Friday, June 22, 2018

Spotlight + Giveaway: Trouble the Water by Jacqueline Friedland

Trouble the Water
by Jacqueline Friedland

Publication date: May 8, 2018
Trade paperback ISBN 978-1-94300-654-0
338 pages
E-book ISBN: 978-1-943006-55-7

In TROUBLE THE WATER, Jacqueline Friedland’s gripping debut novel, seventeen-year-old Abigail Milton arrives in Charleston, South Carolina from England with only one small bag, but a lot to carry. Her family has fallen destitute and sent her away to ease their burden, and she carries this loss—and a dark secret—across the ocean with her. But Abby—fiery, strong-minded, and haunted—is determined to carve a humble life from her new opportunity in America.

Douglas Elling takes Abby in as a favor to her father, a dear family friend. Douglas has almost completely withdrawn from society, due to the untimely loss of his wife and only child two years earlier. Before the tragedy, whispers arose about him being an Abolitionist. He sought to fit in, if only to protect his underground activism. Now he remains a source of suspicion and an outsider by choice. Slowly—pulled from his isolation by the need to be polite to his charge, if nothing else—Douglas’s attempts to guide Abby rekindle his deeply buried hopes of improving people’s lives—and something in him awakens.

Set twenty years before the Civil War and filled with authentic detail about The Underground Railroad and the Abolitionist movement, TROUBLE THE WATER is a memorable and moving debut novel about painful histories, new hopes, social change, and second chances. 

Praise for Trouble the Water:

Best Regional Fiction – South

“… will seize readers from the first page and not let go.”—KIRKUS REVIEWS

“Fans of Paulette Jiles and Julia Quinn will adore this triumphant novel of intrigue, secrecy, and redemption.”—BOOKLIST

“With compelling characters, a charming peek into Charleston society, a heart-racing romance, rich historical detail, and an epilogue that will have you holding your breath, Friedland has written a well-crafted novel that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.”—Susie Orman Schnall, award-winning author of The Subway Girls, The Balance Project, and On Grace

“The complicated history of the antebellum South comes alive in Friedland's debut novel and offers readers an exciting and fast-paced literary journey that explores complicated relationships, the importance of friendship, and the necessary power of love.”—Kris Radish, best-selling author of A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere

“Friedland is a modern Bronte sister remixed with Kathleen Grissom or Leila Meacham. Trouble the Water is the riveting story of Abby, who travels across the sea, fleeing Liverpool, poverty, and an unsavory uncle, for Charleston, where a wealthy friend of her father, Douglas, lives. Douglas has pledged himself to the fight to end slavery, and for that, he has made the ultimate sacrifice. Abby fights inner demons and tries to find her place in Charleston high society while her brooding guardian reconciles the past and returns to his beloved cause. Lovers of Civil War-era historical fiction will rejoice at Friedland’s triumphant novel of love, friendship, and the most important issues of the day.”—Bethany Ball, author of What to do About the Solomons

“With a plucky heroine, a dashing hero, and the backdrop of the clandestine abolition movement in the antebellum South, Jacqueline Friedland masterfully weaves a tale full of passion and honor, duty and survival, evil and the beauty of basic human decency. Trouble the Water will make your heart pound and swell, and keep you reading well into the night. Highly recommended!”—Loretta Nyhan, author of I'll Be Seeing You, All the Good Parts, and Digging In

“In a narrative tapestry woven of brilliant threads of history and Drama, Jacqueline Friedland introduces her readers to seventeen-year-old British born Abigail Milton, her generous but reluctant benefactor, Douglas Elling and the complex world of antebellum Charleston. The evil of slavery, the nascent abolitionist movement, the courage of an operative of the underground railroad are explored against the background of the vanished world of debutante cotillions, social intrigue and the slow maturity and melding of skillfully drawn protagonists. Friedland’s research is impeccable, her writing fluid. Trouble the Water is that rare pedagogic novel that engages as it teaches.”—Gloria Goldreich, author of The Bridal Chair

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: The Underground River by Martha Conway

Please join me in welcoming Martha Conway to Let Them Read Books! Martha is touring the blogosphere with her new historical novel, The Underground River, and she's here today with a guest post about writing complicated characters and shaping their principles. Read on and enter to win a custom-made coffee mug! P.S. Martha is also offering a secret chapter to her newsletter subscribers!

Set aboard a nineteenth century riverboat theater, this is the moving, page-turning story of a charmingly frank and naive seamstress who is blackmailed into saving runaways on the Underground Railroad, jeopardizing her freedom, her livelihood, and a new love.

It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.

May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who ferry babies given up by their slave mothers across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her new-found friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of Dr. Early who captures runaways and sells them back to their southern masters.

As May’s secrets become more tangled and harder to keep, the Floating Theatre readies for its biggest performance yet. May’s predicament could mean doom for all her friends on board, including her beloved Hugo, unless she can figure out a way to trap those who know her best.


Love and Principles
by Martha Conway

When I was thinking about a love interest for my heroine, May Bedloe, I had to consider this man’s position on slavery carefully — the novel takes place on the Ohio River in 1838, the natural division between the North and the South in the United States before the Civil War. I don’t think I’m giving much away when I say that during her stint as a costume designer for a little riverboat theatre, May Bedloe is drawn (at first unwillingly) into helping along the Underground Railroad. However, as part of her growth she must do this alone. In other words, her romantic interest couldn’t help her, at least not at first.

But what sort of person would not help runaway slaves? In truth, many people throughout history have turned a blind eye to injustice, but you don’t want to make them a romantic figure.

My solution: I made the love interest British, and a bit of a cultural outsider. Not a perfect solution, but one that fit with my purpose of letting my heroine succeed or fail on her own. This man is opposed to slavery, as it turns out, but he feels uncertain if he could or should do something about it.

One of my personal objectives when writing this story about a young woman’s awakening to injustice was to avoid simplifying the characters. People are complicated! For me, May’s awakening had to be from the heart, whereas the abolitionists she meets (and some of them are not very nice characters) do the right thing out of principle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to do the right thing, and likewise principles are important. However, the question I asked myself when I was writing this story was: How do you change not just someone’s mind, but also their heart? That seems a much more difficult thing to do.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Breathless by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan

From the Back Cover:

She was "the Swan." London's premiere courtesan. Men want to be with her. Women loathe her success and yet admire her beauty, her riches, her independence. But when the jealous wife of her lover moves to have the Swan banished from her home on the high seas, she winds up crashed against Spain's rocky coast with no shoes, no clothesand no name. Taken in by a tortured, sensuous man known as The Artist, the Swan comes to know the woman she wants to be—her artist's siren.

When Art Professor Brenna Anderson is in danger of losing her post at Harvard, the rule-following, prim professor is at a loss of how to salvage the shreds of her life. But when a new painting in the mysterious Siren collection is discovered in a dusty old house in France, Brenna does the unthinkable—hops on a plane to uncover the identity of the beautiful, enigmatic woman who is the subject of the paintings.

There's just one hitch—the frustrating, irritating, bold and beautiful art hunter, Fitch Wilder, is also looking for the Siren. He's been a thorn in Brenna's professional side for years, but when their individual quests lead them to team up despite being enemies, a whole new sumptuous world of art and culture opens up for the two of them. And with it, they enter a realm of passion and love…

My Thoughts:

I signed up to review Breathless on impulse and then chastised myself because I needed another review commitment like I need a hole in my head, but I'm so glad I did! This will end up being one of my favorite books of the year. I'm not going to delve much into plot because the blurb does a good job of teasing you and I want everybody to be able to discover the story for themselves and savor every minute of it, like I did.

I was instantly drawn into the story with the discovery of a painting in an old Paris apartment by a handsome hunk of a cowboy who has a passion for art. Fitch's sense of amazement and excitement at finding an unknown painting in the famous Siren series was palpable, and I loved how the story of the Swan (aka the Siren) and her lover, the Artist, was teased out as Brenna and Fitch hunted down clues to her identity in the hopes of finding more paintings. And I loved watching enemies turn to lovers as these two became so wrapped up in the mystery, in the adventure, and in each other.

It's rare that I end up liking both the past and present storylines equally in a book with dual timelines. Usually the balance tips in favor of the past, but in this case I really enjoyed reading both. In both storylines the heroine is forced to reinvent herself, and I thought the Swan's rediscovery of herself particularly poignant. In order to find herself again, she had to lose everything, including her memories.

One of the best aspects of this book is the setting. Barcelona and the Catalonia coast are so atmospheric and so central to the story that the setting becomes a character itself. The lush descriptions of architecture, scenery, the simple yet delicious food, the infectious joie de vivre of the locals, the music, the dancing . . . well let's just say I HAVE to visit that region now!

There are a few little things I could quibble about in regards to the story, but I so thoroughly enjoyed it, was so swept away by the ambiance and the mystery, and was so battered by the emotional wringer (seriously, I sobbed buckets; no spoilers, but be prepared for the absolute unfairness of fate before the happily ever after) that those quibbles aren't worth detailing.

I could not put this book down, wanting desperately to see how it would all play out yet not wanting it to end. I savored the mystery and the love stories and completely lost myself in Catalonia. Breathless is a fabulous reading experience for fans of romance, art, history, and the heady magic of the Mediterranean.

My Rating:  5 Stars out of 5


Monday, June 18, 2018

Guest Post: The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey

Please join me in welcoming Elizabeth Bailey to Let Them Read Books! Elizabeth's historical mystery The Gilded Shroud is being republished by Sapere Books, and she's here today with a guest post about the noble intentions behind societal restrictions on Regency women and how she circumvented them in her books.

1789, London

When Emily Fanshawe, Marchioness of Polbrook, is found strangled in her bedchamber, suspicion immediately falls on those residing in the grand house in Hanover Square.

Emily’s husband - Randal Fanshawe, Lord Polbrook - fled in the night and is chief suspect – much to the dismay of his family.

Ottilia Draycott is brought in as the new lady’s companion to Sybilla, Dowager Marchioness and soon finds herself assisting younger son, Lord Francis Fanshawe in his investigations.

Can Ottilia help clear the family name? Does the killer still reside in the house?

Or could there be more to the mystery than meets the eye…?

The Gilded Shroud is the first book in the Lady Fan Mystery series: historical romance murder mysteries set in eighteenth-century London.

You can’t go there or do that if you’re a lady
by Elizabeth Bailey

Contrary to our ideas of what is acceptable, restrictions on Regency ladies were, on the whole, for their protection. We consider crowds safer these days, but at that time a country walk in a peaceful village environment held far fewer terrors than the capital. London was a dangerous place.

Pickpockets abounded, but they were small fry compared to the plethora of thieves, beggars and vagabonds as well as tradesmen going about their legitimate business. A woman alone, especially if young and pretty, was a target for any marauding male, of whatever class. Alone, she was vulnerable to unwanted gallantries and suggestive talk.

Even in the more genteel parts of town, like Mayfair and its environs, a lady would not walk out without her maid in tow, or preferably a footman. Even two or three ladies walking together in Hyde Park would have a footman following at a respectful distance. This, along with the quality of her dress, demonstrated her class and that she was protected. Better still, a male relative or known family friend would accompany her.

To be seen out without adequate protection therefore put a lady at risk of her reputation. She was expected to adhere to the rules. She flouted them at her peril. The prohibitions extended beyond walking out alone, however.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Blog Tour Excerpt + Giveaway: Chasing the Wind by C.C. Humphreys


Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Paperback & eBook; 320 Pages
Genre: Historical/Women’s Fiction/Mystery

Smuggler. Smoker. Aviatrix. Thief. The dynamic Roxy Loewen is all these things and more, in this riveting and gorgeous historical fiction novel for readers of Paula McLain, Roberta Rich, Kate Morton and Jacqueline Winspear.

You should never fall in love with a flyer. You should only fall in love with flight.

That’s what Roxy Loewen always thought, until she falls for fellow pilot Jocco Zomack as they run guns into Ethiopia. Jocco may be a godless commie, but his father is a leading art dealer and he’s found the original of Bruegel’s famous painting, the Fall of Icarus. The trouble is, it’s in Spain, a country slipping fast into civil war. The money’s better than good–if Roxy can just get the painting to Berlin and back out again before Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring and his Nazi pals get their hands on it . . .

But this is 1936, and Hitler’s Olympics are in full swing. Not only that, but Göring has teamed up with Roxy’s greatest enemy: Sydney Munroe, an American billionaire responsible for the death of her beloved dad seven years before. When the Nazis steal the painting, Roxy and Jocco decide that they are just going to have to steal it back.

What happens when Icarus flies too close to the sun? Roxy is going to find out. From African skies to a cellar in Madrid, from the shadow cast by the swastika to the world above the clouds on the Hindenburg’s last voyage, in the end Roxy will have just two choices left–but only one bullet.


There’s nothing like dying to make a girl appreciate living.

As she stared down into the pitiless black of the night, seeking, forever seeking, the one pinpoint of light that might yet save her— but it had better hurry up—Roxy Loewen thought about what was waiting for her.

A straw-roofed hut with a tin bath filled with tepid water on its third use that would feel like a clawfoot tub at the Plaza. Rum so raw it hurt your eyes but when mixed with tamarind juice would taste like a Negroni at the Ritz. Steak from a camel or an ass surpassing the finest filet mignon that Rex’s 110th Street chop house could serve.

And at the end of all those, a German. Jochen Zomack—Jocco— with his big hands and his big laugh and the hank of brown hair that, when he let it fall over his face just so and in the right light, made him look like Cary Grant. Jocco, down there somewhere, scanning the black skies as she scanned the black ground, ready with his light.

If her message had gotten through. Communications had been sketchy since the Italians had begun what many were saying would be their final offensive. The gallant, heavily outgunned Ethiopians— guns, hell, a lot of them still fought with spears—would make their last stand against the invader near their capital, Addis Ababa.

The rumours had decided her. To fly her cargo of rifles west into that war zone was suicide. If the Italians didn’t shoot her out of the sky, there probably wouldn’t be an airfield left to land on. The one where she waited at Malco Dube would also be bombed again. Even if her Lockheed 227—Asteria 6, Roxy called her—wasn’t hit on the ground, there wouldn’t be enough time to fill in the craters on the runway that was already more gopher burrow than the racetrack it once had been. But if she could get her cargo to Jocco, he’d know what to do with it. He’d know where some of his comrades might still be fighting. He had run guns all over this continent. All over the world, truly. Hell, he might even get her paid. Though it wasn’t so much the money she’d been thinking of as she’d taken off from the foothills of the mountains and headed toward a moon just peeking in the east. It was him. Lying with him. There was a time she might have blushed at that thought. But she didn’t blush so much anymore.
Night fell fast this close to the equator, but the moon was a day off full and that had given her hope. Three hours’ flight and a landing by moonlight? She’d done that before, half a dozen times.

What she hadn’t reckoned on were the thick cumulus clouds rolling in from the Indian Ocean. She was under them now, halfway between the ceiling and the floor about two hundred feet below her. Flying star quadrants, covering ground above what she hoped was still the airfield at Dubaro. There were no lights. Italian pilots were so bored they would drop a bomb on a fella lighting a cheroot in his cupped hand. The terrain was featureless enough in daylight—arid, scrubby hills or thick jungle, especially this close to the coast. At night there was . . . nothing.