lives snuffed out suddenly. One moment they were alive, the next they lay dead or were blown to bits missing arms and legs, no longer even distinguishable as a human being. Bernard Cornwell puts the reader inside this chaos and makes you see, smell, and feel what war entails.

Of course, to be truly effective, his vivid account of battle would not have the desired  impact upon readers unless they identified with the people involved. Cornwell gives us flesh and blood characters, some historical, some fictional, that we care about. In particular, it is the story of Nate Starbuck, an impetuous young man who enlists to fight on behalf of the Confederate cause even though he comes from Boston, Massachusetts. Nate has been raised by an abolitionist father and educated to become a minister himself, but he rebels against his structured and scripted life. He falls in love with a young woman who jilts him for another man, finds himself at the mercy of a Yankee-hating mob, is rescued by a wealthy Southern aristocrat, and in gratitude volunteers to serve in the “Faulconer legion” against his own kind. Nate struggles with his decision to take up arms against the Stars & Stripes, is conflicted morally by the temptations of the flesh and his abandonment of the pulpit, the disgrace his actions have brought upon his family, and his allegiance to a vain power-hungry rescuer with visions of glory.

I often turn to Bernard Cornwell when I look to read good historical fiction, and Rebel fulfills that need. My reservation, however, when picking up one of his novels is that few are stand alone books. Rebel is the first in another series that includes The Saxon Tales, The Richard Sharpe Series, and The Grail Quest Series. All are compelling and from time to time I return to each. It’s just that there are so many books on my “to read” list.

It’s a nice problem to have!

ARANSAS EVENING: Book Giveaway

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Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas Gulf Coast when it came ashore August 25, 2017. Especially hard hit was the beach town of Port Aransas. ARANSAS EVENING by Jeff Hampton takes the reader back to the days before the momentous storm made landfall at this favorite vacation destination.

Currently on tour by Lone Star Literary Life, readers can not only win a copy of this book but copies of all the books written by this gifted author.

Only a few days remain before the lucky winners are announced. For your chance to be one of five winners, register now at Rafflecopter.com 

 

 

Aransas Evening: Excerpt

ARANSAS EVENING
Sequel to Aransas Morning
by
JEFF HAMPTON
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publisher: Jeff Hampton, Writer
Publication Date: October 4, 2018
Number of Pages: 346 pagesSCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 

Life in Port Aransas was looking breezy and bright for Sam and his friends at the Dream Bean coffee shop. Shelly and Dave were talking marriage, Allie and Bo were tightening their family ties, and Sam was welcoming newcomers to town and falling for a new singer at the Sea Garden. But storms are never far away on the Texas Gulf Coast, and there would be none more destructive than Hurricane Harvey. Would Sam and his friends survive Harvey’s awful fury? And would life in Port Aransas ever be the same again? Find out in Aransas Evening, the sequel to Aransas Morning by Jeff Hampton.
 
 
 
PURCHASE THE BOOK
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PRAISE FOR THE ARANSAS SERIES:
    “Hampton’s characters pulled me in; hook, line, and sinker.”
    “The pace of the book is slow and easy, and I slipped into its rhythm like the ebb and flow of the water lapping against the shoreline.”
    “A lovely story about community, and how family isn’t always the one you are born into.
    “Isak Dinesen once wrote, ‘The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.’  Jeff Hampton has illustrated that with grace, elegance, and excellent coffee.”

Excerpt

“Harvey Approaches”

Excerpt from Aransas Evening

              By Jeff Hampton          

The wind blew up clouds of rain mixed with grit off the pavement as Sam rushed toward the Dream Bean and climbed the front steps into the eye of a different type of storm.

“After we board up these windows we need to get off the island,” said Dave, dragging a sheet of plywood in front of the plate glass window.

“No, this is my home,” said Shelly. “You go if you wish, but I’m staying here.”

“But the mayor issued a mandatory evacuation. You’re just going to ignore that?”

“Yes. And I’m going to ignore you too, so you can go jump on the ferry with everyone else if you want, but I’m staying here.”

Dave exhaled loudly. “We could die if we stay, you know.”

Shelly stood firmly, hands on hips. “How do you know so much? Been through some hurricanes in Dallas, have you?”

“No . . . but have you?”

“Not directly, but . . .”

“But what? Allie’s the only one of us who knows anything about this.” Dave shot Allie a glance that said, “Need your help here,” but Allie, who had been drawn outside by the loud talk, wasn’t going to help the way Dave wanted.

“My mother was swept away by Ike because she went out in the storm,” Allie said. “We’ll be okay if we stay inside.”

Dave struggled to hold the sheet of plywood by himself and when he reached for the drill he lost his grip and the wood fell back against him. “A little help would be nice,” he growled at the women, but Sam stepped up to help hold the plywood in place while Dave drilled the screws into the corners and across the sides.

“Where you been? We were looking for you,” Dave asked after pulling a screw from his shirt pocket and pushing it flush into the wall with the drill.

“Fishing . . . so . . . what’s the latest forecast?”

Dave brought Sam up to date as they finished covering the windows at the Dream Bean: Harvey’s path was still uncertain but he was gaining strength so everyone was preparing for the worst. The rain and wind were coming in waves now, and Dave and Sam went next door to the Cassie and covered the windows on the boat, and then moved tables and chairs from the Sea Garden into the pilothouse and inside the Dream Bean. Standing inside the Cassie with the rain blowing hard outside, Sam had a flashback to that night on the boat with Bo and Allie. He recalled the helpless feeling that they wouldn’t survive and yet they did. With his feet on the firm ground this time he didn’t feel lost like he had but he was still anxious knowing there were a thousand ways this could go bad.

Inside the Dream Bean, with everything stowed away, Shelly looked around while unconsciously wiping the counter with a dry cloth. Dave put his hand on Shelly’s and stopped her movement.

“I think we’ve done all we can,” he said. “And I’m sorry if I’m edgy but I just don’t like taking risks when there are other options. If it were up to me I’d have us a hundred miles north of here. But I guess if I’m going to live here with you then I better start learning how this is done.”

The ferry wailed from its landing down the street and everyone looked at each other. Dave shook his head knowing they wouldn’t hear that much longer.

Shelly looked around the room and changed the subject. “Thanks everyone for helping here. I know you all have work to do at your own places so better get going. I’ll be fine here.”

Nobody moved. Shelly made a shooing motion with her hands but nobody would shoo.

“I’ve done all I can do,” said Allie.

“Me too,” said Dave. “I got everything up off the floor this morning and I’ve got shutters so I’m protected . . . sort of.”

“What about you Sam?” Shelly asked.

“The house is okay. I’ve got nothing worth protecting . . . just my vinyl records, and they’re waterproof. I could use a hand at the Pier Association, but then so could a lot of folks down here. Why don’t we spread out and see what we can do.”

“I’ll go with Sam,” said Allie.

“And we’ll check on some of the other shops,” said Shelly. “We’ll keep the door unlocked and meet you back here later.”

When Sam and Allie got to the office they found the windows already boarded up.

“Looks like you’ve taken care of everything,” Allie said.

Sam shook his head. “It wasn’t me.”

“Well you’ve got people watching your back,” she said.

“Yes, and we should do the same,” he said, and for the rest of the afternoon and on into the evening they meandered from business to business, boat to boat, house to house, lending a hand wherever they could.

Jeff Hampton has based his life and career in Texas writing for newspapers, magazines, businesses, and institutions. His interest in observing the people around him has led him to write essays, short stories, and novels that explore relationships and communities in their many forms. Aransas Evening is his sixth book, following Aransas Morning, Grandpa Jack, Jonah Prophet, When the Light Returned to Main Street, and The Snowman Uprising on Hickory Lane
║ Website ║ Goodreads ║ Twitter Instagram ║ Amazon Author Page 


————————————
GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
2 Winners:
Signed Copies of both Aransas books + Grandpa Jack + a pack of Texas Themed note cards
2 Winners:
Signed Copies of Aransas Evening & Grandpa Jack + a pack of Texas Themed note cards
JANUARY 17-26, 2019

VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

1/17/19
Author Interview
1/17/19
BONUS Promo
1/18/19
Review
1/19/19
Excerpt
1/20/19
Playlist
1/21/19
Review
1/22/19
Guest Post
1/23/19
Review
1/24/19
Review
1/25/19
Scrapbook
1/26/19
Review
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Tangible Spirits: My Review

Tangible Spirits Book CoverSometimes you just want to read a book for pure enjoyment; sit back, relax, and escape into a thoroughly captivating story that will keep you engrossed from start to finish. Author Becki Willis has written exactly that! Tangible Spirits combines history, romance, murder, mystery and paranormal activity into a totally enjoyable and heart warming tale.

The setting is Jerome, Arizona (an actual old mining town turned tourist attraction because of ghost sightings) where protagonist Gera Stapleton risks her own life to determine whether trickery or actual spirits are at play in a series of mischievous acts and murder.

Most of Jerome’s citizens are convinced of life beyond the grave. A skeptic herself, Gera isn’t pleased that her magazine editor has sent her there to write an article on the spirits that supposedly haunt the town.

One spirit in particular is believed to have watched over the townspeople throughout the years but now Mac, who wears a long coat and top hat, is being blamed for the murder of a prominent citizen. Gera arrives at the crime scene just after the murder’s occurrence. No longer willing to just write some “fluff” piece on ghosts, she is determined to prove the killer mortal and publish a more meaty journalistic article. Not everyone is happy with her nosing around and asking questions… certainly not the local sheriff, the bank executive, the barkeeper, or the murderer –  whoever that might be!

Vera does encounter an older woman named Minnie with whom she enjoys listening to the history and secrets associated with the town, and she falls hard for the hotel owner, Jake. Yet the property and legends of long-lost gold may be her undoing. Will Gera discover the identity of the murderer? Will she find out that there really are unexplained phenomenon? Will she find happiness with Jake or open doors that could result in her own death? No spoilers here, but readers just may discover for themselves that the power of love transcends even death and lasts forever.

Tangible Spirits has appeared before on this blog in conjunction with the book’s promotion by Lone Star Literary Life. See my earlier post, an interview with Becki Willis, dated June 30, 2018. It has been on my “to read” list ever since and I’m so glad that I went back to it!