Saturday, December 21, 2013

Plans for 2014 - New Directions

I've been thinking.......I've been planning......I've been changing.

I'm wondering if my book blog has run its course....

I've actually read many similar thoughts from bloggers I have followed for a long time.

 When I first began blogging (strictly as an experiment just to see how a blog really worked), an amazing thing happened. I was having fun. I was meeting like-minded readers and creating a pile of wonderful new-to-me books to read. I expanded my horizons beyond the Outlander series (which was pretty much my staple when I had time to read) and discovered historical mysteries, fabulous historical fiction, and Regency and Highland romances. I have so many books on my shelf that I only hope to live long enough to put a dent in them! But the truth of the matter is that lately life has been pretty busy and blogging takes time -- I still love to read and browse through other bloggers' sites, but I'm not inspired at all to post my thoughts on the books I read.

Goodreads has been a good place for me lately. It's quick, it's easy, and if I don't want to say anything about a book, I can still rate it and shelve it. Done. Many bloggers are also on these sites, so I still feel like I'm in touch with blogging friends.

So......this is a long way of saying that in 2014, this blog will be quiet. I'm keeping it as a reference for all my reviews, but anyone who would like to still follow and discuss books can find me at Goodreads.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any plans for blogging/not blogging in 2014? I'd love to hear your plans because I really DO care about staying in touch with the people who have made having this blog so worthwhile.

In the meantime, I wish you all peace and joy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Return to Tradd Street by Karen White

About the Book:

Facing her future as a single mother, psychic Realtor Melanie Middleton is determined to be strong and leave her past with writer Jack Trenholm behind her. But history has a tendency of catching up with Melanie, whether she likes it or not.…

Melanie is only going through the motions of living since refusing Jack’s marriage proposal. She misses him desperately, but her broken heart is the least of her problems. Despite an insistence that she can raise their child alone, Melanie is completely unprepared for motherhood, and she struggles to complete renovations on her house on Tradd Street before the baby arrives.

When Melanie is roused one night by the sound of a ghostly infant crying, she chooses to ignore it. She simply does not have the energy to deal with one more crisis. That is, until the remains of a newborn buried in an old christening gown are found hidden in the foundation of her house.

As the hauntings on Tradd Street slowly become more violent, Melanie decides to find out what caused the baby’s untimely death, uncovering the love, loss, and betrayal that color the house’s history—and threaten her claim of ownership. But can she seek Jack’s help without risking her heart? For in revealing the secrets of the past, Melanie also awakens the malevolent presence that has tried to keep the truth hidden for decades.…


I was very excited to receive a package a few days ago from  Karen White! (She's the author I recently met at a dinner when she was here in New Orleans.) It was an ARC of Return to Tradd Street, the fourth installment of the Tradd Street mystery series which will be available in January 2014. If you enjoy a mix of mystery, ghostly pasts, and a spunky heroine, you'll love Karen White's books set in the gorgeous, sultry Charleston. Her writing is very charming and witty and lyrical --- perfect for a quiet autumn evening. 

The House on Tradd Street
The Girl on Legare Street
The Strangers on Montagu Street
Retun to Tradd Street

Friday, November 1, 2013

Release day for Deanna Raybourn!

About the Novella:

Readers everywhere have fallen for New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn's intrepid amateur sleuth and socialite, Lady Julia Grey. Not to mention her devastatingly handsome partner in crime, Nicholas Brisbane. Midsummer Night is the long awaited novella of their wedding, a dashing—and potentially deadly—affair not to be missed…

Midsummer in Victorian England—an auspicious time for a wedding. Brisbane has taken charge of the music. Julia has, perhaps mistakenly, allowed her sisters to choose the dress. And Belmont Abbey is overflowing with guests awaiting the blessed day. What could go wrong?

Combine the close-knit chaos of village life, pagan traditions bursting through staid Victorian conventions, and the congenial madness that tends to swirl around Lady Julia's family and you get an unforgettable wedding. But add in a dangerous past nemesis who has come to wish them not-so-well, and their day to remember just might take a fatal turn...(from Goodreads)


I'm very much looking forward to this latest installment of Lady Julia Grey's story!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guest Post by Mary Sharratt: Reconciling Faith and Science

Today, I am pleased to welcome Mary Sharratt to Books, Belles, and Beaux. She is currently touring with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours with her wonderful novel, Illuminations: A novel of Hildegard Von Bingen. 


Hildegard von Bingen: Reconciling Faith and Science by Mary Sharratt

The Western world’s first known description of the female orgasm was written by the 12th century abbess and Doctor of the Church, Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179):

When a woman is making love with a man, a sense of heat in her brain, which brings forth with it sensual delight, communicates the taste of that delight during the act and summons forth the emission of the man’s seed. And when the seed has fallen into its place, that vehement heat descending from her brain draws the seed to itself and holds it, and soon the woman’s sexual organs contract and all parts that are ready to open up during the time of menstruation now close, in the same way as a strong man can hold something enclosed in his fist.
Hildegard von Bingen, Causae et Curae

How could a celibate Benedictine nun write such a convincing description of the female sexual experience? Unlike some people in our own age, Hildegard saw no contradiction between science and religion, between being a religious woman and addressing every aspect of human experience, including sexuality.

Born in the lush green Rhineland in present day Germany, Hildegard was a true polymath, a Renaissance woman long before the Renaissance. She founded two monasteries, went on four preaching tours, and composed an entire corpus of sacred music. Her prophecies earned her the title Sybil of the Rhine. She was indeed a visionary in every sense of the word.

Hildegard wrote nine books on subjects as diverse as cosmology, botany, linguistics, and medical science, as well as theology. Even though she believed consecrated celibacy to be the highest calling, her medical text, Causae et Curae, discusses female (and male) sexuality frankly and without moral judgment. There is not a trace of prudishness or anti-intellectualism in her work.

In general, medieval thinkers, including monastics, were far more plain-spoken in addressing sexual matters than many of us might expect. But Hildegard’s writing on sexuality was unique in its inclusion of female experience, unlike that of her male confreres, such as Constantine the African, the 11th century monk whose book De Coitu manages to discuss every conceivable carnal pleasure without once mentioning women.

As the woman who coined the word Viriditas, or “sacred greening power and vitality,” Hildegard felt a profound connection to the natural world, which she regarded as the visible face of the invisible Creator who permeates every living thing. Her book Physica was devoted to natural science and is an encyclopedic study of plants, trees, mammals, reptiles, birds, marine life, stones, metals, and elements, describing their physical and medicinal properties. She lists in extraordinary detail the 37 varieties of fish to be found in the Nahe, Glan, and Rhine Rivers.

Her vision of the cosmos changed to reflect the science of her age. In Scivias, her first work of visionary theology, the universe appeared as a mandorla—shaped like an egg or almond. But by the time she wrote De Operationae Dei, the third and final book in her visionary trilogy, her visions reflected the cosmos as a sphere.

Over eight centuries after her death, Hildegard was finally canonized in May, 2012. On October 7, 2012, she was elevated to Doctor of the Church, a rare and solemn title reserved for theologians who have made a significant impact. Presently there are only thirty-four Doctors of the Church, and only three besides Hildegard are women (Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Ávila, and Thérèse of Lisieux).

 About the Author

The author of four critically acclaimed historical novels, Mary Sharratt is an American who lives in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed Daughters of the Witching Hill, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers. She also lived for twelve years in Germany, which, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Illuminations won the Nautilus Gold Award for Better Books for a Better World and was selected as a Kirkus Book of the Year. 

For more information please visit Mary's website and blog.  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt

About the Book:

Skillfully weaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Illuminations brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.

Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was expected to live in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned, disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. But Hildegard rejected Jutta's masochistic piety, rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died, Hildegard broke out of her prison, answering the heavenly call to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her  sisters. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.

My thoughts:

I thought Mary Sharratt's Illuminations was a beautiful and imaginative account of 12th century abbess, Hildegard von Bingen. 

Given to the church as a "tithe" at the age of eight, the young Hildegard was forced to live in an anchorage of a monastery -- literally walled in as if living in a tomb -- to spend her days in self-sacrifice and prayer. Her only companion was the wealthy and beautiful Jutta von Sponheim who harbored deep secrets and embraced a life of self-torture and constant prayer as a form of holiness. Incredibly, despite this "living death," Hildegard possessed a deep and powerful spiritual core which helped her to rise above her horrific conditions. Forced into silence and obedience for most of her life, it is truly a testament of her courage and faith that she was able to emerge from the depths of deprivation and obedience to become a powerful spiritual force in her world.

 Hildegard's life and accomplishments are fascinating, and I recommend this deeply moving tale to anyone who enjoys medieval historical figures and empowered women.

About the Author

The author of four critically acclaimed historical novels, Mary Sharratt is an American who lives in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed Daughters of the Witching Hill, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers. She also lived for twelve years in Germany, which, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Illuminations won the Nautilus Gold Award for Better Books for a Better World and was selected as a Kirkus Book of the Year. 

For more information please visit Mary's website and blog

Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Mariner Books
Paperback; 288p
ISBN-10: 0544106539

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the novel, Illuminations, from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Author Dinner in New Orleans

This weekend I had the pleasure of going to dinner in the French Quarter with some friends and two fabulous authors, Karen White and Susan Crandall.

Welllll, truth be told, I crashed the party.

Let me explain.

 A dear friend of mine belongs to a book club that was formed yeeeaaarrs ago, and she's mentioned it on occasion. (I'm still waiting for an invitation into this club, but that hasn't happened!) Anyway, about a year ago, Tish happened to mention to me that one of her book club members was a long time friend of author Karen White; in fact, they were college roommates. When the club chose to read a Karen White novel, they arranged for the author to come to Tish's house for a book club get-together. Now, my dear friend knows I will go all over the country to meet my favorite authors (I've been to Phoenix, AZ and NYC to meet Diana Gabaldon, Lauren Willig, Susanna Kearsley, Deanna Raybourn, etc...) and I was floored that she had Karen White at her house. At her house!!! And I am finding out about this after the fact!

So, I told my dear friend that if they EVER had another get together with an author that I admire, could I pretty please tag along? Duly chastised, she agreed to let me know. Fast forward to now, the club chose The Time Between and arranged another get together with Karen while she was in New Orleans attending a book convention. And this time, I  coerced -- I  mean, I was invited! So thank you to the club for letting me join in the fun!

The dinner was actually a two-for-one club meeting. Besides the beautiful Karen White, we were treated to the company of Susan Crandall, author of the acclaimed novel Whistling Past the Graveyard.
The Time Between and Whistling Past the Graveyard go well together; they are both charming and poignant novels with rich southern settings and stories that will tug at your heartstrings. Highly recommended!

Here's a bit about each book:

From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip. (from Goodreads)

A stunning new novel of betrayal and forgiveness from the New York Times bestselling author.

Thirty-four-year-old Eleanor Murray is consumed with guilt for causing the accident that paralyzed her sister—and for falling in love with her sister’s husband. But when her boss offers her a part-time job caring for his elderly aunt, Helena, Eleanor accepts, hoping this good deed will help atone for her mistakes.

On the barrier island of Edisto, Eleanor bonds with Helena over their mutual love of music. Drawing the older woman out of her depression, Eleanor learns of her life in Hungary, with her sister, before and during World War II. She hears tales of passion and heartache, defiance and dangerous deception. And when the truth of Helena and her sister’s actions comes to light, Eleanor may finally allow herself to move past guilt and to embrace the song that lies deep in her heart… (from Goodreads)

                                 The lovely and funny Karen White opening a gift bag of goodies.

                                                     And passing around books and inscribing them.

  Lovely and gracious Susan Crandall signing her books (as the waiters in the background were bringing in platters loaded with delicious southern cuisine).

                                                                        With Karen White........

                                                                           and Susan Crandall

I'd like to mention that if you are a fan of Karen White, she said she has several books coming out in 2014 and that some of her long out-of-print first novels are getting an update and a fresh new look! Many good things to come from Karen, including a new Tradd Street mystery!

P.S. If you are ever in New Orleans, stop by the La Petit Theatre in the French Quarter and have dinner and cocktails at The Tableau....the peach margarita with mint was to die for!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Guest Post - Jennie Fields, Author of The Age of Desire

Today, I am very pleased to welcome Jennie Fields to my book blog, the author of The Age of Desire. In this fascinating guest post, she reveals how an incredible discovery during the writing of her book about the great author, Edith Wharton, impacted the depth of her book. Enjoy!

By: Jennie Fields

Writing a biographical novel is not just about telling a life story, but about creating a world around the main character.  In the case of Edith Wharton, whose mid-life love affair with a younger man was the basis for my novel “The Age of Desire,” it was soon apparent to me that I needed to tell this tale not just through Edith’s eyes but also through a character who could view her from the outside.  I discovered there was a woman who was with Edith for more than thirty years, first as her childhood governess, then as her literary secretary and first reader.  Her name was Anna Bahlmann and Edith Wharton’s biographers all but ignored her. 

But because they were together so long, I thought Edith and Anna must have been close.  With some research, I discovered Anna was rather remarkable: orphaned at the age of two, she nevertheless became a cultured, educated and self-supporting woman in an era where there were few options for what was considered the weaker sex.  After discovering all I could about her, I began to write. 

Then about two months in, a miracle occurred. One night, I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and typed Anna Bahlmann’s name into a search engine as I had a thousand times before.  But that night, a new listing appeared.  Christies, that very week, was auctioning off 135 letters from Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann that had been stashed away for over a hundred years! 

I called Christies as soon as they opened the next day and asked if they’d allow me to view the letters, as I was in the middle of writing a novel about these two women.  Much to my surprise, they said, “Of course.  Come in.  We’ll set you up at a table.”  For two days, I poured these wonderful letters, hands shaking.  This pile of sweet missives revealed an almost mother/daughter relationship.  Starting when Edith was a bright eyed, unbelievably articulate child, writing to governess Anna about books and writing and ideas, missing her when she went off to teach other children, begging her to visit them at their country house, to later letters when Edith counted on Anna to help run her affairs, admonished her for worrying too much over her, and laughed with her about things only they could share; their friendship was warm, touching and intimate.

In the end, “The Age of Desire” is not just about a mid-life love affair, but about an abiding friendship between two remarkable women.  And to my mind, that makes it a richer, more universal book.  How lucky I was that Anna Bahlmann came into Edith Wharton’s life, and into mine.



Born in the heart of the heart of the country – Chicago — Jennie Fields decided to become a writer at the age of six and produced her first (365 page!) novel when she was eleven. She received her MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop and published her first short stories while spending a postgraduate year at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. But needing to feed her family in the era just post-Mad Men, she became an early female copywriter at an advertising agency, soon rising to creative director and moving to New York. In her 32-year advertising career, she wrote and produced many well-known and award-winning commercials. People even now can embarrass her by telling her they grew up dancing to one of her McDonalds’ jingles.
Still, fiction was her great love. Writing during her lunch hour and after her daughter’s bedtime she penned her first novel, Lily Beach, which was published by Atheneum in 1993 to much acclaim. Since then, she’s written three more novels including Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and The Middle Ages. Her latest, The Age of Desire, is a biographical novel based on the life of the author dearest to her heart, Edith Wharton. An Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review, it describes Wharton’s mid-life love affair with a younger, manipulative man. Why the affinity to Wharton? Because she wrote about people attempting to break society’s expectations for them – which is something Fields has been yearning to do all her life.
For more information, please visit Jennie’s website

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

About the Book:

A sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship.
They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary and confidante. At the age of forty-five, despite her growing fame, Edith remains unfulfilled in a lonely, sexless marriage. Against all the rules of Gilded Age society, she falls in love with Morton Fullerton, a dashing young journalist. But their scandalous affair threatens everything in Edith’s life—especially her abiding ties to Anna.
At a moment of regained popularity for Wharton, Jennie Fields brilliantly interweaves Wharton’s real letters and diary entries with her fascinating, untold love story. Told through the points of view of both Edith and Anna, The Age of Desire transports readers to the golden days of Wharton’s turn-of-the century world and—like the recent bestseller The Chaperone—effortlessly re-creates the life of an unforgettable woman.
My thoughts:

I love it when I read a book that inspires me to search for more information...that makes me want to know more about an historical figure or sheds new light on a topic. That is exactly what reading The Age of Desire did for me, and I want to thank author Jennie Fields for sparking a new interest in the writings of Edith Wharton. Ethan Frome is the only Wharton novel that I have read (required college reading), but I am now very interested in reading The House of Mirth and her other novels with a much deeper understanding of the author's feelings and motivations.

I knew going into this book that when I would encounter Edith Wharton in the novel, it would be necessary to put aside modern sensibilities and twenty-first century attitudes to fully embrace her journey and awakening . It is challenging to look back at the repressive, restrictive attitudes and behavior of society in the early 1900's and not feel frustrated.  However, that was the reality of the time period. Edith, trapped in an unhappy and unfulfulling marriage, turned to her writing for solace and her faithful friend and assistant, Anna Bahlmann, for companionship.

I thoroughy enjoyed Edith's evolution and discovery of her passions -- her visits to Parisian salons populated by artists, writers, and intellectuals opened her eyes to new ways of thinking and challenged her conventional attitudes. It also introduced her to a sensual world which she thought was forever closed to her -- her secret relationship with journalist Morton Fullerton would bring her both pleasure and great pain. Fields uses excerpts from Wharton's letters and diaries to enhance the story of an extraordinary and complex writer's exploration of relationships, her sexuality, and self-discovery. A very interesting read!

Title: The Age of Desire
Author: Jennie Fields
Publisher: Penguin Books
352 pages

For more information, reviews, and guest posts, please visit Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

About the Book:

In Bee Ridgway’s wonderfully imaginative debut novel, a man and a woman travel through time in a quest to bring down a secret society that controls the past and, thus, the future. 

“You are now a member of the Guild . There is no return.” Two hundred years after he was about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield, Nick Falcott, soldier and aristocrat, wakes up in a hospital bed in modern London. The Guild, an entity that controls time travel, showers him with life's advantages. But Nick yearns for home and for one brown-eyed girl, lost now down the centuries. Then the Guild asks him to break its own rule. It needs Nick to go back to 1815 to fight the Guild’s enemies and to find something called the Talisman.

In 1815, Julia Percy mourns the death of her beloved grandfather, an earl who could play with time. On his deathbed he whispers in her ear: “Pretend!” Pretend what? When Nick returns home as if from the dead, older than he should be and battle scarred, Julia begins to suspect that her very life depends upon the secrets Grandfather never told her. Soon enough Julia and Nick are caught up in an adventure that stretches up and down the river of time. As their knowledge of the Guild and their feelings for each other grow, the fate of the future itself is hanging in the balance.

My thoughts:

I'll be honest......I don't know what I think about this book.

Did I like it? Did I get lost and bored with the meandering storyline? Was I intrigued with the unique time travel? Was I not amused at witty attempts? Was I invested in the love story of Julia and Nick? Did I hate the ending? 

Yes, to all of the above! So I'm left scratching my head on this one.

I loved Ridgway's original and imaginative concept of time travel -- I'm always drawn to stories of characters traveling through time (either forward or backward) and their adventures as they attempt to conform to the social rules and mores of their time period. Imagine the jar to the senses for a nineteenth century marquess to be hurdled 200 years forward from a battlefield to the 21st century! This could be quite interesting! Especially since he is told he can never return to his own time, and he yearns for a special young lady and her beautiful eyes from his past.....

And then there is Julia Percy,  back in the 19th century, raised by  a grandfather who possessed special powers that could play with time. When her grandfather dies, she is left to suffer at the hands of her cruel cousin Eamon who is determined to find out all he can about the secret powers the man took to his grave, even if it means destroying Julia in the process. 

Part time travel, part mystery, part romance, part spy far so good!

From here, I began to drown in the story. It meandered like the Mississippi River. I got lost. I skipped pages. It went on forever. The Guild. The Ofans. The future in peril. Who can you trust? Who is really who they say they are? Secrets are slooooowly being revealed. It picked up and I got interested again. I thought it had me as the love story developed, and just ended! I actually thought  my kindle edition was missing the last few pages. What?! 

I don't know........there are many, many 5 star ratings on different sites and terrific reviews, so this genre mash up appealed to a majority. Just didn't end up being my cup of tea.

3/5 stars

**This book (kindle edition) was purchased by me and is part of my personal library.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Got Jamie?



New Original Series Based on Diana Gabaldon’s International Best-Selling Novels 

From “Battlestar Galactica” Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore

Beverly Hills, Calif., July 9, 2013 – Starz in association with Sony Pictures Television has announced today that Sam Heughan will play the role of Jamie Fraser in the original series “Outlander,” adapted from Diana Gabaldon’s international best-selling books, which will premiere on STARZ in 2014. The chivalrous young Scottish warrior, Jamie Fraser, has been adored worldwide by fans of the seven-book series that has sold more than 20 million copies and has graced the New York Times best-sellers list six times.

Diana Gabaldon said, “Oh. My. God. That man is a Scot to the bone and Jamie Fraser to the heart. Having seen Sam Heughan not just act, but be Jamie, I feel immensely grateful to the production team for their painstaking attention to the soul of the story and characters."

"From the very beginning, I knew the part of Jamie Fraser would be difficult to cast,” said Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore. “I had no one in mind for the part. I knew that someone would just come into the audition and be Jamie Fraser. And that's what Sam did."

In “Outlander,” Jamie Fraser strikes up a passionate affair with Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743. Armed with sheer grit and enduring strength, he is a strapping young Scottish clan lord with a complicated past and a disarming sense of humor. He is intelligent, principled, and, by 18th century standards, educated and worldly, with a tenderness and compassion that stands out in contrast to his contemporaries. A natural leader of men, he has no political ambitions or desire for battlefield glories. Instead, he wishes to remove the price on his head and return to his family’s ancestral farm.

Sam Heughan is a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he was a 2003 nominee for the Laurence Olivier Award for Most Promising Performance for his work in the program. Last year, he originated the role of Batman in the DC/Warner Brothers and Waterlane production of "Batman Live," an international tour which opened at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles and went on to tour in South America and throughout Europe. In 2010, he was nominated for a British Soap Award for “Villain of the Year” for his role as Scott Neilson in the BBC soap opera "Doctors." He has also had roles in a range of television series including, "River City," "Island at War," "The Wild West," "Midsomer Murders," and, most recently, "Any Human Heart" as Lieutenant McStay. His TV movie credits include, "Breaking the Mould" for BBC Television, "A Very British Sex Scandal" for Channel 4 and "First Light" for BBC2. He was nominated for a "Grace award" for his performance as Prince Ashton, the son of Sir Roger Moore, in “A Princess for Christmas” for Hallmark Channel. His film credits include the short film Small Moments, and the feature films Alexander the Great from Macedonia and Emulsion. He will also be seen in the upcoming film Heart of Lightness. On stage, Heughan has performed at a variety of theatres in such productions as “King John,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Vortex,” “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and more. At the Royal Scottish Academy, Heughan starred in productions including “Crime & Punishment,” “The Seagull,” and “Prometheus Bound.” He is repped by United Talent Agency in the US and United Agents in the UK.

The series adaptation for “Outlander” will be written by Ronald D. Moore (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation”). Ronald D. Moore and Jim Kohlberg are executive producers of “Outlander,” which is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining & Supply Company and Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television.

The series will begin filming in Scotland this fall. 


Just doing my part to spread the word and share in the excitement of the STARZ production of Outlander!!!

I wanted to wait patiently for the official announcement, and Diana Gabaldon herself has posted this with her blessings!! The actor is gorgeous, tall, and Scottish -- and Diana approves!

Can't wait to see more as they cast more characters -- brilliant casting of on to Claire!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

About the Book:

A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love.

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books,The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt's Possession.

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

Why I chose this book:

 I was intrigued by the premise of an antiquarian bookseller discovering a hauntingly similar portrait of his dead wife in an antique book shop! I am also drawn to "books about books," so this looked like a must read for me.

What I enjoyed about the book:

The Bookman's Tale was a delight for the bibliophile in me......Peter is someone who was easy for me to relate to -- he was more comfortable in the company of books than with people, and was passionate in both his love for books and his beautiful Amanda. This mystery novel with a hauntingly touching love story had multiple plots that took the reader to Shakespeare's world, the Victorian era, and the present day. While a little confusing at times with so many characters, I kept chugging along and was rewarded with a most enjoyable reading experience.

Do I recommend?

Yes, for those who enjoy mysteries and consider themselves bibliophiles. Does your heart leap at the thought of visiting a rare books collection or an antique bookstore in Hay-on-Wye? Then this will be a satisfying reading experience for you.

4/5 stars

***I purchased this book and it is part of my personal library.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Julian Kestrel series by Kate Ross

Book #4

Woo hoo! The fourth and (unfortunately) the last of the excellent Julian Kestrel mystery series, The Devil in Music, will be released in August by Felony and Mayhem Publishers!

 The four books that comprise the series feature Regency dandy and detective, Julian Kestrel, and his sidekick, Dipper, as they become involved in solving crimes from country house murders to the underworld of London.  The writing is sharp and intelligent,the attention to period detail is impeccable,  and the plots have many twists and turns that keep me flying through the pages! I love, love, love this Regency mystery series and am so glad the books are getting a fresh new look and a reprint. (My used copies purchased at various online sites are battered and falling apart.)

About the book:

Traveling on the Continent with his ex-pickpocket valet, Kestrel finds himself caught up in the mysterious and murderous world of the opera. Four years ago, the Italian marquis Ludovico Malvezzi was murdered, and Orfeo, the young English tenor he had been training for a career on the glittering operatic stage, disappeared. As Kestral is irresistibly drawn into the baffling case, he encounters suspects at every turn: a runaway wife and her male soprano lover; a liberal nobleman at odds with Italy's Austrian overlords; a mocking Frenchman with perfect pitch; a beautiful, clever widow who haunts Kestrel's dreams; and the missing Orfeo, the penniless protege who just might be a political agent. And when the killer strikes again, Kestrel's quest for answers spirals into a crescendo of passion, danger, and music as he risks becoming a ruthless murderer's next victim

Do you have a favorite  historical mystery series?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Reading

Good morning! It's been a long time since I've dropped in to chat, and I hope everyone has been well and reading some good books!

Life has been incredibly hectic lately, all in a good way.  My lovely daughter graduated from high school recently, so to celebrate her accomplishments we took along a few of her friends and spent a week in Disney World. Prior to that, I spent a few days with some dear friends at the beach for a girls' getaway, and that time was filled with laughter and gossip and quite a bit of snacking! We are also in the process of building a vacation home (a log cabin) in the country which is an exciting venture but  an extremely slow process since it is in the middle of nowhere -- clearing trees and laying down roads to get to the site, getting the power company to set up lines for electricity,  digging a well for water--these all took forever to accomplish and now the fun is beginning. Each week when we visit the site, we can begin to see things taking shape and the house is actually going up now.

I mention all of these activities so you can see that my reading time has been limited. I have a few books that I am very much looking forward to reading this summer, and the beautiful covers just put me in the mood for a glass of iced tea and some sunshine:

In Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match...and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway.

When Mariella is hired as a maid by Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, she enters a rarified world of lavish, celebrity-filled dinner parties and elaborate off-island excursions. As she becomes caught up in the tensions and excesses of the Hemingway household, the attentions of the larger-than-life writer become a dangerous temptation...even as the reliable Gavin Murray draws her back to what matters most. Will she cross an invisible line with the volatile Hemingway, or find a way to claim her own dreams? As a massive hurricane bears down on Key West, Mariella faces some harsh truths...and the possibility of losing everything she loves. (from Goodreads)

A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting. 

In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.

A timeless story of enduring passion from the author of Blackberry Winter and The Violets of MarchThe Bungalow chronicles Anne's determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years. (from Goodreads)


And now for a quick summary of some books that were on my " highly anticipated for 2013" list. Perhaps life may be too busy for me lately to fully enjoy all of these novels -- I jumped on them as soon as they became available as the list is comprised of some of my favorite authors. They were all, of course, enjoyable and satisfying, but none of them wowed me.

Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak. 

That is, until Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily's friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction...and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations. 

Under the scorching summer sun, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick’s marriage bubbles to the surface, and as a cataclysmic hurricane barrels unseen up the Atlantic and into New England, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which will change their worlds forever. (from Goodreads)

If you're looking for light summer reading, A Hundred Summers will fit the bill. The plot is fairly transparent and it's not too difficult to figure out the puzzle pieces well before they snap into place.  I much preferred Beatriz Williams' previous book, Overseas.  (2.5/5 stars)

 Paris, 1923 

The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather's savannah manor house until gossip subsides. 

Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.  

Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.  

Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without. (from Goodreads)

Deanna Raybourn is always wickedly fun and exciting to read, and there were times when  A Spear of Summer Grass  just sparkled. Raybourn is at her best when she's capturing the style, glamour, and atmosphere of the roaring twenties and the wilds of Kenya, and Delilah Drummond was a delightfully decadent character with a colorful southern belle upbringing.  However, I just didn't connect with the romance between Delilah and Ryder. I wanted the same explosive chemistry that I've come to expect from the Lady Julia series between Brisbane and Lady Julia, and I was left very underwhelmed with Delilah and Ryder's relationship. (3/5 stars)

As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards—but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . .

What follows is a potent story that spans generations and continents, bringing an Out of Africa feel to a Downton Abbey cast of unforgettable characters. From the inner circles of WWI-era British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl. (from Goodreads)

Both Deanna Raybourn and Lauren Willig were inspired to create  their Kenya-based novels after reading The Bolter, the fascinating account of the notorious Jazz Age socialite, Idina Sackville. I enjoyed Willig's dual-time story, and found myself deeply immersed in the novel to uncover the secrets of Clemmie's grandmother's past. Willig creates suspense and interest by alternating the past and present stories as the secrets unfold. If you enjoy books such as Kate Morton's layered mysteries, you will enjoy the family saga of The Ashford Affair. (4/5 stars)

Thanks for stopping by........stay cool, and let me know if you have any "hot reads" that I must add to my summer reading list!

***All of the books noted above were purchased by me and are part of my personal library.

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 »