Book Review:June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

JumeTwenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

My thoughts:

I love stories where there is a dual timeline of events past and present. I found this story to be genuinely absorbing. Though I have to say in the beginning Cassie’s story intrigued me more than her grandmothers story, June. There are so many wonderful characters and characters you will want to throttle in this story and the glam of Hollywood stars, a rambling old home-Two Oaks that was spectacular in its heyday. Voices of the past haunting Cassie as she is faced with discovering her family’s legacy.

There is some twist to the plot and I have to say, I guessed what was going to happen but not in every detail of the plot. There were some surprises for me.

I found this story to be thoroughly enjoyable and atmospheric. I also enjoyed the authors details to Two Oaks and the roots planted there by not only the people that lived in the house but by the people in the town that affected their lives. I wouldn’t mind revisiting this story again one day.

I rated this book four stars!

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Cover Crush: Time and Regret by M.K. Tod

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I admit, I judge a book by its cover. Overall presentation is important to pull a reader in. When I read a story I want to be completely immersed. A grand cover helps that along. Imagery and all-if you will. Check out this book description below and then be sure to read what I have to say about the cover and the premise!

Time and regret

About the book:

Time and Regret: When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…

Through her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.

My thoughts:

I have to confess something. Yesterday when I first saw this book cover on Facebook, I was sipping a cup of hot tea and almost spilled it all over me. I kid you not. Such a dramatic and artful cover that has been beautifully crafted. The cover gives you a real sense of time and place of the era its written in. I was totally cover crushing over this yesterday and still am. My deepest respect to the designers.

When I read the book blurb I became more intrigued. I love reading stories that hold long buried secrets, the bond of family and in the mist of troubled times. This story has all the elements of a good read and I am REALLY looking forward to reading it.

Check out these other great cover crushes at my fellow book bloggers sites!

A Bookaholic Swede

Flashlight Commentary

2 Kids and Tired Books

 

 

Wish-List 5: Christian Fiction

I am a Christian but generally do not read Christian Fiction. There are very few authors who write in this genre well, in my opinion. Often I find these stories to be too preachy or unrealistic. Or the characters seem artificial to me. I want real life, raw, vivid situations, real human struggles, real emotions and happiness-yes-but believable. I don’t like sugar coated stories. I want to see characters overcome hardships in the face of evil. I want truth. I want to be inspired. 

I came across this titles on gooderads and I really like what I saw. Now I am really looking forward to reading these in the near future!

Kiss of NightCenturies ago, Raphael was a blasphemous knight who fought in the Crusades purely for his own mercenary benefit, and to satisfy his taste for killing. Now, condemned for his evil passions and hypocrisy, he wanders the earth a vampire, cursed with first-hand knowledge of the supernatural world he once denied existed. The powerful relic he still possesses from his days as a Crusader has been stolen by a rival vampire who has recruited an army of soulless underlings to aid him in spreading evil. At the time he learns this, Raphael has been hunting this vampire for nearly a century, and it seems the final battle is destined to take place in Prague.br For help in this quest, Raphael must enlist the aid of two humans, David and Susan, who suddenly find themselves immersed in a world they never imagined, entangled with supernatural forces they can’t control. Susan, in particular, finds herself conflicted as she struggles with her inexplicable attraction to Raphael. In the end, both Susan and Raphael will be called upon to exercise courage and faith, and in the process, the question, “What would happen if a vampire truly accepted God?” is answered.

 

The Mermaid in the BasementA wealthy widow of a nobleman, daughter of a famous scientist, and skeptic who only trusts what can be proven.

Meet Serafina Trent. A woman about to take 19th Century London by storm.

It’s London, 1857, and everything is at stake for Serafina Trent. A woman of means . . . but not the typical Victorian lady who feels her place is to be seen and not heard. When her brother’s most recent female dalliance, a beautiful actress, is found murdered, all evidence points to him. Especially since the actress had just rejected him in a most public manner. Now everyone believes Clive is headed for the gallows. Everyone, that is, but Serafina.

Determined to prove her brother’s innocence, Serafina finds herself working with unlikely allies–including Dylan Tremayne, a passionate storyteller and actor with a criminal past. This novel will hold fans of mystery and history spellbound until the very last page.

Victorian England comes alive in this intriguing new series from one of Christian fiction’s favorite authors.

 

Whisper A Scream Noche Files II know evil exists, I met it face to face Solomon Noche is a therapist in the seemingly normal small town of Retselville, Kentucky dealing with displaced anger toward God after his family dies tragically. Nightmares encapsulate him where an ancient demonic cult sacrifices children in Retselville. Despite Sol’s protest, God chooses him to stop them. This discovery thrusts him into a journey where reality and psychosis blur as a nightmarish figure torments him with riddles and time-traveling horrors. The first riddle leads Sol to unearth a preacher’s journal from the 1800’s in a secret cellar in his yard. It details Elijah Darius’ mission to stop the cult and his eyewitness account of a demon named Miyah and its demand of child sacrifices to the ancient god Dagon. The journal intertwines with Sol’s life, and guides him to expose more secrets about Retselville, and the evil hidden history of the grounds where he works. As each riddle is solved, more horrors are uncovered including finding a sacrificial altar, a ritual dagger, and a well of children’s skulls. The closer he gets to the truth, the more sinister the secrets become as he believes all of Retselville may be part of the cult and their centuries’ old secrets. More than Sol’s life hangs in the balance, as Miyah tempts him with unfathomable choices. But resolves his only hope is in repentance as only God can save him and defeat this demon and its’ followers. Sol confronts Miyah in its appalling, fallen form a final time, in a battle beyond Retselville and Solomon Noche, but innumerable souls. Whisper A Scream is a supernatural thriller with demons, cults, and time-traveling nightmares. It becomes an intense thrill-ride of suspense, seizing you until the last page, with an addictive story that falls off the edge of horror. Dread seeps into your soul as you awaken to find yourself walking down the mysterious path with Sol and cower at the sights and sounds encountered. Pray your voice is heard as you WHISPER A SCREAM!

 

Yesterday's TomorrowVietnam, 1967.

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother’s wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he’s hiding something.

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

A poignant love story set amidst the tumultuous Vietnam War.

 

A Voice in the WindThe first book in the bestselling Mark of the Lion series, A Voice in the Wind brings readers back to the first century and introduces them to a character they will never forget—Hadassah. Torn by her love for a handsome aristocrat, this young slave girl clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance from the forces of decadent Rome.

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Author Laura Powell

Laura PowellI have the great pleasure of welcoming Laura Powell to Layered Pages today. Laura is a Features Commissioning Editor at the Daily Telegraph. She has written for The Guardian, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and various magazines. She was awarded a New Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales and was named as one of Amazon’s Rising Stars. She grew up in South Wales and now lives in London. The Unforgotten is her first novel.

Laura, thank you so much for talking with me today about your book, The Unforgotten. What a stunning debut! I enjoyed your story and I love the complexities of your characters. Tell me how you came to write this story?

Thanks so much – it still feels funny to hear that other people have read about the world that lived in my head only for so long. I started writing it one Sunday afternoon when my then-boyfriend was in football practice. I’d been on Facebook and had seen an old face that brought back so many memories. Out of the blue I started writing a dark, sort-of love story about someone who was in a relationship but was never sure whether her feelings were returned or not. By the end of the day I’d written two chapters. I’ve since weaved in lots of other elements – murder, mental illness, moral dilemmas. But that bittersweet love story remains the core for me.

What is the premise of your story?

It’s a forbidden love story between a 15-year-old girl Betty and a 30-year-old journalist Gallagher set in 1950s Cornwall. They’re from different classes, different worlds – but their relationship becomes very deep, very fast. They meet when Gallagher arrives in the fishing village where Betty lives to report on a series of murders – but they soon make a discovery related to the murders. And they are each faced with a huge dilemma that tests their feelings for the other and questions their morality. The devastating consequences of that decision unravels over the next 50 years.

What is the mood or tone your characters portray and how does this affect the story?

It is very dark, bleak but there is also a hopefulness and a lightness to it, which I hope shines through. Though ultimately I’m a sucker for a weepy book or film so…

How is your character(s) influenced be their setting?

The main character, Betty, is 15 and has hardly ever left her hometown of St Steele – a fictional Cornish fishing village – aside from going to the occasional dance in the neighbouring town. She travels outside that area for the first time in her life in the book – first to St Ives, a real Cornish town. And later, to London. Taking her away from that setting makes her even more vulnerable than she always has been, but also really tests her, as she has been so insulated (geographically speaking) all her life.

The Unforgotten

How did you choose a Cornish fishing village of St Steele as the setting of your story? Is it a real place? And why did you choose the 1950’s as the period for your story?

I chose to write about Cornwall because it’s my favourite part of the country. I’m Welsh. I now live in London. And I studied in the West Midlands (Warwick). Yet I’ve been to Cornwall – usually St Ives – every year since I was born, sometimes twice or three times. I love the town, it is full of happy memories with friends and family, so it was wonderful to ‘live’ there in my head for so long when writing. Yet I didn’t want to be tied to a real place so I invented St Steele. It’s loosely based on a teeny cove called Porthgwidden in St Ives that is just gorgeous. Making it a fictional place gives you a lot more freedom to move around, and to pick up a building or a street and drop it elsewhere if that benefits the plot, rather than being tied down to the truths of history.

Please tell your audience a little about Dolores Broadbent.

Dolores is the third main character. She is the mother of Betty, the main character. And she runs the guest house in St Steele. She was by far the easiest character to write and I had such a clear vision of her – a little like Julianne Moore’s character in A Single Man (the beautiful Tom Ford-directed film with Colin Firth.) She is beautiful and glamorous and whimsical but damaged and broken. She once had any man she wanted, she wafted about and was carefree. But now she is older, widowed, with little money, failing looks and a daughter of 15 who is not at all as she was, she is finding it hard to come to terms with her lot and as a result, can be quite violent and brutal. I loved her complexity. I hope people have the same sympathy for her that I do.

What are the changing emotions you have as a writer?

I’ve probably gone through every feeling on the spectrum. But if I’m honest, the one thing I always feel is disappointed. I wonder why I wrote that terrible line, why this or that isn’t working as well as I’d like it to, I’m constantly critiquing my writing and pulling it apart. I’m a bit of a malcontent. But I’m teaching myself not to be. Slowly.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

To inhabit the world as clearly and fully as I inhabit the ‘real’ world.

What are you working on next?

Another book. I don’t want to say too much in case I jinx it but it’s dark and historical and layered with mystery that unravels over the years, based on a catastrophic fictional event in our pasts. The idea has been bubbling in my head for years and I’m really enjoying delving in!

What is your writing process?

I’m afraid it’s an approach I can’t recommend for others but it works for me – ‘feast and famine’ is probably the best description. I spend weeks obsessed with writing the book; I think about it, write every spare second I have, late into the night and early into the morning, I write bits on the Notes of my phone, on my laptop when I’m on buses and trains, on scrawled napkins in cafes, then back to my laptop that night. Even when I’m with friends I’m thinking about the book… Then I crash. And spend a few weeks sleeping, reading, working, living etc – before I begin writing again. This is just for the first and second drafts I should add – I’d go mad if I was like that permanently. The later editing processes are much more methodical and orderly and calming. But that early writing stage is all a bit, well, obsessive!

Where can readers buy our book?

Amazon, Waterstones or Freight Books. Here are the links! If you read it, I’d love to know what you think – I’m on Twitter @laurapow1

Sites:

Waterstones-The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

Amazon UK

Freight Books-The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

 

Book Spotlight: Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert

02_Loving EleanorLoving Eleanor
By Susan Wittig Albert

Publication Date: February 1, 2016
Persevero Press; Thorndike (Large Print)
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Large Print

Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical Fiction

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When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok—Hick—is assigned to cover Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the wife of the 1932 Democratic presidential candidate, the two women become deeply, intimately involved. Their relationship begins with mutual romantic passion, matures through stormy periods of enforced separation and competing interests, and warms into an enduring, encompassing friendship that ends only with both women’s deaths in the 1960s—all of it documented by 3300 letters exchanged over thirty years.

Now, New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert recreates the fascinating story of Hick and Eleanor, set during the chaotic years of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War. Loving Eleanor is Hick’s personal story, revealing Eleanor as a complex, contradictory, and entirely human woman who is pulled in many directions by her obligations to her husband and family and her role as the nation’s First Lady, as well as by a compelling need to care and be cared for. For her part, Hick is revealed as an accomplished journalist, who, at the pinnacle of her career, gives it all up for the woman she loves. Then, as Eleanor is transformed into Eleanor Everywhere, First Lady of the World, Hick must create her own independent, productive life.

Drawing on extensive research in the letters that were sealed for a decade following Hick’s death, Albert creates a compelling narrative: a dramatic love story, vividly portraying two strikingly unconventional women, neither of whom is satisfied to live according to the script society has written for her. Loving Eleanor is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see and celebrates the depth and durability of women’s love.

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Praise

“Albert captures Hick’s spirit with energetic prose, painting a colorful picture of her fascinating life together with and apart from Eleanor. Although this memoir is fictional, the author draws upon thousands of personal letters, first-person accounts by others, and further research to present a compelling possible narrative of the relationship between Eleanor and Hick. Albert’s illuminating afterword adds important context to her narrative choices, and a comprehensive bibliography will encourage additional research. This warm, extensively researched novel will entrance readers and inspire them to look further into the lives of two extraordinary women.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Albert captures the turbulent thirties and forties with affecting detail, writing a novel notable not only for its emotional authenticity, but for its careful historicity. The nuances of Eleanor and Hick’s relationship are both moving and involving. Loving Eleanor is an intelligent love story with huge historical appeal.” —Foreword Reviews

“Susan Albert has done it again with another engaging, rich portrait, this time of women in love. Drawn from history, the love story of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok is full of excitement, drama and pathos. Both women of great intelligence and deep feelings, Eleanor and Lorena move from lovers to lifelong friends in the context of the most turbulent times of the 20th Century. As same-sex relationships finally move toward full acceptance in our culture, Albert’s book reminds us that love has always been love, no matter the partners.” —Robin Gerber, author of Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way

“Loving Eleanor, Susan Wittig Albert’s novelized memoir of Lorena Hickok’s intimate relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, is both richly nuanced and impressively detailed. Drawn from the thirty years of correspondence Hickok donated to the FDR Library toward the end of her life, “Hick’s” voice felt utterly authentic to me, always real, raw and compelling. Hick is a dichotomy—a tough, streetwise Associated Press reporter, and a tender, devoted friend and lover. This is not only an important book, but a great read. Loving Eleanor deserves to be at the top of your reading list!” —Ellen Hart, author of The Grave Soul, a Jane Lawless Mystery

“Susan Albert has, with imagination and deep knowledge of the historical record, supplied the missing pieces of the love story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. Here is everything we wish we knew. I couldn’t put it down.” —Leila Rupp, Professor of Feminist Studies, UC Santa Barbara,

“This birds-eye view of the FDR years is engaging from the first sentence. With Eleanor Roosevelt’s long-time lover as its narrator it navigates the catastrophes of the era and the heartbreak of women loving women in an unwelcoming time.” —Rebecca Coffey, author of Hysterical: Anna Freud’s Story

About the Author03_Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert is the award-winning, NYT bestselling author of the forthcoming historical novel Loving Eleanor (2016), about the intimate friendship of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok; and A Wilder Rose (2014), about Rose Wilder Lane and the writing of the Little House books.

Her award-winning fiction also includes mysteries in the China Bayles series, the Darling Dahlias, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries she has written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige.

She has written two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place, published by the University of Texas Press.

Her nonfiction titles include What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest (winner of the 2009 Willa Award for Creative Nonfiction); Writing from Life: Telling the Soul’s Story; and Work of Her Own: A Woman’s Guide to Success Off the Career Track.

She is founder and current president (2015-2017) of the Story Circle Network and a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.

For more information please visit www.susanalbert.com and www.LovingEleanor.com, or read her blog. You can also find Susan on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Like the Loving Eleanor page on Facebook.

Review: A Death Along the River Fleet (Lucy Campion Mysteries #4) by Susanna Calkins

A Death Along the River FleetLucy Campion, a ladies’ maid turned printer’s apprentice in 17th-century London, is crossing Holborn Bridge over the vilest portion of the River Fleet one morning when she encounters a distraught young woman, barely able to speak and clad only in a blood-spattered nightdress. The woman has no memory of who she is or what’s happened to her, and the townspeople believe she’s posessed. But Lucy is concerned for the woman’s well-being and takes her to a physician. When, shockingly, the woman is identified as the daughter of a nobleman, Lucy is asked to temporarily give up her bookselling duties to discreetly serve as the woman’s companion while she remains under the physician’s care. As the woman slowly recovers, she begins-with Lucy’s help-to reconstruct the terrible events that led her to Holborn Bridge that morning. But when it becomes clear the woman’s safety might still be at risk, Lucy becomes unwillingly privy to a plot with far-reaching social implications, and she’ll have to decide how far she’s willing to go to protect the young woman in her care.

My thoughts:

A Death Along the River Fleet is the first book I have read by Susanna Calkins and probably the first historical fiction book I have read that takes place soon after the great London fire. The title of the book, the cover and the premise really drew me in. I was completely absorbed in the story from the very beginning.

I’d have to say that Lucy Campion is now one of my favorite female heroines. She is strong, intelligent, wise even. I love her process of thought and her desire to help people. The fact that she works as a printer’s apprentice helps a great deal too! Also, how the people around her respond to her is fascinating. Really strong character development here.

There are solid historical aspects to this story and I was thrilled with the intrigue! How the story unfolded and how the clues were stacking up was brilliant! This is about the best mystery story I have read in a long time. I really can’t say enough great things about this book. I highly recommend it. Now I will be sure to go back and read the other three books that came before this one!

Rated: Five Stars!

I obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY IS AN HISTORICAL MYSTERY, BUT IT’S ALSO A TOUR OF FLORENCE

Welcome Donna Russo Morin to Layered Pages! 

Thank you so very much for hosting me today. It’s always a pleasure to have a chance to chat with bloggers and their readers.

PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY: Da Vinci’s Disciples has its historical basis rooted firmly in truth…one of the greatest conspiracies of the 15th century, a conspiracy that reached all the way to the Vatican. An assassination plot history now calls the Pazzi Conspiracy. With such a firm historical foundation, it allowed me to immerse myself fully in the city of Florence, as it was in 1478. And thanks to the many resources, both paper and virtual, the details of the setting found their way onto my page. It even allowed me to create a map, something I’ve always wanted to do.

Renaissance Florence map

Today, I’d like to share some of those remarkable architectural delights with you.

We must start where the story starts, where the assassination takes place: in Brunelleschi’s Duomo. In truth the Gothic style basilica, part of the complex of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Saint Mary of the Flowers Cathedral), was originally designed by Arnolfo di Cambio. Built on the ruins of the 7th century Santa Raparata Church, construction on the new structure began in 1296; it wasn’t complete, as it stands today—as it was in 1478—until 1436.

 

Duomo collage

The exterior façade is a checkerboard of marble using three different colors and strains of the opulent stone. Only in comparison, can the inside be called rather plain. By far one of its most enchanting features is the mosaic pavements that cover the floor.

But it is the dome itself that has always made the Duomo not only one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world, but one of its most innovative. Using buttresses was forbidden in Florence, for it was a favored technique of their enemies to the north. Creating an unsupported dome had never been done before. Only a Renaissance genius such as Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) would dare attempt it. For decades, Florentines feared it would fall upon their heads, especially during times of unrest, when they believed the wrath of God would strike the dome, burying any beneath in a fatal rubble. Today, the golden-bricked dome is one of Florence’s most recognized monuments and dominates the skyline.
Palazzo della Signoria collage

Giuliano de’ Medici is murdered. His brother, the powerful Lorenzo de’ Medici survives. But he would never be the same again. He sets out on a rampage of vengeance that would eventually find close to one hundred executed. Lorenzo’s preferred method of eliminating his enemies…throwing them out a window of the Palazzo della Signoria (now known as the Palazzo Vecchio), a rope wrapped around their throats.

The government palace is made of solid rusticated stonework and is enhanced with two rows of Gothic windows. It is from these windows that the Otto, the eight that ruled the police forces of Florence, flung the Medici enemies.

Built in 1299 by the citizens of the original Florence commune, it has been enlarged and enriched by decorative details in the many years since. It is at one of the main entrances to the palace that Michelangelo’s David originally stood. This most famous sculpture has since been replaced with a copy when the original was damaged in one of Florence’s many military challenges.
Santo Spirito collage

The secret society of women artists that inhabit Portrait of a Conspiracy are a product of my imagination only. Santo Spirito, the church in whose sacristy the woman have their ‘secret studio’ is very real.

The Basilica of the Holy Spirit (simply known as Santo Spirito) is located in the Oltrarno quarter of the city, in 15th century Florence, one of the wealthiest sections of the city.  The original structure was also built in the 13th century. The existing structure was also designed by Brunelleschi after it suffered both physical and spiritual ruin during a period of the city’s civil unrest. The first cornerstones of the building, the pillars, were delivered ten days before Brunelleschi’s death. His followers Antonio Manetti, Giovanni da Gaiole, and Salvi d’Andrea completed the work begun by the master.

Santo Spirito will play a major role in all volumes of the Da Vinci’s Disciples trilogy. It is not only the home of this secret art society, it is the location of some of their most decisive challenges.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of Florence. You’ll find more, including the actual names of the streets as they existed in the 15th century, within the pages of my books.

Book Blurb:

02_The-Portrait-of-Conspiracy

One murder ignites the powderkeg that threatens to consume the Medici’s Florence. Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed. Seeking to wrest power from the Medici family in 15th Century Florence, members of the Pazzi family drew their blades in a church and slew Giuliano. But Lorenzo de Medici survives, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos that takes dozens of lives. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe. Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought after painting as she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend and see her safe. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era the peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci. It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place. Historical fiction at its finest, Donna Russo Morin begins a series of Da Vinci’s disciples with a novel both vibrant and absorbing, perfect for the readers of Sarah Dunant.

“A riveting page-turner unlike any historical novel you’ve read, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition into the first of a trilogy by a masterful writer at the peak of her craft.” -C. W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de’ Medici and The Vatican Princess

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

 About the Author

03_Donna Russo Morin (2)

Donna Russo Morin is the award winning of author of historical fiction. A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, she lives near the shore with her two sons, Devon and Dylan, her greatest works in progress.

Donna enjoys meeting with book groups in person and via Skype chat. Visit her website at www.donnarussomorin.com; friend her on Facebook and follow her on

Twitter@DonnaRussoMorin.

 Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, May 10
Review at Unshelfish
Review at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, May 11
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 12
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, May 13
Review at Let Them Read Books
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book

Monday, May 16
Review at Just One More Chapter
Interview at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, May 17
Review at Seize the Words

Wednesday, May 18
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Thursday, May 19
Review at Worth Getting in Bed For
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, May 20
Guest Post at Layered Pages
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Monday, May 23
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, May 24
Review at #redhead.with.book
Interview at Reading the Past

Wednesday, May 25
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Thursday, May 26
Review at Puddletown Reviews

Friday, May 27
Review at The True Book Addict

Monday, May 30
Review at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, May 31
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, June 1
Review at The Book Connection

Thursday, June 2
Review at Book Nerd
Review at Bookramblings

Friday, June 3
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Giveaway

To enter to win an eBook of PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY by Donne Russo Morin please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. FIVE copies are up for grabs!

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on June 3rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Direct Link to enter giveaway click here

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Book Addiction-A Problem Never Solved…

and a problem I don’t mind having…

By Stephanie M. Hopkins

A few weeks ago I was headed out to a Sunday School Social with my mother. I decided to tag along because I know the women in her class. Nice ladies. We had a great time! Anyhow, we had some time to spare beforehand and we decided to go to Costco. For book lovers, you know what that means! Great deals on books! As we walked in the store-with a gleam in my eye-I headed straight to the books. I know. I have it bad. Really bad. Books are a major part of my life. I am always on the hunt for the next read and while my shelves are over flowing, I never stop hunting. All those words waiting to be read. All those characters waiting to be heard. All the life experiences and places ready to be explored. To live thousands of lives through the character’s eyes. The best way to escape reality is through a book.

Look at me. Getting caught up in why I read. Let’s get back to what I was saying about heading straight to the books. I made a bee line to the books, I could feel the excitement in the air. Or was that just me? It was like a gravitating pull. As I approached the tables. The books were piled high. I browsed through the books and came across these beauties and of course I had to have them. And at a great price too! Enjoy! 

Stars over sunset BLVD

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

300 days of sun

Combining the atmosphere of Jess Walters’ Beautiful Ruins with the intriguing historical backstory of Christina Baker Kline’s The Orphan Train, Deborah Lawrenson’s mesmerizing novel transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past—where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.

Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

City of Women

It is 1943—the height of the Second World War. With the men away at the front, Berlin has become a city of women.

On the surface, Sigrid Schröder is the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime.

But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman of passion who dreams of her former Jewish lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets—she soon finds herself caught between what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two…

The Sound of glass

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

Major Pettigrews last stand

“In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countrside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: hnor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But, then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?”

The Dark Lady’s Mask by Mary Sharratt

02_The Dark Lady's MaskThe Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse
by Mary Sharratt

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover, eBook, Audio Book; 416 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Hardcover) | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble

Advance Praise

“An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy, who may — or may not — be Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.”
— MARGARET GEORGE, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I

“Perfectly chosen details and masterful characterization bring to life this swiftly moving, elegant story. As atmospheric and compelling as it is wise, The Dark Lady’s Mask is a gem not to be missed.”
— LYNN CULLEN, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End

“Mary Sharratt’s enchanting new novel, The Dark Lady’s Mask, is a richly imagined, intensely romantic and meticulously researched homage to lauded poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, an accomplished woman of letters who many believe to be Shakespeare’s Eternal Muse. Sharratt unfolds a captivating tale, a compelling ‘what if ’ scenario, of a secret union that fed the creative fires of England’s greatest poet and playwright.”
— KATHLEEN KENT, bestselling author of The Heretic’s Daughter

“Mary Sharratt is a magician. This novel transports the reader to Elizabethan England with a tale of the bard and his love that is nothing short of amazing. Absorbing, emotional, historically fascinating. A work of marvelous ingenuity!”
— M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

“I enjoyed this exciting fantasy of Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady.’ There was adventure, betrayal, resilience, and above all, the fun notion that Shakespeare might have had far more than a muse to help him create his wonderful plays.”
—KARLEEN KOEN, bestselling author of Dark Angels and Before Versailles

“Through the story of Aemilia Bassano, a talented musician and poet, Mary Sharratt deftly tackles issues of religious and gender inequality in a time of brutal conformity. The Dark Lady’s Mask beautifully depicts the exhilaration and pitfalls of subterfuge, a gifted woman’s precarious reliance on the desires of powerful men, and the toll paid by unrecognized artistic collaborators. Resonant and moving.”
—MITCHELL JAMES KAPLAN, author of By Fire, By Water

“In The Dark Lady’s Mask, Mary Sharratt seduces us with a most tantalizing scenario —that the bold, cross-dressing poet and feminist writer Aemilia Bassano is Shakespeare’s mysterious muse, the Dark Lady. Romantic, heart-breaking, and rich in vivid historical detail and teeming Elizabethan life, the novel forms an elegant tapestry of the complexities, joys, and sorrows of being both a female and an artist.”
—KAREN ESSEX, author of Leonardo’s Swans and Dracula in Love

“Mary Sharratt has created an enchanting Elizabethan heroine, a musician, the orphaned daughter of a Jewish Italian refugee who must hide her heritage for her safety. Taken up by powerful men for her beauty, Amelia has wit and daring and poetry inside her that will make her a match for young Will Shakespeare himself and yet she must hide behind many masks to survive in a world where women have as much talent as men but little power.”
— STEPHANIE COWELL, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

“Prepare to be swept away by Mary Sharratt’s latest foray into historical fiction. Inspired by the true story of poet, Aemilia Bassano, THE DARK LADY’S MASK explores her relationship with William Shakespeare. Richly detailed and well researched, this lush tale brings Aemilia out of the shadows of history and let’s her emerge as one of the founding mothers of literature. Drama, intrigue, and romance will have readers racing through this brilliant celebration of the muse.”
PAMELA KLINGER-HORN, Sales & Outreach Coordinator, Excelsior Bay Books

About the Author03_Mary Sharratt

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 19
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Excerpt & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 21
Review at A Book Drunkard
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, April 22
Review & Giveaway at History Undressed

Monday, April 25
Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review

Tuesday, April 26
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, April 27
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, April 28
Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, April 29
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Saturday, April 30
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, May 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at Cynthia Robertson, writer

Tuesday, May 3
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, May 4
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 5
Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, May 6
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, May 9
Review at A Dream within a Dream

Tuesday, May 10
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, May 11
Review at Puddletown Reviews

Thursday, May 12
Review & Giveaway at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, May 13
Review at First Impressions Reviews
Excerpt at Layered Pages

Monday, May 16
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, May 17
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 18
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, May 19
Review & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, May 20
Review at Broken Teepee

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Review: Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

Lost amog the living

England, 1921. Three years after her husband, Alex, disappeared, shot down over Germany, Jo Manders still mourns his loss. Working as a paid companion to Alex’s wealthy, condescending aunt, Dottie Forsyth, Jo travels to the family’s estate in the Sussex countryside. But there is much she never knew about her husband’s origins…and the revelation of a mysterious death in the Forsyths’ past is just the beginning…

All is not well at Wych Elm House. Dottie’s husband is distant, and her son was grievously injured in the war. Footsteps follow Jo down empty halls, and items in her bedroom are eerily rearranged. The locals say the family is cursed, and that a ghost in the woods has never rested. And when Jo discovers her husband’s darkest secrets, she wonders if she ever really knew him. Isolated in a place of deception and grief, she must find the truth or lose herself forever.

And then a familiar stranger arrives at Wych Elm House…

My thoughts:

I love reading about independent women in period pieces, old houses in countryside’s with secrets, family curses, a ghost and war world I stories. When these elements are blended together-well-you have me hooked! There was tension and action in all the right places.

I adore Jo! I could read about her all day. I have to say, I wanted her not to be so submissive to Dottie, her aunt. Though I get why she was. She needed to work after all and in those times, it was hard for women to find employment.

Dottie is a strange bird for sure. Tough, smart, secretive, and a go getter. On the down side, she is rude and uncaring at times but it works for this story.

Jo’s husband, Alex is one I really didn’t warm up too. Alas, I can’t tell you why because I don’t want to spoil the story.

Now for the other characters. Well done! They add so much to the story. Love it when that happens!

I found this story to be atmospheric and well written. The plot is excellent and I didn’t want to put the book down!

Something about the story bothered me though and for a while I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I think it must be the relationship between Jo and her mother.  I think the author intended it to be a back story but I wanted more out of it. There is a situation that seemed so abrupt and final. I wanted more answers. I wanted there to be more feelings toward that situation. But I’m okay with how the author told the story. Though I kept thinking there is a bigger story there. Anyhow, it doesn’t take away from how I feel about the book at all.

I am looking forward to reading more books by this author!

I have rated this book four and a half stars.

I have obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins