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This is the toughest category for me because I read so much of it. All of the authors mentioned here are winners. Narrowing it down has been incredibly difficult, as making the decision whom to crown overall winner. Here are the excellence awards and one winner, along with my reviews or reviews posted on Goodreads:

Phoenix Rising: A novel of Anne Boleyn” by 11242907_10200301094008045_1191049609_oHunter Jones is a beautifully artistic and original piece of historical fiction that evoked a wide range of emotions in me. The book moved me and brought magic and wonder to the sad event in British History. Being a fan of fiction about the Tudor times I’m pleased to have found a book with such a unique and engaging approach.
Jones tells of the last hour of Queen Anne Boleyn and does so wonderfully with the help of an astrological chart: Twelve segments, all corresponding to the houses in astrology, focus on different aspects of her forthcoming death.Hunter Award
Letters, thoughts and actions come together in a small literary jigsaw that is a detailled, historically accurate and thought provoking.
The story is told from the inside and from the outside, with compassion and understanding, and with a view to the bigger picture.
Having read and loved Jones’s September series I had high expectations for her stab at history but I was not prepared for the emotional impact the story had on me, nor for the ease with which her talent transferred to historical fiction.
This is very impressive.

“To Live Out Loud” by Paulette Mahurin is an absolutely beautifully written prose, which to-live-out-loud-front-promo-copyis written in the form of a memoir of Emile Zola’s close friend, Charles, and which centers around Zola’s fight for the wrongly accused of treason Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer, who was stripped down of his rank and sent away instead of the real criminal. Zola’s famous article, “J’Accuse,” separated France in two: those, who wanted to see justice for the innocent man, and calloused anti-Semites, who would rather let the crime go unpunished than acquit a Jewish officer and restore his honor.
In this meticulously researched novel the fiction is masterfully blended with the real facts, and the ugly accounts of anti-Semitism and chauvinistic behavior of the military and even the court are depicted with honesty, shining a light on the true heroism of several brave men, who weren’t afraid to fight against the regime in the name of truth. I Paulette Awardcouldn’t help but admire Zola’s relentless pursuit of justice, even though it meant putting his own freedom and even his life in danger. It’s a must-read for everyone! Highly recommended!

Cuckoo Clock – New York: Esther’s Story (Unbroken Bonds)
by Elisabeth Marrion

51puh9JMHHL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_I immensely enjoyed the first two in this series and as much as I was looking forward to this, I worried that it wouldn’t live up to my high expectations. It excelled easily. Elisabeth Marrion is a gifted story-teller who really touches your heart with her amazingly drawn characters and storylines.
There are quite a few of those people and sub-plots as teh novel transports us through several European countries and the US.
I’m a big fan of WW2 fiction, although a lot of it can be repetitive and simplistic. Marrion is a master at bringing the human aspect of history alive, personalising the big political picture and weaving it together with skill in her cleverly plotted story.ELisabeth award
Esther Rosenthal and her father Modechai’s escape left me at the edge of my seat, yet Marrion never takes it too far, allowing enough space for characterisation and emotional dept.
The Kindertransports are a fascinating subject as is Annie’s story. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Well worth a read.


25925567The Errant Flock by Jana Petken

Author Jana Petken has accomplished something remarkable with this book. She’s taken the dark and uncomfortable subject of the Spanish Inquisition and turned it into an engrossing masterpiece. The rich details of the period, and the attention to historical accuracy enhance the reader’s experience.
Jana Award
This tale takes place in 15th century Spain, in the town of Sagrat. While reading this I felt transported in a time machine to this tragic era. This is a sweeping saga of a dark and terrible time in the history of Spain and the Catholic Church. Fans of historical fiction, and history in general, will find lots to like about this book.

 

 

The Serpent“The Serpent Sword” by Matthew Harffy is a great historical novel set in the Albion of the 7th Century A.D.
It is a period full of alliances, warfare, warriors, battles, death and rival kingdoms. I found it particularly rewarding to read because it covers a time that lay foundations for the racial, religious and human future of Britain. The book is informative, well researched and full of fascinating details, authentic (with artistic licences) and convincing in style and language.Matthew Award
Beobrand is a well chosen central character. Out for revenge in war-torn Northumbria he soon questions he soon changes course. The book is about great human qualities, such as honour, love and valour and enjoyable on many levels.
I’m not usually big on the dark ages but this has really captured my imagination and attention.

 

And the Winner is:

38dc9-02_living2bin2bthe2bshadows_cover“Living In The Shadows” by Judith Barrows

Living In The Shadows is a triumphant and moving finale to the trilogy, beginning with Pattern of Shadows, that tells the story of Mary Howarth, her troubled family and her marriage to ex-POW Peter Schormann. The action moves between rural Wales and industrial Lancashire and this final book focusses on the next generation in the late 1960s, and the frightening complications in their lives created by the secrets and dramas of the past. There’s a villain who has haunted Mary through all three books – George Shuttleworth, and he emerges once more to threaten the entire family. But there’s another sinister presence throughout the trilogy, which is just as alarming, and that’s the Granville cotton mill, a POW camp in the first book and now a frightening prison of a different sort. All the characters, from three generations, are, as ever, convincingly drawn and totally three-dimensional, the 60s are perfectly captured and the locations are vivid. Mary’s tribulations as wife and mother, in this book, are heart-breaking. Judith AwardThe stories of Linda, Jackie and Richard, as they confront the shadows of a past they’d never suspected or understood, are absorbing and ultimately triumphant, but Victoria’s story really had my skin crawling. An excellent book.

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