Sunday’s Book Highlight: Unraveled by M.K. Tod

Unravelled Front Cover Final II

UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage.

In October 1935, Edward Jamieson’s memories of war and a passionate love affair resurface when an invitation to a WWI memorial ceremony arrives. Though reluctant to visit the scenes of horror he has spent years trying to forget, Edward succumbs to the unlikely possibility of discovering what happened to Helene Noisette, the woman he once pledged to marry. Travelling through the French countryside with his wife Ann, Edward sees nothing but reminders of war. After a chance encounter with Helene at the dedication ceremony, Edward’s past puts his present life in jeopardy.

When WWII erupts a few years later, Edward is quickly caught up in the world of training espionage agents, while Ann counsels grieving women and copes with the daily threats facing those she loves. And once again, secrets and war threaten the bonds of marriage.

With events unfolding in France, England and Canada, UNRAVELLED is a compelling novel of love, duty and sacrifice set amongst the turmoil of two world wars.

Reviews

“A sweeping story of love and war with much of the style of Brief Encounter and the passionate intensity of Birdsong. The novel moves from poignant reminiscence, to the carnage of the trenches, to the unravelling of life and memory.” Jenny Barden, author of Mistress of the Sea

“M.K. Tod’s skilful debut novel spanning two world wars deftly illuminates the subtle stirrings of the human heart as movingly as it depicts the horrors of battle.” Barbara Kyle author of Blood Between Queens

“An engrossing historical saga. With narrative insight, compassion and a strong sense of time and place, M.K. Tod observes the inner workings of a marriage as it’s affected by the uncertainty and tumult of both world wars.” Sarah Johnson, Historical Novel Society Book Review Editor

“Ms. Tod’s extensive research shows and provides Unravelled with solid information and authority – and the framework for a touching love story. An eloquent saga that I will not soon forget. I highly recommend it.” Judith Schara Caldwell

“Unravelled is a page turner and then some. Passionate, exciting, and intense, this book depicts the profound effects of both wars on people and focuses on the marriage and family life of the Jamiesons. I was moved to tears a few times.” Suko

“Truly this is a beautifully crafted story, full of emotion, detail and history that will keep readers entranced for hours. A stunning debut effort, sure to be on the top of several must read lists.” Gaele, an Amazon Top 500 Reviewer

Mary Todd

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is available in paperback from Amazon (USCanada and elsewhere), and in e-book formats from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and on iTunes. Her second novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE was released in July 2014 and is available at the same retailers. Prior to writing historical fiction, Mary had a successful business career. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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Review: The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys

The French Executioner

Pub Date   Oct 1 2014

Review:

Jean Rombaud and executioner brought over from France by Henry VIII to behead Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. The day before her execution Anne request something of Jean and he makes a promise to her that will change the course of his life…..

This story takes you across Europe, in dungeons to slave galleys….and along the way Jean meets the most interesting companions and they find themselves in constant danger. In my opinion the author has achieved and expressed an artistic uniqueness in prose, scenery and action. There are extraordinary events that takes place throughout the story. There was one disturbing scene in particular that I have to admit, I had to skim over. But it did not sway me to put down the book. There are many portrayals of Anne Boleyn and I have to admit I haven’t read her in this light before. Having said that, Anne’s role in this story is easily recognizable and the author’s brief portrayal of her in the beginning sets the tone and backdrop for this intriguing story. When this story is read by my friends, I will be extremely interested in their thoughts of a particular way the author writes about Anne….you will know what I mean when you read the story. The art of writing historical fiction is to make sure the story holds the modern audience attention and the author has certainly achieved this. I am rating this story five stars for originality, lots of action, an incredible intense plot, dynamic character development and vivid scenery. Love everything about it!

Stephanie Moore Hopkins

Interview with Author Kate Forsyth

02_Bitter Greens

Publication Date: September 23, 2014 Thomas Dunne Books Hardcover; 496p ISBN-10: 1250047536

Genre: Historical/Fantasy/Fairy-Tale Retellings

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

Hello, Kate! It is a pleasure to chat with you today about your story, Bitter Greens. What a beautiful and creative premise. Rapunzel is a tale I have known since childhood…what inspires you about Rapunzel to begin with?

I have been fascinated with the Rapunzel fairy tale since I first read it as a little girl. I was always puzzled by the mysteries in the tale: why did the witch lock up the girl? Why did she have to climb up her hair to get into the tower? How did the girl’s hair get so long? Questions like that niggled at me, and so I began to think up possible explanations for them.

Shamefully, I have to admit I have never paid much attention to the writer (s) of the story and had no idea it was penned by women. What is it that fascinates you about their lives the most?

I am a storyteller as well as a writer, and so I’ve always been interested in the ways stories endure over time, told and retold and retold again. I became interested in finding out the origin of the tale in the early stages of planning my novel, and was hugely excited when I stumbled across the life story of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, who wrote the version of the tale as it was first told while she was locked up in a convent after scandalizing the royal court at Versailles with her love affairs and refusal to bow to societal norms. She was such a fascinating woman and the parallels between her story and the fairy tale she wrote struck me at once.

What were some of the historical events that took place in the setting of this story?

BITTER GREENS moves between two historical settings. The first is Renaissance Venice, and takes in 16th witchcraft hunts, the devastation of the plague, and the extraordinary art of Tiziano Vercelli, best known in English as Titian. The second setting is the sumptuous royal court of 17th century France, ruled over by Louis XIV, the Sun King. Charlotte-Rose de la Force was his second cousin and a maid-of-honour serving the queen. During her life, she saw the cruel persecution of the French Protestants, c alled Huguenots, and the scandal of the Affair of the Poisons, which saw hundreds of people arrested and tortured on suspicion of Satanism and murder.

Selena stands out to me the most. What are her strengths and weaknesses? And in what way does she inspire-if she inspires that is…?

Kate: Selena is a Venetian courtesan and the witch of the tale. Selena witnessed the terrible punishment of her mother, after she was unfaithful to her patron, and so sets herself to enact revenge on those who took part. She studies ‘stregheria’, the Italian art of witchcraft, in an attempt to shape her own life. She is afraid of the passing of time and the coming of death, and so hates clocks and watches, but is also passionate, sensual, and determined.  Although she is strong and clever, she also has a strong streak of cruelty in her and locks girls up in a tower for her own nefarious purposes, so I’m not sure she can be seen as an inspiration!

Could you please give me an example of Renaissance life in Venice? Something romantic, perhaps?

Venice in the 16th century was a place of great wealth, beauty and culture.  Its streets were full of merchants from all over the world, all speaking their own tongues and wearing the clothes of their nation. Women were gorgeously dressed in silks and satins and cloth-of-gold, and wore totteringly high wooden chopines to protect their delicate silk slippers from the water that often overflowed from the canals.  Artists such as Michelangelo, Titian and Bellini created works of startling beauty, and every palace and cathedral was painted and ornamented to within an inch of their life. At Carnevale, men and women dressed up in their finest clothes and hid their faces behind masks so that they could wander the narrow streets and plazas of the many islands, free to love anyone they pleased. Many people began to wear masks all year long, in order to enjoy the freedom of anonymity, until the practice was outlawed in 1797. Mask-makers were revered, and had their own rules and their own guild.

What compels the old nun to tell Charlotte-Rose the tale who is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens? Is there a particular message she wants her to grasp?

I think Seraphina wants to help Charlotte-Rose learn to accept her fate with grace, and to make the most of the life she has been given. We cannot always choose what happens to us in our lives, but we can choose how we deal with it.

What is Charlotte’s personality like?

She is strong-willed, quick-witted, passionate, and very stubborn. She does her best to live a self-determined life, and finds the strictures of the patriarchal society in which she lives very difficult to negotiate. All she wants is to live and love as she chooses, and to write – yet these things are constantly being denied to her, and so she is frustrated and angry, particularly in the beginning of the book. She is also afraid and determined not to show it, and this makes her seem proud and even arrogant. She is also, I’m afraid, rather vain, but then she lives in the royal court of Versailles where everything is about show.

Is there one thing you find remarkable about Venice in 1512?

Venice had always been a city remarkable for its religious and cultural toleration, yet this began to change around this time. The world’s first ghetto was established in Venice in 1516, and other races and religions began to find themselves having their freedom curtailed as well. This was partly as a result of a long-waged war against Constantinople, and partly because of religious fervor caused by terrible outbreaks of the bubonic plague.

What was your process for this story and how long did you work on it?

Bitter Greens was a complex and challenging novel to write, and took me a long time to research. All in all, it took me seven years to write! I began by learning everything I could about the two periods my story was set in, and by studying the history of the Rapunzel fairy tale (I ended up doing a doctorate on this.) I then wrote each of the three narrative threads independently from each other, and then wove them together. It was like writing three novels instead of one!

What do you love most about writing?

Everything! I love the first period, when my mind is alive with story possibilities and I’m reading and researching and thinking and daydreaming. I love the actual writing process, and all the amazing serendipitous discoveries I make. And I love to edit too – that’s when the story really begins to fall into shape.

Who are your influences?

I think every single book I have loved – and there are hundreds of thousands of those!

Praise for Bitter Greens

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is an enthralling concoction of history and magic, an absorbing, richly detailed, and heart-wrenching reimagining of a timeless fairytale.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival

“See how three vividly drawn women cope with injustice, loneliness, fear, longing. See how they survive—or perpetrate—treachery. Surrender yourself to a master storyteller, to delicious detail and spunky heroines. Bitter Greens is a complex, dazzling achievement.” —Susan Vreeland, New York Times bestselling author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and Girl in Hyacinth Blue

“A magical blend of myth and history, truth and legend, Bitter Greens is one of those rare books that keeps you reading long after the lights have gone out, that carries you effortlessly to another place and time, that makes you weep and laugh and wish you could flip forward to make sure it all ends happily ever after—but for the fact that if you did so, you might miss a line, and no line of this book should be missed.” —Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of The Ashford Affair

“Kate Forsyth wields her pen with all the grace and finesse of a master swordsman. In Bitter Greens she conjures a lyrical fairytale that is by turns breathtaking, inspiring, poetic, and heartbreakingly lovely. Set like a jewel within the events of history, it is pure, peerless enchantment.”—New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn

“Bitter Greens is pure enchantment–gripping and lyrical. From the high convent walls where a 17th century noblewoman is exiled, to a hidden tower which imprisons an innocent girl with very long hair, to the bitter deeds of a beautiful witch who cannot grow old–Kate Forsyth weaves an engrossing, gorgeously written tale of three women in search of love and freedom. A truly original writer, Forsyth has crafted an often terrifying but ultimately redemptive dark fairy tale of the heart.”—Stephanie Cowell, American Book Award-winning author of Claude & Camille

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is not only a magnificent achievement that would make any novelist jealous, it’s one of the most beautiful paeans to the magic of storytelling that I’ve ever read.”—C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen’s Vow and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

“Threads of history and folklore are richly intertwined to form this spellbinding story. Kate Forsyth has excelled herself with Bitter Greens. Compulsively unputtdownable.”—Juliet Marillier, national bestselling author of Flame of Sevenwaters and Heart’s Blood

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About the Author

Kate Forsyth 1

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling & award-winning author of thirty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both adults and children. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called ‘one of the finest writers of this generation. She is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers, and has told stories to both children and adults all over the world.

Her most recent book for adults is a historical novel called ‘The Wild Girl’, which tells the true, untold love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, ‘The Wild Girl’ is a story of love, war, heartbreak, and the redemptive power of storytelling, and was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013.

She is probably most famous for ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the dramatic life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’, and has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.

Her most recent book for children is ‘Grumpy Grandpa’, a charming picture book that shows people are not always what they seem.

Since ‘The Witches of Eileanan’ was named a Best First Novel of 1998 by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Chain of Charms series – beginning with ‘The Gypsy Crown’ – which tells of the adventures of two Romany children in the time of the English Civil War. Book 5 of the series, ‘The Lightning Bolt’, was also a CBCA Notable Book.

Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. She is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, having already completed a BA in Literature and a MA in Creative Writing.

Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, ‘A Mother’s Offering to her Children’. She lives by the sea in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.

For more information please visit Kate Forsyth’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

 

Spotlight: Come Dancing by Leslie Wells

02_Come Dancing

Publication Date: June 8, 2014 Allium Press Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Julia is a book-loving publisher’s assistant. Jack is a famous British rock star. “Opposites attract” is an understatement.

It’s 1981. Twenty-four-year-old Julia Nash has recently arrived in Manhattan, where she works as a publisher’s assistant. She dreams of becoming an editor with her own stable of bestselling authors—but it is hard to get promoted in the recession-clobbered book biz.

Julia blows off steam by going dancing downtown with her best friend, Vicky. One night, a hot British guitarist invites them into his VIP section. Despite an entourage of models and groupies, Jack chooses Julia as his girl for the evening—and when Jack Kipling picks you, you go with it. The trouble is … he’s never met a girl like her before. And she resists being just one in a long line.

Jack exposes her to new experiences, from exclusive nightclubs in SoHo to the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood; from mind-bending recording sessions to wild backstage parties. Yet Julia is afraid to fall for him. Past relationships have left her fragile; one more betrayal just might break her.

As she fends off her grabby boss and tries to move up the corporate ladder, Julia’s torrid relationship with Jack takes her to heights she’s never known—and plunges her into depths she’s never imagined.

With a fascinating inside look at publishing, this entertaining story of a bookish young woman’s adventures with a rock superstar is witty, moving, and toe-curlingly steamy.

Come Dancing Bonus Scenes

Scene One | Scene Two

Praise for Come Dancing

“Leslie Wells brings to life all the eclectic, edgy style of New York City at the dawn of the 1980s as she spins a story of spine-tingling romance and the complex issues that can threaten a relationship. Through her effervescent writing style she catapults the reader into a world of excess and indulgence, while delving into some honest and heartfelt struggles along the way. … Come Dancing is a love story with lots of heart and plenty of heat.”

—Casee Marie, Literary Inklings Book Reviews

“5 Blushing Stars!! Come Dancing is quite the story. I loved this story and could not put it down. I got lost in the story, imagining the rock stars and their groupies partying it up, while finding themselves and falling in love. Opposites certainly do attract and make for an explosive time! You will love the many layers of Jack; you will also want to smack him at times too. Julia will have you rooting for the underdog and wishing she had a better clothes fund 🙂 Through it all, the many naysayers and people out to split them up, they make it work! Fate seems to finally take its stand and allows for this fairytale story to end the way it should—hot, sexy and combustible!”

–Kellie, Blushing Divas Book Reviews

“I’m never sure what to expect when I venture away from historical fiction, but I found Leslie Wells’ Come Dancing quite enjoyable. Though more contemporary than my usual fare, I think the novel has a lot of heart and is a story many people will be able to relate to.

By far, my favorite aspects of the piece were the atmospheric qualities of the narrative. This is a New York before cell phones and digital cameras. It has different rhythm to it and follows a social structure that is entirely different from the New York of today. There is a contrast in that, something both familiar and almost foreign that really appealed to me.

There is a tangible affection between Julia and Jack which I truly appreciated, and I admired the journey their relationship takes over the course of the story. . .. A pleasant fiction, Come Dancing is brimming with both humor and heart. A realistic romance that is sure to entertain.”

–Erin, Flashlight Commentary Book Blog

Buy the Book

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About the Author

03_Leslie Wells Credit © Leslie Wells

Leslie Wells left her small Southern town in 1979 for graduate school in Manhattan, after which she got her first job in book publishing. She has edited forty-eight New York Times bestsellers in her over thirty-year career, including thirteen number one New York Times bestsellers. Leslie has worked with numerous internationally known authors, musicians, actors, actresses, television and radio personalities, athletes, and coaches. She lives on Long Island, New York.

Author Links

Website | Blog | Facebook | Google+ | Goodreads

Sign Up for Leslie Wells’s Newsletter.

Come Dancing Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 8 Review at Blushing Divas Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 9 Review & Giveaway at SOS Aloha

Wednesday, September 10 Review & Excerpt at What’s On the Bookshelf

Thursday, September 11 Spotlight at Sizzling Hot Books

Friday, September 12 Review & Giveaway at The Boyfriend Bookmark

Monday, September 15 Review at Tea Cups and Book Love Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, September 16 Review, Interview & Giveaway at A Dirty Book Review

Wednesday, September 17 Interview at Romance Book Junkies

Thursday, September 18 Review & Excerpt at Shelly’s Book Blog

Friday, September 19 Review at Must Read Books or Die

Tuesday, September 23 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, September 24 Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, September 25 Spotlight & Giveaway at Paranormal Book Club

Sunday, September 28 Review at Devilishly Delicious Book Blog

Monday, September 29 Review at Lustful Literature

Wednesday, October 1 Guest Post at Bibliophilia, Please Spotlight at Layered Pages

Monday, October 6 Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair Review & Excerpt at Jorie Loves a Story

Tuesday, October 7 Review at Turning the Pages Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, October 8 Review at The Life & Times of a Book Addict

Friday, October 10 Review at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, October 14 Review & Excerpt at Michelle & Leslie’s Book Picks

Wednesday, October 22 Interview at Room with Books

Thursday, October 23 Review at Lusty Penguin Reviews

Monday, October 27 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, October 28 Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, October 30 Review at The Danish Bookaholic

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