Review: Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Season of Storms

A mystery trapped in time…

In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D’Ascanio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed.

Now, two generations later, Alessandro D’Ascanio plans to stage his grandfather’s masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands—at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D’Ascanio’s magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake’s disappearance—and to the compelling, enigmatic Alessandro.

But the closer Celia gets to learn the first Celia’s fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back…

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This is the first book I have read by Kearsley and I hear so much about her stories… When I first saw this book I was captivated by the cover and when I read the description I was even more drawn in….so my expectations were rather high.

First, I must say what a great plot and setting for a story! An isolated villa, mysterious happenings, Italy, playwrights, murder, and a hunting past that stays in the present. Themes of an enthralling read. So why wasn’t I hooked in as thought I would be? I felt some scenes were slow or not important to the story and I felt that some things weren’t fully drawn out as they should have been. And the plot took too long to fall into place, the character development could have been stronger in the beginning and middle. Alas, It got better towards the end.

I will say it was atmospheric and I love the descriptions of the villa’s surroundings. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the premise but this was an okay read for me.

However, I’m not giving up on the author’s books and I look forward to reading more of her stories soon.

I have rated this book three stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Book Spotlight: Between the Cracks by Carmela Cattuti

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Publication Date: August 15, 2013 Three Towers Press Formats: eBook, Paperback Pages: 324

Genre: Historical Fiction

READ AN EXCERPT.

Join Angela Lanza as she experiences the tumultuous world of early 20th century Sicily and New York. Orphaned by the earthquake and powerful eruption of Mt. Etna in 1908, Angela is raised in the strict confines of an Italian convent. Through various twists of fate, she is married to a young Italian man whom she barely knows, then together with her spouse, immigrates to the U.S. This novel is an invitation to accompany the young Angela as she confronts the ephemeral nature of life on this planet and navigates the wide cultural gaps between pre-World War II Italy and the booming prosperity of dynamic young America. Author, artist, and teacher Carmela Cattuti created Between the Cracks as an homage to her great-aunt, who survived the earthquake and eruption of Mt. Etna and bravely left Sicily to start a new life in America.

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About the Author

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Carmela Cattuti started her writing career as a journalist for the Somerville News in Boston, MA. After she finished her graduate work in English Literature from Boston College she began to write creatively and taught a journal writing course at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education As fate would have it, she felt compelled to write her great aunt’s story. “Between the Cracks” has gone through several incarnations and will now become a trilogy. This is the first installment. To connect with Carmela email her cattutic@gmail.com or leave a comment at betweenthecracksnovel.blogspot.com.

Between the Cracks Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 9 Guest Post at Book Babe

Tuesday, February 10 Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Thursday, February 12 Guest Post at Boom Baby Reviews

Monday, February 16 Review at Back Porchervations Spotlight at Bookish

Wednesday, February 18 Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, February 19 Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, February 20 Spotlight at My Book Addiction and More

Tuesday, February 24 Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, February 25 Guest Post at A Literary Vacation Spotlight at Layered Pages

Thursday, February 26 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, February 27 Spotlight at Passages to the Past

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What is in a Name with Author Lindsay Downs

Character Names and where to find them, maybe

 

I would like to thank the inestimable Stephanie for saving me from a fate worse than death-boredom. Yes, ladies and gentlemen a writer can be bored when they don’t have a book to write or edits to do.

On 2/19/15 I finished the rough draft to The Duke’s Bride. I planned to take until March 1 off from starting the next book in the Rogues and Rakehells series, An Earl’s Queen. By the next day with nothing to do or write it was taking its toll on me so I posted about it on one of the social media sites.

That’s when Stephanie came to my rescue. She asked, via IM, if I’d like to do a post for her Layered Pages blog. After conversing for a few minutes we came up with a plan, how and where I find some character names.

To me a name is just that, as name and it doesn’t have to tell the reader something about the character. Look at my name, Lindsay. Oh, and that’s my real name. Granted there are some you can’t use—Rocky, Bubba, Benji, Kade. And that’s just a few of the men’s. There are also limitations in the names we can use for the ladies as well.

As I’m currently writing three, yes three, different regency series: Markson Regency Mystery, Rogues and Rakehells Mystery and my newest, The Radcliffes (tentative series title) finding character names can be difficult.

Of the two name, Christian and surname, the first name is the most difficult, unless you know where to look. All around you.

When I was planning out the first book in the Markson Regency Mystery series, The Masked Lady and The Murder, for the heroine I wanted a name people would remember since she and the hero would appear in all the books. As it turned out one of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop had it-Kristin. To make the name more interesting I added an “a”. Thus Kristina was born. For the hero I went vanilla-Robert.

When it came to La Contessa and The Marquis once again I found the name at the same coffee shop. When I asked if she’d mind me using her name ‘Bianca’ she loved the idea.

La Contessa with Lindsay Downs

Where I live there are several stores I frequent and some of the employees know I’m an author. Several times they’ve asked to be included in one of my books and if possible I accommodate them. One person in particular wanted his name used and of course being Patrick it would fit nicely in one I was currently writing. Oops, not just one but two different books. I didn’t want that since the character was going to be the villain in both.

One day I’m in my local grocery store, talking with one of the staff and another overheard us. His name was Justin and it hit me, this person’s name would work perfectly in The Duke’s Bride. Asking if he’d like to have character named after him he say yes.

Then I told him, “Oh and by the way you’re going to be killed.”

His face lit up. “How?”

Being the nice guy that I am I answered, “You’ve two choices, dance the hangman’s jig or be shot.”

Needless to say he chose the latter.

My point is, if you know the person and they say “yes” you can use their name, get them partially involved in what will happen to them, in the book that is. This can help bring a stronger connection between you and them and you might have a new follower.

Here are two websites I use to help with finding names-

This is for first name- Behind the Name

This is for surnames- Surnames/Behind the Name

Just make sure the name you choose fits into the genre you’re writing as mentioned above.

Blurb-

When Bianca Maria Ledford Goretti, La Contessa de Massa, flees back to her homeland and the safety of her godmother, The Duchess of Gorham, little does she realize whose arms she lands in.

Lord Rainer Cross, Marquis of Hathaway, is a well-known and dangerous rakehell within the ton. Little does he suspect his godmother has set him up to halt his skirt chasing day’s.

Over time the reason for Bianca’s return comes to light which has Rainer deeply concerned. Not sure who he can trust Rainer turns to has several of his more interesting staff. He has them use their talents to ferret out the truth.

Everything get more complicated when they learn a friend might not be who he claims to be. Not sure who to trust, except Rainer and the duchess, Bianca learns several startling facts which could protect her from harm.

Once everything is revealed the duchess steps in with a surprise, something neither could have ever seen coming.

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Bio-

Lindsay Downs

I’ve been an avid readers ever since I was old enough to hold a red leather bound first edition copy of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake in my lap.

So it only seemed natural at some point in my life I take up pen and paper to start writing. Over time my skills slightly improved which I attribute to my English teachers.

My breakthrough came about in the mid 1970’s when I read a historical romance written by Sergeanne Golon, Angelique. This French husband and wife team opened my eyes to the real world of fiction. Stories about romance, beautiful damsels, handsome heroes and plots which kept me hooked. Of course, being a man, I had to keep my reading hidden from others as that wasn’t appropriate reading for men.

With this new found appreciation of the written word I took up other books and devoured them as a starving person would a plate of food. I them attempted to write again. I still wasn’t satisfied so I put it aside for years as other events entered my life.

Finally, in the early years of the new millennium I tried again to write and once again met with limited success. At least now I was able to get past the first page or two. Then, in 2006 a life changing event brought me back to my love, I took a job as a security officer. This allowed me plenty of time to read different genres.

My favorite was regency. As I poured through everyone I could get my hands on I knew this could be something I wanted to attempt.

Since 2012 when my debut regency romantic suspense released I was hooked and have, except for a few contemporaries, focused on this genre.

Since 2012 I’ve lived in central Texas. I’m also a member of Romance Writers of America and their local chapter.

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Sunday Book Highlight

The second Robert Young of Newbiggin Mystery

A Capital Crime

September 1745

Robert Young of Newbiggin finds himself in the unusual position of working side by side with his friend Captain Charles Travers of the Edinburgh Town Guard as they investigate the murder of a popular young man.

It soon becomes apparent that the victim was more than he seemed as the investigation is drawn into political machinations with obstructions galore to contend with. Charles has also to somehow pluck up the courage to propose marriage to the girl he loves; Estelle Cannonby.

To add to their problems the Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie is about to capture the city. From the gaiety of High Society weddings and balls at Holyrood Palace to the vermin infested drinking dens on the Cowgate they have to deal with Rebellious Princes’, slave traders and a missing woman as they search for clues in a race to deliver justice before the guilty can escape

Excerpt:

Her reply was cut off as a woman dramatically swept through the door leading to the garden calling out loudly her apologies for being so late in arriving. Her lack of decorum was only matched by her brazen appearance and beauty. Dressed in a full dress of bright red tartan with a sash of royal blue over her left shoulder decorated with a large white cockade, the emblem of the Jacobites, she strode across the room towards the bride with all the bravado of a cavalier and to the girl’s evident surprise hugged her closely and kissed her on both cheeks. “My fool of a driver got lost on the road” she exclaimed as she released the bride and stepped back to admire her. “My, but you make a bonny bride!” she exclaimed firmly as her eyes twinkled merrily without the least embarrassment at her unconventional entry. “A fair and bonny bride I say. Now let me see your new husband and I shall judge whether he is a fair match for such a beauty!” Stepping away from the poor bride who looked amazed at this vision of reckless elegance the newcomer scanned the crowd until her eyes fixed upon the groom and once again she marched forward to hug him in turn and kiss him twice. “Aye, you’ll do!” she said with a laugh that rang merrily around the silenced room as she turned to his brother. “My Lord Elcho. It is always a pleasure to meet you sir. Your brother is as handsome as you I declare. It must be that good Fife air that breeds such fine young men!”

Lord Elcho gave her a slight bow of his head in response to this flattery. Turning towards his bemused brother he said “may I introduce you to Mrs. Margaret Murray of Broughton”

The groom smiled uncertainly but gave a slight bow as the beautiful woman laughed joyfully again as she turned away from both men to scan the assembled throng who were smiling somewhat uncertainly at all this. Several of them obviously knew her and were now approaching her cautiously as though she were in some way dangerous. Turning back towards Lord Elcho she studied him briefly before giving a disapproving shake of her head. “You are lacking one final detail for your dress sir!” she said with a wagging finger towards him. “But luckily for you I have the very thing you need!” With this said she strode back to the garden door where a footman now stood holding a small silk bag which she took from him and returned to Lord Elcho and from it produced a white cockade of fine muslin which she held out to him. “Will you wear the emblem of your Prince sir?”

Lord Elcho paused briefly as though not sure that he should but then graciously accepted the cockade and fixed it his lapel while Mrs. Murray smiled with delight. “Now you are properly dressed my lord” she laughed happily as she offered another to the groom who accepted it but held it in his hand rather than pin it to his coat. The irrepressible Mrs. Murray merely smiled and turned towards the crowd who had slowly been gathering around them.

“Who else shall wear the cockade for their Prince?” she said with more laughter although there was a definite air of challenge in her words as though such an open display of reckless behaviour and open opposition to the Crown was the most natural thing in the world. Her happy eyes never left the faces before her as she held out a handful of cockades towards them and blessed each man or woman who took one with a dazzling smile.

Robert and Euphemia had stood bemused by her arrival and subsequent display and despite their own political views couldn’t help but warm towards this vision of Jacobite defiance. She was, it had to be admitted, a strikingly beautiful woman of above average height with a mass of raven black curls cascading about her flawless face and seemed completely oblivious to how her actions were being viewed by some guests. Staunch Whigs positively shied away from her and refused to even speak when she offered them a cockade but she remained completely unperturbed by these snubs. She merely smiled, laughed happily and moved on although as this was just a harmless jape with no repercussions for anyone involved. Eventually her travels around the room brought her towards Robert and Euphemia who exchanged a careful look as she drew to a halt before them.

As she held the carefully sewn cockade out towards Robert she openly appraised him with her dancing, bright and merry eyes. “Sir, shall you wear a cockade for your Prince?” she said as though such open treason was nothing to worry about although her words alone could send her to the gallows if she was reported to the authorities. Robert found himself smiling despite his own feelings and felt a strange desire to protect the young woman from herself. She acted with a childlike innocence as though her words and actions were to be seen as light hearted and not meant to offend or upset anyone despite the very nature of her every word.

With a gentle shake of his head Robert declined the proffered cockade which produced only another smile in response as she turned to Euphemia with her hand held towards her. For a second the smile faltered as she studied Euphemia closely before the smile broke out wider than ever. “I know you!” she said happily. “I have seen you in Edinburgh but we have never been introduced I fear”.

Euphemia nodded in confirmation of this as Mrs. Murray continued. “Yes, I have seen you on the High Street and thought to myself I should hate you for you are even more beautiful than men seem to find me! Tell me; are you a black hearted vicious shrew of a woman with a tongue like an adder? Please tell me you are so I can console myself that someone who looks so perfect is a monster beneath the skin!” This was all said with the same light hearted tone and smile as though she wanted to reassure Euphemia she meant no offence.

Stuart Laing

Born and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife Stuart grew up looking across the Firth of Forth towards the spires and turrets of the city of Edinburgh and its castle atop its volcanic eyrie.

He has always been fascinated by the history of Auld Reekie and has spent most of his life studying Scottish history in all its aspects whenever he finds the time between family, work and the thousand and one other things that seek to distract him.

Despite the vast panorama of Scotland’s history he always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Those streets have provided the inspiration for his stories and characters.

He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

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Review: Towers of Tuscany by Carol M. Cram

 

The Towers of Tuscany

Sofia is trained in secret as a painter in her father’s workshop during a time when women did not paint openly. She loves her work, but her restless spirit leads her to betray her extraordinary gifts to marry a man who comes to despise her for not producing a son.

After Sofia’s father is crushed by his own fresco during an attack motivated by a vendetta, Sofia realizes she must escape her loveless marriage. She flees to Siena, where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her.

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This story richly displays 14th century Italy and the world of painters of that time. I must admit though, I struggled to find my balance in this story. What does that mean? I sympathized with Sofia and her loss, the fact that she had to paint in secret, the relationship with her husband but towards the middle of the book, my feelings towards her to begin to change and I felt the story wasn’t holding my attention at first despite Sofia’s situation and the imagery the author sets. This is a wonderful period to write about, I adore the premise and feel this story has all the themes that readers want to read about. The story did pick up for me and I enjoyed the character development and the tone. I could really feel what Sofia was going through and I felt the author did a marvelous job with the secondary characters. I have rated this book three and a half stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Sunday Book Highlight

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B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

After witnessing her parents’ brutal murders at the hands of red-eyed creatures, Meaghan narrowly escapes the same fate. Her best friend, Nick, tells her the creatures are Mardróch. They come from another world and so does she. Now that the Mardróch have found her, she must return to her homeland of Ærenden or face death.

Left with little choice, she follows Nick into a strange world both similar to Earth and drastically different. Vines have the ability to attack. Monkeys freeze their victims with a glare. Men create bombs from thin air. Even Meaghan’s newly discovered empath power turns into a danger she can’t control.

But control becomes the least of her worries once the Mardróch begin targeting her. When Nick confesses he knows the reason they want her, she learns the truth behind the kingdom’s fifteen-year civil war–a long-buried secret that could cost Meaghan her life.

 Krsiten Taber

Kristen spent her childhood at the feet of an Irish storytelling grandfather, learning to blend fact with fiction and imagination with reality. She lived within the realm of the tales that captivated her, breathing life into characters and crafting stories even before she could read. Those stories have since turned into over a hundred poems, several short tales, and five manuscripts in both the Young Adult and Adult genres. Currently, Kristen is completing the five-part Ærenden series from her home office in the suburbs of Washington D.C.

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The String of Murders by Oscar de Muriel

The String of Murders

Jonathan Strange meets Jonathan Creek in this blistering crime debut set in Victorian Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, 1888. A virtuoso violinist is brutally killed in his home. But with no way in or out of the locked practice room, the murder makes no sense. Fearing a national panic over a copycat Ripper, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey’s new boss, Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray, actually believes in such nonsense. McGray’s tragic past has driven him to superstition, but even Frey must admit that this case seems beyond reason. And once someone loses all reason, who knows what they will lose next…

The Strings of Murder is Muriel’s opening novel to what I can see as the author’s outstanding career in writing. The story opens in London and moves to Victorian Edinburgh. I must say I don’t believe I have read a crime thriller that is set in Edinburgh during the era mentioned. I was truly captivated by the atmosphere the author sets. Not only that…but the author’s command of different personalities. You can say…wonderful character development and a truly wonderful study of the human condition when one meets danger, complete depravity and evils beyond imagination. Ripper’s murders almost pale in comparison…I kid you not. This story is not for the lighthearted and I caution anyone who hasn’t read in-depth the details in gruesome murders before. Having said that, I was captivated by the story and I was finding myself getting frustrated when distractions got in the way reading this book. The String of Murders flows beautifully and you can almost hear the music floating from the pages.

Brilliant title and premise and the perfect setting and period for the story.

McGray and Frey’s interaction with each other will intrigue you as their partnership in solving this heinous crime develops. I am hoping the author will write more stories involving these two and look forward to what comes next…

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Review: The Chase by Lorna Fergusson

The Chase

A married couple (Gerald and Netty) whose marriage is rocky at best due to a loss so bad they can’t escape or heal from the pain. It haunts them and to try to put the painful past behind them, the Gerald finds an old house on an ancient land- where tragic events happen- in the woods of the Dordogne and moves there with Netty.

Does history repeat itself? You question that while reading this story.

The moment they arrived Netty does not have a good feeling about the house and its surrounding. She tries to make a room in the house her own and as they settle in and meet people and venture out to do a bit of sigh seeing and things start to happen as the story unfolds…

There is an ominous past that is still present in the house and land that gives it a dark, unsettling feeling. I longed to reach out to Netty and tell her to get out of there throughout the story. The people she and her husband meets also are different or they seem unique and haunted themselves-if you will-through their situations in life. There is more to the story than meets the eye and you have to really go into this story with an open mind. Its style of writing is written differently than you might be used to and the ending was quite different than I expected.

There are-I believe-historical themes throughout this story and I liked how they were weaved through the book. It’s hard to explain how I felt about the characters. I had raw emotions with most of them. Netty stood out to me the most. She is different, tragic and I wanted to see her become a stronger and more independent women. To make better choices but I think the house and land she moved to, kept a deeper grasp on her than the pain and loss she experienced before moving there. She was trapped. I hope that is not a spoiler. You just need to read the story to understand what I mean.

I rated this book three and a half stars.

Stephanie H. Hopkins

 

Beacon of Vengeance by Patrick W. O’Bryon

Beacon of Vengance

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Determined to rescue friends imprisoned in his beloved France, Ryan Lemmon finds there a cauldron of deception and unbridled cruelty. Torn by German exploitation and French collaboration, the occupied country now teems with unforeseen dangers:

A dying British intelligence agent whose help may prove deadly. A beautiful partisan whose cold heart could make or break his mission. A former lover trapped between Nazi operatives and the violent Parisian underworld. And deep in the shadows, a ruthless enemy playing a treacherous games of cunning and subterfuge.

Lethal confrontation looms in this sequel to the award-winning thriller Corridor of Darkness: A Novel of Nazi Germany, praised by Kirkus Reviews as “…an intriguing early WWII spy yarn set in a well-researched, authentic Germany.”

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Sunday Book Highlight

The Ruby Ring

From critically acclaimed historical novelist Diane Haeger comes “The Ruby Ring,” an unforgettable story of love, loss, and immortal genius . . .

Rome, 1520. The Eternal City is in mourning. Raphael Sanzio, beloved painter and national hero, has died suddenly at the height of his fame. His body lies in state at the splendid marble Pantheon. At the nearby convent of Sant’Apollonia, a young woman comes to the Mother Superior, seeking refuge. She is Margherita Luti, a baker’s daughter from a humble neighborhood on the Tiber, now an outcast from Roman society, persecuted by powerful enemies within the Vatican. Margherita was Raphael’s beloved and appeared as the Madonna in many of his paintings. Theirs was a love for the ages. But now that Raphael is gone, the convent is her only hope of finding an honest and peaceful life.

The Mother Superior agrees to admit Margherita to their order. But first, she must give up the ruby ring she wears on her left hand, the ring she had worn in Raphael’s scandalous nude “engagement portrait.” The ring has a storied past, and it must be returned to the Church or Margherita will be cast out into the streets. Behind the quiet walls of the convent, Margherita makes her decision . . . and remembers her life with Raphael–and the love and torment–embodied in that one precious jewel.

In “The Ruby Ring,” Diane Haeger brings to life a love affair so passionate that it remains undimmed by time. Set in the sumptuous world of the Italian Renaissance, it’s the story of the clergymen, artists, rakes, and noblemen who made Raphael and Margherita’s world the most dynamic and decadent era in European history.

anne-girard

Diane Haeger, who also writes as Anne Girard, is the author of 15 historical novels, most of them based on true stories from history. Her stories are drawn from a range of countries and eras including the French Renaissance, Georgian England, the American Civil War, to a series called In The Court of Henry VIII. Her most recent novel, Madame Picasso, details an early love affair in Paris between the famous artist and his muse. Her next novel, to be published later this year, is Platinum Doll, about 1930’s movie star Jean Harlow. Haeger holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in clinical psychology. She lives in California with her husband and children.

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