Posts Tagged ‘Alex Beecroft’

It’s been a tense week for all kinds of reasons, some personal and tense for the wrong kinds of reasons and some book related because Midnight Flit flew the nest. Naturally I have been reading to calm myself down. This week it has been crime drama and I have 2 recommendations, because I enjoyed them equally for very different reasons.

The first was Murder of a Straw Man, book 1 of the Dancing Detective series by Robyn Beecroft. Not a romance, though there is potential, it very much falls within the genre of very very British cosy/quirky mysteries but this one has a more then usually engaging and diverse cast. At the end of the story a few threads are left dangling, but that is FINE as it’s book one of a series and good series need through plot, don’t they. Book 2 is available, which is nice.

The second was Kill Game, book one of the Seven of Spades mysteries by Cordelia Kingsbridge. This is very much an American book – hard boiled characters walking mean streets, and the murders are MORE, more plentiful, more graphic – but the characters are differently engaging and equally diverse. Like the Straw Man there is a through plot but this one is more of a cliff hanger and I’m looking forward to reading the several other books in the series when my book budget allows.

Morris dancers in rural scene bloodspattered seven of spades
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Sometimes my Saturday recommendations are books that I picked up on a whim. Books that I read with a growing sense that I was seeing something wonderful and special unfolding before my eyes. Sometimes they are books written by well loved authors so I am fairly certain that I am going to like what I see. Sometimes they are books with which I’ve had a bit more to do, yet are still eagerly awaited.

This week’s book is one of the latter. I saw it at first draft stage and was blown away with it, and I can assure you that the final version is even better.

The Reluctant Berserker by Alex Beecroft explores a period of history for which the records are regrettably murky, but the art and the poetry are sublime. The centuries between the departure of the Romans and the flowering of the great Saxon kingdoms are called the Dark Ages and to modern eyes appear to be a time of savagery as the people teetered in the balance between Christianity and paganism yet there was enormous grace, sensibility and faith as well.

That spirituality is important to the story is evident from the opening line which could have been taken directly from Beowulf or the Dream of the Rood. In hearing a breeze bourn run of harp notes Wulfstan is doomed, although it takes him a while to realise it. There’s this gorgeous sense of melancholic inevitability about it all – man is whirled by his fate as a leaf on a stream – which may not sit well with a modern reader raised to believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it but was part of life to our Anglo-Saxon ancestors. Another thing that may not sit well with modern readers is the prescriptive attitudes to sex but this is a serious historical novel rather than an historical fantasy and, as such, reflects the attitudes of the time.

Wulfstan is a typical warrior, massive, agile, aggressive, the elite of his band. He is valued by his lord for his ability and feared by his fellows for his sudden uncontrollable rages. His closest friend is Cenred, the only man who can safely approach him when in the grip of his ire. He takes pride in his status and only he knows his darkest secret, his shameful urge to be more ‘womanly’. This is a secret that can never be told. For Wulfstan to desire other men is acceptable – women are in short supply and prone to die in childbirth so taking a male slave or servant lad is a good substitute – but Wulfstan MUST be the one to do the taking. Any suspicion that he desires to be the one taken would ruin him. Naturally the suspicion arises, with tragedy as a consequence and Wulfstan is left with a terrible choice to make.

On the other hand, the beautiful, delicate scop [itinerant musician and poet], Leofgar, appears to be everything a man might desire as a yielding and compliant bed mate but is actually an assertive and pride-filled top. A scop is both despised and feared. He is dependent on charity for bed and board but if angered can make a rhyme to flay the bones from a man’s pride. To humble himself to another man’s desire is beyond Leofgar. Naturally he is placed in a position where he either has to bow or be broken.

How both men deal with their choices, their burdens, their persecutors, makes up the rest of a book filled with delicious details and fancies expressed in the flowing language of a scop. Other beauties are period appropriate yet strong female characters following their own minds, the innocent faith in the goodness of Mother Church, the acceptance of the power of the unseen world over man’s fate and that the villains, even the most cruel and abominable villains by modern standards, are obeying the dictates of their own social status or natures. I really admire that.

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Today my guest is Alex Beecroft, best known as a writer of Age of Sail romances but with some other very  impressive strings to her bow in the form of contemporary romance and fantasy. Her latest offering, Under the Hill: Bomber’s Moon, has already garnered some fabulous reviews. I finished it in the wee hours of this morning and can assure  you that they are very well deserved! I loved it – and now I have to wait a month to find out what happens next!

No point in whining – I knew it was a two parter, but I couldn’t wait until May to read it all in one go.

On to the questions. Alex, thank you so much for agreeing to do this 🙂


 Elin: Bomber’s Moon – and may I say what a lovely evocative title THAT is? – is a story involving the incursion of Elfland into 21st century Bakewell. Would you expect that some readers will be thinking about Orlando Bloom as Legolas and saying “Oh cool” rather than grabbing for cold iron and shutting themselves in the cupboard under the stairs? Should we blame Tolkien for this?

Mixed bunch of denizens of Elfland.

Alex: Yay, I’m glad you like the title. I’m terrible at titles, so I threw the task of thinking of something good over to my friends on Livejournal. I think it was Snakey who came up with “Under the Hill.” Then when I found out it was going to come out in two parts the UtH part said “fairies” and I chose Bomber’s Moon and Dogfighters to suggest the WWII part.

Heh, watch me not actually answering the question. (more…)

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