Tag Archives: 17th century historical fiction

Visiting with Historical Author Anna Belfrage About Her Eighth and Final Graham Saga Novel + What’s Next?

Today I have an interview with the one-of-a-kind Anna Belfrage. Her eighth book in The Graham Saga series has published, but as it’s the last, we’ve talked about the series as a whole and what’s next. If you missed my review of To Catch a Falling Star yesterday, you can view it HERE. Enjoy!

Hi Anna, welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s always a pleasure to have you here for conversation, drink, and sweets…and  your characters…oh, how they like to try to come along for some fun too! Alas, though I’m sure this won’t be the last time I have you on my site, it does look like it is the end of the The Graham Saga series for now, with the publishing of the eighth book, To Catch a Falling Star. Let’s chat a bit today about it all. How has it all been going for you?

02_To Catch a Falling Star_Cover

Anna: Well, I’ve exceeded my normal annual consumption of Kleenex by now… I had no idea it would be so difficult to say goodbye to Alex and Matthew. My husband tries to comfort me by pointing out there’s nothing stopping me from writing some more about them, and he’s right, of course. But there are other characters calling for my attention, and so…I do think there will be a novella or two. Mainly to dull the edge of abstinence I am presently suffering.

Erin: I better go get my extra box of Kleenex then, I’m sure we’ll need them as we talk. Are we up for a spot of tea today? If so, I’ll put on the tea kettle and brew up whatever you’d like. It’s rainy and humid and chilly here right now. Or we can do iced tea, in fact, if you’d prefer. And I know that you haven’t been allowed sweets in your home lately either, but you do love good cake, so I baked up a celebratory pound cake with raspberries and cream. Name your pleasure and I’ll serve it up!

Anna: I love you. Love you! And your pound cake! (Eagerly extends her plate) And yes, tea would be nice – it’s sunny and freezing cold over here, so I prefer the kettle variety.

Erin: It’s all prepared, so I’m on my way back in to settle beside you in some of my comfy library chairs. Aw, *hugs* Anna, I so enjoy you too! I’m looking forward to chatting, and hopefully, laughing as well. I do think I love your laugh, even if I’ve never heard it in person! Let’s get started.

Anna: My grandmother (a dour person who spent most of her life in a housedress and rollers until my grandfather died when she suddenly lost 20 pounds, bought herself jeans, a leather jacket and let her hair grow long) always said my laugh reminded her of the sound a goat makes if it shits on a tea-tray. Did I mention she wasn’t very nice? Actually, I think both of us have contagious laughs – I can see it in your eyes.

Erin: Hahahaha!! I literally just spit out this nice tea I just made all over my lap. I should know better, you are so very funny. I’m going to have to compose myself to even begin again. I might need to wipe myself up a little as well.

Ah, ok, now that I’ve recovered, let’s see if I can ask some questions. The most general question would be, especially after I’ve had you on my site probably 10 or more times, how does it feel to have accomplished writing and publishing eight books in a successful series? Do you feel content and ready for something new? Will you miss it? Will you keep promoting it?

Anna: Will I miss it? Gah! Yes, of course I will. And yes, I will continue promoting the series – among other things by publishing the odd novella or two as mentioned above. But I have so much other stuff in my head, and for some months Alex and Matthew will have to cede center stage to other characters. (“You can’t be serious!” Alex scowls, arms akimbo. “After all we’ve done for you, and you’re just going to leave us like this? Like this?” She gestures at Matthew’s half-finished little cabin, their private retreat. “Just for some months,” I try. Besides, if we’re going to be honest I’ve already written a couple of chapter sin which the cabin is finished and furnished. “You have?” Alex softens. “Well then.”)

Erin: After reading this eighth book, Alexandra Lind and Matthew Graham certainly, to me, don’t seem like they are finished, or that they’re family is finished. Excuse me if you’ve mentioned anything like above already. Though I know you tease about making them immortal, truly, do they still prod your mind with things they want to say?

Anna: Constantly. That Alex is a chatter-box, let me tell you! (“I am not!” Alex says, glaring at me. Matthew just smiles, draws his wife close and kisses her head. “Aye you are. The miracle is that most of what you say actually makes sense.”)

Anyway, yes, there are some things that need clearing up: Samuel and his life among the Mohawk, for example. And there’s an infected situation between Daniel and that horrible toad Richard Campbell. Plus Jacob’s unknown daughter in London is dealt a very, very bad hand of cards.

Erin: When you first set out to write a time slip series, and wrote the first book, did you have in mind it would remain set in the past throughout the series and she might never come back to the present to live?

Anna: Yes. I had this terrible premonition that if I allowed Alex to return, she’d never get back to Matthew. There was this horrible line running in my head: “She died just as twilight tinged the skies with tones of purple dusk. It was the 7th of May and it was exactly twenty years since she’d lost him. Him. Her Matthew, the man she’d last seen as he ran towards her, arms open in a futile attempt to grab her as time sucked her back. Him. Twenty years of arid emptiness, of longing for his voice, his touch. Him.  Alex Lind turned her face to the wall and gave up breath.”

Well, as you can guess, that served as a pretty good motivator in never, ever, allowing Alex to slip back through time.

Erin: Oh my, yes. Why did you choose, as an author, to have her slip into the 17th century? Do you feel that only someone with Alex’s robust personality could really be strong enough to “get on with her new life and love?”

Anna: The 17th century was a given. I am fascinated by this period in time, by the people who were brave enough to traverse the oceans in small wooden ships to start up life in the New World, by men and women so committed to their faith they were willing to die for it. And yes, I do believe most of us, if yanked out of our context, would more or less curl up and die, so it takes a determined – and open-minded – person to sort of pull up her socks and get on with it. I also think it helped that Alex came with some deep personal scars, and in some ways being transported backwards in time gave her an opportunity to reinvent herself.

Erin: Obviously Alex falls in love with Matthew and they start a family, so in the course of the series, they travel many places and take on new things with each novel. Though they seem a simple, down-to-earth couple, they are also very revolutionary. How do you, as the author, feel that they, and their family, grew over the course of the series? What did they learn?

Anna: It was difficult for Matthew to recognize just how dependent he was on Alex – as he had to do when they immigrated to Maryland, with him more or less torn apart with the pain of leaving his beloved Scottish manor.

Over time, both Alex and Matthew have learnt to share their emotional burdens with each other, whether it be the painful secrets of their past, or the devastating loss of their children. Theirs is a relationship built on love, respect and trust, on the certainty that no matter what, they’ll be there for each other – and they pass this on to their children, all of whom have successful marriages with partners they respect as well as love.

Erin: Alex and Matthew both are very strong, passionate, and yet emotional. How did you capture their personalities for the page? How do you think they mirror each other and how do you feel they are similar?

Anna: Well, if you ask Alex, she’ll tell you she is nothing like her obstinate, old-fashioned man, and Matthew will let you know he has little in common with his stubborn, opinionated wife.

I think they are similar in their outlook on life – do the right things, speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves.

Matthew is far more devout than Alex is – and initially, his brand or religion has a whiff of intolerance – he is, after all, a man shaped by the events of the English Civil War. Alex may have her doubts about God being a Presbyterian, but over time she is influenced by Matthew’s deep-seated conviction that God exists, and by the end of the series she has regular little chats with God, mostly to make sure He’s doing His job and keeping her family safe.

Passion is something they definitely have in common – for each other, for life, for their children.

Erin: Of all the secondary characters, children, etc., who was your favorite to write? Who did you enjoy creating the most, who had a mind of their own, and who did you not like very much?

Anna: I’m ambivalent to Daniel and Ruth, both of them with a rather narrow-minded approach to things, where things are either black or white. In my experience, life is mostly a jumble of varied greys…

My favourite… Well, Ian is very close to my heart as is Samuel. Both of them go through the harrowing experience as children of being torn in two between people they love, having to choose one over the other, all the while knowing that the person they don’t choose will be very hurt. Children are very perceptive like that, aren’t they?

Erin: Over the course of the saga, as mentioned, many times and places were encountered. Which was your favorite setting and time period? Why? Was there one that was more of a challenge?

Anna: I am a sucker for American Colonial – the courage it must have taken to ride off into the wilds, stake a claim and then set about taming the wilderness into arable lands. So I am very fond of my version of Colonial Maryland, including Providence, this bustling little town that evolved into Annapolis. The time period is consistently 17th century, so I guess that shows this is my favourite time.

Erin: Yes, I agree. Colonial America is also one of my favorites in general, and about your series.

Beyond that, what lessons and values do you feel you’ve taught within your book as you went along? Alex and Matthew both seem whole-heartedly like fine examples in regards to love, friendship, loyalty, justice.

Anna: I think my books are about love – the enduring kind, the one that has you sitting up all night when your loved one is ill, just to be able to hold his hand, the one that makes you look at your partner after thirty odd years and still see the person you fell in love with. I also firmly believe that most people strive to be good. Yes, for some it doesn’t work out all that well, but deep down, most of us want to do the right thing. Matthew and Alex are such people, and at times their integrity places them at risk – but some things are worth fighting for. Finally, Alex makes a journey into the unknown and becomes an ambassador for tolerance in an era where people were suspicious of anyone different from them. Sadly, I think we still see that type of behavior in our world of today, and I agree with Alex, that ultimately there’s no difference – we are all creature blessed with a short but priceless span of life.

Erin: So, the question everyone is probably asking, will there be more to this series in some shape and form? Will we ever hear from any of these characters again?

Anna: Well, I think I’ve replied to that question further up. So how about you go up and read it while I serve myself another slice of this fantastic pound cake? 🙂


Erin: Yes, when you sat down you did say you might write a novella or two! I can’t wait to hear more about them. I’ll ponder it while I pour you more tea to have with your cake. 🙂

In all of the heartache, turmoil, heartbreak, and yet also joy, in your epic familial saga, do you feel that you’ve wrapped up most of the character arcs in this final book, at least especially with the children? Why or why not?

Anna: Not all of them. Samuel tugs at my heart – a lot. Daniel remains unexplored, and little Adam is growing into a young man of character.

Erin: Samuel is one of my favorites. I’d love to read a book about him. HINT!!!

Have you ever thought of going all the way in the opposite direction and writing a novel or novella that is a prequel? You know, one that tells us about Alex’s upbringing and normal everyday life in modern America before she slips? Something about that intrigues me!

Anna: Oh, I have started a prequel – but it starts much, much earlier than that! “She was born just as a bolt of lightning struck the Giralda, causing the heavy bell to boom out a greeting. That, at least, was what her grandfather said, laughing at the thought of a Catholic bell ringing in the birth of a little Jewish girl.” Welcome to 15th century Seville, and the story of Mercedes.

Erin: Oh, THAT’S exciting, I want to read that already!

I saw an excerpt at the back of To Catch of Falling Star, from a new project you’re working on which is set in 14th century England. I’m excited and want to know more about it! What can you tell us?

Anna: Adam de Guirande is a man who has more than one reason to love his lord, the enigmatic and ambitious Roger Mortimer. In 1321, Adam marries Kit Coucy – except he thinks he’s marrying Katherine de Monmouth, and doesn’t take it all that well when he realises he’s been played the fool. Not that Kit had any choice, but Adam has a hard time believing that.

When the conflict between Baron Mortimer and Edward II explodes into armed conflict, Adam has no choice but to ride with his lord, no matter that treason comes with dishonourable death. With Mortimer in chains, and Adam’s at death’s door, only one person cares enough to come looking – Kit.

This is but a brief introduction to a story that will require at least three novels to tell in full. A story 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.

We first meet Adam as he stands waiting for his bride:

Adam de Guirande approached his impending nuptials with as much enthusiasm as a lamb about to be led to the slaughter. Had it not been for the dowry, further enlarged by the baron’s generous gift, he would have refused the honour, all too aware of the fact that most men viewed his intended wife as used goods. He’d only met Katherine briefly, but rumour had her spending a lot of time alone with the baron – especially during the past winter, when the baron had spent several consecutive weeks at Wigmore – and Adam knew better than most just how carnal a man the baron could be. Not for him the refined love of troubadours and chansons, no, Sir Roger Mortimer preferred his pleasures in the flesh, so to speak.

The first instalment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, is planned for later this year. I rather like the title – what do you think, Erin? 

Erin: I like the title and the book premise. Again, excited! I look forward to it!

I love the subtle humor in your books, within Alex but in many of your other characters as well. I feel like you are like this in real life. I think this makes your books fun to read. Do you always wish to carry an element of humor into your characters or does it just “happen?”

Anna: It mostly happens – I do believe my characters take after their creator. But I think it is important with humour – it serves to save a scene from too much sentimentality.

Erin: What is one of the funniest things that have happened to you while in the course of researching or writing your books? If not when writing, then in general, because I know you have some of those stories!

Anna: Funniest? Hmm. I was in Cumnock – I felt I had to see this center of the universe in Matthew Graham’s Scottish life – and I must admit to being a tad disappointed. It wasn’t quite as picturesque as I had hoped. It did, however, have a hotel smack bang in the middle, and this hotel offered afternoon teas. The place was deserted. It was my BFF, me, and the waiter. At some point he asked what we’re doing there. I told him and he just blinked. “Write about Cumnock? Whatever for?” He gestured at the window. “There must be thousands of Scottish towns prettier than this.” Absolutely. But only Cumnock had Sandy Peden, that endearing fanatical preacher who livened up the nearby area in the 17th century.

Erin: I know you already live overseas, and you travel some, what is your favorite place nearby where you live? What is your favorite place abroad?

Anna: I suppose whether it is overseas or not depends on perspective. From where I’m standing, it is you who is overseas, while I have my feet firmly planted in Swedish soil. My favourite place here in Sweden is our country house. Situated in the middle of nowhere, it sits on a lake, and there are no sounds other than those of the wind in the trees, the birds, the bees… Like balm or my soul. My favourite place abroad has to be London. Or Istanbul. Yes, Istanbul, historical highway between east and west, between old and new.

Erin: Oh, Anna, I know! I meant overseas from myself, silly. I still sat I was born overseas (England), you know, not that I live overseas now. It’s all relative, you’re right. J  I’d love to go to Istanbul too!

If you could time slip yourself, where would it be? Who would you meet? What would you wear? What would you eat? (I’m sounding like Dr. Suess…)

Anna: There are so many events in history I’d like to peek in on, but if I have to choose one moment, I think I’d have liked to be on the Santa Maria when Columbus saw land – well, when the look-out screeched that he saw land. As this was an all-male venture, I’d be appropriately dressed in scratchy hose, breeches, a short – and too warm – doublet over a long linen shirt. Food would have been boring: fortunately, I’d have brought along a lime or two to ward off scurvy.

Erin: Ha! Somehow, I can see you doing that! My dearest Anna, I hope we meet your characters from The Graham Saga again in some shape or form, but if not, I look forward to your creation of new ones. Thank you for sharing the Graham’s story with the rest of us; the books will be forever treasured and I’ll pass them down to my daughters. I am excited for you to keep writing, as I know you have many more stories to tell. You’re still welcome here anytime!

Anna: Sheesh! Now look what you’ve done – pass me the Kleenex, will you? It’s been my pleasure to visit with you, and I hope to have the opportunity to do so many more times over the coming years. After all, I haven’t even begun telling you about Jason and Helle, have I?

Erin: Big teaser!!!

02_To Catch a Falling Star_CoverTo Catch a Falling Star, Synopsis~

Publication Date: March 1, 2015
SilverWood Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

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


To Catch a Falling Star is the eighth book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Some gifts are double-edged swords …

For Matthew Graham, being given the gift of his former Scottish manor is a dream come true. For his wife, Alex, this gift will force her to undertake a perilous sea journey, leaving most of their extensive family in the Colony of Maryland. Alex is torn apart by this, but staying behind while her husband travels to Scotland is no option.
Scotland in 1688 is a divided country, torn between the papist Stuart king and the foreign but Protestant William of Orange. In the Lowlands, popular opinion is with Dutch William, and Matthew’s reluctance to openly support him does not endear him to his former friends and neighbours.

While Matthew struggles to come to terms with the fact that Scotland of 1688 bears little resemblance to his lovingly conserved memories, Alex is forced to confront unresolved issues from her past, including her overly curious brother-in-law, Luke Graham. And then there’s the further complication of the dashing, flamboyant Viscount Dundee, a man who knocks Alex completely off her feet.

All the turmoil that accompanies their return to Scotland pales into insignificance when a letter arrives, detailing the calamities threatening their youngest daughter in Maryland – at the hand of that most obnoxious minister, Richard Campbell. Matthew and Alex have no choice but to hasten back, no matter the heartache this causes.

Will they make it back in time? And what will Richard Campbell do?

Buy To Catch a Falling Star~

Barnes & Noble

Graham Saga Titles

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

About the Author, Anna Belfrage~

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hashtags: #ToCatchaFallingStarBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #GrahamSaga

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @Anna_Belfrage

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Filed under Q and A with Authors

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

01_Shadow on the Highway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Praise for Shadow on the Highway~

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

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

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

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Deborah Swift, Biography~

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

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

For more information, please visit Deborah’s website.

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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Hashtags: #ShadowontheHighwayBlogTour #ShadowontheHighwayBookBlast #HistFic

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SwiftStory


Filed under Book Reviews

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins is a Must Read 17th Century English Mystery

Murder at..This week, Susanna Calkins introduced A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, her 17th Century Murder Mystery. If you are reading only a few historical mysteries this year, I recommend please putting this one on your list! The cover will outright lure you in, but the tale itself will hold you in its grasp until the very last pages.

By the first 100 pages or so, in which she introduced her characters, set the scene, and gave us a murderer to ferret out, Calkins was able to already have me feeling connected to her characters, in tune to their personality quirks, captivated by their emotions, and feeling a friendship with Lucy, her protagonist who is a chambermaid in the house of a magistrate.

I loved Calkins use of creative participants such as the painter, gypsy fortune tellers, and other off-beat cast of characters who portrayed the more “seedy” dealings of society the common places, the dirty streets of London, and even in the homes of high society.  Most primarily I liked her use of the murderer leaving “a note” that was found with the body and the use of a legend of the lover’s park. Calkins brought to me, as a reader, fresh characters that many people don’t always use in their historical writings. Her story is original and her characters real.

I felt like I was reading Downtown Abbey mixed with the adventures of the London streets that comes with gossips, servants, drunks, and well….murder, reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. The mystery takes us on a thought-provoking adventure as we see how lives intersect, even between classes, and discover the mystery.  During this journey, we also can sense Lucy gathering an amazing amount of self-confidence and self-worth.

Lucy is quite the female–not overly aggressive, but yet independent. Emotional, yet rational. Analytical, yet compassionate. Virtuous and endearing. I love her!! I hope that Calkins does a series with Lucy, you know the type of character who is always trying to go around living life and saying she isn’t a detective, BUT murder just seems to fall in her lap and she can’t help solving it? (hint, hint)

I don’t want to give too much away, but the murderer probably won’t be who you thought either. She does a wonderful job of leading up to a fantastic finale! I like how Calkins used a smaller cast of characters in a condensed and not overly done setting, which reminded me of some of Agatha Christie’s earlier mysteries. Her character development is superb and her mystery plot exciting and entertaining. I enjoyed guessing the clues along with Lucy.

I am very pleased with Susanna Calkins debut mystery novel and I look forward to much more writing from her. The mystery had an endearing cast of characters, a quaint setting that allowed for a more proper character led plot, a mystery that kept me guessing, a fantastic use of historical details and life struggles, and some great writing that flowed smooth as a pen on paper.

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate: A Mystery, Synopsis~

Murder at..Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press (April 23, 2013)

When someone she loves faces hanging for the murder of a fellow servant, Lucy Campion—a seventeenth-century English chambermaid—must interpret the clues hidden in miniature portraits, popular ballads, and a corpse’s pointing finger–to save his life, before the true murderer turns on her…


Enter to win one (1) copy of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by commenting below or by email to hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com by 11:59 p.m. EST 2 weeks from this posting.

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Author Susanna Calkins, Biography~

calkinsSusanna Calkins is a historian and academic, currently working at Northwestern University. She’s had a morbid curiosity about murder in seventeenth-century England ever since she was in grad school, when she was first working on her Ph.D. in history. The ephemera from the archives—tantalizing true accounts of the fantastic and the strange—inspired her historical mysteries, including A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (St. Martins Press/Minotaur Books). Born and raised in Philadelphia, she lives outside Chicago now with her husband and two sons.

See the wonderful interview Susanna and I did earlier this week by clicking HERE!!


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House of Rocamora, by Donald Michael Platt, is Filled with Historical Intrigue and Disguise

House of RocamoraI’ve recently reviewed Rocamora (click on the title for the review), by Donald Michael Platt.  Today, I have a review of its sequel, House of Rocamora – a novel that is even more rich with history and intrigue than its predecessor.

Both novels surround the life of Vicente de Rocamora, a brave, bold, passionate, religious (formerly of the Dominican Order) man living in 17th Century Spain during the height of bloodshed in the late times of the Spanish Inquisition. We follow his life as various court intrigue, ambitions, and circumstances lead him into new adventures and quests.

In House of Rocamora, he arrives in Amsterdam and trains for a new job in medicine. He marries a woman much younger than him and creates a family, taking on the persona of a Jewish man. Platt’s detail of Amsterdam and Judaism in that area at that time was an interesting add to the details of Vicente’s life. Though I am not Jewish, it particularly interested me beyond the protagonist’s life, because my ancestors once fled England for Amsterdam somewhat prior to Vicente (late 1600s). I had no idea of the Jewish sect living in this area. I love reading about other religions and cultures and how they all melded together (or didn’t) in various periods.

As stated in the first book, Rocamora, Vicente was a real character from history, mostly forgotten possibly due to historical cover-up of most of the Spanish Inquisition time period when so many Jews were killed. I loved reading how exciting a life Vicente lived. A reader would mostly certainly want to read Rocamora first, which starts following Vicente from his teenage years, and then, continue on with his life story in House of Rocamora, when he is almost 50. 

What an intriguing character Platt has penned in Vicente.  Not only is he well-researched, Platt’s imagination has embellished and elevated him with tremendous force. He’s such a strong and interesting character–a forward-thinker, ambitious, and well-rounded. Platt once again brings the reader an amazing amount of historical detail and this book would be for the reader who likes a large amount of historical detail in their novels (though it does meld better into the storytelling within this sequel).

It’s phenomenal to think how many personas and professions one man could merge into, always making a difference in everything he does. His life is a great story and probably should be a television mini-series. Not only does it have 17th Century Spanish politics, culture, and intrigue, his story also has him taking on a new identity, learning a new religion and language, and reinventing himself at every turn. No wonder he’s called the man of masks, as he wears many.

Platt again delivers a well-written, interesting, and even more entertaining historical tale in his sequel, House of Rocamora. I highly recommend reading Rocamora for its accurate historical detail and interesting story, then encourage you to continue with  House of Rocamora for its entertaining suspense and intriguing tale.


House of RocamoraPublication Date: November 19, 2012
Raven’s Wing Books
Paperback; 346p

A new life and a new name … House of Rocamora, a novel of the 17th century, continues the exceptional life of roguish Vicente de Rocamora, a former Dominican friar, confessor to the Infanta of Spain, and almost Inquisitor General.

After Rocamora arrives in Amsterdam at age forty-two, asserts he is a Jew, and takes the name, “Isaac,” he revels in the freedom to become whatever he chooses for the first time in his life. Rocamora makes new friends, both Christian and Jew, including scholars, men of power and, typically, the disreputable. He also acquires enemies in the Sephardic community who believe he is a spy for the Inquisition or resent him for having been a Dominican.

As Isaac Israel de Rocamora, he studies Medicine at Leyden and, at age forty-six, receives a license to practice. That same year Rocamora weds twenty-five year old Abigail Touro, and together they raise a large family. During his time in Amsterdam, Rocamora has a bizarre encounter with Rembrandt, serves the House of Orange as physician, and advises Spinoza before the philosopher’s excommunication. He survives a murder attempt, learns from the great English physician Harvey, and a surprise visit from a childhood friend leads to an unusual business venture.

Life is never routine or dull for Rocamora. The intrigues start with his arrival in Amsterdam and do not end until he takes his last breath.

Donald Michael Platt, Biography~

Donald Michael PlattBorn and raised inside San Francisco, I graduated from Lowell High School and received my B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley and won a batch of literary cash awards while in graduate school at San Jose State.

When I moved to southern California, I began my professional writing career. I sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted YOUR HAIR AND YOUR DIET for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, and Al Ruddy as well as Paul Stader Sr., dean of Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. Also, options were taken on my unpublished WWII fighter ace novel and several treatments.

After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of my horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, Dark Hart 2007, Briona Glen 2012, I moved to Florida where I wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Currently, I reside in Winter Haven, Florida. My magnum opus historical novel, ROCAMORA, set in 17th century Spain and Amsterdam during their Golden Ages, was released by RAVEN’S WING BOOKS at the end of December 2008. It has been republished by Briona Glen, September 2011. My completed sequel HOUSE OF ROCAMORA was published by Briona Glen November 2012, and I am polishing a completed novel set in the 9th century Carolingian Empire about another unusual historical character, Bodo, the Apostate.


Link to Tour Scheadule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/donaldmichaelplattvirtualtour/
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Like Chaff in the Wind Continues Romantic Historical Time Travel Saga by Anna Belfrage

Like Chaff in the WindFirst of all, isn’t this cover completely gorgeous??

I was hooked on Like Chaff in the Wind by Anna Belfrage from the moment I opened its pages! Usually it takes me some time to warm up to a new book, but this one caught me from the start and had me hooked. It wasn’t due to action-packed suspense scenes though, as most people might generalize with that type of statement. It did move smoothly, and there was action, but more so it was her style of writing that kept me reading. It was quick and emotional, with characters as quick-witted as the movement of her words, and was detailed in just the right measure!

For instance, one of my favorite characters was the housekeeper, Mrs. Gordon, who partners with Alex on her adventure across the sea to find her husband Matthew. She was hilarious, just like a 1600-era Mrs. Doubtfire! Who doesn’t love jovial, tell-it-like-it-is English housekeepers, right? Belfrage had some really well-developed characters. 

Alex, her protagonist of the series, had the determination of the strong women characters I’ve grown to admire. To give up something most dear in order to take to such a perilous journey is commendable.  Sailing across the sea to the New World in the 17th century was not an easy task to endure, but she did it for love. What a romantic undertaking! It made my heart sing.

I was surprised when the element of time shifting appeared at the beginning, but I also got very excited as I love books with this element. I had to go read more on A Rip in the Veil (I hadn’t read the first book in the series) and I was then throughly hooked. I realized as I read on that Belfrage was juxtapositioning between present day characters in Alex’s life and her current saga with Matthew. It led to an air of mystery as the parallel world continued to move alongside the past.

In this book there was just the right amount of turmoil, without dwelling on it; challenges, without weighing the book down. There were struggles, but each time she pulled it back around to focus the characters in their journey in a calm manner that really set the book’s tone and made me want to enjoy more of the book. Times were hard, and as a history lover, I know that. But the book certainly presented it in way that was also enjoyable for me to read.

I love the sweeping romance in this epic travel series so far, with Alex time shifting to meet her soul mate, then traveling across the seas to find him again in Like Chaff in the Wind, all while continually finding her true self along the way too. Belfrage’s cast of characters is delightful!

This is the second novel in her The Graham Saga series, the first novel being A Rip in the Veil.  I didn’t have the chance to read A Rip in the Veil and I am sure there is more great background to the characters I didn’t know. The book started out quickly, probably due to there being a previous book, but I wasn’t missing anything except for another great read!!  It just made me want to go back and read the first novel due to my love of the characters in Like Chaff in the Wind, especially when I find out that Alex actually appeared in 1658 after landing back in time from her real time in 2002. I love time travel back through history!

If you haven’t read A Rip in the Veil, I urge you to also buy and read that book too for the full story. Here is some info on A Rip in the Veil: http://www.annabelfrage.com/My-Books-The-Graham-Saga/A-Rip-in-the-Veil/

I do like this section on Belfrage’s website that explains overall The Graham Saga:  http://www.annabelfrage.com/My-Books-The-Graham-Saga/.  She says there will be several more books in the future, all with GORGEOUS covers I see, that continue the tale of Alex and Matthew. I can’t wait to read them all!

Stop back by tomorrow for a wonderful guest post by Anna Belfrage on Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

 Like Chaff in the Wind Synopsis~

Like Chaff in the WindMatthew Graham committed the mistake of his life when he cut off his brother’s nose. In revenge, Luke Graham has Matthew abducted and transported to the Colony of Virginia, there to be sold as indentured labour – a death sentence more or less.

Matthew arrives in Virginia in May of 1661, and any hope he had of finding someone willing to listen to his tale of unlawful abduction is quickly extinguished. If anything Matthew’s insistence that he is an innocent man leads to him being singled out for the heaviest tasks.

Insufficient food, grueling days and the humid heat combine to wear Matthew down. With a sinking feeling he realises no one has ever survived the seven years of service – not on the plantation Suffolk Rose, not under the tender care of the overseer Dominic Jones.

Fortunately for Matthew, he has a remarkable wife, a God’s gift who has no intention of letting her husband suffer and die, and so Alex Graham sets off on a perilous journey to bring her husband home.

Alex is plagued by nightmares in which her Matthew is reduced to a wheezing wreck by his tormentors. She sits in the prow of the ship and prays for a miracle to carry her swiftly to his side, to let her hold him and heal him before it’s too late. God, however, has other things to do and what should have been a two month crossing becomes a yearlong adventure from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

Will she find him in time? And if she does, will she be capable of paying the price required to buy him free?

Publication Date:  December 17, 2012
Troubador Publishing
Paperback; 392p
ISBN: 1780884702


You can have a chance to win one (1) print copy of Like Chaff in the Wind, which is open internationally!! Please just comment below, on my Facebook link, or send me an email to hookofabook@hotmail.com. No strings attached, I just need your email to contact you!

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Please enter by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 3, 2013!

Anna Belfrage, Biography~

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

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

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

Find more about Belfrage and about the series at:  www.annabelfrage.com.

For more Like Chaff in the Wind reviews, interviews and guest posts, click on the tour schedule here:  http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/likechaffinthewindvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #ChaffInTheWindVirtualTour

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