All posts by V.M.Sang

I was born and educated in the north west of England. I trained as a teacher in Manchester and taught in Salford, Lancashire, Hampshire and Croydon. I write fantasy novels currently. I also make cards, knit, crochet, tat, do cross stitch and paint. I enjoy walking on the Downs, cycling and kayaking. I do not enjoy housework, but like cooking.

A Recipe from The Wolves of Vimar Series

These little cakes are a favourite of Carthinal, in The Wolves of Vimar series.

In The Making of a Mage, a Wolves of Vimar prequel, Carthinal becomes apprenticed to Mabryl, an archmage. He was known to sneak into the kitchen where Lillora, Mabryl’s housekeeper, was making the cakes and sneak one or two (or several).

Here’s a bit about the book.

Carthinal is alone in the world. His parents and grandparents have died. Without money and a place to live, he faces an uncertain future. After joining a street gang, Carthinal begins a life of crime. Soon after, he sees a performing magician, and decides he wants to learn the art of magic. But can he break away from his past and find the path to his true destiny?

You can buy the book from your favourite store, in ebook, hardback or paperback, by clicking on its cover in the side-bar, or here.

It is also available as an audio book.

Here is the US link

And this is the UK link

It is also available from The Independent Bookstore, which is Next Chapter’s online store.

Here is the recipe for nectar cakes if you would like to try them for yourself.

They were actually invented by my son, Richard, when he was about 7 years old. He was very fond of honey!

Nectar Cakes

Ingredients

Shortcrust pastry 

125g margarine

125g runny honey

125g flour

2 eggs

Method

Roll out the pastry and cut rounds. Place one pastry round in each hole of a bun tin.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend on high power until creamy.

Put spoonfuls of the mixture into the pastry cases and bake in the oven at 180C for about 15 minutes.

You can find more recipes in Viv’s Family Recipes, along with some hints and tips garnered from Viv’s family members.

Exciting news

Exciting news.

An illustration of the cover of Jealousy of a Viking is now available as a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

Get yours from : https://litmatter.com/products/jealousy-of-a-viking-1000-piece-jigsaw-puzzle

And don’t forget you can get a mug

https://litmatter.com/products/jealousy-of-a-viking-white-coffee-mug

And a poster :

https://litmatter.com/products/jealousy-of-a-viking-poster

Why not pop over and have a look at them?

My New Year Resolution

A bit late to be talking about this, I know, but the only thing I resolved to do was to write a poem a day. So far, I’ve managed it.

I’m posting today’s poem for you to see. I hope you like it.

I have no idea what prompted me to write this one!

The Local Dog Show.

Big dogs, small dogs,

Running after ball dogs.

Black dogs, white dogs,

Ready for a fight dogs.

Tall dogs, short dogs, 

And all kinds of sports dogs.

Good dogs, bad dogs,

Happy and sad dogs.

Short dogs, tall dogs,

Won’t come when you call dogs.

Skinny dogs, fat dogs,

This one and that dog.

All shapes and sizes

Hope to win some prizes.

Add you comments to the comments box. I love to hear from you.

If you would like to receive an exclusive, free short story by me, called The Haunted Table, simply click the link. This will take you to the page where you can download it.

Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have bought. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

(Clicking the link will add your email address to my email list, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe immediately if you wish. Nor will you get any spam. I only send out an email each quarter, or if I have any exciting news–like a new release.)

The Misery House. Pre Order Now!

I am pleased to tell you about this new book by David Kummer. David is a talented young writer who has been publishing books since he was in High School.
I have been telling people about him for a few years, now. I’ve not yet read this book, but if his others are anything to go by, it will be well worth a read. I especially enjoyed She and the sequel, She Waits.
Other books by David include Everything Somewhere and Until We Burn.
I suggest investigating his books on Amazon.

David Kummer

I’m so excited to finally share this new novel with you, coming in July 2023. This book is a lot. It begins a 3-part series. It deals with a traditional “haunted house” in a very different way. There are twists, turns, secrets, and surprises. Romances, family bonds, trauma, tragedy. It has everything. The Misery House promises to keep you on the edge of your seat while pulling at your heartstrings. It’s a book that all of us, after everything we’ve been through, can relate to.

Book 1 of 3

The abandoned house. A town with a dark history.
You’ve never known a haunted house like this.

New Haven hasn’t seen tragedy like this for centuries. In the rural farming community, a local store burns to the ground with two bodies inside. A newly-wed couple with their own secrets goes missing. This is quickly…

View original post 221 more words

A French Chateau in the English Countryside

Just before Christmas we visited Waddesdon Manor, near Oxford. It is an amazing place. It is certainly a French Chateau in the English Countryside.

It was pouring with rain when we arrived, and we had a long walk from the carpark up to the house. The path wound its way through silhouettes of soldiers, sailors and airmen to mark remembrance day.

$CoMmEntˆ

The house belonged to the Rothschild Family and was donated to the National Trust in 1957, and it is run by them and the Rothschild Foundation.

Built between 1874 and 1889 by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild as a weekend home for entertaining, it contains many treasures. Baron Ferdinand bought the estate from the Duke of Marlborough, but it had no house, park or garden, being an agricultural estate.

Baron Ferdinand wanted to build a house similar to the chateaux in France. I think he succeeded.

$CoMmEntˆ

On Baron Ferdinand’s death, the estate passed to his sister, Alice, who continued to add to the treasures to be found there.

$CoMmEntˆ

You can see from these pictures I took, that the rain did stop and the sun came out!

Sadly, the pictures I took inside are not good. Many are blurred for some reason, so I’m not going to post them, but trust me, it’s an amazing place. If you are ever near to it, I suggest you visit.

The Rothschild family was originally from Frankfurt and rose to prominence first in the 18th century. They managed to establish a successful banking business that was continued through  Mayer Amschel Rothschild‘s five sons who went on to establish businesses in England, Italy, Germany, Austria and Germany.

On their coat of arms, in two quarters, are fists holding five arrows. This is symbolic of the five sons, we were told at Waddesdon. They, like five arrows fired from a bow, went on to establish their banks in the five different countries, mentioned above.

In the village of Waddesdon is an inn called The Five Arrows. We stayed there and found it excellent, with wonderful food. I would recommend it to anyone.

Do feel free to share this post, or any others. Just refer back to this website if you do.

If you would like to receive an exclusive, free short story by me, called The Haunted Table, simply click the link. This will take you to the page where you can download it.

Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have bought. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

(Clicking the link will add your email address to my email list, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe immediately if you wish. Nor will you get any spam. I only send out an email each quarter, or if I have any exciting news–like a new release.)

Review of Return of the Dragons by R.S.Williams

As you will have noticed, I took the festive season off. Now I’m back!

Happy New Year to you all.

Today I’m posting a book review. I finished reading this book a while ago, but have only just got around to reviewing it.

Overview.

This book is the second part of the Kane Saga. It continues where the first book left off.

Story

Elijah, the prince who was believed to be dead, has returned and is now betrothed to Princess Sienna.

The dragons, hidden in human form, are making themselves known. 

But Elijah has to go on a quest and leave his beloved behind. The dragons tell him that two things are needed to defeat the Master. One is a staff and the other a time. 

He sets off with his trusty friend, Salah, a grumpy dragon called Maelor and a feisty elf.

Needless to say, all does not go according to plan.

The plot is interesting and gripping. But sadly, it does not resolve the problems but leaves you hanging in the air, waiting for the next book. I don’t like series that do this. It’s a serial, not a series. Although in all fairness, Ms Williams calls it a Saga, not a series.

Blurb

Having grown up in Rheanydd, all Elijah wanted to focus on was entering the annual Hollom horse race. A year later, he’s one of Princess Sienna’s Elite bodyguards in Adelith, where he learns more about his hazy past every day.

King Roderick’s solution to Eli being revealed as the missing crown heir is to marry Eli to Princess Sienna and combine their two bloodlines. But when a body is found with a blood-splattered message and the queen reveals a secret about Eli’s magic, a wedding is the last thing on everyone’s mind.

Eli starts to doubt the Dragon Elders’ motives when their answers only come in the form of cryptic messages. Yet he can’t help but feel a connection between the dragons and himself. So, he agrees to fulfil their task to get the relics before The Master’s Agents of Cyran.

But the agreement between the dragons and his father is due to end soon, setting the dragons free from their human forms and able to rebuild their race. Unless The Master gains control of them.

Can Eli and the dragons work together to stop The Master from getting the relics, or will he gain control over the dragons to rebuild the world and become a god?

Characters.

I enjoyed the characters in this book. They are all different, with their own characteristics. Maelor is always grumpy. Salah is always loyal. 

They are all well-drawn.

Writing.

Sadly, like the first book, this is riddled with errors. I found a number on every page. Grammar, wrongly used words, typos, syntax. Also, I understand that the author is from Somerset, England, yet at least once she uses the American, ‘gotten’. While not wrong in an American book, it struck a harsh chord here.

There were other things not strictly wrong, but that gave me a strange picture. Like ‘Eli dropped his eyes to the ground.’ Too many superfluous words, mainly prepositions, too. 

Punctuation also left a lot to be desired, too. Often there were commas where there should have been a full stop, and missing commas when someone was named. And there were a few places where I had to go back and read a sentence or paragraph more than once to make sense of it 

This is such a pity, because the story is good, but because of my experience with the writing in the first two books, I am wondering if I can manage to read the next one.

A child’s reaction to seeing a Christmas tree.

My mother told me of my reaction to seeing a Christmas tree at my Grandmother’s house. Here is a little poem about it. Of course, I don’t remember it!

A little girl, not yet quite three

Saw her very first Christmas tree.

The shining baubles, tinsel around

The branches, from the top right to the ground.

Her eyes did gleam, emotions fizz.

She said, in wonder, “What it is?”

If you like my poem, please laeve a comment in the comments box, and feel free to share it with your friends, but please acknowledge my authorship.

The Littlest Christmas Tree

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As it gets nearer to Christmas, Christmas trees are going up everywhere. Yes, I know some have been up since November! Here’s a poem about one.

The Littlest Christmas Tree.

The other trees looked oh so tall

To he, who was so very small.

And now it is the time of year

When everyone is filled with cheer.

Some men came for the tallest tree.

They took him with them, full of glee.

He was going into town.

In Market Square he’d wear a crown.

The littlest tree watched on as folk

Bought others. He was full of hope

That soon he would be picked to go

To a home where he’d put on a show.

But people passed him by and said,

“That one’s too small. Take another instead.”

His branches drooped. He was so sad,

Until a man came, with a lad.

Most other trees had long been sold.

The little tree stood in the cold.

“Look, there’s a small one,” said the lad

As he turned towards his dad

.

“It will just fit in our hall.

We can’t have one that is too tall.”

And so they came with spade and dug

Around his roots, all in the mud.

The littlest tree went home with them.

The lights and baubles gleamed like a gem.

He was so happy in that home

With all the love around him shown.

But Christmas passes soon away.

Then there came that dreaded day.

They took away the lights and balls.

“What happens now?” was all his thoughts.

He saw the tall trees passing by

On lorries, going off to die.

Their needles withering and brown

On their proud branches, drooping down.

Fear now filled the littlest tree.

“Is that what’s going to happen to me?”

But then the Dad came with a spade.

“I’ll not throw that for which we’ve paid.”

He dug a deep hole for the roots

And tamped it down with his big boots.

“We’ll let him grow, and then next year

We’ll bring him in again. Don’t fear.

And so the littlest tree was glad

That he’d been bought by this kind dad.

For now he has naught to fear.

He’s decorated every year.

I hope you enjoyed reading my poem.

If you would like to read more of my poetry, I have a poetry book recently published. It’s called Miscellaneous Thoughts and can be bought from your favourite store by clicking here where you can buy it from your favourite store. Or click on the book cover in the sidebar.

A Wonderful Christmas Present.

This story is inspired by the fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, that I’m sure you all know and love.

With no further preamble, here it is. Read and Enjoy.

It has not had a full edit, yet so there might be a few discrepancies. I have done a first edit, but it needs more. But if I leave it, then it won’t be ready until after Christmas.

The little girl woke as a loud voice called, “Come on, you lazy bunch of layabouts. Time to be working.”

She struggled to a sitting position stiff from sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor.

A lad of about twelve thrust a piece of stale bread into her hand. ” Get your water from yon bucket.” He passed on to the next child.

Yesterday, a woman who called herself Annie, had brought her here, but where ‘here’ was, she had no idea. Annie had found her crying and shivering in the street. She had been nice to her, told her she would take her somewhere where she would have a roof over her head and something to eat.

There were five other mattresses on the floor, and children were slowly getting up from them. The boy with the bread was handing a slice to each child.

She took a bite from her slice. It was hard and tasted slightly mouldy, but she was hungry, so she swallowed it.

There were some chipped cups next to the bucket of water, and she dipped one to fill it. She gulped the drink down.

She gazed around the room. The ceiling sloped and had wooden beams. The floor was bare wood and apart from the mattresses, there was nothing else.

A door opened and the man who had shouted at the children entered.

“You. Come here.” He pointed at the little girl. “What’s your name?”

She looked around to make sure it was her the man was talking to, then tiptoed towards him.

“M-m-my n-n-na…” She burst into tears.

“Stop that. I am Mr Smith. You will call me ‘Sir’. Got that? If you can’t tell me your name, I’ll call you Goldie. Now Goldie, how old are you? Do you know? You look about five.”

Goldie nodded.

Mr Smith looked down his long nose. “When Annie found you on the street yesterday, you were alone. Do you have any family?”

Goldie shook her head, still snuffling.

Mr Smith nodded and smiled. He looked at Goldie out of the corner of his eye. ” I’m going to help you, Goldie, and you will help me. You’ll get shelter and food from me, and in return you’ll work for me.”

The door opened at that moment and a woman entered. “Oh, I see you have a new child.” She strolled up to Goldie and lifted a lock of her hair. “What a lovely colour. Like spun gold. She’ll make a good candidate for one of my girls.”

“Not until she’s much older, Mary.” Mr Smith laughed. 

“Undesirable as many of your clients are, I don’t think babies are on their list.”

Mary shook her head, smiling. “You’d be surprised what some of my clients want. I can supply most things, but  even I draw the line at very young children. “

“Most noble of you. But you aren’t getting Goldie. She’s much too valuable to me.”

“Begging? Yes, I can see such a pretty child would make the punters feel guilty and then they’ll give more.” She gave a short laugh. “But bear me in mind when she gets old enough to join my establishment.”

“What do you want? You wouldn’t come up here for nothing.”

“Oh, I heard about your new acquisition and wanted to see if she is as pretty as rumour has it.”

Mr Smith shook his head. “Annie only found her yesterday, and already everyone knows about her.”

“Well, you know what it’s like round here. I’m off now I’ve seen her. Remember me when she’s grown up enough.” 

She flitted through the door, leaving Mr Smith scowling. He turned to Goldie. “You’re to go with Jack. He’ll teach you what to do. Now get out of my sight.”

Jack pulled Goldie towards the door as Mr Smith reached for a cane that stood next to the bucket of water.

“Come over here, Peter,” she heard him say. He swished the cane, and it made a buzzing sound as it passed through the air. “I’ll teach you to keep money back. You need to hand over all you get.”

A snuffling boy of about eight years old dragged his feet as he walked across the room.

“Come on.” Jack dragged her out of the door, pinching her arm as he did so.

“Ow!” Goldie shook him off as they descended the stairs. “What’ll happen to Peter?”

“Get switched. Prob’ly have a meal stopped, too. Shouldna have kept money back. Mr Smith likes switchin’ he does. Don’t give him any chance to switch you. Do as he says, right and proper, and you will be alright.” 

Goldie looked around. “What is this place? Who lives in these rooms?”

Jack shrugged. “Mr Smith lives in one. Annie in another. The rest are Mary and her girls.”

“Mary said she wants me for one of her girls when I am grown. What do her girls do?”

Jack paused on the stairs. “They’re whores. Know what them is?”

“I think so. A whore lived near us, before mamma died.” She sniffed and ran a hand across her face leaving a dirty smudge. “Lots and lots of men visited her. Mamma said she sold her body to them.” She screwed her face up. “I didn’t understand what she meant by that.”

They reached the door and Jack led her into the street. Rubbish blew past them, and the wind whipped Goldie’s hair into her eyes. A scrawny cat jumped onto a wall opposite.

Jack turned right along the street. Tall tenement blocks of houses rose on either side, cutting out the sunlight and making a corridor for the wind.

Goldie pulled her threadbare cardigan closely around her as she followed Jack along the familiar streets. She had lived all her short life in one of the rooms in a house very similar to those they now passed. Her mother scraped a living since her father died by working in one of the cotton mills nearby. Goldie would have been working there soon. She would have had the job of scavenging; scrambling under the looms to retrieve the bits of cotton that fell there. It was a dangerous job. Many children Goldie had known had been severely injured, ending as cripples. Some even died under the looms.

Then her mother became ill. She had been vomiting continuously, and had severe diarrhoea and died. There had been no relatives to care for Goldie, and the little girl was on the streets at the tender age of five.

When Annie found her she promised her somewhere to sleep and food to eat if she would work for Mr Smith..

I think working for Mr Smith would be better than the mill.

The little girl reasoned that even if Mr Smith were a hard man, and it seemed he was, if she were a good girl and did as she was told, she would not get the cane.

Following Jack, she found herself in a part of the town she did not know well. They sat on the ground opposite a church. 

Bells rang from the steeple calling the people to worship. 

Goldie noticed the gravestones surrounding the building. Her mother would not have the luxury of such. Goldie did not know what had happened to her mother’s body. People came and took it away. 

A woman arrived to take her to the orphanage. The little girl had a fear of that place. Her mother had often threatened to send her there when she was angry.

This area was where the middle classes lived. What Goldie’s mother would call ‘posh’ houses surrounded the church. 

The street was clean. Goldie looked at the houses. Most were tall with three stories above road level, and some had steps leading to a basement. Doors opened and people dressed in their best clothes flocked towards the church.

The men wore black or dark brown suits with white shirts and colourful cravats. High black hats were the height of fashion and every man sported one, removing it before entering the building.They shepherded their wives dressed in more colourful attire, although still fairly sober for church. Most of the dresses had bustles, but a few of the older women still wore the wide, hooped crinolines. Like the men, all wore hats.

They hustled their children into the church, barely looking at the two raggedy children sitting opposite.

Goldie’s face fell. “What will happen if we don’t take anything back to Mr Smith? Will he switch us?”

Jack patted her on the back. “Don’t worry, Goldie. When they come out, they’ll feel they should do something for charity and then they’ll give us money. I ain’t never been here on a church day when I got nothing.”

The few passersby sniffed as they walked past, and one or two crossed the road. A couple dropped a few small coins in the children’s hats, but it was a  pitifully small amount. Then the church doors opened. The people spilled onto the road. A carriage drawn by a bay horse drew up and a family climbed inside.  The carriage trotted away.

People chattered outside the church. Goldie noticed the congregation beginning to disperse and was about to give Hyup hope of anyone giving them alms. 

It was then that Jack stood. “Please spare a coin. Me and me sister ’are hungry. We ain’t had nuffin to eat since yesterday morning.” He reached out a hand as a couple passed.

The woman searched in her bag and tossed a penny to the pair.

A little girl looked at Goldie. “Mamma, we can’t let such a pretty little girl starve. Give her something.”

The mother puckered her brow. “How do we know they will spend it on food? You know what these beggars are like.”

The girl looked shocked. “Mamma! You heard what the vicar said. ‘Jesus said when you feed one of these poor people, you are feeding me.’ And he said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ Jesus would not have left them begging without giving them something.”

The girl’s father had come up to them. “She’s right, you know.” He felt in his pocket and dropped a coin into the hat. Then he shepherded them away.

Jack looked into the hat on the floor. His eyes opened wide. “A shilling! He gave us a whole shilling!”

During the next few hours several more people gave them money, and when the daylight began to fade, they made their way back to the house where Mr Smith lived.

When he saw how much they had gathered, his face almost split with his grin. “I knew you would be good as a beggar, Goldie. Now go and get something to eat.”

They had not eaten all day, and Goldie’s stomach growled. She crossed the room to where Annie stood with a cauldron. As she approached, Annie lifted a bowl and spooned some of the contents of the cauldron into it. She handed it, along with a spoon and a slice of bread, to Goldie.

Goldie looked into the bowl. There was what looked like a piece of fat and a few carrots floating in a greasy liquid. She sat on her mattress and spooned some into her mouth. It tasted like it looked; a greasy, watery liquid with very little sustenance. But she was very hungry, so she wiped the stale bread around the bowl and forced the meagre repast down. When she had taken the bowl back to Annie, she lay on her pallet. Still hungry, she fell asleep.

The next few weeks were the same. She went out with Jack and sat next to him on a pavement somewhere richer folk would pass. He told her that Mr Smith was very pleased with the money they were making. Soon he was going to let Goldie go out on her own. 

She shivered at that thought. Yes, Jack had taught her the things to say, how to say it and what to do, but the thought of being out there on her own made her tremble. What if she was no good at begging? She had seen enough to know that Mr Smith would make no concessions for a novice. She had been lucky so far and had not been beaten, but if she did not make enough money, she would certainly feel the switch.

She crept out on her first day. Where to go? It was not Sunday, so it was no good going to a church. The shops. Yes. She would go to the shops. Sometimes people bought food for her from one of the stalls. 

I hope Mr Smith doesn’t find out about the food. I don’t think he’d understand.

She sat on the pavement and shivered. Winter was on the way. Her clothes had become even more ragged in the weeks she had been in Mr Smith’s ‘employ’, as he called it. She was permanently hungry, and getting even thinner than she had been when she first started ‘working’. A tear formed in the corner of her eye. Her stomach rumbled. It did nothing but rumble these days.  Mr Smith and Annie gave them enough food–just. How she longed for a full stomach. Or a fullish one would be enough.

Here comes a kind-looking woman.

Goldie let a tear fall. “Missus, a coin please. I’m so very hungry.”  That’s true. “I have no home. No one to feed me. Please. Just a farthing.” She held out her hand. 

The woman walked past, drawing her skirts in as she did so.

Not kind at all.

The next three people passed with barely a glance at her.

A man threw a penny in her direction. It struck her on the arm. She rubbed it and went to pick up the penny. 

As she did so, she heard the man say to his companion, “I don’t know why these beggars are allowed where decent people live.” He glanced at Goldie. “But one has to do one’s bit. I give alms as the Church says we should.”

I bet he’s never been hungry.

The men disappeared around a corner.

A costermonger pushed his barrow along the street. He had fruit for sale.

I wonder if I have enough to buy an apple. She looked at the few pennies, halfpennies and farthings she had collected. No. I don’t want to be beaten.

That evening, after eating the thin gruel Annie provided, Mr Smith came to her mattress. She cowered. What had she done?

“I knew you would be good. Folks are sorry for a pretty little girl. That was a nice haul you got today.” He stared at her with his eyes narrowed. “You must do the same tomorrow. Make them feel extra sorry for you. Mebbe you can get some silver coins. Threepenny bits, tanners or even a shilling. You work on ’em. Here.” He handed her a bowl and spoon. “Some extra as a reward.”

Goldie stared at the gruel, then, dipping her spoon into it, she gobbled the foul stuff. 

That night she slept badly. She shivered, and not only from the cold. What would Mr Smith do if she did not get any silver coins? Would he take the switch to her?

The next day her fears were realised. It was cold, and snow began to fall. The middle classes stayed at home, except for the men rushing to work, and rushing home again. 

Goldie pulled her shawl closely around herself, but it made little difference. People were too anxious to get home out of the snow to think about the little girl on the street corner. She dragged her feet on her way home.

“You must have spent some of the money.” Mr Smith’s eyes blazed. “You can’t have only got this much.” He tipped the two pennies and one farthing onto the table.

“It snowed.” She began to cry. “Everyone hurried past.”

“Well, I don’t believe you.” Mr Smith reached for his cane. “You spent some.”

That night she felt the switch for the first time.

Swish “One.” Swish. “Two.” Swish. “Three. I’ll be lenient and stop at three, but if you spend any more of my money, you will get the full six.” He leaned the cane against the wall and left.

Sobbing, she lay on her stomach. Her back burned. She reached around and her fingers came away bloody. She had not had anything to eat. Mr Smith had refused to allow her any gruel. 

A shuffling made her turn. One of the other children, a girl of nine, crouched by Goldie’s pallet. 

She held a bowl half full of gruel. “I knew he wouldn’t feed you tonight so I saved some of my food for you.”

Goldie sat up and passed her hand over her eyes. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you giving me your food?”

“Mr Smith is a bad man. He treats us bad. But it’s better than the streets. Lots die in the cold out there. Lots get other horrid things done to them. Lots become cripples. I like you, so I give you some food.”

Goldie had not heard this girl say so much before. She had always been quiet. 

She took the bowl. “Thank you.” She put it to her mouth and drank the thin broth. Although it did not satisfy her hunger, the empty feeling went away a bit.

The next day was Christmas, so Mr Smith told them. People would be feeling generous. They would be walking the streets visiting friends and relatives after Church. “Go and make the most of it.  Beggars, look pathetic, and pickpockets, be sneaky.  Merry Christmas, and good pickings.”

As the children descended the stairs, Jack tapped Goldie on the shoulder. “Mr Smith put me on pickpocketing. Go to my old spot by the Church. Should do well today.”

Goldie trudged through the snow and leaned against a wall. She thought the church looked pretty with the snow on the roof and spire. Snow coated the ancient yew trees, and the gravestones looked as if they had white hats.

The bells began to ring, calling the worshippers to Christmas Mass. Shortly, doors opened along the street as families made their way to the church. Everyone called “Merry Christmas” to their neighbours, and children laughed in anticipation of the presents to be opened later.

No one noticed the small girl, shivering by the church wall.

The door of a house opposite the church opened. A man strode out, followed by a boy of about eight. 

The man turned back. “Hurry. We’re going to be late.”

“Just fixing my hat, dear.” A woman came out pulling on a pair of gloves. She turned back. “Hurry, Jane. You must not be late for church. Not today, on the birthday of Our Lord. Has Mrs White left already?”

A young woman rushed out pulling the door closed behind her. “Coming, Mrs Beare. Yes, Mrs White is probably already in the church. She has everything ready for dinner, so she went ahead.”

They passed Goldie without giving her a single glance. She watched them enter the Church, and soon heard singing; beautiful Christmas carols.

The sky looked leaden. The wind blew the snow into little heaps in corners and at the base of walls. Goldie looked at the houses lining the street. 

I bet it is warm inside. I would love to go into one, just for a few minutes, to get warm.

Her teeth started chattering as an extra strong gust of wind swept along the street. As she watched, the door to the house where the Beare family lived swung slightly open. Goldie’s eyes popped. The maid must have failed to close it properly in her hurry when she left.

Could I? Should I?

Goldie sprinted across the street.  Has God done this so I can get warm? Looking around, and noticing the street was empty, the little girl slipped through the door. She pushed it so it looked closed, and gazed around.

She was in a narrow hallway with stairs climbing on the right. A narrow table stood at the bottom of the stairs with a vase containing dried flowers standing on it. 

Doors opened on the left and right. Goldie picked the left one. Entering a large room, she gave a sigh. Warm. A fire surrounded by a metal fire guard burned in the grate, damped down while the family was out. She ran across the room and held her hands to the blissful warmth. A smile lit her face. 

Three chairs surrounded the fire. One had large arms and wings on either side of the back.  

That one would swallow me up.

She looked at the second chair. It was smaller, with smaller arms and was not a wing back chair.

Gentleman and ladies’ chairs. Too big for me.

She gazed at the third chair. It looked like a child’s seat. Much smaller than the others, and placed right in front of the fire where she could warm her feet. 

As the cold seeped out of her bones, Goldie began to look around.  In the window stood a large tree. The family had decorated it with wooden ornaments, all different shapes and brightly painted. She also spotted some sweets hanging in little bags. A large star decorated the top.

How beautiful.

Below the  tree was a nativity scene with little figures representing the Holy Family, shepherds with their sheep and three wise men carrying elaborate boxes. A donkey and cow completed the scene. 

Over the fireplace was a large mirror. That someone had decorated with holly. The glossy, green leaves contrasted with the bright red berries. Branches of evergreen trees rested on other surfaces and gave a sweet scent to the room. 

Goldie crept towards the tree. She longed to taste the sweets hanging there. She reached out her hand, but pulled it back. After standing there for a few minutes, she pulled a bag from the tree and opened it. Taking out one of the sweets, she popped it into her mouth. Sweetness burst over her tongue. She had never tasted anything so sweet, and she was unsure if she liked it. She spat the sweetmeat out and threw it into the fire.

On the mantelpiece, a clock ticked. It reminded her of the passing of time. How long would the church service last? When she’d sat outside before, it had seemed like a very long time.

It’s only just started. I can stay here for a bit longer. Then I can go and get money when the people come out.

She jumped up.

Suppose I could get something valuable from this house? Mr Smith would be pleased. He might even give me extra food like he did when I got some silver coins.

She gazed around the room. Most things in here were too big to fit in a pocket. Maybe the room across the hallway. 

Rising, Goldie crossed the hallway and entered a room with a large table in the centre. It was set for three people with crystal wine glasses and silver cutlery. In the centre was  a bowl with holly and ivy. 

She picked up a silver spoon and popped it into her pocket. That would be worth more than she could collect by begging. Perhaps there would be more. Jewellery, maybe.

On leaving the room, she was drawn to the stairs leading to the basement. Enticing smells wafted up to her and her stomach growled. Maybe she could find something to eat down there before going upstairs. Careful, in case there was a servant who had not gone to church, Goldie crept slowly down.

The stairs led into a kitchen with a range at one end and a scrubbed wooden table in the centre. A cupboard stood opposite the window and on it were some mince pies and a large Christmas cake. Goldie picked up one of the pies and bit into it. 

“Ow! That’s hot.” She placed the pie back on the plate and looked around. There on the top of the range was a copper pan with soup in it. She felt in her pocket and fished out the spoon she had stolen from the dining room. Dipping it into the pan, she took a sip. 

“Mmm. Delicious.” She continued eating until her stomach felt full.

Putting the spoon back in her pocket, she returned to the hall and then climbed the stairs to the landing. The first room she entered was a large bedroom overlooking the street. She peeped out of the window. No one about. They were still in church. Good.

The bed was huge, and covered with a red counterpane. Opposite it was a dressing table. That would be where she would most likely find jewellery.

There was nothing on the top, and so she pulled a drawer open. Scrabbling around she only found gloves and handkerchiefs. No jewellery there. The second drawer had a box in it. Goldie pulled the box out and opened it. Yes! Here was Mrs Beare’s jewellery. Now what to take. Nothing too obvious.

A brooch took her eye. It sparkled with what might be diamonds and was in the shape of a crescent moon. She slipped it into her pocket. Then she saw a beautiful pendant with a purple stone. She added that to her pocket. Mr Smith would be so pleased with her that he would never beat her again. She grinned.

I wonder if there is anything in the next bedroom?

She made her way across the landing and into what was obviously a child’s bedroom. A small bed with a blue counterpain stood opposite the door, and on it was a fluffy rabbit with a blue bow around its neck. On a chest of drawers Goldie noticed a toy train. Blue curtains hung at the window, tied back with a blue cord.

Goldie yawned. The warmth and the soup filling her stomach made her sleepy.

What a lovely rabbit. She picked it up and cuddled it. It was soft and seemed to encourage more cuddling, so she sat on the bed and leaned back. Slowly her eyes closed.

*****

“The door is not closed,” Mr Beare frowned as he mounted the steps. He turned to his wife. “How come you didn’t close it behind you. I know you were in a hurry, but it is not like you to be so careless.”

His wife followed him into the house, pulling the hatpin from her hat and removing it. She hung it on a hatstand by the door. “Jane was behind me, Albert. She must not have pulled it closed properly. She went to the top of the stairs to the basement and called the maid.

Jane curtsied as she reached the top of the stairs. “What did you want, Mistress?”

“When you came out of the door to go to church, did you close it properly behind you?”

“Oh, Mistress, I really don’t know. I was rushing, see. I’m sorry if I left it.”

Mr Beare hung his cloak and hat on the stand. “You should be careful, Jane. There are all kinds of undesirables around these days. If someone had noticed, they would have been able to walk right in and help themselves.”

Tears trickled down Jane’s face. “I’m sorry, sir.” She curtsied again. “It won’t happen again. I’ll be extra careful in future.”

Mrs Beare placed a hand on her husband’s arm. “It’s partly my fault, Albert. I told Jane to come through the front door instead of the basement. We were late, and it would have taken her a few more minutes to go down to the kitchen and use the servant’s door.”

Mr Beare nodded and smiled at Jane. “Well, let’s forget it, shall we? Go and get changed into your work clothes.”

Harold Beare, Mr and Mrs Beare’s eight year old son came out of the sitting room.

“Mamma, someone has opened one of the sweetmeat bags.”

His parents rushed in and Harold pointed to the open bag on the roof of the Nativity scene.

Mr Beare picked it up. “Only one eaten, it seems.”

A scream came from the kitchen, and the sound of running feet came from the stairs.

“Oh, sir, I’m sorry. So sorry. Someone’s been in the house. They took a bite from a mince pie.” Jane held out a mince pie with a clear bite out of it. “I’m sorry for leaving the door open. Please don’t dismiss me.”

“No one is dismissing anyone,” Mrs Beare said. “So far nothing has been taken or damaged except one sweetmeat and one bite of a mince pie. Go back to the kitchen and see if anything else has happened.”

“We’d better be certain nothing else has been taken, Grace” Mr Beare said. “First let us see if anything has been taken from down here, then we can go upstairs and check.”

It was Harold who noticed the missing spoon in the dining room.

“That’s odd. They only took one small spoon. Look at all the other silver they could have taken.” Mrs Beare drew her brows together.

As they pondered this, Jane came rushing back. She panted before she managed to speak. “They’ve drunk the soup, Ma’am. I went to heat it up, and there was only a little bit left.”

“Let’s inspect upstairs,” Mr Beare said, striding to the staircase. “Jane, go back to the kitchen and help Mrs White finish the preparations for the meal.”

Jane curtsied and left.

The family ascended the stairs. Mr and Mrs Beare went into their bedroom and Harold went into his. 

While Mrs Beare was inspecting her jewellery box, Harold ran into their room. “Mamma, there is a girl asleep on my bed.”

Mrs Beare straightened. “A girl?”

Harold nodded. “Yes. And she’s got Jacob.”

All three went to Harold’s room. Peering through the open door, they saw Goldie fast asleep and hugging Harold’s rabbit.

Mrs Beare’s eyes softened. “But she’s so little. Is she the burglar?”

“It would seem so, my dear. She’s obviously a beggar or a vagrant. We need to notify the police.”

The little girl woke, looked at the three people in the room and leaped to her feet, throwing the rabbit to the floor.

Harold dived for his toy, shouting “Jacob!”

The girl ran for the door and tried to duck under Mr Beare’s arm, but he was too quick and managed to grab her. He wrapped both arms around her, and as he did so, she screamed again. 

“It hurts. Let me go! It hurts.” She aimed a kick at Mr Beare’s shin.

“Don’t hold her so tightly, Albert.” Mrs Bear protested.

“I’m not. It shouldn’t hurt her.”

The girl was crying now. “Please, don’t get the police. I’ll give back what I took. Just give me some money. Only a little money, or Mr Smith will beat me again.”

Mrs Beare took the child’s hand and prized her away from her husband. “But it does hurt her.” She knelt beside the weeping child. “Where does it hurt? Did Mr Smith hurt you?”

The child nodded and sniffed, rubbing her hand over her nose, spreading snot across her face.

Mrs Beare took out a handkerchief and wiped it away. “Show me where he hurt you.”

The child turned around. “My back. He hurt my back.”

Gently, Mrs Beare pulled the ragged dress away from the child’s shoulders. She drew a quick breath. There, across the child’s back were three long welts. The remains of blood traced their path. 

She turned to her husband. “This child has been brutally beaten until she bled.” She stood her fists opening and closing. “We cannot allow her to return to such a man.”

“You’re correct, dear. I’ll contact the man in charge of the orphanage. They’lll take her if I ask him. I have influence.”

Mrs Beare looked at the child, who had cowered away at the mention of the orphanage. She frowned. “What is it, child? Surely the orphanage is better than your Mr Smith?”

“Mamma said it was a bad place. When I was bad, she said she would send me there.”

Mrs Beare put her head on one side. “So you have a mother?”

“No. She died. Annie found me and took me to Mr Smith. She said I would be one of her girls when I am old enough.”

Mr Beare strode into the room. “That settles it. She must go to the orphanage. We cannot allow her to become a fallen woman.”

His wife sat on the bed with an arm around the little girl. She turned to her. “What’s your name?”

“Mr Smith calls me Goldie.”

“But what did your mother call you? Can you remember?”

 Mrs Beare had to lean forward to hear the whisper.

“Emily.”

“Well, Emily, tell me what you did for Mr Smith.”

“I am one of his beggars. He said because I am pretty, the punters will feel sorry for me and give me more.”

“Emily, I will not let you go to either Mr Smith, or the orphanage. I have an idea, but I need to talk to my husband about it.” She stood. “Stay here while we go and think. Harold, come along with us. Bring a toy to play with, but leave Jacob with Emily.”

“But, mother…”

Mrs Beare frowned. “Don’t argue, Harold. Do as you are told.”

He handed his rabbit to Emily with a sullen look, and followed his parents. “What if she runs away with him?”

“We will be outside the room. She will not be able to leave without us seeing her. Go and take your train into the sitting room until we call you.”

Mr Beare stood, head cocked to one side. “What is it, Grace? What’s going on in that head of yours?” He laughed. “I can’t see what alternative there is to the orphanage.”

“Oh, but there is, Albert. You know how I…we…wanted more children, but none came after Harold? Remember our prayers, asking God to help us? We thought that He had decided we should have no more children.”

Mr Beare nodded.

“Well, I think He has answered our prayers after all.”

“You mean… .” He looked at the bedroom door.

His wife nodded, a smile covering her face. “Yes. Emily. I think that God has sent her to us, both in answer to our prayers and to help her, too. I think we should adopt her.”

Mr Beare frowned and shook his head. “I’m not sure, Grace. Adopting a street child? She’s a thief. She entered our house and took things.” He gazed at his wife. 

“She took an opportunity that presented itself. She only did it from fear of this Mr Smith. She’s a beggar, not a thief.”

“It’s a big risk, Grace. Suppose Mr Smith still has some influence over her?”

Mrs Beare sighed. “If she’s living here, with us I do not see how Mr Smith, whoever he is, can get to her.” She held onto her husband’s arm and gazed into his eyes. “Please, Albert. You know how I long for another child, especially a little girl. And here God has provided us with one. Are you going to reject God’s gift?” She opened her eyes wide and smiled at him through her eyelashes.

“You know I can’t deny you, especially when you look at me like that.” He bent and kissed her. “I won’t reject God’s gift, either.”

If it had not been unladylike, Mrs Beare would have jumped up and down.

“You realise we’lll have a difficult job getting her civilised?”

She grinned. “Yes, but I like a challenge.”

On entering the room, Emily was chatting to Jacob the rabbit. She stopped and looked at Mrs Beare with anxiety in her eyes.

Mrs Beare sat next to the little girl. “How would you like to live here with us, Emily?”

Emily frowned. “You want me to be a maid here?”

“No, no. I…we want you to be our little girl. Our daughter. We want to adopt you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will live here with us. We will give you clothes and food. You will go to school. You will have toys. You will have everything our son, Harold has. He will be your brother.”

“Not go back to Mr Smith?”

“No.”

“And have a rabbit to cuddle, like Jacob?”

“Yes. And other toys, too.”

Mr Beare entered, looking severe. “You’ll have to be good, though. No more stealing.”

Emily put her hand in her pocket and drew out the two pieces of jewellery she had taken from Mrs Beare’s jewellery box. 

She held them towards Mrs Beare. “Sorry for taking these. I was frightened Mr Smith would beat me if I had nothing to give him.”

“You will call me ‘mother’, or mamma, if you prefer, and Mr Beare you will call ‘father’ or ‘papa’. But first we must get you clean and see to those wounds.”

Mrs Beare called Jane and told her to prepare a bath. When the hot water had been poured into the metal bath set before the fire, Mrs Beare washed Emily’s hair and gently sponged her back. Her clothes she gave to Jane with instructions to wash them, and to dry them as quickly as possible before the range. She then plastered a salve on the raw switch marks.

“What are we going to dress you in? You can’t walk around naked. It is indecent.” Mrs Beare thought for a minute. “Wait here, Emily, I won’t be long.” She left the room and sought her husband.

As she crossed the hallway, Jane rushed up the stairs.

“Ma’am, Mrs White says the dinner is ready, and will be spoiling.”

“Oh, Jane, tell Mrs White I’m sorry. We shouldn’t be too much longer. Try to keep it hot, please.”

Jane dropped a curtsey and went back down the stairs. 

Mrs Beare entered the dining room. “Albert, we can’t have Christmas dinner with Emily with no clothes. The vicar has a little girl about the same size as Emily. I’m sure his wife will not mind lending us an old dress of hers.”

Mr Beare rose and tapped his pipe on the side of the fireplace, where a fire blazed. “And you want me to go and ask.”

“Yes, please. She can’t put her old clothes back. Not only are they ragged, but they were filthy, so I had Jane wash them.”

“And I suppose I’ll have to ask for some underwear, too. All right. I’ll go straight away.”

Mrs Beare reached up and kissed him on the cheek, then returned to the sitting room and Emily.

*****

Goldie could not believe what was happening. This must be a dream, and soon she would wake to hunger and cold, not to mention fear of Mr Smith. 

She sat on a small stool before the fire. Warmth. Lovely warmth. Even with no clothes on, she felt warm. Warmer than she had ever remembered.

This was a beautiful house. She had never been inside a house like this. It was clean, with furniture that was not broken or torn. Thick curtains that would keep out the cold. Clutching Jacob Rabbit to her naked chest, she stood and wandered to feel them. Soft. Almost as soft as Jacob.

“Is this real?” she whispered to the rabbit.

The door opened and Mrs Beare came in. 

Mamma, she said I was to call her.

“I’ve borrowed these clothes from the vicar’s wife. She has a little girl about your age. Come and let me help you to dress.”

Goldie crossed to where her new mother stood holding a pair of bloomers. She stepped into the woollen garments. 

“They’ll  keep you warm, Emily.  You’ll have cotton ones in the summer. Now this petticoat and silk stockings.”

I’m Emily again. I have my proper name again.

Mamma dressed her in what looked like the most expensive clothes. She had always worn clothes passed on to the poor by richer folk. They had been worn out in places, and the fabric thin.

Mamma held up a white dress. “Arms up,” she said. 

When Emily complied, she dropped the dress over the child’s head. “Now turn around so I can do up the buttons.”

When the buttons were fastened, Mamma tied a blue ribbon around her waist.

The dress was not as long as Mamma’s. It came halfway down her calves. A hint of the frill around the legs of her bloomers peeped from below.

Mamma picked up a brush and teased out the tangles from her golden hair. “I can see why they called you Goldie. And you have a soft natural curl to your hair. It will be easy to fashion.” She held Emily at arm’s length. “You are exquisite. Now let us go and eat dinner before Mrs White has a fit.”

They left the sitting room and entered the dining room. 

 Mr Beare’s eyes opened wide. “I can’t believe this is the same little girl that was asleep in Harold’s room. She’s beautiful.”

Emily smiles and cast her eyes down.

Jane had set a fourth place, and when all four were seated, Mrs White entered carrying a platter on which sat a large goose. She was followed by Jane with a tray of dishes. The pair placed their burdens on the table.

“I’m sorry about the soup, Ma’am,” Mrs White said. “There was not enough to feed you all.” She glared at Emily.

Emily blushed.

“That is all right, Mrs White. It wasn’t your fault,” Mrs Beare replied.

Emily squirmed in her seat and kept her eyes down. It was her fault there was not enough soup.” 

Mr Beare, Papa, carved the goose and served everyone.

There were potatoes, and a sauce made from some kind of green fruit. Mamma said they were gooseberries, so called because they were served with goose. Another dish had sprouts, and yet another had carrots.

After eating all these delicious foods, Emily had never felt so full in her life. She thought of the thin gruel she had eaten at Mr Smith’s, and grimaced.

Mrs White returned after Jane had cleared the remnants and dirty crockery. She was carrying a plum pudding. 

When she had placed it carefully on the table, Mrs Beare served each of them with some. “Now, be careful. You may be lucky and find the coin.” She laughed. “Do not swallow it!”

Emily’s eyes widened. A coin in the pudding? She began eating slowly, partly for fear of swallowing a valuable coin, and partly because, really, she was quite full.

Her teeth struck something hard. She reached into her mouth and pulled out a silver threepenny piece. “I’ve found it. The threepenny bit.”

Her new Mamma and Papa smiled. “Then it’s yours,” said Papa. “You can spend it or save it.’

“Mine, Papa? Really mine? I’ve never had anything that was really mine.”

Harold looked at her, and took a deep breath. “It’s Christmas, Mamma. We had our presents, but Emily hasn’t had anything.”

Emily grinned. “Yes, I have. I have a new home and family. That’s the best Christmas present ever.” She bounced up and down on her chair.

“But I want to give you something.” He pulled Jacob Rabbit from under the table. “You are now my little sister. You love Jacob, and so I’ll give him to you.”

His parents smiled in pride at the sacrifice their son made. They knew how he loved his rabbit.

After eating, the family repaired to the sitting room, Emily clutching Jacob Rabbit to her chest. Mamma sat at the piano and played Christmas carols, to which they all joined in singing. After a while, Papa got out the dominoes and they played until Emily ‘s eyes began to close.

Jane had made up a bed for her in her very own room. As she lay, her eyes closing, she believed this was the best day ever.

*****

Mr Smith stomped around the sparse loft room. “What do you mean, no one has seen her? She can’t have just disappeared.”

Jack spoke quietly. “Perhaps she ran away after you beat her.”

“Then she’lll be hiding somewhere. All of you will go out and search. Look in every corner, every empty house, warehouses; everywhere you can think of.”

The children left and searched to no avail. 

A few weeks later, Jack went up to Mr Smith, cowering. “I saw Goldie.”

Mr Smith grabbed the boy. “Where? Why didn’t you bring her back?”

“Couldn’t. She were with a well-to-do lady. Dressed nice, she were. Lady was holding her hand, like she were her mother or summat.”

Mr Smith sank into his chair. “Couldn’t be her. A girl what looks like her. That’s who you saw.”

Jack shook his head. “Was her all right. Saw me, she did. Shook her head at me. Rekernised me for sure.”

“Well, we have searched for her for weeks now. We need to get back to business. There’s no money coming in while you are all out searching. If that were Goldie you saw, she’s lost to us.”

The End

Review of Windrush. Jack Windrush Book 1 by Malcolm Archibald

OVERVIEW:

I hadn’t read any of the Windrush books, but I will certainly be reading more. Mr Archibald has created a character that one wants to know more about.

The book is full of excitement and action, and the story holds the reader, wanting to know what happens next and how Jack can escape from the predicaments he finds himself in.

I read it in 3 sittings and found it hard to put down when I needed to do something.

BLURB

Burmese War, 1852. Unable to join the famous Royal Malverns, Jack Windrush is commissioned into the despised 113th Foot.

Determined to rise in the ranks and make a name for himself, he is sent with the 113th to join the British expedition. But when they get involved in the attack of Rangoon, Jack realizes that war on the fringes of the Empire is not as honourable and glorious as he expected.

After a chance meeting with a renegade British soldier, Jack witnesses the true terrors of war, and begins to question the whole framework in which he has grown up.

CHARACTERS

The main character, Jack Windrush, is going to join the Royal Malverns like his father and grandfather before him. He has dreams of glorious warfare and winning honour. But things go against his dream and he finds himself in Burma with the despised 113th foot and discovers that war is dirty and frightening.

Through the book, Jack has doubts and fears but he grows and becomes a true leader.

Wells is a sergeant in the 113th. He is well-drawn by Mr Archibald. We can truly believe he is what he is portrayed to be, a hard-bitten career soldier. But why did he decide to stay in Burma and not return to England with his regiment? And why has he volunteered to join the 113th?

There is sensitive writing of the only female character in the Burma part of the story. Her name is Myat and she is something of a mysterious character, but she has an important role in Jack’s development.

The other characters are mainly officers who are hidebound and unbending. I suspect a lot of Victorian officers were like this.

Even the despised soldiers of the 113th have their own growth arcs.

WRITING

The writing gripped me. I could feel the heat and humidity and the biting insects in the forest, and hear the drums of the natives.

I felt Jack’s suppressed fear, as he went into battle for the first time, and his determination not to show it. It would not be gentleman-like, nor officer-like.

There were one or two typos that had got through, but not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the story.

I give it 5*

My ranking of books. In order to get a particular number of stars, it is not necessary to meet all the criteria. This is a guide only.

5* Exceptional. Wonderful story. Setting well drawn, and characters believable. Not perfect, but with flaws. Will keep you up all night. No typos or grammatical errors.

4* A thoroughly enjoyable read. Great and original story. Believable setting and characters. Very few grammatical errors or typos.

3* I enjoyed it. Good story. Characters need some development. Some typos or grammatical errors.

2* Not for me. Story not very strong. Unbelievable and flat characters. Setting not clearly defined. Many typos or grammatical errors.

1* I hated it. Story almost non-existent. Setting poor. Possibly couldn’t finish it.