Review: A Song of War is Excellent Epic Collaboration of Troy

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Review –

One of my favorite historical and mythical places to read, watch, and learn about is Troy. Of course, I was quite pleased when the H Team collection of stellar historical authors, several of whom are already some of my favorite authors, decided to make it their focus for their next continuity anthology called A Song of War: A Novel of Troy! It’s quite a large book so I was happy I had the time to read and savor each section over a few months. Different than many anthologies, except the other great ones by the H Team, it takes a time period and place with each author identifying with a person and featuring them with similar supporting characters. The book as a whole then intertwines all the stories, even with the authors showcasing snippets of a previous author’s character in the interactions with their character, and creates a whole over arching view, which in this collection spans over a decade. To me, it’s clever and such an interesting way to read a story.

We generally know about the Trojan War and don’t always realize the entire story of the Iliad’s cast of characters. This book allowed them to be expanded on and shone in various ways that me, and maybe other readers, might not have ever thought of before.

I really enjoyed how when Kate Quinn started off the series, she was able to set it up to show us that many different types of cultures and people lived in Troy and interacted together. She showed us that there was some prejudices toward people based on skin color and I felt it was a good mirror for the current issues that lie today in the U.S., in which some don’t want to accept our melting pot.She also was able to write Helen of Troy as the strong willed, if not a little jilted, woman I had come to love myself, gaining some momentum in her section as far as character development by juxtaposing Helen’s personality and relationship situation against that of  Andromache, who is clever and witty. I did see Helen as somewhat more settled or resigned in her situation with her husband, King Menelaus, than I normally thought her to be, but it worked with Kate’s story. I loved her characterization of Andromache especially – I found her inquisitive, funny, and smart. The various discussions and thoughts between the other characters in each section of her portion were intriguing and made me very interested to read the rest of the stories. She has, as always, a knack for dialogue and humor.

Stephanie Thornton’s second song, or story, featured Cassandra, the biracial twin of Hellenus. Her careful display of Hellenus, and her frustrations, are touching and poignant. Exploring the dark regions of her character’s mind invoked me into the inner realm of Troy; the part that lies within these characters who are experiencing such turmoil and confusion. Her steady pace and intuitive prose was like a drum beat of war, pacing the tension as the book started to deeply unfold. As Kate introduced the concept that people in Troy where of all mingling races, Stephanie extends that as well into her story, allowing these two stories to complement each other so very well and get the book off to an outstanding start in its first 100 pages. Of course Stephanie is a beautiful writer, amazingly descriptive and she really sets the scenes before our eyes.

Each of the authors brought a specific need and voice to the body of work. Russell Whitfield is an author I didn’t really know previously, but he’s certainly caught my eye. His writing style is somewhat different, maybe it’s the sentence structure, but it created a flow for me while I read and a desire to know, to understand, and to empathize with his characters. It’s not easy being the author who has to write about a character like Agamemnon, that generally most people don’t like and that history has showcased as being a harsh commander of war (AKA King of Argos). But Russell writes with compassion, with feeling, and with a depth and talent. He gives to us the story of a man who really hasn’t been able to tell his story yet, and he accomplished it very well.

Christian Cameron is another author I had heard of, but never read. He writes in a more old-fashioned style, which is quite fine, it’s just that he gets to his point with precision and doesn’t embellish. I tend to like a little more breathing room within my sentences. He wrote the story of a female character, Briseis, which is actually one of my personal favorite characters. She was a slave to Agamenmon. I am not sure, since I haven’t read him previously, if he would normally write a woman with a more matter-of-fact personality, or this is just what he planned for Briseis, but either way, he gave her a different persona than what I had in my head previously. It took a minute to get used to it, but I can value his style and perceptions. He is excellent in terms of action writing and has a great style for war and military action. He presented Achilles rather well I’d say. I would have preferred he’d softened Briseis and his dialogue to a degree, but his story fit in nicely with all the rest and helped to complete the package and fit more pieces of the puzzle together.

Libbie Hawker is one of those authors that I know of her work but have not had the time yet to read so I didn’t know what  to expect. Her story focused mainly on Philoctetes, who comes to Troy without the war baggage of the rest of the stories. He pines for Achilles and feels this loss, just as he also carried the weight of the word “hero” on his shoulders. He possesses Heracles bow, and with it, to many, power. It was wonderful to see Libbie write this tale of a gay man with such emotion and delicacy, letting us see his inner strength of mind and purpose. I love the interaction between Achilles and Philoctetes once they meet up again – their friendship and understanding was touching. Achilles has war fatigue which was evident and the hope that Philoctetes reverberated, his intent to save him after receiving an omen, is striking. She seemed to hone home about them being ordinary men, which I suppose we could think historically they were, but as a person who really loves the mythology of it all, it did set me back a bit. However, I suppose that is what makes you think. The final battles between characters at the end of her story – I don’t want to give any spoilers – were tragic and swift and left me somewhat in tears. I enjoyed her story overall and we still get wonderful glimpses and nuggets of the other characters from throughout the book.

Vicky Alvear Shecter writes the second to the last story of Odysseus. It’s a short piece but one that’s needed as she shows a war torn Troy- a place in need of this war to end. Her ingenuity in her interpretation and re-telling of the legend of the Trojan Horse was astoundingly good and I would have never seen it coming. I’m already a huge fan of Vicky and as always her characterization is excellent and her writing good, but it’s her idea and take on this old myth that left me speechless. She’s stellar in the way that she can tell a story in less pages than most and have as much or more impact as the others. I loved how she tied up quickly lots of scenes within the other stories, as well as tightened the overall arc, before setting it up in priceless fashion and letting the reader head into the final story by SJA Turney.

SJA is another writer again that I’ve not read (even though I should as he writes Roman novels), but to be given the task of writing the last story in the book, I knew he had to be trusted enough to be able to pull it all together in a way that would give the book a lasting legacy. Now, after reading his story of Aeneas, I can see why he had to write this last song or story. To allow us a glimpse into this finale of Troy. In a quick lesson, Aeneas was a character of Homer (related to some of the other characters in  A Song of War) that migrates from there to Italy and ties in as an ancestor of Rome by the time Virgil takes over for Homer. It’s in this way that Aeneas is so important to the everything. SJA writes this last story so phenomenally well; with grace and emotion, with fortitude to write something so dire and sad, and with eloquence and emotion. I am a new fan of SJA and will be seeking out his other works. I really loved his writing style. In wrapping up A Song of War, he really did an amazing job of pulling all the strings together and leaving us with closure and hope.

Overall, this epic story of Troy was a huge undertaking by this group of authors that surpassed my expectations. I could tell not only did they each write a story, but they worked with each other on all the stories to make sure characters lined up as far as plot and personality, calling on each other’s strengths, and really made it all look rather seamless so that it appeared almost if they wrote a novel together instead of separate stories.

A Song of War is one of the best books you’ll ever find to read surrounding Troy, and if you love Homer’s Iliad, you’ll certainly want to take a closer look at all the characters you love and hate by reading this collection. Love, greed, war, myth, humanity, passion, sacrifice, jealously, intrigue – A Song of War has it all. College English and history classes won’t be teaching only the Iliad anymore, they’ll be reaching for A Song a War to accompany it. It was a pleasure to read and is the perfect book for any history or myth lover and well worth investing in this bookshelf keepsake. It’s one to be read more than once to really appreciate its depth.

02_a-song-of-warA Song of War: A Novel of Troy

by Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield
Foreward by Glyn Iliffe

Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Knight Media, LLC
eBook & Paperback; 483 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Ancient History/Anthology

Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy’s gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

A goddess’ son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

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About the Authors

CHRISTIAN CAMERON was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa,Christian Cameron and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age four. And a half.

LIBBIE HAWKER was born in Rexburg, Idaho and divided her childhood between Eastern Idaho’s rural environs and the greater Seattle area. She presently lives in Seattle, but has also been a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah; Bellingham, Washington; and Tacoma, Washington. She loves to write about character and place, and is inspired by the bleak natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain region and by the fascinating history of the Puget Sound.

After three years of trying to break into the publishing industry with her various books under two different pen names, Libbie finally turned her back on the mainstream publishing industry and embraced independent publishing. She now writes her self-published fiction full-time, and enjoys the fact that the writing career she always dreamed of having is fully under her own control.

KATE QUINN is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. The LA Times calls Cleopatra’s Moon, “magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” The Wall Street Journal called it “absorbing.”

STEPHANIE THORNTON is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

Her novels, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, and The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great, tell the stories of history’s forgotten women.

SJA TURNEY lives with his wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire.

Marius’ Mules was his first full length novel. Being a fan of Roman history, SJA decided to combine his love of writing and love of the classical world. Marius’ Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum – an attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome.

These have been followed by numerous sequels, with three books in the fantasy ‘Tales of the Empire’ series and five in the bestselling ‘Marius’ Mules’ one. 2013 has seen the first book in a 15th century trilogy – ‘The Thief’s Tale’ – and will also witness several side projects seeing the light of day.

RUSSELL WHITFIELD was born in Shepherds Bush in 1971. An only child, he was raised in Hounslow, West London, but has since escaped to Ham in Surrey.

Gladiatrix was Russ’s first novel, published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continues the adventures Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix, and a third book, Imperatrix, sees Lysandra stepping out of the arena and onto the field of battle.

Giveaway

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Review: On the Edge of Sunrise by Cynthia Ripley Miller – Romance and Political Intrigue in 450 AD

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On the Edge of Sunrise (The Long-Hair Saga #1)

by Cynthia Ripley Miller

Publication Date: March 23, 2015
Knox Robinson Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 309 Pages

Genre: Historical Romance

When love commands, destiny must obey.

The year is AD 450. The Roman Empire wanes as the Medieval Age awakens. Attila the Hun and his horde conquer their way across Europe into Gaul. Caught between Rome’s tottering empire and Attila’s threat are the Frankish tribes and their ‘Long-Hair’ chiefs, northern pagans in a Roman Christian world, and a people history will call the Merovingians.

A young widow, Arria longs for a purpose and a challenge. She is as well versed in politics and diplomacy as any man … but with special skills of her own. The Emperor Valentinian, determined to gain allies to help stop the Huns, sends a remarkable envoy, a woman, to the Assembly of Warriors in Gaul. Arria will persuade the Franks to stand with Rome against Attila.

When barbarian raiders abduct Arria, the Frank blue-eyed warrior, Garic, rescues her. Alarmed by the instant and passionate attraction she feels, Arria is torn between duty and desire. Her arranged betrothal to the ambitious tribune, Drusus, her secret enlistment by Valentinian as a courier to Attila the Hun, and a mysterious riddle—threaten their love and propel them into adventure, intrigue, and Attila’s camp. Rebels in a falling empire, Arria and Garic must find the strength to defy tradition and possess the love prophesied as their destiny.

Review

For always saying I don’t read romance, I certainly am reading a lot of historical romance lately. However, when I am asked to review these historical fiction books I pick them because of all the great history and plot involved. I think the romance is something swirled into it, but not at all like a harlequin-type read. On the Edge of Sunrise, Book One of the Long-Hair Saga, by Cynthia Ripley Miller, is one of those types of books that is filled full of historical detail and story based on a great deal of research of 450 AD and the conflict between Attila the Hun, Gaul, and the Frankish Long-Hair chiefs.

This side of the world during this time period is something I’ve rarely read about or seen much written on and it was refreshingly new and different. I do generally really enjoy ancient history and so much of this was enticing. I can tell that Cynthia did an extensive amount of research of cultures/tribes, battles, weaponry, and landscape of the time to give readers a beautifully detailed account of the heated interactions and political machinations.

The romance between Arria, a Roman, and Garic, a Frank warrior, lends to soften to the over political story and bring some suspenseful tension. We are propelled by their dangerous love story through the pages quickly and treated to a foundation of history of the time period. She wrote two heroic and courageous people as her leads, even though they come from different experiences. The book doesn’t focus on their romance too much though, but more on those that surround them and interact with them (and conspire against them) which creates a dramatic story line filled with a well-developed cast.

Cynthia adeptly creates the time period for us in all its tenuous detail, with many vivid images. I enjoyed learning about the rise of Christianity in that area and the juxtaposition of all the cultures. She wrote battle scenes well without over doing the violence, but with fervent action that kept the book exciting. Her descriptions are bold and helped to carry the book along for me as a reader.

As an editor, some constructive things I might note for future development is to work on the dialogue to seem more natural, and not forced or stilted. Maybe she did that to represent it being so long ago  and not their actual language, but I think it could be softened. Also, I was also a little held up by sentence structure and felt that the book could improve by letting the sentences flow more freely. The cover is pretty, but makes it look like it’s all romance when it has so much else to offer!

Overall, it took me some focused concentration to read as it taught so much history between its pages, and her prose wasn’t light and airy, but more grounded, but that’s not a bad thing. It wasn’t a quick light romance at all, but I don’t like to read those anyway. I just tell you that in case that’s what you’re looking for in your historical fiction. It’s a deep look at a ancient time and place not often showcased, where so many rivaled for power, as well as the story of a very motivated and intelligent woman who used her abilities to change her own destiny.

I recommend for a long weekend by the fireplace somewhere it’s cold and your can cuddle up inside and get lost in time. Myself, I look forward to the next book in the series.

Purchase

AMAZON (KINDLE) | AMAZON (PAPERBACK) | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY

Praise

“From cover to cover a gripping read – in all senses of the word! Grips your interest and imagination, your held breath and your pounding heart! A thumping good novel!” –Helen Hollick, USA Today bestselling author & Managing Editor Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews

“AD 450. The Roman Empire is breaking apart, and Attila the Hun has his sights set on conquering Gaul. … The love story between Garic and Arria is set against a background of fierce battles, intrigue, jealousy and betrayal. … The story weaves, twists and turns at a tremendous pace, and the characters leap off the pages, which simply keep on turning. This is the author’s debut novel, the first in her ‘Long Hair’ series. I look forward to reading more in due course. Recommended. – Marilyn Sherlock, Historical Novel Society, HNR Issue 74 (November 2015)

“On the Edge of Sunrise is a compelling epic, sure to appeal to fans of historical fiction. Forbidden love, a turbulent time period, and world-changing events combine to produce a real page-turner.” – India Edghill, author of Queenmaker, Wisdom’s Daughter, and Delilah

“On the Edge of Sunrise is a passionate and intriguing take on the often overlooked clash of three brutal and powerful empires: the Romans, Franks, and Huns. A Compelling read!” – Stephanie Thornton, author of The Secret History and The Tiger Queens

03_Cynthia Ripley Miller.jpgAuthor Cynthia Ripley Miller, Biography

Cynthia Ripley Miller is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, the first novel in the Long-Hair Saga, a series set in late ancient Rome and France, and a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist. She has lived and traveled in Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean, taught history and currently teaches English. Her short stories have appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, The Scriptor, and at Orchard Press Mysteries.com.

Cynthia blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website, http://www.cynthiaripleymiller.com. She lives with her husband and their cat, Romulus, and German Shepherd, Jessie, in a suburb of Chicago. Book Two: The Quest for the Crown of Thorns will be published in October of 2016.

For more information visit http://www.cynthiaripleymiller.com. You can also connect with Cynthia on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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Interview: Julie K. Rose Talks about Writing, Research, Tunisian Cake, and More!

I’m pleased today to have Julie K. Rose drop by for tea and cookies (and bringing a cake recipe by too that sounds lovely) and to talk about her newest book, Dido’s Crown, as well her life and writing! I hope you enjoy our conversation. If you missed my exciting review of Dido’s Crown earlier this week, you can see it HERE. It’s a wonderful story, set in 1935, of a woman caught up in espionage in Tunisia!

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Hi Julie! Welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so excited about your newest fictional endeavor, Dido’s Crown. As I prepare our seats and refreshment, tell me, what’s behind that name?

Julie: Hi! I’m so excited to be back. You always have the best refreshments, and conversation! In terms of the name, it’s tied to an important plot point in the book, so I don’t want to say too much. That said, it ties nicely to Tunisia – Dido was the founder and first queen of Carthage, modern-day Tunis. And I like the suggestion of Dido’s complicated and melancholy story.

Erin: Yay!! Yes, it does. 🙂 We will let them all find out by reading the book! How exciting has this been for you to release another book? It’s so hot here in Ohio – I mean it’s not autumn weather at all that we are used this time of year. We will be wearing swimsuits for Halloween. And with a serial killer being arrested here it’s been a bit stressful. So I’m up for relaxing in my comfy library chairs with you while we talk about Dido’s Crown. And I’m thinking mojitos today – they are my favorite. We can do mint and other assorted flavors…..blueberry…cherry…. You’ve packed for a weekend stay right?

Julie: Of course I did! Sitting together, chatting about books sounds just like the antidote to the world that I need this week.This world is completely nuts, so art is more important than ever. It helps us remember how to be human, you know? I’d actually love a cup of hot, sweet mint tea if you don’t mind. Puts me in a North Africa kind of mood.

Erin: Okay, mint tea is one of my faves for Fall and Winter and since the air conditioning is on late for this time of year I’ll make some and it won’t make me too hot. My ex-husband was from Egypt and hot tea was a must drink (or Turkish coffee). We can save the mojitos for another day since you’ll be staying awhile. I’ve baked up some spice cookies in the Dutch tradition though! I suppose that is not very North African.. They just sound good today and I think you’ll like them. They smell like Fall or Christmas and I’m anticipating those seasons. I’ll pour the tea and we’ll get started! Oh –I always ask you to share a recipe when you come too! Do you have one you’d like to share on this trip? May I can make that for us for later.

Julie:  Oooh spice cookies are the BEST.

I do have a recipe! This is for Tunisian Orange and Almond cake. Tunisia is a country of real contrast, and the northern climes are home to vineyards and orchards – very similar to the climate here in the Bay Area. Orange cake plays an important role right in the first chapter of Dido’s Crown.

This is adapted from Reza Mahammad’s recipe, found here: http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/recipes/tunisian-orange-almond-cake.html

tunisian cake.jpg

Ingredients

  • 1 cupsuperfine sugar (not powdered)
  • ¾ cup ground almond
  • ¼ cup panko crumbs, slightly stale breadcrumbs or cake crumb
  • Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed oranges
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 4 eggs
  • For the syrup:
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • ½ tbsp orange blossom water
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  1. Line and grease an 8″ spring-form cake tin.
  2. Mix together the sugar, almonds, panko crumbs, both zests and baking powder.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and the oil.
  4. Pour onto the almond mixture and mix.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and place into a cold oven. (At this point make the syrup)
  6. Turn on to 355°F and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a plate.
  8. While the cake is warm, pierce it all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and pour on some of the syrup.
  9. Keep spooning over more syrup every now and then until it’s all been absorbed.

For the syrup:

  1. Make the syrup by adding all the ingredients except the orange blossom water into a saucepan. Bring gently to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar whilst allowing the liquid to thicken to a syrupy consistency.
  2. Add the orange blossom water and remove the spices which can be used to decorate the cake.
  3. Set aside till cake ready. To serve, dust with icing sugar and serve on a cake stand with Greek yoghurt or crème fraiche and summer berries.

Erin: Yum!! Yes I’ll definitely make that for us for tomorrow! Thanks for sharing that!

Dido’s Crown is a 1930s novel of intrigue that you describe as being inspired by Indiana Jones and John Le Carré. Two of my favorite things! Plus The Thin Man! I was thrilled when I found out your wrote a story about a woman who takes on a mystery during the political international landscape of 1935! Where did you come up with this idea?

Julie: I’m not sure if I can pinpoint how and where I came up with the concept. I knew I wanted to set a book in Tunisia; I’ve always been fascinated by North Africa, and Tunisia has an amazing history. So I knew I would set at least some of the book there. The plot itself definitely took more time and evolved over the years that I wrote it. It was initially going to be focused on Tom and Will and their time just before WWI, and at that point, the British Secret Service angle hadn’t appeared – it was initially about these two scholars at Oxford. I wish I could remember the moment that Mary showed up, because she of course changed everything.

Erin: Your novel travels around the globe with Mary. How did you research the locations during these time periods and bring them with such vivid description to the page?

Julie:Modern travel guidebooks were actually incredibly useful as a starting point, as I’ve not yet had the chance to visit Tunisia. YouTube was also great – lots of videos of modern Tunisia helped me understand the lay of the land. YouTube was also surprisingly helpful in terms of films of Tunisia at the time. And of course, the normal research you’d expect – contemporary and scholarly sources.

Erin: What background research on the history of this time period did you do and how factual is the foundation your fictional story rest upon?

Julie: Ahhhhh research! The 1930s was a really interesting time for Tunisia, politically speaking, so there was a lot of great scholarly research to tap into. As a matter of fact, I’ve posted a bibliography at my website with a small set of the books and articles I consulted. In terms of the 1930s, there were quite a few great resources, including The Thirties by Juliet Gardiner. The research on the British Secret Intelligence Service was a load of fun, and I particularly loved The Secret History of MI6 by Keith Jeffery.

The foundational information is factual – the SIS, the different stations, the influence of the Deuxième Bureau in colonial life, the Tunisian independence movement, etc. The origin story I created for numbers stations, while based on research into espionage techniques and what we know of numbers station history (which is very little), is pure fiction.

Erin: How did you learn to pace your novel in order to keep the action moving but yet also create your characters with dimension and depth?

Julie: Well, I hope I accomplished that…and if I did, I’m not quite sure how! To be very honest, this book was a bear for me to write. I had to devise ways to keep myself on track, not only with chronologies but also with motivations both at a macro (Secret Intelligence Service) level and a micro level (individual characters). Ultimately the action is accomplished by character, so those personalities and desires were the primary focus.

Erin: Talk about your cover a little bit and the thought behind it?

Julie: I was initially interested in using a painting called Olga by David Jagger (1935), because the subject is so very much like the Mary in my mind.

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Olga by David Jagger / Submitted by Julie K. Rose

Unfortunately, I couldn’t obtain the rights for the painting, and I think in the end, it worked out better. I did a search at Bridgeman Art for “photograph” and “1935” and found the gorgeous photo I ended up using, which is held by a museum in New Zealand. I love the look of the woman – she feels self-contained, a little wistful, and a little mysterious. My brother had the genius idea of overlaying the map of Tunis, which gives the cover an interesting weathered look from afar, and a second layer of mystery when you see it up close.

Erin: The cover is amazing!! And your brother had a great idea. How long have you been working on the novel? What kind of steps do you put into the process?

Julie: I started working on the novel in 2011, when I was blocked in the midst of trying to finish my last book, Oleanna. That book was published in 2012 and I picked at Dido’s Crown for a bit, but then went through a period of depression and didn’t come back to the book again until the summer of 2015. The steps are pretty much the same as most writers: a very rough first draft, set it aside and percolate on it for a bit, do another draft, lather, rinse, repeat.

Erin: What did you find out about yourself through the process of writing Dido’s Crown?

Julie: I learned that droughts end, dark times pass, and the creative spark will still be there when you come back to it. It’s a very reassuring thing.

Erin: What did you learn about your writing and your process from the publication of Oleanna in 2012 to the your current release?

Julie:I learned to finally not just embrace the rewriting process, but actually enjoy it. I also learned to respect my creative rhythms more. And I knew this, but it was an important reminder: good critique partners and editors are worth their weight in gold.

Erin: You’ll always an inspiration to me, Julie. I really enjoy your motivational YouTube videos. Can you talk about why you prompted to do those, how they help you, and how you hope they help others? Will you keep doing them?

Julie: Oh my goodness, thank you! There are a couple of motivations behind the videos. The first is that I really wanted to try something that scared me. I had taken a public speaking training at work, in which everything we did was filmed. It was both scary and eye opening, and it gave me confidence. But presenting to a group of your colleagues is one thing; filming a video and posting it where any random stranger could see it was initially terrifying. Who the hell am I to take up space? Who the hell am I to have a voice? But there’s something that feels revolutionary and empowering about being seen, as a middle-aged woman, you know? And once I started doing the videos, I found I enjoyed the hell out of them. I like the whole process – writing the script, setting up the shot, filming, editing, etc.

As to the content: I feel like I just recovered my own creativity last year, and realized what a precious and important thing it is. This year has been absolutely insane, on a cultural and political front, and art and creativity are an important bulwark against the horror. I know it can be hard for people, especially women, to embrace their creativity and give themselves permission to do art and be creative. But it’s more important than ever.

I will definitely continue to do videos; I’m kind of addicted now. I may add to the Courage & Creativity series, and I have ideas for other series that could be a lot of fun.

Erin: I look forward to more videos. They truly help me!

What is the best snack you can eat when working your “second job” of writing, editing, promo, etc.? I want to see what’s in your secret snack drawer….

Julie: Oh gosh. I used to have a terrible bubble gum habit, which I’ve finally broken myself of. I don’t snack when I write, because I’m usually writing first thing in the morning before my day job, so if it’s anything, it’s some oatmeal or toast. But I always need to have something to drink – coffee (with sugar-free peppermint syrup!) or hot tea.

Erin: You must be a morning person! I find so many writers tell me they don’t snack when writing. I feel all I do is type five words – snack – type five words -snack. haha!

What do you think you want to write in the future? Do you have any plans or thoughts for topics?

Julie: I’m working on my next book now. It’s set in my home town of San José in 1906, right at the time of the great earthquake. The history of the Santa Clara Valley (now known as the Silicon Valley) is fascinating, and little known outside California, so I’m hoping to shed some light there.

Erin: If you could write a book about a woman in history, who would it be? If you could have 5 critique partners for the book, who would they be?

Julie:This is so tough. I love stories about regular folks, so I’d love to write something about what it was like to live through the troubles in Northumbria in the 6th and 7th centuries. If pressed to write about a famous woman, my first instinct is Boudicca, though I’d love to write someday about Princess Kristina of Norway. She was married to Philip of Castile in 1258, only to die four years later at the age of 28. She had wished a church honoring St. Olav be built, and her wish was finally granted 750 years later in Covarrubias in 2011.

Erin: Yes, now you must write of Princess Kristina!  Okay – a fun question. Your favorite coffee mug is….?

Julie: Is it sad that I have more than one? The “Please do not annoy the writer” mug is from a friend and is both funny and true. The Sons of Heptarchy Northumbria mug is via the British History Podcast and references the sons of Ida, the king of Bernicia. It makes me laugh every time I look at it. And the Good Mythical Morning mug is from my favorite morning show. 

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Erin: So cool! I love to see people’s coffee/tea mugs. Give good insight!

If people dedicated a weekend to your book and wanted to throw in a movie to make the event complete, what would they watch? Feel free to give more than one suggestion.

Julie: Oh gosh! Well, pop some popcorn and settle in. Of course, I’d start with Raiders of the Lost Ark. Did you know the scenes that are set in Cairo were actually filmed in Tunis? Beyond that connection, it’s just a great adventure and I love the action, and of course Harrison Ford. I’d follow it up with The Thin Man (1934) with Myrna Loy and William Powell. The dialog is to die for, and it’s a great Hollywood version of the mid-1930s. Finally, if you’re still awake, definitely watch Design for Living (1933). Though based on Noël Coward’s 1932 play, it diverged quite a bit and I think it’s delightful. Plus: Gary Cooper and Frederic March. Come on.

Erin: It’s always a joy to have you on my site, dear friend. As always, I wish you the best of luck with your newest book. I’m so happy and excited for you! Cheers to another cup of hot tea (and mojitos tomorrow) – stay awhile and chat.

Julie: It is always such a pleasure to sit with you, my dear! Thank you always for your support and friendship, you’re such a delight! And yes, let’s keep chatting. These cookies are delicious!

02_dido%27s-crownDido’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.

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.

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Check out the Tour Schedule HERE!

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

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @JulieKRose

 

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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!

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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.

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

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

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @JulieKRose

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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….

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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!!

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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.

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