Review: Voyage of Strangers by Elizabeth Zelvin

Voyage of Strangers

Pub Date   Sep 30 2014

The year is 1493, and young Jewish sailor Diego Mendoza has returned from Columbus’s triumphant first voyage with tales of lush landscapes, rivers running with gold, and welcoming locals. But back home in Spain, Diego finds the Inquisition at its terrifying peak, and he must protect his spirited sister, Rachel, from betrayal and death. Disguising herself as a boy, Rachel sneaks onto Columbus’s second expedition, bound for the new lands they call the Indies. As the Spaniards build their first settlements and search for gold, Diego and Rachel fall in love with the place, people, and customs. Still forced to hide their religious faith and Rachel’s true identity, the brother and sister witness the Spaniards’ devastation of the island in their haste to harvest riches.

This unflinching look at Columbus’s exploration and its terrible cost to the native Taino people introduces two valiant young people who struggle against the inevitable destruction of paradise.

Review:

When I saw this up for review on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance to review this! I couldn’t believe my luck when I was approved! First off, I have wanted to read a story with Columbus and about his voyages for a very long time…while this story does not entirely center on that…it still was an amazing read! Diego and Rachel made such an impression on me. Their story is extraordinary and Diego’s duty to protect Rachel and his brotherly love to her is admirable and courageous! The adventure they embark on is so entertaining and exciting. And the danger they face will have you clinching your teeth and holding your breath, waiting to find out what the outcome will be. I know….this all sounds rather dramatic, but it is true.

I was also really drawn into the setting and period of the story…..one feels like they are actually there on the ship and in the first settlements, living the lives they are living. How wonderful is that? I wanted this story to continue and I would love to read more about Diego and Rachel’s adventures….

I was very impressed with how the author portrayed Columbus as well….you see a side to him that you might not read about in the history books. And we all love a good sea adventure!! You will get that in this book! I thoroughly enjoyed discovering and learning about the Taino people as well and found them really fascinating and would like to learn more about them and their culture. I will definitely be on the lookout for more books from this author and I highly recommend you read this story.

Stephanie Moore Hopkins

Review: The Poet’s Wife by Rebecca Stonehill

The Poets Wife

Pub Date: September 26, 2014

An unforgettable journey into the heart of one family torn apart by war. Granada, 1920. Free-spirited Luisa and young poet Eduardo fall in love, cementing a bond that can never be broken. Behind the jasmine filled courtyard, perched amongst houses like clouds on a hilltop, stands a beautiful villa; Carmen de las Estrellas. Beneath its walls live Eduardo and Luisa with their thriving family, but war is looming, casting its shadow over the household. When Civil War finally breaks out, Luisa and Eduardo must fiercely protect those dear to them. Yet these are turbulent times, and as each of their children begin to make their way in the world, the solace of home cannot shield them from the horrors of war.

Review: I would first like to say that this is an extraordinary story. I haven’t really read any fiction that depicts the civil war in Spain during this early 1900’s and it was deeply emotional to read about. I have to admit I had a different mind- set going into this story due to the title because I feel like the story doesn’t really center around Luisa but around her whole family and what they experienced first-hand during this turbulent time.

There are a few things I feel I should point out and normally I tend to stay away from little things that bother me about stories due to the fact I really did enjoy reading this story. I would have liked to have seen stronger character development of Luisa and I felt her relationship with her husband Eduardo wasn’t quite convincing me of their love for each other….for several reasons but I won’t comment. You just need to read the story to form your own opinion. Also, this story expands over a large period of years but towards the end of the story it jumps quite a bit to the story of Isabel’s daughter. Which I did enjoy reading about but I felt it was rushed.

The characters that really stood out to me the most was Isabel, Mar and Pablo. I loved all three immensely and I would have like to have seen a little more back story on Pablo. I felt the author did a fabulous job with the setting, and the historical detail and I like the author’s style of writing. I felt I was really in that period…one of the important things I like to experience when reading in this genre. All in all this is a story worth reading and I do recommend it to all.

Stephanie Moore Hopkins

One Writer’s Life by Sarah Kennedy

Ten years ago, I called myself a poet. A writer of poetry, a critic of poetry, a teacher of poetry both old and contemporary. I loved novels, and I read them voraciously, but when I sat down to create, what came out were poems. Was I a calm, meditative person, my gaze fixed on eternity as I composed my deathless verse? No way! I was fitful, nervous, writing here and there in fifteen- or twenty-minute intervals of breathless intense concentration, sometimes between classes at my college, when a student had used that absolutely perfect word that my imagination had been seeking.

My poems ranged in subject from the painfully personal to the distantly narrative, and as I grew older, those autobiographical tendencies waned. My scholarly training was largely in the Renaissance, and I found myself teaching the eighteenth century, as well. As a researcher, I was often in the UK, seeking out materials that would help me understand the lives of women—always a central concern of mine—who had lived in the past. As a doctoral student, I was pushed, most of the time, to study the great male writers, but as a professor I wanted to fill in the gaps, to include women in my discussions. I was particularly interested in women’s spiritual and domestic lives, and this curiosity led me to read the medieval mystics Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. Jane Grey, Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”), Anne Askew—all of these women suffered for their beliefs, and I wanted to know how ordinary women might have coped with the great changes in England as it shifted from being a Roman Catholic to a Protestant country.

And something happened along the way: I became a novelist. It began one summer in Wales, when I was digging into the National Library, reading old recipe manuscripts and account books, kept by women in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These books were full of personal information about debts, expenses, love matches gone awry, popular songs and sermons. This was an academic project, but reading these women’s words altered my imagination. I began to hear them talking in my head . . . and in my poems. My work got longer, almost (but not quite) reaching the right-hand margin. A friend told me, after reading these poems, “You ought to write a novel.” At the time, I said no, but the seed was planted. And one day, standing in a bookstore with an armload of historical novels, I turned to my husband and said, “I’m going to write one of these.”

Sarah Kennedy's Book Cover

And I did . . . and the stories keep coming. I began with The Altarpiece, a novel about a young nun who’s being forced out of her convent by Henry VIII’s men. She’s devout, but she’s also aware of the corruptions in the church. She struggles to find a new way to keep her old faith and to adapt herself to the changing world without losing her essential self. Her story continues in City of Ladies, to be released in October 2014 and moves right into the dangerous world of Henry’s court in the third volume, The King’s Sisters, coming out in August 2015.

And, surprisingly, my writing self has changed along with my genre. I now write every evening—or afternoon if the evening promises to be busy—in a long block of quiet, solitary time. I write until I’m exhausted. And I generally write with a newfound tranquility that comes of a long-term goal. Novelists don’t get the intermittent rewards that poets get as they place individual pieces in journals; we have to have an eye on the page in front of us and on the book that will emerge at the end. And most of the time, it’s just the writer and the page, alone, working toward the finish line.

 Sarah Kennedy

Is being a novelist a lonely calling? In some ways, I suppose it is. Most of the writers I know tend to be rather solitary individuals, and I’m no exception. I’m most content pulling weeds in my garden, feeding and watching the birds that visit the yard, and sitting with a book. I wouldn’t, however, call myself lonesome. I’m never bored, and I’m never at a loss for something to do. Characters of all kinds are always with me, demanding attention, a chance to show what they’re thinking and a stage on which to act out their lives. Sometimes, they won’t even let me alone to sleep!

I do love to travel, but even on trips abroad I like to explore places, usually historical sites, by myself, going wherever my mood or fancy strike me and investigating who lived there and what happened to them. I like to imagine even ruins filled with men and women, talking, laughing, weeping—living out their dramas. And then I return to the blank page and fill it, giving them flesh and personalities and conflicts to overcome, if they can.

And guess what? They become my friends, even the baddies, as authentic to me as many physical people I know. And with friends from everywhere—Tudor England to contemporary Virginia—I’m never, really, by myself at all.

Sarah Kennedy

Interview with Author Lucinda Elliot

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When the group of highwaymen headed by the disgraced Earl of Little Dean, Reynaud Ravensdale hold up the hoydenish Isabella Murray’s coach, she knocks one of them down and lectures them all on following Robin Hood’s example.

The rascally Reynaud Ravensdale – otherwise known as the dashing highwayman Mr Fox – is fascinated by her spirit.

He escaped abroad three years back following his supposedly shooting a friend dead after a quarrel. Rumour has it that his far more respectable cousin was involved. Now, having come back during his father’s last illness, the young Earl is seeking to clear his name.

Isabella’s ambitious parents are eager to marry her off to Reynaud Ravensdale’s cousin, the next in line to his title. The totally unromantic Isabella is even ready to elope with her outlaw admirer to escape this fate – on condition that he teaches her how to be a highwaywoman herself.

This hilarious spoof uses vivid characters and lively comedy to bring new life to a theme traditionally favoured by historical novelists – that of the wild young Earl, who, falsely accused of murder by the machinations of a conniving cousin and prejudged by his reputation, lives as an outlaw whilst seeking to clear his name.

‘Ravensdale’ is a fast paced, funny and romantic read from the writer of ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’, following the adventures of his equally roguish cousin and set in 1792, just prior to the French Revolution, two years before ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’.

Stephanie: Hello, Lucinda! Thank you for chatting with me today. It is not often I read romance or Historical romance and one with humor into it to boot. Please tell me what sets yours apart from others in this genre?

Lucinda: It’s a pleasure to talk to you. And as for being given an opportunity to go on and on about my writing, what writer could resist that? In answer to your question, I suppose all writers think of their writing as being a thing apart from all the rest -it’s our tragedy that most readers have a different take on the matter. My particular way of flattering myself that mine stands out is to believe that the ironical approach in all my novels is original. I like to share fun with the reader with pointing out the clichéd aspects of some situation while inviting the reader to join with me in enjoying it anyway. ‘Ravensdale’ is an outright satire, but for all that, one which I hope draws the reader into the fun of the adventure and into sympathizing with the characters, who while based on the stereotypes of the clichés of traditional historical romance, are meant to develop into fully rounded characters as the story progresses.

Stephanie: Please tell me a little about, Isabella.

Lucinda: Isabella breaks all the rules – she doesn’t want to play the role of the traditional passive female, and she’s very gung-ho and quite unladylike. She wants to learn to shoot accurately, to fight effectively and she loves a wild gallop in her brother’s breeches, straddling her horse and taking high hedges. She’s a tall, strapping woman with a long mane of black hair and flashing black eyes, and has everyone’s idea of a ‘gypsyish’ attraction. She despises the injustices she can see in her world and would like to try and right a few by emulating Robin Hood and stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Stephanie: What is an example of a humor part in your book?

Lucinda: Well, this is fairly typical: –

‘Kate’s younger sister Suki came from the back. Seeing her, Flashy Jack, his bright fair hair disguised under powder, took his porter to the bar. Kate came for the dirty plates. “Soup not to your liking?” she asked Ravensdale, who had gone to stand gazing out of the window, arms folded across his chest.

“It was well enough.”

“Have you got guts ache? You keep on leaving your food.”

The landlord, Tom Watts, so strapping and healthy that he didn’t remember when he had last left his own, turned, shocked. “You don’t want to get anything like that; I’ve known cases, strong one month, and invalids at the fireside the next.”

Mr Fox scowled and said nothing.

“Have you got bellyache?” Kate determined to speak plain though the fellow was a real toff, even, some said, none other than the Disgraced Lord Little Dean.

He kept silent, glowering into his porter.

Flashy Jack warmed to his theme: “He’s holding on round the chest. It could be lung trouble. That can be caught early. I knew a man, fading away with it, till his wife had him gargle rum every day. That set him to rights.”

“He ain’t got a cough.” Kate pointed out.

The object of their concern shifted under their gaze, which seemed to penetrate to his innards.

“I hear you don’t until that phlegm sets in. Then, before you know it, you’re spitting blood.”

“Mercy.” Suki joined in. She knew that they would all end on the gallows, but this was immediate.

The Chief Brigand, clearly only silent through reluctance to be ungallant to the women, turned on Jack: “Hold your noise, damn you! My insides are my own affair.”

Kate, undeterred, held up one finger: “I know the very thing, whatever it is. That cure I got from that pedlar works on anything. I’ve even tried it on baby there.” She smiled on her infant, sleeping in his cradle at the side of the bar.

“Well, you shouldn’t give it him, Kate. Those poisoners have surely caused more deaths than any honest rogue.” Mr Fox made for the door and stood outside, still slightly hunched and gazing across the yard to where the hens scrabbled about in the dust.

“There’s no pleasing some folk.” Kate went back to collecting the dishes.

“There ain’t any pleasing him these last couple of weeks.” Jack turned his attention back to Suki.’

Stephanie: What was the inspiration for your story? And do you have any other stories in this genre?

Lucinda: What was the inspiration? Traditional historical romances, I suppose; I always felt they accepted sex roles and social injustice too readily. I read a good few of them many years ago, when as a teenager I was snowed in at home in the Clwyd Valley for some time; I got through a lot of stuff on the bookshelves, which included job lots of books my mother had got as part of a ‘lot’ at various auctions. So, I read numerous novels by Georgette Heyer, Barbara Cartland and so on. I always thought sending up the cliches of the genre, if not done maliciously, would be fun. You know, the Disgraced Wild Young Earl Turned Outlaw, the Spirited Heroine, the Conniving Cousin who Stands to Gain from the Heir’s Disgrace, etc. ‘Ravensdale’ is actually a prequel to my first novel, ‘That Scoundrel Emile Dubois’ which was a take on traditional gothic – vampires, brigands and the heroine isolated in a deserted mansion, surrounded by a wicked household.

Stephanie: Were there any challenges in writing, Ravensdale?

Lucinda: Oh, yes. I had a dismal period of writer’s block for a couple of weeks where I just couldn’t get through some problems with bringing the characters together for the grand finale of the story. But I always find that period of writer’s block happens; you just have to wait, groaning, for the obstruction to clear. There was the historical research on the savage penal code of the time and the activities of highwaymen and so on, but a tedious amount of research is part of the ground work of writing about a past age.

Stephanie: What was the process and how long did it take to write your story?

Lucinda: It took me six months and then I sent it off to my writing partner, who suggested some revisions. Believe it or not, I start writing first thing in the morning, in a notebook in longhand, aiming for an average of four hundred words but hoping for five hundred. Later in the day, I type that bit up, editing as I go along. Every day I’m tempted to put it off, but that’s typical of writers, I think.

Stephanie: What do you like most about writing? And when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Lucinda: I love the excitement of creating an imaginary world and the possibility of sharing it with people. Probably at fourteen I knew I would write sometime, but I took a long time to get down to it seriously – or as seriously as I can be about anything.

Stephanie: What do you like most about Historical Romance?

Lucinda: Quite honestly, I’m not a great reader of historical romance generally these days, but I do like the world free of cars more than anything!

Stephanie: In your bio, it says you were brought up in old houses. Do you feel that this has helped your creativity in your writing?

Lucinda: Without a doubt; I know the layout of big old houses. Also, they would all have made fine settings for a gothic novel.

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

Lucinda: In the spare room, which serves as a sort of study. Usually I put in a minimum of three hours a day.

Stephanie: Who are your influences?

Lucinda: Innumerable – Jane Austin, Elizabeth Gaskell, Pushkin, Shakespeare, Patrick Hamilton, Thackeray, even that writer of appalling nineteenth century romances, Charles Garvice (yes, he was on the bookshelves during that long period of being snowed in).

Stephanie: What book(s) are on your night stand?

Lucinda: They vary. At the moment, believe it or not, ‘King Lear’ and ‘The Virago Book of Ghost Stories.

Stephanie: Thank you, Lucinda!

Lucinda: It is for me to thank you, as the French say.

Buy the Book

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About the Author

Lucinda Elliot loves writing Gothic style stories, which isn’t surprising because she was brought up in a series of big old isolated houses which her parents were refurbishing (it wasn’t so fashionable back then). After that, she lived, studied and worked in London for many years and now lives in Mid Wales with her family.

She loves writing about strong women to complement gung ho males.

Her interests do include weight training and body shaping,and she was once a champion Sports fighter, but apart from that her interests are quite geeky. Reading classic novels, conservation, gardening, and even names and their meanings (bring on the carrot juice). She loves a laugh above anything.

For more information please visit Lucinda’s website. You can also connect with her on Goodreads.

Ravensdale Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 22 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, September 23 Interview at Layered Pages

Wednesday, September 24 Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Thursday, September 25 Review at “Good Friends, Good Books and a Sleepy Conscience: This is the Ideal Life.” Spotlight at Historical Tapestry

Saturday, September 27 Spotlight at Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers

Sunday, September 28 Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, September 29 Interview at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, September 30 Review at WTF Are You Reading? Review at Devilishly Delicious Book Blog

Thursday, October 2 Review at Book Nerd Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Friday, October 3 Spotlight at SOS Aloha

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Spotlight: The Crystal Cage by Merryn Allingham

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Publication Date: August 4, 2014 eHarlequin eBook; ASIN: B00JTPU72S

Genre: Historical Romance

Captivated…or captured?

Appearances don’t always reveal the truth. Grace Latimer knows this better than most. Illusions of commitment and comfort have her trapped—until bohemian adventurer Nick Heysham charms his way into her world. Commissioned to recover a Great Exhibition architect’s missing designs, he persuades her to assist in his research. The mystery of the Crystal Palace seduces Grace, and once she discovers clues about a forbidden Victorian love affair, she’s lured into the deep secrets of the past…secrets that resemble her own.

As Grace and Nick dig into the elusive architect’s illicit, long-untold story, the ghosts of guilt and forbidden passion slip free. And history is bound to repeat itself, unless Grace finds the courage to break free and find a new definition of love…

Buy the eBook

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About the Author

03_Merryn Allingham

My father was a soldier and most of my childhood was spent moving from place to place, school to school, including several years living in Egypt and Germany. I loved some of the schools I attended, but hated others, so it wasn’t too surprising that I left half way through the sixth form with ‘A’ Levels unfinished.

I became a secretary, as many girls did at the time, only to realise that the role of handmaiden wasn’t for me. Escape beckoned when I landed a job with an airline. I was determined to see as much of the world as possible, and working as cabin crew I met a good many interesting people and enjoyed some great experiences – riding in the foothills of the Andes, walking by the shores of Lake Victoria, flying pilgrims from Kandahar to Mecca to mention just a few.

I still love to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage and children meant a more settled existence on the south coast of England, where I’ve lived ever since. It also gave me the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually gain a PhD from the University of Sussex. For many years I taught university literature and loved every minute of it. What could be better than spending my life reading and talking about books? Well, perhaps writing them.

I’ve always had a desire to write but there never seemed time to do more than dabble with the occasional short story. And my day job ensured that I never lost the critical voice in my head telling me that I really shouldn’t bother. But gradually the voice started growing fainter and at the same time the idea that I might actually write a whole book began to take hold. My cats – two stunning cream and lilac shorthairs – gave their approval, since it meant my spending a good deal more time at home with them!

The 19th century is my special period of literature and I grew up reading Georgette Heyer, so when I finally found the courage to try writing for myself, the books had to be Regency romances. Over the last four years, writing as Isabelle Goddard, I’ve published six novels set in the Regency period.

Since then, I’ve moved on a few years to Victorian England, and I’ve changed genre too. The Crystal Cage is my first novel under the name of Merryn Allingham. The book is a mystery/romantic suspense and tells the story of a long-lost tragedy, and the way echoes from the past can powerfully influence the life of a modern day heroine. The next few Allingham books will see yet another move timewise. I’ve been writing a suspense trilogy set in India and wartime London during the 1930s and 1940s, and hope soon to have news of publication.

Whatever period, whatever genre, creating new worlds and sharing them with readers gives me huge pleasure and I can’t think of a better job.

Connect with Merryn Allingham on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Crystal Cage Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 15 Review at To Read or Not to Read Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary Spotlight & Excerpt at Romantic Historical Reviews

Tuesday, September 16 Review at A Bookish Affair Excerpt at Casual Readers

Wednesday, September 17 Excerpt at CelticLady’s Reviews Interview at What Is That Book About

Thursday, September 18 Review at Turning the Pages

Friday, September 19 Review at Queen of All Reads Excerpt at Just One More Chapter

Monday, September 22 Review at Bibliotica Spotlight at Layered Pages

Tuesday, September 23 Interview at SOS Aloha Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, September 24 Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Thursday, September 25 Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book Excerpt at Princess of Eboli

Friday, September 26 Review at Unshelish Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, October 15 Review at The Worm Hole

Giveaway

To win an eBook of The Crystal Cage please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Two copies are up for grabs. Giveaway is open internationally.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on October 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on October 16th and notified via email. Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter Book Giveaway Here

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Review: The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar by Kim Rendfeld

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772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of the Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to defend her and her family instead sell them into slavery.

In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family. Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion – but he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.

Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.

My review:

I was super excited about participating in this book tour. I do not believe I have read a fiction book that is set around the time of Charlemagne’s battles or the culture of the time…while this story does not really center on him, this story is centered on a family-a mother and her three children who lost their father- living during that time (who are fictional) and what they were going through. They were free people who were cruelly sold into slavery. Not that there isn’t anything nice about slavery…the fact that it was their own family that sold them into slavery makes it even more appalling…the obstacles and the horrid situations they went through and overcame, is truly remarkable and makes for a brilliant story.

I am thoroughly impressed with the author’s characterization and her strong historical detail. She really gives the reader a believable glimpse of what many of the people’s lives might have been like during this period. A truly extraordinary story that everyone must read.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Kim Rendfeld is the author of The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press) and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (August 28, 2014, Fireship Press). To read the first chapters of either novel or learn more about Kim, visit kimrendfeld.com. You’re also welcome to visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, connect with her on Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/Kim_Rendfeld, check out her Amazon page at www.amazon.com/author/kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

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Review: Edwin: High King of Britian by Edoardo Albert

02_Edwin High King of Britain

Publication Date: April 1, 2014 Lion Fiction Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction Series: The Northumbrian Thrones (Book 1)

Debut historical fiction series vividly recreating the rise of the Christian kings of Northumbria, England.

In 604 AD, Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin’s usurper. As Edwin walks by the shore, alone and at bay, he is confronted by a mysterious figure–the missionary Paulinus– who prophesies that he will become High King of Britain. It is a turning point.

Through battles and astute political alliances Edwin rises to power, in the process marrying the Kentish princess Aethelburh. As part of the marriage contract the princess is allowed to retain her Christian faith. But, in these times, to be a king is not a recipe for a long life.

This turbulent and tormented period in British history sees the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who have forced their way on to British shores over previous centuries, arriving first to pillage, then to farm and trade–and to come to terms with the faith of the Celtic tribes they have driven out.

The dramatic story of Northumbria’s Christian kings helped give birth to England as a nation, English as a language, and the adoption of Christianity as the faith of the English.

My Review:

I am absolutely thrilled with this story! Outstanding read beyond any expectations I had for historical fiction. And that says a lot right there for just how good this book is. For a long time I have wanted to read about the rise of Christianity in certain parts of Britain and how it was brought about to the pagan people of its time. And in this story it is really interesting how paganism and Christianity mixed among the people, how the people who are pagan convert and their thought process in doing so. I’ve also wanted to know more about the kings of the period and how they lived, fought and how the people lived among them. What were their struggles, and their daily lives like. This fast paced story has it all and much more.

I was completely immersed from the very beginning to the very end and not wanting to close the book. I wanted to read more about these fascinating people and their lives. I wanted to stay in the period in which this story is set. This story is rich in historical detail of its culture and time. Historical fiction at its best and as I understand it, there will be another book following this one….I will be greedily awaiting. A must read!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Praise for Edwin: High King of Britain

“In the first installment of the Northumbrian Thrones, a new historical fiction series, Albert launches readers into the tumultuous world of 7th century Northumbria. Edwin, the deposed king of the region, forges political alliances, is betrayed, and fights critical battles that form the arc of his rise and fall as High King of Britain. As he ages, he fears for the future of his kingdom, and war has simply become a necessary evil. His shifting worldview leads to conversion to the Christian faith—a slow process given special attention by Albert. But it is not a clear path, and sometimes Edwin and his subordinates doubt the validity and the power of the Christian God, as opposed to the pagan deities they have left behind. Albert’s focus on the religious element does not detract from the political and dramatic aspects of the history he is portraying. Rather, it lends an extra dimension of psychological turmoil, because characters must deal with the problem of not only individual identity but also the beginnings of a national identity related to religion. Albert’s offering is a highly entertaining and refreshing work of historical fiction thanks to his emphasis on the precarious intersection of religion and identity.” –Publishers Weekly

“A splendid novel that leaves the reader wanting more.” –Bernard Cornwell, New York Times bestselling author

“A fast-paced and gripping tale of the great Northumbrian King Edwin, reclaiming one of our great national figures from the shadows of history.” –Justin Hill, author of Shieldwall

Buy the Book

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About the Author

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Edoardo Albert is a writer of Sri Lankan and Italian extraction based in London. The best response to his writing was when he reduced a friend to helpless, hysterical, rolling-on-the-floor-holding-his-stomach laughter. Unfortunately, the writing in question was a lonely hearts ad. He hopes to produce similar results in readers, without inadvertently acquiring another wife.

For more information, please visit Edoardo Albert’s website. You can also connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Edwin: High King of Britain Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 25 Review at Princess of Eboli Review at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

Tuesday, August 26 Review at Just One More Chapter Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Wednesday, August 27 Review at Dab of Darkness

Thursday, August 28 Interview & Giveaway at Dab of Darkness

Monday, September 1 Review at Book Lovers Paradise Review at Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, September 2 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, September 3 Review at The Writing Desk Review at The Mad Reviewer

Friday, September 5 Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 8 Review at A Book Geek Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, September 9 Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, September 10 Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews Interview & Giveaway at Thoughts in Progress

Friday, September 12 Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Monday, September 15 Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Tuesday, September 16 Review at Layered Pages

Thursday, September 18 Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews

Friday, September 19 Review at Book Drunkard

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Review: Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

Madame Picasso

Publication Date: August 26, 2014 Harlequin MIRA Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

READ AN EXCERPT.

The mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.

A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can’t help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso’s life.

With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century.

My Review:

The moment this book was announced to me via email for a book tour, I knew instantly I was meant to read this story. Anne Girard brings her readers a dynamic story of the world renowned artist, Picasso and the great love of his life, Eva.

This has several elements to the story that truly captured my heart and gripped such a strong hold of profound empathy and feeling of being intimately bounded with the characters-especially Picasso and Eva. For a writer to achieve that kind of emotion in a reader-you know you have come across greatness.

This story has forever changed what I thought I knew of this iconic figure, Picasso and his inner circle, his family life and what was behind the creation of his paintings.

A must read!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

Praise for Madame Picasso

“Early twentieth century Paris and Picasso’s lost love come to enchanted, vivid life in Madame Picasso. With a deft eye for detail and deep understanding for her protagonists, Anne Girard captures the earnest young woman who enthralled the famous artist and became his unsung muse.” – C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of THE QUEEN’S VOW

Buy the Book

Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-a-Million iTunes IndieBound

About the Author

anne-girard

Anne Girard was born with writing in her blood. The daughter of a hard-driving Chicago newsman, she has always had the same passion for storytelling that fueled his lifelong career. She hand-wrote her first novel (admittedly, not a very good one) at the age of fourteen, and never stopped imagining characters and their stories. Writing only ever took a backseat to her love of reading.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature from UCLA and a Master’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University, a chance meeting with the acclaimed author, Irving Stone, sharply focused her ambition onto telling great stories from history with detailed research. “Live where your characters lived, see the things they saw,” he said, “only then can you truly bring them to life for your readers.” Anne took that advice to heart. After Stone’s encouragement twenty years ago, she sold her first novel. When she is not traveling the world researching her stories, Anne and her family make their home in Southern California. When she is not traveling or writing, she is reading fiction.

Anne also writes historical fiction under the name Diane Haeger. For more information, visit www.dianehaeger.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Madame Picasso Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 25 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, August 26 Review at Historical Fiction Notebook Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, August 27 Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages Interview & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Notebook

Thursday, August 28 Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace Review & Giveaway at Kinx’s Book Nook

Friday, August 29 Review at Scandalous Women Review at Curling Up by the Fire

Monday, September 1 Review at A Bookish Affair Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, September 2 Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, September 3 Review at Gobs and Gobs of Books Spotlight & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Thursday, September 4 Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Friday, September 5 Review at To Read or Not to Read

Monday, September 8 Review at Book of Secrets Review & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf

Tuesday, September 9 Review at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 10 Review at Books in the Burbs

Thursday, September 11 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Friday, September 12 Review at Caroline Wilson Writes Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter

Monday, September 15 Review at Layered Pages Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Tuesday, September 16 Review at She is Too Fond of Books

Wednesday, September 17 Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, September 18 Review at One Book of a Time

Friday, September 19 Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Monday, September 22 Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, September 23 Review at The Librarian Fatale

Wednesday, September 24 Review at CelticLady’s Reviews Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Thursday, September 25 Review at Kincavel Korner

Friday, September 26 Interview at Kincavel Korner

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Spotlight: The Thief by Stephanie Landsem

02_The Thief

Publication Date: February 25, 2014 Publisher: Howard Books Formats: eBook, Paperback

Series: The Living Water (Book Two) Genre: Historical Fiction

Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure. Desperate to escape the accursed Judean province, he accepts a wager. If he can catch the thieves harassing the marketplace before Passover, he’ll earn a transfer away from the troublemaking Jews.

Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Only with the help of Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, can she keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and a roof over their heads.

When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Longinus longs to learn more about the mysterious healer. Instead, his journey leads him to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.

Unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, they wonder who this teacher is who heals others but does nothing to save himself. Is the mercy he offers in his teachings real, or just another false promise? Can Nissa and Longinus overcome their pasts to find a future free of their shackles?

Praise for The Thief

“Nissa’s tough demeanor as a cover for her fear and and Longinus’ desire to live a life of peace in his mother’s homeland of Gaul are achingly believable. Both characters are truly lost souls brought together by Jesus’ act of mercy. Their discover, through Him, that mercy is the true power that leads to peace is a reassurance Christian readers can appreciate.” —Romantic Times, 4 1/2 stars

“To read The Thief is to be completely transported to another time and place. Landsem’s impeccably researched novel moves at breakneck speed toward a climax that doesn’t disappoint.” —Rebecca Kanner, author of Sinners and the Sea (Rebecca Kanner, author of Sinners and the Sea)

“Powerful and moving, Landsem grabs hold of the soul and never lets go. As compelling a portrait of mercy as I have ever read. Don’t miss this one!” —Siri Mitchell, author of The Messenger (Siri Mitchell, author of The Messenger)

“Filled with memorable characters, The Thief is a tale of hopelessness turned to hope, of high stakes made higher, and ultimate love. What happens when a character at the lowest rung of society crosses paths with the most well-known figure in history? The story of The Thief. I couldn’t stop reading.” —Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Iscariot (Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Iscariot)

“WOW! LOVE IT!!! I started reading on my way home from a conference and was so engrossed in the book I almost missed the flight! The Thief stole my heart and lifted my spirit. Masterfully told, this story of a Roman centurion and a Jewish girl explores familiar New Testament passages but plumbs new spiritual depths. A powerful message of faith and hope intersecting at the foot of the cross.” —Mesu Andrews, author of In a Broken Vessel (Mesu Andrews, author of In a Broken Vessel)

“You know the feeling you get looking at a mountain sunset, listening to sacred music while James Earl Jones reads the Sermon on the Mount? The Thief captures that emotion in an unforgettable story of desperation and beauty.” —Regina Jennings, author of Caught in the Middle and Sixty Acres and a Bride (Regina Jennings, author of Caught in the Middle and Sixty Acres and a Bride)

“A compelling story and vivid characters immediately come off the page and into your heart as Stephanie Landsem brings ancient Jerusalem to life in her enthralling second novel, The Thief. As you run through the streets with the little thief, Mouse, or dip in the Pool of Siloam with the secretive Nissa, a masterful tale full of adventure, heartbreak, and hope unfolds. A must-read for anyone who loves a good book they simply can’t put down.” —Laura Sobiech, author of Fly a Little Higher (Laura Sobiech, author of Fly a Little Higher)

Buy the Book

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

About the Author

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Stephanie writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s backpacked through Germany and Eastern Europe, studied in Salzburg, enjoyed gelato in Italy, rode a camel in Morocco, and floated in the salty Corinthian Sea. Her favorite cities are Rome, Berlin and Budapest. Her travels kindle her imagination, fuel her love of history and foreign culture, and introduce her to one-of-a-kind characters.

Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband of 22 years, four children, three fat cats, and a tortoise named Moe. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, volunteering at church and school, battling dandelions, and dreaming about her next adventure – whether it be in person or on the page.

The Thief is an evocative story of two people trapped in their circumstances and the life-changing power of forgiveness and love.

Author Links

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Google+

Sign Up for Stephanie Landsem’s Newsletter

The Thief Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 1 Review at Closed the Cover

Tuesday, September 2 Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, September 4 Review at Beth’s Book Reviews Spotlight at She is Too Fond of Books

Monday, September 8 Review at Queen of All She Reads Review at Historical Novel Review

Tuesday, September 9 Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, September 10 Interview & Giveaway at The Overweight Bookshelf

Thursday, September 11 Review at What Are You Reading? Spotlight at Layered Pages

Friday, September 12 Spotlight at Princess of Eboli

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My Guest, Author Lucinda Brant

Authorphoto Lucinda Brant

I would like to welcome Author Lucinda Brant to Layered Pages today to talk about her writing as part as the writing series I am conducting.

Why do you write?

The short answer is because I have to! I have so many stories I want to tell, and this drives me on. I think I have the opposite of writer’s block (whatever that is called). Why I choose to write historical romance and mystery is because of my love of history, and placing fictional characters in an historical setting allows me to create an entire world within an 18th Century setting.

There have only been two periods in my life when I have not spent time writing fiction. The first was when I was at university. Academic writing as a discipline is quite structured and has a particular set of requirements (though I still kept notebooks on research and storylines). The second was when my daughter was born. Writing and bringing up baby just don’t mix, well, for me, anyway. So I put my writing aside until my daughter went off to pre-school.

I remember writing my first stories from about the age of five, and then when I was in Primary school I wrote plays, which my friends and I would perform in the playground at lunchtimes, with me directing (of course!). One of my plays was performed before the entire school. It dealt with the final moments of Abraham Lincoln’s life and his assassination. Rather solemn material for a ten year old. I remember the rehearsals, and costumes, and as I wrote and directed it I was intent on it being the perfect production. The actors did me proud and the audience really enjoyed it. We were given a standing ovation.

In High school, I wrote historical fiction for my friends, usually during Math class. Not because I wasn’t good at math, but because the subject was boring (to me). The pages would get passed around and my friends would critique the latest instalment. All hand written and on ruled exercise book paper. For an English assignment when I was 15, I wrote a story about the Salem witch burnings. The students turn on their teacher, accusing her of being a witch, and she is burned at the stake. I wasn’t particularly fond of my English teacher at the time, and it was quite bold of me to hand in this piece of prose for her to mark. She entered my piece in a state wide creative writing competition, and I won. I still have the purple sash.

If I were a school leaver today, I would have gone on to do a creative writing or script writing degree. Those types of degrees weren’t available to me. Universities were very traditional, offering degrees that provided for professions such as medicine, science, law, teaching, accounting etc. I worked hard enough at school to be accepted into a combined degree of arts and law. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but at that time making a living from writing was akin to saying you wanted to be an astronaut, so I went off to university to study politics, history and law. Once I’d graduated and was “out in the real world” it was back to the 18th century for me at nights and weekends.

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How has writing impacted your life?

Again the short answer is enormously! As a child I wrote to lose myself in the worlds I created, so I guess it was a kind of therapy. I was able to escape reality through reading, and writing enabled me to imagine possibilities outside my immediate childhood environment. Coming from a very English background, to be poor was not something you ever spoke about because it was considered shameful, but we were poor. We were poor enough that my school uniform (mandatory and a godsend really because I did not have to worry about what to wear each day) came from the school’s second-hand clothing pool. But we were not as poor as some because at least we had our house, but it meant we did not go on annual holidays, and what money there was my mother spent wisely on what was necessary, food and running a house.

But for me I didn’t feel that poor because I loved to read, I enjoyed school, and there was the local library, where my dad and I would spend our weekends reading. I read everything I could get my hands on, and read the classics from an early age—Tolstoy, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, Edith Wharton, Henry James; the list goes on. And in my spare time I also wrote. Without the distractions of TV and boring old annual holidays, reading and writing allowed me to escape into all sorts of worlds. I went on mental holidays and always to an historical place. So I time travelled to the Egypt of the pharaohs, Carthage when Hannibal ruled, on to Elizabethan England and when I landed in the 18th Century I felt right at home, and here I have stayed.

Of course it took decades before I earned any money from my writing, and then that was sporadic at best, because while I won competitions, prizes, and was signed up by a top agent, I have never followed any writing trends. I never wrote “what’s hot right now”, and that seems to change weekly. And my books take months of research and then writing, so about ten months from outline to publication. I write my 18th Century family sagas and my way. So until self-publishing came along and enabled me to find my audience, I have always had paid employment.

Family and friends knew I wrote, but they considered it my hobby. But all those years spent in university administration and teaching were to fund my writing habit (and of course help feed the family!)!

Self-publishing, more importantly digital self-publishing, has enabled readers to find me. I knew if I could just get my books in front of readers, they would enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them.

So in the space of a few short years, here I am, making a living from writing full-time. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to make the dizzying heights of #4 in all fiction on the New York Times bestseller list, and #1 romance on the USA Today bestseller list, but that is icing on the cake. The best part is being able to bring readers the stories I love to write and they love to read, and I get to spend my days living in the 18th Century!

Lucinda-Brant-2014-Roxton-Series-covers

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

The good news for writers today is there are so many options and avenues open to get your writing before readers. You can go the traditional route and submit to a big 5 publisher, and/or an agent. You can self publish in print with Amazon Create Space or Lighting Source. And you can publish your writing through a slew of digital eRetailers. That’s the easy part.

Putting out a quality product and finding readership is the hard part. That takes lots of patience and lots of time (away from your writing). For independent writers it means not only writing the best book you can, but also editing, formatting, cover design, publishing, pricing, and then publicizing your book.

To be successful and to make a career of writing, you have to write from the heart what you are passionate about. And with historical fiction, you have to know your subject area inside out. I’ve been researching and collecting books on the 18th Century for over 30 years. I don’t overwhelm the reader with what I know, but it is there in the small details, as I hope is the passion for story telling.

You need to invest in your product. I could never do this all by myself, and I can’t. I am not an expert in every facet of publishing. Because I want my readers to have the best reading experience I have a team of wonderfully talented people who help me bring my books to readers—two editors, a translator, two cover illustrators, three narrators (one for each series), a book designer and a publisher.

In today’s publishing world it’s not getting published that’s difficult, it’s the writing, and being found and read, then recommended. Be patient. Quality story telling endures.

Thank you, Stephanie for having me as your guest at Layered Pages. It’s been a privilege. Lucinda

Author bio

LUCINDA BRANT is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Georgian historical romances & mysteries. She spends her days in the 18th Century, and drinks Nespresso coffee like water. Her novels have variously been described as from ‘the Golden Age of romance with a modern voice’, and ‘heart wrenching drama with a happily ever after’. Quizzing glass & quill, into my sedan chair & away! The 1700s rock! — Lucinda.

Links

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