Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Underground by June Hutton

First Line: A mud sky churns over a mud field broken by coils of barbed wire, a wheel severed from a cart, a tangle of brown limbs.

Underground by June Hutton is a compelling novel about one man’s journey to rediscover and redefine himself after a set of devastating experiences in World War I.

Al Fraser volunteered for war. He finds himself in a trench on the front line of a battle in Somme. Before long he is struck down by an explosion that buries him alive in the mud and muck. He manages to climb out and survives, shell-shocked and riddled with shrapnel. When physically able, he is returned home to British Columbia a lost soul, broken and desperate to overcome the horrors in his mind. Somehow, he must create a new life for himself.

Life is hard and his family poor. He finds work as a painter of ceilings for the homes of the affluent. But luck runs out when is engulfed by the desperation of the Great Depression and is forced to live as a hobo. He finds himself in a bit of trouble with the law and travels to northern Canada where he finds home and love for a while. But something inside of him demands that he fight again in order to fully heal, and Al soon volunteers to fight again in the Spanish Civil War.

The prose is intuitive, discerning, and often gut-wrenching. The story has a very realistic and eerie feel to it because it is based on June Hutton’s own grandfather who actually suffered the protaganist’s fate in the battle at Somme, and to some extent, thereafter. It is a compelling tale of one man’s journey of self-discovery through pain, love, war, and hardship. And for a debut novel, it’s incredibly engrossing.

Dragon at the Edge of the World

Dragon at the Edge of the World by Charles White is the story of two Viking brothers, Lief and Kevin, and now you know it's also a tongue-in-cheek fantasy.

The first line of the book: "There were not many places where Lief the
Invincible was welcome."

Apparently this includes home. When Lief's brother Kevin sails his new boat away from Greenland and winds up lost in North America, their mother nags Lief into rescuing Kevin. Mischief ensues when Kevin is captured by the Wendat Indians and Lief by the Mohawks. With each Indian tribe vying to use their confiscated Viking warships to destroy each other, the brothers have to find a way to survive.

Through harrowing river trips, schemes, betrayals and rescues of damsels in distress, the brothers eventually come together to defeat the blood thirsty Rood Fugger before he can bring gunpowder to North America and destroy the Indian way of life - prematurely.

The humor in "Dragon at the Edge of the World" is welcome, but there was room for more of it. Hopefully, Charles White, the author of "Dragon at the Edge of the World," will find more points of whimsy in his next book.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

Back Cover

Venice 1681.  Glassblowing is the lifeblood of the Republic, and Venetian mirrors are more precious than gold.  Jealously guarded by the murderous Council of Ten, the glassblowers of Murano are virtually imprisoned on their island in the lagoon.  But the greatest of the artists, Corradino Manin, sells his methods and his soul to Louis XIV of France to protect his secret daughter.  In the present day, his descendent - Leonora Manin, leaves London for a new life as a glassblower in Venice - only to find her fate inextricably linked with her ancestor's dangerous secrets.

First Line

As Corradino Manin looked on the lights of San Marco for the last time, Venice from the lagoon seemed to him a golden constellation in the dark blue velvet dusk.

Book Review

I happened to stumble on this novel accidentally while searching on Amazon for Italian fiction.  This is the first book of Marina Fiorato's that I ordered.  The moment I finished reading this book, I went back on Amazon and ordered another.

Marina Fiorato is part Venetian part English.  In this regard, the novel parallels her life.  It is obvious through her writing that she is highly familiar with Venice, its history, its streets, its culture.  The story she weaves has plenty of intrigue and captured my interest from the very start.  She delves deeply into the way of life for glassblowers and the process is well described.  Immaculately researched, and highly accurate, this is one novel that should be on the book shelves of all who love Italian history.  Brava Marina!  No wonder it's an International Bestseller!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Serve by Rosanne E. Lortz

First Line: It was an unusual sight these fifteen years and more to see a man traveling the road – especially a solitary Englishman in the heart of the French countryside.

In 14th century England, John Potenhale is an impoverished young man from a very modest background who serves a patient knight and works hard at the tasks he faces. Partly through wit and partly through intelligence, he comes to the attention of Prince Edward, the Black Prince of Wales who knights him on a battlefield in France. Thus he rises to become one of the Prince’s innermost circle, privy to his master’s thoughts and actions.

The Black Prince loves a young beauty named Joan. Through this relationship, John falls madly in love with Joan’s maidservant, a feisty and sharp-tongued young woman named Margery who knows her lady’s darkest secrets. But Margery’s often vile tongue keeps John at arm’s length. At one point, he considers abandoning his knighthood to enter into a monastery. Thankfully, the wisdom of a seasoned, French knight deters him from that path.

For both Prince Edward and John Potenhale, one man blocks their path to true love and happiness – Thomas Holland, a beligerant, war-lusty warrior with little regard for honour. At years of war over land in France plague the English, Potenhale finds himself traveling back and forth between England and France several times over many years.

The passions of love and war and the turmoil of difficult politics affect the lives of the people trapped in its throes. Rosanne Lortz tells a wonderful tale of the Hundred Year war. Through vivid language and in-depth descriptions, she nudges the emotion and credibility out of the story, making the reader truly understand the difficulties of this turbulent era. Even though a lot of historical fact is relayed, she does it brilliantly, through the thoughts, dialogues, and actions of her characters. Her battle scenes were written carefully and accurately with clarity so that even days later, I can envision them in my mind. I also engaged with the characters, including the villain Thomas Holland who could be despicable at times. This novel makes an excellent read that both genders can appreciate.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Interview with Kristina Emmons

Author Kristina Emmons joins us to talk about her fabulous debut, Roeing Oaks.

Please tell readers about yourself and your background.

I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and lived there until recently, when my husband and I and our two children transferred to Miami, Florida for a job offer and to be near family. I am quiet and observant, and I’ve always been attracted to books and the written word. I first recognized myself as a writer when I noticed that I think in prose. I often define the world around me in concise little sentences!

Roeing Oaks is your most recent release. Please tell us about the story.

Roeing Oaks is set in 1870 England. It is the story of a girl named Kate who is trapped in a life of poverty on a remote farm, though her parents were of noble birth. At age sixteen she learns her true heritage, and that her real father committed an unthinkable act: he auctioned off her mother, while barely pregnant with Kate, at a public market, abandoning her to the highest bidder. Kate must decide what to do with this information, and the opportunities that arise to confront her bloodline. Along the way a mysterious man named Mr. Roeing weaves himself into her world, and he has a secret of his own.

How long did it take you to write Roeing Oaks?

It took me nine years to pen Roeing Oaks. There was quite a bit of research to be done on the time period, and learning the process of writing a novel took time. I was also occupied with starting a family.

What inspired the tale of Roeing Oaks?

My faith inspired Roeing Oaks. I adore a good romantic story, but at the end of the day there is no real Prince Charming. In my walk with God I’ve had many intimate moments on a soul level and I wanted to dramatize that sort of romantic, unbelievably compassionate aspect of Him that I don’t think is stressed enough, and how He has intervened in my life during difficult times. I felt Victorian England was a good place to stage the story, given the rigid class distinction of the time and the presence of royalty. The story and the characters really took on a pulse of their own to make Roeing Oaks a living breathing tale that I really love.

Were there any interesting places, literally and figuratively, where your research for the book may have taken you?

So many figurative places, none literal as yet, unless we speak of the library! Figuratively, I learned so much about myself as a woman, and all of the things we modern women take for granted in the form of freedoms. As part of my research I read many works of fiction that were either based in the time period or written during the time period, so I journeyed in that way.

If Roeing Oaks were made into a movie, whom do you envision as the main characters?

  • Mr. Roeing: I can’t overlook Hugh Jackman! Alternatively, maybe Noah Huntley.
  • Kate: it would have to be just the right person—someone soft who could really transform on screen. I haven’t put a face on her yet.
  • Kate’s mother: Cate Blanchett (as a brunette).
  • Madam Braithwaite: Helen Mirren, or even Meryl Streep.
  • Lord Percy: Daniel Day-Lewis please!
  • Jonathan: Reid Emmons, my talented nephew!
Wouldn’t it be something to see all of those actors on screen together?

What are your future writing plans?

I am in the midst of writing the sequel to Roeing Oaks, which I am very excited about. In the periphery I am also working on another historical novel and a present day novel. I guess my writing plans are to continue writing! I enjoy using unusual topics in my work.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Of course, never stop perfecting your craft technically, but above all, immerse yourself in your characters. I think it’s the only way for them to become authentic. Join a local writer’s group if you can.

How can readers learn more about you? Please share your website, social media sites, blogs, etc.

I can be found at or on Facebook.

Any closing thoughts you’d like to share?

I am so excited to hear feedback for Roeing Oaks! I hope it gives the reader as much of a thrill to read as it did for me to write it.

Thanks for your time, Kristina, and best of luck with Roeing Oaks. Thank you!

Be sure to leave a comment to receive a free copy of Kristina's Roeing Oaks.

Roeing Oaks by Kristina Emmons

With an intriguing premise, gripping characters, and varied settings, author Kristina Emmons demonstrates her wonderful skill at storytelling with her debut novel, Roeing Oaks.

In Victorian England, Kate has only known a life of labor for sixteen years, toiling on a farm beside her mother, Victoria. When a letter arrives for Victoria, its startling contents alter Kate’s world, as she learns about her mother’s hidden past. The pair journeys to the majestic estate where Victoria once lived, until she married the charismatic Lord Alistair Percy, who was not what he seemed. To secure his future happiness, he callously condemned Victoria to a life of servitude, just after she discovered she was pregnant with Kate.

After Kate and her mother return to the farm, they discover Mr. Roeing, who has undertaken managing the farm for its absentee owner. He is enigmatic, but kind to both women. Kate’s innocent charm endears her to him, but surprisingly, it has also thawed the icy reserves of her matronly grandmother, who invites Kate to return to Victoria’s ancestral home. Under a pretext, Kate experiences the life she might have had as Lord Percy’s acknowledged child. However, her reappearance threatens the reputations of two powerful families, who are intent on keeping the past where it belongs, at all costs. Kate also has a surprising reunion with Mr. Roeing, which will have consequences for her future.

What is it about the power of words to transform and transport? In Roeing Oaks, the words in a letter forever alter the heroine’s perceptions about her place in society. It is also Ms. Emmons’ skill with words that have the ability to sweep a reader to another place and time. When I started reading, I quickly became absorbed in this suspenseful, well-paced story, with its vivid characters. Although I did have some inkling as to the heroine’s fate, her meanderings on the journey to the past kept it all from being obvious. Roeing Oaks is a wonderful debut, and I look forward to reading more of Ms. Emmons’ work in the future.

Please leave a comment to win a free copy of Roeing Oaks, and join us later today for our interview with author Kristina Emmons.

Winner of Scoundrel's Kiss

We have a winner!  Martha, please contact Carrie to receive your copy of Scoundrel's Kiss, and thank you to all who posted comments. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Guest Author: Carrie Lofty

We're especially pleased to welcome author Carrie Lofty, who chats with us about the road to publication and her newest release, Scoundrel's Kiss, from Kensington Zebra, January 2010.


Aside from my family, including my fantastic husband of twelve years and our two precocious daughters, the love of my life is history. I started out at age ten when I investigated the plot to assassinate Lincoln. My father, who had been reading about the Civil War for years, admitted that I knew more about the plot than he did. That thrill—knowing pieces of the past that no one else did—became an obsession.

But oh, then came puberty. I fell hard for the early-90s melodrama "The Young Riders," which fictionalized the lives of pony express riders. Hot guys! Plus history! Plus...a hint of romance! I couldn't help it. My impression of history from that point on became ever-so-slightly rose colored. Discovering historical romances round about that same time didn't help me overcome what would eventually become my creative destiny.

After earning a bachelor's in English and history, then a master's in history, I returned to my rosy roots and began pursuing a career in romantic fiction.

Ever since, I've been in conflict with myself. Historical romance is...*gasp*...genre fiction! How could I justify bending and twisting history to meet my own ends as a storyteller? For years I wrestled with this issue. My ability to create a great romance, however, suffered. I needed to give myself permission to be a novelist first, then an historian.

This process of giving myself permission came to fruition when I wrote my debut novel, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. Because of its Robin Hood theme, I could be a little…creative. After all, very little is actually known about the man who may have once been Robin Hood. Most of the stories that have come about are just that: stories. So grounding my romance within the bounds of a legend--not hard history--was the perfect step-down from my days as a hardcore researcher!

Then I got the hang of it! I can be factual and engaging. It can be done. In my latest medieval romance, SCOUNDREL'S KISS, I took inspiration from fact and then wove it into my fiction. For example, the town of Uclés, where much of SCOUNDREL'S KISS is set, was frequently attacked, besieged, and fractured by conflicting monastic leadership. I chose to portray that Uclés was safe from harm throughout the course of this novel, and I simplified the power struggle immensely. Why? Because for the purposes of the romance, all of those interesting mechanizations weren't necessary. I loved reading about it--the historian in me--but that doesn't mean everyone else will!

To my way of thinking, I've remained true to the period and the culture while still giving my readers exactly what they want: a compelling romance. After all, those who get interested in the history will go investigate on their own. That's what I did with "The Young Riders," and look where it got me!

Carrie Lofty is the author of sexy, adventurous historical romances, including her Robin Hood-themed debut, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. Her latest, SCOUNDREL'S KISS, in which a warrior monk must resist the troubled woman he's sworn to protect, hits the shelves this month.

This June, Carrie's Austrian-set tale of two lovelorn musicians will launch Harlequin's Carina Press. And coming soon from Penguin are three hot-n-dirty apocalyptic romances, co-written with Ann Aguirre under the name Ellen Connor.

Thank you, Carrie, for visiting with us! Remember to leave a comment to win a copy of Scoundrel's Kiss.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Scoundrel's Kiss by Carrie Lofty

Carrie Lofty sweeps her readers away to exotic Moorish Spain, in her newest novel Scoundrel’s Kiss, a fabulous follow-up to her Zebra debut, What a Scoundrel Wants.

In a land of contrasts, divided by several faiths, Ada of Keyworth is in the throes of a debilitating dependence on opium. Once a scholar in England, now Ada seeks only a mindless, blissful escape from brutal memories of her past in England. In her desperation, she rushes headlong into danger.

Gavriel de Marqueda is a novice of the knightly Order of Santiago, also determined to leave the past behind him. He blindly follows his master, Gonzalo Pacheco, who has one final test of Gavriel’s devotion before he can join the Order. Gavriel soon finds himself standing in a brothel, where the beautiful Ada, in the clutches of the opium, awaits the highest bidder. Her friend Jacob rescues her, but knowing he cannot ease Ada’s addiction, he asks Gavriel to help her overcome it. She will be his final test.

Traveling north beyond the ragged mountains of Toledo, Ada awakens from her stupor to find herself in the company of Gavriel, his master and another novice, Fernan. Neither man is truly as he appears, each carrying a secret of his own. Ada teases Gavriel with her bold sensuality. He struggles with a growing attraction to her, which threatens to undo his tenuous control. Later, Gavriel separates from the brothers of his Orders, and travels alone with her. Danger stalks them along the frontier. Shadowy men with ties to Gavriel’s past are on their trails. All his personal oaths are soon in jeopardy, for in addition to a vow not to kill, he’s also taken a vow of celibacy.

When Ada arrives at the Order’s stronghold, she seemingly free of her opium dependence, but another addictive need, for Gavriel, has replaced it. The old temptation of the drug is also never far from her. Yet, Gavriel remains steadfast at her side. Their bond strengthens when he reveals his past, and recognizes the danger which surrounds them. But unknown to both of them, Ada holds a stunning connection to his past, one that will determine their fates, and the survival of a Spanish kingdom.

Carrie Lofty is a wonderfully, talented writer, and her Scoundrel’s Kiss is an engaging story. Ada and Gavriel, both haunted by their pasts, find common ground and absolution in each other. They are memorable, for their bravery and resilience with each new trial, but even more, for the power of their love. Their story was a great pleasure to read and I highly recommend Scoundrel’s Kiss.

Remember to leave a comment to win a copy of Scoundrel's Kiss, and join us tomorrow, with our guest blogger Carrie Lofty.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Glimpse of Happiness by Jean Fullerton

Ellen O’Casey has put the horrors of the villain Donovan’s trial behind her, married her true love Dr Robert Monroe and has spent twelve years in America. She and Robert return to London with their five children, and Josie her daughter by her first marriage to take up a post at the London Hospital.

Josie discovers that her childhood sweetheart Patrick Nolan, whom she believed to be dead as his letters stopped coming, is alive and well. However despite his family trying to keep it from her, Josie finds out Patrick married and has two small children. His wife ran off with another man, but he is still not free .

Josie tries to forget about Patrick and settle back into life in the East End, though she has not forgotten her roots and keeps loyal to Patrick’s sister, Matty who is due to be married soon. . Josie tries to keep a distance from Patrick, but finds herself pulled back to him at every opportunity.

Patrick has his own problems as an East End Boatman, he wants to bring his daughter, Annie and son Mickey up the right way, and avoid the rocky road persistently offered him by Ma Tugman and her two reprobate sons, Harry and Charlie. He finds this increasingly difficult however, when the Tugman boys target Josie as Patrick’s weakness. Ma Tugman is a wonderfully convincing villain with no redeeming features other than her love for her two dreadful sons, the three of them running a criminal regime that terrifies the East End.

Goaded beyond endurance, Patrick decides enough is enough and he will do what Ellen did all those years ago and trap Ma Tugman into incriminating herself. But not all members of the authorities have the welfare of the inhabitants at heart, some prefer to line their own pockets along the way.

Josie also comes up against her stepfather’s mother, who openly resents her and prefers her own grandchildren. When Ellen recuperates in Scotland with Robert after a stillbirth, Mrs Monroe sees her opportunity to inflict a harsh regime on her grandchildren. Josie runs up against the Tugman brothers and when she is brought home by Patrick, Mrs Monroe declares her ruined beyond help and throws her out.

Ms Fullerton’s first book, ‘No Cure For Love’ was an excellent read, and if possible this book was even better. With her penchant for historic detail, and the way she handles the roller coaster of events that strive to keep this couple apart, I was glued to this book until it's satisfying conlusion.

Jean Fullerton's Website is here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Afflicted Girls by Suzy Witten

Book Reviewed by Helena Gowan / Edited and posted by Mirella Patzer.

This 17th century New England tale unfolds with the burial of a baby of the Putnam family, leading the reader into a sinister world, where not every mourner present has good intentions and a clear conscience.

Two orphans, Mercy and Abigail, travel to Salem Village, but along the way, have an accident. Two men come to their rescue, one of which is named Joseph. Mercy, who has special powers she likes to keep secret, becomes infatuated with Joseph, who is vain and weak. She is placed into indenture with the bitter Putnam family, where she quickly wins the hearts of the Putnam girls, as only the girls survived their infancy. Abigail, however, settles in her uncle’s house.

Entangled in her hopeless love, Mercy asks Bridget Bishop, the attractive female innkeeper of a jovial high-road tavern for a love charm. Abigail finds out about the secret charm that should make Joseph fall in love with Mercy. About the same time she discovers a Caribbean slave making cakes from a strange plant. Curious things happen to people who eat them. Underestimating the plant’s powers, Abigail distributes the cakes as charms and people soon become ill. In the resulting hysteria, the wheels of witchcraft investigation are set in motion by revenge, malice, and greed.

Suzy Witten has managed to make a familiar story her own. The story is told in many voices and points of view. The writing is rich and in-period, her research has been done well, and the added poems and quotations provide an extra air of authenticity.

With all the story’s gloominess and doom, Suzie Witten ends with a high note, whre sound reasoning prevails. All readers like myself who don’t mind a bit of horror and fantasy in historical fiction and appreciate a quirky tone should enjoy this new twist on the happenings in Salem Village so many years ago.

Visit Suzy Witten's website at:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Our blog was recently nominated and tagged as a Kreativ Blogger. The rules of earning this nomination is to complete the following:

1. Tell readers seven things about yourself.
2. In the Kreativ Blogger post, add the link of the blog who nominated you.
3. Give the links to seven favourite blogs and let them know you have nominated them to participate.

So I completed this on behalf of our wonderful group of ladies. Here is our submission:

7 Things about myself:

I once met Paul Newman at a local movie theatre in Calgary Alberta. He pulled up to the box office in a silver Ferrari to buy two tickets to The Pink Panther - his guest was Joanne Wooward, his wife.

I’ve had the very expensive privilege of riding in a Gondola in Venice.

I once dreamed all the numbers in the lotto, which was 10 million dollars. The excitement woke me up and I drifted between sleep and wakefulness for a few minutes. Then I darted from bed and scrambled for a pen to write the numbers down. I could remember only 4 of the six numbers. They all came up. If I hadn’t of lingered, I would have remembered all six and would have been a multi-millionaire today. So if you ever remember the numbers, for goodness sake, believe them, write them down, and play them.

When I was on a bus once, standing, ready to get off, the bus suddenly lurched and I fell head first into the lap of a nice looking young man. My nose hit the bulls-eye! I was so embarassed, I simply ran out as soon as the doors opened.

I love to crochet novelty items like intricate teacups and beautiful heirloom blankets. I taught myself to crochet when I was seven.

I make the best tira-mi-su recipe I’ve ever tasted. LOL

In my early 20’s, I had an appointment with Simon Alexander, a world famous psychic from England. Everything he told me has come true. The last thing he said was that I was going to live to be 89. I plan on proving him false.

My Link Back to the Blog who nominated us:

Ron Empress

And here are my 7 links I nominate for the Kreativ Blogger Award:

Historical Fiction Roundtable

This is a brand new blog and one to keep your eyes on. These ladies will be reviewing some of today’s hottest historical fiction novels. They're just getting started, and it looks fabulous so far.

StarSeeker Connection

This is the site of a professional astrologer who is branching out to do astrological charts for an authors’ characters. Her blog posts are accurate and fascinating. And she has given me some excellent insight into my main character.

The Book Shelf Muse/

This is a fabulous blog for writers. The author has compiled a wonderful thesaurus for body language as it pertains to emotions. I visit this little goldmine of information frequently, and so will you.

Historical Saga Novels

Who doesn’t love a good family saga? I sure do. Here’s a blog that is written by a collection of historical family saga writers. The novels they have featured so far are intriguing. You'll find many favourites here.

My Dog Ate My Manuscript

Here’s the blog of a fellow author, Gemini Sasson. She’s a talented writer and one to definitely keep your eyes on. Her works in progress are brilliant and her writing is unbelievable beautiful.

Women of History

I’ve been addicted to Melisende’s Women of History blog for several years now. Over the years, her blog has grown to a wealth of information on women from all over the world. It is worth spending your time at her blog. Fascinating as well as informative.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Harbour by Paul House

Harbour is a novel about Hong Kong society in the months leading up to the 1941 invasion of Hong Kong by Japan. It is a time of great contrast, of decadence and deficiency, of prejudice and acceptance, of greed, and of love and hate.
Molly is a young girl of mixed blood caught between two worlds; those of her Chinese mother and her American military father, Willard Russell. Willard is wheelchair bound in Hong Kong and near destitute. He sends for his wife and daughter who must make an onerous journey from their home in China to Hong Kong. Along the way, Molly’s mother dies and Willard must now raise his young daughter alone and in poverty.

When Willard receives an invitation to allow Molly to become the companion of the beautiful Tung Nien, the wife of a Chinese drug overlord and head of the Dragon Triad group, Chen Liew, under the guidance of Miss Dekyvere an ex-pat making her home in Hong Kong, he readily accepts. Deep in the throes of grief, Willard drinks himself into daily stupors. He soon meets Kenji, a Japanese barber who becomes his mentor.

Dr. Laughton and his wife Mary are childless and their marriage is failing. The moment Dr. Laughton sets his eyes on Tung Nien, he is intrigued by Tung Nien and lusts for her. Bored with her loveless, sexless marriage, Tung Nien begins a heated affair with Dr. Laughton.

As the days of the imminent invasion grow closer, the lives of the novel’s characters intertwine, enmesh, and collide. Their lives spin out of control and degrade. Each must confront their own destiny in search of happiness.

Paul House does an excellent job of displaying his characters with all their faults and strengths. Like a tapestry, he weaves their lives together, sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in ways most detrimental to their lives. This keeps the interest strong throughout the story. Not only does he depict the political climate, he also includes the criminal element, the drug trade, in the story.

If you’re interested in reading a good novel in a unique setting, then this is a good one to pick up.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy

In an enduring tale, filled with intrigue and glamour, love and lust, Brandy Purdy invites the reader into the dynamic world of the Tudors, with her novel The Boleyn Wife. Her heroine Jane in particular, is a vibrant character, not black or white, but with infinite shades of gray. Easily dismissed by all, her words and actions will destroy the Boleyn family, and seal the fates of two of the Queens of Henry VIII.

Timid and unremarkable, Jane Parker falls in love with her future husband George Boleyn, before she even knows his name. Determined to have him, despite her father’s misgivings and with little encouragement from her chosen partner, she is dismayed to find that she has a rival for his affections. His sister, Anne, is the darling of her family, the young fops who are her constant companions, and eventually, the court of King Henry VIII. Through Jane’s narration, she comes across as a vapid, scheming woman with no real beauty to recommend her. Yet she has everything Jane wants, especially George’s love. Though they are married, Jane seethes with jealousy at his continued devotion to his sister, his love of friends, gaming and prostitutes. Even worse, she is consistently at Anne’s side, watching while the King and courtiers fall under her spell.

When Henry secretly weds Anne and she bears their only daughter Elizabeth, Jane foresees the beginning of the end for her rival, even as she weeps for her own lack of a child with George. She is merciless and heartless in revealing Henry’s growing infidelities to a beleaguered Anne. Her desperation achieves none of her goals; George continually shrinks from her and clings to his sister. Unwittingly, Jane plays her role in Anne’s ending with the support of Henry’s advisor Thomas Cromwell, and also seals the fate of her beloved George in the process.

Through Jane’s eyes, the reader also meets Henry’s later Queens. There is the tragic Jane Seymour, mother the prince whom Henry has destroyed his first two marriages to have; Anna of Cleves, who is not quite what she seems, and finally Katherine Howard, whose past and her association with Jane will lead to the downfall of both women. At the end of her life, Jane is haunted by the ghosts of her past, a shadow of the woman who helped engineer Anne Boleyn’s death.

In towering majesty of Tudor castles and the murky depths of dungeons where the King’s enemies, real or perceived, live out their last, Ms. Purdy’s detailed accounts of the period, a myriad of characters and the settings take the reader on an engrossing journey to the past. A few scenes seemed contrived, requiring Jane to always be at the right place and the right time whenever something went tragically wrong for Anne; whether by peeking through a bedroom door, or being the first to deliver tragic news that caused Anne to suffer her last miscarriage. Jane has gone down in history as the woman who helped destroy Anne Boleyn, but in Ms. Purdy’s portrayal, her enduring love for her husband inspires even her most deceitful, damning actions. She remains a woman of many contrasts; devoted to George, but pitiable in her desperation for his affection, made vulnerable by her undying love for him, yet also powerful, in her proximity to the doomed Anne. The Boleyn Wife is an unforgettable read.

Interview with Brandy Purdy

Brandy Purdy, author of The Boleyn Wife, provides fascinating insight into her beginnings as a writer.

1. At what age did you start reading books?

I think I actually started reading at about age four or five, but I looked at books, like children's picture books or adult books with photographs and illustrations that appealed to me from the time I was physically able to, I remember I always loved to look at books with historical costumes and castles and things like that. I was a classic movie fan from a very early age and even before I could read, or was old enough to understand, them I used to get books about classic films filled with glamour portraits of stars like Jean Harlow and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers from the library and look at those.

2. Growing up, who were your favorite Authors?

I've always been drawn more to the subjects of books than who the author is. I read "Gone With The Wind" at an early age, when I was about ten I think, because that has always been my favourite movie, and "Green Darkness" by Anya Seton has also been a great favourite of mine since I read it when I thirteen or fourteen.

3. Describe the thought process behind self publishing your first book?

I spent about five years being represented by my first agent, trying to get published in the traditional way, when it didn't happen I decided I didn't want all that hard work to just be stuffed into a drawer and forgotten about or thrown away someday by someone who didn't care and saw it as just junk or old papers. Since no one else would take a chance and gamble on me, I decided to do it myself. And, in all honesty, I think I was a bit rankled by the fact that those around me, people who did not understand or care about the intricacies of the publishing industry and realize the difficulty in getting published, assumed that my failure to do so meant I wasn't any good, that I had no talent and had just been wasting my time and ink cartridges all those years. I suppose a part of me wanted to prove them wrong, to silence the complaints and criticisms if possible.

4. When you are working on a new book, what little things do you do to help get the thought process going?

I read and take notes about the subject and I also like to look at portraits of people and places from the era. I always look for little details, things that will jump out and latch onto my mind, that I can use in some way to lend the story a special touch.

5. Who are your favorite authors now?

I still read more for subject than for author. I read mostly historical fiction, biographies, true crime, and books about ghosts and real-life unsolved mysteries, really just anything that grabs my attention.

6. Is the Tudor Period your favorite period in time?

I don't know, if I had a time machine it might be nice to visit but I wouldn't want to stay in any era without the advantages of modern dentistry.

7. If you could write about anything, absolutely anything, what would you write about?

I don't know, I suppose whatever I felt drawn to at that particular moment.

8. Is there a particular chapter in your books that mean the most to you?

The chapter called "In The Dungeon of Warwick Castle" in The Confession of Piers Gaveston.

9. If you could be a Character from either of your books, who would you be and why?

Anne Boleyn, because she was confident, assertive, talented and creative, and never lonely. Granted many despised her and her life wasn't all sunshine and lollipops, but she had the ability to fascinate and captivate, to inspire loyalty and passion.

10. Everyone wants to be remembered for something, Brandy, what would you like to be remembered for?

I'm not ambitious, so being famous or leaving a publicly available legacy doesn't matter all that much to me, I would rather be remembered as having been special to, or even loved by, one person, and that I was an important part of his life. Having talent, and having that talent appreciated and admired is a very nice thing indeed, but I know from personal experience that published works and praise are not a balm against loneliness.

Thanks for sharing with us on the blog, Brandy.

The Creed of Violence by Boston Teran

First Line: He was born in Scabtown the day Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre.

The Creed of Violence by Boston Teran is a fascinating, multi-faceted novel that takes place in Mexico in 1910. It is the poignant tale of two men who must come to terms with their horrific pasts. The story is set against the political backdrop of Mexico, a country on the verge of a revolution and embroiled in a fight for oil.

From the dregs of poverty, depravity, and criminality, a man named Rawbone struggles to eek out a living. Many years ago, he had a wife and son, who he abandoned. Now, nearly destitute, he catches a ride with two men in a truck who are secretly transporting weapons. He poisons the men and takes their truck with all its armaments. Rawbone travels to his old friend, a corrupt lawyer addicted to opium, for advice.

John Lourdes is an FBI agent and Rawbone’s long, lost son. In return for his freedom, Rawbone is required to drive the truck and arms to American security agents in Tampico. The catch is that he must be supervised by John Lourdes the entire time. Rawbone does not recognize his son, but Lourdes remembers his father very well and despises him for not only abandoning him and his mother, but for the murderer and criminal he has become. Lourde’s is a self-made man, having successfully crawled out of the poverty and slums he was born into. And he hates his father.

Father and son encounter numerous obstacles together in their assignment to expose the criminals at the core of the revolution. Amidst train wrecks, greed, explosions, murder, and intrigue, father and son enter upon a life and death collision course and must come to terms with each other. Slowly, they secretly come to know each other. More than anything else, this is also a tale of forgiveness.

This little book packs a huge wallop. It reads like a blockbuster movie. It is no wonder that The Creed of Violence was recently purchased by Universal Pictures for the second highest price ever paid for a manuscript. I can even visualize the part of Rawbone being portrayed by Clint Eastwood.

Everything about this book is fascinating, even the author’s bio:

No one knows the identify of Boston Teran. Some say that he is a well-known writer using a pseudonym. Others say Boston Teran is the name used by a small group of writers working together to create one identity…The Creed of Violence is his sixth book.

Boston Teran has won numerous awards:
- Winner of the 1999 BOMC Stephen Crane Literary First Fiction Award
- Finalist for the 1999 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best
First Novel
- Winner of the 2000 CWA John Creasey Award for Best First Novel
- Nominee for the 2001 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
- Winner of the 2002 Fiction Lovers Association of Japan Fiction
- Novel of the Year Award Winner of the 2002 Fiction Lovers
- Grand Prix Calibre 38 (Meilleur roman policier) 2004
- Association of Japan Crime Novel of the Year Award

This is an easy read, but with full entertainment value. Keep your eye out for the movie, which is sure to be a big hit, just like the book will be.

Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer

Book Review written by Cori Van Housen

Robert Elmer’s tale of WW11 occupied Denmark grabs you from the start with engaging characters and explosive action on the streets of Copenhagen. German forces, meanwhile, plan to round up the country’s Jewish citizens for deportation, and worse. Elmer’s protagonist, the unassuming clergyman, Steffan Peterson, is likeable and humorous. He enjoys a sheltered, bookish life until he meets Hanne Abramsen, a young and determined Jewish nurse with loose connections to the Resistance. An unlikely friendship develops, awakening Steffan’s slumbering spirit, leading him out of the comfortable security of his church and into grave danger, but also deeper, more vibrant faith.

Elmer weaves historical fact seamlessly into his storyline, making this book not only a great read, but interesting and informative. I had never heard of the camp for which the book was named: Czechoslovakia’s Terezin. Nor had I knowledge of conditions in Denmark during the time of the Reich. It was heartening to know that Danish clergy stood against the Nazi agenda, not simply bowing to it as sometimes happened elsewhere. But Elmer neither preaches nor teaches in the usual sense. Instead, Steffan navigates the razor’s edge between obedience to God and obedience to existing (German) authorities. Not until reading the afterword do you realize how much of the story is firmly rooted in actual events, in actual places.
Elmer accomplishes the feat of communicating the terror of war without gratuitous violence or obscenity. The book is well constructed and evenly paced. Or so you think, until half way through you realize it has you by the collar and you are running with it. A sometimes tense, but thoroughly satisfying read.