As those who know me will tell you, I’m rather assiduous about not reading reviews of my work. Which may mean I’m an arrogant tosser. But I’d like to think it’s because reading them–and don’t get me wrong, I love it when my readers love my work, nothing is more wonderful than that! But reading them does not get the next book written.
However, a family member who holds the world record for strong opinions has made it transparently clear that I must post these. Hence, I am now doing as I’ve been told to do–repeatedly. Ad nauseum. Hence, I have lifted these from the review section of Amazon, partially because one never knows when Amazon is going to decide to delete the lot or add dancing girls or scratch and sniff options…
[Just wish to add–hand on Bible–this is the first time I’ve read any of these reviews of Of Honest Fame, and frankly, I’m stunned and utterly speechless…I’d absolutely no idea this was how any of my readers felt and I hardly know where to put myself. Thank you. Thank you, all! So much.]
“I thought The Emperor’s Gold one of the best Napoleonic-based whodunnits of the year, for it is Smiley’s People in Wellington boots. Of Honest Fame is every bit as good, with the added grit of seasoned realism borne from an absolute awareness of place, especially the high and low of 19th century London. The use of language is also brilliant – you know the idioms used are just as were spoken (my favourite is unrepeatable here) – and even the occasional lapses into conversational French are excusable; even if you don’t speak it, the scene itself reveals the gist of it.
“It is Le Carre meets Jane Austen and the wonderfully-drawn characters perfectly compliment the Byzantine plot. I won’t go into that, but it is every bit as gripping as any Le Carre – I got this on my birthday (thanks for that – best present of all) and I have not been able to put it down since.
The best of her characters is simply called Boy, because he is one. Readers encountering Boy may raise an eyebrow at some ragged urchin being able to read, write, play and notate music, understand umpteen languages and still blend in with London’s riff-raff and pick locks. But those who know their era better will recall that any eleven-year-old midshipman arriving in HM Navy was expected, in three years, to have learned Chronology, Navigation, Astronomy, Latitude, Longitude, Marine Surveying and Geography among others – not to mention how to use a boarding cutlass, a flintlock and the finer points of dancing. So he is not unusual – even if he does know a Maestro I presume to be Beethoven – also a spy for the English. I liked that touch and have to presume the Maestro’s identity because you weren’t hammered over the head with Famous Historical Personage syndrome – the only clue was Boy’s solicitous inquiry regarding the Maestro’s hearing.
“This deserves to be a huge success. I am sorry none of the mainstream publishers seem to think so and, as the characters would say, ‘cock’ for missing it. One of the Top Five books I have read this year.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, 9 July 2011
By Robert Low
“I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up Of Honest Fame but it certainly wasn’t what I got. If you twisted my arm I suppose I’d say I’d expected maybe a Regency romance with few surprises; a pleasant, amusing read to take me through the Easter weekend. But, from page one I was gobsmacked, both by the authorial prowess and the plot.
“With each turn of the page my delight and pleasure increased as I realised I was in the hands of a superb writer, a story-teller of the first degree. I’ve not read anything like it before although my book shelves groan beneath the weight of historical novels upon them. It has action, romance, superb historical accuracy, convincing, well-rounded characters and a plot that won’t let you put it down.
“As the story unfolds the characters grow in strength and stature just as real people do as your acquaintance with them deepens. The writing style, which initially took a little getting used to, is refreshing in today’s fashion for a quick throw away read and, in many ways, is very Dickensian but without Dickens’ old-maidish sentimentality.
“You are in good hands with M.M. Bennetts and, although some parts of the descriptions of worn-torn Europe are harrowing and powerful, they are so masterfully drawn that, instead of skipping tedious pages of clichéd landscape, you are forced to stop and take a proper look and consider the futile effects of war upon the world and those who live in it. If I didn’t know better I’d suspect the author of having been out there with Wellington.
“This story pulls no punches and the terror of the Bonaparte years is brought vividly to life but I like that. There is no point in writing about historic events if you are going to shy away from ugliness.
“I have been considering it for a few days now and have reached the conclusion that Of Honest Fame is the finest example of literature set in this period that I have ever read. It is certainly in my top five and I’ve read all the classics. I downloaded a free Kindle version but I will be ordering a hard copy and it will stay on my shelf – always. Thank you, M.M. Bennetts, I am looking forward to the next one.
5.0 out of 5 stars, 16 April 2012
By J. Arnopp (Wales)
“In my review of May 1812 I ended with the hope that M.M. Bennetts could give us a story that fizzed with the speed of a modern thriller. Of Honest Fame might just as well have been written to shut me up AND HOW!
“It is fiendishly tricky to give a comprehensive review of a thriller (and Of Honest Fame IS 100% thriller!) without creating spoilers but I will endeavour to do just that.
“Every thriller has a cast of characters that may or may not be the villain and, in this novel I found myself suspecting each character’s motives, trained as I am by TV detectives and spies, all for naught for there exists a character in Of Honest Fame that is above all suspicion. That character is London in 1812, reckless, wicked, intrusive and deadly.
“The world building that M.M. Bennetts has undertaken in Of Honest Fame is quite simply staggering. We find ourselves flitting back and forth between Georgian London and the devastated continental Europe under Napoleon’s boot. If for nothing else, M.M. Bennetts gets the five stars for showing us just how close the world came to being crushed by the Terror and how much of a God-given defence the British channel actually was.
“None of this is of any use unless we have believable characters that arrest our attention or inspire our sympathy. Boy Tirrell, Lord Castlereagh, Thomas Jesuadon and even John Brown in his horrific appearances do just that. Not content with giving us a new cast of characters, M.M. Bennetts even entices us to consider the characters of May 1812 in a new and more sinister light, which is just a stroke of genius, adding to the feel of this being a wider world than the society bubble of Lord Myddelton, Lord Pemberton and Jane Heron.
“The mystery is maddeningly elusive, the characters’ challenges are torturous and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
“Special mention must be given to the shift in gears that M.M. Bennetts has applied to the language. Without spoiling I am compelled to say that repeating out loud the choice phrases woven into this novel is rather satisfying and more-ish but it does tend to frighten the neighbours, so beware.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, 19 July 2011
By Mr. Garalt Canton (Montpellier)
“Of Honest Fame is a story that grips from the start as we encounter the enigmatic figure of Boy, who we later realise is working as an informer for Lord Castlereagh during the Napoleonic Wars. Boy is a fascinating and unique character with an amazing photographic memory, a command of languages and a singular ability to merge and blend with the riff raff and street urchins of Paris and London. I loved him from the start.
“The story weaves its way through several distinct and interesting characters who work as spies and informers, the language rich and coarse, the protagonists wary and clever. Following Boy across Europe in the wake of Napoleon’s armies is a harrowing account, brilliantly depicted in the strong but beautiful prose of M.M. Bennetts. The male characters are especially well depicted. Out of the important female characters, I personally found Bennetts’ Scottish lassie the more charming and Lady Wilmot a tad tiresome and lacking in personality. However, she was meant to be a beaten down lady.
Bennetts excels at portraying this era and one feels genuinely there, no pc nonsense here! Sometimes the panorama unfolded reminds one of Dr Zhivago in its breadth. Yet, despite the harshness of the story, the terrors and brutality depicted, there are exquisite moments of tenderness as three of the leading characters in the book find their feelings stirred by vulnerability, admiration and love. I won’t forget this book in a hurry. I shall read it again and again.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, 29 Nov 2010
By Book lover “Elsee” (Malvern, UK)
“This is a spy story, set at a time when there were no such things: gentlemen were gentlemen and spies were, well, never discussed. They were beyond the pale. The lowest of the low.
“But of course there were spies and Bennetts takes us deep inside their world, one that crossed boundaries its residents dare not. From street urchins and whores to those who frequented private gaming clubs and the Foreign Office, this story of the desperate race to unmask a traitor takes us from Scotland to London and the South Coast of England, through the German states to Prussia and Austria beyond.
“And that is the author’s great strength – the ability to describe a scene with such certainty the reader hears a tallow candle splutter, or can touch the nap of a drape, step barefoot into a frozen muddy puddle or smell an alehouse from across the street. And if, for example, the subtle difference between the scrape of a newly shod horse’s hoof and one part-worn may be lost on some, others will delight Bennetts has heard it.
“For me the incredible level of detail occasionally slowed the plot, though I suspect it was a deliberate ploy by the author to replicate the very different pace of real life in the early 19th century in the same way as use of coarse oaths and sometime seemingly casual violence accurately depicts that period. And though it must be difficult to put words in the mouth of a real historical character I was particularly taken with Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh’s inner turmoil as he struggled to balance duty to his country against loyalty to colleagues and friends.
“The twist at the end was unexpected, though not without historical precedent. And the author ultimately left enough of an opening for a sequel.
“I’m really looking forward to reading that one :)”
5.0 out of 5 stars, 13 Feb 2013
“I bought both Of Honest Fame and May 1812 with the impression both were thrillers. I think the reason I have enjoyed Of Honest Fame so much or that it works so well is because May 1812 isn’t. M M Bennetts doesn’t need to spend too much time on the social set up as it is already established. His extensive knowledge of Georgian/Regency social and military history (and vocabulary) shines through on every page. Bravo Mr Bennetts, but I didn’t like the way I was left “hanging” at the end! I eagerly await another installment!”
By C. Fontenelle (Essex, England)
“I cannot say whether I liked this better than May 1812 or not. Few books get five stars with me. Those that I do give typically go to classics, but they are the ones I will never, ever forget. Both of Bennetts’ books fall into this category, and yet they are difficult to compare. Perhaps 1812 examines the domestic side of war, while Of Honest Fame looks at the tragedies witnessed by a young spy. There is a great deal going on, and yet the plot is woven together so well, and each thread is told so distinctly, that one never gets lost. And then, when the tapestry at last reveals what the true story is about HOLY WOW! This is a truly remarkable work. The research is flawless and extensive, and yet it is never heavy-handed. Rather, the facts are infused into the story and into the characters with a kind of humanity that oozes from every page. I really love this book. Both Of Honest Fame and May 1812 are books I’ll read over and over again.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, 25 Oct 2011
By V.R. Christensen
“This book starts in the summer of 1812 on the eve of Napoleon’s fateful advance into Russia. For those who read the author’s previous book, May 1812, it will have a familiar feel as it continues the story of some of the characters and places. But there the similarity, in terms of plot, ends. May 1812 can be described as a romance with a smattering of espionage whilst Of Honest Fame is an out-and-out espionage thriller, with a smattering of romance, as operatives of the Foreign Office try to find out what is going on abroad whilst defending against French counter-espionage at home.
“As before Bennett’s ability to hold the reader’s attention, eager to know what happens next, as the plot threads of several characters join and separate shines through.
“This author deserves to be better known and with a main stream publisher and I look forward to whatever is coming next. Highly recommended.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, 22 July 2011
By Astrodene (Essex, England)
“I read Of Honest Fame in paperback form a little while back, and before I started it I didn’t believe that I would enjoy it. Why? Inherent prejudice against the ‘historical’ tag, I’m afraid. I just didn’t think of historical fiction as being my kind of thing.
“I was wrong. Good Lord was I wrong! I’ve read many of the ‘greatest books ever written’, from Crime and Punishment, through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and everything in between, so I feel that I know a good book from an average one.
“This book deserves to be every bit as widely read as those ‘classics'; it is quite simply one of the greatest achievements by a modern writer that I have ever had the privilege to read. Buy it now.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, May 7, 2011
“I love this book. LOVE. I’ve never read anything better in classic literature or beyond. Why? It has everything I’ve ever loved in fiction all rolled into one book: brilliant characterization, action-packed story, mouth-watering prose, and authentic and well-researched locations. And wow, what an ending! Knocked me flat for days afterward. Can’t recommend this book highly enough.
“If you want to see what good literature looks like, take a peek at this.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, February 3, 2011
By Cheri D. Lasota (Vancouver, WA)
“It takes no time at all to be gripped by this book. It is quite beautifully written, and the prose really draws the reader into the excitement and atmosphere of this historical period. There is huge quality here, with a mesmerizing plot and utterly absorbing characters.
“From the little I know I am impressed by the historical accuracy, and that adds to the rich and absorbing sense of time and place. Within a few minutes of beginning this book, you are walking those streets and breathing that air, awaiting the next fraught, unexpected and exciting surprises.
“But there is no need to be a history buff or even a lover of historical fiction, for this book stands alone as excellent entertainment. It is most certainly a five-star experience, and I recommend it strongly.
“The ending is quite brilliant – very clever writing indeed – and certainly leaves me wanting to read M.M. Bennetts’ next book at the earliest opportunity.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, March 20, 2012
By B. Gaskell-Denvil
“History comes alive in this book, but never in a didactic or pedantic way. It just flows, sometimes beautifully, sometimes horrifyingly, always compellingly. Our main character, Boy, really is just a child, but is resourceful and heroic. Boy does what must be done to stay alive, and do what can be done to defeat the monster Napoleon. And we discover exactly why Napoleon is characterized as a monster. (Why is this man considered a hero in France? He murdered millions – millions – of his own people.)
“Napoleon’s soldiers starved and froze to death by the score because of arrogance, stupidity, poor intelligence, and hubris to the extreme. Napoleon was responsible for the deaths of many innocents, including Josef Haydn, who collapsed and died when his neighborhood in Vienna was shelled. How can this man, Napoleon, be a hero? The story of Boy compels us to ask this question.
“Ultimately, this is a story of the triumph of the human spirit against terrible odds. Not to be missed!”
5.0 out of 5 stars, November 21, 2011
By S. Harrison (Sacramento, CA United States)
“I had devoured M.M. Bennetts earlier work May 1812 and loved it… But this one–this! This is amazing. It grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go. Never have I read a more historically accurate book that is as riveting a story as this one.
“M.M. is truly one of the greatest, if not THE greatest historian on earth today, and quite frankly, her world of the Napoleonic wars is so raw, so intense, so real you feel as if you’ve been hurtled back time and place to fight with these brave heroes.
“If you want to really feel what it’s like to live, love and battle for what you believe in, read it. This book has it all: romance, action, intrigue… and an intense–keep you up at night–ride worth getting on. I cannot wait for the next in this series from such an amazing author!
“FIVE HUGE STARS!”
5.0 out of 5 stars, April 29, 2011
By Jenni James (United States)
“For the moment, London is relatively sheltered from Napoleon’s war of conquest, but that hardly means the city is sitting idle. Castlereagh’s loyal group of spies are traipsing all over the continent gathering information on Napoleon, trying to figure out how to take him down. When Tirrell starts making his way home with important documents only to be nearly beaten to death when he gets there they begin to suspect the threat to their country may lie closer than they thought.
“Of Honest Fame is a historical fiction novel, but you don’t have to be a history guru to enjoy this book. History and geography are probably my two worst subjects. I have steered away from historical fiction in the past for that very reason. Plus, I feared historical novels would dry and polite and formal. And let’s face it, no matter how high school text books paint an event, there’s always more to the story than what you read.
“I think that is what intrigued me so much in Of Honest Fame. This was not the academic glossing over I remember from world history. I appreciated how real everything felt. The characters were unique and human, with faults and strengths and interesting personalities. As much as I revere Jane Austen for creativity, I have never been completely captured by her characters because they are just too prim and proper. Bennetts is able to capture in this book the nuances of London life in 1812 in a way that makes is seem very familiar and real. Yes, there elaborate parties and different boots for different times of the day, and of course manners and social conniving play a part, but rather than this being the focus, it seems to be more of a façade everyone wears while real life is happening in the background.
“The main plot of this book focuses on the fact that someone knows who Castlereagh’s spies are and is killing them off one by one. It’s a fantastic plot, but in all actuality it really takes a backseat to the characters stories. At least it did for me. I loved Jesaudon’s interactions with Lady Wilmot. Bennetts did a great job of showing his character change with every meeting. I have a hard time with books where I feel like the main character is still the exact same at the end as they were in the beginning. Not so with any of her characters. Boy Tirrell is a perfect example of a character driven story rather than a plot driven one.
“I would hate to spoil Tirrell’s story for anyone, so I won’t go into detail, but the complexity of this character was very enticing. As much as I enjoyed everyone else in the book, I always got excited when I got back to another Tirrell chapter. Through most of the book there is so much you wonder about this character. What exactly happened in Tirrell’s past? Where did he learn is incredible skills? And there were many times after Tirrell was sent to live with Dunphail that I was suspicious that something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. For any of you who keep up with my reviews, you know how much I love that! I hate guessing the twist early on, and Bennetts did a great job of keeping that from happening. She knows how to end a book too!
“I could probably go on about this book for a while, because I enjoyed it so much, but I won’t. I’ll wrap it up by saying that Of Honest Fame has really changed my opinion of historical fiction. I can’t wait to read her next book. The research she puts into her books is impressive, and her dedication truly shows through in her writing. I felt like 1812’s London could have been right around the corner because it was portrayed in such a realistic, easily relatable way. Bennetts creativity in developing both story and characters makes sure there is never a dull moment. And I learned a lot about what was going on during that time too, which makes it even better.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, April 27, 2012
By Delsheree D. Gladden (NM, USA)
“Thanks to Amazon reviewers, I gave this book a try and at such a bargain price could not believe how very much I enjoyed this one. Yes, I do love historical novels and appreciated all the believable detail, truly interesting characters and events of Napoleonic era that shaped them. The main character is beautifully crafted throughout, maintaining the reader’s emotional investment in final outcome. Do treat yourself to this wonderful book! Encore, please!”
5.0 out of 5 stars, January 5, 2012
By K. Conklin
“Fast paced, historically accurate, lively characterization and vivid description draw the reader in and don’t let go until the last page.”
5.0 out of 5 stars, 25 January 2011
By Toby Neal (MAKAWAO, HI, US)
“The mysterious Boy Tirrell takes centre stage and I really loved this character — so complex and beautifully drawn. Although the story started off slowly, it soon gained momentum, and the rapid pace continued right up to the action-packed finale. I won’t give any of the plot away but there was a twist that came as a big surprise (to me, at least).
“Again, the historical backdrop is rich and vivid. Rather than subjecting the reader to boring exposition, the author lets us see these momentous events through the eyes of her characters.
“History, romance, intrigue — this book has it all. I really hope there is a third book in the works. I want to read more about Pem and Dunphail!”
5.0 out of 5 stars!, 16 August 2012
By Chocopie DX (Tokyo, Japan)
“The drying up a single tear has more Of Honest Fame, than shedding seas of gore…” ~ Byron