See the COVER for A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, by SIX AMAZING TOP Historical Authors…NOW!!

In historical book circles, we’ve been waiting impatiently for news of a certain book’s arrival from a group of tremendous historical fiction authors who’ve been working to release their newest endeavor called A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii! It’s a unique way to pen a book, so you don’t want to miss it! It’s on FIIIIIIIRE!!! (Yep, you can sing that in your best vocally loud and unharmonizing voice, I just did *wink*)

Today, I am excited to reveal the cover for A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii! This book is not just FOR your TBR pile, but for the TOP of your TBR pile, and should be moved quickly to your READ pile!  Six amazing authors create one volume, which creates the gripping story of Pompeii’s final days.

And now you can PRE-ORDER your copy, so come November 4, you won’t have to wait! And now, you don’t have to wait any longer for this amazing cover either, catch a glimpse NOW!!! Leave your impressions in the comments below!!

DRUM ROLL with FLAMING DRUMSTICKS and cue HOT SHIRTLESS Italian male dancers…..or maybe Ben Kane will rush in with full Roman garb and chariot…….

pre-order cover ElizaKnight_ADayofFire_HR

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, Information~

by six historical authors:

Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn and Vicky Alvear Shecter, with an introduction by Michelle Moran

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Six top historical novelists join forces to bring readers the stories of Pompeii’s residents—from patricians to prostitutes—as their world ended. You will meet:

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . .these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.

An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.

An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.

A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.

A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.

A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six top historical authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

pre-order cover ElizaKnight_ADayofFire_HR

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii releases on November 4, 2014. Can’t wait? DON’T—make a date with destiny and don’t go down with the smoke. Make sure you receive your copy immediately on Nov. 4 by pre-ordering A Day of Fire in the format of your choice:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NI5CBXI</

ABOUT THE AUTHORS (I mean you’ll faint after reading this!)~

STEPHANIE DRAY is a multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical Nile series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Learn more at http://www.stephaniedray.com

BEN KANE worked as a veterinarian for sixteen years, but his love of ancient history and historical fiction drew him to write fast-paced novels about Roman soldiers, generals and gladiators. Irish by nationality but UK-based, he is the author of seven books, the last five of which have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers.Ben’s books have been translated into ten languages. In 2013, Ben walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall with two other authors, for charity; he did so in full Roman military kit, including hobnailed boots. He repeated the madness in 2014, over 130 miles in Italy. Over $50,000 has been raised with these two efforts. Learn more at http://www.benkane.net/

E. KNIGHT is an award-winning, indie national best-selling author historical fiction. Under the name, Eliza Knight she writes historical romance and time-travel. Her debut historical fiction novel, MY LADY VIPER, has received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Historical Novel Society 2015 Annual Indie Award. She regularly presents on writing panels and was named Romance Writer’s of America’s 2013 PRO Mentor of the Year. Eliza lives in Maryland atop a small mountain with a knight, three princesses and a very naughty puppy. For more information, visit Eliza at http://www.elizaknight.com.

SOPHIE PERINOT is the author of the acclaimed debut, The Sister Queens, which weaves the story of medieval sisters Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence who became queens of France and England respectively. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. A long-time member of the Historical Novel Society, she has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences, serving as a panelist at the most recent. When she is not visiting corners of the past, Sophie lives in Great Falls, VA. Learn more at: http://www.SophiePerinot.com

KATE QUINN is the national bestselling author of the Empress of Rome novels, which have been variously translated into thirteen different languages. She first got hooked on Roman history while watching “I, Claudius” at the age of seven, and wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome. She and her husband now live in Maryland with an imperious black dog named Caesar. Learn more at http://www.katequinnauthor.com

VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the award-winning author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. The LA Times called Cleopatra’s Moon–set in Rome and Egypt–“magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” Her young adult novel of Pompeii, Curses and Smoke (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic), released in June 2014. She has two other upcoming books for younger readers, Anubis Speaks! and Hades Speaks! Vicky is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. Learn more at http://www.vickyalvearshecter.com/main/

Pre-order today~

OR try for the GIVEAWAY COPY by clicking HERE—->  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Interview with Leslie Carroll on Royal Marriages Gone Wrong and Writing History

I am so excited, because today, the amazing author and actress Leslie Carroll is stopping by for  a chat about her new non-fiction title about 500 years of mismatched Royal marriages! You’ll not want to miss this one! Consider it your weekend entertainment!

A frequent commentator on royal romances and relationships, Leslie has been interviewed by numerous publications, including MSNBC.com, USA Today, the Australian Broadcasting Company, and NPR, and she was a featured royalty historian on CBS nightly news in London during the royal wedding coverage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. She is the expert on the love life of many famous women in history and appears on television often in this role, that is, when she isn’t performing as an actress!

I am honored to have her here with us today, so sit back and enjoy! But first, let’s take a peek at the cover of her newest book…

02_Inglorious Royal Marriages

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Hi Leslie, and welcome today to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Readers might remember you’ve been here before as Juliet Grey to talk about your Marie Antoinette series. As quite the accomplished historian, actress, novelist, and writer, you keep busy with all things history. I wasn’t surprised that you’d written another non-fiction book detailing the lives of some of history’s notorious monarchs and aristocracy.

Congratulations on publishing Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millennium of Unholy Mismatrimony. Did you have as much fun writing it as we are having reading it?

Leslie: Yes, I did—and thank you for hosting me! I’m a history geek and a royalty aficionado, so let me just say, I love my job!

Erin: Me too, I love history and writing and I couldn’t think of anything better, except maybe chocolate! And so far, I haven’t found a job eating chocolate for a living! lol! Please do come into the library/study and have a seat in the red leather chair. It’s quite comfortable and we’ll be able to talk over tea. Would you prefer hot or iced tea? It’s not quite cool here yet in Ohio, so I’ll be having some peach iced tea. Say your pleasure and I’ll pour!

Leslie: Oooh, peach iced tea, please—unless you happen to have some super-strong, extra-leaded black iced coffee (my usual drug of choice, except for champagne, which is for birthdays and publication days).

Erin: Oh, let’s have the iced coffee. I’ll make yours black and mine with milk and sugar, and maybe a shot of chocolate syrup. Now that we’re set, let’s get started!

Q: You’ve done a tremendous amount of research in your career. Are your non-fiction titles such as Inglorious Royal Marriages and Royal Romances the culmination of things you’ve stumbled upon during other work or are you fascinated and go in search of? How do certain couples illuminate enough to make the cut?

A:Yes and yes? Everything I do tends to feed everything else. Researching Marie Antoinette’s marriage for an earlier book on royal marriages spurred me to write an entire historical fiction trilogy on her life. I have researched royals for one book and stumbled upon someone fascinating that I hadn’t known much about, or had known about but had no book to feature them in, and have stored their lives for future inclusion. For a couple to make the cut there has to be enough verifiable juicy information (readily available in English) on their lives. Nonfiction can’t be written on rumor. For example, if an author wanted to write a novel on the premise that King Richard the Lionheart was gay (there were rumors), they could write whatever they wanted with impunity. I had initially wanted to feature his marriage to Berengaria, but there’s not enough “there there” for a really gripping chapter. And absolutely NO verifiable evidence that he was gay. And I read 3 biographies of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters (Louise) and her husband because I had always imagined there was a juicy story to their marriage, but came away with nothing I could use that would make a fun enough chapter and I had so many other more exciting couples to feature, where I had many more interesting details to share with my readers. So some of the couples from my initial brainstorming table of contents got bumped during the research process.

Q: In that vein, how did your first non-fiction title come to light and what propels you to write them, besides that they must be highly successful due to historical readers having an obsession with royalty? I mean, who doesn’t like juicy gossip, sometimes you can’t make this stuff up it’s so good!

A:That’s what I’m always telling people: even though I am also a novelist, that the truth is often so much juicier and sexier than anything a novelist or screenwriter can invent! I mean, the REAL Mary Boleyn was such a slut that the King of France called her his “hackney” because “he loved to ride her” and the truth is that she got herself kicked out of the French court and sent back to her parents for screwing too many courtiers! That’s the REAL other Boleyn girl! I’d rather read about HER!

SO: the first nonfiction book, Royal Affairs, came about because my historical fiction editor at NAL wanted a book to compete with another Penguin imprint (Michael Farquahar’s Royal Scandals). NAL chose the title of my first book and because my editor loved the way I humanized such scandalous women as Emma Hamilton and Mary Robinson, who were the glamorous lovers of powerful 18th c. men (Admiral Nelson and the Prince of Wales, respectively), she felt I could also humanize the royals and give readers juicy stories about their lives while still presenting the historical facts in an engaging manner.

That style is typically known as “narrative nonfiction.” NAL wanted that, plus an easy, breezy tone, which, ultimately, the Chicago Tribune (reviewing my second “royal” title, Notorious Royal Marriages), dubbed, “an irresistible combination of People magazine and the History Channel.”

Q: What is your own favorite marriage union gone wrong from your new book Inglorious Royal Marriages? Why?

A: Researching the intermarriages of the two Medici cousins (Isabella Romola de Medici to Paolo d’Orsini; and Eleonora di Garzia di Toledo to Pietro de Medici) stopped me in my tracks. I don’t want to give too much away, but we think of the Italian Renaissance as a time of sophistication and progress, a flourishing of art and culture. And it was all that, but beneath the glitz and glamour, the families that governed the city-states had some seriously twisted men in them. Nowadays, when we read about so-called “honor killings,” we don’t equate them with anything that has ever occurred in Western culture or with Christian (let alone Catholic) behavior; and we fail to comprehend what sort of mentality it would take to legitimize the murder of one’s spouse (particularly when the husband-murderer himself commits adultery with impunity). Yet Catholic men during the Italian Renaissance—a time of great enlightenment—got away with it

Q: Which marriage did you really wish would have worked if other variables had aligned correctly for them? Who did you feel the most sorry for in terms of their marriage? Why?

A:I found myself crying as I wrote the end of the chapter on the marriage of Marie of Edinburgh (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) to her cousin Ferdinand of Roumania. Because they were married, fairly unhappily and rockily for thirty-four years; her mother had pushed her into it. Both Marie and Ferdinand were unfaithful. Neither understood the other or appreciated the other’s better qualities. They couldn’t even take joy in their children, like some of the other royal couples. They were outspoken about the fact that they disliked their kids (and with reason: the older ones, in particular, were selfish, greedy jerks). And yet, after Ferdinand was diagnosed with cancer, as he was dying, Marie began to acknowledge everything they had been through together (including the agony of WWI). As I wrote in their chapter, In January 1927, realizing that she and Ferdinand were about to celebrate their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, Marie wrote in her diary, “May God allow that it not be our last . . . we have lived to become firm and faithful friends, two wildly different characters that have managed to produce harmony out of what might have been something quite else . . . we have lived for the country & for our children and always knew how to keep passion sufficiently under so as never to harm these two loves of our lives.” If only both of them had been more open to each other from the start. But Victorians didn’t do that. And Ferdinand was a native German; and, playing right into that stereotype, was very rigid in his thinking and was not brought up to be sensitive to the needs of his wife. Men weren’t like that back then!

Of all the couples that I profiled in Inglorious Royal Marriages I felt the most sorry for Mary Tudor (Mary I) with her marriage to Philip of Spain. She was so passionately, hopelessly in love with him and he, half a generation younger than her, regarded her as his aunt (he’d thought of her that way before their marriage) and viewed their union purely as a business deal. You would think that Mary, being a Tudor, would have had their pragmatism, and in many ways she did. But when it came to love and romance, in many ways she was also her father’s [Henry VIII’s] daughter and wanted to marry for love. I just felt so terrible for her, dressing up to please Philip, thinking she looked young and chic, when his courters were snickering behind their backs, and she really looked like mutton dressed as lamb. And thinking Philip was paying such special attention to her when it was really only common chivalry for the era and he was just waiting for his father’s word to leave England.

Erin Comments: I felt sorry for Mary Tudor too! I wasn’t partial to her previously, but I was left almost weeping by the time I was done reading your segment on her!

Q: You write with such flair, with sentences seeped in details, a vocabulary that is above par, and wit. How did you perfect your craft to this level? What is your advice for writing non-fiction and how is it different (or the same) from fiction?

A: Oh, thank you for not saying that I use too many big words (you know, I’ve heard that). I love words. I like to play with them in the air, like bubbles. I like the sounds they make when you string them together in a certain order. My maternal grandfather Carroll Carroll (yes, that was his name) was a poet and a humorist and I learned how to craft poems at his knee when I was a little girl. He also taught me how to be critical and analytical as a writer, back when I was that young as well. I was thirsty for all that knowledge.

The difference between writing fiction and nonfiction is that in nonfiction, you can’t make stuff up! Some people wonder where I get my sources (and the books are all listed at the back of each volume). But my publisher has not budgeted my books for footnotes (evidently they are costly to typeset). However, in my original manuscript I DO indicate the sources of every quote I use for THEM, so they can check it (and I have to provide a hard copy of the pages where I sourced my quotes when I submit my manuscript to my editor.

There are similarities between writing fiction and nonfiction: the author should tell a good story. Keep the reader engaged. She should care about the characters, whether they are actual historical figures or completely made up. The story should have an arc with a beginning, middle, and end. And I believe that there should be a “voice” to nonfiction that keeps the text engaging. Sometimes the material is fascinating enough on its own; but that most often applies to whoever’s field it is.

My touchstone for historical nonfiction is my sister. She hates history and was never a good student in it. I love history, so I’m bound to love any book with history in it, fact or fiction. And if the nonfiction is a bit academic, if I am interested in the subject, I’ll put up with it. But my sister will tune out. So my nonfiction books about historical subject matter have to keep my sister turning the pages! And the “voice” I found to do that for my “royal” books is the “People magazine meets History Channel” voice.

Erin Comment: I love your big words and your elegant sentences! You absolutely do have a voice for non-fiction and it is more narrative. That makes it easier to read, for almost everyone, even academia! And why not, I say? History is fascinating, no need to numb it down!

Q: As noted before, you’ve done a great amount of historical research, how do you keep it all straight with all the misinformation out there that also send people running from story to story to see which one might be most plausible?

A:My grandfather loved this saying: “When three people tell you you’re drunk—lie down.” So, I try to get at least three sources that provide the same information on a given event or subject. I was amazed when I first started writing nonfiction back in 2007, that various very eminent biographers could present very different “facts” from each other. I’m not even so sure that they “disagree” with each other because I don’t know if they have read each other’s books like I have.

But during the course of years of research I have encountered historians who have given different dates for a major event (like, oh, a wedding, for example). Well, I’m writing a book on marriages, so I can’t very well get a wedding date wrong. I certainly don’t want to do so. I don’t mean to do that. So, in situations like that example, I delve a little deeper. I start looking up calendars for that year. I’ll come across a source that says the couple was, hypothetically married on Whitsunday. But further research proves that the date given by one conflicting historian as a wedding date was a Tuesday, let’s say. So how could that historian have gotten it right if the couple were married on Whitsunday. But what calendar were they following? It’s easy to get lost down rabbit holes.

Erin Comments: A good point, and good rule of thumb. Thanks for that tip!

Q: If you could attend a party at the home of one of the couples of whom you featured in Inglorious Royal Marriages, who would it be and why? What would you take them as a thank you gift?

A: Oh, I like this question! I adore Charles II and I think his court would have been a fascinating experience. And I have always had a soft spot for Catherine of Braganza, his queen, whom he paid so little attention to, yet during the Popish Plot, he stuck by her; and even before that, refused to send her back to Portugal just because she could not conceive a healthy child (she did become pregnant but miscarried several times). If it were in my power, I would bestow upon them a healthy heir as a thank-you gift (as long as we’re in the realm of the imagination, here). I’d give her that baby; and even Charles might not mind if it were a girl (after all, both of his nieces reigned, in turn, though I suppose he’d have been more comfortable with a son, for the security of the realm). Failing that, I would give Catherine an ensemble that would dazzle the hell out of her husband. She was a terrific dancer; it was one of the few things in which she excelled his mistresses. She deserved a moment in the sun so that he would notice her and they could have the possibility of a truly wonderful royal marriage, instead of an inglorious one.

Q: You have written two other books in this non-fiction series, Notorious Royal Marriages and Royal Romances. What are the differences between each book? How did you choose which couples would go into which book?

A: Four, actually. Royal Affairs was the first book and Royal Pains was the third in the series. With Notorious Royal Marriages, I was going for some of the most famous ones, with a few lesser-known ones thrown in. The series was sold one book at a time, so I never knew when there was going to be another title or what angle it would focus on. Royal Romances exclusively featured love stories, whether they were marital or extramarital, ending with the courtship and marriage of William and Kate (my husband and I went to London for the royal wedding).So after I did a book on happy royal couples, whether they were married or not, I decided to return to the married ones, because most royal marriages were arranged, and to focus on some of the greatest mismatches, because it was a complete 180 from Royal Romances. I chose the word “Inglorious” as a theme because it rhymed with “Notorious,” which is the theme of the first book on royal marriages. And when I showed my editor my draft table of contents she wanted me to make sure that in every chapter I explain why that particular marriage is “inglorious,” meaning, bringing shame or dishonor to one or both partners. So all the marriages I chose for this new book had to fit that parameter.

Q: If there is one woman out of all three books that you feel deserves a second shot at a good marriage, or a long-lasting romance, who would she be?

A: I’ve spent more years with this woman than I have with some of my friends: Marie Antoinette. She deserves a second shot at a happy marriage with a husband who isn’t afraid to consummate it for more than seven years, turning them both into national laughingstocks and caricatures. She deserves a husband who will love her for her blithe spirit (she was married at the age of 14!) and generous nature and who will give her what she (and France) want more than anything else: babies. If Marie Antoinette and Louis had popped out some kids right from the start, she would have occupied her time with motherhood, raising her children in the newfangled hands-on-parenting style that Rousseau propounded. She would have been out of the limelight and done her duty as a queen, and not found the need to spend her energy elsewhere (shopping, gambling, out till all hours of the night with friends) because her needs weren’t being fulfilled with motherhood. And I’m betting that if all that had taken place, there might not have been a French Revolution.

Erin Comments: I had a feeling you’d say her, and I love your Marie historical fiction series!

Q: I know you’ve been featured as a historian on many television shows and newscasts. Who is the most talked about woman in history and why?

A:I think it may go in cycles, depending on who is fashionable or what sort of milestone (centenary or bicentennial, for example) is being celebrated. Whenever there’s something newly discovered about a famous historical figure, it’s all the rage for a news cycle or two and then we’re on to the next thing. Our culture has the attention span of a flea. And there may be women who, to some of us history nerds, may seem incredibly famous (e.g. Anne Boleyn. Without her there is no English Reformation and no Elizabeth I); but I’ll bet that there are many people in many countries (and even in many American cities and towns) who have never heard of her. They have heard of Kim Kardashian or Rihanna because of all the online media we are bombarded with in our western culture. But Anne Boleyn? Jeez—I’d hate to think that someone like Kim Kardashian is (currently, at least) the most talked about woman in history; and why; because she keeps putting herself in our faces every day so it’s almost impossible not to know who she is! But all kidding aside, this week, the Duchess of Cambridge will be the most talked about because she is once again with child. For some people, Jane Austen seems to be the most talked about woman in history because the past few years have seen the bicentennial celebrations of the publication of her first four novels.

Q: Of course, you write fiction as well. What is the next book you are working on in fiction and also, do you have another non-fiction planned?

A: As for my next fiction project, my lips are sealed. Sorry. Not even black iced coffee can pry them open. Hopefully, soon I will have an announcement for everyone. As for the nonfiction—I have an idea that I have to run by my editor. So that, too, is up in the air.

Q: What is your favorite midnight snack that you recommend to readers who buy your book and read each juicy page long into the night?

A:Healthy or non-healthy? Raspberries are my favorite food; so decadent and velvety, and hardly any calories: you can eat an entire box and not feel guilty. On the other hand, you can never go wrong with a really good cupcake. And hot cocoa. With an ounce or so of Kahlua in it. Or Amaretto.

Erin: Let me pass you some chocolate cupcakes then, and we’ll spend the afternoon writing. Thank you so much Leslie for stopping by to discuss love and marriage in history today. Your book was a pleasure to sink into one lonely evening when everyone else had gone to bed! It should be a mini-series on the history channel (I say this in my REVIEW too). Take care and look forward to seeing you back here again.

Leslie: Bye, Erin! Thank you SO much for inviting me to chat with your readers. I’m loving this comfy red leather chair, by the way. And your mini-series idea. Do I seriously have to leave?

Erin Comments: Nope, you just sit right there with your chocolate cupcake, coffee, and we’ll write the afternoon away.

Inglorious Royal Marriages, Synopsis~

02_Inglorious Royal MarriagesPublication Date: September 2, 2014
NAL Trade
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 400p

Genre: History/Non-Fiction/Royalty

READ AN EXCERPT.

Why does it seem that the marriages of so many monarchs are often made in hell? And yet we can’t stop reading about them! To satisfy your schadenfreude, INGLORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES offers a panoply of the most spectacular mismatches in five hundred years of royal history….some of which are mentioned below.

When her monkish husband, England’s Lancastrian Henry VI, became completely catatonic, the unpopular French-born Margaret of Anjou led his army against the troops of their enemy, the Duke of York.

Margaret Tudor, her niece Mary I, and Catherine of Braganza were desperately in love with chronically unfaithful husbands—but at least they weren’t murdered by them, as were two of the Medici princesses.

King Charles II’s beautiful, high-spirited sister “Minette” wed Louis XIV’s younger brother, who wore more makeup and perfume than she did.

Compelled by her mother to wed her boring, jug-eared cousin Ferdinand, Marie of Roumania—a granddaughter of Queen Victoria—emerged as a heroine of World War I by using her prodigious personal charm to regain massive amounts of land during the peace talks at Versailles. Marie’s younger sister Victoria Melita wed two of her first-cousins: both marriages ultimately scandalized the courts of Europe.

Brimming with outrageous real-life stories of royal marriages gone wrong, this is an entertaining, unforgettable book of dubious matches doomed from the start.

Praise for Leslie Carroll’s Royal Books~

“An irresistible combination of People magazine and the History Channel.”—Chicago Tribune (5 Stars)

“Thoroughly enjoyable.”—Booklist

“For those who tackled Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and can’t get enough of the scandal surrounding Henry VIII’s wives, [Notorious Royal Marriages is] the perfect companion book.”—NewYorker.com

Other books in the series:

Royal Romances
Royal Affairs
Royal Pains
Notorious Royal Marriages

Purchase the Book, Inglorious Royal Marriages~

Amazon US
Barnes & Noble
Books-a-Million
IndieBound

Leslie Carroll, Biography~

03_Leslie CarrollLeslie Carroll is the author of several works of historical non-fiction, women’s fiction, and, under the pen names Juliet Grey and Amanda Elyot, is a multipublished author of historical fiction. Her non-fiction titles include Royal Romances, Royal Pains, Royal Affairs, and Notorious Royal Marriages. She is also a classically trained professional actress with numerous portrayals of virgins, vixens, and villainesses to her credit, and is an award-winning audio book narrator.

A frequent commentator on royal romances and relationships, Leslie has been interviewed by numerous publications, including MSNBC.com, USA Today, the Australian Broadcasting Company, and NPR, and she was a featured royalty historian on CBS nightly news in London during the royal wedding coverage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

She also appears as an expert on the love lives of Queen Victoria, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great, and Napoleon on the television series “The Secret Life of [fill in the name of famous figure]” for Canada’s History Channel. Leslie and her husband, Scott, divide their time between New York City and Washington, D.C.

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

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/ingloriousroyalmarriagesblogtour/

Hashtags: #IngloriousRoyalMarriagesBlogTour #History #Royalty #Monarchy #RoyalMarriages

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @lcarrollauthor  @penguinusa

04_Inglorious Royal Marriages_BlogTour Banner_FINAL

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Talking with Historical Author Kim Rendfeld about War Between Saxons and Franks, Writing, & Women in History, and

Hi Kim and welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I enthusiastically enjoyed your debut novel The Cross and the Dragon, which took place in Francia in 778 near the early reign of Charlemagne, and our wonderful interview then. I’ve looked forward to having you back again. With the debut of your companion novel, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, it’s a great time to ask you a few more questions about your newest writing endeavor and what’s been going on with you this last year.

How has your launch been going for you?

Kim: Glad to be back, Erin. The schedule has been a whirlwind, a good whirlwind of reviews, interviews, and guest posts. It’s rewarding to see this novel so well received.

Erin: That’s wonderful news! Come in and have a seat and let’s make some tea. It’s still pretty muggy, so I have fresh brewed iced tea available or lemonade? Maybe peach or raspberry tea or strawberry lemonade? Pick your pleasure.

Kim: All sound delicious. How about raspberry iced tea?

Erin: Wonderful choice, I’ll pour and let’s get started! But first, let’s peek at your cover again…

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Q: Did you have plans in the works for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar when writing The Cross and the Dragon? Do they connect to one another, or are they stand alone works?

A: When I wrote The Cross and the Dragon, I intended it to be a stand-alone book, but when I finished the manuscript, I went through an odd form of grief, one that could only be dealt with by writing another book. At first, I was going to feature two nuns I had met in Cross and Dragon, but I couldn’t get a plot to coalesce. I also wanted to delve more deeply into the events from the Saxon side, and three secondary characters, a Saxon family sold into slavery, kept telling me I’d needed to write their story. I surrendered.

The two stories overlap a little, but each can stand alone.

Q: How much research did you need to do for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar and how long did it take you to write it?

A: It’s difficult to quantify the research. The events are the same, but the culture of the Continental Saxons presents a challenge. They didn’t have a written language as we know it, and the Church made every effort to obliterate their pagan religion, which it considered devil worship. Among other things, I used translated primary sources from the Franks, academic papers, folk tales, and even the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

How long it took to write is also not easy to calculate. I was writing Ashes while I sought a publisher for Cross and Dragon and sometimes would set it aside to revise my first novel. My estimate is five years.

Q: Are you a writer who outlines and follows painstakingly or a more “go with the flow” type of author?

A: If I tried to outline, I’d get stuck. With the second novel, I drafted a few chapters, then wrote an outline. Then threw everything away when the Saxons hijacked the plot. I wrote another outline and probably got about a third of the way through before casting that aside and going where the characters dictated.

Q: What types of historical discoveries have you made during your research that you want to share with readers? What themes of this time period interest you the most?

A: When I decided to write a novel set in the days of Charlemagne, I knew very little about the Middle Ages and had only heard of the monarch in middle school. So I was surprised by much of what I learned and could write an entire book. In the interest of brevity, I’ll provide just two examples. On a lighter note, medieval people did in fact bathe and considered it healthy. On the more serious side, Charlemagne’s most bitter wars were fought against pagan peoples.

I’m drawn to what the primary sources don’t say. Most authors depict the Saxons as brutes and treat war captives as booty. Historical fiction is a way to fill in the gaps and restore humanity to these people.

Q: The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is set during the destruction of the Irminsul. Can you explain for readers what that meant to the Saxons? How did they cope with the new wave of Christianity and what did it mean to them?

"The destruction of Irminsul by Charlemagne" (1882) by Heinrich Leutemann. / Wiki

“The destruction of Irminsul by Charlemagne” (1882) by Heinrich Leutemann. / Wiki

A: Your questions are what I wanted to explore in The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar. Since the eighth-century Continental Saxons didn’t write anything down, what I’m about to say amounts my best guess based on research. While we don’t know what the Irminsul was made of, where it was, or even if there was only one, it was sacred, perhaps emblematic, to the Saxon peoples. Its destruction might have been to the Saxons what September 11, 2001, was to Americans.

Some Saxons might have already practiced Christianity before Charlemagne’s first war in 772, but the Frankish annals complain again and again about how the Saxons broke their oaths, reverted to paganism, burned churches, and killed indiscriminately. Alcuin, a scholar and courtier in Charlemagne’s palaces, provides a more nuanced explanation. He sees a lack of education about the faith and more enthusiasm for collecting tithes than preaching as reasons for the Saxons’ stubborn rejection of Christianity.

Q: Did many need to convert to survive? What was it like for them to give up the only gods they had ever known?

A: In the earlier wars, Charlemagne might have seen conversion, especially of the Saxon leaders, as a means to ensure they kept their promises of peace. If someone is going to swear a loyalty oath, they invoke the divine, and whose deity do they swear by? To Charles, there was only one.

However, when the First Saxon Capitulary was issued in 782, refusing baptism was a capital offense as were pagan practices such as burning the dead. So, many Saxons might have accepted baptism to survive. Even though the vow required them to renounce their gods, the Saxons did not give them up entirely. Folk tales reflect that. The Germanic goddess Mother Holle punishes the lazy. Nixies are still evil creatures who live near water.

My heroine’s practice of praying to whoever might listen was common.

Some readers familiar with the period will cite the 782 execution of 4,500 leaders of a Saxon rebellion. While appalling to us in the 21st century, that incident likely had more to do with avenging a terrible defeat at the hands of the Saxons rather than an extreme attempt to force conversion. Charles had no choice if he wished to maintain alliances and stability without his own country.

Q:

A) Why was Charlemagne battling in Saxony? What was this like for people on both sides?

B) Your novel focuses on a family that was forever changed due to the wars. Did you create your characters based on fact or as fictional based on what might have been happening to any family at the time?

A:

1) The Franks and the Saxons had fought each other long before Charles’ first war. Perhaps, Charles saw the Saxons as a military threat when he decided to invade in 772; perhaps, he wanted to protect Church interests. He might have had the Irminsul destroyed because it was a way to show the powerlessness of the Saxon gods.

I imagine the Franks saw themselves doing God’s will as they served their country and fought ancestral enemies. Many of the soldiers were teenagers and their compensation was what they pillaged from the conquered. To the Franks, the Saxons made an oath, handed over hostages to ensure the peace, and then soon broke their vows.

The Saxons went through years of war, destroyed homes and crops, and if we are to believe Alcuin, priests exacting heavy tithes. To them, their promises were exacted at knifepoint and therefore invalid. No wonder they rebelled when they got the chance, but they did it in a brutal way.

Neither side is innocent, and vengeance was ingrained in both cultures.

2) Leova and her children are products of my imagination. The primary sources rarely address peasants or pagans, so to know what the wars were like for an ordinary family, I had to make one up.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of medieval history? What areas need to be explored further?

A: Medieval women were not damsels in distress awaiting a knight to rescue them. Although arranged unions and marriages for girls age 12 or 13 made the period less than ideal, women tried to influence their reality and shape the events around them. Your readers may recall Queen Mother Bertrada, whom I wrote about in March for your Women in History series (you can read that HERE). After her husband died, each of her two sons inherited a kingdom, and she worked tirelessly to prevent sibling rivalry from escalating to civil war.

One thing that make medieval times fun to write about (but not live in) is how the personal and political were intertwined for royal families. Charles’s decisions on whom to marry had national and international implications. At the beginning of Cross and Dragon, Charles is about to go to war with the king of Lombardy, his ex-father-in-law angry over the insult to his daughter.

Q: Do you have plans to write more books in this “series” or will you write about other historical times and places?

A: I am working on a third book about Charles’s fourth wife, Fastrada, who was queen when Pepin, the king’s eldest son by his first wife, rebelled. A couple of primary sources blame her cruelty but never say what she did, and they seem to ignore that a son cut out of succession might resent it enough to stage a coup. After I finish this book, I will listen to what the muse tells me to write next.

Q: What are some of the books you read to increase your knowledge and improve your writing style? These can be research books or favorite authors that you admire the writing style of or both!

A: My library includes Einhard’s The Life of Charlemagne, translated by Evelyn Scherabon Firchow and Edwin H. Zeydel; Carolingian Chronicles, which includes the Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories, translated by Bernard Walter Scholz with Barbara Rogers; P.D. King’s Charlemagne: Translated Sources, and Pierre Riché’s Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, translated by Jo Ann McNamara. For The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, I also used The Continental Saxons from the Migration Period to the Tenth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective, edited by Dennis Howard Green and Frank Siegmund.

I like to think of my writing style as my own. But in recent months, I’ve been leading a writers group at my day job, and we’re using William Zinsser’s On Writing Well as a guide. It reinforces concepts I’ve learned in 25 years of journalism and public relations such as simplifying language, eliminating clutter, and being genuine with readers.

Q: Who are your favorite women of history, from any time period?

A: Tough choice. There are so many women to admire.

We have Queen Bertrada, whom I mentioned earlier. There are also abbesses like St. Lioba, who assisted St. Boniface in strengthening and spreading Christianity in Europe. If we fast-forward a millennium and then some, we see Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who both fought for women’s right to vote but died before that right became part of the Constitution. There’s Eleanor Roosevelt, who didn’t want to be first lady but used her position to advance human rights. And let’s never forget Rosa Parks’s brave and peaceful protest for civil rights.

Bertrada_Broadfoot_of_Laon_Berthe_au_Grand_Pied_Versailles

Bertrada_Broadfoot_of_Laon_Berthe_au_Grand_Pied_Versailles

Q: Who is your favorite female character from either of your books (or one from each) and why?

A: I’m glad I can choose one from each. Otherwise, it’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. Alda is my favorite character from The Cross and the Dragon. I like her intelligence and cleverness, but most of all, I admire her courage. In The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, my favorite is Leova, a mom so determined to protect her children she is willing to sacrifice her honor and her safety.

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A: Readers can visit my website, kimrendfeld.com, where they can also read the first chapters of either novel. They’re also welcome to visit my blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like me on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, follow me on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, find me on Goodreads at goodreads.com/Kim_Rendfeld, check out my Amazon page at amazon.com/author/kimrendfeld, or contact me at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

Erin: Thank you, Kim, for stopping by today to talk about your new book. I wish you much success with your writing. We need more medieval historical fiction on the market!

Kim: Thank you, Erin, for inviting me. I enjoyed this opportunity to share my writing process and some of the fascinating history behind my books.

Purchase Kim’s new book at:

Amazon U.S. http://www.amazon.com/Ashes-Heavens-Pillar-Kim-Rendfeld-ebook/dp/B00N3BPYIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409191291&sr=8-1

Amazon U.K. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ashes-Heavens-Pillar-Kim-Rendfeld-ebook/dp/B00N3BPYIG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1409191493&sr=8-2

Amazon Canada http://www.amazon.ca/Ashes-Heavens-Pillar-Kim-Rendfeld-ebook/dp/B00N3BPYIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409191572&sr=8-1

Amazon Australia (Kindle) http://www.amazon.com.au/Ashes-Heavens-Pillar-Kim-Rendfeld-ebook/dp/B00N3BPYIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410027609&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-ashes-of-heavens-pillar-kim-rendfeld/1120209842?ean=2940150454095

Kobo http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-ashes-of-heaven-s-pillar

 The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, Synopsis~

  • File Size: 4818 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Fireship Press LLC (August 26, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

perf6.000x9.000.inddCan love triumph over war?

772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to defend her and her family sell them into slavery instead.

In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master, and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family.

Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion — but he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.

Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.

Advance Praise for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar~

“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.”  – Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” — Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles

Kim Rendfeld, Biography~

Kim Rendfeld author photoKim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon (her debut novel).

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren’t for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association. Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats. They have a daughter and three granddaughters.

To read the first chapters of either novel or learn more about Kim, visit kimrendfeld.com. You’re also welcome to visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

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Who Doesn’t Like a Juicy Story of the Royals? Leslie Carroll’s New Book Shows the Worst Match-ups, Spanning 500 Years of History

02_Inglorious Royal Marriages

Author and professional actress Leslie Carroll is most likely the “go-to” person for most anything involving Royal history, especially romances, marriages, and the women and men of the court whose love-filled dramas centuries later are still the tales of juicy gossip.

Leslie has recently released another book in her non-fiction series of Royal dramas featuring romance and marriage, called Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millennium of Unholy Matrimony. It’s filled with stories spanning 500 years of marriages at court gone wrong. These mismatched marriages aren’t surprising to hear about since most of them were arranged for political or international gain, but what makes the book fun is Leslie’s spin on each of the stories that she chose for within the book.

Some of the couples you’ll know easily, such as Mary I of England and Phillip II of Spain, yet surprisingly enough though I thought I knew most of their information, I still learned a lot. Leslie seems to  have a way of telling a detailed story, with humor and fact, that creates a connection with the reader on an emotional level. These people we sometimes forget were real people actually come to life on her pages and at least speaking for myself, I felt their sadness, loss, frustration, and emotion as if I knew them personally.

In a time when many still all watch the Royal Weddings and births, read the tabloid headlines of Royals while checking out groceries, and dive into knowing all the personal information of Prince William and Kate, this book gives us a gossip-eyed view of these historical disfunctional couples as if they lived among us today. However, Leslie’s writing is very top-notch, so that you must understand that her sections on each couple are filled to the brim with historical fact and highly detailed. Her vocabulary and writing level is very high and I feel that this book is for the educated reader who wants more heavy prose. It rides the fine line between being a novel that could be used for historical fiction research on any certain couple (she’s so knowledgeable she is like a walking encyclopedia) and an entertainment piece that is delightful enough to get lost in for a few hours of alone time.

It’s truly magnificent enough to really have its own History Channel series and each section is its own mini-documentary. I also adore Leslie’s own commentary within the book, and am especially partial when she is supportive of the women. Though she went in depth into each couple, I was left intrigued enough that I wanted to do my own research further.

One of my favorite sections quite surprised me, in fact. I loved her take on Bloody Mary and her sympathy to her plight. I had never been much of a Mary fan, but I understood how her loyalty to her religion and family. I didn’t realize how much she had wanted to have a baby. I also enjoyed the romp of a story about Monsieur, Philippe of France, Duc d’Orleans and Henriette-Anne as I found it quite humorous, even if slightly sad. His and her romps were so rampant I suppose my head was spinning as if I was attached to their chandelier spying and someone twirled it around.

If you enjoy historical fiction featuring Royals and elite of past centuries, then this book is the non-fiction piece for you to read alongside them. Leslie will give you the real picture in this book, as well as in her other non-fiction titles in the same vein, and create for you an entire buffet of marvelous factual frosting in which to top your fictional cake.

Inglorious Royal Marriages, Synopsis~

02_Inglorious Royal MarriagesPublication Date: September 2, 2014
NAL Trade
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 400p

Genre: History/Non-Fiction/Royalty

READ AN EXCERPT.

Why does it seem that the marriages of so many monarchs are often made in hell? And yet we can’t stop reading about them! To satisfy your schadenfreude, INGLORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES offers a panoply of the most spectacular mismatches in five hundred years of royal history….some of which are mentioned below.

When her monkish husband, England’s Lancastrian Henry VI, became completely catatonic, the unpopular French-born Margaret of Anjou led his army against the troops of their enemy, the Duke of York.

Margaret Tudor, her niece Mary I, and Catherine of Braganza were desperately in love with chronically unfaithful husbands—but at least they weren’t murdered by them, as were two of the Medici princesses.

King Charles II’s beautiful, high-spirited sister “Minette” wed Louis XIV’s younger brother, who wore more makeup and perfume than she did.

Compelled by her mother to wed her boring, jug-eared cousin Ferdinand, Marie of Roumania—a granddaughter of Queen Victoria—emerged as a heroine of World War I by using her prodigious personal charm to regain massive amounts of land during the peace talks at Versailles. Marie’s younger sister Victoria Melita wed two of her first-cousins: both marriages ultimately scandalized the courts of Europe.

Brimming with outrageous real-life stories of royal marriages gone wrong, this is an entertaining, unforgettable book of dubious matches doomed from the start.

Praise for Leslie Carroll’s Royal Books~

“An irresistible combination of People magazine and the History Channel.”—Chicago Tribune (5 Stars)

“Thoroughly enjoyable.”—Booklist

“For those who tackled Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and can’t get enough of the scandal surrounding Henry VIII’s wives, [Notorious Royal Marriages is] the perfect companion book.”—NewYorker.com

Other books in the series:

Royal Romances
Royal Affairs
Royal Pains
Notorious Royal Marriages

Purchase the Book, Inglorious Royal Marriages~

Amazon US
Barnes & Noble
Books-a-Million
IndieBound

Leslie Carroll, Biography~

03_Leslie CarrollLeslie Carroll is the author of several works of historical nonfiction, women’s fiction, and, under the pen names Juliet Grey and Amanda Elyot, is a multipublished author of historical fiction. Her nonfiction titles include Royal Romances, Royal Pains, Royal Affairs, and Notorious Royal Marriages. She is also a classically trained professional actress with numerous portrayals of virgins, vixens, and villainesses to her credit, and is an award-winning audio book narrator.

A frequent commentator on royal romances and relationships, Leslie has been interviewed by numerous publications, including MSNBC.com, USA Today, the Australian Broadcasting Company, and NPR, and she was a featured royalty historian on CBS nightly news in London during the royal wedding coverage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

She also appears as an expert on the love lives of Queen Victoria, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great, and Napoleon on the television series “The Secret Life of [fill in the name of famous figure]” for Canada’s History Channel. Leslie and her husband, Scott, divide their time between New York City and Washington, D.C.

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

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/ingloriousroyalmarriagesblogtour/

Hashtags: #IngloriousRoyalMarriagesBlogTour #History #Royalty #Monarchy #RoyalMarriages

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @lcarrollauthor  @penguinusa

04_Inglorious Royal Marriages_BlogTour Banner_FINAL

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The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar Tells the Story of Peasants Turned Slaves During Saxon Wars in 8th Century

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is Kim Rendfeld’s companion novel to The Cross and the Dragon, which she published in 2012. If you are interested you can read my review of her debut novel HERE, but you don’t need to read this past novel in order to pick-up The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar. If you do though, you’ll find similar factual characters. Also, be sure to come back on September 11 for my interview with Kim surrounding her newest novel.

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Review~

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar takes place in the 8th century, during the Saxon Wars. Charlemagne’s soldiers are destroying villages, as well as they destruct the pagan’s sacred Irminsul (Pillar of Heaven), and he insists that all of them stop praying to their gods and convert to Christianity. Kim always does a tremendous amount of research on her books and her historical detail is accurate and authentic, as well as detailed. Though she writes her prose, and it reads, as a medieval legend or fairytale, the novel is also seeped in fact, logic, and takes on serious social issues.

I like that Kim can well-develop a novel that is an enjoyable read, but one in which additionally educates you about the life of people during that period that don’t always get the history book page time. She delves into the life of the common people, in this case the peasants, and the tale of a common family. Leova, with her husband Derwine dead by the hands of Charlamagne’s soldiers, has left her with two teen children to care for, Sunwynn and Deolaf. In that time, relatives helped widows, but in this case an evil sister-in-law lies about them and sells them into slavery.

This family’s life becomes very difficult as they are sold and shifted around, with Leova’s pleadings that they are not slaves and it was a mistake (though she doesn’t do it loudly), and the children become intent on changing their own fates, with Deolaf stepping up and taking charge and defending his family (even when he shouldn’t and is often reprimanded) and Sunwynn becoming entranced by the solider Hugh she saw during the battle that killed her father (and what if he killed her father?). Leova is tied up in knots most of the story, due to fear, and focused on her mission, but her supporting characters create the exciting dialogue and emotional scenes.They struggle with their rightful place in society, while at the same time perplexed about their faith and all they knew to be true.

The story is brilliantly told from the peasant family’s point of view. It shows us how war caused such heartache for the families and how forced religious conversion never really works. Kim really does a wonderful, though heartbreaking, job of showing us the struggle among the Saxons, their pagan religion, and the French, of whom were fighting to spread Christianity. Her detail of Saxony and how the French destroyed it was fascinating. Her book really hit home in an underlying fashion about how fighting over religion really doesn’t have much purpose and that there are good people within any faith.

Leova’s resolve to stop at nothing to keep her family together, intelligently accessing all situations and making quiet, yet strategic, moves in her discussions and actions with others in order to do so really inspired me. Her strength and fortitude and willingness to adapt and question her own beliefs, and what she stood for, really made me admire her.

Kim’s writing shows us the worst of situations, and sometimes in people, but also the best of the worst, causing positives to rise from the mire. War is always harrowing, but Kim seems to find the beauty among the filth. Here, it’s the heart of her story–the family–that really makes an impact.

Once again, Kim has spectacular detail, fantastical prose, the crafty storytelling that brings legends to life, and grand character development. I highly recommend for any historical reader who prefers dark ages or medieval literature, but also for readers of history who enjoy a good story that has great heart, and in addition, for those who enjoy good fantasy. It most obviously rendered what could have truly happened to a family at this time, yet it has the feel of a good historical fantasy as well.

perf6.000x9.000.inddThe Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, Synopsis~

  • File Size: 4818 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Fireship Press LLC (August 26, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

 

Can love triumph over war?

772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to defend her and her family sell them into slavery instead.

In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master, and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family.

Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion — but he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.

Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.

Advance Praise for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar~

“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.”  – Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” — Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles

Kim Rendfeld, Biography~

Kim Rendfeld author photoKim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon (her debut novel).

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren’t for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association. Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats. They have a daughter and three granddaughters.

To read the first chapters of either novel or learn more about Kim, visit kimrendfeld.com. You’re also welcome to visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist atkimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

Ashes Tour Graphic

Thank you to Fireship Press and Kim Rendfeld for the early copy so I could give an honest review.

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Deborah Swift Brings Legend of 17th Century Highwaywoman to Life for Both YA and AdultReaders

01_Shadow on the Highway

I do love Deborah Swift’s writing. She has a way of telling elegant, yet exciting stories based on unique individuals who are imagined to have lived around true factual people and she sets the scene amid harrowing historical circumstances while maintaining to keep most of her prose lyrical and light. Yet, though the setting is usually dire, she additionally has a wonderful way of show how commoners or the serving class, or even noblewomen, could overcome great internal strife based on external prisons. That she made sure all was present within her newest historical, also cataloged as YA, didn’t surprise and I utterly enjoyed reading SHADOW ON THE HIGHWAY.

Historically, the wealthy Lady Katherine Fanshawe did exist, though I’m certain that most people prior to picking up this book know little about her life. At least not the every day reader, though she did lead a life exciting enough to become a legend. Her seventeenth century claim to fame, though for her it was just a way out of her eternal struggle of being treated like meat and used for her money by her husband and father-in-law, was that she became a highwaywoman, known as The Wicked Lady!

Swift’s book begins as a deaf maid, Abigail (who is Swift’s main character and purely fictional), is purchased as a maidservant for the Fanshawe household. This book is set during the English Civil War, and coupled with those already difficult times, Abigail being deaf does not give her an easy road to being accepted in somewhere for work. That she is deaf as a reason to be bought as a servant doesn’t occur to her, she just knows she is cheap.

Swift’s book brings to light not only the condition of women during this period, even though independently wealth were mere pawns and treated almost like slaves themselves. However, Swift also brings to readers the realization that most of these women were so highly intelligent as to operate quite a lot behind the scenes of their awful possessive and rule-mongering  husband’s eyes. I am encouraged by how Swift always makes it a point to showcase women in dire circumstances and how they overcome them with such courage and bravery. In this instance, she has a mission and she’s also seeking love. As Abi begins to see the workings of the “games” that the men, and also her Lady, play in this life, she begins to question Katherine. I loved watching their friendship and loyalty grow.

The adventure, intrigue, suspicion, and covert operations in this book really propel this book forward. It’s a quick adult read, but I great YA novel for the fact that it would keep older teens reading and help them gain an interest in history from early on, without bogging them down with heavy political details. There are factual situations in the book that would promote further learning, such as the English Civil War, the Diggers (a movement that believed in equality for all and started the first “commune”), and the deaf and the first indication of a universal language of sign.

Swift’s Shadow on the Highway is interesting enough because it’s seeped in the legend of a woman who sneaks out at night in male clothing and robs travelers, yet it shows the woman behind the legend through her blossoming friendship with her servant girl. As both learn about themselves, and what they can accomplish, the book shows depth and their personalities complement each other in a way that makes you feel a connection yourself. The romance is not overly done, due to it being YA I was pleased by this myself, but there is enough forbidden romantic intrigue to keep the pages moving.

Swift brings layers of historical and imaginative detail to her stories and I highly recommend as a light read for any adult and for teenagers interested into foraying into historical fiction. Swift is always a must-read!

Shadow on the Highway (The Highway Trilogy, Book One), Synopsis~

01_Shadow on the HighwayPublication Date: July 15, 2014
Endeavor Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 200P

Series: The Highway Trilogy
Genre: Historical Fiction/YA (14+)

May 1651. England has been in the midst of a civil war for nearly ten years. The country has been torn in two, and the King is getting ready to make his last stand against Cromwell’s New Model Army.

Abigail Chaplin, a young mute girl, has lost her father to the parliamentarian cause. But with her family now in reduced circumstances, she is forced to work as a servant at a royalist household – the estate of Lady Katherine Fanshawe.

Abi is soon caught up in a web of sinister secrets which surround the Fanshawe estate. The most curious of which is the disappearance of Lady Katherine late at night.

Why are her husband’s clothes worn and muddy even though he hasn’t been home for weeks? How is she stealing out of the house late at night when her room is being guarded? And what is her involvement with the robberies being committed by the mysterious Shadow on the Highway?

Shadow On The Highway is based on the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the highwaywoman, sometimes known as ‘The Wicked Lady’. It is the first book in The Highway Trilogy.

Giveaway~

To win a Paperback or eBook of Shadow on the Highway please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway. Five copies of each are up for grabs. Giveaway is open internationally.

Giveaway is from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and ends at 11:59 p.m. on September 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on September 16th and notified via email. The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Praise for Shadow on the Highway~

“There is no greater compliment than ‘Give me more!’” – Author Susanna Gregory

“realistic dialogue, an author’s obvious love for history, and characters that leap off the pages” – Romance Reviews Today

“genuinely engrossing… with characters you can get interested in” – The Mum Website

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Deborah Swift, Biography~

02_Deborah SiwftDeborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park.

She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance and
is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

For more information, please visit Deborah’s website.

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/shadowonthehighwayblogtourandbookblast

03_Shadow on the Highway_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Hashtags: #ShadowontheHighwayBlogTour #ShadowontheHighwayBookBlast #HistFic

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SwiftStory

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LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age: Reviewed by My Middle Daughter as Funny and Full of Adventure

Lug_jkt_final

When we were asked to review the middle reader, LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age, my daughter Emma (age 10) and I jumped at the chance. Emma loves 39 Clues and two of the writers gave LUG glowing endorsements. She also loves any adventure series that features some humor, which we figured this one might have as well. As a mom, I liked how the author, David Zeltser, also worked in the issue of climate control and animal rights. For me as a parent, this book is a total win for kids. It has it all that any 4th or 5th grader would love, boy or girl, as well bringing issues such as humanity and activism into their thinking, without being preachy. It’s humorous and light, even while taking on big themes. I highly recommend this book myself for parents, teachers, and especially libraries. It’s one that doesn’t need to be used just in language arts, but can be used in the study of science pertaining to the environment. This isn’t one in which to delay purchase, it’s too good for the deep freeze!

GIVEAWAY: Click HERE for a Rafflecopter giveaway of one print copy (US/Canada only).

Without further ado, I’ll pass this review on to EMMA (5th grade):

In LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age, I liked how in some ways I can relate to the boy because we are similar (and sometimes people don’t get me either), but just from different times, and have some common interests, like art. Although, I can’t really think about having to live as a cave girl!! His experiences are not something I want to experience. I like my bedroom.

But if I lived in a cave, I would definitely do cave wall art. I think it would be fun to be allowed to carve things into the wall. I thought I would like this book because I like to read and learn about different time periods. I wasn’t disappointed. It was so funny and cute, just like why I liked the movie “The Croods.”

My favorite part I liked was how the main character had to try to catch a jungle llama. I love llamas. I didn’t like what happened when he didn’t catch it. I felt bad for him.

I recommend you read this book if you like adventure or are interested in the environment or animals. Also, artists like me can like Lug because he likes to paint. If you are interested in learning about cave people, you could like this book. Or if you like funny books, you might also like it. I almost read the book in one sitting and enjoyed the story.

–EMMA

Guest Reviewer, Emma Al-Mehairi, Age 10, Biography~

Emma at the art museum

Emma at the art museum

Emma is ten years old and a straight A student with a gift for reading and writing.  She has read at a higher level than her peers ever since the summer between Kindergarten and First Grade when she spent almost the entire summer at the beach reading.

She likes reading about girls and boys her age, adventure and action thrillers, magic, fantasy, werewolfs, and history.  Besides reading and writing, she also enjoys softball, soccer, fashion, history, art, writing stories, shopping, asking questions, cooking, chocolate, and coffee.

Watch for more of Emma, and her siblings, reviews!  And if you have a recommendation for her, send it her way via Mom (Erin Al-Mehairi).

NOW ON TO THE BOOK AND AUTHOR INFORMATION!!!!

LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age, Synopsis~

  • ISBN-13: 9781606845134
  • Publisher: EgmontUSA
  • Publication date: 9/9/2014
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 450,270
  • Age range: 8 – 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Lug_jkt_finalA hilarious middle-grade novel about a misunderstood caveboy perfect for fans of Ice Age, Happy Feet, The Time Warp Trio, and Platypus Police Squad.

Lug is a caveboy who would rather paint than club other caveboys. The clan even mocks him, calling him “Little Slug.” Like all the other caveboys, Lug must enter the contest to become the clan’s next Big Man and attempt to catch the Biggest Beast–even though he would much rather spend his days painting in his secret art cave.

When Lug is banished for failing to catch a jungle llama, he thinks he is alone in the world but finds others who believe in him: his clanmate Stony and a new friend, Echo, a girl from a rival clan who can talk to animals and just may be prehistory’s first vegetarian/animal rights activist.

Together they face even bigger challenges–Lug discovers the Ice Age is coming and he has to bring the warring clans together to save them not only from the freeze but also from a particularly unpleasant migrating pride of saber-toothed tigers. It’s no help that the elders are cavemen who can’t seem to get the concept of climate change through their thick skulls. With both funny, anachronistic humor, charming characters, and strong themes, Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age is sure to be a hit with many readers.

Illustrated with black and white line art throughout.

Available simultaneously in e-book (ISBN: 9781606845141) format.

Praise for LUG~

“What a find! LUG blasts its way from prehistory to the present in a laugh-aloud-funny, big-hearted story full of smart surprises. Kids and adults alike will love this book. It deserves to be Bigbigbig. ”

― Peter Lerangis, New York Times bestselling author of The 39 Clues and Seven Wonders series

“LUG makes the Ice Age Sizzle!”

― Gordon Korman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 39 Clues and Swindle series

Kirkus Reviews

A Stone Age comedy features a caveboy guilty of “uncavemanlike behavior.” The summary exile that Lug earns by failing to capture a “jungle llama” to ride in an upcoming headstone match turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as it leads to a meeting with Hamela—a member of the rival Boar Rider clan who has turned from the customary all-dodo diet to vegetarianism. She in turn introduces him to Woolly, an errant young mammoth atop whom he goes on to lead his headstone team to victory. Lug lands in further hot water when his forbidden cave paintings are discovered—but following the arrival of snow, a pride of saber tooth tigers and more mammoths, he manages to convince at least some of his simpleminded people that big changes are coming. By the end, he even has them using fire (“storm light”). The animals all talk (except the dodos), and Lug’s frog-licking proto-hippie sidekick leads a notably rock-headed supporting cast. Happily, characters speak in complete sentences and with standard syntax, and the banter is nicely snappy. Preliminary sketches indicate that suitably primitive art will accompany the story. Fred Flintstone would feel right at home in this light-as-pumice comedy. (Fantasy. 9-11)

School Library Journal

Gr 3–5—Life as a caveboy is rough. You constantly have to prove yourself by bashing anything that moves with your club. For Lug, it’s the complete opposite of who he is. Lug is an artist who would much rather paint on the walls of a cave than smash skulls with his club. In Lug’s words, “paintings don’t tell you what to do, or call you names, or make you feel small or worthless.” Ultimately, the protagonist is banished from his tribe because of his lack of bravery. He meets a vegetarian animal whisperer named Echo along with his tribesman Stony, and they work together to save their fighting clans from the impending deep freeze. This book is filled with humor but also a deeper message of learning to accept who you are and not backing down from what you are passionate about. The novel lends itself to discussions of bullying and accepting differences. Readers who are unfamiliar with the Ice Age could benefit from pairing this work with informational texts on the animals and climate of the time period. A roaring addition for public and school libraries.—Andy Plemmons, David C. Barrow Elementary, Athens, GA.

PURCHASE LINKS~

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

David Zeltser, Biography~

Credit Fiona Dulbecco

Credit Fiona Dulbecco

DAVID ZELTSER emigrated from the Soviet Union as a child, graduated from Harvard, and has worked with all kinds of wild animals, including rhinos, owls, sharks, and ad executives. He is the author of Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age, the first book in a satirical series about the world’s inaction on climate change, for ages 8-12.

He also has a forthcoming picture book, Ninja Baby, with Caldecott Honor illustrator Diane Goode (Chronicle Books). David lives with his wife and daughter in Santa Cruz, California.

He performs improv comedy and loves meeting readers of all ages. His second book about Lug is scheduled to publish in Fall 2015.

Visit David’s website at www.davidzeltser.com. He’s also on Twitter: @davidzeltser.

Blog Tour Schedule:

lug_web

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Pinky’s Favorite Reads for Kids

Q&A and giveaway

Thursday, September 04, 2014

From the Mixed Up Files

Giveaways only

Geo Librarian

Guest post and giveaway

Friday, September 05, 2014

Read Love

Guest post and giveaway

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Curling up with a good book

Guest post and giveaway

Hook of a Book

Review and giveaway

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Book Beacon

Guest post and giveaway

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Review and giveaway

My Brain on Books

Guest post and giveaway

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Live to Read

Guest post and giveaway

A Backwards Story

Guest post and giveaway

Future Dates

TBD

Cynsations

New Voices Interview

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rockin Book Reviews

Q&A and giveaway

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Elizabeth O. Dulemba

Guest post and giveaway

Monday, November 10, 2014

This Kid Reviews Books

Review only

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Cover Reveal: Beautiful Art for Nancy Bilyeau’s The Tapestry, Book Three. Coming March 2015!

Look at the gorgeous deep red color and beautiful design on the fabulous cover just revealed for the amazing Nancy Bilyeau’s newest book, The Tapestry (Book Three in her Joanna Stafford Series), coming to us in March of 2015! The cover is rich and elegant, and you can already be assured that Nancy’s writing is always on point. So why not pre-order today? Or mark it “to-read” on GoodReads? But first, here’s the cover!

01_The Tapestry

The Tapestry, Book Three in Joanna Stafford Series

Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Touchstone Publishing
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Pages: 390

Add to GOODREADS

Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Three

In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.

Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.

Pre-Order the Book~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound

Author Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine.

Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. THE TAPESTRY will be released in March 2015.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information please visit Nancy Bilyeau’s website.

Twitter Hashtag: #TapestryCoverReveal @TudorScribe

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Anna Belfrage’s Sixth Book in her Time Slip Historical Series is the Best Yet!

02_Revenge & RetributionRevenge and Retribution is the sixth book in Anna Belfrage’s The Graham Saga, which is a historical fiction/time slip fantasy series. Most readers have a hard time finding a series in which to read that allows the reader to grow along with the characters  and still be well-written. However, in this case, we watch Anna’s storytelling blossom in beautiful and full form as she delves deeper and deeper into authentic emotional territory of the family she has created (or as she would say, the characters she just listens to).

For those not familiar with the series, Alex Lind Graham slips through time from the 21st Century into the 17th Century. We follow her confusion at the situation, then her adherence to it as she falls in love with Matthew Graham and marries him. Her life truly takes shape, in all the good and the bad of the 17th Century situations, and she thrives and raises a family with him. Eventually they make it to the New World, but not without more obstacles or sadness. Now, she’s in her early fifties and into a next phase of life, which isn’t always happy and cheery.

The setting of the book is Colonial America and with that comes the Native Americans and the Salem Witch Trials. That made this reader excited, as those topics are some of my favorite subjects of study. But with that comes the darkness and the tumult of a time period seeped in anxiety run rampant, danger, and judgement. With being middle-aged, they’ve also created some enemies and have some baggage from their life journey, which formulates into revenge appearing in this novel too. Alex and Matthew must stand together against all accusations and attacks; they prove once more why they are a formidable force.

Anna’s books are always extremely well-written, with lush details, humorous prose, a bit of steamy marital romance, and strong characters, especially the intelligent and determined Alex. As an author, Anna takes Alex through so many ups and downs, showing the reader that not all things have a happy ending, but that also doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. The marriage of Alex and Matthew is quite extraordinary. They remind me of another of my favorite duos–Diana and Matthew from Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy. What is it that makes these couples so great? The woman’s intelligence and fortitude, strength and curiosity, fervor and determination and the man, his loyalty, support, and unconditional love.

My heart just breaks for Alex and Matthew in this sixth book, but my heart has cried for them before. They always seem to be able to pick up the pieces, no matter how horrendous the situation. I believe book sixth to be one of my favorites, if not her best so far. I’ve loved to watch this series grow and feel as if I know the characters personally. I might never want the series to end for I love Alex, Matthew, and their family.

You certainly can read each book as a stand alone and get the plot of that certain book, but I highly recommend reading the entire series so you can receive the full effect and immerse yourselves in their lives. It’s much better to see how they started and watch them grow, in my opinion. Plus, in each book she seems to wrap-up one part of their lives that might be an issue or something that needs resolved. Sometimes that happens before they move, or sometimes it follows them to the new location, but she does do a wonderful job as making it seem for new readers like a stand-alone issue or conflict, yet for the series followers, making it seem like a resolution!

Anna writes deep, emotional  historical novels, adding the fantastical element of the time slip and a “what if?” scenario, and creates for us a world in which to be lost in on rainy days and weekend reading fests. If you haven’t read this Graham Series, then buy it all up and settle in for a read-a-thon this winter. Her prose is sure to keep you warmed and entertained. As for me, I’m highly anticipating the next two books already with a hopefulness she’ll continue the story through one of Alex’s children, because I really loved this sixth book for all it’s grit. Alex certainly is a survivor in all the right forms of the word.

You can read my past reviews, interviews, and articles with Anna below!

Like Chaff in the Wind

Interview with Anna

The Prodigal Son

Guest Article on Writing Graham Saga

A Newfound Land

Serpents in the Garden

Guest Article on Creating Dialogue

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author through HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.

Revenge and Retribution, Synopsis~

02_Revenge & RetributionPublication Date: July 1,2014
SilverWood Books
Formats: E-book, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction/Time-Slip
Series: The Graham Saga

Revenge and Retribution is the sixth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Life in the Colony of Maryland is no sinecure – as Alex and Matthew Graham well know. But nothing in their previous life has prepared them for the mayhem that is about to be unleashed upon them.

Being labelled a witch is not a good thing in 1684, so it is no wonder Alex Graham is aghast at having such insinuations thrown at her. Even worse, it’s Matthew’s brother-in-law, Simon Melville, who points finger at her.

Not that the ensuing hearing is her main concern, because nowadays Alex’s entire life is tainted by the fear of what Philip Burley will do to them once he gets hold of them – there is no longer any ‘if’ about it. On a sunny May afternoon, it seems Philip Burley will at last revenge himself on Matthew for every single perceived wrong. Over the course of twenty-four hours, Alex’s life – and that of her family’s – is permanently changed.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Alex also has to cope with the loss of one of her sons. Forcibly adopted by the former Susquehannock, Samuel is dragged from Alex’s arms to begin a new life in the wilderness.

How is Alex to survive all this? And will she be able to put her damaged family back together?

Graham Saga Titles~

Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest (November 2014)
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star (March 2015)

Author Anna Belfrage, Biography~

03_Anna BelfrageI was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive …

Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/revengeandretributiontour

Hashtags: #RevengeandRetributionBlogTour #HistFic #HistNov

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @anna_belfrage

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Maggie’s Wars by Phil Pisani Reads Like a Historical Noir, with a Fiesty Female Journalist at the Helm

02_Maggie's WarsMaggie’s Wars is a quick historical fiction read at just over 200 pages. It starts out being told from a female protagonist’s view, Maggie Hogan, who is a female journalist just out of graduate school at Columbia. This told me straight away, with it being in WWII era, that she was a woman not only from a family with certain means, but that she’d be intellectual and savvy and ready to take on her dreams, no matter what societal nonsense stood in her way.

Being a journalist myself, I was thrilled when I read the synopsis and the first few pages and found out this was about a female reporter during the war. I have a penchant as well for the history of journalism. As I first read the book, I cheered on Maggie as she entered the The Herald Tribune, where she was offered a job due to so many men being sent off to war. Right off the bat, I gathered the sexist attitude that came with the times. You know the one that dictated that women can’t do any type of job, even if they went to an Ivy League school. And it never left throughout the book. I was sad to see that she didn’t overcome it, but in fact “played the game” as she flirted, had sex, and offered favors to get the story she wanted and to be a war correspondent. Though I imagine a character like hers would have had to decide which was more important to her–her dream and realizing it or her morality.

Maggie’s part of the story is told in first person, which wasn’t too jarring to me (though generally it’s hard for writers to write novels in first person) due to the fact that she is a journalist and it seems she reporting her life. But then we have the story of Johnny Stone as well juxtaposed with hers (and keep in mind that I mentioned this is a short book). Johnny fell in love with Maggie in an instant seeing her on the street heading to the Herald. His story follows him as he enlists in the war to not be killed by the mob (yep, he’s a gangster, but an Italian one, so he’s recruited him to go to Italy) and he hopes to see Maggie over there (“you know, not let her out of his sight”) who has decided to go overseas and cover the end of the war. The story at about 30% in begins to follow the lovers in their personal pursuits during the war and showcases their relationship through it.

I found that though I really liked the premise of the story, I wasn’t thrilled by the character development or the plot. I wasn’t happy with her reporting skills, though I am not sure why besides that I think she was so naive for being so educated about the protocols of war or for reporting heavy stories. Her reaction to the war seemed more focused on getting the story than on feeling the emotional turmoil around her. I’d have liked to see the author take more time developing the story, the characters, and the plot. I’d have loved to feel more connected with emotions from Maggie about what developments, news, and feelings that she went through while covering the war, or while missing Johnny.

As I evaluate it, I think my concern was that it all seems much too rushed. It could have easily been a 300-400 page book filled with slowed down character development and with the war issues broken down in-depth so that the atrocities and message in the book would be more realistic. It felt very hurried and things happened rapid fire, yet not in a good screenwriting sort of way, the premise of the novel is good for the screen–but maybe more like a 1940 movie rather than a modern movie set in 1940. I would have liked him to explore more of the story of American soldiers and some awful things that happened from America’s side during the liberation. He put it out there in this novel, I wasn’t aware of it or if it’s true either, even though I studied the Holocaust during my time in garnering my history degree. I would have liked Maggie to uncover that topic more in-depth and show her real reporting skills.

Overall the author had a good idea for a novel and I wouldn’t have hoped for more if I didn’t like the general outline of the book. But it seemed like a shell. If he was looking for a 1940 vibe, then he succeeded in that. It reminded me of a Dick Tracy crime noir yet within the historical genre. Maybe it is a historic noir with Maggie not as the sleuth, but as a reporter?

The book intrigued me and though I couldn’t read for entertainment alone, it did make me ponder it and the author’s intent and structure. It did make me want Maggie to be explored more and I’d like to see him do something else with Maggie as a protagonist, once he develops her even further and gives her compassion with the grit and emotions with the motivation. As an editor, I feel that the author should take a look at its structure and its intent, as well as his sentence construction, depth of details, and authenticity of characters.

It’s a nice read for anyone who likes a quick story set in WWII with a noir feel and featuring a feisty reporter who throws all caution to the wind in her career, her love life, and her life.

Note: I was given a copy of this book from the author via HFVBT in exchange for an honest review of his work.

Maggie’s Wars, Synopsis

02_Maggie's WarsPublication Date: November 6, 2013
American Book Incorporated
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

Combatting wars on two fronts – one of fame and the other love – Maggie Hogan never wavers as a rare woman reporter on the battlefields of World War II, the Nuremburg Trials and the beginnings of the cold war. But she makes the mistake of falling for an officer, complicating her ambitions. Learn of what one woman feels she must do in order to make it in a man’s world, no matter what. Maggie’s Wars is a story about the ultimate battle between love and prestige, and how you can’t win them both.

Praise

“Maggie’s Wars is a highly charged story, with power politics on a grand scale…the frighteningly realistic descriptions and technical know-how is right on the mark and Phil Pisani’s skill at painting a vivid scene in the mind’s eye of the reader is excellent and packs a wallop.” -William H. LaBarge, author of Sweetwater Gunslinger 201, Hornet’s Nest, Road to Gold and Desert Voices.

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Phil Pisani, Biography

Phil Pisani grew up on the north side of the railroad tracks in an upstate New York blue-collar industrial town in a rough neighborhood filled with the most colorful characters in the world. Factory and tannery workers mingled with bar and restaurant owners, gamblers and gangsters, good people and bad people, brash rogues and weak loudmouths, all spawned by the early immigrant movement to America. Italians, Russians, Slovacks, Irish, and Germans formed a rough and tough section of town where few from the south side dared to venture.

He learned to fight at a very young age, both in the ring and on the streets. Fights became badges of honor. He also was a voracious reader. His mother worked in the village’s library. After school, or fights or sandlot football games, he would curl away into the adult reading section. Enjoying the polished blonde oak bookshelves, tables and chairs, he would choose a book from the stacks and delve into its smells and contents. Reading soothed him.

He studied history and humanities in Pisa, Italy, and Oswego State in New York and later earned a MA in Political Science from Binghamton University. He worked as a labor investigator for NY and rose in the ranks through the years but never stopped writing or reading. He currently lives in Albany NY, with his wife Joanne.

For more information please visit Phil Pisani’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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