Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway with Nicole Evelina, Author of Camelot's Queen

Please join me in welcoming author Nicole Evelina to Let Them Read Books! Nicole is touring the blogosphere with her newest historical fantasy novel, Camelot's Queen, Guinevere's Tale Book Two. 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 answering my burning questions about researching and writing Guinevere's story. Read on and enter to win a paperback or ebook copy of Camelot's Queen!

History remembers Guinevere’s sin, but it was Arthur who transgressed first.

Forced into a marriage she neither anticipated nor desired, Guinevere finds herself High Queen, ruling and fighting alongside Arthur as they try to subdue the Saxons, Irish and Picts who threaten Britain from every direction. Though her heart still longs for her lost love, Guinevere slowly grows to care for her husband as they join together to defeat their enemies.

Meanwhile, within the walls of Camelot their closest allies plot against them. One schemes to make Guinevere his own, another seeks revenge for past transgressions, while a third fixes her eyes on the throne. When the unthinkable happens and Guinevere is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections toward her, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and eventually driving her into the arms of her champion.

Amid this tension a new challenge arises for the king and queen of Camelot: finding the Holy Grail, a sacred relic that promises lasting unity. But peace, as they will soon learn, can be just as dangerous as war. As the court begins to turn on itself, it becomes clear that the quest that was to be Arthur’s lasting legacy may end in the burning fires of condemnation.

This highly anticipated sequel to Daughter of Destiny proves there is much more to Guinevere’s story than her marriage and an affair. See the legend you think you know through her eyes and live the adventure of Camelot’s golden days yourself – but be prepared to suffer its downfall as well.

Hi Nicole! Thank you so much for joining us at Let Them Read Books!

What inspired you to write your own version of Guinevere's story?

I’ve loved the character of Guinevere my whole life; she was one of my childhood heroes. In fact, I tried to take Guinevere as my confirmation name, but the nuns wouldn’t let me because there is no saint with that name.

When I was in college, a friend gave me a copy of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon as a gift. I read it and loved it (it changed my life in more ways than I can say), but I hated her portrayal of Guinevere as meek, Christian, and agoraphobic. That led me to seek out other fictional books written about her, and I came across Parke Godwin’s Beloved Exile, which covers her life after the fall of Camelot. That got me thinking that you don’t hear too much about what happened to Guinevere outside of her time with Arthur.

Around that time, Guinevere came into my head and said previous portrayals have done her wrong and it was time for me to set the record straight. We made a deal that day that I would tell her whole life story, from before Arthur through after his death. Here we are 17 years later, and the first two of three books are out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Spotlight: 1906 by James Dalessandro

1906: A Novel

by James Dalessandro

eBook Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Crossroad Press
eBook; 368 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery/Thriller

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Every disaster has a backstory, none more thrilling than this one. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning tale of political corruption, vendettas, romance, rescue—and murder—is based on recently uncovered facts that forever change our understanding of what really happened. Told by a feisty young reporter, Annalisa Passarelli, the novel paints a vivid picture of the Victorian-era city, from the mansions of Nob Hill to the underbelly of the Barbary Coast to the arrival of tenor Enrico Caruso and the Metropolitan Opera. Central to the story is the ongoing battle—fought even as the city burns—that pits incompetent and unscrupulous politicians against a coalition of honest police officers, newspaper editors, citizens, and a lone federal prosecutor. With the appeal and texture of The Alienist, Carter Beats the Devil, and the novels of E. L. Doctrow, James Dalessandro weaves unforgettable characters and actual events into a compelling epic.



“…an imaginative and dense interplay between fact and fiction …of corruption, crime lords and the great San Francisco earthquake...” -Publisher’s Weekly “Imagine ‘Gone with the Wind’ set against the backdrop of the great San Francisco Earthquake…it steals your breath away.” “A Bold, Sweeping Novel…Richly Textured…Extraordinary.” -Vincent Bugliosi (author ‘Helter Skelter’) “loaded with admirable historical detail and raptor civic corruption as murderous as the San Andreas Fault.” -Oakley Hall (author, the Ambrose Bierce mysteries) “…will keep you at the edge of your seat.” -The New York Sun “..action packed…exciting and vivid.” -Kirkus “A riveting account of corruption, greed and murder…” -Dallas Morning News

Friday, April 29, 2016

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt

Please join me in welcoming Mary Sharratt to Let Them Read Books! Mary is touring the blogosphere with her new novel, The Dark Lady's Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare's Muse, and she's here today with an awesome guest post about America's love for Renaissance fairs and our quest to recreate Merry England. Read on and enter to win a copy of The Dark Lady's Mask!

Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

American Renaissance Festivals and the Yearning for Merry England
by Mary Sharratt

When I was a student in the 1980s, I spent my late summer weekends in another realm. Donning a green gown I had sewn myself, I became a Renaissance woman, or a low-budget facsimile thereof, my cheap, silver-plated goblet hanging from my belt to save me from the indignity of drinking from a paper cup.

For three summers from 1983 to 1985, I was a performer at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, in those days a much more low-key and grassroots affair than it is today. My character was a historically inaccurate hybrid between a village minstrel and a faery queen out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  (I was trying very hard to channel Stevie Nicks.) I even spoke in a fake British accent, largely informed by Monty Python.

For the most part, I was unpaid, although I did earn minimum wage the summer I worked in the information booth. This involved giving directions and handing out site maps. The most exciting part was when some unsuspecting person asked the way to the restroom.

Leaping out from behind the counter, I’d grab my victim’s arm and race off, hell for leather, with them in tow. “Make way!” I’d yell, compelling the crowd to part for us. “Privy run!”

After depositing the blushing and winded individual in front of the plastic Portalet, I’d dash back to the information booth. As minimum-wage jobs went, it was far more amusing than fast food.
When I wasn’t working at the information booth, I played Elizabethan music on my violin, but this proved far less interesting for the paying crowd. The most enthusiasm I could drum up was some drunk guy asking me to play Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

I soon learned to leave the violin at home and focus on street theatre, which is what most people seemed to be coming for. Having my picture taken with festival goers’ children who thought my dress was pretty. Joining my fellow peasants under an oak tree in the late afternoon. Sitting in the grass with floral garlands in our hair, we would sing ballads of such yearning that they would transport us to another time and place. This transpired late afternoon when everything seemed suffused in golden light. Such pastoral bliss! As a Reagan-era teenager, this was the closest I ever got to the Woodstock experience.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Secrets of a Soprano by Miranda Neville

From the Back Cover:

Teresa Foscari, Europe’s most famous opera singer, comes to London to make a fresh start and find her long lost English family. Her peerless voice thrills everyone—except Maximilian Hawthorne, Viscount Allerton, the wealthy owner of a rival opera house. Notorious Teresa Foscari is none other than Tessa, the innocent girl who broke his youthful heart. Yet Max still wants her, like no other woman.

Amidst backstage intrigue and the sumptuous soirĂ©es of fashionable London, the couple’s rivalry explodes in bitter accusations and smashed china. Tessa must fight for her career—and resist her attraction to Max, the man she once loved and who now holds the power to destroy her.

My Thoughts:

I'd long been wanting to read a Miranda Neville novel, and when I saw the description of Secrets of a Soprano, I knew it was the one to start with. I like reading about the Regency period, but after a while Regency romances tend to start getting repetitive, so I'm always looking for something different. A romance featuring an opera singer and a theater owner? Yes, please!

When opera aficionado Max Hawthorne finally gets to see famed soprano La Divina sing, he knows instantly that she is none other than the woman who broke his heart ten years earlier. But how can he reconcile this worldly, widowed diva, rumored to have been mistress to a Russian tsar and Napoleon, with the innocent young singer he fell in love with on his grand tour? Regardless, he simply must find a way to lure her away from his competition and sign her to his new theater. After an unpleasant reunion, he uses the power of rumor to achieve his goal, but it quickly takes on a life of its own and does far more harm than he anticipated. Putting aside old hurts and still-burning passion proves hard to do when he realizes "La Divina" is a carefully cultivated facade, and she is still the girl he loved and lost, but has his betrayal cost him his only chance at real happiness?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Promised to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan

From the Back Cover:

Bound for a new continent, and a new beginning.

In her illuminating debut novel, Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV’s call and journey to the Canadian colony.

They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters”—young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving—poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness.

Once in Quebec, Elisabeth quickly accepts baker Gilbert Beaumont, who wants a business partner as well as a wife. Nicole, a farmer’s daughter from Rouen, marries a charming officer who promises comfort and security. Scarred by her traumatic past, Rose decides to take holy vows rather than marry. Yet no matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss—and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.

My Thoughts:

I've read a few novels set in French Canada, or New France, as it was known back then, and it's a setting that really appeals to me, so I was looking forward to Promised to the Crown, especially since the focus is on the little-known story of the courageous women who ventured into the unknown to settle the colony for their king.

The story follows Rose as she decides to leave behind a life of service in a charity hospital in Paris for the chance of a brighter future, and Elisabeth and Nicole, two women she meets on the ocean crossing. All three settle in Quebec City and have each other to rely on as they establish their new lives. They and their fellow brides have no shortage of suitors to choose from, and Elisabeth and Nicole are soon paired off with young men who appeal to their hearts as well as their practical needs. But Rose is not as fortunate, realizing that she doesn't really want to be a wife and mother, and she contemplates a life devoted to God. Over the course of the next seven years, Rose, Elisabeth, and Nicole forge new paths for themselves. Far from their families, they form new ones, both with their husbands and with each other. Though they will face adversity, tragedy, and disaster, the strength of their friendship remains a constant in a shifting new world.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway with Ashley Hay, Author of The Railwayman's Wife

Please join me in welcoming Ashley Hay to Let Them Read Books! Ashley is touring the blogosphere with her new novel, The Railwayman's Wife, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about writing this award-winning novel of love and loss in post-war Australia. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of The Railwayman's Wife!

Amidst the strange, silent aftermath of World War II, a widow, a poet, and a doctor search for lasting peace and fresh beginnings in this internationally acclaimed, award-winning novel.

When Anikka Lachlan’s husband, Mac, is killed in a railway accident, she is offered—and accepts—a job at the Railway Institute’s library and searches there for some solace in her unexpectedly new life. But in Thirroul, in 1948, she’s not the only person trying to chase dreams through books. There’s Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, but who has now lost his words and his hope. There’s Frank Draper, trapped by the guilt of those his medical treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle to find their own peace, and their own new story.

But along with the firming of this triangle of friendship and a sense of lives inching towards renewal come other extremities—and misunderstandings. In the end, love and freedom can have unexpected ways of expressing themselves.

The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can sometimes be to tell them apart. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

Hi Ashley! Welcome to Let Them Read Books! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today.

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for The Railwayman's Wife? How did the seeds of the story first take root?

I grew up on that piece of Australian coast, on the southern coast of New South Wales, near Thirroul–in the next town up, Austinmer – and had always wanted to set a story in its landscape; it's a pretty stunning combination of ocean and escarpment.

The story of the railwayman dying in an accident at work, and his wife being given the job of the railway institute librarian, was inspired by that of my grandparents; my father's father was killed in an shunting accident back in the 1950s. I'd also always been interested in trying to imagine a new version of that set of events, and when I sat down to begin, I found that the story belonged naturally in the place where it had happened, which was in and around Thirroul.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spotlight + Giveaway: Death Sits Down to Dinner by Tessa Arlen

Death Sits Down to Dinner
(Lady Montfort Mystery #2)
by Tessa Arlen

Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Minotaur Books
Hardcover & Ebook; 320 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery

Filled with deceptions both real and imagined, Death Sits Down to Dinner is a delightful Edwardian mystery set in London.

Lady Montfort is thrilled to receive an invitation to a dinner party hosted by her close friend Hermione Kingsley, the patroness of England’s largest charity. Hermione has pulled together a select gathering to celebrate Winston Churchill’s 39th birthday. Some of the oldest families in the country have gathered to toast the dangerously ambitious and utterly charming First Lord of the Admiralty. But when the dinner ends, one of the gentlemen remains seated at the table, head down among the walnut shells littering the cloth and a knife between his ribs.

Summoned from Iyntwood, Mrs. Jackson helps her mistress trace the steps of suspects both upstairs and downstairs as Hermione’s household prepares to host a highly anticipated charity event. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson unravel the web of secrecy surrounding the bright whirlwind of London society, investigating the rich, well-connected and seeming do-gooders in a race against time to stop the murderer from striking again.

Advance Praise:

“Despite Clementine’s luxurious lifestyle, she’s got a head on her shoulders . . .and is as cagey as she is charming. A neatly crafted whodunit dripping with diamonds, titles and scandal . . .” -Kirkus Reviews

“The close, mutually respectful partnership between Clementine and Edith will remind Dorothy Sayers’s fans of the relationship between Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter, his manservant. Arlen does a good job of depicting a period when class distinctions have become blurred by new money and more-relaxed manners. The plot, which includes a slew of red herrings, builds to a startling denouement.” -Publisher’s Weekly

“VERDICT Real-life Edwardian personalities abound in this period historical, and the upstairs/downstairs focus delivers a clash of temperaments. This title is bound to appeal to fans of historicals set in this period and of such authors as Rhys Bowen and Ashley Weaver.” -Library Journal