Happy Release!

Wishing Susan Elia MacNeal a (belated) Happy Release Day for the sixth book in her fantastic Maggie Hope series!  If you haven’t read them, I highly suggest that you do. If, like me, you’re a fan of Agent Carter from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then Maggie will really win a spot in your heart. In a world where there were rules and regulations on how to act, Maggie Hope is breaking down those barriers. Of course, as Prime Minister Winston Churchill said often in the first book, ‘there’s a war on!’ The Second World War really helped change things for women; they joined the work force, they joined the service, they did their part as opposed to being compliant little women and sitting about at home raising the children. It’s a strange thing to think that a war is what really helped women
break free of society’s expectations.

I mean, in particular, the Princess Elizabeth served in the war as a mechanic and driver intsft9 the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. It would have been hard and viewed as highly unpatriotic for women not to do their part since the boys were putting their lives on the line. Knowing what we know now, the British Royals did not hide, nor flinch, remaining in London during the bombings and even went out and about to view the wreckage and to walk amongst the people. Today, the Princess is now the longest reigning monarch in British history and she is also the last remaining head of state to have served in WWII. Yes, that picture is of the nearly 91 year old monarch!

Getting back to Maggie, she’s a spy and a code-breaker and she has had to work damn hard to be where she is. Bright, beautiful and determined, Maggie makes for a splendid lead and the usual cast of characters that are with her only add to the story, making it shine as usual. Mrs. MacNeal has quite the talent in how she can draw you into Maggie’s world and make you feel like you are right in the thick of it with her. It’s a disappointment when you’re drawn away and have to go do ‘adulting’, as my friends and I joke. I always endeavor to rush back as soon as I possibly can. agent-carter-season-3-pic

Whilst I don’t yet have a copy, I will post a review as soon as I have devoured this. Also, I totally envision Hayley Atwell as Maggie. I know it’s typecasting but Hayley has that perfect look, the attitude and we know she can play a badass, code breaking, no sh*t-taking secret agent. I took the liberty of editing her hair to red much like Maggie’s infamously stubborn tresses. If you were going to cast an actress to play Maggie, who would you pick?

I’ve included links below, so please go show love to this wonderful series of novels and enjoy them!

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51fesnje8dlSynopsis: Spy and code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope returns to war-weary London, where she is thrust into the dangerous hunt for a monster, as the New York Times bestselling mystery series for fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry continues.
 
England, 1942. The Nazis’ relentless Blitz may have paused, but London’s nightly blackouts continue. Now, under the cover of darkness, a madman is brutally killing and mutilating young women in eerie and exact re-creations of Jack the Ripper’s crimes. What’s more, he’s targeting women who are reporting for duty to be Winston Churchill’s spies and saboteurs abroad. The officers at MI-5 quickly realize they need the help of special agent Maggie Hope to find the killer dubbed “the Blackout Beast.” A trap is set. But once the murderer has his sights on Maggie, not even Buckingham Palace can protect the resourceful spy from her fate.

Praise for the Maggie Hope series
 
“You’ll be [Maggie Hope’s] loyal subject, ready to follow her wherever she goes.”O: The Oprah Magazine

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Again, congratulations! I can’t wait for book 7, The Paris Spy!
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Get A Copy!

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  • About the author:517286  New York Times-bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of the Maggie Hope Mystery series from Bantam/Random House. She is the winner of the Barry Award, and her books have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Dilys Awards.

    The first novel in the series is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. It won the Barry Award and was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for Best First Novel and the Mystery Readers International’s Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel. It was also nominated for the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association’s 2013 Dilys Award for “the mystery title of the year that booksellers have most enjoyed hand-selling,” Mr. Churchill’s Secretary was also declared one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Debut of 2012, Deadly Pleasures’s Best Paperback Original of 2012, and chosen as one of Target’s “Emerging Authors” series.

    The sequel, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, was a New York Times bestseller and chosen by Oprah.com as “Mystery of the Week” and one of “7 Compulsively Readable Mysteries (for the Crazy-Smart Reader),” as well as Tagret’s “Emerging Authors” series. It was nominated for the Macavity Award’s Sue Feder Historical Memorial Award.

    His Majesty’s Hope made the New York Times- and USA Today-bestseller lists and was chosen as one of Target’s Emerging Author Series.

    Books #4, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, will be published in spring of 2014.

    Susan graduated cum laude from Wellesley College, with departmental honors in English Literature and credits from cross-registered classes at MIT. She attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University.

    Her first job was as an intern at Random House for then-publisher Harold Evans, before moving her way up the editorial ladder at Viking/Penguin and McGraw-Hill, then becoming an associate editor at Dance Magazine.

    Her writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Fodor’s, Time Out New York, Time Out London, Publishers Weekly, Dance Magazine, and various publications of New York City Ballet. She’s also the author of two non-fiction books and a professional editor.

Guest Post: Kaaren Christopherson

Sights, Sounds, and Smells: Writing to Appeal to the Senses
By Kaaren Christopherson, author of Decorum

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“In the time it had taken Francesca to raise the field glasses to her eyes, the yacht was gone. In its place a spike of fire had shot skyward, followed by a blast of flaming debris and a spreading mantle of black smoke. An eternity had passed before an explosion tore the silence and the shock wave had jetted across the lake and left her flat upon the dock.”

So opens my novel, Decorum, with an explosion—a spike of fire, debris, smoke, and a shock wave that knocks Francesca off her feet and sends her into deep depression from which she recovers between Decorum’s covers. Decorum’s lavish setting in Gilded Age New York offers ample opportunity for scenes of opulent ballrooms and sumptuous dinner parties that appeal to the eye of our imaginations, so much so that we’re apt to forget about other important sensory experiences such as sound and smell.

In our 21st century world, with its hum of air conditioners and automobile traffic and Muzak in elevators and on hold over the telephone, the historical fiction writer can bring “historical surround sound” to a story that will enhance the reader’s experience. Connor O’Casey’s Irish brogue, Edmund Tracey’s lazy drawl, and Blanche’s refined but sultry and seductive speech are as important to describing them as Connor’s trademark silver-handled walking stick, Edmund’s auburn hair, or Blanche’s sexy evening gown. The clatter of horses’ hooves on the street, the thwack of the doors shutting on a hansom cab, the zzzip of stiff ribbon being tied in a bow, the shatter of glass as a rock sails through a window, the voice of a mellow mezzo soprano filling a drawing room with song—all these sounds add dimension to a novel’s scenes and help ground the characters in a particular place and time.

Touch can be sentimental as well as titillating. When Francesca goes through her dead brother’s bedroom, she puts on his boxing gloves and can feel how his long slender fingers had molded the gloves’ leather lining. When she finds an envelope in her father’s desk with locks of hair from her mother, her brother, and herself, she sits with these in her hands and they bring her to tears. Touch can be important not only in describing surroundings, but also in evoking emotion, both for characters and readers.

As any perfumer will tell you, smell is one of our most powerful senses, the memory of which can linger for years after we’ve forgotten a related sight or sound, yet authors often forget this important descriptor of the character’s experience. The smell of blood at a crime scene, a drunkard’s acrid vomit, heady lilies on the drawing room piano, sour milk, unwashed flesh, beeswax and turpentine, shoe polish, horse manure, saddle leather, lavender oil, starched linen, cedar chests, dust, and more are part of the historical novel’s world. Often smells are easiest for readers to relate to, for today we still have dust, sour milk, unwashed bodies, lilies, and many smell experiences in common with people from other historical periods.

Finally of course, there is taste, a close ally of smell—in fact, some smells are so powerful we can “almost taste” them. Taste isn’t restricted to eating food. Situations can leave a bad taste in a character’s mouth or make him feel nauseous, as if he has eaten something spoiled. Likewise, a character can savor an experience, as if she were eating chocolate or drinking champagne. Readers not only love historical fiction for the descriptions of sights and sounds of bygone eras, but also for the touches, smells, and tastes that help readers engage with the characters in shared experience.

The Sisters of Versailles (A Review!)

sisters of versaillesThe Sisters of Versailles

Genre: Historical Fiction
Release date: September 1, 2015
Atria Book/Simon & Schuster
432 pages
ISBN: 978-1501102967

Website | Goodreads

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A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.

Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters—Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne—four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.

Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best feet—and women—forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, she and her sisters—ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne—will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.

The Sisters of Versailles is a treat through and through – the characters are witty and engaging and come together to create an undeniable page-turner. Sally Christie has a wonderful sense of pace and the book unfolds in front of you like a delicious gift. Even as the scandals pile up and the intrigue mounts, you can’t help but fall in love with these sisters and their competing infatuations with the King.

In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie’s stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood—of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.drawing-separatorUntitled-2

There is a gif from Sofia Coppola’s film where Marie Antoinette says, “This is ridiculous.” And a woman replies, “This, madame, is Versailles.” While I was reading, that was definitely playing in my mind. Versailles is ridiculous…and amazing, The rules, the fashion, the people, the scandal. Everything in excess…and even though Louis XV is trying his besst to remain loyal to his wife, the courtiers have other plans for him. I can only wonder if he knew that one of the Nesle sisters would lead to bedding the other three. Thiers is a story one has to read to believe. I had never heard of Louise, Pauline, Hortense, Marie-Anne and Diane Nesle. I can’t imagine a better introduction than the one that Ms. Christie has brought here.

Each sister is so different, Louise is naive, always attempting to try and paint things as being perfectly fine and lovely, not wanting to burden anyone with the truth or if something is bothering her. She is the mistress who asks nothing of Louis, not wanting to be politically active or in riches. Pauline is an ambitious, power hungry tyrant, which even her sisters dislike her for. She is quite the opposite of Louise. Diane seems to be simple, but really, she’s rather clever and people underestimate her. And then there was Marie-Anne who hated Pauline but was the most like her. If Louis liked variety, he certainly got it in the Nesle sisters. Hortense was the only one not to become his mistress and one wonders if she got lucky in that way.

Spoiler: I think what happened to Pauline was well deserved. I wish it had happened to Marie-Anne…but I was pleased with what did happen to her. I detested both of them. Diane was my favorite.

Louis XV, also known as the well beloved, was not the best in decision making, something that his courtiers knew and did their best to influence what he would do. His advisers essentially ruled but it was he who was King. I was struck by his carelessness to the common people–really, all of them were pretty horrible in their thoughts of the common people. I truly understood why there was a revolution, however, that it took so long to happen was rather aweinspiring. You’ll read and find out, I promise you’ll see what I mean.

The writing was sumptuous and rich…I really couldn’t get enough of it. I felt like I was really there and I lost myself in Versailles, as ridiculous as it were. I know this is the first in a trilogy and I think the next one is about Madame Pompadour, so I really can’t wait for that! Ms. Christie has a fan in me…I can’t wait to read the next books in the series.

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Sally Christie was born in England of British parents
and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three languages. She spent most of her career working in international development and is currently settled in Toronto.
A life-long history buff who wishes time travel were a real possibility —she’d be off to the eighteenth century in a flash!

The Sisters of Versailles is her first novel.

Learn more about the sisters and the mistresses in the Versailles trilogy on her website. Become a fan to hear about her next novels!

Check her Pinterest page

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Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
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[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to US/Canada residents:
5 participants will each win a print copy of this book.

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Spotlight: Sacrifice!

02_Sacrifice_CoverSacrifice: Book One of y Ddraig (The Dragons of Brython)
by Gwendolyn Beynon

June 5, 2015 | Dark Pages Publishing

GENRE: Historical/Fantasy/Romance

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READ AN EXCERPT.

528 A.D. Cymru (Wales)

Melangell is a ‘Lifebringer’, a dragon-maiden learning to protect one of the land’s most ancient mysteries, y Ddraig. She expects to pass her years as have a score of teachers before her—sequestered, safeguarding an egg that barely moves from year to year, never using the deadly and secret skills she has been taught. But the King’s relentless pursuit of this most holy relic throws her into the middle of war and though she is not yet adept Melangell must enter captivity with the egg to defend the sleeping dragonling within.

Her abductor is Cai ap Cynyr—fierce warrior, loyal brother and sword-arm to the high Chieftain, Artwr. He has been scouring the land for the relics Artwr demands to ensure triumph against the Angles invading from the east. Cai uses the Lifebringer’s mystique to master his armsmen, but when he spirits Melangell and the dragon egg further into seclusion, she grows intrigued by her captor. But she is a Lifebringer—sworn only to y Ddraig—and Cai must deliver the dragonling to Artwr to at last drag himself out of his legendary brother’s deep shadow.

And all the while, the egg readies itself to emerge…

*Sacrifice is the first in a series of three books based around y Ddraig (the Dragon) set in sixth-century Arthurian Wales, featuring characters based on Welsh myth, literature and/or history.

AMAZON PB | KINDLE | NOOK | CREATESPACE | ITUNES

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

03_Gwendolyn Beynon_AuthorAustralian author, Gwendolyn Beynon, comes from a long line of storytellers of Welsh and Cornish stock. She grew up reading romance and fantasy novels but the y Ddraig series is her first foray into historical fantasy.

The idea for the y Ddraig series came while on a pilgrimage to Wales (the land of her fathers) where she was visiting holy wells and ancient yew trees. She grew captivated with the way that the ancient stories of Welsh literature, myth and history still co-existed comfortably in contemporary Cymru, and by the atmosphere of mystery that still exists around much of Wales’ natural spaces.

An Arts graduate from Curtin University (with double-majors in Film and Theatre), Gwen has worked in communications all her life. She sold her first book in 2008 and has been writing for a living with her hounds at her feet and Celtic music as a backdrop ever since.

For more information visit www.yDdraig.com.au. Follow Gwendolyn on Facebook and Goodreads.

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Naked {A Review!}

02_Naked A Novel of Lady Godiva_Cover
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Synopsis: We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don’t know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva’s ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for ‘peeping Tom’) and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.

Naked
is an original version of Godiva’s tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion,Naked brings an epic story new voice.

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Alright, so firstly, in case you didn’t know; yes, Lady Godiva was a real person. Yes, she took that ride.

But why? That’s the question that most people want to know.

Fortunately, Ms. Redgold delves into Lady Godiva’s mind and weaves together the story of her life. It is a bit more on the romance side of things, which I wasn’t expecting, but didn’t really turn me away. There was enough history that it kept me happy. I do wish there was more detail into the  way the world was in the 11th century. I didn’t feel that there was enough description of that. There are very few books based in that time period, so I wanted the full experience. I also found that the description of the Saxons and Danes a bit amusing…the Saxons have a code of honor and are gentlemanly whereas the Danes are a pack of heathens hellbent on taking over. It seemed biased to me.

I found that Godiva was a bit of a feminist for the time, refusing to marry Leofric unless he allowed her to keep and rule her lands–alone. That was unheard of for the time, that I know of. Also, riding through Coventry in the nude was something no one would ever have considered, but such is the love she has for her people that she takes her fateful ride.

I enjoyed the story and though I have some complaints, it wasn’t bad. I enjoyed it a good deal of the time. Ms. Redgold has a gift for storytelling, I only wish that she had endeavored to be a slight bit more descriptive. Her explanation of the ruling classes showed me that she very much cared about this time period and wanted us to understand how things were and for that I am appreciative because I really didn’t know. Also, her characterization of Leofric and Godiva was enjoyable, they were well developed and kept me going. Theirs was a romance that most would envy and was uncommon in those days as most marriages were arranged and not love matches.

I think you ought to give it a read and be sure to tell me how you enjoyed it!

3star

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03_Eliza Redgold_AuthorEliza Redgold is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. As a non-fiction author she is co-author of Body Talk: a Power Guide for Girls and Stay-at-Home Mothers: Dialogues and Debates. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia.

 

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Spotlight: Honor Among Thieves

02_Honot Among Thieves_Cover [14983]Honor Among Thieves (Hope & Steel: Book I)
by J.M. Aucoin

Publication Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Sword & Cape
eBook &  Paperback; Pages: 330

Series: Hope & Steel (Book One)
Genre: Historical Adventure/Swashbuckler

France, March 1609. The French Wars of Religion are over, but forces still conspire against the crown…

Darion Delerue, former soldier turned highwayman, has only two things of value—the hope in his heart and the steel at his side. After a heist on a royal ambassador goes wrong, Darion is thrown into a political plot to undermine the crown, pitting his old life as an honorable soldier against his new life as a thief and bandit. His actions could send France back into civil war.

Honor Among Thieves is a gripping tale of daring sword-play and political intrigue, with superb historical detail of 17th Century France that will have readers wanting to draw their swords and fight for glory!

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

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03_Justin Aucoin [14984]Author. Fencer. Sometimes actor. Full-time nerd. J.M. AUCOIN is the product of when a five-year-old boy who fell in love with reruns of Guy William’s Zorro grows into a mostly functional adult. He now spends his time writing swashbucklers and historical adventure stories, and has an (un)healthy obsession with The Three Musketeers.

When not writing, he practices historical fencing, crafts historical outfits, and covers the Boston Bruins for the award-winning blog Days of Y’Orr. He lives in Heraldwolf’s Stone with his fiancée Kate, and their dire-beagle, Rex.

For more information visit J.M. Aucoin’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.

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The Lady and the Minstrel {A Review!}

The Lady and the Minstrel
by Joyce DiPastena

Publication Date: January 29, 2015
Publisher: Sable Tyger Books
Formats: Ebook, Paperback
Pages: 601
ISBN: 9780986239618

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

A forbidden love and a past they can’t leave behind . . .

In King John’s England, Robert Marcel chafes against the law that holds him bound as a villein on his lord’s manor. He tries to make a daring escape and is nearly caught by his cruel master, but a young girl helps him slip away.

Years pass and Robert takes up trade as a minstrel. Invited to play at a banquet for the notorious Earl of Saxton, he is stunned to come face to face with the girl he’s never forgotten—now Lady Marguerite of Winbourne, betrothed to the earl. Her status as a noblewoman puts her completely out of Robert’s reach, but he knows they are meant to be together. He vows to make her his wife no matter what the cost.

Lady Marguerite has often thought of the young man she helped escape. Her tender feelings for him quickly turn into much more when they are brought back into each other’s lives. She longs to be free to marry Robert, the man she loves, but that will require her to sacrifice all she holds dear.

They are tested at every turn by those bent on driving them apart and destroying what they have found together. Can their love truly conquer all?

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | ITUNES | KOBO | SMASHWORDS

Continue reading “The Lady and the Minstrel {A Review!}”