Friday, June 28, 2013

The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift

A spellbinding historical novel of beauty and greed and surprising redemption

England, 1660. Ella Appleby believes she  is destined for better things than slaving as a housemaid and dodging the blows of  her drunken father. When her employer dies suddenly, she seizes her chance--taking his valuables and fleeing the countryside with her sister for the golden prospects of London. But London may not be the promised land she expects.  Work is hard to find, until Ella takes up with a dashing and dubious gentleman with ties to the London underworld. Meanwhile, her old employer's twin brother is in hot pursuit of the sisters.

Set in a London of atmospheric coffee houses, gilded mansions, and shady pawnshops hidden from rich men’s view, Deborah Swift's The Gilded Lily is a dazzling novel of historical adventure.

Paperback, 471 pages
Published November 27th 2012 by St. Martin's Griffin 
source - personal library

I was first introduced to Deborah Swift reading her first book, The Lady's Slipper.  It was a wonderful book, I loved it!

The Gilded Lily takes off at the conclusion of The Lady's Slipper, but please don't let that scare you off if you haven't read it.  This is very easily a stand alone (but I am quite sure you will want to go back and read The Lady's Slipper as soon as you're finished).

This book had me hooked right from the beginning. Ella and Sadie escaping to the big city of London.  Running from a past they would just as soon  forget all about.  I really got to know both Ella and Sadie in this book as well as what life was like back in 1661.  The historical aspects was wonderful, I had visual imagines in my mind of the streets, the alleys, the Thames and how hard life was back then.  This author really knows her stuff!

The characters of Ella and Sadie developed so nicely, I got to know, at times I didn't like them, others times I loved them.  Wanted to give Sadie a hug so many times and Ella a slap.

      "She shivered, unable to squash the feeling that the past clung on and would let neither of them go easily"

           She (Sadie) wanted it to be true, wanted to feel that there was someone to rely on, to watch over her.

He had a way of telling that made the stoies alive in the room, like he was weaving a vast tapestry before her eyes.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday - A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift

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.

My pick for this week: A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift

Oct 24, 2013

A family divided by fortune. A country divided by faith. 
London 1609 
Elspet Leviston’s greatest ambition is to continue the success of her father Nathaniel’s lace business. But her simple dreams are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – who has his own designs on Leviston’s Lace. 
Zachary is a dedicated swordsman with a secret past that seems to invite trouble. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London. Elspet believes herself to be free of her hot-headed relation but when Nathaniel dies her fortunes change dramatically. She is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary - determined to claim the inheritance that is rightfully hers.
In the searing heat of Seville, Elspet and Zachary become locked in a battle of wills. But these are dangerous times and they are soon embroiled in the roar and sweep of something far more threatening, sending them both on an unexpected journey of discovery and finally unlocking the true meaning of family . . .

What are you waiting for?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. 

New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 12th 2013 by William Morrow 

"Let your heart lead you, do not be afraid, for there will be much to regret if reason and sense and fear are your only markers"

Tara Conklin has written short stories and this is her debutl. This was another audio read for me, which I really enjoyed.  Beginning in 1852 with Josephine Bell and her story as a slave required to care for ailing mistress, artist Lu Anne Bell.  Then jump to 2004 and we meet Lina Sparrow, whose father is also an artist.  One of the things that struck me was the way the author presented the class action lawsuit. As I began to read about it my mind automatically started to believe that it was not possible and seemed a little far fetched.  But the author presented it in such a way that made the law suit not only believable but possible.  That is something I love with reading, present an unrealistic situation and convince the reader that it is imaginable and plausible. 

It was interesting going back in forth in time, especially as the story moved along and branched out with intertwining stories. Very easy to follow the jumps, especially while trying to figure out the connections.

I really enjoyed this story.   The author was able to bring alive the treatment of slaves and the underground railway. The reader of the audio book read the different time periods in ways that reflected there times.

Definitely an author I will be reading more of.

“Over the years she had learned to fold down rising emotion just as she would fold the clean bedsheets, the sheet growing smaller and tighter with each pass until all that remained of that wide wrinkled expanse of cotton was a hard closed-in square.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Seduction by M.J. Rose (Book Tour)

 (click banner for list of tour stops)

From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost journal of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.

Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

Here is an author that I have wanted to read for a long time and was thrilled when invited to take part in this book tour,.  Then I realized that Seduction is the 5th book in The Reincarnationist Series.  I got nervous, it's like walking into a movie half way through.  At first I thought that I should read the other 4 books, but didn't have time for that.  So I just jumped in and hoped for the best.

I won't summarize the story since the synopsis is above and I think that speaks for itself.

"every story begins with a tremble of anticipation" - great opening line.

This book travels through time, beginning with Victor Hugo in 1800's, his 19 year old daughter has died.   Grief stricken, he will do anything to communicate with her again.  
Current day we have mythologist Jac L’Etoile, she has suffered her own loss and is still grieving.
We even jump back in time farther.

Does it sound like a lot going on? Well there is, is it confusing? No, not in the least.  This is a story weaving back and forth in time that did not cause my head to spin.  What did happen was the need to continue reading, I was captivated!  This book had it all, suspense, mystery, paranormal, romance and historical. It took place on the Isle of Jersey. The author has a way with words that created wonderful pictures in my mind of the island, the fog, the flowers and scents. (it's now on my bucket list to visit one day).

M.J. Rose also had the ability to make me grieve with Victor Hugo over the loss of his daughter.  His struggles and need to communicate with her were so distressing and real.

"you can't stop loving someone because he ceases to take breaths"

 “Does having three other children lessen your pain over the one who is lost? Not lessen the pain, no. But it keeps me wanting to draw breath. It keeps me alive. In nurturing and caring for another child you can love the child you lost.”

Did my fear of this being the 5th book affect my enjoyment? Very definitely not, a good stand alone.  However, that wont stop me from going back to the first in series and start at the beginning.

M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio.  Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors -  The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the
founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype.  She is also the co-founder of and

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein (Book Tour)

A lush, exquisitely rendered meditation on war, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the story of several families, American and Japanese, their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses, and how they are all connected by one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

Fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm—an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi’s old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.

click on banner for complete list of stops for this tour (including giveaways)

Publication Date: March 11, 2013
W.W. Norton & Company
Hardcover; 384p
ISBN-10: 039307157X

 Following 3 separate story lines where I wondered how they were related to one another, the author did a wonderful job of making the stories mesh together.  I found this to be a very emotional book, having never read any HF that has taken place in Japan before.  This book also took place in the US, between the years 1935 - 1962 before, during and after World War II.  

I won't summarize the story for fear of accidently leaking spoilers.  But this is a story that I found very captivating, the author has a nice way with words.  I was able to visual so much in my mind, which of course brought the story to life.  Each new chapter gave a different perspective of the affects this war had, not just on the families but the country also.  This novel was really an eye opener for me, most of my reading about WW II has taken place in Europe.  Reading from the Japanese side was not only interesting, but heart breaking as well.

There was alot going on in this book, but in the end it all came together.  A new author to me, one that I would like to read more of.

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and especially needy Springer Spaniel.

For more information, please visit

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Historical Novel Society 2013 Conference Panelist: Meet Julie K Rose

 The 2013 Historical Novel Society conference is just around the corner and I am really excited to share a Q&A with panelist Julie K.Rose, author of Oleanna.  Be sure to check out her website here. 

What got you first interested in historical fiction?

My mom was an avid, nay, obsessive fiction reader, and I reaped the benefits as a child, getting her books when she was done. I read Shogun by Clavell and Centennial by Michener, I read Ivanhoe and The Thorn Birds (alongside Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre, of course). Later in life, we shared Alison Weir books, Pilgrim by Timothy Findlay, Sharan Newman's Catherine leVendeur mysteries, among so many others.

As a kid, two books that really stood out for me were by M.M. Kaye, Shadow of the Moon and Trade Winds. The former is a story of Kashmir and Afghanistan in the mid-19th century, the latter a story of life in Zanzibar in the 19th century, featuring a wonderfully named heroine, Hero Athena Hollis. I was so impressed by Trade Winds that I wrote Mollie Kaye a fan letter in 1986, when I was 15. To my great joy, and continuing glee, she wrote me back. I've carried this letter around in my Box of Special Things ever
since, and count it as one of the cooler events of my early life.

Do you have an anecdote about a reading or fan interaction you'd like to share?

Oleanna was inspired by the lives of my great-grandfather who immigrated to the United States in the early 20th  century, and the two sisters he left behind on the farm on the banks of lake Jølster in western Norway.

One reader's family is also from the area around Jølster, and we've been trading family tree information and photos—we're most likely distantly related, which is pretty cool to discover.

Another reader, who lives near Jølster, has taken the time to look up Elisabeth and Oleanna (and other family members) in the Jølster bygdebok, which is a kind of local history book you find throughout Norway. Through this reader and her generosity, I learned that Oleanna herself was also interested in family history and genealogy.

Where do you feel historical fiction is headed as a genre?

I have great hopes that we're heading toward more diversity in terms of era, location, and protagonist. I think there is a much wider range of reading interests than the stereotypical view of the genre, and I'm so pleased to see that starting to be played out across the landscape—a diversity of approaches in books not only in the independent and small press worlds, but from the "Big 6" and their imprints as well.

Can you tell us about your latest publication?

Happy to! My latest novel is called Oleanna. Set during the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, this richly detailed novel of love and loss was inspired by the life of the author's great-great-aunts. Oleanna and her sister Elisabeth are the last of their family working their farm deep in the western fjordland. A new century has begun, and the world outside is changing, but in the Sunnfjord their world is as small and secluded as the verdant banks of a high mountain lake. The arrival of Anders, a cotter living just across the farm's border, unsettles Oleanna's peaceful but isolated existence. Sharing a common bond of loneliness and grief, Anders stirs within her the wildness and wanderlust she has worked so hard to tame. When she is confronted with another crippling loss, Oleanna must decide once and for all how to face her past, claim her future, and find her place in a wide new world.

“This is a novel of quiet depth that evokes strong imagery; it is a story that is stark and humble and at the same time, finely drawn. The awe-inspiring scenery, the backbreaking work, and, at the same time, the appeal of and sense of belonging the women feel for their home are brightly painted through the author’s judicious use of language. A beautiful story.” – Historical Novels Review

“This is a wonderfully quiet, beautiful, emotional novel of family, love, and identity. When this book ended, I contemplated flipping back to the start in order to begin again. I absolutely didn’t want to leave the characters I had come to like so much…There’s elegant restraint in how Rose articulates love and loss, passion and madness, the rhythm of farm life, the quietude of rural Norway…Even if you aren’t typically a
historical fiction fan, consider this novel — it’s a wonderful snapshot of a place and a time set in tradition but uprooted by enormous transition. A story of ordinary women, unique and astounding in their own way, that will charm and captivate.”
– Unabridged Chick

“Oleanna is a fabulous character. She’s strong but personable and definitely the sort of character that you find yourself rooting for…Historical fiction lovers will eat this book up!” – A Bookish Affair

Monday, June 10, 2013

Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

 Love is a choice you make every day.
Content in her comfortable marriage of twenty-two years, Jane Lindsay had never expected to watch her husband,  Brad, pack his belongings and walk out the door of their Manhattan home. But when it happens, she feels powerless to stop him and the course of events that follow Brad’s departure.

Jane finds an old ring in a box of relics from a British jumble sale and discovers a Latin inscription in the band along with just one recognizable word: Jane. Feeling an instant connection to the mysterious ring bearing her namesake, Jane begins a journey to learn more about the ring—and perhaps about herself.
In the sixteenth-century, Lucy Day becomes the dressmaker to Lady Jane Grey, an innocent young woman whose fate seems to be controlled by a dangerous political and religious climate, one threatening to deny her true love and pursuit of her own interests.

As the stories of both Janes dovetail through the journey of one ring, it becomes clear that each woman has far more influence over her life than she once imagined. It all comes down to the choices each makes despite the realities they face.

Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by WaterBrook Press

In the author's notes at the end of the book, Susan Meissner puts it quite nicely

"what if?" one of the lovelier aspects of fiction 

That sums up this book nicely.  
What if Lady Jane Grey was in love?  
What if she was given a ring? 
What if she had a choice in her own future?  
For those that know her story, you know how it ends.  What if her parents had really loved her and didn't use her as a political pawn?  I have always admired Lady Jane Grey, forced to wear a crown she didn't want and look what happened to her.   She did make one choice that I loved, not to crown her husband as king (was that a proven fact? I am not totally sure but will pretend it is).

What if Jane Grey had a dressmaker named Lucy who shared Jane's story with us?  And what a wonderful story this is.  I listened to the audio, the readers did a wonderful job of telling that story. 

Present day we have another Jane, who finds a ring with her name engraved on it.  Feeling a kinship to this ring, Jane begins a journey of self discovery.  Painful at times, but worth it in the end.

This is my second book by Susan Meissner.  The Shape of Mercy was the first, also an audio read.

“We understand what we want to understand.”
Leaving a life of privilege to strike out on her own, Lauren Durough breaks with convention and her family’s expectations by choosing a state college over Stanford and earning her own income over accepting her ample monthly allowance. She takes a part-time job from 83-year-old librarian Abigail Boyles, who asks Lauren to transcribe the journal entries of her ancestor Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials.

Almost immediately, Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived and died four centuries ago. As the fervor around the witch accusations increases, Mercy becomes trapped in the worldview of the day, unable to fight the overwhelming influence of snap judgments and superstition, and Lauren realizes that the secrets of Mercy’s story extend beyond the pages of her diary, living on in the mysterious, embittered Abigail.

The strength of her affinity with Mercy forces Lauren to take a startling new look at her own life, including her relationships with Abigail, her college roommate, and a young man named Raul. But on the way to the truth, will Lauren find herself playing the helpless defendant or the misguided judge? Can she break free from her own perceptions and see who she really is?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring Tracy Chevalier makes her first fictional foray into the American past in The Last Runaway, bringing to life the Underground Railroad and illuminating the principles, passions and realities that fueled this extraordinary freedom movement.

In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.

Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.

However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.

A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is Tracy Chevalier’s vivid engagement with an iconic part of American history.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by E.P. Dutton

I am new to Tracy Chevalier and this was an impulse purchase.  Just look at the cover, I love it and of course,  the summary drew me in also.  Being a quilter and  my interest in history, well this book was just calling my name.

The story was enjoyable, it was interesting to learn more about the Quakers and the Underground Railroad, the role that quilts and other little items played, as well as the treatment of women, their rights, or lack of.  Though the book didn't go into great details about the Underground Railroad, it was still an eye opener and did show enough to pull at some heart strings here.

I enjoyed how each chapter ended with a letter, whether from Homer to her family back in England or from them to her.  I can't imagine the wait of months and months to hear any news.

This was what I would call a 'quiet' book.  Meaning it didn't grab me and take me for a ride until I was finished.  It was easy to pick up and put down, I was in no rush to finish, just enjoyed the quiet ride. I gave this book 4 stars because I did enjoy the ride and will be back to read more by Tracy Chevalier.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Historical Novel Society 2013 Conference Panelist: Meet Steve Weigenstein

In anticipation of the 2013 Historical Novel Society conference, I'm excited to share a Q&A with panelist Steve Weigenstein, author of  Slant of Light. You can check out his website which also has links to facebook and twitter.

What got you first interested in historical fiction?

My interest in historical fiction arose from a desire to create a large-scale fictional portrayal of the Missouri Ozarks, which is the part of the world where I grew up and where I have always had a deep connection, both personally and in my writing life. My aim is to create an interlocking series of novels with an evolving cast of characters, something on the model of Donald Harington's work but in my own style and with my own themes. So with an idea like that, I had to look to the past, and this first novel of the series is set in the years 1857-1862.     

How do you find the people and topics of your books?

A variety of sources. Some are people of my own acquaintance (not to name any names), and some are actual historical figures. Most are composites of various personality characteristics, combined with details drawn from observation, and turned loose on the world. As for topics, the list is endless! If I live to be 150, I won't get to the end of them. 

Do you follow a specific writing and/or research process?
I tend to be very intuitive in my writing process. I like to start with character and go from there, just put interesting characters into collision with each other and see what happens. I try to avoid getting bogged down in research but will spend days chasing a detail if it is necessary to a scene. So my research process is pretty haphazard.

For you, what is the line between fiction and fact?
To me, it's the line between interpretation and creation. There can be multiple interpretations of how and why a historical event happened, but as long as we're not adding imaginary characters or inventing dialogue that wasn't reliably recorded at the time, then we're into the realm of fiction, which is where I happily sit. I've noticed a lot of made-up dialogue recently in works of "history," which is a phenomenon I find interesting.

Do you have an anecdote about a reading or fan interaction you'd like to share?

One of the actual historical characters in my novel is a guerrilla leader named Sam Hildebrand, who is recorded as having shot down my great-great-uncle during the Civil War. I was recounting to a group how odd it was to be writing this character into my novel since he had murdered one of my ancestors, when one of the members of the group spoke up and said that Hildebrand was her great-great-grandfather! That was quite a moment. The living example of "The past isn't dead; it isn't even past."

Where do you feel historical fiction is headed as a genre?

Who knows! I'm sure it will be interesting. The world of historical fiction doesn't seem all that different from the rest of the world of fiction, as far as I can see.
 Is there an era/area that is your favorite to write about? How about to read?

I am very fond of the American Romantic era - the 1820s through 1860s. There was such a flowering of American literary culture and national consciousness at that time.
What are your favorite reads? Favorite movies? Dominating influences?
A lot of my favorite reads are not "historical" in the strict sense. I can't read enough W.G. Sebald, for example. One favorite overlooked historical novel that I want to call out is Steve Yates' Morkan's Quarry, which like mine is set in Missouri during the Civil War. As for movies, I'm always ready to watch Hirokazu Koreeda -- After Life and Still Walking are such profound meditations on life and death. Dominating influences -- well, anybody who is working on a series of interlocking novels with a strong regional setting has to pay homage to Faulkner, obviously, although stylistically I am a great admirer of John Williams, the author of Butcher's Crossing and Augustus.

Is there a writer, living or deceased, you would like to meet?
Who wouldn't want to meet Shakespeare?

What book was the most fun for you to write?

The one that I'm working on now! I know we're all about history, but my working practice as a writer is always to look forward, never behind.
Can you tell us about your latest publication?

Slant of Light came out in April 2012. It involves a 19th century utopian community that locates in the Missouri Ozarks in the 1850s, just as war tensions are becoming unbearable. It is about hope, idealism, the American notion of self, human nature, and dreams of change. How's that for a barrage of themes? It was the recipient of the Langum Charitable Trust's honorable mention for the 2012 Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction.
Do you have a most interesting question or crazy anecdote related to your writing you would like to share?

While working on Slant of Light, I joked with my wife that at one point my top three Google searches were on guerrilla warfare techniques, gunpowder making, and hemp growing. So if that didn't put me on somebody's blacklist I don't know what will!

Thanks so much for your interview  questions! Very enjoyable and I hope enlightening.