Thursday, March 22, 2018

Excerpt: We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt

“We looked down at the cliff jutting into the sea, a rubber boat full of kids going under the arch, and then you started running and jumping through the grass, dodging the rabbit holes, shouting at the top of your voice, so I started chasing you, trying to catch you, and we were laughing so hard as we ran and ran, kicking up rainbow showers in the leaves.”

 Rob Coates feels like he’s won the lottery of life. There is Anna, his incredible wife, their London town house and, most precious of all, Jack, their son, who makes every day an extraordinary adventure. But when a devastating illness befalls his family, Rob’s world begins to unravel. Suddenly finding himself alone, Rob seeks solace in photographing the skyscrapers and clifftops he and his son Jack used to visit. And just when it seems that all hope is lost, Rob embarks on the most unforgettable of journeys to find his way back to life, and forgiveness.

 We Own the Sky is a tender, heartrending, but ultimately life-affirming novel that will resonate deeply with anyone who has suffered loss or experienced great love. With stunning eloquence and acumen, Luke Allnutt has penned a soaring debut and a true testament to the power of love, showing how even the most thoroughly broken heart can learn to beat again.

 Hardcover, 368 pages 
Expected publication: April 3rd 2018
 by Park Row



 “Anna, can you talk, you’re not gonna fucking believe this.” I was standing outside a meeting room in an office on Old Street.

 “Is everything all right?” she said.

I was trying to keep my voice down as the corridor walls were thin. “They want it. The software. They want to buy the fucking software.”

 A pause, a faint crackle on the line.

 “This isn’t one of your jokes, is it, Rob?” Anna said.

 “No, not at all. I can’t talk for long, but they’re in the room now, looking at the papers. I didn’t even have to pitch it. They just want it. They get it.”

The company, Simtech, had been recommended by a pro¬grammer friend. A start-up run by someone called Scott, who had been a few years ahead of me at Cambridge.

 “That’s absolutely fantastic, Rob. Brilliant news,” she said, but it was as if she was waiting for me to tell her something else.

“And guess how much they want to pay for it?”

 “I don’t know, um…”

“One and a half million.”

 Even Anna couldn’t contain her excitement. “As in sterling?”

“Yes, pounds. I still can’t believe it.”

 Anna took a deep breath, and I could hear a shuffling sound, what sounded like her blowing her nose.

 “Anna, are you okay?”

 “Yes,” she said, sniffing a little. “I just… I just don’t know what to say…”

 “I know, me too. We have to celebrate tonight.”

 “Yes, of course,” she said, a note of caution in her voice. “I don’t understand, though. So what actually happened? What did they…”

 I could hear the scraping of chairs on the floor of the meet¬ing room, the sound of people standing up.

 “Anna, I’ve got to go, I’ll call you in a bit…”

 “Okay,” she said, “but don’t do anything hasty, Rob. Don’t sign anything, okay? Say you need to discuss everything with your lawyers.”

 “Yeah, yeah… I’ve got…

“I’m serious, Rob…”

 “Okay, Okay, don’t worry. I’ll call you later…”

 The grimy heat hit me as soon as I left the building. For a moment, I just stood, blinking into the sunlight, watching the lanes of traffic hurtle around the roundabout, the happy, dirty din of London.

The last nine months hadn’t been easy. Living in Clapham in a rented ground-floor flat that Anna paid for. While I worked late through the night—caffeine-fueled coding binges—Anna got up early for work. We didn’t see much of each other, a wave in our bathrobes on the landing—her getting up, me turning in. It was just for a while, we agreed. It would be better when her training period was over, when I had finished writing my software.

 Anna loved her job, working in a department that audited the bank’s adherence to financial regulations. It was perfect for her: a stickler for the rules, she knew where the bank could trip up. And because she knew the rules, she also knew how to get around them, the legal shortcuts and backdoors, the get-out clauses that lurked in the small print. Her talents were recog¬nized, and she was promoted and fast-tracked for management in just her first six months.

I was still buzzing and didn’t know what to do with myself, so I started walking toward Liverpool Street, the skyscrap¬ers eclipsing the sun. I tried to call Anna but her phone was switched off, so I ducked into a pub for a beer.

I knew I was right. All those twenty- and thirty-hour cod¬ing sessions, sleeping under an old blanket on the floor. I told people smartphones would change everything, and they rolled their eyes. But it was true. Maps used to be static, something we kept folded up in a backpack, or in the glove compartment of the car. Now they would always be with us, customized, dynamic, on our phones, in our pockets.

The beer began to have a calming effect, and it felt like a great weight had been lifted. It hadn’t been the plan—Anna paying the rent and lending me the money to buy a new suit. She didn’t say it outright, but I knew what she thought. That I should do a business course, an internship at a gaming company, that I should put my silly maps idea on the backburner for now.

 It grated. Because everyone always thought that it would be me, that I would be the precocious wunderkind dripping in cash. Because I had a track record. I told people I would grad¬uate at the top of my class—and I did. I told my disbelieving tutors I would win the annual Cambridge hacking competi¬tion—and I did, every year. But London hadn’t been like that. While Anna flew off to Geneva every two weeks for work, I sat on the sofa in my boxer shorts watching Countryfile and eating leftover rice from Chicken King.

My phone rang. It was Anna.


 “You’re in a pub, aren’t you?”

“How did you guess?”

 “I had training and I’ve finished early. Do you want to come and meet me at Liverpool Street?”


Be sure to click on the link for more stops on this tour, along with links to purchase this book and how to connect with the author.   Also come back on April 18th when I will post a review of We Own the Sky here

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Interview: Author Aimie K. Runyan

I am thrilled to have Aimie K. Runyan here at JustOneMoreChapter today.  I've read all 3 of her books and look forward to many more.  Be sure to scroll down to the bottom for links to her social media sites and links to my reviews.

Aimie, I am going to regress a little here and go back to your series, Daughters of New France. This Canadian is always on the lookout for HF taking place in Canada and any books I have found were usually written by a Canadian. You aren’t Canadian, what made you pick this story to write about?
I am actually French-Canadian by ancestry on my dad’s side, and learned (after writing my Master’s thesis on these remarkable female pioneers) that I’m descended from more than a dozen filles du roi. Apparently blood won out! I first learned about these women when I was working on my MA in French at Indiana University. I was taking a course on Canadian Civ, and the professor spent perhaps a quarter of an hour discussing female emigration to New France. I was also taking a creative writing course for fun, and was immediately struck that these women deserved to be known. I wrote a short story from the POV of the character that would become Nicole, and a decade later, decided to finish the book!
With Daughters of the Night Sky you take the big leap to Russia during World War 2, again what drove you in that direction?
Practicality, in many respects. And persistent friends. I knew I needed to choose a marketable era (like WWII) for a few projects to gain the readership I’d need to have success selling books that take place in lesser-known times and places. Several friends sent me articles about the Night Witches when I was idea-hunting, and I was captivated by their bravery. Once I started writing the synopsis, it was a concept that wouldn’t let go.
Did you get a chance to visit the areas you wrote about?
Sadly, no. A trip to Russia wasn’t in the budget. I have been to Germany and France, which was helpful for the last few chapters.
So  how did you go about a getting a feel for that era.
I *have* been to Alaska, which shares a lot with Russia in terms of climate and geography, so that was very useful for descriptions. I relied a lot on personal narratives from the Night Witches, and also had the chance to fly in an open-cockpit WWII-era biplane. That was the highlight of my research for sure!
What is one thing you hope readers will take away from this story?
Wars are not fought exclusively by men. There have been thousands of women in the last century who answered their countries’ calls for aid in their hour of need, and who did so without reservation. They gave their lives freely to protect their families and their freedoms. And while the men who fought were also heroes, not all can say they volunteered their service as freely as every single woman who took up arms for her country.
What can you readers look forward to in the future?
 I’ve just turned in Girls on the Line, which is a story of the American telephone operators who served in France during the Great War. This book was absolutely a love affair of mine, and I can’t wait for you all to read it in early November, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the armistice!
Aimie when this interview posts you will be in the sunny south, care to share what books you are packing?
Quite a few! I’m taking early review copies of Carousel Beach by Orly Konig, In Praise of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo, The Optimists Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert, and a whole Kindle-full of books I’ve been wanting to read for ages!!!

Daughters of the Night Sky
Paperback, 316 pages 
Published January 1st 2018 
by Lake Union Publishing

 A novel—inspired by the most celebrated regiment in the Red Army—about a woman’s sacrifice, courage, and love in a time of war.

Russia, 1941. Katya Ivanova is a young pilot in a far-flung military academy in the Ural Mountains. From childhood, she’s dreamed of taking to the skies to escape her bleak mountain life. With the Nazis on the march across Europe, she is called on to use her wings to serve her country in its darkest hour. Not even the entreaties of her new husband—a sensitive artist who fears for her safety—can dissuade her from doing her part as a proud daughter of Russia.

After years of arduous training, Katya is assigned to the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—one of the only Soviet air units comprised entirely of women. The Germans quickly learn to fear nocturnal raids by the daring fliers they call “Night Witches.” But the brutal campaign will exact a bitter toll on Katya and her sisters-in-arms. When the smoke of war clears, nothing will ever be the same—and one of Russia’s most decorated military heroines will face the most agonizing choice of all.


Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She is the author of two previous historical novels: Promised to the Crown and Duty to the Crown, and hard at work on novel #4.

She is active as an educator and a speaker in the writing community and beyond.

She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children.

To learn more about Aimie and her work, please visit her

Social Media links:  Website   Facebook  Twitter

                            click on covers to take you to my review of these wonderful books

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Audio Review: Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone by Martin Dugard

With the utterance of a single line—“Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”—a remote meeting in the heart of Africa was transformed into one of the most famous encounters in exploration history. But the true story behind Dr. David Livingstone and journalist Henry Morton Stanley is one that has escaped telling. Into Africa is an extraordinarily researched account of a thrilling adventure—defined by alarming foolishness, intense courage, and raw human achievement.

 In the mid-1860s, exploration had reached a plateau. The seas and continents had been mapped, the globe circumnavigated. Yet one vexing puzzle remained unsolved: what was the source of the mighty Nile river? Aiming to settle the mystery once and for all, Great Britain called upon its legendary explorer, Dr. David Livingstone, who had spent years in Africa as a missionary. In March 1866, Livingstone steered a massive expedition into the heart of Africa. In his path lay nearly impenetrable, uncharted terrain, hostile cannibals, and deadly predators. Within weeks, the explorer had vanished without a trace. Years passed with no word.

 While debate raged in England over whether Livingstone could be found—or rescued—from a place as daunting as Africa, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the brash American newspaper tycoon, hatched a plan to capitalize on the world’s fascination with the missing legend. He would send a young journalist, Henry Morton Stanley, into Africa to search for Livingstone. A drifter with great ambition, but little success to show for it, Stanley undertook his assignment with gusto, filing reports that would one day captivate readers and dominate the front page of the New York Herald.

Tracing the amazing journeys of Livingstone and Stanley in alternating chapters, author Martin Dugard captures with breathtaking immediacy the perils and challenges these men faced. Woven into the narrative, Dugard tells an equally compelling story of the remarkable transformation that occurred over the course of nine years, as Stanley rose in power and prominence and Livingstone found himself alone and in mortal danger. The first book to draw on modern research and to explore the combination of adventure, politics, and larger-than-life personalities involved, Into Africa is a riveting read.

Narrated by: John Lee 
Length: 11 hrs and 30 mins 
Unabridged Release date: 12-11-03 
Publisher: Books on Tape

I’m always fascinated with explorers, those that go out into the world who are brave enough to risk so much in their search. Stanley and Livingston are names I heard all through school, famous explorer and famous statement 'Dr. Livingston I presume' has stayed with me and left me wondering about their stories. I went with the audio version,  the reader was someone new (to me) so he did a fantastic job.

 The author doesn’t hold back as he describes this journey and the hostile environment Africa was during that time. This books isn’t just about finding Livingston but it gives the background information on both these men, the time period as well as what happens after their meeting. I grew up thinking Livingston was a missionary however this book doesn't really get into that aspect of his life but centered on his search for the source of the Nile.  History classes had me assuming the search for Livingstone was straight forward but as shown here it was anything but.  Disease was a daily concern, violence and desertion a common occurrence.  The weather was scary and the bugs/insects even more so. How these 2 managed to meet up was amazing and it took years.

There is a wealth of information here and I am glad to have gone the audio way this time around.  Nonfiction leans itself well in that direction.  My copy was from my personal library (via Audible). 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Review: The Wild Woman's Guide to Traveling the World by Kristin Rockaway

Fans of Sophie Kinsella and The Devil Wears Prada will love this smart, sexy debut novel of wanderlust.

Objectively, Sophie is a success: she's got a coveted job at a top consulting firm, a Manhattan apartment, and a passport full of stamps. It isn't quite what she dreamed of when she was a teenager dog-earing pages in exotic travel guides, but it's secure. Then her best friend bails just hours after they arrive in Hong Kong for a girls' trip, and Sophie falls for Carson, a free spirited, globetrotting American artist. He begs her to join him on his haphazard journey, but she chooses responsibility and her five-year plan.

Back in New York, that plan feels less and less appealing. As Sophie recalls the dreams she's suppressed, the brief international jaunts she sneaks in between business trips no longer feel like enough. Carson isn't ready to let her go either, but as they try to figure out their relationship, Sophie realizes she may have to pursue her passions with or without him.

Kindle, 352 pages 
Published June 6th 2017 
by Center Street
*** 1/2

Sophie has it all, or so she thinks, she has her precious five-year plan that works with her career, a savings account and a job that allows her to travel the world. She doesn’t realize what she is missing until she gets a taste of it then the real adventure begins.

From the title I imagined far away places but this story takes place in Hong Kong and New York City and is the perfect beach read (or for some of us snowed it) curl up under a quilt with a cuppa tea. Though a relatively quick read the author has written a tantalizing story that didn’t just entertain but presented a clear message - you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.....

This is the author’s debut and I hope she writes a sequel with more adventures of Sophie and Carson. I loved the historical details of both locations and while the ending was a little predictable it was still a great read.  There are a couple risque scenes which might not appeal to all, but this is chick lit and easy to skip over.

Thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to be part of this tour.

Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker with an insatiable case of wanderlust. After working in the IT industry for far too many years, she finally traded the city for the surf and chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she spends her days happily writing stories instead of software. Her debut novel, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World, was released from Hachette Book Group in June 2017. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, browsing the aisles of her neighborhood bookstores, and planning her next big vacation.

 Find out more about Kristin at her website, and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband's crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting . . . 

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure--a silent companion--that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition--that is, until she notices the figure's eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect--much like the silent companions themselves.

 Paperback, 320 pages
 Expected publication: March 6th 2018
 by Penguin Books

I have been shying away from contemporary psychological thrillers these days, I find they lack the creepy, suspenseful, on the edge of your seat feel.  And to be totally honest I had given up hope of obtaining an arc (of The Silent Companion) from netgalley when I requested back in the fall.  When I did receive this last week I jumped right in blind, totally forgetting what this book was about but being familiar with the author I knew I was in good hands.

The Silent Companions is the type of eerie, suspenseful, spooky, mysterious book that I love, add the historical setting and I was glued to the pages.  There are two time periods involved here, 1635 and 1865 that are connected by The Bridge, an estate that the locals stay away from because of its dark history.

Laura Purcell does a great job setting the mood for this story, with it's locked doors, strange noises and equally interesting characters (real and wooden) and of course an old diary.  Because of the time periods involved the mystically elements fit right in, witch's were believed to exist and the way everything was presented felt authentic.  Definitely shows the authors knowledge of the time period.  While I didn't get that scared feeling I was totally captivated here, I had to keep reading to find out what was going on. 

I like the cover above but think the UK version is also great.

Thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for honest review.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Review: The Lost Castle (The Lost Castle #1) by Kristy Cambron

Launching a brand-new series, Kristy Cambron explores the collision of past and present as she discovers the ruins of a French castle, long lost to history.

 A thirteenth century castle, Chateau de Doux Reves, has been forgotten for generations, left to ruin in a storybook forest nestled deep in France's picturesque Loire Valley. It survived a sacking in the French Revolution, was brought back to life and fashioned into a storybook chateau in the Gilded Age, and was eventually felled and deserted after a disastrous fire in the 1930s.

 As Ellie Carver sits by her grandmother's bedside, she hears stories of a castle . . . of lost love and a hidden chapel that played host to a secret fight in the World War II French resistance. But her grandmother is quickly slipping into the locked-down world of Alzheimer's, and Ellie must act fast if she wants to uncover the truth of her family's history.

Sparked by the discovery of a long forgotten family heirloom, Ellie embarks on a journey to French wine country to uncover the mystery surrounding The Sleeping Beauty--the castle so named for Charles Perrault's beloved fairy tale--and unearth its secrets before they're finally silenced by time.

Set in three different time periods--the French Revolution, World War II, and present day--The Lost Castle is a story of loves won and lost, of battles waged, and an enchanted castle that inspired the epic fairy tales time left behind.

 Paperback, 384 pages
 Published February 6th 2018 
by Thomas Nelson

The Lost Castle is not your average dual time period book, because this book has three time periods. The Sleeping Beauty is a 13th century castle with many stories to tell.

The Chateau de Doux Reves survives the French Revolution but not a fire in the 1930’s. Left abandoned the French resistance uses its shell to hide in. The current day story centers around Ellie and her quest to unravel the story behind a mysterious picture of her grandmother taken at the ruins.

The synopsis above does a great job of descibing the stories here without me going into more detail.  Suffice to say I really enjoyed this book.  Each of the characters were unique, their journeys played out nicely and the landscape was easy to visualize.  As each women searches for meaning in different ways they battle through war, whether physically or through another their lives are changed because of it.

The Lost Castle is a story of love and loss, strength and determination. The author’s passion for this story was evident with vivid descriptive detail and an interesting story where all the pieces fit together nicely.

This looks to be the first book in a new series called The Lost Castles, a series I will continue to read. This is my second book by Kristy Cambron and my favorite so far.

Thanks to TLC Tours and Netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
click on banner for more stops on this tour

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Review: I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn. 

Russia, July 17, 1918
Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920
A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened.

  Kindle Edition, 240 pages 
Published February 20th 2018
 by Doubleday

Sometimes it's a good idea to cave to peer pressure, which is exactly what I did here.  Though having heard the Romanov name and Anastasia I still wasn't really familiar with their history.  With nothing to base any preconceived knowledge I jumped right in.  Boy what a ride I Was Anastasia was, it far exceeded my expectations, right from the first page I was mesmerized and kept thinking about the whole family when not reading.  It was a struggle to stay away from google.

With two time periods taking place the author did something I have never encountered before.  The later time period goes back in time to meet up back in 1918.  Sounds weird?  Yea maybe, but it really worked here and I totally get why the author did it that way.  It did take a few chapters to get used to it, but after that I was so engrossed that everything just flowed nicely.

There is a lot of historical detail and its evident that the author did a lot of research and has a passion for this story.  Where she took liberties she explained in the authors notes and I highly recommend reading them.  This book was exquisitely written, a few scenes were hard to read but Ariel Lawhon really transported me back in time and I feel that I can't adequately put into words my feelings. I loved this book, it opened my eyes to a part of history I knew nothing about.  Definitely made my 'best of 2018' list and has me searching out her previous books.

Thanks to the publisher (via Edelweiss) for an advanced copy.  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Excerpt: Two Journeys Home by Kevin O'Connell

It’s 1767. As the eagerly anticipated sequel to Beyond Derrynane begins, Eileen O’Connell avails herself of a fortuitous opportunity to travel back to Ireland. In Two Journeys Home, the O’Connells encounter old faces and new—and their lives change forever.

Her vivacious personality matched only by her arresting physical presence, Eileen returns to Derrynane this time not as a teen aged widow but as one of the most recognised figures at the Habsburg court. Before returning to Vienna she experiences a whirlwind romance, leading to a tumult of betrayal and conflict with the O’Connell clan.

Abigail lives not in the shadow of her sister but instead becomes the principal lady-in-waiting to Empress Maria Theresa.

Hugh O’Connell leaves behind waning adolescence and a fleeting attraction to the youngest archduchess when he begins a military career in the Irish Brigade under Louis XV. But more royal entanglement awaits him in France…

Author Kevin O’Connell again deftly weaves threads of historical fact and fancy to create a colourful tapestry affording unique insights into the courts of eighteenth-century Catholic Europe and Protestant Ascendancy–ruled Ireland. Watch as the saga continues to unfold amongst the O’Connell’s, their friends and enemies, at home and abroad.


Having served at the court of the Empress Maria Theresa for almost six years, Eileen O’Connell has returned to her family’s home at Derrynane in County Kerry, Ireland for a brief visit. Though she had last departed the O’Connells’ sanctuary as a teenage widow, she returns as one of the most recognised figures at the glittering Habsburg court. During the course of her stay, she has journeyed with her twin sister, Mary, her physician husband and children, to the Baldwins’ home in County Cork.  The sisters have not been close, their differences highlighted by that Eileen is very tall, with a mane of coal-black hair, whilst Mary is of moderate height, blond and fair:

Having seen the children upstairs, Mary joined her sister in the smaller
family parlour for brandy. Eileen had already poured their drinks into two
intricately cut Irish crystal glasses and toasted her twin’s health, even as Mary was
sitting down. Both drank deeply, their cheeks immediately flushing.

Relaxed, Eileen planned on chatting informally, very much hoping to
continue their previously begun discussion about their very different
lives; she was just beginning to tell Mary about using their own not
always easy relationship growing up as a teaching device with her
archduchesses: “. . . and ’twas then that I said to Antoine—you will recall
that she is the littler one—that . . .”

Eileen,” Mary interrupted sharply, “because you have mentioned
this, I have desired to discuss with you . . . I know not how I might best
perhaps phrase it . . . the direction of your life, perhaps?”

Surprised at her sister’s assertiveness, though instantly intrigued by
the topic, Eileen sat back, cradling her snifter in her hands, inhaling the
fine French brandy’s rich aroma, saying nothing as Mary continued, her
tone suddenly chill, sharp even.

“Is not Abigail well wed? Does she not occupy a position of great
honour and prominence at the court?” she queried; somewhat archly, Eileen
thought, though she remained silent, reflecting even as her sister was still

Before Eileen could respond, Mary continued. “In contrast to our
dear sister’s exalted position, do you not in fact remain a servant, in effect
a nursemaid even to these little princesses . . . or duchesses is it, rather? I
mean you wait on them, do you not?”

Archduchesses,” Eileen corrected sharply, reflexively defensive.
“Expressed correctly, they are each Her Imperial Highness, an archduchess of
Austria and Lorraine,” she said loftily, firmly adding, “and, indeed, I most
definitely do not wait upon anyone; whether I dine with the
archduchesses, with others . . . or alone, it is I who am waited upon,” she

“Oh . . . yes . . . very well, I stand corrected then,” Mary managed,
charging on, “but this does not alter your position, does it? You are still a
servant, are you not?” she said again, not pausing for any reply. “What I
am attempting to say, Eileen, is,” she sighed, with seeming exasperation,
“when might it be that you will aspire to a good marriage and a position
worthy of your talents . . . indeed, one which will, as does Abby’s, do
honour to our family, to your heritage?”

Eileen, as she rarely ever did, sat speechless, her lips parted, her
cheeks flaming, as Mary went on. “Indeed, is not my own position—well
wed to a prominent physician, mistress of his home, mother of his
children—is it not far, far superior to your own?” she asked, then took
another deep draught of her brandy.

“Sister,” Eileen began softly, “I am not certain you fully understand
my role within the Imperial household. Yes, I have cared for both these
girls, now becoming young women, since they were wee little ones. I
have been their teacher and companion, riding mistress, friend . . .
indeed, ’tis quite fair to say that I am perhaps closer to them than is their
own mother, Her Imperial Majesty.”

Deciding against mentioning that when they were alone, Antoine
now regularly addressed her as “Mama,” as Mary sighed audibly, Eileen
tacked deftly, her tone even. “What you must be aware of is that both
these young girls shall eventually, by virtue of their marriages, ascend
thrones of Europe—one of them perhaps that of France, even. You
must also appreciate, sister, that ’tis I, amongst others—a priest, several
nobles, diplomats—who have spent these years preparing them for these
positions and all that they will entail.”

Eileen noted Mary’s expression change abruptly, her sudden albeit
reluctant deference now obvious.

Eileen should have left the topic at that point; instead, her ego getting
the best of her, she tacked yet again, this time less adroitly. “To be fair—
and though I admit the importance of any of this is perhaps insignificant
to you—you must understand I have, by the grace and favour of the
empress of course, three apartments”—the back of her hand facing her
sister, she held up her right pinkie, fourth and middle fingers for
emphasis—“in three palaces, I have servants” —she exaggerated—“by
virtue of my position, I receive deferential curtseys and bows from my
inferiors—of whom there are many, I view operas and concerts from the
same seats as are occupied by the Imperial family, Bull is stabled with the
horses belonging to the empress and their Imperial highnesses, I dine and
dance with . . . ” Seeing Mary’s eyes roll, Eileen’s voice trailed off, and
she then cleared her throat. “So, you see, sister, ’tis far from being a mere
servant that I am . . . I believe you would agree, were you to come to
Vienna and . . .”

“As I shall never do so, nor would I particularly care to do so . . . I . . .
I shall accept your word as to all that of which you speak,” Mary said, her
now-impatient tone accompanied by a flat gesture of her free hand.
“Though I nevertheless do again strongly urge you, Eileen, to consider
your future . . . After all, you are aging rapidly now, my dear, and a widow
you remain. People will come to believe that . . .” She waved her left
hand dismissively, then bending, she poured more brandy for them, as
Eileen pointedly changed the topic of the conversation.

After retiring, Eileen sat up in her bed in the flickering light of a
single candle. Widow, nursemaid, servant, husband, children . . . children,
husband—the words and their meanings spun in her mind; reflecting, she
thought, though she is lacking in any number of ways, Mary is not a stupid woman.
Eileen reflected further after she had blown out the candle, settling back
on her pillows, lying in the silent dark, recalling now her mother’s recent
counsel about considering marriage and children, as well, Perhaps I should

reflect . . . indeed, yes, I shall consider . . . I must . . . perhaps even soon.


Kevin O’Connell is a native of New York City and the descendant of a young officer of what had—from 1690 to 1792—been the Irish Brigade of the French Army, believed to have arrived in French Canada following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October of 1793. He holds both Irish and American citizenship.

An international business attorney, Mr. O’Connell is an alumnus of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre.

A lifelong personal and scholarly interest in the history of eighteenth-century Ireland, as well as that of his extended family, led O’Connell to create his first book, Beyond Derrynane, which will, together with Two Journeys Home and the two books to follow, comprise the Derrynane Saga.

The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland.


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O’Connell is a fantastic storyteller. His prose is so rich and beautiful it is a joy to read. The story is compelling and the characters memorable – all the more so because they are based on real people. . . I am Irish but I did not know about this piece of Irish history. It is fascinating but historical fiction at the same time . . . Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers!

(c) Beth Nolan, Beth’s Book Nook

I enjoyed the first part of the Saga awhile back . . . (and) couldn’t wait to continue the story of Eileen and her family . . . this author really does have a way with words. The world and the characters are so vivid . . . Overall, I was hooked from page one. I honestly think that (Two Journeys Home) was better than (Beyond Derrynane) – which is rare. The characters and world-building was done in such a beautiful manner . . . I can’t wait for the next one . . .

 (c) Carole Rae, Carole’s Sunday Review, Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe . . . is a gripping story that will transport the reader back in time, a story with a strong setting and compelling characters . . . a sensational romance, betrayal, family drama and intrigue . . . The plot is so complex that I find it hard to offer a summary in a few lines, but it is intriguing and it holds many surprises . . . great writing. Kevin O’Connell’s prose is crisp and highly descriptive. I was delighted (by) . . . how he builds the setting, offering . . . powerful images of places, exploring cultural traits and unveiling the political climate of the time . . . The conflict is (as well-developed as the characters) and it is a powerful ingredient that moves the plot forward . . . an absorbing and intelligently-crafted historical novel . . . .

(c) Divine Zapa for Readers’ Favourite

Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: The View from Rainshadow Bay (Lavender Tides #1) by Colleen Coble

After her husband, Jack, dies in a climbing incident, Shauna has only her five-year-old son and her helicopter charter business to live for. Every day is a struggle to make ends meet and she lives in constant fear of losing even more than she already has.

When her business partner is murdered, his final words convince Shauna that she’s in danger too. But where can she turn? Zach Bannister was her husband’s best friend and is the person she blames for his death. She’s barely spoken to him since. But right now he seems her only hope for protecting her son.

Zach is only too happy to assuage his guilt over Jack’s death by helping Shauna any way he can. But there are secrets involved dating back to Shauna’s childhood that more than one person would prefer to stay hidden.

In The View from Rainshadow Bay, suspense, danger, and a longing to love again ignite amid the gorgeous lavender fields of Washington State.

 Paperback, 336 pages 
Published January 23rd 2018 
by Thomas Nelson

The cover of this book is gorgeous, the mountains in the background just gives a great feel.  The View from Rainshadow Bay is the first book in Colleen Coble's new Lavender Tides Series.

I found this book to be very plot driven, right from the beginning the action starts and I will admit to being a little overwhelmed here, lots happened fast.  I was intrigued with the mystery and that's what kept me turning the pages.  That being said, there were spots I found slow and some of the scenarios didn't match the drama (things that wouldn't have happened in real life).

Life is hard for Shauna as she is still adjusting to life since the sudden death of her husband.  While caring for her young son she holds a grudge against his best friend, whom she feels is responsible for his death. This is where I also struggled somewhat, I realize grief is different for everyone and I would have loved to feel her struggles and that of her mother-in-law rather than being told. 

There was closure in the ending but at the same time opened the door for future stories.  I will continue with this series as I have found with this author, she gets better with each installment.

The View of Rainshadow Bay is a story of forgiveness, mystery, secrets and second chances.  

Thanks to the publisher (via Netalley) for an advanced copy and TLC Tours for the opportunity to review this one.

Connect with Colleen 

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review: The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

 From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…

 In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

 Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

 Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…

 Kindle Edition, 329 pages 
Expected publication: February 20th 2018 
by Lake Union Publishing

I am late to the party when I comes to Rhys Bowen. My second reading even though I have seen her books around and heard good things about them. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to meet the author last October at the Surrey International Writers Conference (where she was a presenter) that really put her books higher up on my TBR pile. It was during a mystery lunch where I had the honour of sitting beside her and the more we talked about writing, books and history the more I wanted to read her books. As soon as I came home I read the first book in Her Royal Spyness Series  (review coming soon), but it was The Tuscan Child that really caught my eye.

I love dual time period books, especially those revolving around World War 2, those that take place outside of England and France.  Plus given the fact that I LOVE Italy I was extra giddy.  The synopsis above does a great job of telling what the story is about without giving too much information away. As Hugo is first introduced and then his daughter Joanna I was struck by how different his character was (at the end of his life) and intrigued as to what took place to invoke such a dramatic change.  The visuals that I experienced really gave me a wonderful feel of the landscape of Italy and a sense of the danger that this small village endured at the hands of the Germans (and current day as well). I loved the author’s writing style as well as the mystery taking place. While there were some parts I found predictable I really enjoyed reading The Tuscan Child and look forward to reading more by this author.

 I received an ARC from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review. Also in no way did my meeting Rhys Bowen influence my opinions.