Friday, July 21, 2017

Wishlist Reads: July 2017

Like many readers, my TBR grows faster than it shrinks. I find a subject that interests me and titles start piling up one right after the other. With so many bookmarked, I thought it'd be fun to sort through and feature five titles a month here at Flashlight Commentary. 

Netgalley is both the reviewers' best friend and vile tormentor. Most of us love looking at the titles and we get super excited when a request is approved, but those declines! Do you know how frustrating it is to be told no?!?! It's gut-wrenching. We're book addicts and to be told no... Okay, it's not that big a deal. I can't even type that level of drama without laughing, but it is a bit of a downer to look at something and have the publisher say no so I've opted to dedicate this month's wishlist to titles I couldn't have. I'm sure the publishers had great reasons for their decisions, but that doesn't mean I've lost interest. Enjoy!

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Connie Carter has lost everyone and everything dear to her. Leaving her home in New York, she moves to a run-down Irish mansion, hoping to heal her shattered heart and in search of answers: how could her husband do the terrible things he did? And why did he plough all their money into the dilapidated Ludlow Hall before he died, without ever telling her?

At first Connie tries to avoid the villagers, until she meets local women Eve and Hetty who introduce her to the Ludlow Ladies’ Society, a crafts group in need of a permanent home. Connie soon discovers Eve is also struggling with pain and the loss of having her beloved Ludlow Hall repossessed by the bank and sold off. Now, seeing the American Connie living there, the hurt of losing everything is renewed. Can these women ever be friends? Can they ever understand or forgive? 

As the Ludlow Ladies create memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface. But can Connie, Eve and Hetty stitch their lives back together?

The Ludlow Ladies’ Society is a story of friendship, resilience and compassion, and how women support each other through the most difficult times.




Why did Charlotte Brontë go to such great lengths on the publication of her acclaimed, best-selling novel, Jane Eyre, to conceal its authorship from her family, close friends, and the press? In The Secret History of Jane Eyre, John Pfordresher tells the enthralling story of Brontë’s compulsion to write her masterpiece and why she then turned around and vehemently disavowed it.

Few people know how quickly Brontë composed Jane Eyre. Nor do many know that she wrote it during a devastating and anxious period in her life. Thwarted in her passionate, secret, and forbidden love for a married man, she found herself living in a home suddenly imperiled by the fact that her father, a minister, the sole support of the family, was on the brink of blindness. After his hasty operation, as she nursed him in an isolated apartment kept dark to help him heal his eyes, Brontë began writing Jane Eyre, an invigorating romance that, despite her own fears and sorrows, gives voice to a powerfully rebellious and ultimately optimistic woman’s spirit.

The Secret History of Jane Eyre expands our understanding of both Jane Eyre and the inner life of its notoriously private author. Pfordresher connects the people Brontë knew and the events she lived to the characters and story in the novel, and he explores how her fecund imagination used her inner life to shape one of the world’s most popular novels.

By aligning his insights into Brontë’s life with the timeless characters, harrowing plot, and forbidden romance of Jane Eyre, Pfordresher reveals the remarkable parallels between one of literature’s most beloved heroines and her passionate creator, and arrives at a new understanding of Brontë’s brilliant, immersive genius.






Italy, 1945: as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated cities, its population fights each other to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her mother has abandoned them already and her brother is being drawn into the mafia. Early one morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, she is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her family and in doing so forges a future very different to the one she expected. But will the secrets of her family’s past be her downfall?






Summer 1755, Acadia

Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships.

Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

Heart-wrenching and captivating, Promises to Keep is a gloriously romantic tale of a young couple forced to risk everything amidst the uncertainties of war.




Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2008: a stunningly vibrant novel from Amitav Ghosh

At the heart of this epic saga, set just before the Opium Wars, is an old slaving-ship, The Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its crew a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts.

In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a truly diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed villager, from an evangelical English opium trader to a mulatto American freedman. As their old family ties are washed away they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais or ship-brothers. An unlikely dynasty is born, which will span continents, races and generations.

The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of China. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, which makes Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive - a masterpiece from one of the world's finest novelists.


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INTERESTED IN MORE WISHLISTS?
CHECK OUT WHAT MY FRIENDS HAVE BOOKMARKED:

Stephanie at Layered Pages
Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Heather at The Maiden's Court

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cover Crush: At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye

We all know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but in today's increasingly competitive market, a memorable jacket can make or break sales.

I am not a professional, but I am a consumer and much as I loath admitting it, jacket design is one of the first things I notice when browsing the shelves at Goodreads and Amazon. My love of cover art is what inspired Cover Crush, a weekly post dedicated to those prints that have captured my attention and/or piqued my interest. Enjoy!

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Muted colors and an old photograph. I know I selected a cover with similar design elements a few weeks ago, but it's a great combination. Whoever designed the cover of Vanessa Lafaye's At First Light hit the ball straight out of the park. 

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Did this week's cover catch your eye? Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!

INTERESTED IN SEEING MORE?
CHECK OUT WHAT MY FRIENDS HAVE BOOKMARKED:

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Stephanie at Layered Pages


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Cover Cliché: Glassy Eyes

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting.

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Soho 1925 Two young men meet - for one of them this is love at first sight, for the other only lust and guilt... In 1925 Paul Harris returns to England from self-imposed exile in Tangiers for an exhibition of his paintings. He leaves behind Patrick, the man he has loved since they met in the trenches in 1918, needing to discover if he has the strength to live without him and wanting to explore the kind of life he might have lived had it not been for the war. In Bohemian Soho, Paul meets Edmund whose passionate love changes Paul's idea of himself. With Edmund, Paul begins to believe that he may have another life to live, free of the guilt and regrets of the past. But the past is not so easy to escape, and when Patrick follows Paul to London a decision must be made that will affect all their lives.




San Francisco, 1939.

The Golden Gate International Exposition has captured the imagination of the country. The fair is a spectacular blend of mankind's newest innovations and basest urges, and Miranda Corbie is smack in the middle of it, working security at Sally Rand's. A former Spanish Civil War nurse and escort and now a private investigator, she has seen more than her share of the glitter and the grit, not to mention the people looking to make a quick buck off of them.

Virginia MacAvoy's grandmother seems to be one of the unfortunate innocents. Mrs. MacAvoy came to the fair to give her granddaughters the inheritance that she had been saving for them, but it was stolen. It consisted of $500, four gold coins, and a memory book—a scrapbook where she has been saving family memories. While Virginia is convinced that Miranda will be able to track them down, her grandmother isn't and only hires Miranda to convince her granddaughters of how there is nothing to be done. Mrs. MacAvoy makes a good point, but Miranda can't understand why she's so quick to give up, and it isn't long before she's looking for more than a stolen bag but for answers as well.

With Memory Book, Kelli Stanley takes readers to a time and place where the sordid and the sublime come together, making for a stunning prequel story to her to acclaimed historical series.




Edith sleepwalks through a life so normal as to be boring. She lives with her mother, works a mundane job to support them, and makes no waves among the ladies of her sleepy 1920's Canadian town. Secretly, though, she watches the flappers and so-called "loose women" with envy, dreaming of what glamorous lives they must have. And that's before Clark walks into her life.

Clark embodies the world that Edith wishes she could be a part of. He's slick and dangerous and sexy in a way Edith has never experienced. So when Clark offers her a window into his world, she dives through without thinking. On the other side, though, her black and white world explodes into shades of gray, challenging Edith in ways she never imagined.




Annemarie Kendall is overjoyed when the armistice is signed and the Great War comes to an end. Her fiance, Lieutenant Gilbert Ballard, is coming home, and though he is wounded, she is excited to start their life together. But when he arrives, her dreams are dashed when she learns Gilbert is suffering from headaches, depression, and an addiction to pain killers. This is not the man she had planned to marry.

After serving in the trenches, Army Chaplain Samuel Vickary is barely holding onto his faith. Putting up a brave front as he ministers to the injured soldiers at the hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he befriends Gilbert and eventually falls for Annemarie. While Annemarie tries to sort out her confused feelings about the two men in her life, she witnesses firsthand the bitterness and hurt they both hold within. Who will she choose? Will she have the courage to follow her heart and become the woman God intended her to be? As the world emerges from the shadow of war, Annemarie clings to her faith as she wonders if her future holds the hope, happiness, and love for which she so desperately longs.




The Irish Flapper, is a novel set in Manhattan during the exciting Roaring Twenties about a young Irish woman’s journey to America to fulfill her contrasting dreams of wealth and artistic expression. Once in America she awakens to the stark difference between her dreams and the disillusioning reality of an immigrant’s life. It is her new friends, flamboyant cousin and her new found love that make life in the big city an unforgettable adventure.

In America she encounters her wildly flamboyant cousin Isabelle who just happens to be the “IT” actress of the moment and the girlfriend of a notorious dangerous gangster. Isabelle introduces her to the enticing, glamorous but ultimately empty and deceptive world of fame and fortune. Annie falls deeply in love with Jack an extremely successful stockbroker haunted by the ghost of his past which threatens their future. In the end it is the knot that ties family and friends together that helps her through great adversity and devastating loss.







News reporting is the main joy in Norma Hill's life. She is hell-bent on being more than a weather reporter, but new tyrant boss, Henry Chapel, doesn't agree. While she is following a news lead, Henry saves her from a handsy heir. His words warn her of danger, but his actions stir deeper emotions. Despite his gruff words, can she find the love forever absent from her life?





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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cover Crush: City of Crows by Chris Womersley

We all know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but in today's increasingly competitive market, a memorable jacket can make or break sales.

I am not a professional, but I am a consumer and much as I loath admitting it, jacket design is one of the first things I notice when browsing the shelves at Goodreads and Amazon. My love of cover art is what inspired Cover Crush, a weekly post dedicated to those prints that have captured my attention and/or piqued my interest. Enjoy!

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The cover of Chris Womersley's City of Crows is absolutely stunning! I hate to gush like that, but I've having trouble finding the words to describe how much I like this design. The layering is incredibly intriguing and I adore the ominously dark vibes it sends prospective readers. 

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Did this week's cover catch your eye? Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!

INTERESTED IN SEEING MORE?
CHECK OUT WHAT MY FRIENDS HAVE BOOKMARKED:

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Stephanie at Layered Pages


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-McKenna

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 8, 2017

With the threat of the First World War looming, tension simmers under the surface of Ireland. Growing up in the privileged confines of Dublin’s leafy Rathmines, the bright, beautiful Gifford sisters Grace, Muriel and Nellie kick against the conventions of their wealthy Anglo-Irish background and their mother Isabella’s expectations. Soon, as war erupts across Europe, the spirited sisters find themselves caught up in their country’s struggle for freedom. Muriel falls deeply in love with writer Thomas MacDonagh, artist Grace meets the enigmatic Joe Plunkett – both leaders of 'The Rising' – while Nellie joins the Citizen Army and bravely takes up arms, fighting alongside Countess Constance Markievicz in the rebellion. On Easter Monday, 1916, the biggest uprising in Ireland for two centuries begins. The world of the Gifford sisters and everyone they hold dear will be torn apart in a fight that is destined for tragedy.

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Birth of the Irish Republic
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my decision to read Marita Conlon-McKenna’s Rebel Sisters was prompted by my frustration with Elizabeth J. Sparrow’s The Irish Tempest. The Easter Rising was the first armed action of the Irish revolutionary period and I didn’t feel the latter novel treated the material with the respect it deserved so I went looking for something that would.

Did Rebel Sisters fill the void? The answer to that depends on your point of view. The book offers a much more detailed account of the Rising and the cast feels far more authentic than Sparrow’s, but I’m not above admitting that the structure and tone of Conlon-McKenna’s narrative made it difficult to get lost in.

Rebel Sisters is told from four alternating perspectives, but the author failed to create appropriate balance between Grace, Muriel, Nellie, and Isabella. The end result left significant disparities between the four narrators and I ultimately found myself questioning the author’s decision to utilize so many voices. Each character is interesting in her own right, but I think the novel would have been stronger if Conlon-McKenna had narrowed her scope to only two of the sisters and regulated their mother to a supporting role.

Conlon-McKenna’s prose is straightforward, but it lacks the fiery passion and patriotism of the men and women who inspired it. The research is sound, but the story is light on theme and doesn't pack the punch one would expect from revolution era fiction. The narrative also doesn't afford adequate closure and while I appreciated what Colon-Mckenna attempted to do with the novel, I can't help feeling she bit off more than she could chew when she committed herself to the project.

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She was afraid for Joe, afraid for all of them. Was Nellie with them? How could they possibly expect to defeat the large numbers of the British army garrisoned in barracks all across the city? They would be wiped out. She stayed watching from the window, frozen with dread at what might happen once the army launched a proper attack on them.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cover Cliché: Boeas

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting.

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He came. She saw. He conquered.

It happened one hot, moonlit midsummer night at a ball in Auckland, New Zealand, 1884. Miss Anna Brown walked out onto the terrace and into arrestingly beautiful Russian artist Sasha Ivanovsky. He is unconventional, unfettered, adventurous, dangerously bohemian—everything she is not, everything she fears. But she is bewitched. His eyes—dark, mysterious, smoulderingly passionate—burn into her mind, into her heart, into her very soul. Unthinkingly, she dances the night away with him.

When dawn breaks, it brings with it the cold light of reality. Ivanovsky is not wealthy, not well-bred, not respectable, not suitable, not safe. Anna’s carefree exhibition on the dance floor has set the tongues of society wagging, and she cannot bear it.

With one glance from his dark eyes, he stole her heart away on that fateful midsummer night. But she is desperately determined that he will not steal away her body and soul too. A resistance must be mounted. Her rebel heart must be subdued, and all thoughts of doomed, dangerous loves locked away. But is forgetting such a man, such a love, impossible? The flame of love he ignited in her heart will not extinguish. Drop by drop she can feel herself melting away. Soon there might be nothing left of her…

But the sea has a gift for Anna. Something dangerous. Something forbidden. Something that threatens to wreck her…




She is a healer, a storyteller, a warrior, and a queen without a throne. In the shadow of King Arthur's Britain, one woman knows the truth that could save a kingdom from the hands of a tyrant...

Ancient grudges, old wounds, and the quest for power rule in the newly widowed Queen Isolde's court. Hardly a generation after the downfall of Camelot, Isolde grieves for her slain husband, King Constantine, a man she secretly knows to have been murdered by the scheming Lord Marche -- the man who has just assumed his title as High King. Though her skills as a healer are renowned throughout the kingdom, in the wake of Con's death, accusations of witchcraft and sorcery threaten her freedom and her ability to bring Marche to justice. Burdened by their suspicion and her own grief, Isolde must conquer the court's distrust and superstition to protect her throne and the future of Britain.

One of her few allies is Trystan, a prisoner with a lonely and troubled past. Neither Saxon nor Briton, he is unmoved by the political scheming, rumors, and accusations swirling around the fair queen. Together they escape, and as their companionship turns from friendship to love, they must find a way to prove what they know to be true -- that Marche's deceptions threaten not only their lives but the sovereignty of the British kingdom.

In Twilight of Avalon, Anna Elliott returns to the roots of the legend of Trystan and Isolde to shape a very different story -- one based in the earliest written versions of the Arthurian tales -- a captivating epic brimming with historic authenticity, sweeping romance, and the powerful magic of legend.




A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, that spans the Victorian era through the World War I years, and centers around a famous children’s book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.

When Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum—a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive’s magical tales—she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these lives—of adults and children alike—unfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods slowly emerges. But their personal struggles, their hidden desires, will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces, as the tides turn across Europe and a golden era comes to an end.

Taking us from the cliff-lined shores of England to Paris, Munich, and the trenches of the Somme, The Children’s Book is a deeply affecting story of a singular family, played out against the great, rippling tides of the day. It is a masterly literary achievement by one of our most essential writers.




Sibeal has always known that she is destined for a spiritual life, and is committed to it with all her heart. The only thing left for her to do before she enters the nemetons is to spend the summer visiting her sisters, Muirrin and Clodagh, on the northern island of Inis Eala.

But Sibeal has barely set foot on the island before a freak storm out at sea sinks a ship before her eyes. In spite of frantic efforts, only three survivors are fished alive from the water, and one of them, a man Sibeal names Ardal, clings to life by the merest thread.

Life continues on the island, as it must, and Sibeal befriends Ardal as he begins to regain his health. But it becomes clear there is something unusual about the three shipwrecked strangers. Why won't the beautiful Svala speak? And what is it that the gravely ill Ardal can't remember – or won't tell? When a visiting warrior is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, and an attempt is made on Ardal's life, Sibeal finds herself a pawn in a deadly game. The truth will be far more astonishing than she could ever have believed – and the consequences for Sibeal unimaginable.


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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Maharajah's General by Paul Fraser Collard

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 6, 2017

The second Jack Lark tale is a riveting tale of battle and adventure in a brutal land, where loyalty and courage are constantly challenged and the enemy is never far away. Jack Lark barely survived the Battle of the Alma. As the brutal fight raged, he discovered the true duty that came with the officer's commission he'd taken. In hospital, wounded, and with his stolen life left lying on the battlefield, he grasps a chance to prove himself a leader once more. Poor Captain Danbury is dead, but Jack will travel to his new regiment in India, under his name. Jack soon finds more enemies, but this time they're on his own side. Exposed as a fraud, he's rescued by the chaplain's beautiful daughter, who has her own reasons to escape. They seek desperate refuge with the Maharajah of Sawadh, the charismatic leader whom the British Army must subdue. He sees Jack as a curiosity, but recognizes a fellow military mind. In return for his safety, Jack must train the very army the British may soon have to fight. 

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The Marquess of Dalhousie, Governor-General of India
The great thing about coming to a series late in the game is that you don’t have to wait to jump into the next installment. I inhaled Paul Fraser Collard’s The Scarlet Thief last week and can’t tell you how great it felt to crack open The Maharajah's General as I was still riding high on my experience of its predecessor.

The novel picks up only a few months after the final chapter of book one and sees Jack returning to an old ruse to pursue his professional ambitions and avoid punishment for his original crime. Now I’m not a fan of rehashing and generally knock stars from series that recycle plot lines, but Jack’s deception plays out very differently in The Maharajah's General and I think it important to give Collard credit for creatively reimagining how Jack’s subterfuge played out. The end result is far from repetitious as it forces Jack into new situations and leads him to grow in ways neither he nor the audience expect.

There is a certain romanticism to the exotic kingdom of Sawadh, but the fictitious setting pays due homage India, its culture, and the final days of the East India Trading Company’s domination of the region. The story explores the nature of commercial interest in India and the rampant exploitation of both the country and its people, but it was the legacy of James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie and Governor-General of India, that captured my imagination. I was entirely unfamiliar with the Indian Mutiny when I picked up this book, but Collard’s illustration of the bureaucratic policies that led to it fascinated me to no end.

Collard’s inclusion of not one, but two strong females is also worthy of note. Isobel’s strong-will proved an entertaining foil for Jack, but I think there’s just as much to be said for Lakshmi’s subtle charisma and guidance. Strength evidences itself in a myriad of different ways and I liked how Collard’s work acknowledged this truth through the relationships Jack shares with both women.

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For better or worse he was a redcoat. He had done what his conscience dictated, and now he would have to wait and see what penalty he would pay for staying loyal to the country of his birth.
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