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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  • 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.

01_Mist of MidnightPublication Date: March 10, 2015

Howard Books

Formats: eBook, Paperback

Pages: 384

Series: Daughters of Hampshire

Genre: Historical/Christian/Romance

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In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

Praise for Mist of Midnight

“Intriguing secondary characters and lush scenery contribute to the often sinister, even creepy, moments readers will come to anticipate. Infusing her story with mystery, tension, and emotion, Byrd (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn) strikes a fine balance between the darkness of a Gothic mystery and the sweetness of a captivating love story. Byrd—and Brontë—fans will enjoy this first of the new Daughters of Hampshire series.” – Publishers Weekly

“A marvelous mingling of mystery and deeply moving family and romantic love, Mist of Midnight kept me guessing until the very end. A house on a cliff, a Victorian-Gothic atmosphere, a cast of suspicious characters including a dark, brooding hero and a strong heroine: shades (or mists) of Jane Eyre and Rebecca! I look forward to the next novel in this compelling new series.” (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning)

“Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric, with all the right elements for a true Gothic novel, from sounds that go bump in the night to characters who are not at all what they seem. The spiritual underpinning is solid, comforting, even as we’re trapped in the author’s finely spun web of mystery, romance, and a sense of foreboding that doesn’t lift until the final page. Charlotte Brontë? Victoria Holt? Meet Sandra Byrd, the modern mistress of Gothic romance!” (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night)

“Among the many things I love about reading a Sandra Byrd novel is knowing that her words will transport me to another place and time, that she will win me over with intriguing and complex characters, and that I’ll savor every word. Mist of Midnight is no exception. I loved this book! Sandra Byrd could belong to the writing group of the Bronte sisters if they’d had one. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre along with crumbling mansions, mysterious distant cousins, and one woman’s journey to prove who she really is are just few layers that ripple through the mists. Bravo, Sandra! Another winner.” (Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Light in the Wilderness)

“Richly written and multi-layered, Mist of Midnight blends traditional England and exotic India in a historical feat worthy of Victoria Holt. Breathless danger, romance, and intrigue made this series opener by the ultra-talented Sandra Byrd a compelling must-read!” (Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning)

“Once again, Sandra Byrd delivers a richly layered story that will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this brand-new series. Mist of Midnight has it all: intriguing and memorable characters—including a central female protagonist who is both complex and inspiring—a plot chock-full of mystery and suspense, and a Victorian gothic setting, impeccably researched and artfully and evocatively relayed. Prepare to be transported!” (Karen Halvorsen Schreck, author of Sing For Me)

“Mist of Midnight is a beautiful, haunting tale. Sandra Byrd masterfully weaves together both romance and suspense among a cast of mysterious characters. I was immediately swept into the wonder of this story, and I loved unraveling all the secrets and discovering exactly what happened at the old Headbourne House.” (Melanie Dobson, author of Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall)

“Sandra Byrd’s trademark attention to historical accuracy combines with an eerily building intrigue to envelope readers in a sense of dark foreboding that hinges precariously between hope and desperation. Mist of Midnight is a subtly haunting, beautifully atmospheric, and decadently romantic Victorian tale that will find a comfortable home among the best Gothic romances of days gone by.” (Serena Chase, author of The Ryn and contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog)

“Not since Jane Eyre have I read a Gothic romance that has captured my heart so completely. From the exotic India to an English estate shrouded in mystery, Byrd’s eye for detail shines through on every page. Romance lovers are sure to devour the tale of Rebecca Ravenshaw and her search for the truth behind the mysteries of Headbourne House and the handsome young captain who lives on the estate.” (Renee Chaw, reviewer at Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot)

“From the first word to the last, Mist of Midnight is a completely absorbing romantic, and mysterious, novel. Ms. Byrd’s writing is splendid, and her characters are so complex and endearing that they leap off the pages. I couldn’t put it down. An absolutely irresistible read!” (Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso)

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About the Author03_Sandra Byrd Author

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series and a devotional for tweens.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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My Review:

Sandra Byrd’s books are always a wonderful indulgence for me. I first came upon her with her book, “To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn”. I was delighted to try a Gothic novel and while I’m glad I did, I’m not sure if I would again. The story itself was strong and despite her being a missionary’s daughter, it thankfully, was not too preachy. I was afraid it would be, but no.

Rebecca is a wonderful character, down to earth and likable. Considering her circumstances, her outlook is markedly more positive than mine would be; I would have a fit and expect someone else to do the hard sleuthing. Rebecca, however, she doesn’t do that. She takes on the beast of a mystery and traverses down the road of intrigue and mystery…and maybe even romance…to find out the truth and to reclaim her birthright.

It’s definitely a good read, it does have some flaws but it is a strong book. My biggest complaint would be that everything was tied up a little too neatly…if it’s supposed to be a series…I don’t like neat endings, haha.

 

3.5 out of 5!

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Character guest post: Rosamund Clifford (Blood of the Fifth Knight)

1917 Oil on canvas painting by John William Waterhouse, titled Fair Rosamund

Rosamund Clifford, mistress of King Henry II

I stir in my curtained bed, alone in my chambers at the palace of Woodstock. Morning must be still be a long way away. The little open chink at the top of the richly embroidered tapestry panels lets in no light. The rain makes such a fearful noise against the window shutters, and the strong winds rattle them like hands shake them. I yawn and burrow beneath the warm coverlets once more to sink back into sleep, lulled by the lavender and tansy that freshen my bed. Being woken by the loudness of the storm is horrid.

But not as ghastly as being woken by Henry. Often it is when he has arisen in the night to piss loudly in his pot; then he seeks me out. Or if I ever rouse him from sleep, even by mistake, he paws at me, puts his rough-skinned face against mine, slobbers at my mouth. Then he is on me, and I have to pretend my joy. I burrow in further with a shudder, eyes screwed shut. My father has told me how to make that revolting pretence. Over and over. And always the last line in every lesson: ‘Remember, Rosamund. The Clifford fortunes rest on your shoulders. You must win Henry’s heart as well as his lust’.

Well, I won the King’s lust the first time he clapped eyes on me. On my breasts, showing so perfectly in my tightly laced dress. On my long hair, loose and brazen and making all the other women frown. He had me in his bed that very evening, and every step of my father’s plan seemed so very, very simple. But although the royal lust was mine, Henry’s heart does not seem to be following. There have been frequent messages from my father, messages that by now I mostly ignore. If the great Sir Walter de Clifford wants to know what is going on, then he can come and take the King in his mouth nightly.

The rain comes in a renewed, heavy burst.

At least I have no royal duties at the moment, thank goodness. Henry is away. I can sleep in my own fragrant rooms, have my clean, perfumed body and washed, combed hair still sweet and fresh in the morning. Not stinking from the King’s sweat and lust.

Oh, why couldn’t he be a young king, or a well-muscled prince, or a handsome nobleman? Then I would love to be woken, have my nightshift opened and pulled up. Have my lover take me, and I would match him, pleasure for pleasure. For hours.

The shutter rattles again. Then I hear it pop open with a fresh howl of the wind. I open my eyes and push myself upright.

‘Damn its eyes’. Henry swears like that, at every little thing. Well, so can I. Now my feet will get chilled as I cross the cold stone floor to push the shutter closed again.

I pull open the bed curtain. And scream. A robed figure, face concealed in a hood, a deeper black against the darkness, is pulling itself in over the windowsill.

I roll across my bed to the far side. I have to get to the door.

Now the figure stands in the room, the gleam of a blade in one hand…

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Did someone say…coffee? "The Bitter Trade" Review.

I, Clarissa Marie Devine, being of sound mind and body do profess an obsessive love for coffee. I love the smell of it and I love the taste, obviously. Coffee is a wonderful thing…so you can imagine how intrigued I was when I read the synopsis for ‘The Bitter Trade’. I wasn’t disappointed with this book in the least. Whilst I read it, I assure you that I had a coffee nearby. The coffee isn’t the true focus of the book, but with everything that goes on, you’ll enjoy it regardless. So, let’s get to it, yes? I’m certain you’re not here to read about my love of coffee.

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“I was born to a raging Frenchy slugabed mother, sired by a sulking silk-weaver with a battered box of secrets under his floorboards. From her I got my flaming hair, so red that the scabfaced villagers of Salstead spoke of the evil’s seed, spitting in the dust for salvation when I walked past. From my father came my sharp tongue, the quick wits to talk above my station, and the shoulders to take the blows that followed.”

James II of England

Thus we are introduced to Calumny Spinks, known as Cal. He’s ambitious considering his low beginnings and how his father, Peter, refuses to propose an apprenticeship into the London Weaver’s Guild. Cal regards this as his birthright but is continually denied much to his chagrin. Though he feels trapped in Essex, he’s soon on his way with his father to London as his mother, Mirella, has been murdered by a mob. This takes place at the end months of James II’s reign, who is strongly disliked for being a Catholic in a very Protestant world.

This is just after the English Civil War and the Restoration of the Monarchy, (Charles I, James’s father, had lost his head) and after the Great Fire of London. Peter was a fighter in Cromwell’s army during the Civil War and as such, this is why he has kept his family isolated, not taught his son to read or write nor sign him up for the guild. His secret has roots from there and it’s consequences have kept him in fear.  Peter is a staunch anti-Papist, (anti-Catholic) as many of the guild members are and that is not the only reason that King James is so strongly disliked–there are many issues to be had because of commerce and trade. (If you’re interested in the ‘Glorious Revolution‘, please go to that link. It’s really a very fascinating time.)

As Cal isn’t apprenticed as a weaver, he instead becomes tangled with people trying to build a guild for coffee. He is also helping to overthrow the hated king in favor of William of Orange and his wife Mary. There are so many rich characters and the plot is pretty strong for a first time novelist. All in all, this is a book I think you’ll enjoy as it’s a mystery, historical and really just a brilliant read. Cal, despite being a very (I think every woman he met wanted to bed him!) lusty boy, is a strong hero and I hope that the author continues on with him, leading to other adventures as I think a series would be a good time and fun read.

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What I really loved: The accurate description of life. There is no attempt to clean it up, to make it a romanticized version. I also absolutely loved was Mr. Alexander’s use of the language of the time. Bloody brilliant.

My rating: