Monday, March 24, 2014

Interview with an Author: Peter Danish

Hello dear readers!

Today is Monday and therefore not very exciting, right? I disagree because today marks the first of a new series called "Interview with an Author." Very unique, I know.

To kick off this series, I'd like to introduce Peter Danish. His recently published novel "The Tenor" is a sweeping historical much in the same vein of "Captain Correlli's Mandolin" but instead focuses on opera. So here we go!

Me: What inspired you to write "The Tenor"?

Peter: THE TENOR is very loosely based on a true story that I originally learned from Arianna Stassinopoulos (now more famously known as Arianna Huffington, of Huffington Post fame) and her biography of Maria Callas.   But when I read a half dozen other accounts of her life, none of them mentioned him!  So I sought out an old family friend who was a personal friend of Callas (actually a friend of my ex-in-laws  - yes, I cared enough to reach out to my ex-in-laws!) He informed me that the story was indeed true, and not only had the soldier existed, but Maria had a school-girl crush on him!  And that the two of them often sang together!  The fact that they sang together struck me deeply.  I just knew he had to be a fellow opera singer, because only another opera singer would have recognized the subtleties, the nuances that separate the good from the great and the great from the once-in-a-lifetime voices.

Me: Did you have an interest in opera before conceiving the plot for "The Tenor"?

Peter: I’ve been an opera buff since grammar school, but I didn’t come to it from a classical music education.  I came to it from a couple of rock bands back in the 70s that did rock versions of classical pieces.  Emerson, Lake and Palmer did killer rock versions of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” and Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown,” and “Fanfare for the Common Man.”   They inspired me to look up the original versions – and I loved them!   My interest in opera started with a band called Renaissance and their incredible singer Annie Haslam.  Annie was a trained opera singer who went pop – possibly the first classical-crossover singer!   I heard her on a radio show one day singing an opera aria called:  “O mio babbino caro,” and I had to get a recording of it.   So I got my Dad to drive me to Sam Goody’s record store.  I knew NOTHING about opera or the aria, so I asked the salesman for help.   He directed us to the Puccini section where we lost our minds!   There were literally hundreds of albums that had “O mio babbino!”  So I asked my Dad for advice.  He said in his inimitable homespun way:  “I don’t know squat about opera, but I think when it comes to opera, when in doubt, go with the fattest chick you can find!”   So I did!  And Monserrat Caballe’s Puccini collection became my first Opera purchase.  It was magical! And the rest is history.

Me: What sources did you consult during your research? Did you travel any to conduct your research?

Peter: The research for The Tenor was done largely in Italy and Greece. In all, I took over a half dozen trips there to complete the research.  The book has three parts: part one takes place in Italy in the 1930s, in the breath-taking Appennine Mountains in the north.  The second part takes place in Athens in 1941, when the Italian Army was the occupational force left behind by the Germans after the Nazis had overrun Greece.  Part three takes place in New York City in 1965, amid Beatlemania, The World’s Fair, the Civil Rights Movement and most importantly to our story, the return of Maria Callas to the Metropolitan Opera after being banned for nearly a decade.   Italy and Greece are almost indescribably beautiful and the research was pure joy.  Italy of the 30s, where our protagonist grew up, is idyllic and the village where he was raised could be straight out of “The Sound of Music”.   Athens, 1941, is the diametric opposite.   There is rampant starvation, people begging in the streets, dead bodies piling up on the curb.  The juxtaposition of the stunningly beautiful Italian mountain village against the horror of WWII Athens is critical to the story.  Our protagonist, Pino, has led a charmed life in a magical place and suddenly finds his world turned upside down.  He’s no longer and artist, he’s a soldier.  The beautiful vistas have been replaced by starving children begging in the streets and the bodies of those who have starved to death littering the sidewalks.  Pino is completely ill-equipped for this new world, this new reality.    Meeting dozens of old folks who were there at the time, who had lived through the occupation was by far the most rewarding part of the research.  I often played dominoes and backgammon in the parks with them for hours on end, and listened to their stories.   They were priceless.  In fact they were so special that I have incorporated many of the stories and even the people into THE TENOR.  I have compressed several people into characters in the book.  I think you will be able to figure out who are the real characters without too much difficulty!

Me: What books or authors have influenced you?

Peter: I started reading very young and by the 3rd grade I had consumed most of Agatha Christie’s mysteries and all of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.  Shortly after, Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels became an obsession.  I still love a good detective story a good mystery, but in truth, even though there are now literally thousands of titles in that genre – and I’ve probably read several hundred of them – very very few stick with you.   I was talking to a group of writers at a conference a while back and Dean Koontz’ name came up.   He’s sold a gazillion books and made more money than God or the Rolling Stones, and I’ve probably read over a dozen of them.  But as we speak, I could not tell you what even one of them was about.   While I could tell you the plots of virtually every single Sherlock Holmes story ever written.  For me, discovering Russian literature was the turning point.  It happened in High School and the first novel was Anna Karennina.  After that, it was Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment.  Then I discovered Puskin and his verse novels.  Finally came War and Peace – easily my favorite book of all time.  I find myself quoting from it constantly, over thirty years after I first read it!

In the last ten years or so, I’ve found myself drawn to magical realism more than any other genre.  Partly because it is so infrequently successful.   In fact, I think you can probably name on one hand – maybe two hands - all the masterpieces of the genre – but those few, those happy few! Magical Realism is a style that is almost exclusively unique to the printed page and by extension to the mind’s eye of the reader.   That makes it very special.  The images that the mind conjures up while reading Mark Helprin’s “Winter’s Tale” or Gabriel Garcia Marquez “100 Years of Solitude” still give me goosebumps just thinking of them years and year later.  The first time that Athansor (Peter Lake’s horse) flies, I held my breath and almost forgot to start breathing again.  The swarm of yellow butterflies from 100 Years of Solitude still brings a smile to my lips and tears to the eyes.   The impossible and the implausible, the very laws of physics fall before the imagination and the craft of the author.  That is what make Magical Realism so wonderful.

Me: What are you reading now?
Peter: I’m reading a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories.  His literary skills aside, his storytelling abilities are extraordinary.  He can take on virtually any genre or subject matter and spin a gripping tale around it.  It’s an education for me.   I recently finished Dan Brown’s Inferno and thought it was the worst piece of crap I’ve read in a really long time.  I didn’t care for his last book either, but I thought I’d give it another chance.
I also LOVE reading collected letters of historical figures.  I’ve just finished the Leonard Bernstein Letters and it was incredible!

The almost absurd collection of famous people he counted among his close friends is staggering.  But the most enjoyable part of the book is hearing what really ‘normal’ people these giants of history, art, culture, politics really are!   In one week he wrote or received letters from Stephen Sondhiem, Boris Pasternak, Aaron Copland, Frank Sinatra, Marnie Nixon and Georg Solti – quoting the Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty Four!”   The collected correspondence of famous figures reflects a completely different time in history, a time of writing and of letters.   The digital revolution is of course a wonder of convenience, but what will future generations be left with?   The collected tweets of Dan Brown and AK Rawlings?

So there you have it folks. I'd like to thank Peter for swinging by the blog and spending time with us all. For more information on Peter and his debut novel "The Tenor", visit his website. "The Tenor" is available at Amazon.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Author Spotlight: Nancy Bilyeau's "The Chalice"

The new novel The Chalice, by Nancy Bilyeau, sends readers on a page-turning historical quest. Set in Henry VIII's England, the story is driven by plot twists, deceptions, spiritual searching and romantic tension. Readers fall in love with protagonist Joanna Stafford, a Catholic novice forced to leave her priory and find her answers. "She is strong and determined and very likable," says one blogger. "Exhilarating," says Good Housekeeping, and "The novel is riveting and provides fascinating insight into into the lives of displaced nuns and priests, with fully realized characters," says RT Book Reviews. Launching in paperback on March 18 and available in ebook too.

The Chalice
The Chalice
by Nancy Bilyeau

Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Touchstone Publishing
Paperback; 496p
ISBN-10: 1476708665

Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Two
Genre: Historical Mystery


Between the crown and the cross stands one woman...

IN 1538, ENGLAND is in the midst of bloody power struggles that threaten to tear the country apart. Aristocrat-turned-novice Joanna Stafford knows what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment when she is caught up in an international plot targeting the king. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII, as well as the future of Christendom, are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lies at the center of these deadly prophecies...


Praise for The Chalice

"A brilliant and gripping page-turner…A fascinating blend of politics, religion, mysticism and personal turmoil. Well-researched and filled with sumptuous detail, it follows Joanna’s early life from Bilyeau’s début novel, The Crown, but this book easily stands on its own. Bilyeau fills in the blanks from her earlier work while leaving the reader both wanting to read the first book and eagerly awaiting the next. This is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction." – Free Lance-Star

"English history buffs and mystery fans alike will revel in Nancy Bilyeau's richly detailed sequel to The Crown." – Parade

"The novel is riveting, and provides fascinating insight into the lives of displaced nuns and priests during the tumultuous Tudor period. Bilyeau creates fully realized characters, with complex actions and emotions, driving the machinations of these historic personages." – RT Book Reviews, (Top Pick)

"The human and political battles of Henry VIII's reformation are brought to exhilarating life in The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau." – Good Housekeeping UK, April 2014

"Bilyeau sends her plucky former novice back into the intrigue-laden court of Henry VIII." – Entertainment Weekly

"Bilyeau continues from her first novel the subtle, complex development of Joanna’s character and combines that with a fast-paced, unexpected plot to hold the reader’s interest on every page . . . history and supernatural mysticism combine in this compelling thriller." – Historical Novel Society

"Joanna Stafford is a young novice caught up in power struggles familiar to readers of Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom, but with elements of magic that echo the historical thrillers of Kate Mosse." – S.J. Parris, author of 'Heresy,' 'Prophecy' and 'Sacrilege'

"[A] layered book of historical suspense." – Kirkus Reviews

"The Chalice is an engrossing mix of the complicated politics of the Reformation with the magical elements of the Dominican order, and Joanna--fiery, passionate, determined to honor what she thinks God wants her to do--is a fascinating character. Fans of historical mysteries, Tudor politics and supernatural fiction will all be pleased by the broad scope, quick-moving plot and historical integrity of Bilyeau's second novel." – Shelf Awareness

Watch the Book Trailer



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About the Author
Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay "Zenobia" placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and "Loving Marys" reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013.

Some earlier milestones: In 1661, Nancy's ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough's founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.


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Nancy Bilyeau Gives an Inside Peek Behind THE CHALICE


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb.

Hello my darlings.

Up today is my review of Heather Webb's Becoming Josephine. I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my fair and honest review (of course). The novel is an interesting look at the evolution of Rose Tascher de la Pagerie to Rose de Beauharnais to Josephine Bonaparte. Josephine has been a popular subject over the years; most recently Sandra Gulland devoted a three book series to Josephine's rise from plantation raised Creole to Empress of France.

Ms. Webb's novel opens in Martinique where Josephine began her life as Rose Tascher, the daughter of a wealthy, womanizing plantation owner. When her younger sister Catherine dies, Rose is sent to France to marry Alexandre de Beauharnais. Their marriage is fraught with discord though Rose eventually bears two children--Eugene and Hortense. Interestingly, she successfully seeks a separation from Alexandre who devotes most of his time chasing women and spending his inheritance.

Rose is depicted as smart and resourceful even though she is very unlucky in love. Despite her husband's numerous affairs, she never is unfaithful to him. It takes the French Revolution and the eventual imprisonment of both Rose and Alexandre for them to reconcile, though their friendship is cut short by his execution. Through her winning ways and kind nature, Rose is released after the death of Robespierre, and sets about remodeling herself into the ideal Republican socialite. She takes many lovers, and eventually becomes the mistress of Paul Barras, an influential politician. It is he that introduces her to Napoleon Bonaparte, a rising general. Once married, Rose becomes Josephine.

There are many things to like about Becoming Jospehine. It is an interesting and fast paced narrative.
It covers a lot of ground without getting too bogged down in the vast political landscape that it covers. Some may see that as a drawback if they are looking for more information on the Revolution and the subsequent Directoire period that led to Napoleon's ascent. Josephine is a multi-faceted character and the reader feels every change. Starting out as a young, naïve bride, she eventually becomes jaded and rather mercenary, but then ends the novel as a diminished, but proud ex-empress. It is during her middle period that she seems at times obsessed with gaining her financial independence either through business dealings or taking a wealthy lover. The fact that she morphs into this "do as you please" type of woman may leave a sour taste in some readers mouths. Even after her marriage to Napoleon, she continues her affairs until suddenly realizing that she truly loves her husband. Then once again she is put at a disadvantage as Napoleon takes mistress after mistress. His egomania is blamed of course, but then comes the inevitable divorce. The reader can't help but feel sorry for Jospehine as her fall comes as quickly as her ascent. Even though her divorce is painful, Josephine walks away content that she can live her life in relative obscurity. The irony of this situation is that it is Josephine's heirs eventually rule France and marry into some of Europe's greatest dynasties.

Additionally, the novel is not very strong in its nuances of the period. There are several instances of words being used that may have been present in the time period, but felt entirely too modern. "Vacation" is used several times, and Josephine entreats her daughter Hortense to say "hi" at one point. Despite these drawbacks, Becoming Josephine will appeal to many readers, especially those who are not hard core historical fiction lovers. But those who prefer their historicals with a little more depth, may decide to pass on this one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Author Spotlight: Deborah Swift

This week's Author Spotlight is on historical novelist Deborah Swift! Deborah’s acclaimed novels are set in turbulent seventeenth century England and have been described as “brilliant” and “a must for all readers looking for something out of the ordinary but grippingly alive”. Her previous life as a scenographer and costume designer shine through as the settings are beautifully evoked, immersing the reader in the sights and smells of the time.

Deborah’s multi-layered and engrossing historical adventures will make perfect picks for reading groups. Reading Group Guides can be conveniently found in the back of each book and on her website.

Find more information on Deborah's novels below and enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card (£15 UK)!

The Lady's Slipper

The Lady's SlipperPublication Date: June 3, 2011
Pan MacMillan
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

England, 1660.

The King is back, but memories of the English Civil War still rankle. In rural Westmorland, artist Alice Ibbetson has become captivated by the rare Lady’s Slipper orchid. She is determined to capture it’s unique beauty for posterity, even if it means stealing the flower from the land of the recently converted Quaker, Richard Wheeler. Fired by his newfound faith, the former soldier Wheeler feels bound to track down the missing orchid. Meanwhile, others are eager to lay hands on the flower, and have their own powerful motives.

Margaret Poulter, a local medicine woman, is seduced by the orchid’s mysterious herbal powers, while Geoffrey Fisk, Alice’s patron and former comrade-in-arms of Wheeler, sees the valuable plant as a way to repair his ailing fortunes and cure his own agonizing illness. Fearing that Wheeler and his friends are planning revolution, Fisk sends his son Stephen to spy on the Quakers, only for the young man to find his loyalties divided as he befriends the group he has been sent to investigate.

Then, when Alice Ibbetson is implicated in a brutal murder, she is imprisoned along with the suspected anti-royalist Wheeler. As Fisk’s sanity grows ever more precarious, and Wheeler and Alice plot their escape, a storm begins to brew, from which no party will escape unscathed. Vivid, gripping and intensely atmospheric, The Lady’s Slipper is a novel about beauty, faith and loyalty.

Praise for The Lady's Slipper

"The novel grips from the opening lines and carries the interest throughout. The several plot-lines are seamlessly blended and come together in a wholly satisfying conclusion. Her characters are so real that they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf. Highly recommended." - Historical Novels Review Magazine

"Recommended for fans of Philippa Gregory and Rose Tremain, as well as students of the English Civil War." - Library Journal

“The intertwined stories of the orchid’s fate, the mounting problems between the Quakers and the King’s men, and Alice’s murder trial and its aftermath make for a riveting narrative.” - For the Love of Books Blog

The Gilded Lily

The Gilded Lily UK CoverPublication Date: September 13, 2012
Pan MacMillan
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

Westmorland, 1660.

Sadie Appleby has lived all her life in her small village. One night she is rudely awoken by her older and bolder sister, Ella, who has robbed her employer and is on the run. The girls flee their rural home of Westmorland to head for London, hoping to lose themselves in the teeming city. But the dead man’s relatives are in hot pursuit, and soon a game of cat and mouse begins.

Ella becomes obsessed with the glitter and glamour of city life and sets her sights on the flamboyant man-about-town, Jay Whitgift. But nothing is what it seems – even Jay Whitgift.

Can Sadie survive a fugitive’s life in the big city? But even more pressing, can she survive life with her older sister Ella?

Set in London’s atmospheric coffee houses, the rich mansions of Whitehall, and the pawnshops, slums and rookeries hidden from rich men’s view, The Gilded Lily is about beauty and desire, about the stories we tell ourselves, and about how sisterhood can be both a burden and a saving grace.

Praise for The Gilded Lily

"There is no greater compliment than ‘Give me more!’ A delight." - Susanna Gregory

"The Gilded Lily is impeccably written historical fiction. The detail is superb and life in London is so vividly depicted that the city seems to take on its own persona and become a lurking character in the story." - Let Them Read Books

"A heart-rending story of two sisters on the run, searching for a better life. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, the novel drew me straight into the teeming streets of Restoration London. An addictive, page-turning read." - Mary Sharratt

"Superb dialogue, steeped in contemporary language, adds credibility and atmosphere to this compelling tale which examines the ties that bind together siblings, the consequences of greed and ambition, the fickleness of fate and women’s constant battle to survive in a man’s world. The Gilded Lily is also a fast-paced adventure peopled with ruthless villains and feisty heroines whose exploits grab the imagination and add suspense and excitement to a historical gem." - Lancashire Evening Post

The Gilded Lily Book Trailer

A Divided Inheritance

A Divided InheritanceUK Publication Date: October 24, 2013
Pan MacMillan
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

London, 1609.

Elspet Leviston’s greatest ambition is to continue the success of her father Nathaniel’s lace business. But her simple dreams are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – who has his own designs on Leviston’s Lace. Zachary is a dedicated swordsman with a secret past that seems to invite trouble. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London. Elspet believes herself to be free of her hot-headed relation but when Nathaniel dies her fortunes change dramatically. She is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary – determined to claim the inheritance that is rightfully hers.

In the searing heat of Seville, Elspet and Zachary become locked in a battle of wills. But these are dangerous times and they are soon embroiled in the roar and sweep of something far more threatening, sending them both on an unexpected journey of discovery and finally unlocking the true meaning of family.

Praise for A Divided Inheritance

"a true gem. It has a pacy storyline, the characters are complex, intriguing and often unexpected – and it is packed with fascinating historical fact" - Gabrielle Kimm, author of His Last Duchess

"Elegantly written, A Divided Inheritance brings the uncertainty of the seventeenth century gloriously to life in an engaging tale of determination, tenacity and family loyalty." - Flashlight Commentary Blog

"a multifaceted tale about the consequences of religious intolerance, the expiation of guilt, the importance of family, and the appearance of unexpected love. And swordplay! The action sequences are as sharp and dazzling as Zachary’s hand-forged blade." - Sarah Johnson, Reading the Past

Buy the Books

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Deborah Swift About the Author

Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park. She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

The Riddle of Writing Blog
Royalty Free Fiction Blog
English History Authors Blog

Check out some of my fellow book bloggers who are participating in the giveaway!

Sunday, March 16
Lily Pond Reads
Kincavel Korner
Bibliophilia, Please
Passages to the Past
The True Book Addict

Monday, March 17
Mari Reads
Turning the Pages
A Chick Who Reads
Historical Fiction Connection
History from a Woman's Perspective

Tuesday, March 18
Just One More Chapter
Susan Heim on Writing
Caroline Wilson Writes
Historical Fiction Obsession
Historical Readings & Reviews

Wednesday, March 19
Book Nerd
Broken Teepee
Literary Chanteuse
Historical Tapestry

Thursday, March 20
Book Drunkard
Mina's Bookshelf
Curling Up By the Fire
To Read or Not to Read
Svetlana's Reads and Views

Friday, March 21
Closed the Cover
CelticLady's Reviews
The Little Reader Library
Books by the Willow Tree


To enter to win a $20 (£15 UK) Amazon Gift Card please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form.

Giveaway will run from March 16-21. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on March 22 and notifiied via email.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: "Girl on the Golden Coin" by Marci Jefferson

Hello dear readers...

As I teased on Facebook yesterday, here is my review of the recently released Girl on the Golden Coin by Marci Jefferson. The is a real life historical focusing on Frances Stuart, the daughter of a Royalist physician and cousin to the ruling Stuarts of England.

I've been intrigued by Frances's story since stumbling upon it some years ago while reading Wikipedia. As someone with a history background, I certainly don't recommend using Wikipedia as a research resource, but it is passes the time when you are interested in all of walks of European royalty and aristocrats.

I briefly contemplated writing a novel about Frances myself, but I discovered that Maeve Haran had just released a novel about her at that time. I'm not one to wear out already explored territory, so I moved on to other ventures. When I read about Ms. Jefferson and her upcoming book, naturally I was thrilled. I finally obtained a review copy through Netgalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The novel opens when Frances is but a girl and a exile living in France. The English Civil War is raging and the Stuart family has been fractured by the fighting. Charles, the Prince of Wales, is a vagabond, moving from court to court throughout Europe, while his mother, Queen Henrietta Maria is living in France with her daughter Henriette. Frances' mother is attached to the Queen's household, so Frances grows up as a boon companion to the young princess. Some years later, Henriette is married off to Louis XIV's younger brother while still pining for the king. Frances unwittingly wins the King's heart, but loyal to her friend, refuses to become his mistress. And so begins her journey. In retribution for turning him down, Louis sends Frances back to England to serve in the court of the newly restored King Charles II. She is to become the King's mistress and use her influence to sway him in favor of France. Then begins the conflict. Frances is ill suited to political and court intrigues but is forced to play the game in an attempt to save her family's honor and to keep a past scandal secret. She handily charms the king and his court, becoming known as La Belle Stuart. But she is constantly conflicted by her loyalty to Queen Catherine and her growing feelings (and passion) for King Charles.

I was drawn into this book from the very first chapter. Ms. Jefferson's writing style is very engaging,
The original cast for the Britannia coin; courtesy of the
National Portrait Gallery
atmospheric without sacrificing the pace of the novel. She accurately captures the personalities of many of the court's movers and shakers including King Charles and his Queen Catherine, his established mistress Barbara, Lady Castlemaine, and his brother the Duke of York. Frances' conflicted feelings for Charles seem to be sexual in nature at first, but she grows to love him, and is a better character for it. She never seeks to excel her own person throughout the novel and constantly makes sacrifices (including her own morality) for her family. If anything, Frances is probably a little too good, but she never comes off as an annoying martyr.

If I have to quibble about anything, it would be the fact that Frances' mother is never fully fleshed out, and their interactions suffer as a result. It's obvious that the woman was very withdrawn but it would have been nice to know what was going on in her head (even if it were only through dialogue) especially since her secret is Frances' main motivation for acting as she does.

Though over all, the novel is nicely paced and engrossing--I was reading whenever I could pick it (and sometimes when I should have been doing other things). I learned a great deal about Frances and the author's note on the history of the time period and her primary sources about Frances is very informative and cleared up any misgivings that I had about her portrayal. So I definitely recommend this book. It is now available on Amazon or at your local book seller.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Author Spotlight: Rachel Demeter's "The Frost of Springtime"

I'm starting a new feature on the blog spotlighting new and established authors and their recent or upcoming releases. 

Kicking off this feature is debut author Rachel L. Demeter. Her novel "The Frost of Springtime" transports readers to the war torn streets of nineteenth century Paris. Driven by paradoxical characters, steamy encounters, and a compelling storyline, it’s a bittersweet tale of revolution, redemption, and the healing power of love. Described as “poignant,” emotionally devastating,” and “beautiful,” The Frost of Springtime is sure to please historical and romance readers alike. Available now in both eBook and paperback. Currently Amazon Prime members can read the Kindle edition for free!

Publication Date: February 14, 2014
Black Lyon Publishing
Formats: Paperback, Kindle eBook

Genre: Historical Romance/Historical Fiction

To rescue her was to rescue his own soul.
On a cold Parisian night, Vicomte Aleksender de Lefèvre forges an everlasting bond with a broken girl during her darkest hour, rescuing her from a life of abuse and misery. Tormented by his own demons, he finds his first bit of solace in sheltering little Sofia Rose.
But when Aleksender is drawn away by the Franco-Prussian war, the seasons pass. And in that long year, Sofia matures into a stunning young woman—a dancer with an understanding of devotion and redemption far surpassing her age.

Alongside his closest friend, Aleksender returns home to find that “home” is gone, replaced by revolution, bloodshed, betrayal—and a love always out of reach. Scarred inside and out, he’s thrust into a world of sensuality and violence—a world in which all his hours have now grown dark, and where only Sofia might bring an end to the winter in his heart.
Inspired by the 1871 Paris Commune, The Frost of Springtime is a poignant tale of revolution, redemption, and the healing power of love.

The Frost of Springtime

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Praise for The Frost of Springtime

“I am astonished at this being Rachel L. Demeter’s debut work, for in form and style, it is very much a tour de force. A riveting story of love and courage in the aftermath of a brutal war, the author brilliantly juxtaposes the hazing splendor of French nobility and the impassioned elegance of two people in love, despite all the world’s oppositions. The title is, in a sense, a representation of change: the beginning of a new spring with La Belle Époque and the transition into a new era, for the world and our protagonists. The wistful loveliness of the setting paints a picture of a crying France, blending in with the dynamic romance perfectly. Or rather, it does not merely blend in the background as much as glitters like the brightest jewel, shining with a vibrancy that makes one want to relieve the halcyon days of grand old Paris. I was captivated by the setting, the lush writing of Rachel L. Demeter, and the subtle expressiveness of the characters, which all compelled me to research more of the historical background, of the 1871 Paris Commune, through which this story is made more infinitely dearer.” – Buried Under Romance

“We are in awe. The Frost of Springtime is a MUST HAVE! Despite that we loved the true facts, we fell instantly in love with the story. It was dark, emotionally devastating, and sensual. The innocence between the two main characters was beautiful and their love grew so strong throughout the story with such grace. One of us even cried while reading The Frost of Springtime. We loved the cover, we loved the writing style, and we adored the characters. We fell in love, really hard.” – Divas Book Blog

“This novel is intricately detailed and wonderfully written! Opening with a heartbreaking scene, I was immediately drawn to the story of Aleksender and his Sofia. Of course, as the story moved on, other enchanting characters helped to make this poignant book complete. The author has blended historical facts with fiction skillfully, and presented several narratives flawlessly. It’s beautiful! I loved it!” – Romancebookworm’s Reviews

“I absolutely love this book. The Frost of Springtime shows how love and tragedy go hand in hand and that love can actually be more powerful than anything. I have found that most books do not hit this point right on the nail like this one does. It’s a Historical Romance and let me just tell you this is one book I couldn’t put down.” – Magic Within The Pages
“WOW!! The Frost of Springtime is a powerful, epic love story unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The emotional and visual/sensory depth is astounding. I felt Aleksender and Sofia’s connection from beginning to end. Aleksender’s path to healing was at times breathtaking and heartbreaking. This is a hero who loves his woman with every last breath, every fiber of his being… and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for her. AMAZING cast of secondary characters as well… a ‘villain’ who actually leaves you morally torn! Beautifully written (loved the vivid imagery and descriptions!), dark, unusual, rich with history, epic scope, and a soul deep love that only comes once in a lifetime… Brava!!!” – Sivonna, an advanced reader


Buy the Book

Amazon (Kindle eBook) *Amazon Prime members can read the kindle edition for free!
Amazon (Paperback) Barnes & Noble Black Lyon Publishing

About the Author

Rachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and high school sweetheart of ten years. She enjoys writing dark, edgy romances that challenge the reader’s emotions and examine the redeeming power of love. Imagining stories and characters has been Rachel’s passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mom would jot them down for her. She has a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances.

Whether sculpting the protagonist or antagonist, she always ensures that every character is given a soul. Rachel strives to intricately blend elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some common themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness.
Her dream is to move readers and leave an emotional impact through her words.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: "The Traitor's Wife" by Alison Pataki

Hello dear readers! I'm back with a new review, but not without some hesitation. I'm going to post the bulk of what appeared in the Historical Novel Review and then follow up with some comments at the end.
Beautiful. Tempestuous. Cunning. Peggy Shippen is all these things. As the reigning belle of Philadelphia society during the British occupation of 1778, she is admired by men and envied by women. First the lover of the notorious British spy John Andre, and then the wife of celebrated American general-turned-traitor Benedict Arnold, Peggy and her story are brought to life through the eyes of her loyal maid, Clara Bell.
The Traitor’s Wife is a refreshing departure from the typical royal-themed historicals pervading the market today. The upheaval caused by the American Revolution makes for fascinating reading, and yet Peggy Shippen has been little written about. Perhaps it is because she is not a sympathetic character, and this novel does nothing to disprove that notion. Nonetheless, Peggy’s magnetic ability to obtain her desires is vividly brought to life; the reader can almost imagine her melting gaze in the midst of her full-fledged assault on the brash, yet unassuming Benedict Arnold.
Unfortunately, this novel has some drawbacks. The story’s narrator, Clara Bell, has little depth. While generally loyal to Peggy, she floats along without much purpose beyond bemoaning her living conditions with the Arnolds and pining after Caleb Little, the Shippen family stable hand. Even when given a chance to make a difference, she agonizes over what to do. Additionally, there are numerous mistakes in the details of the period. Descriptions of clothing and customs are misrepresented throughout the novel.
However, it is clear that the author has a passion for the story of Peggy Shippen; she accomplishes the re-telling of the historical narrative very well. General historic fiction readers will enjoy the quick plotting and originality of the The Traitor’s Wife, but historical fiction purists may want to pass.
OK, so I was really looking forward to reading this novel. As I have mentioned before, I am a Revolutionary War re-enactor. I've also a American Civil War re-enactor as well. I've loved both periods since I was a child, and have read a ton of books on the subject(s). I'm also very interested in social history and women's roles in history. Let's just say that I know more than the average historical fiction reader at least when it comes to these two subjects.
The Traitor's Wife is a good book essentially. It is certainly no mean feat to write a novel featuring one of history's most notorious women. But I'm one of those historical fiction purists mentioned in my review. I have little patience for mistakes in details and they were numerous in this novel, which made it difficult to read for me. However, if you are one of those who can overlook such things, you should definitely pick up a copy, especially if American history is of interest to you.