Friday, February 12, 2016

Book Blast! The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner

The Vatican Princess:

A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia

by C.W. Gortner

Publication Date: February 9, 2016
Ballantine Books Hardcover, Ebook, Audiobook
400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Infamy is no accident. It is a poison in our blood. It is the price of being a Borgia.

Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias fascinated and terrorized 15th-century Renaissance Italy. Lucrezia Borgia, beloved daughter of the pope, was at the center of the dynasty’s ambitions. Slandered as a heartless seductress who lured men to their doom, was she in fact the villainess of legend, or was she trapped in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and survival?

With the ascension of the Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI, the new pope’s illegitimate children—his rival sons, Cesare and Juan, and beautiful young daughter Lucrezia—assume an exalted position in the papal court. Privileged and adored, Lucrezia yearns to escape her childhood and play a part in her family’s fortunes. But Rome is seductive and dangerous: Alliances shift at a moment’s notice as Italy’s ruling dynasties strive to keep rivals at bay. As Lucrezia’s father faces challenges from all sides, he’s obliged to marry her off to a powerful adversary. But when she discovers the brutal truth behind her alliance, Lucrezia is plunged into a perilous gambit that will require all her wits, cunning, and guile. Escaping her marriage offers the chance of happiness with a passionate prince of Naples, yet as scandalous accusations of murder and incest build against her, menacing those she loves, Lucrezia must risk everything to overcome the lethal fate imposed upon her by her Borgia blood.

Beautifully wrought, rich with fascinating historical detail, The Vatican Princess is the first novel to describe Lucrezia’s coming-of-age in her own voice—a dramatic, vivid tale set in an era of savagery and unparalleled splendor, where enemies and allies can be one and the same, and where loyalty to family can ultimately be a curse.



"Assiduously researched and expertly crafted . . . . This unholy plunge into Rome's darkest dynasty is wholly engrossing." - Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author

"A spider web of Renaissance intrigue with a legendary cast . . . Impressive research, a lush background, and deft characterization make for a fascinating read." - Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author

"Elegantly written and deeply researched . . . Renaissance Italy is vividly brought to life. I’m captivated by this knowledgeable author’s take on the controversial Borgias." - Alison Weir, NYT bestselling author

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Highland Spitfire by Mary Wine

From the Back Cover:

Passion flares between enemies

Two hotheaded Highlanders, the offspring of feuding lairds, are tricked by the King's Regent into a desperate choice: marry or die. Bhaic MacPherson is more disposed to lead his clan into battle than stay married to the daughter of his enemy. But perhaps the intensity of his feelings has more to do with desire than hostility.

And the Highlands ignite

Ailis Robertson wanted a husband, not a savage-but when her family was faced with a deadly ultimatum, she had no choice. The union of a MacPherson and a Robertson could end three generations of hostilities between the two families, but can bitter rivals truly become lovers?

My Thoughts:

I'm always down for a good enemies to lovers tale, and who doesn't love the Scottish Highlands? Ailis Robertson, beloved only daughter of Laird Robertson, accompanies her father to an important meeting with the king's regent. Bhaic MacPherson, heir to his clan, accompanies his father to the same meeting. But it's an ambush. The clans have been warring for three generations, and the regent wants to put a stop to it once and for all. Surrounded by the king's soldiers, the regent presents the Robertsons and MacPhersons with a choice: wed their heirs to each other to form an alliance . . . or die. The clans hate each other so much that both Ailis and Bhaic actually consider putting up a fight, but duty wins out. After a hasty ceremony, Ailis says good-bye to her father and rides with Bhaic to his home, where she faces a challenge beyond her imagining. The setup that forces them to wed may feel a bit contrived and dramatic, but these were dramatic times they were living in, and I went along with it to see where the marriage would take them. And I'm glad I did.

This book is hard for me to rate because there were some aspects I absolutely loved, but there were also some I thought could have been handled better. I'll start with what I loved. The fish-out-of-water theme is always rife with material for a good story, and this time even more so because Bhaic's clan is so openly hostile and distrusting of Ailis. I really like the way the author portrayed clan dynamics, both within the MacPherson stronghold and without. And the characters are great. Ailis is strong and smart, and she admirably attempts to make the best of her situation, though the clan goes out of their way to make that hard for her to do. Bhaic is also strong and smart, and surprisingly sympathetic to his new bride. He behaves just the way you'd want a hero to in this situation, and he would fight Ailis's battle with the clan for her if he could, but she wisely stays his hand, knowing she's got to win them over on her own. And the sexual tension between them is smokin' as their in-name-only marriage becomes so much more. And it's also fraught with humor as the couple is interrupted time and again during their attempts to finally consummate their marriage. It's an exciting, emotional story with some plot twists I didn't see coming.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: Daughter of Destiny by Nicole Evelina

Please join me in welcoming author Nicole Evelina to Let Them Read Books! Nicole is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical fantasy novel, Daughter of Destiny, Guinevere's Tale Book One. Don't you love that cover? I do! I designed it! I've so enjoyed working with Nicole, and I'm thrilled to have her here today with a guest post about what makes her vision of Guinevere different. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of Daughter of Destiny!

Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her.

In the war-torn world of late fifth century Britain, young Guinevere faces a choice: stay with her family to defend her home at Northgallis from the Irish, or go to Avalon to seek help for the horrific visions that haunt her. The Sight calls her to Avalon, where she meets Morgan, a woman of questionable parentage who is destined to become her rival. As Guinevere matures to womanhood, she gains the powers of a priestess, and falls in love with a man who will be both her deepest love and her greatest mistake.

Just when Guinevere is able to envision a future in Avalon, tragedy forces her back home, into a world she barely recognizes, one in which her pagan faith, outspokenness, and proficiency in the magical and military arts are liabilities. When a chance reunion with her lover leads to disaster, she is cast out of Northgallis and into an uncertain future. As a new High King comes to power, Guinevere must navigate a world of political intrigue where unmarried women are valuable commodities and seemingly innocent actions can have life-altering consequences.

You may think you know the story of Guinevere, but you’ve never heard it like this: in her own words. Listen and you will hear the true story of Camelot and its queen.

Fans of Arthurian legend and the Mists of Avalon will love Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a historical fantasy trilogy that gives Guinevere back her voice and traces her life from an uncertain eleven year old girl to a wise queen in her fifth decade of life.

Telling an Age-Old Story From a Fresh Perspective
by Nicole Evelina

Time and time again, I’m asked, “Why Arthurian legend? There’s so much of it, why do you think yours is any different? What makes your book unique?”

Friday, February 5, 2016

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: The Renegade Queen by Eva Flynn

Please join me in welcoming author Eva Flynn to Let Them Read Books! Eva is touring the blogosphere with her debut novel, The Renegade Queen, and she's here today with a guest post about suffragette leaders Victoria Woodhull and Susan B. Anthony and their different approaches to the women's liberation movement. Read on and enter to win a copy of The Renegade Queen!

Two Renegades So Controversial, They Were Erased From History

Discarded by society, she led a social revolution. Disgusted by war, he sought a new world.

She was the first women to run for President, campaigning before women could vote.

He was the Hero of Vicksburg, disillusioned with the government after witnessing the devastating carnage of the Civil War.

Their social revolution attracted the unwanted who were left out of the new wealth: the freed slaves, the new immigrants, and women.

Who were they?

This is the true story of Victoria Woodhull and the love of her life, James Blood.

Adored by the poor, hated by the powerful, forced into hiding during their lifetimes and erased from history after death, the legend of their love lives on.

It’s 1869 and Victoria has a choice to make. She can stay in an abusive marriage and continue to work as a psychic, or she can take the offer of support from handsome Civil War general James Blood and set about to turn society upside down. Victoria chooses revolution.

But revolutions are expensive, and Victoria needs money. James introduces Victoria to one of the wealthiest man in America—Commodore Vanderbilt. Along with her loose and scandalous sister, Tennessee, Victoria manipulates Vanderbilt and together they conspire to crash the stock market—and profit from it. Victoria then parlays her fortune into the first female-owned brokerage firm.

When her idol Susan B. Anthony publishes scandalous rumors about Victoria’s past, Victoria enters into a fierce rivalry with Susan to control the women’s movement. James supports Victoria’s efforts despite his deep fears that she may lose more than the battle. She might lose part of herself.

Victoria starts her own newspaper, testifies to Congress, and even announces her candidacy for President. But when Victoria adopts James’s radical ideas and free love beliefs, she ignites new, bruising, battles with Susan B. Anthony and the powerful Reverend Henry Beecher. These skirmishes turn into an all-out war, with Victoria facing prejudice, prosecution, and imprisonment. Ultimately, Victoria and James face the hardest choice of all: the choice between their country and their love.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Blast! Banished by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Banished (Forbidden #2)
by Kimberley Griffiths Little 

Publication Date: February 2, 2016
HarperCollins Hardcover & Ebook; 416 Pages
Series: Forbidden, Book #2
Genre: YA/Historical/Romance

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She thought she’d lost everything . . .

After spending months traveling the harsh, unforgiving Mesopotamian desert, Jayden reunites with a broken, injured Kadesh. Although everyone was convinced the violent and unpredictable Horeb, Jayden’s betrothed, killed the handsome prince, Jayden knew in her heart that her love was alive and safe. But their reunion is short-lived, as they learn Horeb is on their trail and determined to take back the girl he has claimed. Soon, the two star-crossed lovers are on the run toward Sariba, Kadesh’s homeland, where, as heir to the Kingdom, he plans to make Jayden his princess.

But the trek to Sariba is fraught with heartache and danger. After narrowly escaping being stoned to death for a crime she didn’t commit, and learning that her sister has disappeared, Jayden’s only solace is her love for Kadesh. But even he is keeping secrets from her . . . secrets that will change everything.

This gorgeous and enchanting sequel to Forbidden, is full of love, danger, and heated passion that will leave readers breathless.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Spotlight: The Lady of the Tower by Elizabeth St. John

The Lady of the Tower
By Elizabeth St. John

Release Date: February 2, 2016
Formats: ebook, paperback; 399 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Please join me in congratulating Elizabeth St. John on the release of her debut historical fiction novel, The Lady of the Tower! Elizabeth contacted me after attending my presentation at HNS 2015, and I was honored to work with her on a developmental edit and a copyedit, and I designed the book's cover. The Lady of the Tower is the story of Lucy St. John, once mistress of the Tower of London, and Elizabeth's ancestor. Elizabeth has carefully crafted a novel of Lucy's life using her own letters and diaries, and it's a riveting tale of intrigue, betrayal, and love. Here's the book description:

Orphaned Lucy St. John, described as "the most beautiful of all," defies English society by carving her own path through the decadent Stuart court. In 1609, the early days of the rule of James I are a time of glittering pageantry and cutthroat ambition, when the most dangerous thing one can do is fall in love . . . or make an enemy of Frances Howard, the reigning court beauty. 

Lucy catches the eye of the Earl of Suffolk, but her envious sister Barbara is determined to ruin her happiness. Exiling herself from the court, Lucy has to find her own path through life, becoming mistress of the Tower of London. Riding the coattails of the king’s favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, the fortunes of the St. Johns rise to dizzying heights. But with great wealth comes betrayal, leaving Lucy to fight for her survival—and her honor—in a world of deceit and debauchery. 

Elizabeth St. John tells this dramatic story of love, betrayal, family bonds, and loyalty through the eyes of her ancestor Lucy and her family’s surviving diaries, letters, and court papers.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: The Dangerous Duke of Dinnisfree by Julie Johnstone

From the Back Cover:

Justin Holleman, the Duke of Dinnisfree, is used to being wanted—in bed, for missions, and even dead. He’s protected his country more times than he can remember, gaining enemies along the way, but he failed to defend himself from the past that hardened his heart. Instead, he became an expert at shutting people out. Yet now, in order to save the king, Justin needs to let go of his old ways and let someone closer to him than ever before. He approaches the mission with his classic cold calculation, but his fiery new ally upends his ordered world and entices him at every turn. Suddenly he’s in danger of compromising his assignment and losing his heart, two things the rogue swore never to do.

Desperate to protect her parents from poverty, among other things, Miss Arabella Carthright unwittingly becomes a pawn in a dangerous political battle when she agrees to aid an enigmatic stranger. Having learned long ago to count only on herself, she’s surprised when time and again the duke actually aids her. But when his true assignment becomes clear, Arabella realizes the man she’s come to care for poses the greatest threat to those she loves.

As Justin and Arabella face their feelings and their web of deception falls away, they must decide how high a price they are willing to pay for love and loyalty.

My Thoughts:

I'd long been wanting to read a Julie Johnstone book since she has such a strong following, and the plot description of this one drew me in. I'm always up for a good spy story. In the very beginning, the author includes a historical note regarding King George IV's attempt to divorce his wife, Caroline, for adultery and the emergence of some damning letters that sank his case. The story that follows is an imagining of what could have happened, and after a setup like that, I couldn't wait to read it.

Arabella Carthright is a seamstress with a lot on her shoulders. Her mother is in a sanitarium, and her father is disabled after suffering a stroke, so Arabella is the family's sole source of income. When one of her wealthy customers throws a hissy fit and refuses to pay for the dresses Arabella made for her, Arabella is in dire straits. She was counting on that money and has to find another way to pay for her mother's care before she is transferred to Bedlam. Arabella finds herself with two distasteful choices before her: theft or prostitution. With the help of a handsome and mysterious stranger, she commits to both. She takes a discarded but highly valuable trinket box from the woman who jilted her and agrees to sell her virtue. But all is not as it seems. Turns out the woman she just stole from is the king's mistress, and the man Arabella has been hired to seduce is a dangerous man indeed.