Tag Archives: new historical fiction

Interview with Author M.J. Rose of Seduction: A Magical, Haunting Tale of Victor Hugo

Hi, M.J.!  Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s a pleasure for me to have you here today for an interview. Our time is obviously short so let’s get started!

SeductionQ:  Where did your inspiration for Seduction stem from? What compelled you to write it?

A:  A trip to Paris and Victor Hugo’s home there inspired me to read Les Miserables. I became obsessed with Fantine. I kept wondering if someone had inspired Hugo to create her? I started reading more and more about him. I read his poetry. Sought out his watercolors and drawings… But it was coming across a description of his belief in reincarnation and his experimenting with séances that made me decide to write about him… and the woman who might have inspired him to create Fantine.

Erin Comments: Fascinating!

Q: How is Seduction similar to your other novels? How does it differ?

A: Al l of my novels seem to be about how the past influences the present.   Seduction is different in that it’s the first time I wrote from a famous person’s point of view. About 25% of the book is me writing as Victor Hugo – giving his first person account of his experiences with séances.

Q:  What was your favorite part of writing Seduction?

A: The second draft. I love that part of every book the best. The hardest part is done – getting the book on paper – then I get to finesse for days and days and days.

Erin Comments: Totally understandable.

Q: What is one thing you want readers to remember or feel after they are done reading Seduction?

A: Hopefully how much they enjoyed reading the book so they tell everyone about it 🙂

Q:  What other novels have you written and are they all historical thriller/suspense?

A: All the books are at MJRose.com – there are 13 novels all together. The Reincarnationist, The Memorist, The Hypnotist and The Book of Lost Fragrances all have elements of historical fiction – the others don’t.

Q:  I like how you meld the senses, art, music, and the spiritual into your books. I can imagine you live your life surrounded by all things beautiful from the creative world.  What would some of your favorite Pinterest boards say about you (if you have or would have them) or show us about your personality?

A: OH I HAVE THEM! Just visit MJRose at Pinterest – I love doing them. – some are very personal and some are even hidden that the public can’t see. I use them to create characters and work on stories.

Q: Who are your favorite heroines from history?

A:  I can’t tell you – I have a list of them and a series of books planned about them – and don’t want to give it away 🙂

Q:  How do you feel that the publishing world is doing now in accepting females as major novel writers, especially in the thriller genre?

A: Other than getting reviews – which mostly go to male writers in suspense and every genre – women writers in the suspense genre have done well for decades. Going back to Agatha Christie and even further, I don’t think there’s been any serious prejudice from readers or publishers against women writers.

Q:  Do you think paranormal or spiritual themes are integral parts of your writing?  Why do you feel these themes are so popular in the current culture?

A: I think magic is integral to my writing… I’m drawn to possibilities even when they are impossible ones. And I think they are popular because we’re living in hard times and the paranormal takes us out of our world and offers hope that there is more than we know about – more than we can see.

Erin Comments: I agree.

Q:  You are an extremely well-known consultant and mentor in regards to self-publishing. I know you’ve opened a marketing company for promoting books. I’m in the same line of work in regards to journalism, PR, and marketing. I’m wondering, how do you manage to do all this and write novels too? How do you juggle it all?

A: I work on my fiction in the morning and then the afternoon is devoted to AuthorBuzz.com

Erin Comments: You make it sound so easy. Kudos to you for all you accomplish.

Q: What is some of your best advice for women authors who are balancing a family, life and writing novel(s)?

A: I don’t have any since I do not have anything like a balanced life!

Q:  What is your advice about self-publishing versus looking for a traditional publisher? What about independent press?

A: All publishing is a lottery. Over 2 million books will be published this year. Most will sell less than 100 copies. I think everyone needs to educate themselves and not just talk to the successes in traditional publishing and self publishing but talk to the authors in the trenches in both camps and see which trench you’d rather be in. Self publishing gives you total control, you own all your own rights and you don’t share any of what you make on your books but I think you need to have  an interest in running a business. Traditional offers you a lot of help, more distribution, financial support upfront and a chance at reviews that elude most self published authors. It’s all what you want to do and how you want to do it.

Q:  What has been your biggest achievement or success? What has been your biggest challenge?

A: Staying alive. And staying alive.

Q:  Switching gears, what is your favorite stage play and why? Movie?

A: Stage play  Brigadoon – it is so magical.

Erin Comments: Also one of my favorites! I hardly hear anyone say this one!

Movie – Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn tied with Portrait of Jennie. It’s that magic again.

Q:  What is coming up next for you?

A: I’m working on the 2014 book now but I think it’s bad luck to talk about it.

Q: What is the best way for readers to connect with you?

A: MJRose.com – there’s a form there.

Erin:  It’s been an honor to have the opportunity to interview you, M.J.!  I wish you even more continued success and welcome you here anytime! Best of luck to you in all your many endeavors.

M.J.: And a pleasure to visit with you here!

Readers, please stop back by on May 9 for my review of Seduction!

Seduction, Synopsis~

SeductionPublication Date: May 7, 2013
Atria Books
Hardcover; 384p
ISBN-10: 1451621507

SYNOPSIS: From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost journal of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.

Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

Author M.J. Rose, Biography~

M.J. RoseM.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com. The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Promotion for Necklace from M.J. Rose!

NecklaceYou will be eligible to win a Victoria Choker if you:

1. Put the book on you To Be Read shelf on Goodreads and email me the link or tell me and send me your account name in an email to hookofabook@hotmail.com: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15802432-seduction


2. Pre-order SEDUCTION here: http://mjrose.com/books/seduction.asp?BookVar=Praise
Send your receipt to mjrosewriter@gmail.com and state you came from the Hook of a Book blog.

Only US residents can enter.
See More Guest Posts, Interviews, Reviews, and Giveaways at Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/seductionvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #SeductionVirtualTour
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Filed under Q and A with Authors

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

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

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

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

Here’s the synopsis for The Chalice~

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

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

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

(review continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ChaliceThe Chalice Information~

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


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

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

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

Praise for The Chalice

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

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

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

Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~

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


For more on The Chalice, including more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways click on link or banner! 
Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thechalicevirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #TheChaliceVirtualTour
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The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld: Legend turned Novel a Superb Middle Ages Tale

I’ve been interested in the Middle Ages since I was a little girl, fueled further by a middle and high school art teacher who had us crafting  castles, headdresses, and crests. I reveled in legends and fantastical stories of maidens, soldiers, castles, and dragons and had a love affair with King Arthur, Lady of the Lake, and even Robin Hood. It was all so romantic, mystical, and endearing….and even after taking a college course on the Middle Ages and learning the horrible conditions they endured, I still immensely enjoy reading and watching anything written about this time period.  In the past several years, there seems to have been a resurgence of stories written surrounding the Middle Ages with works such as Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, but there is still room for more wonderful writers to really delve in to this rich time period.

Thoughts on The Cross and the Dragon~

9781611792270-CrossandDragon-small2I just finished reading The Cross and the Dragon, a debut historical novel by author Kim Rendfeld.  She quite amazingly takes the legend and the poem, Song of Roland, and crafts it into her own romantic tale with her own original outcome. Not only is her book phenomenally researched, it also shows a tremendous amount of thought and creativity, not to mention storytelling ability.  Though there is much historical detail, the reader is never impeded by it and her tale is smoothly weaved with a flow that dripped satisfying like honey melting on my tongue.

I read it almost in one sitting, during which I could not bear to put it down for fear I would fail Alda, her female protagonist, in her pursuits and that I’d lose the momentum of the exhilaration I was feeling of reading such a wonderful novel.  Yes, I loved it!! I was swept away into a glorious tale of a strong young woman and her man, who equally loved her as much during a time when men didn’t always love women as romantically as would be desired.

I felt happiness, romance, sadness, anger and then I was even overcome with tears toward the end.  I felt connected to Alda and her husband, Hruodland (or Roland), which means that Rendfeld wrote with superb character development.  Her supporting characters were just as endearing (and hated) and I loved how Hruodland and Alda’s family members understood Alda’s strength, will, and courage.

I also was encouraged to read between the lines with Rendfeld’s writing, mostly through her character of Ganelon–a former suitor of Alda’s who seeks revenge and has a blood feud with Hruodland–that common treatment in history that alluded to women being slaves to their husbands, without thought or independence (even beaten and raped), was abominable. I was extremely pleased that Rendfeld showed, through Hruodland, how men should love and respect a woman. I loved Rendfeld’s use of Alda as a brave, resilient, and educated woman able to make her own decisions based on her freewill.

Rendfeld shows us in her writing how politics could outweight and outmaneuver feelings during these decades, but shows us the emotional love affair between Alda and Hruodland as an example of how a relationship could properly overcome these bonds of culture and religion.  Of course as religion was a very distinct part of life in the Middle Ages (even to the point many battles were fought over it), Rendfeld was true to how their religion would facilitate their decisions and schedule their lives, emotions, and beliefs; however,  she also showed us how religious zealots could sometimes misinterpret the Scriptures to suit their own purposes or go to extreme measures for salvation. Alda was a character who fought against all norms.



Eight phases of The Song of Roland in one picture from Wikipedia

The Song of Roland is known as France’s oldest surviving piece of literature and is a poem of heroism stemming from the battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778 in which Hruodland (Roland) was a commander of the rear guard of Charlemagne that was defeated by a Muslim army.  Historically, Hruodland died during this raid.  The tale of this battle was passed down as legend and propaganda over the years and was later romanticized into The Song of Roland in the 11th Century.  It’s the love story of Roland, and this poem where he is mentioned briefly, that propelled Rendfeld to turn this legend into a storytelling masterpiece of her own.

If you like strong female leads in history that are feisty, courageous, and bold in a time where women were used mostly as political pawns and child-bearing vessels, you’ll love this novel.  It’s more romantic legend than the common historical literature. Rendfeld’s smooth prose, character development, and tight detail really make this book elegant historical fantasy that could be passed down through the centuries with anyone wishing to tell a tale with a lute and harp in tow. Oh, I was lost in time…….in reality, certainly one that anyone would love to have in their collection.

Interview with Author Kim Rendfeld~



Kim Rendfeld is graciously giving away one (1) SIGNED print copy The Cross and the Dragon. With a beautiful cover and superb storytelling, this is a book you’ll want for your library. Open to United States residents only. Please leave a comment with your email (to contact winner) or email me to hookofabook(at)hotmail.com.

For an extra entry into the contest, you can follow my blog and let me know. The giveaway is open until 11:59 p.m. EST on March 2, 2013.

The Cross and the Dragon Synopsis~

9781611792270-CrossandDragon-small2A tale of love in an era of war and blood feuds.

Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

 Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge in the early years of Charlemagne’s reign, told by a fresh, new voice in historical fiction.

For Purchase~

The Cross and the Dragon, published by Fireship Press, is available in e-book (via Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other readers) and in print from Amazon (U.S., Canada, U.K., and other countries) as well as Barnes & Noble.

 Kim Rendfeld, Biography~

KimBookPhotoSmallerKim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon.

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren’t for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association.

 Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats.  They have a daughter and two granddaughters, with a third due in May 2013.

See more about Kim Rendfeld and her books at www.kimrendfeld.com.


Filed under Book Reviews

The Midwife’s Tale an Outstanding Historical Mystery Debut by Sam Thomas!

The Midwife's Tale

The Midwife’s Tale was an exciting new mystery by first time novelist and historian, Sam Thomas.  The book, set during the mid-17th century during the time of unrest known as the English Civil Wars, takes us on a rousing adventure of a midwife turned detective.  Stephen Cooper, a man with political enemies, is killed and his wife is found guilty without a proper trial.  It’s up to her friend to save her or she’ll burn at the stake.

A woman with admirable girth, protagonist Bridget Hodgson is a midwife and widow of respectable status which allows her to move around the city and speak to men as most women of time are not. It also allows her to be privy to a wide range of gossip of news.  With her newly acquired maidservant, Martha, who has her own story to tell, Bridget sets out meeting around town and begins to make enemies of her own.

Based on a true midwife from the era who lived in York, Thomas does a remarkable job of spinning a tale utilizing her profession as a foundation for a fiction novel.  He is outstanding at casting suspicion on all the book’s supporting characters so we can’t quite figure out who might have poisoned Cooper or if his wife is innocent.  The only delay that Hodgson can bring to the wife’s death sentence is to point out that she is pregnant.  But is she really? Who is telling the truth and who is spinning lies?  How far would someone go to protect their secrets?

With all the political intrigue in the novel, rebels fighting against the King and everyone playing both sides to be in favor with whomever wins, it certainly is any man’s murder. But I bet you’ll be surprised who actually commits the crime.

Filled with life that’s brimming with horrible class distinction in the various area of York, Thomas’ historical knowledge of this time period adds to set all the scenes with great detail and visual. I could totally see this as a BBC show with a midwife detective. And might I add, that this man knows a lot about birthing a baby. The scenes portraying Bridget’s work as midwife–even through to the emotional upheaval that the career brought with it–were phenomenal. Though I love history, I honestly say I do not want to time travel back to this era and proceed in becoming pregnant. Life was hard for women of any class, but especially for servants and in the poorer of any city’s areas.

I can’t wait to read more mysteries from Thomas and hope he writes more!! I enjoyed my time reading it in no time flat.  If you’re a fan of history, sleuthing, and strong female protagonists, The Midwife’s Tale is certainly a must-have read.  The style of writing reminded me of C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Secret; however, Thomas winds a tale to us from the deepest part of the society up giving us a glimpse into a character that can move about between both poor, common, and aristocrat with same level of humanity and accountability for all.


Thomas is giving away one regular book copy to a winner in US or Canada!! You don’t want to miss leaving a comment to enter this giveaway either on the blog or on my FB link of this post. In the comment, please leave an email (or email it to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com) so I can contact you if you win regarding your mailing address. No PO boxes please. 

Extra entry will be earned by following my blog: Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Please let me know you did so for the extra entry.

Giveway will run until February 6, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

About the Book~

Publication Date: January 8, 2013 | Minotaur Books | 320p

In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Midwife’s Tale.

It is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels’ hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.

Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who’s far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha’s past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city’s most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther’s murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.

Sam Thomas, Biography~

Sam ThomasSam Thomas is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas just recently moved to Ohio from Alabama.  He has a wife and two children.


Find out more on Sam Thomas, as well as the real life Bridget Hodgson and midwives of this era at:  http://samthomasbooks.com/



Book signings/Readings/Events~

For those of us who live in Ohio, so does the newly relocated Thomas, and we have an opportunity to see him at the following locations and times:

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Fireside Bookshop, 29 N. Franklin St., Chagrin Falls.


When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, part of the “Dead of Winter, A Celebration of Mystery Writing” event.

Where: Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland.


When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Where: Bertram Woods Library, 20600 Fayette Road, Shaker Heights.


Check out the Tour Schedule where you’ll find more reviews, interviews, giveaways, and guest posts at: http://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/2012/11/sam-thomas-on-tour-for-midwifes-tale.html

Twitter Hashtag: #MidwifesTaleVirtualTour

The Midwife's Tale Tour Banner FINAL


Filed under Book Reviews

Sophie Perinot’s The Sister Queens Debuts to Acclaim of Historic Proportions

Do you love historical fiction like I do? Then Sophie Perinot’s debut novel, The Sister Queens, is a novel you won’t want to miss out on! It’s fantastic! This delicate, yet strong prose is a work full of detailed imagery so intense that you’ll feel vividly as if you are actually one of the two sisters~Marguerite and Eleanor~who were raised at court and bred to take substantial places in politics and history. I honestly couldn’t put the book down, and when I had to, I found myself counting the time until I could pick it up again. I loved the moving picture I was experiencing in my head so much that I gorged myself on it, reading way more than I should have in an insane amount of time, and still was famished to learn far more about the life of these sisters.

In The Sister Queens, the sister’s father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, positioned all his daughters to deserve nothing less than royalty.  Their beauty, wit, demeanor, and piety are above reproach and their social standing high as the daughter of a mother from Savoy. 

Marguerite becomes a young Queen of France upon marrying Louis IX at age 13, while simultaneously Eleanor, age 12, becomes Queen of England upon her marriage to Henry III.  The novel is a story which is loosely based on the letters they penned to one another during that time (note: the author made up letters they might have written, though they did indeed write to each other) and the book alternated chapters between the present voices of Marguerite and Eleanor, each starting with a letter to the other.

The writing of Sophie Perinot, so intricately researched and brought to life on each page, is a must read for everyone, especially for those enjoying historical drama. How was this story not told before? I’m certainly glad that Perinot uncovered them and gave us their story.  It’s an amazing tale of  two sisters who loved each other so much, yet also had differing personalities and competed with one another, supported one another, and challenged one another. It’s one to mark down for the greatest of novels list and reads visually as a theatrical movie. And Perinot delivers this kind of hype on each page even more than we could begin to imagine.

Marguerite is the perfect one, who tends to conform to the need of others out of necessity and extreme patience. She endearing. She tries very hard to be the wife that Louis IX, a monarch considered to be one of the best of his era, wants her to be. But she hides in the shadows of his extremely toxic mother, Blanche.  None of Marguerite’s family or waiting staff are allowed at court and she is all alone, being very careful who she can trust.  As Louis becomes increasingly withdrawn to matters of state, and with his own pious intent turning increasingly to religious zealotry, Marguerite struggles as a woman alone in a country who does not love her as she deserves to be loved.  This includes her husband who turns her love away in order, as he sees it,  to please God.  It’s this desire for love that sends her down a path of forbidden love.

Eleanor, in contrast, is stubborn, passionate and very strong, and has a marriage where her family is allowed at court, is engaged in the politics of England, and in which her husband is so dutiful to her he makes it very clear at every opportunity how much he loves her and respects her opinion.  He isn’t the greatest of monarchs, but he is a good person.  England suffers for his rule and his failures, but England also gains from her inherent political sense and resolve.

Eleanor competes with Marguerite on a political level, as country is pitted against country, and as Eleanor sees it, sister against sister. But all Marguerite competes with Eleanor in is in being loved. Marguerite encourages her husband in his pursuits only in hopes of increasing his love quotient for her, but Eleanor competes with Marguerite in wanting England to be a strong political power as much as France.  Due to the nature of writing letters and not wanting them to fall into the wrong hands, Eleanor never gets to read her sister’s true angst with Louis IX or his increasingly brutal piety.

Both sisters seem to take on the traits of the other throughout the book as their life unfolds. Eleanor becomes more patient and Marguerite becomes more bold. It was so inspiring to me to see these sisters go through their life trials. I think it’s amazing how various life events can completely compel us to take on different attributes in order to survive them. I enjoyed seeing how they evolved.

I found myself pulling for Marguerite throughout the book. I could relate to her husband’s moods and increasing OCD personality based on some experiences of my own. I wanted her to be able to be free with her forbidden love. I didn’t understand Eleanor not understanding it, but I remembered that Eleanor didn’t get to see what we as readers saw from Marguerite. I wish she had, she might have understood the change in her sister in a more patient manner. Or maybe not, given the time period. But I found myself wanting to explain “why” to Eleanor. To Eleanor, Marguerite was perfect and anything less was shocking, but all Marguerite wanted was to be happy.

The novel gives a resounding rendition of Louis IX’s strides and failures of going on Crusade. It gives an alarming picture of what the Crusades were actually like, from the French perspective. It also gave me a thought about how medieval Europe came to begin to punish so harshly for crimes on the crux of religion.

I loved The Sister Queens for so many reasons. It ends with the sisters in their 30s being reunited and starting a new phase of life.  The result of this time in history is also the Treaty of Paris 1259, as through these sisters, England and France vowed to be peaceful.  It was a wonderful ending to this book and shows how a sister’s love can transcend miles and years apart. Both lived into their 70s, which was practically unheard of back then. I would have liked to continue reading about them. At 500 pages, I felt I still could have read more. It wasn’t enough! I didn’t want to stop reading, which I guess is what makes it a really good book.  I wanted to keep reading about the rest of their lives. I vote for Perinot to do a SEQUEL!!! Please, Sophie!!

I recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction, romance, politics and really anyone who just wants to try  a new book. I can’t wait to read more novels in the future from Sophie Perinot.

Interview with Sophie Perinot, author of The Sister Queens

I also had the pleasure of interviewing Sophie Perinot about her writing, her book, and her life as an author!! Much to my pleasant surprise, I found out that we grew up in the same area. Though she lives in a big city now, I still felt inspired by the fact that she came from the same rural area as I. If she can do it, I can do it is the kind of mantra this knowledge inspired in me! I am so happy for Sophie and wish her great success in the future.

Here is our interview….

Hi, Sophie! Welcome to my blog and thank you for doing an interview with me! I loved your debut novel and hope this is the start of many more for you.

Q1:  Your debut novel, The Sister Queens, is so vivid and detailed. What gave you the idea to write this book? Why does it differ from other historical fiction novels?

A1:  I was probably destined to write about Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence.  I’ve always been a sucker for stories about sisters, right back to the March sisters in Little Women.  I suspect that’s because I am half of a pair of incredibly close sisters.  My first childhood memory is of my sister coming home from the hospital and we have been best friends ever since.  We were even college roommates.  I know with certainty that my relationship with my sister has been formative in my life.  If she had never existed, I would not be the same person I am today.  These types of very primary relationships interest me and I am attracted to characters and situations that allow me to explore them.

It was in that frame-of-mind that I stumbled upon the amazing daughters of Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence.  I was researching a 16th century project and there they were in a book on the history of Notre Dame de Paris (Marguerite’s image is carved over the church’s Portal Rouge).  According to a footnote, all four sisters made politically significant marriages with Marguerite and Eleanor becoming the queens of France and England respectively.  I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of them.  I began to research the women further and it quickly became clear there was a sister-story to be told.  That got me REALLY excited and resulted in The Sister Queens which is, after all, a sister story first and foremost.  Yes, it is set in the 13th century and the atmosphere, politics and history are richly detailed and appropriate to that time period, but the true focus of my novel is on that which is timeless—the way our sisters shape us whether by challenging us or by supporting us.

The second part of your question intrigues me.  Does my novel differ from other historical novels?  I have to say I’ve never thought about that.  When I write I write in a vacuum (no reading while I am writing).  When I read I read widely and enjoy a huge variety of authors and styles without comparing them to each other or to my own work.  It certainly is important to me as a reader that a story is vivid and that it sucks me fully into the world of the novel.  So I am very glad that my novel came to life for you 🙂

(Erin comments: It really did come to life for me and it intrigued me. Growing up an only child, I enjoyed examining their relationship. I can imagine it must be amazing to feel, with a sister as you have, to know you always have someone there for you.

Second part: I suppose where I was going with that question was how you go between each sister’s story chapter by chapter. I haven’t seen that very much in other novels. I like how you presented both of their stories so we got to know each one, yet we could also see how they fit together as well. I liked how it was a double story rolled into one.)

Q2:  How does it feel to be a published author? What are some of the best moments you’ve had from the experience?

A2: It feels fantastic.  Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional wallop of seeing The Sister Queens on the “new releases” table at Barnes & Noble on my launch day.  Pure bliss.  I will never forget my launch day lunch with amazing fellow authors Kate Quinn and Stephanie Dray either.

In addition to the satisfaction of achieving a major personal goal, the process of writing and launching The Sister Queens brought me into contact with so many wonderful and supportive people.  Some of the best moments of my writer’s journey include: interacting with fellow writers through the on-line community of AgentQuery.com and social media; connecting via Facebook and Twitter with fellow writers and early fans (folks who were enthusiastic about the book even before it ever hit shelves); hanging out with fellow historical writers at HNS 2011 (North American Historical Novel Society Conference); and, of course, talking (and lunching) with my wonderful agent and editor.

Q3:  What were some of the challenges you had when writing The Sister Queens?

A3:  The biggest challenge was time.  See the next question and answer.

Q4:  What is it like for you to be a mom, as well as an author? How do you find the balance?

A4:  “School is my friend.”  I bet every parent out there who works at home can identify with that, lol.  When I have a deadline, the hours between dropping off and picking up my children are devoted 100% to writing.  This can have some unfortunate side effects—usually in the form of dinners cobbled together from a dwindling pantry or the plaintive cries of family members claiming they are wearing their last pair of clean underwear.  When I am not facing a looming deadline, my rating as a wife and mother goes way up.  I have to admit though that I ALWAYS give myself permission to surrender completely to special family moments (as opposed to laundry which is not special).  My oldest went away to college last year and in her sudden absence I realized that my memories of times I’d dropped what I was doing to run the school Halloween party, or hear about her day were golden.  So when I am doing a science fair project with my little guy, or hanging with my high-schooler, I try to be fully present and in that moment.  I try not to think, “Oh my God, you should be writing.”

(Erin comments: It is all about the balance. I agree. I am always telling myself, “they are only this age once, I’ll never get it back” and though I don’t want to put off everything in life, I also know that before I know it I’ll have time when they are pursuing their interests. I still have one at home, but she’s going to school soon so I hope to have more writing time. I just hope that time doesn’t slip away from me, but when you are entering another century in history, sometimes you just get lost!)

Q5:  How did you “sell” your book to get it published? What is your advice for other aspiring authors?

A5:  I am old-school.  I knew I wanted a traditional publisher and that meant finding a literary agent.  That’s not as easy as it sounds.  It involves “querying” agents with a one-page letter that captures the essence of your book.  After that if they are interested they will ask to see part or all of your manuscript.  I was amazingly fortunate to attract the attention of and receive an offer of representation from my agent—a long-time industry veteran with a “career-building” philosophy.  It was his job to pitch the book to editors.

My advice for aspiring authors is write, write, write.  But remember it’s not enough to hone your craft you have to learn the business (unless you are just writing for your own satisfaction).  While you are polishing your manuscript, take some time to learn about publishing.  That way when the happy day arrives and you have an agent and a book contract, the facts of life (e.g. authors need to be involved in marketing and promotion) or simple definitions (do you know what it means to “earn out”) won’t stop you in your tracks.  If you haven’t taken the time to learn about the business then you shouldn’t be looking for an agent or a publishing deal no matter how ready your manuscript is.

 Q6:  Which sister did you identify with the most? Why?

A6:  Oh, you’ve touched upon a bit of a family controversy here.  When I wrote The Sister Queens I really grew close to Marguerite.  I started to identify with her and started to “own” her voice.  Then my sister read the manuscript for the first time and said, “Oh my gosh, you are SO Eleanor.”  I am SURE she is right but still, just once I’d like to get away with thinking of myself as the patient, forbearing type without getting called on it.

In all seriousness, I think I was moved by Marguerite’s story—her struggle to find love with her husband, her struggle to be recognized as a person of strength and political intelligence—but my own marriage (like my outspoken personality) is much closer to Eleanor’s.  I am not saying my husband is professionally inept (do you hear that, dear?) as Henry III clearly was, but he is a man who, like Henry, cares deeply for his wife and children and delights in their happiness.  I also have always felt like an equal partner in my marriage and I think Eleanor, like her mother Beatrice of Savoy before her, was valued as a political player by her husband.

Q7:  I know you did a lot of historical research for this novel. What was this process like? The highs and lows? The hours involved?

A7:  You are correct; I did a substantial amount of both primary and secondary source research for the book.  But that’s not as onerous as it would have been even five years ago.  One of the great things about life in the Internet age is improved access to information right from your desk—everything from the contents of scholarly journals to digital copies of manuscripts.  Being able to search WorldCat from home rather than going to a reference librarian. . .who doesn’t love that?!  Of course I have stacks of old-fashioned books as well which I am constantly tripping over.

Q8:  After the research, how did you formulate the development of the characters?

A8:  My approach is to digest and digest material until my brain is swimming in it.  At some point—and the timing varies depending on the project—I get a flash of insight into a particular character and what I think makes her/him tick.  After that I keep an eye open for further facts and events that support that theory.  The characters don’t come fully alive, no matter how well researched they are, until I start writing.  There is a moment almost, like the part in an old Frankenstein movie, when the characters come to life (“It’s alive, It’s alive”).  That is a spectacular moment and that’s when I am certain there really is a book inside the mounds of research I’ve done and all the timelines and plotlines I’ve made.  The funny thing is once characters get minds of their own they often take the story off in new and interesting directions, saying and doing things I didn’t plan on.  I think that’s okay (it’s better than okay) as long as I am confident their actions/thoughts are consistent with their historical actions.

Q9:  I felt somewhat of a Christian undertone to the novel (besides the steamy parts!). Did this undertone just come out within the plot or did you want your readers to think on the indiscretions?

A9:  When I slip into the skins of my characters I try very hard to make certain that they remain true to their time periods and to their personal histories.  Marguerite and Eleanor were raised in the church (13th century so remember there was only one).  Their father was known for his piety, and at any given time one or more of their Savoyard uncles were likely to be in holy orders (true the Savoyards–and many other noble families of the time–considered the church hierarchy as a promising career path, but that doesn’t mean they were not genuinely pious).  Thus both girls would have been imbued with the moral and spiritual views of the Church of Rome by the time they left their Provencal home.  And, because both married devout men (Louis being arguably too devout), there would have been little reason for them to question their religious convictions after marriage.

Just as we do today, my sisters viewed the world through the filter of their personal moral convictions—convictions that were shaped by medieval church doctrine and practices.  They relied on their faith as a touchstone in coping with adversity and making decisions.  Since the book is written in the first person, readers witness the sisters contemplating and applying their religious principles.

Q10:  You say you have three grand passions:  writing, family and history. Tell us a little about why you are so passionate about these topics (well, family we can guess, but please feel free to expound on all and everything).

A10:  Family.  You know the line from The Godfather, “never take sides against the family?”  Well that could have been written for me.  I was raised to place family and duty to family before all.  So was my husband.  I view my family as the touchstone and central support system of my life–a place of love (sometimes tough love), advice, and acceptance.  Whether it takes the form of my dad turning up and staying six months to help me renovate my house when I bought it, or my husband flying overseas on a moment’s notice when a sibling was ill, I know that the family safety net is always in place.  And I make sure to tell my children everyday “I love you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.”  Friends come and go, jobs come and go, money comes and goes, health comes and goes.  Only family is forever.

History.  I am a history geek from a family of history geeks.  My undergraduate degree is in history; so is my husband’s.  My sister has her doctorate in history and is a college professor.  My childhood was filled with visits to historical places here in the U.S. and as I got older I had the opportunity to visit many historical sites throughout Europe (first while studying abroad and later through leisure travel).  History has always been my thing.

Writing.  Writing lets me share my love of history with readers.  Since The Sister Queens came out more than one person has said to me, “I only started your book because I know you.  I don’t usually read historical fiction and I expected it to be dry, but it wasn’t.  I loved it.”  This always surprises me because history is real people, facing real challenges (many of which are still relevant today) and navigating real relationships (the same types of relationships we treasure and struggle with in the modern world).  How could that ever be dry or boring?  Books offer us so many things—escapism when we need it, reassurance, excitement, the ability to travel to times and places not our own, and even a background for tackling issues in our own lives with the benefit of a little distance.  It’s a dream come true to be part of that; to write something that moves me and find that it moves other people as well.

Q11:  It sounds like you left the field of law to pursue your passions. How did this evolve for you? Can you talk about your experience leaving your career to pursue a new one?

A11:  I did leave the law.  Being a lawyer for a number of years taught me something important – being good at something is not the same as enjoying it.  So I decided to take a leap of faith, to trust that I could find something to do with myself that would also make me happy.  Writing became part of my reinvention because of my sister.  I was on the phone angsting about what I was going to do next and she said, “I know you are making up a story right now in your head, pick up your dictaphone and start saying it out loud.”  My sister knew I was a storyteller because I’d spent most of our childhood entertaining her with “continuing sagas” on our way to and from school.  So rather than “get a life” my sister basically advised me to “write a book.”  The book that resulted snagged my agent.  My agent found me my audience.

I’ve blogged about this transformative sister-push if anyone is interested in reading more.  [http://www.sophieperinot.com/blog/2012/02/02/gifts-my-sister-gave-me-%e2%80%93-part-i ]

(Erin comments: I think it was you that once said (if I am correct) that lawyers do a great amount of writing themselves. I’ve met several writers as of late that stopped their demanding law careers and wrote fiction novels. I think women attorneys, maybe men, too, but it seems less likely somehow, are so full of passion and that is why they go into law and they can use that passion to spur creative thought and write also.)

Q12:  What are your favorite historical time periods and places?

A12:  I am a nut for the 16th century, particularly Valois, France.  But I am a “character-driven” writer rather than being driven by a particular setting or time period.  I would be delighted to revisit the 13th century, and a certain 17th century Cardinal (a nephew of the Pope) and musician are calling me to Rome.  Have laptop, will time-travel—that’s me.

Q13:  What is next for you? Any plans for another novel?

A13:  Oh I am working on another book right now—and probably not as quickly as my ever-patient agent would like.  This one is driven by the mother-daughter relationship.  It is set in the 16th century and my main character is Marguerite de Valois, sister to three kings of France (Francis II, Charles IX, Henri III) and wife of a fourth (Henri IV).  Here is the tagline I am using to drive my writing:  “The mother-daughter relationship is fraught with peril—particularly when your mother is Catherine de Médicis.”

Seriously, I plan to do this until someone tells me I have to stop 🙂

(Erin comments: Sounds good to me! I actually read a little on her as of late, I’ll be waiting to read your interpretation.)

Q14:  Where can readers connect with you?

A14:  I am everywhere (very social).  At my website www.sophieperinot.com, there is a lot of additional information about my work as well as a contact form that allows people to write substantial messages to me.  I am also on twitter (as @Lit_gal) and I have an author Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/sophie.perinot.author ) and a Facebook page specifically for The Sister Queens (https://www.facebook.com/thesisterqueens).  I am generally pretty good about responding to comments and questions.

Q15:  The Sister Queens is available at what locations?

A15:  The novel is available on-line through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Indie Bound and The Book Depository (probably more places too but those are the ones that come to mind).  It is also available in stores.  At Barnes & Noble in particular it is currently on the “new releases” table.  So if readers are looking for The Sister Queens they can’t miss it—I sure hope they are looking for it!

Thank you, Sophie, for an amazing interview.  I wish you much success with The Sister Queens and your future endeavors!

The Sister Queens, book jacket~

Like most sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor were rivals.  They were also queens.

 Raised together at the 13th Century court of their father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, Marguerite and Eleanor are separated by royal marriages—but never truly parted.

Patient, perfect, reticent, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. Her husband, Louis IX, is considered the greatest monarch of his age. But he is also a religious zealot who denies himself all pleasure—including the love and companionship his wife so desperately craves. Can Marguerite find enough of her sister’s boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in the guise of forbidden love?

Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Her husband, Henry III, is neither as young nor as dashing as Marguerite’s. But she quickly discovers he is a very good man…and a very bad king. His failures are bitter disappointments for Eleanor, who has worked to best her elder sister since childhood. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?

Bio: Sophie Perinot, author of The Sister Queens~

I’ve always been passionate about history. I was the first member of my college graduating class at The College of Wooster to declare a history major (first quarter of freshman year – not that I was over-eager or anything). I next attended Northwestern University School of Law, where I served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Law and Criminology. Whatever else can be said about lawyers (and please, spare me the bad jokes), we get a lot of practice writing. It’s a much larger part of the job than most people realize. After practicing law in Washington DC, I left the legal side of things to my husband (aka my law-school-sweetheart) and retired to the happier job of raising my children and pursuing artistic interests, including writing.

It’s often said writers are readers first. I am no exception. I have always been an avid reader, especially of the classics. Deciding what to write was easy. As a life-long student of history, from a family of history-nerds, historical fiction was destined to be my niche. My attraction to French history was equally natural — I studied French abroad, and I am a hopeless devotee of one of the grandfathers of the genre, Alexandre Dumas, père.

I live in Great Falls, Virginia surrounded by trees and books. My books are time machines. Currently I travel daily to my own little corner of the 16th century were I am delving into the challenges and rewards of the mother-daughter relationship – a subject as timeless as the sister-to-sister rapport explored in my debut novel.


Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors