Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Blast! 1066: What Fates Impose by G.K. Holloway

I'm excited to participate in a book blast for debut author G.K. Holloway as he tours the blogosphere for his historical fiction novel, 1066: What Fates Impose, from April 14 - May 2 with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. Read on for more info about the book, and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win!

Publication Date: March 4, 2013
Matador Publishing

King William then utters the following words to the room: "I appoint no one as my heir to the Crown of England, but leave it to the disposal of the Eternal Creator, whose I am and who orders all things. For I did not attain that high honour by hereditary right, but wrested it from the perjured King Harold in a desperate bloody battle."

England is in crisis. King Edward has no heir and promises never to produce one. There are no obvious successors available to replace him, but quite a few claimants are eager to take the crown. While power struggles break out between the various factions at court, enemies abroad plot to make England their own. There are raids across the borders with Wales and Scotland.

Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, is seen by many as the one man who can bring stability to the kingdom. He has powerful friends and two women who love him, but he has enemies will stop at nothing to gain power. As 1066 begins, England heads for an uncertain future. It seems even the heavens are against Harold.

Intelligent and courageous, can Harold forge his own destiny – or does he have to bow to what fates impose?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blog Tour Review: The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien

From the Back Cover:

As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true—until Jerome’s older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy. 

Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman’s tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal—to win recognition of her marriage.

My Thoughts:

I wanted to read this novel the moment I saw it. I'm a sucker for American historical fiction, and I had no idea Napoleon's baby brother had spent time in the states and had even married an American girl, Betsy Patterson, "the Belle of Baltimore." The story follows Betsy from her childhood in the large family of a wealthy Baltimore shipping merchant to her meeting and whirlwind courtship with French naval officer Jerome Bonaparte, her father's futile attempts to thwart their marriage, and their adventurous honeymoon trip, and then through the fight of her life as she and her young husband, who wed without his family's permission, become subject to the ire of the Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, who refuses to recognize the validity of their marriage and makes them pawns in his war with England and the rest of Europe.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blog Tour Interview + Giveaway with Ruth Hull Chatlien, Author of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

Please join me in welcoming author Ruth Hull Chatlien to Let Them Read Books! Ruth is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical fiction novel, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, the story of American Betsy Patterson and her marriage to Napoleon's youngest brother, Jerome. (It's very good! Click here to read my review!) I recently got the chance to sit down and ask Ruth a few questions about Betsy. Read on and enter to win a copy of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte!

Hello Ruth! Thank you for taking the time to appear on Let Them Read Books!

When did you first encounter Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, and what inspired you to write a novel about her?

My husband and I were great fans of the Horatio Hornblower television series that was shown on A&E in the late 1990s. Then in the 2000s, we discovered an additional four episodes that we had never seen because they were produced much later. The last of those featured Jerome and Betsy Bonaparte. Despite my familiarity with world history (I’ve worked on history textbooks for 25 years), I didn’t know that Napoleon’s brother had married an American. When I looked up the facts on the Internet, I discovered that Betsy’s real life was far more interesting than the snippet shown (and distorted) in the television show.

One of things I wanted to do with the book was to portray Betsy in all her complexity. She’s someone who’s easy to dismiss as a stereotype. Older interpretations of her life focused on the romance and the injustice of Napoleon’s opposition to her marriage, while some modern historians disparage her because of her vanity, ambition, and obsession with rank. I think either interpretation is too simplistic. I wanted to create a more nuanced portrayal that showed both her flaws and her strengths, the qualities that make people want to shake her and the qualities that make people want to give her a hug. Even when I disagreed with her choices, I felt that it was my task to show why she made the decisions she did and how they grew out of her own values and goals, not mine as the writer.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review + Giveaway: The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas

From the Back Cover:

April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.

Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets…even to love her…or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?

My Thoughts:

Another winner from Elizabeth Loupas! The Red Lily Crown is an exciting and dangerous novel of Florence under Francesco de Medici's rule, and if you're not familiar with Francesco and his family, prepare to be shocked! Our story begins when Chiara Nerini, a young woman desperate to feed her starving family, attempts to sell her late father's alchemical equipment to Francesco de Medici, the regent and soon-to-be Grand Duke of Florence. Chiara ends up helping her family survive, but not in the way she imagined. She is given a position in Francesco's court as his soror mystica, a feminine counterpart to himself and his assistant, Englishman Ruan dell'Inghilterra, in his ultimate quest to create the mythical Philosopher's Stone.

Motivated by her own reasons for seeking to harness the power of the famed stone, she embarks on a path of alchemical education and enlightenment, pampered for the first time in her life and privy to some of the inner secrets of the court. But she quickly learns that Francesco's favor never comes without a price, and as his quest for power grows and his wrath turns on those she cares about, Chiara soon finds herself trapped in his court, fighting for her own life, attempting to stay one step ahead of a madman while vowing vengeance for those he betrayed. She is eventually aided in this effort by Ruan, who has his own reasons for hating Francesco, but in a court full of deception and betrayal, considering his dark background and even darker secrets, she'll have to decide if she can afford to trust him with her own secrets, with her heart . . . and with her very life.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Blog Tour Interview + Giveaway with Anna Belfrage, Author of Serpents in the Garden

Please join me in welcoming historical fiction author Anna Belfrage to the blog! Anna is touring the blogosphere with her latest installment in her popular Graham Saga series, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to talk to her about her characters and writing a series. Read on and enter for a chance to win a copy of Serpents in the Garden!

Hi Anna! Thank you so much for appearing on Let Them Read Books!

And hello to you too, Jenny! It is a pleasure to visit with you.

Can you tell us a bit about how your heroine, Alex Lind, came into being and what inspired you to send her to 17th century Scotland?

Well… Alex has been rattling about in my brain for some time, alternating between moping because nothing exciting ever happens to her, and being angry that I didn’t write a book with her in it. But you see, I knew from that first glimpse of Alex, all flashing blue eyes and curly dark hair, that she was meant for something – and someone – special. At the time, I was doing a lot of nonfiction reading about the 17th century, and especially about the religious conflicts that tore Europe apart. Alex, however, was a modern woman – no doubt about that. When I presented the option of starring in a story set in the 17th century she just snorted – until the day Matthew Graham took form. Tall, hazel eyed and with a mouth that could curve into the softest of smiles or harden into a straight gash, Matthew was a Covenanter, firmly planted in 17th-century Lowland Scotland. Alex took one look at him and she was lost. As was he…

A more prosaic reply would be that I’ve always wanted to write about the 17th century given my fascination with this century that sort of totters between the old and the new. Alex became my alter ego in exploring this day and age, a modern woman trying to cope with a very different world.

I would imagine penning a series with a contemporary woman in a historical setting presents a whole new set of challenges. How do you strike a balance in reconciling her modern sensibilities with those of her historical counterparts?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Highland Seer by Willa Blair

From the Back Cover:

Donal MacNabb is loyal to his adopted Lathan clan, yet he resents being a pawn in their treaty negotiations with the struggling MacKyries. The MacKyrie clan needs his skills as an arms master, but its Laird is bartering for more than Donal is prepared to give.

Ellie MacKyrie knows the Lathan treaty will help protect her clan from the neighbor determined to seize her holdings any way he can--including forcing her into marriage. But she has another reason to want the Lathan alliance. She has Seen the stubborn Donal MacNabb reaching for her in her dreams.

While Donal fights to save a clan in trouble, his desire for the MacKyrie Seer wars with his obligation to his Laird. Before she is forced into a marriage that will destroy her clan, Ellie must find the heart behind Donal's gruff exterior and convince him he is the man of her dreams.

My Thoughts:

Highland Seer is the story of Ellie MacKyrie, a strong and wise young woman gifted with the Sight, struggling to hold a failing clan together while fending off raids from neighboring clans and marriage proposals from rival lairds. So she's heartened when a band of strapping warriors arrives from a far-off clan offering an alliance treaty. But with them is the man of her dreams (literally), and while she thinks he is the answer to her prayers, he wants nothing to do with her beyond the formalities of a hostess and her guest. But Ellie is determined to do whatever it takes to protect the people of her clan, and she's not above driving a hard bargain for her clan's participation in the alliance treaty: a year of Donal MacNabb's services training her ragtag group of would-be warriors, and a year for her to convince him he's the only man for her. She has an uphill battle ahead of her on both counts: Donal is not pleased at being used as a political pawn, and though he is instantly attracted to the beautiful and brave laird of MacKyrie, he is frightened by her gift and intimidated by the power she wields. And the task of training the few able-bodied boys left to the clan after years of warfare is monumental. But the arrival of a powerful rival laird determined to make the MacKyrie his own convinces Donal of how vulnerable Ellie's position is, and what started as a reluctant alliance of convenience becomes a fight to the death--for his honor, for the clan he cannot abandon, and for the woman he loves.