Friday, May 22, 2015

Review: "Circling the Sun" by Paula McClain

Today I'm pleased to share my latest review with you all. Circling the Sun is Paula McClain's follow up to her debut novel The Paris Wife. I will admit that I had a hard time getting into that one, but I'm a pretty open minded individual so when Circling the Sun popped up on my radar, I wanted to give it a shot. I'm so glad I did!

Circling the Sun focuses on Beryl Markham, a pioneering aviatrix who was British by birth, but raised in Kenya. McClain really captures the rugged atmosphere of the colony and Beryl eagerly embraces her hard scrabble life. She grows into an independent woman determined to live life adventurously, and sometimes scandalously. She was the first female horse trainer in Kenya and built upon the success of her father's well known training abilities before going on to learn the art of flying. Of course she struggles against society's expectations along the way. Beryl eventually embarked on an affair with Denys Finch Hatton, who had been in a long term relationship with Baroness Karen Blixen, the authoress of Out of Africa.

I find it fascinating to read about real life historical personages, especially when it is done well. Paula McClain does a fantastic job in her characterizations and the pacing was quicker (to me, anyways) than The Paris Wife. If you love stories about the African colonists, independent women, or just a ripping good yarn, check out Circling the Sun. It will be available in July 2015.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review: "A Pledge of Better Times" by Margaret Porter

01_A Pledge of Better Times Cover
Publication Date: April 14, 2015 
Gallica Press 
Formats: eBook, Paperback 
ISBN: 978-0-9907420-4-3 
Pages: 400 
 Genre: Historical Fiction 
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A sweeping tale of ambition, treachery, and passion... For generations Lady Diana de Vere’s family loyally served England’s crown. But after King Charles II’s untimely death, her father firmly opposes James II’s tyranny. Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans—the late king’s bastard son by actress Nell Gwyn—also rebels against his newly crowned uncle's manipulation. Secretly pledging to wed Diana, he departs for the Continent to become a soldier. Political and religious turmoil bring about revolution and yet another coronation before Charles returns to claim his promised bride. As companion to Queen Mary II, Diana has followed her de Vere forbears into royal service. She expects Charles to abandon his military career after marriage, but he proves unwilling to join the ranks of the courtiers he despises and mistrusts. In palace corridors and within their own household the young duke and duchess confront betrayals, scandals, and tragedies that threaten to divide them. And neither the privileges of birth nor proximity to the throne can ensure their security, their advancement—or their happiness.

My Review

"A Pledge of Better Times" is a fascinating account of real historical characters Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans. It is set during an equally fascinating time--one of upheaval and frequent political changes. Margaret Porter accurately captures the time period and the various personages. The pace is quick but the multiple POVs can get a bit confusing at times. Diana and Charles are lovely protagonists and the reader will root for them as they forge a new life together in times that are anything but ordinary.

Praise for A Pledge of Better Times

“Meticulously researched and offering an impressive cast of real life characters brought to vibrant life, A Pledge of Better Times expertly captures the drama, passions, politics and religious turmoil of England at the turn of the 18th century. Margaret Porter crafts her story with exquisite detail, transporting the reader into a world full of intrigue, scandal, and breathtaking danger . . . a masterful writer.” - Award-winning author M. Reed McCall “With elegant prose and vivid detail, A Pledge of Better Times sweeps you into late Stuart England, transforming the lesser known adversities and triumphs of Lady Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk into a beautiful love story you won’t forget.” - Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris and Girl on the Golden Coin “A portrait of Diana de Vere as rich as the portraits that grace British museums and palaces.” - Christy K Robinson, author of Mary Dyer Illuminated “The sparkling, dangerous, enticing post-Restoration period comes to vivid life! Porter gives us a wonderful, complicated heroine in Diana, drawing us deep into her world . . . . I couldn’t stop reading!” - Amanda Carmack, author of Murder in the Queen’s Garden: An Elizabethan Mystery


Official Book Trailer


About the Author

02_Margaret Porter Author PhotoMargaret Porter is an award-winning, bestselling novelist whose lifelong study of British history inspires her fiction and her travels. A former stage actress, she has also worked in film, television, and radio. For more information please visit Margaret Porter's website. You can also find her on Facebook here and here, and on Twitter.

A Pledge of Better Times Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 4 Review at Just One More Chapter Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee Spotlight & Giveaway at Mina's Bookshelf Tuesday, May 5 Review at 100 Pages a Day - Stephanie's Book Reviews Wednesday, May 6 Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books Thursday, May 7 Review at Book Drunkard Friday, May 8 Review at Books and Benches Sunday, May 10 Review & Guest Post at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book Monday, May 11 Review at Reading the Past Tuesday, May 12 Review at Flashlight Commentary Wednesday, May 13 Guest Post at Book Babe Thursday, May 14 Review at Unshelfish Review at Impressions in Ink Review at Caroline Wilson Writes Friday, May 15 Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction 
Obsession

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: "Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millennium of Unholy Matrimony"

Hello folks!

I have another review for you today and it's non-fiction, if you can believe that. There is no denying that most non-fiction bores me. It's just a little too dry. I often prefer reading fiction and then going to investigate the people and events in a story for accuracy or sometimes just personal interest. One of the few non-fiction authors I enjoy is Leslie Carroll. She is a prolific fiction author as well which may be why I like her non-fiction works so well. 

This is the latest installment in her chronicles of royal relationships, both legal and not so legal. This part of the series takes a look at the marriages contracted for dynastic reasons; as a result, most were notoriously unhappy. Each section is devoted to the husband and wife involved in the marriage. Some of the royals documented are Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, Catherine of Braganza and Charles II, Anne of Austria and Louis XIII, and Marie of Romania and Ferdinand I.
The book is very readable. It doesn’t get bogged down like a lot of non-fiction and is filled with fascinating stories from the medieval period all the way through World War II. The book’s focus on some lesser-known nobles is a boon for those readers who love all the intricacies of royal life. As with her other works, Carroll sometimes goes into too much detail, particularly about the political maneuverings at the time. A little more attention to the daily lives of the subjects would have made Inglorious Royal Marriages a jewel in the crown. Nonetheless, the book is recommended for those readers who enjoy social and royal history.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: "Mistress Firebrand" by Donna Thorland

02_Mistress Firebrand Cover
Publication Date: March 3, 2015 
NAL 
Trade Formats: eBook, Paperback 
416 Pages 
 Series: Renegades of the American Revolution (Book 3) 
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
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  British Occupied Manhattan, 1777. American actress Jenny Leighton has been packing the John Street Theater with her witty comedies, but she longs to escape the provincial circuit for the glamour of the London stage. When the playwright General John Burgoyne visits the city, fresh from a recent success in the capitol, she seizes the opportunity to court his patronage. But her plan is foiled by British intelligence officer Severin Devere. Severin’s mission is to keep the pleasure-loving general focused on the war effort…and away from pretty young actresses. But the tables are turned when Severin himself can’t resist Jenny Leighton… Months later, Jenny has abandoned her dreams of stage glory and begun writing seditious plays for the Rebels under the pen name “Cornelia,” ridiculing “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne and his army—and undermining the crown’s campaign to take Albany. With Jenny’s name now on the hanging list, Severin is ordered to find her—and deliver her to certain death. Soon, the two are launched on a desperate journey through the wilderness, toward an uncertain future shaped by the revolution—and their passion for each other…

My Review

The third in a series dubbed the Renegades of the American Revolution, Mistress Firebrand focuses on Jenny Leighton, an actress who longs to be a London playwright. Jenny is a country bumpkin who has taken up residence with her glamorous aunt in New York. She plays bit parts at the John Street Theater while her aunt Frances packs the house as the lead actress. When she discovers that General Burgoyne is in the harbor, Jenny hopes to gain his patronage. She doesn't count on Severin Devere, the bastard son of an earl, a spy for the British Crown, and self-appointed watchdog for the general.

I will admit that my interest was piqued by the premise of Mistress Firebrand. It's a big departure from the typical historical novel. Conversely, I went into the novel looking for errors, particularly because I am Revolutionary War re-enactor. I'm pleased to say that there were no glaring errors. The initial set-up was a bit slow moving as Thorland is a very detailed writer. I prefer more movement and less play-by-play. Severin's background was particularly fascinating. Jenny seems a bit dull at first, but she improves as the plot progresses. She is realistic but with a heart.

All in all Mistress Firebrand is an interesting novel. I love the fact that it is romantic historical fiction since that is the genre I myself write (or to used write since the muse has deserted me...haha). In any case, pick up a copy of Mistress Firebrand if you like your romance with a side of intelligence.

Buy Mistress Firebrand

Amazon (Kindle) Amazon (Paperback) Barnes & Noble Books-a-Million iTunes IndieBound Powell's


About the Author

03_Donna Thorland

A native of Bergenfield, New Jersey, Donna graduated from Yale with a degree in Classics and Art History. For many years she managed architecture and interpretation at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and wrote and directed the Witch City’s most popular Halloween theater festival, Eerie Events. She later earned an MFA in film production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Donna has been a sorority house mother, a Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellow, a WGA Writer’s Access Project Honoree, and a writer on the ABC primetime drama, Cupid. Her screenwriting credits include episodes of the animated series, Tron: Uprising. Her short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Albedo One. The director of several award-winning short films, her most recent project, The Night Caller, aired on WNET Channel 13 and was featured on Ain’t It Cool News. Currently she is a writer on the WGN drama SALEM. She is married with one cat and divides her time between the real Salem and Los Angeles. For more information visit Donna Thorland's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


Mistress Firebrand Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 6 Excerpt at What Is That Book About Excerpt & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages Tuesday, April 7 Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary Wednesday, April 8 Interview at The Maiden's Court Thursday, April 9 Guest Post & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing Friday, April 10 Spotlight at Broken Teepee Sunday, April 12 Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book Monday, April 13 Spotlight, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Passages to the Past Thursday, April 16 Review at Caroline Wilson Writes Friday, April 17 Spotlight at I'd So Rather Be Reading Saturday, April 18 Excerpt & Giveaway at A Dream Within a Dream Monday, April 20 Review at Book Nerd Tuesday, April 21 Guest Post & Giveaway at Book Babe Wednesday, April 22 Guest Post & Excerpt at The Lit Bitch Thursday, April 23 Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time Friday, April 24 Review at Back Porchervations Monday, April 27 Review at Just One More Chapter Tuesday, April 28 Review at Historical Readings & Views Wednesday, April 29 Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish Guest Post at Boom Baby Reviews Thursday, April 30 Review at Bookramblings Friday, May 1 Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Drey's Library Spotlight at Genre Queen Sunday, May 3 Review at Forever Ashley Monday, May 4 Review at A Chick Who Reads Guest Post & Giveaway at To Read, or Not to Read Tuesday, May 5 Excerpt at CelticLady's Reviews Wednesday, May 6 Review at Unabridged Chick Thursday, May 7 Spotlight at A Literary Vacation Friday, May 8 Interview at Scandalous Woman

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Interview and Review: Jan Moran's "Scent of Triumph"

Author Jan Moran

on Tour March 28-April 16 with

SCENT OF TRIUMPHScent of Triumph: A Novel of Perfume And Passion

(historical novel) Release date: March 31, 2015 at St. Martin’s Press 384 pages ISBN: 9781250048905
***

SYNOPSIS

Perfume is the essence of beauty, the heart of illusion, the soul of desire. It is my past, my present, my future. —from the journal of Danielle Bretancourt When French perfumer and aristocrat Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for the remains of her family, relying on the strength of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a British shipping heir and Royal Navy officer. Finally, in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940s Los Angeles. Amidst the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Danielle works her way up from meager jobs to perfumer and fashion designer. Still, personal happiness eludes her. Can her sheer force of will attract the elusive love she desires, or will it only come at the ultimate cost?
***

INTERVIEW

I'm so happy to have Jan Moran here with me today as she tours the blogsphere in support of her novel "Scent of Triumph".

CW: Welcome Jan! Thanks for joining me to day. To start, tell us a bit about yourself. How did you start writing? Have your life experiences shaped the way the write?

JM: As a child, I was an avid reader and I began writing at an early age. Books were my passport to exotic locales. Today, I like to infuse my stories and characters with the ring of authenticity, so it’s natural for me to write about places I’ve visited or lived in. London, Paris, Grasse, and Beverly Hills figure prominently in SCENT OF TRIUMPH. I also share history of perfumery and fashion, which I drew from my professional background in the beauty industry, and from nonfiction books and articles I’ve written. 

The main character, Danielle Bretancourt, is a French perfumer and fashion designer, but she’s also a mother and an entrepreneur, as I am. Danielle is a complex character who must often make difficult choices between dreadful alternatives. However, her drive and determination to care for her loved ones propels her through the story. I wanted to bring to life a woman’s unique quest to triumph over adversity – which we all encounter to some degree in our lives.

CW: “Scent of Triumph” is set during World War II which has become a popular time period recently. What drew you to this period? Was it deliberate or did your characters dictate it?

JM: “Scent of Triumph” was inspired in part by stories my mother shared of life during World War II. She and my father were married during the war, and my father was a pilot. Through the years, she’s recounted many stories about their friends and what life was like then – and that’s part of the reason her photo from the 1940s is in the front of the book.

I’m so glad the World War II time frame is enjoying popularity now, because there’s a lot to learn about this era and what people went through then. As a writer, I write about what touches my heart. And oddly enough, when I started the novel fifteen ago, this period of time was not considered popular at all.

CW: How do you write? Do you create everything before hand or do you wing it?

JM: Before I begin writing, I have the cast of characters and the main issue in mind. I work from character and plot outlines for a sense of structure, but the story usually evolves into deeper issues as I write. I love weaving a tapestry of details into a story. “Scent of Triumph” is enriched with details of perfumery, fashion, the war, and the Golden Age of Hollywood. 

CW: Are there any authors that have influenced you or that you admire?

JM: How much time do we have? Okay, I’ll narrow it down… Recently, Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale” transported me back to the landscape of “Scent of Triumph.” Barbara Taylor Bradford’s “A Woman of Substance” and Colleen McCullough’s “The Thornbirds” are among my favorite historical novels. I read widely, and a few of my favorite authors are Allison Pataki (“The Accidental Empress”), Tatiana de Rosnay (“Sarah’s Key”), Anita Hughes (“French Coast”), Allegra Jordan (“The End of Innocence”), and Michelle Gable (“A Paris Apartment”), as well as the works of Lisa See, Philippa Gregory, M.J. Rose, Rebecca Forster, and Melissa Foster. Unfortunately, I’ve left out legions of others.

CW: And lastly, a random question: If you had time machine, what historical period would you visit?

JM: The first half of the twentieth century is fascinating, not only because of the political landscape and the war years, but also because of the shifting societal roles for women and the industrial revolution. This is another aspect of SCENT OF TRIUMPH. During that time, women were gaining rights in Western Europe and America – the right to vote, to own property, to run businesses. These women were our trailblazers, and I enjoy bringing their stories to life in this novel, and in future ones – such as the one I’m working on right now.

CW: Well thank you for stopping in. I really enjoyed "Scent of Triumph"!

MY REVIEW

The Scent of Triumph is an old-fashioned melodramatic yarn that will suck you in. Danielle Bretancourt, the novel's protagonist, is desperate to find the son she left behind just before the onset of World War II. It's a heart-wrenching prospect--you leave on a journey only to discover that you cannot go back. War devastates Danielle, but she is determined to re-build her life. The novel spans war torn Europe to the glitter of Old Hollywood, and features romance and intrigue. Readers of Barbara Taylor Bradford and Sidney Sheldon will warm to this tale of triumph in the face of tragedy. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scent of Triumph - Jan Moran

JAN MORAN is the author of Fabulous Fragrances I and II, which earned spots on the Rizzoli Bookstore bestseller list, and other contemporary novels, including Flawless, Beauty Mark, and Runway. A fragrance and beauty industry expert, she has been featured on CNN, Instyle, and O Magazine, and has spoken before prestigious organizations, including The American Society of Perfumers. She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and attended the University of California at Los Angeles Extension Writers’ Program. Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest Subscribe to her newsletter
Discover her Vintage Perfume Guide
Go deeper with her Reader’s Discussion Guide
***
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks IndieBound | Powell’s | Books A Million | Kobo | eBooks.com | GooglePlay *** You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Entry-Form

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open internationally: 1 winner will receive 1 print copy of Scent of Triumph * Scent of Triumph Vintage Perfumes

BONUS OFFERED BY THE AUTHOR – independently from this book tour – With every purchase of Scent of Triumph, she is offering a free ebook of Vintage Perfumes, a nonfiction guide to the finest classic perfumes, for epub and mobi.
Just email her some proof of your purchase (receipt, email receipt, photo of yourself with the book or ebook on your reader, etc.), and she will send you the free ebook of Vintage Perfumes.
*


CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ OTHER REVIEWS, EXCERPTS, GUEST-POST AND INTERVIEW

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: "The Rocheforts" by Christian Laborie

Author Christian Laborie

on Tour April 6-15, 2015 with
Rocheforts

The Rocheforts

(fiction / saga) Release date: May 5, 2015 at Open Road Integrated Media 484 pages ISBN: 978-1-4804-6120-8
***

SYNOPSIS

Two very different families are bonded by scandal in this sweeping story of love, greed, and betrayal. Anselme Rochefort has built an empire manufacturing serge de Nîmes, or denim. His biggest client? Levi Strauss. As the craze for blue jeans begins to sweep the globe, Rochefort Industries seems poised for untold success. But Anselme can be as cruel and ruthless with his family as he is in business. The Rocheforts’ neighbor Donatien Rouvière has one of the region’s most prosperous farms and is desperate for a son to carry on his legacy. After the births of three daughters, the Rouvières adopt an orphan from the Sisters of Charity convent and raise him as their own. When Anselme suggests uniting the two families by arranging for their children to marry, it seems like the perfect match. But as the lives of the two clans grow increasingly intertwined, dark secrets come to light, including the mysterious circumstances of the death of Anselme’s eldest daughter. With The Rocheforts, Christian Laborie weaves a captivating tale of deceit, intrigue, and the dynamic tension between industrialization and a way of life rooted in the land.
***


MY REVIEW

The Rocheforts is a sprawling family saga that take a hard look at two families in late 19th century France. It's a great departure from the usual Parisian set novel featuring royalty or aristocracy, instead choosing to focus on the hardworking landed gentry and a family with wealth from industrialization. Anselme Rochefort is deliciously bad and stops at nothing to get his way, even if it means destroying those close to him. Conversely Donatien Rouvière is a family man more concerned with his lasting legacy than crushing those who stand in his way. Christian Laborie is a gifted writer who has an excellent grasp of setting the scene and creating effective characterizations. Lovers of family sagas and France will find much to enjoy in The Rocheforts.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rocheforts - Laborie
Christian Laborie was born in the North of France but has lived in the southern region of Cévennes for more than twenty years. The Rocheforts is his first novel to be published in English. *** Follow Open Road Integrated Media on Facebook | Twitter Subscribe to Open Road’s Newsletter Buy the book: Amazon *** You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Entry-Form

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open internationally: 5 winners will receive 1 digital copy of The Rocheforts
***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ OTHER REVIEWS AND AN EXCERPT

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