Tag Archives: St. Martin’s Press

Laura Joh Rowland Publishes Her 18th and Final Historical Mystery of Feudal Japan: Highly Recommended

02_The Iris Fan CoverReview~

Laura Joh Rowland has brought us exciting mysteries from feudal Japan for something like 20 years! That seems unheard of in today’s publishing market, but alas, as The Iris Fan is the Sano Ichiro #18, it looks like this will be the last of the series. I don’t blame Laura for wanting to concentrate on writing new things, but with such longevity, Sano certainly now seems like a household name we can call on in time of need (even if we have to call by opening our time travel doors back to the 17th century).

Of course, we can expect nothing less than Laura putting Sano in all sorts of predicaments, and as he works his way through his ordeals, but soon returns to the limelight to solve an intriguing mystery. I mean, Laura had me at “the shogun is stabbed by a fan made of painted silk….”….ooooo….how could that not suck me right in. I needed to see if Sano could find a solution to the crime so he didn’t incur the wrath of the shogun or his heir.

Her character of Sano is again on point and well-polished. We know him so well already. Her supporting and surrounding cast of characters are always used to full effect. I think Laura likes to catch her readers off guard with her character’s personalities, creating twists, turns, and an element of surprise that keep the pages turning. I like that Reiko is such a force as a character in the book as well, sometimes solving pieces of the mystery herself. Her dimensional character brings real emotion to the novel (and her other novels) as Laura incorporates the life of Reiko and Sano into the mystery. Reiko stands by her man, but she is not always pleased with his choices.Yes, they are always more strong together, even if they don’t realize it, and in this novel, they come back to being even stronger than ever. I was so happy to see that.

The back storyline of Taeko and Masahiro in the novel, which wrapped into completing the villain’s story. It was a love story, with some emotional and drastic times, and helped the ending of the novel come at me full-force with amazing action. I was shocked by the crescendo of the plot! However, following she tied it all up leaving me a happy reader and comforted by where the characters all were at the moment their time in the limelight had ended. It just left me ready for the pursuits of the next generation, so I can’t imagine never being able to revisit this family again….

I love the feelings that Laura creates in me as a reader when I read her book, as her descriptions allow me to be present in their world. I love the type of mystery that uses old school detective work and ancient instincts to solve crime rather than rely on modern day technology. She uses the time and place very well to create interesting concepts and intrigue. Her writing creates atmosphere and suspense, which ultimately, makes her a superb mystery writer.

She does her finest in The Iris Fan, giving us a historical mystery to devour, but then I read too quickly and was sad at the end, especially since we must say goodbye to Sano and his family. I highly recommend The Iris Fan, since it’s one of the few historical mysteries of feudal Japan written with such skill, but if you want to read it, I encourage you to read at least several prior to this one too. I imagine you’ll want to read the whole series! Thanks, Laura, for sharing your mysteries with us, they’ve been great friends!

02_The Iris Fan CoverThe Iris Fan, Synopsis~

Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Minotaur Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Series: Sano Ichiro Mystery Series (Book 18)
Genre: Historical Mystery

Japan, 1709. The shogun is old and ailing. Amid the ever-treacherous intrigue in the court, Sano Ichirō has been demoted from chamberlain to a lowly patrol guard. His relationship with his wife Reiko is in tatters, and a bizarre new alliance between his two enemies Yanagisawa and Lord Ienobu has left him puzzled and wary. Sano’s onetime friend Hirata is a reluctant conspirator in a plot against the ruling regime. Yet, Sano’s dedication to the Way of the Warrior—the samurai code of honor—is undiminished.

Then a harrowing, almost inconceivable crime takes place. In his own palace, the shogun is stabbed with a fan made of painted silk with sharp-pointed iron ribs. Sano is restored to the rank of chief investigator to find the culprit. This is the most significant, and most dangerous, investigation of his career. If the shogun’s heir is displeased, he will have Sano and his family put to death without waiting for the shogun’s permission, then worry about the consequences later. And Sano has enemies of his own, as well as unexpected allies. As the previously unimaginable death of the shogun seems ever more possible, Sano finds himself at the center of warring forces that threaten not only his own family but Japan itself.

Riveting and richly imagined, with a magnificent sense of time and place, The Iris Fan is the triumphant conclusion to Laura Joh Rowland’s brilliant series of thrillers set in feudal Japan.

The Sano Ichiro Mystery Series Titles

The Way of the Traitor
The Concubine’s Tattoo
The Samurai’s Wife
Black Lotus
The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria
The Dragon King’s Palace
The Perfumed Sleeve
The Assassin’s Touch
The Red Chrysanthemum
The Snow Empress
The Fire Kimono
The Cloud Pavilion
The Ronin’s Mistress
The Incense Game
The Shogun’s Daughter
The Iris Fan

Buy the Book~

Amazon US
Amazon UK
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Book Depository

Author Laura Joh Rowland, Biography~

03_Laura Joh RowlandGranddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan.

She is the author of seventeen previous Sano Ichiro thrillers set in feudal Japan. The Fire Kimono was named one of the Wall Street Journal’s “Five Best Historical Mystery Novels”; and The Snow Empress and The Cloud Pavilion were among Publishers Weekly’s Best Mysteries of the Year.

She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector, and quality engineer.

For more information please visit Laura’s website. You can also follow her on Facebook.

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

Hashtags: #TheIrisFanBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #SanIchiroMysterySeries

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @MinotaurBooks

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The Tudor Vendetta, Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles, Offers Suspense, Espionage, and Compelling Prose

Please join C.W. Gortner as he tours online for the release of the third book in his Spymaster Chronicles Series, The Tudor Vendetta, stopping here today for my REVIEW, and enter to win a complete set of the trilogy below!

02_The Tudor Vendetta

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of C.W. Gortner’s writing and he’s on my list of favorite writers. His work, primarily the first Spymaster book, The Tudor Secret, along with Michelle Moran’s The Heretic Queen, helped launch me back into the exciting world of historical fiction after reading so much non-fiction. I found Christopher to be an amazing writer and I highly anticipated the rest of his Spymaster series. Since then he’s continue to thrill me with his writing style. It’s one that allows you to immerse fully in the story, forgetting to eat or drink and burning the midnight oil (or 4 a.m. oil) without feeling a thing.

In my personal opinion, The Tudor Vendetta, is the best one yet! It’s packed completely full of action and intrigue which far surpasses the others and those were great! I think Christopher pushes himself to bigger and better things with each book.

Brendan Prescott, who is a spy (and secretly of the Tudor line) for the interests of Elizabeth Tudor, opens the novel in record speed as he is being trained in physical techniques by Cecil and propelled right back into court intrigue. The political scene is ripe as Elizabeth is about to finally take the throne after her sister Mary and everyone wants a piece of England. I liked that the beginning of the book had a wealth of action this time and started off with a mystery without any delay. I honestly never wanted to put the book down from the start and read in two sittings, longing for it when I was away from it. Tim even said, “I see you looking at that book, you want to read more of it, don’t you?” Ha!

I was fully captivated by the suspense, intrigue, and savvy game play of the novel. Brendan was quicker, smarter, more confident, and completely sure of himself as he set off on his secret mission for Elizabeth, one that even Cecil and Walsingham do not even know about! I loved the setting and storyline of Brendan’s mission this time and was immersed in the mystery. I even felt a bit of Agatha Christie in the Elizabethan world!

Christopher’s details, atmosphere, and character development is nothing sort of stunning with each location and each character whether lead or supporting, but his plot structure is even more superb. I am not easy to fool, but Christopher kept me guessing and surprised me several times over! I was blown away by the last half of the novel and found myself on pins and needles to know the outcome(s).

As always with Christopher’s novels, I enjoyed his use of animals and his kind care to construct their characters. Anyone who can make an animal in a book fully dimensional as Christopher does is a writer with extreme talent and with the utmost of compassion. Of course I have always loved Brendan’s horse Cinnabar, but the time C.W. takes to make sure characters care for the animals is something I really admire. I also love when he introduces new pets, and I really enjoyed Bardolf, the mastiff!

I enjoyed the use of Vaughn Hall and his depictions of the scenery inside and out that lent to an atmospheric air of gloom or mystery that fit perfectly with the story. I also valued his historical accuracy and lesson in showcasing how outlying nobility had been made poor and why, the state of England during this time of turmoil, and though he mentions the religious strife between Protestants and Catholics I’m glad he didn’t let it weigh down the story.

As many historical fiction works of the Tudor time period can be dark, gray, brutally honest, morbid, and quite sad, I enjoyed reading Christopher’s tale that he created with more light than we usually get from this time period, even allowing Elizabeth to be viewed as sympathetic, smiling, and caring. The story line is completely fabricated, but I didn’t care, and I hope others don’t either, as it was just a very entertaining read using historical figures of a favorite time period. And certainly any of it could have happened, it certainly read with authenticity and plausibility!

Most of all, Christopher writes, as usual, with a robust vocabulary I appreciate, smooth phrasing, pristine sentences, flawless imagery, and well….what can I say, perfection. The Tudor Vendetta is like the best coffee you ever had on the best morning you’ve ever had, as it carries a huge jolt of caffeinated page-turning suspense with the luscious, creamy, smoothy taste of the best wordsmithing and plot pointing in historical fiction.

If you are a fan of espionage and mystery as I am (I love Bond, Le Carre, Christie) and love historical settings, I highly recommend you give this series a try, but read them all, and savor this one. I don’t know if Christopher will write more, but I’ll BEG him too!! My life will not be complete without more Spymaster books. Maybe if Brendan is settled, another trusted friend could appear. I mean with Elizabeth I just taking the throne, and her astrologer Dee coming into the picture, there is A LOT more espionage to be had! I for one, want more intrigue to be lost in.

Thanks,Christopher, for writing one of the best historical fiction and historical espionage set of books ever. Really nothing compares. I can’t give away the ending, but for once I could put a Tudor book down and feel happy!!

To my reviews from the rest of the series and some interviews I’ve conducted with Christopher:

The Tudor Secret (book one)

The Tudor Conspiracy (book two)

Interview 1 with Gortner (after The Queen’s Vow review)

Interview 2 with Gortner

02_The Tudor VendettaThe Tudor Vendetta, Synopsis~

Publication Date: October 21, 2014
St. Martin’s Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Series: Spymaster Chronicles
Genre: Historical Mystery

Winter, 1558: Elizabeth I has ascended the throne but the first days of her reign are already fraught with turmoil, the kingdom weakened by strife and her ability to rule uncertain.

Summoned from exile abroad at the new queen’s behest, Brendan Prescott arrives in London to face his shattered past. He soon finds himself pitted in deadly rivalry with his life-long foe, Robert Dudley, but when a poison attempt overshadows the queen’s coronation, Elizabeth privately dispatches Brendan on a far more dangerous assignation: to find her favored lady-in-waiting, Lady Parry, who has vanished in Yorkshire.

Upon his arrival at the crumbling sea-side manor that may hold the key to Lady Parry’s disappearance, he encounters a strange, impoverished family beset by grief, as well as mounting evidence that they hide a secret from him. The mystery surrounding Lady Parry deepens as Brendan begins to realize there is far more going on at the manor than meets the eye, but the closer he gets to the heart of the mystery, the more he becomes the quarry of an elusive stranger with a vendetta— one that could expose both his own buried identity and a long-hidden revelation that will bring about Elizabeth’s doom.

From the intrigue-laden passages of Whitehall to a foreboding Catholic manor and the prisons of the Tower, Brendan must risk everything to unravel a vendetta that strikes at the very core of his world, including his loyalty to his queen.

The Tudor Vendetta is the third book in Gortner’s Elizabeth I Spymaster Trilogy.

Praise for The Tudor Vendetta~

“Fast paced and exciting, with a most engaging hero . . . So vivid, you feel are there!” – Diana Gabaldon, bestselling author of the Outlander series

“C.W. Gortner has done it again! Full of breathtaking action, dark twists and unexpected revelations, this is an unputdownable read.” – Michelle Moran, bestselling author of Madame Tussaud

“Suspense, intrigue, betrayal and deadly rivalry: What more can you ask for? A swashbuckling, perilous adventure.” – M.J. Rose, bestselling author of The Reincarnationist

Buy the Book

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To win the complete set of C.W. Gortner’s Spymaster Chronicles Trilogy please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway here. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends at 11:59 p.m. on November 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on November 29th and notified via email. Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. Tour giveaway by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

C.W. Gortner, Biography~

03_CW GortnerC.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

C.W. recently completed his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about Lucrezia Borgia; this third novel in his Tudor Spymaster series for St Martin’s Press; and a new novel about the dramatic, glamorous life of Coco Chanel, scheduled for lead title publication by William Morrow, Harper Collins, in the spring of 2015.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information please visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Tour Schedule, follow for guest posts, interviews, and reviews:


Hashtags: #TudorVendettaBlogTour #HistoricalMystery

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @CWGortner @StMartinsPress

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Best-selling Ben Kane Bursts Onto U.S. Scene with Hannibal: Enemy of Rome

Hannibal Front Cover(1)I am so excited to share with you this daring book from bestselling author Ben Kane!  Some of my international reader or die-hard Ben Kane and historical fiction fans might have already read it, but if you haven’t, don’t miss this edition from St. Martin’s Press! It’s the first book in his exciting Hannibal Chronicles series, called Hannibal: Enemy of Rome.

The historical region of Carthage comes to life in this novel, which follows two young men–Hanno, the son of a noble Carthaginian who is eager to fight for the great General Hannibal, and Quintus, the child of a Roman veteran of the First Punic War. Hanno begins his story as most young men do, rebellious. But his attitude leads him, and his friend Suniaton, to be lost at sea and subsequently captured by pirates.

He is sold into slavery by the pirates, and purchased by Quintus’ father, Fabricius. Quintus at first is weary of Hanno, but when he saves Quintus’ life, they become friends, but there is trouble. Action and drama ensues, but I won’t tell you for sake of spoilers.

I don’t usually enjoy the blood and gore of some military historical novels, nor any mundane military speak, but Ben Kane’s books are more than that and not at all boring. He includes the military aspect, but does not describe the gore as in depth as some other military history novels do. There is no need for sensationalism here, as his writing allows for us to fill in details with our own imaginations. He focuses more on the on the people and on the relationships between them. He builds a friendship between his characters of Hanno and Quintus that is deeply personal, one that we never want to be broken. He shows how many Carthaginians felt great hate toward Rome, and vice versa. The ethnic diversity of the people is also highlighted.

The historical aspect of this novel is obviously well-researched. This book brings both Carthage and the Roman countryside to life with an authenticity so vivid. Daily life is described in detail and we experience it as if we are there, seeing the ships pull into the massive port in Carthage. We experience ancient Roman life, down to the treatment of slaves and the design of the weapons. However, Kane develops it into a readable story, not too dry or cumberson, and writes not only with vibrant detail but with historical accuracy. It’s a perfect balance. This makes it a wonderful book to be used for people in higher education as it teaches actual historical detail, but is adventurous enough to hold attention, and therefore, create a desire for learning.

Overall, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome bursts onto the scene with great action and thrilling adventure. I highly recommend this for men, and some women who like the genre, as it breaths historical accuracy, is dynamically well-written, and is a fully-developed story. I look forward to the rest of The Hannibal Chronicles!


Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, Synopsis

One of the best known historical novelists, Ben Kane, is back with the first book in his series, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome (St. Martin’s Press; May 27th 2014). Set in a new time period, a time before the Roman Empire when the Republic was still vulnerable to outside forces, Hannibal tells the story of one of the most famous generals of the ancient world. Rome’s greatest enemy is Carthage, and Carthage’s greatest general is Hannibal—this is Hannibal’s story, as his personal quest for revenge, leads to the greatest conflict of the ancient world

File Size: 1040 KB

Print Length: 464 pages

Page Numbers Source ISBN: 140903755X

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (May 27, 2014)

Sold by: Macmillan

Published previously internationally, now released by St. Martin’s Press

As Rome rose to power in the 3rd century BCE there was only one real rival in the Mediterranean—Carthage. In the First Punic War, the Roman legions defeated and humiliated Carthage. Now Hannibal, a brilliant young Carthaginian general, is out for revenge. Caught up in the maelstrom are two young boys, Hanno, the son of a distinguished soldier and confidant of Hannibal, and Quintus, son of a Roman equestrian and landowner.

A disastrous adventure will see Hanno sold into slavery and bought by Quintus’s father. Although an unexpected friendship springs up between the two boys—and with Quintus’s sister, Aurelia—the fortunes of the two warring empires will tear them apart. They find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict and an alliance forged through slavery will be played out to its stunning conclusion in battle.

 Praise for Ben Kane

“The rising star of historical fiction.” – Wilbur Smith

“Epic… A gripping blend of history, battles, gore, ancient politics, betrayal, consummate and casual cruelty, and sex… A pleasure for those who like history and great adventure.” – Library Journal on The Forgotten Legion

Ben Kane, Biography

ben kane in garbBEN KANE was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He studied veterinary medicine at University College Dublin but after that he traveled the world extensively, indulging his passion for ancient history.

Now he lives in North Somerset, where he researches, writes, and practices as a small animal veterinarian.

You can view a more extensive bio on Ben, and all his books, on his website at www.benkane.net. And though I chose this fun photo depicting him in his military role-playing garb, he really is smiley most of the time.

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Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter by Anne Clinard Barnhill is Entertaining Tudor Novel

Queen Elizabeths DaughterI took a little road trip this weekend, and as I was the passenger I had the perk of getting a lot of reading done. A book I dove into on this trip, and a little late into the night at the hotel when I should have been resting, was Anne Clinard Barnhill’s Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter. It’s a novel of Queen Elizabeth I, but actually it’s mostly a novel of Mary Shelton, her lady-in-waiting, second cousin, and ward.

I immediately got lost in the easy ebb and flow of Anne’s words across the page and her story of Mary. Juxtaposed with a story line told from the Queen’s point of view, it gives us a look into the thoughts of the two women in relation to how Mary is treated and the goings on of the time period. Elizabeth took Mary on as her ward, as was the law, when her two parents died. However, Elizabeth doted on Mary, sometimes much to Mary’s chagrin as she barely was able to have any life of her own, let alone date or marry who she wanted.

Anne’s offers exquisite detail and always sets her scenes visually so that as you read it feels as if you were transported in time and are viewing the novel through the eyes of the protagonist, Mary. She had good and authentic character development as she takes on Mary’s need to please and respect Elizabeth amid her own desires to rebel and live an independent life and as well writes Elizabeth’s character in a way that shows her struggle between being kind and and loving, as a mother, and strong-willed with an iron fist. Elizabeth’s paranoia and desire to keep only those loyal around her is much understood due to her upbringing, yet we see in this novel how that impacts others.

Though there are a lot of Tudor era novels on the market, I particularly enjoy those that utilize sub-family members, friends, court, and staff in order to tell us more about how the Tudor rule impacted all the people around them. In that regard, this book on Mary was unique to me and I enjoyed reading of what her life might have been like. Full of emotion and with easy to read dialogue and plot, this book was entertaining and a breeze to finish.

Anyone who likes Tudor era books with light prose that isn’t heavy or dreary, this book is definitely for you. I bet it will be one of the best books of that sub-genre to publish this year. I know it will be one of my favorite Tudor-era historical novels for its excellent writing, flowing style, intricate and visual detail, and strong character development and emotional connections.

Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter, Synopsis~

Queen Elizabeths DaughterPublication Date: March 18, 2014
St. Martin’s Griffin
Paperback; 320p
ISBN-10: 0312662122

Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.

Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.

Buy the Book~

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Book Depository
Author Anne Clinard Barnhill, Biography~

Anne Clinard BarnhillAnne Clinard Barnhill has been writing or dreaming of writing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has published articles, book and theater reviews, poetry, and short stories. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like growing up with an autistic sister. Her work has won various awards and grants.

Barnhill holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Besides writing, Barnhill also enjoys teaching, conducting writing workshops, and facilitating seminars to enhance creativity.

She loves spending time with her three grown sons and their families. For fun, she and her husband of thirty years, Frank, take long walks and play bridge. In rare moments, they dance.

For more information, please visit Anne Clinard Barnhill’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/queenelizabethsdaughtertour
Tour Hashtag: #QueenElizabethsDaughterTour

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Historical Author C.W. Gortner Creates Tudor Era Espionage, Drama, and Deceit in Thriller Series

The Tudor Conspiracy USToday has a been a day I’ve been waiting to announce for several years! It’s the U.S. launch date for one of my all-time favorite authors and people, C.W. Gortner, and his second novel in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles, The Tudor Conspiracy!

We’re introduced to the main male protagonist, Brendan Prescott, in the novel The Tudor Secret which started the series–and is practically is responsible for this blog coming about as well! You can even read my review of this first novel by clicking HEREThe Tudor Conspiracy picks up after The Tudor Secret, during the time with Mary 1 on the throne as Queen and traitors from the last novel are in the Tower.  Brendan is sent back to court and begins to be a double agent between the espionage, paranoia, and drama happening amongst Queen Mary and her half-sister, Elizabeth. All of England is at each other’s throats over religion and both facets, Queen Mary’s Catholic followers and Elizabeth’s Protestants, want to be in charge and able to dictate conversion among the masses.

Brendan, who for those of you that read The Tudor Secret know, has a special tie to this Tudor family.  The Tudor Secret set-up the character of Brendan so well that I urge you to please go back and read it if you haven’t yet. You’ll feel completely connected to Brendan and it will give you a more invested interest in The Tudor Conspiracy. You’ll understand his motives more and your reading experience will be better for it.  I don’t wish to say anything in this review that might give away the story of the first book in the series, as it is SO wonderful and I had such a great time reading it.

Brendan is conflicted and caught between both sisters and Gortner again does a fabulous job of showing Brendan’s emotions and thought processes as he keeps his feelings in check around almost everyone. There is a spy in every person, and eyes around every corner. Life in Tudor court in this time period is unstable and everyone is unreliable, with personal pursuits and feelings hidden and kept close to the vest.

The loss of one of the main characters halfway through this novel is heart-breaking and I don’t know how Gorter penned through that, except that he must have funneled his own personal feelings from the recent loss he had of his beloved dog, Paris. That’s the mark of a spectacular author to be able to channel life tragedies and complexities into their works of fiction so that readers can literally feel what a character is feeling.  I could relate to Brendan’s emotional loss of this friend and mourned this character myself, partly because I had become endeared to him in the first book.

As the reader, I felt strapped into the mindful roller coaster of emotions that Brendan must surge ahead with every day in pursuit of doing what he feels is the most right . For such an entertaining novel with a fictional character (unlike many of his other bestsellers based on true women of history), he does extremely well as a writer in character development.  I realized I’d come to know the characters personalities quite thoroughly, yet without all the overindulgence of some historical fiction novels. His detail is just enough for a mind picture, while also being subtle enough that the drama and mystery propel the story forward. I didn’t want to put down this book as I traveled with Brendan on his journey and tasks! I was a spy right along with him, and loving every minute of it!

People complain that the Tudor era is over done in books, and maybe it is over saturated, but readers are still interested in their stories because there is so much speculation.  What makes the Spymaster Chronicles so readable, and what The Tudor Conspiracy as the second Spymaster Chronicle book continues to do, is the fact that it takes a commonly historical time period with similar cast of characters and completely gives it to us as a suspense mystery told from the view-point of a male, rather than from the strong women of this time period.  It isn’t just telling history, it’s using history to weave an enjoyable, imaginative story.  We are used to hearing about the Queens, Princesses, Duchesses, and court drama,  but I believe Gortner’s series stands-out from the rest as rather than being heavily history laden, it’s in fact light, fun, entertaining, and perplexing.

Gortner gives us a glimpse of Queen Mary in a different light, showing her personality as strong, yet forgiving, loyal and endearing. Doesn’t sound much like Blood Mary, does it? It’s a side less commonly reported but is believable.  We can relate to this Mary. On the other side, we can see the wild abandon and motivated essence of Elizabeth for her cause and her country. Both views of each woman is fantastic and I feel that Gortner does a wonderful job of really looking into the feelings of these historical women based on their historical experiences. He knows enough on the subject of each, and is a skillful researcher, that he can bring us their personalities without overindulging historical references or clichés.

Among other delightful things already mentioned, I loved his use of animals in the book as well. The beautiful horse, Cinnabar (great name!!) and the sleek and lovable Urian, a greyhound, were great companions to his human characters.

The Tudor Conspiracy is a book that’s fast-paced, emotional, full of intrigue, and dripping with drama.  We are tasked along with Brendan in figuring out the espionage-laden intricacies, which fence together like swords, making dramatic music until finally it crescendos to a resounding high note.

I can’t recommend this series enough!  If you’ve read The Tudor Secret, don’t pass up The Tudor Conspiracy, but buy it today for one of your summer reads.  If you’ve not read any Spymaster Chronicles, I’d pick up both! They are perfect for those of you who want an immersing, intricate, and intelligent read that’s laced with fun and excitement.

Here’s a look the the first book in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles, The Tudor Secret:

Tudor Secret

And be sure to watch tomorrow, July 17, for my exclusive interview with C.W. Gortner!


The Tudor Conspiracy USUS Publication Date: July 16, 2013

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

If you need the UK Version:

The Tudor Conspiracy UK

UK Publication Date: July 18, 2013

Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 1444720856
Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy

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

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

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

Praise for The Tudor Conspiracy

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

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

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

“Suspense, intrigue, betrayal, and deadly rivalry: what more can you ask for? From the serpentine halls of the court to the vicious back alleys and stews of Tudor London, Gortner has brewed a swashbuckling, perilous adventure that you simply can’t put down!” —M.J. Rose, author of The Book of Lost Fragrances

“C.W. Gortner has an unmatched talent for bringing the past to life. The Tudor Conspiracy is historical fiction at its best: a compelling story masterfully told, vivid characters fully drawn, and an accurate depiction of history of the time. A novel not to be missed.” —Tasha Alexander, author

Author C.W. Gortner, Biography~

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

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has experienced life in a Spanish castle and danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall.

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

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

The Tudor Conspiracy Tour Banner FINAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

For 1 extra entry, follow this blog, for extra 2 entries, join my new Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook. U.S. only, please.

Author Susanna Calkins, Biography~

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

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


Filed under Book Reviews

Interview with Susanna Calkins, Author of Historical Mystery A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate

Hi Susie! I’m thrilled to have you stop by Oh, for the Hook of a Book today to talk about your upcoming April 23 release, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s Press). As well, I hope you’ll be sharing a little more about yourself so everyone can get a glimpse into your world! How are things going for you?

Susanna:  I’m doing well, thanks for hosting me today! 

Erin:  Delighted to! Let’s have a steaming cup of tea and start our conversation!

Susanna:  Sounds good; you don’t mind if I’m drinking coffee, right? 🙂

Erin: Absolutely, actually it’s what I’m drinking too! I’ll feature the cover and synopsis first to tantalize readers….really beautiful cover.

Murder at..

Murder at Rosamund’s Gate: A Mystery, Synopsis~
Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press (April 23, 2013)
When someone she loves faces hanging for the murder of a fellow servant, Lucy Campion—a seventeenth-century English chambermaid—must interpret the clues hidden in miniature portraits, popular ballads, and a corpse’s pointing finger–to save his life, before the true murderer turns on her…

Q:  I believe A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is your debut novel, correct? When did you start writing and how long did it take this novel to come to fruition?

A: Yes, ROSAMUND is my debut novel and is also the first novel that I finished. I got the idea years ago, when I was a graduate student in history, and then I began to work on different scenes in a very haphazard way for the next few weeks.  Finally around 2009, with about 150 pages written, I sat down and took it seriously, giving myself space and time to complete the first draft in 2010.

Q: Since I’ve not reviewed your book yet, tell us some about your book and the inspiration behind it….

A: My book was inspired by some 17th century murder ballads I’d come across in my research on domestic homicide for a paper I was writing in grad school.  They were often romanticized versions of “true accounts” detailing how murderers lured their victims to their deaths; very often, the corpse seems to have been found with a letter in her pocket, signed by her murderer.  I had so many questions, beginning with ‘why would the murderer have left a note?” and “Why weren’t the victims more suspicious?” My novel was an attempt to answer some of these questions.

Erin Comments: I love that! Notes seemed to be a common theme in that time period, for everything! I like the questions your posing, can’t wait to see how your novel answers them.

Q:  What are your personal favorite books in the mystery novel genre?

A: When I was younger, I loved Agatha Christie. Now, I love everything by Patricia Cornwell and Anne Perry, and other writers of historical mysteries, including Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspeare and Rhys Bowen.

Erin Comments: Me too, great list.

Q:  Is your book’s setting in Restoration England (or 17th Century) your favorite historical time period? If so why?

A:  I really enjoy this time period, especially in the mid 1660s.  The Plague, followed by the Great Fire of London, make for an exciting backdrop!

Q:  What are some of your other favorite historical time periods and why?

A: I have a fondness for the middle ages, especially with the emergence of the universities and guilds. I’m also fascinated by nineteenth century France.

Q: If you could write about a woman from history, who would it be? Why?

A:  Great question.  I’ve always focused on women’s and gender history, so I’ve always been interested in the everyday lives of ordinary women. I went through a phase when I was enamored of some of the great queens, like Elizabeth I of England and Queen Isabella of Spain, because I admired their strength of character and the liveliness of their minds.  I’ve written about many seventeenth century Quaker women, including one of the founders, Margaret Fell Fox.  I’ve also written about the nineteenth century Quaker reformer, Elizabeth Frye.  You can see I’m interested in Quakers! And they do feature in ROSAMUND!

Erin Comments: Sounds like a book featuring Fox or Frye and the Quakers would be a great one to read! Have you considered?

Q:  How much research is involved when writing a mystery that is thick with plot, but also takes place during an historical time period rich with detail? Can you explain your research or any interesting tidbits you collected along the way?

A:  Well, in some ways I did years of research before I started writing one word of ROSAMUND. In addition to reading a lot of scholarly works, I spent a lot of time reading the cheap print (ballads, chapbooks, pamphlets and other penny pieces) from the era, to get a feel for the language and customs of the time. I really enjoyed reading the work of Samuel Pepys, the great diarist of the time. 

Q: How do you develop your characters, both the leading and the supporting, to ensure not only their historical accuracy, but also emotionally in order for them to connect to the reader?

A: Even though Lucy was “just” a chambermaid—and an uneducated one at that—I wanted to believe that a servant could have had a lively inquiring mind and that, when push came to shove, she would do anything for her friends and family (Pursuing the murderer of one friend, and seeking to save someone else from being hanged). Even though households were structured somewhat differently back then, I believe that people who care about each other will still try to do what’s right, even if they end up defying some conventions of the time, like Lucy did.

Q:  Do you feel it’s important for women as writers to “schedule” writing time in order to complete and pursue their dreams? What advice do you have for other women writers about fitting it all in?

A: Oh my goodness! I get this question all the time, and I don’t know if I have an answer that will work for other people. I do have a lot of commitments (full time job, additional adjunct teaching, wife and mother of two young children), so I’m pretty busy. But I’m also fortunate to have a supportive spouse who takes on many of the family and childrearing responsibilities.  More importantly, I don’t try to write in luxurious three hour blocks, I always just think, ‘okay, I’ve got 20 or 30 minutes, what can I work on?” So maybe I write a scene. Or I look up a historical detail on the internet.   

I also don’t heed most of the writing advice I hear, especially those who insist that writers should ‘write first thing in the morning’ (I hate writing in the morning), or ‘Write every day.’ You know what, sometimes you can’t write everyday, and that’s okay.  But I do usually think about something related to writing every day, and at the very least, I lay in bed dreaming out a favorite scene. When I tell myself the scene enough, I’ts pretty easy to write down when I get a chance.

Erin Comments: I ask this one of most women authors to see the differences or advice, for myself as well as other aspiring women authors. This is one of the best answers by far and pretty much sums me up. I am not a morning person. 🙂 Thank you!

Q:  What has been the most challenging aspect for you in becoming a published author? What has been the most positive? 

A:  I think I have had to develop a thicker skin when it comes to what readers/reviewers will say about my book.  I’ve learned to say, ‘Well, my book wasn’t for that reader,” but mean comments can still hurt. On the flip side, I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet readers, librarians, reviewers, publishing people and other writers. I wrote so much in isolation, I do enjoy talking about reading and writing with other people.

Q:  What other things do you enjoy beyond writing and reading?

A: I enjoy playing games with my children (ages 9 and 6); I really like teaching (grading, not so much), and I love my full-time job, which is to help faculty improve their teaching.  I also love traveling, any new place is a great place to be!

Erin Comments: Two of my three children are 9 and 5 (6 in May)! We also play a lot of games too, especially in the winter.

Q:  What things do you have planned for your upcoming launch date?

A: Ha! I actually scheduled my students’ first paper assignment on my release date (April 23), so I know I’ll be doing some grading! But in relation to the actual book launch, I’ll be doing some talks at my local library in Highland Park, Illinois (April 25) and at the Barnes and Noble in Skokie, Illinois on April 26. Why don’t you come on by?

Erin Comments: I would love to! I’m in Ohio and Tim’s family is from Illinois, but it’s probably too far a drive for this week. 🙂 I hope any readers in the area will come by though. I know you also have a lot of stops on a book tour too, and readers can find those stops on your website (link below).

Q: Is there another novel in the works for you? What other writing are you doing or plan to do in the future?

A: Yes, the second Lucy Campion mystery (tentatively titled “From the Charred Remains”) will come out next April. I am also working on a Young Adult novel about a gang of teenage thieves living in late nineteenth century Paris.

Erin comments: All sounds wonderful!

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A:  Readers can check out my website at www.susannacalkins.com, email me at s.calkins.nu@gmail.com, or tweet to me @scalkins3. I’d love to hear from you!

Erin:  Thank you so much, Susie, for joining us today. I can’t wait to finish up your historical mystery! I wish you the best of luck with all your pursuits! Keep in touch!

Susanna:  Thank you so much! This was a lot of fun! I’ll stop back by to answer any questions!

And stay tuned readers for a review coming up next week of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate and a giveaway!

Susanna Calkins, Biography~

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


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