Review: To Die For by Sandra Byrd

This is a story of Anne Boleyn’s rise in King Henry VIII court to her banishment and her final breath in this world. As the history goes we know how she dies. Sandra gives you a fresh new look at Anne’s life before, during court that draws you into a world of affection, loyalty, betrayal and Reformation.

This story will have you completely enthralled with the court life and intrigue with the political and religion aspects. This story was told in the view of Meg Wyatt. A long time friend of Anne. Who stays with her until the very end.

I highly recommend this story and feel that Sandra’s reader will not be let down!

Stephanie
Layered Pages Review Team Leader

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Review Oleanna by Julie Rose

Reading Oleanna was like taking a breath of fresh air. Julie has crafted a compelling story that takes place in Norway in 1905 and evokes a strong tie between a family and everyday life of the farm they work and live on. She also creates a strong sense of place and culture that blends beautifully with the story.

Oleanna and her sister Elisabeth are the last of their family. The remaining two brothers have left for America, leaving them behind. The farm is all the sisters really have ever known and the world around them is changing before their eyes. On the border of their farm arrives a man named Anders. Oleanna and him share a bond. Will Oleanna and Anders find their place in the world together or will they give in to the grief they have both known and be lost to each other forever? To find out, I highy recommend reading this captivating story.

Stephanie
Layered Pages Review Team Leader

Review: EL Rey by Ginger Myrick

El Rey is a deeply emotional tale that sweeps you into the depths of love one often does not experience. Myrick’s characters will touch you to the core. She gives you an enriched story of endearing love that never ends and captures the essence of the human heart.

This story is set in 16th century Portugal and Spain. It is much more than a love story. It’s also a time of the plague, war and the Spainsh Inquistion.

What I admire most is the characters resilience and resolve to withstand the tragic circumstance life has dealt them. I highly recommend this story!

For more information about this book, please visit here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13115126-el-rey

Stephanie
Layered Pages

Review: Companion of Lady Holmshire by Debbie Brown




Debra Brown’s debut novel brings readers a sweet story with charming characters, quaint settings and a unique plot. The Companion of Lady Holmeshire is a historical fiction set in Victorian England. Ms. Brown brings us an unconventional matriarch for the period; a noble woman taking in and attempting to elevate a servant girl into the upper echelons of society. This gives the book the feel of an adult fairytale and keeps the mood of the story uplifted.


The characters of the story are well developed. Emma Carrington is adorable as the servant girl and the reader easily sides with her and the Earl of Holmeshire as the storyline develops. This plot has romance, betrayal, mystery, danger and redemption. The mystery is not completely unpredictable, but the ending is still a surprise while wrapping up all of the loose ends neatly.

Some historical fiction can be heavy and complicated by the depth of research involved. This book was easy to read, enjoyable, and relaxed while maintaining the quality descriptions characteristic of historical fiction. I would recommend this to readers interested in the Victorian period; those who enjoy a good underdog prevails theme; and anyone who appreciates a mystery. 


Brandy Strake

Interview with Best-selling Author Sandra Byrd

I have the pleasure honor to introduce Sandra Byrd.


Sandra, I had the pleasure of reviewing, “To Die For” and “The Secret Keeper” for you. Could you please tell your audience a little about both books?

Sure! All of the books in the Ladies in Waiting series are told from the point of view of one of the queen’s ladies.  In To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, the story is told from Meg Wyatt’s point of view.  Sister of poet (and Anne-chaser) Thomas Wyatt, Meg Wyatt really did exist, was really one of Anne’s ladies, and did accompany her all through her life till the very bitter end.  I did have to fictionalize much of her life, but stayed true to the facts when I could. 

In The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, the story is told from the point of view of Juliana St. John. Juliana is fictional because I wanted to extend the story beyond the life of Kateryn Parr, and for another of Kateryn’s “ladies” to have her story told as well.  You’ll have to read it to find out who that is! 

I felt like telling the stories from the point of view of a lady – not a servant, too low-born to know secrets or have influence – but a real friend, would allow us to see the queen beyond the gown and crown.

 

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing about the past?


Remaining true to both the principles of good story telling and historical facts as they are known.  I am passionate about history, but I try to remember that it is a historical novel, novel being the noun and historical being the modifier.  I don’t take historical liberties lightly, because I want the reader who is steeped in history to take the novel as credible.  But in the end, the story is the boss.

 

How long did it take you to write both books?

It takes me about 18 months or so for the first book, because I am building my resources in the era, and the about a year for each one afterward, writing and editing inclusive.  But I’ve already read quite a bit in the period, so I’m not really starting at ground zero.


Who designed your book covers?

The wonderful, talented Bruce Gore, Art Director for Howard Books.


What is your favorite/least favorite scene you wrote about in Secret Keeper and why?

 

My favorite scene is the actually a chapter, the final chapter.  I won’t say more for fear of spoiling things.
As for least favorite, there is a scene in which one character is attacked, and that was painful to write.  But I wasn’t going to shy away from it, because it has cultural relevance then and now.  Even the very high born, like the Lady Elizabeth, were relatively powerless to stop unwanted behavior, so how then could any other woman protect herself?  Especially women without a male protector.  Kateryn Parr had to marry Henry.  That was that.  It was an era in which women had little power, but they were crafty and courageous with what they were given, or took, and I admire that.  To soften some of the scenes, or Anne Askew’s martyrdom, would be to downplay the courage it took those women to face life and death without flinching.


 

 
How did you research Tudor England and the lives of your characters? What are some of the resources you used?

I visited England of course, the places where many of the scenes took place, and some of the archives.  I used a large variety of credible secondary sources, many of which can be found listed in the back of the books.  And when I had a question that I needed a “real live” person to help me with, I asked Lauren Mackay, a wonderful research assistant and author in her own right.  I am a lifelong reader and love of historical fiction and nonfiction, especially as regards England, so I had a background to bring to it, too.
 
Will you be writing anymore stories about the Tudors?
The final Ladies in Waiting book, Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I, launches in April.    I love Elizabeth and hope that readers will enjoy the story, told from the point of view of Helena, Marchioness of Northampton, a young woman from Sweden whose story I had never heard told.

 
When do your best ideas come to you?

When my mind is at rest, or when I’m doing some menial but physically demanding task, like cleaning the kitchen or jogging.  Or while reading good nonfiction, or watching great movies or TV.  This is why I never read or watch fiction set in the era in which I am currently writing, or about to write in.  If something in my novel duplicates something in another, then I know it was happenstance, or grew from both of us reading the same sources.  It puts my mind at rest.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Choose  good material with which to work.  It’s like providing yourself with the finest ingredients before mixing up a recipe.  If you use old eggs and stale butter it’s not going to taste good no matter the skills of the chef.

What is your favorite quote?
I don’t know that I have one favorite, but I read a quote today on author Susan Meissner’s facebook page: “There will be a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” ~Louis L’Amour 
Author Bio:

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011. The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was published in June, 2012 and will be followed by Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I in April, 2013.
A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has also published many nonfiction articles and books. She is also passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.
Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com
 
 
Thank you Sandra for this lovely interview! It was a pleasure!
 
Stephanie
Layered Pages


 
 
 

Searching For Caption Wentworth by Jane Odiwe

I’ve just finished a really good book that I was asked to review: Searching For Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe. I have to say, I felt very lucky to have been given the opportunity to read the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The baseline of the story revolves around a young woman named Sophie Elliot who is adrift in life and in her career and hoping to restart her writing career by staying in Bath, England in the townhome owned by her family. She is fascinated with Jane Austen and when she learns that the townhome is next door do the one that the Austen’s lived in when they were staying in Bath, her decision is finalized.
What follows is an interesting journey backwards and forwards through time as Sophie mysteriously passes back into time in the body of her cousin who is living next door to the Austen’s and has befriended the young Austen ladies. Sophie becomes more and more entwined with the story of her cousin and her friendship with Jane and her sister – and brother, Charles.
In modern times, she befriends her neighbor, Josh Strafford, who happens to be working on an exhibit about Regency Bath, including displays on the Austen’s. As Sophie bounces back and forth between time, she begins to have feelings for both Josh and Charles, which she fears will lead her to heartbreak on both fronts.
The story is cleverly woven between the past and present and quickly draws you into both times. You hope that Sophie finds love with Charles Austen in the past AND with Josh Strafford in the present. You wonder how the events in the past have shaped the current and what changes may occur based on Sophie’s actions in the past. Will she affect the future? What will happen with Charles? What does Josh feel about her? Is she just a friend or more to him?
Odiwe does an excellent job of portraying Regency England and the customs and challenges young women of that era faced. I was enchanted by her portrayal of Jane Austen as a spunky, creative young woman bound by duty and honor – and most women of that age were. I’ve visited Bath before and the descriptions she used in the book were true to my memories and took me back to the visits, wandering the streets and walking through the Pump Room.
She handles the time-travel relatively well, and I think, does a good job of portraying Sophie as someone who tries to sort out whether what is happening is a dream or if it is real – and which reality is really real?
I would most definitely suggest you read the book, even if you are not a Jane Austen fan, you’ll enjoy the story line and be enchanted by the characters.
 
 
Lois Houston
Review Team Member
 

Darcy’s Decision by Maria Grace

Having renewed my acquaintance with Jane Austen by rereading several of her masterworks including Pride and Prejudice in the last year, it was with joyful anticipation I began to read Maria Grace’s Darcy’s Decision. I was not disappointed! Grace’s delightful tour de force introduces the reader to Austen’s Darcy as he inherits Pemberley and works toward becoming its best master ever. I simply could not put it down. I found myself reading long into the night trying to figure out how Darcy would handle the most delicate matter concerning his young sister Georgiana. A quick glance at the chapter titles gives the reader a good idea of the challenges Darcy will face. Such chapter titles include: To Whom Much is Given; Bad Company corrupts Good Company; and Folly is Bound Up in the Heart of a Child.

The characters postively leap from the pages! They are alive and interesting. They are people the reader wants to get to know better.

Grace has an eye for detail and a knack for recreating Austen’s world. I heartily recommend her books to Austen fans everywhere! I am eagerly awaiting more in this series.
 
 
Author Michele Kallio
Review Team Member

Layered Pages Book Reviews

Wow! What a wild ride! When I was first asked to review Lost and Found, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Service Dogs? Kidnappings? Autism? Medical drama? I was a little concerned about how all of those were going to relate to one another, but my concerns were unfounded because once this story got rolling, I was completely swept away. Shojai melded all of these things together in a nearly seamless flow.

Written in third person, the narration alternates between different perspectives. The primary character, September Day, has a past that colors a lot of her decisions. Although details about her past were slow in coming, by the end of the story, her character really comes full circle, and I felt like I really understood her and her motivations as a character.

The secondary characters were well-rounded too. Officer Combs, a cop battered by undeserved scandal, added a great layer to the story without falling into the romance trap, which was really refreshing. The most refreshing thing, however, was the service dog Shadow’s perspective. I thought that it was really sweet & endearing, and it really did seem like how a dog would speak if they used words. Shojai’s knowledge of canines shines in Shadow’s narration.

The plot itself was full of tension, suspense and several nail-biting moments. All of the events felt believable but still held that “I can’t believe it” feeling. Two of the most intriguing aspects of the plot are the treatment & life of those with an autistic child and the German Shepard service dogs. I really appreciated how well she handled the autism aspect. It was tasteful and conveyed respect for those with autism and those who care for them.

If you are looking for suspense & crime drama with a twist, then Lost and Found is a read for you. 4 stars.

Beth Bulow
Review Team Member



Maria Grace’s novella The Future Mrs. Darcy is a variation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It introduces the readers to the Bennet family in a way that clarifies the character and foibles of the family. Grace has a knack for recreating Austen’s world and breathing life into her characters. The Future Mrs. Darcy is the second in THE GOOD PRINCIPLES series which is aptly named. I found myself reading long into the night to see how the Bennet family would deal the recalcitrant Lydia. While the storyline is different from Pride and Prejudice, Grace remains true to Austen’s creations. I found it quite fun to see favorite characters in a different story. I am looking forward to reading more in the series. I heartily recommend The Future Mrs. Darcy to Jane Austen fans everywhere.

Author Michele Kallio
Review Team Member

The Grave Blogger, Donna D. Fontenot’s first novel is a clever, fast paced and extremely twisted psychological thriller. Drawing on her upbringing in a cajun household in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the author was able to clearly capture the essence and flavor of small town life near a bayou. Cleverly intertwining her personal passions of computers and blogging, she has created a unique and realistic main character with a intriguing and unusual occupation.

Raya Landry, the main character is a freelance writer and professional blogger, who researches and investigates cold cases for true crime websites. While researching her newest cold case, Raya has a curious and disturbing flashback of a brutal and horrific slaying of an entire family. Discovering that she is the lone survivor, Raya embarks on a journey to solve the twenty year old homicide case, despite the possible risks of becoming the killers next target.

Overall the book was a fantastic page turner that was very hard to put down. The characters were believable, yet a bit quirky at the same time, which kept the reader wanting to know more.

Throughout the novel, each character was given its own voice and the reader was able to experience the world through their eyes. Especially fascinating is the killer’s perspective. The killer is extremely twisted, diabolical, and merciless – toying with the victims and psychologically torturing them, before ultimately ending their lives. As often is the case, the villain has the most disturbing and compelling role.

At the conclusion, the author leaves open the opportunity for a possible book two in the adventures of a true crime blogger. Looking forward to more novels from this impressive new author.  
 
Emily Pryer
Review Team Member
 
 
 

How I hadn’t heard about this book before now, I have no idea. Now I feel that it is my duty to let others know about it. This was an exciting story about survival in the most extreme circumstances.
Grace’s father is missing, and presumed dead. But she feels that he’s still out there somewhere. It just might take some time to find him in the thousands of acres of wild where he disappeared. Her years of wilderness training couldn’t be more useful.

My favorite part of this book is the writing style. S.R. Johannes has a unique voice which is carried through her characters. Each one, either hero or villain, is a perfect fit with their surroundings.
Each chapter begins with a survival skill, but as the book progresses, the tips become less wilderness safety, and more paranoid and defensive, giving clues to the direction of the story. There is certainly no lack of suspense. I could feel the puzzle pieces fitting together, each clue leading to the bigger picture.

So, help me spread the word! Untraceable is a great read! 4 Stars!!

Lindsay Galloway
Review Team Member

More reviews coming up tomorrow here on Layered Pages! Stay tuned!

Stephanie
Layered Pages

Review: The Cross and The Dragon by Kim Rendfeld

The Cross and The Dragon is a tale of love in an era where war and blood feuds plague Francia in 778. Alda is a willful fifteen year old who has fallen for Hruodland  a prince in the King’s court. With a vow of vengeance hanging in the air from Hrouland’s sworn enemy Ganelon, King Charles army invades Hispania. Alda wants to keep her beloved from harm, she gives him a charmed dragon amulet that she wears from her homeland. Can the amulet keep her beloved safe? Will Ganelon have his revenge on his enemy?
The Cross and The Dragon is the magical journey of love and war. The story is beautifully written, inspired by legend, and thoroughly researched, The Cross and The Dragon is a must read for all those who enjoy historical fiction. For those who normally wouldn’t pick up an historical fiction novel, The Cross and The Dragon is a fast read that will captivate the reader. The story is addictive and I found myself not wanting to put the story down. The strong characters found in Alda, Hroudland, and their families command attention and put you right into the heart of Francia and King Charles court. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the The Cross and The Dragon Rendfeld has created a historical fiction masterpiece. I look forward to reading the books that she writes in the future!
I am giving this book 4.5 stars!

Rachel Massaro
Review Team Member