Retribution and Redemption: A Review of The Bully of Order

The Bully of Order

The Bully of Order by Brian Hart

Publication Date: September 2, 2104

Publisher: Harper Collins

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Set in a logging town on the lawless Pacific coast of Washington State at the turn of the twentieth century, a spellbinding novel of fate and redemption—told with a muscular lyricism and filled with a cast of characters Shakespearean in scope—in which the lives of an ill-fated family are at the mercy of violent social and historical forces that tear them apart.

Keen to make his fortune, Jacob Ellstrom, armed with his medical kit and new wife, Nell, lands in The Harbor—a mud-filled, raucous coastal town teeming with rough trade pioneers, sawmill laborers, sailors, and prostitutes. But Jacob is not a doctor, and a botched delivery exposes his ruse, driving him onto the streets in a plunge toward alcoholism. Alone, Nell scrambles to keep herself and their young son, Duncan, safe in this dangerous world. When a tentative reunion between the couple—in the company of Duncan and Jacob’s malicious brother, Matius—results in tragedy, Jacob must flee town to elude being charged with murder.

Years later, the wild and reckless Duncan seems to be yet another of The Harbor’s hoodlums. His only salvation is his overwhelming love for Teresa Boyerton, the daughter of the town’s largest mill owner. But disaster will befall the lovers with heartbreaking consequences.

And across town, Bellhouse, a union boss and criminal rabble-rouser, sits at the helm of The Harbor’s seedy underbelly, perpetuating a cycle of greed and violence. His thug Tartan directs his pack of thieves, pimps, and murderers, and conceals an incendiary secret involving Duncan’s mother. As time passes, a string of calamitous events sends these characters hurtling towards each other in an epic collision that will shake the town to its core. (from Goodreads)

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Review of The Angel of Losses

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The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman

Publication Date:  July 29, 2014 

Genres: Fantasy, Jewish Folklore and Myths, Historical Fiction

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The Tiger’s Wife meets A History of Love in this inventive, lushly imagined debut novel that explores the intersections of family secrets, Jewish myths, the legacy of war and history, and the bonds between sisters.

When Eli Burke dies, he leaves behind a mysterious notebook full of stories about a magical figure named The White Rebbe, a miracle worker in league with the enigmatic Angel of Losses, protector of things gone astray, and guardian of the lost letter of the alphabet, which completes the secret name of God.

When his granddaughter, Marjorie, discovers Eli’s notebook, everything she thought she knew about her grandfather–and her family–comes undone. To find the truth about Eli’s origins and unlock the secrets he kept, she embarks on an odyssey that takes her deep into the past, from 18th century Europe to Nazi-occupied Lithuania, and back to the present, to New York City and her estranged sister Holly, whom she must save from the consequences of Eli’s past.

Interweaving history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales, The Angel of Losses is a family story of what lasts, and of what we can-and cannot-escape.

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Mini Review of The Devil’s Fire

When I posted yesterday’s review of Not Quite Dead, which deals with woman who is being haunted by the ghost of Pirate Anne Bonny, I started thinking of other books historical fiction I’ve read in the past about pirates and remembered Matt Tomerlin’s Devil’s Fire. I read it about two years ago, but it was memorable because it’s a direct contrast to the pirate romances I usually find and read. Here’s a pithy review that may be helpful in your consideration of the book:

The Devil’s Fire: A Pirate Adventure Novel by Matt Tomerlin

Publication Date: August 2011

Genre: Historical Fiction 

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From debut author Matt Tomerlin comes a brutal tale of revenge during the Golden Age of Piracy.

Katherine Lindsay, the pampered young wife of a wealthy ship captain, has left her leisurely life in London to accompany her husband to America. So far, their journey has been uneventful, even boring. But when ruthless pirates suddenly storm the ship to plunder her husband’s riches, Katherine is one of the treasures they steal, sparking a bloody chain of events that will alter the course of piracy in the Caribbean forever. Pirate lovers will find no shortage of treachery, cutlass duels, ship-to-ship battles, buried treasure and much, much more.

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Review of My Notorious Life

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My Notorious Life by Kate Manning

Publication Date: September 10, 2013

Genre: Historical Fiction

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A brilliant rendering of a scandalous historical figure, Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life is an ambitious, thrilling novel introducing Axie Muldoon, a fiery heroine for the ages. 

Axie’s story begins on the streets of 1860s New York. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day. 

In vivid prose, Axie recounts how she is forcibly separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, and how she and her husband parlay the sale of a few bottles of “Lunar Tablets for Female Complaint” into a thriving midwifery business. Flouting convention and defying the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights, Axie rises from grim tenement rooms to the splendor of a mansion on Fifth Avenue, amassing wealth while learning over and over never to trust a man who says “trust me.” 

When her services attract outraged headlines, Axie finds herself on a collision course with a crusading official—Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. It will take all of Axie’s cunning and power to outwit him in the fight to preserve her freedom and everything she holds dear. 

Inspired by the true history of an infamous female physician who was once called “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” My Notorious Life is a mystery, a family saga, a love story, and an exquisitely detailed portrait of nineteenth-century America. Axie Muldoon’s inimitable voice brings the past alive, and her story haunts and enlightens the present.

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