Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway with Tea Cooper, Author of The Woman in the Green Dress

Please join me in welcoming Tea Cooper to Let Them Read Books! I was thrilled to have the the chance to ask Tea a few questions about her newest release, The Woman in the Green Dress, and where she finds the inspiration for her novels. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of The Woman in the Green Dress!

A cursed opal, a gnarled family tree, and a sinister woman in a green dress emerge in the aftermath of World War I.

After a whirlwind romance, London teashop waitress Fleur Richards can’t wait for her new husband, Hugh, to return from the Great War. But when word of his death arrives on Armistice Day, Fleur learns he has left her a sizable family fortune. Refusing to accept the inheritance, she heads to his beloved home country of Australia in search of the relatives who deserve it more.

In spite of her reluctance, she soon finds herself the sole owner of a remote farm and a dilapidated curio shop full of long-forgotten artifacts, remarkable preserved creatures, and a mystery that began more than sixty-five years ago. With the help of Kip, a repatriated soldier dealing with the sobering aftereffects of war, Fleur finds herself unable to resist pulling on the threads of the past. What she finds is a shocking story surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress. . . a story that, nevertheless, offers hope and healing for the future.

This romantic mystery from award-winning Australian novelist Tea Cooper will keep readers guessing until the astonishing conclusion.


Hi Tea! Thank you so much for visiting Let Them Read Books!

Thank you so much for the invitation. It’s great to be here!

What inspired you to write The Woman in the Green Dress?

Without a doubt a book that was given to me by the local historian: A translation of Baron Charles von Hügel’s New Holland Journal, written during his visit to Australia from Austria between November 1833—October 1834. One section of it is devoted entirely to the Hunter Valley, the area where I live and set my stories. It was amazing to read his observations at the time. A line in the introduction of von Hügel’s journal sparked The Woman in the Green Dress. It said von Hügel’s journal had been transcribed by an amanuensis, a ghost writer. In a flight of fancy I dreamt up this character, Stefan von Richter, and the story began.

Did you get to go anywhere fun in the course of your research?

All of my books are set in the Hunter Valley of NSW, in Australia, an area bound by the Hunter, Hawkesbury and MacDonald rivers, and I spent a lot of time wandering the paths von Hügel took. Some you can drive today; others required a lot of hiking. I took several boat trips rediscovering the Hawkesbury River and the small riverside villages mentioned in the story and camped at Mogo Creek, where Della’s story begins. And of course I wandered the streets of Sydney. Many of the original buildings are still standing, but sadly Tost & Rohu’s shop on which I based The Curio Shop of Wonders is no more.

Did you learn anything in your research that surprised you?

I’ve been fascinated for some time by the prominent part women played in Sydney business in the nineteenth century. Jane Catharine Tost and, her daughter, Ada Jane Rohu, are two such women. They owned the taxidermy shop Tost & Rohu at 605 George Street, Sydney. Their customers included museums and scientific collectors as well as middle-class householders shopping for interior decor and fashion items. They won many awards for their work at International Exhibitions in London, Paris and New York.  Known as ‘the queerest shop in Australia’, their business supplied the Australian Museum with many important specimens and boasted ‘the largest collection of genuine Native Implements’.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Guest Post by Ashley E. Sweeney, Author of Answer Creek

Please join me in welcoming Ashley Sweeney to Let Them Read Books! Ashley is celebrating the release of her new novel, Answer Creek, and I'm thrilled to have her here today with a guest post about researching her novel and getting into the minds of people of the era.

From the award-winning author of Eliza Waite comes a gripping tale of adventure and survival based on the true story of the ill-fated Donner Party on their 2,200-mile trek on the Oregon–California Trail from 1846 to ’47.

Nineteen-year-old Ada Weeks confronts danger and calamity along the hazard-filled journey to California. After a fateful decision that delays the overlanders more than a month, she—along with eighty-one other members of the Donner Party—finds herself stranded at Truckee Lake on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, stuck there for the entirety of a despairing, blizzard-filled winter. Forced to eat shoe leather and blankets to survive, will Ada be able to battle the elements—and her own demons—as she envisions a new life in California?

Researched with impeccable detail and filled with imagery as wide as the western prairie, Answer Creek blends history and hearsay in an unforgettable story of challenging the limits of human endurance and experiencing the triumphant power of love. 


As historical novelists, we must consider the culture of the time period we’re writing about. As we peel back layers of customs and values, we must consider many other elements: jargon, recipes, attire, mode of transportation, communication, and currency, to name a few.

Nineteenth century journalist Francis Parkman, who traveled the Oregon Trail to document emigrant travel in the mid 1840s, wrote: “Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than research. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in the bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them. He must be, as it were, a sharer or spectator of the action he describes.”

As I was writing Answer Creek, set on the Oregon-California Trail in 1846, I filled a dozen black and white composition books with excerpts from period literature, newspapers, and journals. I scoured 19th century advertisements in newspapers from New York to San Francisco. And I visited countless historical sites along the Oregon-California Trail itself, stopping at historical markers, historical societies, and museums. By far, the closest glimpse I got into the minds and hearts of the western travelers was through their journals. At a regional museum near Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska, I pored over surviving journals:

June 7, 1845
After keeping our new course for seventeen miles our progress became suddenly arrested. We all at once came to the edge of the high prairie, and from thence down to the valley . . . a distance of three miles, nothing but a chaotic mass of rocks, hills, precipices, and chasms could be seen; and through which it seemed as if it were impossible ever to proceed . . .
—J. Henry Carleton

August 1, 1846
Left our encampment and traveled a tolerable rough road crossing several very high hills and encamped at the head of a larger Valley with a fine little stream . . . cattle plenty of grass, Country appear (sic) more hale west. Made this day 16.
—James Frazier Reed

May 2, 1847
Made 20 miles. Exceedingly cold for the season . . .
—Elizabeth Dixon Smith Geer

May 24, 1847
This is the place for everything, laughing, scolding, whining, whistling, and singing. Some find everything better than they expected; others worse . . .
—Chester Ingersoll

Monday, May 4, 2020

Blog Tour Guest Post by Eric Schumacher, Author of Forged by Iron

Please join me in welcoming Eric Schumacher to Let Them Read Books! Eric is touring the blogosphere with his new release, Forged by Iron, and I'm happy to have him here today with a guest post about Olaf Tryggvason. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of Forged by Iron!

From the bestselling author of Hakon’s Saga comes Forged by Iron, the first in a series of thrilling tales about Olaf Tryggvason, one of the most legendary and enigmatic kings of the Viking Age.

Norway, AD 960. The fabric that has held the Northern realm together is tearing. The sons of Erik Bloodaxe have returned and are systematically killing all opposition to the High Seat. Through treachery, Harald Eriksson slays Jarl Trygvi, an heir to the throne, and then he comes for Trygvi’s wife, Astrid, and son, Olaf.

Astrid and Olaf flee their home with the help of Astrid’s foster father, Torolv Loose-beard, and his son, Torgil, who are oath-sworn to protect them. The group escapes east, through the dark, forested land of the Swedes and across the treacherous East Sea, all the while evading the clutches of Harald’s brutal henchmen.

But the gods are fickle and the group is torn apart, leaving them to fend for themselves in Forged by Iron, a must-read for all who enjoy action-packed historical fiction.


The Origins of Olaf Tryggvason
by Eric Schumacher

In my latest novel, Forged by Iron, I have the pleasure of bringing my readers into the world and life of Olaf Tryggvason, one of the most legendary and enigmatic kings of the Viking Age. He is described as a leader of men, “exceeding fair and tall to look upon and of mighty stature and of great strength. And in prowess in sports, so it is told, was he the best of all the Norsemen.” But he is also seen as vicious and cruel to those who oppose his will, especially those who resist his attempts to convert them to Christianity. His life covers a lot of ground (literally) and is filled with adventure. For all of these reasons, I thought he would be a fascinating character to bring to life in my books.

So where did Olaf Tryggvason come from and what set him on his life’s path? That’s what I’ll explore in this post.

The Lineage of Olaf Tryggvason

If you take Snorre Sturlasson’s Heimskinrgla at face value, then Olaf Tryggvason is the son of Trygvi Olafsson, who is the ruler of a district in Viking Age Norway called Vingulmark. It is an area he had been granted to rule by his uncle, Hakon Haraldsson (or Hakon the Good), the youngest son of the infamous King Harald Fairhair. Trygvi Olafsson is in turn the son of Olaf Haraldsson, the older half-brother of Hakon who was killed by another half-brother, Erik Bloodaxe, the favorite of their mutual father Harald. Snorre makes this family tree clear in Heimskringla, presumably in an effort to legitimize Olaf Tryggvason’s claim to the High Seat of Norway, though we do not yet know if it is actually true, in part because Heimskringla was written ~250 years after Olaf Tryggvason lived.

There are other, earlier, mentions of Olaf, such as the poems of Hallfreðr Óttarsson the Troublesome, a contemporary skald who served in Olaf’s court, and Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum ("Deeds of the Bishops of Hamburg"), written ~70 years after Olaf’s death, neither of which dive into the details of Olaf’s lineage.

Still, even if you take Heimskringla to be moderately true, that is, to think of Olaf maybe not as a direct descendent of Harald Fairhair, but more as the son of a nobleman in Vingulmark, then you have to think of Olaf as at least noble, and maybe someone with designs for something greater.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Blog Tour Spotight: The Ruin of Evangeline Jones by Julia Bennett

The Ruin of Evangeline Jones

by Julia Bennet

Publication Date: April 27, 2020
Entangled Publishing/Amara
Series: Harcastle Inheritance, Book 2
Genre: Historical Romance/Victorian

Alex Stanton just inherited a dukedom but his true passion is uncovering charlatans and frauds wherever he finds them. Spiritualist and medium Evangeline “Evie” Jones is the biggest fake of all and he’s determined to expose her lies for all of London to see. Her prim manner and ladylike airs don’t fool him. He sees the hunger beneath and recognizes a worthy opponent. He can’t deny the dark undercurrents of lust between them.

Evie worked her way up from the gutter and she’s not about to abandon the life she’s built for fear of this aristocratic dilettante. She knows his type. She sees the attraction simmering beneath his animosity, and she knows how to use it to keep him off balance. They strike a bargain. He has one week to prove she’s a fake. If he fails, he has to abandon all further attempts. If he succeeds, she’ll not only retire but make a public statement explaining all her tricks.

Neither expects to find anything in common, not to mention anything to love, in the other. Both are blindsided by the affinity and blossoming tenderness between them. But even if it were possible for a lowly charlatan to live happily ever after with a duke, more is going on than either suspects. Someone else has brought them together for a sinister purpose of his own.

Available on Amazon

About the Author:

Julia writes historical romance with passion, intrigue, dark humor and the occasional animal sidekick. A tea-sodden English woman, she’s the only girl in a house of boys and yearns for all things pink and fluffy. Before she began writing, she spent many years searching for something to do with her English Literature degree. Nothing satisfied her until she decided to commit the stories in her head to paper. These days, if she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading everything she can get her hands on, spending time with her boys or procrastinating on the internet.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Spotlight: The Lost Boys of London by Mary Lawrence

The Lost Boys of London
A Bianca Goddard Mystery
by Mary Lawrence

Red Puddle Print
April 28, 2020
Historical Mystery

While her husband fights the Scots on behalf of King Henry VIII, Bianca Goddard earns her coin by concocting medicines that offer relief to London's sick. Some unfortunates, however, are beyond any remedies she can provide--like the young boy discovered hanging from a church dripstone. Examining the body, Bianca finds a rosary twisted around the child's neck. A week later, another boy is found dead at a different church. When Fisk, an impish acquaintance, goes missing, she fears he may become the third victim...

There are many villains who would prey on wayward, penniless boys. But Bianca suspects the killings are not brutal acts of impulse, but something far more calculated. In her room of Medicinals and Physickes, she examines the sole piece of evidence: a sweet-smelling, dark-stained cloth. If Bianca can unravel its secret, reputations and lives will be saved. But the expected hour of the next murder is approaching, and a single misstep may mean another boy is lost forever...

Praise for The Lost Boys of London:

"Lawrence's London is no fairy-tale setting, but her heroine is as plucky as they come."--Kirkus Reviews

"...a gripping mystery...filled with sharp details"--Foreword Reviews

"Bianca's strength and self-reliance are empowering and gratifying...an exciting and memorable historical whodunit."--Foreword Reviews

"The author has the Tudor language down to a gnat’s eyeball.--Rosepoint Publishing

"At the end of this series, we’re left with not just a superb set of mysteries, but with a clan who feel real to us, and whose futures matter"--Goodreads review

"...is confident and evocative"--Portland Press Herald


The twists and turns of an inconstant king are as serpentine as the lanes and alleys of London’s Castle Baynard ward. At one end squatted massive St. Paul’s Cathedral. Licking the ward’s toes at the other ebbed the greasy, gray Thames. In between were four parishes and enough bread shops to adequately keep the inhabitants’ heads filled with guilt and their stomachs filled with gluten.

     This warren of tightly packed residences, ordinaries, mercers, stationers, chandlers, and cordwainers sat in unremitting penitence near the ominous cathedral, and never was their compunction more intensely felt than during the bleak days of this midwinter. The incremental gain of daylight was not enough to cheer the citizens. They didn’t notice they did not have to light their tallows quite so early, nor did the lengthening days remind them that spring would soon . . . spring. Nay, the winter felt interminable, as did its dark, shivering days.

     For England was at war.

     Harry had lightened his coffers by hiring German and Spanish mercenaries to aid his British soldiers in subjugating the Scots to the north and the French across the sea. He’d spent his money on fortifications along his southern coast and on growing his fleet of warships. Such is the price of hubris.

     Though King Harry grew in girth and petulance, he ignored signs of his diminishing health. His leg wound ulcerated, emitting a foul odor while his physicians scurried about trying different poultice wrappings, even cauterization, in an effort to offer the king some relief. Short of amputation (for who would dare mention, much less attempt it?) little could be done.

     So, Harry continued to plant apple trees in his orchard in Kent and busied himself with the politics of war. And the citizens of London, indeed of the entire realm, continued to labor and abide by the whims of their peevish king.