Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review - Nocturne by Syrie James

"From international bestselling author Syrie James comes a haunting and deeply romantic story of forbidden love that will steal your heart and never let you go.

When Nicole Whitcomb’s car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blinding snowstorm, she is saved from death by a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger.

Snowbound with him for days in his beautiful home high in the Rockies, she finds herself powerfully attracted to him. But there are things about him that mystify her, filling her with apprehension.

Who is Michael Tyler? Why does he live alone in such a secluded spot and guard his private life so carefully? What secret—or secrets—is he hiding?

Nicole has secrets of her own and a past she is running from—but Michael understands her better than anyone she has ever known. Soon, she is falling as deeply in love with him as he is with her—a profoundly meaningful experience that is destined to change their lives forever.

As the sexual tension between them builds, however, the clues mount up. When Nicole learns her host’s terrifying secret, there is nowhere for her to run but into the blizzard raging outside, and Michael may be the only one who can save her life."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

If you're looking for the perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter's night, look no further than Nocturne by Syrie James. It is a wonderful love story with paranormal elements that is sure to entertain those who enjoy passionate romance, literature, and music.

Nicole Whitecomb's accident on a lonely Colorado road during a blizzard is witnessed by Michael Tyler, a reclusive man who resides in a moutaintop home. Left with no alternative but to go down and rescue the injured woman, he reluctantly brings her into his home to tend to her injuries.

The worsening road conditions and the wrecked condition of her car eliminates any possibility of leaving Michael's home any time soon. While Nicole is grateful for his help in rescuing her, his behavior is brusque and rude which makes her feel like a huge imposition. Indeed, he tells her quite bluntly that he rarely has visitors and demands his privacy. He leaves Nicole to fend for for herself and reminds her that certain areas of the house are off-limits. Even more strange, she finds only a very meager amount of food available in a kitchen that looks as if it's never been used.

Nicole thinks all of this, and the secretive nature of Michael, is very odd...yet he is an extremely good looking guy, intelligent,and cultured. She discovers he has a love of literature and they share an interest in classical music. Intrigued but well aware that all is not as it seems, Nicole makes a discovery about his true identity.....and little by little, the reasons for Michael's strange behavior and secretive nature are revealed. Each has inner wounds that they begin to share with one another, and their relationship develops into a very intense but forbidden love. Michael's passion for Nicole and his secret may well cost her her it a risk she is willing to take?

Syrie James has written a very compelling contemporary thriller with a bittersweet romance; I was left feeling hopeful that somehow, Michael and Nicole's love was meant to be.

4/5 stars

**Disclosure: Thank you to Elena Stokes @ Wunderkind PR and Vanguard Press for providing me with an advance copy of Nocturne for review.

Available January 4, 2011.

Title: Nocturne
Author: Syrie James
Published by Vanguard Press
281 pages
genre: fiction/contemporary romance/thriller

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011

There's fun news for a completely unique challenge in 2011 over at the fabulous Austenprose! Laurel Ann has announced the details of the exciting "Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011" featuring all of Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries! Besides reviews and contests on Austenprose, fellow Janeites can follow along with Stephanie Barron on her own website where she will discuss behind-the-scenes information about the writing and research involved in creating her Jane Austen sleuth. Sounds like a great challenge!

Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron:

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (1996)
Jane and the Man of the Cloth (1997)
Jane and the Wandering Eye (1998)
Jane and the Genius of the Place (1999)
Jane and the Stillroom Maid (2000)
Jane and the Prisoner of the Wool House (2001)
Jane and the Ghosts of Netley (2003)
Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy (2005)
Jane and the Barque of Frailty (2006)
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (2010)
Jane and the Canterbury Tale (2011)

Time-line: The Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge runs January 1, through December 31, 2011.

Levels of participation: Neophyte: 1 – 4 novels, Disciple 5 – 8 novels, Aficionada 9 – 11 novels.

At present, I'm going to try to work through them all....we'll see how it goes. ;)

For full details and to sign up for the challenge, please visit Austenprose.

Are you in?

Oh, yeah? Who Says Girls Can't Write?

The Bronte sisters as you've never seen them.....

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Christmas Goodies!

Good morning! I hope everyone spent the last few days enjoying all the wonderful things that the Christmas season brings.....good times spent with family and friends. We had a very special Christmas this year with lots of family get-togethers, rich food, and way too much indulgence with chocolate and baked treats! Christmas morning brought pouring rain, howling wind, and freezing temps, but that just made us snuggle deeper under the blankets to catch some extra winks. We spent a quiet and blissful morning in our pj's, opening presents, sipping hot chocolate, and watching Christmas movies-- just perfect!

As usual, I asked Santa for nothing but books, and I guess I was pretty good this year as he left some wonderful things for me under the tree.

My shipment of Jean Plaidy books (seven of them) arrived from the UK in time for Christmas (yay!), so I've been ooohing and ahhhing over these gorgeous editions of The Plantagenet series. I can't wait to dive into them!

I received this lovely coffee table edition of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, annotated version.

And last but not least, I received a package just before Christmas from......Lauren Willig! She has lots of contests on her website, and I was one of the winners for one of her recent giveaways (winners would receive a Pink Carnation totebag). When the package arrived, it looked much too big for just a folded up totebag, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a sweet handwritten note from Lauren, a totebag, AND a signed copy of the trade paperback edition of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, hot off the presses!

(Writing on tote: Swooning solves nothing.....speak loudly and carry a large parasol!)

Hope your holidays were filled with all good things.....and lots of good books!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Historical Fiction Challenge 2011

I love historical fiction and Historical Tapestry is a great blog, so I'm signing up for the severe bookaholism level (20 books) for the 2011 Historical Fiction Challenge. This challenge will run for the entire year, can include various forms of historical fiction, and can overlap with other challenges.

Here's my tentative list: (from my TBR pile)

l. The Greatest Knight - Elizabeth Chadwick (completed)
2. The Scarlet Lion - Elizabeth Chadwick (completed)
3. The Courts of Love: The Story of Eleanor of Aquitaine - Jean Plaidy
4. The Plantagenet Prelude - Jean Plaidy (completed)
5. The Secret Diaries of Anne Boleyn - Robin Maxwell
6. Here Be Dragons - Sharon Kay Penman
7. The Far Pavilions - M. M. Kaye
8. To Dance With Kings - Rosalind Laker
9. Island of the Swans - Ciji Ware (completed)
10. Child of the Northern Spring - Persia Wooley
11. Queen By Right - Anne Easter Smith (completed)
12. Nefertiti - Michelle Moran
13. The Countess and the King - Susan Holloway Scott (completed)
14. The King's Favorite (Nell Gwyn) - Susan Holloway Scott
15. Royal Harlot (The Countess of Castlemaine) - Susan Holloway Scott
16. The Queen's Confession - Victoria Holt
17. To Defy a King - Elizabeth Chadwick
18. To Be Queen - Christy English
19. Madame Tussaud - Michelle Moran (completed)

Please visit Historical Tapestry for full details of the reading challenge and a list of other bloggers that are participating. Happy historical fiction reading!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All I Want For Christmas....

"Along with the plays of William Shakespeare and the works of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen’s novels are among the most beloved books of Western literature. Pride and Prejudice (1813) was in Austen’s lifetime her most popular novel, and it was the author’s personal favorite. Adapted many times to the screen and stage, and the inspiration for numerous imitations, it remains today her most widely read book. Now, in this beautifully illustrated and annotated edition, distinguished scholar Patricia Meyer Spacks instructs the reader in a larger appreciation of the novel’s enduring pleasures and provides analysis of Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Catherine, and all the characters who inhabit the world of Pride and Prejudice.

This edition will be treasured by specialists and first-time readers, and especially by devoted Austen fans who think of themselves as Friends of Jane."



Besides peace and good health, I'm hoping this beautiful annotated edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice finds its way to my house. Hope Santa got the hint! ;)

What books are you hoping will be under your tree?

Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy, safe New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

"Edie is an only child of respectable if dull parents who, when she was growing up, did little to nurture her natural love of words or mystery.

But now, a letter that should have been delivered fifty years earlier arrives for her mother and sends Edie on a journey into the past. It takes her to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house in Kent, where the Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted as a thirteen-year-old child during World War II. The elder Blthye sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn't been the same since her fiance' jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother's past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst. The truth of what happened in "the distant hours" of the past have been waiting a long time for someone to find it. Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning an intricate web of mystery and suspense that will stay with the reader long after the last page."

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

"Hush...Can you hear him?
The trees can. They are the first to know that he is coming..."

from The True History of the Mud Man by Raymond Blythe

Eerie...haunting....suspenseful....sorrowful.....layer upon layer of mystery... Kate Morton's The Distant Hours just sucked me into the mournful tale of the three spinster Blythe sisters, isolated with their dark secrets and tormented pasts in the ancient castle of Milderhurst. They are the daughters of the famous author, Raymond Blythe, who wrote the frightening but immensely popular children's novel The True History of the Mud Man. Their past is riddled with unspeakable tragedy and long-buried secrets that would never be known to the world, until one day, in 1992, Edith Burchill's mother receives a long-forgotten letter from one of the castle's inhabitants. This twist of fate prompts Edie to visit Milderhurst, as her mother was once protected there as a child during the bombing of London during WWII. The reader is then taken on a roller-coaster of a ride through time, criss crossing the past and the present as the castle stones begin to whisper their secrets and slowly, ever so slowly, reveal the stories of the distant hours...lovers, affairs, secrets, death, madness, broken promises, nightmares, accidents...

Trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together is an exercise in futility, as the secrets are deep and multi-layered.

Read it. Get lost in it. Be prepared for the storm. And watch out...for the Mud Man.....he is coming.

Kate Morton is the author of The House at Riverton and The Forgotton Garden.

5/5 stars Highly recommended if you enjoy gothic goodness!

Title: The Distant Hours
Author: Kate Morton
562 pages
genre: gothic mystery

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Upcoming Release - Nocturne by Syrie James

It's always nice to get a newsletter from an author like Syrie James with a sneak peek at an upcoming release (January 2011). Syrie James has written wonderful historical fiction novels that I have enjoyed that have been well-researched....The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, and Dracula, My Love. Her latest, Nocturne, is a bit of a change as it is a contemporary thriller and it looks intriguing!

from Amazon:
"From international bestselling author Syrie James comes a haunting and deeply romantic story of forbidden love that will steal your heart and never let you go.

When Nicole Whitcomb’s car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blinding snowstorm, she is saved from death by a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger.

Snowbound with him for days in his beautiful home high in the Rockies, she finds herself powerfully attracted to him. But there are things about him that mystify her, filling her with apprehension.

Who is Michael Tyler? Why does he live alone in such a secluded spot and guard his private life so carefully? What secret—or secrets—is he hiding?

Nicole has secrets of her own and a past she is running from—but Michael understands her better than anyone she has ever known. Soon, she is falling as deeply in love with him as he is with her—a profoundly meaningful experience that is destined to change their lives forever.

As the sexual tension between them builds, however, the clues mount up. When Nicole learns her host’s terrifying secret, there is nowhere for her to run but into the blizzard raging outside, and Michael may be the only one who can save her life."

Click here to go to Syrie's website and read an excerpt.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2010 - Wrap Up

Most of what I read for pleasure consists of historical fiction, so this challenge is great for me to whittle away at my collection of historical fiction, historical mysteries, and historical romances. Thanks to The Royal Reviews (and Alaine @ Queen of Happy Endings) for sponsoring the Historical Fiction Challenge for 2010 and motivating me to try a variety of new authors in the genre. I'm looking forward to continuing exploring more of these great historical fiction authors such as Elizabeth Chadwick, Sharon Kay Penman, M. M. Kaye, and Jean Plaidy, among others in 2011.

Here is a list, arranged alphabetically by author, of the books I read this year that fall under the category of historical fiction. My Top 10 Favorites of the year have been linked to the review.

HF = Historical Fiction
HM = Historical Mystery
HR = Historical Romance
** = TOP 10 FAVORITE in 2010 (links to review)

Alexander, Tasha - Dangerous to Know (HM)

Barron, Stephanie - Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (HM)

Carroll, Susan - The Dark Queen (HF)

Chadwick, Elizabeth - **For the King's Favor (HF)

Clare, Pamela - **Surrender (HR)

Donnelly, Jennifer -**The Winter Rose (HR)

Dunant, Sarah - The Birth of Venus (HF)

Duran, Meredith - Wicked Becomes You (HR)

Eagles, Cynthia Harrod - The Founding (HF)

Erskine, Barbara - **Lady of Hay (HF)

Fairview, Monica - The Other Mr. Darcy (HR)
The Darcy Cousins (HR)

Garwood, Julie - The Secret (HR)

Harper, Karen - Mistress Shakespeare (HF)

Heyer, Georgette - Devil's Cub (HR)
Arabella (HR)
The Unfinished Clue (HM)
Frederica (HR)


James, Syrie - Dracula, My Love (HR)

Kaye, M. M. - **Trade Wind (HF)

Kearsley, Susanna - **Mariana (HR)
The Shadowy Horses (HR)
Named of the Dragon (HR)
**The Winter Sea (HR)

Kleypas, Lisa - Then Came You (HR)

Kloester, Jennifer - Georgette Heyer's Regency World (Nonfiction)


McNaught, Judith - Once and Always (HR)
Almost Heaven (HR)

McNees, Kelly O'Connor - The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott (HF)

Moning, Karen Marie - To Tame a Highland Warrior (HR)

Montgomery, L. M. - The Blue Castle (HF)

Newark, Elizabeth - Jane Eyre's Daughter (HF)


Pargeter, Edith - The Heaven Tree Trilogy (HF)

Penman, Sharon Kay - The Sunne in Splendour (HF)

Peters, Ellis - A Morbid Taste for Bones (HM)

Peters, Elizabeth - **Crocodile on the Sandbank (HM)
The Curse of the Pharaoh (HM)

Plaidy, Jean - Murder Most Royal (HF)

Quinn, Julia - The Duke and I (HR)
Ten Things I Love About You (HR)

Raybourn, Deanna - Dark Road to Darjeeling (HR)
The Dead Travel Fast (HR)

Rice, Anne - Angel Time (HM)

Ross, Kate - Cut to the Quick (HM)
**A Broken Vessel (HM)


Trent, Christine - The Queen's Dollmaker (HF)

Turner, Nancy E. - These is My Words (HR)



Ware, Ciji - Wicked Company (HF)
A Cottage by the Sea (HF)

Willig, Lauren - **The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (HR) Loved the series!!
The Masque of the Black Tulip (HR)
The Deception of the Emerald Ring (HR)
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (HR)
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (HR)
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (HR)

Total Completed for Challenge = 54 books
Favorite Book of the Year........The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Year of the Pink Carnation

As I'm busy writing a wrap-up post for 2010 and selecting my top ten book picks, I realized that I would be remiss if I did not spotlight Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series and give it its own special post!

Now the series has been around for quite some time, but I began the year by reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and was hooked! It was such a delightful mix of Regency era mystery, romance, adventure and wit that I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next book. I spent the next few months happily immersed in spies, debutants, secret documents and deadly duels and read the entire series....and I'll finish the year with the newly released, The Mischief of the Mistletoe. Thus, it's been the Year of the Pink Carnation and deserves the special honor of "favorite series" for me in 2010.

I was so impressed with Lauren's writing style, I flew to Arizona to meet her at a book event sponsored by the Poisoned Pen. Book blogging buddy Julie from Outlandish Dreaming and I had a wonderful time chatting with Lauren and I must say, if you ever have a chance to attend one of her events, go! She is so genuinely friendly and funny and is a wonderful speaker!

(L-R) Joanne, Julie @ Outlandish Dreaming, Lauren Willig

So let's hear it for that demmed, elusive Pimpernel who served as Lauren's inspiration for her Pink Carnation series!

And just for fun, if you're a fan of the Scarlet Pimpernel and Willig's Pink Carnation series, you'll enjoy this... after all, isn't every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jean M. Auel discusses The Land of Painted Caves

Many years ago, I read Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear and was fascinated by the prehistoric world of Ayla. I was mesmerized by Auel's ability to create a story that combined history, geography, ancient worship, medicine, and culture, all within a world that had not yet developed the use of spoken language. I loved the book so much, I've actually read parts of it several times over the years. I should have continued with the series, but other things took my attention (ahem -- Outlander) and I've never gone on to the sequels. Now that the of this next installment of this acclaimed series is finally being released (March 2011), I'm motivated to read more of Ayla's journey. Here's a clip of Auel discussing her thirty year relationship with the books.

Have you read any of the books in the series?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

"When India Selwyn Jones graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women in 1900, she is advised to set up her practice in a fashionable neighborhood. Instead, the idealistic India chooses to work in the East End, serving the poor. There, India meets Sid Malone, one of London's most notorious gangsters. Before long, an unpredictable, passionate, and bittersweet affair ensues."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

I enjoyed Donnelly's The Tea Rose very much, but I absolutely ADORED The Winter Rose! I had forgotten how much I had become emotionally invested in Fiona and Joe's story and the tragedies and triumphs of the Finnegan family, but it all came flooding back as I got lost in their turn-of-the-century London world once again. Joe and Fiona are now blissfully married with a child, and Fiona is busy supporting her husband's political career and her own involvement in her tea empire. While life has brought them much happiness, they will once again experience trying times, challenges, and a test of the strength of their bond.

The saga, however, focuses on my favorite character in the novel: aristocratic, idealistic graduate of medical school, India Selwyn Jones; she is a thoroughly likeable character who sets out to change the world of healthcare for women and children by serving the poor and destitute of Whitechapel. Her passion and dedication is sincere, but as a woman in the medical field, she faces an uphill battle and is appalled by the outdated medical practices of her male superior and his indifference to the suffering of women. Although she is engaged to Freddie Litton (an unscrupulous, power-hungry cad with political aspirations and an eye on India's wealth), she remains committed to medicine despite his insistence that she give up working once they are married.

India's entire world changes when a notorious underworld criminal, Sid Malone (remember his true identity from The Tea Rose?) is brought to her for medical help as he was near death from an accident. She works tirelessly to save him, and in the long process, becomes intrigued and drawn to him -- and he to India. I became totally consumed with the story of India and Sid.....she wants so desperately to save Sid from himself, to turn his life around, that is was just heartbreaking. And for once in his life, he has found someone who touches his heart. Such an unlikely pair....she, a doctor with a dream of opening a clinic for women to better the world, and Sid, the notorious criminal boss who is feared by all and wanted for murder, but will give the shirt off his back to warm a sleeping child in the trash....ah! such angst! Their star-crossed, bittersweet romance tugged at my heart and I found myself thinking about them even when I wasn't reading the book! How could their love survive such impossible odds?

The Winter Rose was an incredible novel, highly suspenseful and gripping, with richly drawn characters and an amazing, complex plot -- passion, revenge, murder, secrets, greed, vendettas, tragedy, and triumphs -- with an ending that took my breath away! Highly, highly recommended!

5/5 stars - LOVED it!

Title: The Winter Rose
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Hyperion Books
707 pages

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Time Travel Reading Challenge 2010 - Wrap Up

Many thanks to Alyce of At Home With Books for sponsoring the Time Travel Reading Challenge in 2010 -- definitely was right up my alley! Some of my top favorite books of the year were read as a result of the Time Travel Reading Challenge, so it was an extremely worthwhile challenge. Here is a list with a link to the reviews for my selections (click on the book title for the review).

Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine

The Exile (graphic novel) by Diana Gabaldon

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Angel Time by Anne Rice

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware

Very much looking forward to continuing what I think is one of the most fascinating genres -- a blend of history, romance, and time travel -- in 2011!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware

"A remote cottage on the wild coast of Cornwall sounded to Blythe Barton Stowe like the perfect escape from the pain and humiliation of recent events in her Hollywood life. But soon she seems to be reliving a centuries-old tragedy, and the handsome owner of the shabby manor house on the hill appears vitally entwined in her destiny. As they unearth one shocking family secret after another, Blythe is forced to conclude that her intriguing neighbor is more than just an impecunious British gentleman bent on saving his ancestral home. And the impeccably honorable Lucas Teague begins to see Blythe as a lifeline in an otherwise bleak existence.

But is the unbridled attraction they're experiencing a dangerous distraction, or could it be strong enough to transcend the insurmountable complexities of time and place?"

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

A thoroughly enjoyable, complex and emotional story of one woman's journey to escape the pain of her high-profile Hollywood divorce.

Blythe Barton Stowe was a successful partner with her British-born movie producer husband, Christopher Stowe, and enjoyed fame and fortune with their box-office hits. But her world is rocked when she arrives unannounced at her husband's office and finds the cad with another woman....and the identity of the woman is an even bigger shock to Blythe! Devastated by the humiliation of a scandalous divorce and the paparazzi, Blythe escapes to a remote area in Cornwall to come to terms with many painful memories and events in her life. She rents a small cottage on the grounds of a large manor and meets the landlord, Lucas Teague, a man who has his own secrets and pain due to the recent death of his wife. These two have a long and difficult journey to find healing and happiness, but it is a realistic relationship with jealousies and insecurities and it kept me turning the pages to find out how they would work out their challenges.

There is also a timeslip element in this story as the modern day Blythe has visions of an ancestral story from the 1700's of Blythe Barton and her forced and violently unhappy marriage to Kit Trevelyan. The mystery and secrets of her ancestors were very compelling and tied the threads of the present-day story to the past. A Cottage by the Sea was a marvelous tale of betrayals, passion, mystery, family secrets, ancestral history, and romance.

4/5 stars

Title: a Cottage by the Sea
Author: Ciji Ware
Publisher: Sourcebooks
529 pages

Monday, November 29, 2010

New Website for Deanna Raybourn Fans!

There's great news for fans of Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane series! Deanna Raybourn has announced today that Lady Julia's Rookery is a new website related to all things in the Silent in the Grave series! Run by two devoted fans (Laura and Jen), the website features timelines, book info, character bios, a book discussion forum, and lots of other interesting tidbits related to Deanna and her novels. While some parts are still under construction, Lady Julia's Rookery looks promising! A fun place to visit while we're waiting for the next Lady Julia adventure.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Virtual Tour for Susanna Kearsley's The Winter Sea

December kicks off Susanna Kearlsey's virtual tour of the book blogging world for her recent U.S. release of The Winter Sea, a beautifully written tale of love, sacrifice, and intrigue. It's one of my most memorable reads in 2010, and I highly recommend it. (You can read my review here.) Click here for a list of dates and blogs where Susanna Kearsley will be visiting the blogosphere.

In addition, Historical Tapestry is having a week-long celebration for Susanna Kearsley's novels with interviews, guest posts, and giveaways! (yay!) Click here for details.

There's more good news......The Winter Sea has been nominated by RT Book Reviews for the Reviewer's Choice Award in the historical fiction category!

Fans of Kearsley can also look forward to a new book to be published in the near future...The Rose Garden. Click here to read a synopsis of the book and the first two chapters.

I'm very excited to follow her blog tour as she is an author that have I have recently discovered and found her to be a most impressive author. I hope to see you on the blog tour!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

For the King's Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick

"When Roger Bigod arrives at King Henry II's court to settle a bitter inheritance dispute, he becomes enchanted with Ida de Tosney, young mistress to the powerful king. A victim of Henry's seduction and the mother of his son, Ida sees in Roger a chance to begin a new life. But Ida pays an agonizing price when she leaves the king, and as Roger's importance grows and he gains an earldom, their marriage comes under increasing strain. Based on the true story of a royal mistress and the young lord she chose to marry, For the King's Favor is Elizabeth Chadwick at her best."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

I've heard so much about Elizabeth Chadwick's ability to make the medieval world come alive that I was very much looking forward to reading one of her novels. She did not disappoint -- For the King's Favor was a memorable tale of love, honor, duty, and sacrifice. Chadwick's writing made this period in history come alive, and the characters were richly drawn.

As a favored mistress of King Henry II, Ida de Tosney is duty-bound to serve her king and, as a result, gives birth to a son. But she longs for her own family with a husband of her choice, and she sees the honorable and noble knight, Roger Bigod, as the key to her future and independence from the king. In order to marry Bigod, however, Ida must make the ultimate sacrifice and leave her son, William, to be raised as a royal in the care of the court of King Henry.

Roger Bigod must also remain in the king's favor as he is attempting to recover his lands which were lost by his father's rebellious actions against the king. His stepmother, Gundreda, and half-brothers fight Roger every step, as they contend that they are the legitimate heirs of the vast inheritance and earldom.

The love story of Ida and Roger is a poignant one; together they struggle with their own deep wounds from the past, deal with the strains of long separations, and continue to build a future together at Framlingham Castle. A superb tale, and I'm looking forward to reading Chadwick's The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion.

5/5 stars

Title: For the King's Favor
Author: Elizabeth Chadwick
525 pages
genre: historical fiction

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

"History has all but forgotten.....
In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth--the ultimate betrayal--that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...."

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

It's official: I have a new favorite book, and it is The Winter Sea!

Kearsley has the ability to make me forget that I am reading....I just fall into her stories and become part of another world. She makes you feel the damp, cold stones of the castle, shiver in the icy cold wind and water of the sea, and experience real heart-pounding fear as danger draws near. She brings you to tears as your heart truly aches for her characters and you understand the depths of their feelings.... it's just incredible! If you have room for just one more book on your TBR list, make it The Winter Sea!

The structure of this book makes the story read as a time slip story, but it's actually a "story within a story" -- in the present, author Carrie McClelland has arrived in Scotland to begin writing her new novel based on an historical event: an attempt by the Jacobites in the early 1700's to bring the exiled King James back to Scotland. Once she arrives in Cruden Bay, she feels compelled to rent a cottage near the sea where she can settle in to write. The cottage is near the ruins of Slains Castle, and she experiences a strange deja vu while exploring the castle. Carrie is inspired to begin writing immediately, and discovers as she writes (the reader actually gets to read the chapters Carrie is writing) that she has a "genetic memory" from the past. Strangely, as her novel begins to unfold, Carrie discovers evidence in her research that what she thought was her fictional account is actually recorded history. In parallel stories, as Carrie guides her novel's heroine in her love story, Carrie also finds herself attracted to a handsome history professor.

Carrie names her heroine after an ancestor; she creates Sophia , a beautiful young orphaned girl who comes to live at Slains Castle in the 1700's with her relative, the Countess of Erroll. There is much secret activity at the castle as the inhabitants prepare for the return of their exiled King from France. Sophia is intelligent and discreet, and meets many of the players in the secret plot, one of them the handsome John Morey, a Jacobite with a price on his head. As the plot begins to be put into motion, danger looms for all involved....and if it fails, it threatens to change the lives of the inhabitants of Slains Castle forever.

Secrets, sacrifice, promises, betrayal, heartache, an enduring love....The Winter Sea will hold you spellbound until the very last page.

And there's great news on Susanna Kearsley's website....plans are underway to write a companion book for The Winter Sea continuing the story with Anna! Wonderful news! Click here for Kearlsey's news.

5/5 stars - Loved, loved, loved it! Highly recommended!!!

Title: The Winter Sea
Author: Susanna Kearsley
536 pages
genre: historical fiction

Forever Amber: From Novel to Film by Gary A. Smith

"Kathleen Winsor's story of Restoration England follows the exploits of a beautiful girl named Amber St. Clare who bed-hops her way from country wench to mistress of the King of England. Forever Amber became a cause celebre' for the "watchdogs of morality" who attempted to ban the book, which went on to sell millions of copies despite their efforts. When a film version of the novel was announced these same "watchdogs" turned their attention toward Hollywood. Although controversy might sell books and cinema tickets, it can also damage reputations and prevent serious works of art from ever being taken seriously.

Forever Amber: From Novel to Film hopes to shed a new light on the much maligned movie version of the best-selling novel of the forties and show how misguided censorship can ultimately damage artistic expression."

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

When I was in high school, one of my favorite books was Gone With the Wind; I read it countless times and fell in love with the dashing Rhett Butler. However, my best friend loved reading about all things English (Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer) and Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor was her favorite. She convinced me to read it, and I thought it was amazing! To this day, whenever we get together all these years later, we still talk about how much we love Forever Amber. When I came across this book that discusses both the novel and the film, I had to have it!

Forever Amber: From Novel to Screen gives us the inside scoop of the production, casting, and publicity nightmares that dogged the making of one of the most controversial and scandalous movies of the 1940's. This book is an absolute must for anyone who is a fan of either the novel or the movie (I have a copy of the movie on VHS tape!) as there are wonderful photographs of costume tests, actor screen tests, and many scenes (as well as deleted scenes) from the movie. Unfortunately, the original script of the movie ultimately went through so many changes due to strong censorship, that the end result ended up being more of a morality tale than the lush, lusty tale the novel tells of Amber. Strict moral codes of the studios, along with pressure from organized religious groups and self-appointed moral watchdogs, created challenges every step of the way objecting to the fact that "sinful behavior" goes unpunished or unrepented in the movie. According to this source, when the movie played in theatres, it was opened with a voice reading the following words during the opening credits:

"This is the TRAGIC story of Amber St. Clare, slave to ambition,
stranger to virtue, fated to find the wealth and power she
ruthlessly gained wither to ashes in the fire lit by passion
and fed by defiance of the eternal command -- the wages of sin is death."
p. 125

Sounds absolutely Puritan, doesn't it? But times were very different back then when even an on-screen kiss was considered controversial by some viewers.

Peggy Cummins, a beautiful young British actress, was orignally cast as Amber. She filmed daily scenes for over a month, but finally was released after she made an unconvincing "mature" Amber in later scenes. (According to this source, Vivien Leigh was approached to play the part but turned it down. Other actresses considered for the part were Lana Turner and Gene Tierney.)

Linda Darnell, a much more sophisticated actress, replaced Peggy Cummins as the new Amber.

Cornel Wilde was always the strong studio favorite for the part of Bruce Carlton. Other actors considered, but not chosen, were Errol Flynn, Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, and Douglas Fairbanks, among others.)

Amber with another of her conquests -- as mistress to Charles II.
Censors objected to the "excessive illicit sex and adultery" in the movie (although nothing is explicit) as they are made to "appear attractive." p. 103

How different the movie would be if the studio had been unrestricted in their creativity and scene selection. And what a different movie it would be if it were made by today's standards!

A fun read -- lots of trivia and interesting tidbits. (Did you know? According to this source, the original title of Kathleen Winsor's manuscript was Wings of the Morning. Due to its controversial content, there were censoring and publishing issues which caused the book's production staff headaches. One harried staff member exlaimed, "I get a little tired of Amber--it's forever Amber, forever Amber!" The phrase stuck.)

Title: Forever Amber: From Novel to Film
Author: Gary A. Smith
BearManor Media
genre: nonfiction; film industry

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters

"Victorian gentlewoman Amelia Peabody Emerson does not relish the joys of home and hearth. For while she and her husband, the renowned archeologist Radcliffe Emerson, dutifully go about raising their young son, Ramses, Amelia dreams only of the dust and detritus of ancient civilizations. Providentially, a damsel in distress--coupled with a promising archeological site--demands their immediate presence in Egypt. The damsel is Lady Baskerville, and the site is a tomb in Luxor recently discovered by Sir Henry Baskerville, who promptly died under bizarre circumstances. Amelia and Radcliffe arrive to find the camp in disarray, terrified workers, an eccentric group of guests...and a persistent rumor of a ghost on the grounds. Now the indomitable Amelia must battle evil forces determined to stand between her and her beloved antiquities--and make her foray into the truth a most deadly affair."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Ahhhh, Amelia Peabody! One of the most delightful Victorian characters I have had the pleasure to meet in the pages of a book. She is not the typical nineteenth-century portrait of a woman, as she so aptly informs the reader at the beginning of The Curse of the Pharaohs:

"I had invited Lady Harold Carrington and certain of her friends to tea...
Do not, gentle reader, be misled by this introductory statement. It is
accurate (as my statements always are); but if you expect the tale that
follows to be one of pastoral domesticity, enlivened only by gossip about
the country gentry, you will be sadly mistaken. Bucolic peace is not
my ambience, and the giving of tea parties is by no means my favorite
amusement. In fact, I would prefer to be pursued across the desert
by a band of savage Dervishes brandishing spears and howling for my
blood. I would rather be chased up a tree by a mad dog, or face a
mummy risen from the grave. I would rather be threatened by knives,
pistols, poisonous snakes, and the curse of a long-dead king."

I think you get the picture.

As the tale begins, Peabody (as her irascible but charming husband calls his wife) and Emerson have now been married five years and have settled into a quiet and respectable routine. Emerson is a lecturer at a London University and Amelia stays dutifully at home. Not by choice, mind you.....both are still secretly longing for the thrill of advenure and excitement that an archaeological dig promises; it's just that now there is Ramses, their adorable, precocious, part genius/part little tyrant son. It is obvious that conditions on a dig are dangerous, unhealthy, and are no place for a child, but when Emerson is summoned to Egypt by Lady Baskerville, widow of the archaeologist, Sir Henry Baskerville, Amelia and her husband begin to consider the possibility of returning to their shared passion. Reluctantly leaving their prodigy in the loving care of Aunt Evelyn (the damsel-in-distress from book l), they set off for the site of a tomb in Luxor which Sir Baskerville was in the process of uncovering before he mysteriously died.

Personally, I believe the "mystery" in the Amelia Peabody books plays a backseat to the entertaining repartee between Amelia and Emerson. (Although I hear from Amelia Peabody aficionados that her plots become increasingly more complex and compelling.) It's been fun to watch the evolution of their relationship, and now, with the addition of their first child, there is the added dimension of their unorthodox approaches to parenting. Lots of chuckles (you'll love their little boy...he's a cross between Bam Bam and Einstein); quick, light just can't go wrong with this delightful series.


Title: The Curse of the Pharaohs
Author: Elizabeth Peters
Grand Central Publishing
1981, 2002
genre: Victorian mystery

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Releases in 2011 - Which ones are you waiting for?

Is it too early to get excited about some upcoming releases for 2011? Considering that I haven't finished all that I had planned to complete on my TBR shelf for 2010, it probably is jumping the gun a bit. Out of the hundreds of historical fiction and historical romance books coming out next year, I have carefully considered just a few titles that are a must to add to my library for the new year, and I'm interested to see what everyone else is anticipating for 2011. (These titles are making their U.S. debut.)

Elizabeth Chadwick - To Defy a King (available March 2011)

The privileged daughter of one of the most powerful men in England, Mahelt Marshal’s life changes dramatically when her father is suspected by King John. Her brothers become hostages and Mahelt is married to Hugh Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk. Adapting to her new life is hard, but Mahelt comes to love Hugh deeply; however, defying her father in law brings disgrace and heartbreak. When King John sets out to subdue the Bigods, Mahelt faces her worst fears alone, knowing neither she, nor her marriage are likely to survive the outcome. A story of huge emotional power set against the road to Magna Carta and the fight to bring a tyrant king to heel.Click here for information about the novels of Elizabeth Chadwick.


Karleen Koen - Before Versailles. (available June 2011)
I adored Through a Glass Darkly, so I'm looking forward to her newest release set in 1661 in the court of young Louis XIV. Click here for Karleen Koen's novels.


Lauren Willig - The Orchid Affair (available January 2011) Another Pink Adventure! Can we ever get enough intrigue, swordplay, and romance? I don't think so!

Laura Grey, a veteran governess, joins the Selwick Spy School expecting to find elaborate disguises and thrilling exploits in service to the spy known as the Pink Carnation. She hardly expects her first assignment to be serving as governess for the children of Andre Jaouen, right-hand man to Bonaparte’s minister of police. Jaouen and his arch rival, Gaston Delaroche, are investigating a suspected Royalist plot to unseat Bonaparte, and Laura’s mission is to report any suspicious findings. At first the job is as lively as Latin textbooks and knitting, but Laura begins to notice strange behavior from Jaouen—secret meetings and odd comings and goings. As Laura edges closer to her employer, she makes a shocking discovery and is surprised to learn that she has far more in common with Jaouen than she originally thought. Click here for info about Lauren Willig's books.

Jennifer Donnelly - The Wild Rose (available August 2011 - no cover yet)
The wonderful saga began in The Tea Rose and I have The Winter Rose planned for a December read for my blog. The trilogy will be complete with the summer 2011 release of The Wild Rose which is the final book of Finnegan saga, carrying the story forward until WWI and the 1920's. Click here for Jennifer Donnelly's books.


Paullina Simons - The Summer Garden (available July 2011)I admit it -- I have never read one of the most celebrated epic love stories around....The Bronze Horseman! I know, I know.....there is absolutely no excuse for not making this fabulous series a priority. I plan to correct that. Click here for Paullina Simons info.


So, what books are your can't-wait-for releases in 2011? Please share!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig

"Everyone warned Miss Penelope Deveraux that her unruly behavior would land her in disgrace someday. She never imagined she'd be whisked off to India to give the scandal of her hasty marriage time to die down. As Lady Frederick Staines, Penelope plunges into he treacherous waters of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where no one is quite what they seem--even her own husband. In a strange country, where elaborate court dress masks even more elaborate intrigues and a dangerous spy called the Marigold leaves venomous cobras as his calling card, there is only one person Penelope can trust.

Captain Alex Reid has better things to do than play nursemaid to a pair of aristrocrats. Or so he thinks--until Lady Frederick Staines outshoots, outrides, and outswims every man in the camp. She also has an uncanny ability to draw out the deadly plans of the Marigold and put herself in harm's way. With danger looming from warlords, treacherous court officials, and French spies, Alex realizes that an alliance with Lady Staines might just be the only thing standing in the way of a plot designed to rock the very foundations of the British empire."

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Sixth in the fabulously entertaining series by Lauren Willig, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily leaves the elegant English ballrooms for the mysterious and exotic setting of colonial India. If you've read Willig's website, you'll know that she is a fan of the works of M. M. Kaye, (The Far Pavilions, Trade Wind, and Shadow of the Moon), and The Betrayal of the Blood Lily is her tribute to that wonderful creator of epic stories of love, war, and adventure set in India. There is even a small part in the novel for the famous author, as Mrs. Selwick-Alderly explains to Eloise that she and M. M. Kaye were friends in their younger years.

Penelope Deveraux, or Lady Frederick Staines, is quite a departure from the proper, social-conscious ladies in her group of friends. She is impetuous and strong-willed, often times landing herself in predicaments because of her brash and hasty remarks and actions. There is little love lost between Penelope and her new husband who appears to be more interested in her money than in their relationship. Because their marriage was a formality to avoid scandal, I wasn't really emotionally invested in the couple. I was stumped as to what Willig was going to do to make things work out for this ill-suited couple.

Enter Captain Alex Reid - handsome and honorable, acting as an official escort to the couple as they travel to Hyderabad. With her husband more interested in enjoying the exotic women available for "entertainment", Penelope is often left alone without protection--and there is plenty of danger around. Spies, poisonous snakes, murder, stolen gold, and plots to overthrow British control all cause Penelope and Captain Reid to turn to each other as friends and allies...and maybe something more.

Eloise and Colin seemed to have a smaller part in Blood Lily, but their relationship is progressing nicely and Eloise is beginning to make some personal discoveries about Colin's present-day family in the Selwick-Alderly archives as well as academic material for her dissertation. We're left with a little intrigue surrounding the identity of Colin's stepfather.

All in all, another treat for Pink Carnation fans, who like me, just can't seem to get enough of flower spies, Napoleon, and romance.

P.S. Curiously, there is no spy with the moniker Blood Lily...there is the Marigold, and the sweet scents of exotic blooms, but no blood lily! I did a search and found that blood lily was meant to be descriptive of Penelope and not the spy featured in the novel. Glad that was cleared up, 'cause I thought I fell asleep while reading. ;)

3.5/5 stars
Title: The Betrayal of the Blood Lily
Author: Lauren Willig
genre: historical romance

Favorite Period Dramas

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Joanne's to-read book montage

On a Highland Shore
A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
Maisie Dobbs
Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

Joanne's favorite books »