Friday, December 13, 2019

Book Blast: The Ghost of Madison Avenue by Nancy Bilyeau

The Ghost of Madison Avenue by Nancy Bilyeau

Publication Date: December 13, 2019
eBook, 108 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery

Christmas Ghost Story in Old New York

In this compelling and poignant story, bestselling author Nancy Bilyeau takes readers to New York City’s Morgan Library in December 1912, when two very different people haunted by lost love come together in an unexpected way.

Helen O’Neill, part of a tight-knit Irish-American family in the Bronx, is only too happy to report to work at the spectacular private library built on Madison Avenue by millionaire financier J. P. Morgan. The head librarian, the brilliant and beautiful Belle da Costa Greene, had hired Helen away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art after she witnessed Helen’s unusual talent with handling artifacts.

Helen soon discovers the Morgan Library is a place like no other, with its secret staircases, magical manuscripts, and mysterious murals. But that’s nothing compared to a person who Helen alone can see: a young woman standing on Madison Avenue, looking as if she were keeping watch. In learning the woman’s true link to the Morgan, Helen must face the pain of her own past. And as she struggles to discover the truth behind these appearances, she finds herself with a second chance at happiness for herself on Christmas Eve—if she has the courage.

From the author of The Blue, the Joanna Stafford trilogy, and the soon-to-be published Dreamland, set in 1911 Coney Island, comes The Ghost of Madison Avenue, a novella both thrilling and moving.

Available on Amazon

Praise for Nancy Bilyeau

‘Nancy Bilyeau's passion for history infuses her books' – Alison Weir

On Dreamland

'Beautifully written and impeccably researched, Dreamland is a rollicking ride.' - Fiona Davis, author of The Chelsea Girls

'A marvelous book!' - Ellen Marie Wiseman, author of What she Left Behind

On The Blue

'Definitely a winner!' - Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

On the Joanna Stafford Trilogy

‘All the ingredients of the best historical fiction … will satisfy even the most ardent mystery fans.’ - Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau is a historical novelist and magazine editor based in New York. She wrote the Joanna Stafford trilogy, a trio of thrillers set in Henry VIII’s England, for Simon & Schuster. Her fourth novel is The Blue, an 18th-century thriller revolving around the art and porcelain world. Her next novel is Dreamland, set in Coney Island of 1911, to be published by Endeavour Quill on January 16, 2020. A former staff editor at Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and InStyle, Nancy is currently the deputy editor at the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College and contributes to Town & Country, CrimeReads, and Mystery Scene magazine.

To learn more, go to You can follow Nancy on Facebook, Twitter, BookBub, and Goodreads.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway: The Girl I Left Behind by Andie Newton

Please join me in welcoming Andie Newton to Let Them Read Books! Andie is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical novel, The Girl I Left Behind, and I had the chance to ask her about the inspiration for the story and the characters. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of The Girl I Left Behind!

What would you risk to save our best-friend?

As a young girl, Ella never considered that those around her weren’t as they appeared. But when her childhood best-friend shows Ella that you can’t always believe what you see, Ella finds herself thrown into the world of the German Resistance.

On a dark night in 1941, Claudia is taken by the Gestapo, likely never to be seen again, unless Ella can save her. With the help of the man she loves, Ella must undertake her most dangerous mission yet and infiltrate the Nazi Party.

Selling secrets isn’t an easy job. In order to find Claudia, Ella must risk not only her life, but the lives of those she cares about.

Will Ella be able to leave behind the girl of her youth and step into the shoes of another?

Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The German Midwife and Kate Furnivall.


Hi Andie! Thanks so much for stopping by Let Them Read Books!

What inspired you to write The Girl I Left Behind?

I never thought I’d write a novel. Ever. By accident, I caught a documentary on the History Channel that talked about the youth resistance. I have a degree in history, so I suppose you can say my thoughts are already in the past, and when I find areas of history that I don’t know a lot about, I’m always inspired to find out more. I searched for a novel about the youth German Resistance and couldn’t find one, and as cliché as it sounds, I set out to write the novel I wanted to read.

I had so many questions. How far would a young person go in the name of freedom? Most importantly, what would make them break? In my book, Ella, the main character, joins a resistance group called the Falcons. This group was inspired by the resistance groups that existed in Nazi Germany at the time. The White Rose, probably one of the most notable youth resistance groups, was a passive group of young adults known for their anti-Nazi leaflets. The Swing Kids was another, a group (and a movement) who openly resisted the confines of Nazi behavior. They listened to banned music and essentially behaved like American teens, which was absolutely scandalous and an arrestable offense. However, not all youth resistance groups were passive. In fact, some were violent street thugs who sought out kids in the Hitler Youth to beat up.

Yet, in between these groups, between the passive and the aggressive, there were youths printing phony identification papers and providing safe houses for Jews—ah, now this was getting very interesting. Then there were the special sects: renegades—some of them female—who sabotaged patrols, schemed to assassinate Hitler, and infiltrated the Reich to spy for the British. It was upon learning this that the idea to have The Girl I Left Behind play out as a female-driven spy novel became too good to resist. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Blog Tour Spotlight + Giveaway: The Lords of the Wind by C.J. Adrien

The Lords of the Wind by C.J. Adrien

Publication Date: July 3, 2019
Runestone Books
eBook & Paperback; 339 Pages
Series: The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, Book One
Genre: Historical Fiction

“For indeed the Frankish nation, which was crushed by the avenger Hasting, was full of filthy uncleanness. Treasonous and oath-breaking, they were deservedly condemned; unbelievers and faithless, they were justly punished.”

Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. A ship arrived at his master's longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a warlord, and who helped topple an empire.

A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normanorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that explores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

C.J. Adrien is a French-American author of Viking historical fiction with a passion for Viking history. His Kindred of the Sea series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett. C.J. Adrien’s novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. For more information, please visit C.J. Adrien's website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Blog Tour Q&A: In Sight of the Mountain by Jamie McGillen

Please join me in welcoming Jamie McGillen to Let Them Read Books! Jamie is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical novel, In Sight of the Mountain, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about her research and inspiration. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of In Sight of the Mountain!

~ Inspired by the trailblazing women of the 19th Century who dared to summit Mount Rainier ~

In the devastating aftermath of the 1889 Great Seattle Fire, nineteen-year-old Anna Gallagher faces considerable pressure to marry well and soon.

She has two serious suitors: a well-meaning but condescending doctor, and an evasive fisherman who challenges her mind. But Anna has no intention of giving up her freedom to keep house; she has a dream to reach the summit of Mount Rainier.

Despite her family’s disapproval and her own self-doubt, she secretly trains, raises money for supplies, and buys a train ticket to the base of the mountain. If she succeeds in reaching its icy peak, she could pioneer the way for women mountaineers; but it’s a tall task and there’s much at risk—including the heart of a man who just might love her as an equal.

On the journey, Anna will face glaciers, avalanches, and frozen temperatures, all without knowing if she even has a family or a future to return to.

In Sight of the Mountain is a charming coming-of-age story, but it also casts the reader’s gaze upon issues of colonialism, class, and women’s far-too-narrow options.


Hi Jamie! Thanks so much for visiting today!

What inspired you to write In Sight of the Mountain?

When I saw a life-sized image of Fay Fuller standing on a rocky ledge, I was immediately drawn to her. The old photograph showed her on Mount Rainier in August 1890, about to become the first woman to summit. I really wanted to tell her story, but I wanted to write something completely fictional, so instead I wrote what it might have been like for a woman in that time to dare to summit Mount Rainier.

Is your main character, Anna, based on a real person?

Completely inspired by Fay Fuller and other trailblazing women of the nineteenth century. Like Isabella Bird, who traveled around the Rocky Mountains and climbed Longs Peak in 1873. And Lucy Walker, a British woman who summited the Matterhorn in the Alps in 1871. I was pleasantly surprised to discover so many women doing epically adventurous things like that when it not only risked their lives, but also risked their chances of having any place in their society.

What kind of research did you do for this book? Did you get to go somewhere memorable or discover anything that surprised you?

I spent some time at the Washington State history museum, where I was able to listen to the Lushootseed language (which the Duwamish speak in the story). I also visited the Duwamish Longhouse for an event and met the current chairperson who helped answer many of my questions about how to portray the Duwamish. I also took my family on a hike on Mount Rainier (an easy one!) to help me describe the scenery, plant life, sounds, etc.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

The main point of Anna’s story is to inspire women to get outdoors and do things they didn’t think they were capable of. And to prove that you don’t have to conform to social norms to create a fulfilling life and surround yourself with people who love you. The book also addresses the issue of young women breaking into roles that men traditionally hold, which I hope will encourage readers to be brave and risk everything to do things despite self-doubt and family disapproval--and how to thrive as a woman with big dreams.

What are you working on now?

I go back and forth between working on a sequel to IN SIGHT OF THE MOUNTAIN, and working on a contemporary young adult novel I started last spring. Who knows which one I’ll finish first!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Blog Tour Review: The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron

From the Back Cover:

A lost painting of Queen Victoria. A library bricked off from the world. Three women, separated by time, whose lives are irrevocably changed.

When art historian Keira Foley is hired to authenticate a painting at a centuries-old East Suffolk manor, she hopes this is just the thing to get her career and life back on track. But from the time she arrives at Parham Hill Estate and begins working alongside rumored art thief Emory Scott, she’s left with far more questions than answers. Could this lost painting of Queen Victoria be a duplicate of the original Winterhalter masterpiece, and if so, who is the artist?

As Keira begins to unravel the mystery behind the portrait of the queen, two women emerge from the estate’s forgotten past. In Victorian England, talented sketch artist Elizabeth Meade is engaged to Viscount Huxley, then owner of Parham Hill. While there, master portrait artist Franz Winterhalter takes her under his wing, but Elizabeth’s real motive for being at Parham Hill has nothing to do with art. She’s determined to avenge her father’s brutal murder—even if it means feigning an engagement to the very man she believes committed the crime.

A century later, Amelia Woods—a WWII widow who has turned Parham Hill Estate and its beloved library into a boarding school for refugee children—receives military orders to house a troop of American pilots. She is determined that the children in her care remain untouched by the war, but it’s proving difficult with officers taking up every square inch of their world… and one in particular vying for a space in her long shut up heart.

Set in three time periods—the rapid change of Victorian England, the peak of England’s home front tensions at the end of World War II, and modern day—The Painted Castle unfolds a story of heartache and hope and unlocks secrets lost for generations, just waiting to be found.

My Thoughts:

This is a heartwarming story entwining three different generations in three different time periods, and at the heart of each is the same special library and the mysterious portrait it holds. The portrait mystery is based on a real portrait of a young Queen Victoria painted by Franz Winterhalter, known as "the secret picture," featuring Victoria in a more informal pose for her husband, Prince Albert, and the mystery of who painted the copy of it and how it came to be walled away in a secret library drives the present-day story.

It's rare that I enjoy all of the story lines equally in a multi-stranded story. I usually find myself drawn more to the past, but in this case I was hooked on all three. Three women trying to pick up the pieces of their lives after tragedy and heartache, trying to find themselves and their place in changing worlds. I was so engrossed and so anxious to see how each story would play out that I did not want to put the book down. The suspense, the anticipation, the romance--all struck a perfect balance. And it was an emotional read on many levels. This is inspirational fiction, but that theme is very light. It's practically nonexistent in the two past story lines but it's surprisingly more relevant in the present-day story, and I thought that a nice twist.

I'm tempted to rate this five stars just on all the feels alone, but I can't overlook how rushed the resolutions of each story line felt. Endings can make or break a book. The ending certainly doesn't break this one, but after so much delicious buildup, I would have liked a little more time spent on wrapping up each story. Some things took place off the page and I questioned why the reader wasn't made privy to those plot points as they happened. And I still have some questions, particularly about Viscount Huxley. It's still a satisfying ending; I just wanted a little more insight and closure to make it perfect.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Spotlight: Unshelled: A Tale of the Nutcracker by M.J. Neary

Unshelled: A Tale of the Nutcracker
by M.J. Neary

April 6, 2019
Crossroad Press
Historical Fiction
eBook; 94 pages

West Germany, 1915.

Marie Stahl, a stoic combat nurse in her late twenties, unhindered by her own ailments, converts her family countryside estate into a convalescent home for soldiers slapped with the controversial diagnosis "shell shock". Her only helpers are two taciturn factory girls of Slavic descent. Marie's altruistic endeavor brings on the wrath of her embittered brother Fritz, a Sergeant-Major in the Germany army. Having lost a foot in the trenches, he considers these men traitors, deserving of execution, not sympathy. The one he detests most is Christoph Ahrens, an engineering student nicknamed "Nutcracker" for his unusually strong jaw.

Despite her morose disposition, Marie finds herself intrigued by the haunted youngster, who turns out to be a pupil of her godfather, Dr. Drosselmeyer, a physics lecturer at the University of Cologne and a military technology pioneer. As Marie and Christoph grow closer, he confides in her about his nightmares. The most horrifying images are not of his experiences in the trenches but of Germany's future—the old country they have been proud to serve will not exist twenty years later. As a woman of science, Marie rejects the notion of clairvoyance, although a part of her cannot help but wonder if there is some truth to his predictions.

In the meantime, the atmosphere at the convalescent home grows more hostile as the patients turn on each other and Marie begins to question her altruism.

Set against the violence and paranoia of the Great War, Unshelled is a gritty, sinister retelling of the Christmas classic.

Readers call it "a highly compelling read" and "a unique interpretation of the classic."

About the Author:

A self-centered, only child of classical musicians, Marina Julia Neary spent her early years in Eastern Europe and came to the US at the age of thirteen. Her literary career revolves around depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade, to the Irish Famine, to the Easter Rising in Dublin, to the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl some thirty miles away from her home town. Notorious for her abrasive personality and politically incorrect views that make her a persona non grata in most polite circles, Neary explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.