Review: Son’s and Daughters by Karen Wasylowski

This story follows Fitzwilliam Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitwillaim and their family. You see their children grow to young adults in this story and their struggles with relationships (even with each other) and their parents. Darcy and Fitzwilliam have to make difficult decisions regarding their family but at the same time you see their love, sacrifices and understanding….

I enjoyed this story immensely. Son’s and Daughters is delightfully crafted and different from any continuation of Pride & Prejudice that I have read thus far. There are humorous, witty- as well as- serious dialogue aspects to this story.  The plot is engaging,well written and Karen shows strong emotions in her characters. I found myself reading late into the night, not wanting to put the book down. I look forward to reading more of Karen’s stories! I highly recommend this book to Jane Austen fans! You’ll love it!

I rated this book four stars!

Layered Pages


Interview with Cynthia Haggard

Cynthia, thank you for the pleasure of an second interview and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion.. You write about an interesting time in History. What inspired you to write Thwarted Queen?

I was watching a BBC documentary in which Tony Morrison was talking about the Princes in the Tower, who disappeared in July 1483, and were never seen again. He mentioned that British historian Michael K. Jones had been going through the records of Rouen Cathedral and had discovered that Richard Duke of York, Cecylee’s husband, was absent for a period of five weeks in the summer of 1441. This was important because Edward IV, the father of the Princes in the Tower, was born on April 28, 1442, and thus this raised the whole issue of whether King Edward was illegitimate. I did my research, and the more I looked into it, the more I became convinced that Edward IV was illegitimate, because it explained so many things about the subsequent behavior of his relatives. My question as I started to write the novel was “What on earth did Cecylee say to her husband Richard, when he returned from fighting the French in the summer of 1441? And that was how I started.

This is four books into one, spanning over almost a century? How did you pull it all together? Where there any challenges?

This is a long book, about 495 pages, which I wrote over a period of seven years between 2004 and 2011. In the course of writing it, I divided it up into four parts as the material naturally shaped itself that way. So the first part is about Cecylee’s girlhood, the second about her love-affair with the archer, the third about her husband’s political career, and the fourth part about her life after his death. Realizing that not everyone might wish to read a book of this length, I decided to publish each of its parts. I wanted to follow the same pattern with my paperback version, but was unable to do so because parts 1 and 2 were too short to be able to put a title on the spine. So I put those parts together, and called the resulting paperback ROSE OF RABY. The challenge was not so much in the writing, but in coping with trying to market all these different versions of THWARTED QUEEN. It has been a bit of a headache. On the other hand, the books are selling well, much better than if I had just brought it out as just one book.

When writing with an extensive list of characters, how do you keep up with them?

Fortunately, I have an historical mind, so I don’t mind remembering dates or doing all the research necessary. What happened as I wrote the novel was I got to know all of my characters so well, I had no trouble keeping track of them. The challenge was to make sure that the reader could follow what was going on.

Who is your favorite/least favorite character to write about? Please explain.

Naturally my favorite character is Cecylee herself, because she is so willful and high-spirited and she had to put up with living in a time when women were not treated well. But I also developed quite an affection for her husband, Richard, Duke of York, who is so serious and high-minded and must have found his high-spirited wife a trial at times! In my mind, he is madly in love with Cecylee, whereas she is fond of him in a tepid sort of way. He is completely devastated when he finds out about her affair.

My least favorite character is Elisabeth Woodville, Queen of England, wife of King Edward and therefore Cecylee’s daughter-in-law. Cecylee loathes her and perhaps my fondness for Cecylee led me to follow suit. On the other hand, I loved writing those scenes between them. And I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for King Edward IV, who had to mediate between his formidable mother and strong-minded wife!

What were some of the fictional aspects to this story?

So little is actually known about Cecylee’s girlhood and young womanhood, so parts 1 and 2 are largely fictional. Cecylee doesn’t really step out of the mists of the past and onto the historical stage until about 1445, when her husband Richard, Duke of York, returns to England from France, and begins his political career. Not a great deal is known about Cecylee’s life after the death of her youngest son, King Richard III in 1485, at the Battle of Bosworth, so the Epilogue of the novel is largely fictionalized as well.

What book are you currently reading?

FINGERSMITH by Sarah Waters, about a nest of thieves, locked up girls, madhouses and pornography. All set in Victorian England, circa 1862.

What do you plan on reading next?

NANA by Emile Zola.

Where is your favorite spot in your home to write your stories?

I have two places, a daybed where I hand write my ideas on a notebook, and my yoga chair in front of my Mac desktop, where I type everything up and do my editing.

When do you best ideas come to you?

Oh dear, I don’t remember. I walk a lot, to the yoga studio, to the grocery store, and around the pretty village of Georgetown, near Washington DC, where I live with my husband. That’s probably where I get my ideas.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

A friend of mine (Nan Hawthorne) announced that her novel had won the BRAG award, so I got the email address and asked if I could submit THWARTED QUEEN.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

In 2010, I sent my manuscript around to 45 agents, and got 45 rejections. By February 2011, I was just wondering whether I should send it out to more agents, when I heard from Publisher’s Marketplace that Anne Easter Smith was going to publish her own novel about Cecylee with Simon & Schuster in May 2011. It seemed obvious to me that no agent would want to touch my manuscript with a barge-pole, so I used my time to educate myself about self-publishing. I finally published in October 2011.

Thank you, Stephanie, for your interesting questions. It was a pleasure to chat with you again!

Cynthia Haggard

2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
Finalist for 2012 Global e-books Awards
Finalist, Historical Fiction Category, 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Redroom and Smashwords.


A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Cynthia Haggard who is the author of, Thwarted Queen, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, 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 Thwarted Queen merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Thank you!

Interview with Author Christy English

I have the pleasure to share this wonderful interview with you! This is my second interview with Author Christy English. Welcome Christy to Layered Pages once again.

Christy, please tell you audience about How To Tame a Willful Wife.

HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE is a love story about two strong-willed people who slowly learn to live together as equals. Now this is a Regency romance, and the lead gentleman, Anthony, is an earl, so equality is not a concept he is comfortable with, to say the least. His wife, Caroline, won’t settle for less, though, and this leads to a lot of strife.

I have taken Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and turned it on its head, so that it is the man being tamed. Of course, what really happens is that in the midst of their sparring and their lovemaking, Caroline and Anthony actually learn to talk to each other, and begin to build a real marriage. A happy one.

Is this your first regency period story you have written?

It is, and I have loved every minute of it! I have read Regencies all my life, but this novel was the first time I ever tried my hand at it. It was so much fun.

Where there any challenges?

Learning to write a new genre is very challenging, but I loved it. I found that many my flowery, long-winded descriptions had to go, much to the joy of my editor. LOL Also, I needed to increase the conflict in this novel, so that Caroline and Anthony are constantly in jeopardy. They do not always flee for their lives by any means, but the tension has to be built from one moment to the next, from one scene to the next, until the end when they finally come together and settle their differences for the last time.

One of my flaws as a writer, one I am working to overcome, is that I don’t like to watch my characters suffer. I said in a previous interview that it feels like I am torturing a puppy, and the puppy is me. LOL Of course, my characters are always strong enough to take any plot twists I dish out, and I get to explore their strength as I watch them exercise it. So conflict is a good thing.

Tell us about those hot love scenes… were they hard to write?

For some reason, every novel I have ever written is heavy on love scenes. They creep into every book, and I just let them enter in. I don’t try to stop them, because I interrupt the flow at my peril. There have been times, as in TO BE QUEEN, when my editor had me trim down a love scene, but for the most part, they get to stay in the books. One thing I love best about writing Regency romances is that all my love scenes get to stay where they are.

Love scenes are interesting. Some people really enjoy them and some people skip them. I hope my book has enough going on that it will appeal to both kinds of readers.

What book project are you working on next?

I am revising books 2 and 3 of this series. I am having such an amazing time re-working Shakespeare’s comedies, and watching as the seed of his genius gives birth to an entirely new plot.
Book 2 in this series, which should be out late next summer, is LOVE ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT in which Pembroke, Anthony’s hard drinking, womanizing best friend, has to rescue the woman who jilted him ten years before. It’s the story of the taming of a rake, and it is a lot of fun. Or I suppose I should say, I had a lot of fun writing it. I am obviously biased LOL!

What are you currently reading?

I have been so enmeshed in launching HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE while revising LOVE ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT that my reading has slowed down to a snail’s pace. I had the pleasure of reading Heather Webb’s BECOMING JOSEPHINE and now I am reading CALEB’S CROSSING by Geraldine Brooks. Though not a prolific a reader at the moment, I have found some beautiful pieces to savor.

What do you plan on reading next?

CLOUD ATLAS. I am going to enjoy diving into that.

Thank you Christy for this lovely interview!
Layered Pages
Christy does it again with this wonderful re-telling of, “Taming of the Shrew.” This is one romance novel I couldn’t put down! I normally don’t read romance that often and this story was wonderfully told! I have enjoyed every single one of Christy’s novel and I knew she would be fabulous. Wonderful character building and the story-line was fast-paced, entertaining, engrossing, and a delight to read! I really enjoy reading stories with strong female characters and this story gives you that. This is quite simply the best of the best. A must read!

Interview with Author Malcolm Noble


Author Malcolm Noble is the winner of the BRAG Medallion for his story, “Peggy Pinch.”

Thanks for including me in your blog, Stephanie. It certainly needs to be a regular stop for anyone interested in the world of books. You have a knack for interviewing authors who have something to say, so I guess I feel a little out of place!
Malcolm, thank you for this lovely interview and my apologies for the delay. Please tell me about your book, “Peggy Pinch.”
It’s a murder story set in an English village at the time of the General Strike. Peggy Pinch, the policeman’s wife, knows that any investigation by Scotland Yard will uncover village scandals that will discredit her husband, so she sets out to solve the murder herself. It’s my favourite.

What inspired you to write this story?

I had already published eight Timberdick Mysteries and I wanted to break out a little. However, I felt a different book would disappoint the readers who had been with me from the beginning, so I started out by writing a back story for one of the minor Timberdick characters (Boy Berkeley in the book). However, Peggy’s character quickly became so strong and developed so unexpectedly that she soon grabbed my enthusiasm. The book became hers.
Initially, I wanted to set the story in the Hampshire village where I grew up (Stubbington) but that didn’t work out because I kept picturing the book’s location on a hillside with a stream at the bottom of the village.
What is the most challenging when it comes to writing novels set in the early 1900’s?
Peggy Pinch is set in 1926 so it’s on the margins of being a historical novel and the challenge for all historical fiction is use the research properly. The story and the characters come first. Research should do no more than underpin them.  Your characters and story should never be built around the research.  Someone once told me that if I used more than one tenth of any research, I was using too much. Even that 10% needs to used carefully.  In Peggy Pinch, many of the episodes rely on reminisces told to me by my grandparents (who died in the 1960s).  My grandmother once told me about a young woman who insisted that sexual intercourse couldn’t lead to pregnancy.  I didn’t look for an opportunity to include that confusion but when I needed to show the naivety of an appropriate character, the story came to hand. But I would never change a personality to suit the anecdote.
I like to think that I’m as careful as I can be about getting little details right but that doesn’t stop me making howlers.  In The Case of the Dirty Verger I allowed the characters to drink tea from paper cups on Waterloo Station in 1947.  I could kick myself, because I know that crockery was used well into the 1950s.  I simply wasn’t paying attention.  My books do produce some lovely debate about nostalgia, and I always join in. I am still arguing (light-heartedly) with one reader about how many brands of king size cigarettes were available in the UK in 1963.
My comments show how important it is for me to keep notebooks with amusing anecdotes and curiosities.
What is your next book project?
The Poisons of Goodladies Road is published this month. I am currently working on a sequel to Peggy Pinch, Policeman’s Wife.  I’ve got to the stage (about 30,000 words) where a lot of rewriting needs to be done before I can take it further. Although this part of the process seems like hard work, it’s also very stimulating because the story and the characters become a lot sharper. Several minor characters won’t make the cut and some sub-plots will be lost but, by Christmas, I hope the script will begin to look something like the book I had in mind when I started. That always feels good.
When do your best ideas for stories come to you?
Very often, snatches of conversation.  These can be things remembered from years ago, especially if I’m thinking about friends and family I’ve lost touch with, or they can be snippets overheard in the street. 
On other occasions, it can be one phrase that seems to describe a scene just right.  The scene develops into a colourful episode. The episode opens up a storyline. Timberdick’s First Case happened like that.  The book grew out of the first sentence. 
Once again, my writer’s notebook is very important.
What books have most influenced your life?
Two writers, William Hazlitt and JB Priestley, produced several essays that have got me thinking.  That’s not to say that they are my favourite books, but probably they have influenced my perspective on things.
From Shakespeare, I learned the value of words. Dickens taught me to read slowly and enjoy the journey. My favourite reads at the moment are the detective novels of Cyril Hare and Beryl Symons.  Also, I have read Treasure Island so many times and over so many years that it’s hard to think that it hasn’t influenced me in some way. I read it still, at least once a year.
 Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
You know, calling myself a novelist seems a little pompous.  I’m an overweight bloke in his sixties who runs a second-hand bookshop and likes to write murder stories that some other people want to read.  Some people have been very kind about my books but I know that I could never live up to the comments they’ve made.  Novelist?  No, really, I’ve just slopped coffee down my trousers; real writers don’t do that.
The occupational hazard is that people now worry that I’m going to include them in one of my books. I want people to react with me in an ordinary way, not as potential characters.  But I have always been a spectator.  I enjoy looking at and listening to people. When people are cross or feel strongly about something, they come up with the most superb phrases. (Straight into the notebook before I forget them.) 
A more serious hazard comes from my own personality, I’m sorry to say.  Because I can always be found in my shop, readers do travel quite some distances to meet me. Of course, this is very flattering and rewarding for me, but I simply don’t come up to scratch.  We sit in the shop’s courtyard and share a coffee, and chat about books in general or the work I’m doing. But I’m conscious that I’m not like a proper writer and people must be disappointed. The problem is that I want to do the listening, to learn about one of my readers, but that’s not the point of the visit.  Usually, they drive away and I’m left thinking ‘I hope I was worth the bother.’
But there are so many up sides to writing. The relationship with your readers is something unique. I will always get a kick when someone says that they’ve read one of my books from cover to cover without a break. I don’t think there’s higher praise.  And I’m tickled when readers send me little presents.  I’ve received a model of the car that my policeman drives and an old pipe lighter for him to use. The jar of date chutney was a something of a puzzle, but I’m sure PC Machray enjoyed it. It wouldn’t have been to Timberdick’s taste, although she has always wanted to be vegetarian. (We’ve argued about that.)
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Be very clear (and be honest with yourself) why you are writing. That focus will help you achieve your best.
Listen to advice about structure, pace and character development but then, when you are at your writing place, forget it all.  Produce the prose and story that you’re inspired to write. Let the characters grow in your mind until they govern what can and cannot happen. For that to happen, you have to spend time with them. (How many novelists had imaginary play-friends when they were toddlers?)
Above all, be confident.  If you like the story, the characters and the sounds of the words, someone else will.
 Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.
I’m not too sure about this.  I know that I googled ‘bragging stickers’, wanting to find a cheap supplier, and BRAG came up and I looked briefly at their website but, of course, it wasn’t what I searching for at the time.  It was Helen Hollicks, I think, through the Historical Novels Society, who recommended people should recognise what BRAG was doing. I was impressed by their set up. I think it’s interesting how “indies” are becoming more assertive, forming professional alliances and establishing quality gateways.  I know that having a BRAG label on the cover of Peggy Pinch has sold some copies, so I would recommend anyone to offer their book to their assessors.
What is your favourite quote?
“Authenticity is boring. Credibility is important.” I’ve heard this attributed to Raymond Chandler, although I’ve not been able to track it down. Can anyone help?
May I have a second one?  Freeman Wills Croft wrote, “If we were all as wise as we should be, we’d have no stories to tell.”  I think that’s great!
Stephanie, thanks for asking the right questions. You definitely know how to get someone to rabbit along.

Author Bio:

Malcolm Noble was born in Nottingham, England in 1951 and grew up on the shores of the Solent. As a young man he served in the Portsmouth Police, a chapter in his life that provides some background for his crime fiction.
Malcolm lives in Market Harborough where he and his wife run a secondhand bookshop. He has written ten mystery novels .

A message from indieBRAG

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Malcolm Noble who is the author of, Peggy Pinch, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, 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 Peggy Pinch merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Thank you!


Video of Malcolm discussing his answers to our interview:

Review: The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman

A deeply moving and masterfully written story of human resilience and enduring love, The Plum Tree follows a young German woman through the chaos of World War II and its aftermath.

“Bloom where you’re planted,” is the advice Christine Bolz receives from her beloved Oma. But seventeen-year-old domestic Christine knows there is a whole world waiting beyond her small German village. It’s a world she’s begun to glimpse through music, books—and through Isaac Bauerman, the cultured son of the wealthy Jewish family she works for.

Yet the future she and Isaac dream of sharing faces greater challenges than their difference in stations. In the fall of 1938, Germany is changing rapidly under Hitler’s regime. Anti-Jewish posters are everywhere, dissenting talk is silenced, and a new law forbids Christine from returning to her job—and from having any relationship with Isaac. In the months and years that follow, Christine will confront the Gestapo’s wrath and the horrors of Dachau, desperate to be with the man she loves, to survive—and finally, to speak out.

Set against the backdrop of the German home front, this is an unforgettable novel of courage and resolve, of the inhumanity of war, and the heartbreak and hope left in its wake.”


The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman is without a doubt one of the best books I have read this year! Her prose is beautiful and inspiring, the characters story is heart-stirring and will capture emotions so deep in you that you will be forever changed. I highly recommend this story to all!

Expected publication: December 25th 2012

I have the pleasure of an interview with Ellen Marie Wiseman on Thursday, January the 3rd here on Layered Pages. I will be discussing with her in further depth about her novel.

Layered Pages

Review: The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

The Crown is a truly wonderful read, historical fiction at its best. This is the story of Joanna Stafford, a cunning woman and novice nun no less. Nancy Bilyeau manages to create a work which is richly detailed and engaging without losing her audience into tedium. Joanna is tasked to find a missing crown believed to hold certain powers in order to save her father from the tower of London. Her search is tangled up with the lives of important figures from Henry VIII reign, as well as the challenges facing the church at the time. The characters which Joanna encounters on this mission are all well developed, unlike many novels where the main character’s shine comes from the dullness of her competition. Bilyeau keeps you in anticipation through the mysteries, conspiracy, and journey with a masterful interconnection of the details and storyline. While not probably an entirely novel storyline, being set among the monasteries and priories gives this work provides a unique perspective on the time.

The story keeps you on the edge of your seat and just when you think that you know where things are headed and how the story will end, Ms. Bilyeau changes the game. Hopefully this sets the stage for a sequel, because I need to know what lies ahead for Joanna Stafford. I highly recommend The Crown to fans of historical fiction, religious conspiracy/mystery, and sixteenth century England.
Brandy Strake
Review Team Member