Forever Past by Marty Ambrose


Forever Past by Marty Ambrose
Publisher: Severn House
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Claire Clairmont’s perilous quest to learn the fate of her daughter with Lord Byron enters its final stages in this last in a captivating historical trilogy based on the ‘summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley group.

Italy, 1873. Claire Clairmont, one of the last surviving members of the Byron/Shelley circle, is determined to uncover the true fate of Allegra, her daughter conceived with Lord Byron. But her quest so far has been fraught with danger, and Claire knows she has enemies who will stop at nothing to keep past secrets hidden.

When she learns of a stunning revelation involving the abbess and Allegra, Claire returns to the convent of Bagnacavallo with her close companions to confront the abbess, and soon finds herself grappling with a series of chilling and threatening events.

As Claire finally closes in on the truth, could someone in her closest circle be plotting against her? And can she survive long enough to get the answers she craves for?

I have not found such an easy reading historical fiction book that is a mystery in quite some time. There is a little bit of everything here. This story contains mystery, danger, even a hint at romance. This is basically classified as historical fiction because Lord Byron, the poet, and Mary Shelley, from the Frankenstein novel, are a part of the story line.

Clair, a character in the story, has been present in the previous series. She is searching for her daughter with all hopes that she is still alive. Their journey, she and her companions, is fraught with danger. Claire begins to wonder just who she can trust.

As you can see, there is a lot more to this book than one might think of in an historical mystery. All of it is very readable and enjoyable. Forever Past is Book 3 in a series titled “A Lord Byron Mystery”. I enjoyed the book a lot, and I think it could be read as a stand-alone. It might have been nice to have known a little more about Claire and the previous threads of the story. However, I think the reason for this is because Marty Ambrose has made the story so interesting that you want more, not because you need more background to enjoy the story.

A Shadowed Fate by Marty Ambrose


A Shadowed Fate by Marty Ambrose
Claire Clairmont #2
Publisher: Severn House
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (180 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

A shocking revelation from an old friend leads Claire Clairmont on a dangerous quest in this second in a fascinating historical trilogy based on the ‘summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley group.

1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the ‘haunted summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley circle, is reeling from the series of events triggered by the arrival of Michael Rosetti two weeks before, which culminated in a brutal murder and a shocking revelation from her old friend, Edward Trewlany.

Stunned by her betrayal at the hands of those closest to her, Claire determines to travel to the convent at Bagnacavallo near Ravenna to learn the true fate of Allegra, her daughter by Lord Byron. But the valuable Cades sketch given to her by Rosetti is stolen, and Claire soon finds herself shadowed at every turn and in increasing danger as she embarks on her quest. Is the theft linked to Allegra, and can Claire uncover what really happened in Ravenna so many years ago?

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First, anyone wishing to read this book must first read the previous book, Claire’s Last Secret. This novel picks up exactly where the other left off and builds upon events and characters previously introduced.

I truly enjoyed getting to know Claire in the first book, and I relished the opportunity to spend more time with her not only to learn more about her past, but also to follow her quest for the truth about her daughter’s fate. Claire has always had a vibrant personality, and while she is less impulsive than she was in her youth, old age has done little to dim her spirit. I’m also pleased to say I saw a lot of character growth in Claire in this installment. In the first book, Claire seemed like a woman still haunted by her past in many ways. She never got over Byron, and she carries a lot of hurt regarding her relationship with him. Claire and her sister Mary did not part on good terms either. In A Shadowed Fate, Claire begins to find some closure. As Claire travels through Italy, she has the opportunity to reflect on various parts of her past, and in doing so begins to forgive not only others, but herself. These glimpses into the past reveal the events that made Claire the woman she is.

Ms. Ambrose has chosen to tell this story in a slightly different format. Claire’s Last Secret was told with sections that alternated between Claire’s life in 1816 and 1873. This book alternates between Claire’s adventures 1873, old journal entries from Allegra, and sections Claire reads from Byron’s confession. I enjoyed the different perspectives, and I especially enjoyed seeing Byron through the eyes of his daughter in her journal entries.

As with the first novel, A Shadowed Fate is not a story to race through. While the danger surrounding Claire and her mission are very real, the beauty of the scenery and atmosphere is what I’ll remember most when I think about this book.

The conclusion is satisfying if a bit abrupt given the story’s leisurely pace. Some pieces of the mystery surrounding Claire’s daughter have been solved, but Claire’s journey is far from over. Ms. Ambrose has again left me wanting to know more!

I’m delighted that I had the opportunity to continue reading this series. I highly recommend A Shadowed Fate to anyone wanting to lose themselves in the Italian ambience Ms. Ambrose has created.

Claire’s Last Secret by Marty Ambrose


Claire’s Last Secret by Marty Ambrose
A Claire Clairmont historical mystery
Publisher: Severn House
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (182 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

A tragic death leads Claire Clairmont to be haunted by her past and the ‘summer of 1816’ she shared with Byron and Shelley in this first in an intriguing new historical trilogy.

1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the ‘haunted summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley circle, is living out her final years in genteel poverty, but the appearance of British tourist, William Michael Rossetti, brings hope that she may be able to sell some of her memorabilia to earn enough cash to support her and her niece/companion, Paula.

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One summer changed Claire’s life forever.

Claire is a fascinating character who has never regretted living life on her own terms. She’s impulsive and driven by her emotions. Living with such passion and intensity has brought her joy and sadness. Old age has done little to mellow Claire. She still has a fiery spirit, but when I compare the sections from 1816 to those from 1873, it is clear Claire has learned to think before she acts. I enjoyed getting to know Claire in her youth and maturity.

There is still so much I want to know about Claire and her life. I definitely need to know the fate of Claire’s daughter. I also want to explore Claire’s relationships more, particularly with her stepsister Mary. I found their relationship a bit strange. They spent most of their lives together, but at some point, there was in irreparable rift between them. I’d like to know why. They seemed so close at times, and then at others Mary seemed very insecure about Claire’s friendship with Percy Shelley. Mary’s jealously is completely unfounded in my opinion. Anyone could have seen that Claire only had eyes for Byron.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere that Ms. Ambrose has created. This isn’t a book to race through. Part of the joy in reading it is soaking in all the details of the world around Claire and all the interesting people she’s met. I think it can be a bit difficult to get past viewing Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley solely as giants of literature. However, I think it is important to remember they were real people who loved, lost, and had problems just like everyone else. Ms. Ambrose made them realistic and relatable.

I must say I think the ending is much too abrupt. In fact, it is the sole reason I didn’t give this tale a five-star rating. Much of the book slowly builds tension concerning the mystery of Claire’s daughter and how it connects to a tragic incident in Claire’s present. I relished trying to discern which events in 1873 had roots in 1816. It seemed like anyone could be the enemy, and I enjoyed sifting through everyone’s actions and words trying to discover any hidden motivations. All of a sudden it was over. In the space of a few pages several major events were explained in ways I didn’t find particularly satisfying and didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. I can only hope the sequel addresses some of my concerns in greater detail.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to read Claire’s Last Secret. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Claire and can’t wait to learn more about her. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a historical mystery to savor.

Casting Bones by Don Bruns


Casting Bones by Don Bruns
Publisher: Severn House
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Introducing New Orleans homicide detective Quentin Archer in the first of a brand-new mystery series.

When a prominent New Orleans judge is brutally murdered, former Detroit cop Quentin Archer is handed the case. His enquiries will lead him into a world of darkness and mysticism which underpins the carefree atmosphere of the Big Easy. Interrogating crooked police officers, a pickpocket, a bartender with underground contacts and a swamp dweller, Archer uncovers some troubling facts about the late judge’s past. But it’s only when he encounters a beautiful young voodoo practitioner that he starts to make headway in the investigation.

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Money–or maybe greed–is the root of all evil. Some people will do anything for their greed for money. Casting Bones examines some of the lengths that people will go to in order to gain wealth.

This is the first book I’ve read by Don Bruns. I don’t know what city he lives in but he surely painted a picture of New Orleans that is vivid and accurate. I didn’t know much about voodoo before but I feel like I do now. The author did his research on voodoo, along with knowing the city life of New Orleans. His observation in human behavior and details are amazing. This combination of details along with his talented writing, combined with a suspenseful plot made this a really great read. I enjoyed this book from the beginning to the end. The suspense started on the first page and kept me interested through out.

There is something about the writing style that made the story flow so smoothly. The details of the city, the men on the police force, maybe the realness of the main character, Quentin Archer. I felt I knew him; his story could be the average cop’s life. I empathized with him for the loss of his wife. He is a honest man trying to uphold the law, but struggles with his family while searching for answers for his wife’s death. Relocating from Detroit under dire circumstances, to the New Orleans police force Quentin finds himself investigating the case of murdered Judge Lerner. When it seems the suspect is caught and the case could be closed, Solange Cordray, a third generational voodoo practitioner contacts Detective Quentin with information that may show a lot of well known city officials in a bad light. When two more judges are murdered, this really is cause for alarm. What is the killer trying to cover up? Why is Quentin’s boss and partner so set against the information that Solange has revealed to Quentin?

This book has a lot of suspense. Finding out why the judges are being murdered and by who; was Quentin’s wife death an accident? Who on the police force is working on the side, selling information? But, don’t worry. There’s not so much going on that you get lost. Along with the suspense the author adds in the attraction between Solange and Quentin. I like the attraction between the two and that they didn’t act on the attractive impulse. The ending left me with hopefulness that there will be a future book about the two.

The story wraps up nicely and ties all ends but the last chapter leaves me to believe that there will be more of Solange and Quentin working together. This is a full story and I like that the author didn’t water it down making the book much longer than it was. It is just the right length.

This is a great story presented in a masterful style that I highly recommend. This will be a treat for those that enjoy good suspense, with lively characters set in a city that is just as lively.