Tag Archives: historical fiction

Review+Interview: My Dear Hamilton with NYT Best-selling Authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I’m so excited today to be back with a new post on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Why am I jumping for joy? Because New York Times best-selling historical fiction authors, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie are here!! Right now, they are not only physically touring to various events in numerous states, but they are also dropping by around the online world to author and blogger sites. Anyone knows me, knows I love history! Following my review below of MY DEAR HAMILTON: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, we sit down for an interview!

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I’m always very happy to feature Stephanie, as I adore her work, her style, her sense of humor, her intellect, and her supportive nature for other authors, but I’m very happy she’s clued me in to Laura as well. Together, they are a dynamo writing duo of historical fiction of early America, something I love to study and read about, but as well, most of my followers know how much I focus on women in history overall. I’ve always loved Stephanie bringing women of the ancient world to light (her book on Cleopatra Selene is one of my favorite all time books), but now, in the past two years, with Laura, she’s been diving into women of the American Revolutionary period and it’s been refreshing!

I’ll be offering my review here for the book, in short form, first, but please then stay and read the wonderful interview I had with them both. I think you’ll find it as interesting as I did. If you scroll beneath, you’ll find an excerpt too, and further, a giveaway, and all the information you can imagine. Enjoy!

Review –

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, exceeded even my high expectations! It was finely tuned, detailed, flowing as movie screen for the mind, rich, conveying, and just overall, a beautiful story of a woman relying on her own inner strength to blossom into a very influential and intriguing female of the time – one readers deserved to know more about!

I sit back in awe of their mastery of the art of historical research and being able to dissect information and facts in order to imagine real people from history in such a way as we feel as if we truly can visualize them. They are believable, relatable, and engaging in such a way that it propels the reader through the story. Characterization is key in novels, and with this novel, I feel their legacies coursing through me. I almost feel I know so much more about the soil of America, the tapestry of people, place, and time, and to know how it felt to be a part of the building of this country. I feel drawn to know more of those featured in the book, but more so, to learn more about others of the time not featured in the book, if that makes sense. It’s a good book that won’t let you forget and draws you in so much.

My Dear Hamilton is around 600 pages, which could seeming overwhelming, especially if you are used to other various kinds of historical fiction and have not yet read work by these authors, but trust me, it won’t feel like you just read that big of a book. It flows so well, with a seamless voice so that you won’t even remember you’re reading two authors, and you’ll find it senseless to put down. I’d earmark a whole weekend in before your summer festivities start, or else take a very long day at the beach. This book will absorb you, but you’ll also absorb it. If you look at it critically, you’ll realize that there is so much factual information needed to be known to write it, but as your reading it, that will ease off you in a way that just lets you get lost in the story. After reading it, you’ll realize you learned so much, but having a lot of fun doing so!

Having a history degree myself, though not a scholar especially in regards to Hamilton, I can tell that most of this book is seeped in real events and written with painstaking formulating, based on reading of real letters, documents, informational sources, etc. in order to create an image of Eliza, Alexander, and other cast of people in the book. Once you immerse yourself in so much information on a person, people, or place, or all, you can then begin to project an image. I feel that is what this book does. Of course, with fiction, you can create scenarios, based on conjecture, encounters that *could* have occurred, but many that are provable as well. With dialogue, it’s always fiction, hypothetical in many cases, though can also be seeped in fact based on the way a person talks in letters or so forth. Anyway, it’s my best guess for anyone wondering how factual this book is for learning, then absolutely it’s very biographical and a great way to learn history in a more relaxed environment; however, there are lots of juicy details too!

The excellent thing is that while writing using the information, these writers do it so well, they infuse passion into the pages. There is drama, struggles, adventures, romance, intrigue, conflict, sadness, and so much emotion. I had a great time laughing actually as they infuse quite a bit of underlying humor into the prose.

Word choice, imagery, descriptive and flowing sentences all will carry the reader away to another time and place. It’s a stellar portrait image of a view of what it was like at this pivotal time in the forming of our country, full of fervor and igniting wills and minds, and Dray and Kamoie are able to show all this to the reader written through the eyes of Eliza. But not only that, we are able to see more clearly the roles of women at this time, not just the group of men known as the Founding Fathers or those surrounding them. More personally, we see Eliza’s struggles with her marriage, with the ups and downs that so many of us can feel, to the downright secrets and critical thinking some of us have had to do. I can appreciate Eliza’s determination, which made me pull for her throughout the novel!

I’m not a huge fan of Hamilton in general, myself, but I certainly am now of Eliza and I did learn a lot about Alexander Hamilton as well! I know about the whole Hamilton musical craze, and would like still adore seeing it, but this book really propelled Eliza’s story to the forefront for me. I want to know more of the women of this time period and how they trail blazed the way for independence early on, even long before ever gaining being able to even vote. So, what am I saying? Basically, that reading this book should be as exciting for you as going to the theater to SEE Hamilton!, because for me it gave me the euphoria of one, minus the music of course. If you’ve seen, or are a fan of the musical, then it’s definitely a great accompaniment to your pleasure of all things the musical brings too.

Personally, I really enjoyed learning that Eliza came from Dutch heritage in New York in the 1600s, as some of my maternal ancestors were of Dutch descent living in New York as well. I wonder if their paths crossed – most likely! I really enjoy learning about Dutch culture, especially in early America, and have been researching it, and I appreciated the nuggets of description from it interspersed in the book. It just is another example of all the little touches that make this book glimmer.

Of note also is that I think it’s wonderful they include so much in their author’s note, a Q and A, notes about how the book differs from the musical, discussion questions, and such. It’s a wonderful way to round out the book into a real experience. And that you can find so much more online on their websites is so much fun.

Dray and Kamoie make Eliza shine. This book is polished. This will be one of my top historical reads of the year, no doubt. I appreciate their detailed research, elegant writing, dancing story line, and the infusion of vigor and heart that their own passion for history brings to the pages. This is bench-mark for historical fiction novels, and undoubtedly, for American History fiction. I highly recommend for money well-spent. I’ll be dropping 5 stars on online sites.

-Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Hook of a Book
Author of Breathe. Breathe.

And now for the interview…..

Interview –

Hi ladies! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I know you are on a whirlwind tour currently to bookstores and libraries in various states, so thank you for swinging by here for a few moments. I’ll put on the teapot, but I know you’re both so busy with the book launch, I’ll be sure to make it a short chat.

What type of tea would you prefer? Did they drink something special in colonial America? Whatever it was, I’m sure it was with sugar or Washington might still have his teeth!

SD: They were fond of rum punch, and we’re fans of it too, but not while on tour! So we’ll settle for a cup of Paris tea from Harney & Sons. Vive La Revolution!

Erin: Stephanie, I love Harney & Sons tea, but you know, I see no problem in sneaking in the rum punch at all – I have a feeling it’s needed! And what better way to celebrate your release!

I almost feel as if I’m overwhelmed with questions to ask, and I’m also trying not to ask things you’ve already talked about a bunch of times, but I’m sure I will. The good thing is, maybe my readers haven’t read the answers yet.

For Stephanie, I’ve known you awhile and been reading your work for some time, watching this unfold, but how difficult was it when you migrated toward writing American History as compared to ancient historical fiction or other categories you’ve written in? Did you feel it less when writing My Dear Hamilton after writing America’s First Daughter?

SD: I had this crazy notion that writing early American history was going to be easier than writing ancient world history because more information was available and I’d have to make less stuff up. So. Wrong. Not only are there a lot of blanks that still exist, but the Founding Fathers kept pretty excellent letters, so there’s a deluge of information and research that you have to get through. Fortunately, it’s all fascinating and I love it! As for writing My Dear Hamilton after America’s First Daughter, I thought it would be easier because Hamilton wrote fewer letters than Jefferson. Little did I know, they were all at least twice as long.

So the moral here is, and let me channel author Kate Quinn for an instant, with my hand on my hip, is that you should never think anything you write will so easy because these historical figures just LOVE to wreak havoc.

For Laura, since you have been teaching American History and have written non-fiction, comparatively, can you talk about how your plunge to historical fiction has been for you?

LK: It’s been really exciting. I’m not new to fiction–I’ve authored over thirty novels in other genres–but America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton were the first books that allowed me to bring together my historical training and my love of writing fiction. Generally, historians readily acknowledge that even writing non-fiction history requires a recognition of the gaps in the historical record and offers at least a little room for (clearly labeled) speculation or imaginings. So nothing about dramatizing the past or extrapolating unknown moments and scenes from sources about a similar event at another time, for example, made me uncomfortable. Just the opposite was true, in fact. Through writing these novels, I’ve become convinced that historical fiction can make valuable contributions to our understanding of the past and can reveal universal truths even when the facts aren’t completely accurate. So it’s been an intellectually interesting experience and I’m completely hooked!

Erin: I totally agree with you! And you can still learn so much!

You write so seamlessly, how is this achieved when I imagine you probably had different writing styles starting out? What have you learned from each other and what do each of you feel the other brings to the projects?

SD: One thing we both share is agility. We’ve both written several other genres. We can write funny, we can write contemporary, we can write suspense or romance or fantasy. And that meant that we were able to adapt to each other’s writing voice. But we also edit each other’s words freely, which means that our words are all interspersed and that helps to smooth out any seams. But we each have complementary strengths that we play to. And we’ve definitely learned from each other. We talk about that a lot. Just one very small example out of many others that I could give is that Laura is the queen of clarity and heartfelt moments. I’ve learned from her when to be less abstract as a writer, when to linger in an emotional moment longer than I might otherwise, and to spell it out. She also makes brilliant connections all the time, and we fire back and forth on how to exploit them!

LK: Hearing that the writing feels seamless is one of our favorite compliments! It was important to us that the books read as if they’d been written by one author, not two. And we were thrilled that none of our friends nor family nor even our editor could tell which of us had written what parts of the books! The way we trade chapters, revise freely, and work together at the same laptop when we get toward the end and are working on revisions and copyedits means that there’s no page in the book that we both haven’t touched, which we think is key to creating that seamlessness. Stephanie’s right–we talk a lot about what we’ve learned from each other. I’ve learned so much from her about crafting the most impactful narrative structure, which includes everything from finding the right prologue to organizing the scenes in a chapter in a way that best highlights the conflict and draws the reader in. And Stephanie is the queen of identifying and playing up themes in a way that makes a book really resonate. So our writing is a true collaboration from beginning to end!

Erin: Yes, I feel I need tissues now, seriously, this is amazing to see writers connecting with such joy and bringing such a labor of love to the readers. I’ve read some of Stephanie’s work already, so yes, I do feel it’s seamless but I can also see knowing this, what each of you added to it to become a single, new author.

Many years ago, when I started my site and working on projects in publishing and in my own writing, all the agents were saying no to American History and especially Colonial History themes. That saddened me, because I wanted to read more from this time period, but not only in non-fiction reading. I was thrilled to see not only more biographical historical fiction start to be published about women, especially women who stood in the shadows of history’s men, but also in American History. When America’s First Daughter hit big last year, I knew maybe the tide would start to turn even more. Besides your book, what else do you contribute to the change in publishing and reading American/Colonial fiction?

SD: Oh gosh, you might be giving us too much credit there, but we certainly would love to think we played a positive role in it! I think right now the country is having a reflective moment; we’re trying to come to terms with who we are and what direction we should be going. It’s difficult to do that without remembering where we came from. So early American history is a natural place to look.

LK: I agree. And early American history is also having a bit of a cultural ‘moment’ with (much more influential!) things like Hamilton: An American Musical, the Outlander TV series, and the recent AMC series, TURN: Washington’s Spies, just to name a few. Really, historical TV series from all eras seem to be doing really well. Think of The Crown, Victoria, Downton Abbey, the White Princess/White Queen series, The Last Kingdom, or even the new The Terror. Clearly, popular culture is opening some doors where historical stories are concerned.

Erin: Oh yes, and I love all those shows, even Sleepy Hollow and Salem!

Do you feel that we need this more than ever now with the political climate? How does this change history’s views of women besides finally memorializing these women more properly?

SD: I’ll let Laura answer the question on memorializing women, but I’d say in terms of the political climate that both parties like to lay claim to the Founding Fathers. But part of our mission has been to demonstrate that no modern political party owns them and that very little about their ideas or their accomplishments was as simple as we like to pretend.

LK: Stephanie and I feel strongly that centering historical women in their own stories is an important enterprise that makes a real contribution–because stories like ours make it clear that the Revolutionary War wasn’t won by white men alone, and the new nation wasn’t built by white men alone, either. All groups in society–enslaved persons, free black people, Native Americans, and women–played important roles in, made sacrifices for, defended, and contributed to the founding of the United States. Certainly, we saw how much Patsy Jefferson and Eliza Hamilton did to make possible the work and contributions of the important men in their lives. Neither Thomas Jefferson nor Alexander Hamilton would’ve been able to achieve all they did without the assistance and contributions of these women. That’s a story that deserves to be told.

Erin: *More Kleenexes please!* Yes, absolutely!! And I just love that you are telling these stories too. Please keep doing so!

As Stephanie I think knows, my 18-year-old American history buff of a son has George Washington plastered completely all over our home and doesn’t go a day without speaking of him – in fact he drinks from a Valley Forge mug every morning. He was this way BEFORE the craze – you know the Hamilton craze, but now it seems it’s cool to like American History! How do you feel the craze for the Hamilton musical, music, the Founding Fathers, and so forth, got its foot-hold, but further, how is it being sustained so dramatically? Did this make your book more fun to write? Did it influence it at all?

SD: I love that your son drinks from a Valley Forge mug! That’s so fantastic. Tell him that I see that I need to up my game when it comes to Founding Father bric-a-brac. We are totally screaming fangirls of the musical and think it is that special and rare kind of art that did a genuine public service. And continues to do so! Laura just saw it again, so she can speak more about that.

LK: Our new My Dear Hamilton was in part inspired by the musical–I doubt this is any surprise! I happened to see it during its first week on Broadway, and the next morning Stephanie and I talked about Eliza and decided to make her our next heroine. And we pitched the idea to our editor that very afternoon–that’s how sure we were! Now, we were already searching for the perfect historical figure after writing about Patsy Jefferson, and we loved the idea of writing next about a founding mother of the north. While writing–or driving to book events–I can’t tell you how often we listened to the musical’s soundtrack, but suffice it to say that we both know the lyrics by heart! That definitely did make it fun. As did discussing the storytelling choices that Lin-Manuel Miranda made in the musical and how we might be making some different choices in our book. We thought readers might find those differences interesting enough that we wrote an essay on the subject that’s available in the back matter of the book!

Erin: I will tell him Stephanie! He’s always inspired by you though and your glee for cool stuff and locations. He just thinks there needs to be a George Washington musical. haha!

I absolutely love to think about travel to all the historic sites in America that have something to do with early American History. I am sure, and I think I saw, that you traveled places in your research for My Dear Hamilton. What was the favorite place each of you visited and why? Did it make it into the book?

SD: Laura can tell you about our favorite that made it into the book, but I’ll tell you my favorite that didn’t. When we were visiting Fraunces Tavern, they had an exhibit that included a sash worn by the Marquis de Lafayette during the Battle of the Brandywine where he was injured in our cause, and it was still stained with his blood! Fraunces Tavern makes it in, but there was no good way to mention that sash!

Erin: WOW!

LK: In writing My Dear Hamilton, we actually visited a number of historical sites. But I think our favorite–in that it was so impactful to us and on a particular scene in the book–was the Trinity Church graveyard. First of all, we found some humor in the fact that there’s a check cashing business on the other side of the street directly opposite Alexander’s tomb. And that seemed…oddly appropriate in some way! But more seriously, when we visited the graveyard for the first time, the Trinity Root sculptor was still there–a huge 9/11 memorial of the trunk and root system of a tree that’d been knocked down on that terrible day. The sculpture was both sad and haunting and powerful and hopeful–because the roots show all the things beneath the surface that you don’t normally see, but which are vital to sustenance and stability. And that made us think a lot about Eliza Hamilton’s character. It felt, at least in part–in both its sadness and its strength–like an analogy for our book. And that sculpture absolutely influenced the tone of the scene we wrote in My Dear Hamilton that takes place in that graveyard.

Erin: That’s totally amazing! Thank you so much for sharing that!

I know there is a gigantic amount of research that goes into writing a book of this magnitude. How did you complete it so quickly together? What are your tips for researching and writing historical books based on true people’s lives like this? Where did a majority of the research come from?

LK: Since Eliza appears to have destroyed most of her own letters, we had to pull resources from everywhere we could find them. That involved significant usage of the Founders Online website via the National Archives, as well as archival research in New York and Albany. We also used a wide variety of papers from other people and institutions of the era, including, for example, Tench Tilghman’s journal, the papers of other members of the Schuyler family, papers of an investigation from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the published recollections of the Washington National Monument Society. That’s just the basics of what you have to do when you choose to write about a real person, though I’m not sure either of us would characterize the research work as having been quick!

Erin: No, it’s NOT quick, and I can certainly understand how time consuming all the research was – but that’s what I mean, to me, I feel it would take 10 years to sift through and also write a book like this, and you both did it all in less than a year! I love hearing the different places you found your information to formulate your characters and book. I’ve been researching a historical fiction book for what seems like forever. I always thinks it’s clever fun to see all the things you can uncover and from where!

In continuing on that, how do you keep on schedule? (Notice I didn’t ask how you stay sane haha)

SD: Hah! Good thing. Keeping on schedule is tough. I’d say between the two of us I’m the more schedule-oriented in that I plan everything out on multiple calendars. But Laura’s scratch it on the back of a napkin method works okay for her too.

Erin: I wish I had your planning skills, Stephanie. Always in awe. I am more of a napkin person myself, Laura. haha. I always hope I’ll get divine advice to change to be more organized to get done more efficiently, but then, I guess it’s all what works for each individual. 

I was so happy for all your success of America’s First Daughter and I’m rooting for you to have as much or more success with My Dear Hamilton. So, what’s next? Will you endeavor to write another next year together or get busy on separate projects?

LK: We’re currently collaborating on a novel on the women of the French Revolution and are having a lot of fun jumping to America’s “sister revolution.” Stay tuned for more on that–we’ll be excited to share when we can!

Erin: Ooooh! I look forward to it!

If you could do a cross-over book featuring a person from American History time-traveling to an ancient civilization, who and where would you choose to feature?

SD: You get bonus points for asking us a question we’ve definitely never been asked before. I’m gonna say Thomas Jefferson to the ancient kingdom of Meroe where the Kandake might have taught him some useful and important things.

Erin: Yay! Very clever!

Bonus question – I mean what was it like to present at the SMITHSONIAN!!?? *drops mic*

SD: AMAZING! Dream come true.

LK: It totally brought out both of our inner history geeks!

Erin: With that, though I’d love to pick your brain more, I’ll let you head out for your next event! Best wishes again for the success on My Dear Hamilton and congratulations to you both for all your hard work! Stop again anytime. Thank you both!

SD: It’s been a pleasure as always, Erin. Can’t wait to hear what you (and your son) think of the new book!

Erin: Thanks, Stephanie. Of course, you can read what I thought here now, and I’m passing along the book to Nassem now. He’s been anxiously awaiting it since the day you announced!

LK: Loved your thoughtful questions, Erin! Can’t wait to do it again!

Erin: Thank you, Laura, I look forward to it!

*Passes more rum punch all around, because…we can…for Liberty!*

Enjoy an Excerpt!

The night before our wedding, the ball at our house was attended by all the best of Dutch Albany society. The Van Rensselaers and the Van Burens, the Ten Broecks and the Ten Eycks, the Van Schaicks and the Douws, and so many others. Neither snow nor ice nor howling wind seemed to deter our New Netherlander friends and neighbors from coming out to the Pastures for the celebrations.

Amidst boughs of holly and the light of countless candles, the grand hall on our second floor hosted festivities that included food and drink, dancing and music, and games and toasts. We danced minuets, cotillions, and Scottish reels until my feet ached and my heart soared. Alexander never seemed to tire, and I determined to keep up with him through every bar and set. I danced with Mac and my brother-in-law, Mr. Carter, a man eight years Angelica’s senior, whose business supplying the army for once permitted him time to join in the festivities. But Alexander could never wait long before declaring himself impatient and claiming me again.

My fiancé appeared more at ease than I’d ever seen him before, and perhaps that wasn’t a surprise, as these days of rest and merriment were the first break from military service he’d had in five years. Indeed, his eyes sparkled as he asked, “May I steal you away for a moment?”

“By all means.” I’d been hoping for a quiet opportunity to give him my gift. He took my hand and led me around the edge of the dance floor as we were stopped again and again by well-wishers, until we finally escaped down the stairs and into the cooler air of the dimly lit sitting room, which afforded us a modicum of peace and privacy. There, Alexander asked me to wait. And while he ducked away I seized the moment to pull my gift from its hiding place in the cabinet next to the fireplace. Alexander returned before I’d barely completed the task—and held a large sack of his own.

“Whatever is that?” I asked.

“He grinned and nodded at what I held in my own hands. “I could ask the same.”

I smiled. “A wedding gift for my husband.”

He feigned a frown and stepped closer. “Your husband, madam? Do I know him?”

Playing his game, I said, “Oh, you know him very well, sir. And your gift is for?”

He came closer yet. “For my wife-to-be. And before you ask, indeed, you know her well. She has a good nature, a charming vivacity, and is most unmercifully handsome”—he arched a brow and closed the remaining space between us—“and so perverse that she has none of those affectations which are the prerogatives of beauty.”

How did he always manage to set my world a-tumble with his words? “Oh, you must be a lucky man, indeed. I hope you’ve shown her your appreciation.”

He barked a laugh. “You saucy charmer!”

I sat in the chair closest to the fire so that I could see by the greater light there, and Alexander pulled up a chair of his own so that our knees touched. With a nervous smile, he placed the heavy sack onto my lap. I untied the its string and worked the coarse cloth over the solid object inside. Impatience rolled off him so forcefully that I had to tease him further by taking great pains to slide the sack evenly off, a little on this side, and then a little on that.

“And to think someone once told me you were the Finest Tempered Girl in the World,” he said with a chuckle.

Jenoff Quote Card

Wife, Widow, and Warrior in Alexander Hamilton’s Quest for a More Perfect Union

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

Order your copy of MY DEAR HAMILTON today!

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A Founding Father’s wife…

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her

✭✭✭ ORDER MY DEAR HAMILTON TODAY✭✭✭

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Stephanie Dray, Biography –

 

STEPHANIE DRAY is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year.

Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer and a teacher. Now she lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

Stephanie Dray Website |Newsletter | Facebook |Twitter | Dray & Kamoie Website

 

Laura Kamoie, Biography –

Laura Kamoieis a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction, and the author of two non-fiction books on early American history.

Until recently, she held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction under the name Laura Kaye, also a New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels.

 

Laura Kamoie Website |Newsletter | Facebook |Twitter |
Dray & Kamoie Website

 

 

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Women in History: Waiting for Baby the Medieval Way by Anna Belfrage

In the last post, I reviewed Anna Belfrage’s The Cold Light of Dawn, and now, as part of her online tour for the release of the book and my Women in History series, Anna has stopped by to talk about pregnancy “rules” in the 14th century. At the end of the article, she gives an excerpt from her book showing how this culture was practiced in her book, but as well showing the remarkable ease in which her main characters loved and conversed with each other.

Thank you for a wonderful post, Anna!

Waiting for the Baby the Medieval Way

by Anna Belfrage, historical fiction author of The Cold Light of Dawn

In our time, women are generally encouraged to live their life as normal while pregnant. “Being pregnant is not an illness,” some will say, and this is one of those truisms that may very well grate on the ears of the pregnant lady in question. Yes, a pregnancy is not an illness, but for some it is a hardship.

I imagine the wise old women back in the 14th century were of the same opinion: being with child was a blessing, not an ailment. However, the medical (and social) expertise of the time considered it very important that a woman nearing the delivery date be shielded from the more brutal aspects of life, which is why high-born ladies generally spent the last month or so of their pregnancy in confinement.

Confinement meant the lady in question was restricted to her rooms. To avoid too much sensory stimulations, the windows were shuttered, the walls hung with fabrics in muted colours and pastimes were restricted to things like sewing or praying. Men were strictly forbidden—unless it was a priest. Personally, I would have gone bonkers.

Lower class women could not afford confinement. First of all, they probably shared one room with their entire family, so where was she to be confined? Secondly, her family depended on what income she may have brought in, be it doing laundry or baking or brewing beer. No, our lower class mothers worked until the baby decided it was time to enter the world and likely were back at work some days later, even if a recently delivered woman was considered unclean until she’d been adequately churched. The solution to that little problem was that the woman in question worked from home for some weeks.

The confined woman was expected to rest, to turn her focus inwards as she prepared herself for the coming ordeal. Everyone knew women birthed their children in pain and blood—a divine punishment meted out to women because of Eve’s curiosity in the Garden of Eden. Accordingly, all expecting mothers knew they were in for a tough time. There were no drugs, no anaesthetics, no caesareans. If the baby got stuck or died in utero, the mother died as well. And she often did. So the expectant mother spent a lot of time praying: for the child, for herself. She prayed to God, the Virgin and to St Margaret of Antioch.

I suspect most women were in two minds about the confinement. Yes, it gave them ample opportunity to rest, but there must have been an element of frustration—especially if the soon-to-be-mother was one of those women who carry their children with ease. Some women seem to have avoided being confined—Edward I’s second wife, Margaret of France, is famous for having given birth to her eldest son after a long and gruelling ride. But for most, there was no choice.

The confinement chambers were ready. The bed had been re-hung in the mildest of yellows, the walls adorned with tapestries depicting flowers and gentle creatures such as unicorns. A sanctuary for the expectant mother, the rooms were furnished with cushions and expensive carpets, a brightly coloured wooden statue of the Virgin and her child adorning the altar in the adjoining little chapel.

A new chair set before the hearth, a basket of embroidering silks with which to pass the time, ells of fine linen to convert into smocks and gowns for the eagerly awaited babe. Yes, all in all, the chambers were ready—and as asphyxiating as a prison, Kit thought, supervising the two men who were finalising the hanging of the heavy drapes that were to cover the windows. Once Philippa retired within these walls, she would not be seen until after the birth of her child.

“Never,” Kit told Adam when she was given leave to accompany him on a walk. “Promise me you’ll never demand that I retire to my chambers for my laying in.” They were well into the cooling shade of the woods, the river running silent and dark beside them.

“You’ve been brought to bed of seven babes without being thus confined. Why would things change now?” He drew her close and kissed her brow. “Besides, I dislike being deprived of your company and proximity, no matter that Mabel maintains it is most inappropriate that we share a bed all the way to the birthing.” There was a twinkle in his eyes. “Sharing in every sense, sweeting.”

She laughed softly. “Philippa is of a like mind, but for her there is no escaping the conventions.  Isabella is adamant: the queen goes into confinement after Sunday mass.” She pressed her bosom against his arm in a provocative gesture. “Five more days in which she can share her nights with her husband.”

02_The Cold Light of Dawn

The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: February 16, 2018
Matador & TimeLight Press
eBook & Paperback; 434 Pages

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy, Book #4 Genre: Historical Fiction

After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king.

Purchase Links –

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Anna Belfrage, Biography –

03_Anna Belfrage.jpgAnna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

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

04_The Cold Light of Dawn_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL.png

Tour Schedule is HERE!

Hashtags: #TheColdLightofDawnBlogTour #AnnaBelfrage #historical #historicalfiction #blogtour #booktour #HFVBTBlogTours #amreading #bookblogger #bookbloggers #books #reading #giveaway #bookgiveaway

Facebook Tags: @hfvbt @annabelfrageauthor

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @abelfrageauthor

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a complete set of The King’s Greatest Enemy series to one winner & two winners will win a paperback copy of The Cold Light of Dawn! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th.
-You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter to Win HERE!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Guest Posts, women in history

Review: Medieval Historical Fiction – The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

Anna Belfrage is probably a name that longtime readers of my site have heard before when visiting. This historical fiction writer has probably been reviewed, interviewed, and hosted on my blog upwards of almost 15 times. I must really like Anna and her work – and yes, I do!! From her time travel historical Graham Saga to her newer one, The King’s Greatest Enemy, her stories always capture my attention. I’m proud that her books take up a whole shelf of my bookcase with their beautiful covers. I even can see Anna’s beautiful smile and her energetic essence emanating from them.

She’s proved and earned her regard with me and so I couldn’t be more pleased to share my review of The Cold Light of Dawn, the fourth book in her The King’s Greatest Enemy series, as well as a wonderful guest post that you’ll find in the post following this one. Check out the information for the book and then follow it into my thoughts on the book.

02_The Cold Light of Dawn.jpg

The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: February 16, 2018
Matador & TimeLight Press
eBook & Paperback; 434 Pages

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy, Book #4 Genre: Historical Fiction

After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king.

Review – 

I’ve really had a wonderful time reading this series, which was at first supposed to be a set of four. You can find my reviews of In the Shadows of the Storm (#1), Days of Sun and Glory (#2), Under the Approaching Dark (#3), and now I’ll be discussing The Cold Light of Dawn (#4). I have a particular fondness for medieval historical fiction and so I was thrilled to read this series, with book four culminating into all the drama, intrigue, action, and peril one might imagine from the pages of not only a medieval book, but specifically a Belfrage book. And for those of you that haven’t read Anna, you should know that her books are riddled with it, as well as a good dose of wit, snark, and above all else, resilience. The Cold Light of Dawn is no exception, and in fact, features a high level of all the emotions of life one might handle while also being sautéed in a frying pan. This means that at times, you’ll feel so deeply for characters in the novel you’ll cry, sometimes cheer or sneer, and sometimes just get angry. This is what makes TCLOD a stellar read as it holds nothing back. I think if I remember right at first it was supposed to be the final book, and it certainly does climax, but in the afterword at the end of the book, Anna revealed that she left the door open for more books in this series. Her characters, once again, lead her, and her main male squeeze of the book, Adam, seems to think he needs more time. I certainly fine with that.

The Cold Light of Dawn takes place in early 14th century after the rebellion. Edward II has died, leaving Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer as regents since Edward the III was so young when he was crowned. However, he’s growing older and coming into his own, and Adam is caught between his mentor in Mortimer and his loyalty and respect for this young King who is showing his own capability while they are showing they might just be power hungry. You can read this book as a stand-alone, but there is so much more depth given to the characters and their situations if you read the series.

As readers, we see the story through the eyes of Adam and Kit, a couple who both have important roles at court, but that seem to have to judge the ebb and flow of so many just to keep on the right side. And sometimes, that leads to betrayal even when you try your best. But Adam and Kit know how to survive and keep their bond strong, even through the good times and bad. Anna always creates proper couples in the highest character development, juxtaposing them to each other in the most natural ways. You feel as a reader that Adam and Kit truly exists and your cringe and groan for them, as well as smile as their debates, discussion, and banter. As for the other characters, Anna always seems to match off people in twos, or less, and she gives them so much depth that it makes her one of the BEST authors in regard to creating a cast that is easily identifiable, accessible, and discernable. In this fourth book, Adam really shines at his best though. He probably was worried it was the end of his story because things sure did get exciting for him in all sorts of ways, but also by the end, terribly heart-wrenching.

Those who know me and my reviews know I don’t really ever talk directly about plot or what happens in books, as I want that journey to be the reader’s own, but her dialogue, flow, continuity, and scenes were tied together in a way that made you turn each page as if you were right there in the story. As far as historical accuracy, Anna is the utmost painstakingly perfectionist in her research, and it shows, to create a detailed backdrop that gives us a good glimpse to this time period and reign of court.

I’d highly recommend all of Anna’s books, including The Cold Light of Dawn. If you haven’t read any books by Anna, you could even start with this one, but I’d certainly give the whole series a whirl. Her writing, on this fourth book, and in all, creates a story(ies) you get lost in. There isn’t heavy-handed history or the type that is so dry you’d rather not learn even learn history let alone enjoy it. It’s captivating, almost like a dream, and always over before you want to close the last page.

Once again, Anna creates a skippy plot, engaging dialogue, and beautiful descriptive scenes in The Cold Light of Dawn, and then, wraps them all up in extraordinary characters migrating on a spectacular dramatic voyage in which they polish the dramatic era of the 14th century with a wide range of emotions and intense finesse.

Purchase Links –

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Anna Belfrage, Biography –

03_Anna Belfrage.jpgAnna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

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

04_The Cold Light of Dawn_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL.png

Tour Schedule is HERE!

Hashtags: #TheColdLightofDawnBlogTour #AnnaBelfrage #historical #historicalfiction #blogtour #booktour #HFVBTBlogTours #amreading #bookblogger #bookbloggers #books #reading #giveaway #bookgiveaway

Facebook Tags: @hfvbt @annabelfrageauthor

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @abelfrageauthor

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a complete set of The King’s Greatest Enemy series to one winner & two winners will win a paperback copy of The Cold Light of Dawn! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th.
-You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter to Win HERE!

 

Facebook Kings Greatest Enemy Series Banner

4 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

BREATHE. BREATHE. News and Sale!

Hi readers,

I hope you all have had a FABULOUSLY divine Christmas or Holiday Season and are looking forward to ringing in the New Year in style. Besides working and managing my children’s busy schedules, my family and I have been able to spend some time together finally too. I plan to hang out with Tim and the kids over the New Year holiday eating, watching movies, and playing games. Beyond that, I’m busy making a TON of goals for 2018 from all things personal to business to writing. I’m demanding a lot of myself in many areas.

One of the best parts of 2017 was publishing my poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE. via Unnerving. I am beyond thrilled and grateful at the reception it’s received. It’s part biographical and trauma-based poetry seeped in real life, half supernatural and folkloric in nature, and then the short stories are a mix of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and domestic revenge, to put it as succinctly as possible. However, there is so much for everyone in this collection whether you’re a contemporary reader, a historical reader, a horror or suspense reader, or just a reader who likes to feel deeply. I’ll be writing a longer year-end wrap-up later, but for now….

I just wanted to let readers know that as a thank you for this fine two months that BREATHE. BREATHE. has had, the publisher Unnerving, has put it on SALE for just .99 cents until Dec. 31!! I’d be honored if you’d give it a try. Maybe you have an Amazon gift card to spend and can buy it for your kindle or share the news with a friend. Very soon, if not already, the print version should go on sale as well from $14 to $9!

With an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars, you can find it on sale on Amazon HERE.

Breathe Sale Un

I’d appreciate your support in a purchase or sharing with a friend or on social media. Feel free to use the graphic below if you’d like. THANK YOU. Your support means everything to me right now. We’ve had a rough year, and this…well, it just makes more hopeful.

As always, look forward to your thoughts on my writing, and don’t forget, authors thrive on the reviews you can leave, no matter how short and sweet.

Always in friendship,

Erin

 

About BREATHE. BREATHE.

BreatheBreatheBreathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.

 

PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.

“Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.” – The Scary Reviews

“Breathe. Breathe. is as honest and raw as writing gets. Erin bares her soul with these poems, particularly during Act 2 in which the verses take on a much more personal and reflective nature.” -The Grim Reader

“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews

“I am certain many readers {and not only female} will find themselves breathing shallower, or holding their breath, as the vividness of these scenes awakens memories. Other readers who may not have these particular types of painful memories, will nonetheless wince in empathy. I am equally certain very few will walk away untouched, and very few will forget.” -The Haunted Reading Room

“Raw, risky, and brave.” – Selcouth Station

“I feel the poems are at their best when folkloric in nature – I particularly like “Ningyo’s Misfortune”, “The Driftwood of Wishes”, and “Offerings to Nang Tani”. The short stories “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio” and “Life-Giver of the Nile” are both clever and brutal, and the standout.” – Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna and Dido’s Crown

“Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was “Lunch Served at Noon”, as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.” – Tim Meyer, author of Sharkwater Beach

“At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of Wrath of the Ancients

It’s full of the unexpected – bits of lace cut through with the odd and the horrible and the beautiful. Through it all I sense the power of a survivor!! And I love that!” —Sue Harrison, internationally bestselling author of Mother Earth Father Sky (Ivory Carver Trilogy) “Breathe. Breathe. is at times haunting, visceral, bittersweet, and tender. Erin Al Mehairi bares her soul and invites readers to devour it whole.” —Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching “Erin Al-Mehairi weaves a web of narrative and poetry both beautiful and nightmare-inducing in Breathe. Breathe., invoking heartache and the need to see through the shining masks life presents us to confront the darkness it truly holds.” —Michelle Garza, co-author of Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue

“I loved Dandelion Yellow.  I was hyperventilating at the end, but it was such a beautiful, painful and artful tale. I’ll be saying that last line to myself for weeks at least. Just beautiful.  I’m re-reading the rest.  One read just isn’t enough because DAYUM.  Beautiful.” –  Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and The Killer Chronicles

“In Breathe. Breathe., Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi employs sharp, jagged words arranged in sparse, disturbingly visceral clusters to force readers to “breathe” through the fear and pain of abuse and personal terror. It’s a sense reinforced by the deceptively quiet but disquieting story, “Dandelion Yellow.” Filled with sharp sensory detail, the highlight is “Life-Giver of the Nile,” an evocative circular time-shift tale in which an Egyptologist’s soul is required by Anuket, ancient and modern goddess of the Nile, for a greater purpose. Whether in poetry or prose, dark kernels nestled within horror tropes indicate that Al-Mehairi writes from the gut and from the heart but with the fierceness of a survivor, the soul of a fearless champion. This mixed collection is a fine introduction to a strong, intriguing new voice in dark fiction.” -W.D. Gagliani, Bram Stoker Finalist, author of Wolf’sTrap (Nick Lupo Series)

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Erin Al-Mehairi Bio Photo.jpgErin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently a writer, a journalist, a publicist, and an editor among many other things.

She writes fiction, essays, stories, and poetry and is an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces. As a journalist, she’s written, interviewed, and edited for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources at both ends of the spectrum in media and public relations.

As an entrepreneur, she owns two businesses: Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, in which she acts as a PR/Marketing Consultant, publicist, and editor for authors, publishers, and others. She also handles marketing and PR for Sinister Grin Press, where she is also an editor. Her third pursuit is writing her own works for publication. She volunteers her time in the community and is the chairwoman on the board of directors for a local mental health center and rape crisis and domestic violence safe haven.

She is the mother of three school-aged children and a cat. She lives with her family in rural Ohio nestled in the forest—a place just ripe for nightmares. Her passions are reading, writing, book hunting, hiking, and entertainment such as movies/film, television, and music. Oh, and she bakes, because you can’t do any of that without cookies.

Erin is a co-host with her Marketing Morsels segment on Project Entertainment Network’s The Mando Method, an award-winning weekly podcast for new and veteran writers.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving, is her debut collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories and has been an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Women’s Poetry. She is also featured in the anthology from Unnerving called Hardened Hearts, which published in December 2017. Her story “Dandelion Yellow,” from Breathe. Breathe. is also featured in the My Favorite Story anthology of the Project Entertainment Network, which published also in December of 2017.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest where she loves new friends.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Announcements, Breathe Breathe

Review: Lilli de Jong is Story of a Courageous Mother

02_Lilli de Jong.jpg

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

READ AN EXCERPT.

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Review

I’ll just tell you upfront to please read this book if you love historical fiction books that make you feel as if you are living yourself in that time and place. It’s so wonderfully well-written and drew me in page by page in a very insistent manner. I could almost feel as if I were living with and among the characters. I was shocked, horrified, tear-stricken, yet I felt proud of the protagonist as well and became full of admiration by the time I reached the end.

Lilli de Jong, is the story of a fictional woman, though it could be the story of so many women. The limits put on women during this time period by society, and men, was so tragic. This book not only brings it to light, but it reminds us it was actually worse than any of us could have ever thought. It also is petrifying as we watch the state of society inching along today and the growth of some of the feelings that men (and women) have towards women, especially in accordance with their reproductive or motherhood rights and the amount of shaming that still occurs of those who get pregnant out of wedlock. Lilli de Jong is almost like a more modern telling of the Scarlet Letter, as the character of Lilli certainly was scorned  with a similar, though intangible, mark for no other reason than having a baby when not married to the father.

What I loved about this book was obviously Janet’s character development, first and foremost. For a debut novel, this was a tremendous feat. Her pacing and dialogue was spot on and moved the story along quickly. Yet, the research hours poured into this book was also clear, and as a reader, I learned so very much of the time period, the societal and government rules, as well as through her descriptions, learned of the surroundings, which allowed me to be immersed further into the story.

The story of Lilli is such an important one. Janet truly has set the bar high for herself should she endeavor to write further novels, but I also hope she does, as I can’t wait to read more of her writing. She tells a story in a very meaningful way, creating even sad subjects into delightful reading. I shed a tear to two reading this, as well as balled my fists in anger a time or two, and feel compelled to hope that this book could also be used a learning tool for many who wish to change culture and continue to go forward with progress for women’s rights, but also of course, it’s important for others to read as well so that they can understand through the emotion and trials of Lilli just how important forgiveness can be as well as helping hands. Further, I suppose, redemption as well, and that things such as this are not only the fault of the woman, but the men too. I was so tired of judgement, even more than I already am, after reading this book.

This is the story of a woman’s courage, strength, and fortitude. It’s the story of a mother, all mothers, and their undying and unwavering love for their children. Love knows know boundaries between mother and a child and a true mother will go lengths to defend and support her children. I will carry this story around inside myself for a long while, just as all women carry the stories of those who came before us. This book should go on required reading lists.

I must applaud the author for her willingness to write this book and show the errors of our ways during this time period. Her observations from research, her ability to put herself in the shoes of another (her character – but more so, any real people who dealt with this), not having experienced this herself, are absolutely commendable. I can tell she is a very empathetic, in-tune, connective type of person. Those people make the best writers and preserve for prosperity the stories of others unlike most writers can do.

I should note after reading that I felt a kinship to the character of Lilli as well, due to her heritage and Quaker origin. Though my ancestors weren’t Quaker as far as I know, great-grandparents of mine (maybe 8 or 9 x) on my mother’s side did hail from the same area the character lived in at the start of the book, Germantown, which was a quarter in Pennsylvania. Having done my own cultural and historical research on the family for personal knowledge and my own historical writing, I could feel a sense of place when reading about her. It was very interesting and I loved this added personal touch for me.

Lilli de Jong is an outstanding debut flush with detail and movement that I would highly recommend to all readers of historical fiction or those interested in women’s rights. It’s an enjoyable read with a courageous character that I hope, for humanity’s sake, all of us can see some tiny part of ourselves in.

*I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest critique.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell’s

Praise for Lilli de Jong

“Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father’s selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father’s apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli’s story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it’s a testament to Benton’s skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important . . . Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

03_Janet Benton.jpgAuthor Janet Benton, Biography

Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away TWO Notebooks featuring quotes from Lilli de Jong! Notebooks are spiral-bound (4×6 inches) with 50 blank pages. To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/REPTM/lilli-de-jong

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Book Blast: Traitor’s Knot is for Historical Fiction Fans

Traitor’s Knot
by Cryssa Bazos

Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Endeavor Press
eBook; 394 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story.” – Elizabeth St. John, author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, author of The Handfasted Wife

Traitor’s Knot is available in eBook from Amazon

Author Cryssa Bazos, Bio –

Cryssa Bazos is a historical fiction writer and 17th Century enthusiast, with a particular interest in the English Civil War (ECW). She blogs about English history and storytelling at her blog, the 17th Century Enthusiast, and is an editor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog site.

Cryssa’s debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, a romantic tale of adventure set during the English Civil War. Traitor’s Knot is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration and is now available from Endeavour Press.

For more information visit Cryssa’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Interview: A Talk with Author Teresa Neumann About Her 70s Hippie Fiction!

best-oregon-pinot-noir-v2.pngToday, I’m hosting the lovely Teresa Neumann straight from Oregon for an interview! A conossieur of wine (check out the beautiful Oregon wine country above), her heart is also much with the Italian culture and lifestyle. When I think of her, I think of this – fun times with friends and family enjoying food and wine. She’s a great person and talented writer. She’s also not new to this blog, as I’d reviewed her Italian historical fiction books year ago, but it’s been a little while and she has since written a new book, A Year in the Company of Freaks. This novel was a bit of a departure from her other books, which we discuss in the interview below so you’ll want to keep reading.

“Freaks” is a novel that showcases life of those growing up in the 60s and 70s in California. I can’t say I’ve ever read a book like this, and it certainly was an eye-opening adventure for me as I don’t delve into this time period too much. What drew me in so much when I started reading the book early last year was the way their dialogue made me laugh. Her easy writing style will have you turning pages when you don’t even mean to keep reading and the characters will become so real that you swear they exist. I would never have thought I’d connect to the characters, but I did and found myself pulling for them and wishing they weren’t so misunderstood.

A Year Freaks

Though I don’t have experience coming-of-age in the way they did, the themes and struggles they had in all getting along together, and needing to learn and grow with and from each other, certainly fits within the framework of what needs to happen more in today’s society. It was fun contemporary fiction, but with strong messages, all wrapped up with descriptive and emotional prose. Though learning to live with others is a theme prevalent in the book, and judgment between hippies and rednecks, there is also love, frienship, redemption, and self-reflection. I’m really glad I stepped out of my box in reading this one!

Now, let’s talk about the book more with Teresa….and it’s her birthday, so please help me to wish her a very happy one!! : -)

Teresa

Welcome Teresa! I’m so glad you’re stopping by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It was my pleasure to read A Year In the Company of Freaks, your new book out last year – and an entertaining one at that! I’m glad we finally caught up to talk about it and what else is new in your life.

Come in and sit down. I feel like we should take part in your “live life” motto and drink wine in the afternoon. You tell me what’s the best – your favorite – and I’ll snap my fingers to make it so! Let me know what’s good to go with it too. I really have to learn my wines better someday soon!

Teresa: Thanks for inviting me, Erin! Ah, wine. My favorite wines are reds – cabs and merlots, though I love a great Oregon pinot noir too. They not only taste great but they’re healthy as well. In fact, after my gastronomical sojourns in Italy with my husband’s families, it’s hard for me to eat meat without a little wine as it is so good for digestion 😉

Erin: I’m not much of a wine drinker, but always wanted to try more of it for the experience. Let me pour us some. Now, let’s settle in on the front porch and talk awhile.

As I noted, A Year in the Company of Freaks was out last year.  What were some of the successes and challenges in the last couple years of writing and publishing it? How do you feel about it all now?

Teresa: I actually wrote a condensed version of “Freaks” about 12 years ago after my children and their friends began needling my husband and I about what it was like to live during the 60’s and 70’s. It wasn’t until after Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table were published that I chose to make it my next project and began the editing process. The title of the book always grabbed people’s attention, and since there were so few historical books out for the time period of the 60s and 70s, I just decided it was time to go with it. The successes and challenges of writing, for me, are one and the same: bringing a book to publication. I never realized what a truly mammoth effort goes into the process—writing, editing, re-writing, editing, decision-making on titles, front covers, back covers, synopses, etc. And that’s not even the marketing aspect of publishing a book, which is – true confession — my least favorite part of being an author. I just hate having to get the word out about my new books. That’s why you’re so incredibly appreciated, Erin! 

Erin: It is the hard part for many and so time consuming. Thank you! This book is a departure from your other novels that take place in history and overseas, Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table respectfully, and takes us to Northern California to the 1970s and the dawn of the laid back lifestyle. However, one stream that runs through them all is the familial relationships you bring to life between family and friends. How do you create such vivid characters and connections?

Teresa: You’re correct that my third book is a departure from my first two books, which are mostly set in Italy, although my main character in “Freaks” is an Italian-American and wine – or, at least vineyards – play a small role at the end of the book: I’m still committed to a nod in my books to my beloved Italians.

Family is – and always has been – an absolute joy and priority in my life. I believe the older one gets, the clearer it becomes that all the other trappings of life fade in comparison. I also tend to be an apt people watcher and am fascinated by relationships – especially the interaction between age groups. My mother-in-law once told me that she and her husband decided against moving to a retirement community in Arizona because the absence of younger people and children made it feel “sterile” and unnatural. The truth of her observation has always resonated with me on a literary level. What would the Wizard of Oz be like without Auntie Em, the lion, the scarecrow, and the tin man? Perhaps it’s that philosophy that affects my writing style?

Erin: That’s an amazing observation and so true!

I think part of this book had an element of your own life decades ago? What spurred it and how much of your own experiences did you put into it?

Teresa: Very observant, Erin! In the early 70’s, before I was married, I moved to northern California with 5 other financially broke, free-spirited girlfriends from Iowa. I had never seen an ocean before; had never been to the west coast, or any coast for that matter. Marin County at the time was the “it” place to be, so we found a four-bedroom house to rent in Novato and lived there for nearly two years before going our own ways.

I got a job as a secretary in a mail-order “head shop” on a houseboat in Sausalito, adopting the name “Marsha Mellow” as a pseudonym to protect my identity from all the prisoners around the country who bought our drug paraphernalia. Only one or two of my roommates were smart enough to own cars, so the rest of us – myself included – hitchhiked everywhere we went, day or night: work, rock-concerts, parties, etc.

In hindsight, of course, it was insane, but the craziest part of it was that I had considered myself a full-fledged hippy before moving to California: I talked the talk, smoked the pot, dropped the acid, dated rock stars, loved the music, and everything else that went with the label in those days. And yet, hippies in California were so hard core and so far beyond anything I’d experienced in the Midwest that I began to feel somewhat like an alien on another planet.

My family and educational background (I was raised in a Catholic home and private Catholic schools) kicked into gear and, quite honestly, saved me from some pretty terrifying incidents. For example, several local guys tried pressuring us girls to attend a huge, “private” weekend party up in the redwood forests near Trinity County.  When I found out that hundreds of people would be there, that everyone was expected to drop acid, and it was not clothing optional (no clothing allowed) I got a “check” in my mind and declined. I was the only one of my friends who did. Peer pressure is always tough and I felt like an idiot at the time, but I couldn’t get past my own issues with personal safety and privacy. Although I don’t judge others, by nature I’m modest about public nudity, especially in a large group setting with strangers.

Anyway, one of my friends overdosed that weekend. She came back absolutely wrecked. Not only did she OD, I suspect she was raped, although none of my other friends would say that’s what happened. They all refused to talk about it. That friend, a shell of what she’d been just days before, immediately moved back to Iowa to live with her parents. Whenever that weekend was brought up thereafter, my roommates faces reflected a certain pain that I could only guess stemmed from their own negative personal experiences at that party. Dodging that bullet – and the price of staying home alone that weekend – taught me a lot about withstanding peer pressure when my gut says “no.”

All that to say, Erin: yes, I did live in northern California in the 70’s. But contrary to the one-dimensional view that too many authors of that era have portrayed (that it was the best of times; all peace, love, flowers, and fabulous free love, and oh, how we miss it) I wanted to balance it with another reality – the reality that I and so many others experienced during that time. A reality based not solely on nostalgia, but also crafted as a cautionary tale with all the regrets and warnings that come from living a real life. I mean, my friend who overdosed at that party wasn’t my only friend during that decade to be lost to drugs, or preventable diseases, or suicide, or …

Erin: Wow, that’s SO impactful Teresa! I’m so glad you tell that side of it. Besides all you’ve stated, as opposed to taking something of historical record as in your historical fiction books, what made you decide to try something new?

Teresa: Great question! I’ve always appreciated authors who’ve experimented with various genres in their writing: Ian Fleming, Stephen King, Anne Rice, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Elizabeth Grudge. As an author who isn’t getting any younger, I’m discovering the luxury of not caring so much about conventional wisdom in publishing. I suppose “Freaks” was my break-out-of-the-mold experiment; my transitional work into trying other genres. Why not?

Erin: Your heart shined through in the writing and it was emotional yet humorous, just like life. Did the plot come easy to you? Which character did enjoy writing about the most and why?

Teresa: Ketch – the albino biker from Texas — was my favorite, just because I used to know someone from Texas much like him and he was hoot. I also enjoyed fleshing out the sheriff and his wife; Otis and Pearlie Skinner. I do love precious old folks. I suppose, subliminally, writing about them makes me feel close to my own grandparents whom I adored 😉 Sid was harder for me, simply because as a woman it takes extra effort to get inside a man’s head and portray him fairly. Mika was probably the most difficult to write. There were elements in her character that many in society would, no doubt, be quick to judge and hate. But that’s the whole point. There would be no challenge to bias, no social dilemma, no need to soul-search if there weren’t opposites at play.

As for characters in general, I love breaking stereotypes both in writing and in real life. Here’s the thing about stereotypes: they exist for a reason. When enough people from any certain group begin to display common traits, stereotypes are born. In the 60’s there were two major social stereotypes: hippies and rednecks. Whether old or young, regardless of race, sex or religion, you were either one or the other. Hippies had long hair, wore bell-bottom jeans and sandals, experimented with drugs, promoted peace at any cost, listened to heavy, psychedelic rock and loathed the establishment. Those who didn’t fit into those categories were considered rednecks. When you really think about it, it was ridiculous.

Is it any different today in our polarized world with liberals and conservatives? In fact, it was today’s political and social climate that compelled me to publish “Freaks.” I think there’s an immensely valuable lesson to be learned from reading about strangers of different stripes living together under certain constraints for a year. It is one of the major underlying themes throughout the book. We CAN live together. We can even love each other despite our differences – and even because of our differences.

Oh, and you asked about plots. Plotting, for me, is always easy at first, until I actually start putting it on paper and then all the little details I missed during the first go around start rearing their ugly little heads. That’s when the real work begins.

Erin: You may have touched on this already, but in this book you dealt with some issues of prejudice, redemption, and such. How difficult were those to write about? Do you hope these themes help readers to identify within their own lives or were they just plot points to create drama and intrigue?

Teresa: I certainly hope readers will identify with the pitfalls and futility of prejudice in “Freaks.” Quite honestly, it’s so much a part of the human condition that I think prejudice is something everyone, including myself, has to work at their entire lives. As for redemption – YES! I’m an extremely positive person and all about gaining victory over every challenge. I can’t imagine life without redemption. It would be hell. Prejudice and redemption aren’t plot points; they’re the fabric of our lives, of history, of universal reality.

Erin: So true, Teresa. Well said. It’s mentioned about A Year in the Company of Freaks that it is a coming-of-age classic that “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.” To a slightly younger reader, what was that attitude and mood of the times? What was it like? Does this book display well life in the 70s in California?

Teresa: Having lived in northern California in the 70’s, I naturally feel that “Freaks’ accurately portrays life there during that time — through my perspective. I could have been more graphic. I could have delved into the darker aspects of things I saw and experienced while there, but that wasn’t the point of my story. As a writer, I have to constantly discipline myself to avoid rabbit trails that detract from the simple, core message of my story line. The core message of “Freaks” wasn’t to show just how crazy, or decadent, or dangerous, or fun, or wild life was during that time, although those elements definitely are addressed. It was to follow the character arc of a guy born in the 50’s who came of age during the 60’s and may, or may not, make it through the 70’s without going to prison, thus altering the entire course of his life. That arc includes the arcs of the other disparate characters he is forced to live with.

One of the minor subplots in the book is the price one pays for conformity vs. the price one pays for rebellion. Whether fiction or non-fiction, any literature that doesn’t address the downside of the counter-culture movement in the 60’s isn’t being intellectually or historically honest. Today smoking, and growing, pot has become more main stream. But during the era of “A Year in the Company of Freaks” doing so was a serious criminal offense, punishable by stiff prison sentences. Without an advocate or a criminal justice system that turned a blind eye to it, drug dealers and marijuana growers faced enormous risks.  The film “Blow” starring Johnny Depp is a good case in point.

Erin: You have the SUMMER BOOKS theme at the top of your website: “Summer reading is a delicious pastime.” Do you like writing your books in the summer and reading over the winter or the other way around? Summer is reading for you too, or just your readers? What books do you like to read and where?

Teresa: The title Always Summer Books is borne out of my addiction to reading. As a young girl I spent my entire summers reading non-stop. My mother claims that before I could walk I would spend hours just looking at and leafing through telephone books. I hated it when September rolled around because – although I loved academics – it interfered with my personal reading. Thus, Always Summer Books–never stop reading, no matter the season of the year or season of your life. I suppose I am the ultimate literary nerd. I’d rather curl up with a good book than watch a mediocre movie any day.

Let me just say it’s tough writing in the summertime!! I do much better in the winter.

Erin: I TOTALLY agree! What are you writing next?

Teresa: I’m almost finished with a screenplay – an adaptation of a classic — that I’m very, very excited about. I’ve also started a children’s book, though it’s becoming far more of a challenge than I ever imagined it would be. Who would have ever thought that writing for children could be so complicated! Is it because they take everything at such face value that nothing, no little trick of the literary hand, gets past them?

Erin: I can agree with you there on the children’s books. I have a set of them I’ve been trying to write for years and they seem to be the hardest of all my work.

I know you love to travel at least once a year, if not more. What are some of the favorite places you’ve been to and things you like to do?

Teresa: Though my father was a farmer’s boy at his core, he was also an avid traveler and passed his passion on to all of his children. He would have loved to travel overseas, but was never able to in his lifetime. I’m so thankful and blessed to have been able to see a wee bit more of the world. My fascination with other lands and cultures sometimes even supersedes my love of books! Nearly all our trips are family vacations and with a growing family on a specific budget it is no small feat to accomplish, but so worth the effort. They’re unforgettable experiences that we all hang our memory hats on.

Italy holds a special place in my heart because of my husband’s family in Tuscany. It’s more than a beautiful country abounding in great food, gorgeous people, and incredible history. It’s a place that feels like home because the Bertozzi and Sigali family there embrace us in a way that is impossible not to love. As a mother, when I realized my children’s DNA was connected so strongly to a certain country, I think I instinctively wanted to nurture it in them. I’m half-Irish, so Ireland holds a similar attraction for me. We went there for the first time last year and I was constantly overcome with the giddy sensation of: “I feel so at home here! These are my people!” It’s just inexplicable. Again, the genetic link with a place and its people is stronger, I think, than most of us imagine and it’s hard to grasp until you go back to your roots and experience it.

We have dear friends in England, France and Germany as well. Currently, my daughter is an au pair in Paris, so we just recently returned from there. I love, love Paris. It is truly one of kind. London, too – England is simply amazing.

But it’s a big world out there. So much more to see and so little time (and money) to see it all in one life. Asia, Africa, and so many other places beckon.

Erin: I completely agree, Teresa! I have some Irish in me too and my dad really connects with that part of him. It’s why he named me Erin, since it means Ireland! As for me, I was born in England and though my parents are American, I totally feel that England is partially my home. I’d love to travel the world too. Thanks so much for stopping by Teresa! Please come back anytime. Now let’s sit and sip wine, talk travel some more, and enjoy the beautiful day – summer is here!

Teresa: Thank YOU, Erin — anytime! And if you’re ever in Oregon, give me a call. Summer, indeed, is almost here and a glass of cold Rosé is calling me!

Erin: Thanks so much, Teresa, I certainly will. One day I hope to see all of that side of the country!

A Year FreaksA Year In the Company of Freaks, Synopsis –
All’s Well House (December 11, 2015)

It’s 1972 and a seismic clash-of-cultures is rattling northern California. In the redneck town of Trinity Springs, rumors of hippies migrating up from San Francisco have residents bracing for an invasion.

When Italian-American hometown boy and Berkeley graduate Sid Jackson is busted for growing pot on his deceased parents’ farm, locals suspect the assault has begun. Will a crazy deferral program devised by the sheriff keep Sid out of prison? Or will a house full of eccentric strangers, a passionate love interest, and demons from his past be his undoing?

A “disarmingly appealing” tale of discrimination, transformation and restoration, Freaks is bursting with intrigue, drama, comic relief and romance. Reviewers agree this five-star, coming-of-age classic “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.”

Purchase on Amazon

Praise for A Year In the Company of Freaks –

“Sure to intrigue and entertain, Freaks will have its digs in you before you realize how involved you’ve become.” — The Manhattan Book Review

Teresa Neumann, Biography –

Teresa Neumann and her musician husband live in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley with their three children. As well as being an author, reporter, and journalist, Teresa loves to fiddle on her violin and live “la dolce vita” in  Italy whenever she can talk her family into it. Visit Teresa at her website or on Facebook Page called Always Summer Books.

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Book Blast and Sale: Hakon Haraldsson and his quest in Viking Age Norway

Raven’s Feast

by Eric Schumacher

Publication Date: May 1, 2017
Creativia
eBook & Paperback

Series: Hakon’s Saga, Book 2
Genre: Fiction/Historical

 

 

Raven’s Feast is the sequel to God’s Hammer, the true story of Hakon Haraldsson and his quest to win and keep the High Seat of Viking Age Norway.

It is 935 A.D. and Hakon Haraldsson has just wrested the High Seat of the North from his ruthless brother, Erik Bloodaxe. Now, he must fight to keep it.

The land-hungry Danes are pressing from the south to test Hakon before he can solidify his rule. In the east, the Uplanders are making their own plans to seize the throne. It does not help that Hakon is committed to his dream of Christianizing his people – a dream his countrymen do not share and will fight to resist.

As his enemies move in and his realm begins to crumble, Hakon and his band of oath-sworn warriors must make a stand in Raven’s Feast, the riveting sequel to God’s Hammer.

“At its core, Raven’s Feast is more than a story about a young king holding firm to the power he has won in Viking Norway,” said Eric Schumacher, author of Raven’s Feast. “It is the story of a young man holding true to one’s self and convictions in the face of extreme challenges — something to which, I hope, many people can relate.”

Order your copy today on Amazon!

To celebrate the launch, the prequel, God’s Hammer, will be available free-of-charge on Amazon in the US, UK and Canada from May 2-6, 2017.

Praise for God’s Hammer (Hakon’s Saga, Book 1)

“Eric Schumacher has created the most evocative tale in his stunning novel — God’s Hammer. This book completely drew me in. The research that has gone into God’s Hammer has to be commended, and it is incredibly rich in historical detail. It was as if I was looking through a window into the past as I read the pages of this remarkable story. Hakon’s portrayal is both realistic and believable. Schumacher has obviously researched the life of Hakon in great detail, and this certainly came through in the writing. Schumacher brought Hakon back to life. Well Done!” – Mary Yarde, the author of The Du Lac Chronicles

“Author Eric Schumacher put together a rousing story of warfare, religious strife and tested friendships.” – Mercedes Rochelle, author of Godwine Kingmaker and The Sons of Godwine

About the Author

Eric Schumacher was born in Los Angeles in 1968 and currently resides in Santa Barbara, CA with his wife, two children and dog. He is the author of two historical fiction novels, God’s Hammer and its sequel, Raven’s Feast. Both tell the story of the first Christian king of Viking Norway, Hakon Haraldsson, and his struggles to gain and hold the High Seat of his realm.

More information on Eric and his Hakon Sagas can be found on his website. You can also connect with Eric on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and AuthorsDB.

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Review – Under the Approaching Dark Anna Belfrage

Under the Approaching Dark

Under the Approaching Dark, Review –

As anyone who has faithfully read my site over the years knows, Anna is a frequent name here as she’s one of my most loved historical fiction authors. I fell in love with her time slip series, The Graham Saga, and now, her four book series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, is already publishing its third book, Under the Approaching Dark. I can hardly believe it. I didn’t think Anna could woo my reader’s brain as much with this second series, but she certainly has, and I am happy to say I even liked this third book the very best of this series.

This series takes place in 14th century England and features the couple of Adam de Guirande and his wife Kit as they are placed amid the drama of King Edward II, Queen Isabella, Roger Mortimer, and Hugh Despenser – all interesting real historical characters. As we are introduced to Adam and Kit, I realize Anna has a huge feat in front of her – to research and present the historical characters in an accurate way with her own spin that will create excitement for the reader, while also creating Adam, Kit, and a whole host of other characters that will launch off the page at you and tell you they are most certainly real. And Anna will tell you the same too. I know, I know, Anna – they talk to you, maybe even yell at you, to get their story out.

I digress a little, but my point is that Anna is such a great writer she does it all with ease. She creates likeable, and not likable, characters that you grow to love, and hate, in a way that makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the 14th century and know them personally. They cease to exist as characters and  truly become people. This is the most important thing in a story teller, for without the best characterization, a story can run very flat even if highly researched or developed. Anna is never dry and always entertaining in her dialogue and humor of the characters. I especially enjoy her female characters, and really feel more in love with Kit by this third book, even though she tries to give the male the lead of the story. Maybe she does that to boost his ego, but it doesn’t take long to read between the lines of who actually prods the men’s decision-making, for good or bad.

Particularly in the third book, her opening scene is so emotional, which is something I see Anna has worked on developing. It was a touching moment, even in its brevity before she was back to humor, but enough to make me have a pang of sorrow for Adam. Though it is on the first couple pages, I don’t want to give a spoiler if you’ve not read the second book. In fact, a lot happened in the second book to lead into the third, and so I highly recommend you do read this series in order for full enjoyment. Big things occurred to shift the dynamics within King Edward II’s realm, and to Adam and Kit as well, and this has carried over into more treachery, rebellion, hard decisions, intrigue, and loss in this third book. However, there is still a good amount of love, sacrifice, redemption, and hope weaved throughout the tale as well.

Anna’s decriptive prowress has always been on point, but honestly, it keeps getting better. She knows exactly how to describe things to put us in the moment, and her amount of research detail peppered throughout the book is not only relevant, accurate, authentic to the story, but worded with just the right verbiage.

Kit’s character waned under Adam’s stronger one for me for awhile. I love a strong, yet emotionally adept man, but in this book Kit’s strength during what was happening, and her own personal struggle – I don’t want to spoil – was down right Oscar worthy in the best way. Her intelligence has always shined through, but now her tenacity was more profound. And as Edward III takes on a new role of growth in this novel and into the next, I see how much she’s shown the reader just how a young monarch might grow up to be in his circumstances as well. To me, this growth, shows even more the penmanship of Anna as she challenges herself with each story before the series heads to its climax.

As always, Anna is a master carver of words and plot in order to bring you a drama rich in history, resistance, tragedy, tension, love, and survival. I couldn’t put Under the Approaching Dark down and I’m more than ready for the fourth book in The King’s Greatest Enemy series. Highly recommended for long days or nights when you can get caught up without fear of interuptions.

P.S. Any author in need of writing dialogue assistance MUST read Anna Belfrage. She’s a master at dialogue. And hilarious too!

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I’ve written.

Under the Approaching DarkUnder the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: April 28, 2017
Matador
eBook & Paperback; 424 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over.

After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster.

In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much.

When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers.

“The writing is impeccable. The story has everything. Under the Approaching Dark is just perfect in every sense” – Sharon Bennett Connolly, History The Interesting Bits

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Chapters | IndieBound | Kobo

Author Anna Belfrage, Biography –

03_Anna BelfrageAnna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

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

Giveaway

To win a copy of Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage, please enter via the Gleam form below:
Direct Link: https://gleam.io/2f2eV/under-the-appraoching-dark

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Thank you!

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See more reviews, interviews, and articles durng the tour! 

Hashtags: #UndertheApproachingDarkBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #Medieval #BlogTour #Giveaway

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Women in History: She-Wolf of the 13th Century? Isabella of France

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #4 today. March is Women in History month and so I’m featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it will extend way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the article as I schedule or post them.

Today, one of my favorite historical fiction and time slip authors, Anna Belfrage, takes the stage, or probably more likely her character, Isabella, does. Anna is such a great writer and consistenly makes me laugh so hard I’ll spit out my drink. Oh to travel to Sweden and laugh with her. But enough of that…today she is talking about Isabella of France, a she-wolf who put up with a lot from the men in her life, so we head off to the 14th century!

Isabella w Prince Edward doing homage to Charles IV

Isabella with Edward paying homage to Charles IV

Isabella of France – a milksop or a she-wolf?

By Anna Belfrage, historical fiction author

In my series The King’s Greatest Enemy, Isabella of France plays a major role. As per her highness, she is the protagonist, but as the author I can assure you she isn’t, albeit that she is one of the central characters, together with her son, Prince Edward, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Isabella, however, is not defined by the men in her life. This is a medieval woman who grabbed hold of her destiny and forged a new future for herself – not something she necessarily wanted to do, but life can be a bummer even if you’re a highborn lady. Ask Isabella: she’d agree.

Just to give you some background, Isabella was born in 1295, the only surviving daughter of Philippe IV of France, a.k.a. Le Bel, the handsome. Philippe may have been pretty on the outside, but the rest of him was not quite as pleasing. This was a ruthless king who, among other things, crushed the Templar order and had many, many Templar knights burned for heresy. Why? Because Philippe resented the Templars’ influence over the pope – and desired their wealth.

Where daddy was tough as nails, Isabella’s mother seems to have been of a softer disposition. Jeanne of Navarre and Philippe had a happy marriage and I assume he was devastated when she died in 1305. Little Isabella now only had one parent. She also, since some years back, had a betrothed. Once she was considered old enough, Isabella was destined to wed English King Edward I’s heir, yet another Edward. By the time the marriage took place, in early 1308, Isabella’s husband was the king – and about twice her age, which probably explains why initially Edward treated Isabella kindly but with little interest.

Isabella w her daddy her hubby & her brothers

Isabella with her dad and other family

Things happened that caused Edward to turn to his wife for comfort. Besides, Isabella was now old enough to bed, and as all medieval kings, Edward was fully aware of his duty to sire an heir, no matter if his preferences lay elsewhere. As an aside, there is plenty of evidence Edward preferred the company of his male friends to that of women, but that in itself does not mean he was indulging in homosexual relationships. And if he was, he was still more than capable of impregnating Isabella. Whether he did so while closing his eyes and thinking of England we don’t know. We’ll never know.

Anyway, if we fast-forward some twelve years or so, we find Isabella and Edward living in an England torn apart by the king’s obvious infatuation with Hugh Despenser, the latest royal favourite. Despenser was greedy and the king was more than happy to give him what he wanted. (Them, actually: there was a Hugh senior and a Hugh junior. It was junior who was Edward’s preferred companion and potential lover, but senior was no slouch when it came to the coveting department, and Edward was as happy to shower Hugh senior with gifts as he was to indulge Hugh junior). Problem was, sometimes the Despensers wanted stuff that belonged to others. Sometimes, they rapaciously cheated widows and orphans out of what rightfully belonged to them. Sometimes, they even wanted land that belonged to the king’s younger brothers. And what they wanted they got, causing the rest of the English barons to grumble. Loudly.

In 1321, Isabella was no longer a child but a poised and well-educated young woman. She was Queen Consort and probably expected to – or wanted to – exert some influence over her husband. I imagine she disliked being pushed aside by Hugh. I guess she resented that it was Hugh, not Isabella, who shared the king’s confidences. Also, Isabella had others to think of, primarily her eldest son, the future Edward III, and she did not like what was happening in an England where Despenser ruled the roost. Things went from bad to worse in 1322 when a triumphant Edward II defeated his rebel barons. Roger Mortimer was thrown into the Tower, the king’s rebellious cousin Thomas of Lancaster was summarily executed, and all, as per Edward II, was well in the world.

Except it wasn’t. Despenser and Edward unleashed what is called The Tyranny, a period of four years when the king and his favourite rode roughshod over England and its barons, determined to stamp out any opposition. Thing is, if you crowd too many hungry dogs into corners, chances are they’ll start fighting back, and when Mortimer engineered his escape from the Tower in August of 1323, the downtrodden barons gained a leader who had every intention of bringing Despenser down.

Now, for the king and Despenser to have Mortimer as an implacable enemy was bad enough. They made things substantially worse for themselves when they went after Isabella, first by depriving her of her dower income – the king needed the income to fight the French, he claimed, but Isabella’s dower rights were part of the extensive marriage contracts and he had no right to confiscate them – secondly by exiling several of her household officers on the pretext that they were French and therefore potential traitors. Ahem. Isabella was French – was she also considered a potential traitor?

Whatever her feelings, Isabella was smart enough to conceal her simmering anger, which is how she ended up sent to France to negotiate a peace treaty. She did so (I guess it wasn’t too hard work: after all, she was treating with her brother, Charles IV) but the finalised treaty called for Edward to come to France and do homage to Charles IV. Edward refused – mainly because things at home were getting sticky, and Despenser was worried that the moment Edward left the country, the disgruntled barons would come after him.

In view of her husband’s refusal, Isabella convinced her brother to suggest Edward send his eldest son and heir to perform the homage in his stead. I suspect this was all part of a carefully thought out plan: once Isabella had her son with her, she could act with impunity, declaring that whatever she was doing she was doing on behalf of the poor oppressed English people and her young, handsome son.

After some consideration, Edward agreed to send his son. This is not to say he didn’t have concerns, but up to this point in her life, Isabella had always been a dutiful wife. She’d given her husband four children, she’d even accepted the confiscation of her income, so Edward had no reason to suspect she was about to turn the tables on him. After all, Isabella was a woman, and women were the weaker vessel – everyone knew that. Well, except for Isabella and a rather large handful of other colourful medieval women.

Prince Edward came to France. He did not return home. Roger Mortimer suddenly popped by to visit with the French king. Or was it to meet Isabella? Whatever the case, he did meet her, and as of that moment, those two spent all their time together, planning just how to invade England, with Prince Edward as their figurehead.

Those of you who know your history know the invasion in 1326 was a major success, and come early 1327, Hugh Despenser was dead, Edward II had been forced to abdicate, and Isabella (and Mortimer) were the effective rulers of England, her son being too young to do much ruling on his own.

Isabella besieging Bristol

Isabella besieging Bristol

All of the above indicates Isabella was a forceful person, and yet there are various depictions of the events that paint her as some sort of victim, dominated by the dark and brooding Roger Mortimer. As per these versions, poor little Isabella was manipulated by Mortimer, so enthralled to him she went along with whatever he proposed, be it executing Hugh Despenser gruesomely or (as some say) ordering the murder of her husband. (And no, I don’t think Edward II was murdered. I remain in two minds as to if he died at all in 1327 – not for this post to discuss). What the proponents of this depiction of Isabella conveniently forget is that she was born a princess of France. She’d been raised to become a strong consort, she was used to deference, and while she might have found Mortimer hot, she was also fully aware of the fact that she was born a royal, he was a mere baron.  No way was she going to let him lead her by the nose! As I believe Mortimer was a pretty smart guy, I don’t think he even tried…

The other depiction of Isabella is that of a “she-wolf.” Her behaviour was not normal for a good woman of the times, so some sort of derogatory epithet had to be attached to her, and what better than to label her as a potentially half-crazed beast. A woman to rebel against her own husband, what sort of monster was she, hey? A woman to ride at the head of her own army (Mortimer wisely rode some paces behind the queen and the prince, even if he probably did all the actual commanding), who had ever heard of that before? Unnatural behaviour, that’s what it was!

Obviously, Isabella was no half-crazed beast. She was an ambitious and intelligent woman who deeply resented being shunted aside by an avaricious favourite. She was a mother who worried her husband’s and his favourite’s behaviour jeopardised her son’s patrimony. She was a wife who’d had it with her husband’s high-handedness. In the very capable Roger Mortimer, she found the perfect instrument to help her achieve her goals. I guess it didn’t hurt that she liked the baron for other reasons as well.

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03_Annna_Belfrage 2015Anna Belfrage, Biography –

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. Instead, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time-slip series The Graham Saga, winner of multiple awards, including the HNS Indie Award 2015.

Her new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures during Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The third book, Under the Approaching Dark, will be published in April of 2017 – and yes, Isabella plays a major role!

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Anna can be found on her website, on Facebook and on her blog. Or on twitter and Amazon.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor

AMAZON: http://t.co/dto2WzdTJQ

Link The Graham Saga: http://myBook.to/TGS

Link The King’s Greatest Enemy: http://myBook.to/TKGE

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Thanks for following along with the series!

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