Tag Archives: Historical

Spotlight, Guest Post & Giveaway: The Gate of Dawn by Marina J. Neary

Gate of Dawn cover2

About The Gate of Dawn

Welcome to 1880s Vilnius, a volatile Northeastern metropolis where Balts, Germans, Poles, Russians, and Jews compete for a place in the sun. After sustaining fatal burns in a fire instigated by his rivals, textile magnate Hermann Lichtner spends his final days in a shabby infirmary. In a hasty and bizarre deathbed transaction he gives his fifteen-year-old daughter Renate in marriage to Thaddeus, a widowed Polish farmer who rejects social hierarchy and toils side by side with his peasants.

Renate’s arrival quickly disrupts the bucolic flow of life and antagonizes every member of the household. During an excursion to the city, Renate rekindles an affair with a young Jewish painter who sells his watercolors outside the Gate of Dawn chapel. While her despairing husband might look the other way, his servants will not stand by and watch while their adored master is humiliated.

Taking us from the cobblestone streets of old Vilnius, swarming with imperial gendarmes, to the misty bogs of rural Lithuania where pagan deities still rule, The Gate of Dawn is a folkloric tale of rivalry, conspiracy, and revenge.



Guest Post

Reversing cliches
Historical fiction abounds with tales of skittish, voiceless child brides being married off to callous and lecherous older men. It’s a perfect scenario for a potboiler, because it’s guaranteed to generate a certain emotional reaction out of the female readership. Modern women will sympathize with the poor oppressed lamb and wait for her to be rescued by a dashing highlander/outlaw/starving artist (fill in the blank). But are the stock victim/exploiter roles always clearly delineated? What if the child bride becomes the aggressor, and the older husband becomes a victim? In my latest historical novel The Gate of Dawn (Penmore Press, 2016) I develop that scenario. We have Renate, an assertive, pragmatic fifteen-year old girl of German extraction giving her spineless thirty-year old Polish husband Thaddeus a run for his money. Did I say money? Oh, that’s right. There’s another twist. In this peculiar relationship, it’s the child bride who brings in the money in addition to her youth and promise of procreation. What in the world does her husband have to contribute? A chunk of infertile land with a sinister name Raven’s Bog where nothing grows, a chronically bleeding heart from too many bereavements, and a fantastic amount of religious piety. How in the world did those two end up together?

It started with a bizarre deathbed transaction …
Renate’s father, Hermann Lichtner, a textile magnate, sustains deadly burns in a factory fire instigated by his business rivals. Having only a few hours left to live, he summons his attorney to make a will. Hermann’s biggest dilemma is what to do with his adolescent daughter, who is now left a very wealthy orphan. As a progressive man, Hermann raised Renate to be the successor to his empire rather than a debutante, a future entrepreneur. The devastating fire that obliterated his textile business makes him change his plans. A fifteen-year old girl with a lot of money on her hands can attract all sorts of unsavory characters and get into a great deal of trouble. So the next logical step is to marry her off to a man who is not too predatory or unscrupulous. The only candidate Hermann Lichtner can think of is Thaddeus Dombrowski, a thirty-year old widowed Polish farmer.

Polish men have a reputation for being good husbands. They have the right balance of work ethic, good looks, Catholic guilt and sexual appeal that make them suitable for a lifelong relationship. Despite their physical strength, they are demure, quiet and submissive to their wives, always eager to lift heavy things around the house, always with a sheepish smile and a bottle of beer in hand. For a woman with a strong matriarchal/feminist streak a man like that would be dream come true. Our fifteen-year old heroine is not entirely blind to the advantages her marriage has to offer. The only problem is that Master Dombrowski is not the one who makes the decisions. It’s his Lithuanian servants. Soft-spoken and dangerously democratic, Thaddeus treats his servants as family members and gives them plenty of latitude. They eat at the same table and drink from the same beer barrel. From the moment the young bride arrives at Raven’s Bog, she antagonizes every member of the household. Before long, Thaddeus finds himself torn between his demanding, condescending teenage wife and his increasingly discontented servants, who hate the new lady of the house.

Portraying the heroine
I am fortunate to live close to New York City. I am also fortunate to have publishers who give me some creative latitude. They are open to the idea of me picking models for the cover as opposed to using stock images. I’ve seen enough historical novel covers featuring the same headless model. One of my friends from Historical Novel Society wrote an entire article giving great examples of the same cliche stock photo featuring a blonde woman with anachronistic hair and makeup used for various novel covers. Why rely on stock photos, when there are so many beautiful, unique, ethnic faces around?

To portray the above-mentioned child bride I chose a beautiful New York based modern dancer Logan Devlin, who is actually working in her chosen profession – something so many performing artists only dream of. As her name indicates, she’s of Irish descent. Old enough to vote but not old enough to drink, she can pass for a fifteen-year old. Her bone structure, coloring and expression were spot on. There are so many young female models on the website who fry their skin in tanning salons and put their natural hair through all kinds of torturous procedures to achieve that “ethnically ambiguous look”. Too many actresses end up with orange skin and streaky highlights. They reinvent themselves to the point where you cannot guess their age or their innate ethnicity. So it was very refreshing to find a young actress who takes pride in her natural Germanic complexion. I started planning a draft of The Gate of Dawn 15 years ago, so I had a pretty good idea of what the main characters looked like. So when I saw Logan’s head shot, I immediately thought: this is her!

About Marina J. Neary12274343_10154343296021978_2189503503859888400_n

A self-centered, only child of classical musicians, Marina Julia Neary spent her early years in Eastern Europe and came to the US at the age of thirteen. Her literary career revolves around depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade, to the Irish Famine, to the Easter Rising in Dublin, to the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl some thirty miles away from her home town. Notorious for her abrasive personality and politically incorrect views that make her a persona non grata in most polite circles, Neary explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.

Her debut thriller Wynfield’s Kingdom was featured on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. After writing a series of novels dealing with the Anglo-Irish conflict, she takes a break from the slums of London and the gunpowder-filled streets of Dublin to delve into the picturesque radioactive swamps of her native Belarus. Saved by the Bang: a Nuclear Comedy is a deliciously offensive autobiographical satire featuring sex scandals of Eastern Europe’s artistic elite in the face of political upheavals. Her latest Penmore release, The Gate of Dawn is a folkloric tale of conspiracy and revenge set in czarist Lithuania.


Enter to win a Amazon gift copy of The Gate of Dawn. Open to US residents only. Ends 6/21/16.

Publisher: Penmore Press LLC (May 19, 2016)


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Review: Delilah: Treacherous Beauty (A Dangerous Beauty #3) by Angela Elwell Hunt


About Delilah

A Complex and Compelling Glimpse at One of the Bible’s Baddest Girls

Life is not easy in Philistia, especially not for a woman and child alone. When beautiful, wounded Delilah finds herself begging for food to survive, she resolves that she will find a way to defeat all the men who have taken advantage of her. She will overcome the roadblocks life has set before her, and she will find riches and victory for herself.

When she meets a legendary man called Samson, she senses that in him lies the means for her victory. By winning, seducing, and betraying the hero of the Hebrews, she will attain a position of national prominence. After all, she is beautiful, she is charming, and she is smart. No man, not even a supernaturally gifted strongman, can best her in a war of wits.

My Review

Hunt does a wonderful job with her interpretation of Samson and Delilah.

Achish was beyond loathsome, he makes your skin crawl. The fact Hunt provided an in-depth back story for Delilah explained her actions were motivated far more than by greed alone, she was blinded by vengeance, still her end choice was heartbreaking. Samson despite his fall to temptation embraced his faith and carried out his mission.

Love the messages of faith, forgiveness, and temptation. Hunt managed to alter an unpleasant story into a work more satisfying with a different and complex perspective on Delilah than what the Bible depicts.

Thoroughly enamored by the A Dangerous Beauty series, Hunt crafts wonderful Christian Biblical fiction at its finest.

Delilah read fine as a standalone, however, I encourage you to read all the books in the A Dangerous Beauty series, all fabulously crafted.

About Angela Elwell Hunt11dBT86byQL

Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected in novels from this versatile author. With over three million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 100 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to novels.

Now that her two children have reached their twenties, Angie and her husband live in Florida with Very Big Dogs (a direct result of watching Turner and Hooch and Sandlot too many times). This affinity for mastiffs has not been without its rewards–one of their dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest canine in America. Their dog received this dubious honor after an all-expenses-paid trip to Manhattan for the dog and the Hunts, complete with VIP air travel and a stretch limo in which they toured New York City.

Afterward, the dog gave out pawtographs at the airport.

Angela admits to being fascinated by animals, medicine, psychology, unexplained phenomena, and “just about everything” except sports. Books, she says, have always shaped her life— in the fifth grade she learned how to flirt from reading Gone with the Wind.

Her books have won the coveted Christy Award, several Angel Awards from Excellence in Media, and the Gold and Silver Medallions from Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. In 2007, her novel The Note was featured as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel. Romantic Times Book Club presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

In 2006, Angela completed her Master of Biblical Studies in Theology degree and completed her doctorate in 2008. When she’s not home reading or writing, Angie often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences. And to talk about her dogs, of course.

Expected publication: June 7th 2016 by Bethany House Publishers


Filed under 2016, Fiction, May, Review

Review: The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie


About The Rivals of Versailles

And you thought sisters were a thing to fear! In this compelling follow-up to Sally Christie’s clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles.

The year is 1745 and Louis XV’s bed is once again empty. Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a beautiful girl from the middle classes. As a child, a fortune teller had mapped out Jeanne’s destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King’s arms.

All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeois interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals—including a lustful lady-in-waiting; a precocious fourteen-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters—she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.

Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe: history books may say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour. Alongside Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria, she is considered one of the three most powerful women of the 18th century, and one of the most influential royal mistresses of all time.

In The Rivals of Versailles, Christie gets to the heart of Pompadour’s legendary relationship with Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” king. Pompadour was not only his mistress, but his confidante and influential political adviser for close to twenty years. Full of historical insight, decadence, wit and scandal, The Rivals of Versailles is about one woman’s trials and triumphs, her love for a kind, and her role in shaping a nation.

Told in Christie’s witty and modern style, this second book in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the world of eighteenth century Versailles in all its pride, pestilence and glory.

My Review

Impressed with Christie’s first novel in the trilogy The Sisters of Versailles, I couldn’t wait to read her interpretation of Madame de Pompadour. I was taken with Jeanne from the start, her determination piqued my interest, I knew her journey would be riveting. Jeanne possessed intelligence along with tenacity allowing her to remain two steps ahead of her rivals, never flinching, always calm and assured in retaining her place by her beloved King. Smatterings of humor and shrewd calculated plans created great interest on Jeanne’s part giving the narrative an anticipated jolt from time to time. I wasn’t a fan of King Louis XV in book one, and this book serves to fuel my distaste, the man is loathsome.

Christie’s detail of court life along with its machinations – power, politics, and sex as well as a glimpse into the bourgeois class along with praise and criticism of the King including an assassination attempt immerse the reader into the era without question.

A wonderful story delving into one of the most renowned women in history. Although this is book two in the trilogy, it reads fine as a standalone any biographical historical fiction fan with an appreciation of incredibly intelligent, savvy and strong women.

About Sally ChristieSC2-200x300

Sally Christie was born in England of British parents but grew up mostly in Canada. As a child she moved around with her family and then continued her wandering as she pursued a career in international development; she’s lived in 14 different countries and worked in many more. She’s now settled in Toronto and loving it.

Sally lives and breathes history; ever since she read Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots when she was 10, she’s been an avid history junkie. She wishes more attention and technical innovation was devoted to time travel, because there is nothing she would rather do than travel back in time! Writing historical fiction is a poor substitute, but it’s the best one we have at the moment.

When not reading and writing history, she’s a tennis and Scrabble fanatic.

Connect with SallyWebsite | Goodreads

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Publisher: Atria Books (April 5, 2016)

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Filed under 2016, April, Fiction, Review

Review: 300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson

300 Days of Sun cover

About 300 Days of Sun

A mesmerizing novel that transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past—where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.

Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career; Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But Joanna soon realizes that behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline more than two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically suggests she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

My Review

Portugal was so richly described and Lawrenson’s writing an exquisite treat.

The narrative was elaborate and I was skeptical on how all the various threads would join together, good news they meshed very well as is discovered towards the end. Full of suspense, mystery, novel within a novel leaves no time for boredom. Historical facts enlightening, obvious Lawrenson spent extensive time researching Portugal, particularly during WWII.

It took an awfully long time for the plot to pick up speed. The pace was extremely slow. Alternating from present to past and the references to The Alliance seem to never end. Not until three quarters of the way through, when finally, the narrative accelerates until finished. Also, I wish more detail was provided on Nathan and Jo, too much telling and not enough showing who they are, what makes them tick. Their relationship dynamic isn’t really defined, it hangs in the air with ambiguity.

My patience paid off, the ending was fulfilling although not surprising. Overall good book albeit a bit frustrating and lethargic.

Photo credit Rebecca Eifion-Jones

Photo credit Rebecca Eifion-Jones

About Deborah Lawrenson

Deborah Lawrenson studied English at Cambridge University and in London. She is married with a daughter, and lives in Kent, England. Deborah’s previous novels include The Lantern and The Sea Garden.

Find out more about Deborah at her website, read more at her blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (April 12, 2016)

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Filed under 2016, April, Fiction, Review

Spotlight: Storm and Silence by Robert Thier


About Storm and Silence

Freedom – that is what Lilly Linton wants most in life. Not marriage, not a brood of squalling brats, and certainly not love, thank you very much!

But freedom is a rare commodity in 19th-century London, where girls are expected to spend their lives sitting at home, fully occupied with looking pretty. Lilly is at her wits’ end – until a chance encounter with a dark, dangerous and powerful stranger changes her life forever…

Enter the world of Mr Rikkard Ambrose, where the only rule is: Knowledge is power is time is money!

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About Robert Thier6123144

Robert Thier is a German Historian and writer of Historical Fiction. His particular mix of history, romance and adventure, always with a good deal of humor thrown in, has gained him a diverse readership ranging from teenagers to retired grandmothers. For the way he manages to make history come alive, as if he himself had lived as a medieval knight, his fans all over the world have given him the nickname “Sir Rob”.

For him, Robert says, becoming a writer has followed naturally from his interest in history. “In Germany,” he says, “we use the same word for story and history. And I’ve always loved the one as much as the other. Becoming a storyteller, a writer, is what I’ve always wanted.”

Besides writing and researching in dusty old archives, on the lookout for a mystery to put into his next story, Robert enjoys classical music and long walks in the country. The helmet you see on the picture he does not wear because he is a cycling enthusiast, but to protect his literary skull in which a bone has been missing from birth. Robert lives in the south of Germany in a small village between the three Emperor’s Mountains.

Connect with Robert: Website | Google+ | Facebook | Twitter

Published March 19th 2016 by Robert Thier

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Review: Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear


About Journey to Munich

Working with the British Secret Service on an undercover mission, Maisie Dobbs is sent to Hitler’s Germany in this thrilling tale of danger and intrigue.

It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square—a place of many memories—she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s wife is bedridden and his daughter has been killed in an accident, the Secret Service wants Maisie—who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter—to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.

The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis—the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death—has learned of her journey, and is also desperate for her help.
Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers—and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas. . . .

My Review

Maisie Dobbs returns and I am always happy to reconnect with this fabulous woman. Winspear strikes again with one of my favorite characters turned book friend.

Maisie’s suffered her share of profound loss as we journey with her on her road to healing. In fact Winspear sets the table for the reader to understand the fear all are experiencing as war looms.

A narrative filled with excitement and sensitivity while providing an intimate glimpse into the beloved Maisie as she struggles with her personal life while maintaining her professional equilibrium. The narrative primarily focuses on Maisie with her assignment secondary. Despite the plot being unconvincing, I found it enjoyable simply due to Maisie’s involment and unmistakable presence.

Maisie’s strenghth, calm, intelligence and courage not to mention fearlessness, combined with personal and professional poise mold her into a favored character. Winspear certainly allows her creativity to run wild as she demonstrates through Maisie.

About Jacqueline WinspearJacqueline-Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Timesbestsellers Leaving Everything Most Loved, Elegy for Eddie, A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as four other national bestselling Maisie Dobbs novels. Her standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was also a New York Times bestseller. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity awards for the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs, which was also nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and was a New York Times Notable Book. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.

Find out more about Jacqueline at her website and find her on Facebook.

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Publisher: Harper (March 29, 2016)

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Filed under 2016, April, Fiction, Review

Review: Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman


About Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo

The author of the critically admired, award-winning A Replacement Life turns to a different kind of story—an evocative, nuanced portrait of marriage and family, a woman reckoning with what she’s given up to make both work, and the universal question of how we reconcile who we are and whom the world wants us to be.

Maya Shulman and Alex Rubin met in 1992, when she was a Ukrainian exchange student with “a devil in [her] head” about becoming a chef instead of a medical worker, and he the coddled son of Russian immigrants wanting to toe the water of a less predictable life.

Twenty years later, Maya Rubin is a medical worker in suburban New Jersey, and Alex his father’s second in the family business. The great dislocation of their lives is their eight-year-old son Max—adopted from two teenagers in Montana despite Alex’s view that “adopted children are second-class.”

At once a salvation and a mystery to his parents—with whom Max’s biological mother left the child with the cryptic exhortation “don’t let my baby do rodeo”—Max suddenly turns feral, consorting with wild animals, eating grass, and running away to sit face down in a river.

Searching for answers, Maya convinces Alex to embark on a cross-country trip to Montana to track down Max’s birth parents—the first drive west of New Jersey of their American lives. But it’s Maya who’s illuminated by the journey, her own erstwhile wildness summoned for a reckoning by the unsparing landscape, with seismic consequences for herself and her family.

Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo is a novel about the mystery of inheritance and what exactly it means to belong.

My Review

Fishman returns with his outstanding writing, gift of satire and meaningful narrative with a fairly intricate and complex main protagonist. A story cleverly addressing identity, happiness, loneliness, love and more.

Despite the heavy satire the reader will ferret among the comedic veil to discover a staid plot which cannot go unnoticed. Fishman artfully blends his sold writing with satire deftly. Frustrating at times but rewarding in the end, evocative.

Maya is a strong character. She’s dealing with her identity. Her plans, dreams derailed and now she’s questioning her life and how she ended up in her current state. She doesn’t exude warmth and I certainly didn’t agree with her methods of discovery but I understood her predicament and Maya ultimately made her choices and actions for herself. Her road to discovery is risky, impulsive and rewarding. Journeying with her to the end was a mystery and a subtle emotional thrill ride.

I’m not a fan of satire, however, I appreciate Fishman’s skilled writing and intelligent narrative. An elevated plot softened with plenty of smart lampoon smatterings derailing what would be a head on collision to an impactful fender bender, bruised but not broken. Fishman possesses a gift no doubt envied by many.

About Boris FishmanBoris-Fishman-photo-credit-Stephanie-Kaltsas

Boris Fishman was born in Minsk, Belarus, and immigrated to the United States in 1988 at the age of nine. His journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. His first novel, A Replacement Life won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, was one of The New York Times‘ 100 Notable Books, and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. He lives in New York.

Find out more about Boris at his website, and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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Publisher: Harper (March 1, 2016)


Filed under 2016, Fiction, March, Review

Spotlight: Oliver & Jack: In Axminster Workhouse (Fagin’s Boy, Book Three) By Christina E. Pilz

02_Oliver & Jack In Axminster Workhouse

In Victorian England, 1846, an ex-apprentice and his street-thief companion are confined inside a workhouse to await trial for a crime they did not commit.

After the seaside interlude in Lyme Regis, Oliver and Jack are arrested and sent to Axminster Workhouse to await trial for the theft of books that they only meant to borrow.

They are put in the less-than-tender care of Workmaster Chalenheim, who controls the quotas they must fill, the amount of food they are allowed to eat, and the punishments they must endure upon breaking the rules, however arbitrary.

Oliver struggles with the shame of being in a place he thought he’d left behind him long ago, and also with the contrast between the life he once enjoyed and the hunger and degradation inside the workhouse walls. Meanwhile, Jack is confronted by a predator who tests the limits of Jack’s endurance and the strength of his love for Oliver.

Together they must find a way to escape the workhouse before they succumb to the harsh conditions or are separated by the hangman’s noose, whichever comes first.


About Christina E. Pilz03_Christina E. Pilz

Christina was born in Waco, Texas in 1962. After living on a variety of air force bases, in 1972 her Dad retired and the family moved to Boulder, Colorado. There amidst the clear, dry air of the high plains, as the moss started to grow beneath her feet, her love for historical fiction began with a classroom reading of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

She attended a variety of community colleges (Tacoma Community College) and state universities (UNC-Greeley, CU-Boulder, CU-Denver), and finally found her career in technical writing, which, between layoffs, she has been doing for 18 years. During that time, her love for historical fiction and old-fashioned objects, ideas, and eras has never waned.

In addition to writing, her interests include road trips around the U.S. and frequent flights to England, where she eats fish and chips, drinks hard cider, and listens to the voices in the pub around her. She also loves coffee shops, mountain sunsets, prairie storms, and the smell of lavender. She is a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma.


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Review: Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War edited by Heather Webb


About Fall of Poppies

Top voices in historical fiction deliver an unforgettable collection of short stories set in the aftermath of World War I—featuring bestselling authors such as Hazel Gaynor, Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig and edited by Heather Webb.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month…

November 11, 1918. After four long, dark years of fighting, the Great War ends at last, and the world is forever changed. For soldiers, loved ones, and survivors the years ahead stretch with new promise, even as their hearts are marked by all those who have been lost.

As families come back together, lovers reunite, and strangers take solace in each other, everyone has a story to tell.

In this moving anthology, nine authors share stories of love, strength, and renewal as hope takes root in a fall of poppies.

My Review

I’m not surprised this anthology was one of the best I’ve read considering the gifted contributing authors, it’s obvious nothing less than fabulous would grace the pages. Each authoresses distinguishable style, affecting narrative paired with compelling characters stir the reader. The fact the theme of love in some shape or form was expertly weaved into each story was marvelous. The stories demonstrate the hardships faced, the rare and precious moments of elation savored, the pain of profound loss, the joy of discovery. Love of all varieties is presented – mother-son, reciprocal, one-sided, accidental etc. Every story touching, evoking, a few surprising. Lovely collection for fans of historical fiction with WWI serving as the deeply powerful backdrop, a devastating and uncertain time for all. Extremely well done.


Jessica Brockmole – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Hazel Gaynor – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Evangeline Holland – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Marci Jefferson – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Kate Kerrigan – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Jennifer Robson – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Beatriz Williams – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Lauren Willig – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Heather Webb – Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 1, 2016)

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Filed under 2016, Fiction, March, Review

Review & Interview: Platinum Doll By Anne Girard


About Platinum Doll

Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, Platinum Doll tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.

It’s the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She’s chasing a dream—to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights. In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want—a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends—except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition—to be an actress on the silver screen.

With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she’s thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth—that fame comes at a price, if only she’s willing to pay it.

Featuring a glittering cast of ingénues and Hollywood titans—Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes—Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.


My Review

Girard captures Jean Harlow in such an intimate light. There was much more to this sultry siren than her sex appeal and good looks as we quickly discover. It’s a coming of age story parallel with the rise of a star cum icon. Girard demonstrates the two most influential people in Harlow’s life and career, equally causing her joy and sorrow.

I appreciated the way Girard captured closure for Harlow in both relationships with her mother and with Chuck. The closures allowed Harlow peace, a burgeoning voice and served as showing this woman’s tender side and what was most important to her, through the ashes rises a woman – plausible and after spending time with Harlow more than appropriate.

I do wish Harlow possessed a backbone, sadly she was a people pleaser causing her much strife. I was hoping she would use the word ‘no’ especially in regards towards her mother. Eventually she resigns to accepting her position with her mother and takes a quasi stand, still not enough but given her personality understood to a certain degree.

Girard does a fabulous job with facts and fiction creating a wonderful historical fiction focusing on the personal and professional rise of Jean Harlow.


Raven Haired Girl extends a warm welcome to Anne Girard. Thank you for joining Raven Haired Girl, Anne

For starters, please tell us a bit about Platinum Doll.

The book is based on the true story of Harlean Carpenter McGrew, who went to Hollywood and by her early twenties, became screen legend Jean Harlow. The book follows her journey from mid-western teenager and idealistic newlywed through the beginning of her career in the exciting heyday of early Hollywood. It focuses on the challenges she faced along the way, both personally and professionally, as well as her triumphs. It also explores her friendships with wonderful characters like Clark Gable, Clara Bow, Howard Hughes, and Laurel and Hardy.

Why Jean Harlow as opposed to others during the Golden Age?

Initially, I just loved the idea of bringing to readers the real flesh and blood girl behind the iconic platinum hair. Then, as I began doing the detailed research, I was really moved by the compelling elements of her private life; the fragile young marriage that Hollywood threatened, their love story, and the over-bearing stage mother who insisted she was more than just another pretty face. Many of that era’s other stars have faded into obscurity with the years, but Jean Harlow still has her legions of fans. Marilyn Monroe idolized her, and even now so do stars like Madonna and Gwen Stefani. I think that’s a pretty extraordinary legacy after more than 80 years. With Platinum Doll, I hope not only to honor that legacy but to share her story with a new group of readers who may not know much about her.

While researching, did you unearth anything surprising about Jean Harlow? Any interesting bits of information to share with the audience?

She was quite well-educated, which went against her early screen image, and she loved to read. Harlow always had a satchel of books with her on movie sets so that she could put her down time to good use. It was fascinating to discover that she actually wrote a novel called Today Is Tonight, which was published posthumously. She was also a great animal lover and had dozens of pets.

If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?

I would have preferred to tell the story of her entire short life rather than leaving off where I did. While Jean Harlow lost her life tragically at the very young age of 26, she had some fascinating and juicy escapades and relationships after her fame took hold.

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? 

Do I plan to write a sequel? No one has asked me that yet!

What are your current / future projects?

I am mid-way through another fictional biography based on a true character from history. This one is set in England. I am also finishing a novel set in the Provence region of France.

About Anne Girard7563277

Diane Haeger, who currently writes under the pen name Anne Girard (Madame Picasso), holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from UCLA. A chance meeting with the famed author Irving Stone 25 years ago sharply focused her ambition to tell great stories from history, and write them only after detailed research and extensive travel to the place her character lived. That determination has provided a fascinating journey that has taken her from the halls of Chenonceaux, to a private interview with one of Pablo Picasso’s last surviving friends, and most recently an invitation inside Jean Harlow’s home.

Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel, Courtesan, in 1993, a novel that remains in print today, her work has been translated into 18 different languages, bringing her international success and award-winning status.

Platinum Doll, a novel about Jean Harlow, is her 15th book. She lives in Southern California with her husband and family.

Connect with Anne:  Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Publisher: MIRA Books – January 26, 2016


Filed under 2016, Fiction, Interview, January, Review