Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Upcoming Releases in Historical Fiction

Glory of Rome: (Gaius Valerius Verrens 8) by Douglas Jackson

Release Date: August 10, 2017

77AD. Gaius Valerius Verrens is an honoured member of Emperor Vespasian’s inner circle, but the enmity between him and Vespasian’s son Domitian means that, even in Rome, danger is never far away. Meanwhile, in the outer reaches of the Empire, in Britannia, trouble is brewing.

The governor, Gnaeus Julius Agricola is preparing to march his legions north and Valerius is Agricola’s chief legal adviser and deputy governor. It's the opportunity he seeks to move his wife and son out of reach of Domitian’s wrath. But Britannia is where Valerius cut his military teeth and whetted his sword - and he will soon discover that the ghosts of his past are never far away and are more dangerous perhaps than Domitian.

(Read full description at Goodreads)

The Daughters of Ireland (Deverill Chronicles) by Santa Montefiore

Release Date: August 15, 2017

Perched majestically atop the lush emerald hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill has been the home to several generations of the Deverills. But when the castle fell prey to a devastating attack during the Irish revolt, the ancestral home’s survival was at stake—until Celia Mayberry and her husband buy the estate and vow to restore Castle Deverill to its former glory. For Celia, the castle holds many fond childhood memories when she ran through its vast halls with her cousin Kitty Deverill and their cherished friend Bridie Doyle.

(Read full description at Goodreads)

The Sworn Virgin: A Novel by Kristopher Dukes

Release Date: August 8, 2017

When eighteen-year-old Eleanora’s father is shot dead on the cobblestone streets of 1910 Albania, Eleanora must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Meria.

Nearing starvation, Meria secretly sells Eleanora into marriage with the cruel heir of a powerful clan. Intent on keeping her freedom, Eleanora takes an oath to remain a virgin for the rest of her life—a tradition that gives her the right to live as a man: she is now head of her household and can work for a living as well as carry a gun. Eleanora can also participate in the vengeful blood feuds that consume the mountain tribes, but she may not be killed—unless she forsakes her vow, which she has no intention of ever doing.

But when an injured stranger stumbles into her life, Eleanora nurses him back to health, saving his life—yet risking her own as she falls in love with him...

Arrowood by Mick Finlay

Release Date: July 18, 2017

London, 1895. A serial killer stalks the capital's streets. The underresourced police force cannot be expected to solve every crime, and the rich increasingly turn to a celebrated private detective when they need help—Sherlock Holmes.

But the residents of south London don't often see Holmes in the densely populated streets of Bermondsey, where crimes are sleazier and people are poorer. They turn to a private investigator who despises Holmes, his wealthy clientele and his showy forensic approach to crime.

They turn to Arrowood.

The Cottingley Secret: A Novel by Hazel Gaynor

Release Date: August 1, 2017

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

The Dress in the Window: A Novel by Sofia Grant

Release Date: July 25, 2017

World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful color—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing.

Jeanne Brink and her sister Peggy both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer—Peggy now a widowed mother, Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town.  But despite their grey pasts they long for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients with the help of her sister Peggy’s brilliant sketches.
Together, they combine forces to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as they soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Upcoming Historical Fiction

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.

After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.

(Read full description at Goodreads)

Dragon Teeth: A Novel by Michael Crichton

Release Date: May 23, 2017

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America’s western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition.  But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions.  With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William’s newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West’s most notorious characters.

The Underground River: A Novel by Martha Conway

Release Date: June 20, 2017

It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.

May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who ferry babies given up by their slave mothers across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her new-found friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of Dr. Early who captures runaways and sells them back to their southern masters.

(Read full description at Goodreads)

Beneath the Apple Leaves by Harmony Verna

Release Date: June 27, 2017

In 1914, Andrew Houghton’s family is one of hundreds eking out an existence in the coal mines of southwestern Pennsylvania. Though he longs to be a veterinarian, he’s fated for a life underground, picking rock alongside his father.

That destiny changes when his aunt, Eveline Kiser, arranges for her husband to secure Andrew an apprenticeship on the railroad. Wilhelm Kiser, a German immigrant, has found his American dream in Pittsburgh, with a well-paying job as a brakeman, and a secure pension. But on Andrew’s first week, an incident goes tragically wrong, leaving him severely injured, his dreams shattered. Wracked with guilt, Wilhelm finally agrees to his wife’s pleas to leave Pittsburgh’s smog behind. With Andrew in tow, they swap their three-story row house for a rough-and-tumble farm.

Life in rural Pennsylvania is not as idyllic as Eveline imagined. The soil is slow to yield and their farmhouse is in disrepair. But there is one piece of beauty in this rugged land. Lily Morton is quick-witted and tough on the outside, but bears her own secret scars inside. Andrew’s bond with her will help steer them through all the challenges to come, even as anti-German sentiment spreads across America with the outbreak of World War I.

Where the Light Falls: A Novel of the French Revolution by Allison Pataki and Owen Pataki

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Three years after the storming of the Bastille, the streets of Paris are roiling with the spirit of revolution. The citizens of France are enlivened by the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The monarchy of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette has been dismantled—with the help of the guillotine—and a new nation is rising in its place. Jean-Luc, an idealistic young lawyer, moves his wife, Marie, and their infant son from their comfortable life in Marseille to Paris, in the hopes of joining the cause. André, the son of a denounced duke, has evaded execution by joining the new French army. And Sophie, a beautiful aristocratic widow, embarks on her own fight for independence against her powerful, vindictive uncle.

As chaos threatens to undo the progress of the Revolution and the demand for justice breeds instability and paranoia, the lives of these compatriots become inextricably linked. Jean-Luc, André, and Sophie find themselves in a world where survival seems increasingly less likely—for themselves, and indeed, for the nation.

(Read full description at Goodreads)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Matching Covers: Ivory Dress with Blue Wall

Okay, one of them removed the blue wall in the background. The one with the letters has obviously been photoshopped, I'm not sure whether it was just to alter the dress or whether they actually even photoshopped the arms and letters in too. I think they might have!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Release Date: March 21, 2017

This book caught my attention because I loved the idea of a novel about Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton agent, and I just hoped the writing, plot, and characters would be as good as the premise. I knew from the first few pages they would be.

Excellently written with great characters, fictional and historic alike, the plot takes the reader into the spy world of the Civil War. I did feel as though the romance was a little superficial, but otherwise, I felt the character development was very good, especially Kate's. Told in first person, we really get to see and feel Kate's thoughts and emotions, how she deals with the moral questions of lying, deceiving, and hurting people for the greater good, and how she deals with knowing she'll never have a normal, family life.

The plot is what really drives this though, and I frequently found it hard to put down, always wanting to know what would happen next. Lot's of action and adventure.

I'm interested in the author's first novel now. Though it wasn't a premise I was previously interested in, knowing how much I enjoyed this one, I have to give it a try.

Advanced review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Matching Covers: Polka Dot Dress

Who did it best? For me, The Major's Daughter, or Skeletons at the Feast. River's Edge looks superimposed, and Maud's Line is too monochromatic.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Historical Fiction Coming Soon

The Night Mark: A Novel by Tiffany Reisz

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Faye Barlow is drowning. After the death of her beloved husband, Will, she cannot escape her grief and most days can barely get out of bed. But when she's offered a job photographing South Carolina's storied coast, she accepts. Photography, after all, is the only passion she has left.

In the quaint beach town, Faye falls in love again when she sees the crumbling yet beautiful Bride Island lighthouse and becomes obsessed with the legend surrounding The Lady of the Light—the keeper's daughter who died in a mysterious drowning in 1921. Like a moth to a flame, Faye is drawn to the lighthouse for reasons she can't explain. While visiting it one night, she is struck by a rogue wave and a force impossible to resist drags Faye into the past—and into a love story that is not her own.

The Girls of Ennismore by Patricia Falvey

Release Date: March 28, 2017

On a June morning in 1900, Rosie Killeen crosses the road that divides her family's County Mayo farm from the estate of Lord and Lady Ennis, and makes her way to the "big house" for the first time. Barely eight years old, Rosie joins the throng of servants preparing for the arrival of Queen Victoria. But while the royal visit is a coup for Ennismore, a chance meeting on the grounds proves even more momentous for Rosie.

Victoria Bell, Lord and Lady Ennis's young daughter, is desperately lonely. Though the children of the gentry seldom fraternize with locals, Lord Ennis arranges for Rosie to join in Victoria's school lessons. For Rosie, the opportunity is exhilarating yet isolating. Victoria's governess and aunt, Lady Louisa, objects to teaching a peasant girl. The other servants resent Rosie's escape from the drudgery of life below stairs. Bright, strong-willed Rosie finds herself caught between her own people and the rarefied air of Ennismore--especially as she grows closer to Victoria's older brother, Valentine.

(Read full description at Goodreads)

War Cry: A Courtney Family Novel by Wilbur Smith and David Churchill

Release Date: April 4, 2017

As a member of the remarkable Courtney family, Leon Courtney knows how quickly fortunes can be won and lost. Over the course of more than two centuries, generations of his family have risen and fallen with the tides of history. Leon, too, has experienced his own share of triumph and pain. In the wake of his beloved wife’s death, the renowned big-game hunter is raising his young daughter, Saffron, alone in colonial Kenya.

In the 1920s, the continent of Africa is a dangerous place. As Leon attempts to navigate the murky political waters of this most exquisitely beautiful and wildest of lands, his daughter grows into an independent and headstrong young woman bound for a far different life in Britain, as a student at Oxford.

(Read full description at Goodreads)

A Fever of the Blood: A Novel by Oscar de Muriel

Release Date: April 4, 2017

New Year's Day, 1889.

In Edinburgh's lunatic asylum, a patient escapes as a nurse lays dying. Leading the manhunt are legendary local Detective 'Nine-Nails' McGray and Londoner-in-exile Inspector Ian Frey.

Before the murder, the suspect was heard in whispered conversation with a fellow patient—a girl who had been mute for years. What made her suddenly break her silence? And why won't she talk again? Could the rumours about black magic be more than superstition?

McGray and Frey track a devious psychopath far beyond their jurisdiction, through the worst blizzard in living memory, into the shadow of Pendle Hill—home of the Lancashire witches—where unimaginable danger awaits.

Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

Release Date: May 9, 2017

For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature's most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender-professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next-Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë's masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.

Now, out of Sarah Shoemaker's rich and vibrant imagination, springs Edward: a vulnerable, brilliant, complicated man whom we first meet as a motherless, lonely little boy roaming the corridors and stable yards of Thornfield Hall. On the morning of Edward's eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from Thornfield and all he ever loved. As the determined young Edward begins his journey across England, making friends and enemies along the way, a series of eccentric mentors teach him more than he might have wished about the ways of the men-and women-who will someday be his peers.

(Read full description at Goodreads)

House of Names: A Novel by Colm Toibin

Release Date: May 9, 2017

“I have been acquainted with the smell of death.” So begins Clytemnestra’s tale of her own life in ancient Mycenae, the legendary Greek city from which her husband King Agamemnon left when he set sail with his army for Troy. Clytemnestra rules Mycenae now, along with her new lover Aegisthus, and together they plot the bloody murder of Agamemnon on the day of his return after nine years at war.

Judged, despised, cursed by gods she has long since lost faith in, Clytemnestra reveals the tragic saga that led to these bloody actions: how her husband deceived her eldest daughter Iphigeneia with a promise of marriage to Achilles, only to sacrifice her because that is what he was told would make the winds blow in his favor and take him to Troy; how she seduced and collaborated with the prisoner Aegisthus, who shared her bed in the dark and could kill; how Agamemnon came back with a lover himself; and how Clytemnestra finally achieved her vengeance for his stunning betrayal—his quest for victory, greater than his love for his child.

(Read full description at Goodreads)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: India Black (Madam of Espionage Mysteries #1) by Carol K. Carr

India Black, madam of a brothel, gets caught up in international espionage after a government official dies in her, er, establishment. She is recruited by the Prime Minister's office to help recover the important papers stolen after the death before they fall into the hands of either two factions who want to use them against Britain/the Prime Minister.

The Stephanie Plum of the 19th century, India Black is headstrong and clever but not always very graceful and it lands her in a number of dangerous yet amusing situations that she handles with dry wit and sarcasm. Hell, she even has her own black sidekick at one point. Then there's the handsome Mr. French, a spy who works for the Prime Minister's office, but he only resembles Ranger with his mysterious background. India has her own secrets though, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series to find out what they are.

I did think the way Vincent, the young street urchin, kept sneaking into the most unlikely places was a little unrealistic, but it didn't play too big of a role in the plot so I was able to overlook it.

I saw a few reviewers saying the "strange" vocabulary like "bint", "cove", and "rogering" used throughout the novel wasn't very historically accurate, but actually, they are. "Bint" is a derogatory British term that dates from the mid 19th century for a woman or girl, like "tart". "Cove" is an informal British term that dates from before the 19th century for a person, especially male. "Rogering" is British slang for having sex and dates from the early 18th century. The authentic language was precisely one of the things I loved about this novel, the author made a good effort to use real slang from the time period. Maybe some readers haven't seen these words used before because most historical novels they read aren't about whores who would use language like that? Or perhaps most historical novelists don't make as great an effort to incorporate authentic language because they don't want to alienate readers so some people aren't used to it (though that's not to say most historical novelists use anachronistic language).

The whole time I was reading the book, I was thinking it would make a great movie. Lot's of adventure and humor, and even the hint of a potential romance in the future. There's not a huge amount of depth, but it is a lot of fun, and sometimes that's just what I'm looking for.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Review: The Boleyn King (Boleyn Trilogy #1) by Laura Andersen

An alternate history novel on what England's monarchy would have looked like had Anne Boleyn delivered a healthy, surviving boy to Henry VIII and subsequently never been executed.

I was a little disappointed by the fact that so many of the main characters were fictional. Obviously, being alternate history, you would expect some fictional characters, but I expected them to be characters born from the alternate event in question. For example, if they were the children of one of the four wives Henry VIII never wound up marrying, that would make sense, but that's not the case. Several fictional characters were born before the birth of Anne's son, sometimes to fictional parents too. I guess I expected everything leading up to the birth of Anne's surviving son to be historical and the only alternate events and people to be anything that would have happened after or as a result of that. The premise of this book is a great idea, but for me, it kind of loses some plausibility when you decide to make up things that occurred before the alternate event the book is based on.

Despite my long rant though, I did eventually get over my initial disappointment. Mostly. It wasn't what I expected but that doesn't mean I couldn't enjoy it for what it was. The character development was good, the plot interesting, the writing quality was very good.

It did feel a little like a young adult romance novel though. Fortunately, it's more than just that - there's also political intrigue, coup plots, mysteries, spying, etc. Marriage was an integral part of politics at the time, so it's to be expected that love and marriage play a large role in the book, but because the main characters are teens or in their early 20s, it had a very teen-like feel to it and I was surprised it wasn't marketed as young adult, as it easily could have been. Nothing wrong with young adult, I probably would have loved this book when I was younger but alas, I'm not that young anymore and usually look for something more mature.

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