Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway by Christine Blevins

Today, I have the great pleasure of welcoming Christine Blevins, author of the historical fiction novel, The Turning of Anne Merrick as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour. Not only has she written an interesting guest post about Valley Forge, she is also offering a very unique giveaway!


“THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
The American Crisis

When I get deep into the researching the events and places I plan to feature in my story, I am often surprised to find the picture that emerges from the historical record is so different from the history I thought I knew. The winter encampment endured by George Washington’s Continental Army is an event important in our nation’s founding, but one I found blurred by myth and legend.

There is no question it was a dangerous time. The bulk of the Continental forces retreated to the Pennsylvanian valley in a weakened state. Warm clothing was scarce. Rations were in short supply, and delivery was sporadic. Unsanitary conditions created an environment where typhoid, small pox and parasitic infestations plagued the troops. The fledgling nation’s currency was almost worthless. Soldiers’ pay was in arrears, and desertion was rampant. Always a constant threat and worry, the well-supplied British Army was settled into winter quarters in Philadelphia little more than twenty miles away.

The more I read, the more I came to find Valley Forge was not all misery and despair. These are some of the facts and events discovered in the record, and depicted in The Turning of Anne Merrick:

• 12,000 soldiers were encamped in Valley Forge, and 2,000+ died there that winter – but not one died of starvation or freezing. Disease was the soldier’s worst enemy, and spread of disease was exacerbated by poor camp sanitation practices and crowded conditions. General Washington’s order to inoculate the troops no doubt saved the army from being decimated by smallpox.

• Though the valley was almost devoid of shelter when the troops first arrived, they quickly built simple, but relatively tight log huts. Combined with the availability of fuel, shelter and warmth was not an elusive commodity. Warm clothing and decent footwear, however, were very scarce.

• Though food wasn’t abundant, or varied, it wasn’t absent. The cargo of cornmeal, beans and salt pork Anne and Jack brought into the camp was indicative of the type of supplies distributed among the ranks. Oneidan Indians brought hundreds of bushels of cornmeal to the encampment as a gift to their allies. The supplies confiscated from the pair of captured British supply ships included butter, flour, pork and chickens.

• The weather in 1777-78 was pretty typical for a Pennsylvanian winter, and not near as harsh as the severe weather experienced by the troops in the winter encampment at Morristown two years later, which is considered to be one of the worst winters of the 18th century.

I try to write the kind of historical fiction that I like to read –exciting adventure stories populated with compelling characters, all supported by a backdrop of vivid and accurate history. In The Turning of Anne Merrick I strived to depict a Valley Forge experience truer to the record than the myth, and show it as a place where determined and resourceful citizen-soldiers endured hardship and did what they had to do in order to survive and fight another day.

Giveaway Details:
A copy of The Turning of Anne Merrick and 18th Century Sheets and Envelopes – Decorated with a feather quill, secured with stout cording for convenient stowing amid your gear.

For a chance to win a copy of The Turning of Anne Merrick and the unique 18th century stationery bundle, leave a comment with your name and contact info. The contest is open internationally and will end March 1, 2012. GOOD LUCK!


The Turning of Anne Merrick is the second in a 3-book series set during the American Revolution, and the companion book to The Tory Widow. A native Chicagoan, Christine Blevins lives in Elmhurst, Illinois, along with her husband Brian, and The Dude, a very silly golden-doodle. She is at work finishing the third novel inspired by a lifelong fascination with the foundations of American history and the revolutionary spirit.

For more information about Christine Blevins and her books, please visit

***Books, Belles and Beaux would like to thank Christine Blevins for the wonderful guest post and giveaway!***

*****THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. 3/1/12*******

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras!

Everywhere else in the world, it's probably just an ordinary Tuesday......but if you live in New Orleans, it's one of the most anticipated days of the year. It's Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, and the entire city has been partying, going to parades, attending balls, and enjoying the season of Carnival for the past few weeks. The city rolls out the red carpet for visitors from all over the world, and literally millions of people from the city to the suburbs come out to enjoy good times that only can be experienced in our town. There's delicious food, music, gorgeous costumes and floats, and of course, plenty of beads and trinkets to catch. No one has work or school, so families get together for picnics, parties, and a day of nothing but fun.

Can't get here for Mardi Gras? Here are a few pics to get a little taste of the holiday, but as most will tell you, you have to experience it to believe it. Mardi Gras is steeped in history, tradition, and pageantry, but it also brings out the fun and ridiculous side of life.

The floats are works of art.

Music is a big part of the parades, especially the marching bands.

Homes are decked out with flags, wreathes, lights, and decorations in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold.

Beautiful costumes for the riders.

Beads! Beads! Throw me somethin', mister!

Riders on the floats must remain masked.

Everyone eats the traditional king cake.

Even the pets get in on the fun.

The royal court of Rex, King of Mardi Gras, where his ball officially closes Carnival season and ushers in Lent.

Steeped in tradition and history, those invited to the Rex Ball are presented to the royal court.

Occasionally, a tourist has a little too much fun and loses his way back to his hotel room!

And you can listen to the Mardi Gras anthem.

Hope you enjoyed a little taste of Mardi Gras! Laissez le bon temps rouler!

The Turning of Anne Merrick by Christine Blevins

A tale of love and espionage from the author of Midwife of the Blue Ridge...

She spies for General Washington, betrays the Redcoats and battles for America's independence...

It's 1777, and a fledgling country wages an almost hopeless struggle against the might of the British Empire. Brought together by a fateful kiss, Anne Merrick and Jack Hampton are devoted to each other and to their Patriot cause. As part of Washington's daring network of spies, they are ready and willing to pay even the ultimate price for freedom.

From battlefields raging along the Hudson, to the desperate winter encampment at Valley Forge and through the dangerous intrigue of British-occupied Philadelphia, Anne and Jack brave the trials of separation, the ravages of war and an unyielding enemy growing ever more ruthless.

my thoughts:

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and this year I am interested in reading more novels which feature events and settings in American history. I am delighted to be a part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Tour for Christine Blevins as she is an author with novels that I'd like to explore that are set in early America.

The Turning of Anne Merrick
is the second book in a series which began with The Tory Widow. The author kndly sent me a copy of this novel along with The Turning of Anne Merrick, and I have to say that reading The Tory Widow first greatly enriched the reading of Anne Merrick. The author does a good job of bringing the reader up-to-date on story background, but character motives and the relationship between Anne and Jack is better understood in light of their journey from book one to book two.

While the relationship between Anne and Jack is an important aspect of the story, this is more a tale of dangerous adventure and espionage during the American Revolution. I enjoyed the author's use of historical details which enhanced the story and illustrated the historical times: the clothing, weaponry, wilderness survival, medical practices....interesting facts from the historical records gave the plot an authentic feel. I did wonder about the seeming abundance of available food during wartime, especially while Anne was with the Continental army, but that's a minor point. I enjoyed the dangerous risks the characters took to gather enemy intelligence that kept the story moving from her role posing as a scribe in General Burgoyne's camp to spying in Philadelphia in the Cup and Book. I thought the use of quotes from Thomas Paine's The American Crisis was very effective in setting the tone for each chapter.

Overall, The Turning of Anne Merrick was an interesting portait of one woman's courage and loyalty to the Patriot cause of freedom, and the sacrifices that many were willing to make for their country.

For more information about Christine Blevins and her novels:

Tour Schedule:
Christine Blevins' Website:
Christine Blevins on Facebook:
Christine Blevins on Twitter: @Author_CBlevins
Tour Event Twitter Hashtag: #TurningofAnneMerrickVirtualTour

****I received an advance copy of The Turning of Anne Merrick from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.****

Title: The Turning of Anne Merrick
Author: Christine Blevins
Publisher: Penguin Group
Genre: Historical Fiction (American Revolution)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Day - The Garden Intrigue is here!

It's always something to cheer about when Lauren Willig's latest book in The Pink Carnation series hits the shelves! Today is release day for The Garden Intrigue and I can't wait to get back into the world of Pink.

I've been a bit under the weather so I've been laying very low on the blogosphere....hoping to curl up with The Garden Intrigue and a cup of hot tea and honey to cure what ails me.

Have a wonderful day!

Favorite Period Dramas

Mount TBR

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 »