Book Review: Murder by Misrule by Ann Castle

02_Murder by Misrule CoverFrancis Bacon is charged with investigating the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray’s Inn. He recruits his unwanted protégé Thomas Clarady to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a privateer, Clarady will do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder. Bacon’s powerful uncle Lord Burghley suspects Catholic conspirators of the crime, but other motives quickly emerge. Rival barristers contend for the murdered man’s legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets. Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve. Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss — and in danger — until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

The Francis Bacon Mystery Series

This series of historical mysteries features the philosopher-statesman Francis Bacon as a sleuth and spymaster. Since Francis prefers the comfort of his own chambers, like his spiritual descendent Nero Wolfe, he sends his pupil, the handsome young Thomas Clarady, out to gather information. Tom loves the work, not least because he meets so many interesting people, like Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Christopher Marlowe. Murder by Misrule is the first book in the series.

My review:

I’m always up for an elaborate crime thriller and an historical one to boot. Funny thing is, as I was waiting for this book in the mail, I kept on thinking this was going to be a Victorian one! *laughing* I’ve been on a Victorian era kick lately and I guess that is why….and wow was I surprised when I started reading the story!

The premise intrigued me and the colorful cast of characters amused me. They all played an integrate part in the story, even the minor roles. It was entertaining seeing how they interacted together solving the crime and I really developed a fondness for Tom Clarady.

There were a lot of great scenes that grabbed my attention and a few in between that didn’t so much, I would have liked the momentum of the story to have been a little stronger. That is what I want in a mystery thriller.

I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the story and learned a lot about Gray’s Inn….and Frances Bacon in how he must have been. And there is more to the story than meets the eye and leaves the readers imagination to explore that.

Praise for Murder by Misrule

“Though the plot keeps the pages turning, the characters, major and minor, and the well-wrought historical details will make readers want to linger in the 16th century. A laugh-out-loud mystery that will delight fans of the genre.” – Kirkus Starred Review

“Murder by Misrule is a delightful debut with characters that leap off the page, especially the brilliant if unwilling detective Francis Bacon and his street smart man Tom Clarady. Elizabeth Tudor rules, but Anna Castle triumphs.” – Karen Harper, author of Mistress Shakespeare

“Well-researched… Murder by Misrule is also enormously entertaining; a mystery shot through with a series of misadventures, misunderstandings, and mendacity worthy of a Shakespearean comedy.” – M. Louisa Locke, author of Bloody Lessons

“Historical mystery readers take note: Murder by Misrule is a wonderful example of Elizabethan times brought to life.” — D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.

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About the Author

03_Anna Castle

Anna Castle has been a waitress, software engineer, documentary linguist, college professor, and digital archivist. Historical fiction combines her lifelong love of stories and learning. She physically resides in Austin, Texas, and mentally counts herself a queen of infinite space.

For more information please visit Anna Castle’s website and blog. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, June 2 Review at Flashlight Commentary Book Blast at Mari Reads

Tuesday, June 3 Interview at Flashlight Commentary Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, June 4 Book Blast at The Musings of ALMYBNENR

Thursday, June 5 Book Blast at Our Wolves Den

Friday, June 6 Review at Book Nerd Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer Book Blast at A Dream Within a Dream

Saturday, June 7 Book Blast at Kelsey’s Book Corner

Sunday, June 8 Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, June 9 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, June 10 Book Blast at West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, June 11 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse

Thursday, June 12 Review at Curling Up By the Fire

Friday, June 13 Book Blast at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Monday, June 16 Book Blast at Closed the Cover Book Blast at To Read or Not to Read

Tuesday, June 17 Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day Book Blast at A Book Geek

Wednesday, June 18 Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, June 19 Review at Bibliotica Book Blast at Historical Fiction Obsession

Friday, June 20 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews Interview at All Things Girl

Saturday, June 21 Book Blast at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Monday, June 23 Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway at A Bookish Affair Interview at Jorie Loves a Story Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, June 24 Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, June 25 Book Blast at Susan Heim on Writing

Thursday, June 26 Review at A Bookish Girl Review at Layered Pages Review at Kinx’s Book Nook

Friday, June 27 Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes

Monday, June 30 Book Blast at Historical Tapestry

Tuesday, July 1 Interview at Starting Fresh

Wednesday, July 2 Review at Kincavel Korner

Thursday, July 3 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please

Friday, July 4 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

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Review: Nightingale by Juliet Waldron


18th Century Vienna was glamorous and corrupt, and the pathway to fame could not be trodden in innocence. Count Maximilian discovers Klara in a Nightingale Cage, an orphanage for the abandoned children of musicians. He educates her, fosters her remarkable vocal talent and initiates her into the art of love, intending to create the perfect mistress. The Count controls every aspect of Klara’s life, until Fate, in the form of handsome Akos Almassy, takes a hand. The tall, dark Magyar violinist can make beautiful music and healing potions, too, but can he rescue Klara from the Count—and live?

My review:

First off when I began to read this story, I had to adjust my mind to a bit of romance…..I’m not used to reading historical romance. As I got through the first few pages, I was a bit worried about the story line. As I continued reading, I became intrigued with Klara and her situation. She is in a sticky situation-If you will and she owes so much to her patron for basically saving her from a life of poverty. Alas, he does this for a reason and one not out of respect and kindness towards her. His plans for her to become his mistress.

I think I fell in love the moment she met Akos Almassy! Lol. The way the author would describe their attraction towards each other was electric-thrilling if you will. As the story unfolds I was cheering for those two and wondering what the outcome of the situation with her patron would be…..

I love music and I love singing, so this story was right up my alley and although I don’t normally read in the sub-genre or period, I enjoyed it very much.

I recommend this story for a wide range of audience. People like me who normally read straight Historical Fiction, non-fiction and history. And to those who read straight romance or people who like both!

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About the Author


“Not all who wander are lost.” Juliet Waldron earned a B. A. in English, but has worked at jobs ranging from artist’s model to brokerage. Thirty years ago, after the boys left home, she dropped out of 9-5 and began to write, hoping to create a genuine time travel experience for herself–and for her readers. She loves her grand-girls and her kitties, likes to take long hikes, and reads historical/archeological non-fiction as well as reviewing for the Historical Novel Society. For summer adventure, she rides behind her husband of 50 years on his “bucket list” (black, and ridiculously fast) Hyabusa motorcycle.

You can find more information at or connect with Juliet on Facebook.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, May 5 Interview at Layered Pages

Thursday, May 8 Review at Just One More Chapter (Mozart’s Wife)

Friday, May 9 Spotlight at Closed the Cover (Genesee)

Monday, May 12 Review at Closed the Cover (Genesee) Spotlight at Tower of Babel

Monday, May 19 Interview at Closed the Cover

Wednesday, May 21 Interview at The Maiden’s Court

Monday, May 26 Review at Book Lovers Paradise (Mozart’s Wife)

Tuesday, May 27 Review at Historical Fiction Obsession (Genesee) Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise (w/Kathy Fischer-Brown and Louise Turner)

Monday, June 2 Review at A Chick Who Reads (Nightingale)

Tuesday, June 3 Review at Historical Fiction Obsession (Roan Rose)

Thursday, June 5 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views (Mozart’s Wife)

Monday, June 9 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time (Roan Rose)

Tuesday, June 10 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views (Nightingale)

Thursday, June 12 Guest Post at Closed the Cover

Monday, June 16 Review at Just One More Chapter (Roan Rose)

Tuesday, June 17 Review at A Chick Who Reads (Mozart’s Wife)

Monday, June 23 Review at Peeking Between the Pages (Mozart’s Wife)

Tuesday, June 24 Review at A Bookish Affair (Mozart’s Wife)

Wednesday, June 25 Review at Layered Pages (Nightingale)

Thursday, June 26 Review at A Chick Who Reads (Roan Rose)

Friday, June 27 Review at Broken Teepee (Mozart’s Wife)

Saturday, June 28 Review at WTF Are You Reading? (Mozart’s Wife)

Monday, June 30 Review at The True Book Addict (Mozart’s Wife) Review at WTF Are You Reading? (Nightingale)


Interview with Author Cara Langston

02_Battle Hymns

Stephanie: Hello Cara! Thank you for chatting with me today. First off I would like to say I love your book title. Please tell me about your story and how you chose your title.

Cara: Thanks for having me here at Layered Pages!

Battle Hymns is the story of a young woman, Charlotte Donahue, whose life is forever changed by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into World War II. Her fiancé, Nick, enlists in the Army, and while Charlotte waits for him to return so they can marry, she volunteers as a nurses’ aide with the American Red Cross. It’s here she develops a passion for nursing and meets a wounded fighter pilot, Will, who helps her cope with many of the emotions that arise from Nick’s deployment.

Choosing the title was easy once Battle Hymns was on the short list, but I have to credit one of my friends for suggesting it in the first place. I love the title. It’s wistful, romantic, and clues readers into the war’s prominent role in the story. It also reflects the dichotomy of some of my themes—head vs. heart, home vs. career, life vs. death, etc.

Stephanie: Is this your first published work? And how did you come up with the premise?

Cara: Battle Hymns is my first published work. I’ve written other fictional pieces, but those manuscripts will never see the light of day if I can help it.

When I start brainstorming a new story, I generally begin with the time period or setting. In the case of Battle Hymns, I chose the 1940s after listening to a lot of classic Christmas music during the holiday season. It’s the only time of the year you can hear Bing Crosby, Irving Berlin, Judy Garland, and Lena Horne on the radio! The story blossomed from there as I developed characters that fit the time period.

Stephanie: Did you have to do a lot of research about the Second World War?

Cara: I certainly did a lot of research. My Google search history over the past five years is probably quite a sight. Thankfully we live in an era where so much useful information is posted online. You have to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, but it’s an invaluable resource. I was able to read love letters from soldiers, view photos of the Army Medical Center in 1942, and study digitized non-fiction books that delved into certain WWII battles.

Stephanie: What interest you most about the period your story takes place in?

Cara: The people who lived through World War II sacrificed so much for the cause, whether they supported it from home or fought on the front lines. The U.S. has been a wartime nation for most of my adulthood, and yet as a civilian, it doesn’t affect my everyday life the way it affected Charlotte’s in 1943. We no longer have conscription and rationing.  The “total war” sacrifice is unique in that way. It’s what has always drawn me to this time period and one of the main reasons I wanted to tell this story.

Stephanie: What was your writing process like for this story?

Cara: I began writing this story nearly five years ago when I was in college. I finished half of the first draft in about seven months. Then I started my first full-time job, and Battle Hymns sat unfinished on a USB drive for two years. I picked it up again in 2012 when I moved to Texas with my husband and was between jobs for three months. Suddenly having that much free time gave me the motivation to finish the first draft. After that, it took about another year for re-writes, professional editing, formatting, and publishing.

Stephanie: Please tell me why you write historical fiction and if you have come across any challenges in this genre.

Cara: I write historical fiction because I love to read historical fiction, and I like to read historical fiction because it’s simultaneously entertaining and educational. With each book I read, I learn something new. I think it’s important to be knowledgeable about our history. Many lessons can be learned from it.

The most challenging aspect of writing historical fiction, I think, is finding the right balance between historical accuracy and conforming to 21st century values for your reader. For example, certain types of bigotry were more prevalent seventy years ago than today; how much of that should be portrayed?

Stephanie: What advice could you give to an aspiring author?

Cara: My advice would be not to rush your writing process. Eventually you get to the point where you’ve been working on the book for so long, and you get excited about the prospect of publishing, finding readers, having a cover design, etc. But you need to polish the final product before it can be marketed, so spend as much time as you need to get the story as perfect as it can be.

Stephanie: Where in your home do you like to write and how often do you write?

Cara: I’ve been moving too often to have a favorite place to write! My husband and I bought our first house together only three months ago, and although we have an office in which I plan to write, we haven’t purchased a desk just yet, so I write at the dining room table. I have a full-time job so I don’t write often enough. Lately I’ve been so busy that I’ve only gotten in 3-4 hours a week of writing time. At this rate it’ll take me another five years to finish my next novel!

Stephanie: Who are your influences and did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Cara: I think I read too wide a variety of genres and authors to have any particular influences, at least none that come to mind. Instead I’m trying to develop my own style.

I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a journalist. Then I joined the school newspaper, and the advisor was so terrible that I swore off all writing after that. I convinced myself that I was an awful writer, so with the exception of necessary school essays, I avoided writing at all costs. It’s one of the primary reasons I decided to major in Finance in college. But throughout all this, I remained an avid reader, and eventually enough time passed that I was able to view writing more favorably. Now I love it!

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About the Author

03_Cara Langston

Cara is a novelist of historical fiction. She has two novels in the works. Battle Hymns is a historical romance set in Washington, D.C. from 1941 to 1943. It will be published on June 3, 2014. The Glassmaker’s Wife is a historical romance set in 1925 Chicago and is still very much in progress.

Cara has been an avid reader – especially of historical fiction, classics, and mystery novels – since she was young. She read all of the American Girl books when she was in 5th grade, even though her parents could not afford to buy her a doll. In middle school, she was obsessed with the only two Ann Rinaldi books in the school library. They taught her about the 1770 Boston Massacre and the Salem Witch Trials before her history classes ever did. And that was when Cara’s love of historical fiction was born. She didn’t begin writing, though, until her senior year at the University of Georgia, where she studied Finance and had already committed to a career in the corporate world. One day she will be able to quit working for The Man and focus on her writing. Until then, it pays the bills.

When she’s not writing or working, Cara enjoys drinking red wine, watching bad television, doing genealogical research, obsessing over the Duchess of Cambridge’s every outfit, and finding the best guacamole in Texas. Cara currently lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and their dog.

For more information please visit Cara Langston’s website. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, June 2 Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, June 3 Review at Booktalk & More

Wednesday, June 4 Review at Closed the Cover

Thursday, June 5 Interview at Closed the Cover

Friday, June 6 Review at 100 Pages a Day

Monday, June 9 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Tuesday, June 10 Review at Lit Nerd

Wednesday, June 11 Interview at Lit Nerd

Friday, June 13 Review at History Undressed

Monday, June 16 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, June 17 Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, June 18 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews Interview at Layered Pages

Friday, June 20 Review at Too Fond Beth

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Book Review and Interview with Author Lynn Cullen

02_Mrs. Poe

A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.

It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late…

Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures.

Stephanie: Hello Lynn! It truly is a pleasure chatting with you today! I really enjoyed your story, Mrs. Poe. What do your cast of characters have in common?

Lynn: Thank you so very much for inviting me to your blog. I’m thrilled for a chance to chat with you—and I’m so glad that you liked Mrs. Poe! H’m, interesting first question. I’d say that what the characters have the most in common is that they all want something they can’t have.   To me, one of the most fascinating things about being human is our constant craving for that which is just out of reach. Why do we always want what we can’t have? Not even the Garden of Eden was good enough for Eve. Poe and Frances Osgood were great vehicles through which to explore this common human drive for something more. They wanted fame, fortune, and great love, and it was just beyond their fingertips.

Stephanie: What fascinates you about Frances Osgood?

Lynn: I am bowled over that Frances Osgood tried to support herself and her two daughters with her poetry after her husband left her. She tried to do this in 1845, when only two or three women writers in the U.S. made enough money to live on—and they were newspaper columnists, not poets. Not even Poe was earning enough to live comfortably on his stories and poems. By the way, I learned that Poe was the first American writer to try to support himself solely with his fiction. Previous writers had inherited money, married well, or had other jobs or professions. Frankly, it didn’t work out very well for him. He was reduced to constantly begging for loans from friends and business associates. But back to Frances Osgood: I appreciate how she wrote about a woman’s role within society, and how she explores sexuality and motherhood—all heavily veiled for Victorian audiences, of course. I imagined her finding in Poe her soul mate, and wondered what it would have been like for her to be denied peace and happiness with him due to decisions they had made earlier in their lives.

Frances Osgood

This is Frances Osgood around 1845, the year she was alleged to have had an affair with Edgar Allan Poe.

Stephanie: There seems to be a few misconceptions about Poe. Could you point a few of them out?

Lynn: The Poe who we think we know is not the Poe who his contemporaries experienced. He was gentlemanly, polite, and charismatic. He had a sexy voice–ladies swooned when he recited his poems—and was easy on the eyes. Society ladies all over New York, where he lived at the time of my story, clamored for his attention.


This portrait was drawn from life around 1845, the year he rose to fame with “The Raven.” The pictures of a baggy-eyed half-mad Poe, so familiar to modern readers, were taken in the last months of his life when he was ill—never the best time for one’s photo shoot. But they fit our common image of him, an image that came to us courtesy of his real-life enemy, Rufus Griswold.

In the most brazen smear job in literary history, Griswold concocted the dark legend of Poe soon after the Poe died. Poe’s aunt and mother-in-law, Maria Clemm, had sold all of Poe’s papers to Griswold—a baffling move since Griswold publicly bashed Poe on a regular basis. In fact, wondering why she would do such a thing greatly influenced my creation of Mrs. Poe. Why would she make a man who despised Poe his literary executor? Once Griswold had Poe’s papers in his hands, he doctored them to fit his toxic view of Poe and proceeded to write a biography that would stand alone for 25 years—long enough to destroy Poe’s reputation for the next century and a half. Few came out to defend Poe when Griswold published his slanderous biography. I believe that this is because Poe had burned all his social bridges for having had an affair with Frances Osgood. He had become social poison.

Stephanie: Please tell me about Poe’s wife? Was she a writer?

Lynn: Very little is known about Poe’s wife, which is exactly what made her so perfect for me as a novelist. While shaping my story, I could make her what I wanted her to be, strictly within the parameters of the facts, of course. She was indeed thirteen years old when she married Poe and was his first cousin. Many think that they never consummated their marriage. I believe that Poe loved her deeply, but in a brotherly way–he did call her “Sis.” She dabbled in poetry although she was an amateur. A poem of hers survives but, interestingly, not an officially confirmed portrait. The only picture of her is said to have been drawn immediately after her death. The legend goes that a neighbor hustled over to her deathbed when it was determined that there were no likenesses of her. Virginia had died of tuberculosis, which was then called “consumption,” an apt name since its victims wasted away, consumed by the disease.   To my mind, the subject of this portrait, which was handed down through the Poe family, is way too plump to be a consumption patient. I don’t believe it’s really Virginia, or, if it’s her, I don’t believe that it was done after her death. Because I don’t buy the legend of the portrait, I provided a different explanation of how the portrait came to be in my book. Hint: Frances Osgood’s husband happened to be a portraitist….

Poe's Wife

Stephanie: When did you first develop your plot? Did you know exactly how you wanted it to evolve? And how long did it take for you to write your story?

Lynn: I wrote the plot around the question, “How did Poe go from being the most celebrated man in New York upon the publication of ‘The Raven’ to being a social outcast within one year, 1845-1846?” I wrote it much as you read the book, making shocking discoveries along the way. The twists that you experience as a reader I actually experienced while writing it. The lives of Poe and Frances Osgood provided plenty of fodder for my story but I also had their works to draw from. I based my plot around what they were writing during the time of my tale. It took me about a year to write a first draft of Mrs. Poe, including the time it took to travel to every scene in the book. I wrote to exhaustion most days, as if my life depended on it, which it did. I was the sole supporter of my family at the time.

Stephanie: What are some of the positive things people have said about your story?

Lynn: Oh, gosh, people have been astonishingly wonderful.  I really can hardly believe it. Oprah made it a Book of the Week. NPR named it “Best of 2013.” Target chose it as their Target Book Club selection. But it’s the readers who take the time to write to me, telling me how much the story meant to them, who touch me the most. Their kindness and support never fails to amaze me. I am so grateful. I also got a kick out of a video blogger who said that he loved my book so much that he wanted to punch it in the face. He said that he wished that he had written it, which to me is the ultimate compliment. That’s how I feel about the books that I love best—I wish I had done them!

Stephanie: Is this your first published book?

Lynn: Well, no. I’ve been published for 23 years, although 14 of my books have been for children. Only my latest three have been for adults. I wrote for children when my kids were young—my career grew up when they did. I have no regrets about starting out in children’s books. I loved going to schools and talking with my readers. I am always impressed with how smart kids are.

Stephanie: What was your writing process for this story? Any research involved?

Lynn: Ha, my middle name is Research. I love researching and gladly travel to every single scene of my books. I would love to spend all my time reading up on my subjects and hanging out in archives and museums as well as haunting the places where my characters lived. The discovery aspect of research is so delicious! But alas, books don’t write themselves.   Early on in the research—make that within two months—I made myself start to write, basing my plot on the question I mentioned above about Poe’s meteoric rise and fall. I had an idea about where I was going with the story—I knew how the Poe-Osgood affair ended—and slowly worked my way to the conclusion. I tend to write chronologically. No skipping to the end for me. Writing my way to that last scene forces me to construct one page after the other. The ending is the carrot that I hold out for myself.

Stephanie: Did you discover anything about Poe’s life you didn’t know before?

Lynn: Beyond the usual misconceptions most Americans hold about Poe, I knew nothing about him before I started writing the book. Writing Mrs. Poe was an immersion course in all things Edgar. Every day was a new discovery and still I’m making them. Recently, at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, the curator, Christopher Semtner, pointed out that Maria Clemm’s stockings on display had spider-webs woven into them. Sure enough, they did. The lady had a witch’s stockings! How perfect for the woman who ended up destroying her own nephew’s reputation by selling his papers to his greatest enemy.

Stephanie: What are you currently working on?

Lynn: I’m working on a novel about Mark Twain, told from the perspective of the women in his life. Like Poe, he is not who most Americans think he is. Interestingly, his image was a product of his and his family’s careful shaping. The real man was much rougher around the edges.

Stephanie: Where in your home do you like to write and how often do you write?

Lynn: I write for about eight hours a day (if I can get it,) preferably in a lawn chair on my patio. My writing is often broken up by watching hummingbirds feed or bluebirds tending to their young…when I’m not dipping back inside for a snack.

Stephanie: What advice would you give to an inspiring author?

Lynn: Read constantly. Take courses on writing. Find readers whose opinions you trust and have them read your drafts—there isn’t a writer alive who can’t benefit from a second pair of eyes looking at their work.   Listen to sound advice on your writing and always, always, keep your mind open to learning how you can write better. And after doing all this, find joy in your writing. It will show in your work.

Stephanie: Thank you!

Lynn: Thank you very much. I appreciate your great questions! Such a pleasure to talk with you today.

My Review:

I have always wondered about Poe’s personal life and what drove him to write such stories. I didn’t know anything about his wife or his literary circles. I too had so many misconceptions about him before reading this novel. When I first discovered this book, I was completely intrigued with the book cover first off and when I discovered the premise of the story, I knew I HAD to read this book as soon as I could.

I have discovered Frances Osgood through this intriguing story and I enjoyed the interaction between Poe and Osgood. I felt Cullen did a splendid job developing her character and has left me wanting to know more about her.

When Mrs. Poe was introduced in the story, I could literally sense a troubled soul coming through the pages! What a complex, dark, frightening- yet-pitiful person she is. Fascinating and thrilling in a bizarre sort-of way.

I loved all the characters in this book and most of all, the interaction between Poe’s and Frances’s literary circles and their followers. And I have to say that Cullen brilliantly set the tone of the nineteenth century and an era of Victorian lifestyle and mindsets. I really cannot say enough about this book. You just have to read the story for yourself and be swept up into Poe’s world.

Stephanie Moore Hopkins

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About the Author

03_Lynn Cullen

Lynn Cullen grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the fifth girl in a family of seven children. She learned to love history combined with traveling while visiting historic sites across the U.S. on annual family camping trips. She attended Indiana University in Bloomington and Fort Wayne, and took writing classes with Tom McHaney at Georgia State. She wrote children’s books as her three daughters were growing up, while working in a pediatric office and later, at Emory University on the editorial staff of a psychoanalytic journal. While her camping expeditions across the States have become fact-finding missions across Europe, she still loves digging into the past. She does not miss, however, sleeping in musty sleeping bags. Or eating canned fruit cocktail. She now lives in Atlanta with her husband, their dog, and two unscrupulous cats.

Lynn Cullen is the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. Her novel, Reign of Madness, about Juana the Mad, daughter of the Spanish Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, was chosen as a 2011 Best of the South selection by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was a 2012 Townsend Prize finalist. Her newest novel, MRS. POE, examines the fall of Edgar Allan Poe through the eyes of poet Francis Osgood.

For more information please visit Lynn Cullen’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Praise for Mrs. Poe

“Is it true that Edgar Allen Poe cheated on his tubercular, insipid young wife with a lady poet he’d met at a literary salon? Cullen makes you hope so.” –New York Times

“This fictional reenactment of the mistress of Edgar Allan Poe escorts you into the glittering world of New York in the 1840s…A bewitching, vivid trip into the heyday of American literary society.” –, Book of the Week

“Vivid…Atmospheric…Don’t miss it.” –People

“Nevermore shall you wonder what it might have been like to fall deeply in love with Edgar Allen Poe… Mrs. Poe nails the period.” –NPR

“A page-turning tale…Readers who loved Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife will relish another novel based on historical scandal and romance.” –Library Journal, starred review

“Immensely engaging…Set upon the backdrop of a fascinating era…this is not only a captivating story of forbidden lovers but an elaborately spun tale of NYC society.” –The Historical Novels Review

“A must-read for those intrigued by Poe, poetry and the latter half of nineteenth-century America.” –RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, May 19 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, May 20 Interview & Giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, May 21 Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Thursday, May 22 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Friday, May 23 Review at A Bookish Affair

Monday, May 26 Review at 100 Pages a Day Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, May 27 Review at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 28 Review at Turning the Pages

Friday, May 30 Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, June 2 Review at Let Them Read Books Review & Giveaway at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, June 3 Review at Kelsey’s Book Corner Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, June 4 Review & Giveaway at Reading Lark

Thursday, June 5 Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, June 6 Review at Jorie Loves a Story Interview & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Monday, June 9 Review at Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, June 11 Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry

Thursday, June 12 Interview & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, June 13 Review at Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, June 16 Review at Unabridged Chick Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Tuesday, June 17 Review & Interview at Layered Pages Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, June 18 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Mrs. Poe_Tour Banne_FINAL


Review: The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

The Lost Duchess

My Review:

The Lost Duchess holds several meanings for me. I love my countries history and I’m fascinated with the early settlers who came to the new world. The history holds such a profound interest to me not only because I love knowing about people of the past,  how they lived and built a new world but because this countries founding history is engrained in my own family ancestry.

I have read several books about the early colonies where the story begins with the settlers already here. This story begins in England with a young lady named Emme who is a lady of Queen Elizabeth’s court in the sixteenth century. Emme falls prey to a titled man and desperate to escape him designs a plan to leave England and make the long journey to the new world. Emme endures many hardships along the way and quickly develops an attraction to one of the men sailing with her named Kit Doonan-who has happen to have quite a life to say the least. When they arrive to the new world they find themselves not only striving to learn and endure the everyday life of a world that is unknown to them but a race for survival.

Emme is a woman of courage and strength and a person to admire. I was truly caught up in her story and her plight. I couldn’t read fast enough to see what she would do next and the outcome of her decisions and actions.

This story also explores the lost colony of the Roanoke. One that I have always been intrigued with and I have always had my suspicions of what happen to the colony and I have to admit I was impressed with the author’s rendition of the story. I recommend you read this book to find out what it is….and you will be caught up in the adventure of Emme and Kit as much as I was.

I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of this story and the beautiful descriptions throughout. This story meant so much to me that I still have this book on my night stand. That says a lot right there…..and the book cover, beautiful!

Stephanie Moore Hopkins

Buy the Book

Amazon (AUS) Amazon (UK) Book Depository

About the Author

Jenny Barden

I’ve had a love of history and adventure ever since an encounter in infancy with a suit of armour at Tamworth Castle. Training as an artist, followed by a career as a city Jenny (Portrait 2) solicitor, did little to help displace my early dream of becoming a knight. A fascination with the Age of Discovery led to travels in South and Central America, and much of the inspiration for my debut came from retracing the footsteps of Francis Drake in Panama. The sequel centres on the first Elizabethan ‘lost colony’ of early Virginia. I am currently working on an epic adventure during the threat of invasion by the Spanish Armada.

My work has appeared in short story collections and anthologies and I’ve written for non-fiction publications including the Historical Novels Review. I am active in many organisations, having run the ‘Get Writing’ conferences for several years, and undertaken the co-ordination of the Historical Novel Society’s London Conference 2012. I am a member of that organisation as well as the Historical Writers’ Association, the Romantic Nevelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. I’ll be coordinating the RNA’s annual conference in 2014.

I have four children and now live on a farm in Dorset with my long suffering husband and an ever increasing assortment of animals.

I love travelling, art, reading and scrambling up hills and mountains (though I’m not so keen on coming down!).

Author Links

Website Facebook Twitter Jenny Barden’s Blog English Historical Fiction Authors Blog

Monday, May 26 Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books Book Blast at Reading the Ages Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse Book Blast at Bibliophilia, Please

Tuesday, May 27 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews Book Blast at Flashlight Commentary Book Blast at To Read or Not to Read

Wednesday, May 28 Review at Carole’s Ramblings and Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell Book Blast at The Little Reader Library

Thursday, May 29 Book Blast at The Maiden’s Court Book Blast at Cheryl’s Book Nook Book Blast at Book Reviews & More by Kathy

Friday, May 30 Review at WTF Are You Reading? Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer Book Blast at Curling Up by the Fire

Saturday, May 31 Book Blast at From L.A. to LA Book Blast at Gobs and Gobs of Books

Sunday, June 1 Book Blast at Lily Pond Reads Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, June 2 Review & Giveaway at The Tudor Enthusiast Book Blast at The Bookworm Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, June 3 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Book Blast at West Metro Mommy Book Blast at bookworm2bookworm’s Blog

Wednesday, June 4 Review at The Wormhole Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Book Blast at Kelsey’s Book Corner

Thursday, June 5 Book Blast at Books and Benches Book Blast at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, June 6 Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog Book Blast at Kincavel Korner Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes

Saturday, June 7 Book Blast at Royal Reviews Book Blast at History Undressed

Sunday, June 8 Book Blast at Book Nerd

Monday, June 9 Review at A Chick Who Reads Book Blast at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Tuesday, June 10 Review at She Reads Novels Book Blast at Just One More Chapter Book Blast at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Wednesday, June 11 Review at Historical Fiction Obsession Book Blast at Books in the Burbs

Thursday, June 12 Book Blast at Big Book, Little Book Book Blast at Historical Fiction Notebook

Friday, June 13 Review at Susan Heim on Writing Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Saturday, June 14 Book Blast at Hardcover Feedback Book Blast at One Book at a Time

Sunday, June 15 Book Blast at Passages to the Past

Monday, June 16 Review at Layered Pages Review at Starting Fresh Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, June 17 Review at The Lit Bitch Book Blast at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Wednesday, June 18 Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Thursday, June 19 Review at A Bookish Affair Book Blast at Girl Lost in a Book

Friday, June 20 Review at Broken Teepee Review at Jorie Loves a Story Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

The Lost Duchess_Tour Banner_FINAL

Interview with Author Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

the pian player's son v.8 flat

Stephanie: Welcome to Layered Pages, Lindsay and thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell me about your story, ‘The Piano Player’s Son and the period it takes place in.

Lindsay: Thank you for the opportunity to be on Layered Pages, Stephanie.

‘The Piano Player’s Son’ is contemporary and tells the story of a family with four grown up children. At the beginning of the novel, the father, Henry, dies, and the mother tells one of her daughters, Isabel, a secret that has been kept for thirty-five years. She also makes her promise not to tell anyone. The novel largely revolves around the fallout from the secret, and the repercussions as it gradually emerges.

I am interested in secrets and their impact. It often appears that it is the secret itself rather than the truth behind it that does the damage, especially when the person has died and can’t be asked questions. As Isabel says ‘Finding out undermines all the certainties.’

The story also concerns inheritance and the difficulties it can cause within a family. I’m not so interested in the inheritance of money but less obviously valuable things. People have told me about cases such as two sisters not speaking to each other again because one got the father’s watch and the other didn’t. It seems to be about something much deeper than the disputed item – more to do with an individual’s place in the family, their worth, how much they were valued. The item in the novel – as the title suggests – is a piano!

Stephanie: What a fascinating premise and one many of us, if not all, have experience in family life or in relationships in general. Bonds in families can be either weak or strong. Could you please tell me a little bit about Isabel’s bond with her sister and two brothers?

Lindsay: My writing usually explores some aspect of human relationships, particularly in moments of crisis. I find the family a rich source of material as it tends to be an intense world with the dynamics constantly shifting. The family can provide strong, life-affirming relationships, but can also cause bitterness and pain more enduring than other hurts in life. Siblings seem to hold a unique power to wound each other.

Isabel’s relationship with her brothers is not ideal. Rick has always treated her very much as the younger sister, a situation made worse by their father’s death. When she tries to talk to him that night, he stonewalls her and ‘for a second Isabel was a little girl hovering at her big brother’s door: Do you want to play? Shove off! I’m busy.’

Isabel has always found George, her younger brother, edgy and unpredictable. She is wary of him, although longs to be closer following their father’s death. George, however, remains elusive. She also can’t help feeling jealous because, George, a brilliant pianist, was their father’s favourite as a result, while she plays the piano too, but doesn’t feel her talent is recognised.

Isabel has always been close to younger sister, Grace. But the death opens up a divide between them. Grace takes out her anger and hurt that she wasn’t there when her father died on Isabel. Isabel, already keyed up, wants to retaliate, until she remembers ‘This was Grace she was about to heap abuse on. Grace, the baby sister she’d adored from the moment she’d first seen the black curls, the dark eyes peeping out of the crocheted shawl. She’d helped change her nappy, pushed her pram, rattled her toys, and lifted her out of the cot each morning.’ Their relationship is not permanently damaged by the events following their father’s death, but it certainly takes a battering.

Stephanie: Does Isabel’s promise to her mother to stay silent about the kept secret that was revealed to her affect her relationship with her mother and how so?

Lindsay: Isabel’s relationship with her mother, Eva, is profoundly affected by the secret and being forced to keep it quiet. Eva extracts the promise from her under duress, saying it was her father who wanted the secret kept. The situation is made worse because after the initial revelation, Eva refuses to discuss it again. Here is one exchange between the two:

‘You might feel comfortable with a secret like that, Mum, but I feel as if I’ve got liar branded on my forehead.’

‘Forget about it, Isabel. There’s a good girl.’

‘I can’t. You shouldn’t have told me if you didn’t want me to know.’

‘You made me tell you.’

‘I did no such thing!’

Eva picked up the cup and drank the coffee in one go. ‘I thought I could trust you,’ she said, her voice cold. ‘My darling Henry was gone. I didn’t know what I was saying.’

The fact that her mother has only revealed part of the secret makes the situation worse, and Isabel’s relationship with her will never be the same again.

Stephanie: Please tell me about the flaws of Isabel and how it has affected her life.

Lindsay: Isabel is quite a needy person, with an idealised view of her parents’ marriage, an idyllic union she seeks from her own marriage. This leads her to marry Brian, someone who is totally unsuitable for her, and convince herself she can make it work. When Brian has an affair and leaves her (before the start of the novel), she is inconsolable and vows to get him back. As well as being needy, she also likes to be needed. Although she sometimes feels put-upon because her siblings live elsewhere, and she is the one who ‘looks after’ their parents, secretly, she is pleased to have the responsibility.

Stephanie: Writing about family life, secrets and the human condition can be quite a challenge and finding that person’s individual uniqueness is a wonderful journey, I find. Were you any challenges you faced in this aspect of the writing?

Lindsay: Creating the characters for all the key players – the parents and the four children – was a challenge in itself. I also wanted Henry, the father, to be a major force in the novel, even though he is dead. I tried to do that through memories, other’s people’s perceptions of him (including a very old friend from when he was a boy who emerges from the past), his actions, which others recall, his music and a letter. I chose to make three of the four children point of view characters, so had to manipulate that. Rick came to me almost fully-formed. I had to work a bit harder with Isabel, and Grace needed a lot of development, following the first draft. Her character was shadowy, and initially her story wasn’t powerful enough or integrated into the main plot sufficiently. I think with subsequent drafts, I resolved that.

Stephanie: What was the inspiration for your story?

Lindsay: I’d heard rumours in my own family about secrets and disputed claims to inherit someone’s war medals. This gave me the twinned ideas of secrets and inheritance, which I then had to develop into my story. While many novels begin with a thread of an idea from real life, I think the best fiction often emerges when that thread is forged into something completely different from the original stimulus.

Stephanie: What was your writing process like for this story?

Lindsay: I wrote the first draft fairly quickly. I’d been thinking about it for some time and had developed the characters I wanted to include, so that initial draft didn’t cause too many problems (other the one I’ve mentioned with Grace). My first novel ‘Unravelling’ had a structure which moved backwards and forwards in time, so I decided to have a straightforward chronological line in this one.

The three point of view characters also presented themselves early on in the process.

I submitted the manuscript to an agent who was very positive, but made several suggestions, which I worked on. After subsequent drafts, I sent it to a literary consultancy for a critique. Again, I received some interesting feedback. Both the agent and critique thought I needed a stronger ending, so I worked on that. When I had developed and honed it to within an inch of its life(!), I entered the first three chapters for the Cinnamon Press novel writing award. It was on a shortlist of five – great excitement – and then the whole novel had to be submitted. After still more polishing, I sent it off – and it WON. The prize was publication.

Stephanie: Who are your influences?

Lindsay: That’s a difficult question! In some ways, anybody I’ve ever read, and I’ve been reading since I was a small child. There are a number of current writers whose work I enjoy, and inevitably, I’m influenced by them. I’d include: Rose Tremain, Helen Dunmore, Maggie O’Farrell, William Trevor, and Sebastian Barry. I like reading thrillers, as the tightness of the plotting, the need for the reader to keep reading is something I like to include in my writing, even though I don’t write thrillers. I also enjoy reading poetry. I suppose I’d like to have something of the thriller writer in my plotting, and something of the poet in my use of language.

Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give your readers?

Lindsay: Secrets are dangerous: they can fester and worm their way to the surface years later. Think carefully before keeping one. Also, families can implode if relationships aren’t nurtured.

The book can be bought from Cinnamon Press


Or ordered through all good bookshops

Thank you, again, Stephanie for the opportunity to explore some aspects of ‘The Piano Player’s Son’. I’ve certainly enjoyed revisiting the novel.

Author’s Website

SilverWood Books

Lindsay is not on Twitter, but SilverWood Books will be tweeting throughout the tour from @SivlerWoodBooks

About Author:


After a career teaching English in further and higher education, Lindsay, now works as a writer and creative writing tutor. Her second novel The Piano Player’s Son was published in 2013 by Cinnamon Press after winning their novel writing award. Her first novel, Unravelling in 2010, has won several prizes including winner of the Chapter One Promotions Book Award and second prize in the International Rubery Book Award. Lindsay is working on her next novel, Phoenix. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Lindsay also writes short stories and flash fiction which have been published and successful in competitions, including Cinnamon Press, Fish Publishing, and the Asham Award.





Guest Post with Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

the pian player's son v.8 flat

Research for ‘The Piano Player’s Son

‘The Piano Player’s Son’ is a contemporary novel, set mainly in England, and as such you wouldn’t think it needed much research. In some ways, that’s true, certainly in comparison with an historical novel, or a thriller – where you might need knowledge of police procedures – or a novel set in the Amazonian rainforest or the Arctic. But there are certain aspects of the novel where I definitely needed more knowledge of the subject than I already had.

The most significant is probably music. I enjoy listening to music, both classical and popular, but my knowledge and understanding is limited. I also don’t play a musical instrument. I played the recorder years ago at school and scratched away at a violin for a couple of years until my parents took pity on me and let me give up the lessons, but that’s all. I’ve always longed to play the piano (haven’t given up all hope!) and some years ago I had lessons, but the teacher moved away and that was it.

So, I knew that choosing a piano as my object of disputed inheritance was going to create problems for me. On the other hand, the piano was perfect. I didn’t want the argument to be about money or property, or anything that had great significance in financial terms. It had to be something that mattered to all the family, and as their dead father’s great love, the piano is of huge importance.

The piano is also the source of some of the rivalry that has always existed between the two brothers, Rick and George. George is a brilliant pianist, and as such seems to have gained greater closeness to his father. Rick, on the other hand, blames his failure to play as the reason for his father’s apparent lack of affection for him. The dispute about the piano provokes tension all the way through the novel, until the final explosive resolution.

I was helped in my research by my husband, who is a pianist. I plied him with questions about the problems of learning the piano, technique, musical scores, types of piano, the music itself and many more.

I listened to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, a piece of significance in the novel, over and over again to get a feeling of its mood and power. I included other pieces that I enjoy, such as Debussy’s Nocturne. I wanted music to pervade the novel, as this is a musical family, and I needed to have the music running alongside the emotional drama. There’s also some fun music, such as Dolly Parton’s ‘Islands in the Stream’, but I couldn’t include the lyrics I wanted to, as musical copyright laws are stringent.

My other main research involved the novel’s settings. I chose places I know and love, and apart from Ischia, an island in the Bay of Naples (which I’ve been to three times), I revisited all the main places, particularly to identify characters’ homes. I found the perfect house for Rick in Rothbury, Northumberland, although obviously had to create the inside myself! It was gratifying when a book group told me the house seemed so real, they felt as if they had visited it.

I associated Rothbury so strongly with Rick and his family that when a real-life tragedy took place there and I wondered if I ought to change where he lived, I found I couldn’t. I’d planted him in Rothbury, and he definitely didn’t want to leave!

Rick is a keen runner, and I spent ages pouring over maps, plotting the route for his daily run. But I did wonder whether I’d failed in my research when I received this email from a friend: :

I’ve got halfway through The Piano Player’s Son – am enjoying it – but in my irritating way I had to check up on Rick’s jogging route.

He starts from a house on high ground overlooking the river and runs downhill into town. B6341

Runs through village and then out alongside the river and out by Cragside. B6344

Crosses the bridge at 4 miles along route.

Gets to disused railway at 5 miles.

Gets home – 8 miles.

One stride per second concerns me. I don’t know who advised you on this. A second is roughly the time it takes to say one thousand or one elephant etc Quite a long time.

A reasonable jogger will do ten minute miles over an eight mile distance. This equals 176 yards per minute, which equals 3 yards per second.

If he is doing one stride per second, his stride is about 9 feet or 106 inches

A slow jogger will do 12 minute miles which would give a stride length of 88 inches.

A study of Olympic sprinters (the longest striders of all) showed that a 6 foot tall top class sprinter would have a stride length of about 98 inches

If he takes 2 strides per second at a reasonable 45 inch stride, he would be doing just under 12 minute miles which would be tidy for a newcomer over such a distance/terrain/hills etc.

Yes, he is still a friend, but clearly I should have done more research!



About Author:

After a career teaching English in further and higher education, Lindsay, now works as a writer and creative writing tutor. Her second novel The Piano Player’s Son was published in 2013 by Cinnamon Press after winning their novel writing award. Her first novel, Unravelling in 2010, has won several prizes including winner of the Chapter One Promotions Book Award and second prize in the International Rubery Book Award. Lindsay is working on her next novel, Phoenix. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Lindsay also writes short stories and flash fiction which have been published and successful in competitions, including Cinnamon Press, Fish Publishing, and the Asham Award.