Thursday, January 23, 2020

Spotlight: Anna's Refuge by Kerryn Reid

Anna's Refuge: Wrackwater Bridge, Book One
by Kerryn Reid

Hartwood Publishing
December 3, 2019
ebook; 434 pages
Historical Romance

Lewis Aubrey has grown up in the malignant shadow of his brother Gideon. In London for the first time, with no thought of love, he is beguiled by Miss Anna Spain. Gideon steals her away and then tosses her aside like a wilted rose. Months later, horrified to learn that Anna carries Gideon’s child, Lewis tracks her down amid the grit of industrial Leeds. He’s desperate to protect her—but can he survive marriage, believing she still yearns for his brother?

Trusting and na├»ve, dreaming of a love that’s glorious and timeless, Anna falls for Gideon Aubrey and his lies. When he casts her aside in the middle of a ball, Lewis shields her from gossip. He becomes her rock in a world of anguish, and she grows to love him very much indeed. But what kind of woman would condemn a man to a marriage he cannot possibly want, raising a child not his own? Somehow, these two tattered souls must escape Gideon’s shadow and find their way to happiness, for the child’s sake…and for their own.

From London’s glittering ballrooms, to the grit of industrial Leeds, to a bitter winter in the Yorkshire Dales, Anna and Lewis struggle as individuals to find an honorable way through a world of heartache. Any sort of romance between them seems doomed from the start. But gradually, we feel the promise of love as they work together to forge a future. With all the hope of a new year, from the ashes of two broken families, they build a new family in Wrackwater Bridge. 

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About the Author:

Kerryn Reid grew up the daughter of a professor in a New England college town. But her mother was a devotee of ‘Olde’ England, and Kerryn followed suit. After high school, she traveled around the British Isles with her best friend. Predictably, they fell in love with a couple of Irish lads – oh, those gorgeous accents! Roaming the Rock of Cashel in the dark with your first love? Totally illicit, totally romantic!

The relationship didn’t last. But a piece of Kerryn’s heart still lives "across the pond" where those adventures took place – as well as the Regency romances she loves. So when the itch to write needs scratching, that’s where her imagination takes her. Her first novel, Learning to Waltz, won the Chatelaine award for Best Regency from Chanticleer Books.

Connect with Kerryn:

Friday, January 17, 2020

Book Blast + Giveaway: The King's Greatest Enemy Series by Anna Belfrage

The King’s Greatest Enemy Series by Anna Belfrage

A weak king, a rebellious baron. A kingdom on the brink of civil war, an adulterous wife and an ambitious royal favourite. A blackmailed bride and an honourable knight, torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his wife and his future king. Welcome to the world of Adam de Guirande!

Book I: In the Shadow of the Storm

Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Lord Roger for his life and all his worldly goods, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Lord Roger thinks she is. So when Lord Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be. England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down... Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and Lord Roger, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods. Kit has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name. Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Lord Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can. In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Book II: Days of Sun and Glory

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France. Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as Edward II and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead. Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Salt the Snow by Carrie Callaghan

From the Back Cover:

American journalist Milly Bennett has covered murders in San Francisco, fires in Hawaii, and a civil war in China, but 1930s Moscow presents her greatest challenge yet. When her young Russian husband is suddenly arrested by the secret police, Milly tries to get him released. But his arrest reveals both painful secrets about her marriage and hard truths about the Soviet state she has been working to serve. Disillusioned and pulled toward the front lines of a captivating new conflict, Milly must find a way to do the right thing for her husband, her conscience, and her heart. Salt the Snow is a vivid and impeccably researched tale of a woman ahead of her time, searching for her true calling in life and love.

My Thoughts:

I was really looking forward to reading this book. A pioneering reporter in a dangerous locale, going up against a terrifying regime to fight for justice and save the people she loves--sign me up. But unfortunately I had some issues with this story that prevented me from loving it as I'd hoped I would.

For starters, it's got a pretty slow-moving plot. There were long stretches where I felt like not much happened, and I found myself skimming to get to the more interesting parts. I'm also not sure the dual timeline structure served the story well. There's not much distance between the timelines as they alternate between the time Milly met her husband and the aftermath of his arrest, and so by the time they converged, it all sort of seemed anti-climactic.

But the biggest issue, for me, was Milly herself. I don't usually read up on unknown-to-me historical figures before I read novels about them because I like to be surprised by what's coming and go in without any preconceptions, but in this case, maybe I should have. Because it took me a really long time to warm up to Milly Bennett. She's selfish. She's a bit of a lush. She sleeps with married men. She does some other things that some readers may find morally questionable. But hardest for me was that she's a die-hard supporter of communism (though it is called socialism at the time). I understand the novelty of it during the Great Depression and the allure the ideal held for Americans who went to the Soviet Union in search of a better life. But very few of them actually found a better life there. Even in the face of desperate poverty, the lack of food, heat, and basic necessities, forced communal living, forced labor, and a tyrannical government jailing people who say things they don't like, Milly still defends the system. I found her very hard to empathize with until more than halfway through the book. Eventually Milly does lift the veil of idealism, and more of her underlying vulnerability comes through, allowing the reader to better understand why she behaves the way she does and to feel sorry for her in the situation she finds herself in. I finally started to feel her highs and lows, her triumphs and tragedies as my own and became invested in the outcome of her story.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Blog Tour Q&A: Written in Their Stars by Elizabeth St. John

Please join me in welcoming Elizabeth St. John to Let Them Read Books! Liz is touring the blogosphere with her new novel, Written in Their Stars, book three of the critically acclaimed Lydiard Chronicles. I've had the pleasure of working with Liz as an editor and cover designer, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about researching and writing this series. Read on and enter to win a signed copy of Written in Their Stars!

London, 1649. Horrified eyewitnesses to King Charles’s bloody execution, Royalists Nan Wilmot and Frances Apsley plot to return the king’s exiled son to England’s throne, while their radical cousin Luce, the wife of king-killer John Hutchinson, rejoices in the new republic’s triumph. Nan exploits her high-ranking position as Countess of Rochester to manipulate England’s great divide, flouting Cromwell and establishing a Royalist spy network; while Frances and her husband Allen join the destitute prince in Paris’s Louvre Palace to support his restoration. As the women work from the shadows to topple Cromwell’s regime, their husbands fight openly for the throne on England’s bloody battlefields.

But will the return of the king be a victory, or destroy them all? Separated by loyalty and bound by love, Luce, Nan and Frances hold the fate of England—and their family—in their hands.

A true story based on surviving memoirs of Elizabeth St.John’s family, Written in their Stars is the third novel in the Lydiard Chronicles series.


Hi Liz! Thank you for visiting Let Them Read Books!

The heroine of your first book, and whose children we follow in subsequent books, Lucy St. John, is your ancestress. Can you tell us a bit about her and what inspired you to write her story?

Lucy’s name jumped off the page in a 17th Century memoir I discovered in Nottingham Castle. I was researching our family genealogy at the time, so I followed the thread and came upon the story of her life, recorded by her daughter Lucy Hutchinson. Although written almost 400 years ago, her daughter’s account of her mother read like a novel:
She was of a noble family, being the youngest daughter of Sir John St.John, of Lidiard Tregooze in the county of Wilts; her father and mother died when she was not above five years of age, and yet at her nurse’s, from whence she was carried to be brought up in the house of the Lord Grandison, her father’s youngest brother; an honourable and excellent person, but married to a lady so jealous of him, and so ill-natured in her jealous fits, to anything that was related to him, that her cruelties to my mother exceeded the stories of stepmothers.
Reading further, I learned Lucy St.John lived in the Tower of London for thirteen years, survived England’s terrible civil war, and that her children fought on opposite sides in the conflict. Hooked.

Written in Their Stars is the third book in a trilogy. What sort of challenges does writing a series present, particularly in bringing everything together in the last installment?

Writing biographical historical fiction has its positive sides – one of which is that you cannot deviate from real-life timelines. This is also one of the biggest challenges, for bending fact to suit fiction is not what I wanted to do. The full timeline of the lives of the family looked pretty even when I diagrammed it for the series. Once I started writing, I realized that as with any life, there can be long periods of inactivity and sudden bursts of action. Add the fact that you’re researching events that are 400 years old, and a main challenge is to keep the pace and tension balanced and compelling for the readers while still creating stand-alone novels that can be enjoyed by themselves.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Guest Post: Unequal by Birth by Rosemary J. Kind

Please join me in welcoming Rosemary J. Kind to Let Them Read Books! Rosemary is celebrating the release of Unequal by Birth, Book Two in the Tales of Flynn and Reilly series, and I'm delighted to have her here today with a guest post about the importance of research and accurate historical details in her books!

1866 - Daniel Flynn and Molly Reilly’s lives have been dogged by hardship since their orphan days on the streets of New York. Finally, the future is looking bright and Indiana is the place they call home. Now they can focus on making Cochrane’s Farm a success.

The Civil War might have ended but the battle for Cochrane’s Farm has only just begun. The Reese brothers are incensed that land, once part of their family farm, has been transferred to the ownership of young Molly. No matter that their Daddy had sold it years previously, jealousy and revenge have no regard for right. Women should know their place and this one clearly doesn’t.

Times are changing and a woman’s place is changing with it. How far will Daniel and Molly go to fight injustice and is it a price worth paying?

It's the Little Details
by Rosemary J. Kind

Considering 1860 - 1870 is relatively recent history, there is surprisingly little detail recorded about the town my book is primarily based in. As far as possible, I like to be factually accurate in key details and want to know not only what events took place at the time I’m writing about but the street layout of the town and the nature of the buildings.

Writing about cities tends to be easier as there are official records, which are often accessible to modern readers. However, for Pierceton, Indiana, it has been a more interesting challenge. I have found one key reference source ‘A history of Pierceton Indiana by George A Nye’.

George Nye typed up all he knew about the history in a manuscript dated 1952. He made pen alterations as he found corrected information. Even though he was writing only 90 years after the period I’m covering, he was unable to find residents with memories or family records which went back that far, so detail is scant.

I am sincerely glad to those who have digitised such records and made them available. It has meant I can be sure, in conjunction with maps, of the general layout and the key buildings and businesses at that time. I could also find enough about the post office and key services. The lack of detail makes me feel more confident in taking a little licence for the setting, although even then I find myself apologising to the reader for giving Pierceton a bank branch a few years before there was one in the town.

Some of the social history detail is missing. I wasted very many happy hours (I love research) trying to find out the exact name of the women’s movement in the town as well as in Dowagiac. The best I’ve found was what the main women’s suffrage movements changed their names to a few years later, but not what they changed them from.

My latest challenge is for the novel which follows this one. On what date were the primaries for the elections to the House of Representatives held in 1870? I’m about to email my last remaining hope of finding an answer to that one. I know when the main election was, but not when the list of candidates was finalised. An odd detail, but it’s important to my story.