Friday, January 23, 2015

Bon Appetit and a Book with Kathleen Eagle, Author of Never Trust a Cowboy

By Kathleen Eagle
Harlequin Special Edition; December 16, 2014
$5.50 US; 224 pages
ISBN-13: 9780373658596

The last thing harried Lila Flynn needed was another cowboy to deal with, but new hire Del Fox was different than most sweet-talking wranglers. The hard worker had a gentle touch and eyes that spoke of a past he didn't share. Lila soon found her hardened heart softening, frightening her more than any other hurdles she was facing.

Del's assignment in Short Straw, South Dakota, was meant to be fast and simple. Falling for Lila Flynn, however, had complicated everything. If he did his job right it would mean destroying everything Lila had worked for. He'd given her every reason never to trust him with her heart, but when all was said and done, would she trust their love enough to give them a second chance?

Bon Appétit and a Book with Kathleen Eagle
author of 

Chicken Diable

I discovered this recipe when I was in high school, and I’ve been making it for family and friends ever since.  It’s always a hit. This is from my original recipe card:

Preheat oven to 375º
Makes 4 servings

1 broiler-fryer (about 3 lbs) cut up
4 tbsp butter
½ cup honey
¼ cup prepared mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder

1. Wash chicken pieces; pat dry; remove skin if you wish.

2. Melt butter in shallow baking pan.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Roll chicken in mixture to coat both sides.  Arrange meaty side up.

3. Bake 1 hour, spooning sauce over chicken occasionally, until chicken is tender and richly glazed. If skin has been removed, baste more often.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cover Reveal: All Played Out by Cora Carmack

I just read and loved All Broke Down, book two in the Rusk University series, and I am so excited to be part of the cover reveal blast today for book three,
All Played Out!

Image Map

First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A’s? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life? …..yeah, about that….

With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay... Scratch that. She knows she hasn't had the full college experience).

So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a "to do" list of normal college activities.

Item #1? Hook up with a jock.

Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it's impossible to get hurt... again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb

From the Back Cover:

A mesmerizing tale of art and passion in Belle Époque France

As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness.

Rodin’s Lover brings to life the volatile love affair between one of the era’s greatest artists and a woman entwined in a tragic dilemma she cannot escape.

My Thoughts:

Right about this time last year, I read and loved Heather Webb's debut, Becoming Josephine, which made my list of the best books of 2014. Her Josephine was such an alluring, empathetic, and inspirational character, that I couldn't wait to see how Ms. Webb would bring Camille Claudel to life. I knew who Rodin was, but I knew nothing about Camille before reading this book. I love when historical fiction authors bring little-known women into the spotlight to shine alongside the men in their lives, whom history tends to remember better.

This book differs from Ms. Webb's first-person portrayal of Josephine in that it's told in alternating third-person points of view. At first I was surprised at the inclusion of Rodin's point of view, and I worried that it would take away from Camille's status as the star of the novel and make the story into more of a historical romance, and it does to an extent, but it also helps in that it gives us another view of Camille, and Rodin's experiences in the art community highlight the difficulties that even renowned artists of the time faced. I had no idea that the Paris art world in the late Victorian period was so political and cutthroat, and it was refreshing to glean insight into the business side of art, into all of the little behind-the-scenes details that no one thinks about when admiring the finished product. This world of cafes and ateliers and salons where artists worked and mingled and competed was fascinating.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post by Carol Cram, Author of The Towers of Tuscany

Please join me in welcoming author Carol Cram to Let Them Read Books! Carol is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical fiction novel, The Towers of Tuscany, and she's here today with a guest post about art and artists in Renaissance Italy, and how she crafted her heroine amidst them.

The Towers of Tuscany tells the story of a fictional woman painter in 14th Century Tuscany. During this period, women did not generally paint alongside men, particularly in Italy.

In nunneries in northern European countries such as Germany and England (and to a lesser extent France and Italy), nuns were sometimes engaged in painting religious iconography and illuminating manuscripts. However, according to my research, there is no documented evidence that women artists in Tuscany were engaged in any significant way with painting frescoes and panels.

Painting during the period was very much a family affair. A master painter (or maestro) would work alongside his brothers and train his sons and nephews. I consulted with an expert in Italian art of the period about whether it was plausible that a painting master who had no sons could teach his daughter painting skills. I was told that yes, the situation was plausible. That’s all I needed to dive in and invent Sofia Barducci, the daughter of Maestro Antonio Barducci of San Gimignano in Tuscany. Sofia is a young, spirited woman who makes a very big mistake. Unlike most girls of her era, Sofia is allowed to marry a man whom she chooses. Unfortunately, she chooses wrong. How many women through the centuries have made that mistake? Sofia’s plight, although rooted in the prejudices and customs of 14th Century Tuscany, is not so different from the plight of many women all over the world in our own time.

Sofia wants to follow her passion and to paint. The world she inhabits and her own choices conspire against her.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Spotlight + Giveaway: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman

Please join Tessa Arlen as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman from January 5-February 6.

Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Minotaur Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Genre: Historical Mystery

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Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it’s more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.

Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.

In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life—a superb treat for those who love British novels.

A Party for Winston, the second book in the series to be released in January 2016.

Praise for Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman

“Tessa Arlen has a worthy debut with Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman. With a deliciously gruesome murder and an unlikely pair of sleuths, this is a treat for fans of Downton Abbey who will want to devour it with a nice steaming pot of Earl Grey.” —New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn

“In her debut novel, Tessa Arlen weaves an evocative tale of the passions, loyalties and ambitions that divide and unite two classes, upstairs and downstairs, in a stately home. She instantly transports the reader to Edwardian England.”—Christine Trent, author of Stolen Remains

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review: Dreamfire by Kit Alloway

From the Back Cover:

Unlike most 17-year-olds, Joshlyn Weaver has a sacred duty.  She's the celebrated daughter of the dream walkers, a secret society whose members enter the Dream universe we all share and battle nightmares.  If they fail, the emotional turmoil in the Dream could boil over and release nightmares into the World.

Despite Josh's reputation as a dream walking prodigy, she's haunted by her mistakes. A lapse in judgment and the death of someone she loved have shaken her confidence.  Now she's been assigned an apprentice, a boy whose steady gaze sees right through her, and she's almost as afraid of getting close to him as she is of getting him killed.

But when strangers with impossible powers begin appearing in the Dream, it isn't just Will that Josh has to protect--it's the whole World.

My Thoughts:

Dreamfire starts off strong and keeps that intensity and momentum going throughout the book. It's a bit of a wild ride between dreams and reality and the secret world where they collide. The heroine of the story is Josh, a seventeen-year-old girl, a dream walker tasked with maintaining the delicate balance between the dream world and the real world, battling monsters and madness in dreams to prevent them from escaping into reality. She is celebrated among her kind as the most talented dream walker of her generation, but her success has not come without cost. Hiding behind a tough exterior and a workaholic mentality, she's still reeling from the death of her boyfriend, a fellow dream walker, a death she feels responsible for. When she is assigned a handsome young man from the real world as an apprentice to train, she is terrified of getting him killed too, and even more terrified of letting him into her heart. But a new menace is lurking in dreams and causing consequences in the real world, and Josh and her friends need all the help they can get to save the unsuspecting populace from the stuff nightmares are made of. And that's all the plot recap you'll get from me! This story has a lot of twists and turns, and I don't want to spoil the fun of trying to figure it out for anyone.

This book was strange for me in that the premise alternated between being almost too hokey for belief and totally mind-blowing, but overall I liked it and thought it one of the most imaginative premises among the YA titles I've read this year. It's a very complicated secret world that co-exists with contemporary reality. There's no magic, just the kind of crazy things that can happen in dreams, so the characters only have their brains and brawn to fight with. And there are some really great characters in this book, whose personalities and histories are slowly teased out against the backdrop of the twisted mystery involving what really happened the night Josh's boyfriend died. Some readers may find the story world a bit of a stretch for the suspension of disbelief, but the characters are so vivid and evocative that you can't help but root for them and keep reading to see how it all plays out.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway from Susanna Fraser, Author of Freedom to Love

Please join me in welcoming Susanna Fraser to Let Them Read Books! Susanna is touring the blogosphere with her newest historical romance release, Freedom to Love, and she's here today with a guest post about "filling in the gaps" in her knowledge of the War of 1812, the historical backdrop for her novel. Read on, and enter to win a $50 gift card!

Gaps in My Historical Record
by Susanna Fraser

Both my new book Freedom to Love and my 2012 release An Infamous Marriage feature heroes who fought in the War of 1812—on the British side. Writing them proved to be an education for me because going in I could’ve told you precisely four facts about the war in question:

1) It started because the British navy kept press-ganging American sailors into their fleet.
2) Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner in response to witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry.
3) The British burned Washington DC, including the White House. As she was fleeing in advance of the assault, First Lady Dolley Madison rescued a portrait of George Washington that still hangs in the White House to this day.
4) The Battle of New Orleans was fought after the warring nations had agreed to peace terms, though neither army could’ve possibly known that due to transatlantic travel times and the lack of any kind of instant communication technology. A decisive American victory, it cemented Andrew Jackson’s reputation as a commander and gave him the fame that would eventually win him the presidency.

That was, after all, more than enough to get me through the fill-in-the-blank history tests I took in high school. But it’s hardly enough to write a book upon, even when the war in question is the hero’s backstory rather than a critical part of the action. So I studied the Canadian campaigns for An Infamous Marriage—and along the way learned that while impressment of sailors was certainly a cause of the war, it was by no means the only one. As a neutral country in the Napoleonic Wars, America detested Britain’s interference in their trade with France—and Napoleon was hardly above egging on any conflict that might distract his persistent British enemies from fighting him. And my American countrymen were hardly saints themselves, thinking that a war with Britain while they were mostly occupied fighting France was the perfect opportunity for a little Canadian land grab.

For Freedom to Love, my research focused on the New Orleans campaign, especially the British soldiers’ experience—they were cold, wet, and miserable throughout—and also on the shelter and freedom the British offered to any American slaves who escaped to their lines. By that point in history the majority of Britons were abolitionists. While almost two decades more would pass before they abolished slavery in their Caribbean colonies, they tended to consider Americans giant hypocrites for going on and on about their love of freedom while simultaneously keeping so much of their population enslaved.