Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot

From the Back Cover:

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot's heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother's schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot's wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

My Thoughts:

I loved Sophie Perinot's debut novel, The Sister Queens, and I have been anxiously awaiting the release of her second book. Having read several books about Catherine de Medici, I was familiar with her daughter Margot, but not intimately, and this novel brings one of the unsung heroes of the house of Valois and the Wars of Religion to life. From a sweet, eager, naive child to a teenager warped by her family's ruthless quest for power, a pawn used by her mother and brothers, and then a young woman seizing control of her own destiny, Margot's story is one of love, sacrifice, heartbreak, and redemption.

As a child desperate to please her powerful and, quite frankly, terrifying mother, Margot enters the French court determined to be a dutiful and exemplary princess of France, and she realizes the best way for her to do this is by securing an advantageous marriage with one of Europe's most powerful men. A beautiful girl by all accounts, her family attempts to match her with one prince after another, and Margot desperately wants to be a wife and future queen . . . until she falls in love with the young Duc de Guise, heir to the powerful family that wielded much influence over politics in France and made enemies of her mother and brothers. Their heartbreaking relationship is a real-life Romeo and Juliet tale. It could have been a union that united a fractured France, but instead it became one that ripped the Valois family apart and led to an even deeper divide between the ruling families, setting the stage for the War of the Three Henrys.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I'm in the Amazon Store! I'm Famous!

Not really!
But this weekend, thanks to a fellow fan of author Stephanie Thornton who was shopping in the brand new Amazon store in Seattle, I learned that a quote from my review of The Tiger Queens is featured on the shelf beneath the book!

How cool is that??? Thanks to my book blogging buddies Colleen Turner and Erin Davies for pointing it out to me!

And if you love historical fiction and haven't yet read The Tiger Queens, you must do so as soon as possible! It's amazing. Check out my Q&A with author Stephanie Thornton, who has become one of my favorite authors!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway with Sophie Schiller, Author of Race to Tibet

Please join me in welcoming Sophie Schiller to Let Them Read Books! Sophie is touring the blogosphere with her newest historical fiction release, Race to Tibet, based on the true story of a Victorian-era expedition fraught with peril and drama. I recently had the chance to ask Sophie a few questions about penning this exciting tale. Read on and enter to win a signed paperback copy of Race to Tibet!

By 1889 Tibet is the last unexplored country in the world. Gabriel Bonvalot is determined to be the first Westerner to reach Lhasa but lacks a sponsor. When the Duke of Chartres promises to pay his expenses Bonvalot agrees, even after he learns he must bring along the Duke's wayward son, Prince Henri d'Orléans. Along the way Bonvalot meets Camille Dancourt, the wife of a missing surveyor, who attaches herself to the expedition in order to find her missing husband. During the journey the intrepid explorers are besieged by freezing temperatures, volatile winds, mountain sickness, hostile Tibetans, and duplicitous Chinese Mandarins. Nearing collapse, Bonvalot realizes they will have to resort to force if they ever wish to escape Tibet alive.

RACE TO TIBET is an adventure thriller that will take you on a suspenseful journey to the Roof of the World.

"Fans of Jules Verne’s travel adventures will find Schiller has done a solid job of transforming an obscure real-life Victorian expedition into a thrilling yarn." — Publishers Weekly

Hi Sophie! Thank you so much for taking the time to appear at Let Them Read Books!

How did you first learn about Gabriel Bonvalot's expedition to Tibet, and what inspired you to write about it?

Gabriel Bonvalot
Thank you for having me! I found out about Gabriel Bonvalot's expedition in a roundabout way. I had originally planned to write a novel about Princess Marie Valdemar, an obscure Danish princess whose poignant life and tragic death reminded me of a Victorian-era Princess Di.  But while I was researching the obscure details of her life, I faced many roadblocks and obstacles, especially with regard to the Royal Danish Archives. Instead of giving up, I began to look into all her relatives, to see if any one of them might have written about her, but the only relative who wrote an extensive number of books was her younger brother, Prince Henri d'Orléans, a notable French explorer who paired up with another famous explorer, Gabriel Bonvalot to become the first Westerners to reach Lhasa, the forbidden capital of Tibet. This was a story that immediately pulled me in. When I began researching their expedition, I was so taken with their story that I eventually dropped my plans to write about Princess Marie and switched to writing about this harrowing journey to the Roof of the World. In a way, Princess Marie led me to this story, and for that I owe her all the credit.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Spotlight ~ Zenobia: Challenging a Legend by Russ Wallace

Zenobia - Challenging a Legend
(Zenobia Book Series, Book Two)
by Russ Wallace

Publication Date: November 14, 2015
Geode Press LLC
Hardcover; 512 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Action
& Adventure/Young Adult

After winning the famous Alexandria horse race, Zenobia, a young Syrian warrior and an aspiring scholar, assumes her life will return to normal. Wrong! A tumultuous romance develops with her instructor, widely considered the most brilliant academic on earth.

Unknown to her, an enemy plans to kidnap Zenobia for his harem. The hired mercenaries never suspect their intended victim is a deadly warrior. The attack is thwarted, but the Syrians are alerted to a slave trade in young girls.

Meanwhile, a Nubian princess has been captured by the slavers. She struggles to survive in the dangerous situation while she seeks a way to escape. Can she succeed?

Zenobia’s impetuous nature continues to impel her to take unwise risks, both in class and on a hunting trip. When a second kidnap attempt on her fails, the last attacker escapes. She decides to run him down to save her family. Thus begins an epic chase on horseback across the desert in the dead of night. It culminates in a shocking revelation that threatens her very future.

Circumstances now force Zenobia into roles for which she is untrained. As she meets the challenges, she begins to unleash her strategic genius, which will one day raise her to the pinnacle of her world.

“Book two in the Zenobia book series has it all …the book is full of adventure with kidnappings, hunting, fighting, revenge, chases, escapes, and piracy. Zenobia learns a heart breaking truth about love and this will mold her into the women she is destine to become. This was an ARC…You'll want to put this book on your TBR list.” – Julie Martin Wallace

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: A Year of Ravens

Please join me in welcoming the authors of A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica's Rebellion to Let Them Read Books! Last year, I was seriously impressed by A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, their first collaboration on a novel told in parts (though a few of the authors have changed this time around). I called it "genius in its design" and named it to my Best of 2014 list.

I was honored to get the chance to provide some editorial assistance on A Year of Ravens, and I have to tell you, I think it is even better than A Day of Fire. It was a very emotional read for me. I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I felt sick, I despaired. I sat in awe of the magic that flowed from all of their pens. You're gonna love it. Read on to learn how this gifted group pulled it all together and then enter for a chance to win an awesome set of jewelry inspired by the book!

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

The Magic of Collaboration
In Historical Fiction

Creativity, Steve Jobs once said, “is just connecting…and synthesizing new things.” One author writing one story is often quite limited in making new connections about a historical event or figure. But seven authors on one story can make unexpected and surprising connections in ways that transform storytelling.

That’s what the authors of the new collaborative novel about the ancient British warrior queen Boudica discovered while writing, A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

From the Back Cover:

A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other 

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana's own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

My Thoughts:

Vivaldi is my absolute favorite composer. I adore the style of his music and think it some of the most complex and beautiful music ever written, and so I could not wait to read Alyssa Palombo's debut novel.

The story is told completely from the point of view of Adriana d'Amato, a young woman isolated from the world by an overbearing father, forbidden to play her beloved violin since the death of her mother. But the call of music is too strong to overcome, so she begins sneaking out to take lessons from the violinist whose music is taking Venice by storm, Antonio Vivaldi, the Red Priest. A sheltered and lonely young woman, Adriana soon finds herself wanting more than just music lessons from the talented man whose passion for music inspires and invigorates her, and though Vivaldi is technically a priest--though not a very good one--the two are soon caught up in a forbidden affair. Though any type of lasting, public relationship between them is impossible, Adriana naively clings to hope that their love will surmount all obstacles. But she is in for a heartbreaking awakening when a series of unfortunate events causes her carefully constructed fantasy to come crashing down around her, and her life is forced onto a path she had not anticipated.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Spotlight: The Crescent Spy by Michael Wallace

The Crescent Spy
by Michael Wallace

Lake Union Publishing
November 10, 2015
ISBN: 9781503945586
Paperback, ebook: 336 pages
Historical Fiction

Writing under a man’s name, Josephine Breaux is the finest reporter at Washington’s Morning Clarion. Using her wit and charm, she never fails to get the scoop on the latest Union and Confederate activities. But when a rival paper reveals her true identity, accusations of treason fly. Despite her claims of loyalty to the Union, she is arrested as a spy and traitor.

To Josephine’s surprise, she’s whisked away to the White House, where she learns that President Lincoln himself wishes to use her cunning and skill for a secret mission in New Orleans that could hasten the end of the war. For Josephine, though, this mission threatens to open old wounds and expose dangerous secrets. In the middle of the most violent conflict the country has ever seen, can one woman overcome the treacherous secrets of her past in order to secure her nation’s future?