Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: Secrets in the Mist by Anna Lee Huber

From the Back Cover:

In this spellbinding novel of romantic suspense, written in the tradition of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt, the bestselling author of As Death Draws Near plunges readers into a world of secrets and deception hidden amongst the mist.

England 1812. Since the death of her mother and brother, Ella Winterton's life has been consumed by keeping her drunkard father out of trouble and the roof of their crumbling cottage over their heads. But even isolated deep in the Norfolk broads, Ella has never been afraid of the marshes surrounding her home, despite their being riddled with treacherous bogs and local smugglers. Until one night a man masquerading as a Lantern Man—a frightening figure of local legend—waylays her in the marshes near her home, and her world suddenly begins to spiral out of control.

Ella can tell her friends and the local villagers are all hiding something terrible, something they refuse to share, and she can’t help but wonder if it has to do with the Lantern Man and his secret activities in the shadows of the seemingly quiet broads. But when Ella’s father is caught with smuggled brandy by the authorities and levied a crippling fine, she is forced to turn to the stranger for help, despite her distrust and his alarming ability to kiss her senseless.

Now she must unravel a twisted trail of deception and secrets, and uncover once and for all whether the Lantern Man is friend or foe. Or else risk being dragged down into the marshes, like the victims from the myth, and buried in a watery grave.

My Thoughts:

So many of my friends are fans of Anna Lee Huber's Lady Darby mystery series, which I've not yet had a chance to read, so I jumped at the chance to review the first book in her brand new romantic suspense series centered around Gothic myths and folklore, Secrets in the Mist.

On a dark, foggy night, the kind of night where most people wouldn't dare cross the marshes on foot, Ella Winterton ventures out to take much-needed medicine to her sick friend, skeptical of her old housekeeper's tales of Lantern Men until she spots their floating lights in the mist and comes face-to-face with one. Only he's no specter but a flesh-and-blood man, dark and menacing and delivering a warning to stay out of the marshes. But that's hard for Ella to do, living on the edge of them as she does, and spending so much time traveling back and forth between her humble home and her friend Kate's home, Greenlaws. Kate recovers from her illness, but it soon becomes apparent that she and her brother, Robert, with whom Ella has a complicated past, are keeping secrets, and Ella's refuge from her drunken father and dwindling prospects no longer seems so inviting. After several more run-ins with the handsome Lantern Man and a lecherous revenue man who levies an exorbitant fine for her father's smuggled brandy, Ella has no choice but to take her family's future into her own hands. But rather than turn to Robert for help, she forces the Lantern Man, aka Jack, to help her and stumbles onto an enterprise far more dangerous than she'd imagined. Now, caught in a trap of her own making, Ella must decide how far she's willing to go to protect her father, her friends, and her very life, and whether Jack can be trusted or if he's leading her into danger for his own nefarious purposes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Spotlight + Giveaway: Abbey's Tale by Katherine McDermott

Abbey's Tale
by Katherine McDermott

November 30, 2016
The Wild Rose Press
Historical Romance
ebook; 161 pages
ASIN: B01LX0ARZR


An immigrant from Ireland, Jeremy McKetcheon took the place of a wealthy New Englander drafted into the Union Army during the Civil War. Jeremy, terribly scarred by a shell that set fire to his tent, is now a reclusive lighthouse keeper on an island off the coast of Maine. He is haunted by flashbacks of the war, and never expects to find love, understanding, or acceptance.

 Beautiful but blind from birth, Abigail Morrison sees the world through the intricate carvings her father brings back from Lighthouse Island when he takes supplies there. She wonders about the artistic carver and why he hides from the world. But when the opportunity arises for her to visit the island, she and her father are tossed overboard in a raging storm. Having seen their distress from the lighthouse, Jeremy attempts a rescue in the frigid waters, and all their lives are changed forever.

Excerpt:

Abigail gasped and sucked cold salt water into her nose and sinuses. It stung and made her eyes tear as she choked it back up. She flailed at the water, trying to remember what her father had taught her about swimming as a child, but the lessons had taken place in a calm inlet not a tempest.

“Papa!” she screamed. “Papa!”

Could he hear her above the roar of the sea and the pouring rain? She felt something churning the surface of the water.

My God, a shark?!

Thunder cracked overhead. Teeth closed around her upper right arm. She screamed and reached out with her left hand, but the head she touched had hair, short hair, and she felt a long, floppy ear—a dog.

The heavy wool cape dragged her down. She tried to clutch the dog, but it let go its grip. I’m pulling it under too. She untied the cape at her throat and let it disappear into the surf. Her teeth chattered in her head, and she felt cold, as cold as death. So this is how it feels to die.

No longer able to struggle, she slipped beneath the surface.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Blog Tour Guest Post: The Silent Land by David Dunham

Please join me in welcoming David Dunham to Let Them Read Books! David is touring the blogosphere with his debut historical fiction novel, The Silent Land, and he's here today with a guest post about his methods for writing this story of love and grief in World War I England. Read on and check out the other stops on the tour!

Rebecca Lawrence reached a count of sixty in her head and slid her finger into the back pages of her mother’s diary. Mistaking the diary for a book granted her innocence the first time she’d opened it. She had no argument for innocence now.

Just when Rebecca Lawrence believed joy had come into her life, she learns the truth about how her mother died years before. Marriage to her first love and motherhood pulls her back from resentment, only for the First World War to threaten her peace when her husband is sent to fight.

When she discovers another lie which could fracture her world, she is faced with the choice of ignoring it, or letting the scars of the past corrupt her.

Set between 1903 and 1919, The Silent Land explores the complexities of love and the pursuit of truth in grief. The inspirational purity of the heroine will draw readers in, demonstrating how strength can be found at times when it would have seemed inconceivable.

The Silent Land explores the different shades of grief – the loss of a mother through assisted suicide, the loss of a father through a heart attack, and the loss of a husband through conflict. Comparable to works by Colm Tóibín and Sebastian Faulks, this is a moving and eloquently written tale of the overwhelming struggle faced by women left at home during the war.

A poignant tale through a woman’s viewpoint that won’t scare the horses or male readers with an especially effective second half.” – the bookbag.co.uk

I loved the story… makes you appreciate life and what you have.” – Mojomums.co.uk

A detailed story that shows what happens when there are dreadful and terrible secrets within a family and how the shadow of the great and terrible Great War was a long a dark one.” – thatsbooks.blogspot.co.nz

Amazon UK | WH Smith | Waterstone’s | Whitcoulls


The Ironing Board Desk and the Fountain Pen
by David Dunham

I admit, I’ve done it. In the early days, that is: the searching for novelists’ daily word counts. I felt dirty doing it, ashamed even, ashamed that I was comparing myself to others and matching my own average to that of the masters. And then I stopped, not through sudden disinterest, but because it was futile.

My environment for writing The Silent Land was different to others’. At times, it was ideal in that it was quiet, I had an antique desk and there was a kettle close by. At other times, not so, in that my office was the laundry room at the back of the house where the noise from the building site was not as violent as at the front, and my desk was an ironing board, and there was no kettle, just an iron. And then there was the method. The Silent Land is set in the early 20th century, and so I was to write as if I was in the early 20th century myself - with paper and pen. A good pen, mind you, not a Biro or one of those in the stationery aisle of the supermarket, a proper pen, one that had a nib with a crest, a sleek barrel and required cartridges (I prefer long, not short) that when changing deposits ink on your fingertip and gives you a little buzz as you push it down and you feel the subtle click. Me and my fountain pen. Best of friends, workmates, allies, and my means to an end: a handwritten first draft of my debut novel, all written on the finest of paper.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Review: The Earl by Katharine Ashe

From the Back Cover:

How does a bookish lady bring an arrogant lord to his knees? Entice him to Scotland, strip him of titles and riches, and make him prove what sort of man he truly is.

Opposites…

Handsome, wealthy, and sublimely confident, Colin Gray, the new Earl of Egremoor, has vowed to unmask the rabble-rousing pamphleteer, Lady Justice, the thorn in England’s paw. And he’ll stop at nothing.

Attract.

Smart, big-hearted, and passionately dedicated to her work, Lady Justice longs to teach her nemesis a lesson in humility. But her sister is missing, and a perilous journey with her archrival into unknown territory just might turn fierce enemies into lovers.

My Thoughts:

I had not read Katharine Ashe before, and I found the description of The Earl so intriguing that I jumped at the chance to review it. This is the second book in the Devil's Duke series, which is a spin-off of the popular Falcon Club series, and while some brief snippets of backstory are included for new readers like me, I did find myself a tad confused as a lot of names and incidents were mentioned throughout that I was unfamiliar with, and though I probably would have had a bit more understanding and appreciation for the backdrop this story is set against had I read the previous books, the main story and romance in The Earl was able to stand alone just fine.

The story begins with a heartbreaking prologue featuring Colin Gray, the future Earl of Egremoor, as a child who cannot speak, and I was instantly sucked into the story, burning through the early pages as Colin, aka Peregrine, and Emily, aka Lady Justice, were introduced, and we learn that though they don't know each other's true identities, these two enemies share a long and troubled history. Having been abandoned by her only friend at the age of nine, Emily has forged her own path in life, championing women's and working class rights while eschewing the traditional role of wife and mother society expects of her. Her alter ego has made quite the name for herself, and she's also made a few enemies, including Colin, who she calls out in her pamphlets for refusing to support her referendums. She has also struck up a correspondence with the mysterious Peregrine, member of a shadow group that specializes in finding lost people, and now she needs his help. Her own sister has gone missing, and Emily is determined to find her. But the price may be too high to pay: Peregrine wants to meet Lady Justice face-to-face. She finally agrees to a nighttime meeting in a shadowy park, and, not wanting to invite scandal by revealing her sister as the missing woman, she gives him the name of the woman last seen in her sister's company, hoping that finding her will lead to finding her sister. She manages to hide her identity, but during the brief and intense exchange, she discovers a shocking truth: Peregrine is none other than Colin Gray, the man who broke her heart and never looked back so many years ago, a man who represents everything she hates about English society. Emily abruptly tells him she's changed her mind and no longer needs his help and flees before he can discern who she is.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway: A Song of War by the H Team

Please join me in welcoming the H Team to Let Them Read Books! Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield are touring the blogosphere with their third fabulous collaboration on a novel in parts, A Song of War: A Novel of Troy. I had the chance to ask them a few questions about writing as a team, and we had a little fun imagining movie casting and deserted-island scenarios. Their answers are hilarious! Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of A Song of War!

Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy’s gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

A goddess’ son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?


Amazon | Amazon UK | Kobo



Hello, H Team! Thank you so much for stopping by Let Them Read Books!

Russ: Thanks for having us :-)

What inspired you to write a novel about the Trojan War?

Simon: Coming up with an idea that can be tackled by several authors from several points of view seamlessly sounds troublesome but in actual fact it is really very easy. There are so many great tales waiting to be told. After A Song of War came out, in just one conversation there were a dozen or more ideas bandied about. Some were discarded as unsuitable or too divisive, but most were intriguing enough to hook at least one of us. Troy was just the idea that hooked the most people’s imagination, but some of the other ideas were not so much discarded as put on the back burner for future projects.

Libbie: I was brought into the project later than the others, as one of our good writer friends had to bow out of A Song of War due to some conflicting deadlines. So Troy was already the decided-upon topic when Kate Quinn approached me about filling the empty space. I’d never thought of writing anything having to do with the Trojan War before, but I immediately wanted to do it as soon as I heard about the project. It’s such a big, beefy chunk of history. It’s very hard to resist.

Christian: I was late to the party, but the Iliad has always inspired me. Really, almost anything to do with Greece, from Achilles to Byron.

Russ: I think it was Kate or Simon who came up with the idea of Troy… it sort of made sense as the first H Team project was took place over one day, the second covered the events of a year… so a decade seems like a natural progression from there. Handily, the Trojan War lasted ten years so that was that.

How did you determine who would write each part?

Simon: I can’t speak for the others, but for me, as soon as we decided on Troy I knew I had to write Aeneas. I am first and foremost a writer of Roman novels, and so with Aeneas being the mythological Pater Familias of the Roman people, the opportunity was too good to miss.

Libbie: By the time I came on board, I believe there were only two “songs” still unclaimed. The one I ended up choosing was the one where two major characters have to die (Paris and Achilles), and I knew I had to take that part. I love killing characters in the most pathetic and heart-rending ways possible. Plus Penthesilea had to die, too. Bonus! In addition, we cast Paris as the villain of the piece – or if not the villain, then the guy everybody really wanted to kick. So it was kind of fun to orchestrate his demise.

Vicky: My initial choice worked better for someone else so I ended up with Odysseus, kind of at the last minute. Which worked out just fine because if I’d thought too long and hard about it, I would’ve been terrified about taking on such an iconic figure. But put a deadline in front of my face and nothing else matters.

Kate: I’ve always loved Andromache, so it was easy. And Hellenus, a lesser prince of Troy, made a wonderful Everyman foil to all these larger-than-life Capital-H heroes.

Russ: We bandy around suggestions, but most people I think knew who they wanted to write from the get go. Agamemnon was a bit of a challenge to be honest because he’s almost universally despised, but it was one that I fancied taking on because I don’t think that many people wake up in the morning thinking, “How can I be eeeevil today?” So the thing was to try to find something in Agamemnon that would explain why he acts the way he does. I don’t think that anyone reading his story will like him at the end of it, but I’m hoping that I did enough for readers to maybe understand him a little more.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Blog Tour Guest Post: The Popish Midwife by Annelisa Christensen

Please join me in welcoming Annelisa Christensen to Let Them Read Books! Annelisa is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical fiction novel, The Popish Midwife, based on the true story of Elizabeth Cellier, and she's here today with a fascinating guest post about Guy Fawkes Day, the Solemn Mock Processions, anti-Catholic sentiment in England, and Elizabeth's role in it. Enjoy!

In seventeenth-century London, thirteen years after the plague and twelve years after the Great Fire, the restoration of King Charles II has dulled the memory of Cromwell’s puritan rule, yet fear and suspicion are rife. Religious turmoil is rarely far from tipping the scales into hysteria.

Elizabeth Cellier, a bold and outspoken midwife, regularly visits Newgate Prison to distribute alms to victims of religious persecution. There she falls in with the charming Captain Willoughby, a debtor, whom she enlists to gather information about crimes against prisoners, so she might involve herself in petitioning the king in their name.

‘Tis a plot, Madam, of the direst sort.’ With these whispered words Willoughby draws Elizabeth unwittingly into the infamous Popish Plot and soon not even the fearful warnings of her husband, Pierre, can loosen her bond with it.

This is the incredible true story of one woman ahead of her time and her fight against prejudice and injustice.

Guy Fawkes Day and the Solemn Mock Processions
by Annelisa Christensen

Many know Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Night, on November 5th – the annual event of burning a ‘Guy’ on top of a bonfire to celebrate the foiling of Guy Fawkes and his men in their attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, London’s government seat – but not so many know that for a few years on another day in November many other religious representatives were ceremoniously placed atop the burning pyres.

The November 5th bonfires began in 1605 to commemorate the failed Gunpowder Plot and the saving of King James I. The anniversary fast became an opportunity for Protestants to vent their fear and distrust of Catholics and Guido Fawkes (Guy Fawkes), the man found guarding the barrels of gunpowder beneath the building, became a figurehead for that hatred. Gradually, the celebrations became bigger than simple bonfires and the burning of the ‘Guy’– a convenient excuse to symbolically exorcise Catholicism from the British shores – with sermons and fireworks added for good measure. The annual event became an explosive, yet steadfast, addition to the English Calendar.

But there were periods where it wasn’t appropriate to celebrate so heartily, for instance the years after King James’s son, Charles, took a Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria of France (1625), the anti-Catholicism angle was played down somewhat. The displays were also muted for over a decade after King Charles I was executed (beheaded) in 1649. Not for reasons of mourning, but because Cromwell’s puritan rule that followed forbade most celebrations and some were stopped altogether. November 5th was one of the few events that survived and it was used by Cromwell to mark the superiority of the Government and the Protestant religion. But, when King James’s grandson, King Charles II took his place on the throne at the start of the Restoration, the day was once more reinstated as an exuberant celebration of the thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot.