Thursday, May 16, 2019

Quick Review: The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne

From the Back Cover:

The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls—for the passionate women who dare to love them…

He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…


Lorelei will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?

My Thoughts:

This book had a really strong start that perfectly introduced two damaged characters that seemed made for one another. Completely opposite in so many ways, but exactly what the other needed. I loved the dynamics between them in the beginning, the crippled girl and the beaten boy--there's is a love story you root for from their very first interaction. But then they were separated for a number of years and the long-awaited reunion was not what I was hoping for. Ash was cruel, Lorelai was hurt, and that aspect just seemed unnecessary. It took a long time for Ash to treat her the way she deserved to be treated. Then we get some adventure and suspense and big revelations that probably would have had more meaning if I'd read the previous books since a few of those characters make an appearance toward the end. Certainly not a bad read, and of course there's a happy ending, but it did not live up to the excellence of the first few chapters.

My Rating:  3 Stars out of 5

Please Note: This review references an advance digital copy received from the publisher via NetGalley, and therefore the final published copy may differ. Though I received this book from the publisher, my review is voluntary and these are my honest and unbiased thoughts. I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Blog Tour Excerpt: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy
by Alexandra Walsh

Published March 28, 2019
Sapere Books
ebook, paperback; 468 pages

What secrets were covered up at the court of Henry VIII?

Whitehall Palace, England, 1539

When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of King Henry VIII to be a maid of honour in the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves, she has no idea of the fate that awaits her.

Catching the king’s fancy, she finds herself caught up in her uncle’s ambition to get a Howard heir to the throne.

Terrified by the ageing king after the fate that befell her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine begins to fear for her life…

Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2018

Dr Perdita Rivers receives news of the death of her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy.

Mary inexplicably cut all contact with Perdita and her twin sister, Piper, but she has left them Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire.

Perdita sets out to unravel their grandmother’s motives for abandoning them, and is drawn into the mystery of an ancient document in the archives of Marquess House, a collection of letters and diaries claiming the records of Catherine Howard’s execution were falsified…

What truths are hiding in Marquess House? What really happened to Catherine Howard?

And how was Perdita’s grandmother connected to it all?

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is the first book in the Marquess House trilogy, a dual timeline conspiracy thriller with a twist on a well-known period of Tudor history.


“There, her.” The queen pointed as her maids danced. She and the king had been married for two weeks and her English was improving each day. “The fox in the pretty gown. Who is she, Sir Edward?”
     “That’s Mistress Catherine Howard. We call her Kitty,” he replied as Catherine’s red hair gleamed in the morning light. “She’s my wife’s sister.”
     There was a small amount of pride in his voice. Catherine was an excellent dancer.
     “She has hair like a fox.” The queen laughed at her own joke and Edward smiled. He had never really noticed the redness of Catherine’s hair; a hood usually covered it. But here in the queen’s chambers, it was loose while she danced and it was a deep, luxuriant auburn. “You call her Kitty, like a cat?”
     “It’s a familiar name for Catherine,” he explained. “With so many Catherines, it makes it easier to distinguish her.”
     The queen smiled. “You ask your Kitty to teach me to dance,” she said. “Maybe the king, he like it.”
     A shadow drifted across her face, which was quickly replaced by her ever-ready serene and enigmatic smile. Edward beckoned to Isabel and after a brief, whispered conversation, she bobbed a curtsey and retreated.
     “My wife will arrange for you and Kitty to dance together every afternoon so she can teach you the steps,” Edward said.
     “Good, she has pretty ways, like a fox,” sighed the queen.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: Repentance by Andrew Lam

Please join me in welcoming Andrew Lam to Let Them Read Books! Andrew is touring the blogosphere with his new historical novel, Repentance, and he's here today sharing ten fascinating facts about Asian Americans in US military history. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of Repentance!

France, October 1944. A Japanese American war hero has a secret.

A secret so awful he’d rather die than tell anyone–one so entwined with the brave act that made him a hero that he’s determined never to speak of the war. Ever.

Decades later his son, Daniel Tokunaga, a world-famous cardiac surgeon, is perplexed when the U.S. government comes calling, wanting to know about his father’s service with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII. Something terrible happened while his father was fighting the Germans in France, and the Department of Defense won’t stop its investigation until it’s determined exactly who did what.

Wanting answers of his own, Daniel upends his life to find out what his father did on a small, obscure hilltop half a world away. As his quest for the truth unravels his family’s catastrophic past, the only thing for certain is that nothing–his life, career, and family–can ever be the same again.


10 Things you didn't know about Asian Americans
in U.S. military history

My passion for historical fiction stems from my love of American history. In honor of May being Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, here are ten things you didn’t know about Asian Americans in the U.S. military.

1. The first recorded history of Asian Americans fighting for the U.S. occurred in 1815, during the War of 1812. At the Battle of New Orleans (which took place after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed in Europe, ending the war), General Andrew Jackson noted that “Manilamen” under the command of Jean Baptiste Lafitte had helped defeat the British.

2.  Dozens of Chinese Americans fought in the Civil War. In 2008, Congress passed a resolution honoring the contributions of Asian Americans in the Civil War. At a time when there were only approximately 200 Chinese Americans living in the eastern U.S., 58 of them served in the military. Three Chinese were promoted to the rank of corporal, a remarkable achievement given attitudes toward race at the time. At least five were recorded to fight for the Confederacy, including Christopher and Stephen Bunker, the sons of Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker, who, after growing famous as part of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, married two southern sisters and became slave-owning farmers in North Carolina.

3. The first Asian American graduated from West Point in 1914. He was Vincente Lim, a Filipino who joined the Philippine Scouts and rose to the rank of Brigadier General during WWII. During the Battle of Bataan, he commanded the 41st Infantry Division, was captured and was later executed by the Japanese. Prior to Lim, the first Asian graduate of a U.S. military academy was Matsumura Junzo, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1873; but he was a Japanese national who returned to Japan.

4. An Asian American first won the Medal of Honor in 1913. Private Jose Nisperos served with the Philippine Scouts. The Philippines were held by the United States after the Spanish-American War. The Moro Rebellion (1899-1913) in the Philippines was an armed conflict between the U.S. military and the Moro – an ethnic Muslim group that had resisted previous colonizers like the Spanish and Japanese. On September 24, 1911, Niperos’ unit was ambushed by spear-wielding Moro fighters. Niperos received multiple spear wounds, lost the use of one arm, and could not stand, yet he held his position, fired his rifle one-handed, and gave his unit time to withdraw. For this gallant action he was awarded the Medal of Honor in February 1913.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop

Please join me in welcoming Kathleen Shoop to Let Them Read Books! Kathleen is touring the blogosphere with her newest historical fiction release, The Strongman and the Mermaid! I had the pleasure of designing the book's cover, and I'm thrilled to have Kathleen here today with a guest post about immersing readers in time and place. Read on and enter to win a copy of the book and a $50 Amazon gift card!

Myscowa, Poland—1910
Once upon a time in tiny, rural Myscowa, Lukasz Musial competes in feats of strength against his lifelong nemesis to win passage to America. He leaves behind grinding poverty and despair, to seek the clear blue skies, and better life he sees on a postcard. Settled in Donora’s Polish community, Lukasz secures a coveted job in the wire mill, and is matched to marry Donora’s very own Polish princess. Life is set on course. The American Dream is nearly his.

Donora, Pennsylvania—1910
Mary Lancos is no princess. A tall, athletic girl who loves the water, she spends her days keeping house for families in town, digging coal out of a backyard seam and rowing her father across the Monongahela River for work. Mary is dependable, tenacious, and always ready to help when someone needs her. She dreams of a gas-heated home, a bedroom for each of her future children, and good meals on the table each night. To help make that happen Mary attends local dances, waiting for the few men who are taller than her to ask her to dance, hoping one of them is right for her.

An unexpected Christmas Eve visitor brings bad luck, and Lukasz’s world crumbles. Meanwhile, tension grows at the Lancos home when money is short and Mary’s dreams clash with her parents’ old world expectations. Just when Mary and Lukasz are at their lowest, they find themselves under an odd pink moonlit sky and Lukasz rescues Mary from a fall into frigid river water. The attraction between them is sudden and consuming, turning the pair onto an unexpected path. With mounting disapproval from Mary’s parents, and increased pressure on Lukasz, they must decide if love is enough to risk losing everything else that matters.

Available on Amazon

Make Setting Work: Engaging Readers by Immersion in Another Place and Time

When writing fiction, an author’s goal is to draw readers into a literary world as real as the street they walk down every day. Doing this requires layers of work. Plots must be crafted to unfold in natural ways, and characters must be unique and experience a transformational arc. Often in historical fiction, setting acts like a character—shaping, influencing, transforming all who tread through it.

In The Donora Story Collection, the famous steel town of Donora, Pennsylvania, is the thread that ties the novels together from 1910 to 1948. Community, holiday traditions, religious expectations, neighborly behavior, and most importantly, the steel and finishing mills that gave birth to the town, drive much of the action. The elements combine to lend each character’s arc the weight it needs to be wholly new and compelling in order to satisfy voracious, passionate, and intelligent readers.

When William Donner and Andrew Mellon decided to develop their mills on a horseshoe bend of the Monongahela River, the town of Donora (a combination of Donner’s name and Nora Mellon, Andrew’s young wife) was born. Labor was in such great demand and housing was so short that people put homes up anywhere they could find a space, fitting them into valley walls and overstuffed flats.

This speedy development meant that wealthier American management folks lived side-by-side with unskilled immigrant labor from Spain, Poland, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, and what is now the Czech Republic. This fabulous circumstance lends richness and opportunity for plot development and character growth.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Blog Tour Q&A with Christine Trent, Author of A Murderous Malady

Please join me in welcoming the fabulous Christine Trent to Let Them Read Books! Christine is touring the blogosphere to celebrate the release of the second book in her Florence Nightingale mystery series, A Murderous Malady, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about crafting a mystery series around this pioneering historical figure!

For fans of Charles Todd and Deanna Raybourn comes Christine Trent’s second Florence Nightingale mystery.

Cholera has broken out in London, but Florence Nightingale has bigger problems when people begin dying of a far more intentional cause—murder.

The London summer of 1854 is drawing to a close when a deadly outbreak of cholera grips the city. Florence Nightingale is back on the scene marshaling her nurses to help treat countless suffering patients at Middlesex Hospital as the disease tears through the Soho slums. But beyond the dangers of the disease, something even more evil is seeping through the ailing streets of London.

It begins with an attack on the carriage of Florence’s friend, Elizabeth Herbert, wife to Secretary at War Sidney Herbert. Florence survives, but her coachman does not. Within hours, Sidney’s valet stumbles into the hospital, mutters a few cryptic words about the attack, and promptly dies from cholera. Frantic that an assassin is stalking his wife, Sidney enlists Florence’s help, who accepts but has little to go on save for the valet’s last words and a curious set of dice in his jacket pocket. Soon, the suspects are piling up faster than cholera victims, as there seems to be no end to the number of people who bear a grudge against the Herbert household.

Now, Florence is in a race against time—not only to save the victims of a lethal disease, but to foil a murderer with a disturbingly sinister goal—in A Murderous Malady.


Hi Christine! Thank you so much for visiting today! What inspired you to make Florence Nightingale the protagonist of a mystery series?

Three factors came together as the inspiration for this series:  my agent, my mother, and my local hospital.

I was in the middle of my Lady of Ashes mystery series about a Victorian undertaker when my agent asked me to think about a new mystery series, something still Victorian but a different take on the era.

My mother had been a nurse for many years and even into retirement had held on to her nursing license.  She was very proud of having earned it.  It occurred to me that Florence Nightingale was a Victorian figure, and it would have been homage to my mother to write about the great nursing reformer.

My mother was also chronically ill and spent a lot of time at our local hospital’s infusion center getting blood transfusions.  I noticed that the center’s director had a framed photograph of Florence on the wall of her office.

That sealed the deal.  I knew it was meant to be that I would write about Florence Nightingale.

My mother was very excited about the idea, as was the infusion center director.  My agent loved it and who got right to work on it.  Unfortunately, mom died before my agent sold the series to my wonderful editor at Crooked Lane Books.

I like to think that mom would have been very proud to hold this book in her hand.

What kind of research did you do to bring the details of medical care during this time period to life?

I am fortunate that I have had several opportunities to travel to England, and twice I have made visits to the Old Operating Theatre in London—a wealth of information about medicine of the time.
The Operating Theatre (operating or emergency room) is found in the roof space of an English Baroque Church and it is quite a climb to get up there. At first glance this placement seems bizarre.  It makes more sense when it is realized that the wards of the South Wing of St. Thomas' Hospital were built around St. Thomas' Church.