Please join me in welcoming bestselling nonfiction author Amy Stewart to Let Them Read Books! Amy is touring the blogosphere with her historical fiction debut, Girl Waits with Gun, based on the true story of one of America's first female sheriffs. I recently had the chance to ask Amy a few questions about making the switch from nonfiction to fiction and penning this incredible story that is receiving rave reviews. Read on and enter to win a copy of Girl Waits with Gun!
From the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling debut novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs. Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.
How did you first discover Constance Kopp, and what inspired you to write a novel about her?
I was researching a gin smuggler named Henry Kaufman for my last book, The Drunken Botanist. I thought I should do a little more investigation to see if Henry Kaufman went on to do anything else interesting. I found an article in the New York Times from 1915 about a man named Henry Kaufman who ran his car into a horse-drawn carriage driven by these three sisters, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp. They got into a conflict over payment for the damages, and it escalated from there. The sisters received kidnapping threats, shots were fired at their house, and they were generally tormented for almost a year. I never did figure out if this Henry Kaufman was the same man as the gin smuggler I'd started the day looking for, however!
In what ways do the Kopp sisters illustrate the changing roles for women during this time period?
Well, 1914 was a very interesting time. Women didn't yet have the vote, we had very limited educational opportunities, and most jobs were not open to us. It was unusual for women to be living on their own for any reason at all. And of course, for Constance and her sisters to stand up to their attackers, and to take them on publicly--that was practically unheard of, which is why it was such big news when it happened!
Please join me in welcoming Marissa Campbell to Let Them Read Books! Marissa is touring the blogosphere with her debut romantic historical fiction novel, Avelynn, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about penning this Saxon tale of love and adventure. Read on and enter to win a copy of Avelynn!
One extraordinary Saxon noblewoman and one fearless Viking warrior find passion and danger in this dazzling and sensuous debut. Marissa Campbell’s debut novel is a winning combination of romance, history, and adventure sure to appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon. It is 869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Eadlorman of Somerset has lived in an environment of love and acceptance. She hasn’t yet found a man to make her heart race, but her father has not pressured her to get married. Until now. With whispers of war threatening their land, her father forces Avelynn into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status. The dreaded marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik the Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed. Alrik is unlike any man she has ever known, strong and intriguing. Likewise, he instantly falls for her beauty and courage. The two stumble into a passionate love affair, but it’s more than just a greedy suitor who will try to keep them apart. As the Saxons and Vikings go to war, Avelynn and Alrik find themselves caught in the throes of fate. Can they be true to their people as well as to each other?
Hi Marissa! Thanks so much for stopping by Let Them Read Books!
Thank you for having me! *waves enthusiastically to everyone*
Is there a real-life inspiration behind Avelynn's story?
My life is pretty unspectacular compared to Avelynn’s. Thank goodness. But we do share a few characteristics in common. Neither one of us appreciate being told what to do—a trait I have somehow managed to pass on to my children, however, if anyone asks, I’m blaming my husband’s genes on that one. It has nothing to do with me. ;) I’d also like to think that I carry a little of Avelynn’s strength and perseverance. She is one gutsy lady, and I respect and admire her for that.
Avelynn itself was inspired by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander—not the story, but the fact that I was Outlanderless. I had just finished reading An Echo in the Bone and was waiting patiently for the next book in the series when I decided that I should write a book to help pass the long lonely nights without Jamie and Claire. Avelynn popped into my head and refused to leave. She was feisty and stubborn, and I loved her immediately. The tough part was finding a time period that would work with her spirited nature. All of my research led me to Anglo-Saxon England. In the ninth century, women held a modicum of power: their voice counted at court, they could own land and chattel, and best of all, they could rule countries and lead men in battle. Avelynn fit right in.
Colonel Gabriel de Laurent departed for the war intending to die. After a decade of bloodstained battlegrounds while fighting in Napoleon's army, Gabriel returns to the streets of Paris a shattered and haunted soul. Plagued by inner demons, he swallows the barrel of his flintlock pistol and pulls the trigger. But fate has a different plan. Ariah Larochelle is a survivor. Orphaned at twelve and victim to a devastating crime, she has learned to keep her back to walls and to trust no one. But when she finds a gravely injured soldier washed up on the River Seine, she's moved by compassion. In spite of her reservations, she rescues him from the icy water and brings him into her home. Now scarred inside and out, Gabriel discovers a kindred spirit in Ariah - and feelings he imagined lost forever reawaken as he observes her strength in the face of adversity. But when Ariah's own lethal secrets unfold, their new love is threatened by ancient ghosts. Can Gabriel and Ariah find hope in the wreckage of their pasts - or will the cycle of history repeat again? Perfect for fans of Gaelen Foley's Lord of Ice and Judith James's Broken Wing, Finding Gabriel features all the dark romance, searing passion, and historical intrigue of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.
Gabriel released Ariah's chin and tore away the bandage in a harsh movement. As his eyes bore into her own, pale moonlight fell upon the deformity, illuminating the twisted flesh and grotesque welts. The sight reminded her of a beautiful chateau . . . a stunning fortress situated along the coastline . . . one that had fallen into ruin and neglect. The skin was concave, destroyed, cavernous - a remnant of former glory. And the surrounding features - his burning eyes, the right side of his face, his powerful body - dwarfed the disfigurement with a striking beauty.
"Look at the monster you have created. Look upon my face, Ariah."
As Queen of England, Eleanor has a new cast of enemies—including the king. Eleanor has more than fulfilled her duty as Queen of England—she has given her husband, Henry II, heirs to the throne and has proven herself as a mother and ruler. But Eleanor needs more than to be a bearer of children and a deputy; she needs command of the throne. As her children grow older, and her relationship with Henry suffers from scandal and infidelity, Eleanor realizes the power she seeks won’t be given willingly. She must take it for herself. But even a queen must face the consequences of treason… In this long-anticipated second novel in the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy, bestselling author Elizabeth Chadwick evokes a royal marriage where love and hatred are intertwined, and the battle over power is fought not with swords, but deception.
Three Little-Known Facts about Eleanor of Aquitaine, One of the Most Powerful and Influential Women of the Middle Ages
By Elizabeth Chadwick
1) She was married in a scarlet wedding dress, but the dress may not have been red. Scarlet was the name of a very, very fine woolen cloth that came in many colors in Eleanor’s period, including gold, green, and blue. Red was also a common color to dye scarlet fabric, and the cloth eventually gave its name to the color, but in Eleanor’s time, there were many color variations.
2) Eleanor gave her husband Louis a vase for a wedding present that still exists today. It was made of carved rock crystal and was already hundreds of years old when she gave it to him. Her grandfather had brought it back with him from the Crusades. When she gave the gift to Louis, it was a plain, unembellished object, except for its detailed honeycomb carving. Later on, Louis gave it as a gift to his tutor, Abbe Suger, for the treasury of St. Denis. Suger then had it decorated with gold and precious gems, completely changing its original, more subtle appearance. You can still see the magnificent “Eleanor vase” in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Please join me in welcoming bestselling author Sandra Dallas to Let Them Read Books! I recently had the chance to ask Sandra a few questions about her new book, The Last Midwife, on sale September 29th. Read on and enter to win a copy!
It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn't imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides. But everything changes when a baby is found dead...and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer. She didn't commit the crime, but clearing her name isn't so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that's dangerous. Invited into her neighbors' homes during their most intimate and vulnerable times, she can't help what she sees and hears. A woman sometimes says things in the birthing bed, when life and death seem suspended within the same moment. Gracy has always tucked those revelations away, even the confessions that have cast shadows on her heart. With her friends taking sides and a trial looming, Gracy must decide whether it's worth risking everything to prove her innocence. And she knows that her years of discretion may simply demand too high a price now...especially since she's been keeping more than a few dark secrets of her own. With Sandra Dallas's incomparable gift for creating a sense of time and place and characters that capture your heart, The Last Midwife tells the story of family, community, and the secrets that can destroy and unite them. Hi Sandra! Thanks so much for joining us today! Where did you find the inspiration for The Last Midwife?
My editor suggested I write abut a midwife, but the idea for the story itself came from a poem by Colorado poet Belle Turnbull--"In These Rude Airs" from her book The Tenmile Range. It's about an old midwife called the Sagehen. My character, Gracy, is known as the Sagehen, too, but she is much different from Belle's midwife. Belle was an elderly woman when I met her in 1963, after I moved to Breckenridge, Colo., as a bride. She lived there in a log cabin, with her roommate, Helen Rich, a novelist. Belle was a gentle creature, but her poetry was as tough and as hard-edged as the mountain people who lived along the Tenmile range. They had a love-hate relationship with the mountains and a tenacity that was as strong as a timberline pine.
Revenge is worth its weight in gold. When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.
Vengeance Road was one of my most anticipated titles of the year. I love that we're getting more YA historicals, but a YA Western is new territory for me, and the idea of this book was irresistible. After reading the first chapter, which gave me the oh-man-this-is-gonna-be-a-good-book goose bumps, I was sure this was going to turn out to be one of my favorite books of the year. But alas, it didn't.
It started off amazing. Kate is one tough, capable gal, and the reader can't help but feel for Kate and root for her as she buries her murdered father and sets off with a heart full of hatred and vengeance. As Kate follows the trail, disguised as a boy, she discovers her target is none other than the most feared outlaw in the West, Waylan Rose, who terrorizes towns and stage coaches with his band of criminals, the Rose Riders. Kate can't figure out why someone like him would go out of his way to murder a small-time farmer, but a trip to visit her father's closest friend reveals more about her father than she could have dreamed. Reeling from the revelation that nothing about her father or their life together was what it seemed, she becomes even more determined to hunt down the men who ruined everything. But she has a problem. The Colton brothers, Jesse and Will, are determined to ride with her, and though she first resents their presence, she soon comes to appreciate the value of safety in numbers. On the trail of a notorious gang of criminals is a dangerous place to be. Though she claims she has no place for soft emotions, the older brother, Jesse, really gets under her skin. But what will he do when he finds out that she hasn't been quite honest with them about who she is and what her mission entails? And will the lure of gold bring them closer together or turn them into enemies?