Monday, May 22, 2017

Blog Tour Excerpt: A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah E. Ladd

A Stranger at Fellsworth
by Sarah E. Ladd

Series: A Treasures of Surrey Novel
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
On Sale: May 16, 2017

Could losing everything be the best thing to happen to Annabelle Thorley?

In the fallout of her deceased father’s financial ruin, Annabelle’s prospects are looking bleak. Her fiancé has called off their betrothal, and now she remains at the mercy of her controlling and often cruel brother. Annabelle soon faces the fact that her only hope for a better life is to do the unthinkable and run away to Fellsworth, the home of her long-estranged aunt and uncle, where a teaching position awaits her. Working for a wage for the first time in her life forces Annabelle to adapt to often unpleasant situations as friendships and roles she’s taken for granted are called into question.

Owen Locke is unswerving in his commitments. As a widower and father, he is fiercely protective of his only daughter. As an industrious gamekeeper, he is intent on keeping poachers at bay even though his ambition has always been to eventually purchase land that he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to the lovely Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife’s tragic death, Owen begins to dream of a second chance at love.

As Owen and Annabelle grow closer, ominous forces threaten the peace they thought they’d found. Poachers, mysterious strangers, and murderers converge at Fellsworth, forcing Annabelle and Owen to a test of fortitude and bravery to stop the shadow of the past from ruining their hopes for the future.


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EXCERPT:

How I dread this ball tonight.” Annabelle squinted in the bright early afternoon sunlight and groaned as she adjusted the red feather on her straw bonnet to keep it from bouncing against her face with each step.

Crosley, Annabelle’s lady’s maid, shifted the brown package in her arms and lengthened her stride to match her mistress’s. “Do not fret, miss. Tomorrow this time it will just be a memory. ’Twill be over soon enough.”

“That’s just it.” Annabelle lifted her lace handkerchief to her nose to avoid the unpleasant, pungent scents as they passed two vagabonds near an alley. “I don’t think it will be over anytime soon. Thomas is determined that I should marry Mr. Bartrell, and he’ll not soon forget it. I am determined that I should not marry him. You can see the predicament.”

Monday, May 8, 2017

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

From the Back Cover:

Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

My Thoughts:

I have long been wanting to read one of Kristy Cambron's novels, and I even have The Butterfly and the Violin on my tablet, I just haven't had time to catch up on the thousands of ebooks I've acquired. (Maybe because I keep acquiring more? But that's a topic for another post!) So I jumped at the chance to review The Illusionist's Apprentice. And I have very mixed feelings about it. I'm going to skip the plot recap since this is a mystery and I don't want to risk giving anything away. And the blurb does a good job of telling you what the story is about. So I'm just going to tell you what I think. And what I think is that this story had a lot of potential, but it just didn't take full advantage of all it had to offer.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway: Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

Please join me in welcoming Anna Belfrage back to Let Them Read Books! Anna is touring the blogosphere with her newest release, Under the Approaching Dark, Book Three in The King's Greatest Enemy series. I recently had the chance to ask Anna a few questions about writing during this fascinating and dangerous period in England's history. Read on for a peek at one of her favorite scenes from the novel and enter to win a copy of Under the Approaching Dark! And then check out my 2014 interview with Anna about her Graham Saga series!

Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over.

After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster.

In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much.

When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers.

Hi Anna! Welcome back to Let Them Read Books! Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.

It is a pleasure to be back to visit—thank you so much for having me!

What inspired you to set a series in this turbulent time in England's history?

The short answer is the enigmatic Roger Mortimer, at times painted as a villain, at others as a misunderstood hero. The somewhat longer answer is the enthusiasm of my 6th grade history teacher, who left me with a permanent fascination for the three Edwards—and in particular the events that led to Edward II’s deposition.

Kit and Adam are both strong, opinionated characters who get to rub shoulders with some of history's eliteboth royalty and rebels alike. How did these characters come into being?

I met Kit through a mirror. I was reading up on the history of mirrors and found an illustration of a redheaded woman holding a polished metal mirror. She looked sad, somehow, and I immediately knew whoever had given her the mirror was occupying her thoughts. Which is how Adam came into being… The “he gives her a mirror” scene never made it through the final cut, though. It felt too contrived.

I knew what I wanted to write about—Roger Mortimer’s rise and fall—and I also knew I didn’t want to write the story from Mortimer’s POV. I needed my “own” eyes to tell the story. I also wanted a main character who had emotional bonds to Mortimer, someone who might end up in the difficult situation of hating what Mortimer does while still loving the man himself. Lucky Adam, hey?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo

From the Back Cover:

A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle. 

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence—most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici—become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.

My Thoughts:

Simonetta Cattaneo is a beautiful young woman, raised in Genoa with a sheltered childhood, allowed to learn the basics of reading and writing, but not allowed to further her education beyond that, though she yearns to study the great masters of literature and art. So when a handsome young Florentine man comes calling with poetry and promises of a grand life in Florence, a city alive with new ideas and overflowing with art and literature, Simonetta gladly accepts his offer.

Simonetta marries Marco Vespucci, who is friends with the man behind the Florentine Renaissance, Lorenzo de' Medici, Il Magnifico. Simonetta instantly becomes the star of the de' Medicis' social circle, and soon all of Florence is caught up in the idea of her--emulating her fashion, fighting for a glimpse of her, and gifting her with the title of the most beautiful woman in Florence. She also catches the eye of young Sandro Botticelli and sits for him for a portrait. Moved by her beauty, both inside and out, her likeness begins to appear in more of his works. Simonetta is in heaven, free to read all she wants and to discuss the new and somewhat heretical ideas sweeping through the country with other intellectuals. But not everyone is happy with her esteemed status, and as her star eclipses her husband's, and as so many men vie for her attention, jealousy and thwarted ambition lead to problems in their marriage. Somewhat disillusioned and suffering from bouts of ill health, Simonetta seizes the chance to sit for Botticelli again, this time to be immortalized in his famous masterpiece, The Birth of Venus. Over the course of many months, the relationship between the artist and his muse becomes tangled, and a forbidden passion erupts, though fate will soon intervene with tragic consequences.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Blog Tour Guest Post: The Mourning Ring by Sarah Parke

Please join me in welcoming Sarah Parke to Let Them Read Books! Sarah is touring the blogosphere with her debut novel, The Mourning Ring, a novel that reimagines the childhood of the Bronte siblings. She's here today with a fascinating guest post about the young Brontes' early storytelling efforts. Check it out!

Sixteen-year-old Charlotte Bronte lives to tell stories. She longs to improve her fortunes through her writing. Charlotte’s father expects her to leave behind her childish fantasies in order to set an example for her three younger siblings.

But the Bronte children hold a secret in their veins—a smidgen of fairy blood that can bring their words to life.

When Charlotte discovers that the characters from their childish stories exist in an alternate world called Glass Town, she jumps at the opportunity to be the heroine of her own tale.

The city of Angria teeters on the brink of civil war and Charlotte and her siblings must use their magic and their wits to save its people from a tyrant with magic abilities. But entering the fictional world means forfeiting control of their own creations. If they fail, the characters they have come to know and love will be destroyed.

Charlotte is determined to save the city and characters she loves, but when the line between creator and character becomes blurred, will she choose her fantasy or her family?

It’s a Small World: The Brontës’ Earliest Fiction
By Sarah Parke

In our modern age, smaller has a certain appeal for individuals looking to scale back and enjoy the simpler things in life. From tiny houses, to mini-horses and every little thing in between--the new downsizing trend seems to prove the old adage that good things come in small packages.

Two hundred years ago, the four young Brontë siblings were discovering the power of creating characters and worlds on a miniature scale in a remote village of West Yorkshire. A small portion of their juvenilia survives and has been preserved for further study; some of the miniscule manuscripts can be seen at special exhibits, like the one hosted by the Morgan Library and Museum in NYC last fall, and the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, England.  What is important about the juvenilia is that it provides a glimpse into the childish psyche of this remarkably creative family. From what the children read that influenced their adult work, to the way in which real world events shaped their first storytelling efforts.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: The Fisherman's Bride by Catherine Magia

Please join me in welcoming Catherine Magia to Let Them Read Books! Catherine is touring the blogosphere with her historical fiction debut, The Fisherman's Bride, a novel of the wife of St. Peter. Catherine is here today with a guest post about her own spiritual journey and the inspiration for giving a voice to a woman forgotten by history. Read on and enter to win a copy of The Fisherman's Bride!

She has no name. She is not even a footnote. Her tale is hidden behind the well-told fable of her husband, the man who would become Simon Peter, the first Apostle.

Cast off by her family after shunning a wealthy suitor to marry a humble fisherman, her life is fraught with hardship. She endures her husband’s growing restlessness, fish shortages from the Sea of Galilee, and the oppression of an all-powerful Roman Empire over her people. Then her life is forever changed when her dying mother is saved by a miracle performed by a young carpenter—a man who speaks with understanding and acts with compassion. A man who can inspire the extraordinary.

Simon Peter lives on in history as the undaunted martyr of the carpenter. This is the untold story of his young bride. Her journey traverses villages and deserts, love and tradition, and a brewing revolution, to an awakening of faith that challenges everything she has ever known.

My own spiritual journey inspired The Fisherman’s Bride, the journey from brokenness to healing. Eight years ago, I hit the lowest point in my life personally and professionally. I had post-surgical complications at the same time that I was laid off from my job and ended a long term relationship.  I was utterly lost. I traveled and wandered for about a year, searching for my path. Along the way, I learned lessons of authenticity, courage, and humility.  During a retreat in the Shenandoah Valley, being chased by cows with a Bible in hand, I discovered a new inspiration. I imagined the story of a woman who was also abandoned by her husband, a man who left without a word to follow Jesus, a man we know as Simon Peter.