Sunday Book Highlight

Children of the shadows Staurt Laing

Book Blurb:

Edinburgh November 1745 As the nights grow longer in the depths of a Scottish winter, Robert Young, Captain Travers, their families and friends, chase the darkness away as they gather to celebrate a joyful engagement. But grim news casts a pall over the happy atmosphere. A sobbing woman has carried the body of a child into the headquarters of Edinburgh’s Town Guard. In her hand she still clutches a bloody dagger. What at first was thought to be no more than a domestic tragedy soon becomes a hunt for a cold blooded killer who runs the worst possible sort of brothel. Robert Young faces a race against time to find the guilty and save other children from the same fate. His investigation will bring him face to face with his deadliest and most ruthless adversary to date and leave him fighting for his life!

 Excerpt:

“A murder is it?” the man said with no flicker of emotion on his face. “You had best explain further captain”.

As quickly as he could Charles outlined what he knew of the crime. From when the woman had entered the Guardhouse covered in blood bearing the body of Kirsty MacDonald, through to her assertion of other children being held in a brothel. Point by point he went through every detail while the councilors listened in a stony silence without questions or interruptions. Only when he asked again that the woman be turned over to him was there was any display of interest. One man to his right sat forward to look towards him as he said, “do you think there is any truth to her claims captain?”

Charles quickly nodded in response. To reveal he himself thought it more than likely that the prisoner was lying to try and save her own neck was not something he wished to share with these men. “It seems possible sir. We know that several dozen women and children were left behind when the rebels departed the city. Most exist by begging but I believe some of them may have turned to prostitution to get by. If some of these children have been lured from the streets and forced to work in a brothel I think it would be worthwhile to investigate and if possible free them from such a cruel fate…”

“A cruel fate!” another man suddenly laughed. As every face turned towards him he continued with bitterness clear in his voice, “These damn rebels invaded our homes! They took what they wanted and made us thank them for the privilege of being robbed! They strutted the streets like cockerels with their blue bonnets and swords and stinking tartan! Why in the name of God should we concern ourselves if some of the bitches and whelps left in their wake are starving now? I think the Town Guard would be of more use to the city if they rooted these vagabonds out and sent them back to the wilderness they call home!”

Several heads nodded and there was a murmur of agreement at this sentiment. Emboldened by this show of support he added with a sneer, “and what will become of these children supposedly held in a brothel sir? You rescue them – hurrah! – and then what? I’ll tell you what captain! They’ll end up being placed in the work-house where we shall be expected to feed and clothe them! Can you explain why we should pay for the upkeep of these stinking caterans that blight out streets?”

Charles was struggling to contain his irritation at this man but forced his voice to remain calm as he replied carefully, “sir, it is children being forced to work in a brothel that I am talking about. Surely as Christians we cannot allow small children to be used for so foul a purpose?”

The man scowled and spat out “Papists!” He then shook his head but said no more as he studied the papers on the table before him. Another man now raised a finger to attract Charles’ attention. “While we can all share your feelings towards the cruel fate of these children it has to be admitted that they are not the only children who find themselves in such a predicament are they? Why sir, only last year I recall your men closing down just such an establishment and the city found itself responsible for…five children if I recall correctly? Five children sir who must be fed, watered, clothed and cared for and these were children of Edinburgh sir! They were not some flotsam washed down from the Highlands in the wake of the invaders!” He shook his head. “No sir, I can fully understand your concern but really, is it worth the bother and the risk of allowing a murderer free rein to roam our streets? I can see no benefit to the city in this. What if she, the prisoner I refer to here, were to be rescued from your custody by confederates and accomplices sir? What then indeed? From what you have told us, you have the guilty party safely locked away in the Tollbooth where she can get up to no further mischief and I for one think it best that is just where she should remain!”

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.

Author Website

 

 

Review: Haunted by Lynn Carthage

Haunted

Moving to my stepfather’s English country mansion sounded so promising. But the Arnaud Manor is neglected and unwelcoming, and I get the feeling it isn’t exactly uninhabited. Something wants to hurt us–especially my little sister, Tabby.

Okay, so I might be a little sensitive lately. My parents act oblivious to me, my old life is far away in San Francisco, and the gorgeous guy I just met tells me terrible stories about the infamous Madame Arnaud who lived here long ago, and about missing children and vengeful spirits. The kind of stories that are impossible to believe–until you’re living in one of them, fighting to protect everyone you love…

**********

What first drew me to this story was a family moving to a English country mansion, a haunting, and a sense of mystery to it…I’m not a paranormal reader normally but this one called out to me and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a debut novel as well and it was definitely entertaining and spooky to say the least. I think many young readers will find it flows really well and there is a lot of tension and surprises you don’t see coming…

Another thing that grab my attention was the infamous Madame Arnaud’s role in the story. I didn’t see that coming. I can’t tell you what part of the plot relates to, you will have to read the book to find out!

I also enjoyed the historical aspects to the story and feel it enriches and gives the plot more depth. I recommend this to young readers who enjoy light paranormal stories with a blend of the past.

I’m giving this a four star rating.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

A Writer’s Life with Jude Knight

 

Jude Knight

I’d like to welcome, Jude Knight to Layered Pages to talk about her writing. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Jude, why do you write?

I write because I cannot not write. Stories keep occurring to me, and I have to know what happens next.

I’ve told stories since I could talk, and I’ve written since I learned how. At primary school, I created dramas with a cast of any other child who wanted to play. At secondary school, I wrote short stories and published them in a student paper friends and I created and ran off on an old Gestetner.

Then came family, a mortgage, and the need to earn a living. I became a commercial writer, and poured my creativity into computer manuals and government reports. (Yes, you might well laugh.)

But the stories didn’t go away. In notebooks and computer files, I have nearly 100 story lines, more than 40 of them set in the late-Georgian, but other historicals, plus fantasy, sf, and contemporary. For a long time, I’d finish them inside my head – which, like any form of self-gratification, was temporarily satisfying but ultimately sterile. A story teller isn’t a story teller without an audience.

What is your writing process?

I tell myself the bare bones of the story, flesh out particular scenes that interest me, hear scraps of dialogue and see bits of action. Then I research the period, write detailed character sketches, and create a full story outline.

Then I ignore everything once I start writing, and let the story take me wherever it wants to go. I write like a knit: I lose track of the pattern, and I’m always dropping stitches.

Once I write THE END, I go back to my original plans. I analyse the story as it stands, find the holes and the dropped plot points, and decide what needs to be fixed. After the rewrite, it goes to beta readers, and the third draft takes their suggestions into account.

How has writing impacted your life?

For a start, I’ve never been so busy. I’ve set myself a publication schedule that, with a full-time day job, is turning out to be grueling. I’m convinced I was wise to wait until I was no longer raising children and grandchildren. They would have been neglected. I become absorbed and the time flies, and my PRH (personal romantic hero) arrives home, and I’m still in my pyjamas. I haven’t had breakfast and the chickens and cats haven’t been fed, but that’s in the 21st century. In the 19th, all is going as it should.

Fortunately, PRH supports me fully, and keeps me supplied with bacon and egg sandwiches and coffee.

The second way writing fiction has impacted on my life is that I’ve seldom been so happy. This is what I was made to do, and I love it. It’s the most fun one can have while standing (at least at my age).

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

No particular time. The characters go on working behind my back, and an idea will pop up in the middle of another story, or when I’m in a meeting at work, or even in church. Sometimes, I’m forced into a corner by an inconvenient historical fact, and the solution to it turns out to be better than my original plans.

That happened in Farewell to Kindness, when I wanted to get rid of the minor villains by having them imprisoned for smuggling. But they were wealthy, and would have paid the fine and never seen the inside of a goal. Criminal justice worked on a different system back then.

In the end, my hero set them up to rob him on the highway – a crime against him and the King. This meant he could prosecute them and have them imprisoned. And it serendipitously put him in the right place to rescue the heroine.

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

I’ve been fortunate with Candle’s Christmas Chair, my novella, to have mostly positive reviews. And I try to stay positive about the others, too. I blogged about bad reviews after I had two in one week that really panned the poor little story. In summary, I want to 1. Learn from them 2. Accept that any publicity is good publicity, 3. Understand that a bad review that states what someone doesn’t like may attract readers that like just that thing. What to do with a bad review

What advice would you give a beginner writer?

Write and keep writing. And when you’re not writing, read. Set a daily word count and stick to it. Make writing what you do whenever you’re waiting for an appointment or a bus; whenever you have a few minutes to spare. If you write 200 words a day, in a year you will have a novel. So just write.

Farewell to Kindness

Fairwell to kindness

Regency noir (On prerelease; on sale from 31 March 2015)

Price: US99c to 8 April 2015; USD3.49 from 9 April 2015

For three years, Rede has been searching for those who ordered the murders of his wife and children. Now close to end of his quest, he travels to his country estate to be close to the investigation.

He is fascinated by the lovely widow who lives in one of the cottages he owns. A widow who pays no rent. A widow, moreover, with a small daughter whose distinctive eyes mark her as as the child of his predecessor as Earl.

Six years ago, Anne blackmailed Rede’s predecessor at arrow-point for an income and a place to livein hiding from her guardian’s sinister plans for her and her sisters. He no longer has legal rights over her, but the youngest sister is still only 18. He cannot be allowed to find her.

Rede is everything she has learned not to trust: a man, a peer, a Redepenning. If he discovers who she is, she may lose everything.

To build a future together, Rede and Anne must be prepared to face their pasts.

Heat: PG13 edging towards R in places

Excerpts of Farewell to Kindness

George was drunk. But not nearly drunk enough. He still saw his young friend’s dying eyes everywhere. In half-caught glimpses of strangers reflected in windows along Bond Street, under the hats of coachmen that passed him along the silent streets to Bedford Square, in the flickering lamps that shone pallidly against the cold London dawn as he stumbled up the steps to his front door.

They followed his every waking hour: hot, angry, hate-filled eyes that had once been warm with admiration.

He drank to forget, but all he could do was remember.

One more flight of stairs, then through the half open door to his private sitting room, already reaching for the waiting decanter of brandy as he crossed the floor.

He had a glass of oblivion halfway to his lips before he noticed the painting.

It stood on an easel, lit by a carefully arranged tree of candles. George’s own face was illuminated—the golden shades of his hair, his intensely blue eyes. The artist had captured his high cheekbones and sculpted jaw. “One of London’s most beautiful men,” he’d been called.

He stalked to the easel, moving with great care to avoid spilling his drink.

Yes. The artist had talent. Who could have given him such a thing?

As he bent forward to look at it more closely, something whipped past his face. With a solid thunk, an arrow struck the painting, to stand quivering between the painted eyes.

******

Rede stayed for a while, shaking hands with those who came for an introduction, catching up with those he’d met during the week, and generally making himself pleasant.

Several times, he met eyes as blue as his own, fringed like his with dark lashes. His predecessors had certainly left a mark on the population. Many of the poorer members of the community bore the certain sign that a female ancestor had caught a Redepenning’s fickle attention.

Mrs Forsythe, the rent-free tenant, wasn’t introduced. He had been hearing her name all week. His tenants spoke of her warmly, and with respect, listing her good deeds, and praising her kindness. From what they said, she was a lynch pin of village life. Listening to their stories, he’d formed a picture of a mature widow; a gentlewoman of private—if straitened—means; a bustling matron with a finger in all the charitable activity of the parish.

The trio of young ladies on the path broke up, two coming over to be introduced as the daughters of the Rector and the Squire. The third young lady collected a child and another young woman from the Rectory garden.

The child was a little older than his Rita would have been; perhaps the age Joseph would have been, had he lived. She studied him curiously as she passed; meeting his blue gaze with her own. Indeed, he could have been looking at one of his own childhood portraits, cast in a more feminine mould.

She didn’t take her colouring from the two young ladies with her. And a quick glance after her showed that bonnets masked the faces of the two ladies they joined.

“Once my cousins arrive, we’ll invite the local gentry to dinner,” he told Mrs Ashbrook. “I’ve met some of them. Could you perhaps introduce me to others?”

As he’d hoped, she launched into a list of all the gentlemen and ladies in the neighbourhood, starting with those present. He listened impatiently as the objects of his interest moved further and further towards the gate.

At last, just as they passed under the arch, Mrs Ashbrook said, “and Mrs Forsythe and her sisters, the Miss Haverstocks. They were standing right there by the church… oh dear, you’ve missed them. They’ve just left.”

The slender figure hurrying away down the road with her sisters and daughter did not fit the picture he’d formed of the busy Mrs Forsythe. Not at all.

He continued listening to Mrs Ashbrook, commenting when appropriate, murmuring pleasantries to the people she took him to around the churchyard. And with another part of his mind he planned a change in the order of his tenant visits.

Meeting Mrs Forsythe, owner of the trimmest pair of ankles he had ever noticed and mother of a Redepenning by-blow, was suddenly a priority.

******************

What was it about this woman that made Rede want to spend time with her? She was, of course, delectable. But many women had faces and forms as lovely.

Since Marie-Josèphe died, he’d felt the stirrings of lust from time to time—and more than stirrings. Acting on those stirrings always felt like too much trouble, though.

In his private desires, as in all the rest of his life, he saw the world as if through a thick blanket that numbed feeling. He went through the motions of looking after his business interests and the Earldom, of acting appropriately in social occasions, of charming his tenants and his neighbours—but all the time, he was acting a part, as if he had been buried with his wife and children, and was reaching from the grave to operate his own body like a puppet.

Except when he woke each morning with his grief still raw. Except when he was planning how to make his enemies pay. Except when he read the reports David sent him every week.

And now, something beyond his vengeance was reaching through the blanket of unfeeling and bringing him back to life. Or, rather, someone.

He studied her for a moment, as he stood apart from the group. He couldn’t put his finger on what made her different. Perhaps it was that she talked to him, and not to his title or his wealth. He enjoyed her wit, her humour. He liked how she treated him with no more and no less deference than she did Will or the Squire or the innkeeper’s wife.

Today, she was dressed far more like a lady than a cottager, in a light-coloured dress in the modern style, modestly covering but shaping to her bosom, and dropping from there to a flounced hem. Yesterday’s apron had defined her slender waist, but the dress beneath it had hidden her shape entirely. Today’s dress left her waist a mystery, but clung to her hips and legs as she walked…

It would give the villagers confidence to see their lord working side by side with the other local leaders. Rede had run large teams of trappers, invested the money into multiple enterprises and made a not inconsiderable fortune by finding managers he could trust and inspiring them to give their all to serve him. He knew the value of showing his tenants and neighbours that he counted himself one of them.

His decision to help was for the village at large, not to impress the lovely Mrs Forsythe.

“And,” he admonished himself as he rode away, “if you believe that, I have a village built of pure gold in Upper Canada that I’d like to sell you.”

********

Rede leaned closer to Anne.

“Have I told you yet how lovely you look this evening?”

“Susan’s maid, Markham, is a wonder. She chose the gown, and altered it.” Anne preened a little, twisting from side to side in display.

“Lovely,” Rede agreed. “I always think you lovely, but I’m delighted to see you in clothes that are fit for you. And you managed to match the ribbon I gave you!”

Anne blushed. Rede was quick to notice and guess the reason. “That is the ribbon I gave you!”

“I happened to have it in my pocket,” Anne murmured.

Rede looked so smug at the thought that she wanted to rein him in.

“Rede, your nephew saw us last night, and he has told Baroness Carrington.”

He was instantly serious. “How…? Oh no. I forgot the lookout in his bedroom. Anne, I do apologise. I should not have… you were so lovely that I lost myself. But that is not an excuse. I should have been more careful. I will be more careful.”

“It cannot happen again, Rede.”

“What are you two looking so serious about,” Kitty asked. “Anne, did you know that in Russia, there is a water spirit that seeks out men and drowns them? And witches live in cottages with chicken legs, so they can turn the cottages around! If you go into the forest, they may catch you!”

“Really,” Rede said, “and you saw these yourself, Alex?”

Major Redepenning just laughed.

“In Canada,” Rede told Kitty, “the Rugaru live in the forest. They are part human and part wolf, and they eat ice. In the river live the Memaquasesak. They are little people, who love sweet things and are always to blame when baking goes missing.”

“And you saw these yourself, Rede?” the Major mocked.

“I certainly had many sweet things go missing. But that could have been John. Or perhaps it was Ti Jean.”

Then Rede told them the tale of Ti Jean and the Rugaru, and Major Redepenning topped it with a story of Baba Yaga and foolish Ivan, and the supper passed merrily.

Pre-order links

Kobo Books

ibooks

B&N

Smashwords

Amazon

Follow Jude on twitter

Friend Jude on Facebook

Subscribe to Jude’s blog

Subscribe to Jude’s newsletter

Follow Jude on Goodreads

A Writer’s Life with Author Nancy Bilyeau

I’d like to welcome Nancy Bilyeau to Layered Pages today to talk about her writing and to share with you all her newly released novel, The Tapestry. This story is the third in the award-winning Joanna Stafford series that takes place in the heart of the Tudor court. Thrilling plots, historical intrigue and unforgettable characters. I highly recommend this series!

Nancy, why do you write?

My journey to fiction is a little unusual. I have been writing professionally since I was 22 years old, and earning bylines before then. I was the managing editor of my college newspaper, The Michigan Daily, at the University of Michigan. But as I wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, moving into editing, it just didn’t occur to me that I could write fiction. Even less that I could write the sorts of books I’d most enjoyed reading since I was about 11 years old: historical fiction. My 13-year-old daughter reads J.K. Rowing and Rick Riordan. At her age, I was devouring Mary Stewart and Jean Plaidy. And as I grew older, I continued to read the genre: Norah Lofts, Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwall, Robert Graves, and Margaret George. Right before I started my own first novel, I read Possession, by A.S. Byatt. What made me decide to try to write novels 20 years after I graduated from college? I was invited to a small fiction workshop in a teacher’s workshop, because they needed four people to keep going and they only had three. I was a seat warmer. I walked in, saying, “I am not sure what I want to write, but I know it will be historical, set in Tudor England.” Once I started writing my novel, I couldn’t stop. It became an obsession. I love creating my own world and characters to live in it. It’s very hard, but incredibly rewarding.

The Crown (Joanna Stafford, #1)

The Crown (Joanna Stafford, #1)

How has writing impacted your life?

It’s exciting to put out these books and I’m happy to find readers who respond to them. I’m always touched to get a positive email or hear something nice. And also I’ve met so many incredible authors and bloggers and lovers of history. Ten years ago, I don’t know how I would meet many of them, because they come through social media largely, followed by perhaps a meeting at a writer’s conference or some other event. These people have enriched my life. Now I can’t imagine not knowing them!

The Chalice (Joanna Stafford, #2)

The Chalice (Joanna Stafford, #2)

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

You have to believe in yourself. It’s a cliché but it’s so true! If you decide to go the traditional publishing route, it can be very bruising and you must be strong. I will share with you the saga of my being published in England to demonstrate the extreme up’s and down’s. After my agent sold ‘The Crown” in America to Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a co-agent sold it to Orion Books in England in a very exciting newsworthy two-book deal. My British editor came to NYC for some reason and while here took me out to a fabulous dinner. I was ecstatic. But when the book was actually published in February 2012, there was no staff publicist assigned—and it received virtually no reviews. So, not surprisingly, the book didn’t sell well. I was upset. But then, the Crime Writer’s Association put “The Crown” on the shortlist for the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award and called it “the debut of the year.” Again—I was ecstatic. This would turn it all around! But the release of “The Chalice” had no more publicity or attention than “The Crown,” with predictable results. Low sales. I asked the UK co-agent to go in and talk to the publishing team on my behalf. She came back with the news that I shouldn’t worry—my team in England reassured her that they weren’t

expecting big sales at this stage, they were growing me for the long term. They believed in me. Several months later, I was told that the British publisher did not want my third book in the Joanna Stafford series. I was dropped. You can’t believe how upset I was. The agents tried to get another publisher to take it, but no one wanted the third in a series. One editor I had very high hopes for waited months to decide she didn’t want the book. I got the news in an email as I sat down to a birthday lunch with friends. I had to leave the table and cry in the bathroom. So, OK, my fiction career was officially dead in England. But I couldn’t give up on my books or the readers I knew I had in England. I was able to obtain the ebook rights for the UK and I self-published the book a few days ago. And people are buying it with enthusiasm! There were many times I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. You have to adopt that spirit if you want to write books for the marketplace.

The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford, #3) Newly Released

The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford, #3) Newly Released

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

Again, I am a little unusual. I know a lot of novelists who refuse to read bad reviews and if they do, they become very upset. I am not happy to see them, but I read them carefully and think about whether there is something I can learn from it. Maybe this comes from my magazine background—you have to have a fairly thick skin on your work.

Author Bio:

Nancy photo

I’m a novelist, a magazine editor, a mother, and a wife—but not in that order! I am writing a series of novels for Simon & Schuster on a Dominican novice struggling to survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the time of Henry VIII. The first two novels, ‘The Crown’ and ‘The Chalice,’ are on sale in North America, the United Kingdom, and 9 foreign countries. ‘The Tapestry’ goes on sale March 24, 2015.

Links:

Author Website

twitter: @tudorscribe

Pinterest

Facebook

The Tapestry Book links:

US Amazon

UK Amazon

 

 

Sunday Book Highlight

A Rage to Live

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Victor Breitburg is a survivor of the Lódz Ghetto, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Rhemsdorf and Theresienstadt concentration camps. He was liberated with a group known as “The Boys”. Their experiences have been documented in Sir Martin Gilbert’s Book, The Boys:Triumph Over Adversity. Victor and many of “The Boys” are still in contact with one another, although as it is with WWII veterans, their numbers are slowly diminishing.

Victor’s journey from Lódz, to the camps in Europe, to England, Scotland and the United States and his new life in America is the story told in this volume.

Victor completed studies in America, became a successful businessman and an accomplished lecturer on the Holocaust, having received numerous awards and citations for his role as an educator.

He is a widower, having been married to his beloved wife Lucille for sixty years.

He currently lives in Coconut Creek Florida, and at 84 years old, occasionally speaks on Yom HaShoa. He has written some poems, short stories and is considering a novel based on the early days of the Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service. Victor has two daughters, Denise and Myra. Denise is married to Mark and they have two children, Maya and Eli.

 Excerpt from Chapter 9: Resettlements and Goodbyes

We must have been traveling for several hours, with some stops to permit other trains to pass. We observed that eastbound trains were army trains and westbound trains were transports for the Red Cross. We knew that the Germans were suffering heavy casualties on the eastern front. Were they losing the war? Were they winning on the western front? Is this why they needed our help?

We stopped for the night and every one settled down to sleep. We still had bread and there was a barrel of water. If we had to go to the toilet, we put up a little curtain and went through a crack in the floor as we relieved ourselves down onto the railroad tracks. The mood on the train improved. Most were thinking that if they wanted to kill us, why would they use such a valuable train? We must have stopped a dozen times. Every time we stopped, we stood there for hours. This was the third day.

All of sudden there was a commotion. We went through a gate and the train stopped. There was silence, and we knew we had arrived. Everyone put on their backpacks and waited for the doors of the train to open. I heard my heart beating. I was not at ease and my lips were trembling. My mother gathered us in her arms and told us to stay together. “If for some reason we get separated, we should not forget that our meeting destination is with my sister in Brooklyn.” She kissed us. I hugged my mother.

I said, “Nothing is going happen to us, we are going to stay together.”

I took Felek’s hand, but he pulled it away and said, “Take care of Sarah. I am twelve years old and am able to help myself.” I smiled at him. He certainly was growing up. I was surprised at his reaction. He turned out to be such a good-looking kid. He was a Breitburg; blond and blue eyed. I am a cross breed between the Wajnmans and Brajtburgs.

Waiting for the door to slide open was hard. We didn’t know what to expect. At that moment I felt we should pray to the Almighty, “Please let this nightmare end for us so that one day we might go to the Promised Land and serve you for eternity.”

victor-and-joe

Victor & Joe

Joseph Krygier is the Pastor of New Covenant Baptist Fellowship in Buffalo, New York. He has written about and been engaged in cross-cultural ministry for over thirty years. He has taught in Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Australia. His current overseas ministry is TheosDoulos Church Planting Movement, training pastors in the Philippines on the island of Mindanao. Before becoming ordained, he was involved in theater, dance and lighting design. His a musician and a composer and he is currently writing a one-man play, Chagrined, based on this book. An audio book version will soon be available with the talent of Lee Wilkof and other Broadway actors.  He is married to Deborah, who works for the Buffalo Public Schools and has a son Aaron, who is pursuing a career as a writer and an actor.

Website

Blog

Facebook

 

 

 

 

A Song of Sixpence by Judith Arnopp

JA Picture

Judith, who is from Wales in the UK, is the author of seven historical fiction novels. Her early novels, Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd, are set in the Anglo-Saxon/Medieval period but her later work, The Winchester Goose, The Kiss of the Concubine, Intractable Heart and A Song of Sixpence, concentrate on the Tudor period. She is currently researching for her eighth novel about Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. Judith is also a regular blogger and author of historical articles.

A Ssong of Sixspence By JA

Blurb of A Song of Sixpence

In the years after Bosworth, a small boy is ripped from his rightful place as future king of England.

Years later when he reappears to take back his throne, his sister Elizabeth, now Queen to the invading King, Henry Tudor, is torn between family loyalty and duty.

As the final struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster is played out, Elizabeth is torn by conflicting loyalty, terror and unexpected love.

Elizabeth must choose between supporting the man claiming to be her brother, or her husband, the king?

Set at the court of Henry VII A Song of Sixpence offers a unique perspective on the early years of Tudor rule. Elizabeth of York, often viewed as a meek and uninspiring queen, emerges as a resilient woman whose strengths lay in endurance rather than resistance.

London – Autumn 1483

Ink black water slaps against the Tower wharf where deep impenetrable dark stinks of bleak, dank death. Strong arms constrict him and the rough blanket covering his head clings to his nose and mouth. The boy struggles, kicks, and wrenches his face free to suck in a lung full of life saving breath. The blanket smothers him again. He fights against it, twisting his head, jerking his arms, trying to kick but the hands that hold him, tighten. His head is clamped hard against his attacker’s body. He frees one hand, gropes with his fingers until he discovers chain mail, and an unshaven chin. Clenching his fingers into a fist, he lunges out with a wild inaccurate punch.

With a muffled curse the man throws back his head but, keeping hold of his prisoner, he hurries onward, down narrow, dark steps, turning one corner, then another, before halting abruptly. The boy hears his assailant’s breath coming short and sharp and knows he too is afraid.

The aroma of brackish water is stronger now. The boy strains to hear mumbled voices, low and rough over scuffling footsteps. The ground seems to dip and his stomach lurches as suddenly they are weightless, floating, and he senses they have boarded a river craft. The invisible world dips and sways sickeningly as they push out from the stability of the wharf for the dangers of the river.

The only sound is the gentle splash of oars as they glide across the water, far off the clang of a bell and the cry of a boatman. He squirms, opens his mouth to scream but the hand clamps down hard again. The men draw in their breath and freeze, waiting anxiously. A long moment, a motionless pause before the oars are taken up again and the small craft begins to move silently across the surface.

River mist billows around them; he can smell it, feels it seeping through his clothes. He shivers but more from fear than cold.

He knows when they draw close to the bridge. He can feel the tug of the river; hear the increasing rush of the current, the dangerous turbulence beneath. Surely they will not shoot the bridge, especially after dark. Only a fool would risk it.

The boy wriggles, shakes his head, and tries to work his mouth free of the smothering hand. He strains to see through the blinding darkness but all is inky black. The boat gathers pace and, as the noise of the surging river becomes deafening, the man increases his hold, a hurried prayer rumbling in his chest.

The whole world is consumed in chaos, rushing water, clamouring thunder, biting cold. In the fight for survival, the boy continues to battle fruitlessly for breath, struggle for his freedom. The body that holds him hostage tenses like a board and beneath the boy’s ear beats the dull thud of his assailant’s heart. The blanket is suffocating hot, his stomach turning as the boat is taken, surging forward, spinning upward before it is hurled down again, between the starlings, shooting uncontrollably beneath the bridge.

Then suddenly, the world is calmer. Somehow the boat remains upright on the water. It spins. He hears the men scrabble for the oars, regain control and his captor relaxes, breathes normally again. Exhausted and helpless, the boy slumps in the soldier’s arms, his fight defeated.

All is still now; all is quiet. The oars splash, the boat glides down river, and soon the aroma of the countryside replaces the stench of the city.

His clothes are soaked with river water; his stomach is empty, his body bruised and aching. Defeated and afraid, the man releases his hold and the boy lies still in the bottom of the boat.

He sleeps.

The world moves on.

Much later, waking with a start, the boy hears low, dark whisperings; a thick Portuguese accent is answered by another, lighter and less certain. This time when he blinks into the darkness, he notices a faint glimmer of light through the coarse weave of the blanket. He forces himself to lie still, knows his life could depend upon not moving but his limbs are so cramped he can resist no longer. He shifts, just a little, but it is too much. His kidnapper hauls him unceremoniously from the wet wooden planks.

The boy’s legs are like string. He stumbles as they snatch off his hood and daylight rushes in, blinding bright. He blinks, screwing up his face, blinking at the swimming features before him, fighting for focus. He sees dark hair; a heavy beard; the glint of a golden earring, and recognition and relief floods through him.

“Brampton!” he exclaims, his voice squeaking, his throat parched. “What the devil are you doing? Take me back at once.”

Brampton tugs at the boy’s tethered arms, drawing him more gently now to the bench beside him.

“I cannot. It is unsafe.”

“Why?” As his hands are untied the boy rubs at each wrist in turn, frowning at the red wheals his bonds have left behind. His Plantagenet-bright hair glints in the early morning sun, his chin juts forward in outrage. “If my father were here…”

“Well, he is not.”

Brampton’s words lack respect, but the boy knows him for a brusque, uncourtly man.

“But where are you taking me? What is happening?”

“To safety, England is no longer the place for you.”

The boy swallows, his shadowed eyes threatening tears. Switching his gaze from one man to the other, he moistens his lips, bites his tongue before trusting his breaking voice. “Where is my brother? Where is Edward?”

Brampton narrows his eyes and looks across the misty river. He runs a huge, rough hand across his beard, grimaces before he replies and his words, when they come, spell out the lost cause of York.

“Dead. As would you be had I left you there.”

Links

Amazon Author Page

Author Website

Author Blog

Facebook

JA Banner

 

Book Review: Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

01_Mist of Midnight

Publication Date: March 10, 2015 Howard Books Formats: eBook, Paperback Pages: 384

Series: Daughters of Hampshire Genre: Historical/Christian/Romance

 **********

Mist of Midnight is an opening story of a series I’m told. Set in Victorian England is the perfect backdrop for this story. A young girl, Rebecca Ravenshaw, returns to England from India. Her parents-missionaries-died in the Indian Mutiny. When she arrives no one believes who she says she is. A year before someone else claimed to be her and was quite convincing. The imposter died and Rebecca’s Father’s estate and his investments where given to a distant relative. His name is Captain Luke Whitfield. He and Rebecca quickly form an attraction for each other. However, her rights and who she says she is hasn’t been proven and you soon wonder what her fate will be. So begins the challenge or adventure I should say to convince everyone that she is the real Rebecca Ravenshaw.

I enjoyed the gothic mystery feel to the story and how Byrd portrays each of the characters. Even the secondary characters play an important role in the story. I was really intrigued with the details and culture of India that Byrd includes and she gives you a richly sense of time and place. Beautiful prose throughout, suspense in the right places and Byrd proves yet again you can write a good story without the vulgarity and foul language one finds often in books. This story is considered Christian Lit and Byrd does a splendid job with her characters dealing with real life situations. Often times I read in this genre and have been disappointed. I felt the characters weren’t believable and there realities seemed artificial. Sandra Byrd will not disappoint you with Mist of Midnight. In fact, she is one of my favorite writers and one of the few writers who I think can write brilliantly in this genre. I am so thrilled with this story and I will be on the lookout for more! Can’t wait!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 Praise for Mist of Midnight

“Intriguing secondary characters and lush scenery contribute to the often sinister, even creepy, moments readers will come to anticipate. Infusing her story with mystery, tension, and emotion, Byrd (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn) strikes a fine balance between the darkness of a Gothic mystery and the sweetness of a captivating love story. Byrd—and Brontë—fans will enjoy this first of the new Daughters of Hampshire series.” – Publishers Weekly

“A marvelous mingling of mystery and deeply moving family and romantic love, Mist of Midnight kept me guessing until the very end. A house on a cliff, a Victorian-Gothic atmosphere, a cast of suspicious characters including a dark, brooding hero and a strong heroine: shades (or mists) of Jane Eyre and Rebecca! I look forward to the next novel in this compelling new series.” (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning)

“Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric, with all the right elements for a true Gothic novel, from sounds that go bump in the night to characters who are not at all what they seem. The spiritual underpinning is solid, comforting, even as we’re trapped in the author’s finely spun web of mystery, romance, and a sense of foreboding that doesn’t lift until the final page. Charlotte Brontë? Victoria Holt? Meet Sandra Byrd, the modern mistress of Gothic romance!” (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night)

“Among the many things I love about reading a Sandra Byrd novel is knowing that her words will transport me to another place and time, that she will win me over with intriguing and complex characters, and that I’ll savor every word. Mist of Midnight is no exception. I loved this book! Sandra Byrd could belong to the writing group of the Bronte sisters if they’d had one. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre along with crumbling mansions, mysterious distant cousins, and one woman’s journey to prove who she really is are just few layers that ripple through the mists. Bravo, Sandra! Another winner.” (Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Light in the Wilderness)

“Richly written and multi-layered, Mist of Midnight blends traditional England and exotic India in a historical feat worthy of Victoria Holt. Breathless danger, romance, and intrigue made this series opener by the ultra-talented Sandra Byrd a compelling must-read!” (Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning)

“Once again, Sandra Byrd delivers a richly layered story that will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this brand-new series. Mist of Midnight has it all: intriguing and memorable characters—including a central female protagonist who is both complex and inspiring—a plot chock-full of mystery and suspense, and a Victorian gothic setting, impeccably researched and artfully and evocatively relayed. Prepare to be transported!” (Karen Halvorsen Schreck, author of Sing For Me)

“Mist of Midnight is a beautiful, haunting tale. Sandra Byrd masterfully weaves together both romance and suspense among a cast of mysterious characters. I was immediately swept into the wonder of this story, and I loved unraveling all the secrets and discovering exactly what happened at the old Headbourne House.” (Melanie Dobson, author of Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall)

“Sandra Byrd’s trademark attention to historical accuracy combines with an eerily building intrigue to envelope readers in a sense of dark foreboding that hinges precariously between hope and desperation. Mist of Midnight is a subtly haunting, beautifully atmospheric, and decadently romantic Victorian tale that will find a comfortable home among the best Gothic romances of days gone by.” (Serena Chase, author of The Ryn and contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog)

“Not since Jane Eyre have I read a Gothic romance that has captured my heart so completely. From the exotic India to an English estate shrouded in mystery, Byrd’s eye for detail shines through on every page. Romance lovers are sure to devour the tale of Rebecca Ravenshaw and her search for the truth behind the mysteries of Headbourne House and the handsome young captain who lives on the estate.” (Renee Chaw, reviewer at Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot)

“From the first word to the last, Mist of Midnight is a completely absorbing romantic, and mysterious, novel. Ms. Byrd’s writing is splendid, and her characters are so complex and endearing that they leap off the pages. I couldn’t put it down. An absolutely irresistible read!” (Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso)

Pre-Order/Buy the Book

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

03_Sandra Byrd Author

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series and a devotional for tweens.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self-publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Mist of Midnight Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 2 Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, March 3 Review at A Chick Who Reads Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, March 4 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, March 5 Review at Reading the Past Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation Review & Guest Post at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Friday, March 6 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, March 9 Review & Giveaway at Historical Readings & Views

Tuesday, March 10 Review at Just One More Chapter Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, March 11 Review & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, March 12 Review at Book Drunkard Spotlight at Books and Benches

Friday, March 13 Review & Giveaway at Forever Ashley

Monday, March 16 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, March 17 Review at Layered Pages

Wednesday, March 18 Review at The Eclectic Reader Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter

Thursday, March 19 Review at CelticLady’s Reviews Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 20 Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

04_Mist of Midnight_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

 

 

 

Sunday Book Highlight

The Queens Mistake

When the young and beautiful Catherine Howard becomes the fifth wife of the fifty-year-old King Henry VIII, she seems to be on top of the world. Yet her reign is destined to be brief and heartbreaking, as she is forced to do battle with enemies far more powerful and calculating than she could have ever anticipated in a court where one wrong move could mean her undoing. Wanting only love, Catherine is compelled to deny her heart’s desire in favor of her family’s ambition. But in so doing, she unwittingly gives those who sought to bring her down a most effective weapon, her own romantic past. The Queen’s Mistake is the tragic tale of one passionate and idealistic woman who struggles to negotiate the intrigue of the court and the yearnings of her heart.

**********

Catherine stood in the courtyard of Horsham, putting on her riding gloves and gazing into the dry-lipped, scowling expression of her grandmother, who had come out grudgingly to bid her farewell. A cool breeze blew across the gently rolling terrain as Catherine curtsied properly to the woman who had been more keeper than relation.

“Remember,” the dour old woman finally said, “you’re going to court with nothing beyond your passable looks and your Howard name. If you are very, very fortunate, you may become a maid of honor, but your personal state of poverty keeps you no better than the girls with whom you shared that dormitory, unless you do something bold about it. Never forget that.”

Catherine had an overwhelming urge to make a face just then or to say something spiteful in response. She had been aching to do that for years, and yet she had always been forced into compliance.

“I understand, my lady grandmother.”

Agnes arched a silver brow. “Do you? Are you certain?”

It would be impossible not to understand your contempt of me, she thought. “I do,” she said instead.

“Do you also understand, somewhere in that empty head of yours, how that lark to seduce not one but two of my servants could put you in jeopardy of never making any sort of important match at court?”

“How would anyone discover such a thing, and why would anyone care about the indiscretions of a country girl from Sussex?”

The report came tumbling out like marbles rolling across her tongue before she even knew what was happening. She stood frozen, but refused to drop her gaze from the dowager duchess’s cold stare. But this time Agnes would not dare to hit her, not when her soft skin and smooth face were the only chance in the world to regain the Howard standing. Catherine knew it and belligerently took full advantage. The silence stretched on. Catherine still did not break her gaze.

“So you do have something of your cousin Anne Boleyn in you, after all.”

“Thank you, Grandmother.”

“Pray only hope it is not the part that landed her on the Tower Green, separated from her head.”

Catherine felt a shiver deep in her chest, but she would not show it. “Everyone here wishes me well, as I do them. They will speak against me to no one.”

“A spurned heart is a dangerous thing.”

She was not certain whether her grandmother meant Henry Manox or Francis Dereham.

“They shall marry one day and forget the past, just as I plan to do.”

“And for your sake, and for the family’s sake, I shall pray for that, since the alternative could be ghastly.”

Suddenly, before she could say anything more, the old woman drew something from a pocket in her blue slashed bell sleeve. A ruby suspended from a silver chain glittered in the sunlight through the clouds as she held it out to Catherine.

“My husband, the duke, gave this to your mother on her wedding day. He thought it might bring her luck. It quite obviously brought her no benefit. So, since I have no use for it…”

Her words fell away as she awkwardly offered the chain to Catherine. She reached out her hand and took the precious piece of the past her grandmother offered. She had so few things by which to remember her mother. There was no painted likeness, no letter. Only one linen-and-lace chemise had been left to her—one Catherine greedily guarded. Now there was this personal offering from a woman with whom she had felt no personal connection at all before now. As they stood near the entrance to the manor, a breeze whistled softly through the bough of evergreen trees above them.

“Did she wear it?” Catherine’s voice was shallow, and she could barely force herself to speak.

“Out of duty to him, whenever she visited my husband, yes, Jocasta wore it prominently.”

So at least it had touched her skin. It had been a part of her mother, Catherine thought. Not it offered a connection to the only time in her life when she had been the recipient of real affection. Catherine placed the necklace at her own throat and clasped it behind her neck without breaking with her grandmother’s gaze. She vowed she would always wear it to remind herself of what she had lost upon her mother’s death, when she was forced to this sheltered, verdant countryside. There had been no love or affection for her here, but she would try to find that again at court… If some courtier, suitable to her uncle’s purposes might actually come to love her. She had been training herself for a long time to find just that.

 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.

Website

 

 

The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

The Price of Blood

Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure…

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder. As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword. Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

***********

That story you read when it’s so absorbing you find yourself carrying the book around with you even when you’re not reading it at that very moment. Or when you set the book down on a table or beside you and find yourself eyeing the cover, thinking about the story. Yep. This book is just that. Perfect.

Looking forward to writing my review for this book!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

Review: A desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

A desperate fortune

What a fantastic premise! I’m intrigue with stories that involve code breaking and to blend in a time slip theme gives a story more depth and compelling insight of the people in the story who break codes. Their process in doing so-if you will. The way their mind works is truly extraordinary and the author shows that in this story. Sara Thomas a women who was hired by an historian once famous is asked to cipher a journal from a women who lived in the past…300 hundred years ago in fact. She is encouraged by her cousin to take the job. There is one thing, Sara has Asperger but this perhaps heightens her intelligence for ciphering codes. She decides to take the job and travels to Paris where the job is at. The journal is in a home of a women who is a photographer-a bit eccentric- but does not play a major role in the story. There she starts to decipher the journal and the tale takes a different direction than expected…

I enjoyed how the author weaved the modern day story with the historical one and I found myself not wanting to put the book down because I had to find out what came next. There is also a bit of romance that develops in the story I did not mention above and I felt it was nicely done. This is the second book I have read by this author and I feel this story is a vast improvement from the first one I read. I really enjoyed the writing style in this one. However, I felt there could have been stronger character development. I am rating this book four stars.

*ARC received from NetGalley/publisher for an honest review

Stephanie M. Hopkins