The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman (@patsyharman) #review @tlcbooktours

About the book, The Reluctant Midwife The Reluctant Midwife

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 3, 2015)

The USA Today bestselling author of The Midwife of Hope River returns with a heartfelt sequel, a novel teeming with life and full of humor and warmth, one that celebrates the human spirit.

The Great Depression has hit West Virginia hard. Men are out of work; women struggle to feed hungry children. Luckily, Nurse Becky Myers has returned to care for them. While she can handle most situations, Becky is still uneasy helping women deliver their babies. For these mothers-to-be, she relies on an experienced midwife, her dear friend Patience Murphy.

Though she is happy to be back in Hope River, time and experience have tempered Becky’s cheerfulness-as tragedy has destroyed the vibrant spirit of her former employer Dr Isaac Blum, who has accompanied her. Patience too has changed. Married and expecting a baby herself, she is relying on Becky to keep the mothers of Hope River safe.

But becoming a midwife and ushering precious new life into the world is not Becky’s only challenge. Her skills and courage will be tested when a calamitous forest fire blazes through a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. And she must find a way to bring Isaac back to life and rediscover the hope they both need to go on.

Full of humor and compassion, The Reluctant Midwife is a moving tribute to the power of optimism and love to overcome the most trying circumstances and times, and is sure to please fans of the poignant Call the Midwife series.

Buy, read, and discuss The Reluctant Midwife
Amazon  | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About Patricia Harman Patricia Harman

Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She lives near Morgantown, West Virginia; has three sons; and is the author of two acclaimed memoirs.

Connect with Patricia

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

I won’t deny that my love of the BBC series Call the Midwife is what sparked my interest in The Reluctant Midwife, but the reality is that, except for the fact that midwifery is central to both stories, there really aren’t many similarities. The TV show, while based on memoirs, is quintessentially English, and set in the 50s and (now) 60s. This novel is a decidedly American story, and takes place during the Great Depression.

You might think that such a period would lead to a depressing story, but you’d be wrong. While Patricia Harman’s characters do experience hardship and loss, the entire novel is imbued with so much hope and humor that at times it was difficult to mute the Annie soundtrack running through my brain while I was reading it. Which is not to imply that it’s at all childish, because it’s not.

What this book is, is a very honest, human story about two couples who share the predisposition to be healers. The first is Becky and Isaac, although they’re not really a couple in the romantic sense. The majority of the novel is written in first person, from Becky’s perspective, so we come to know her best. There were times when all I wanted to do was tell her to stop being such a prude, and get her hands dirty, but that only means I was invested in her story.

Isaac, on the other hand, is the now-mute doctor Becky once worked with, and now cares for, and while his presence is a bit murky at times, ultimately he becomes at least as real as his female counterpart, his quiet contrasting beautifully with her strength and forthrightness.

The other couple, midwife Patience and her husband the local vet. This novel is actually a sequel to Harman’s previous one, The Midwife of Hope River, in which told Patience’s story. I haven’t read the first book, but I didn’t feel like I was missing key information, and I like that. I’m sure my enjoyment would only have been greater if had.

While a story set in the 30’s could easily be depressing and bleak, this book was neither. Instead, it showed us people who persevere in the face of hardship, and find solace in love and laughter. I liked that the author gave us a sense of place (Appalachia) without locking us into the landscape of a specific existing town, letting us fill in the blanks ourselves, and I really liked the way she gave us hints of the politics of the day, and of events outside the immediate environs of this tale. An oblique reference to the midwestern prairie, for example, reminds us that the Dust Bowl was a concurrent event.

Populated by flawed, feeling, incredibly real people, this novel was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting read. The resolution of Becky’s relationship with Isaac was a bit predictable, but in no way reduced the integrity of the rest of the story.

I’m eager to go back and read the first book in this series, and I’m equally excited to explore Harman’s other work, which I hope includes another entry into this series.

Goes well with Pork and beans, homemade cornbread, and fresh lemonade.


Patricia’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.
Tuesday, March 3rd: West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, March 4th: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 5th: Broken Teepee

Friday, March 6th: Kritter Ramblings

Monday, March 9th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, March 10th: A Novel Review

Thursday, March 12th: Life Between Reads

Monday, March 16th: Unshelfish

Tuesday, March 17th: A Patchwork of Books

Wednesday, March 18th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, March 19th: FictionZeal

Friday, March 20th: A Chick Who Reads

The Fairytale Keeper by Andrea Cefalo (@AndreaCefalo) – #Review #Bibliotica #contest #giveaway

The Fairytale Keeper

About the book The Fairytale Keeper The Fairytale Keeper

Re-Release Date: February 1, 2015
Publisher: Scarlet Primrose Press, 262 Pages
Formats: eBook; Paperback

Adelaide’s mother, Katrina, was the finest storyteller in all of Airsbach, a borough in the great city of Cologne, but she left one story untold, that of her daughter, that of Snow White. Snow White was a pet name Adelaide’s mother had given her. It was a name Adelaide hated, until now. Now, she would give anything to hear her mother say it once more.

A rampant fever claimed Adelaide’s mother just like a thousand others in Cologne where the people die without last rites and the dead are dumped in a vast pit outside the city walls. In an effort to save Katrina’s soul, Adelaide’s father obtains a secret funeral for his wife by bribing the parish priest, Father Soren.

Soren commits an unforgivable atrocity, pushing Adelaide toward vengeance. When Adelaide realizes that the corruption in Cologne reaches far beyond Soren, the cost of settling scores quickly escalates. Avenging the mother she lost may cost Adelaide everything she has left: her father, her friends, her first love, and maybe even her life.

Seamlessly weaving historical events and Grimm’s fairy tales into a tale of corruption and devotion, The Fairytale Keeper, leaves the reader wondering where fact ends and fiction begins. The novel paints Medieval Cologne accurately and vividly. The story develops a set of dynamic characters, casting the famous villains, heroes, and damsels of Grimm’s fairy tales into believable medieval lives. Though historically set, The Fairytale Keeper brims with timeless themes of love, loyalty, and the struggle for justice.

Buy, read, and discuss The Fairytale Keeper

Amazon (paperback) | Amazon (eBook) | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords | Kobo | Goodreads


Take the The Fairytale Keeper Playbuzz Quiz


About the Author, Andrea Cefalo Andrea Cefalo

Besides being the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper series, Andrea Cefalo is a self-proclaimed medievalist, hopeless bookworm, and social media junkie. She graduated with honors from Winthrop University in 2007 where she studied Medieval art history and children’s literature. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series—The Countess’ Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut in 2015 and 2016. She resides in Greenville, South Carolina—ever perched before her trusty laptop—with her husband and their two border collies.

Connect with Andrea

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest.

Follow The Fairytale Keeper Pinterest Board.


My Thoughts

I’m a big fan of people who find new ways to share old stories. With The Fairytale Keeper, Andrea Cefalo has given us a reality-based version of the classic tale of Snow White that is every bit as magical as the versions we all grew up with (and I’m not talking about Disney), even though there’s no actual magic in it.

Set in medieval Cologne, Cefalo’s story is of a young girl on the brink of womanhood, growing up at a time when reading and writing were not the norm, and the Church had the power over the life and death, not just of individuals, but of entire communities. She turns archetypical characters -Snow, her father, her (future) stepmother into three-dimensional begins, with lives and wants and personalities and in doing so, she shows us that life is complicated, and that even the best of us sometimes make poor choices.

I loved that Adelaide (Snow White is a hated nickname bestowed upon her by her storytelling mother) is a feisty, empowered (for the time) young woman. She’s a problem solver, but one whom the real world hasn’t quite touched, and it’s her mixture of innocence and knowledge that really make the character live. I also liked that she has a friend – a young man named Ivo – who she’s on the brink of romance with (he brings her jars of fireflies), but that it’s handled in an appropriate way.

Adelaide’s father, too, is complex: mourning his wife, doting on his daughter while also teaching her his trade, and trying to find a future. Similarly, Galadriel, the woman who (it’s foreshadowed) is likely to become Adelaide’s stepmother at some point in the future (she’s living with them) is an all-too-human figure: caring, but lost, and somewhat broken.

Together, this cast of characters form a family, and the other characters in the story broaden it to a whole community that seems every bit as real as any historical village from a textbook, but with more color and life.

Fairytales are woven through the novel, of course – often representing stories told to Adelaide by her mother, who, in a flashback, tells the child her story isn’t written.

And that’s really the point of this whole novel: we can learn from the stories of others, but ultimately, each of us has to also write our own story.

The book is an easy read. It sucks you in, and is paced well, with accessible language that never feels too contemporary – a trick that can be hard to pull off.

I’ve got the sequel as well, waiting to be read for review next month, and I’m eagerly awaiting another visit with Adelaide, and watching to see how her story evolves.

If you love fairytales and folklore, if you love strong women, and complex characters, if you love believable plots and rich descriptions of place and things, you will – as I do – LOVE The Fairytale Keeper.

Goes well with Strong black tea with either milk or honey (never both) and toasted rustic bread with cheese melted on top.


The Fairytale Keeper Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 16
Spotlight at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, February 17
Review at Book Drunkard

Wednesday, February 18
Review at Bibliotica
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Thursday, February 19
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Friday, February 20
Review at Back Porchervations
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes

Saturday, February 21
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Monday, February 23
Review at Bookish

Wednesday, February 25
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Thursday, February 26
Review at Carpe Librum

Friday, February 27
Review at The Bookish Outsider

Monday, March 2
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Tuesday, March 3
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, March 4
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Friday, March 6
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Monday, March 9
Review at Shelf Full of Books

Wednesday, March 11
Review at Brooke Blogs
Review at Boom Baby Reviews

Thursday, March 12
Review at A Leisure Moment
Guest Post at Brooke Blogs

Friday, March 13
Review at Library Educated
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book


Giveaway

To enter to win a Fairytale Keeper Clutch Purse & $25 Amazon Gift Card please complete the giveaway form below.

Clutch Purse Giveaway

* Giveaway is open to US residents only.
* Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on March 13th.
* You must be 18 or older to enter.
* Only one entry per household.
* All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
* Winner will be chosen via GLEAM on March 14th and notified via email. Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
* Please email Amy @ hfvirtualbooktours@gmail.com with any questions.

The Fairytale Keeper

The Fairytale Keeper

After the War is Over, by Jennifer Robson

About the book, After the War is Over After the War is Over

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 6, 2015)

The International bestselling author of Somewhere in France returns with her sweeping second novel—a tale of class, love, and freedom—in which a young woman must find her place in a world forever changed.

After four years as a military nurse, Charlotte Brown is ready to leave behind the devastation of the Great War. The daughter of a vicar, she has always been determined to dedicate her life to helping others. Moving to busy Liverpool, she throws herself into her work with those most in need, only tearing herself away for the lively dinners she enjoys with the women at her boarding house.

Just as Charlotte begins to settle into her new circumstances, two messages arrive that will change her life. One, from a radical young newspaper editor, offers her a chance to speak out for those who cannot. The other pulls her back to her past, and to a man she has tried, and failed, to forget.

Edward Neville-Ashford, her former employer and the brother of Charlotte’s dearest friend, is now the new Earl of Cumberland—and a shadow of the man he once was. Yet under his battle wounds and haunted eyes Charlotte sees glimpses of the charming boy who long ago claimed her foolish heart. She wants to help him, but dare she risk her future for a man who can never be hers?

As Britain seethes with unrest and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte must confront long-held insecurities to find her true voice . . . and the courage to decide if the life she has created is the one she truly wants.

Buy, read, and discuss After the War is Over

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About Jennifer Robson Jennifer Robson

Jennifer Robson first learned about the Great War from her father, acclaimed historian Stuart Robson, and later served as an official guide at the Canadian National War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France. A former copy editor, she holds a doctorate in British economic and social history from the University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and young children.

Connect with Jennifer

Facebook.


My Thoughts

I spent December immersed in another post-war story, having binge-watched three seasons of Call the Midwife with my parents and husband. Of course, that story was post WWII, and this one was post WWI, but if you like that show, chances are that you will love – or at least appreciate – this novel.

Author Jennifer Robson is amazing at putting in the tiny details that make scenes seem so realistic – the sound of footsteps, the look in an eye, the scent of tea – whatever, but she’s equally amazing at making us feel as though her characters are fully formed, dimensional people, from their very first appearances. In my case, I was hooked on this story the second Charlotte used five pounds of her own money to help someone, and not just because it’s something I would have done, in her position.

While this novel deals with some very deep subjects – how do we find ourselves after a national tragedy? How do we define ourselves in a world that is constantly in flux? Dare we turn away from people who are in need of help? – it is also full of hope and joy. The hope that life will be better, that new relationships will thrive, and the joy of breaking bread and sharing stories with friends, and of opening ourselves to new loves, and new possibilities.

If you think historical romances have to be bodice-rippers or require bare-chested men in kilts, or the clank of armor (not that any of those things are bad) then your definition of the genre is severely limited, and this book will open your eyes to what history and romance can really be.

If you already know this, then trust me, you need to read After the War is Over because Jennifer Robson is destined to be an important voice in fiction.

Goes well with Fish & chips, wrapped in newspaper and served with a dash of vinegar.


Jennifer’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour organized by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Tuesday, January 6th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, January 7th: Unshelfish

Thursday, January 8th: Drey’s Library

Friday, January 9th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, January 12th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, January 13th: Biltiotica

Wednesday, January 14th: Diary of an Eccentric

Thursday, January 15th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, January 19th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, January 21st: The Book Binder’s Daughter

Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, by S. R. Mallery (@sarahmallery1) – Review

About the book, Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads Sewing Can Be Dangerous

  • Publication Date: December 16, 2013
  • Publisher:Mockingbird Lane Press
  • Formats: eBook, Paperback, Audio Book
  • Pages:
  • Genre: Historical Fiction/Short Stories

The eleven long short stories in Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads combine history, mystery, action and/or romance, and range from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets, to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a message system to freedom; from an ex-journalist and her Hopi Indian maid solving a cold case together involving Katchina spirits, to a couple hiding Christian passports in a comforter in Nazi Germany; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials, to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; from a 1980s Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial star and an eclectic fiber artist, to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macrami artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.

Watch the trailer for Sewing Can Be Dangerous

Buy, read, and discuss Sewing Can Be Dangerous

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Buy the audio version of Sewing Can Be Dangerous

Amazon | Audible.com | iTunes


About the author, S. R. Mallery S.R. Mallery

S.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life.

First, a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy. Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.

Unexpected Gifts, her debut novel, is currently available on Amazon. Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, her collection of short stories, was released in Jan. 2014. Both books are from Mockingbird Lane Press.

Connect with S.R.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts

I don’t sew. I mean, I can hem pants if I really have to, and I can sew a button on, or make basic curtains, but I don’t have the love of fabric that real sewists (my mother’s word) have. I grew up in a house, however, where going barefoot meant you’d probably end up impaled by a straight pin, or three, and background noise nearly always included the cozy hum of a sewing machine’s flywheel punctuated by my mother’s cursing whenever something didn’t go according to plan.

Despite not being a creator of fiber arts, myself, I have dabbled in crewel embroidery (and still do on rare occasions), I’ve tried to learn to knit (I had an excellent teacher, I am incapable of relaxing my grip enough), and I’m fascinated by quilting, and really will try it one day. The mostly-straight lines I can cope with, but quilting also involves math, and geometry was never my favorite subject.

Reading about sewing, and other kinds of fiber arts, however, is something I love to do, so when I had the chance to review Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, I asked for it in paperback, partly because I knew the short stories would make the perfect “bath book,” and partly because I knew I could pass it on to my mother. (It’s part of her Christmas present this year. Shhh! Don’t tell her!!)

I planned to read this book in the bath over a few days, but the first story hooked me so deeply that I was absorbed by Mallery’s prose and forgot to fill the tub. Also, like potato chips, you cannot (well, I cannot) read just one short story, so I had to keep going. Before I knew it, I’d read away a whole night, and only the fact that I didn’t have a bright enough light made me put this book down.

My favorite piece is the the second story, which is about quilts and curses, and appealed to my love of all things spooky and dark, but every single story is a gem – or, more accurately, a hand-sewn bead among a collection of hand-sewn beads. Mallery’s voice is clear and consistent even when moods and tones are radically different, and it was lovely having so many different women as protagonists. Many of these stories could easily be expanded into longer works, if the author chose to do so, but they also stand well in their current format.

Read this for yourself, even if you don’t sew. And buy a copy for a woman in your life who does sew, because she’ll love it.

Goes well with Bold dark coffee laced with egg nog and mince pie served slightly warm.


Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads Blog Tour Schedule Sewing Can Be Dangerous Blog Tour

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Monday, December 1
Review at Unshelfish

Tuesday, December 2
Review at Bibliotica

Wednesday, December 3
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, December 4
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews and More

Friday, December 5
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog

Monday, December 8
Review at WV Stitcher

Tuesday, December 9
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, December 10
Review at A Book Geek

Thursday, December 11
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, December 12
Review at Based on a True Story

Monday, December 15
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, December 16
Review at Book Babe

Wednesday, December 17
Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, December 19
Review at Book Drunkard

The Spoils of Avalon, by Mary Burns – Review

About the book The Spoils of Avalon The Spoils of Avalon

Publisher:Sand Hill Review Press
Info:Paperback; 300p
ISBN: 978-1937818289
Series: A John Singer Sargent/Violet Paget Mystery (Book One)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Mystery

The death of a humble clergyman in 1877 leads amateur sleuths Violet Paget and John Singer Sargent into a medieval world of saints and kings—including the legendary Arthur—as they follow a trail of relics and antiquities lost since the destruction of Glastonbury Abbey in 1539. Written in alternating chapters between the two time periods, The Spoils of Avalon creates a sparkling, magical mystery that bridges the gap between two worlds that could hardly be more different—the industrialized, Darwinian, materialistic Victorian Age and the agricultural, faith-infused life of a medieval abbey on the brink of violent change at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.

First in a new series of historical mysteries, The Spoils of Avalon introduces two unlikely detectives and life-long friends—beginning as young people on the verge of making their names famous for the next several decades throughout Europe and America: the brilliant and brittle Violet Paget, known as the writer Vernon Lee, and the talented, genial portrait painter John Singer Sargent.

Friends from the age of ten, Paget and Sargent frequently met in the popular European watering places and capitals, frequenting the same salons and drawing rooms in London, Rome, Paris, Florence, Venice, Vienna and Madrid. Both were possessed of keen minds and bohemian tendencies, unorthodox educations and outsized egos (especially Paget). Their instant, natural bonding led them to address each other as “Twin”, and they corresponded frequently when they were apart.

Henry James once described Violet Paget as having “the most formidable mind” of their times, and he was an active fan and patron of John Sargent, introducing him to London society and his own inner circles of literary and artistic genius.

Watch the Book Trailer

Buy, read, and discuss The Spoils of Avalon

Amazon | Goodreads


About the Author, Mary Burns Mary Burns

Mary F. Burns is the author of PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2013), a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. A novella-length book, ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, is also being published by Sand Hill Review Press in 2014. Ms. Burns’ debut historical novel J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has also written two cozy-village mysteries in a series titled The West Portal Mysteries (The Lucky Dog Lottery and The Tarot Card Murders).

Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English, along with a high school teaching certificate. She relocated to San Francisco in 1976 where she now lives with her husband Stuart in the West Portal neighborhood. Ms. Burns has a law degree from Golden Gate University, has been president of her neighborhood association and is active in citywide issues. During most of her working career she was employed as a director of employee communications, public relations and issues management at various San Francisco Bay Area corporations, was an editor and manager of the Books on Tape department for Ignatius Press, and has managed her own communications/PR consulting business, producing written communications, websites and video productions for numerous corporate and non-profit clients.

Connect with Mary

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


My Thoughts

I love a good mystery, and I went through a phase when I was totally in love with all permutations of Arthurian legend, so when an opportunity to read and review this book landed in my inbox, I was delighted to do so.

John and Violet are a detective duo to rival Holmes and Watson, and the presence of a woman does much to open the genre. From the first page, I bought their lifelong friendship, and was laughing when their banter seemed funny, empathizing when they had different ideas. From the start, I felt like I knew these people, and would enjoy conversing at the dinner table, long after the meal’s grown cold, with them.

Similarly, the plot, taking place in two timezones (Victorian England and Glastonbury 200 years or so before that) was woven together just as the Lady of Shalott might have done, and indeed this story was a ‘magic web of colors gay,’ though, of course, as there’s a murder, some of them were also more muted. I especially enjoyed the way author Mary Burns used excerpts from The Idylls of the King as chapter headers.

As a standalone novel, The Spoils of Avalon would be a great read, and I heartily recommend it, but wait! There’s more. Or at least, I hope there will be more, because this book is being marketed as Book One in a series of adventures for John and Violet.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Goes well with Hard cider and a chicken pot pie, especially if it’s raining while you read.


The Spoils of Avalon Blog Tour Schedule 04_The Spoils of Avalon_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

This review is part of a blog tour organized by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. For the complete list of stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Monday, November 3
Review at Buried Under Books

Tuesday, November 4
Review at Book Dilettante

Wednesday, November 5
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Friday, November 7
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, November 10
Review at Just One More Chapter
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, November 11
Review at Layered Pages
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, November 12
Guest Post at Passages to the Past

Thursday, November 13
Review at Curling Up By The Fire

Friday, November 14
Interview at The Maiden’s Court

Monday, November 17
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, November 18
Review at Impressions in Ink

Wednesday, November 19
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, November 20
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews

Friday, November 21
Review at Bibliotica

Beyond Coincidence by Jacquie Underdown (@authoraire) – Review & Raffle

About the book Beyond Coincidence Beyond Coincidence

Publisher: Escape Publishing – Harlequin Enterprises, Australia Pty Ltd (Sept 1, 2014)
ebook, 220 pages
Beyond Coincidence:  Mixing romance, history, and a touch of the unexplained comes a new novel from Jacquie Underdown about love that needs to cross oceans and time before finding a place to come true.

In 2008, 250 Australian and British soldiers are uncovered in a mass grave in Fromelles, France, lost since the Great War. One soldier, bearing the wounds of war so deep it has scarred his soul, cannot be laid to rest just yet.

When Lucy bumps into the achingly sad soldier during a trip to France, she doesn’t, at first glance, realise what he is – a ghost who desperately needs her help. Lucy can’t turn away from someone who needs her, even someone non-corporeal, and they travel back together to Australia in search of answers and, hopefully, some peace.

This chance meeting and unexplainable relationship sets into motion a chain-reaction of delicate coincidences that affect the intertwined lives of family, friends, and lovers in unexpected, beautiful ways.

Buy, read, and discuss Beyond Coincidence

Amazon | iBooks | Goodreads


About the author, Jacquie Underdown Jacquie Underdown

Jacquie resides in hot and steamy Central Queensland, Australia, with her husband and two sons. On permanent hiatus from a profession she doesn’t love, she now spends her time wrapped up in her imagination creating characters and exploring alternative realities.

Jacquie is an author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories that are emotionally driven and possess unique themes beyond the constraints of the physical universe. She strives to offer romance, but with complexity; spirituality, without the religion; and love, with a tantalizing splash of spice.

Her novels express a purpose and offer subtle messages about life, the spirit and, of course, love.

Connect with Jacquie

Blog | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

I love a good ghost story, and I love a rood romance, so it should come as no surprise that I loved Beyond Coincidence as it combines both. Even better, coffee – my own obsession – is a major theme in the book.

At first Lucy seems like a fairly cookie-cutter romance character, but she quickly becomes much more dimensional, and not only because she can see Freddy, the ghost of a long-dead Australian soldier. I love that she has a dream of opening her own business, and that the author used Lucy’s entrepreneurial spirit in everything she went through in this novel.

Freddy, the ghost, is equally compelling, at once sweet and sorrowful, rugged and wry, with his period slang and big heart. You want to either hug him or slap him on the back and take him out for a friendly drink – or both, but as he lacks corporeal form, one cannot do either. Still, as much as Lucy becomes his champion, he also becomes her protector, as much as he’s able.

And then there’s Nate, the third point in the novel’s triumvirate. He’s Freddy’s descendant, and it becomes obvious very quickly that he and Lucy are going to click, even though our first introduction to him is less than savory. He quickly wins Lucy’s – and our- favor, however, and when he and Freddy join forces, Lucy becomes one of the luckiest women in the world.

Either Freddy’s story or Lucy’s story would make excellent reading fodder, but by combining them author Jacquie Underdown has created something truly special that transcends conventional romance novel tropes. Her plot is solid. Her characters are fantastic. Her use of dialogue is so good that I can hear the Australian accents each character has, and even the nuanced differences in the way each of them speaks.

I would be happy to read more of Lucy and Nate in the future, but I’d be equally happy to discover what comes next.

If you want an entertaining read – perfect for a rainy day, or a long soak in the bath – Beyond Coincidence is an excellent choice.

Goes well with A double latte and lemon pound cake.


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Review: The Crystal Cage, by Merryn Allingham (enter to win a copy)

About the book, The Crystal Cage The Crystal Cage

Publication Date: August 4, 2014
Publisher:eHarlequin, eBook; ASIN: B00JTPU72S
Genre: Historical Romance

Captivated…or captured?

Appearances don’t always reveal the truth. Grace Latimer knows this better than most. Illusions of commitment and comfort have her trapped—until bohemian adventurer Nick Heysham charms his way into her world. Commissioned to recover a Great Exhibition architect’s missing designs, he persuades her to assist in his research. The mystery of the Crystal Palace seduces Grace, and once she discovers clues about a forbidden Victorian love affair, she’s lured into the deep secrets of the past…secrets that resemble her own.

As Grace and Nick dig into the elusive architect’s illicit, long-untold story, the ghosts of guilt and forbidden passion slip free. And history is bound to repeat itself, unless Grace finds the courage to break free and find a new definition of love…

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About the author, Merryn Allingham (in her own words) Merryn Allingham

My father was a soldier and most of my childhood was spent moving from place to place, school to school, including 03_Merryn Allinghamseveral years living in Egypt and Germany. I loved some of the schools I attended, but hated others, so it wasn’t too surprising that I left half way through the sixth form with ‘A’ Levels unfinished.

I became a secretary, as many girls did at the time, only to realise that the role of handmaiden wasn’t for me. Escape beckoned when I landed a job with an airline. I was determined to see as much of the world as possible, and working as cabin crew I met a good many interesting people and enjoyed some great experiences – riding in the foothills of the Andes, walking by the shores of Lake Victoria, flying pilgrims from Kandahar to Mecca to mention just a few.

I still love to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage and children meant a more settled existence on the south coast of England, where I’ve lived ever since. It also gave me the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually gain a PhD from the University of Sussex. For many years I taught university literature and loved every minute of it. What could be better than spending my life reading and talking about books? Well, perhaps writing them.

I’ve always had a desire to write but there never seemed time to do more than dabble with the occasional short story. And my day job ensured that I never lost the critical voice in my head telling me that I really shouldn’t bother. But gradually the voice started growing fainter and at the same time the idea that I might actually write a whole book began to take hold. My cats – two stunning cream and lilac shorthairs – gave their approval, since it meant my spending a good deal more time at home with them!

The 19th century is my special period of literature and I grew up reading Georgette Heyer, so when I finally found the courage to try writing for myself, the books had to be Regency romances. Over the last four years, writing as Isabelle Goddard, I’ve published six novels set in the Regency period.

Since then, I’ve moved on a few years to Victorian England, and I’ve changed genre too. The Crystal Cage is my first novel under the name of Merryn Allingham. The book is a mystery/romantic suspense and tells the story of a long-lost tragedy, and the way echoes from the past can powerfully influence the life of a modern day heroine. The next few Allingham books will see yet another move timewise. I’ve been writing a suspense trilogy set in India and wartime London during the 1930s and 1940s, and hope soon to have news of publication.

Whatever period, whatever genre, creating new worlds and sharing them with readers gives me huge pleasure and I can’t think of a better job.

Connect with Merryn

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My Thoughts

I’m a big fan of architecture, history, and romance, so when you combine all three as marvelously as Merryn Allingham has in The Crystal Cage there’s very little chance I’ll be anything but happy. This book made me very, very happy.

First, it’s told as sort of parallel plots, a contemporary story about art promoters/historians trying to track down solid information about an architect of import, partly for the sheer satisfaction of finding the truth, but also for – let’s face it – money and notoriety. The three central figures of the contemporary plot form a triangle of sorts, with main character Grace at it’s apex, in a relationship with Oliver, whom becomes less and less pleasant as the story progresses (seriously, I would have walked out on him in chapter two), and Nick whose bohemian lifestyle belies his ability to love and commit.

For me, Grace’s personal journey toward finding herself as well as the right partner was just as interesting as the historical mystery, because it was so real, and so believable. Who among us hasn’t fallen into a relationship that seems like a good idea only to become a trap as life goes on.

And then there’s the historical love affair with the architect and the object of his affections, though I would argue that he also has a triangle, one where his life’s work is one of the points. Choosing between love and art is never easy, and his story is easily as compelling as the contemporary one.

Author Allingham does an amazing job at making each story connect to the other while still retaining period-appropriate language, tone, and action. The events in the past are no less vivid than those in the present, only slightly softened, as if being viewed through a mirror.

If you want a satisfying romance with an historical twist, excellent characters, and a compelling plot, I heartily recommend The Crystal Cage.

Goes well with Braised lamb shanks and a spring salad.


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Review: Becoming Josephine, by Heather Webb (@msheatherwebb)

About the book Becoming Josephine Becoming Josephine

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Plume (December 31, 2013)

Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

Becoming Josephine is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

Buy, read, and discuss Becoming Josephine

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About the author, Heather Webb Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the author of historical novels Becoming Josephine and the forthcoming Rodin’s Lover (Plume/Penguin 2015).

A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her twittering @msheatherwebb or contributing to her favorite award-winning sites Writer Unboxed and Romance University. In addition, she is a member of The Historical Novel Society.

Connect with Heather

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My Thoughts

Writing about an historical figure is never easy. The author has to balance the truth of history with the requirements of a good story, and still present readers with something that feels believable.

Heather Webb did that – and more – with Becoming Josephine.

From vivid descriptions to beautiful dialogue, from politics and intrigue to growth and romance, she has given us a glimpse at the woman often referred to as “Napoleon’s Cleopatra.”

In the tale of a girl called Rose who develops into a strong woman known as Josephine, we see not just the person from our schoolbooks, but a real woman, who starts out timid, cautious, and out of place, and, after some triumphs and other incidents where merely surviving is enough, ends up confident, strong, and a force to be reckoned with.

While I loved Rose/Josephine and Napoleon as characters, I liked a lot of the supporting characters as well. Rose’s first husband, Alexandre, made me want to punch him in the nose a lot, but then, he was supposed to. Fanny surprised me, because I wasn’t expecting a French aristocrat to talk about the rights of women or the plight of slaves.

Overall, this story could have been a lush epic or it could have been a clever romance set against the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, but instead, Heather Webb has given us something that is both, and neither. It’s a romantic historical epic with clever dialogue and lush clothing, yes, but it’s also a hard look at the politics of the day, and what it means to truly come into your own as a woman and a person.

Goes well with Roasted chicken, garlic crusted red potatoes, salad, and a glass of chardonnay.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Review: Inamorata, by Megan Chance

About the book, Inamorata Inamorata

Paperback: 420 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (July 8, 2014)

American artist Joseph Hannigan and his alluring sister, Sophie, have arrived in enchanting nineteenth-century Venice with a single-minded goal. The twins, who have fled scandal in New York, are determined to break into Venice’s expatriate set and find a wealthy patron to support Joseph’s work.

But the enigmatic Hannigans are not the only ones with a secret agenda. Joseph’s talent soon attracts the attention of the magnificent Odilé Leon, a celebrated courtesan and muse who has inspired many artists to greatness. But her inspiration comes with a devastatingly steep price.

As Joseph falls under the courtesan’s spell, Sophie joins forces with Nicholas Dane, the one man who knows Odilé’s dark secret, and her sworn enemy. When the seductive muse offers Joseph the path to eternal fame, the twins must decide who to believe—and just how much they are willing to sacrifice for fame.

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About the author, Megan Chance Megan Chance

Megan Chance is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author of historical fiction. Her novels have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices and IndieBound’s Booksense programs. A former television news photographer and graduate of Western Washington University, Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters.

Connect with Megan

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My Thoughts:

Inamorata is exactly the kind of novel I generally really love, historical, but in a period not too far from our own, lots of art and music, romance and intrigue, but for some reason I had a difficult time getting into it, re-reading the prologue several times.

Finally, things began to click and I fell into the story I’d been anticipating. Love, scandal, personal and political machinations abound, and the twins, Joseph and Sophie, are catalysts for all of it, while Odile and Nicholas give us the most compelling characters, at least in my opinion. All the characters circle around each other, though, and just as in real life, none of them are truly heroes or truly villains, though Nicholas is the primary antagonist.

I liked that author Megan Chance didn’t give us entire backstories for these people, instead letting us come to know them slowly, both in their novel-present self-assertions, and in the flashbacks that revealed their histories, slowly, the way you learn about actual people…one glimpse at a time.

I also really liked the author’s choice of Venice as a setting, rather than, Paris, London, or Rome. Venice is such a magical place all on its own, and adding these characters – especially Odile – to that city was completely inspired.

And that’s what Inamorata is really about – inspiration, where we find it, what we do with it, and who we use in the process.

Goes well with Buttery rosemary roast chicken, and a glass of chardonnay.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Review: the New Men, by Jon Enfield

About the book, The New Men The New Men

Publisher: Wayzgoose Press (May 14, 2014)
Print Length: 303 pages

For us, the new man, he is one of two things. First, he is the new worker, a man we instruct and investigate until his probation is complete. But also he is an idea. In the foundry, they make parts. On the line, they make autos. But in Sociological, we make men.

Tony Grams comes to America at the start of the twentieth century, set on becoming a new man. Driven to leave poverty behind, he lands a job at the Ford Motor Company that puts him at the center of a daring social and economic experiment.

The new century and the new auto industry are bursting with promise, and everyone wants Henry Ford’s Model T. But Ford needs men to make it. Better men. New men. Men tough enough and focused enough to handle the ever-bigger, ever-faster assembly line. Ford offers to double the standard wage for men who will be thrifty, sober, and dedicated… and who will let Ford investigators into their homes to confirm it.

Tony has just become one of those investigators. America and Ford have helped him build a new life, so at first he’s eager to get to work. But world war, labor strife, and racial tension pit his increasingly powerful employer against its increasingly desperate enemies.

As Tony and his family come under threat from all sides and he faces losing everything he’s built, he must struggle with his conscience and his weaknesses to protect the people he loves.

Buy, read, and discuss The New Men

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About the author, Jon Enfield Jon Enfield

Jon Enfield has written for a range of audiences and publications. His work has appeared in Conjunctions, Poetry Ireland Review, Underground Voices, Xavier Review, and Forbes.com. He is a former fiction editor of Chicago Review, and he taught writing at the University of Southern California for several years. He received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago for his dissertation on the relationships between American film and fiction 1910-1940.

The New Men arose from his longstanding fascination with America in the early twentieth century and from his sense that the emergence and evolution of the American auto industry shed light on some fundamental realities of present-day America.

Connect with Jon

Blog


My Thoughts

I was a bit concerned when I agreed to review this book. I mean, the concept and plot sounded interesting, but it had the potential to be a lot dryer than I typically prefer. I’ve never been more pleased to be proven wrong.

From the opening notes, where author Jon Enfield warns us about specific spelling and dialogue choices to the very last page, I was never bored. In fact, it would be fair to say that I was riveted, because I read this book last weekend, cover to cover, in one night.

We often hear about the concept of a “company town,” and I’ve certainly experienced a few: Marshalltown, IA, for example, is pretty much dominated by Fisher, and my husband and I worked in the Sioux Falls, SD campus of Gateway, back when they were a new-ish corporation. In The New Men, however, Enfield shows us the best and worst of company town culture – the progressive programs put in place to create the perfect workers, and the strictures that came with working for such a business.

After spending roughly half of the last decade doing corporate blogging for auto sales and auto insurance companies, it was incredibly interesting to me to see, in this novel, how the industry began, and to reflect upon the way it’s changed. Through his protagonist, Tony, and through all the other characters in The New Men Enfield shows us, not just a version of what was, but lets us glimpse what could have been, as well.

Sometimes gritty, sometimes poignant – often at the same time – The New Men is a period piece that manages to comment on contemporary culture without feeling as if it’s doing so. Taken as pure fiction, however, it’s a compelling story about people who aren’t that different than most of our grandparents. If you want something a bit toothier than typical summer fare, this novel is an excellent choice.

Goes well with Baked ziti, garlic bread, and a huge salad with fresh tomatoes.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.