Review: The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage

The Prodigal Son

He risks everything for his faith – but will he be able to pay the price? Safely returned from an involuntary stay on a plantation in Virginia, Matthew Graham finds the Scottish Lowlands torn asunder by religious strife. His Restored Majesty, Charles II, requires all his subjects to swear fealty to him and the Church of England, riding roughshod over any opposition. In Ayrshire, people close ranks around their evicted Presbyterian ministers. But disobedience comes at a heavy price and Alex becomes increasingly more nervous as to what her Matthew is risking by his support of the clandestine ministers – foremost amongst them the charismatic Sandy Peden. Privately, Alex considers Sandy an enervating fanatic and all this religious fervour is totally incomprehensible to her. So when Matthew repeatedly sets his faith and ministers before his own safety he puts their marriage under severe strain. The situation is further complicated by the presence of Ian, the son Matthew was cruelly duped into disowning several years ago. Now Matthew wants Ian back and Alex isn’t entirely sure this is a good thing. Things are brought to a head when Matthew places all their lives in the balance to save his dear preacher from the dragoons. How much is Matthew willing to risk? How much will he ultimately lose? The Prodigal Son is the third in Anna Belfrage’s historical time slip series, which includes the titles The Rip in the Veil and Like Chaff in the Wind.

 

My review:

I really admire Belfrage’s use of voice and language. She makes it so that the characters are well developed and thought provoking. And I admire how her characters interact with each other and does a good job expressing their emotions. Her dialog is also engaging and flows really well.

She gives wonderful details of the domestic life of the time the story is written in and details of what they had to endure in the regards to the government’s (Charles ll of England) unreasonable rule. There were laws or should I say-Charles ll required his subjects to conform to the Church of England- on how they were to worship which as you know made it extremely difficult on the people. And that is putting it mildly.

Mathew Graham has risked much to support and protect his minister, Sandy Peden. And his family has suffered for that. I did not always agree with him and was often times frustrated with the decisions he was making. But having said that, he is one of my favorite characters in this story. I believe Mathew truly loves his family and has adjusted quite well to the fact that his wife-Alex-is from the future. I’m sure he is more tolerate to her ideas and beliefs than what most men during that time would have been.

Sandy Peden is a pious and fanatical minister who I actually enjoyed reading about in this story. He is opinionated- thinks women have their place and feels Mathew should put his wife in that place and has no problem telling him so. It is obvious he does not approve of her one bit. But she certainly matched wit for wit with Sandy. I do admire how Sandy is a survivor and he stands by what he believes and does not give into being told how he is to worship and what organized faith he is lawfully suppose too follow. Very entertaining….he adds a lot to this story.

Alex is a strong woman who is from the future and I believe her knowledge has really helped her and yet sometimes it was a hindrance for her, I think. I do however think she adapted quite well in the 17th century for someone being so forward thinking and modern of course. She does have a stubborn streak to her but so does her husband. I really enjoyed seeing the way they interacted with each other. Their relationship is really dynamic. And I do admire their strong sense of family and values. Alex does something in this story that I truly respect her for. But I cannot tell you! You will just have to read the book to find out!

I really have enjoyed this series so far and I look forward to continuing to read them! The Graham family are definitely among my favorite families to read about! I am giving this story a four and a half star rating and I highly recommend this whole series to people who are looking for a quality written time slip.

 

Stephanie

Layered Pages

 

About the Author

anna belfrage

 

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favorite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s WEBSITE.

Layered Pages latest interview with Anna Befrage : https://layeredpages.com/2013/07/09/1350/

Links to where you can purchase her stories:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Prodigal-Son-Anna-Belfrage/dp/1780885741/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1376163215&sr=8-5&keywords=The+Prodigal+Son

http://www.amazon.com/Like-Chaff-Wind-Anna-Belfrage/dp/1780884702/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376163168&sr=8-1&keywords=like+chaff+in+the+wind

http://www.amazon.com/A-Rip-Veil-Anna-Belfrage/dp/1780882424/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376163127&sr=8-1&keywords=A+rip+in+the+veil

Interview with Author Mona Rodriguez

Forty years in a day book cover

Hello Mona! I read Forty Years In A Day and was absolutely intrigued with your story. Could you please tell your audience about your book?

Mona: Thank you, Stephanie, for hosting us today. It’s a pleasure. Our story begins in Italy, 1900. After years of torment and neglect, Victoria and her four small children immigrate to Hell’s Kitchen, New York, to escape her alcoholic, abusive husband. On the day they leave, he tragically dies, but she does not learn of his death for several years—a secret that puts many lives on hold.

Quickly, they realize America’s streets are not paved with gold, and the limits of human faith and stamina are tested time and time again. Poverty, illness, death, kidnapping, and the reign of organized crime are just some of the crosses they bear.

Victoria’s eldest son, Vincenzo, is the sole surviving member of the family and shares a gut-wrenching account of their lives with his daughter during a visit to Ellis Island on his ninetieth birthday. He explains how the lives of he and his siblings have been secretly intertwined with an infamous Irish mob boss and ends his unsettling disclosure with a monumental request that leaves Clare speechless.

The story takes the Montanaro family through several decades, providing the reader an opportunity to stand in the shoes of a past generation and walk in search of their hopes and dreams. It is layered with the struggles and successes of each family member, illuminating the fact that human emotions have been the same throughout generations; the difference is how people are molded and maneuvered by the times and their situations.

Stephanie: Is this story based on anyone you know or who you have come across?

Mona: The characters are based on family members, both deceased and living. I’ve had this particular story churning in my head for many years, sparked by the stories of my family’s past. Forty Years In A Day begins in 1900 and follows the incredible journey of a young mother and her four children as they escape from Italy into the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. That woman was my grandmother. The story ends with a woman who knows the father of her children is living a double life with another, but she loves him so much that she overlooks the arrangement rather than forfeit the man. Those were my parents. In between are the stories that I had heard from family members, intertwined with a twist of fiction and sensationalism to have some fun.

 

Stephanie:  Were there any challenges you faced while writing this story?

Mona: There were many challenges that I had faced undertaking this project. First and foremost, I had the idea of the story in my head before I had the skills to share it. I’m a mathematician and an environmentalist so this challenged the other side of my brain. While writing is something I always admired, to me, the passion was in the story and the writing was the vessel to get it told.

Second, people ask me how much of our book is realistic; especially family members who want to know if this is the actual story of what had happened. They try to draw a parallel between family members’ personalities and our characters’ personalities. The truth is that no one can totally piece together that puzzle of tales; there are parts to every family’s story that were pushed under the rug for fear it would tarnish the family’s reputation. The elders think they are doing their family justice by taking some of the more scandalous stories with them to the grave. When, as a writer, you realize all this, you are forced to conjure your own conclusions from the pieces of stories that you gather.

Third, I coauthored the book with my cousin Dianne Vigorito. She gave me the support and validation I needed to pursue this project. I was lucky to find a family member to work with, and she had an immediate interest in the idea. She grew up hearing the same crazy stories, some of which were almost unbelievable, that were told by our ancestors.  Working with another has taught me the power of more than one and the art of compromise.

Stephanie: Was there a particular scene you felt difficult to write?

Mona: The story of Vinny and Ava represents my parent’s story and the story that resonates closest to my heart. When they were alive, I had discovered secrets about their past that they didn’t want my siblings and me to know. When they died, I felt more compelled to delve into their past, but no one could (or would) tell me the whole story. I realized that I should have asked more questions when they were alive, been more adamant to learn the truth. I questioned aunts and uncles, but I sensed there were bits of their lives, and everyone’s in our story, that would never be unearthed. The story of Vinny and Ava is conjured from the pieces of stories I had put together, and my interpretation, especially emotionally, of what had happened between my parents.

Stephanie: What was the inspiration for your story?

Mona: We don’t realize what our ancestors went through to make life better for themselves and for us. What they faced was incredible—the living conditions, poverty, disease—and their work ethic was admirable. Although I had started with the intention of writing a story about my father’s family, it turned into a novel. There was so much more I wanted people to know about this fascinating era.

 

Stephanie How long did it take to write, Forty Years In A Day?

Mona: I started by writing down the stories I had heard and interviewing the elders that were still alive. It took seven years—researching, attending seminars, workshops, conferences, and reading everything from books on how to write dialogue to reading mainstream fiction and rereading classics. I also studied the history and lifestyles of the era.  Dianne and I worked on our own, and we also worked together several days a week, collaborating, rewriting, and editing. I had a story to tell and I knew it had to be told.

 

Stephanie: You did a fantastic job with your research. It’s truly a beautiful and thought provoking story. And I believe it’s written in such a way that the story transcends you into that period and gives you a wonderful picture of the human conditions.  

 

Is there a sentiment you hope readers come away with after reading your story?

Mona: Forty Years In A Day is more than an immigration story about an Italian family; it epitomizes the immigration experience and coming to America in the early 1900s. It reignites curiosity and admiration for what our ancestors had endured and accomplished to make our lives better. There are many themes that run throughout the story—the loss and rebound of hope, honesty, perseverance, forgiveness, survival, the list goes on—but I think the main theme is the importance of family. Forty Years In A Day also reminds us that every family has hidden secrets and that the choices one person makes echoes through generations.

Stephanie: The different themes in your story was well written and I felt that some of them hit home with me. Your story has given me a lot to think about. Especially about family and relationships.

 

Is there a character that you feel connected to in any way?

Mona: I have a connection to all the characters, but the one I admire the most is Victoria. She was an amazing woman who wanted to do the right thing for her children. Without giving away the story, I often wonder how she summoned the strength to do what she did, and if I would have been so courageous. She did it not so much for herself, but for her children. She was the ultimate mother.

Stephanie: I admired Victoria as well. She certainly pulled at my heart strings. What book project is up next for both?

Mona: There are six cousins at the end of our story. The idea is to take that next generation into the next era.

Stephanie: Ooo…I’m really looking forward to reading your next book! What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Mona: Read the works of authors you enjoy and respect, study and practice the craft, and try to develop a personal style and formula for success.  When reading a diverse collection of books, you take away, along with the story, a little of each author’s craft.

Thank you, Mona!

About the Authors

Mona & Dianne

 

Mona Rodriguez coauthored Forty Years in a Day with her cousin Dianne Vigorito.
Throughout their lives, they had heard many stories from family members that
were fascinating, sometimes even unbelievable, and decided to piece together
the puzzle of tales. Through research and interviews, their goal was to create
a fictional story that follows a family through several decades, providing the
reader an opportunity to stand in the shoes of a past generation and walk in
search of their hopes and dreams. What they realize in the process is that
human emotions have been the same throughout generations – the difference is
how people are molded and maneuvered by the times and their situations.

Mona Rodriguez has her MS in environmental Management from Montclair State
University. She is presently a trustee on the board of directors of a nonprofit
foundation created to benefit a local public library and community. She lives
with their husband in New Jersey, and they have two grown sons.

For more information, please visit the official website.

http://www.fortyyearsinaday.com/

BOOK TRAILER:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfJ5p4qCzmM&feature=youtu.be

forty years in  a day tour banner

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/fortyyearsinadaytour/
Twitter Hashtag: #FortyYearsTour

Review: The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

The Queen's Vow

No one believed I was destined for greatness.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

Praise for The Queen’s Vow

“A masterwork by a skilled craftsman . . . Make a vow to read this book.”—New York Journal of Books

“A beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction . . . Gortner’s vivid details blend with his deeply intensive research to re-create Isabella and Castile in a way that the reader will find compelling and immersive, bringing not just the Queen but the whole nation to life.”—RT Book Reviews

“A fascinating story . . . Through his creative and spellbinding storytelling, Gortner’s readers come to know Isabella intimately in mind, heart and body as she lives through a tumultuous time, her intense longing to be the determiner of her own unique destiny.”—Wichita Falls Times Record News

“A novel of triumph as Isabella vanquishes her enemies one by one . . . [She is] a very human and appealing character.”—The Roanoke Times

“Politically charged, passionate . . . [a] well-researched, intriguing historical.”—Bookreporter

 

Review:

 

If you are looking for the perfect introduction to Isabella of Castile, then this is the story for you. At an early age she shows such potential of being the women she has yet to be become. She is an extraordinary women who often faced danger, betrayal, and uncertainties of who she can trust. I greatly admire her intelligence and determination. There are bigger forces at work in this story that I was drawn to other than Isabella becoming Queen in my opinion. I often wonder if later on in her rule of Spain, if she wasn’t so much influenced by the men around her- would she still have acted on the decisions that were made about the Jewish people. Would have all that have been prevented? But I believe she struggled with this greatly and did not relish in the killings of the Jews. Religious persecution started long before her time and has continued through the ages. This is definitely an intense period that Gortner writes about and I believe he has given us a realistic and brilliant portrayal.

There is a banner I posted on a review group saying. ”There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.” That is exactly how I feel about The Queen’s Vow. I highly recommend this novel and hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Stephanie

Layered Pages

http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thequeensvowvirtualtour/

 

Review: The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

the chalice

Nancy Bilyeau is building a solid series with her second book centered around Joanna Stafford, a novice who is forced to build a new life for herself after the dissolution of Dartford Priory. While the first book was very good, The Chalice is brimming with even more intrigue and insight into the clash of religion and state during the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII.

Bilyeau is able to bring the great struggle to life through her creation of conflicted characters trying to maintain their principles and beliefs in a time that is at best confused and at worst at odds with the wish of her heroine to live a simple life of devotion. The author’s scholarship is evident in the vivid detail and entwined plot lines of the story.

This last book has left me even more interested to see what will become of Joanna Stafford as she follows a tenuous path through the upheaval of her personal life in the political landscape.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Peterson Seidle

Layered Pages Review Team Member