Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: The Outlander King by Hilary Rhodes

Please join me in welcoming Hilary Rhodes to Let Them Read Books! Hilary is touring the blogosphere with her historical fiction novel The Outlander King, gearing up for the release of the sequel, The Conqueror's Bane, and I'm pleased to have her here today talking about William the Conqueror and her journey to writing his story. Read on and enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Outlander King!

The story of The Lion and the Rose and the Norman Conquest continues in this spellbinding new historical fiction series from author Hilary Rhodes, pulling back the curtain on the lives of two remarkable women connected across centuries: Aislinn, a seventeen-year-old English girl caught up in the advancing army of the “outlander king,” the man who will become known to history as William the Conqueror. Thrust into the center of the new Norman court and a dizzying web of political intrigue and plotting princes, she must choose her alliances carefully in a game of thrones where the stakes are unimaginably high. Embroiled in rebellions and betrayals, Aislinn learns the price of loyalty, struggles to find her home, and save those she loves – and, perhaps, her own soul as well.

Almost nine hundred years later in 1987, Selma Murray, an American graduate student at Oxford University, is researching the mysterious “Aethelinga” manuscript, as Aislinn’s chronicle has come to be known. Trying to work out the riddles of someone else’s past is a way for Selma to dodge her own troubling ghosts – yet the two are becoming inextricably intertwined. She must face her own demons, answer Aislinn’s questions, and find forgiveness – for herself and others – in this epically scaled but intimately examined, extensively researched look at the creation of history, the universality of humanity, and the many faces it has worn no matter the century: loss, grief, guilt, redemption, and love.

I did not set out to write a book about William the Conqueror. (Much less several.)

I did not, in fact, intend to be studying medieval history, let alone at such a level that I am returning to the UK to start my doctorate in less than two weeks, or expect that my life for the last seven years would be so greatly defined by my involvement with the story that began with The Outlander King and its soon-to-be-released sequel, The Conqueror’s Bane (originally written as one book). And that, I suppose, was the best part.

But first, some background. Indeed, the origins of this exercise can be precisely dated: Friday, October 24, 2008, around five o’clock in the afternoon. What was happening on that day? For a start, I had recently achieved one of my life’s goals, which was to spend my junior year abroad at Oxford University, and I had joined my home college’s tutoring program for underprivileged London schoolchildren. Myself and two other students were putting on a workshop for them, and this workshop just so happened to cover the Normans. While this was something I had been interested in before, my knowledge of matters 1066 had gone lacking. So I scuffed up a few relevant facts and sallied forth.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

From the Back Cover:

Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.

Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century,  The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters—Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne—four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.

Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot—and women—forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters—sweet, naïve Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne—will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.

A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France's most "well-beloved" monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.

My Thoughts:

Louis XV is a king that tends to get skipped over somewhat in fiction between the larger-than-life figures of Louis XIV and XVI, and when I saw that this book was about four sisters who were all his mistresses, I had to read it. I was not disappointed!

The story begins with Hortense, the only one of five sisters who did not become mistress to the king, as she reflects back on a lifetime of memories. Through her, we get a glimpse of what's to come before moving on to Louise, the first and longest-reigning of the sister mistresses. The story is then told alternatingly by all of the sisters, from their isolated childhood to their separation after the death of their mother to their reunion at court and all of the pleasure and heartache that come with it. At first, I was wary of a story told from five different first-person points of view, but I was pleasantly surprised at how the author managed to give all five sisters distinct voices and personalities. I really fell for all of them, and even though a couple of them became right bitches and I was anticipating when they would get what was coming to them, I cried when they did. They are all very well-drawn women with their own hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, and methods of dealing with disappointment and tragedy.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: Honor Among Thieves by J.M. Aucoin

Please join me in welcoming author J.M. Aucoin to Let Them Read Books! J.M. is touring the blogoshpere with his brand new novel, Honor Among Thieves, Book One in the Hope & Steel Series. J.M. is here today talking about why he loves writing historical fiction, and he's brought along a really cool prize for one lucky reader: A copy of the book PLUS a specially designed t-shirt! Read on and enter for your chance to win!

France, March 1609. The French Wars of Religion are over, but forces still conspire against the crown…

Darion Delerue, former soldier turned highwayman, has only two things of value—the hope in his heart and the steel at his side. After a heist on a royal ambassador goes wrong, Darion is thrown into a political plot to undermine the crown, pitting his old life as an honorable soldier against his new life as a thief and bandit. His actions could send France back into civil war.

Honor Among Thieves is a gripping tale of daring sword-play and political intrigue, with superb historical detail of 17th Century France that will have readers wanting to draw their swords and fight for glory!

Why I Write Historical Fiction
By J.M. Aucoin

“Why do you write historical fiction?”

It’s a question I’ve gotten a lot over the years, ever since I took my first fiction writing workshop back at Emerson College. While everyone else in the class were writing gloomy tales of characters with some sort of substance addition, I was writing tales of pirates, swashbucklers, and sword-wielding ne'er do wells. And I always got the same question: “Why are you writing about historical fiction?”

Of course, the wise-mouth in me wanted to say “Wait… Do you not?”

But the more useful answer was always, “Because it’s the type of stories I like to read. Write what you like to read.”

I fell in love with historical adventure tales and swashbucklers at a young age. I spent every Wednesday evening after dinner watching reruns of Disney’s Zorro starring Guy Williams as the masked swashbuckling vigilante.

But it wasn’t until college that I fully realized my love for historical fiction. I went through the classic histfic — Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood and Scaramouche. I also found contemporary swashbucklers like Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste series, C. W. Gortner’s Spymaster’s historical suspense novels, and C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake mystery series.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Blog Tour Q&A with Eliza Redgold, Author of Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva

Please join me in welcoming Eliza Redgold to Let Them Read Books! Eliza is touring the blogosphere with her new book Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva, and I had the chance to ask her a few questions about writing about this legendary figure. Read on and take Eliza's challenge to guess the heroine of her next novel and you could win a copy of the book!

We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don’t know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva’s ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for ‘peeping Tom’) and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.

Naked is an original version of Godiva’s tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.

Hi Eliza! Welcome to Let Them Read Books!

What inspired you to write a novel about Lady Godiva?

I visited Coventry at Christmas time in 2011. The Christmas lights were up and it was beautiful. I made the visit to look for Lady Godiva as I'd started research for the book. In Coventry, I found her - Godiva's image was everywhere I turned.

I especially loved the Godiva trail where she took her ride. It's wonderful for fans to follow. The two cathedrals are also inspiring - the old and the new side by side - but I particularly experienced a strange feeling near the place where Godiva and Leofric are believed to be buried.  I hadn't known it existed. Their spirits are definitely still in the air.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I've Got Some Winners to Announce!

Dorothy N.

Raquel M.

Melanie L.

Terry M.

Emails have gone out to the winners.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and comment on these posts! Check my sidebar for more great giveaways!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blog Tour Excerpt + Giveaway: Roman Mask by Thomas M.D. Brooke

Publication Date: June 29, 2015
Formats: Kindle & Paperback
Pages: 388
Genre: Historical Fiction/Adventure/Action

Rome AD 9

Augustus Caesar rules Imperial Rome at the height of its power, as the Roman Empire stretches across the known world. Cassius, son of one of her most powerful families, is the personification of Rome’s imperial strength: wealthy, popular, a war hero with a decorated military career – none of Rome’s fashionable parties are complete without him – except, he hides a secret.

After his nerve is broken in Germany, the thought of genuine armed combat is enough to send him into a cold sweat of fear and shame. But this doesn’t dissuade him from living off a false reputation so he can continue a life of casual affairs, wine, and parties, as he is seduced by the many vices of Rome.

However his scandalous life is soon upset by a summons from the Emperor’s wife. It ends his happy decadent life and returns him to Germany to assist the Roman legions in their greatest ever trial, and the events that will resound down in history, in the dark forests of the Teutoburg…

Praise for Roman Mask:

“Thomas Brooke brings vividly alive the Rome of Augustus Caesar. Violent, sex obsessed – not unlike our own century – we see the savage pleasures of the ancient world through the eyes of a charming rake back from the wars with a not entirely justified reputation for heroism. Brooke’s debut is an undoubted success. I thoroughly enjoyed Roman Mask – the first of a series, I hope.” – David Roberts, Author of Sweet Poison and The Corinth crime novels.

Excerpt from Chapter One:

I awoke in my bed, feeling the softness of the finest quality linen cool against my bare skin. I half-opened my eyes to the late March sunshine that bathed my room in light. Instantly I shut them again at the sharp pain in my head. I tried to swallow the unpleasant taste in my mouth, but it was dry and parched, my throat raw. I turned away from the sunlight and tried to will myself back to sleep – surely it couldn’t be morning already? I hugged a small cushion to my stomach that was fighting for an equal consideration in my morning misery: it growled angrily and I groaned in discomfort. Oh by Hades, a hangover.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Quick Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

From the Back Cover:

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this new take on Scheherazade and A Thousand and One Nights. Renee Ahdieh has crafted a gripping tale filled with great characters, luscious, transporting description, and plenty of angst and emotional turmoil. I'll admit to being a bit put off by King Khalid and his behavior in the beginning, but it's the mark of a good writer when the villain becomes the hero over the course of a story. And Shazi is a heroine worthy of admiration. She's tough, determined, and oh so clever. As if telling tales for her life each night isn't enough, she has to navigate a court filled with political intrigue. Betrayals, secrets, and surprise twists abound as she fights for her life and fights not to lose her heart to her greatest enemy.

My only issue with this gorgeous story is that I thought the foundation for the premise was a bit shaky; a big part of the tension in the story lies in Shazi's quest for answers as to why Khalid keeps taking wives only to kill them the following morning, and the big reveal about why the women had to die was rather anticlimactic. I'm thinking there must be more to it and we'll get it in the next book, which I am anxiously awaiting!

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

*Please Note: This review references an advance copy received from the publisher through the Amazon Vine program. These are my honest and unbiased opinions, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.