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An Interview about the Late, but Legendary, Naomi Jacobs: Suffragist, Activist, Broadcaster, Author

Today I have a different type of interview, but I think that’s pretty neat! I feel as if I might be interviewing the ghost of Naomi Jacob (1884-1964), in a way, as on August 27 this year (also my birthday!) was the 50th anniversary of this legendary author’s death. So what this interview will be is a legacy to the life of Naomi, with answers by Ian Skillicorn of Corazon Books, in the hopes that it will enlighten readers to this interesting woman and reignite a passion for her writing. And not only was she a writer, but she was a political activist at a time when women’s voices were rarely heard, an actress, a broadcaster, journalist, and made many appearances on BBC’s Woman’s Hour. Sound like my kind of woman!

Let me start by giving a little background about Naomi, who many times wished to be called Mickie, if as a reader you haven’t heard of the author. I absolutely love reading myself about classic women writers who gave so much to their genres and to literature, but sometimes are lost to our current generations. Luckily, Corazon Books, an imprint of Wyndham Media Ltd., is re-issuing her best-selling and much-loved series, The Gollantz Saga, starting with the digital version of Founder of the House.


Erin Q: I’m assuming the entire series will be released in electronic format. Will that be all at once, or in stages? Will any of her other list be digitized?

Ian Answer: Yes indeed, we are releasing digital editions of all seven titles in the Gollantz Saga, in stages, between now and spring/summer of 2015. The second book in the series, That Wild Lie … will be published before Christmas. As for digital copies of other novels by Naomi Jacob – as a long time admirer of her work that certainly appeals, so you never know!

Erin Narrates: In continuing on about Naomi, I have heard her style described from past professionals as a bit like Barbara Taylor Bradford; however, from what I’ve read her novels dealt with deeper themes of the time like domestic violence, prejudice of the Jews, the problem with pogroms (riots against ethnic groups), as well being based on some of the experiences of her ancestry escaping violence in Western Prussia before the Second World War.

Erin Q: How is her writing style generally described, and which comments are true? Who or what could a new reader relate to in deciding to read her books? What type of reader would enjoy her series?

Ian Answers: I wouldn’t describe her writing style as similar to Barbara Taylor Bradford’s (although she is of course a great writer too) but there are similarities in that both are strong Yorkshire women who write compelling family sagas. While The Founder of the House (and the rest of the Gollantz Saga) does deal with serious historical events and attitudes, for me what marks it out is Naomi Jacob’s sharp eye for human foibles, vanities and desires – the truths we choose not to acknowledge, the reasons we give for excusing our actions, how trying to maintain your integrity and loving the wrong person can get you into trouble! I think the series will appeal to readers who enjoy a story with strong characters, focusing on the ups and downs of family ties and friendships, all within an interesting historical context.

Erin Narrates: Naomi Jacob was a prolific author. She could write fast and so she wrote with ease in the morning, leaving her afternoons free for conversation with friends, something she enjoyed. She became a best-selling author in 1925 and boasts a very long list of novels (I heard 60-80!)

Erin Q: Why are her novels still an important part of literature today? What can readers and other novelists learn from her and her works?

Ian Answer: A good story, told well, with vividly drawn characters, never goes out of fashion. Naomi Jacob wrote about universal themes that are as relevant to readers today as they were at the time of writing.

Erin Narrates: I read that she associated with the Du Maurier’s (for me, another favorite classic women’s author in Daphne Du Maurier!) and with a love of the stage herself at a young age, with various performers and artists such as Marie Lloyd (an actress), Radclyffe Hall (a poet and author best known for her work in lesbian literature), Little Tich (a 4 foot 6 English comedian and dancer), Henry Irving, Sarah Bernhardt, and others. She seemed to enjoy like-minded creative people and honestly, they were all very unique.

Erin Q: What made Naomi so unique in her time? What is she remembered most for or should be remembered for by future generations?

Ian Answers: I think that in many ways she was a woman of great contrasts. She had relationships with other women (although she never publicly discussed her sexuality), yet she was loved by millions of readers for her quite traditional romance novels, as well as the Gollantz Saga. She lived for many years in Italy, yet much of her writing is set in her beloved Yorkshire. She was an English Catholic, yet identified with her European Jewish roots and campaigned passionately against Antisemitism throughout her life. These days, older readers will remember her romantic fiction and, of course, the Gollantz Saga, both of which were hugely popular for decades. Hopefully future generations will recognise her as an interesting woman and a talented author.

Erin Q: I know that Naomi was very involved in the Women’s Suffragette movement and the Labor Party and was an advocate for rights during her lifetime. As I am a supporter of the women’s rights, I’m interested in her work in this regard. Is there any more information or anything more documented about her time with the movement in England?

Ian Answers: She claimed that during the fight for women’s suffrage, she placed an alarm clock in a tin box outside a house where the then Prime Minister, Lloyd George, was staying. Apparently, it was hastily removed in case it was a bomb.

Erin narrates: She was also as I mentioned an actress, broadcaster and journalist, appearing on BBC programming. Here is a YouTube video I found of her in a part in a 1956 radio play.  I found it on a blog written by her great-great nephew. I thought it was so cool!


Erin Q: I understand that she contracted tuberculosis and eventually left England, and had to give up acting as a career, and opened a home in Italy where the weather was better for her lungs. Did this help in extending her writing career? What family or friend stories were recorded from her time in Italy?

Ian Answers: I had a lovely chat with Naomi Jacob’s great-nephew who told me that despite the poor condition of her lungs she continued to smoke heavily until her death at the age of 84, so perhaps the cleaner air of Lake Garda helped extend her writing career and life! Her great-nephew also told me that her house was always full of interesting, creative people, and that Naomi Jacob loved company and conversation.

Mickey, by Bassano, half-plate glass negative, 30 June 1939  / Taken from great-great nephew blog-Thomas Atchenson

Mickey, by Bassano, half-plate glass negative, 30 June 1939 / Taken from great-great nephew blog-Thomas Atchenson

Erin Q: I read during the Second World War that she came back to England to entertain the troops, remembered forever for her crew cut, monocles, and her First World War Women’s Legion uniform. What an interesting character she was! Being of part-Jewish descent, was she active in other ways about the war? Did she write any books after the Second World War?

Ian Answers: Although she had to leave Italy for a time when it was under occupation, she did return and gave assistance to Jewish refugees. This was the subject of a report on CNN a few years ago. She continued writing after the Second World War. In fact, her writing career spanned forty years, from her debut novel in 1925, to a posthumously published one in 1965.

Erin Q: Did she ever say why she wrote or what she liked most about writing? Did she hope to accomplish anything with her writing?

Ian Answers: She wrote a lot about her life and writing. You can learn a lot more by reading her many autobiographies.

Erin Q: If someone asked Naomi then what her favorite things about life were, what might she say?

Ian Answers: I wouldn’t like to answer for her, as sadly I never met her. But based on what I have read, and from speaking to her family, she definitely sounds like someone who enjoyed life, who was bold, and who knew how to get the most out of every situation. Attributes for all of us to aspire to.

Erin Q: Did she win any awards for her writing or have any critical praise?

Ian Answers: She certainly garnered a lot of critical acclaim during her lifetime, and was an extremely well-loved author for many generations of readers. She was awarded a rather controversial prize for her writing in 1935. This was the Eichelberger International Humane Award, for outstanding achievement in the field of humane endeavour. However, she rejected the award when she discovered that a previous recipient had been Adolf Hitler for Mein Kampf! She also wrote a long and passionate letter to a national newspaper explaining why she did not want to receive the award.

Erin: Thank you so much Ian for your time in discussing the life of Naomi Jacob. I am looking forward to learning more about her and reading the entire Gollantz series, as well as some of the rest of her back list of novels.

Ian: It was my pleasure. Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk about Naomi Jacob and her work. I hope you and your website readers will want to discover more about her writing, and that we can keep her literary legacy alive for the next generation of readers.

And now, an EXCERPT from The Founder of the House by Naomi Jacob
(The Gollantz Saga Book One)~

In this excerpt, Fernando Meldola discovers that the young Abraham Gollantz has deceived him both professionally and personally. Meldola is furious to learn that Gollantz has been pillaging Italy’s treasures with Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, and also that his beloved niece, Miriam, is carrying Gollantz’s child

His fine old face changed, his eyes lost their kindly twinkle and met Fernando’s coldly. He drew back a little, as if he wished to increase the distance between them.

‘I know?’ Fernando said. ‘I know? What do you mean, Dominico? Why do you look at me so coldly? How should I know of this?’

‘You provided one of the experts.’

‘I did? Expert in what? Explain yourself.’

Comparetti frowned, then began to speak with some irritation.

‘Did you not know that Monge and Berthollet were taken with the Army to Italy in the position of advisers on matters of art?’

‘No – and I question of how much value either of them will be.’

‘Did you not allow Lannes to take your partner, Gollantz, with him as an unofficial expert?’

‘Gollantz? He went to Italy as a clerk, because he wished to see the country and spoke the language.

Lannes himself told me that was to be his position – a clerk who spoke the language.’

Comparetti gazed earnestly at the face before him, as if he endeavoured to see into the soul of his friend. At last he spoke.

‘Fernando, you have been made a fool of by Lannes and this young man. I know, Monge and Berthollet know, all Paris knows that he has gone to Italy to assist in the work of spoliation. He is a valuer, an assessor, an assistant thief! Legalized theft, perhaps, but theft none the less.’

‘Why should they approach him? An unknown young man. It is fantastic.’ ‘The whole army is that, my friend. Napoleon loves fantasy. He sees himself as king of the world, his marshals, kings under him, his whole court a gorgeous, perpetual carnival. Why did they choose this young man? Because they dare not ask Fernando Meldola, and yet they relied on the tuition which Fernando Meldola had given this fellow. That is why.’

Fernando pushed away his empty coffee-cup, and sighed.

‘Dominico, I ask you to believe that I knew nothing of this. Believe that, please, and believe too that Gollantz shall return to Paris immediately. I pledge my word.’

‘Which has always been the best guarantee in the world to the man who knows you, Fernando. Shalom!’
Fernando walked back to his house, his head bent, his hands clasped behind him. Dominico had said: ‘Shalom!’ Peace! He felt that peace had left his house for ever, that it must have taken flight when Abraham Gollantz entered it.

That night he wrote again to Lannes, stating that Gollantz must return immediately, and offering, quite frankly, a large sum of money, which should be paid into the Marshal’s private banking account on the same day that Gollantz arrived in Paris. The sum was considerable, and Meldola was too good a man of business not to resent losing such an amount.

‘It is fantastic!’ he said softly. ‘Dominico was right – the whole affair is fantastic. To think that this man’s child may one day be my heir!’

Gollantz returned to Paris in August, when the dusty streets and hot days, heavy suns and suffocating nights had begun to rob Miriam of some of her beauty. Meldola watched her pale face and her general air of lassitude with anxiety. He knew that she suffered intensely, and that her days were filled with a nervous dread that Gollantz might refuse to return. She knew nothing of the money which her uncle was prepared to pay for that return.

He arrived, tired and dusty, bringing with him several large boxes, and far more bags than had comprised his original luggage. His manner was untinged by nervousness; he held his head high, and greeted Meldola with respectful affection.

‘You look well in spite of the heat,’ Gollantz cried. ‘It is hot in Paris, but in Italy it was like living in an inferno. How is your niece? I have brought her some little trinkets from her own country. They will please her, I hope.’

Meldola looked at the slim young figure, noted the well-shaped head set so admirably on the broad shoulders. For the first time he realized that he hated Abraham Gollantz, and that he could have seen him lying dead at his feet without a pang of regret.

‘Sit down,’ he ordered. ‘Before you see my niece there are many things which I have to say to you. First, you are a seducer, a liar, a cheat, and a common adventurer. You hear that? Good! Please remember that always in my mind those epithets are used silently when I mention your name. Secondly, you will prepare immediately to marry my niece whom you have wronged so cruelly. Tomorrow we shall make arrangements. You understand?’

The young man’s face reddened under its tan. ‘I had no idea – I did not know. Miriam never wrote to tell me of this. I can understand that you feel angry with me, despise me. I despise myself for having brought a moment’s anxiety on either her or you. I am speaking honestly now, sincerely.’

‘Pah! You have never been sincere in your life! You will tell me next that you love Miriam!’

‘But I do. I love her devotedly. You tell me that I must marry her. There is nothing which will make me happier. I was wrong, foolish, to make it possible for her to – to suffer. I admit it. I was tempted, I yielded to temptation. She’s young, beautiful; I am young, and young blood is hot. Can’t you understand?’
Meldola’s fine lips curved into a sneer. ‘My business has taught me to differentiate between fine shades of colour. I admit no shades of behaviour. Right is right, decency is decency – and lying is always lying.’
‘Then there is no good purpose in my trying to defend myself.’

‘None! You cannot defend yourself in this matter or the question of going to Italy – as a clerk. You – you gonoph! Thief in the pay of other thieves. Robbing churches, palaces, defacing history! I know, Abraham Gollantz, you realized that to admit your reason for going with Lannes would be sufficient for me to disown you. So you lied, you poor, pitiful fool – and I found you out! What have you brought home as a result of your private robberies? How much has your master allowed you to purloin from a nation which extended hospitality and tolerance to your own race? Those boxes will be opened tomorrow, and everything – mark that, everything – will be returned in due time to the place where it belongs. Not yet – or it might again fall into the hands of the Corsican and his hordes, but later, when it is safe to return it. Now, go and tell Miriam that you are home. Tell her that you love her, and will try to make her a good husband.’

Young Gollantz stood for a moment, uncertain. He was ashamed, not only of what he had done, but because he had allowed his plans to miscarry. His quick brain already tried to think of some way in which he might save the treasures of gold, silver, and ivory which he had brought back with him.
He believed that abasement was the best method of obtaining forgiveness.

‘Very well,’ he said gravely; then stretching out his hands with a gesture which was admirably impulsive, he cried: ‘Oh, forgive me! I’ve been foolish, stupid, nothing more. Criminally stupid, I admit it. I will make amends. Will you try to forget the past and let me begin again?’

The Founder of the House, Synopsis

02_The-Founder-of-the-House-CoverPublication Date: August 23, 2014 (re-issue to digital)
Corazon Books
eBook; 320p

Genre: Historical Fiction

Set in nineteenth century Paris, Vienna and London, this is a novel about family ties and rivalries, love and ambition.

The Founder of the House introduces us to Emmanuel Gollantz, the son of a Jewish antique dealer, Hermann Gollantz.

Hermann lives his life according to the principles of loyalty, honesty and honour instilled in him as a child. But these ideals are ruthlessly exploited by his wife’s family, threatening everything that is important to him. Protecting his beloved wife, Rachel, from the truth carries a great cost.

As a young man, Emmanuel, becomes involved with the inner circle of the Viennese Court, where his passion for the married baroness, Caroline Lukoes, has far-reaching consequences both for himself and the House of Gollantz.

The Founder of the House is the first book in the bestselling Gollantz Saga – an historical family saga tracing the lives and loves of the Gollantz family over several generations. This seven-novel series explores how one family’s destiny is shaped by the politics and attitudes of the time, as well as by the choices and actions of its own members.

The Gollantz Saga Titles

Book One: Founder of the House
Book Two: That Wild Lie
Book Three: Young Emmanuel
Book Four: Four Generations
Book Five: Private Gollantz
Book Six: Gollantz: London, Paris, Milan
Book Seven: Gollantz & Partners

Praise for The Gollantz Saga

“Recommended. Ms Jacob writes skilfully and with that fine professional assurance we have come to expect of her.” The Times

“Impressive.” London Evening Standard

“A good family chronicle.” Kirkus Reviews

“Besides the interest of the plot, Miss Jacob’s book has much to recommend it. The style of the novel is unimpeachable, marked by sincerity, dignity and a sense of the dramatic. I can safely recommend “The Founder of the House.” Western Mail (Perth)

Buy the eBook~

Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Late Author Naomi Jacob, Biography~

03_Naomi-Jacob-Author-242x300Naomi Jacob (1884-1964) was a prolific author, biographer and broadcaster. She is perhaps best known for her bestselling seven-novel series, The Gollantz Saga, which traces several generations of the Gollantz family in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Jacob had a mixed heritage, which influenced her life and work. Her paternal grandfather was a Jewish tailor who had escaped the pogroms of Western Prussia and settled in England, while her mother’s family had strong Yorkshire roots. Her maternal grandfather was the two-time mayor of Ripon in Yorkshire. He also owned a hotel in the town. Her father was headmaster of the local school.

Jacob loved the theatre and became a character actress on stage and in film, notably opposite John Geilgud in The Ringer (1936). She also associated with the Du Mauriers, Henry Irving, Marie Lloyd and Sarah Bernhardt.

She published her first novel, “Jacob Usher” in 1925. It became a bestseller.

In 1928 she appeared for the defence of Radclyffe Hall’s “The Well of Loneliness”, and developed a friendship with Hall and her companion Una Troubridge.

After suffering with tuberculosis, in 1930 she left England for Italy, where she lived for most of the rest of her life. She lived in a villa in Sirmione on Lake Garda, which she called “Casa Mickie” (she was known to friends and family as “Mickie”).

In 1935 she was awarded the Eichelberger International Humane Award, for outstanding achievement in the field of humane endeavour, for her novel “Honour Come Back”. She rejected the award when she discovered that another recipient of the award had been Adolf Hitler, for “Mein Kampf”.

Jacob was involved in politics – she stood as a Labour PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) and was a suffragette.

In 1940, she was evacuated back to England when Italy entered the Second World War. She joined the Entertainments National Service Association, becoming famous for her flamboyant appearance— crew cut hair, and wearing a monocle and First World War Women’s Legion uniform.

She returned to Sirmione before the end of the war, helping Jewish refugees in the town. Over the years, she frequently returned to the UK, and in the 1950s and early 1960s was regularly to be heard on the BBC radio programme “Woman’s Hour”.

She wrote the seven-novel Gollantz saga about several generations of a Jewish family, tracing their path from Vienna in the early nineteenth century to establishing a life and antique business in England in the twentieth century. It is a saga about family loyalty, honour and love, while also reflecting on the politics and ideals of the era.

See the full tour here:


naomi. jpg


Filed under Feature Articles, Q and A with Authors

Celebrating Women Series: Eva Stachniak on Catherine the Great as a Grandmother

Welcome to the seventh article in the “Celebrating Women” for Women’s History Month! It’s the first time I’ve coordinated an author guest article series to celebrate women in history or women making history! Thank you to Eva Stachniak for offering the seventh article in this series. If you’d like to continue on with the tour, which runs March 19-31, 2014, follow along each day on the main blog or head to this blog page, Women in History, which will be updated daily with the scheduled link.


Catherine the Great:  Doting Grandmother in Her Later Years
by Eva Stachniak, Internationally Best Selling Historical Author

Old-Catherine-the-Great-PortraitCatherine the Great was not a happy mother. Her children were taken away from her as soon as they were born and she was not allowed to spend much time with them or to make any decisions about their upbringing. Her first-born, Paul, eight when Catherine became empress, and by then spoilt by his aunt, Elizabeth Petrovna, was always estranged from his mother. Catherine’s daughter, Anna, died in infancy, and her love child with Orlov, Alexei Bobrinsky, whom Catherine brought to the palace after the 19762 coup, did not live up to his mother’s expectations.

It was with her grandchildren that Catherine discovered the joys of parenthood. Her first grandson, Alexander, was always her most beloved, although she spent as much effort in bringing up his brother, Constantine. Accounts from the Russian court paint touching pictures: the Empress of Russia getting herself down on the floor to play with her grandsons, the empress designing her grandson’s play clothes, and—the most important—supervising their education.

How did she want her grandchildren educated? Children—Catherine believed—should be brought up according to the principles of reason. They should be able to ask questions freely and not to be ridiculed or punished when they made mistakes. Their natural curiosity should be fostered daily, their playtime should be both useful and fun. The education of princes could not neglect Russia’s political plans, either. Alexander had to be taught politics and economics. He had to be trained how to be a leader and an orator, a man able to talk with peoples from all walks of life.  Constantine, meant to rule the future Russian Eastern Empire from Constantinople, had to speak Greek, and thus had a Greek nanny.

Did it work? Not quite. Constantine did learn Greek but his own volatile nature made him unsuitable for leading Russia when an opportunity presented itself. With Alexandre, so carefully groomed to take over the throne of Russia, this liberal and progressive education also had an unforeseen effect. To Catherine’s bemusement, in 1795, the year when she was hoping Alexander would agree to be named her successor instead of his father, her beloved grandson replied that he wished to denounce his rights to the Russian throne altogether. He wished to withdraw to the country and cultivate his garden. Catherine, to her credit, listened to these youthful dreams with patience. She was convinced that her arguments and the reality of Alexander’s obligations will win over youthful idealism.

She was right, though not in the way she had planned it.

Author Eva Stachniak, Biography (in her words)~

EStachniakLQI was born and raised in Wrocław, Poland. English is my second language although, thanks to my wonderful and far-sighted mother, I began learning it in early childhood.

In Poland I was an academic, teaching in the English Department of the University of Wrocław. In the summer of 1981, on the eve of Solidarity crisis I received a scholarship to McGill University where I began working on my PhD dissertation, Positive Philosophy of Exile in Stefan Themerson’s Fiction (defended in 1988.)

In 1984-86 I worked for Radio Canada International, the Polish Section, in Montreal, writing and producing radio programs about Canada. In 1988 I joined the faculty of Sheridan College(Oakville, Ontario) where I taught English and humanities courses until 2007.

It is in Canada that I became a writer. My first short story, “Marble Heroes,” was published by the Antigonish Review in 1994, and my debut novel, Necessary Lies , won the Amazon.com/Books in CanadaFirst Novel Award in 2000.

The Winter Palace, based on the early life of Catherine the Great, has been a bestseller in Canada, Poland and Germany and was included in The Washington Post’s 2011 list of most notable fiction and Oprah Magazine’s “10 Titles to Pick Up Now” in 2102.

I live in Toronto. My second historical novel about Catherine the Great, Empress of the Night, will be published in March 25, 2014 in the United States.

To learn more about Eva,  her books, contact her for your book club meeting (she does Skype!!), then go to:  www.EvaStachniak.com.

Empress of the Night, Synopsis~

HR-Empress-CA-coverThe Winter Palace brilliantly reimagined the rise of Catherine the Great through the watchful eyes of her clever servant, Varvara. Now, in Eva Stachniak’s enthralling new novel, Empress of the Night, Catherine takes center stage as she relives her astonishing ascension to the throne, her rule over an empire, and the sacrifices that made her the most feared and commanding woman of her time.

“We quarrel about power, not about love,” Catherine would write to the great love of her life, Grigory Potemkin, but her days were balanced on the razor’s edge of choosing her head over her heart. Power, she will learn, is about resolve, strategy, and direction; love must sometimes be secondary as she marshals all her strengths to steer her volatile country into a new century and beyond—to grow the Romanov Empire, to amass a vast fortune, and to control a scheming court in order to become one of history’s greatest rulers.

Gorgeously written with vivid detail and lyrical prose, Empress of the Night is an intensely intimate novel of a woman in charge of her fortunes, who must navigate the sorrows, triumphs, and hopes of both her soul and a nation.

Praise for Empress of the Night~

…ambitious…structurally complex and psychologically intense Empress of the Night aims for Hilary Mantel. Stachniak’s writing is distinct, however, especially in vivid description of sensory details: perfume, sweat and the click of heels on polished floorboards.

Quill & Quire (Canada)

Empress of the Night … casts light on Catherine’s life with unflinching honesty and intimacy. This fun novel of lovers, intrigue and malicious and manipulative nobility keeps readers enthralled with every page…

Virtuoso Life Magazine (US)

Stachniak’s absorbing novel opens readers’ hearts to an extraordinary and misunderstood woman …wonderfully written, Stachniak’s story vibrates with passion, drama, and intrigue. This is a feast for fans.

Romantic Times Magazine (US)

…historical fiction fans will appreciate this personal account of a formidable and, indeed, infamous ruler.

Library Journal (US)

Empress of the Night will be published by Doubleday in Canada and Bantam in the U.S. on March 25th 2015. In the UK, Australia, and New Zealand Empress of the Night will be available as an e-book, published by Traverse Press.

And if you are interested in the first book……

The Winter Palace, Synopsis~

US_winterpalaceBehind every great ruler lies a betrayal. Eva Stachniak’s novel sweeps readers into the passionate, intimate, and treacherous world of Catherine the Great, revealing Russia’s greatest monarch from her earliest days in court, where the most valuable currency was the secrets of nobility and the most dangerous weapon to wield was ambition.

Two young women, caught in the landscape of shifting allegiances, navigate the treacherous waters of palace intrigue. Barbara, the narrator, is a servant who will become one of Russia’s most cunning royal spies. Sophie is a naive German duchess who will become Catherine the Great. For readers of superb historical fiction, Eva Stachniak captures in glorious detail the opulence of royalty and the perilous loyalties of the Russian court.

The Winter Palace came out Fall of 2012 (Bantam US) and is available everywhere.

To read previous articles in this series and to follow-along, click here:



Filed under Feature Articles, Guest Posts, Uncategorized

Gracianna by Trini Amador is the Story of a Woman’s Strength During Nazi-Occupied France


Gracianna is the true story of author Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, named Gracianna, a woman of the WWII-era who was adventurous, courageous, and had, in what I sensed, a beautiful spirit. As well, this was the story of his great-grandfather Juan and her sister, Constance.  I certainly feel after reading this book that Gracianna spoke through the pages of this novel in a way that I imagine she must have mostly walked through life, gracing people with her presence–a hard-working, forward-thinking woman from the mountains with a zest for life and learning that was contagious.  Through family stories and research, Amador captured her and brought her three-dimensionally to my home in a way that inspired me and has left a permanent imprint on my heart.

Not only did I cry many times through reading this novel, I also smiled at her innocence and her small joys, at her independence, her perfectionism, and then as the story continued, her growth and bravery which catapulted into her having to take on doing things that most would have never thought possible. Her innocence lost, her dreams halted due to horrible circumstances, I could feel her emotions, her quiet or silent thoughts, as she went through many painful experiences that history should not forget.

Gracianna Arrayet was born in the Pyremees, which are the mountains that serve as a tangible border between France and Spain.  She lived in a village with her grandmother (after seeing her mother dead from childbirth when she was 8) and her younger sister Constance. She was Basque. Most of the country men around her were either isolated shepherds or sea-faring marine workers, both jobs which left them unmarried, but sometimes wanting the affections of women, so many women lived with children produced by them. Life was hard, even if the scenery was beautiful and supplied healthy weather.  They grew up to be independent, strong, and hard-working as they had to care for themselves.

I admired Gracianna as she was always learning about the world and thinking of new places that she’d like to visit. She made up her mind in 1940, when she was 18, that she wanted to go to the American Riviera (in California) she had heard about so she moved to Paris to work to save money to afford her trip. She took a job in a cafe waiting tables and scrubbing floors, with a smile in her heart and a dream on her soul.

My favorite parts at the beginning were her letters home and her thoughts about the world around her. I wish more people felt as these messages in the book. I felt I related so much to Gracianna and I was moved by Amador’s beautiful, eloquent sentences and thoughts written for her.  The belief of treating others with kindness resonated with me.  “Even though we did not learn much about other kinds of people, I am glad how we learned to be tolerant of others no matter their difference.” —Gracianna, page 46.

The novel juxtaposes with the story of Amador’s great-grandfather Juan as well. In his side of the story, growing up in the area with Gracianna, he always held a fondness for her in his heart. As a lonely shepherd at such a young age, he often thought of her once she had left so he took up himself one day and moved to Paris to be with her. He surprised her and though she was happy to see him, Gracianna wasn’t one to depend on a man so she enjoyed his friendship (usually more than she let on) and he waited patiently for her to return his longing affections.

As the war heated up, the Nazi regime overtook France and set-up headquarters in a hotel near the cafe where Gracianna worked.  She was from the French countryside and if anything, Catholic, but just a wrong look or action from anyone could get people into trouble.  Soon Constance, Gracianna’s whirlwind of a sister, also came to them and married a local rich man.  After Gracianna endured a horrible experience with an SS officer, and another situation which put Constance on a train to the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau camp (where one million people were ultimately abused, tortured, murdered or died), Gracianna becomes embroiled in the work of the French resistance. It’s an amazing story that you’ll not want to miss reading.

I don’t want to give more away with details, but the strength and resolve of Gracianna left me gasping in disbelief. I began wondering if I could act the same if lives depended on it? Even if I wanted to, could I do it? I enjoyed reading about her courageous actions, as well as Juan’s turmoil for her. In the midst of it all, they were married quickly, but really not able to even celebrate their nuptials. Someone told Juan that in relationships one must be the lover and one must be the fighter. I could see that worked for them and I admired him for always being there for her, yet giving her distance as well. What a wonderful patient and loyal individual he must have been.  Though he loved her unconditionally, she rarely returned it, but instead withdrawing into herself.  She seemed to be in constant perfectionism mode and unable to show love as she believed she didn’t deserve love herself.  Yet, she did love and she was grateful for Juan.  The ending of the book, in fact, portrayed this so well.

It must have been a very scary time of upheaval not only for them, but for the many common residents who never knew if they might live from day-to-day or see a family member shot point-blank. An occupation as what I read about in Gracianna gave me chills all over again and reminded me of all the horrible movies and information I watched and read for Holocaust classes during the pursuit of my history degree. But there is so much more out there that people don’t remember or think about. The chapters that switched and focused on Constance’s time in the concentration camp, where she was “lucky” enough to become a cook, were harrowing. I could imagine their distress and confusion and fear, and yet also their will for survival.

I am so grateful that Amador decided to put his family story into words so that his family will never be forgotten.  Not only is it a lasting legacy for his family, an ode to the grace and gratefulness that his great-grandmother Gracianna exuded, but it’s a moving historical story that allows readers a glimpse into the average streets and citizens who endured occupied-France and who died or survived the concentration camps.  It’s a toast to those who survived the unspeakable and also to immigrants who dreamed a dream of America and then made it happen.

Once I opened it, I stayed up all night reading it as I couldn’t bear to put it down.  This book will go onto my favorites shelf and I’ll treasure it. It reminded me of so much and the voice I heard through this novel will stay with me long-lasting, as well as her words and thoughts on life and the treatment of others that were brought to the page.

Thank you, Trini, for sharing your family with us.

GRACIANNA, Synopsis~

GraciannaPublication Date: July 23, 2013
Greenleaf Book Group Press
Hardcover; 296p
ISBN-10: 1608325709

The gripping story of Gracianna–a French-Basque girl forced to make impossible decisions after being recruited into the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.

As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won’t soon forget.

Praise for Gracianna

“Gracianna is a riveting and remarkable narrative. The characters come alive through their unassuming but compelling stories, as Nazi-occupied Paris unfolds before our eyes. We come to care deeply about the characters, which makes putting down the book almost impossible. Highly recommended.” – Stacey Katz Bourns, Director of Language Programs, Dept. of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University

“While wine is obviously a significant part of life’s enjoyment, the story behind the wine can be even more gratifying. You will be fixated on this thrilling story written by Trini Amador which was inspired by Gracianna, his great-grandmother, the French Basque namesake of his family’s award-winning winery in Sonoma County.” – Bob Cabral, Director of Winemaking & General Manager, Williams Selyem Winery

Author Trini Amador, Biography~

Trini Amador AuthorTrini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing “insighter.” He is a sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values, motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15 years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..

Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg, California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on through them. The Gracianna Winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine.

Learn more at: www.gracianna.com, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.  Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/graciannavirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #GraciannaTour

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C.W. Gortner Discusses Tudor Era Writing, Intrigue, and Strong Women of History!

Today we have an interview with the fabulous C.W. Gortner, the author of the The Tudor Conspiracy (the second book in his Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles), which went on sale yesterday!  You can see my review by clicking HERE.  Among other novels, he’s also the author of The Queen’s Vow, which just went on sale this season in paperback.

We featured Christopher on the site last year with an interview during the first launch of The Queen’s Vow. We’ve taken that interview and UPDATED it for his book tour!  Now, we get more in-depth on the Tudors and on his Spymaster series (less for now on Isabella-though that interview is still available on this site and we do still talk about his writing of strong women in history).  Enjoy the discussion!

The Tudor Conspiracy US

Christopher, THANK YOU so much for joining me on my blog, Oh for the Hook of a Book! I absolutely love your writing and you make historical fiction a joy to read. I am so excited to virtually chat with you about your life as an author, your writing, and your books.

Hi Erin, it’s lovely to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me and for your kind words. I’m honored. 🙂

You’re certainly welcome anytime.  Let’s get started then! We’ll brew some tea and have a seat in these comfy chairs….

Q: You’re a historical fiction author, so you must love history. I’ve always loved history myself and really delved into foreign history in college, ultimately then majoring in it out of pure love!  That’s my story, but when did you first become fascinated with it and how have you fueled that passion over the years?

A: I’m half-Spanish by birth and was raised near the city of Malaga, which is the site of one of Isabella’s more terrifying experiences in The Queen’s Vow.  There was also a ruined castle (now fully restored) close to where I lived, so I basically grew up with history all around me. It wasn’t just in school and in books; I could see its palpable remnants. I was always intrigued by the personalities, too, especially the fascinating women with such controversial reputations. My fascination never abated; throughout my formative years, I read everything I could and became interested in what lies underneath the veneer of what we call ‘fact’; the stories hidden within stories, so to speak. That fueled my desire to both uncover and write these secret stories.

Q:  You often write about fabulously strong women from the past such as Catherine de Medici, Juana of Castile, and Elizabeth I. What spurs this interest? What inspires you?

A: I have found that historical women, in particular those I’m attracted to as a novelist, have not had much of a say in how their history was depicted. As I studied history, I began to see a repetitive pattern  of stereotyping: Elizabeth I is the virgin; Catherine de Medici  the crone; Isabella of Castile the fanatic; and Juana, her daughter, subject of my first novel, the victim; and so on. It was easier— certainly, simpler— to relegate these complex women to clichés. However, the truth is much more interesting. All of these women were fallible, extraordinary, flesh-and-blood human beings. Their motivations aren’t so simply defined; the challenge for me, the inspiration that spurs my writing, is the desire to get underneath their skins and try to discover the actual person they may have been.

Q:  How do you decide which women move you enough emotionally in order to write about them? How do you begin your research for your books?

A: She must have a controversial element in her life that captures my attention. I’m not really that interested in straightforward characters: I’m attracted to complexity, contradictions. Inevitably, these women’s lives aren’t easy, in some instances, but they do defy the norm. Research can begin years before, often in preparation for another book. For example, it was while writing The Last Queen, my first novel, about Juana of Castile, that I became engrossed in her mother, Isabella. I portray Isabella’s last twelve years in that novel, so I focused my research on that particular portion of her life; however, I also researched her earlier years, to get a better sense of who she had been and how she developed as a woman and queen. For me, research is ongoing; I gather bits and pieces, tucking away what I don’t need at that moment for possible future use.


Q:  Do you have to travel frequently to do your research? If so, what is the best experience you’ve had?

A: Yes, I always travel to the countries and extant places where my characters lived; it’s important to me to get a feel for the landscape and experience it, even if a lot has changed. There really is no substitute for “being there.” One of the best experiences I had was dancing a galliard in the great hall at Hampton Court; I was touring the palace, and was unexpectedly invited to dance with a group who was re-enacting Tudor dances. I took a quick 5-minute lesson and was then led into the dance by a lovely lady with long dark hair, clad in a dark green dress. I have to say, it was amazing to realize I was dancing in the very place where Anne Boleyn must have danced with Henry VIII!

Q:  Where would you like to go that you haven’t been to yet? Where do you want to go back to?

A: I’d love to visit Russia. I have a fascination with Russian history. And I’m always happy to return to Rome; it’s one of my favorite cities in the world.

Q:  Will you ever write a book following Russian history you think? Catherine the Great was a powerful woman. Have you had other ideas in this vein?

A: I do have some ideas, but I cannot say more right now.

Q:  What intrigues you the most about Elizabeth I? Then, what intrigues you most about Mary I? In your research to pen The Spymaster Chronicles, did anything stand out and surprise you?

A: I’m fascinated by Elizabeth for many of the same reasons that I’m fascinated by Isabella of Castile, whom I depicted in The Queen’s Vow. Though very different in temperament and outlook, each had a difficult youth and challenging rise to power, as no one expected them to rule. Both inherited divided, impoverished kingdoms that they dedicated themselves to strengthening and both made sacrifices for what they believed was the welfare of their subjects. Both also ruled as independent monarchs, though Elizabeth never married and Isabella did, and each gave her name to her reign: Elizabeth’s time is known as the Elizabethan period and Isabella’s as the Epoca Isabellina.  These women defined their very eras by their presence, queens who made a lasting impression and transformed their countries.

I’m intrigued by Mary because she is, in truth, a tragic figure who fell prey to her circumstances. Mary Tudor went from being the adored daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife to witnessing the horror of her parents’ separation. Like so many children caught up in acrimonious divorce, she was used as a pawn and marked by it forever. Mary never transcended the trauma she suffered during that time and when she came to power (an event I depict in the first Spymaster novel, The Tudor Secret) she went from being a stalwart, courageous woman to one driven by fear and near-paranoiac hatred. Mary was not born a monster but in time she became one, as she felt compelled to mend the wounds inflicted on England by her father’s break with Rome. It is sadly ironic that she had far more of Henry VIII in her than she cared to admit and that in the end, it destroyed her.

I’m always surprised in my research by how much is known about the Tudor era. I had thought I’d find little, for example, about the brothels of Southwark but instead I discovered a wealth of information that helped me re-create the brothel that Brendan must infiltrate. I’m also often surprised by how little we know about Elizabeth’s motivations during her sister’s reign, which of course only adds to her mystique.

Q:  What types of traits do you feel that women from the Renaissance period had that allowed them to overcome the issues of the day?  Do women today have the same strengths? Why or why not?

A: I think that all of us, men and women, have the same inner strengths that our antecedents had, only those of us who have the luxury of living in developed countries and cities tend to get indolent; we forget just how fortunate we are in terms of our access to medicine, domestic comforts, food, etc.  Women of the Renaissance faced death every day on a very real level:  there were no antibiotics and a crude understanding of how disease afflicted the human body:  infections, viruses, even childbirth could kill. Women had to be strong and vital to overcome the obstacles of daily life; it was a question of survival, even if you lived in a palace. The wealthiest were as vulnerable as anyone else to catastrophe. It’s the same today, to a certain extent: all it takes is one natural disaster for us to realize just how vulnerable we are. The main difference is, people of the Renaissance knew it all the time. They incorporated mortality into the fabric of their existence, whereas we, as a whole, tend to avoid it.

Q:  The first book I ever read by you was The Tudor Secret and I loved it. Now, I was thrilled to continue the journey with The Tudor Conspiracy.  Taking place in the time right prior to Queen Elizabeth I’s rise to the throne, it was the tale of a male servant’s role as a spy at court. What made you decide to write a mystery/suspense historical series and what are the future plans for this series?

Tudor Secret

A: I decided to write The Tudor Secret, really, because no one wanted my stand-alone historical novels! It was written years ago, after both The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici had been rejected by more than 20 publishers. My agent at the time suggested I might have better luck breaking into the market if I wrote a mystery. Of course, I decided instead to do a thriller /adventure about a Tudor spy with a secret of his own, and it didn’t sell, either. So, I self-published it under its original title, “The Secret Lion” and it eventually attracted the attention of my current agent. After she sold my first two books to Random House, an editor at St Martin’s Press, who’d loved my work for years but been unable to acquire it, bought the spy thriller and re-titled it The Tudor Secret. He also wanted two more in the series, which we called the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. So, it goes to show, you never know when that door will open.

I love writing the Spymaster books because I get the chance to play with fictional characters, interacting with historical ones. I also like that my lead character, Brendan, is a man of shadows, caught between two opposing world. I hope the series continues to grow and find its readers. THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY takes place a few months after the events in The Tudor Secret. During the harsh winter of 1554, Brendan must return to court, where Mary Tudor is now queen, and go undercover to help save Elizabeth from a treasonous plot in which the princess may be a willing participant. It’s a darker novel than the first one; Brendan has matured and must contend with the consequences of his decision to be a spy.

Q:  What feelings did you hope to evoke from your readers with this Spymaster series?

A: These novels are intended to be fast-paced, adventurous, and suspenseful. I hope readers are excited by the ride, so to speak; that they enjoy discovering an alternate world to what we usually find in books set in the Tudor era.

Q:  How did you form the character of Brendan in your novel? What is your secret for well-developed characters? Did any of them “speak” to you in a way to get noticed when you least expected it?

A: I read a lot of historical mystery series before I began to work on the Spymaster novels and decided I wanted to do something different. I wanted to create a fictional character who becomes a reluctant spy in Elizabeth’s secret service, which was one of history’s first sophisticated spy networks. The idea gave me so much to work with, the opportunity to blend fiction with history, real characters with imaginary ones, and to explore the crevices of history, those empty spaces between major events when so much could have happened that we don’t know about and affected how those major events came to pass.

For me, a well-developed character is one we can relate to, no matter how different we are. Brendan is an ordinary person who yearns for an ordinary life; he must work to survive and hasn’t been given much privilege. Yet he carries a secret that could be his undoing and separates him from everyone he loves. We all know what it’s like to hide something that makes us vulnerable, to find ourselves trapped in situations beyond our control. Brendan is an everyman who must become more than he wants to be.

All of my characters must speak to me in unexpected ways in order to become real on the page. I never feel as if I’ve truly found a character’s voice until he or she does something I did not anticipate. When that happens, I know the character has come to life and claimed their personality. There were several instances while writing THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY when something happened that was driven by the character’s decision to act or not act in a certain way; that is one of the mysteries and joys of being a novelist. It feels as though you are simply writing a story that your characters are living inside your head.

Q:  How do you train your mind to creatively write in a voice from the time period you are working in? How do you make it sound so authentic and not forced?

A: It’s truly a matter of silencing my ego and perceptions of the world, of disappearing into the time period and people I’m evoking. I undertake massive research when I first prepare to write a novel; I read all the extant documentation of the era I can find, as well as biographies, social histories, specialized books on fashion, furniture, weaponry, etc. I have to become fluent in the language of the era for it to become natural to me, yet not grow so rigid in my authenticity that I lose the ability to make the past understandable to modern-day readers. It’s a delicate balance, finding that common thread between us and them. The process is almost impossible to describe. A historical novelist is part-scholar, actor, sleuth and investigator. After all the facts are learned and research is done, we must employ our imagination to breathe life into the past without making it seem stilted or overdone.

Q:  People seem to love mystery and intrigue, so I am not surprised why this type of novel might work, especially during a time period that seemed to be drenched in espionage. How do you break past the barrier of it being a Tudor-era novel to sell it as a spy thriller anyone can enjoy?

A: Well, I can’t completely break past that barrier because it is, after all, a Tudor-era story. But readers who know little or nothing about history can enjoy these books without feeling swamped by facts, while readers who know a lot will find something unique about how I interpret characters and events. Above all else, I try to sell these books as stories that everyone can enjoy, full of twists and thrills.

Q:  What other historical time periods or people intrigue you? Why?

A: I’ve mentioned Russia. I’m also intrigued by ancient Egypt, and the early medieval era in Europe. I like Edwardian and Victorian England, too.

Q: How do you keep your writing voice flowing so well? You seem to write non-stop and are very successful at turning out books each year. What is your recipe?

A: I’m disciplined, even when I’m not inspired. Writing is my job. I write for pleasure too, naturally, but not every day is a party at the keyboard. Like everyone else, there are days when I’d rather go shopping. But I write 5 days a week, regardless. I’m under contract; I’ve been given a portion of an advance and I have a daily word-count to meet. And I’ve learned that even if what I write is awful at first –and it often is – it can always be improved during revision. The tough part is just getting that first draft out. Everything can be fixed, except a blank page.

Q:  Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors about how to manage time and balance life with writing and research?

A: Persevere. Publishing is a tough business and is in transition; though there are more options than ever before, with each option comes the responsibility of being true to your vision for your work. No one can say which way is best: you have to decide that for yourself. Whatever you do, give it your all and write the very best book you can. Write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph; stay in touch with the nuts-and-bolts of the craft itself. Have a life, as well: know when to stop and let things steep. Writing benefits from time away to gain perspective, especially when the going gets rough. With research, remember it is a master seducer. We can research for years, without ever actually writing a word of the book. Learn only what you need to know to get writing and pick up the rest as you go.

Q:  I thoroughly enjoyed working on a writing project for charity with you. I know that charity work with animals is near and dear to your heart (a compassionate heart by the way). What types of animal protection issues do you feel are important currently? How do you feel people can assist more in environmental and animal security?

A: We all need to be more conscious of how we, as a species, impact life on our increasingly fragile planet. We share our mother earth with beautiful, irreplaceable animals that cannot defend themselves against our relentless encroachment and consumption of resources. A little change can go a long way: don’t buy or wear any type of fur. Know where your food comes from, to the best of your ability. Get involved in local charities and protect wildlife in your area. Likewise, please adopt all pets, and of course, make sure they are spayed or neutered. Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every single day because of overpopulation and irresponsible breeding. An animal has the same noble heart, whether purebred or mixed. My cats are rescues; if everyone adopted a rescue animal, shelters wouldn’t be overcrowded or desperate for funds. And if you can’t adopt, foster, volunteer time, donate money and supplies. Get involved.

Q:  You also enjoy art. What are some of your favorite artistic flavors or pieces of work from the time periods you write about?

A: I love the works of Leonardo da Vinci and portraiture of the Renaissance, especially paintings of people by Hans Holbein and the French court painter, Clouet. The portraits of people who actually lived in the eras I write about— their clothing, poses, and expressions— inspire me. I often find my character’s voices when I look at portraits, as if the paintings themselves could speak.

Q:  What other books are you working on currently? What is the idea behind them and what made you choose the topic?

A: I’ve just finished an historical novel about Lucrezia Borgia’s Vatican years. Thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter, Lucrezia had to embark on a savage struggle against her family’s ambitions. Once again, I found myself drawn to a woman who’s been vilified by history; I was completely enthralled by Lucrezia and her world, as I hope readers will be.

Q:  Do you have any future historical figures in mind to make come alive on the page for your readers?

A: I do, but it’s a secret! 🙂

Q:  And the most important question of the day, your favorite ethnic dish?

A: Fried plantain.

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: Of course, in most physical bookstores. If they don’t have the book in stock, they can always order it. Please buy via independent stores online here: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780345523969

Or via the usual online suspects:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Tudor-Conspiracy-Elizabeth-Chronicles/dp/0312658494

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-tudor-conspiracy-c-w-gortner/1113011984?ean=9780312658496

Q:  What is the best way for readers to connect to you? List all you would like.

A: Via my website here: http://www.cwgortner.com/contact.html

Erin: Always a pleasure to discuss your work with you, Christopher.  I love your novels and they are always the ones I look forward to the most. Best wishes for much future success with all your writing.

Christopher: It’s always a delight to be here. Thank you for hosting me and I hope your readers will enjoy THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY.


The Tudor Conspiracy USUS Publication Date: July 16, 2013

St. Martin’s Griffin
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 0312658494

For those needing the UK Version:

The Tudor Conspiracy UK

UK Publication Date: July 18, 2013
Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 1444720856

Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.

Praise for The Tudor Conspiracy

“The Tudor Conspiracy weaves a suspenseful, tangled skein of intrigue. It is a vibrant historical mystery and crime-thriller with an A-list cast of characters. Here are Elizabeth Tudor and her Robert Dudley in a light you’ve seldom seen them. —Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I

“C.W. Gortner has done it again! Intrigue at the Tudor court never looked more lethal than in his capable hands, as forbidden desires and deadly rivalries turn sister against sister and plunge our bold hero into a labyrinth of deceit. Full of breathtaking action, dark twists and unexpected revelations, this is an unputdownable read!” —Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti

“In C.W. Gortner’s skillful hands, the plots and counterplots come to seething life, with Brendan using every ounce of his brains and courage to protect those he loves while struggling to stay alive. . . . Lovers of Tudor history and suspense fiction will be riveted by this swift-paced, sexy, enthralling novel.” —Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

Author C.W. Gortner, Biography~

CWGC.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at www.cwgortner.com for more information. You can also follow Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thetudorconspiracyvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #TudorConspiracyTour

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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!

You may received an extra entry for following my blog, just let me know you did. If you already do, you can follow me on Twitter at @ErinAlMehairi.

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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The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau is a Top-Notch Thriller of Page Turning Suspense

Are you drawn to historical novels surrounding the steamy and intrigue-laden court of Henry VIII? You’re not alone. Many readers delight in books from this time period where drama unfolds at every dark corner and crevice!

The ChaliceSo how does an author make a book stand out from a sea of Tudor-mania? I’m sure this was a challenge for Tudor-era fanatic and author Nancy Bilyeau in endeavoring to write her novels.  In The Chalice (a known sequel to her popular The Crown, but really stands-alone quite well), she writes of the same era in history, but from the perspective of Joanna Stafford, a woman of noble birth and connections who was also pious and dedicated to the Catholic church being a former nun (novice). In her writing, Bilyeau delves into how the transition from England being ruled from Catholic perspective to Protestant, and the bloody fighting and paranoia it caused, confused the entire country, especially the nobles who were strong in faith but also wanted to regard their King (he was divine after all and God-ordained) without falter or question. How did the outskirts, beyond the castle walls, really handle the transformation? How did those of faith deal with priories and convents being dissolved?

Don’t let Joanna being a pious individual dissuade you from thinking this book is lacking pulse-pounding drama because it most certainly is full of hold-your-breath moments!  It was never a dull moment and I disliked when I needed to put it down due to other life demands! I couldn’t wait to pick it up again, just in time to reveal another plot twist or another piece to unraveling the riddle.  (review continued after synopsis)

Here’s the synopsis for The Chalice~

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era.

In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies…

(review continued)

Sounds full of intrigue and page turning drama, right??

Though the novel didn’t take place at court, it showcased how court drama and governance carries around the countryside as families jockey for favor or position and conspire at a moment’s notice to fight for their lives. Anyone that knows of Henry Tudor (Henry the VIII) knows that he was impulsive and could make rash and unjustified decisions out of his own fears.  He would judge entire families on an extended family member’s wrong-doing and, as his father before him, tended to kill off entire family branches to fortify his own royal legacy.

Even though Joanna and her extended family were in constant fear for their lives, she had a bond with Mary Tudor that would help to serve her through some sticky situations. But with that bond, as well as her own to the Catholic church, she is most easily aghast over Henry VIII’s desecration and desire to wipe out all monasteries, sacred relics, and bones of Saints.  Then, when a prophecy is foretold that involves her, she struggles to rebel against it.  Being a good Catholic, she strongly believes that prophecy and seers are wrong in the eyes of God.  She does not want to believe that she could be a part of such dealings, but struggles to know if the greater good outweighs the risk.

I loved the book’s emotional tender moments when Joanna was overcome with human emotions for others in the book, for instance, when she mulled over her feelings for various male characters, all whom in some regard seemed to be smitten by her and feel a need to protect her. Yet there were boundaries to all relationships in regards to love and Bilyeau walked a fine line of pulling the reader into the moment of impulsive exploratory action and then whisking them away from it, just enough for us to feel the character’s internal anguish. In all, she teaches us her characters fortitude and strength (and self-control), most often through protagonist Joanna. She’s an amazingly strong woman who was too modest to see her own attributes.

My favorite supporting character in the book was Henry Courtenay, Marchess of Exeter, who had less “print time” than most, but I loved his demeanor. There were times in the book I felt on pins and needles, times I was holding my breath and then exhaling in relief, and other times (especially a particular time) that I cried for the horror.

I love the prophetic mystery within the novel and the clues filled with symbolism that heightened as I turned each chapter. The novel was most certainly full of intrigue, but quite in a different format than what I’ve read from most other Tudor-era writers. It’s drama-filled, but stemming from a protagonist so laden with religious adherence that the drama seems almost stumbled upon because she wants so badly to not be a part of the drama. But her heart tells her different and she finds her destiny.  It read like a Dan Brown novel with a strong female lead and who doesn’t love a nun on a mission? Any reader will want to take on the prophecy of Joanna, whether to see if it’s a true outcome or to prove it wrong. Bilyeau always leaves that question  up to the reader, as Joanna struggles with that same dilemma herself.

Being a journalist and editor, Bilyeau’s writing style is succinct and not heavily flowered with extra, unwarranted details. Her research skills and plot points are highly polished and shine through in this work making it a thriller for any must-read list.

I highly recommend Nancy Bilyeau’s The Chalice (and her former The Crown) for its unique presentation of a widely written about Tudor time period, her strong and memorable Joanna and well-developed supporting cast, her suspenseful riddles and exciting prophetic plot, and most of all, her page-turning literary skills.

Please stop back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with the fantastic author Nancy Bilyeau!

The ChaliceThe Chalice Information~

Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Touchstone Publishing/A Divison of Simon and Schuster
Hardcover; 512p
ISBN-10: 1476708657


We have one (1) print copy of the The Chalice to give to a lucky reader this week! Please leave a comment, with email (for notification purposes ONLY) , here or on my Facebook post, to enter! You may also email me to hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Please enter by 11:59 p.m. EST on March 26, 2013.  Open to the United States only and no P.O. boxes.

For an extra entry, please follow my blog and let me know!

Praise for The Chalice

“Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII’s reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed.” – C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen’s Vow and The Tudor Secret

“The Chalice offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England’s most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don’t let you go even after the last exciting page.” – Karen Harper, author of Mistress of Mourning

“An exciting and satisfying novel of historical suspense that cements Nancy Bilyeau as one of the genre’s rising stars. The indominable Joanna Stafford is back with a cast of powerful and fascinating characters and a memorable story that is gripping while you are reading and haunting after you are done. Bravo! The Chalice is a fabulous read.” – M.J. Rose, author of The Reincarnationist

Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau, author of critically acclaimed The Crown, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. Her latest position is features editor of Du Jour magazine. A native of the Midwest, she graduated from the University of Michigan. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children. For more information, please visit Nancy Bilyeau’s webiste at www.nancybilyeau.com


For more on The Chalice, including more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways click on link or banner! 
Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thechalicevirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #TheChaliceVirtualTour
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Read YA Wander Dust? Check out Book 2 COVER REVEAL and TITLE on My Blog NOW!

For all the fans out there of YA (Young Adult) novels, I have a great post for you today that includes a much-anticipated BOOK COVER and TITLE REVEAL!

Did you read Wander Dust in 2011 by Michelle Warren? I first found out about this exciting new trilogy from a post on the Facebook page of Stephenie Meyer (yes, THE author of Twilight series) and am itching to get it read for review. In the meantime, I know that many of you have read the book and are RAVING about it, so Michelle sent me the COVER and TITLE  REVEAL for book two in the series. She isn’t even revealing herself until May 18 so I am honored to do so! That’s right, it’s just below and it’s just gorgeous. I wouldn’t have guessed anything less from the incredibly talented Michelle Warren (her computer illustration skills are amazing as I am sure her writing is too).

SOOOOOOOOO, without further ado, here is the new COVER and TITLE for Book Two in the Seraphina Parrish Trilogy (with the title not being the working one of Wander Dust 2). It’s PROTECTING TRUTH!!!!! 

So what do you think??? I’m sure Michelle would love to know. Just leave your comments in the section after the post or head over to Michelle’s social networking circles and leave her a note.

 Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michelle-Warren-YA-Author-of-Wander-Dust/124362290972713

 Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11250674-wander-dust

 Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/MMichelleWarren


Michelle Warren is the author of Wander Dust, the first book in The Seraphina Parrish Trilogy. She didn’t travel the road to writer immediately. First, she spent over a decade as professional illustrator and designer. Her artistic creativity combined with her love of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy led her to write her first YA novel. Michelle loves reading and traveling to places that inspire her to create. She resides in Maryland, in a historic Baltimore row-home, with her wonderful husband.


And if you haven’t read Wander Dust, don’t delay. I’ll be reading soon and reviewing. Here is the synopsis to get you hooked if the gorgeous cover doesn’t do that itself:

Wander Dust

Ever since her sixteenth birthday, strange things keep happening to Seraphina Parrish.

The Lady in Black burns Sera’s memories.

Unexplainable Premonitions catapult her to other cities.

The Grungy Gang wants to kill her.

And a beautiful, mysterious boy stalks her.

But when Sera moves to Chicago, and her aunt reveals their family connection to a centuries old, secret society, she is immediately thrust into an unbelievable fantasy world, leading her on a quest to unravel the mysteries that plague her. In the end, their meanings crash into an epic struggle of loyalty and betrayal, and she’ll be forced to choose between the boy who has stolen her heart and the thing she desires most.

Wander Dust is the breathtaking fantasy that will catapult you through a story of time, adventure, and love.

See the Book Trailer on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/MichelleWarrenAuthor/videos

Check out Michelle’s website too, at: http://wanderdusttrilogy.com/

HURRY, pick-up your copy of Wander Dust during this May special so you’ll be ready for Protecting Truth later this year!! What a deal for Wander Dust so don’t delay!


Filed under New Books I've Found

December 1941 Changed America: How and Why? Historical Non-Fiction Book Surrounding Month during Pearl Harbor

In his newest book, author Craig Shirley takes on the important topic of the month surrounding Pearl Harbor.  December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World is a book that delves, as no other book has done previously, into how the days leading up to Pearl Harbor during WWII and the days after, completely changed American society as it formerly was known.

Taking numerous, if not thousands, of newspaper and magazine articles and linking them together in research allowed Shirley to give readers a clearer picture of the way that life in 1941 America was over-turned as women went to work, cities grew, and paranoia over Japanese abounded. The mood of country shifted as the Great Depression came to an end and the family lifestyle completely changed forever.  American culture changed forever.

However, some of his facts seem a little off and I wonder why his editor didn’t fact check. Though this is of course a non-fiction book, it also seems to have quite a bit of his personal thoughts in it, which I suppose he is allowed to voice since it is his book. However, it might offend those leaning more to the left. It is all how you take it, I suppose.  I might not agree with it all either in regards to conservative vs. leftist politics, but it is his opinion and readers shouldn’t take it all as fact. He’s a conservative person, this truly comes through in his book. I won’t judge him for that.

The book jacket cover gives a good explanation of the book’s agenda:  “Relying on daily news reports from around the country and recently declassified ed government papers, Shirley sheds light on the crucial diplomatic exchanges leading up to the attack, the policies on internment of Japanese living in the U.S. after the assault, and the near-total overhaul of the U.S. economy for war.

Shirley paints a compelling portrait of pre-war American culture: the fashion, the celebrities, the pastimes. And his portrait of America at war is just as vivid: heroism, self-sacrifice, mass military enlistments, national unity and resolve, and the prodigious talents of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley aimed at the Axis Powers, as well as the more troubling price-controls and rationing, federal economic takeover, and censorship.”

The book is thick in page number, as well as in research and details and gives the reader not just a glimpse, but an abundance of information regarding this pivotal era in our history. Teenagers and middle-aged persons as myself could never begin to understand completely the emotions and life-changing events surrounding WWII and the events of December 1941. Our lives are so completely different because of them, but as our lives are completely different in this modern age due to that, we also have a hard time relating to the structure of life as it was during WWII. This poignant novel is so very important to not only readers of history, but to every generation who did not live through this era and does not have grandparents still living and able to pass down the stories of this time.

The book is intricately well-written and Shirley is knowledgable on his topic. I appreciate him writing this book as it will forever condense history of December 1941 in one volume and be a history book for scholars and students to look back on years from now to understand this most pivotal event in American History.

For fans of history, and especially WWII era, I would definitely recommend this book from that perspective.  As a reader, you will be able to feel the emotions of the people and the country as they are on the brink of a change in all business, economics, government, and lifestyle structures.

To see a YouTube video with the author, a “peek” into the book, and more information about the book, click on this link to Thomas Nelson publishers:  http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=9781595554574.


I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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