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Friday, April 29, 2016

Audiobook Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Unabridged, 10 hr. 7 min.
Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
Morven Christie & Lucy Gaskell (Narrators)
June 6, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Downloaded from Audible (Personal Purchase)
I have two weeks. You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That's what you do to enemy agents. It's what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine - and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I'm going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France - an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
Wow – I’m trying to come down off this high from reading this book, and my thoughts might be a little scattered as I process it all – but I absolutely wanted to share this book with you right now and not scatter it further down my review calendar.

Code Name Verity is a story of friendship, a story of women behind the lines during WWII, and a story of bravery. It’s a historical thriller that will grab you from the opening lines and just carry you all the way to the end; there is truly no lull in the action. From the outset, you know what type of peril is on the line for our narrator – that isn’t a surprise – but everything that led up to the current situation and what occur during and after is intense.

The structure of this novel is told through two narrators, Queenie and Maddie, but it is not told through alternating narration. Queenie leads us through the first half of the novel telling us their backstory and how she came to be a “guest” of the gestapo as she puts forth her confession for them. Interspersed throughout that narrative she tells us about what is happening during her stay with the Nazis, her frustrations, and other little excerpts. The second half of the novel is told by Maddie as she writes in her journal documenting what has happened since the two of them were separated and everything that is being done to bring her home, she also brings an alternative telling to some of the events that Queenie told us about. It really is a fantastic way of telling this story.

This novel also brings a different thread to the greater drama of WWII, beyond the typical story of women on the homefront or men on the front lines. It crosses all of those boundaries and then some.


This was, hands down, one of THE best audio book productions I have EVER listened to! The narrators were both AMAZING! Sure, they had incredible accents, that’s always helpful when those are done well as we all know that terrible accents can destroy a wonderful book, but that is certainly not all. The pacing of their reading was spot-on – every terrifying, exhilarating, and infuriating moment was perfectly portrayed here by these narrators. There was singing and shouting and whispering. Each portrayed one of the young women that this novel revolves around and lived within their skin – they WERE Queenie and Maddie. I could not have asked for more from the production.

I not only recommend this book, but I strongly recommend it in audio book version.

Check out a sample of this excellent narration:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Elizabeth Wein:

Rose Under Fire

Black Dove, White Raven

Find Elizabeth Wein: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Find the Narrators: Lucy Gaskell and Morven Christie


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wish List 5: Female Spies in World War II

Once a month I am planning on sharing with you all 5 of my biggest wish list books broken up by theme. I know that you all need more on your TBR!!! This month's theme, Female Spies in World War II, was entirely based on my completion of the EXCELLENT novel, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.  I had an entirely different theme planned for this month, but as I raced through this book and then finished it, I wanted things similar and began my search...at that point it made sense to become this month's wishlist!

The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynne Sheene

A stunning debut novel of a young American woman who becomes a spy in Paris during World War II.

May 1940. Fleeing a glamorous Manhattan life built on lies, Claire Harris arrives in Paris with a romantic vision of starting anew. But she didn't anticipate the sight of Nazi soldiers marching under the Arc de Triomphe. Her plans smashed by the German occupation, the once- privileged socialite's only option is to take a job in a flower shop under the tutelage of a sophisticated Parisian florist.

In exchange for false identity papers, Claire agrees to aid the French Resistance. Despite the ever-present danger, she comes to love the enduring beauty of the City of Light, exploring it in the company of Thomas Grey, a mysterious Englishman working with the Resistance. Claire's bravery and intelligence make her a valuable operative, and slowly her values shift as she witnesses the courageous spirit of the Parisians.

But deception and betrayal force her to flee once again-this time to fight for the man she loves and what she knows is right-praying she has the heart and determination to survive long enough to one day see Paris again.
The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jennoff

Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma's husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city's decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob's Catholic aunt, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.

Emma's already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety and her marriage vows in order to help Jacob's cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma's relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.

Violin's in Autumn by Amy McAuley

When the Germans begin bombing London in World War II, Betty is determined to do her part. Instead of running air raid drills like most girls her age, she lies about her age and trains to become a spy. Now known by her secret agent persona, Adele Blanchard, she finds herself parachuting over German-occupied France under the cover of darkness to join the secret Resistance movement. Prepared to die for her cause, Adele wasn't expecting to make a new best friend in her fellow agent or fall for a handsome American pilot. With the brutality of war ever present, can Adele dare to dream of a future where the world is at peace and she is free to live and love of her own accord?

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Simon Mawer

Marian Sutro is an outsider: the daughter of a diplomat, brought up on the shores of Lake Geneva and in England, half French, half British, naive yet too clever for her own good. But when she is recruited from her desk job by SOE to go undercover in wartime France, it seems her hybrid status - and fluent French - will be of service to a greater, more dangerous cause. Trained in sabotage, dead-drops, how to perform under interrogation and how to kill, Marian parachutes into south-west France, her official mission to act as a Resistance courier. But her real destination is Paris, where she must seek out family friend Clement Pelletier, once the focus of her adolescent desires. A nuclear physicist engaged in the race for a new and terrifying weapon, he is of urgent significance to her superiors. As she struggles through the strange, lethal landscape of the Occupation towards this reunion, what completes her training is the understanding that war changes everything, and neither love nor fatherland may be trusted. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is both a gripping adventure story and a moving meditation on patriotism, betrayal and the limits of love.

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks

From the bestselling author of Birdsong comes Charlotte Gray, the remarkable story of a young Scottish woman who becomes caught up in the effort to liberate Occupied France from the Nazis while pursuing a perilous mission of her own.

In blacked-out, wartime London, Charlotte Gray develops a dangerous passion for a battle-weary RAF pilot, and when he fails to return from a daring flight into France she is determined to find him. In the service of the Resistance, she travels to the village of Lavaurette, dyeing her hair and changing her name to conceal her identity. Here she will come face-to-face with the harrowing truth of what took place during Europe's darkest years, and will confront a terrifying secret that threatens to cast its shadow over the remainder of her days. Vividly rendered, tremendously moving, and with a narrative sweep and power reminiscent of his novel Birdsong, Charlotte Gray confirms Sebastian Faulks as one of the finest novelists working today.

Have you read any of these? Any other novels with female spies in WWII you would add to this list?

Looking for some female World War II novels I have read and reviewed?  Give these a try!

The Girl in the Blue Beret            The Nightingale                  Code Name Verity    
★★★★★                             ★★★★★                               ★★★★★ 

Here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month:

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Review: A Scandalous Proposal by Kasey Michaels

A Scandalous Proposal by Kasey Michaels
Book 2 of The Little Season series
ARC, e-Book, 384 pages
Harlequin HQN
March 29, 2016

Heat Rating:

Genre: Historical Romance, Regency

Source: Received for review with TLC Book Tours
The drama of London's Little Season continues in USA Today bestselling author Kasey Michaels's vibrant new series featuring three courageous war heroes surrendering at last to love… 
Who would have thought a man could tire of being fawned over and flirted with? Ever since Cooper Townsend returned from France as a hero with a new title, he has been relentlessly pursued by every marriageable miss in London. Perhaps that's why the unconventional Miss Daniella Foster is so appealing. She doesn't simper or flatter. She only wants him to help unmask her sister's blackmailer, and Coop has never been so intrigued…
Let every other woman in London fight over His Lordship's romantic attentions. Marriage is the last thing on Dany's mind…at least until she samples his illicit kisses. Now, as a mutual enemy races to ruin Coop's reputation and Dany's family name, an engagement of convenience will spark an unlikely passion that might save them both.
A Scandalous Proposal brings the reader back into The Little Season just a few short weeks following the end of An Improper Arrangement, but with a different couple in the crosshairs, this time Cooper Townsend and Daniella (Dany) Foster. While you certainly could read this book as a standalone, having read the first book just gives you a little bit more in the way of character development. Additionally, you get some spoilers from what happened in book 1 during a recap segment – so I recommend reading them in order if possible.

As much as I enjoyed, An Improper Arrangement, I enjoyed A Scandalous Proposal even more. The plot was tightened more here and did not go off on rambling tangents. The intrigue and adventure element, the blackmail, was a uniting storyline that brought all of the characters together on this mission. I appreciated that the four men had a lot bigger role in this novel, but I was hoping to see a little more of Gabriel than we do since he was the main man of the prior novel. It was a lot of fun. While this was one of those stories where the characters are tossed into a relationship from first sight basically, the relationship itself was allowed to grow and I will confess to having a tear in my eye in the final scene as it was so sweet. The one thing that I was a little disappointed by was that this book really used the Little Season as more of a token element; nothing took place that was critical to the Little Season, it was basically just mentioned in passing as the reason by Dany was in town to begin with. As this is the theme of the series, I would have liked a little more importance to the Little Season.

In terms of characters, I liked Dany and Cooper together. They were super cute and were always looking out for each other, while getting in each other’s way. Dany is headstrong and Cooper struggles to handle her; she isn’t willing to just sit by and let him figure out this mystery on his own. As with book 1, I LOVED the bantering between the two of them. My favorite scene is when the two end up in her bedroom to keep an eye out for the blackmailer – such hilarious dialogue and double entendres here.

The romance was a little more sweet, but still passionate. I felt that it evolved from a true heartfelt center for both of the characters. While the scene was a little less descriptive than in A Scandalous Proposal, I felt much more connected to the emotional experience of the characters, which I appreciated.

I am all in for book 3 this summer, A Reckless Promise, focused on Darby Travers!

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Kasey Michaels:
Kasey Michaels has over 100 books in her backlist, so I’m not going to post them all here, but here is a selection of her more recent releases!

An Improper Arrangement (Little Season #1)
[My Review]

What an Earl Wants (The Redgraves #1)

What a Lady Needs (The Redgraves #2)

What a Gentleman Desires (The Redgraves #3)

What a Hero Dares (The Redgraves #4)

Find Kasey Michaels: Website | Facebook

Follow the Tour!

Monday, April 4th: Romancing the Readers

Tuesday, April 5th: The Sassy Bookster

Wednesday, April 6th: Booked on a Feeling

Thursday, April 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, April 11th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, April 12th: Romantic Reads and Such – spotlight

Wednesday, April 13th: Open Book Society

Thursday, April 14th: A Night’s Dream of Books

Friday, April 15th: Let Them Read Books

Monday, April 18th: Romancing the Book

Tuesday, April 19th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Wednesday, April 20th: BookNAround

Thursday, April 21st: From the TBR Pile

Monday, April 25th: Romantic Historical Reviews

Monday, April 25th: Books that Hook

Tuesday, April 26th: Puddletown Reviews

Wednesday, April 27th: The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 28th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews


There is a tour wide giveaway for a $25 Victoria's Secret Gift Card - simply make your entries via the Rafflecopter below.  The winner will be selected and notified by the tour coordinator.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Two Sides to Every Story: The Descent of Anne Boleyn and the Ascent of Jane Seymour

Today I have the wonderful opportunity to welcome Hunter S. Jones, author of Phoenix Rising, to The Maiden's Court with an awesome contribution to the Two Sides to Every Story series.  The perspective here is of the rivalry between Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour and it is presented in such a creative manner.  I hope you will enjoy it!

The Descent of Anne Boleyn and the Ascent of Jane Seymour

Anne Boleyn

We walk down the steps from the queen’s apartments. Sir Kingston walks with me and the ladies walk behind us. The morning sun kisses my face. The daffodils are in bloom and the birds sing like any other radiant spring morning. Surely even Nature would know if the hour of death was approaching for an anointed Queen Regnant of England. It must be a sign of hope for me. I will be rescued at the last moment. This is all part of the public humiliation Henry wishes. He wants all to witness as I bow to his greatness, then he will pardon me for sins against the Crown and banish me to a nunnery, much like Cranmer promised.

If not, then I face the morning with courage. If I am to be punished, it is for my own sins. The last few years swiftly pass before my mind’s eye. What had caused the change? Certainly the miscarriage of a son had been a part of Henry’s outrage. But what made him turn against me in such haste? Again, the unseen troubadour’s voice pleads for the love of his lady; his song is as sweet as the one sung by the birds around me, yet as mournful as the questioning of my own heart.

Surely today was not brought on by the fight I had with that silly Jane. Why had I ever allowed her to bother me? She is nothing more than an empty-minded maid. She has no style and knows nothing more than to follow instructions. She must be the instrument of my enemies. She could otherwise never capture the heart of a king. If I would’ve allowed Henry his flirtation, she would be gone and I would remain in good standing.

The air crackles around me and I breathe in slowly, filling myself with a new energy and a prayer. I must balance and maintain a sense of equilibrium. Courage and strength are to uphold me; that is my silent prayer.

They laughed the way lovers laugh. Henry surely hasn’t pledged himself to her, although he has always been much like a crow, in that anything dangled before him that glimmers will capture his eye. My heart breaks at the thought. If he had fallen for a woman of wealth, taste, or great nobility, I could forgive. But Jane?

Bringing myself from the daydream, I see the crowd that awaits us as we move closer to the edge of the White Tower. One way or another, either death or escape await me. I am ready to face whatever God wishes for me. All I pray for is an answer that will serve the greater good of the king, and an end to my pain.

Jane Seymour

“So sorry for waking you, my great and beautiful lady,” she whispers. I hear the trembling of fear in her voice.

“Oh, there is no need to worry yourself, my dear girl. This is the best of days to wake early. Thank you for waking me. I couldn’t be more delighted. Today is the day for which we have longed! You do me a very great favor. I am to be fitted for my wedding dress on this very morning.”

“Thank you, Lady Jane. May I bring you anything from the kitchens?” she asks.

“Not at this time, but would you move the covering from the window? I wish to invite the beauty of this day into our home and into our hearts. This is the day all of England has waited for. Today, a traitor dies and the king will be free to see his will done for the greater good of us all,” I say.

As the window opens, I hear the spring nearby bubble and churn as the water flows freely over the rocks. The sweet spring fragrances and sounds fill the garden and dance into my room, as all of nature joins together much like a sacred chorus to celebrate this most remarkable of days.

That hateful Anne will be given her punishment as a traitor to her king and country at some time this morning. Henry has promised me. How had a king most good and kind ever loved a woman as hateful as Anne Boleyn? She has style and charm, yes. However, her spirit is harsh. There is little of her that is as a lady should be. She is generous to charities, but her wicked ways outweigh any good she might ever do. The sun rises and I feel my new life begin.

“Is there anything else you wish, milady? May I send your ladies to prepare you for the fitting?”

“Oh, yes, please. That would be a lovely gesture,” I reply. No need for me to waste a smile on someone so lowly. She should be honored to serve me.

Whilst I await the ladies, I wonder how someone like Anne ever captured the king’s heart. She is so selfish. She is too wayward. I know we are cousins, yet we are nothing alike. Why did she ever learn to read and write? Those things are of no use to a woman. We are to do as the men of our families wish.

Even in France, she was so different. I learned the art of flirtation just as she did, yet she took matters to the extreme. That has been her problem her entire life; she simply does not know any limitations to her brazen ambitions. She is so relentless in her pursuits. Now fate has led me to today. It is the wish of God and the king. I am to become the wife of the King of England.

How could any woman think to maintain the affections of a man if all she did was meddle and rant about his business? This is an especially tiresome trait when his business is the future of England.

 Deb Hunter writes fiction as Hunter S. Jones, publishing as an indie author, as well as through MadeGlobal Publishing. She is a member of the prestigious Society of Authors founded by Lord Tennyson, Historical Writers’ Association, Historical Novel Society, Society of Civil War Historians (US), English Historical Fiction Authors, Atlanta Writers Club, Atlanta Writers Conference, Romance Writers of America (PAN member), and Rivendell Writers Colony which is associated with The University of the South. Originally from a Chattanooga, Tennessee, she graduated from a private university in Nashville and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her Scottish born husband.  You can find Hunter on the following social media sites: Website | Twitter |Facebook | Pinterest | Amazon |Goodreads.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Blurb:

Phoenix Rising
The last hour of Anne Boleyn's life...
Court intrigue, revenge and all the secrets of the last hour are revealed as one queen falls and another rises to take her place on destiny's stage.
A young Anne Boleyn arrives at the court of King Henry VIII. She is to be presented at the Shrovetide pageant, le Château Vert. The young and ambitious Anne has no idea that a chance encounter before the pageant will lead to her capturing the heart of the king. What begins as a distraction becomes his obsession and leads to her destruction.
Love, hate, loyalty and betrayal come together in a single dramatic moment... the execution of a queen. The history of England will be changed for ever.
So, are you Team Anne or Team Jane?!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review: The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie

The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie
Book 2 in The Mistresses of Versailles Series
ARC, e-book, 448 pages
Atria Books
April 5, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for Review for TLC Book Tour
I write this before her blood is even cold. She is dead, suddenly, from a high fever. The King is inconsolable, but the way is now clear.
The way is now clear. 
The year is 1745. Marie-Anne, the youngest of the infamous Nesle sisters and King Louis XV's most beloved mistress, is gone, making room for the next Royal Favorite.
Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a stunningly beautiful girl from the middle classes. Fifteen years prior, a fortune teller had mapped out young 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, but one thing is clear: for almost twenty years, she ruled France and the King's heart. 
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.
The second book in this enthralling series set in the court of Louis XV continues the trip down the path of mistresses left in his wake, however it focuses primarily on his notable mistress the Marquise de Pompadour. As the title suggests, this novel is all about rivalry. Pompadour is the primary mistress during this time, but she faces the daily threat brought on by the “little birds” that flit in and out of Versailles and the king’s bedroom with sometimes alarming speed. Louis had many more mistresses than the three rivals that Pompadour faces here, but these ladies offered the most significant threats to her tenure at Versailles. There is a certain amount of overlapping events referenced here that presented themselves in The Sisters of Versailles, because the sisters were the King’s mistresses while Pompadour was just plain Jeanne and coming into her own. I thought this was an excellent way to tie the two novels together just enough without being overkill.

I found Pompadour to be a sympathetic character in this novel – she is set in the path of the King by her scheming family, deeply cares for him, but finds herself facing endless intrigue in her attempts to not be tossed out when the King’s mood changes. This certainly led to some high drama. I didn’t care for any of his other mistresses; every time they were presented I looked to what Pompadour would do to hang on to her position.

Similar to The Sisters of Versailles, not all the chapters are told by the same person, but a variety of the mistresses – but the format was different here and I didn’t like it quite as much. Roughly the first half of the book is told from the perspective of Pompadour, so when the next chapter suddenly switched perspectives to that of a new incoming mistress, it threw me off because that hadn’t been the case for a significant portion of the novel. Essentially, once the new mistresses begin to become rivals to Pompadour they get their own sections and then during the interlude periods between those rivals it reverts back to Pompadour. While I totally understand the rationale for this, to show the view of Pompadour from the perspective of the rivals, and ultimately appreciated the shifts in perspective, it was very jarring to begin this practice at such a depth into the novel.

Despite being 448 pages I wanted just a little bit more – and that would be at the beginning and the end of the novel. Both of these sections I feel were just a little too short for my liking. I did not feel like I got to know Jeanne enough before she became Pompadour and mistress to the King, which made it slightly more difficult to connect with her in the early pages. Additionally, it very quickly draws to an end following the departure of Mary-Anne (another relative of the Nesle sisters). I wanted just a little more resolution for Pompadour.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Rivals of Versailles; it meets the acclaim that I gave to the first in the series and I look forward to what will come in book 3, The Enemies of Versailles about the Comtesse du Berry

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Sally Christie:

The Sisters of Versailles (Book 1)
[My Review]

The Enemies of Versailles (Book 3) Coming in 2017

Find Sally Christie:
Website | Facebook | Goodreads |Pinterest

Follow the Tour!

Monday, April 4th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, April 5th: Let Them Read Books

Friday, April 8th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, April 11th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, April 12th: Books Without Any Pictures

Thursday, April 14th: BookNAround

Thursday, April 14th: Worth Getting In Bed For

Friday, April 15th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, April 15th: Bewitched Bookworms

Monday, April 18th: A Literary Vacation

Monday, April 18th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, April 19th: Historical-Fiction.com

Wednesday, April 20th: Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, April 21st: The Maiden’s Court

Friday, April 22nd: A Bookish Affair

Monday, April 25th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, April 26th: Ace and Hoser Blog

Wednesday, April 27th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, April 27th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, April 28th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Friday, April 29th: Books & Tea

Monday, May 2nd: Time 2 Read

TBD: Scandalous Women

TBD: From the TBR Pile


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book Review: An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels

An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels
Book 1 of The Little Season series
ARC, e-Book, 380 pages
Harlequin HQN
December 29, 2015

Heat Rating:

Genre: Historical Romance, Regency

Source: Received for review with TLC Book Tours
Experience the drama of the Little Season in the first of a new series by USA Today bestselling author Kasey Michaels, in which three dashing war heroes have finally met their matches…
Gabriel Sinclair has returned from battle as reluctant heir to a dukedom. As if his new responsibilities weren't enough, Gabriel's aunt enlists him to sponsor a young heiress through London's Little Season. Yet Miss Thea Neville is hardly the tedious obligation he expected. She's exotic and enchanting—and utterly unaware of the secret poised to destroy her family's reputation.
After ten years in America, Thea is ready to do her duty and marry well. Deportment lessons, modistes, balls—the ton is a minefield she could scarcely navigate without Gabriel's help. By rights, she should accept the first bachelor who offers for her. Instead, she's succumbing to a dangerous attraction to her wickedly handsome chaperone—one that could unhinge her plans in the most delicious way.
An Improper Arrangement is the first novel in the series titled The Little Season. Where many Regency set romance novels take place during The Season, the official period of time where debutantes are introduced into the social sphere in London, The Little Season is virtually the minor leagues or a practice run for those ladies who might be deemed not quite ready for the major leagues yet. In An Improper Arrangement, Thea comes to London to from America to take part in this Little Season that her mother always wanted to have; however, first she has to go through some prep school if you will with Gabriel Sinclair to learn the ropes. Not only does a romance grow throughout this novel, but the plans held by the parties in question crisscross and resolve in quite the humorous ways.

One of the things that I loved about this book was the dialogue between Gabriel and Thea; from the moment they are introduced they engage in a witty, bantering, discourse that equally enraptures and infuriates the other. I just love it when characters can get under each other’s skin like that because it keeps them on their toes and keeps the dialogue light. These two characters were well defined and fleshed out and the dialogue was well used to enhance their individuality.

In some romance novels the plot can get lost behind the effort to bring the two would be lovers together. While the plot did ramble at times, I thought that the story arcs (and there are actually a couple of them) were crafted well. There is the greater story arc of Thea coming to London to have her debut, but there are a few smaller ones that thread throughout that resolve nicely by the end of the novel. It was nice to see that the plot wasn’t an afterthought, but crafted amongst the romance.

And that segues nicely into a discussion on the romance factor. The romance continuously built throughout the novel; the tropes of instant attraction or dislike turning to lust were not used here. Instead it developed overtime as Thea and Gabriel were paired together through the lead up to the Little Season and the drama they had planned. By the time things evolved into something more it made sense to their characters. And here the scenes became a little steamy! The two major scenes were descriptive without being pornographic. They were short, tasteful, and felt appropriate to the characters. While descriptive, the author leaves enough to the imagination as well. Done well in my opinion!

This book also served to introduce the readers to the other men who will be featured in the following Little Season books! They were given enough of a role in a few scenes that didn’t get in the way of the main story arc but still give the reader enough of an introduction to be interested in seeing how their stories progress in the future.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Also by Kasey Michaels:
Kasey Michaels has over 100 books in her backlist, so I’m not going to post them all here, but here is a selection of her more recent releases!

A Scandalous Proposal (Little Season #2)

What an Earl Wants (The Redgraves #1)

What a Lady Needs (The Redgraves #2)

What a Gentleman Desires (The Redgraves #3)

What a Hero Dares (The Redgraves #4)

Find Kasey Michaels: Website | Facebook


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Two Sides to Every Story: The Thirty Years War: Result of Religious Strife or Excessive Greed

Today I have the opportunity to present the newest Two Sides to Every Story entry in the series and it is with a guest post by author Laura Libricz.  This topic, The Thirty Years War, is interesting to me as I just covered this subject matter in my recent semester of class.  Check it out!

The Thirty Years War: Result of Religious Strife or Excessive Greed

Christianity is a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and has over two billion followers, about one-third of the world’s population. Since the dawn of Christianity some 2000 years ago, major divisions have been founded, the largest of which are the Western and Eastern Christian groups. The subdivisions within these two families are numerous and diverse. Today the largest of these subdivisions include the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Assyrian Church of the East. These divisions have been everything but simple. In Central Europe, the division of  Roman Catholicism into its Protestant factions in the 15th and 16th century was one of the largest contributing factors in Europe’s bloodiest and most devastating war, the Thirty Years War.

Roman Catholicism had deep-rooted ties to the Holy Roman Empire. The Empire was the political ruling body in central Europe from the 8th century until 1806. It began when the Duke of the Franks and the grandfather of Charlemagne, Charles Martel, united the Frankish and Germanic tribes to fight the Muslims that had invaded from Spain. The conversion of the tribes of pagan folk to Christianity followed. After that, the Holy Roman Empire functioned as the non-religious counterpart to the Catholic Church and was a symbol of the unity of Western Christianity. 
Holy Roman Empire
Image Credit:Jaspe from ru [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons 

By the end of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church had grown swollen, rich, and powerful and was sinking into debauchery. And they had ways of raising revenues to support their excesses. Relationships between the people and the church were often based on money. Positions in the church could be bought. Salvation could also be bought in the form of indulgences. The church sold relics and earned money from those on pilgrimages.

Reformers had been known to protest the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, their worldly rule and abuse of power and money. In the early 1400’s, the preacher Jan Hus from Prague spoke out openly against the church and its decadence. Bohemian aristocracy supported Hus, even after he was excommunicated. Although he had their support, he was executed, burned at the stake, by the German king Sigismund, in 1415. 

One hundred years later, Martin Luther set out to reform the Catholic Church as well. He was not intending to create a new one. The famed story reads that he nailed a document called the 95 Theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg in 1517. The main points of the Theses disputed and condemned the practice of the church selling indulgences to people in order to insure their souls’ entrance to heaven. This famous incident is credited to be the birth of Protestantism. 

What made Martin Luther’s cause different from the other protests, giving him so much attention and splitting the Roman Catholic religion in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire into two? 

One contributing factor was the availability of printed material. Martin Luther’s teachings were able to spread quickly. Students would listen to his teachings during his lectures or his ‘Tischreden,’ and take notes. Later these lectures were printed into flyers and books for the masses to read. And during his exile he translated the New Testament into German so that the people didn’t need the clergy to interpret scripture. It was published in 1522 and the Old Testament followed in 1534, though some may differ with his interpretation of scripture. The Catholic Church differed with his interpretation and his intention, believing that only clergy could deliver the scripture to the masses to avoid misunderstanding.

Some historians believe that Germany would have wholly converted to a religion based on Protestant teachings, as did Sweden and Denmark, had not the Imperial forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Catholic Church intervened. But the Church saw themselves as the image of Christendom and the Empire saw itself as the continuation of ancient Rome. The Roman church was the only one competent enough to interpret the word of God. Lutheran teachings claimed that the word of God should not be left to the interpretation of wayward clergy. The two sides of this story were the main conflicts that fueled the war known up until World War I as The Great War in Germany—the Thirty Years War.

Laura Libricz was born and raised in Bethlehem PA and moved to Upstate New York when she was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, she received a scholarship to go to college. She tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all her time reading German literature.

She earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of Höfner musical instruments into the world market.

Her first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven's Pond Trilogy. The Soldier’s Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series.  You can find Laura on her website or blog and on social media at Facebook and Twitter.

Book Blurb:

The Master and the Maid (Available Soon!)
Book One of the Heaven's Pond Trilogy
She’s lost her work, her home and her freedom. Now, harboring a mysterious newborn, she could lose her life.

In 17th Century Germany on the brink of the Thirty Years War, 24-year-old Katarina is traded to the patrician Sebald Tucher by her fiancé Willi Prutt in order to pay his debts. En route to her forced relocation to the Tucher country estate, Katarina is met by a crazed archer, Hans-Wolfgang, carrying a baby under his cloak. He tells her an incredible story of how his beloved was executed by a Jesuit priest for witchcraft right after the birth and makes Katarina—at sword point—swear on her life to protect the child. But protecting the child puts Katarina at risk. She could fall in disfavor with her master. She could be hunted by the zealots who killed his beloved. She could be executed for witchcraft herself. Can Katarina's love for the baby and Sebald Tucher's desire for her keep the wrath of the zealots at bay?

Set in Franconia, The Master and the Maid is an accurate, authentic account of a young woman's life in Germany in the 1600's, her struggle for freedom and her fight for those she loves.


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review: The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love & Giveaway

The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love
ARC, e-Book, 336 pages
Broadway Books
April 19, 2016

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for review for tour with TLC Book Tours
The first meeting between Antonio and Olivia at the Paradise Ballroom is brief, but electric.
Years later, on the dawn of World War II, when struggling Italian singer Antonio meets the wife of his wealthy new patron, he recognizes her instantly: it is Olivia, the captivating dance hostess he once encountered in the seedy Paradise Ballroom. Olivia fears Antonio will betray the secrets of her past, but little by little they are drawn together, outsiders in a glittering world to which they do not belong. At last, with conflict looming across Europe, the attraction between them becomes impossible to resist--but when Italy declares war on England, the impact threatens to separate them forever.
The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is a story of forbidden love and family loyalties amid the most devastating war in human history.
I was really looking forward to reading this novel, however I had a little bit of a love/hate relationship with the experience. I wanted to love it because of the different perspective on the oft told World War II story, but I found it a little convoluted and hard to enjoy to its fullest extent. To start with, the subject matter. The novel is set in England during the early days of World War II and one portion of the novel (a significant portion) is focused on an Italian immigrant family. Through this family you see not only the immigrant experience during this time, but also how immigrants were treated in WWII England, and how the tendrils of the fascist cause reached into that country too. I do not know very much about the fascists, the state of Italy during the war, and Mussolini, but it was an eye opening experience – and that was something I appreciated.

Where I struggled with this story was in caring about the characters. I did not feel like the author did enough in the early stages of the story to make me love them. There was a rather large cast of characters right from the beginning that I struggled to keep up with all of them. So, by the time that the romance between Olivia and Antonio took hold, I did not really care about them as a couple – which is sad because the whole story sort of builds to this and it has a significant impact on the resolution of the story. I also did not really understand the basis for the passionate love between the two – the whole time I found Olivia to have no interest, while Antonio appeared transfixed – it felt contrived to me. I really found the peripheral characters to be vastly more interesting than the main characters and would likely have enjoyed the novel more if they were featured more heavily.

I honestly considered putting this book down around the 30% point; I just didn’t care enough about the characters to commit to it. However, I am glad I pushed through as the climax and resolution were really good, but I’m not sure it was ultimately worth the time to get there.

As a side note, I think the cover was a great representation of the novel!

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Find Alison Love: Twitter

Follow the Tour

Monday, April 18th: Luxury Reading

Monday, April 18th: The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 19th: The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, April 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, April 21st: View from the Birdhouse

Friday, April 22nd: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, April 25th: Books a la Mode – guest post/giveaway

Tuesday, April 26th: Mom’s Small Victories

Wednesday, April 27th: BookNAround

Thursday, April 28th: Just Commonly

Monday, May 2nd: Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, May 3rd: The Best Books Ever

Wednesday, May 4th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, May 5th: Write Read Life

Monday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 10th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, May 11th: A Bookaholic Swede

Friday, May 13th: Broken Teepee

Monday, May 16th: Diary of an Eccentric


I have the opportunity to offer one copy of this book to an entrant in the USA or Canada.  To enter, simply make your entries through the Rafflecopter below.  The giveaway will be open through May 8th, 2016. 

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court