#BookReview Dangerous Women by Hope Adams @MichaelJBooks

Dangerous WomenAbout the Book

London, 1841. The Rajah sails for Australia. On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world. Daughters, sisters, mothers – they’ll never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other. Until the murder.

As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect. The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart… But if the killer isn’t found, could it cost them their last chance of freedom?

Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.

Format: Hardcover (352 pages)     Publisher: Michael Joseph
Publication date: 4th March 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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Dangerous Women


My Review

Conviction The Recovery of Rose Gold Henley Literary FestivalI first heard about this book at Henley Literary Festival in 2019 when it was one of the debut novels featured at the Michael Joseph Proof Party, alongside Stephanie Wrobel’s The Recovery of Rose Gold (which I’ve since read and reviewed). At the time, Dangerous Women was due to be published in 2020 under the title Conviction. For various reasons, publication was delayed but the plot of Dangerous Women is largely unchanged from that which the author described at the time. Indeed the passage from the book which Hope read at the event can be found in the final version. You can read my review of the event here. Be aware it features descriptions of strangers mingling before social distancing was even a thing.

Dangerous Women is inspired by the real life voyage of the Rajah from London to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1841 during which many of the women prisoners, as in the book, worked on the embroidery of an elaborate quilt – now held in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. You can read the author’s blog post about how she first learned of the quilt here and view pictures of it here.

Although technically sentenced to transportation for a set number of years, for many of the women aboard the Rajah, it will be the last time they see England, leading to heartbreaking scenes as the ship departs. “The ones who have children will yearn for them. The ones who have living parents will fear their deaths, their sicknesses, and being unable to help them.” But it’s not the same for all the women. For Kezia Hayter, who her whole life has felt underappreciated by her mother compared to her sister Henrietta, it’s a chance to forge an independent path in life. Her appointment as Matron on the voyage is also an opportunity to contribute to a cause about which she feels strongly: the welfare and rehabilitation of female prisoners. From the outset Kezia feels sympathy for and a sense of responsibility towards those in her charge, coming to think of them as her women. She goes out of her way to encourage them and to defend them where necessary.

The convicts are perhaps fortunate in that both the captain of the Rajah, Charles Ferguson, and the ship’s surgeon, Mr. Donovan, hold relatively enlightened views. Like Kezia, they are prepared to recognise that circumstances – poverty, abuse, coercion – may have led the women to commit the crimes they have. Clergyman Mr. Davies, on the other hand, subscribes to the less generous view that the cause of the women’s crimes is sinfulness.

For the women chosen by Kezia to work on the patchwork quilt she has designed, it’s not only a means of learning a skill that may benefit them in their new lives but a chance to leave the confines of below decks where the other less fortunate convicts spend their days. It also becomes a shared endeavour. Despite their different backgrounds and life experiences, by the end of the voyage they have become, as the author so imaginatively describes it, “a patchwork of souls”.

Although we’re told the Rajah is transporting one hundred and eighty women, for narrative reasons the reader only really gets to know the eighteen women chosen by Kezia to work on the quilt, and even then only to varying degrees.  The plight of the remaining women and the cramped and claustrophobic conditions that must have existed below deck remain largely in the background, except for a vivid scene in which the Rajah encounters a storm. However, within the circle of women working on the quilt, the reader gets to see friendships formed and severed, stories shared and secrets revealed.

A vivid account of an epic voyage, Dangerous Women is also a cleverly constructed “locked room” mystery. As well as trying to work out who might have carried out the vicious attack that takes place early on in the voyage, I enjoyed looking out for clues to the identity of the individual onboard who is not entirely what they seem. To be truthful, the answer to the latter was revealed a little earlier than I expected but that still leaves plenty of dramatic events to unfold.  There are revelations that bring redemption for some and unexpected possibilities for others.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Michael Joseph via NetGalley.

In three words: Intriguing, compelling, dramatic

Try something similar: Fled by Meg Keneally or The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett

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About the Author

Hope Adams is a pseudonym of Adele Geras. Adele was born in Jerusalem and spent her early childhood in many different countries, including Nigeria and British North Borneo. She went to Roedean School in Brighton and from there to St Hilda’s College, Oxford.

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Dangerous Women

#BookReview Masters of Rome (Rise of Emperors 2) by Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney @AriesFiction

Masters of Rome Blog Tour Banner

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Masters of Rome by Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney, the second book in their Rise of Emperors trilogy. Masters of Rome is published today as an ebook by Aries and will be published in hardback on 13th May 2021. My thanks to Lauren at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, M J Porter.


Masters of RomeAbout the Book

Their rivalry will change the world forever.

As competition for the imperial throne intensifies, Constantine and Maxentius realise their childhood friendship cannot last. Each man struggles to control their respective quadrant of empire, battered by currents of politics, religion and personal tragedy, threatened by barbarian forces and enemies within.

With their positions becoming at once stronger and more troubled, the strained threads of their friendship begin to unravel. Unfortunate words and misunderstandings finally sever their ties, leaving them as bitter opponents in the greatest game of all, with the throne of Rome the prize.

It is a matter that can only be settled by outright war…

Format: ebook (338 pages)            Publisher: Aries
Publication date: 4th March 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

Sadly I’ve yet to find time to read the first book in the series, Sons Of Rome, although you can read an extract from it here. However, thanks to the brief references to previous events scattered throughout the opening chapters of the book, I didn’t feel at any disadvantage. In addition, the comprehensive historical notes at the end of the book provide a useful factual summary of the political situation at the time.

The authors throw the reader right into the action with an account of a ferocious battle between the forces of Constantine and a barbarian tribe in a Frankish forest. It’s one of the first in a series of great set pieces in the book including a chariot race in the Circus Maximus that could have straight out of the film Ben Hur, and a battle on a frozen river.

Told in alternating chapters from the point of view of Constantine in Gaul and Maxentius in Rome, it soon becomes apparent that although they may be rivals for control of the Roman Empire, they share a similar range of problems – religious conflict, personal tragedy as well as political, military and financial concerns. In fact, their position is neatly summed up by the chief of the Bructeri tribe when he remarks to Constantine, “I know of the the dark pall of trouble that gathers over your empire. Factions forming. Armies swelling. A storm of war is coming”

More than anything, Constantine and Maxentius regret the demise of their former friendship. At one point, the death of a mutual foe seems to offer a glimpse of a different future. ‘It was one of those moments where the world hangs in the balance. Where destiny spins on a knifepoint.’ As students of this period of history will know that moment of opportunity passes making a clash between the two men inevitable.

Masters of Rome is the story of a struggle for power waged between, and often within, families. As you would expect from two such well-regarded authors of historical fiction, there is a wealth of detail about everything from weaponry to social customs, religious practices and Roman curses. The book ends at a tantalizing point in the two former friends’ rivalry setting things up nicely for what will be the final instalment in the trilogy.

In three words: Action-packed, gripping, immersive

Try something similar: Caligula by Simon Turney or Legionary: The Blood Road by Gordon Doherty.

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About the Authors

Simon Turney is the author of the Marius’ Mules and Praetorian series, as well as The Damned Emperor series for Orion and Tales of the Empire series for Canelo. He is based in Yorkshire.

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Gordon Doherty is the author of the Legionary and Strategos series, and wrote the Assassin’s Creed tie-in novel Odyssey. He is based in Scotland.

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