Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review & Giveaway: The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland (France Book Tours)

From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris
Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set.  From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother’s astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she’s socially scorned.
A series of chance encounters pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning “Shadow Queen.” Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.
Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king’s bed.
Indeed, Claudette’s “reputable” new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King’s favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.
Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the blood-stained fields of the Franco-Dutch war, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

Release date: April 8, 2014 at Doubleday (US) and HarperCollins (Canada)
Hardcover 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0385537520
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Sandra Gulland is a new author to me and I am grateful to be part of this tour.  One of the hazards of discovering a new-to-me author is that it causes my tbr pile to multiply, that is precisely what has happened here.

I adored The Shadow Queen right from the first page.  Since most of my HF reads usually takes place with the English court this was a nice change.

Focusing on a real historical figure, Claudette, it wasn't hard to sympathize with her.  I found her to be very likeable and her story felt real and believable.  Growing up as a tumbler she traveled with her parents and brother, until tragedy struck.  It was interesting to see how her journey brought her to be confidante to the King's mistress. The author has a writing style that I really liked, I was engaged throughout this book.  Though the book is titled The Shadow Queen most of it evolved around Claudette and her life, and I was fine with that.  The role of plays and entertainment showed a side of court life not usually written about.

This book will appeal to those that like HF taking place in France, also those about obscured figures in history and also those that love a great cover (which this one is).

Be sure to check out the authors website to find out about speaking engagements as she tours.  I am thrilled to be able to attend one in my area on the 25th of April.

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of this book.

 Sandra Gulland is the author of the Josephine B. Trilogy, internationally best-selling novels about Josephine Bonaparte which have been published in over seventeen countries. Her forth novel, Mistress of the Sun, set in the 17th-century court of the Sun King, was also a bestseller and published internationally.
Her most recent novel is 
The Shadow Queen, also set in the era of the Sun King, published in April of 2014 by HarperCollins in Canada and Doubleday in the U.S. 
See more on her website:
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

   This week I am waiting for: Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown

Love the cover!!

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America
Paperback, 368 pages
Expected publication: July 1st 2014 by NAL Trade 
She suspects that she has changed too much to ever fit easily into English society again. The wilderness has now become her home. She can interpret the cries of birds. She has seen vistas that have stolen away her breath. She has learned to live in a new, free way.... 

Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson is captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the on-going bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

Based on the compelling true narrative of Mary Rowlandson, Flight of the Sparrow is an evocative tale that transports the reader to a little-known time in early America and explores the real meaning of freedom, faith, and acceptance.
What are you waiting for?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway (international): The Towers of Tuscany by Carol M. Cram

Set amid the twisting streets and sunlit piazzas of medieval Italy, the Towers of Tuscany tells the story of a woman who dares to follow her own path in the all-male domain of the painter’s workshop. Sofia Barducci is born into a world where a woman is only as good as the man who cares for her, but she still claims the right to make her own mistakes. Her first mistake is convincing her father to let her marry Giorgio Carelli, a wealthy saffron merchant in San Gimignano, the Tuscan city of towers. Trained in secret by her father to create the beautifully-crafted panels and altarpieces acclaimed today as masterpieces of late medieval art, Sofia’s desire for freedom from her father’s workshop leads her to betray her passion and sink into a life of loveless drudgery with a husband who comes to despise her when she does not produce a son.
In an attack motivated by vendetta, Sofia’s father is crushed by his own fresco, compelling Sofia to act or risk the death of her soul. The choice she makes takes her on a journey from misery to the heights of passion—both as a painter and as a woman. Sofia escapes to Siena where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her.
The Towers of Tuscany unites a strong heroine with meticulously researched settings and compelling characters drawn from the rich tapestry of medieval Italy during one of Europe’s most turbulent centuries. The stylishly written plot is packed with enough twists and turns to keep readers up long past their bedtimes.

Publication Date: January 23, 2014
New Arcadia Publishing
Formats: Paperback, Ebook 

Thank you Carol Cram for stopping by today and telling how The Towers of Tuscany can to be. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for a chance to win a copy of this book.

The spark that ignited The Towers of Tuscany was my musing one day about the Tuscan town of San Gimignano. I have visited Tuscany’s lovely city of towers many times over the past two decades and was always captivated by its medieval towers and commanding views over the stunning Tuscan landscape. About fifteen of these towers remain, but in its heyday in the fourteenth century, over 70 towers pierced the blue Tuscan sky. 

So I wondered: What had San Gimignano looked like with 70 towers? This thought led naturally to another thought: Had anyone painted a view of San Gimignano with its dozens of towers? My attempts to answer these questions led me on a long journey that resulted, four years later, in The Towers of Tuscany.
In the course of my research, I learned that landscape painting was in its infancy in the fourteenth century and highly stylized. Almost all paintings depicted religious subjects, the rare exceptions being the secular works of painters such as Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Simone Martini, both of whom were active in Siena during the time of The Towers of Tuscany. I decided to invent a painter who also veered from religious iconography to paint a view of the towers of San Gimignano. My painter is a woman because I was also intrigued by the idea of a woman painting during a period when painting was very much in the male domain.
And then I got a sign that my novel was destined to be written. 

While surfing the Web for sites on Tuscany, I stumbled upon the website for San Gimignano 1300, a museum in San Gimignano that includes a large scale model of the city how it appeared in the year 1300, complete with all seventy of its towers. On my research trip to Italy, the morning I spent at San Gimignano 1300 was one of the most productive of my writing career to date. 

The Towers of Tuscany is appealing to people who are fascinated by fourteenth century Italy, by the glorious art of the period, and by the workings of a medieval painter’s workshop. Most of all, people are enjoying Sofia Carelli, my spirited, talented, kick ass heroine who never gives up her passion for painting or her search for love, even in the face of almost insurmountable limitations.

The Towers of Tuscany is my first historical novel with an “arts twist.” My goal is to combine my love of the arts with my love of history to produce novels that celebrate an individual’s journey with his or her art during a particular era. My next novel (working title “Nocturnes”) tells the story of a concert pianist in Vienna in the late 1820s, shortly after the death of Beethoven and during the last year of Schubert’s life. I plan to release that novel in the fall of 2014.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

What happened to the girl you left behind?

In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything - her family, reputation and life - in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie's portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting's dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened...

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most - whatever the cost.

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Pamela Dorman Books

“Sometimes life is a series of obstacles, a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, she realizes suddenly, it is simply a matter of blind faith.”  

Beginning in German occupied France during WWI we are introduced to Sophie and her sister Helene.  Sophie's story takes up the first part of this book before jumping to present day London where we meet Liv.  Then it weaves back and forth.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it showed the real and raw effects of war and the repercussions through the years. It showed (and I felt) the heartache and sorrow on this little town that at one time I pictured to be quaint and friendly, now its full of gossip, judgement and scandal.

What connects Sophie and Liv is a painting that Sophie's husband Edouard created entitled 'The Girl You Left Behind'.  As the history of the painting unfold Liv's life takes a drastic turn.

I didn't rush through this book, I knew right away I was in for a treat.  When my kindle informed me that only 2 hours were left in this book I thought rather than rush the ending I waited for a couple hours when I was home alone, the dog was walked and a beverage was within reach.  I had no idea how the author was going to resolve the conflicts in a manner that would satisfy this reader.  Also provide an ending that wasn't far fetched or corny.

Well she did it!!!

Definitely an author I will be reading more of.

Thank you netgalley for providing me with a copy for review.

Waiting on Wednesday: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: May 6th 2014 by Disney Press
The first in a series of four epic tales set in the depths of the ocean, where six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world.

Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin's arrow poisons Sera's mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.

What are you looking forward to?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The King's Daughter by Barbara Kyle

Upon the death of her father, Henry VIII, Queen Mary assumes the throne after a long exile. Her first order of business is to wed the devout Prince Philip of Spain, creating a powerful alliance that will transform Mary's fanatical dream of ridding England of Protestantism into terrifying reality. And so begins the reign of Bloody Mary...

Even as she plans for her own nuptials, Isabel Thornleigh is helping to lay the groundwork to overthrow Mary and bring Elizabeth to power. But none of the secrets Isabel has discovered compares to the truths hidden in her own family. With her beloved father imprisoned by Queen Mary, only Carlos Valverde— a Spanish soldier of fortune—can help Isabel. Now with England's future at stake, Isabel risks all to change the course of history..

Paperback, 481 pages
  (first published July 1st 1995)
 19 hrs and 40 mins
Beginning 20 years after The Queen's Lady this is the 2nd book in the Thornleigh Series.
It got off to a slow start but a couple chapters in the pace picked up and I was hooked.

Henry VIII's daughter Mary has begun her reign.  Never having heard anything about Bloody Mary I was interested in her reign and the effect it had on the country.  The news of her betrothal to Prince Philip of Spain is received with mixed emotion by the people of England. Resulting in the planning of the Wyatt rebellion.
Though the characters of the Thornleigh's and Carlos Valverde (visualize Antonio Banderas here) are fictional they are put in an authentic time period surrounded by actual historical events.  
Isabel, the daughter of Honor and Richard Thornleigh, is transformed throughout this book.  As a 20 year old I found her rather naive and immature, she was forced to grow-up at a fast pace.  She had no choice given the climate of the country, so many changes happening quickly.
Again this was an audio version for me (purchased from Audible) and read by Barbara Kyle herself.
The Queen's Captive is the third book in this series as the reign of Bloody Mary continues.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

The passionate and turbulent story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.

At the age of thirty-five, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne leaves her philandering husband in San Francisco and sets sail for Belgium to study art, with her three children and a nanny in tow. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her brood repair to a quiet artists' colony in France where she can recuperate. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who is instantly smitten with the earthy, independent and opinionated belle Americaine.

A woman ahead of her time, Fanny does not immediately take to the young lawyer who longs to devote his life to literature, and who would eventually write such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson's charms. The two begin a fierce love affair, marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness, which spans decades as they travel the world for the sake of his health. Eventually they settled in Samoa, where Robert Louis Stevenson is buried underneath the epitaph:

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

(Requiem, Robert Louis Stevenson)

Hardcover, 496 pages

Published January 21st 2014 by Ballantine Books (first published 2013) 
my copy provided by Edelweiss for my honest review
*** 1/2

Treasure Island is the only book that I have read by Stevenson, but I am intrigued now to rectify that. Now that I feel I know him a little better I am interested to read more of his works.

Though a little slow at times I did enjoy this book.  Told from the point of view of Franny there is a smattering of times we hear from Stevenson himself, I think it would have been nice to hear from his point of view a little more often, just to round out some of the situations.

There is a lot going on in this book.  Journeys from country to country, many a conflict and heartache. There are so many relationships and with that comes struggles, Franny and first husband (to divorce in 1875 was rare), Franny and her daughter Belle, her sons and family.  Stevenson, his family and friends also.  Along with Franny and Stevenson who were not immune to strife.

As much as I liked this book I wasn't able to feel much emotion or connection with Fanny or Stevenson like I wanted to. But I am glad that I read this book, it has given me a glimpse into the life of a talented author.
"Writers should find out where joy resides and give it a voice. Every bright word or picture is a piece of pleasure set afloat. The reader catches it, and he goes on his way rejoicing. It's the business of art to send him that way as often as possible.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

Little Lies by Heather Gudenkauf

In this riveting prequel to her novel Little Mercies, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf explores how even the smallest lies can have far-reaching consequences.

When the body of a woman is discovered in a local park—with her bewildered four-year-old son sitting beside her—veteran social worker Ellen Moore is called in to assist in the police investigation. Positioned beneath a statue of Leto, the goddess of motherhood, the crime is weighted with meaning and, Ellen discovers, remarkably similar to one from a decade past.

Ellen's professional duty is to protect the child, but she's not equipped to contend with a killer. As she races to connect the dots, she knows her time is running out. And the stakes are high: if she fails, another mother is sure to make the ultimate sacrifice.

ebook, 45 pages
Published March 14th 2014 by Harlequin 
my copy provided by netgalley for review

 Before I was bitten with the historical fiction bug, murder mysteries were my thing, Patterson, Grisham, Brown, Davidson etc graced my shelves.  These days it is sometimes nice after spending time in the 1400-1500's  to squeeze in a modern day mystery.  I discovered Heather Gudenkauf a couple years ago with These Things Hidden and One Breath Away (I thoroughly enjoyed it too).  I fell in love with her writing style, her original and unique plots that had me guessing right to the end.

Little Lies is Heather's prequel to Little Mercies, which will be released June 24th.

Not long, only 45 pages in length but an enticing self-contained mystery.  Well written, mysterious, emotional and a great introduction to Ellen Moore.  There is closure in this book but also loose ends. Looking for to reading Little Mercies

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Blast: Blackwell's Paradise by V.E. Ulett

Blackwell's Paradise by V.E. Ulett
Relive the pleasure of falling into the past with the author of Captain Blackwell’s Prize, in Volume II of Blackwell’s Adventures.
The repercussions of a court martial and the ill-will of powerful men at the Admiralty pursue Royal Navy captain James Blackwell into the Pacific, where danger lurks around every coral reef. Even if Captain Blackwell and Mercedes survive the venture into the world of early nineteenth century exploration, can they emerge unchanged with their love intact. The mission to the Great South Sea will test their loyalties and strength, and define the characters of Captain Blackwell and his lady in Blackwell’s Paradise.

Publication Date: January 8, 2014
Old Salt Press LLC
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

Series: Blackwell’s Adventures, Volume II
Genre: Historical Adventure/Naval HF

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Blackwell’s Paradise

by V.E. Ulett

Giveaway ends April 30, 2014.
See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.
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Praise for Blackwell’s Paradise

“Not for the faint hearted – Captain Blackwell pulls no punches! Prepare for a right roaring romp in the company of two of the most captivating characters in historical fiction.” – Alaric Bond, author of Turn A Blind Eye, and the Fighting Sail Series

Buy the Book

Amazon (eBook)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
Barnes & Noble (Paperback)
Book Depository

VE Ulett

A long time resident of California, V.E. Ulett is an avid reader as well as writer of historical fiction.
Proud to be an Old Salt Press author, V.E. is also a member of the National Books Critics Circle and an active member and reviewer for the Historical Novel Society.
As the long war in Europe comes to its conclusion, so does Captain Blackwell’s career in the Royal Navy in BLACKWELLS’ HOMECOMING, a story of the dangers and rewards of desire.

Old Salt Press
 photo f1993411-1587-4a89-80f7-8fbb4482fd57.png

Book Blast Schedule

April 1 Historical Tapestry
April 2 Broken Teepee
April 3 Confessions of an Avid Reader
April 4 The True Book Addict
April 5 Passages the Past
April 7 Layered Pages
April 8 The Maiden’s Court
April 10 Just One More Chapter
April 11 Closed the Cover
April 12 Words and Peace
April 14 Luxury Reading
April 15 To Read or Not to Read
April 16 Peeking Between the Pages
April 18 So Many Books, So Little Time
April 21 Flashlight Commentary
April 22 Curling Up With a Good Book
April 23 HF Book Muse-News
April 24 A Bookish Affair
April 25 Oh, For the Hook of a Book
April 27 Kincavel Korner
April 28 CelticLady’s Reviews
April 29 Historical Fiction Connection
April 30 Reading the Ages


To enter to win a copy of Blackwell’s Paradise please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only.
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on April 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on May 1st and notified via email.
Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

   This week I am waiting for: The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick

I absolutely adored The Summer Queen and this is book 2 in the series.

Hardcover, 400 pages
Expected publication: September 11th 2014 by Sphere 
It is the winter of 1154 and Eleanor, Queen of England, is biding her time. While her husband King Henry II battles for land across the channel, Eleanor fulfills her duty as acting ruler and bearer of royal children. But she wants to be more than this - if only Henry would let her.

Instead, Henry belittles and excludes her, falling for a young mistress and leaving Eleanor side-lined and angry. And as her sons become young men, frustrated at Henry's hoarding of power, Eleanor is forced into a rebellion of devastating consequences. She knows how much Henry needs her, but does Henry know himself?

Overflowing with scandal, politics, sex, triumphs and tragedies, The Winter Crown is the much-awaited new novel in this trilogy and a rich, compelling story in its own right.

What are you waiting for?