Interview with Award Winning Author Susan Appleyard

I’d like to welcome back award winning author Susan Appleyard today. Susan was born in England, which is where she learned her love of history and writing. She has applied these two loves ever since in writing historical fiction. Her first two book were published traditionally and she also has five ebooks with another to be published soon after Christmas. Susan is fortunate enough to spend half the year in Ontario with kids and grandkids, and the other half in Mexico with sun and sea and Margaritas on the beach. (No prizes for guessing which months are spent where!)

susan-appleyardHi, Susan! Thank you for visiting with me today to talk about your award winning book, In a Gilded Cage. Please tell me the premise of your story and the era your story takes place.

Hello, Stephanie, as an avid follower of your blog, I’m delighted to be here. My novel is set in the mid-nineteenth century in Austria, Germany and Hungary. It is something of a fairytale gone wrong. Having had a carefree and somewhat undisciplined youth in the hills of Bavaria, Sisi is married to Franz Josef at the age of sixteen, not against her will, but certainly against her instincts. Surrounded by luxury, she feels her independence slipping away under a barrage of court protocol.

What is one of the struggles Sisi faces in her new life as Empress of Austria besides being often ill and anorexic?

One of the struggles that I believe many can relate to is her natural wish to have a voice in the way her children were to be raised. They are taken from her at birth and her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, has complete charge of them, even insisting Sisi make an appointment when she wished to see them to avoid disrupting their schedule. This, naturally, had the effect of increasing Sisi’s feelings of inadequacy.

What are some of the strict protocols she endured?

I think for her the worst would have been the restrictions on her privacy. She couldn’t even walk through the palace without attendants following her and of course it was a jealously guarded privilege. Many of these undoubtedly spied for her mother-in-law. When she went riding she was accompanied by guards, although she was such an excellent horsewoman that sometimes she was able to leave them behind. Whenever she and Franz Josef were outside the palace, even in their gardens, they were watched by policemen. Somewhat like the Secret Service of today, I suppose. She was also obliged to wear gloves while eating dinner and couldn’t wear shoes more than six times.

Who is patriot, Count Andrassy?

In 1848 revolution swept Europe as the masses demanded a voice in government. Count Andrassy fought for Hungary against Austrian repression and fled to France to avoid the reprisals. He was sentenced to death in his absence and hanged in effigy. Sisi felt a special affinity for Hungary, for its tragic and romantic past and its yearning for freedom. When she and Andrassy met they found they had much in common. Undoubtedly, they loved each other. Whether they had an affair is debatable.


How are your other characters influenced by their setting?

Although related to the Bavarian royals, Sisi’s family are very provincial and easy-going. All her life, Sisi loved the outdoors, riding, hiking, even mountain climbing. These were the kinds of activities frowned upon by the Viennese court. Franz Josef was raised in the court and finds it quite impossible to break out of the iron-bound rituals of his ancestors in order to give Sisi the kind of love she needs and the support that would help her through the difficulties presented by her new life. Above all, Count Andrassy is shaped by Hungary and its past.  He is fiery revolutionary or resolute politician as needed. As he says: Scratch a Magyar, and you will find a fierce horseman from the Steppes underneath.

What are some of the political themes in your story?

The revolutions of 1848 influenced the events of those times in ways that form a thread through my story from beginning to end. I have also been able to bring out how the fluctuating relationship between Austria and Prussia impacted the rest of Europe and led to three wars within the space of ten years.

Did you have any changing emotions while writing this story?

O.K. I will admit it. Without being deliberately dishonest, I have portrayed Sisi’s mother-in-law in an unsympathetic light. However, I found toward the end that I began to understand her better and to admire her.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

The truth is I haven’t any. It’s a compulsion. Years ago I decided to give up trying to get published after being let down by my publisher and agent. But I was never able to give up writing. Every now and then the urge would come over me and I had to write something – anything, not to any purpose, just to get it out of my system.

What are you currently working on?

A novel about Edward II and Isabella of France. I just finished the first draft recently and I’m taking a break until after Christmas.

Where can reader buy your book?

Author Profile Page on Amazon

Amazon UK


Thank you, Susan!

Thank you, Stephanie, for the interesting questions.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Susan Appleyard who is the author of, IN A GILDED CAGE, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, IN A GILDED CAGE, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.





Cover Crush: A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

a-hundred-summersMemorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak.

That is, until Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily’s friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction…and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations.

Under the scorching summer sun, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick’s marriage bubbles to the surface, and as a cataclysmic hurricane barrels’ unseen up the Atlantic and into New England, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which will change their worlds forever.

Cover Crush banner

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.


Yes, we are in the winter season so I can’t help wanting to post a cover that personifies warmth and the ocean. I’m a Florida girl by birth and crave the sun and beach. I love everything about the cover, premise and title. I hope the presentation of the book rings true to the story. I shall enjoy finding out one day soon!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

More Great Cover Crushes!

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-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!


Wish-List 5: Random Bits of Bookish Delights

I really like to mix things up a bit and this month’s wish-list is no exception. Be sure to read all these great book descriptions and hopefully-fingers crossed-you will add a few to your own reading pile. Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today. Enjoy!


the-invisible-libraryThe Invisible Library

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

the-red-notebookThe Red Notebook

Heroic bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street. There’s nothing in the bag to indicate who it belongs to, although there’s all sorts of other things in it. Laurent feels a strong impulse to find the owner and tries to puzzle together who she might be from the contents of the bag. Especially a red notebook with her jottings, which really makes him want to meet her. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?

the-good-neighbor-iiThe Good Neighbor

Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, can we ever really know the ones we love?

binary-witnessBinary Witness

Police detectives rely on Amy Lane to track the digital debris of their most elusive criminals—when she’s not in the throes of a panic attack. After two students disappear in Cardiff, Amy uncovers photographic evidence that they’ve been murdered. From the safety of her computer, she looks through the city’s digital eyes to trace the steps of a killer.

Amy’s investigation requires footwork, however, and the agoraphobic genius can’t hack it alone. She turns to her newly-hired cleaner, ex-con Jason Carr. Jason is fascinated by both Amy and the work, and can’t refuse even when she sends him into situations that risk returning him to prison.

The killer strikes again and again, and Amy and Jason are the only investigators closing in on him. But Amy’s psyche is cracking under the strain, and Jason’s past is catching up with him. To stop the next murder, they must hold their unconventional partnership together at any cost.

radio-girlsRadio Girls

London, 1926. American-raised Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job as a secretary at the upstart British Broadcasting Corporation, whose use of radio—still new, strange, and electrifying—is captivating the nation. But the hectic pace, smart young staff, and intimidating bosses only add to Maisie’s insecurity.

Soon, she is seduced by the work—gaining confidence as she arranges broadcasts by the most famous writers, scientists, and politicians in Britain. She is also caught up in a growing conflict between her two bosses, John Reith, the formidable Director-General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary director of the hugely popular Talks programming, who each have very different visions of what radio should be. Under Hilda’s tutelage, Maisie discovers her talent, passion, and ambition. But when she unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air…and then face the dangerous consequences of telling the truth for a living.

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

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation 

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede 

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired 


Interview with Award Winning Author Helena Schrader

helena-schrader-bragI’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Helena Schrader today to talk with me about her latest award winning book, Envoy of Jerusalem. Helena P. Schrader holds a PhD in history and is a career diplomat, but far from writing dry historical tomes, she conveys the drama and excitement of the events and societies described and delivers her stories through the eyes of complex and compelling characters—male and female—drawn from the pages of history.

Helena was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the daughter of a professor, and traveled abroad for the first time at the age of two, when her father went to teach at the University of Wasada in Tokyo, Japan. Later the family lived in Brazil, England and Kentucky, but home was always the coast of Maine. There, her father’s family had roots, and an old, white clapboard house perched above the boatyard in East Blue Hill.

It was the frequent travel and exposure to different cultures, peoples and heritage that inspired Helena to start writing creatively and to focus on historical fiction. She wrote her first novel in second grade, but later made a conscious decision not try to earn a living from writing. She never wanted to be forced to write what was popular, rather than what was in her heart….

Helena, thank you for talking with me today, Helena! Please tell me about Envoy of Jerusalem.

“Envoy of Jerusalem” is on one hand the third book in a three-part biography of the historical figure Balian d’Ibelin, and on the other hand it is a stand-alone novel describing the Third Crusade through the eyes of the natives of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It covers the period from the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187 to the end of the Third Crusade in 1192. While the hero is Balian d’Ibelin, his wife, the Byzantine princess and dowager queen of Jerusalem, Maria Comnena, has an almost equally important role in this book. Furthermore, Richard the Lionheart, his queen and sister, and other more familiar historical figures are also important characters, while a host of fictional characters in “supporting roles” take the novel out of the palaces of kings and down onto the streets and into the taverns of Acre and Tyre. These characters together create a novel that is more than a description of historical events; it explores the human condition in the face of devastating set-backs and examines the fundamental values that define us all.  With radical jihad again challenging our security and our worldview, this book has particular relevance, reminding us that while technologies change human nature does not and the challenges we face today are not new.


The story that Hollywood made can you give me some of the fictional aspects?

A character named Balian d’Ibelin was the hero of Ridley Scott’s film “The Kingdom of Heaven.” The film depicted selected elements out of the life of the historical Balian d’Ibelin (e. g. the mass knighting, the negotiations with Saladin), but changed his biography so significantly that it is questionable whether one can say the film is about the historical Balian. One of the major deviations from history is that the Hollywood Balian is a bastard born and raised in France, and ― after the surrender of Jerusalem ― he returns to France to resume his life as a blacksmith. There is even a scene in the film where Richard the Lionheart tries to persuade Balian to join the Third Crusade, but Balian refuses.

Historically, Balian was born in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the legitimate son of a local baron. Although a younger son, through a scandalously good marriage to the dowager queen of Jerusalem, Balian became one of the wealthiest and most powerful noblemen in the Holy Land by the time Saladin invaded in 1187. After the surrender of Jerusalem, he made his way to the last remaining city in Christian hands, Tyre, and Arab chronicles of the time refer to him as “like a king” ― largely because the bulk of the Christian nobles were in Saracen captivity. His power increased after the death of Queen Sibylla in November 1190 because the crown passed to her half-sister Isabella, who was Balian’s step-daughter (his wife’s child by her first marriage). Under the circumstances, Balian played a key role representing the interests of the local nobility while fighting alongside the crusaders throughout the Third Crusade. By summer 1192, he had won the respect of Richard the Lionheart to such an extent that Richard appointed Balian his envoy to Saladin. Balian negotiated the truce that ended the Third Crusade, and thereafter until his death he was the premier lord in the restored Kingdom of Jerusalem ruled by his step-daughter.

So, far from being in blacksmith in France, Balian was a key player throughout the Third Crusade, a man who fought with and later represented Richard the Lionheart.

How would you describe Balian d’Ibelin -the man?

We know little about the character of the historical Balian beyond what he did. He rose from being a landless knight to being “like a king” and he negotiated like an equal with both Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. That sounds like a ruthless and ambitious man ― until you realize that he was willing to risk his life and freedom to rescue his wife and children from Jerusalem, and that he offered himself as a hostage for the tens of thousands of Christian paupers unable to pay the ransom Saladin demanded. Medieval noblemen devoted to their wives were not that common, but those prepared to sacrifice themselves for the poor were very scarce indeed.  Furthermore, although Balian was an outstanding commander and courageous knight, he was a man who repeatedly served as a mediator and negotiator. This means he was a man who could get along with others, find common ground, could be persuasive and above all earned the trust of friend and foe. He married a Greek princess and clearly had Saladin’s respect, both of which suggest he was no bigot, but a man who respected other cultures. Yet he was the ultimate Christian nobleman, as his willingness to place the interests of the poor and helpless above his own pride and self-interest proves.

For those of who are not familiar with the Horns of Hattin, what are they?

Saladin annihilated the Christian army composed of about 1,200 knights, 5,000 light cavalry and 12,000 infantries at the Battle of Hattin on July 4, 1187. The battle took place on a plateau above the Sea of Galilee that is bordered on the east by two dramatic hills that rise up from the valley of the Jordan. From a distance, these hills look vaguely like the horns of an ox. The term “the Horns of Hattin” is nothing more than a synonym for the Battle of Hattin. When I say that Balian “escaped from the Horns of Hattin,” I mean simply that he was one of only three noblemen, a few hundred knights and 3,000 Christian fighting men who survived the battle as a free man. The vast majority of the Christian host was either killed or taken captive.

He lived an extraordinary life. What fascinates you the most about him?

The fact that he was both an extraordinary diplomat and a courageous commander, and the fact that he moved among royalty like an equal yet never lost his humility and humanity.  It doesn’t hurt, however, that as a landless knight he captured the heart of a princess – something straight out of a fairy tale, or that he organized women, children and clerics into a fighting force so effective that they fought off the victorious armies of Saladin for almost ten days. Perhaps it is the fact that Balian was so multifaceted that fascinated me most.

When the Christians were enslaved by the Saracens, what did they endure?

Slavery is one of the most abhorrent practices known to man. It is equally repellent in the Ancient world, the Middle Ages, pre-Civil War America or today.  Regardless of place or period, slaves are first and foremost dehumanized, they are subjected to extreme brutality, contempt, cruelty, overwork, malnutrition, sadism and torture. What struck me as particularly repulsive the context of this book, however, was a passage written by Salah ad-Din’s secretary Imad ad-Din in which he gleefully delights and glorifies in the humiliations to which Christian women and girls captured in Jerusalem were subjected, “bringing a smile to Muslim faces at their lamentations.” (Source: al-Fath al-Qussi fi-l-Fath al-Qudsi, paragraphs 47 – 69.)  Mostly, he gleefully describes how “well-guarded women were profaned… nubile girls married, and noble women given away, and miserly women forced to yield themselves, and women who had been kept hidden stripped of their modesty, and serious women made ridiculous, and women kept in private now set in public, and free women occupied, and precious ones used for hard work and pretty things put to the test, and virgins dishonored and proud women deflowered” etc. etc. (This goes on for nearly a page.) Although not specifically mentioned, Muslim practice at this time also often included female genital mutilation of slave girls. I would like to highlight, however, that women trafficked today suffer similar fates. I urge readers not to take my word for it, but to investigate modern slavery, particularly in the Middle East.

Did you have any changing emotions while writing this story? If so, what were they?

I generally identify very strongly with my characters, following them on their, often tumultuous, emotional journey. That entails a lot of ups and downs. One thing I felt strongly with this book, however, was that it was my best ever. I’ve often said that my books are my children and I love them all, while recognizing that they each have their faults. “Envoy of Jerusalem,” undoubtedly has its flaws too, but I nevertheless feel that it is the most mature, profound, and significant of the books I’ve written to date.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

Good question. I wish I knew! I’ve been writing since I was in second grade and the compulsion to imagine the lives of others, to write them down in a way that engages the interest of readers, and then share those stories publicly has been a constant of my life ever since. Nor can I explain why one story appeals to me more than others. There are probably millions of true life stories – much less fictional stories – that are fascinating, educational, uplifting, fun, amusing etc. I don’t know why one historical figure ignites in me a passion to write about him/her, and others don’t.

However, looking back over what I have written, I’m clearly attracted to by the idea of correcting common misconceptions about an age or society by writing an alternative but accurate depiction of that society/age via an inspiring character. For example, most people think of Sparta as a brutal, barren place occupied by a bunch of uneducated thugs who take orders like robots. Not true, hence my six books set in ancient Sparta. Likewise, it is still commonplace for people to dismiss the crusades and crusaders as religious fanatics, cultural imperialists and brutal aggressors. Again, none of that is true, so I chose the truly inspiring character of Balian d’Ibelin to tell the truth about the crusader states in a (what I hope) is an engaging and exciting way.

But there is another motivation at work as well: my overall goal to inspire people to go on living by providing real-life examples of humans (not aliens, super-beings, fantasy creatures or fictional characters) who have overcome adversity, resisted temptation, demonstrated courage and compassion, found and given love, made meaningful sacrifices and changed the world for the better.

What are you currently working on?

“Envoy of Jerusalem” does not end with Balian’s death because thematically the book is centered on the loss of the territory and people of Jerusalem and the price of recovering both. With the Treaty of Ramla, both these issues find a natural conclusion. But lives and history continues.

The historical record for the period 1193-1204 in Outremer is far less complete than for the Third Crusade.  Even scholars who have dedicated their lives to a study of the Holy Land in this period admit to having many unanswered questions. That is a gold-mine for a historical novelist since I can extrapolate and hypothesize based on the few facts we have, but weave a story that suits my own thematic goals.

My work-in-progress pieces together a plausible story about the establishment of the Lusginan dynasty on the island of Cyprus and how the Ibelins came to be so extraordinarily influential there. (It is far more complex than most superficial or condensed accounts would have you believe!) Suffice it to say that the Templars had abandoned Cyprus because they were not strong enough to put down a rebellion by the Greek population. Although Guy de Lusignan “bought” the island in April 1192, in a little over two years he was dead, and it was his brother Aimery and Aimery’s Ibelin wife Eschiva (who readers will recognize as a stalwart secondary characters throughout the Jerusalem trilogy), who founded the Lusignan dynasty on Cyprus. Thematically, the book is about “post conflict reconstruction” (in modern political jargon), in which Maria Comnena, as a Greek princess, plays a crucial role.

Where can reader buy your book?

“Envoy of Jerusalem” is available from either or Barnes and Noble, or can be ordered at your local bookstore. I highly recommend the paperback, despite being somewhat more expensive, because of the genealogy tables, maps and glossary that can be hard to flip back-and-forth to in the ebook version.

Thank you, Helena!

Author Website HERE

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Helena Schrader who is the author of, ENVOY OF JERUSALEM, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, ENVOY OF JERUSALEM, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


More about Helena Schrader:

Helena graduated with honors in History from the University of Michigan, added a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and International Commerce from Patterson School, University of Kentucky, and rounded off her education with a PhD in History cum Laude from the University of Hamburg, awarded for a ground-breaking dissertation on a leading member of the German Resistance to Hitler. She worked in the private sector as a research analyst, and an investor relations manager in both the U.S. and Germany.

Helena published her first book in 1993, when her dissertation was released by a leading academic publisher in Germany; a second edition followed after excellent reviews in major newspapers. Since then she has published three additional non-fiction books, starting with “Sisters in Arms” about women pilots in WWII, “The Blockade Breakers” about the Berlin Airlift, and “Codename Valkyrie,” a biography of General Olbricht, based on her dissertation.

Helena has also published historical novels set in World War Two, Ancient Sparta and the Crusades. “St. Louis’ Knight” won the Bronze in both the Historical Fiction and Spiritual/Religious Categories of the Feathered Quill Literary Awards 2014. Her latest project, a biographical novel of Balian d’Ibelin in three parts, got off to a great start when “Knight of Jerusalem” earned a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and was selected as a Finalist for the 2014 Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. The second book in the series did even better: “Defender of Jerusalem” took the “Silver” for spiritual/religious fiction in the 2015 Feathered Quill Awards, won the Chaucer Award for Medieval Historical Fiction, was a finalist for the M.M.Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction, and was awarded “Silver” by Readers’ Favorites in the category Christian Historical Fiction. It too is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

Helena a career American diplomat, currently serving in Africa. In June 2010 she was awarded the “Dr. Bernard LaFayette Lifetime Achievement Award for Promoting the Institutionalization of Nonviolence Ideals in Nigeria” by the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria.


Manic Monday & Bookish Delights

me-iiAs we all know Mondays can be pretty manic and generally I look forward to Monday’s nonetheless. Last Friday I normally post my Bookish Happenings but I decided to take a day off and this past weekend I was able to read some in-between shopping for Christmas and what-not.

I was really hoping to start reading, Roma Amor by Sherry Christie this weekend but I am still working on finishing up another story. I won Sherry Christie’s book in a giveaway on-line. Hopefully by Wednesday I can. So many books…so little time…

 Check out my book review for Girl In Disguise by Greer MacAllister HERE and my review for Ruler of The Night by David Morrell HERE


Be sure to check out and follow these amazing book bloggers! They do a tremendous job in supporting authors and books.

Flashlight Commentary

The Maiden’s Court

A Bookaholic Swede

A Literary Vacation

Let Them Read Books

2 Kids and Tired Books

Celticlady’s Reviews

Reading the Past

A Bookish Affair



This week at indieBRAG, there will be special posts from our readers and authors starting today through Friday HERE

And don’t forget to check out the great selections of books from indieBRAG! They make great holiday gifts!

Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today and please be sure to come back tomorrow for a great interview with Award Winning Author Helena Schrader! She has recently won a B.R.A.G. Medallion for her book, Envoy of Jerusalem.

Stephanie Moore Hopkins

Cover Crush: Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams

tiny-little-thingIn the summer of 1966, Christina “Tiny” Hardcastle stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Unlike her spirited sisters, Tiny was the consummate well-behaved debutant, poised and picture-perfect, raised to serve as a consort to a great man. Now, as her handsome husband, Frank, runs for a Massachusetts seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, that long-sought destiny lies nearly within reach.
But behind her glamorous facade, Tiny’s flawless life is cracking. She and Frank both have secrets in their pasts that could shatter their political ambitions and the intricate truce of their marriage. So when two unwelcome visitors arrive at the Hardcastle family’s Cape Cod estate—Frank’s cousin Caspian, a Vietnam war hero who knows a thing or two about Tiny’s hidden past, and an envelope containing incriminating photographs—Tiny is forced into a reckless gamble against a house that always, always wins…

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.


Another book that takes place in the 1950’s to add to my to-read list! This cover is stunningly beautiful and the title fits the picture of the lady on the cover perfectly! You can definitely tell this lady was born into wealth. But also gives you the feel that maybe the glamorous rich life she has had is not working out for her so much. I premise of the story sounds so intriguing!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

More Great Cover Crushes!

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-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books 

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!


Book Review: Ruler of The Night by David Morrell

ruler-of-the-night1885. The railway has irrevocably altered English society, effectively changing geography and fueling the industrial revolution by shortening distances between cities: a whole day’s journey can now be covered in a matter of hours. People marvel at their new freedom.

But train travel brings new dangers as well, with England’s first death by train recorded on the very first day of railway operations in 1830. Twenty-five years later, England’s first train murder occurs, paralyzing London with the unthinkable when a gentleman is stabbed to death in a safely locked first-class passenger compartment.

In the next compartment, the brilliant opium-eater Thomas De Quincey and his quick-witted daughter, Emily, discover the homicide in a most gruesome manner. Key witnesses and also resourceful sleuths, they join forces with their allies in Scotland Yard, Detective Ryan and his partner-in-training, Becker, to pursue the killer back into the fogbound streets of London, where other baffling murders occur. Ultimately, De Quincey must confront two ruthless adversaries: this terrifying enemy, and his own opium addiction which endangers his life and his tormented soul.


My Thoughts:

When I have presented Morrell’s De Quincey novels to various readers and friends-they had never heard of him. Thomas de Quincey was an English 19th century writer. At a young age he ran away from home and became addicted to opium. In the mid Victorian era in England, one was able to walk into a chemist’s shop and purchase the drug without a prescription from doctors. These types of dangerous drugs were used for making home remedies… de Quincey wrote a story called, Confessions of an Opium-Eater where Morrell draws a lot of his inspiration for his trilogy. Ruler of the Night is his third and final installment and is a fine ending to what is an outstanding Victorian mystery story.

The English Railroad during this era was a popular means of travel and the brutal murder that occurs on a train in the beginning of the story sets the tone for another intriguing mystery.

It was a true delight to read about Thomas de Quincey, his Daughter-Emily, Ryan and Becker-who are two detectives- and their dangerous adventures in finding a murderer. Their process of solving murder crimes is extraordinary and entertaining.

Morrell’s Opium-Eater (Thomas de Quincey trilogy) a Victorian mystery trilogy, is truly brilliant. Every historical detail is impeccable; you hang on to every word. His characters are unforgettable and he transports to you the Victorian London streets with vivid imagery, as if you were really there. Murder mysteries at its finest!

I have rated this story four stars and obtained a copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Review: Girl In Disguise by Greer MacAllister

girl-in-disguiseWith no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin―unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective.

Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency’s toughest investigations. But is the woman she’s becoming―capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses―the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was?

My Thoughts:

The Pinkerton Agency is widely known for their pursuit of Jesse James, the Dalton Brothers and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. What is not commonly known is the agency hired the first female Detective-Kate Warne- in the U.S. during the mid-1850’s. The founder Allan Pinkerton immigrated to Chicago from Scotland in the early 1840’s and joined the Chicago police department and soon after opened the first Pinkerton Agency. Before reading, Girl in Disguise, I had not known about Kate, so I was delighted when I discovered this book on NetGalley.

Kate Warne is an extraordinary woman-especially someone as independent as she was in the 1800’s. During those times it was unheard of for women to do what was considered a “Man’s job”. Allan Pinkerton was hesitant-if you will-to hire her but in his knowledge of undercover work, he knew that often times it was not easy for males to gain access to the people they were pursuing. With strong intellect and determination, Kate quickly proves herself to be invaluable and gains the trust of Pinkerton.

Kate’s talent for gathering information is well displayed in this story and gives you great insight into detective work and I found this highly fascinating to read about. As the story developed further, the Pinkerton Agency flourished and you really get a sense of the character’s will to fight for justice.

The second half of the story focuses on the American Civil War and the agencies role. This is where I learned some new things about the agency I had not realized before. I did find a few scenes disjointed and there is a brief romance that just seem to appear and I was not sure-at first- how that would play out in the story. In the end I believe it worked and really helped Kate’s motivation for the actions she took. I do question Kate’s ability to travel freely on her own while the war was raging and I’m not sure that was believable to me. Nonetheless it did not entirely distract me from enjoying the story.

After finishing the story, I tuned to the author’s notes and I was glad I did. I developed a deeper appreciation for the story from having read it and I highly recommend that readers take the time to do so.

I have rated this story four stars and obtained a copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Manic Monday & Bookish Delights

me-iiAs we all know Mondays can be pretty manic and generally I look forward to Monday’s nonetheless. As many of you know, Friday I mentioned I was still in a reading slump. Well, guess what?! I’m not anymore! This past weekend I was able to finish two books and start on another one. So I am delighted about that! This week be on the lookout for the reviews for those two book here on Layered Pages. Also, Saturday I received in the mail, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen that I had ordered from Amazon. Hooray for more books!


I would like to mention a few other bookish things that have happen Friday and over the weekend:

  1. On Facebook Friday, I spotted a post called, A Day In The Life and it is hilarious! Check it out HERE.
  2. I always like to hear about writer’s favorite book stores. I spotted 7Writers on Their Favorite Bookstores over at the Historical Novel Society on Facebook. You can check out the post HERE.
  3. I love to see what my fellow book bloggers are up too on their Facebook Pages. Check out A Bookaholics Mad World’s page HERE.
  4. Last but not least, I have been getting some awesome page views on my interview with best-selling author C.S. Harris. If you haven’t read my interview with her, click HERE to see what she has to say!

Thank you for visiting Layered pages today and be sure to come back tomorrow! Happy reading!

Stephanie M. Hopkins