Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Post + Giveaway: Carson Morton Author of Stealing Mona Lisa

Historical Fiction as a Collage By Carson Morton 

In my novel, Stealing Mona Lisa, a fictionalized account of the actual theft of The Mona Lisa from the Louvre Museum in 1911, one of the characters discovers the artistic potential of creating avant-garde collages. A collage is a good metaphor for how I created the plot that turns a simple act of theft into a fully fleshed out mystery, adventure, romantic thriller to (hopefully) keep the reader turning the pages till there simply are no more. The challenge in trying to accomplish this was to take the existing elements: an historical fact, the mythology that grew up around that fact, a devastating natural disaster; and find a thread that, with the help of real and imagined characters, tie them all together.

The first elements in the collage were the facts of the actual theft. In 1911, a disgruntled former employee of the Louvre, Vincenzo Peruggia, hid overnight in a paint-supply closet and emerged the following morning, a day the museum was closed for cleaning. Disguised as a maintenance man, he walked into the Salon Carré, lifted The Mona Lisa off the wall, stuffed it under his workman’s blouse, and walked out into the streets of Paris. Being an Italian, he apparently had some vague idea that the masterpiece belonged back in Italy where it had been created by Leonardo DaVinci 500 years previously. Apparently in no hurry to repatriate his prize, he kept it under his shirts in a drawer for two years before trying to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. He was arrested for his troubles. Other than the audacity of the crime, there was not much story there.

The next element was the account, almost certainly apocryphal, that emerged years later concerning a suave mastermind, the Marquis de Valfierno, who orchestrated the theft as part of a scheme to sell six copies to six American Robber Barons. Now we were getting somewhere. Elements one and two, Peruggia and Valfierno, fit together quite nicely. The next task was to assemble the rest of the team. From Ulysses to The Dirty Dozen, every good adventure involves the assembly of a team of misfits. Emilé was a young street urchin when Valfierno first found him. For years, he has been Robin to Valfierno’s Batman. Julia Conway is a young American pickpocket whose sticky fingers prove indispensible to the scheme. And finally there is Diego, the brooding, bad-tempered artist who will create the perfect forgeries. Now I had to come up with a worthy adversary or two. The main target of Valfierno’s scam is Joshua Hart, a filthy rich Robber Baron who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He makes the perfect antagonist, but just for good measure, there is Carnot, the persistent French police inspector whose career will be ruined if he does not apprehend the thieves and recover The Mona Lisa.

Two more elements were needed to make the collage work: motivation and a great setting for a slam-bang climax. The original motivation, of course, was money and lots of it. But that would never be enough to make a reader care. Luckily, Joshua Hart has a rather beautiful, but neglected young wife, Ellen. Ellen was forced into the marriage to provide for her incapacitated mother after her father died leaving the family penniless. Hart treats his wife as little more than a possession, and Valfierno, breaking his own rule of never mixing business with pleasure, finds himself falling for the lovely “bird in a gilded cage.” But how to help her without jeopardizing his carefully planned-out scheme? Not only motivation, but a powerful dilemma!

Which left one more element to be put into place: a dramatic setting for the climax of the story. Time for a little research. I came up with the idea of using the Paris Metro as the background for the final confrontation. It had opened only ten years earlier in 1900 and was still under construction at the time of my story. Perhaps a sort of “The Great Train Robbery” chase in the tunnels beneath Paris would do the trick. But then I stumbled onto something even more interesting, a photograph of men in a boat floating on the tracks of a Metro station. Digging deeper, I quickly discovered that around the time of my story, Paris was inundated by a terrible flood that sent thousands fleeing to higher ground, and, more importantly, flooded train stations and Metro tunnels. This was the final piece of the puzzle, the final element of the story collage. By blending all these elements together with some careful coloring around the edges, I would have a full-blooded story that would take the reader through the pages like the flood washed my characters through the Metro tunnels beneath Paris. That was the hope anyway.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I hope my 90,000 words will paint a series of colorful pictures revealing the Paris of long ago, a romantic City of Light, contrasted with the dark shadows of intrigue and duplicity.

Book Synopsis:
What could be more lucrative than stealing Da Vinci’s masterpiece Mona Lisa from the Louvre Museum and selling it to an American Robber Baron? How about stealing it and selling six exact copies to six American Robber Barons?

This is the plan that master conman Eduardo de Valfierno comes up with in the historical novel, Stealing Mona Lisa. Loosely based on the true story of the theft of the world’s greatest painting in 1911, the novel is set against the colorful milieu of early 20th Century Paris.

At first, Valfierno’s plan goes like clockwork, but his scheme begins to unravel when he finds himself falling in love with Ellen, the young bird-in-a-gilded-cage wife of Joshua Hart, his richest and most powerful - not to mention vindictive - customer. The story climaxes against the backdrop of another actual event from the same time period, the devastating flooding of Paris by the rain-swollen River Seine.

This giveaway is open to both the US and Canadian Residents! It will end August 12th at 12:00 A.M.

Giveaway Guidelines: 
-You must be a Follower of this blog through the GFC follower in order to be entered into this giveaway.
-Please leave your name and email address in order for me to contact you if you are the winner. If an email is not listed then unfortunately you will not be entered.
+1 extra entry for being a new follower of this blog. 
+1 extra entry each time you post this giveaway on twitter, facebook and/or on your blog somewhere. To count please leave a link in the comment section.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Dracula In Love by Karen Essex

★★★ 1/2
Book Source: I received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Release Date: Hardback August 10th, 2010
                          Paperback July 5th, 2011

Book Synopsis: London, 1890. Mina Murray, the rosy-cheeked, quintessentially pure Victorian heroine, becomes Count Dracula’s object of desire. To preserve her chastity, five male “defenders” rush in to rescue her from the vampire’s evil clutches. This is the version of the story we've been told. But now, from Mina’s own pen, we discover that the story is vastly different when told from the female point of view.

In this captivating, bold act of storytelling, award-winning author Karen Essex breathes startling new life into the characters of Bram Stoker's Dracula, transporting the reader into the erotic and bizarre underbelly of the original story. While loosely following the events of its classic predecessor, Dracula in Love deviates from the path at every turn. 

Review: Having not read Bram Stoker’s original Dracula, I did not know what to expect from Karen’s new spin on the classic tale told in Mina’s point of view. I must admit the story took off without a hitch in the beginning. It was magical and eerie at the same time but then all of a sudden it just halted and became very boring and was drawn out for awhile. I kept wondering “when is Dracula going to come on the scene?” Then I realized what Karen was doing, she was setting the stage for his stunning first real appearance.

There were a couple of things I liked and a couple of things I did not like about this novel. I’m going to start with the positive side. For starters, I absolutely loved Mina Harker’s character. She starts out as being just an innocent young woman who was abandoned by her mother for being “different” and now resides at Miss Hadley’s Academy for Young Ladies of Accomplishment where she works as a teacher. She has unexplained episodes where she finds herself sleep walking and later she realizes it’s because someone is calling out to her. Later, on Mina becomes this new empowered woman who won’t take crap from anyone and is willing to get revenge on those who deserve it. Another thing I loved was how this wasn’t just another Vampire book. It was unique in its own way and it portrayed Vampire’s in a new light making it refreshing.

On to the things I did not like so much. For starters I did not like how it took so long for Dracula to make his first appearance. I get that Karen was just trying to set the stage for him but I felt the storyline sort of dragged on for awhile. I did not like the author’s commonly used term “Preternatural” I found it odd and it got very annoying. Lastly, I absolutely abhorred the male characters in this novel especially Jonathon Harker, Mina’s soon to be husband, and Dr. Seward who was obsessed with Mina and was constantly trying to get her to leave Jonathon for him.

In having never read Stoker’s original, I can’t compare Karen’s spin on Dracula but what I can say is that I loved her portrayal of him. I couldn’t help but fall in love with his phantom-like being. Maybe it’s just because I like the bad boys, but it was just so hard not to get caught up in his mysterious behavior, which really captivates the reader.

Final Thoughts: Overall, this novel was good. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was utterly amazing and you need to rush out right now and buy it, but it is definitely worth picking up and reading. It’s one of those novels that you just want to go and grab a huge cozy blanket and curl up on the couch with. It definitely has a magical, yet mysterious feel to it and the way the author left it makes you wonder if there is going to be a sequel.

I have one copy of Dracula In Love up for grabs! If you would like a chance to win this novel click here to sign up.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Interview + Giveaway: Karen Essex author of Dracula In Love

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend! Boy do I have a treat for you today. I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Essex the author of Dracula In Love and so today I'm posting my interview and at the end you will have the opportunity to sign up for the chance to win a copy of Dracula In Love, which has just been released in paperback! So lets get on with the interview...

1. What was it about Bram Stoker’s Dracula that made you want to retell the story from Mina’s point of view?

From the first time that I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula in my teens, though I revered the work, I just knew that the character Mina Harker, Dracula’s obsession, was not satisfied with the role Mr. Stoker gave her—the quintessentially compliant Victorian virgin.  I knew that there had to be more to her than that.  (I knew that there had to be more to any woman than that.)  In a nutshell, my plan was to rescue Mina from Stoker’s sexist fantasy of the nice, cooperative girl, and empower her.

2.What sort of research did you conduct in order to write Dracula In Love?

Whenever I begin a work, I do a massive investigation into the time period.  I read all the relevant history and I also seek out as much of the contemporary writing as possible.  In the case of Dracula in Love, one of the most helpful things was to read issues of The Woman’s World, a slick magazine that was edited by Oscar Wilde.  That gave me a real feeling for what was going on in the female mind in 1890.  I also actually MOVED to London, where I now reside, to research and write the book so that I could drink in the atmosphere of late Victorian England as I wrote.  I never write about a place that I do not visit (unless I can’t get in because of visa problems).

Another fascinating area of research was the late Victorian obsession with the supernatural.  Things like séances and spirit photography, which factor into the book, were common practices at the time in the upper eschelons of society.

In addition, I did a tremendous amount of research into the early days of psychiatry and Victorian insane asylums, which I wrote about in a post:
Readers tell me that the most harrowing parts of the book are not the vampire sequences but the asylum scenes.  Sad but true: women in Victorian times had more to fear from their own cultures than from vampires!

3. How did you decide which parts to keep from the original Stoker's version and which parts to make your own? Did you find it challenging in trying to write this classic tale from a different angle?

Challenging and intimidating.  However, anyone who has read my books knows that I am all about restoring grrrrl power to the historical record, and that is what I also attempt to do here.  In Dracula in Love, I decided to reexamine an iconic female character whose full story had not been written into the original.  In Stoker’s work, Mina has no past, no history, and bears no responsibility for what happens to her.  In my opinion, characters like Mina who have been in our imaginations for over one hundred years are as real to many people as actual historical figures.  They, too, require some reevaluation and fleshing out in terms of our modern day awareness of psychology and gender studies.  Indeed, though Bram Stoker possessed an element of genius, he also wrote about women from the lens of a man of his time.  I thought I could rectify this, bringing to light a realistic portrait of a 19th century women’s experience and teasing out her inner life.

At some point, I had the revelation that I would make Stoker a character in the book.  He would encounter Mina, become intrigued with her situation, and begin to investigate her life.  And he would get it all wrong!  That element freed me from having to follow his narrative.  It changed everything.  It made telling the story so much more fun and gave me license to deviate from the original.

4. Do you have a favorite place to do all your brainstorming and writing for your books, such as a coffee shop or your home office. Where do you think you do your best writing?

I can write anywhere.  I have written through my daughter’s birthday parties at Chuckie Cheese!  I can write in the bathroom, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, at a mountaintop retreat, or in the middle of the night in bed.  I have written massive tracts of words on long distance flights.  Time and place have no effect on my work.  My great challenge in life is to exist in the present moment and not in my work! 

5. When did you realize you were destined to be an author?  I've noticed a lot of author's just fell into this career, is writing something you've always aspired to do or did you grow up wanting to be something else?

I always thought I would be a writer.  I tried to write my first novel at the age of seven.  I don't think it was very good.  However, I spent the first thirty years of my life doing other things—studying, living, modeling, working in film and theater.  I was producing a movie in Philadelphia and I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, «Oh God, I forgot to be a writer.»  I started writing and never looked back.  That is the truth.

6. How do you think your writing has grown since your first published novel? Do you find writing comes more naturally to you or is it something you constantly find yourself tweaking?

Anyone who says that writing comes “naturally,” and that they don’t have to rewrite is either lying or is not a good writer.  Rewriting IS writing.  We write to discover what it is that must be written, and reworking and rethinking is a great part of that process.  I know hundreds of writers and dozens of great writers, and every one of them obsesses over every sentence, reworking it until it is as perfect as we can make it. 

Over the last twenty years, my writing has evolved, and I certainly know more about the process and the craft, but I just reread Kleopatra, my first novel, and I stand by it as being as good as anything else I have written.  So I wouldn’t say that I am getting “better.”  Every book has its own set of challenges.

7. What can your fans expect to see from you next. Can we get a sneak peek into your next writing adventure?

I would love to write a sequel to Dracula in Love, and hope that I can get to it soon, but my next two planned novels return to Leonardo’s Swans territory—the Italian Renaissance.  I have just returned from a very inspiring and informative trip to my favorite places in northern Italy—Milano, Verona, Ferrara, and Mantova.  But in two weeks, I take a vacation to Transylvania, so who knows what will come of that!

Synopsis: London, 1890. Mina Murray, the rosy-cheeked, quintessentially pure Victorian heroine, becomes Count Dracula’s object of desire. To preserve her chastity, five male “defenders” rush in to rescue her from the vampire’s evil clutches. This is the version of the story we've been told. But now, from Mina’s own pen, we discover that the story is vastly different when told from the female point of view.

In this captivating, bold act of storytelling, award-winning author Karen Essex breathes startling new life into the characters of Bram Stoker's Dracula, transporting the reader into the erotic and bizarre underbelly of the original story. While loosely following the events of its classic predecessor, Dracula in Love deviates from the path at every turn. 

This giveaway is open to the US only and it ends August 8th at 12:00 p.m.

Giveaway Guidelines: 
-You must be a Follower of this blog through the GFC follower in order to be entered into this giveaway.
-Please leave your name and email address in order for me to contact you if you are the winner. If an email is not listed then unfortunately you will not be entered.
+1 extra entry for being a new follower of this blog. 
+1 extra entry each time you post this giveaway on twitter, facebook and/or on your blog somewhere. To count please leave a link in the comment section.

*If you are on Twitter, you can tweet your posts to the Dracula In Love Twitter event:  #DraculaInLoveVirtualBookTour

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: Edward Mike Voyce


Book Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Release Date: 2011

Book Synopsis: Owning a Law practice gives the author freedom, he uses it to devise a project using hypnosis, becoming hypnotised into past-life regression.

It isn't just any life, but the future duke of Buckingham; son of a traitor, with a better claim to the throne than the King, fabulously rich, but a prisoner to the most dangerous woman in Europe. Edward is hereditary Grail Knight.

It isn't just this life, it's the times. Margaret Beaufort made her son king by treason, intrigue and witchcraft. The lawful Richard III has been replaced by Henry Tudor, heir to an illegitimate line; Tudor rule is by tyranny and embezzlement. Into this comes Edward, on the run from age 5, prisoner of the Tudors from age 7, his estates are plundered, he is forced to support Tudor, and join in the killing of his detractors.

There are 2 saving graces: Edward's love for Eadie and their daughter - defying a marriage contract by Margaret Beaufort, and his inheritance of the Holy Grail, Sword and 'Druid Glass'. They're not enough to save Edward from History, can they save the author?

My Review: So I really hate writing bad reviews. When I do I feel like such a B**** and I’m so not, but unfortunately in this case I have to and I’m so very sorry. I will try to be as gentle and gracious as I possibly can. So here goes nothing…

Okay for starters, after reading the book synopsis I was so intrigued because I thought the idea of using reincarnation as a way to go back in time to tell a historical story was completely genius and I could not wait to sink my teeth in this book and see the direction the author chose to take. Sadly, it just didn’t do it for me. At first I was completely confused until I figured out what the author was doing by first telling the story of the present day “Edward” and then going back in time to Edward de Stafford. 

The storyline barely made since because it was so scattered and jumbled around it was like the character was scatter brained or something or had ADD. I just couldn’t get into it and I kept telling myself give it more time to develop and then decide whether or not to put the book down. I got to page 50 something and then I decided okay I’ve had enough so before I put the book down all together I jumped ahead about 50 pages to see if it gets better and it was still “messy” and when I say messy I mean the character just talked about random things and then he would go back in the past and the present day “Edward” would describe every single detail but yet the details being described were pointless.

I think if the author told Edward de Stafford’s story in third person then it would have made a big difference, but instead it was told in first person and it was present day “Edward” talking to the reader and it was distracting and for lack of a better word it was annoying. I also thought the characters and the plot had no depth I just couldn’t picture any of them and it wasn’t believable to me. Before I chose to write my review I got online and looked to see if I could find other reviews over this book to see if I was crazy by not enjoying this book and apparently according to the two reviews I could find, I am because it was given a 5 star review by both reviewers. So maybe I am crazy and I just don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, but I just could not get through it and I chose to move on to my next adventure. 

I hope this doesn’t sound too pretentious and mean, but it’s my honest opinion and I take pride in not sugar coating something in order to save face in fear of offending someone connected to the book.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Giveaway Winner Announcement!

Hey everyone please help me congratulate the lucky winner of Shadow of a Quarter Moon by Eileen Schwab!

and the winner is...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Post: Richard W. Field Discusses the Case for Richard the Lionheart

Today I have a special guest post by Richard W. Field who is the author The Swords of Faith which focuses on the Third Crusade and Richard the Lionheart.

The Case for Richard the Lionheart

There was a time, not so long ago, when Richard the Lionheart was a revered English king, thought of as a magnificent, chivalrous warrior of the Middle Ages. But recently, Richard’s reputation has taken a beating. His recent depiction in the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe movie “Robin Hood” is the latest of example of Richard’s more recent image as a brutish thug. With this post, I will make the case that Richard does not deserve the complete reversal from hero to villain. I will cite some recent propositions against Richard’s prior reputation as glorious king, and I will place those issues in perspective. My objective here is to offer a balanced view of this complex, fascinating icon of the Middle Ages. This will, of necessity, be a simple overview, not an attempt to deal with every nuance of this famous English king.

Richard the Lionheart was a failed king because he spent most of his time away from England. He did spend a lot of time away from England—true. But this is where events took him. Before he became king, he swore an oath to go on a “crusade,” a fighting pilgrimage to take back Jerusalem for western Christians. To violate that oath would have been unthinkable for an honorable king of his time. He spent nearly a year preparing for the expedition, to try to assure its success. On his way back, he was seized by Leopold of Austria and held for ransom by German Emperor Henry VI. This delay getting back to England was not Richard’s idea. While Richard was held for ransom, Philip II of France chiseled away at Richard’s French holdings. So after Richard returned to England, he needed to go fairly quickly to France to protect his position there. He eventually died during the siege of a minor castle in France. Richard’s absence from England for most of his ten-year reign was more evidence of the duplicity of key rivals of Richard the Lionheart than evidence of some failure on his part. By any fair standards of the period, Leopold of Austria, Emperor Henry VI, Philip II of France—and John, Richard’s brother—should all have been excommunicated for their treatment of a fighting pilgrim for Christianity.

Richard was a brutal thug, good at violence but an otherwise unsophisticated ruler. It is true Richard was a huge, strong man, an accomplished fighter, who often led his men into battle from the front. (Saladin himself criticized Richard for being too reckless with his personal safety. This was probably a legitimate criticism. Richard’s arrogant failure to armor himself properly while besieging a minor castle in France led to his death.) But Richard was also well-educated, dabbling in music, poetry and song-writing. His military victories were not just the result of brutish power, but showed a keen mastery of tactics and strategy. The Battle of Arsuf, one of his greatest victories while on the “Third Crusade,” came after a long hot march down the coast toward Jerusalem, a march meticulously controlled by Richard as it was harried by Saladin’s forces all along the route. The battle itself was won as a result of Richard’s grasp of the situation, and his tactic of unleashing a well-timed cavalry charge to drive off and crush the attackers. When it looked as if a premature move by some of his men would jeopardize the plan, Richard acted quickly to adjust and to orchestrate a successful charge. He had arranged for a series of bugle calls to signal his commands, and gave clear instructions to his men before the battle began. And yes, he led that charge, from the front. In just a few moments of that charge, Richard’s forces prevailed at the Battle of Arsuf.

Richard was a religious fanatic who committed atrocities against Muslims. This was an era of religious fanatics. Richard believed in his faith and the idea that he needed to fight for it. He did order the executions of 3000 unarmed prisoners taken at Acre. The killing of the Acre hostages was a brutal act, and through our eyes, appears to be a negative against Richard. I won’t defend it too much here, except to say that this was a more violent time, when such executions occurred. Saladin executed the knights of the orders taken prisoner at the Battle of Hattin in 1187. When Richard felt was being trifled with over the payment of the ransom for the Acre prisoners, he leveled consequences. There is no doubt this angered Saladin, as he then executed prisoners his forces captured during Richard’s march south toward Jerusalem, just after the Acre hostage executions. But this is the only incident that can be fairly called an “atrocity.” And Richard and Saladin negotiated a peace agreement just over a year later, with declarations of mutual respect from both of them (including mutual respect between Richard and Saladin’s brother al-Adil as well—Richard went so far as to award knight spurs to Saladin’s nephew al-Kamil). This does not sound like the actions of a rabid religious fanatic.

For all his great military ability, Richard failed to take Jerusalem during the “Third Crusade.” Richard got to within twelve miles of Jerusalem twice, but did not follow through with a siege. Richard was no impetuous fool. Besieging Jerusalem in both situations (once during the rains and winds of winter, and once during the stifling heat of summer with unreliable water sources) would have been logistically challenging, and the city would have been difficult to hold after it had been taken. He saw the situation objectively and did not let ego lead him into foolishness. Besides logistical problems, Richard also led a coalition army that was severely factionalized and shrinking. More and more ominous messages were coming from home to the effect that his brother John was trying to take his throne. When Richard arrived on the eastern Mediterranean coast, the western Christians clung to a few strongholds. When Richard left, western Christians held coastal cities from Tyre south to Jaffa and defensible territories inland, though not the prize of Jerusalem. Though Richard himself felt his expedition had been a failure without the capture of Jerusalem, the truth is he could claim a great deal of success.

Henry II
Richard was disloyal to his father King Henry II; he was a “bad son.” There is no question that Richard took up arms against his father more than once, and with Philip II of France, Richard forced his father into confirming his succession in humiliating circumstances just before Henry’s death. Out of context, this behavior could be considered the disloyal actions of a “bad son.” But this risks huge oversimplification. Henry II’s relationships with his sons were complex and shifting, and could fill volumes. (Actually, they have already filled volumes!) Mix in a healthy dose of Eleanor of Aquitaine and we have even more complexity to deal with. To be fair, Henry II was not always a good father. His refusal to acknowledge Richard’s succession when he was down to two surviving sons probably had to do with the crowning of his first son Henry, which led to friction among Henry II his son’s years before. But Richard had a right to ask for clarification of the issue, with Richard well into adulthood, and Henry II headed toward old age. Was the friction the result of the actions of a “bad son,” or a “bad father?” I would call this a clash of the egos of two talented men who probably should have been able to set aside their differences. The fact they did not was their mutual failure.

There is one other Richard the Lionheart issue that has surfaced over the last half-century—the idea that Richard the Lionheart may have been gay. I don’t consider this a positive or negative. If he was gay, so be it. But I do not believe the evidence supports it. I discussed this at length in my guest blog post at “History Undressed” on July 13th.
Tomb of Richard the Lionheart

So there is the case for Richard the Lionheart. Views of history, interpretations of facts, shift with changing perspectives. Richard has gone from hero to heal. I like to think of him as a complex talented man, who had flaws as we all do, and who deserves a balanced look through the lens of history.

Thanks so much Richard for writing such an informative and interesting piece on one the the most legendary rulers in history!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Giveaway: The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Hey everyone, today I have a copy of The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin up for grabs! This giveaway is open to both US and Canadian residents and the giveaway will end July 31st at 12:00 a.m. Below I have listed some information about the book and please feel free to sign up in the comments section below.

Daisy Goodwin has managed to write the ultimate summer read—THE AMERICAN HEIRESS (St. Martin’s Press; June 2011) will appeal to both fans of Downton Abbey and The Real Housewives of New York. Imagine a world where every word, glance and wardrobe choice will be scrutinized. Where domineering women care more about their reputations than their families’ happiness. Where money can buy you a spouse, status… almost anything but love and respect. It’s Dynasty meets the Gilded Age.

Written by one of the biggest television producers in England (as well as the most recent chair of England’s Orange Prize judging committee and the editor of the critically-acclaimed poetry anthology, “101 Poem That Could Save Your Life”), THE AMERICAN HEIRESS channels Goodwin’s fascination with the excesses of the Gilded Age into a deliciously insightful and brilliantly entertaining novel about American money, the British aristocracy and the uncomfortable, often unhappy union between the two.

Witty, moving, and irresistibly entertaining, THE AMERICAN HEIRESS marks the debut of a glorious storyteller who provides a sly spin on the works of Edith Wharton and Henry James. 
On July 10th, THE AMERICAN HEIRESS will debut on The New York Times Bestseller List.

Book Synopsis:
It is 1893, in Newport, Rhode Island, and no detail of Cora Cash’s lavish masquerade ball has been left to chance. Beautiful, spirited, and the richest heiress of her generation, Cora is the closest thing that American society has to a princess. Her debut is the carefully orchestrated prelude to a campaign in which her mother will whisk her to Europe, where Mrs. Cash wants to acquire the one thing that money can’t buy for her daughter in the States: a title.

Be careful what you wish for. Cora makes a dazzling impression on English society—followed by a brilliant match—but finds that the chill in the air of magnificent ancestral homes comes from more than the lack of central heating. As she gradually learns that old-world aristocrats are governed by obscure codes of conduct and loyalty that can betray even the most charming, accomplished outsider, Cora must grow from a spoiled young rich girl into a woman of substance.

Giveaway GuidelinesOpen to both Canada & US and ends July 31st at 12:00 a.m.
-You must be a Follower of this blog through the GFC follower in order to be entered into this giveaway.
-Please leave your name and email address in order for me to contact you if you are the winner. If an email is not listed then unfortunately you will not be entered.
+1 extra entry for being a new follower of this blog. 
+1 extra entry each time you post this giveaway on twitter, facebook and/or on your blog somewhere. To count please leave a link in the comment section.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Interview + International Giveaway: Eileen Schwab author of Shadow of a Quarter Moon

Hey everyone! I am very pleased to announce that we have a special guest today. Eileen Schwab is here to answer a few questions about her latest novel Shadow of a Quarter Moon and she has graciously offered up a copy to one lucky winner. This giveaway is open to everyone so feel free to sign up in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy!

Interview: Eileen Schwab

1.  Early in your novel, SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON, a unique twist is revealed.  Can you give us a brief introduction to your main character, Jacy Lane?

A.   In SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON, an unimaginable secret changes the course of Jacy’s life… not once, but twice.  First, when it is hidden from her, and then when it is revealed.  As the daughter of a plantation owner, Jacy has been raised in privilege until she discovers that she is the offspring of a dalliance between her father and a slave.

2.  How does this shocking discovery impact the story?

A.  The revelation destroys Jacy's sense of who she is and where she belongs in the world, especially when she learns her biological mother and brother are still slaves on the property.  Amid the shock and complexities of her mixed heritage, Jacy is simply a woman longing for love, happiness, and a sense of wholeness; however the 1800s are not a simple time.  Jacy begins a treacherous journey that is fraught with danger and life-altering choices and soon discovers that what she chases is as elusive as the secret network she seeks for help.

3.  America’s Underground Railroad is present to varying degrees in SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON and your previous novel, PROMISE BRIDGE.  What draws you to this difficult time?

A.  Any turbulent period in history is fodder for great books and memorable characters.  The heroes are more heroic and the villains more villainous because they are woven from truths.  The years of slavery in the United States are no different, yet it is a time that we often avoid revisiting because of the horror and shame it stirs in our moral conscience. However, in keeping the door closed on this period, we miss the chance to celebrate and marvel at the incredible acts of courage and daring deeds that were the genesis of social change in our country.  The secret network known as the Underground Railroad is the perfect example of the best of America in the worst of America, and it serves as a vehicle of transformation for my main character, Jacy.

4.  Writing a novel against an historic backdrop requires a great deal of research.  What did you do to accurately portray place and character?

A.  For me, research is a process of discovery – not just of historical facts, but of tendencies, beliefs, undertones, and nuances of the time.  Through this process I become better acquainted with my characters and the world around them. I wanted to touch and see as much as I could, beginning at the library, as well as visiting places like the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and other historic sites found within our National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.  So often the surprises discovered in research shift plotlines or shape characters in unexpected ways.  For example, while doing some research in North Carolina, I came across Dismal Swamp.  As a writer, I could not overlook a name so vivid and descriptive, and I knew it would be mentioned in my story.  At the time, I had no idea that the bleak sounding region was so rich and storied in Underground Railroad history, or that it would play such a significant role in my novel.

5.  What do you hope readers will carry away from this novel?

A.  As an author, my hope is that readers find SHADOW to be a journey worth taking and that the characters resonate with them long after the book is finished.  I am inspired by the strength and courage of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.  It was an honor to look back and give voice to a generation deserving of acknowledgment, tribute, and literary life.  Remembering and discussing their trials and triumphs can be one way of paying respect for their role in our social evolution.

 Book Synopsis:

Shadow of a Quarter Moon is the suspenseful and moving story of Jacy Lane, the daughter of a wealthy North Carolina horse breeder in 1839. After Jacy's father is killed in a suspicious accident, Claudia (the woman Jacy knows as Mother) reveals a secret that shatters her world. Jacy is not the well-bred woman she believes herself to be, but rather she is the light-skinned offspring of a dalliance between her father and a slave.

The shocking revelation destroys Jacy's sense of who she is and where she belongs in the world. If her secret is revealed, she will be cast out of "white" society. But as she tentatively gets to know her true mother and brother, as well as a protective slave named Rafe, Jacy begins to see life in the South with fresh eyes. To secure their wealth, Claudia tries to manipulate Jacy into marriage with a well-positioned but lecherous suitor. Claudia threatens to sell Jacy's newfound family, forcing her to make a decision that will take her on a treacherous and life-altering journey.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Bride Flight Winner Announcements!

Hey Everyone! I am so sorry it took me so long to announce the 3 lucky winners of the book Bride Flight by Marieke Van Der Pol. I must admit I completely forgot about it, but the good news is is that I have randomly chosen the 3 lucky winners last night!  So please help me congratulate the winners!

 And the winners are...
Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic
Holly (2 Kids and Tired)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: The Blighted Troth by Mirella Sichirollo Patzer

★★★★ 1/2

Book Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Book Release Date: February 2011

Book Synopsis: A compelling story of love and treachery, faith and loss, forgiveness and triumph. In 18th century New France, a brave young woman must strive to make her own way in life and in love. In the year 1702 in New France, Emilie, a virtuous young woman is betrothed to Robert, the town's handsome miller. On the eve of her wedding, when Emilie spurns the attention of the town's wealthy seigneur, it sets off a catastrophic chain of events that turns her life, and that of her betrothed, into a desperate flight for their lives, sending them straight into the arms of peril. 

Seigneur Richard de Tonnacour, the town's black-hearted and corrupt overlord, will stop at nothing to claim Emilie for himself. When his abduction attempt of Emilie goes awry, she and Robert are forced to flee their homes. Forcefully separated, the lovers each encounter new troubles including famine, a Quebec bread riot, a death sentence, and the small pox epidemic of 1703. Embroiled in a fateful chase, Emilie learns that not even the devious madness of her adversaries can destroy her love for Robert. Amid heartache and tragedy, Emilie and Robert struggle to overcome adversity until a turn of events reveals Robert's true identity. As destiny draws them back together, they learn the lessons of love, forgiveness, and family. 

The Blighted Troth is a retelling of the classic novel, The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) by Alessandro Manzoni. Inspired by this epic Italian classic novel, the author weaves an entirely new and unqiue captivating tale in a new setting, a new century, and with new plot twists.

My Review: 

The Good: Mirella had a way of writing the characters in such a way that you could not help but feel compassion for them. There were so many different plots throughout the entire book, which turned it into a very intricate storyline with multiple twists and turns. I really enjoyed how she would switch point of views from every character in order for the reader to really envision how the plot truly unravels.

The Bad: It took a while for the storyline to pick up. I found the beginning pages to be very slow and difficult to get into. It almost felt like the author was trying to find her way in the beginning because the writing seemed very amateur, but right before I decided to give up on the book it picked up and it was like Mirella finally found her footing and knew exactly where she wanted the story to go. 

Final thought: Overall the book was truly great! My heart went out to the two lovers. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to go through what they went through just to be married to one another. They faced one road block after another and I could not help rooting for them and hoping they would find their way back to each other’s arms. I usually hope for a reality ending and not some fairytale ending, but that was not the case this time. I wanted the fairytale ending! The Blighted Troth is the perfect title for this romantic love story. Highly recommended!