Review: Dido’s Crown by Julie K. Rose Whisks Readers on an Exciting Espionage Adventure

I’m excited to introduce you to Dido’s Crown by Julie K. Rose today! Check out my review as well as an excerpt of the book and come back by Wednesday when I have an interview with Julie! Enjoy!

02_dido%27s-crown

Dido’s Crown by Julie K. Rose

Publication Date: September 29, 2016
Paperback; 340 Pages
ISBN13: 9781365316333

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary

Set in Tunisia and France in 1935, Dido’s Crown is a taut literary-historical adventure influenced by Indiana Jones, The Thin Man, and John le Carré.

Mary Wilson MacPherson has always been adept at putting the past behind her: her father’s death, her sister’s disappearance, and her complicated relationship with childhood friends Tom and Will. But that all changes when, traveling to North Africa on business for her husband, Mary meets a handsome French-Tunisian trader who holds a mysterious package her husband has purchased — a package which has drawn the interest not only of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, but the Nazis as well.

When Tom and Will arrive in Tunisia, Mary suddenly finds herself on a race across the mesmerizing and ever-changing landscapes of the country, to the shores of southern France, and all across the wide blue Mediterranean. Despite her best efforts at distancing herself from her husband’s world, Mary has become embroiled in a mystery that could threaten not only Tunisian and British security in the dangerous political landscape of 1935, but Mary’s beliefs about her past and the security of her own future.

Review

Julie K. Rose is another favorite author of mine, as well as one of my most favorite people. She has unique style about her that is timeless, and in a way, her books have a similar feel to them. Dido’s Crown, her latest book that is set to release Sept. 29, 2016, might represent Julie in her truest form and with her greatest work to date (which as she knows is high praise as I really love her book Oleanna!). I am so excited to have been able to read an advanced copy and start of her promotional tour (no pressure at all!!). No really – it’s an honor and I can sincerely tell you all that if you like historical novels of adventure with touches of espionage and noir-type elements, this book should be on your to-be-read soon list. While Oleanna took my breath away and is a book I’ll never forget, Dido’s Crown tapped in to my love of adventure, mystery, and espionage, making it an exciting and fun read. It was another good book to settle into and I read it from front to back in no time at all because I was so intrigued.

Julie always writes books with a strong female lead and the focus here is Mary, who quickly has things go somewhat awry for her after she travels to North Africa and is given a package that has everyone on the alert – from Britain’s Secret Intelligence to the Nazis. While at first I found all the cast of characters a bit confusing and thrown at the reader all at once, I quickly understood that she had to expediently introduce them all in order to create an action-packed start to keep the reader turning pages. I might not have done it quite this way, but in the end it worked out fine for the novel and as the initial action waned into the mystery, we get time to meet each of the characters and Mary’s complex relationships with them. In this way, it was a little more James Bond-esque than John le Carre (and yes – I LOVE both those authors with a passion) but in the end the le Carre reference was correct as to the way she creates tension and unfolds the story. The plot is much like a slow brewing espionage novel like Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, with extra effort from Julie into the personalities of her characters and introducing more witty banter.

This novel reads like an old noir black and white or colorized film to me. Her dialogue is appropriate for the time of 1935 and she makes us feel as if we have been transported to that time period. It almost reads like an older Agatha Christie novel, which I adore, for instance, one set overseas with Hercule Poirot such as Murder in Mesopotamia, or maybe Murder on the Orient Express. Dido’s Crown isn’t a true detective novel, as in there isn’t a detective on any case, but Mary does wind her way all over the globe due to this mystery with danger around every turn. It’s more the atmosphere created and the style of writing by Julie that reminds me of Agatha Christie. The noir-feel is true as well due to the time period and in reference to it being inspired partly by The Thin Man. I can see how this relates to the book through the dialogue and the personalities of the characters. Then again, it also has the feel of any great BBC offering where espionage is involved in the plot. The way the scenes are set in the book appear as if they are on Masterpiece Theater.

Julie did an amazing amount of research for this book in many different areas and it truly shows. I loved all the different places and settings the book takes us to around the world. I feel her work with the Arabic language and culture in the book was very well-done as well and highly accurate. She captured the sounds and sights of Tunisia so well I could almost sense being there. For not being an ex-spy (not that I know of anyway!), as le Carre was, she also has a good grasp on intelligence work which she must have also gleaned through diligent and dedicated research. She must have had to research from WWI through the start of WWII. As the political scene was a hot bed at the time, with Hitler emerging as well as Mussolini and Fascism issues, there were so many historical connections to research and connect for this novel to build its foundation. Then, of course there were all the languages and the history of Tunisia! Julie did a wonderful job of making the historical climate interesting and accurate, while still letting us hold on to our hats so to speak on this adventure.

There were exhilarating parts to the novel, tension-filled scenes, as well as a few as the story began to wrap up that made me shed tears. And yet, I smiled at the end. I hope there might be more to come? Julie created such an interesting woman in Mary, a woman full of confidence, wit, smarts, and a solid head on her shoulders. I’d love to see her tackle more work around the globe with a certain someone (don’t want to give a spoiler).

I loved Julie’s successful attempt at writing a historical espionage novel so much that I am looking forward to more. Dido’s Crown was like a highly entertaining special episode of the Amazing Race, set in the political turmoil of 1935 and with an added mystery. The old school suspense feel was totally on point. I bet John le Carre will be contacting Julie K. Rose as an asset in the very near future!

Excerpt

If you’d like to read some of the novel for yourself – check this passage out!

Everything in the ancient port town of Bizerte dazzled: the white stuccoed buildings, the shimmering golden sand, the bleached sails of the dhows, the shocking turquoise of the Mediterranean. Shielding their eyes against the brilliance, Tom Harris and Will Simpson, Englishmen edging inexorably and uncomfortably into middle age, fanned their rapidly pinking faces with their hats. Standing together on a sweeping balcony, very close but not quite touching, they watched the dhows glide lazily in the distance.

“This is more the thing, isn’t it?” Tom asked, nodding at the sparkling water and the brilliant North African sky. “Better than that dark mediaeval place back in the bowels of the old medina.”

Will sniffed. “You never could stand squalor for long.”

Tom looked over at him. “I wouldn’t call that squalor, necessarily.”

Will raised his eyebrows in response.

“Fine. I defer to your formidable store of knowledge on the subject of squalor,” Tom said, turning away and looking back out at the water.

Will sighed. “Don’t let’s argue. It’s this devilish heat that’s making us cross.”

They subsided into silence again, checking their watches more often than was strictly necessary. Tom turned his back on the view and looked at their waterfront villa. It was well appointed, well located, and, most importantly, the staff was discreet.

“I suppose my father was good for something after all. Filthy lucre and all that,” Tom said.

“Yes, but blessedly useful filthy lucre. Don’t get sentimental and moral on me now, dear.”

Tom opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by the adhan of the mouathen, calling the faithful to prayer above the racket of automobile noise.

Will resumed fanning his flushed face. “Do you know, we’ve heard this scores of times these last few days, but I’ve never known exactly what he’s been saying.”

Tom smiled. Language, any language, made his skin tingle, his heart thrill. It always made significantly more sense than the people who spoke it. “Allahu Akbar, God is Greatest,” he translated. They listened silently, glancing occasionally at each other. “Hayyaʿalaṣ-ṣsalāt, come to prayer.”

“It sounds like music,” Will said.

Tom smiled, and he leaned closer as they listened to the ancient song flow through the streets. “Lāilāhaillā-Allāh, There is no God except the One God.”

The last melodic words of the call to prayer echoed away, and the busy streets of Bizerte slowed, like a wind-up toy creaking to a stop. Tom glanced at Will and they stepped back into the cool shade of their villa, closing the doors behind them.

If pressed, one would have to admit that they were neither of them cinema-handsome, yet admittedly there was an appealing sense of dash to them both. Will Simpson’s jaw was entirely too sloping, a great ski jump of a face. The wrinkles of middle age and a hard life scored his forehead under unruly dark hair which never seemed to be tamed by the pomade. His mouth, however, was full and sensuous, youthful and bewitching, often twisting in a wry grin.

Tom Harris was nearly as tall as Will, with individual features which would have been perfect on different people, but together looked strange under his curling dark hair: a weak chin, cupid’s bow lips, narrow icy cat’s eyes with deeply scored crow’s feet. When he laughed, he looked like a caricature; when in serious concentration, he was otherworldly and beautiful.

Tom tossed his fedora onto the desk alongside Will’s, smoothing back his hair and loosening his tie. He checked his watch and looked at Will, who was checking his own, unbuttoning his top button with one hand. At that moment, there was a knock on the front door, and a graceful young Tunisian man glided in with a tray, delivering a sweating bucket of ice, a carafe of water, two tiny steaming cups of strong coffee, and a small, orange-scented cake. He set the tray on the sideboard and paused, his eyes slightly widened.

“Merci,” Tom said.

The young man inclined his head. “Are you dining in this evening?” he asked in heavily accented English.

“No, but we will require breakfast in the morning.”

“Of course.Nine o’clock,” he said, raising his eyebrows, then held out his hand expectantly.

“D’accord, merci.” Tom gave the young man a 10-franc coin, ushered him out, and closed and locked the door behind him.

Will passed a demitasse to Tom. “So Saidini will be here at nine, then.”

Tom chuckled at the sudden flush on Will’s face and neck.

“You have a lot of cheek, Simpson,” he said. “He’s a contact, not a conquest.”

Will flashed Tom a mixed look of annoyance and fondness but didn’t deign to respond. Instead, he gestured Tom to the seat next to him and they sat carefully on the delicately carved but terribly uncomfortable olive wood chairs, sipping their bracing coffee. Tom looked up at the ceiling fan that did nothing but push the warm afternoon air around. “What now?” he asked.

“We wait.”

“I was afraid you’d say that,” he sighed.

After long, lethargic minutes, Tom stood and poured them both new glasses of water. He moved aside the orange cake, searching for a knife with which to cut it; as he did, he found a piece of paper folded neatly under the plate. He glanced at Will, then unfolded the note, which had all the appearance of having been scrawled hastily; an unnerving drop of something now iron-brown obscured the ragged ends of words on the right margin.

He read the note through three times. When the contents finally started making sense, he handed it to Will with a shaking hand. “Why?” he asked.

Will ignored him and read through the note, his jaw tightening almost imperceptibly. Tom knew exactly what that meant: he had 20 years’ experience keeping an eye on the subtle shift of Will’s emotions. Tom ran a hand through his hair again. “Why is she here?” He winced at the note of panic that had worked its way into his voice.

“Why does she do anything?” Will snapped.

Tom ignored the jab and began to pace. “When they realize she doesn’t have it…”

“I know. Now be quiet and make yourself useful.” He handed the note back to Tom, who pulled an elegant silver lighter from his pocket. He clicked the flame into life, and watched the paper curl into dust in the crystal ashtray on the sideboard.

“Damn her,” Will said under his breath, unlocking a drawer on the desk and pulling out a sheaf of papers, a dog-eared map, and a sleeve of ammunition.

The town around them rumbled to life again outside their doors. “Just when we’d escaped your squalor,” Tom said.

“Mmm,” Will said, not attending. “Go charm the manager, won’t you? Hand her some of that filthy lucre of yours.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” Tom said, heading for the door, half in a daze.

“We were so close, damn her. Always has to complicate things, doesn’t she?” Will asked.

Tom’s heart constricted, and he shrugged what could have been assent or a lifetime’s confusion. He stepped out into the bright, hot sunshine.

 

 

Purchase this thrilling novel today!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

03_julie-k-roseAuthor Julie K. Rose, Biography

A member of the Historical Novel Society and former reviewer for the Historical Novels Review, Julie lives in the Bay Area with her husband and rescue cats, and loves reading, following the San Francisco Giants, and enjoying the amazing natural beauty of Northern California.

Her historical adventure novel, Dido’s Crown, has released in September 2016.

Oleanna, short-listed for finalists in the 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition, is her second novel. The Pilgrim Glass, a finalist in the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom competition and semi-finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, was published in 2010.

For more information, please visit Julie K. Rose’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

04_Dido%27s Crown_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL.jpg

Check out everything on the Dido’s Crown Tour HERE!

Hashtags: #DidosCrownBlogTour #Historical #Fiction #HistFic #JulieKRose #HFVBTBlogTour

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @JulieKRose

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Review: Stunning Novel Avelynn: The Edge of Faith by Marissa Campbell

Today, I have a review of book two, Avelynn: The Edge of Faith, in the Avelynn series from one of my favorite writers, Marissa Campbell! I read this some time back and fell in love with it, kinda like I did the first one, Avelynn. You can read that review HERE. It’s a series, but they can be read stand alone as well. Secondly, check out this beautiful cover by Jenny Q, and then the blurb of the book, so you know a little about what it’s about….

Avelynn-Edge-of-Faith-eBook-Cover-Large.jpg

Avelynn: The Edge of Faith

by Marissa Campbell

Publication Date: September 26, 2016
eBook; 302 Pages
ASIN: B01KUC6N9Y

Genre: Historical Romance/Medieval
Series: Avelynn (Book Two)

Avelynn: The Edge of Faith, a stand-alone Viking Romance from author Marissa Campbell.

It’s the year 871. Charges of treason, murder, and witchcraft follow Avelynn into exile as she flees England with Alrik. Arriving in Wales, they find refuge among Alrik’s friends in the Welsh nobility. Cast out by his half-brothers, Alrik seeks to regain his honor and earn favor with the gods. When war threatens, Alrik embraces gold and the opportunity for his crew to become mercenaries, aiding the Southern Welsh kings in their fight against Rhodri the Great.

Desperate to return home, Avelynn seeks to find a way to prove her innocence, but she is pitted against Alrik as their desires for the future clash. With battle looming, Avelynn’s faith in their relationship is further tested through a bitter struggle with Marared, a jealous lover from Alrik’s past. Marared’s threats turn deadly, and Avelynn runs afoul of magic and sorcery, causing her to question her beliefs and role as priestess.

When Avelynn and Alrik are betrayed, Avelynn is captured and Alrik is charged with regicide. The two become separated, a chasm of greed, deceit, and ambition driving them apart. In an act of harrowing faith, Avelynn will stop at nothing to find her way back to Alrik and break them both free from Wales’s bloodthirsty grasp.

AVELYNN: THE EDGE OF FAITH is a stand-alone novel and #2 in the Avelynn series.

Review –

Let me start off by saying that Marissa Campbell is a phenomenal writer. For me, being an editor and long time book reader and reviewer, it takes <this> level of writer to allow me to fully immerse myself in a book in a way that makes it entertainment for me. It’s hard for my mind to allow me to be swept me away to another time and place without habitually dissecting the work. And I’ve been craving that because I love reading!

I read her debut novel, Avelynn from St. Martin’s Press, last year and have been looking forward to more from Marissa since then. This is the type of writing that immediately captivates me and holds me hostage. My mind doesn’t wander innately to seeing content or dialogue flaws or ever get glitched by sentence structure or errors. Marissa doesn’t realize what an amazing writer she is and how much she stands out in an overwhelming sea of books. She’s a blockbuster in my opinion. Her second novel, Avelynn: The Edge of Faith, is a stand alone but also follows the story of the characters from the first novel. I believe that this second work is even better than the first and I didn’t think that was possible!

So what makes Marissa’s writing and Avelynn: The Edge of Faith so good? Besides being quite flawless editorial wise, her words flow poetic, like sugar on my tongue. The story dissolves smoothly and quickly and her vocabulary and phrasing makes even me in awe. I want all my writing to come out like hers. With a beauty not often found in novels these days, her writing is art and her characters and settings glow.

Speaking of characters, in this second book we really are able to see Avelynn blossoming in her own right, asserting her independence and knowing her need to be respected, yet also respectful of her betrothed – Alrik. She’s vibrant and strong, flowing with the power of the goddess and I could SWEAR I KNOW Avelynn personally. I connected to her and she flies off the page in fully dimensional development, but yet that’s an after reflection, not something I thought about during the reading of the novel. I was too wrapped up in her emotions, trials, fears, and triumphs. She has so much power inside her and that reverberates so clearly. Alrik’s character is also fully developed and the perfect complement to Avelynn – he’s also strong and knows how to gently reign in her in. He’s the protective type and a rock to her, giving her more strength and the ability to grow within herself. Marissa knew just the right type of man to place with Avelynn. Their ease together – their dialogue and actions – through arguments, tension, and gentle moments is both comical and endearing.

This relationship is the basis of why this is categorized as a romance, though to me, someone who rarely reads romances because I find them so fake, forced or contrived, I feel the romance encased itself as the glue to the suspenseful drama of the plot of this book. And…that was a GOOD thing. I see why this was lightly compared to Outlander by Diana Gibaldon, even thought it’s not time travel in nature. For me, I totally love the show Vikings, and this book is helping to cure my pining for the next season to return, so this is absolutely like mixing the show Vikings with Games of Thrones. It was about relationships, including romance, mixed with the strife and fighting of the times! I LOVED the romance in this book, and yes there is some steamy scenes, because Marissa knows how to write romance to make it feel real and natural (and HOT!). She makes me blush. It’s the type of passion that so many authors have trouble with…but not Marissa. I swear she is a sex whisperer. If you want a totally clean read, here’s your warning that this is not it, but maybe if you are feeling daring this is the book for you to try!

As for the plot in the book, Avelynn and Alrik have had to flee England as Avelynn is accused of witchcraft and murder, among other things. She is a preistess of the goddess and adheres to her pagan beliefs seriously. She feels the power and the hand of the gods with her and wants to stay grounded and follow their guidance. However, she is not a witch and doesn’t relate to magic. When she meets a past lover of Alrik in Wales, who threatens her with evil witchcraft she doesn’t know how to react at first. She seeks the counsel of her ancestors but is left with more questions rather than insight and has to figure out her proper path on her own with one constant – she wants to be by Alrik’s side. Things don’t always go as planned though, even if you have the gods on your side.

This is what I enjoyed the most the book – all the fantasy elements. To me, this book primarily read as a fantasy-based historical and I suppose that is where some of my Games of Thrones attribution comes into play. When Marissa digs into her writing with fervor, she is unmatched in description and detail. She creates sense of place and atmosphere at different stages that made me not just feel like I was painted a picture, but that I was inside a virtual reality sequence – walking around in the place myself behind the character, or maybe even that I AM the characters – kind of like I was in the movie Avatar! Marissa’s ability to write visually is exceptional. I totally wish that this would become an historical fantasy show on streaming television, because I totally want to watch it!

When you read Avelynn: The Edge of Faith, you’ll read way more than a romance or fantasy though, you’ll see the struggles of intertwining faiths and practices at a volatile time for England during the Viking take-over. You’ll read a woman fighting for her beliefs while also trying to come to terms with some of her own practices and those of others. You’ll read a well-researched historical base, so superb in fact, you’ll forget that the author had to create this world from historical basis mixed with a large imagination. As a reader, you’ll feel what the people of that time may have felt – a deep desire to hold on to ancestry and yet grow with the times testing her own inner faith and desires.

I don’t like to give too much plot away in my reviews, but to tell you my experiences. This was a very smooth and quick read that dipped me on a vacation back to medieval Wales, with lush and decadent description, sizzling romance, strong fantastical elements and plot, and I wouldn’t care if I couldn’t use my hair dryer or inside plumbing, I WANT to be in this story as Avelynn myself. Thank you Marissa for captivating me and making me feel passionate about words – oh, and feeding my Viking obsession.

So, book three ready yet, eh??

Get your copy now – I promise you – you’ll love it!!

AMAZON (KINDLE) | BARNES & NOBLE (NOOK) | KOBO

03_marissa-campbell_author-1

Author Marissa Campbell, Biography

Marissa Campbell is a published freelance author, and co-author of the award-winning, spiritual self-help book Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day. Her debut historical fiction AVELYNN, was published through St. Martin’s Press, September 2015.

She is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, Writer’s Community of Durham Region, and local critique group B7. When she is not writing, she is busy looking after her wonderful children, spending time with her fantastic husband, hanging out with her awesome friends, teaching yoga, dancing, laughing, and having fun!

For more information visit http://marissacampbell.com. You can also follow Marissa Campbell on FacebookTwitterGoodreadsGoogle+TumblrPinterest, and Instagram.

04_the-edge-of-faith_blog-tour-banner_final

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Anna Belfrage Days of Sun and Glory Glorious Work of Medieval Fiction

02_days-of-sun-and-glory

Review

In writing this review for Anna Belfrage’s Days of Sun and Glory (the second book in her new The King’s Greatest Enemy medieval history series), I am tasked with deciding how much more can I really say about Anna’s writing since I’ve reviewed her gaining on 10 times now. Her writing is always fast-paced enough to keep a reader turning the page, her pacing and plot(s) flawless, her dialogue authentic and witty, her characters fully dimensional and her research dynamic. It’s still the case in Days of Sun Glory, with the characters who carried over from In the Shadow of the Storm growing in depth and connectivity with me as a reader.

As I longed to read more of Alex and Matthew Graham in The Graham Saga each time a new book arrived, her first historical time travel series, I also was happy to meet again Kit and Adam in The King’s Greatest Enemy series, which is not time travel related but takes us back to medieval times during the reign of Edward II.

There is a lot in common in the relationship between Kit and Adam as in the relationship between the main protagonists in her first series. They are both stubborn, bicker and love both with abandon, and are determined and kind people. However, they are forging their own way now with their supporting cast of characters. Many authors have a difficult time with fully creating supporting characters, but Anna does not. She always seems to produce just the right amount who are all crucial for varying reasons and we get to know and love them just the same. We see Kit and Adam now as survivors at the hands of the “villain” of the book, Hugh Dispenser, who is a favorite of Edward II.We see how they have grown from this and how they gather those around them and continue with their life during this tumultuous time.

I am not one to give too much plot away in reviews, but I will say that while the first book set up a lot of background knowledge for us in regards to characters and the situations of the times, as well as locale, and introduced us to the personalities of main players, this second book is able to take off into a more moving story. Though you can read them stand alone, I think with these  you’ll want to start with book one for a full immersive read. If you really want to start with book two you can, but you won’t have the depth of the characters or what they’ve been through. They fight against the odds of this frantic time in history, but yet we also see much of their own romance unfold.

Beyond Kit and Adam and their supporting cast, Anna also does a good job on presenting Edward II, Isabella, and Hugh Despenser as well. Such a triangle those three present! She brings history to life with her research and with her deductions of characters and actions that she then applies to the page. She knows a great deal about the 14th century and rebellion. With this foundation, she inserts her fictional characters of Adam and Kit and weaves them seamlessly into the landscape of turmoil.

This is quick read, as in it keeps making your turn the pages, but it is about 500 pages in actual length. It seems daunting to start, but in reality you’ll be lost in it and not think about it. She propels you through the pages.

Overall, I think Days of Sun and Glory as a second book offer great growth to the series as we learn with characters and, also, due to its immersion into historical detail and action. The intrigue and internal and external struggles will make you not able to sleep a wink because you won’t put the book down.

02_days-of-sun-and-gloryDays of Sun and Glory (The King’s Greatest Enemy #2)

by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: July 4, 2016
Matador
eBook & Paperback; 418 Pages

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy
Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.

Their suspicions are not unfounded. Tired of being relegated to the background by the king’s grasping favourite, Isabella has decided it is time to act – to safeguard her own position, but also that of her son, Edward of Windsor. As Adam de Guirande has pledged himself to Prince Edward he is automatically drawn into the queen’s plans – whether he likes it or not.

Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as the king and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.

Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

03_annna_belfrage-2015Anna Belfrage, Biography

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, was published in 2015. The second book, Days of Sun and Glory, published in July 2016.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of Days of Sun & Glory by Anna Belfrage, please enter via the Gleam form.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on September 29th. 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.

04_days-of-sun-and-glory_blog-tour-banner_final

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

Hashtags: #DaysofSunandGloryBlogTour #Historical #Fiction #Giveaway #HFVBTBlogTour

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @Anna_Belfrage

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Interview: Author Anna Belfrage Sits Down to Discuss Writing

Author Anna Belfrage is no stranger to this site. She’s been here numerous times for her beloved series – the time travel historical novels of The Graham Saga – and now, she’s been back already a few times for her new medieval series, The King’s Greatest Enemy. The second book in that series, Days of Sun and Glory, released this year and we talk about that among other new and upcoming adventures she has under her sleeve. Enjoy our discussion below her magnificent cover…..

02_days-of-sun-and-glory

 

Hi Anna! Welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It seems we were just talking about gingerbread and tea and Christmas traditions when your first The King’s Greatest Enemy novel, In the Shadow of the Storm, came out this past December 2015. Time has flown since then, and it’s already September of 2016 and time for another book by you! What have you been up to? What’s some good news for the year?

Anna: Hi Erin – and it is so nice to be back here in your cozy corner of the blogosphere. Yes, time does fly, doesn’t it, and this wonderful, warm summer has come and gone in the blink of an eye. As to what I’ve been doing, well, I guess it comes as no surprise that I’ve been writing. A lot. As to good news, I am rather chuffed that Days of Sun and Glory has already been named a Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice – and that I have mastered the art of making mojitos.

Mojitos are my absolute favorite so I probably should have had you make our drinks today! Your “Anna” chair is still here for you, so have a seat so we can talk about the second book, Days of Sun and Glory. You’re visiting me so it’s about 99 degrees and humid in Ohio. I don’t even think I shall turn on the oven! Shall we have some sort of iced tea or lemonade – I have sun tea with mint leaves on the porch or freshly squeezed lemonade with fruit? What’s your pleasure?

Anna: The lemonade! Throws me back to my childhood in Colombia, where every day when I came home after school there was lemonade and “morenitas” (chocolate-dipped thin cookies) waiting for me.

Erin: I will get the pitcher and pour us some drinks as we cool off in the corner of my library. I baked muffins early morning, peach and blueberry, so I will pull some of those out for us. We can get started to chat a little about your new series and new book once one of us doesn’t have our mouth full. We can look at your beautiful cover until then. How important to you are these beautiful covers? Do you think they assist you in selling your books?

Anna: I do. I actually start the cover production relatively early in my creative process, as I find the effort of defining the visual presentation of my book acts as an inspiration for the writing as such. I want the cover to hint at the content of the book, so it is important for me to have a “medieval” flavor on this cover. I hope I – or rather my fabulous cover artist, Oliver Bennett at MoreVisual – have succeeded in delivering that.

Erin: We explained last time that you ended your time slip The Graham Saga series (Waaaaa!!! Readers – if you haven’t read this, get it NOW!) and started a new series which is not time slip at all, but medieval historical fiction surrounding Edward II and his wife Isabella of France, set in the 1320s! We had a great interview on the start of your new series and the first book, as I stated, back in December. It’s still a good read for new readers, so they can get to that from this link HERE.

 

As you began writing the second book in this series, did you intentionally write it so it could be read as a standalone or did you intend have it join one book to the next? Of course either way your characters carry over….

Anna: I think it is important the various books in a series can be read as standalones. A new reader should not groan and put it down after fifty pages, thinking it is too much of an effort to catch up with the characters. Having said that, I believe the books are enhanced by being read in order.

Erin: Because I’ve had you on so often, I believe I’ve asked you this before, but let’s look into this again. Did you write all of these books at one time, then split them up and stagger out their release dates? Or do you write each one between the other?

Anna: Ha! Not a question I recall you having asked before. In general, I write all the books in a series before I start publishing them. But I write them as separate books, not as one long story I then have to go back and split up.

Erin: I have asked it, but I always like to bring that up. It’s a unique of doing it I think most authors writing a series of books should try! Why did you choose to do it this way and was it easier that way or more difficult?

Anna: Well, as a reader I hate it when I start a series and it takes several years between installments. So, by having all the books written, I can release them at adequate intervals. Also, by writing the complete series, I can ensure I have consistency throughout – and I also have a major problem in leaving my characters hanging, so I have to find out what happens to them, all the way.  Having said all this, the fact that the books are written does not mean they’re finished. Book 3 in the Kit and Adam series is now on its way into the next editing phase which culminates with an external editor taking over.

Erin: Did you do your research all at one time? What did you do for research? Go to libraries? Read? Travel? Tell us some of your best research stories…

Anna: For The King’s Greatest Enemy (in which Days of Sun and Glory is number 2 of 4) I’d done most of my general research prior to writing. Once into the writing, I have a drafted timeline of “real” events to consider as I develop the novel, but there are frequent examples of me highlighting a paragraph or a word in yellow, which means I must revert and research further. I do this after the first draft, so as not to interrupt the flow. I read a lot on line, but I also buy nice, heavy books I can spend hours reading (very distracting at times).  And I do travel to the various locations – I find it important to have a feel for the general lay of the land.

Best research stories – hmm… I must admit I was rather surprised when I read Ian Mortimer’s meticulous descriptions of items confiscated from Roger Mortimer (and no, they are NOT related) when Roger was attained, only to realise this particular baron had a thing about butterflies – he even had a tunic embroidered with them. Whimsical – but also very humanizing.

Erin: You had to form to new characters with this series, and we talked on that the last time, but as you went further into your series, did you hear them conversing with you and each other as you did the Grahams? Were you as connected to them? Why or why not?

Anna: Poof! Do they talk? OMG! My head is full of them. Not only Kit and Adam, Roger Mortimer and Isabella, but also Matthew and Alex (Matthew and Adam have bonded over several mugs of good ale) and various other Graham family members. Unfortunately, these my beloved chatterboxes are at their most active just after midnight, which has a detrimental impact on sleep.

Erin: How accurate did you strive to make your historical accounts and characters in the book? The guest post you wrote for my readers the other day, which they can read HERE, talked about forming Isabella. Do you think overall you captured close to their character of record, or did they take you in new directions?

Anna: I think it is more or less impossible to know what my “real” historical characters were truly like as people. In some cases, we know what they did and when they did it, but human beings are so much more than the sum of their actions, and from a distance of seven centuries, how are we to assess their motivations, their fears and hopes? I do try to stick to the known events, and often a sequence of events reveals a lot about the person – but it is my interpretation of the facts that colour the characters. As a specific example, take Roger Mortimer, who until relatively recently was mostly depicted as hungry for power, harsh and domineering. I am quite sure he was all of those, but he was also a father of twelve, a devoted husband – at least for the first twenty years or so of his marriage – and, by all accounts, initially a capable and loyal servant to his king, Edward II. I write the story mainly from Adam’s perspective, and he owes everything he has – including his life – to Mortimer, so obviously his take on Mortimer will be somewhat rose-tinted. Not, necessarily, a correct interpretation of Mortimer when applying a holistic approach, but neither can we say it is wrong. Mortimer inspired strong loyalties, and in my experience men who do so have quite a few redeeming qualities. However, as the story progresses, Adam is forced to confront the fact that the hero of his youth is not always a hero, and this causes quite some tension.

Once my characters begin to take shape, I take a step back to allow them to develop as per their own inclinations. Sometimes, they surprise me – Isabella most definitely does so in book four – and while there are no historical records proving this is what they did or said, neither are there records to disprove it. Perfect, IMO.

Erin: What has been your favorite character to write so far? Why?

Anna: In all my books? Alex Graham in The Graham Saga sits very close to my heart – but so do Matthew and Adam – and Kit, especially as she grows into her full potential. And Jason &Helle (whom you haven’t met yet) But if I have to choose, it’s Alex, probably because she gets to time travel – lucky her! (“Lucky?” Alex snorts. Yeah, yeah…we’ve heard it all before, and seriously, honey, if I hadn’t dragged you back in time, someone else would have ended up as Matthew’s very happy wife.)

Erin: What theme(s) do you hope readers take away from The Days of Sun and Glory? What could they ponder as they await the third book?

Anna: This is very much a book about a child caught up in the conflict between his parents. In Days of Sun and Glory, the future Edward III takes up a lot of space, angrily defending his slighted mother to his father, helplessly standing to the side when his mother and her lover bring war to his father’s kingdom. Adam does his best to protect his young lord from all this emotional turmoil and pain, but he can’t shield the boy as much as he would want to. Being torn apart by your parents is, sadly, not uncommon in this day and age either, and it always makes me very angry when adults use their children as weapons against each other. Edward, just like any child caught in such a conflict, has little say over what happens – but shoulders a huge portion of guilt.

Erin: What will the next book in the series be about and when can we expect it?

Anna: The next book covers the first few years of Edward III’s reign. Isabella and Mortimer are in control, and not everyone is delighted at this turn of events, putting it mildly. Edward is as yet a boy, but in the fourth book the boy has become a man – a very young man, but definitely a man. God help Isabella and Mortimer then…

The third book, Under the Approaching Dark, will be out in April 2017.

14273387_2267154490090146_1438043900_o.jpg

 

Erin: If you aren’t writing about Scotland or England, what else catches your fancy to write about? Will it always be historical fiction or do you think you have more genres up your sleeve?

Anna: Oooo, I definitely have more genres up my sleeve. I hope to release the first in a new trilogy early next year, and the preliminary blurb goes something like this:

*************************

In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with the golden hair and eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died.

Since then, they have tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all in the same place, the same time. It is time to end that which began 3 000 years ago. Time to lay old ghosts to rest, time to finish what was started in distant fogs of time.

This is the story of Jason and his Helle. He betrayed her in their first life – he wants to make amends and has lived through a sequence of lives in a desperate attempt to find her again. He remembers all his lives, she does not – but when she sees him, she knows him, which scares her silly. What also scares her is Sam Woolf, yet another visitor from her distant past – and where Jason wants to make amends, Sam wants revenge…

*************************

 

As to my historical fiction, I am working on a story set in 17th century Sweden. And one set late in 13th century England. And a book featuring a certain Matthew and Alex…

14269513_2267154676756794_1066785879_n.png

Erin: Do you have more time to write now and what have you been working on? How do you write? Do you outline and plot extensively or do you write as the muse takes you?

Anna: My personal muse, Ms Inspiration, would tell you I am incorrigible & have the attention span of a gnat. A new idea pops up, and off I go to explore it, even if I’m in the midst of something else. I tell Ms Inspiration to remember it is all her fault – she’s the one who distracts me by introducing new characters, new settings, new everything…So no, I generally do not outline or plot extensively – beyond a detailed timeline of actual events.

I’ve had more time to write lately, but I’m back to working again – too much time spent mostly with me and my imaginary friends was actually having a negative effect on my output (And how strange is that, huh? I’ve concluded that when I write as a treat at the end of a working day, the time is more precious and I go all wild and crazy with joy, while when I can do it all the time, some of the glow fades)

Erin: If you didn’t already answer this in the question about research, did you do any traveling this year? If so, what were some of the favorite things you saw?

Anna: I did answer it in passing, but I’ve been fortunate enough to do two research trips to the UK this year. My highlights are Tewkesbury (I could move there tomorrow) and Lincoln (I could move there like right now). Lincoln Cathedral is probably one of the most “soul-touching” experiences in my life. I still haven’t quite recovered from the awe it inspired.

Erin: Where do you hope to go in the future? I just love how big and bright your eyes are always for learning and doing new things!

Anna: I like the BIG part. Recently, my eyes have looked very small🙂 As to the future, it’s a great start just having one. Obviously, I want to see my book babies “born”, and I would really, really like to master a yoga stance or two. And I’d like to relearn how to ride – preferably on a very small horse so that it won’t hurt as much when I hit the ground (I stopped riding when I was thrown by a thoroughbred and dislocated my shoulder).

Erin: Sweden seems like an amazing place to live. We are always so busy talking I rarely get to ask you about it. For a vicarious traveler, what are some sites that are must views?

Anna: Stockholm. In summer, this must be among the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Sigtuna, a very, very old city where some of the first Swedish coins were produced. Lund, just as old, where some of the first Danish coins were produced (Lund was Danish until mid 17th century) Ironically, both the mint in Sigtuna and in Lund were started by the same Anglo-Saxon mint-master – or so it seems. Malmö, where I live, so that I can have you over for tea, coffee, lemonade, elderberry cordial or whatever else you may want.🙂 (and that invite includes your family)

Erin: Yay! That would be amazing to visit you. Do you have anything fun planned for the rest of the year?

Anna: Other than writing and working? No, not much.  But I am thinking a week or two somewhere very warm and sunny in March or so would be nice.

Erin: Thanks so much Anna for stopping by and hanging out with me again! It’s always fun to have you by to drink, eat, and be merry with me as we talk about your fabulous books, my friend. Be sure to come back soon ( I bet you will, right?)! Best of luck with this new series, but you don’t need it, it’s terrific!

Anna: Thank you for having me! I am more than delighted to stop by and talk to you whenever you want me to.Actually, I can come back and just eat your muffins. :) 

Erin: See you again soon, Anna!

02_days-of-sun-and-glory

 

Days of Sun and Glory (The King’s Greatest Enemy #2)
by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: July 4, 2016
Matador
eBook & Paperback; 418 Pages

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy
Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.

Their suspicions are not unfounded. Tired of being relegated to the background by the king’s grasping favourite, Isabella has decided it is time to act – to safeguard her own position, but also that of her son, Edward of Windsor. As Adam de Guirande has pledged himself to Prince Edward he is automatically drawn into the queen’s plans – whether he likes it or not.

Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as the king and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.

Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Anna Belfrage, Biography

03_annna_belfrage-2015Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, was published in 2015. The second book, Days of Sun and Glory, published in July 2016.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of Days of Sun & Glory by Anna Belfrage, please enter below.

Enter via the Gleam Direct Link

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on September 29th. 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.

 

04_days-of-sun-and-glory_blog-tour-banner_final
Follow along with the Tour Schedule!

Hashtags: #DaysofSunandGloryBlogTour #Historical #Fiction #Giveaway #HFVBTBlogTour

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @Anna_Belfrage

Leave a comment

Filed under Q and A with Authors, Uncategorized

Review: Twain’s End by Lynn Cullen

02_twains-end

Review

I have to admit I am a huge fan of Lynn Cullen; she’s an awesome person and a wonderfully talented writer. Her novel, Mrs. Poe (a national bestseller that has been named a Target Book Club Pick, an NPR 2013 Great Read, and an Indie Next List selection) is one of my favorite all time historical fiction books. I was very excited to secure her next novel, Twain’s End, for review once it came out in paperback this summer. I had followed its substantial and positive hardcover run with delight so I dove right in not longer after receiving it. I enjoy historical fiction novels that take on writers and artists of the past and bring to light some of the central support characters in their lives and uncover mysteries about them.

In Twain’s End we meet Isabel Lyons, a secretary who was damned through all history for her alleged misdoings to Mark Twain (pen name of Sam Clemens). We learn her true story uncovered exquisitely by Lynn. We also get a closer look at the man who was Mark Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens.

Studying English in college, many classic authors and poets were read and studied. Twain was never a favorite of mine. However, that doesn’t matter to me in reading about his life or times, as the writer and humorist’s lifestyle and person still intrigues me even if his stories aren’t on the top on my list. His ingenious quotes and humor still amuse me to this day.

Lynn’s writing is exceptional. Compared against other authors, it’s fairly obvious to me why she is a national best-seller. Once you pick up the book because the synopsis intrigues you, you’ll be captivated and stay because her talent is that good. That’s what happened to me. Her sentence structure, character and plot development, dialogue, and her ability to make your visualize the story is enough to make me as a writer and editor glow and be in awe of her ability. It’s a book I don’t think twice about getting hiccuped on for writing structure, but can actually enjoy as a reader! She’s one of those writers you can get lost in quickly and be entertained, no matter the content.

Her research is pristine (using journals and letters from the characters), seemingly accurate, and she’s very good at tying ends together to create a story and sense of place that presents her characters much redeeming, in fact even, setting records straight for those long lost. Her investigative reporting is an added touch to her books, but with dripping descriptions and details she weaves her uncoverings into chapters that will hold you hostage and compel you to turn without ceasing. She gives us a glimpse easily into life in the early 20th century and creates for us a setting as if we’ve just walked in the front door and it’s unfolding before our eyes.

Into the characters, we are dove deep into their dysfunction and drama – their social, societal, and intimate details all placed on the page with their somewhat even, quite mental, personalities. We are shown the faults and cracks of Twain, possibly his split personas, as well as the malice of her daughter, but yet, also Lynn takes care not to paint Twain as a complete villain or tarnish his name either. I believe her only quest is write a thrilling book that offers as solution to the question why and what if? And it’s very entertaining.

Twain’s End is a dramatic read that delves into the chaos of the life of an important historical icon and reminds us the intriguing lifestyles many in the arts led during this time period. It’s complete with romance, mystery, dark suspicions, mental illness, and family dysfunction and a snapshot of the final few years of Twain’s life.

The occurrences of the life of Isabel as it pertained to Twain only led to silence on a mystery once she left him and he wrote the defaming letter about her, and while Lynn takes a crack at hypothesizing what may have happened, it may never be answered with finality.However, the book was a thrilling peek into the past that gave me a few hours of much needed reading enjoyment this summer.It will have a permanent place on my bookshelf. Anyone who is a fan of dramatic, and even scandalous, historical fiction, and even or biographies, should check this one out!

02_twains-endTwain’s End, Synopsis

by Lynn Cullen

Paperback Publication Date: June 7, 2016

Gallery Books
Paperback; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1476758978

Genre: Historical Fiction

From the bestselling and highly acclaimed author of the “page-turning tale” (Library Journal, starred review) Mrs. Poe comes a fictionalized imagining of the personal life of America’s most iconic writer: Mark Twain.

In March of 1909, Mark Twain cheerfully blessed the wedding of his private secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. One month later, he fired both. He proceeded to write a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, calling Isabel “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.” Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens, then slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy?

In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen “cleverly spins a mysterious, dark tale” (Booklist) about the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.

Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings, letters, photographs, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End triumphs as “a tender evocation of a vain, complicated man’s twilight years and a last chance at love” (People).

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND

Praise

“Reputation-squaring novel. Cullen splashes a surplus of fuel onto her incendiary raw material.” (New York Times Book Review)

“The extraordinary relationship between…Mark Twain, and his longtime secretary Isabel Lyon is wonderfully reimagined in this absorbing novel…[a] fascinating interpretation of this early 20th century literary immortal, distinguished by incisive character portrayals and no-holds-barred scrutiny.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“Cullen brings a formidable and fascinating novel of thwarted love. Readers will be enthralled by the story.” (RT Book Reviews, four-star review)

“Intelligently drawn…Cullen expertly portrays both Samuel Clemens and Mark Twain… fans of historical fiction and biographies will enjoy.” (Library Journal)

“Twain’s End remains a book that is a joy to read. Ms. Cullen is the Bronte of our day.” (Huffington Post)

“A tender evocation of a vain, complicated man’s twilight years and last chance at love.” (People)

“Twain’s End is a well-researched love story and history…readers will savor this accessible view of the enigmatic Mark Twain.” (Shelf Awareness)

“[Cullen is] a wonderful writer…Twain’s End should be on your reading list.” (Bookreporter.com)

“Cullen has a knack for weaving in small details to create rich fictional portraits of real-life figures.” (Atlanta Magazine)

“A fascinating book about a complicated writer.” (The Missourian)

“We’re riveted as Twain comes alive—faults and all—but in the end we’re captured and captivated by him. Heartbreaking, passionate, profoundly interesting and readable. Cullen has once again jettisoned herself to another time and place and delivered historical fiction fans with an utterly fascinating read.” (New York Times bestseller M.J. Rose)

“Every room radiates withd eliciously calibrated tension and hidden desires in Twain’s End. It is in its psychological truths that the novel succeeds most brilliantly, revealing the inevitable wounds in a relationship between a famous person and an ordinary one, and what happens when the balance of power changes. A riveting read.” (Nancy Bilyeau, author of THE CHALICE)

“The breadth of research and faithfulness to the subjects is evident in Twain’s End. With clarity and honesty, Cullen resurrects one of America’s most complicated and well-known writers and his intimates in vivid, fascinating, and sometimes shocking ways. Twain’s End is more than a study in character; it is a cautionary tale of the spoils of fame and power, and those intoxicated by it. Captivating.” (Erika Robuck, bestselling author of HEMINGWAY’S GIRL)

“The utterly fascinating and heartbreaking story of the aging literary lion Mark Twain and his intelligent, beautiful devoted secretary Isabel who loved and understood him… a rich novel which will sweep you into a remarkable world.” (Stephanie Cowell, author of CLAUDE AND CAMILLE)

“Mark Twain’s last decade roars with intrigue and yearning as Lynn Cullen brings our attention to his complicated relationship with Isabel Lyon, his personal secretary who has been long overlooked. A great read for fans of Z and The Paris Wife. Cullen illuminates the darker, outermost corners of Samuel Clemens’s later years, the caged lives of his daughters, his dying wife, and a woman ‘Mark Twain’ was never meant to love.” (Suzanne Rindell, author of THE OTHER TYPIST)

“Twain’s End is an unflinching, clear-eyed view into the last years of one of American’s most beloved authors. Ms. Cullen delves deep and gives us a glimpse into the pain that shaped the mask worn by Samuel Clemens. Brilliant and insightful. I hated to reach the end.” (Susan Crandall, bestselling author of THE FLYING CIRCUS and WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD)

“Lynn Cullen is both a masterful writer and literary detective. Meticulous research and keen curiosity led her to piece together a fascinating account of the last seven years of Mark Twain’s life. Though the story of Isabel and Sam took place over a hundred years ago, its concerns remain with us today: the corrupting nature of power and fame, the corroding legacy of slavery in America, the ways in which childhood wounds continue to cripple us throughout our adult lives, the fact that love is sometimes not enough when it comes to the relationships between women and men. To the public, Twain might have been ‘Known to Everyone, Liked by All,’ but to those closest to him, he was a troubled and difficult man. Cullen shows Mark Twain ‘warts and all,’ yet we—and the utterly sympathetic Isabel Lyon—still love his irascible spirit, a spirit that nearly leaps off the page. In short: Twain’s End is a fabulous read; I loved this book.” (Susan Rebecca White, author of A PLACE AT THE TABLE)

“Twain’s End is an exquisitely nuanced portrayal of the American icon and the woman who dared to love him. With superb attention to detail, and deep understanding and care for her protagonists, Lynn Cullen brings this deliciously complex story to life, delivering everything we expect in a modern masterpiece.” (Anne Girard, author of MADAME PICASSO)

“With Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen has once again proven herself a master of historical fiction. This remarkable book explores the life of Mark Twain as seen through the eyes of the women in his household. As each interacts with the legendary Twain, the reader is allowed glimpses of the man—Samuel Clemens—living behind the well-known persona who rode in on a comet’s coattails and made the entire world laugh. Lynn Cullen is an outstanding writer, and Twain’s End is an exceptional book.” (Raymond Atkins, author of SWEETWATER BLUES)

03_lynn-cullenLynn Cullen, Biography

Lynn Cullen grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection.

She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. Mrs. Poe, a national bestseller, has been named a Target Book Club Pick, an NPR 2013 Great Read, and an Indie Next List selection.

Her newest novel is Twain’s End. She lives in Atlanta surrounded by her large family, and, like Mark Twain, enjoys being bossed around by cats.

For more information please visit Lynn Cullen’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized