Researching Japan Present to Relive 16th Century in Mystery Novel: Susan Spann

In the last few weeks, I’ve reviewed The Ninja’s Daughter by one of my favorite people, and historical mystery authors, Susan Spann. I also had a really interesting interview with her too, in which we talked about her books and the Japanese culture. Today, I have a guest article she wrote in which she talks about traveling to Japan for her research and shares some of her personal photos with us. Enjoy!

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In the Footsteps of Samurai: A Research Trip to Japan

by Susan Spann, author of The Ninja’s Daughter

Last summer I took a trip to Japan to research the locations and historical details that appear in my newest mystery, The Ninja’s Daughter, and the 2017 sequel, Betrayal at Iga. When writing my Hiro Hattori novels, I normally do the book-based research early—before I write the initial outline—and then conduct on-site research to ensure the geography and other details match my plans for the plot.

For The Ninja’s Daughter, that meant a trip to Kyoto and visits to the major historical sites that feature in the novel. Although my books are set in the 16th century, many of the major sites I mention still exist (some in original condition, and others as historically accurate reconstructions). Japanese museums and cultural sites also display a wealth of artifacts from that period—everything from teapots and kimono to entire houses—allowing me to experience many of the places and objects I mention in my novels.

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Caption: Traditional homes in Kyoto

The Ninja’s Daughter opens with the victim’s body lying on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, and my detectives often walk along the river while traveling from place to place, so I spent some time photographing the river and its bridges from different locations.

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Caption: Bridge over Kamo River

Emi, the victim, is the daughter of an actor who is also secretly a ninja spy. The acting troupe to which they belong performs both nō, a form of traditional Japanese drama, and also kyogen, which was used as a comedic interlude between nō plays in the 16th century. During my trip to Kyoto, I spent an evening watching performances of traditional Japanese drama, including this kyogen:

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Caption: Kyogen Performance in Japan

In addition to walking where my characters walked, I use my research trips to experience as much traditional Japanese culture as possible. To that end, I spent the night in a ryokan (a traditional inn) on Miyajima Island, across the strait from Hiroshima. Although The Ninja’s Daughter takes place entirely in Kyoto, Ryokan Iwaso was constructed in 1854 and offers a highly traditional experience, including tatami-floored rooms and futon, rather than beds, for sleeping.

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Caption: Futons for sleeping at Iwaso (above) and bedroom (below)

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It’s also a breathtakingly beautiful place to visit (this photo shows Itsukushima Jinja at high tide, when the water surrounds the shrine):

IFS - Miyajima Island.jpg

Experiences like this make it easier for me to understand my characters and to describe their lives in a more realistic way. The fusion of book research, consulting experts, and visiting the locations in person helps me infuse my books with details that enable readers to experience the beauty and vibrant culture of 16th century Japan—and, hopefully, to love it as much as I do.

02_The Ninja%27s DaughterThe Ninja’s Daughter: A Hiro Hattori Novel by Susan Spann

Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Seventh Street Books
eBook & Paperback; 230 Pages

Series: Hiro Hattori Novels/Shinobi Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

In The Ninja’s Daughter, Susan Spann’s poetic voice brilliantly captures the societal disparities, political intrigues, and martial conflicts of sixteenth-century Japan through the persevering efforts of ninja detective Hiro Hattori to solve a murder authorities consider of no consequence.” -JEFFREY SIGER, International Bestselling Author

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | iTunes | Indiebound | Kobo

03_Susan Spann

About the Author: Susan Spann

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Susan Spann is the author of three previous novels in the Shinobi Mystery series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, and Flask of the Drunken Master.

She has a degree in Asian Studies and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. When not writing, she works as a transactional attorney focusing on publishing and business law, and raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.

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Hashtags: #TheNinjasDaughterBlogTour #Historical #Fiction #Mystery #Japan #SusanSpann #HFVBTBlogTour

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SusanSpann @SeventhStBooks

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Talking with Susan Spann: Mystery Writing and Visiting Japan Over Sake

Today I have a marvelous interview with one of my favorite people and historical mystery writers, Susan Spann! I reviewed her fourth Shinobi mystery of feudal Japan last week, The Ninja’s Daughter. You can check that out here. Then, join us for jelly and sake as we talk about her work, her travels to Japan, and what’s upcoming in this marvelous series.

Enjoy….

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Hi Susan!! Welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I always love when you have a new book and drop by to see me (or when you don’t have a book out and drop by to see me – haha!). You are always interesting in so many ways. I was very excited for your fourth book, THE NINJA’S DAUGHTER and you didn’t disappoint. Of course, this summer you aren’t just returning from Japan like last summer, but you’re just as busy. What has your book release and summertime had you up to?

Susan: Hi Erin! Thank you so much for inviting me back – I love your blog and appreciate the chance to chat with you! This summer, I’m putting the finishing touches on next year’s Hiro Hattori novel, Betrayal at Iga, preparing the outlines for the next few in the series, and planning a research trip to Japan this autumn—when I’ll also be teaching two workshops at the 9th annual Japan Writers’ Conference.

Erin: You have a busy summer! It’s all gone so quickly and now I love seeing all four Spann titles on my bookshelf. I eagerly await more to come…and I love road trips. Come in and have seat. I’ve tried to prepare your favorite sake, I’m still a novice, so I hope you like it. And Hakuto peach jelly…I thought it was worth a try because I love peaches in the summer! I’ll serve it up and we’ll chat!

Hakuto_peach_jelly

 

Caption: Hakuto Peach Jelly (Wiki)

Susan:  Japanese jellies are fantastic, and sake is always welcome! Such wonderful treats!

Erin: Though all your mysteries can be read as stand alone novels, how does it feel to see the progression of Father Mateo and Hiro as well as the fourth of the mysteries publishes?

Susan: I love spending time with Hiro and Father Mateo, and I enjoy it even more with each new novel. I try to write each mystery as a stand-alone book, so readers can enter the series at any point without feeling lost, but I definitely consider the ongoing story of Hiro and Father Mateo’s friendship an important part of the series, and I try to deepen that relationship with every new installment. I believe that some of the richest relationships we form are those we develop with people who are different from ourselves, and Hiro and Father Mateo give me the chance to explore that concept in my fiction.

Erin: What do you think each has learned over this time that has changed them for the better?

Susan: Medieval Japanese culture was surprisingly tolerant when it comes to religion and personal views—as long as people showed equal respect for the views of others. However, Hiro has had to learn a deeper level of tolerance when it comes to Father Mateo, and the priest has been good for smoothing some of Hiro’s rougher edges. In return, Father Mateo has learned to appreciate the Japanese sense of honor (which often conflicts with his Western sensibilities) and to balance his usually blunt approach with a greater sense of cultural politeness.

Erin: I know you do a lot of research into feudal Japan for your books, through reading, studying, and travel. In this newest book you had much surrounding the political atmosphere of the time. What did you learn or study for The Ninja’s Daughter? Why is it important?

Susan: I typically read 3-5 new research books for every novel, and consult a lot of historical sources and experts to ensure I have the details right. I set my novels during the 1560s precisely because of the turbulent political climate (Japan was on the brink of a war that ultimately led to its unification by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu at the start of the 17th century). War and political tension form an excellent backdrop for mystery, because of the increased dangers my protagonists have to face.

The main research for The Ninja’s Daughter actually involved Nōtheater, the traditional form of Japanese drama that features so heavily in the book. As usual, 99% of the research doesn’t make it onto the page—pacing and plot come first, as always—but I wanted the reader to feel immersed in the beautiful and often mysterious world of traditional Japanese theater.

For me, accurate details transform a novel from an interesting story into a living, breathing world for the reader to enjoy. I love novels that transport me to another time and place, and I try to do the same in my own books!

Erin: I always like how you showcase a different part of Japanese culture and history in each book as well, such as in this one you focus on the Kyoto theater guilds. I know socially, it was looked upon as shameful. Can you talk more about this? Why you chose it as backdrop for your mystery, the history of it, and how someone might find more information on it if they are interested?

Susan: Medieval Japanese society rested on a four-tiered system of social classes, with samurai (nobles) at the top, followed by farmers (this surprises many people, but samurai considered the farmers more important because they grew the rice that formed the foundation of Japan’s monetary system), artisans, and merchants. Merchants sat at the bottom, despite their wealth, because they did not produce anything on their own, but merely traded in the fruits of others’ labors.

Beneath and outside these social classes were several other groups of people—most of whom were outcastes and all of whom were considered less valuable than those who lived within the standard structure. While not entirely untouchable, actors (and other entertainers) were considered “outsiders” and often referred to by names I don’t actually use in my novels because of their negative social charge. That made this mystery fun to write, because the issues of class and society added another layer of meaning to the story.

Noh Theatre is a fascinating topic. You can find a number of performances on YouTube, and readers who want to learn even more may want to check out Zeami’s original medieval treatise, The Spirit of Noh (https://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Noh-Translation-Treatise-Fushikaden/dp/1590309944) which is one of the founding documents on which the discipline rests, even today.

Erin: Japan has rich and deep history. What are some of the favorite things you’ve come across in your visits to Japan? Favorite places and things? 

Susan: How much time do I have? I can go on, and on, and on…

One of my favorite places in Japan is Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shrine), in Fushimi, just south of Kyoto. I used it as a setting in The Ninja’s Daughter because Nō plays were often performed there during the 16th century. The stage in the photo below did not exist at that time (they used a temporary stage) but the setup of the stage itself would have been similar even in that era.

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Fushimi Inari is located on Mt. Inari, and is sacred to Inari Ōkami, patron of agriculture, rice, swordsmiths, merchants, fertility, foxes and many other things (Inari gets around); the shrine is famous for its thousands of bright red torii, Shintō gates that mark the entrance to a sacred space. The gates line the mountain’s slopes all the way to the top:

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Another of my favorite locations in Japan is Itsukushima Shrine, which sits on the island of Miyajima, across the strait from Hiroshima. The Great Torii at the entrance to Itsukushima is one of Japan’s best-known iconic symbols, and it even survived the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II:

15L28 Great Torii.jpg

 

Miyajima is also home to thousands of sacred deer (sika) which have no fear of humans, as this photograph of my son demonstrates:

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Itsukushima Shrine is unusual, because the shrine is built below the high tide line, on stilts, and when the tide comes in the shrine’s buildings appear to float on the water:

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It’s one of the most serene and beautiful places in Japan, and I can’t wait to return.

Erin: At this point, I am sure that Mateo and Hiro are very real to you as they are to those of us who have followed the series. What other characters speak to you now as the series progresses? What new characters might we look forward to in future books?

Susan: Next year’s Betrayal at Iga takes Hiro and Father Mateo back to Hiro’s ancestral home in the mountainous village of Iga, home of his ninja clan, the Igaryu. In 1565, the Igaryu was led by the infamous Hattori Hanzo (later, known as “Devil Hanzo”), one of Japan’s most famous historical ninja. I’ve been looking forward to bringing him into the series, and hopefully my portrayal does him justice.

Betrayal at Iga also gives readers the chance to meet the women who played an important role in Hiro’s life: his mother, his grandmother, and the woman who left the scars on Hiro’s shoulder and inner thigh.

Erin: Speaking of future books, and without giving too much away, what are your plans for the series? I’m excited to find out what we might be looking forward to…

Susan: At the end of The Ninja’s Daughter, Hiro and Father Mateo head into the mountains east of Kyoto to visit Hiro’s ninja clan. As expected, things don’t go entirely smoothly in Iga, and the end of book 5 will find them once again on the road, with a mission to complete. Each of the next five books in the series will take them to a new location, giving me (and readers) a chance to explore some fun new settings before the series returns to Kyoto.

Erin: You’re busy being active, practicing law, and raising your seahorses and marine life, not to mention you have a family you must assist. Plus you teach writers at various retreats and seminars around the country. You’re a woman I highly admire. How do you become so disciplined to do it all?

Susan: I’m a big believer in lists and schedules. Normally, I practice law in the mornings and write in the afternoons, except on Tuesdays, when I mentor a local high school student in the morning (and, as usual, write in the afternoon). Weekend days are writing days, too.

It helps that I have a wonderful husband who became a stay-home dad when our son was eight. Now that our son is a senior in college, my husband works mostly as “mission control,” taking care of the house and the seahorses when I’m out of town. He’s trained as an artist, and used to work in the video game industry, so he understands and supports my writing completely. I’m very blessed to have him in my life.

Erin: I think I ask you something similar every time, but will you have any settings in an aquarium or featuring marine life? I can only picture you taking them there at some point after viewing your daily home aquarium updates. Considering? (hint hint)

Susan: The closest I’ve been able to get so far is fugu (pufferfish) poisoning, which will play a role in a future book. Sadly, the fish doesn’t make it. (Is that a spoiler?) I do love my seahorses and my reef, and would love to find some way to include that passion in my writing. Don’t give up hope—I might find a way to make it happen!

Erin: Do you have plans to write additional books beyond the Shinobi mystery series? If you could, what or who would you write about?

Susan: I actually do have a new project in the works, which my agent and I are extremely excited about. I can’t say anything more than that quite yet, but I can tell you that this autumn’s research trip to Japan is not only for the next few books in the Shinobi series. I’m researching another project there as well.

Erin: What else do you have planned for this year that excites you? I know you will be heading to Japan once again, and this time, to teach!

Susan: Yes! I’m thrilled to be presenting two workshops at the 9th annual Japan Writers’ Conference (http://www.japanwritersconference.org) in Tokushima on October 28 & 29. After that, I’m staying in Japan for another two weeks’ worth of research—at the height of foliage season!

Before I head to Japan, I’m teaching at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Conference September 9-11, and also attending and speaking on the Historical Mystery panel at Bouchercon (the World Mystery Convention) in New Orleans, September 15-18. It’s going to be an exciting autumn!

Erin: Thank you so much, Susan, for stopping by for sake, jello, and book talk! I look forward more books from your in the future and our continued friendship. I can’t wait to hear all about your fall trip!

Susan:  Thank you so, so much for inviting me, Erin! It’s always wonderful to talk with you, and I look forward to sharing photos from my trip online, both while I’m there and after I return!

The Ninja’s Daughter: A Hiro Hattori Novel by Susan Spann

Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Seventh Street Books
eBook & Paperback; 230 Pages

Series: Hiro Hattori Novels/Shinobi Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

In The Ninja’s Daughter, Susan Spann’s poetic voice brilliantly captures the societal disparities, political intrigues, and martial conflicts of sixteenth-century Japan through the persevering efforts of ninja detective Hiro Hattori to solve a murder authorities consider of no consequence.” -JEFFREY SIGER, International Bestselling Author

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | iTunes | Indiebound | Kobo

About the Author

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Susan Spann is the author of three previous novels in the Shinobi Mystery series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, and Flask of the Drunken Master.

She has a degree in Asian Studies and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. When not writing, she works as a transactional attorney focusing on publishing and business law, and raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.

Follow the Tour Schedule

Hashtags: #TheNinjasDaughterBlogTour #Historical #Fiction #Mystery #Japan #SusanSpann #HFVBTBlogTour

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SusanSpann @SeventhStBooks

 

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Review: The Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann: A Shinobi Mystery in Feudal Japan

02_The Ninja%27s Daughter

Review

Susan Spann strikes again with another fabulous Hiro Hattori novel, the fourth one in her series. The Ninja’s Daughter can be read stand alone, but it’s been great fun to read the progression of the likable characters, as I’ve read all the books.

This time, an actor’s daughter is murdered on the river banks and Jesuit Priest Father Mateo, and his sidekick ninja Hiro, are on the case after a man who thinks he murdered her contacts them.

In the wake of the Shogun’s death, the country is in upheaval and warlords are a threat.This creates a lot of social and political issues in this book, which made it increasingly interesting to me with each chapter. The social issues come into play as authorities don’t believe in investigating the death of the woman as a daughter of an actor, which is considered a profession of shame. Spann details for the reader the acting of men in the Noh, and how that was portrayed during the time period. She has with excellence again researched and was able to present the reader some education about gender communication and social aspects of the time.

As for the political divisiveness, many factions are eyeing for the role of shogun. Spann shows the machinations and intrigue as the plot unfolds which leads to an interesting and complex plot.We learn a lot of Japanese culture in this book as Spann’s research is always immaculately detailed.

Hiro and Mateo still banter with each other in dialogue getting themselves and us to laugh in unison, yet they’ve also become so respected in the area and get quicker and brighter with each case even as tensions in each one and around them arise to new heights.

As always, Spann’s writing is descriptive, action-oriented, and compelling. Her plot moves quickly from the start and are original mysteries in a sea of the genre. I really enjoy her historical research and how she utilizes it in the book.

If you’re looking for a new mystery to get caught up in on the beach or a series to read for the winter months, I highly recommend Susan as one of the best of the genre. I am pleased to urge you to read The Ninja’s Daughter and see for yourself how amazing Spann is, she’ll keep you guessing right up until the end!

02_The Ninja%27s DaughterThe Ninja’s Daughter: A Hiro Hattori Novel by Susan Spann

Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Seventh Street Books
eBook & Paperback; 230 Pages

Series: Hiro Hattori Novels/Shinobi Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

In The Ninja’s Daughter, Susan Spann’s poetic voice brilliantly captures the societal disparities, political intrigues, and martial conflicts of sixteenth-century Japan through the persevering efforts of ninja detective Hiro Hattori to solve a murder authorities consider of no consequence.” -JEFFREY SIGER, International Bestselling Author

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | iTunes | Indiebound | Kobo

About the Author

03_Susan Spann

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Susan Spann is the author of three previous novels in the Shinobi Mystery series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, and Flask of the Drunken Master. She has a degree in Asian Studies and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. . When not writing, she works as a transactional attorney focusing on publishing and business law, and raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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

Hasht ags: #TheNinjasDaughterBlogTour #Historical #Fiction #Mystery #Japan #SusanSpann #HFVBTBlogTour

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SusanSpann @SeventhStBooks

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Review: Sacred Legacy by Kat Flannery

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Review

I read Sacred Legacy by Kat Flannery a little while ago. What drew me to it, of course, was the Native American tie-in as well as the mention of Jamestown. Those two history terms pretty much will make me pick up  a book, even if it is indicated with romance, which I rarely read and am fairly judgmental of in terms of genre. One of my favorite types of books are any with a Native American theme, or that take place on the western frontier or in early colonial days. I hoped it would be a good read and attempted to dive in without knowing what I might find.

What I found was that I was immersed from the start! Flannery starts the book off perfectly and at good pace with just enough mystery to tease me. A young girl in 1890 finds a treasure box…with a lady’s diary. I LOVE when that happens! As chapter one begins, it’s set in Jamestown, 1740. Perfect. It’s usually extremely hard to pull me in with the first one or two chapters, but this book had me hooked.

We meet Tsura, who has ancient powers which are gently related in the novel. It is more a spiritual native gift (just to explain how much paranormal this book is in comparison to others) and due to these gifts, a gypsy clan pursues her which is the main action plot that propels the story. Oh, and pretty much all I have to say is the word talisman, right??! Interested now? I really liked her ingenuity and originality with this plot line.

However, the real depth of the novel is the emotions of the characters and the growth and healing she has them go through. The characters being fully dimensional, and the amazing historical detail and excellently-formed sentences, give this book a very firm foundation in which to be able to pace the drama and action so it doesn’t feel at all surface or thin.

The romance is more of a way to create tension throughout the book. This led to me as a reader to feel great emotion at times for Red Wolf, who loves her but feels he needs to stay away from her. He’s a protector for her, but she’s hurt, headstrong, and can’t come to grips with her hurting heart. His care for her, even when they are apart, is so endearing to read. As a reader, I pained for Tsura about her angst and anger and pined for her to find redemption for herself from her struggles. He’s gentle and kind, but loyal and she’s fierce, independent, and determined and I like those qualities in men and women. That’s the best thing an author can do is make you feel for the character and keep you turning the pages.This romance is clean as it’s the type that leaves you with a lot of anticipation.

This is book three but you can read Sacred Legacy without reading the other two, but I am sure you’ll want to go back and read those too, or maybe start and read all three. She’s a gifted writer.

For a night in with a glass of wine, when you want to be absorbed in a dramatic read with a lovely setting that builds it’s story with a fast-paced plot and holds you on with complex and connective characters, this book is for you. I look forward to reading more from Kat!

02_Sacred LegacySacred Legacy by Kat Flannery

Publication Date: July 31, 2016
Imajin Books
eBook & Paperback; 202 Pages

Series: The Branded Trilogy, Book 3
Genre: Historical/Romance/Western/Paranormal

“Tsura is a Chuvani, and with that comes great power…

Desperate to escape the memories that haunt her, Tsura Harris returns to Jamestown, the very place her mother forbade her to go. A gifted Chuvani, Tsura has sworn off all magick, thus making her vulnerable to the Renoldi clan, who wish to kill her and take the pendant that is the key to her power.

Red Wolf is hell-bent on living his life on the sea, until he runs into Tsura on the docks. His pride wounded from her rejection years before, he hoped to never see her again. But when the evil Corsair, Romulus Black, demands to know where she is, Red Wolf must protect her, as is his duty.

But is duty and honor his only reason, or does Red Wolf still carry a flame of love in his heart? And will Tsura finally discover her destiny?

One of the few stories that captured me from beginning to end.” —USA Today bestselling author, Rosanne Bittner

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Author

03_Kat FlanneryKat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. When not researching for her next book, Kat can be found running her three sons to hockey and lacrosse. She has her Certificate in Freelance and Business Writing. A member of many writing groups, Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. She’s been published in numerous periodicals. Her debut novel CHASING CLOVERS has been on Amazon’s Bestsellers list many times and was #62 over all their titles. LAKOTA HONOR and BLOOD CURSE (Branded Trilogy) are Kat’s two award-winning novels and HAZARDOUS UNIONS is Kat’s first novella. Kat is currently hard at work on her next book.

For more information please visit Kat Flannery’s website. You can find Kat on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To enter the Sacred Legacy Giveaway for a $100 Amazon Gift Card, please enter HERE.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 19th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Review: The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose-Romonov, WWI, Mystical Stones

Today I have reviewed M.J. Rose’s The Secret Language of Stones. But first, isn’t this a gorgeous cover?? It’s even more lovely in the actual hardback version. However, I tend to love all her cover art, and her writing inside-just as artistic.

02_The Secret Language of Stones

Review

M.J. Rose always pens the most beautiful books. I know when I open the page, I’m going to be dazzled by her descriptive, harmonious prose. The last several books have been increasingly better, and The Secret Language of Stones, the second book in The Daughters of La Lune series, is one of the best yet. It’s predecessor, The  Witch of Painted Sorrows, began the series, but they can be read stand alone without issue; however, if you did have a few questions after the first book, this one gives you some answers.

The Secret Language of Stones has history tilt of World War 1 France, which I was enamored to learn. I have long been wanting her to put a bit more historical research into her magical tales though she’s known for the magical and alluring romance angles featuring historical figures. This novel shows she has researched well and knows her historical and political history, which for me adds so much more dimension to my read.

However, I love how it’s nestled into the story around her protagonist, Opaline (the daughter of Sandrine from the The Witch of Painted Sorrows), who works for a jeweler to help mothers create pieces to commemorate a loved one lost to war. However, she finds when she touches the stones, along with a piece of something from the lost one, she can connect to the person who is deceased. This is her La Lune (dark arts) heritage, to be able to feel the emotions of others, and soon she is making bridges to those from the past, including one ghost she sees in visions, so real to her he is almost with her. She does not want to utilize the mystic powers at first, being apprehensive of them, but as she sees how much she can help others in war time situations to have resolution, she becomes braver and more dedicated and insistent about her abilities.

As well Opal’s jewelry store owner’s family is of Russian descent. Pavel Orloff, trained by Faberge, owns La Fantasie Russe in the Palais Royal, of which the setting Rose describes with longing and intricate detail. Orloff had escaped Russia from the Bolsheviks, and brought with him certain jewels. When he hears that the Tsar has been assassinated, he decides to have Opal take a necklace to England to give to the Dowager Empress, who is exiled there, to reclaim the Romanov dynasty. Opal will use her mystical powers to take on this dangerous mission, which quickly moves the plot forward.

One buzz word for me when reading historical fiction is Romanov. Couple that with my love for gems and stones and their supernatural powers, I could be completely sold on this book. However, I also found a completely absorbing and captivating novel with fully fleshed out characters, dripping details and descriptions, and beautiful thoughts and emotions. My tears flowed and my heart was sore during many parts of this story, but not in an erroneous way, as I love books that make me think and feel deeply and possess so much emotion that I sometimes feel spent after reading them. This book was a welcome gift of that during some time of hit and miss with books that truly spoke to me. It offered themes of love lost, redemption, duty, sacrifice, and overall, a lesson in how we all are truly connected to the Earth, our possessions, each other, soul to soul.

This was a glorious read, enchanting in its magical realm and interesting in regards to historical and political conflicts and what they cause to people. It featured a woman of strength, of whom has an open call from the universe, which created a plot of suspense and surrealism.The novel showed the beauty of souls in its various use of gem stones, the power of loss, and the bond between families. The Secret Language of Stones is a mesmerizing tale of redemption, loss, and most of all, love and its binds that transcend space and time. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a read to absorb you for a day and take you on a journey well-traveled.

02_The Secret Language of Stones

The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose

Publication Date: July 19, 2016

Atria Books

Hardcover & eBook; 320 Pages

Series: The Daughters of La Lune, Book Two

Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Goodreads

As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.

Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

A spellbinding ghost story that communicates the power of love and redemption through Rose’s extraordinary, magical lens.” (Alyson Richman, internationally bestselling author of The Lost Wife)

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About the Author

03_M.J. Rose AuthorM.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park, and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed.

She is the author of more than a dozen novels, the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers, and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Visit her online at MJRose.com.

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