Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Guest Post: Feuding with Marie Antoinette by Meghan Masterson, Author of The Wardrobe Mistress

Please join me in welcoming author Meghan Masterson to Let Them Read Books! I had the pleasure of meeting Meghan at the Historical Novel Society conference in Oregon in June, and her debut novel, The Wardrobe Mistress, was high on my new-release radar. I'm thrilled to have her here today with a guest post about two of Marie Antoinette's famous feuds! Read on, and check back next week for my review of The Wardrobe Mistress!

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM | Macmillan

THE WARDROBE MISTRESS is Meghan Masterson's fascinating and visceral debut, an inside look at Marie Antoinette's luxurious life in Versailles remarkably juxtaposed against life in third estate as the French Revolution gains strength. A propulsive exploration of love, loyalty, danger, and intrigue...not to be missed.

It's Giselle Aubry's first time at court in Versailles. At sixteen, she is one of Marie Antoinette's newest under-tirewomen, and in awe of the glamorous queen and her opulent palace life. A budding designer, it's a dream come true to work with the beautiful fabrics and jewels in the queen's wardrobe. But every few weeks she returns home to visit her family in Paris, where rumors of revolution are growing stronger.

From her position working in the royal household, Giselle is poised to see both sides of the revolutionary tensions erupting throughout Paris. When her uncle, a retired member of the secret du roi, a spy ring that worked for the old King, Louis XV, suggests that she casually report the queen’s actions back to him as a game, she leaps at the chance. Spying seems like an adventure and an exciting way to privately support the revolution taking the countryside by storm. She also enjoys using her insight from Versailles in lively debates with Léon Gauvain, the handsome and idealistic revolutionary who courts her.

But as the uprising continues to gain momentum, and Giselle grows closer to the queen, becoming one of the few trusted servants, she finds herself dangerously torn. Violence is escalating; she must choose where her loyalty truly lies, or risk losing everything...maybe even her head.

Feuding with Marie Antoinette
by Meghan Masterson

Upon her marriage to the future Louis XVI in 1770, Marie Antoinette came to Versailles at the tender age of fifteen. In spite of her youth, she was determined to fulfill her rank as dauphine and future queen. Unfortunately, in one case, this meant starting a feud. She had a couple of feuds through her lifetime, being stubborn enough to stand by her principles and sensitive enough to hold a grudge. Let’s examine two of them and determine if they were justified or not.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

From the Back Cover:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story.

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

My Thoughts:

I had never heard of the Cottingley Fairies before I saw the description of this book, and after being blown away by Hazel Gaynor's short story "Hush" in one of my top reads of 2016, Fall of Poppies, I knew I wanted to read this book. Based on the true story of cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, and further infused with authenticity by the author's time spent with Frances's daughter, The Cottingley Secret is a hauntingly beautiful tale of childhood, friendship, magic, and finding the courage to start one's life over.

Dual timelines have become a favorite storytelling structure for me. I love how they connect events of the past to the present and show us how history still echoes through time, whether on a smaller scale for an individual or a family or on the broader scale of humanity as a whole. The Cottingley Secret moves back and forth between World War I and the years that followed and the present day, illuminating how two girls, with their claims of seeing fairies in England, gave hope to a country reeling from the horrors of war and the deaths of so many men, and whose story inspires Olivia Kavanagh, a woman in the 21st century, to rediscover who she is and seize the reins of her life's journey, in the process uncovering her own connection to the Cottingley Fairies.

Hazel Gaynor is receiving many accolades for her writing, and I can see why. Her prose is just gorgeous. Her descriptions lush and pensive and transporting. Her portrayal of human nature emotional and sympathetic. I was in tears throughout the final chapter. There were a few sections of the story that dragged a bit for me, and I would have liked a firmer resolution to Olivia's romantic subplot, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The quieter pacing and character-driven plot may not appeal to all readers, but for those who appreciate a beautifully written story that highlights a lesser-known chapter in history while providing an in-depth study of the human experience, The Cottingley Secret is a must-read.

My Rating:  4.5 Stars out of 5

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The Cottingley Secret is on a blog tour!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Blog Tour Excerpt + Giveaway: Blood Moon: A Captive's Tale by Ruth Hull Chatlien

Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale
by Ruth Hull Chatlien

Publication Date: June 14, 2017
Amika Press
Paperback & eBook; 424 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Southern Minnesota, August 1862. Smoke fills the horizon and blood soaks the prairie as the Sioux fight to drive white settlers from their ancestral homeland. Sarah Wakefield and her young son and baby daughter are fleeing for their lives when two warriors capture them. One is Hapa, who intends to murder them. The other is Chaska, an old acquaintance who promises to protect the family. Chaska shelters them in his mother’s tepee, but with emotions running so high among both Indians and whites, the danger only intensifies. As she struggles to protect herself and those she loves, Sarah is forced to choose between doing what others expect of her and following her own deep beliefs.

“Chatlien’s mastery of the historical period—especially the life and culture of the Sioux—is notable and creates a fictional atmosphere of authenticity. A subtle dramatization of the conflict between white settlers and Native Americans in the 19th century.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Richly detailed, Blood Moon is an intrepid tale of bravery and adventure in America’s western frontiers. Perfect for fans of immersive historical fiction.” – Stephanie Thornton, author of The Tiger Queens and The Conqueror’s Wife

“An engrossing tale of struggle and justice-of friendship, mercy, and a rare, moving love. Ruth Hull Chatlien writes with great sensitivity and vivid yet subtle prose. Blood Moon is a must-read for fans of western novels, as well as women’s historical fiction.” – Libbie Hawker, author of Tidewater


I walk to the eastern window, hoping for fresh air and a glimpse of sky. When I went out to the privy before retiring, the moon was rising above the treetops—large and full, a glowing ivory orb that resembled a lustrous pearl nestled in black velvet. Its beauty made me glad to be living out here on the Minnesota prairie where we have such a fine view of the heavens.

Now, however, when I glance outside, only a thin crescent moon rides in the sky. My chest squeezes with dismay. How is this possible? Leaning out the open window, I notice that the interior curve of the crescent is blurry. Then I see the faint circular outline of a shadowy full moon against the black sky.

An eclipse.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway: Casanova's Secret Wife by Barbara Lynn-Davis

Please join me in welcoming Barbara Lynn-Davis to Let Them Read Books! Barbara is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical novel, Casanova's Secret Wife, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few burning questions about her famous subject and his not-so-famous wife. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of Casanova's Secret Wife!

Set in eighteenth-century Venice and based on an actual account by Giacomo Casanova—here is a lush tale of desire and risk.

Caterina Capreta was an innocent girl of fourteen when she caught the attention of the world’s most infamous chronicler of seduction: Giacomo Casanova. Intoxicated by a fierce love, she wed Casanova in secret. But his shocking betrayal inspired her to commit an act that would mark her forever …

Now twenty years later on the island of Murano, the woman in possession of Caterina’s most devastating secret has appeared with a request she cannot refuse: to take in a noble-born girl whose scandalous love affair resembles her own. But the girl’s presence stirs up unwelcome memories of Caterina’s turbulent past. Tested like never before, she reveals the story of the man she will never forget.

Bringing to life a fascinating chapter in the history of Venice, Casanova’s Secret Wife is a tour de force that charts one woman’s journey through love and loss to redemption.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Target | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

Hi Barbara! Welcome to Let Them Read Books! Thanks so much for taking the time to join us today.

Can you tell us what inspired you to write a story about Casanova from the point of view of one of his conquests? Was Caterina a real historical figure?

Caterina Capreta was a real person in Venice, only fourteen years old when she met Giacomo Casanova. But he was not notorious or even well-known at the time my story takes place. I challenge my readers to think apart from Casanova-as-myth and she as just another “conquest.” Theirs is a story of passion, hope, desperation, loss, and enduring love. These are the reasons I wrote the book: to share their haunting love story.

What kind of research did you do to prepare for this story? Did you come across anything that surprised you?

Readers often remark on the setting: the inimitable city of Venice. I first became enchanted with Venice while working at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in the neighborhood of Dorsoduro. Later, as a graduate student, I returned to live in Venice and got to know the city inside and out. I can walk the streets, dart in and out of churches to find hidden altarpieces, smell the night jasmine creeping out of garden gates, and hear the lapping water in my mind. I did do “book” research for the story, like about midwife practice, horse care, and the Jewish ghetto. But mostly, the story is an unpouring of images and memories I carry inside of me.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: The Innkeeper's Sister by Linda Goodnight

From the Back Cover:

Welcome to Honey Ridge, Tennessee, where Southern hospitality and sweet peach tea beckon, and where long-buried secrets lead to some startling realizations

Grayson Blake always has a purpose and never a moment to lose. He's come home to Honey Ridge to convert a historic gristmill into a restaurant, but his plans crumble like Tennessee clay when the excavation of a skeleton unearths a Civil War mystery and leads him back to a beautiful and familiar stranger.

Once a ballet dancer, now co-owner of the Peach Orchard Inn, Valery Carter harbors pain as deep as the secrets buried beneath the mill. A bright facade can't erase her regrets any more than a glass of bourbon can restore what she's lost. But spending time with Grayson offers Valery a chance to let go of her past and imagine a happier future. And with the discovery of hidden messages in aged sheet music, both their hearts begin to open. Bound by attraction, and compelled to resolve an old crime that links the inn and the mill, Grayson and Valery encounter a song of hurt, truth, and hope. 

My Thoughts:

The Honey Ridge trilogy revolves around an old Tennessee farmhouse that has been converted into an inn and two families that have inhabited it: the Portlands in the nineteenth century and the Carters in the present day. Each book is presented in dual timeline format. The Portlands are presented during and after the Civil War, when the house was used as a Union hospital, and then as the South tried to put itself back together only to fall on hard times again with the crash of 1873. The Carters are a family still reeling from the disappearance of Julia's son, Mikey, from divorce, and from another dark secret that Valery, Julia's sister, has been holding close for many years. Each family copes with similar events--tragedy, hardship, relationship drama--and while their stories don't mirror each other completely, there are enough similarities and lasting consequences to form a connection. However, the Carters have a little help in dealing with their troubles since the spirits of the Portlands still inhabit the Peach Orchard Inn. They are friendly spirits whose calming influence helps ease heavy hearts and whose little nudges help the Carters piece together the history of the inn and find true love.

This final book focuses on Valery, the youngest Carter sister. Over the years she has earned a reputation as a party girl. She struggles with inner demons that drive her to drink away her pain, though in the process she ends up letting herself and her family down. When a boy from her youth returns to Honey Ridge, all grown up and ready to renovate the old gristmill across the road into a fancy restaurant, Valery discovers that there are still good men in the world, and though Grayson Blake is her polar opposite, she's never wanted to be so worthy of someone. Grayson had a crush on Valery as a teenager, but an illness robbed him of his youthful innocence and put him on the path of strictly regimented projects and timelines, both in business and in his personal life. But Valery turns his carefully constructed world upside down, and he finds himself wanting to live a little, to let go a little, and wonder if the future has something far different in mind for him than he'd imagined--if only Valery would open up to him and let him help her.

When excavation at the mill uncovers a skeleton dating to the Civil War, while at the same time Grayson discovers secret codes in sheet music composed by Patience Portland, one of the inn's earlier inhabitants, a mystery ensues, one that Valery and Grayson enjoy solving together with the help of a mysterious old man who seems to know much more than should be humanly possible. Back in 1875, Ben Portland, the new owner of the inn, is seeking to correct an old injustice, and in the process uncovers a dark family secret, one that could mean the ruination of his beloved aunt--and one that still has repercussions in the present day. As Valery realizes the similarities between her own story and that of Patience, she must come to terms with her own dark secret and find the strength to let it go if she ever wants a chance at happiness.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: The Mech Who Loved Me by Bec McMaster

From the Back Cover:

Ava McLaren is tired of being both a virgin and a mere laboratory assistant for the Company of Rogues. When a baffling mystery rears its head, it presents her with the opportunity to work a real case...and perhaps get a taste of the passion that eludes her.

Blue bloods are dying from a mysterious disease, which should be impossible. Ava suspects there's more to the case than meets the eye and wants a chance to prove herself. There’s just one catch—she’s ordered to partner with the sexy mech Kincaid, who's a constant thorn in her side. Kincaid thinks the only good blue blood is a dead one. He's also the very last man she would ever give her heart to…which makes him the perfect candidate for an affair.

The only rule? It ends when the case does.

But when an attempt on her life proves that Ava might be on to something, the only one who can protect her is Kincaid. Suddenly the greatest risk is not to their hearts, but whether they can survive a diabolical plot that threatens to destroy every blue blood in London—including Ava. 

My Thoughts:

I've grown a bit tired of the same old, same old in historical romance. Regencies and Highland stories just aren't doing it for me anymore, so I'm finding myself drawn to more unique settings and a little something extra, like a mystery or paranormal/supernatural elements. Bec McMaster's London Steampunk story world is one of my favorites because it features all of the above, and this latest installment, second in the Blue Blood Conspiracy spinoff series, does not disappoint.

What I love about this series is that there is a well-developed and complex plot running throughout, and though the love story is central to each book, the overall series arc and each couple's role in it is a fantastic backdrop. With each book, more puzzle pieces fall into place while tantalizing possibilities for future stories and the series conclusion pop up. But that also makes it hard to recap plots for these books without giving away spoilers from previous books, so forgive me if I seem a little vague.

The Mech Who Loved Me picks up right where Mission Improper left off. The Company of Rogues solved one case only to discover it's but a piece of a much larger conspiracy, one that endangers everyone in London. Three years after the revolution that toppled the Echelon that ruled the lower classes of humans, mechs, and verwulfen with an iron thumb, someone is fomenting rebellion again, and the fragile peace that thousands lived and died for is in danger of shattering. Add to that the discovery of a deadly new virus that kills the unkillable--blue bloods--a virus that could wipe out an entire species if it falls into the wrong hands, and the stakes have never been higher for the Rogues. Anxious to prove herself, Ava McLaren is thrilled when she is assigned to study the virus and track down its origins, but in order to do so she has to put up with bodyguard Liam Kincaid, the gruff mech who has never disguised his dislike of Ava's kind. But as the two work together and stumble upon one deadly discovery after another, the attraction that simmers between them boils over. And besides, what's a little fun on the side going to hurt? But as their investigation grows more dangerous, they suddenly find themselves in danger of losing much more than their hearts.