Tuesday, July 26, 2016

BLOG TOUR: BOOK REVIEW - The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose

02_The Secret Language of Stones

The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose

Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Atria Books
Hardcover & eBook; 320 Pages

Series: The Daughters of La Lune, Book Two
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

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Blurb


As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.

Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

A spellbinding ghost story that communicates the power of love and redemption through Rose's extraordinary, magical lens.” (Alyson Richman, internationally bestselling author of The Lost Wife)

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My Review


The Secret Language of Stones is another hit by author M. J. Rose. I fell in love with the story of Sandrine and the gifts passed down by her ancestor La Lune in The Witch of Painted Sorrows, so it was easy for me to pick right back up with the story of Sandrine’s daughter, Opaline, in this novel. I love that M.J. Rose’s novels have major elements of magic, spiritualism, and the supernatural, yet I still feel like I'm reading a historical fiction novel. The existence of La Lune and her history is woven seamlessly into this novel, and the author shows the effects that La Lune's inherited “gifts” have on the lives of Opaline and her mother, Sandrine. I love that Ms. Rose is able to do this in a way that makes it completely believable. I usually am not a huge fan of novels that involve the supernatural, but it works perfectly with both The Witch of Painted Sorrows and The Secret Language of Stones. It also helps that the historical aspects of this (and the last) novel are so well-written. It’s obvious that it was well researched, and being that I am not overly familiar with the background of World War I, this novel really helped me to see the war from the viewpoint of someone who was right in the midst of it. Opaline’s character is definitely a favorite of mine. The relationships that she has with others, flesh and blood or other, are easy for readers to relate to. It’s easy to connect with Opaline, and to in a way share the experiences she is having while she learns how the secrets of her heritage fit into her life.

This novel takes the reader through war-torn Paris, at the height of World War I, through Opaline’s relationships with those grieving for their lost soldiers, and on to her interactions with Russian royalty. While dealing with all the upheaval around her and in her life, Opaline is also learning more about her heritage and how to use her gifts from La Lune. A lot is covered in this novel, but I never felt rushed, or that the author skimped on the story to fit everything into this novel. The transitions were smooth, and the book is written in a way that allows the reader to become lost within its pages for long periods of time. There is romance, intrigue, mystery, the supernatural, magick, and much, much more in The Secret Language of Stones, and I highly recommend that anyone who is looking for a good read purchase it immediately. This is the second novel in The Daughters of La Lune series, but it can definitely be read as a standalone. However, the first novel in the series, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, is amazing as well, so I would definitely suggest reading both books!

There is no way that I can give this novel anything less than a FIVE out of FIVE stars. It honestly includes everything that makes a book interesting and easy to read, not to mention, the cover of print edition of the book is gorgeous! Amazing job M.J. Rose, I look forward to your next novel!



About the Author

03_M.J. Rose AuthorM.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed.

She is the author of more than a dozen novels, the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Visit her online at MJRose.com.

Connect with M.J. Rose on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads.

Sign up for M.J. Rose’s newsletter and get information about new releases, free book downloads, contests, excerpts and more.


Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 12
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Review at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, July 13
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Thursday, July 14
Spotlight at Teddy Rose Book Reviews

Friday, July 15
Review at A Dream within a Dream

Monday, July 18
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, July 19
Review at First Impressions Reviews

Wednesday, July 20
Review at Laura's Interests

Thursday, July 21
Review at Read Love Blog

Friday, July 22
Review at Nerd in New York
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Monday, July 25
Review at Broken Teepee
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, July 26
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Wednesday, July 27
Interview at First Impressions Reviews

Thursday, July 28
Review at Creating Herstory

Friday, July 29
Review at Beth's Book Nook Blog

Monday, August 1
Review at The Book Junkie Reads

Tuesday, August 2
Interview at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, August 3
Review at Diana's Book Reviews

Thursday, August 4
Interview at Diana's Book Reviews

Friday, August 5
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Monday, August 8
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, August 9
Review at Worth Getting in Bed For

Wednesday, August 10
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, August 11
Review at Girls Just Reading

Friday, August 12
Review at Dianne Ascroft's Blog

Monday, August 15
Review at Fangirls Ahead!

Tuesday, August 16
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review at The True Book Addict



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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

REVIEW & GUEST POST: Book Blast with GIVEAWAY - Snow in July by Kim Iverson Headlee

Snow in July - Tour Banner

BOOK INFORMATION


TITLE – Snow in July AUTHOR – Kim Iverson Headlee GENRE – Paranormal Historical Romance PUBLICATION DATE – July 2014 LENTH (Pages/# Words) – 386 pages/94K words PUBLISHER – Pendragon Cove Press COVER DESIGNER – Natasha Brown

Snow in July - Book Cover


BOOK SYNOPSIS


Sir Robert Alain de Bellencombre has been granted what every man wants: a rich English estate in exchange for his valiant service at the Battle of Hastings. To claim this reward, the Norman knight must wed the estate's Saxon heiress. Most men would leap at such an opportunity, but for Alain, who broke his vow to his dying mother by failing to protect his youngest brother in battle, it means facing more easily broken vows. But when rumors of rampant thievery, dangerous beasts, and sorcery plaguing a neighboring estate reach his ears, nothing will make him shirk duty to king and country when people's lives stand at risk. He assumes the guise of a squire to scout the land, its problems, and its lady. Lady Kendra of Edgarburh has been granted what no woman wants: a forced marriage to an enemy who may be kith or kin to the man who murdered her beloved brother.

Compounding her anguish is her failure to awaken the miraculous healing gift bequeathed by their late mother in time to save his life. Although with his dying breath, he made her promise to seek happiness above all, Kendra vows that she shall find neither comfort nor love in the arms of a Norman… unless it snows in July.

Alain is smitten by Lady Kendra from the first moment of their meeting; Kendra feels the forbidden allure of the handsome and courtly Norman "squire." But a growing evil overshadows everyone, invoking dark forces and ensnaring Kendra in a plot to overthrow the king Alain is oath-bound to serve. Kendra and Alain face a battle unlike any other as their honor, their love, their lives, and even their very souls lie in the balance.


My Review


Snow in July by Kim Iverson Headlee was truly a wonderful historical romance to read. I love that the author endeavored to keep true to history by setting this novel during the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings, yet also add a mixture of magic and intrigue to entertain readers! This novel is the perfect addition to a summer reading list, especially for fans of cleaner historical romances that are not “bodice rippers”.

Alain and Kendra have an instant connection, but also seem to have insurmountable obstacles which they need to cross before they can finally be together and be happy. Alain is not honest with Kendra at the beginning, in fact, Kendra has no idea that Alain is her soon to be betrothed, as he is posing as a squire to check out the strange things that have been happening around his future English estate. Kendra is completely against marrying a Norman, as they invaded her country, and because of this her brother, whom she deeply loved and adored, was killed in battle. It takes a little bit for things between them to finally come together, and the main thing holding them back from seizing happiness were vows that made to loved ones which they were unable to fulfill. Alain and Kendra’s characters are written extremely well, and are very easy for readers to relate to. You can definitely feel their anguish and despair at losing a loved one, and feeling as though they are somewhat responsible for their death. It’s also easy to lose yourself in their romance as it grows.

There is a supernatural aspect to this novel, but it is not the main focus, so don’t let that turn you away. If anything, the supernatural element adds some additional interest to what would otherwise be just another well-written historical romance novel. I whole-heartedly recommend this novel for a great summer read that you can get completely lost in this summer. It definitely gets a FIVE out of FIVE stars from me!
_________________________________________________________________


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EXCERPT

(Hero's first impression of heroine)
A young woman was standing on the staircase’s top landing as Alain approached. No, he amended, feeling his eyes widen and his blood heat, a goddess. The suggestive clinging of her grayish-blue gown made him forget his blasphemous lapse. 
He shifted from foot to foot to mask his reaction. Her ashblonde curls, creamy complexion, and alluring curves conquered his fear of failure. As his heart thrummed its praises of her beauty, he vowed to protect this lady unto the ends of the earth. 
But he tempered his lauds with a petition for wisdom, for he needed to ascertain her heart. Experience had taught him the folly of loving a beautiful but title-hungry woman like Marie. 
Yet sorrow enveloped this lady like a shroud. The slope of her delicately boned shoulders, the tilt of her petite chin, the hooded reserve of her slate-blue eyes, the slight pout of her full lips all sang the same dirge. 
Blessed Virgin, could I be the cause of her misery? Please, let it not be so! 
He wanted nothing more than to gather her into his arms and kiss those lips until their song transformed from sorrow to joy. 
Their gazes met. Her look, a cross between appreciation and reprimand, made him remember his “station,” and he looked down.


GUEST POST


4 Fun Facts about Snow in July...

  • The medieval-inspired interior art used as character glyphs for chapter and scene headings was created by Kim Headlee’s daughter Jessica.
  • The route that the hero Alain walks between St. Mary’s Church and the tavern in Chapter 2 was adapted straight off a map of medieval Winchester, England.
  • Alain wanted to name his canine ally “Seigneur Noir” (“Black Lord”), but Noir decided that was too much of a mouthful.
  • The story adapts the legend that the wounded King Harold survived the Battle of Hastings and lived out the remainder of his days as a monk, and Snow in July also references the legendary manner in which Joseph of Arimathea (a merchant and contemporary of Jesus) established the first Christian church in Britain, as well as the legends of King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Round Table.



AUTHOR BIO


Author Photo - Kim HeadleeKim Headlee lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her family, cats, goats, Great Pyrenees goat guards, and assorted wildlife. People and creatures come and go, but the cave and the 250-year-old house ruins—the latter having been occupied as recently as the mid-twentieth century—seem to be sticking around for a while yet. She has been an award-winning novelist since 1999 (Dawnflight, first edition, Sonnet Books, Simon & Schuster) and has been studying the Arthurian Legends for nigh on half a century.



Snow in July - Book Spine


AUTHOR FOLLOW LINKS


AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE (Worldwide link) – WEBSITE
BLOG – FACEBOOK – TWITTER – GOOGLE+


LATEST AUTHOR INTERVIEW (2015)




GIVEAWAY PRIZES


1 autographed copy of SNOW IN JULY (US Only) 5 copies of SNOW IN JULY e-book (International)


Click Here To Enter Kim Headlee's Awesome Giveaway

Saturday, May 14, 2016

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Blog Tour - The Rivals of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles #2 in Trilogy) by Sallie Christie

02_The Rivals of Versaille

The Rivals of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #2) by Sally Christie

Publication Date: April 5, 2016 
Atria Books eBook & Paperback
 448 Pages 
 Genre: Historical Fiction

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And you thought sisters were a thing to fear! In this compelling follow-up to Sally Christie’s clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles. 

The year is 1745 and Louis XV’s bed is once again empty. Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a beautiful girl from the middle classes. As a child, a fortune teller had mapped out Jeanne’s destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King’s arms. All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeoise interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals—including a lustful lady-in-waiting, a precocious 14-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters—she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution. Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe: history books say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour. 

Alongside Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria, she is considered one of the three most powerful women of the 18th century, and one of the most influential royal mistresses of all time. In The Rivals of Versailles, Christie gets to the heart of Pompadour’s legendary relationship with Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” king. Pompadour was not only his mistress, but his confidante and influential political adviser for close to twenty years. Full of historical insight, decadence, wit and scandal, The Rivals of Versailles is about one woman’s trials and triumphs, her love for a king, and her role in shaping a nation.

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

The Mistresses of Versailles Series


My Review

            "The Rivals of Versailles” by Sally Christie is just as amazing as the first book in the series, “The Sisters of Versailles.” I was pleasantly surprised at how seamlessly it picked up with the intrigue, action, and passion from the first book! Mr. Christie is truly a talented historical fiction author.

            This novel comes on the heels of the last Nesle sister to grace King Louis XV’s bed as a mistress. The first book in the series is about the king’s affinity for sisters, while “The Rivals of Versailles” starts up near the beginning of Jeanne Poisson’s (better known as Madame Pompadour) reign as the Royal Mistress. While I adored “The Sisters of Versailles”, I felt that I was better able to connect with Madam Pompadour. I think this might have been because there she was the only main character to really keep track of, rather than the four Nesle sisters. Plus, I felt like I learned a lot more about the time period in general, because Madame Pompadour was very involved in the king’s decisions for France. Ms. Christie really brought her to life through this novel. She is described as such a strong and engaging person. She had to deal with a lot of negativity as the first bourgeois mistress of King Louis XV, but eventually she hardened herself to the condescending attitudes of those around her, and she made a place for herself in history. The kind certainly did not make her life easy, and over the course of his relationship with her, he was not exactly faithful! Madame Pompadour was able to retain her position in Louis’ life for almost 20 years due to the fact that she was able to survive the intrigue of Versailles, and keep Louis dependent on her friendship and advice. She also showed her rivals that she was an enemy they did not want, and when she went up against those who tried to usurp her position in Louis’ heart, she won.

            It is obvious that Sally Christie admired Madame Pompadour, and once you finish the book, you are a true fan of hers as well. History doesn’t always paint her in the kindest light, because of her influence on the king, so it’s great to see her through a different lens. This series is absolutely fantastic, and I am so excited about the next and final novel in the series, “The Enemies of Versailles”!

Without a doubt this is a FIVE out of FIVE!



About the Author



04_Sally Christie_Author
I'm a life-long history buff - and I mean life-long. One of the first adult books I read was Antonia Fraser's masterful Mary, Queen of Scots. Wow! That book just blew my little ten year old mind: something about the way it brought the past right back to life, made it live again on the page. I date my obsession with history to that time, but I'd been writing ("writing") ever since I was able to hold a pencil. If you'd told my 12-year old self that I'd not be a writer when I grew up, I would have laughed you out of the tree house. With a few detours along the way, to work overseas in consulting and development, as well as to go to business school, I've finally come full circle to where I think I should be. I currently live in Toronto and when I'm not writing, I'm playing lots of tennis; doing random historical research (old census records are my favorite); playing Scrabble, and squirrel-watching (the room where I write has French doors leading out to a deck; I avidly follow, and feed, a scruffy gang). 

 For more information please visit Sally Christie's website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Pinterest.



Blog Tour Schedule


Sunday, May 1
Review at A Book Drunkard
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Monday, May 2
Review at Caroline Wilson Writes
Tuesday, May 3
Interview at The Maiden's Court
Wednesday, May 4
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Review, Guest Post, & Giveaway at History Undressed
Thursday, May 5
Review at Bookish
Friday, May 6
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
Monday, May 9
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Guest Post at leeanna.me
Tuesday, May 10
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, May 11
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, May 12
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, May 13
Review at #redhead.with.book
Sunday, May 15
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession




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Sunday, April 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Battle of Agincourt Edited by Anne Curry and Malcolm Mercer


344 Pages
Yale University Press
November 17, 2015
Hardcover


Blurb




Published in partnership with the Royal Armouries, this comprehensive, sumptuously illustrated volume provides a defining reassessment of England’s legendary victory on the fields of Agincourt on October 25, 1415. Dramatized by William Shakespeare in Henry V, the Battle of Agincourt changed the course of the Hundred Years War and Britain’s relationship with her longtime enemy, France. In a remarkable work commemorating the 600th anniversary of arguably the most iconic military engagement of the medieval era, a wide range of experts examine the battle in its political, cultural, and geographical contexts, detailing strategies, tactics, armor, weapons, and fighting techniques while exploring the battlefield experiences of commanders and ordinary soldiers alike. In addition, this all-encompassing study offers deep analyses of many artifacts and aspects of the battle and its aftermath that have rarely been covered in other histories, including medicine and hygiene, the roles of faith and chivalry, the music of the times, and the experiences of women.


My Review


I was absolutely amazed when I received "The Battle of Agincourt." It is an absolutely beautiful, hardcover book that is filled with full color, crystal clear images related to Agincourt. The pictures are of different artifacts from the time period, paintings of those involved, photos of armor and weapons, and more. And, it's not 10 pages of color pictures stuck in the middle of the book, like many nonfiction novels. No, this book has these amazing pictures throughout! On basically every page there is a picture, as well as a description along with it. I spent quite a bit of time flipping through it in order to see the beautiful pictures before I even began reading it!

However, when I started to read it, I was just as impressed and as engrossed with what I was reading as I had been with the pictures. It is a nonfiction book, but information is not presented in a boring or text book like fashion. The facts are presented in a linear fashion, and you do not need to be a historian in order to easily follow along, and learn more about this battle and time period than you would have ever thought possible. I cannot even fathom the amount of research that had to have gone into this amazing book. It is the type of book that I will keep on a table in my living room, as a 'coffee table book', so that I can share the amazing photos with friends and family. Even those who are not huge history buffs can appreciate how nicely put together it is.

It is impossible to give this book less than five out of five stars. It has everything that a nonfiction book should have. If more nonfiction books were like this one, than I would spent less time lost in my historical fiction books, and more time learning about fascinating times and places in history. Reading "The Battle of Agincourt" has stirred my interest in this period in history, and I will most definitely be on the lookout for more books from this time!




Reviews


“An exceptional study to mark the 600th anniversary of the victory of an invading English army over its French foes in the Battle of Agincourt . . . [A] comprehensive, one-volume survey of the battle and its significance.”—Choice


'A thought-provoking collection of studies by outstanding specialists of one of the most remarkable military campaigns of England's medieval history.'—Jonathan Sumption, author of The Hundred Years War


'A completely absorbing account of the how and why of Agincourt – strongest, and indeed unrivalled, in all aspects of the battle's historical context – and the political and social conditions surrounding it.'—Robert Hardy, author of Longbow: A Social and Military History



"Agincourt is a battle of totemic importance. This book is not only a worthy contribution to a significant anniversary in its own right, but also an essential addition to scholarship on medieval military history."—Jeremy Black



About the Authors


Anne Curry is Professor of History and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southampton. Malcolm Mercer is Curator of Tower History at the Royal Armouries Museum. 



Purchase This Book




Sunday, March 20, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Queen's Choice by Anne O'Brien


Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (January 1, 2016)
Pages: 549


Blurb


Daughter of a murderer.

Duchess of Brittany.

The future Queen of England.

Joanna of Navarre knows her place in society. And defies it. Forthright, unemotional and politically minded, she is more than a match for the men in the court of Brittany. And when she inherits control of her lands after her husband's death, it's a testament to her intellect and loyal duty.

Then comes an unexpected proposal — marriage to Henry IV, King of England. The price? Abandoning her homeland, leaving her children, and sacrificing her independence.

Henry's hold on the crown is unsteady and war is brewing. Crossing the channel is a dangerous prospect. If Joanna's pride will allow it, this could be a chance to unite two nations.

But pride comes before a fall, and there are many who conspire to watch Joanna tumble from the English throne...






My Review


I honestly do not even know where to start with my review of “The Queen’s Choice. Anne O’Brien once again displays her artistry when it comes to bringing history to life. I was truly lost in medieval England every minute I spent reading it! This novel brings to light the fascinating life of Joanna of Navarre, who became Queen of England when she married King Henry IV. Although I have read hundreds of historical fiction novels set in medieval England, I knew next to nothing about her life prior to reading this novel, and only a little more about her husband, King Henry IV. I definitely had never imagined that there was a passionate love between them, or had any idea of the impact she had as Queen of England. Joanna’s strength is shown over and over throughout this novel as she sets out to prove to her husband, the King, as well as to the people of England, that she is more than just a foreign bride. She is a diplomat, a ruler, as well as an intelligent and strong woman. She is determined to sit beside him as his queen, and as his equal. She left everything she knew, and children she loved, in order to become his queen, and to experience true love. This novel is so incredibly well written and detailed, that I challenge any fan of historical fiction not to fall in love with this book, and with Joanna.

“The Queen’s Choice” has absolutely cemented my belief that Anne O’Brien is the best historical fiction author past of present. I have read all of Philippa Gregory’s novels, most of Elizabeth Chadwick’s, many of Sharon Kay Penman and Alison Weir’s novels, as well as hundreds of other historical fiction novels, and Ms. O’Brien’s novels honestly surpass them all, in my opinion. She has the ability to bring these somewhat obscure, royal women, as well as their passionate romances to life for the reader. As you read, you really feel as though you get to know the characters, and you’re left thinking about them when the book comes to an end. The fact that most of the women she writes about are not widely known or written about is what draws me to her novels the most. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good novel about Anne Boleyn, Eleanor of Aquitaine, or Lucrezia Borgia, but it can get repetitive reading about the same famous and dramatic women from history by different authors. The royal women Anne O’Brien chooses to bring to life are women like Elizabeth of Lancaster, Katherine de Valois, Philippa of Hainault, and more. These women were all important to the history of England, and they all have fascinating stories of strength and intelligence, and they all had incredible tales of love. However, they do not have the dramatic stories of incest and adultery like Anne Boleyn and Lucrezia Borgia, or tales riding horses half naked during the Crusades and waging war on their husband like Eleanor of Aquitaine! However, with Anne O’Brien’s gift of writing, she creates novels that are able to illustrate just how amazing and interesting these women from history truly were. I go into the majority of her novels honestly not knowing how it will end, because most of the women she writes about are only secondary characters in other novels I have read. It’s refreshing to learn more about these women, and through her impeccable research, to get an idea of who they were, what their trials were in life, and how they impacted history in their own way. I cannot say enough great things about Anne O’Brien as a writer, and I await her next novel with great anticipation!

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyways) that “The Queen’s Choice” is a clear FIVE out of FIVE stars. It’s one of those books where you wish it was possible to rate it seven or eight stars!



Praise


O’Brien cleverly intertwines the personal and political in this enjoyable, gripping tale. --The Times


"Anne O’Brien, the much-loved historical novelist who breathes new life into forgotten medieval women, is back to enchant and enthral us with a torrid tale of love, sacrifice and rebellion at the volatile court of King Henry IV…Packed with drama, danger, romance and history, The Queen’s Choice is the perfect reading choice for the long winter nights." --Pam Norfolk, PA


‘Joanna of Navarre is the feisty heroine in Anne O’Brien’s fast-paced historical novel The Queen’s Choice.--Good Housekeeping


‘A gripping story of love, heartache and political intrigue.’ --Woman & Home


"...packed with powerful emotions and tumultuous unfolding of an affair that changed the course of royal history, this is a novel in which to enjoy the past in all it rich colour and dramatic detail..."
--Lancashire Evening Post


'There are historical novels and then there are the works of Anne O'Brien - and this is another hit.'
--The Sun



About the Author


Anne was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a B.A. Honours degree in History at Manchester University, a PGCE at Leeds University and a Masters degree in education at Hull University, she lived in the East Riding as a teacher of history. Always a prolific reader, she enjoyed historical fiction and was encouraged to try her hand at writing. Success in short story competitions spurred her on.

Leaving teaching – but not her love of history – she wrote her first historical romance, a Regency, which was published in 2005. To date nine historical romances and a novella, ranging from medieval, through the Civil War and Restoration and back to Regency, have been published internationally.

Anne now lives with her husband in an eighteenth century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, a wild, beautiful place on the borders between England and Wales, renowned for its black and white timbered houses, ruined castles and priories and magnificent churches. Steeped in history, famous people and bloody deeds as well as ghosts and folk lore, it has given her inspiration for her writing. Since living there she has become hooked on medieval history.

Sometimes she escapes from writing. She enjoys her garden, a large, rambling area where she grows vegetables and soft fruit as well as keeping control over herbaceous flower borders, a wild garden, a small orchard and a formal pond. With an interest in herbs and their uses, Anne has a herb patch constructed on the pattern of a Tudor knot garden and enjoys cooking with the proceeds. Gardening is a perfect time for her to mull over what she’s been writing, as she wages war on the weeds.


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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

SPOTLIGHT: Searching for Vivian by Babette Hughes


Publisher: Lamplight Press (February 25, 2016)
137 Pages




Blurb


In 1966, seventeen year old Vivian Russell disappeared like smoke. The seemingly senseless murder of her parents in their home in Cleveland, Ohio was as unexplainable as her vanishing act in its aftermath. Her younger sister, Emma-traumatized by the horrific event- grows into a capable and relentless investigator who decides to do whatever it takes to find her. Her search takes her through the turbulent sixties- Viet Nam, The Black Panthers, dead ends, and bank jobs. Along the way, she finds herself and, whether she is prepared for it or not, the truth.   




About the Author



Born in Cleveland Ohio, Babette Hughes grew up in the time of Prohibition and bootleggers. Her father was one of the first bootleggers in the country, and was murdered by the Mafia in a turf war at the age of 29. Babette was just two at the time. 

Writing has allowed her to draw from her unusual life experiences to create her characters and tell their stories (and sometimes cautionary tales) in vivid detail. 

Now 93, she writes every day with fluidity and grace.  “The truth is liberating, but sometimes elusive.” She explains. “I’m always looking for it and how to best write about it, and I probably always will.”



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SEARCHING FOR VIVIAN
By

Babette Hughes

Chapter 1

1966
 The Cleveland Press called the murders senseless because the Russells had no known enemies
  and lord knows there wasn’t much to steal; all they had was a pickup, an old black and white TV with one snowy channel and little else. A detective was quoted in the article speculating that perhaps the killers had gone to the wrong house in some kind of a tragic mistake. But the baffling part was that the murdered couples oldest daughter, Vivian, 17, home from school with a cold that day, had vanished like smoke.
            But events like that, tragic and bizarre as they are, are soon forgotten, except perhaps when someone passes the house and wonders whatever happened to Vivian Russell. Sometimes someone hints knowingly that the Russells were drug dealers, or fences, or Russian spies. (The more years that transpired the more exotic the theories.) But for the most part people went on about their lives and, of course, as the years passed there were those too young or too new in town to have even heard of the murders or of Vivians disappearance.
             Even her sister, ten-year-old Emma, seemed to leave it behind. Even from the beginning. Even from the first day when she came home from school on a sunny Tuesday afternoon and found neighbors staring behind yellow police tape. Her parents bloody bodies were being carried on gurneys into an ambulance. Her big sister was gone. Struggling with her own grief, her Aunt Eleanor couldn’t understand the childs stoicism and as the weeks and months passed she worried about her more and more. It isn’t natural, she complained to her husband--it isn’t normal for a ten year old not to cry and carry on, not to grieve. The child acted as if she were just visiting her aunt and uncle as she sometimes did when her parents were alive; as if she hadn’t just lost her mother and father; as if her own sister hadn’t vanished into thin air. Although Thad Fisher was as shocked as anyone else over his in-laws murders, the truth is that he never really liked them and was secretly rather pleased to have them out of his life. They were damn hippies as far as he was concerned and it infuriated him the way Ellie ran over there all the time when they were alive. He had no objection to taking Emma in where could the kid go? She was a quiet, well-behaved ten-year-old, a bit dull for his taste, but a small eater and so quiet you forgot she was aroundactually an easy kid for a childless couple past middle age to raise. And she was someone Ellie could chatter to and leave him in peace.
            Still, it annoyed him the way the child refused to let Ellie out of her sight, following her from room to room, even coming into their bedroom at night in her white nightgown like an undersized ghost. After he locked their bedroom door she wailed and beat on it until she fell asleep on the floor and Thad carried her into her own bed.
            Ellie had eagerly welcomed Emmas arrival. Like many childless women she envied her friends who had children; she even envied the problems and commotion and mess they complained about. She thought of her sisters murder and Emmas sudden arrival as a kind of terrible deal from God; she lost her sister but received the child she had prayed for. Quiet and small, transparent almost, Emma seemed to take up less room than the beautiful big doll Ellie had bought her the day after she arrived, which Emma ignored. So she offered her a puppy and then a kitten, but the child merely shook her head.
            She tried to get her to talk about what happened. She tried to get her to ask questions about that terrible day. She wished the girl would grieve so she could comfort her. Or just cry. Something. Anything. But it was as if her family had been mysteriously wiped from Emmas mind like an eraser on chalkboard leaving the same cloudy, formless residue.
            Ellie took Emma to a psychiatrist who specialized in treating traumatized children; a Doctor Isabelle Dryer. She drove her to her office on Fairmount Boulevard twice a week until Dr. Dryer told her that although Emma came dutifully, she simply would not talk about the loss of her family and that after almost six months any further sessions would be a waste of Mrs. Fishers money and her time.
             Her aunt went to PTA meetings and teacher conferences and Home Room Nights like a mom and bragged to Thad about Emmas As. (Who didn’t seem very impressed at this information; his disapproval of Emmas parents hung in the air like fog.) Emma always hurried home after school to be with her Aunt Ellie. She liked her quick hugs and jokes; she liked seeing her in the shining, good-smelling kitchen in her high heals and sheer hose that she wore even around the house, even to the super market. (Ellie had beautiful legs the way some heavy-set women do.) She liked the way she sat down with her at the round yellow kitchen table while they talked and ate her freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Evenings, as Ellie prepared dinner, Emma followed her around the kitchen, putting lids back on jars, returning milk to the refrigerator, wiping the counter, sweeping the floor as the Mixmaster whirled, driving Ellie crazy.
             She put up with Emmas constant presence wondering if the child associated disorder with the blood and violence of her parents’ deaths. The child lived in a state of discipline and order, doing her homework, volunteering to clean blackboards and empty trash at school, cleaning her room, pressing her blouses. Where there were no rules, she made them up as if she had to be this perfect child or she would get lost in the world like Vivian.
            Her room was always in perfect order, clothes hung according to type, (school, gym class, dressy for dinners out with her aunt and uncle) color and season; the hangers all uniformly plastic, her shoes lined up by season and color (and later heal height although they didn’t exceeded an inch and a half). She catalogued her aunts recipes by soups, appetizers, entrees and desserts, and then alphabetized them within each category. She began to arrange them again by calorie and cholesterol count until her aunt stopped her. She organized and indexed the Fishers record collection according to type (classical, jazz, show tunes, operas, soloists.) She arranged books on their shelves not only by fiction, non-fiction and authors, but also by genres: mystery, horror, biography, (separated from autobiography) science fiction, politics, literary classics. She even created a section of books made into films. Her aunt and uncle shook their heads at each other and refused to let her into their closets or Thads den.
Emma did her best to act like a normal kid so everyone would leave her alone; still she refused to sign up for extra-curricular activities at school, her fantasy life more interesting than any chess club or work on the school paper. In a favorite daydream Uncle Thad died of a mysterious illness leaving her Aunt Ellie all to herself. When the telephone rang she imagined it was Vivian calling to say she was back from a trip to San Francisco or New York. Sometimes it was England. She pretended that her parents were divorced and that one of them would come back for her, or that they sailed to England on the Queen Mary like Patricia in her Social Studies class who stood up and bragged about her parents trip. Sometimes she pretended that her parents were both killed in a respectable car crash that wasn’t their fault. Half aware that her daydreams were an excessive and neurotic substitute for reality, they were so sweet and satisfying that if they also