Saturday, August 28, 2021

Cover Reveal: And by Fire by Evie Hawtrey

And by Fire
by Evie Hawtrey

Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Release Date: May 10, 2022
ISBN13: 978-1643859934

Nigella Parker, Detective Inspector with the City Police, has a deeply rooted fear of fire and a talent for solving deadly arson cases. When a charred figure is found curled beside Sir Christopher Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire of London, Nigella is dragged into a case pitting her against a murderous artist creating sculptures using burnt flesh.

Nigella partners with Colm O’Leary of Scotland Yard to track the arsonist across greater London. The pair are more than colleagues—they were lovers until O’Leary made the mistake of uttering three little words. Their past isn’t the only buried history as they race to connect the dots between an antique nail pulled from a dead man’s hands and a long-forgotten architect dwarfed by the life’s work of Sir Christopher Wren.

Wren, one of London’s most famous architects, is everywhere the pair turn. Digging into his legacy leads the DCIs into the coldest of cold cases: a search for a bookseller gone missing during the Great Fire of London. More than 350 years earlier, while looking for their friend, a second pair of detectives—a lady-in-waiting to the Queen and a royal fireworks maker—discovered foul play in the supposedly accidental destruction of St. Paul’s Cathedral…but did that same devilry lead to murder? And can these centuries-old crimes help catch a modern-day murderer?

As Nigella and O’Leary rush to decode clues, past and present, London’s killer-artist sets his sights on a member of the investigative team as the subject of his next fiery masterpiece.

Praise for AND BY FIRE:

“BONES meets the Restoration Court in Evie Hawtrey's AND BY FIRE, a taut dual-timeline mystery that races along at the pace of an inferno! . . . Fresh, dynamic, and crisply researched, AND BY FIRE WILL appeal to histfic fans and mystery readers alike—I couldn't put this one down!"

—Kate Quinn, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Alice Network




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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Guest Post: Landscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted

Please join me in welcoming Gail Ward Olmsted to Let Them Read Books! Gail is celebrating the release of her newest novel, Landscape of a Marriage, and I'm thrilled to have her here today with a guest post about the inspiration for her story, Frederick Law Olmsted and his wife, Mary.

Central Park was only the beginning...

A marriage of convenience leads to a life of passion and purpose. A shared vision transforms the American landscape forever.

New York, 1858: Mary, a young widow with three children, agrees to marry her brother-in-law Frederick Law Olmsted, who is acting on his late brother’s deathbed plea to "not let Mary suffer”. But she craves more than a marriage of convenience and sets out to win her husband’s love. Beginning with Central Park in New York City, Mary joins Fred on his quest to create a 'beating green heart' in the center of every urban space.

Over the next 40 years, Fred is inspired to create dozens of city parks, private estates and public spaces with Mary at his side. Based upon real people and true events, this is the story of Mary’s journey and personal growth and the challenges inherent in loving a brilliant and ambitious man. 

Amazon  |  Goodreads 

Landscape of a Marriage: Frederick Law Olmsted & Mary Perkins Olmsted

By all accounts, they were an unlikely couple right from the start. They met at the home of mutual friends when Mary was just 18. Orphaned at an early age, she was raised by her grandparents and attended school in Staten Island, NY. She was an outspoken young woman who loved art and French literature. Fred was 27, a gentleman farmer who had previously spent time as a merchant seaman and a newspaper reporter, after dropping out of Yale University. He had dated plenty of women, but often confided to friends that he was likely to remain a bachelor for life. 

After meeting her for the first time, Fred was overheard remarking to a friend, “Mary is just the thing for a rainy day. Not to fall in love with, but to talk with.”  Meanwhile, Mary fell in love with Fred’s younger brother John, a recent Yale grad, and soon after, the two became engaged. 

Mary and John married in 1851 and honeymooned in Italy. Over the next five years, they had three children: John Charles, Charlotte and Owen. Never in the best of health, John was diagnosed with tuberculosis, prompting the family of five to travel throughout Europe in search of a cure.

Meanwhile, Fred had been in and out of relationships with a number of women and was briefly engaged to one of them. The engagement was broken by the young woman’s mother in a note to Fred detailing her daughter’s concerns for their future together. Fred was now more convinced than ever that marriage was not in the cards for him and he began to devote all of his time to his latest project--designing a public park out of an 800-acre plot of swampy land in Manhattan.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Blog Tour Excerpt: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
by Chanel Cleeton
Berkley Trade Paperback; May 4, 2021

At the end of the nineteenth century, three revolutionary women fight for freedom in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton's captivating new novel inspired by real-life events and the true story of a legendary Cuban woman--Evangelina Cisneros--who changed the course of history.

A feud rages in Gilded Age New York City between newspaper tycoons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. When Grace Harrington lands a job at Hearst's newspaper in 1896, she's caught in a cutthroat world where one scoop can make or break your career, but it's a story emerging from Cuba that changes her life.

Unjustly imprisoned in a notorious Havana women's jail, eighteen-year-old Evangelina Cisneros dreams of a Cuba free from Spanish oppression. When Hearst learns of her plight and splashes her image on the front page of his paper, proclaiming her, "The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba," she becomes a rallying cry for American intervention in the battle for Cuban independence.

With the help of Marina Perez, a courier secretly working for the Cuban revolutionaries in Havana, Grace and Hearst's staff attempt to free Evangelina. But when Cuban civilians are forced into reconcentration camps and the explosion of the USS Maine propels the United States and Spain toward war, the three women must risk everything in their fight for freedom.


“I’m here for a job if you have one. As a reporter. I’ve spent the last few years writing for smaller papers, getting experience where I could.” I gesture to the leather folio in my lap. “I’ve brought samples of my work if you’d like to look at them. They’re not necessarily the kinds of stories I want to cover, but they’re a start.”

“Why do you wish to work here, Miss Harrington?” Pulitzer asks, making no move to take the folio from me.

“Because of the stories you cover, the impact you have. The World has one of the largest circulations in the world.”

Indeed, Mr. Pulitzer has just slashed the World’s price to one cent, saying he prefers power to profits, circulation the measure by which success is currently judged.

“You have the opportunity to reach readers, to bring about change, to help people who desperately need assistance,” I add. “I’ve admired the work you’ve done for years. You’ve long set the tone the rest of the New York newspaper industry follows. You’ve filled a gap in the news, given a voice to people who wouldn’t have otherwise had one. I’ve read the articles you wrote when you were a reporter yourself in St. Louis, and I admire the manner in which you address society’s ills. You’ve revolutionized the newspaper. I want to be part of that.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Guest Post by Rebecca Duvall Scott, Author of When Dignity Came to Harlan

Please join me in welcoming Rebecca Duvall Scott to Let Them Read Books! Rebecca is celebrating the publication of her debut historical novel, When Dignity Came to Harlan, based on the true story of her great-grandmother. Read on for a glimpse into the family history behind the story!

I made up my mind right then and there that I would just have to wade into this move like wading into a pond or lake I'd never seen before - slow and steady, feeling around for my footing and trying to avoid the sharp edges at the bottom that you never see coming.


News of what really happened to me - to us - spread through town like wildfire. It caught from one dry gossip tree to another and burned them to the ground with shame.


"Y'can do this, child - show 'em why I call y'Dignity," my old friend winked at me.

Skillfully written and sure to draw you in to its pages, When Dignity Came to Harlan is set in the early 1900s and follows twelve-year-old Anna Beth Atwood as she leaves Missouri with her family dreaming of a better life in the coal-rich mountains of Harlan County, Kentucky. Anna Beth’s parents lose everything on the trip, however, and upon asking strangers to take their girls in until they get on their feet, Anna Beth and her baby sister are dropped into the home of Jack and Grace Grainger – who have plenty of problems of their own. Anna Beth suffers several hardships during her time in Harlan, and if it wasn’t for her humble and wise old friend who peddles his wisdom along with his wares, all would be lost.   

Based on a true family history, this is a story of heartbreak and hope, challenges and perseverance, good and evil, justice and merciful redemption. It exemplifies the human experience in all its many facets and shows what it means to have real grit. 

Take the journey with us and see how, with the unseen hand of God, one girl changed the heart and soul of an entire town.  

Every person’s heritage is sacred, but what if yours had the makings of an amazing story? I spent a lot of my childhood at my grandmother’s kitchen table, mesmerized by the anecdotes of our forebears. I could see my great-grandmother, May Wood Elliott Kerr, being packed into a covered wagon with three of her sisters at the tender age of five. She would leave her eldest sister, who was married, behind and journey from Leadwood, Missouri, to Edmonson County, Kentucky, in search of a better life. Upon arrival, however, her parents had no money or place to stay, so they asked neighbors to take the girls in until they could get on their feet. The sisters were parceled out to strangers to earn their room and board, and May, unknowingly, was put into a very harsh home. The saddest part is that her parents never came back, and the girls grew up separated in foster care with many challenges to overcome. 

You know how bad it was? Besides the stories passed down through the generations, we have found documents that list my great-grandmother on the 1910 census as a servant in the foster home … as well as her first marriage certificate where her parents’ names are left blank! She was only five when they left her, remember, so until she reconnected with her older sisters, she didn’t even remember her parents’ names. Among the few photographs that survived the tumultuous time, my favorite is the one where she is holding a cat in front of her foster house. May cut out the man and his wife but kept it because she liked the cat!

I began taking notes for this Christian historical fiction novel in honor of my great-grandmother and grandmother when I was sixteen … which is a good thing because my grandmother suffered a stroke that took her ability to communicate ten years later. I turned in the first 70 pages of the manuscript to my creative writing professor in college when I was a senior, and on graduation day, he shook my hand and said, “Rebecca – please finish your story.” After becoming a wife and a mother, I did indeed turn back to Anna Beth Atwood, the character based on May Wood Elliott Kerr, who I had left in Harlan. I realized I couldn’t have finished it a moment before I did because I had to grow up myself and gain important life experiences to even do it justice. It is a deep-hearted book, and a dream come true. I am grateful the story chose me.