Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spotlight + Giveaway: City of Ladies by Sarah Kennedy

City of Ladies, the second book in The Cross and the Crown series by Sarah Kennedy

Publication date: November 11, 2014
Knox Robinson Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-910282-09-0
Historical fiction

It’s midwinter in 1539, and former nun, Catherine Havens Overton, has just given birth to her second child, a daughter. The convent in which she was raised is now part of her husband's lands, lands that once belonged to Catherine's family. With a son, Robert, and her new daughter, Veronica, her life as the mistress of a great household should be complete.

But Henry VIII’s England has not been kind to many of the evicted members of religious houses. And in order to protect her old companions from the hostilities, Catherine has gathered about her a group of former nuns in hopes of providing them a chance to serve in the village of Havenston, her City of Ladies.

Catherine’s past haunts her. Her husband begins to suspect that Robert is not his child. Then the women of Overton House begin to disappear and one of them is found brutally murdered nearby. Seizing the moment, under the pretense of ensuring her safety, William forces Catherine to enter service at Hatfield House where the young Elizabeth Tudor lives.

Reluctantly, Catherine obeys, only to find herself serving not only the Protestant Elizabeth but also the shamed Catholic Mary Tudor. As the murders in Yorkshire continue to mount and her loyalty to the Tudor sisters grows more complicated, Catherine must uncover the secret of the killer and save her City of Ladies.

Praise for City of Ladies:

Sarah Kennedy reanimates lost perspectives of Tudor England in her second story of Catherine, a former nun displaced by Henry’s dissolution of the religious houses. With a scholar’s imaginative sympathy, Kennedy restores humanity to Mary Tudor and the vulnerable women sheltered by Catherine. With a poet’s sensual worldmaking, Kennedy conjures up the textures, temperatures, aromas, and emotions of daily life in a country undergoing dizzying upheavals of beliefs and convictions. In “City of Ladies” Kennedy takes her place with Daphne du Maurier, Anya Seton, Rosemary Sutcliff, and Hilary Mantel as writer of superb historical fiction. ~Suzanne Keen, author of “Empathy and the Novel”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway: The Stuart Vampire by Andrea Zuvich

Please join me in welcoming author Andrea Zuvich to Let Them Read Books! Andrea is touring the blogosphere with her newest release, The Stuart Vampire, a dark tale blending the historical, the paranormal, and the horrific. I had the chance to ask Andrea a few questions about writing such an inventive story and her awesome life as a professional historian! Read on and enter to win an ebook copy of The Stuart Vampire!

Hello Andrea! Thank you for stopping by Let Them Read Books! 

Hello, Jenny, thank you for having me here!

So what inspired you to write a story in which Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, King Charles II's younger brother, becomes a vampire? 

I was inspired to write a story in which this historical character becomes a vampire because the real Henry Stuart is so often forgotten about. He lived only twenty years, and that isn’t much time for anyone, but from all accounts he was a pretty awesome guy. I’m always fascinated by people who were cut down at an early age when they could have gone on to be quite important in history. I also saw a portrait of him when he was a teenager, and I remember remarking, “Hey! He looks like a vampire!” and that just got the ball rolling in my head. When I badly hurt my ankle, I was bedridden for a few weeks, and that’s where I started writing, in bed with my foot elevated on a pillow. I was conveniently distracted away from the pain by the story that was unfolding in my imagination.

I imagine this was great fun to write! What were the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of penning this tale?

It was fun! Most of my work involves meticulous research, and I have to keep to known historical facts. In The Stuart Vampire, however, I was able to simply be creative and the story just flowed out of me. The most challenging aspects of writing a paranormal/horror story is not really in the actual writing but in the fact that some of my colleagues will not take me seriously as a historian, but that’s just too bad because I think it’s a dark tale that many people seem to enjoy. Most history lovers are really lovely and kind, but there can be a lot of hostility and snobbery, I’ve found, where some people think that you can’t be a serious historian and also a fiction writer. The two things are not mutually exclusive! Originally, I wanted the heroine, Susanna, to be a black cat who turns into a witch (this is probably because I have a black cat, Blackie) but I quickly deleted that out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spotlight + Giveaway: The Secrets of Casanova by Greg Michaels

Please join author Greg Michaels as he tours  the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for The Secrets of Casanova, from October 13-24. Check out the book and the blog tour schedule, and enter to win a paperback copy!

Publication Date: October 21, 2013
Booktrope Editions
Formats: eBook; Paperback; 334p

Genre: Historical Fiction

2014 Nancy Pearl Award Winner for Fiction

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Loosely based on the life of Jacques Casanova, The Secrets of Casanova is a rich, lush novel of love, sex, family, ambition, intrigue, and adventure. Set in Paris of 1755, Casanova's luck is fading and his past is shoving up against his present with potentially disastrous consequences. What price must he pay to uncover a treasure of inestimable value? What hearts must he break along the way? Casanova's will and destiny collide again and again in this riveting historical fiction that brings to light a man of great passion and not a few secrets.

Praise for The Secrets of Casanova

“A Shakespearean actor with a flair for the dramatic and a superb ear for dialogue, Michaels's debut novel puts a brilliantly original spin on an historical figure whose very name is a cliché. This Casanova must wrestle not only with falling hopelessly and passionately in love, but embarking on a mysterious quest that is as much a spiritual awakening as a swashbuckling adventure. The Secrets of Casanova is so erotic and so sensitively written, I found it difficult to believe its author was a man.”
--Robin Maxwell, national best-selling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I've Got Some Winners to Announce!

Tonya D

Raquel M

Nancy Z

Emails have gone out to the winners.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and comment on these posts! Check my sidebar for more great giveaways!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blog Tour Review: Goddess Born by Kari Edgren

From the Back Cover:

Pennsylvania, 1730

Selah Kilbrid keeps a dangerous secret: she has the power to heal.

A direct descendent of the Celtic goddess Brigid, it's Selah's sacred duty to help those in need. But as the last of the Goddess Born living in the New World, she learned from an early age to keep her supernatural abilities hidden. The Quaker community of Hopewell has always been welcoming, but there's no doubt they would see her hanged if her gift was revealed.

When a prominent minister threatens to try her with witchcraft unless she becomes his wife, Selah has only one hope--that her betrothed, a distant cousin from Ireland, arrives as planned. Marrying Samuel would keep her secret safe, preserve her sacred bloodline, and protect her from being charged as a witch.

But when news of Samuel's death reaches the Colonies, Selah is truly on her own. Terrified, she faces an impossible choice--forfeit her powers and marry the loathsome Nathan? Or find an imposter to pose as her husband and preserve her birthright?

My Thoughts:

A descendant of the Celtic goddess Brigid, eighteen-year-old Selah Kilbrid has the power of healing, though she must use it carefully and under the guise of the limited medical knowledge of the eighteenth century or else risk raising the fears of the superstitious community in which she lives. But with the death of her beloved father, Selah is a young woman alone in a world very much ruled by men. Hounded by Nathan, a Quaker elder obsessed with making her his bride, Selah has one chance to stay true to her heritage and fulfill the sacred duty entrusted to her by the goddess: she must get to Philadelphia to marry a man she has never met, her cousin Samuel, due to arrive from Ireland any day. As a fellow Kilbrid, Samuel knows about Selah's gift and is sworn to protect her. But when Selah arrives in Philadelphia, she discovers that Samuel tragically died on the voyage over, and she is now truly alone. But she is unable to reconcile her fate of marrying a fanatical man and hiding her gift until it eventually withers away, so when she stumbles on an indentured servant auction and locks eyes with a handsome man who seems oddly out of place, she crafts a bold and daring plan. She purchases Henry Alan and convinces him to pose as her new husband.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway: Hand of Fire by Judith Starkston

Please join me in welcoming author Judith Starkston to Let Them Read Books! many of you may recognize Judith from her contributions to the Historical Novel Society. Judith is touring the blogosphere with her debut novel from Fireship Press, Hand of Fire, a novel of Briseis and the Trojan War. I recently had the chance to ask Judith a few questions about Briseis and the challenges in writing a book about a woman who may or may not have existed. Read on about her fascinating research and enter to win your own copy of Hand of Fire!

How were you first introduced to Briseis, and what inspired you to write a novel about her?

I first discovered Briseis when I was studying classics in college and read Homer’s Iliad, an epic poem set in the Trojan War. Briseis is the woman who sparks the central conflict of the poem between the two Greek kings Agamemnon and Achilles, but because it’s a male-dominated piece, Briseis gets only the briefest of mentions. Over the years as I taught the Iliad, which was a perennial favorite of my high school students, a question kept bugging me. How could Briseis possibly have loved Achilles—which is what Homer shows. The half-immortal Greek had killed her husband and brothers, destroyed her city and turned her from princess to slave—hardly a heartwarming courtship. In the few words Homer gives to Briseis, the one clear notion expressed is her sorrow at being parted from Achilles, so this seemed very puzzling.

I should say I always liked Achilles, the existential hero who calls the whole war into question—which shows he’s no brainwasher—so the answer wasn’t some ancient version of Stockholm Syndrome. I wrote Hand of Fire to solve this psychological puzzle and figure out who Briseis really was. I needed to get to know the flesh and blood reality behind the mystery. I should add that my readers don’t need to have any familiarity with the Iliad or the history of this period in order to enjoy Hand of Fire. I intentionally wrote it independently of the Iliad, although I stay true to Homer (unlike the Hollywood film Troy, which was entertaining but utterly inaccurate!)

How does Briseis's story reflect on the position of women during the time period?

Homer doesn’t tell us very much about Briseis—only that she was a princess of Lyrnessos, a town allied to Troy, and that Achilles destroyed her city and her life. So to find my Briseis, I turned to the historical record of this faraway place and time, the Late Bronze Age (about 1250 BCE) in what is now Turkey. Thanks to some excellent modern archaeology, we now know a lot about Briseis’s world. I should add that Briseis herself may not ever have existed. She may be legendary, but I set out to create who she would have been in history whether she really lived and breathed or not—she certainly breathes in my book!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spotlight: The Paradise Tree by Elena Maria Vidal

Publication Date: September 19, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace
Paperback; 252 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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The year is 1887 in Leeds County, Ontario. The O’Connor clan is gathering to mourn the loss of its patriarch Daniel O’Connor, an Irish immigrant. The story of Daniel and his wife Brigit is one of great hardships, including illness, ill-starred romances, war and political upheavals, as well as undying love and persevering faith. As Daniel is laid to rest, his grandson Fergus receives a piercing insight into what his own calling in life will be.

Praise for The Paradise Tree

"With this marvelous immigrant saga, Elena Maria Vidal reminds us why our forebears left the Old World for the New: for Faith, family, and freedom! Through three generations of an Irish clan in Canada, she invites us into their home for struggle and triumph, celebrations of joy and sorrow, music, feasting, and dancing. The Paradise Tree makes 'the past and present mingle and become one' for the reader’s great delight." --Stephanie A. Mann, author of Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation

“Elena Maria Vidal’s latest book, The Paradise Tree, is the fictionalized true story of the author’s devoutly Catholic ancestors who immigrated to Canada from Ireland. It is filled with rich detailed history recounting the hardships and joys of the 19th century O’Connor Family. Beautifully written with great attention to historical, geographical and religious accuracy, this fascinating and moving family saga is a treasure that I highly recommend!” ~Ellen Gable Hrkach, award-winning author of In Name Only and four other novels

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blog Tour Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

From the Back Cover:

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

My Thoughts:

I have been waiting for Australian author Kate Forsyth's books to become available in the US, and it's finally happening! Bitter Greens has been on my wishlist since I first saw it, and while I was a little wary at the beginning of the multiple viewpoints and how the narrative moves back and forth in time, my fears were soon laid to rest. This is an ambitious and beautifully written tale of epic proportions whose strength lies in the strength of the women who tell it.

We begin with Charlotte-Rose, second cousin to the French King Louis XIV and longtime member of his court, who has just displeased the king once again, and this time he's banished her to a convent as punishment. For our fun-loving, quick-witted, sharp-tongued lass, this is quite a blow.

I had thought I could bend the world to my will. I had thought I could break free of society's narrow grooves, forging a life of my own desire. I had thought I was the navigator of my soul's journey. I was wrong.