Cover Crush: Mr Lazarus by Patrice Chaplin

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I’ve been on a science fiction kick lately and I love book covers with clocks on them for some reason. Especially old looking clocks. The clock shows a story of time travel, a woman who is obviously part of the story and there is a certain intensity of the cover. Maybe it’s the richness of the colors and the flowing look of the ladies’ hair as she is looking down. Or maybe it is the clock itself that gives off the intensity feel. The title has me intrigued as well. Who is this Mr Lazaus and what is his role in the story? I look forward to finding out!

Mr LazarusMr Lazarus by Patrice Chaplin

London. 1970.

Vicky Graham, an unsuccessful film producer at the BBC, crosses the path of Luciano Raffi, a famous violinist, as he performs at the Proms.

For Vicky he represented something she could not have, but something she longingly craved for. A chance to lift her out of the unloving greyness of everyday life.

Through her job at the BBC, she is able to organise an interview with him, but their meeting triggers a renewed obsession with him.

The reason? Luciano has something in common with Vicky – they both know about the portal.

A secret history, nearly untraced, connects these distant souls.

But will it last?

Raffi is about to disappear from her life…

To get him back, she must travel to where and when she had never expected.

She must uncover the secret history of the portal…

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Other great book bloggers who cover crush

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court 

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede 

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired 

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

 

Characters in Motion: Bestselling Author Margaret Porter

A Pledge of better timesLady Diana de Vere, the heroine of A Pledge of Better Times, was born into an aristocratic and prominent family of the late 17th century. Her father is an earl, a courtier and trusted advisor to Charles II, a position he retains—for a time—under James II. The landscape of Diana’s life, therefore, consists of the royal palace of Whitehall in London—her extended family’s dwellings lie within the palace complex. In a very real sense she’s closed off from the common citizen, from ordinary life, apart from her interaction with servants. Her world is one of opulence and privilege, and also one of restricted movements. A large part of my research was visiting sites were familiar to her during her lifetime, which allowed me to envision her in the actual spaces she had occupied and to imagine her in the ones that no longer exist.

Her father, Lord Oxford, welcomes her questions and provides supportive guidance. Her mother, despite a scandalous past as a courtesan, is far less tolerant of what she perceives as Diana’s faults, and she’s determined that her daughter will achieve a wealthy and advantageous marriage. As a maid of honour to Queen Mary II, my secondary heroine, Diana finds a sort of freedom living away from home, following queen and court from Whitehall to Hampton Court to Kensington and back. Not only does her position remove her from her mother’s orbit, it enables a semi-clandestine courtship by Charles Beauclerk, son of King Charles II and actress Nell Gwyn. As married woman and duchess, Diana’s intelligence, independent spirit, and tendency to speak her mind create conflict on more than one occasion.

Diana’s habits and pursuits are typical of an aristocratic female of her time—needlework, music, dancing, and drawing. Religious instruction in her early life takes firm root, and her faith is a source of strength in difficult times, and supports her during life’s soul-searing tragedies. Her fondness for gardens and sewing and devotional writings make her the ideal companion for Queen Mary, who shares and fosters these interests.

Diana’s personality is a mixture of calm serenity, attractive to the troubled and often agitated Queen Mary, determination, and occasional tempestuousness. In her youth she has convictions but lacks empowerment, but as she matures she gains a certain amount of agency. She will exert herself to control or to remedy a situation, and then faces the consequences with resignation. Her loyalty to her queen, her duty to her family, and her fidelity to her husband are ruling attributes. But she can be prejudiced as well, and finds herself unable to warm to King William—she sees firsthand the distress he causes his wife through his frequent absences. Yet her husband secures His Majesty’s favour, and retaining it is paramount to him.

Diana’s greatest antagonist in early life is her own mother, who values her as an asset to exploit for the family’s advantage, and who hopes to sever her daughter’s relationship with “Nelly’s brat.” Queen Mary’s antagonist is her sister Princess Anne, who causes much grief and anger from insubordination and through her relationship with her confidante Sarah Churchill, the Countess and later the Duchess of Marlborough. The latter is not only an antagonist to the queen, she pulls strings to shatter one of Diana’s most cherished hopes. Sarah was born a commoner, and her unkindness towards Diana—an aristocrat from birth—arises from jealousy.

Charles, Diana’s suitor and eventual husband, faces antagonists at court and on the battlefield—as does her father. For them, the greatest personal antagonist is King James II. Each man strives in different ways to cope with the stubborn and imperious monarch, with varying degrees of success. King James, a Roman Catholic convert, is so fanatical about his religion that he disregards Parliamentary laws and protocols, and thus brings about his destruction. Lady Oxford, Diana’s mother, is antagonistic towards Charles, mocking him in public and in private. In her opinion, he’s an unworthy husband for a de Vere and lacks the money needed to restore the family’s fortunes.

My characters’ self-image is of great significance, with powerful impact upon plot and conflicts within the story. Royal blood flows through the veins of Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Ablans: his father and grandparents and prior ancestors were kings and queens of England. Yet his mother was the lowest of commoners. Nell Gwyn, raised in a brothel, sold oranges in the theatre and was an actress before the king made her his mistress. Charles can never feel completely comfortable at the royal court, especially after his father’s death. He chooses instead a voluntary exile in order to become a soldier. As an army officer, he believes, he can rise to prominence on his own merits. This ambition is unexpectedly undermined, and when he discovers by whom he does not react well.

As for Diana, she is a woman of sterling reputation and great depth, but most people in her world (and down through history) regard her primarily as a court beauty. The greatest painter of the day painted her—repeatedly—and she retained her looks till her dying day. Her mother believed that the girl’s lovely face destined her for a brilliant match rather than a match based on passion, affection, and compatibility. As a married woman, Diana wonders whether her beauty alone attracts her husband instead of other qualities she values in herself. Her beauty, like Charles’s bastardy, is isolating, troublesome, and a source of inner conflict. She tends to judge others as critically as she does herself, but that judgment is usually tempered by an effort to understand…something her husband is slower to do.

Lord Oxford, Diana’s father, has lived long and seen much. He tends to regard himself as a relic of the past, yet he’s pragmatic enough to be progressive when necessary. During the Civil Wars he was Royalist—twice he was imprisoned by Cromwell on suspicion of being a spy—and believes himself forever loyal to the Stuarts. When James II tests this loyalty in unexpected ways, his lordship’s conscience as a member of Parliament and as a Protestant force him to turn against his king and support the Williamite cause.

Queen Mary, for a variety of reasons, has low self-esteem and a poor self-image. Her uncle King Charles married her off to her Dutch first cousin, a complete stranger. But her dread and sorrow at leaving England for a foreign court gave way to a true and lasting love. She’s tortured by guilt over her repudiation of her father the King when her husband seizes the crown for himself. Although her claim to England’s throne is stronger than William’s, she regards herself as his inferior, unfit to rule, and willingly cedes all authority to him. Yet it is she who is—most unhappily—left in control of the nation while he’s away fighting his endless wars. At the same time she must deal with her recalcitrant sister Anne and the problematic Lady Marlborough. Adding to these woes is her husband’s infidelity, and the fact that his mistress is a courtier—and much less attractive than Mary.

For me, writing biographical historical fiction requires the weaving of three necessary strands to form a plot. First there’s the factual biographical record of the individuals depicted—gleaned from period diaries, newspaper accounts, portrait sittings, memoirs, family genealogies, and other primary sources. Then there’s the factual historical record of their times—what significant events did they participate in, how were they affected by events near or far, with whom were they likely to interact on a regular or irregular basis. And lastly, but in a way the most important for a fiction writer, is the imagination, the creative component that enables the author to invent.

The bare facts of biography can’t really reveal how a real-life individual felt at any given moment. The private aspects of life—personal opinions, passions, deepest feelings about self or others—are concealed areas of past lives, the least accessible aspects of the individuals. Especially if the characters are relatively obscure, as Diana and Charles are. I must therefore invent conversations, reactions, consequences for my characters. I have to draw conclusions from research that I hope bear a semblance of accuracy, but I can never lose sight of the fact that I am telling a story for the purpose of entertaining—informing about history and enlightening about the human condition are wonderful side benefits. That combination of elements made me love historical fiction in childhood, and they’ve kept me writing it throughout my adulthood!

A Pledge of Better Times

“Porter’s ambitious novel of 17th-century England is brimming with vivid historical figures and events . . . rigorously researched and faithfully portrayed.” ~  Publishers Weekly

“A true delight for fans of monarchy. . . Porter does a sensational job portraying the time period . . . the relationship between Charles and Diana is complex and interesting.” ~ The Examiner

“Elegant prose and vivid detail…sweeps you into late Stuart England.” ~ Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris and Girl on the Golden Coin

margaretporterthumb1Because I was born into a family of readers and writers and scholars and travelers, there’s no mystery about how or why I found my profession. From a very early age I invented characters and composed scenes and stories in my head. At about 10 years old I first saw my own words printed–in the grammar school newsletter that I co-founded, typed, and published. Around the same time I decided to combine my theatrical and my writing ambitions, and adapted all my favourite youth novels into scripts.

Since then many, many more words have been published: novels, nonfiction articles on British history and travel and theatre, website content, book and film reviews, my M.A. thesis, advertising copy…and more.

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Twitter @MargaretAuthor

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Cover Crush: My Sister’s Secret by Tracy Buchanan

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My sisters secretThis cover really appeals to me. Maybe it is the picture of the beach…it certainly gives a realistic view of the ocean and walking along the shore. One can imagine the sound of the waves and the birds calling above. Most of all how the two girls portrayed (one walking behind the other, starting after her) gives you a since of mystery and that there is a secret to be revealed. This cover also gives me the longing to visit the beach again! I bet this would be a great beach read. You think? Ha!

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My Sister’s Secret by Tracy Buchanan

What if everything you’d built your life on was a lie?

Willow’s memories are happy: full of smiles, love and laughter. But a mysterious invitation to a photographic exhibition exposes a secret that’s been buried since a tragic accident years ago.

Willow is forced to question everything she knew about Charity, her late mother, and Hope, the aunt she’s lived with since she was a child.

How was the enigmatic photographer connected to Willow’s parents? And what is the secret Hope has been keeping from her sister for so long?

Willow can’t move forward in her life without answers, but no-one wants to give them.

Is there anyone she can trust?

A gripping, page-turning and emotionally powerful story, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain.

Be sure to check out my last cover crush here!

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Here are some of other great cover crushes from a few of my friends this week:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court -Coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired 

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

Wish-List 5: Sebastian St. Cyr Series by C.S. Harris

I adore mystery and historical Fiction combined into a story. Today I am sharing with you, the Sebastian St. Cyr Series by C.S. Harris. I am currently reading, What Angels Fear and hope to continue with the other books this year. So little time! Anyhow, below are the ones I want to get to next plus the one I’m reading right now. What is on your wish-list? 

What angles fearWhat Angels Fear -Currently Reading

It’s 1811, and the threat of revolution haunts the upper classes of King George III’s England. Then a beautiful young woman is found raped and savagely murdered on the altar steps of an ancient church near Westminster Abbey. A dueling pistol discovered at the scene and the damning testimony of a witness both point to one man, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, a brilliant young nobleman shattered by his experience in the Napoleonic Wars.

Now a fugitive running for his life, Sebastian calls upon his skill as an agent during the war to catch the killer and prove his own innocence. In the process, he accumulates a band of unlikely allies, including the enigmatic beauty Kat Boleyn, who broke Sebastian’s heart years ago. In Sebastian’s world of intrigue and espionage, nothing is as it seems, yet the truth may hold the key to the future of the British monarchy, as well as to Sebastian’s own salvation…

When Gods DieWhen Gods Die

Brighton, England, 1811. The beautiful wife of an aging Marquis is found dead in the arms of the Prince Regent. Draped around her neck lies an ancient necklace with mythic origins-and mysterious ties to Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. Haunted by his past, Sebastian investigates both the Marchioness’s death and his own possible connection to it-and discovers a complex pattern of lies and subterfuge. With the aid of his lover, Kat Boleyn, and a former street urchin now under his protection, Sebastian edges closer to the killer. And when one murder follows another, he confronts a conspiracy that threatens his own identity…and imperils the monarchy itself.

Why Mermaids SingWhy Mermaids Sing

It’s September 1811, and someone is killing the wealthy young sons of London’s most prominent families. Partially butchered, with strange objects stuffed into their mouths, their bodies are found dumped in public places at dawn. When the grisly remains of Alfred, Lord Stanton’s eldest son are discovered in the Old Palace Yard beside the House of Lords, the local magistrate turns to Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for help.

Ranging from the gritty world of Thames-side docks to the luxurious drawing rooms of Mayfair, Sebastian finds himself confronting his most puzzling–and disturbing–case yet. With the help of his trusted allies–young servant Tom, Irish doctor Paul Gibson, and his lover Kat Boleyn–Sebastian struggles to decipher a cryptic set of clues that link the scion of a banking family to the son of a humble Kentish vicar. For as one killing follows another, Sebastian discovers he is confronting a murderer with both a method and a purpose to his ritualized killings, and that the key to it all may lie in the enigmatic stanzas of a haunting poem…and in a secret so dangerous that men are willing to sacrifice their own children to keep the truth from becoming known.

Where serpents sleepWhere Serpents Sleep

London, 1812. The brutal slaughter of eight young prostitutes in a house of refuge near Covent Garden leaves only one survivor- and one witness: Hero Jarvis, reform-minded daughter of the Prince Regent’s cousin, Lord Jarvis. When the Machiavellian powerbroker quashes any official inquiry that might reveal his daughter’s unorthodox presence, Hero launches an investigation of her own and turns to Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for help.

Working in an uneasy alliance, Hero and Sebastian follow a trail of clues leading from the seedy brothels and docksides of London’s East End to the Mayfair mansions of a noble family with dark secrets to hide. Risking both their lives and their reputations, the two must race against time to stop a killer whose ominous plot threatens to shake the nation to its very core.

What Remains of heavenWhat Remains of Heaven

Another gripping mystery in the series that has won six starred reviews, set in the glittering yet dangerous world of 1812 London, where nobleman and former spy Sebastian St. Cyr courts personal disaster in his effort to expose a murderer.
The latest request for help from Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin–from the Archbishop of Canterbury, no less–is undeniably intriguing: The bodies of two men have been found in an ancient crypt, their violent deaths separated by decades. One is the Bishop of London, the elderly Archbishop’s favored but controversial successor. The identity of the other seems lost in time, although his faded velvet attire marks him as gentleman of the eighteenth century.

To Sebastian’s consternation, the last person to see the Bishop alive was Miss Hero Jarvis, a woman whose already strained relationship with St. Cyr has been complicated by a brief, unexpectedly passionate encounter. It also soon becomes obvious that her powerful father has reasons of his own for wanting the Bishop out of the way. In an investigation that leads from the back alleys of Smithfield to the power corridors of whitehall, Sebastian amasses a list of suspects that ranges from some of the Prince Regent’s closest cronies to William Franklin, embittered son of famous American patriot Ben Franklin. Each step Sebastian takes toward the killer brings him closer to a devastating truth that could ultimately force him to question who–and what–he really is.

Where Shadows DanceWhere Shadows Dance

Regency London: July 1812. How do you set about solving a murder no one can reveal has been committed?

That’s the challenge confronting C.S. Harris’s aristocratic soldier-turned-sleuth Sebastian St. Cyr when his friend, surgeon and “anatomist” Paul Gibson, illegally buys the cadaver of a young man from London’s infamous body snatchers. A rising star at the Foreign Office, Mr. Alexander Ross was reported to have died of a weak heart. But when Gibson discovers a stiletto wound at the base of Ross’s skull, he can turn only to Sebastian for help in catching the killer.

Described by all who knew him as an amiable young man, Ross at first seems an unlikely candidate for murder. But as Sebastian’s search takes him from the Queen’s drawing rooms in St. James’s Palace to the embassies of Russia, the United States, and the Turkish Empire, he plunges into a dangerous shadow land of diplomatic maneuvering and international intrigue, where truth is an elusive commodity and nothing is as it seems.

Meanwhile, Sebastian must confront the turmoil of his personal life. Hero Jarvis, daughter of his powerful nemesis Lord Jarvis, finally agrees to become his wife. But as their wedding approaches, Sebastian can’t escape the growing realization that not only Lord Jarvis but Hero herself knows far more about the events surrounding Ross’s death than they would have him believe.

Then a second body is found, badly decomposed but bearing the same fatal stiletto wound. And Sebastian must race to unmask a ruthless killer who is now threatening the life of his reluctant bride and their unborn child.

And of course…. the rest of the series!

Here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court 

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede 

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired 

Erin @ Flashlight Commentary – Coming soon

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation 

 

Cover Crush: City of Glory by Beverly Swerling

City of GloryThis week I came across this author and book cover on social media and ever since, I have been drawn to it. The premise & hisory itself is something I am highly interested in and one I hope to read soon. The story takes place in Old New York and the cover shows a city of promise and thriving with life. I love the colors, design!

(This is the second book in the series: Old New York 2)

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Set against the dramatic backdrop of America’s second war for independence, Beverly Swerling’s gripping and intricately plotted sequel to the much-loved “City of Dreams” plunges deep into the crowded streets of old New York. Poised between the Manhattan woods and the sea that is her gateway to the world, the city of 1812 is vibrant but raw, a cauldron where the French accents of Creole pirates mingle with the brogues of Irish seamen, and shipments of rare teas and silks from Canton are sold at raucous Pearl Street auctions. Allegiances are more changeable than the tides, love and lust often indistinguishable, the bonds of country weak compared to the temptation of fabulous riches from the East, and only a few farseeing patriots recognize the need not only to protect the city from the redcoats, but to preserve the fragile Constitutional union forged in 1787.

Joyful Patrick Turner, dashing war hero and brilliant surgeon, loses his hand to a British shell, retreats to private life, and hopes to make his fortune in the China trade. To succeed he must run the British blockade; if he fails, he will lose not only a livelihood, but the beautiful Manon, daughter of a Huguenot jeweler who will not accept a pauper as a son-in-law. When stories of a lost treasure and a mysterious diamond draw him into a treacherous maze of deceit and double-cross, and the British set Washington ablaze, Joyful realizes that more than his personal future is at stake. His adversary, Gornt Blakeman, has a lust for power that will not be sated until he claims Joyful’s fiancee as his wife and half a nation as his personal fiefdom. Like the Turners before him, Joyful must choose: his dreams or hiscountry.

Swerling’s vividly drawn characters illuminate every aspect of the teeming metropolis: John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest man in America, brings the city’s first Chinese to staff his palatial Broadway mansion; Lucretia Carter, wife of a respectable craftsman, makes ends meet as an abortionist serving New York’s brothels; Thumbless Wu, a mysterious Cantonese stowaway, slinks about on a secret mission; and the bewitching Delight Higgins, proprietress of the town’s finest gambling club, lives in terror of the blackbirding gangs who prey on runaway slaves. They are all here, the butchers and shipwrights, the doctors and scriv-eners, the slum dwellers of Five Points and the money men of the infant stock exchange…conspiring by day and carousing by night, while the women must hide their loyalties and ambitions, their very wills, behind pretty sighs and silken skirts.

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Be sure to check out these great cover crushes and bloggers this week. The Maiden’s CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic Swede.

Interview with Best-Selling Author Lynn Cullen

Lynn Cullen Twains EndI have the great pleasure of welcoming back Lynn Cullen to Layered Pages to talk with me about her current novel. Lynn’s recent novel, Mrs. Poe, a national bestseller, has been named a Target Book Club Pick, an NPR 2013 Great Read, an Oprah.com “Book that Makes Time Stand Still,” and an Indie Next List selection.  Her current release, Twain’s End, called “reputation squaring…incendiary” by the New York Times and “intelligently drawn” by Library Journal, is a People pick, an Indie Next selection, and a 2016 Townsend Prize finalist.  Cullen, named “the Bronte of our day” by the Huffington Post, grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  She now lives in Atlanta surrounded by her large family, and, like Mark Twain, enjoys being bossed around by cats.

Hi, Lynn! Tell me about your story, Twain’s End.

Thank you for inviting me to chat with you about Twain’s End at Layered Pages, Stephanie.  I’m so happy to be with you here!  To get things started, at its core. Twain’s End is a tale of The Other Woman.  The real-life woman in the shadows in this case is Mark Twain’s secretary, Isabel Lyon.   But the story, Isabel Lyon is not competing for Twain’s heart and soul with his wife, Livy Clemens.  No, Isabel’s competition is much stiffer.  Isabel must battle with “Mark Twain,” the extraordinarily successful character the real life man, Samuel Clemens, created in his thirst for fame and adulation.  Isabel Lyon fell in love with the real man behind the legend, and ultimately, forced him to choose between her and the love of his public.

What made you decide to write this story?

I ‘m always interested in the underdog.  When I learned about Mark Twain’s tragic childhood, my antennae went up.  Among other horrific incidents that he experienced as a boy, he watched doctors dissect his own father through the keyhole of his parents’ bedroom door.  This episode said a lot about the toxic, hostile state of his parents’ marriage and about their extreme poverty.  It was unspeakably taboo for a wife to sell her own husband as a cadaver in those days.  How she must have hated the man to do so!  But as damaging as little Sammy’s boyhood was, I was more astonished by his brutal turning against his secretary, Isabel Lyon, after nearly seven years of devoted service.  She was more than an employee.  She traveled with him, entertained his daughters, oversaw the family medical needs, handled his social life and reporters, and oversaw the construction and furnishing of his home.  She even washed that white hair and bought those white suits! He told her, as well as friends and reporters, that she knew him better than anyone.  It was obvious to their friends that they were a couple.  Yet, a month after she married his business manager, Twain told those same people that Isabel was “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.” I wanted to know what caused the radical turnabout.

02_Twains-EndTell me a little about the research you did.

It’s important to me for my readers to know that everything they read in my novels could have actually happened–at least to my knowledge, they could have.  I like to take known events and flesh them out without changing the facts I have learned through painstaking research.  To give my readers confidence in the plausibility of my stories, I go to great lengths to track down the truth behind the legend.

To this end, I’ve found that there’s no substitute for traveling to the setting of every scene in my books.  For Twain’s End, combing through family writings and photographs gave me clues beyond reading dozens of Mark Twain biographies, as well.

The most helpful of sources was Isabel Lyon’s own diary, in which she kept a daily record of her life with the man she called “The King.”  I shaped many of the scenes in the book around her diary entries.

Tell me about Isabel V. Lyon.

Isabel is a remarkable example of someone trying to make the best out of the limited opportunities for women in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century.  She was born into a wealthy Eastern family but after her father’s death when she was a teenager, it was up to her to support herself and her mother.   The only work available to someone in her class was as a governess, at which she worked until Mark Twain hired her in her early thirties as a social secretary to his ailing wife.   She also made pincushions to sell in those pre-Etsy days.  Once working for the Clemenses, Isabel quickly became more than a secretary to the entire eccentric Clemens family, eventually assuming the role as mother when Livy died.  Yet within seven years, the family turned against her and ended up ensuring that her name was mud for all time.  I try to explain why and how this happened in my story.

What do you think of Clara Clemens?

It’s convenient to blame Clara for Twain’s abuse of Isabel Lyon and many Twain scholars revile Clara.  Yet, while I pull no punches in Twain’s End showing what a pill Clara truly was in real life, I actually feel sorry for her.  I hope to show in the story how her bizarre family life contributed to her instability.  I was just trying to report why she did the things she did, which was what I was trying to do with all my characters in the book.  I’m not trying to pass judgment them.  My job was to lay out the facts so that readers could decide how they feel.

Self-image is important in characters, how is this important to your characters?

Self-image was everything to Mark Twain.  Samuel Clemens had to maintain his persona as the amiable everyday family man, Mark Twain, if he was to keep the love of the world that he so craved.   As he matured, he attempted to write things closer to his heart but whenever he did, sales flagged.  The public did not welcome his dark side.  They wanted the creator of Tom Sawyer or nothing.

Talk about the courage and strength of your character. -and possibly the isolation your character may feel with these attributes.

I found it interesting that even after Twain and his daughter Clara took a scorched earth approach to publically slandering Isabel, she never fought back.  A large part of this might be due to Isabel’s understanding that she could never win a he said/she said battle with the world’s most beloved man, as Twain was at the time.   The other part, I feel, was that Isabel believed that her own good deeds would eventually vindicate her; surely the truth of her good character would have to come out.  It didn’t.  I wrote Twain’s End as an example of how innocence is sometimes not enough to clear someone’s name.

What are your favorite writings by Twain?

One of my favorites is a little known short story, “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It.”

Mark Twain calls his tale “true,” although of course it’s fictitious.  Yet there a very real truth hidden in this story–the truth about his own grief over the inhuman treatment the family slave received at his parents’ hands.   Twain’s End explores Twain’s relationship with this slave, Jennie, and how it might have affected his thinking.

Do you think any differently of him after researching him?

I went into writing this book with the same basic knowledge of the white-suited wit as any other American:  he was the funny guy who wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and he rocked the color white before Colonel Sanders ever did.  My research revealed a much more complicated man.  I found that, as is the case

with many other humorists, below his hilarious surface, he was one very angry and melancholic man.  I ended up appreciating what Twain, the product of a difficult childhood, made of himself, and I savor his charisma and cleverness.  Although there is no denying his flaws—and he was at his very worst when striking out at Isabel–I have great sympathy for him as a fellow human.

How long did it take to write your story?

I wrote the story over a two-year period, traveling and researching while writing.  I go to scenes both before and after I’ve written them, and put in 8 – 12 hour days writing (with lots of snacking, walking, and bird-gazing tossed in.)

What are you currently working on?

My next book takes place during the Great Depression in 1934.  Famous people are in it… (to be continued.)

Thank you for the chat, Lynn! Please visit me at Layered Pages again!

It was a treat to talk with you, Stephanie.  Much love to you and the readers of Layered Pages!

For more information, please visit Lynn Cullen’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Book Review

02_The Memory Painter PB CoverThe Memory Painter: A Novel of Love and Reincarnation
by Gwendolyn Womack

Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Picador USA
Paperback; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250095770

Genre: Historical Fiction/Time Travel/Mystery/Romance

Finalist for the 2016 RWA Prism Awards for Best First Book & Best Time Travel/ Steampunk category.

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Two lovers who have travelled across time.

A team of scientists at the cutting edge of memory research.

A miracle drug that unlocks an ancient mystery.

At once a sweeping love story and a time-travelling adventure, Gwendolyn Womack’s luminous debut novel, The Memory Painter, is perfect for readers of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Life After Life and Winter’s Tale.

Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist, whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to Bryan’s success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. Bryan believes these dreams are really recollections―possibly even flashback from another life―and he has always hoped that his art will lead him to an answer. And when he meets Linz Jacobs, a neurogenticist who recognizes a recurring childhood nightmare in one Bryan’s paintings, he is convinced she holds the key.

Their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet―visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago. As his visions intensify, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

The Memory Painter is at once a taut thriller and a deeply original love story that transcends time and space, spanning six continents and 10,000 years of history.

My thoughts:

The author has several genres running through this story and I was thrilled with the chance to review this story when it came along for a book tour. I wanted to see how the author would blend the different elements of historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, mystery and a thriller into one. Could the author pull it off? Where there too many things happening in the story? Would it confuse the reader? My biggest question throughout the story is where the author came up with the historical aspects to the story. While extraordinary and interesting, I couldn’t help wonder this and I feel this might have been a distraction for me.

The story started out strong for me and then I began to see some redundancies and got worried but I rallied on and it somewhat picked up for me. There were so many different periods that were focused on. While the story focus recurring memories of past lives, I was more interested in the actual search for answers to these memories. That aspect was highly interesting to me.

I wanted Brian and Linz personal lives to be a bit more fleshed out and the villains in the story. I wanted to really feel the danger that they were getting themselves in to.

Towards the end the author does a good job building climax but I felt there needed to be a tighter conclusion, unless the author tends for a sequel that is….

Having said this, overall I enjoyed the premise and look forward to seeing more stories by the author.

I rated this book three stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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“Gwendolyn Womack’s tale dazzles.” ―US Weekly (Standout Spring Novels)

“…hang on for a wild and entertaining ride around the world and through the centuries back to ancient Egypt.” ~ Library Journal, starred review

“A sweeping, mesmerizing feat of absolute magic. . . . ~ M.J. Rose, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

“Layers of past and present form a rich pastry of a narrative, poignant and thoughtful, rich and suspenseful, filled with intrigue and dripping with meaning… ~ Charlie Lovett, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Bookman’s Tale and First Impressions

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

About the Author

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing theater plays in college at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She went on to receive an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Directing Theatre, Video & Cinema. Currently she resides in Los Angeles with her husband and son where she can be found at the keyboard working on her next novel. The Memory Painter is her first novel.

For more information visit Gwendolyn’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Cover Crush: Goddess of Fire by Bharti Kirchner

Cover Crush banner

I happened upon the book cover below by checking out another book on a publisher’s facebook page. I was drawn to it immediately! Such vibrant and vivid detail and the cover fits the title perfectly. One can tell the cover resonates a dramatic and compelling story of centuries long ago and I would love to be transported back into that time. Hoping to read Goddess of Fire soon!

This cover is receiving a five stars from me!

Goddess of Fire

Goddess of Fire by Bharti Kirchner

Moorti – widowed at just 17 and about to be burned on her husband’s funeral pyre – is saved from the fire by a mysterious Englishman. Taken to safety and given employment by her saviour Job Charnock, Moorti, renamed Maria, must embrace her new life amongst the English traders.

But the intelligent and talented Maria is not content to be a servant for the rest of her life, and seizes the opportunity to learn English. This, she hopes, will bring her closer to the kind and gentle Job. But with so many obstacles in her path, will she be able to overcome adversity and danger in the pursuit of her dreams?

Filled with the heat and beauty of India, Maria’s story of compassion, hope and love lingers long after the final page.

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Be sure to check out my Wish-List 5: The American Civil War!

Check out this week’s other cover crush over at

Flashlight Commentary-Cover Crush

2 Kids and Tired Books-Cover Crush

A Bookaholic Swede-Cover Crush

The Maidens Court-Coming soon

Book Blast: As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Hunter

02_As-Death-Draws-NearAS DEATH DRAWS NEAR (LADY DARBY MYSTERY #5)
BY ANNA LEE HUBER

Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Berkley
Harcover & eBook; 336 Pages

Series: Lady Darby Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

The latest mystery from the national bestselling author of A Study in Death tangles Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage in a dangerous web of religious and political intrigue.

July 1831. In the midst of their idyllic honeymoon in England’s Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s seclusion is soon interrupted by a missive from her new father-in-law. A deadly incident involving a distant relative of the Duke of Wellington has taken place at an abbey south of Dublin, Ireland, and he insists that Kiera and Gage look into the matter.

Intent on discovering what kind of monster could murder a woman of the cloth, the couple travel to Rathfarnham Abbey school. Soon a second nun is slain in broad daylight near a classroom full of young girls. With the sinful killer growing bolder, the mother superior would like to send the students home, but the growing civil unrest in Ireland would make the journey treacherous.

Before long, Kiera starts to suspect that some of the girls may be hiding a sinister secret. With the killer poised to strike yet again, Kiera and Gage must make haste and unmask the fiend, before their matrimonial bliss comes to an untimely end…

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | IBOOKS |INDIEBOUND

Praise for the Lady Darby Mysteries

“Riveting…Huber deftly weaves together an original premise, an enigmatic heroine, and a compelling Highland setting for a book you won’t want to put down.”—Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author

“[A] history mystery in fine Victorian style!”—Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author

“[A] fascinating heroine…A thoroughly enjoyable read!”—Victoria Thompson, national bestselling author

“[A] clever heroine with a shocking past and a talent for detection.”—Carol K. Carr, national bestselling author

03_Anna-Lee-HuberAbout the Author

Anna Lee Huber is the Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mystery Series. She was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, and graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a degree in music and a minor in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana, and when not working on her next book she enjoys reading, singing, traveling and spending time with her family.

For more information, please visit www.annaleehuber.com. Connect with Anna Lee Huber on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Tuesday, July 5
100 Pages a Day
Jorie Loves a Story
Passages to the Past
Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, July 6
Layered Pages
Buried Under Books
CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, July 7
The Lit Bitch
The Book Junkie Reads
A Dream within a Dream
To Read, Or Not to Read

Friday, July 8
History Undressed
Diana’s Book Reviews

Saturday, July 9
A Chick Who Reads
Reading Is My SuperPower

Sunday, July 10
Book Drunkard

Monday, July 11
It’s a Mad Mad World
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, July 12
The Reading Queen
Curling up by the Fire

Wednesday, July 13
Brooke Blogs
Queen of All She Reads
History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, July 14
Book Nerd
A Literary Vacation

Friday, July 15
A Holland Reads
Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Giveaway

To win a paperback copy of As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber, please enter the giveaway here. Two copies are up for grabs!

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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I Blame Flashlight Commentary: For What, You Ask?

Gah! Erin with Flashlight Commentary has just sent me back over to the dark side! Ha! I have been very careful NOT to click on NetGalley and search for titles. I am in the middle of research for my WIP thriller about the Reconstruction of the South. While doing that I am trying to get through my remaining books I need to review. Leave it to Erin to entice me with books! Though I have to admit, it’s a book bloggers lot in life. We can’t help ourselves when it comes to books. Sigh. I will say that these titles look so good! AND check out the covers. Beautiful!

The 9 45 to BletchleyIn the midst of the Second World War, and charged with taking vital equipment via the 9:45 train, Ena Dudley makes regular trips to Bletchley Park, until on one occasion she is robbed. When those she cares about are accused of being involved, she investigates, not knowing whom she can trust. While trying to clear her name, Ena falls in love.

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All Because of You by Isobel Blackthorn

Infused with gentle optimism, eleven uncompromising stories explore, each in its own way, the nature of sacrifice.

Mum and Nan struggle to contrive a sense of normal family life in the emotionally charged environment of a women’s shelter. A visual artist faces the return of her wayward daughter, who brings home her new boyfriend, the lumbering behemoth, Zol. A bereaved woman lies restless and alone in bed, her thoughts troubled by the plaintive cries of the dog locked in next-door’s laundry.

At once dark, poignant and witty, Isobel Blackthorn’s first collection of short stories depicts intimately and honestly the travails and heroic responses of women and men confronting the pith of their lives.

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The Light of Paris by Brown, Eleanor

From the bestselling author of THE WEIRD SISTERS comes an enchanting tale of self-discovery that will strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt they’ve lost their way.

Chicago, 1999.

Madeleine is trapped – by her family’s expectations, by her controlling husband – in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. But when she finds a diary detailing her grandmother Margie’s trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets a woman she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict family and spent a summer living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.

When Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she escapes to her hometown to stay with her disapproving mother. Shaken by the revelation of a family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own summer of joy. In reconnecting with her love of painting and cultivating a new circle of friends, the chance of a new life emerges – but will she be bold enough take it?