Friday, November 30, 2012

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013

It's that time of year again!

It's time to start thinking about 2013 reading challenges, and while I'm usually low key about joining challenges, I do enjoy some of the creative themes and concepts some bloggers design.

The one challenge I know I'm up for is one that includes my favorite genre, historical fiction. Historical Tapestry is once again hosting the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2013, a gathering place for all historical fiction enthusiasts to link their reviews and learn about other great HF novels. Click here for information on signing up for this challenge.

I've alread started planning for 2013 by adding all of the books that I am looking forward to reading as they are released in the new year. I'm signing up for the 25+ level (Ancient History Level):

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013:

1. The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James (Jan.)
2  The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig
3. A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn
4. The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick
5. The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
6. Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
7. Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith
8. When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
9.  Jean Plaidy*
10. Helen Hollick*
11. Georgette Heyer*
12. Ken Follett*
13. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles*
14. Barbara Erskine*
15. Jane and the Wandering Eye by Stephanie Barron (Jan.)
16. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon (Jan.)
17. The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell (Jan.)

*From my TBR pile

Are you in? What new releases in 2013 are you looking forward to reading?

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Last year I had the pleasure of going to New York and attending a book signing at the RWA Conference. I had he opportunity to meet  many terrific authors (Robyn Carr, Susanna Kearsley, Deanna Raybourn, Lauren Willig, Colleen Gleason, Kristin Higgins, just to name a few). I've never read Robyn Carr's popular Virgin River series, but I've seen a few blogging friends have reviewed or added a Robyn Carr book on their blog or on Goodreads. It reminded me of this video I had stumbled across when searching for interviews with Carr a while back.

For those of you who read romance novels (either contemporary or historical), I thought you  might like (and have a few laughs at) the following video where some good-natured romance authors poke fun at themselves and each others books and the titles......but be warned! ** There are a few parts that are not appropriate for little ears or for listening to in the work place, just so you know. **


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Iron Lace by Emilie Richards

About the Book:

"When Aurore Gerritsen watched her lover kill her father, it was just one act of violence in a long chain of dramatic events.Years later, behind the iron lace gates of wealthy New Orleans, beneath the veneer of her society name, linger secrets that Aurore Gerritsen has hidden for a lifetime, and truths that threaten to change forever the lives of her unsuspecting family. Now, as Aurore faces her own mortality, she needs to reveal those secrets that have haunted her for so many years.

Aurore seeks out Phillip Benedict and asks him to tell her story. He's intrigued, but wonders why the matriarch of a prominent white family would choose to confess her sins to an outspoken black journalist.

Finally Phillip agrees, but though he thinks he's ready for anything she might say, the truth is that nothing can prepare him for the impact of Aurore's shocking revelations."
(from Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Iron Lace is a gripping, heartbreaking story of a forbidden love from the past in Old Louisiana.

As the story begins in New Orleans in the racially turbulent 1960's, an ailing matriarch of an aristocratic family wishes to have her memoirs written, and her unusual choice for a journalist to write her life story will come as a surprise.  As Aurore begins recounting the memories of her life, old secrets unfold, tragedies and prejudices of the past are revealed, and the destruction of long-held hate and revenge play out across generations.  From the 1890's to the 1960's, Aurore's life story and the choices she made changed the course of many of her family's lives, and the revelation of these past secrets will have shocking repercussions.  It is a very emotional and intense read.

Great storytelling with spot-on historical accuracy wins high marks from me. The author captured the authentic colors, flavors, and essence of the history of southern Louisiana without being cliche. 

 My only minor quibble with the book is that there is not complete closure at the book's end...there are obvious loose threads that will be picked up in the sequel, Rising Tides, which I have already added to my kindle. I must find out more about the unforgettable characters in Iron Lace (a reference to the beautiful decorative ironwork on the balconies of southern mansions).

***A note about book covers: The cover pictured above is the new cover for the rereleased paperback version and the kindle edition. I'm not a fan of the cover as when I look at it, I think "women's fiction" or a contemporary romance.

The older covers do a better job of conveying an "old south" feel which is the heart of this story:

My paperback cover:

The hardback cover:

My rating:

4/5 stars

Title: Iron Lace
Author: Emilie Richards
genre: southern historical fiction/romance

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Historical Holiday Blog Hop!

How would you like to visit some awesome book blogs, take chances to win some great historical/historical fiction books and prizes, and meet some terrific book bloggers?

The wonderful Amy at Passages to the Past is hosting her first annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop from December 10 - 17th.  Stay tuned for more details, and hop on over to Passages to the Past if you'd like to participate!

(I'll be giving away a package of historical fiction books open to US entries.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Susanna Kearsley News: A Desperate Fortune

As if it isn't exciting enough waiting for Susanna Kearsley's latest release in 2013, The Firebird, she has recently revealed some new information about her latest work in progress.

From Susanna Kearlsey's blog:

"I’m calling it A Desperate Fortune (since that phrase has now leapt out at me twice from documents I’m reading for the research), and it has a twin-stranded storyline that involves modern-day codebreakers, Jacobite cyphers, real history, a road trip, a sharpshooting bodyguard, Paris and Rome."

I'm sure Kearsley will do a wonderful job of creating a sense of time and place in the beautiful settings of Paris and Rome; she has a real gift for recreating locations.

 Exciting news!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks....

Lots of good things going on around Books, Belles, and Beaux.......and the day has just begun.

Son off to golf practice. (check)
Daughter busy with friends. (check)
Husband running errands. (check)
Fireplace and candle glowing. (check)
New books ready to explore. (check)
Delicious smells in the kitchen. (check)

After a busy morning of preparing some side dishes for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner, I'm ready to put my feet up. I'm not usually enthusiastic about cooking, but I do love the holidays and hosting family here at my home so Thanksgiving is when I pull out all the stops. I've made a delicious autumn cornbread dressing with Italian sausage, ham, cranberries, pecans, and of course, a Louisiana Creole blend of onions, celery, garlic, and parsley, with a bit of fresh sage and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg for good measure.

I also have my favorite Thanksgiving dish, candied sweet potatoes, all prepared and ready to go. My secret ingredient in the brown sugar and pecan sauce is a New Orleans must-have ingredient: Jack Daniels! Yum!

I'm letting Copeland's Restaurant do the fried turkey and the oven roasted turkey for me. :)

Besides Thanksgiving, November is also my anniversary and this year, since it is my daughter's last year at home, we decided to celebrate with our kids. They took me to one of my favorite places, the Windsor Court Hotel, for tea. Now, if you know anything about my husband (he's a big, ex-defensive tackle football player), you'd know that the sight of him sitting in these dainty chairs sipping tea from tea cups and eating cucumber finger sandwiches is really funny.....and very sweet of him to do this just for me. My daughter loves tea and had a wonderful time......doesn't my son look happy to be here?

In more calorie-counting news, we decided to extend our anniversary celebration and do something just the two of us......dinner at Antoine's with a whole baked Alaska dessert split between us. (You could feed an army with one.)

I'm also thankful for the wonderful book bloggers.....I visit your blog daily seeing what's new and interesting and enjoying each person's unique style and book choices. I also appreciate more than you know those who drop by and leave comments or make recommendations. This is such a fun hobby and I consider this a very important part of my life. 

Thank you for visiting, and I hope the upcoming weeks are filled with wonderful holiday celebrating, and of course, a little time for reading some great books!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander

About the Book:

A Lady Emily Mystery (#7)

"Years ago, Emily's childhood nemesis, Emma Callum, scandalized polite society when she eloped to Venice with an Italian count. But now her father-in-law lies murdered, and her husband has vanished. There's no one Emma can turn to for help but Emily, who leaves at once with her husband, the dashing Colin Hargreaves, for Venice. There, her investigations take her from opulent palazzi to slums, libraries, and bordellos. Emily soon realizes that to solve the present day crime, she must first unravel a centuries old puzzle. But the past does not give up its secrets easily, especially when these revelations might threaten the interests of some very powerful people."

(from Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Absolutely enchanting!  

Death in the Floating City is one of the best in the Lady Emily mystery series and has the same beautiful and elegant writing that first captured my attention in And Only to Deceive. 

The Victorian-era Venetian setting is rich and beautifully depicted, and the mystery is truly intriguing involving poetry, art, illuminated manuscripts, and ancient Venetian noble families. When Lady Emily and Colin are summoned to Venice to begin a murder investigation,  their  detective work unveils a tragic tale of 15th-century lovers.  The star-crossed couple were cruelly denied their  happiness as their respective families were involved in an ancient blood feud and refused to allow them to marry.  Their ill-fated love story broke my heart and reading of their lifelong pain and longing was very touching.  Tasha Alexander wrote their story with such depth and sensitivity that I was brought to tears. How this love story is connected to the murder is a puzzle, and Lady Emily and Colin must piece together ancient clues and clues left at the present-day crime scene to determine the culprit and the motive for murder.

But have no fear, it's not all a tale of woe, and this latest installment has me already anticipating the next book and all of its wonderful possibilities. I hope she's busy writing it!

 An absolute must-read for fans of Lady Emily and Colin!

4.5/5 stars

Title: Death in the Floating City
Author: Tasha Alexander
St. Martin's Press
308 pages
genre: historical mystery

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

About the Book:

"1961 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.

Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths some people go to fulfill them, and the strange consequences they sometimes have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers and schemers, play-acting and deception told against a backdrop of events that changed the world."

(from Goodreads)

My thoughts:

This is going to be a challenging review to write as this was a highly anticipated book for me this year, and I've loved all of Kate Morton's previous books.  The Secret Keeper promised to be another multi-layered mystery of murder, secrets, and deceptions, and if you've read a Kate Morton book in the past, you know her stories are structured as if you are opening an elaborately wrapped present....only to find another carefully wrapped present inside.....and another....and another.....and another.....until finally you are  getting so close to the last box that holds the gift......and by this time you are full of anticipation and excitement and hoping that all of this layer upon layer of work will be worth the effort when you at last find the real present.

I'll be honest and say that it took me almost three-quarters of the book to really feel invested in the characters and in the story. At one point, I almost considered putting the book aside to read at another time.....perhaps I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for it or had my expectations too high. But I forged ahead, and once I got hooked, I was hooked. I finished the last part of the book in breathless wonder and turned the final pages in a flood of tears (in a good way). The ending was nothing short of spectacular, and I loved it -- bravo! Will it be a favorite Kate Morton book? No -- I missed the gothic overtones of her previous books and it took me much too long to feel connected -- but I certainly remain a solid fan of Kate Morton's style of storytelling.

4/5 stars

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November? November!!

It's hard to believe we're in the month of November.....the pumpkins and witches are now a thing of the past and I'm pulling out my turkey platters and planning ahead for our family Thanksgiving feast.

 I know these recent weeks have been difficult for parts of the US that were hit hard by the hurricane, and all I can say is that I know from experience that somehow you find the strength to do what is necessary to pick up the pieces and move on. My thoughts are with those families who have lost so much.

On the brighter side of things,  I have been enjoying collecting and reading so many anticipated titles that have recently been released......

I just finished Deanna Raybourn's Christmas e-novella, Silent Night, and, as always, enjoyed the spark and spice in the relationship of Lady Julia and her beloved Brisbane.  It's a light, quick read that will take you back to Bellmont Abbey at Christmastime with all the sensory experiences of the season....and, of course, a very light mystery.

The latest installment of Tasha Alexander's historical mystery series featuring Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves, Death in the Floating City, is recently released and on my shelf.  While I think the first three books in the series are the strongest and most compelling, I'm still impressed with Tasha Alexander's very elegant writing style and interested in following the sleuthing couple to their next adventure in Venice.


Also new on my shelf (and I can't wait to get lost in the pages) is the re-release of Judith Merkle Riley's The Oracle Glass, a novel set is 17th century France. "For a handful of gold, Madame de Morville will read your future in a glass of swirling water. You'll believe her, because you know she's more than 150 years old and a witch, and she has all of Paris in the palm of her hand....."  

 I love stories set in the Old South and this one came to me from a friend's recommendation: Iron Lace by Emilie Richards.

"When Aurore Gerritsen watched her lover kill her father, it was just one act of violence in a long chain of dramatic events.
Years later, behind the iron lace gates of wealthy New Orleans, beneath the veneer of her society name, linger secrets that Aurore Gerritsen has hidden for a lifetime, and truths that threaten to change forever the lives of her unsuspecting family. Now, as Aurore faces her own mortality, she needs to reveal those secrets that have haunted her for so many years.
Aurore seeks out Phillip Benedict and asks him to tell her story. He's intrigued, but wonders why the matriarch of a prominent white family would choose to confess her sins to an outspoken black journalist.
Finally Phillip agrees, but though he thinks he's ready for anything she might say, the truth is that nothing can prepare him for the impact of Aurore's shocking revelations."
(from Goodreads)

 My daughter and I are going into town today for an afternoon performance of  Les Miserables at the theatre, and hopefully I will spend the evening settling back into Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

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 »