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September 15, 2014

Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough


Back Cover Blurb

In her first epic romantic novel since The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough weaves a sweeping story of two sets of twins—all trained as nurses, but each with her own ambitions—stepping into womanhood in 1920s and 30s Australia.

Because they are two sets of twins, the four Latimer sisters are as close as can be. Yet these vivacious young women each have their own dreams for themselves: Edda wants to be a doctor, Tufts wants to organize everything, Grace won’t be told what to do, and Kitty wishes to be known for something other than her beauty. They are famous throughout New South Wales for their beauty, wit, and ambition, but as they step into womanhood, they are not enthusiastic about the limited prospects life holds for them.

Together they decide to enroll in a training program for nurses—a new option for women of their time, who have previously been largely limited to the role of wives, and preferably mothers. As the Latimer sisters become immersed in hospital life and the demands of their training, they meet people and encounter challenges that spark new maturity and independence. They meet men from all walks of life—local farmers, their professional colleagues, and even men with national roles and reputations—and each sister must make weighty decisions about what she values most. The results are sometimes happy, sometimes heartbreaking, but always . . . bittersweet.

Rendered with McCullough’s trademark historical accuracy, this dramatic coming of age tale is wise in the ways of the human heart, one that will transport readers to a time in history that feels at once exotic and yet not so very distant from our own.

Review
by

Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough is a family saga about four Latimer sisters – two sets of twins from two different mothers. The story is set in a small Australian town during the aftermath of World War I and the Great Depression. The four sisters, Edda and Grace, and Tufts and Kitty, leave their hometown to become nursing trainees at a nearby hospital. Upon their arrival, they are under the supervision of a very harsh Matron. Despite the terrible living and working conditions, the sisters persevere. Things improve when a new hospital superintendent named Dr. Charles Burdum takes over.

Four sisters - different from the other, with their own set of future aspirations. The story unfolds as each sister follows their own dreams and make their own life altering decisions. Despite their struggles, it is the bond of family that holds them together.

This is a novel about choices and the seeking of happiness and the many different ways this affects lives. The story has a little of everything, from sadness to great joy, life and death, and great love. Told with the author’s great wit, there are many poignant moments as well as humorous ones. A profoundly enriching novel!

September 13, 2014

The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas

Back Cover Blurb

A rich, compelling historical novel-and a mystery of royal intrigue. 

In a city-state known for magnificence, where love affairs and conspiracies play out amidst brilliant painters, poets and musicians, the powerful and ambitious Alfonso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, takes a new bride. Half of Europe is certain he murdered his first wife, Lucrezia, the luminous child of the Medici. But no one dares accuse him, and no one has proof-least of all his second duchess, the far less beautiful but delightfully clever Barbara of Austria. 
At first determined to ignore the rumors about her new husband, Barbara embraces the pleasures of the Ferrarese court. Yet wherever she turns she hears whispers of the first duchess's wayward life and mysterious death. Barbara asks questions-a dangerous mistake for a duchess of Ferrara. Suddenly, to save her own life, Barbara has no choice but to risk the duke's terrifying displeasure and discover the truth of Lucrezia's death-or she will share her fate.

Review

by


Renaissance Italy is my favourite genre of historical fiction, and Elizabeth Loupas has written a wonderful story about two of this era's leading ladies. When Barbara of Austria marries Alfonso d'Este, the Duke of Ferrara, she has no idea she will be forced to encounter the ghost of his first wife, Lucrezia, who was said to have been poisoned. For the sake of her marriage, Barbara does her best to ignore the rumours, but she soon finds her husband to be less than what he appears. He is arrogant, coldly assessing, and a man who would be more than capable of murder to suit his own needs. Despite all this, Barbara is determined to unearth the secrets behind a hidden painting of his first wife and how and why she died.

The story is told through the points of view of Barbara and the ghost of Lucrezia - a fascinating tool that I found very powerful when it came to the development of both characters. These two distinct voices highlighted the differences and the similarities between the two minutes. But it was through the malevolent spirit of Lucrezia who revealed the secrets of her marriage. 

I loved this story. It engrossed me from the very first page and held my interest until the gripping ending. The author has done an excellent job of bring the royal courts of Renaissance Italy to vibrant life. The characters are ever evolving, always doing the unexpected, and becoming larger than life as more and more secrets are exposed. This is a wonderfully engaging story! One of the best in the genre of Italian historical fiction. 

September 12, 2014

Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

A Magnificent Ghost Story


Back Cover Blurb

A mesmerizing novel...what begins as a gothic ghost story soon evolves into a wickedly twisted treasure hunt in The Supernatural Enhancements, Edgar Cantero's wholly original, modern-day adventure.

When twenty-something A., the European relative of the Wells family, inherits a beautiful, yet eerie, estate set deep in the woods of Point Bless, Virginia, it comes as a surprise to everyone—including A. himself. After all, he never knew he had a "second cousin, twice removed" in America, much less that his eccentric relative had recently committed suicide by jumping out of the third floor bedroom window—at the same age and in the same way as his father had before him . . .

Together with A.’s companion, Niamh, a mute teenage punk girl from Ireland, they arrive in Virginia and quickly come to feel as if they have inherited much more than just a rambling home and an opulent lifestyle. Axton House is haunted... they know it...but the presence of a ghost is just the first of a series of disturbing secrets they slowly uncover. What led to the suicides? What became of the Axton House butler who fled shortly after his master died? What lurks in the garden maze – and what does the basement vault keep? Even more troubling, what of the rumors in town about a mysterious yearly gathering at Axton House on the night of the winter solstice?

Told vividly through a series of journal entries, cryptic ciphers, recovered security footage, and letters to a distant Aunt Liza, Edgar Cantero has written an absorbing, kinetic and highly original supernatural adventure with classic horror elements that introduces readers to a deviously sly and powerful new voice.

Review
by

Be prepared for an unusual reading experience. Of all the books I’ve ever read, this book has to be the most unique book I’ve ever read. The story does not unfold through narrative. Rather, it is written in epistolary in style, the story revealed through letters, descriptions of closed circuity video footage, diaries, journal entries, and notes written between the two protagonists, a man named A. and a deaf mute woman named Niamh.

The story is a Gothic ghost story, where A. inherits a mansion from a distant relative he has never met. Along with the mansion comes a lot of wealth. What follows is a wonderful creative tale that builds suspense through plot twists, unusual occurrences, and minor mysteries that need to be solved.

Because of this unusual method of storytelling, the tale unfolds with more impact as we experience things through the main character’s perspectives. The reader is able to engage in a more intimate manner with the characters. The video descriptions truly play out like the reader is watching, giving it credence and a sense of realism.

For those who want an easy read and to enjoy a wonderfully unique method of storytelling, one that has plenty of suspense and mystery, then this cozy ghost story is definitely recommended. 

September 10, 2014

The Captain and the Countess by Rosemary Morris



PUBLISHER'S BLURB

Why does heart-rending pain lurk in the back of the wealthy Countess of Sinclair’s eyes?
Captain Howard’s life changes forever from the moment he meets Kate, the intriguing Countess, and resolves to banish her pain. Although the air sizzles when widowed Kate, victim of an abusive marriage, meets Edward Howard, a captain in Queen Anne’s navy, she has no intention of ever marrying again. However, when Kate becomes better acquainted with the Captain she realises he is the only man who understands her grief and can help her to untangle her past.


REVIEW BY ANITA

Rosemary Morris has an in depth knowledge of the Queen Anne era, which is not featured so much in historical romances. This is illustrated in her characters’ attitudes to what was acceptable in a past time, the difference in manners, superstitions and behaviour that ruled people’s lives, or could wreck them too. Combined with her understanding of human relationships and frailties, her stories are always rich in period detail and excellent characterisation.

In this the lesson is clear; never instruct a young man to marry a perfectly suitable young lady because he’ll run off and find a far more unsuitable one to fall in love with. In this case, Edward finds Kate, an older widow who captivates him.

Kate, nicknamed ‘The Fatal Widow,’ has a dark secret, and ultimately Edward is involved in a search for missing children which becomes quite stirring at times, with plenty of tension. Edward Howard and Kate Sinclair are well drawn main characters who are also well matched in strength of character and intellect, thus I couldn’t help hoping they would finally be together for their happy ever after ending.

The story isn’t all doom and gloom though – and there is humour to lift the reader’s mood, not least in the case of Mr Newton and his unusual hat.

Anita Davison also writes as Anita Seymour, her 17th Century novel ‘Royalist Rebel’ was released by Pen and Sword Books, and she has two novels in The Woulfes of Loxsbeare series due for release in late 2014 from Books We Love. Her latest venture is an Edwardian cozy mystery being released next year by Robert Hale.

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BLOG: http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/anita.davison?
GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/AnitaDavison
TWITTER: @AnitaSDavison
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September 8, 2014

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour Presents - The Thief by Stephanie Landsem




Publication Date: February 25, 2014

Publisher: Howard Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Series: The Living Water (Book Two)
Genre: Historical Fiction


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Back Cover Blurb

Longinus is a Roman centurion haunted by death and failure. Desperate to escape the accursed Judean province, he accepts a wager. If he can catch the thieves harassing the marketplace before Passover, he’ll earn a transfer away from the troublemaking Jews.

Nissa is a Jewish woman with a sharp tongue and no hope of marriage. Only with the help of Mouse, the best thief in Jerusalem, can she keep her blind brother, Cedron, fed and a roof over their heads.

When a controversial teacher miraculously heals Cedron, Longinus longs to learn more about the mysterious healer. Instead, his journey leads him to Nissa, whose secret will determine the course of both their futures.

Unexpectedly caught up in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, they wonder who this teacher is who heals others but does nothing to save himself. Is the mercy he offers in his teachings real, or just another false promise? Can Nissa and Longinus overcome their pasts to find a future free of their shackles?


Praise for The Thief

“Nissa’s tough demeanor as a cover for her fear and and Longinus’ desire to live a life of peace in his mother’s homeland of Gaul are achingly believable. Both characters are truly lost souls brought together by Jesus’ act of mercy. Their discover, through Him, that mercy is the true power that leads to peace is a reassurance Christian readers can appreciate.” —Romantic Times, 4 1/2 stars

“To read The Thief is to be completely transported to another time and place. Landsem’s impeccably researched novel moves at breakneck speed toward a climax that doesn’t disappoint.” —Rebecca Kanner, author of Sinners and the Sea (Rebecca Kanner, author of Sinners and the Sea)

“Powerful and moving, Landsem grabs hold of the soul and never lets go. As compelling a portrait of mercy as I have ever read. Don’t miss this one!” —Siri Mitchell, author of The Messenger (Siri Mitchell, author of The Messenger)

“Filled with memorable characters, The Thief is a tale of hopelessness turned to hope, of high stakes made higher, and ultimate love. What happens when a character at the lowest rung of society crosses paths with the most well-known figure in history? The story of The Thief. I couldn’t stop reading.” —Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Iscariot (Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Iscariot)

“WOW! LOVE IT!!! I started reading on my way home from a conference and was so engrossed in the book I almost missed the flight! The Thief stole my heart and lifted my spirit. Masterfully told, this story of a Roman centurion and a Jewish girl explores familiar New Testament passages but plumbs new spiritual depths. A powerful message of faith and hope intersecting at the foot of the cross.” —Mesu Andrews, author of In a Broken Vessel (Mesu Andrews, author of In a Broken Vessel)

“You know the feeling you get looking at a mountain sunset, listening to sacred music while James Earl Jones reads the Sermon on the Mount? The Thief captures that emotion in an unforgettable story of desperation and beauty.” —Regina Jennings, author of Caught in the Middle and Sixty Acres and a Bride (Regina Jennings, author of Caught in the Middle and Sixty Acres and a Bride)

“A compelling story and vivid characters immediately come off the page and into your heart as Stephanie Landsem brings ancient Jerusalem to life in her enthralling second novel, The Thief. As you run through the streets with the little thief, Mouse, or dip in the Pool of Siloam with the secretive Nissa, a masterful tale full of adventure, heartbreak, and hope unfolds. A must-read for anyone who loves a good book they simply can’t put down.” —Laura Sobiech, author of Fly a Little Higher (Laura Sobiech, author of Fly a Little Higher)


Review
by

This powerful new novel by Stephanie Landsem is a wonderfully detailed journey into the time of Jesus's crucifixion. With immense creativity, she tells this well known tale through the eyes of Longinus, the Roman centurian who stabbed with his spear Jesus while he hung on the cross, and Nissa a young Jewish woman who lived in extreme poverty. To say these characters and the turmoil in their lives were vividly portrayed, would be an understatement. They come to life, big and vibrant, with all their faults and qualities in a most realistic, compelling way.

The storyline is gripping, written in wonderful prose that highlights the main characters and the roles they played in Jesus's death. Jesus is a secondary character, the anchor to which the story revolves. Rather, the focus of the story is Longinus and Nissa and how their lives are impacted by the crucifixion of Christ. 

This story has a vast appeal. I could not put the book down - the story is one of the best stories I have ever read. The author wrote it without any religious preaching - the simple story from start to finish with life's lessons cleverly disguised in its prose. An easy read that moves at a rocking pace with oodles of twists and turns that make this one fabulously unforgettable story! I can't praise it enough. 

Buy the Book



About the Author

Stephanie writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s backpacked through Germany and Eastern Europe, studied in Salzburg, enjoyed gelato in Italy, rode a camel in Morocco, and floated in the salty Corinthian Sea. Her favorite cities are Rome, Berlin and Budapest. Her travels kindle her imagination, fuel her love of history and foreign culture, and introduce her to one-of-a-kind characters.

Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband of 22 years, four children, three fat cats, and a tortoise named Moe. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, volunteering at church and school, battling dandelions, and dreaming about her next adventure – whether it be in person or on the page.

The Thief is an evocative story of two people trapped in their circumstances and the life-changing power of forgiveness and love.

Author Links


The Thief Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 1
Review at Closed the Cover


Tuesday, September 2
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter


Thursday, September 4


Monday, September 8


Tuesday, September 9
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past


Wednesday, September 10
Interview & Giveaway at The Overweight Bookshelf


Thursday, September 11
Spotlight at Layered Pages


Friday, September 12
Spotlight at Princess of Eboli


September 5, 2014

Win tickets to see Philippa Gregory and a book giveaway!


Yup, you heard it! Philippa Gregory is coming to Canada - to Toronto on September 22nd, 2014! For all you fans wishing to attend, Simon and Schuster is sponsoring this fabulous contest and giveaway!

If you live near Toronto and can attend, you can win two tickets to this exciting event. I'm also giving away a copy of the book.

To qualify and enter, please read the following instructions carefully.

1. Leave your full nameemail, and Facebook or Twitter username as a comment on this post and be a follower of History and Women or Historical Novel Review Blog on either Twitter or Facebook at:





2. Please specificy whether you are entering to win the tickets or the book. 

3. Please ensure you have provided all the above information in the comments so that I can reply should you win! If there is missing information, I may not be able to reach you and will draw again. 

The winner will be chosen randomly. I will count up all the entries, number them, and draw one lucky winner. 

The draw will be made on September 15th!

Good luck to everyone who enters. 


Philippa’s website: www.philippagregory.com

September 3, 2014

The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric



Back Cover Blurb

It’s rural Ireland in the second half of the nineteenth century, the age of the Pre-Raphaelites, when Europe burns with a passion for long, flowing locks. So when seven sisters, born into fatherless poverty, grow up with hair cascading down their backs, to their ankles, and beyond, men are not slow to recognize their potential.

Soon, they’re a singing and dancing septet: Irish jigs kicked out in dusty church halls. But it is not their singing or their dancing that fills the seats: it is the torrents of hair they let loose at the end of each show. In an Ireland still hungry and melancholy with the Great Famine, the Swiney hair is a rich offering. And their hair will take dark-hearted Darcy, bickering twins Berenice and Enda, plain Pertilly, gentle Oona, wild Ida, and fearful, flame-haired Manticory—the writer of their on- and off-stage adventures—out of poverty, through the dance halls of Ireland, to the salons of Dublin and the palazzi of Venice. It will bring them suitors and obsessive admirers, it will bring some of them love and each of them loss. For their past trails behind the sisters like the tresses on their heads and their fame and fortune will come at a terrible price.

Rich in period detail, peopled by a bewitching cast of characters, The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters is a tale of exploitation and celebrity, illegitimacy and sibling rivalry, love triangles and financial skullduggery, of death and devilry. And a very great deal of hair.

Review
by

Told through the eyes of Manticory Swiney, one of the seven Swiney sisters, and the one with the vibrant auburn hair, the reader is swept into Harristown, Kildare, at the height of the great Irish famine. Starving and destitute, the sisters live a desperate hand to mouth existence. Their long hair is plagued with lice, and their bodies are emaciated from hunger. Each of the girls possesses a different hair color, from black, to red, to blonde.

Tired of poverty, the eldest is shrewd and strong-willed enough to place her sisters on a stage and demand they perform. Their claim to fame is not their acting, dancing, and singing, rather, it is their courage to break free from the social restrictions regarding bound hair. At the end of each performance, when the sisters turn their backs and let loose a cascade of hair, the audience roars!  Like a feral cat ready to pounce, an antagonist named Eileen O’Reilly does her best to thwart the sisters at every turn.

The novel is richly written and based upon the true life story of the Sutherland sisters in the USA during the 19th century. It is a rags to riches to rags story that I found myself completely absorbed by. Each of the sisters was depicted with plenty of faults and qualities, which added to my interest in this fascinating tale. It is a roller coaster ride that takes the reader to joy, love, despair, and tragedy. This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it to book clubs as there is an avalanche of material that will lead to many a lively discussion. A lovely book into the odd and unusual lives of these fascinating women. 

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