Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Unexpected Earl by Philippa Jane Keyworth- Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of British Author Philippa Jane Keyworth's third book Fool Me Twice in December I am giving away two copies of her last novel The Unexpected Earl.
Catch up with the work of this talented author by reading this witty Regency Romance reminiscent of Persausion and Pride and Prejudice.

Six years after being jilted without a word of explanation, Julia Rotherham finds Lucius Wolversley standing before her once again--unexpected, unannounced, unwelcome.
With her heart still hurting and, more importantly, her pride, Julia must chaperone her younger sister, fend off fortune hunters, orchestrate a fake engagement, and halt an elopement--all whilst keeping the man who jilted her at arm's length.
But what Julia doesn't know is that this time, the Earl has no intention of disappearing, and this time, he has more than an explanation to offer....

To enter visit this link to find the answer the question below. Good luck! Extra entries can be earned by Following this blog and Visiting my Facebook Page.

So, how to British people really take their tea? With milk or with cream? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Brave Knights and Heiresses- Two Reviews in One.

A Knight for Isabella by Catherine Hughes, Knights of Normanshire #1 
Fairfield Publishing, 79 Pages, 11th November 2015, Ebook only

A sweet medieval story full of chivalric romance. 

Isabella Whytelake was sent to Normanshire Castle to become a proper lady and meet her future husband. She is resigned to the prospect of a loveless marriage until she sees the man of her dreams . . . and learns he is her betrothed.

John Chruchgate is soon to be a knight and is the pride of Normanshire Castle, tall, strong, and handsome. The desire of every woman he meets, but he is betrothed to an unknown maiden.

When fate brings Isabella and John together as betrothed, they must learn that true love needs more than instantaneous attraction to survive.
Fair story, good for those wanting a nice sweet short read, as the description says. Generally it seemed to be accurate, but there were a few problems I noticed.
A reference to the Drawing Room in a thirteenth century Castle, and a character called 'Dunkirk' which is a place name. Also, there were some dodgy dates. There is a mention of the historical Battle of Lewes, fought in 1264, and then we're told it happened 50 years before, in the time of the grandparents of the characters', and then the the lead protaganist worrying there will be another Battle in her hometown of Evesham.

Well yes, there was also a Battle of Evesham, and it did involve Simon de Montfort Earl of Leicester as is mentioned- but it was fought only one year after the Battle of Lewes, not 50. What's more, a fate of 50 years after Lewis would mean the book was set c. 1314, when Edward II was on the throne, not his grandfather, Henry III who is mentioned as the present King in this one.

The reason for this apparent oversight is not mentioned, no historical note or anything which is annoying. If there is going to be such a big descrepancy in dates in a book like this, there ought to be a reason.

On a more positive note, this was enjoyable as a slightly angle on the usual arranged marriage story, and provided a different (and more accurate spin), on some historical details. I understand there are a couple of other short stories by the same author featuring some of the same characters, and I would certainly be interested in them.


The Honorable Heir by Laurie Alice Eakes
192 Pages, October 4th 2016, Waterfall Press
Print, ebook and audio 
An American heiress and widow of a rakish English earl, Catherine has returned to New York high society determined to make amends for the scandal she caused when she crossed the Atlantic to elope with her best friend’s suitor and win the title of Lady Bisterne. But a ruined reputation isn’t the only thing that’s followed her home: Lord Tristram Wolfe, the rightful heir to the Bisterne estate, has vowed to track down his family’s stolen jewels—gems he’s certain Catherine stole.

Catherine has more to think about than charming, handsome Tristram and his accusations, even if he’s beginning to change her mind about never returning to England. Back at her family’s Tuxedo Park estate, she resolves to restore her honor by earning the forgiveness of her best friend and protecting her younger sister from other fortune-seeking Englishmen with dubious titles, all while abiding by the etiquette of the Gilded Age.

Yet when Tristram’s quest takes a dangerous turn, she must decide whether to follow the rules or save her accuser’s life.

The Honourable Heir had an interesting premise and setting- the region around New York in the so called ‘Gilded Age’. The historical details were, for the most part handled well, and I would say this was one of the better books I have read from this author.

That said, it did have some of the short-comings of her other titles- British characters using Americanisms (some of which were not even common in America at the time). Words like ‘pants’, and ‘someplace’ just weren’t right coming of the mouths of British characters at the turn of the last century, and I’m afraid they give the impression of a rather sloppy approach to this detail.
Other content was fairly typical for this author- characters railing against social conventions in the name of ‘freedom’, and moral condemnation of the British government over the Boer War. As if the America never did anything wrong.

I understand this was a reprint of a short novel originally published by Harlequin a couple of years ago. Coming from a publisher known for Romances gives an impression of what to expect- so be prepared for fairly typical Romance in which characters’ initial reservations and resolutions are dropped.

Altogether, despite being a little bit silly and clich├ęd, it’s alright as a quick, light read and the resolution was satisfying. Worth buying for the price.

I requested a copy from Netgalley for review. I was not required to write a positive one an all opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Lady Unrivalled - Roseanna M. White

Ladies of the Manor #3 
September 5th, 413 Pages, Bethany House
Print, Ebook and Audio

Lady Ella Myerston can always find a reason to smile--even if it's just in hope that tomorrow will be better than today. All her life everyone has tried to protect her from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well the danger that has haunted her brother and their friend, and she won't wait for it to strike again. She intends to take action . . . and if that happens to involve an adventurous trip to the Cotswolds, then so much the better. 

Lord Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he's determined to live a better life. But that proves complicated when old friends arrive on the scene and try to threaten him into a life of crime. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won't budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her--and his daughter--from those dangerous people who seem ready to destroy them all?

I’m a relative newcomer to Edwardian Era fiction, and thankfully I have been fortunate enough to pick some superb novels for my introduction to the genre. British Fiction written by American authors can in my experience be somewhat hit and miss. This trilogy was at the better end of the scale. I believe the main strengths were the solid characterisation and development, and a plausible setting. I understand that the author had not actually visited the places she wrote about until recently, but she certainly did her research.

As other reviewers have said, the developing relationship and chemistry between the leading characters, Ella and James Cayton were was very well written. We met both characters in previous instalments. Ella was the sweet if rather ditsy sister of Brice, an aristocratic friend and neighbour of the protagonists from the first book. Cayton was a cousin, known as a cad and a heartbreaker for his previous failed courtship of another relative.

The witty friction between them in most of their meeting and scenes together added a delightfully light-hearted and humorous cadence to a story that took on a gradually darker and dangerous tone with the actions of certain characters. Of course, Ella and Cayton were both initially in denial over their attraction, but the resolution did not come across as fluffy, trite or predictable (until a couple of passages near the end, when things started to slip a little bit).

Putting them aside, it was lovely to catch up with some of beloved characters from the previous stories, and see them relating so some of the new ones. The former ballerina Kira/Sophie allowed for some fascinating insights into pre-revolutionary Russian culture. Even for the ‘bad’ characters it was possible to sympathize with their plight and experiences. As another reviewer also said, the senstitive and realistic depiction of human nature, and religious content without preachiness is another strength of this series, and this book.

My only complaints were a few Americanisms in the characters’ speech and manners. British people- especially high class British people at the turn of the century would have said ‘curtains’ not ‘drapes’, and Autumn instead of ‘fall.’
I understand these terms being used in the narration, but they’re unrealistic when they’re put in dialogue between British characters. 
What's more, we do not take cream in tea, and would be horrified at being presented with a pot of cream on a tea tray instead of milk.
Nobody takes clotted cream in tea, it’s not suitable- it’s for cakes and scones. Finally, I did feel the resolution was a little predictable and overdone. Very similar to that of the last two books, it a lot of ways.

Despite these reservations though, I really enjoyed this book and the whole series. I would say it was one of my favourites in the trilogy, with a fitting and satisfying conclusion.

I requested an eBook edition of this title from the publisher via Netgalley for the purposes of giving a review,
thanks also to Lion Hudson in the UK for giving me my lovely Paperback edition.   I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Lesson in Love and Murder- Rachel McMillan

Herringford & Watts Mysteries #2, 
September 1st 2016, Harvest House, 224 Pages  
From political danger to personal drama, life is about to get explosive...

The legacy of literary icon Sherlock Holmes is alive and well in 1912 Canada, where best friends Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts continue to develop their skills as consulting detectives.

The city of Toronto has been thrown into upheaval by the arrival of radical anarchist Emma Goldman. Amid this political chaos, Benny Citrone of the Royal North-West Mounted Police arrives at Merinda and Jem's flat, requesting assistance in locating his runaway cousin—a man with a deadly talent.

While Merinda eagerly accepts the case, she finds herself constantly butting heads—and hearts—with Benny. Meanwhile, Jem has her hands full with a husband who is determined to keep her out of harm's way.

As Merinda and Jem close in on the danger they've tracked from Toronto to Chicago, they uncover a sinister plot to assassinate presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt. Will they be able to save the day and resolve the troubles threatening their future happiness before it's too late?

Independence, love, and lives are at stake in A Lesson in Love and Murder, the gripping second installment of the Herringford and Watts Mysteries series

I enjoyed this a little more than the last one. Seeing the return of the quirky but strong minded heroines was good, and there was good chemistry between Jem and Ray, and even Merinda and Benny. Also the secondary relationships between the protaganists were realistic and well written. One could really identify with Ray's struggle between helping his sister, and his last semblance of loyalty to her husband and his former friend Tony. Oh, and there were Mounties, as is Due South.....oh I liked that series.

However, I found the whole think a little confusing. I had to go back a couple of times to keep up with what was going on. This may in part have been caused by the Kindle formatting (not showing seperators between sections for instance), and so fast-paced it could almost be exhausting, as another reviewer remarked.

As with last time, I don't think I ever entirely warmed to some of the characters. Jemima is enigmatic and smart, but frustrating. Merinda often just frustrating. She's meant to be a strong woman, but its like she barely wants to be female. Also they both came across as selfish and silly at times (to prove how strong and independent they were?).

Overall though, it was an enjoyable, solidly written mystery with real touches of humour and a credible setting. I just tend to prefer my historical mysteries to be a little steadier in thier pacing, and to get more immersed in the setting. Not being American or Canadian works against me with stories like this I think.
Recommended as a fun, quick read for mystery buffs who like unusual or unexpected detectives.

I recieved a free PDF edition of this book in the hope I would write a review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Interview with Venessa Knizley- Medieval Fiction Author

I'm hosting one of those rare things, an author interview. My subject today is not so well known as some, but deserves to be. Her first novel Beneath Outstretched Arms a work of Historical Fiction set during the Black Death in England was released in April. The sequel is due out later this year.

First of all, what inspired you to write ‘Beneath Outstretched Arms’ and the rest of the series (there are another three books if I am right?)?

VK: Yes, there are another three books. But when the thought for these characters first came to me in
2006, I never had it in mind to create a series at all, actually. About a year after our first daughter was born, I went to work at a clothing store. I worked nights after the store was closed, changing out the sale prices and listening to the same music play over and over again. I was in the break room when one song in particular caught me up and took me to another place almost. It was a song called Out of Sight by Hooverphonics.
Being only newly married and a first time mother, I was still missing some very close friends from college that I had left behind after moving to my husband’s home town, and the lyrics of this song brought those friends back into my mind (one in particular who was my inspiration for the character of Tristan). It was the rhythm of the music, itself, that brought me face to face with a castle. I couldn’t tell you why, but there it was…setting and characters in one epic rush. 
The story was all at once so vivid in my mind, that I grabbed one of the old yellow sales papers I’d been switching in and out of the clothing racks, and I began writing the story down on the backs of them. I still have them, today. 

Over the next 8 years, I would get inspired on and off to write a chapter down that I could see especially well in my head…sort of like movie shots. I’d write them down and tuck them away for later. Later finally came in 2014 after I’d had three more children. 
The Lord finally gave me the go-ahead, and so I pulled out every chapter I could find, laid them out, and realized I had enough story for three books! The first one would have been quite lengthy though, so taking my publisher’s good advice, we split the first book in half, thus expanding the series to four books. It’s sort of overwhelming in the best way possible. I’m very excited!

I’ve got to say I admire authors who can balance writing with family life and raising children. I struggle to make time, and I only have a dog- but also an obsessively pedantic outlook (wanting to check the accuracy of everything, avoiding looking at things from a modern standpoint). How do you manage, and could you share any tips?
VK: Thank you…and I agree. It is a struggle! One of the reasons that it took me almost nine years to seriously pursue writing down this story was because of exactly that… family and the time it takes to put in to them. And not because they were overly demanding of my time or against my pursuing something personal, but because sacrificial loving is demanding. There’s no way around it. To be mentally and emotionally present during those first few years of marriage and children is exhausting…especially if you have an entitlement mentality, which I did. The Lord had to break me of that. It took my husband saying to me, “You stay home all day. If you’re not happy with the way things are, then make it what you want it to be.” He’d been walking out the door on his way to work, and I just stood there stunned, staring at the door. 
That truly changed me. Instead of complaining that I never had a moment to do something, like sit down and read a book, I simply sat down and read. The children would, of course, interrupt, but I realized then that if it was important to me to have some time to myself, then it needed to be important to them also. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and the lack of time to do things, and started training them to be respectful of my time. I realized I was not a slave to my family, but a steward—and it was up to me set the scene, not get lost in it. So fast forward, three more children. Now, when I sit down to write, they know that I’m writing a book, and that it’s something I love doing. They still interrupt (because they’re still kids), but they know that I may not jump to my feet first thing to take care of all of their wants. Needs, yes. Wants, no. They know I have goals, and I see them setting goals of their own. I think it’s been good for them to have a chance to be excited for me and my ambitions, just as I express joy in their creativity. It’s been good for all of us.

Still, I want to point out that during those eight or nine years prior to getting serious about this book, my husband and I had decided that I would stay home and home school our children, so I also felt like it wasn’t the right season in life for me to devote myself to something too much more than that. Ultimately, we are working for the Lord and His kingdom, and that’s what He had me doing—and I was at peace with that.  But once the Lord gave me the “Okay” to pursue writing seriously in 2014, I jumped all over it. We still home schooled, but my husband was nothing if not supportive, and I spent many evenings locked up in my room or haunting tables at Starbucks. It was a difficult thing to balance both school and writing (still is), but the Lord makes us fit for His tasks, and somehow it gets done. 

I don’t know if there were any “tips” in there, other than to say, don’t fight against God. He’s created us for certain tasks at certain times. Embrace His will and learn to find contentment in all seasons of life. I am five months pregnant now, and this may very well slow me down…but I’m keeping my hands lifted and open to whatever He puts in or takes out. There is no peace in fighting against His timing. My oldest child is ten and my youngest is 4. We suffered two early miscarriages in the last two years before this pregnancy, so although I am looking forward to finishing the rest of my books in a timely manner, if I don’t, it’s because the Lord’s placed a new baby in my hands…and I plan on taking every opportunity to snuggle up to her.

It seems to me that it’s not the usual run of the mill historical Romance- I think I called it more of a family saga. Would you say that’s right? How would you describe it? What if anything would you say makes your book stand out?

VK: You’re right. It’s really not your run of the mill romance… In fact, I try not to even advertise it as such, just in case I upset anyone who’s looking for the normal “romantic formula” offered in most romantic fiction. Which I love in books, I might add. I just didn’t happen to create one. Despite there being romance, I think a friend of mine was right when she called it a character novel. These books are about Velena and Tristan…and how they change as people. Even your calling it a family saga is probably very accurate. I can see myself writing several spin offs about Velena’s brother or maid, Daisy. In fact, I’m surprised how much Daisy is liked, because it wasn’t ever my intention that she be such a rounded character. But from day one, she asserted herself, and has become a favorite of several people who’ve already had the opportunity to peek into book two. 

But still, romance does exist in these books. I’ve had people read book one and gush about how perfect Tristan and Velena are for one another. I’ve had others say, “No, they’re not right for each other at all…but what about Stuart?” Still others have brought up Makaias as a viable option, who’s only cameo thus far has been in the prologue with Velena’s brother, Britton. Readers have been able to see whoever they want to see as Velena’s love interest… and I love that! 
What makes my book stand out? That’s a difficult question because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what might be great reading for one person, might be run-on sentences to the next, haha. But for myself, I hope what stands out the most is the dialogue. As I mentioned before, it was the memory of my friends that inspired this story in the first place. So some of the conversations between characters really did take place (slightly tweaked, of course). I wanted their interactions to seem real and plausible… not manufactured or written as filler until the next scene. I hope that through their words, people are drawn into loving them, as I do.

One thing I liked was the heroine, Velena and her father, had a good relationship. So many stories set in this period include brutal or tyrannical fathers who treat their daughters badly, and of course, want to force them to marry men they don’t like. Its treated as though that was something that was usual, although I don’t think it was (I can think of at least two Kings who are known to have cared for their daughters). What’s your take on the matter, and what made you want to write about this matter in the way you did?

VK: Honestly, I thought of my own dad. It never occurred to me to make him anything but loving. Yet, I did still feel the weight of giving him the appropriate mind set of someone having lived in the fourteenth century, and I hope I was able to do that. Other than that, and I’ve mentioned this to you before, there really is nothing new under the sun. I suppose I just figured that there have been good fathers and bad fathers since the dawn of time. Lord Richard is one of the good ones, and Lord Magnus (Velena’s uncle)…not so much.

Do you have a favourite character? I rather liked Rowan and some of the household knights.

VK: I’m so happy to hear you say that!!! Rowan is one of my all-time favourite characters, as well. Although, he’s barely mentioned in book one, he plays a much bigger role in book two. Rowan is not exactly “religious,” and you really have to take his advice and actions worth a grain of salt, yet, he brightens up any scene he’s in. I never have to think too hard about what the dialogue will be when he’s around. I just expect that he’ll run off at the mouth in some way or another, and my typing quickly becomes at his beck and call, haha. 

I, of course, love Tristan and Velena. Tristan’s character was the catalyst for the whole story, really. Velena has been interesting to work with, because she began as myself in some ways, but I was soon faced with making decisions for her that were advantageous to the plot of the book, but not something I would do, myself. And for a while there, I had a bit of a struggle separating myself from her, as funny as that sounds. Eventually, though, I was able to step back and let her be who she was supposed to be. So, I especially like her emotional journey for that reason.
Daisy, I like because I had no one in mind when I created her character. This being my first novel, I chose to base most of my characters’ personalities off of people I’ve known, unsure if I could completely fabricate a personality from scratch. Daisy has given me confidence that I can. She’s pretty special for that reason.

Did you learn anything usual, unexpected or funny in the course of your research? If you can think of anything, please share! 

VK: Yes, a plait! Of all the things I researched, and aside from the scant amount of information I could find on the use of Bibles, I had the most difficult time figuring out what a plait was, in reference to the hairstyle. I would read that a girl’s hair was put into a plait and then wrapped into buns at the sides of her head. I would look at the pictured diagram and think…do they mean a braid? But I kept doubting my interpretation, and wondering if it was a certain kind of braid, and should I even mention the word braid, or did they not use that term at all. I did all sorts of google searches until I finally came across an online conversation where a British woman was asking the same question, detailing her confusion over whether or not the American term braid was in reference to a plait…and was it a certain kind of plait, such as a thick plait or a thin one. I started laughing when I finally realized they were, in fact, just the same thing. And furthermore, it was pronounced “plat” and not “plate,” as I had supposed. It was such a silly thing, but it had still managed to drive me crazy until I figured it out.
Other than this, most of what I learned was on the more disturbing side. Perhaps, it was my setting of the Black Plague that kept me in the more solemn parts of research. But it was fascinating to me! I constantly found myself wondering what I would have been thinking had I been alive then. It was as if the world was ending. 

Letting you in on a little secret, part of my nine-year delay to putting this series together was actually the thought of doing the research. I did not want to do it! I thought that maybe I’d just make it a cutesy novel, not based on much fact, and then pass it around to my friends. Then I toyed around with the idea of making it a fantasy novel so that I didn’t have to do any research at all… but the reality of that was really absurd, because then I would have to go through the process of making up all of my own setting instead of doing the research on what already existed. So, I finally buckled down and asked myself the question, “When during the middle ages was my story to take place and how long a time period did I have to choose from?” I looked it up, rolled my eyes and laughed when I realized I had about 1000 years of time to choose from. So, I submitted myself to the library and came back with 19 books covering the most quintessential portions of that time period (which for me involved knights and castles).
The time of Lady Jane Grey was very interesting to me, but once I picked up a book describing the Black Death, I knew I’d found my time in history, and for two very important reasons. First, it offered me an outside antagonist that my characters had to contend with that I knew would only add to their depth of character…pulling from them the need to make important decisions that would reveal more of who they were. Second, their world changed so much after the Plague that I felt I was giving myself a buffer zone in case I was to make any mistakes in their daily living routines, etc… that might be something funny, haha. But it’s true. I was very intimidated by the research.

I think you pulled of the British setting rather well, in terms of the language, idioms (I think I mentioned our famous tendency to complain about the weather in my review) and attitudes- and without silly stereotypes or accents. 
It may be controversial, but I don’t think all authors who write British Fiction can do that, and some just don’t seem to bother. Did you have any help, or do any specific work (I know some authors watch British TV shows). I know I think it’s important to get these things right, do you agree? 

VK: I do agree…and I thank you for the compliment! For this, without having any real exposure to British speakers, I did have to rely heavily on what I could mimic from movies and series that I’ve watched. I didn’t re-watch any as homework for my book, per say, but I pulled from some favorites that I’ve already really enjoyed, such as Jane Austin movies, and mini-series like Upstairs Downstairs and Wives and Daughters, etc… 
Honestly, most of the time, I just spoke in an English accent as I wrote and hoped that it would help me stay in character. This I had to do in my head because I’m much better at English accents in my head then out loud, haha... though at times I did attempt it...even going so far as to watch youtube videos on how to speak with an English accent, which was fun…though not mastered, haha.

I love the way the British are able to say things without actually saying them. The wit in those movies makes me smile. We share the same language, but their wielding of it was far superior. For instance, in Wives and Daughters one man says to another, “I’m not saying you have a silly wife, but one of us is being very silly, and it isn’t me.” I heard this same phrasing by one of the characters in A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, oddly enough. It made me laugh.
Though I may not have been able to get everything accurate (especially since they were mostly speaking French in the 14th century anyway), putting together the scenery and feel of medieval England was very much at the forefront of my thinking once I decided to do it. This was sometimes very tedious, as I felt like I couldn’t get through a paragraph without having to research something for it, but when I didn’t research, I would make so many mistakes. I realized this when I began reading my rough drafts out loud to my husband. 

For instance, at one point I had Velena drinking tea…because British people love their tea, right? It was my husband who quickly pointed out that tea was from China and it hadn’t been introduced yet. I hadn’t even thought twice about it before he said something. He challenged me on so many things. I’d mention them eating something like a slice of bread, and he’d ask, “Wait a minute, did they slice their bread or did they make it in individual rolls?” I mentioned that the wagon wheels were kicking up dust as they rolled on towards Wineford Castle, and he’d say, “Wait a minute. It’s December. It’d be snowing in England.” I got tired of this fairly quickly and realized that I’d just have to look up anything and everything I wasn’t sure about… from the weather, to the plants, to the clothing, to the hairstyles, to the food, to the utensils they used. Pretty soon, when he’d ask, “Wait, did you look that up?” I was able to say “Yes, as a matter of fact, I did.”
His willingness to sit through all of that with me has become a very sweet memory. He was the first to take me seriously as an author…even before I was willing to do so, myself. He’s definitely my knight in shining armor.

Finally, if you wanted people to take something away from reading your book what would it be? 

VK: That the Lord is sovereign, and a giver of good gifts. Perhaps, this is more than what someone would see in the first book, but to me, Tristan’s friendship was a gift to Velena and hers to him…and as Tristan and Velena’s story continues, I hope it becomes apparent that every hardship they face, is really an opportunity to prepare their hearts to be obedient to His sovereign will. It’s an exercise in faith. The more they do it, the better at it they will become. The same goes for us…and I hope this encourages someone.

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