Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot

"Like most sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor were rivals....they were also queens.

Raised at the court of their father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, Marguerite and Eleanor are separated by royal marriages...but never truly parted.

Patient, perfect, reticent, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. Her husband, Louis IX, is considered the greatest monarch of his age. But he is also a religious zealot who denies himself all pleasure...including the love and companionship his wife so desperately craves. Can Marguerite find enough of her sister's boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in the guise of forbidden love?

Passionate, strong willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Her husband, Henry III, is neither as young nor as dashing as Marguerite's. But she quickly discovers he is a very good man...and a very bad king. His failures are bitter disappointments for Eleanor, who has worked to best her elder sister since childhood. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?"

my thoughts:

The Sister Queens was a lovely dual portrait of two historical figures, Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, the two elder Savoyard daughters whose marriages were arranged for political power and prestige. One is destined to become queen in the French court of the devout Louis IX and the other to the English King Henry III, and although they were separated throughout many years, their relationship stood the test of time.

Like contemporary sisters today, they shared their secrets, their hopes and dreams, their joys and sorrows, and yes, even harbored anger and jealousy toward each other -- but sister-ties are a strong bond, and these two "sister queens" shared a special relationship. The novel unfolded through (fictional) letters written to each other over the span of twenty years, and each sister narrated her own story so the reader experienced their inner-most thoughts and feelings. While leading the life of a royal wife in the 13th century certainly has little bearing on life today, the relationships each sister shared with her husband, children, and extended family is certainly relevant to today's reader. We can sympathize with someone trapped in an unfulfilled marriage, or share tears with someone when they remain childless and want desperately to have a child...perhaps we've even listened with trepidation and judgment as someone we love is involved in a liaison that we know will eventually only lead to heartache or scandal. Through battles, crusades to the Holy Land, and personal and political triumphs and sorrows, Marguerite and Eleanor stood behind their two powerful husbands and kings, but.....

"Tis sisters who shape the world plain and simple."

4/5 stars


Sophie Perinot writes historical fiction. Ms. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. She left the law to pursue artistic interests, including writing. An avid reader, especially of classic literature, and life-long student of history, it seemed only natural that Sophie should write historical fiction. As someone who studied French abroad and a devotee of Alexandre Dumas, French history was a logical starting point. An active member of the Historical Novel Society, she has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences.

Active among the literary twitterati as @Lit_gal (a moniker she also uses at Agent Query Connect, Sophie is a regular contributor to the group writers' blog From the Write Angle. You can also find her on facebook here.

For more information, please visit Sophie Perinot's WEBSITE.

For other tour information about The Sister Queens, please click here.

****I received a copy of The Sister Queens from Penguin Books as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you to Amy of HFVBT and Penguin Books for the opportunity to review this book.********

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Launch Day for The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens!

Lots of news today regarding a few of my favorite recent reads:

Today book #2, The Kingdom, in Amanda Stevens' The Graveyard Queen series is available!

If you haven't read book #1 yet, The Restorer, run --don't walk--to get your hands on The Restorer and The Kingdom! Awesome blend of mystery and suspense, ghosts and other world entities, a dash of romance, and enough thrills and chills to keep you glued to the pages.

And.....The Restorer is a finalist in the paranormal romance category for the RITA award given by the Romance Writers of America. Congratulations, Amanda, and good luck!

You can read my reviews of The Restorer and The Kingdom.

And here's a clip of Amanda Stevens talking a bit about the Graveyard Queen trilogy, but recent news is that there will be more books forthcoming in the future!

Friday, March 16, 2012

If you are a fan of Susanna Kearsley......

....then you might want to head on over to DABWAHA and cast your vote for The Rose Garden by clicking here.

I did! :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

"Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town...

My name is Amelia Gray. They call me The Graveyard Queen. I’ve been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I’m coming to think I have another purpose here.

Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake? Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I’ve discovered in the woods? Something is eating away at the soul of this town—this withering kingdom—and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth."

my thoughts:

I'm very excited to tell you about a new series I've discovered.....The Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens. I'm not even really sure how I stumbled upon the first book, The Restorer, but I loaded it on my kindle and literally couldn't stop reading about Amelia's strange and ghostly world in Charleston, South Carolina. She's a taphophile, or graveyard expert, and has made a career of restoring crumbling historic cemeteries to their original beauty. She's a loner by necessity -- she and her father possess a dark gift, the ability to see ghosts. There is a time near twilight where the veil which separates the world of the living and the dead allows restless spirits to come back. The spirit world is parasitic, needing to feed off the warmth and energy of the living, so in order to stay safe, Amelia must live by a few principles: never acknowledge the dead, never stray far from hallowed ground, never associated with the haunted, and never tempt fate. In The Restorer, she has followed her heart instead of her father's rules which put her in grave danger, and now she is putting a painful experience behind her and moving on to her next assignment in Asher Falls.

In The Kingdom, Amelia has been hired to restore Thorngate, a cemetery in Asher Falls, a once charming town that now seems to be dying a slow death...there is an emtpiness and sense of neglect, and the wealthy and powerful Asher family seems to regard the town as their personal domain. As Amelia begins to meet the inhabitants of the town, her dark gift sets in motion a series of strange and dangerous events. Amelia is visited by a ghostly woman who seems intent on communicating with her.....and why does Amelia feel such a powerful connection to the mountains surrounding the cemetery? While once Amelia felt safe working in her graveyard kingdom, she is now terrified by strange visions and a palpable sense of evil. She believes that there is a reason why she was brought here....that destiny has brought her here to uncover some long-buried secrets...but someone will stop at nothing to keep her from learning the truth of Asher Falls. Finding out who is friend and who is foe will keep you on the edge of your seat! There is handsome Thane Asher, grandson and heir of the Asher family; Luna, Bryn, and Catrice, a trio of women who appear to dabble in witchcraft; and Tilly, the recluse who lives in the woods. Who can Amelia trust as she becomes tangled in a web of secrets of a long-ago murder?

Another winner from Amanda Stevens that I highly recommend! The story just flies off the page and I get completely absorbed in Amelia's world. The Kingdom has a delightfully creepy southern gothic atmosphere with heart-pounding suspense, surprising twists, and an undercurrent of dark sensuality. So, so good! Bring on book #3, The Prophet! (available April 24, 2012)

5/5 stars = Loved, loved, loved it!!!

******I received The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. The Kingdom is published by Harlequin MIRA*********

The Kingdom will be available on March 27, 2012.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Book Synopsis:

"The daughter of a struggling greengrocer, Maisie Dobbs was only thirteen when she was sent to work as a maid for wealthy London aristocrats. But being bright and thoughtful beyond her years, Maisie studies her way to Cambridge, then serves as a nurse on the Front during the Great War.

Now, it's the spring of 1929, nearly ten years after the Armistice and Maisie has just opened up her own detective agency. Her first assignment, a seemily open-and-shut case, will reveal a much deeper, darker mystery, forcing Maisie to revisit the horrors of the war and the ghost she left behind. Refreshing, absorbing, and beautifully rendered, Maisie Dobbs marks the beginning of an incredible new series."

My thoughts:

I've had the Maisie Dobbs books on my TBR shelf for quite some time, so I was delighted to be invited to participate in the TLC tour and month-long celebration in March for this wonderful historical mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear.

I thought Book #1, Maisie Dobbs, was a beautifully written story from start to finish. It is a poignant account of a young girl's rise from household servant to wartime field nurse to eventually creating her own career as a private investigator during WWI-era England.

This novel is so much more than just an historical mystery with a clever female sleuth. Winspear creates Maisie's story of her first investigative case in such a way that with flashbacks we experience the horrors of war and come to understand the physical and psychological scars of those who served during wartime. So many made sacrifices of the body, mind and heart, including Maisie herself....which has given her a deep sense of purpose in life that goes beyond just wanting to solve mysteries. She has empathy for those who suffer or are in need, and this first installment of Maisie Dobbs will reveal the unusual and emotional path that has brought her from humble beginnings to professional investigator. A great beginning to a series that I can't wait to continue!

4.5/5 stars = Highly recommended!

*****Thank you to Trish Collins @ TLC Book Tours and the publisher (Penguin Books) for providing me with a review copy of Maisie Dobbs.*****

Be sure to participate in all the fun of Jacqueline Winspear's virtual TLC book tour during the month of March.

The entire Maisie Dobbs series will be read and discussed throughout the month of March! You can jump into this series wherever you like, but if you're following along you can catch reviews and discussions of each book in the series according to the following schedule:

Week of March 5: The first five books in the Maisie Dobbs Series
Week of March 12: The Mapping of Love and Death
Week of March 19: A Lesson in Secrets
Week of March 26: Elegy for Eddie

To see the list of over thirty blogs that will be participating in the read-along, and to see which books will be reviewed by which bloggers, click here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Winner - The Turning of Anne Merrick by Christine Bevins & Stationery Set

Congratulations to MYSTICA for being the randomly chosen winner of the Christine Blevins giveaway for her Historical Fiction Virtual Tour of The Turning of Anne Merrick!! An e-mail will be sent to you to announcing you as the winner.

(Edited: After notifying my first winner, she informed me that she had won on another blog, so she was kind enough to offer another entrant a chance to win the package. Thank you, Margaret!)

Thank you to all who entered!

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 »