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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cover Crush: Thief of Glory

Cover Crush

We can all say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I guarantee that we all have done so at least once! Cover Crush is designed to feature some of those covers that have caught the eye as a standout on the bookshelf.

The thing that draws me in is the young woman in the top left corner.  First of all, she is gorgeous, but more than that, she is staring straight out at the viewer.  This isn't something we get all that often especially in historical novels - frequently the women have no head at all!  I also love the beautiful blue with the tan; it's a beautiful color combination.  I'm also intrigued by the young boy in the bottom right - it looks like he is maybe standing in a tree? 

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what covers my friends are crushing on today?  Check out Layered Pages, Flashlight Commentary, 2 Kids and Tired Books, and A Bookaholic Swede.

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: A Gentleman's Guide to Scandal by Kathleen Kimmel

A Gentleman’s Guide to Scandal by Kathleen Kimmel
Book 2 in A Birch Hall Romance Series
E-Book, 319 pages
June 7, 2016

Heat Rating:

Genre: Historical Romance

Source: Received via Netgalley Request for Review

**This review was previously posted at Romantic Historical Reviews**

Even men of great certainty can be completely clueless when it comes to matters of the heart.
Colin Spenser, Marquess of Farleigh, is shocked when his feelings towards his best friend’s sister take a turn into the realm of helpless adoration. Unfortunately, Elinor is more inclined to ignore him than express her undying devotion, so Colin resolves to forget his troublesome feelings by entering a loveless marriage…
Elinor Hargrove has absolutely no interest in the infuriating and arrogant Marquess of Farleigh. That is, until he kisses her—twice—inspiring unexpected and inconvenient passions. Then Elinor finds out he’s engaged, and her desires are quickly surpassed by her outrage...
But when a ghost from their shared pasts resurfaces, Colin and Elinor must work together to puzzle out a complicated intrigue by attending an extremely exclusive party where secrets and lies flourish—and scandal is only a kiss away.
Colin Spenser has always had an interest in Elinor Hargrove, his best friend’s sister, but seeing as she isn’t interested in him, he resolves himself to an engagement of convenience for the sake of his title. Elinor would never know that Colin has an interest in her, as he has always been standoffish, and has resolved herself to being an old maid and content with escorting Colin’s younger sister through her first Season. They would have been comfortable to continue on this way had not some earth shattering information about the death of a Spenser family member forced Colin and Elinor into an awkward situation and having to work together to solve this puzzle. Will they come out of this quest the same way they went into it?

I loved both Colin and Elinor! They were both infuriating in their inability to share how they felt about each other and their obliviousness to how the other truly felt. They were not very good at judging characters either, which made for lots of confusion between the two and in attempting to solve this pseudo-mystery. Despite Colin coming off as cold and stand-offish to those around him, even Elinor thinks so, when you are reading the chapters from his perspective you see that most of it is that he is trying to protect himself from being hurt and isn’t the jerk he outwardly appears to be. Elinor is driven to help find out what happened to her friend and isn’t afraid to take a leap into a world that is shrouded in mystery to women of her station. It was entertaining to watch her try to walk the walk on the other side of the tracks! I could admire her passion to right a wrong, even if there is no way I would have done what she did!

The story is as much an adventure story as it is a romance novel. Elinor and Colin are both (separately and then together) trying to solve what happened to a Spenser family member once startling evidence of possible foul play is brought forward. This gets them into some quite dangerous situations as they try to work out who might have caused harm to this person, why, and how they will bring those involved to justice. I have read a few romance/adventure novels that lose traction in their ability to keep the sense of adventure going while introducing the romantic elements, and I’m happy to say that A Gentleman’s Guide to Scandal does not fall into that trap. Kimmel is able to balance the needs of the plot pacing of the mystery, constantly moving it forward, while introducing a whole new complication for the characters in the form of a romantic tryst. I honestly did not want to put this book down at the end of the night, it was that compelling for me. The evolution of the romance felt appropriate and in line with the characters motivations, even if it came to be in a rather unusual circumstance. The romantic elements (when we finally get to them) are hot, much more so than in A Debutante’s Guide to Rebellion, but it felt so right for the characters.

This is a second book in the Birch Hall Romance series. It can certainly be read as a stand-alone; I have not yet read the first book and was able to pick right up with the story without missing a beat. It takes place a little bit after the events of book one, but is focused on a different set of characters. Elinor’s brother and his new wife are peripheral characters here, but they are the stars of A Lady’s Guide to Ruin, book 1. After reading this book, I was also able to place the novella, A Debutante’s Guide to Rebellion, into the cannon as well. Each compliments each other well, but is crafted well enough to tell the whole story on its own.

I would compare this novel in its style to An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels. If you enjoyed that book, I would highly recommend this one to be moved up your TBR.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Kathleen Kimmel:

A Lady’s Guide to Ruin (Birch Hall Book 1)

A Debutante’s Guide to Rebellion (Birch Hall Novella 1.5)
[My Review]

Find Kathleen Kimmel: Website | Facebook | Twitter


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wish List 5: The Johnstown Flood

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 focuses on the natural disaster event, the Johnstown Flood.  I have read 2 books about this event previously, one fiction (In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden by Kathleen Cambor) and one non-fiction (The Johnstown Flood by David McCullouch) and have been fascinated by the event.  There is so much opportunity for potential drama here and it is an oft forgotten event that I would love to see how other fiction authors treat it.  There is even a YA novel on this list purely because I was surprised by it!

Summer of Gold and Water by Kathleen Danielcyzk

'Its gone, the dam is gone, I can't believe it. It just broke, and all that water...' Michael sat down heavily on the steps and started to cry. Sarah Green knows her place. She's a hard worker born of hard-working parents and married to an honest, blue-collar man who loves her. It is no surprise to those who know her when she is hired by one of Philadelphia's richest--and most eccentric--families as their first maid. Sarah has complete confidence she can sew, cook, and clean, but can she handle the other responsibilities her new employers, Wesley and Eloise Danvers, request of her? Confidant. Counselor. Friend. Whenever Eloise gains an inch, earning a bit more of Sarah's trust and friendship, she takes a mile. Before Sarah has fully acclimated to being friends with her employer, she and her family are spending summers at an exclusive club as members with the Danverses! The summers are uncomfortable for Sarah as she struggles to make nice with Philadelphia's richest matrons and watches her only daughter interact with their daughters and sons. The Danverses brush off her worries, insisting that they love the Greens and their friends do too. Not until an act of man and nature strikes do the Greens and Danverses see the social divide for what it is and are faced with the challenge of breaching it in the Summer of Gold and Water.

Wade in the Water by Michael Stephen Oates

It is spring in the year 1889, and Americans are enjoying the spoils of an industrial revolution, but in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the wheels of industry are brought to a grinding halt when the River Fork dam bursts. Bennett Marsh, a nineteen-year-old kitchen-hand, wants nothing more than to leave his home town of River Fork and attend the Julliard School of Music in New York. Bennett's father, Percival, a steel-mill worker lured by the glamour of high society, is trapped in a dead-end job, and struggles to find his place as parent and provider. John Parke, the resident engineer at the River Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, questions the integrity of the dam while his gadabout wife and upper crust club members wine and dine around him in ignorant bliss. When a storm out of Kansas inundates the valley with torrential rain, Parke's greatest fear comes true. Twenty million tons of water spill into the Allegheny Valley, devastating the lives of the 30,000 people living below it. When the dam breaks, Bennett and Percival must count on each other to survive the flood, realizing the bond between them and the strength they take from each other, but it may have come too late."

The Wedding Quilt Bride by Colleen Coble

The Wedding Quilt Bride is one of Coble’s early novellas. Faith Cole makes a visit to her great-grandmother to Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889. Convinced her disability will keep her from ever marrying, Faith shuns the hope in her mother’s wedding trunk. But the threat from a dangerous dam brings her out of her shyness, and she finds God has other plans.

Waterproof by Judith Redline Coopey

Fifty years after an earthen dam collapsed sending a thirty foot wall of raging destruction down on the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Pamela McRae looks back on the tragedy. The flood wiped out Pam's fondest hopes: her brother and her fiance were killed. Her mother is locked in catatonic hysteria. Her father, torn apart by the flood's affect on his family, just walks away, leaving Pam poverty stricken and alone, to care for a mother who may never recover. Then Davy Hughes, Pam's dead fiance, reappears and, instead of being the answer to her prayers, further complicates her life. Someone is seeking revenge on the owners of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, the Pittsburgh millionaires who owned the failed dam, and Pam thinks Davy might have something to do with it. Waterproof, set in Johnstown two years after the flood, examines how people react to tragedy. Do they recover from physical injury only to succumb to the psychological affects? Or do they run away? Do they rise to the challenge and become better people or give in to their rage and seek revenge? For the people of Johnstown, survivors of the flood, it became the measure of their character. Determined to get past the tragedy and get on with her life, Pam spurns self-pity. She will not be defined by the flood. In this decades-deep story of loss and struggle against loss, we find a heroine to respect and a path to recovery.

The Terrible Wave by Marden Dahlstedt

During the disastrous flood of 1889 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a spoiled teenage girl learns to accept responsibility as she and her companions search for their families and friends.
Have you read any of these? Any other novels about the Johnstown Flood you would add to this list?


Looking for some books I have read on the Johnstown Flood?   Give these a try!

In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden               The Johnstown Flood            
          ★★★½☆☆                          ★★★★☆  

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

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

New Book Alert and Excerpt Reveal: The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose

The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose 
Book 2 of the Daughters of La Lune series
eBook, Hardcover, and Audio, 320 pages
Atria Books
Publishing: July 19, 2016
ISBN: 1476778094
Genre: Historical Fiction

The Secret Language of Stones is a stunning historical gothic romantic suspense published by Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, being released on July 19th. This is the second title in M.J. Rose’s The Daughters of La Lune Series and absolutely not to be missed! Check out the first chapter below then pre-order your copy today!

Book Blurb:

Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

Praise for The Secret Language of Stones:
A dazzling mix of history, mystery and mystical arts . . . Rose's paranormal historical bewitches from start to finish. Her amazing ability to make her story line believable and her extraordinary protagonist relatable result in an unforgettable psychic thriller." (Library Journal (Starred review))
"An exciting mix of adventure, intrigue, and romance in this thrilling historical tale." (Booklist)
“Haunting, spellbinding, captivating; Rose's story of the power of love and redemption is masterful. More than a romance or ghost story, this is a tale of a young woman learning to embrace her unique qualities...So carefully crafted and beautifully written, readers will believe in the magical possibilities of love transcending time.”  (RT Magazine (Top Pick))
“Rose follows up The Witch of Painted Sorrows (2015) with Sandrine’s daughter’s story, set against the tragic yet exquisite canvases of Paris, the Great War, and the Russian Revolution, and offers fascinating historical tidbits in the midst of bright, imaginative storytelling and complex, supernatural worldbuilding. A compelling, heart-wrenching, creative, and intricate read.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Excerpt from The Secret Language of Stones:

Chapter 1

July 19, 1918

“Are you Opaline?” the woman asked before she even stepped all the way into the workshop. From the anxious and distraught tone of her voice, I guessed she hadn’t come to talk about commissioning a bracelet for her aunt or having her daughter’s pearls restrung.

Though not a soldier, this woman was one of the Great War’s wounded, here to engage in the dark arts in the hopes of finding solace. Was it her son or her brother, husband, or lover’s fate that drove her to seek me out?

France had lost more than one million men, and there were battles yet to be fought. We’d suffered the second largest loss of any country in any war in history. No one in Paris remained untouched by tragedy.

What a terrible four years we’d endured. The Germans had placed La Grosse Bertha, a huge cannon, on the border between Picardy and Champagne. More powerful than any weapon ever built, she proved able to send shells 120 kilometers and reach us in Paris.

Since the war began, Bertha had shot more than 325 shells into our city. By the summer of 1918, two hundred civilians had died, and almost a thousand more were hurt. We lived in a state of anticipation and readiness. We were on the front too, as much at risk as our soldiers.

The last four months had been devastating. On March 11, the Vincennes Cemetery in the eastern inner suburbs was hit and hundreds of families lost their dead all over again when marble tombs and granite gravestones shattered. Bombs continued falling into the night. Buildings all over the city were demolished; craters appeared in the streets.

Three weeks later, more devastation. The worst Paris had suffered yet. On Good Friday, during a mass at the Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais Church, a shell hit and the whole roof collapsed on the congregation. Eighty-eight people were killed; another sixtyeight were wounded. And all over Paris many, many more suffered psychological damage. We became more worried, ever more afraid. What was next? When would it happen? We couldn’t know. All we could do was wait.

In April there were more shellings. And again in May. One hit a hotel in the 13th arrondissement, and because Bertha’s visits were silent, without warning, sleeping guests were killed in their beds.

By the middle of July, there was still no end in sight.

That warm afternoon, while the rain drizzled down, I steeled myself for the expression of grief to match what I’d heard in the customer’s voice. I shut off my soldering machine and put my work aside before I looked up.

Turning soldiers’ wristwatches into trench watches is how I have been contributing to the war effort since arriving in Paris three years ago. History repeats itself, they say, and in my case it’s true. In 1894, my mother ran away from her first husband in New York City and came to Paris. And twenty-one years later, I ran away from my mother in Cannes and came to Paris.

In trying to protect me from the encroaching war and to distract me from the malaise I’d been suffering since my closest friend had been killed, my parents decided to send me to America. No amount of protest, tantrums, bargaining, or begging would change their minds. They were shipping me off to live with family in Boston and to study at Radcliffe, where my uncle taught history.

At ten AM on Wednesday, February 11, 1915 my parents and I arrived at the dock in Cherbourg. French ocean liners had all been acquisitioned for the war, so I was booked on the USMS New York to travel across the sea. A frenetic scene greeted me. Most of the travelers were leaving France out of fear, and the atmosphere was thick with sadness and worry. Faces were drawn, eyes red with crying, as we prepared to board the big hulking ship waiting to transport us away from the terrible war that claimed more and more lives every day.

While my father arranged for a porter to carry my trunk, my mother handed me a last-minute gift, a book from the feel of it, then took me in her arms to kiss me good-bye. I breathed in her familiar scent, knowing it might be a long time until I smelled that particular mixture of L’Etoile’s Rouge perfume and the Roger et Gallet poudre de riz she always used to dust her face and décolletage. As she held me and pressed her crimson-stained lips to my cheek, I reached up behind her and carefully unhooked one of the half dozen ropes of cabochon ruby beads slung around her neck.

I let the necklace slip inside my glove, the stones warm as they slid down and settled into my cupped palm.

My mother often told me the story about how, in Paris in 1894, soon after she’d arrived and they’d met, my father helped her secretly pawn some of her grandmother’s treasures to buy art supplies so she could attend École des Beaux-Arts.

Knowing I too might need extra money, I decided to avail myself of some insurance. My mother owned so many strands of those blood-red beads, certainly my transgression would go unnoticed for a long time.

Disentangling herself, my mother dabbed at her eyes with a black handkerchief trimmed in red lace. Like the rubies she always wore, her handkerchiefs were one of her trademarks. Her many eccentricities exacerbated the legends swirling around “La Belle Lune,” as the press called her.

Mon chou, I will miss you. Write often and don’t get into trouble. It’s one thing to break my rules, but listen to your aunt Laura. All right?”

When my father’s turn came, he took me in his arms and exacted another kind of promise. “You will stay safe, yes?” He let go, but only for a moment before pulling me back to plant another kiss on the top of my head and add a coda to his good-bye. “Stay safe,” he repeated, “and please, forgive yourself for what happened with Timur. You couldn’t know what the future would bring. Enjoy your adventure, chérie.”

I nodded as tears tickled my eyes. Always sensitive to me, my father knew how much my guilt weighed on me. My charming and handsome papa always found just the right words to say to me to make me feel special. I didn’t care that I was about to deceive my mother, but I hated that I was going to disappoint my father.

During the winters of 1913 and 1914, my parents’ friends’ son Timur Orloff lived with us in Cannes. He ran a small boutique inside the Carlton Hotel, where, in high season, the hotel rented out space to a select few high-end retailers in order to cater to the celebrities, royalty, and nobility who flocked to the Riviera.

Our families first met when Anna Orloff bought one of my mother’s paintings, and Monsieur Orloff hired my father to design his jewelry store in Paris. A friendship developed that eventually led to my parents offering to house Timur. We quickly became the best of friends, sharing a passion for art and a love of design.

Creating jewelry had been my obsession ever since I’d found my first piece of emerald sea glass at the beach and tried to use string and glue to fashion it into a ring. My father declared jewelry design the perfect profession for the child of a painter and an architect—an ideal way to marry the sense of color and light I’d inherited from my mother and the ability to visualize and design in three dimensions that I’d inherited from him.

My mother was disappointed I wasn’t following in her footsteps and studying painting but agreed jewelry design offered a fine alternative. I knew my choice appealed to the rebel in her. The field hadn’t yet welcomed women, and my mother, who had broken down quite a few barriers as a female artist and eschewed convention as much as plain white handkerchiefs, was pleased that, like her, I would be challenging the status quo.

When I’d graduated lycée, I convinced my parents to let me apprentice with a local jeweler, and Timur often stopped by Roucher’s shop at the end of the day to collect me and walk me home.

Given our ages, his twenty to my seventeen, it wasn’t surprising our closeness turned physical, and we spent many hours hiding in the shadows of the rocks on the beach as twilight deepened, kissing and exploring each other’s body. The heady intimacy was exciting. The passion, transforming. My sense of taste became exaggerated. My sense of smell became more attenuated. The stones I worked with in the shop began to shimmer with a deeper intensity, and my ability to hear their music became fine-tuned.

The changes were as frightening as they were exhilarating. As the passions increased my powers, I worried I was becoming like my mother. And yet my fear didn’t make me turn from Timur. The pleasure was too great. My attraction was fueled by curiosity rather than love. Not so for him. And even though I knew Timur was a romantic, I never guessed at the depths of what he felt.

War broke out during the summer of 1914, and in October, Timur wrote he was leaving for the front to fight for France. Just two weeks after he’d left, I received a poetic letter filled with longing.

Dearest Opaline,

We never talked about what we mean to each other before I left and I find myself in this miserable place, with so little comfort and so much uncertainty. Not the least of which is how you feel about me. I close my eyes and you are there. I think of the past two years and all my important memories include you. I imagine tomorrow’s memories and want to share those with you as well. Here where it’s bleak and barren, thoughts of you keep my heart warm. Do you love me the way I love you? No, I don’t think so, not yet . . . but might you? All I ask is please, don’t fall in love with anyone else while I am gone. Tell me you will wait for me, at least just to give me a chance?

I’d been made uncomfortable by his admission. Handsome and talented, he’d treated me as if I were one of the fine gems he sold. I’d enjoyed his attention and affection, but I didn’t think I was in love. Not the way I imagined love.

And so I wrote a flippant response. Teasing him the way I always did, I accused him of allowing the war to turn him into even more of a romantic. I shouldn’t have. Instead, I should have given him the promise he asked for. Once he came back, I could have set him straight. Then at least, while he remained away, he would have had hope.

Instead, he’d died with only my mockery ringing in his head.

My father was right: I couldn’t have known the future. But I still couldn’t excuse myself for my thoughtless past.

The USMS New York’s sonorous horn blasted three times, and all around us people said their last good-byes. Reluctantly, my father let go of me.

“I’d like you to leave once I’m on board,” I told my parents. “Otherwise, I’ll stand there watching you and I’ll start to cry.”

“Agreed,” my father said. “It would be too hard for us as well.”

Once I’d walked up the gangplank and joined the other passengers at the railing, I searched the crowd, found my parents, and waved.

My mother fluttered her handkerchief. My father blew me a kiss. Then, as promised, they turned and began to walk away. The moment their backs were to me, I ran from the railing, found a porter, pressed some francs into his hand, and asked him to take my luggage from the hold and see me to a taxi.

I would not be sailing to America. I was traveling on a train to Paris. Once ensconced in the cab, I told the driver to transport me to the station. After maneuvering out of the parking space, he joined the crush of cars leaving the port. Moving at a snail’s pace, we drove right past my parents, who were strolling back to the hotel where we’d stayed the night before.

Sliding down in my seat, I hoped they wouldn’t see me, but I’d underestimated my mother’s keen eye.

“Opaline? Opaline?”

Hearing her shout, I rose and peeked out the window. For a moment, they just stood frozen, shocked expressions on their faces. Then my father broke into a run.

“Hurry!” I called out to the driver. “Please.”

At first I thought my father might catch up to the car, but the traffic cleared and my driver accelerated. As we sped away, I saw my father come to a stop and just stand in the road, cars zigzagging all around him as he tried to catch his breath and make sense of what he’d just seen.

Just as we turned the corner, my mother reached his side. He took her arm. I saw an expression of resignation settle on his face. Anger animated hers. I think she knew exactly where I was going. Not because she was clairvoyant, which she was, of course, but because we were alike in so many ways, and if history was about to repeat itself, she wanted me to learn about my powers from her.

I’d been ambivalent about exploring my ability to receive messages that were inaudible and invisible to others—messages that came to me through stones—but I knew if the day came that I was ready, I’d need someone other than her to guide me.

Years ago, when she was closer to my age, my mother’s journey to Paris had begun with her meeting La Lune, a spirit who’d kept herself alive for almost three centuries while waiting for a descendant strong enough to host her. My mother embraced La Lune’s spirit and allowed the witch to take over. But because Sandrine was my mother, I hadn’t been given an option. I’d been born with the witch’s powers running through my veins.

Once my mother made her choice to let La Lune in, she never questioned how she used her abilities. She justified her actions as long as they were for good. Or what she believed was good. But I’d seen her make decisions I thought were morally wrong. So when I was ready to learn about my own talents, I knew it had to be without my mother’s influence. My journey needed to be my own.

“I’m sorry, but I plan to stay in Paris and work for the war effort,” I told my mother when I telephoned home the following day to tell my parents I’d arrived at my great-grandmother’s house.

When my mother first moved to Paris, my great-grandmother tried but failed to hide the La Lune heritage from her. Once my mother discovered it, Grand-mère tried to convince my mother that learning the dark arts would be her undoing. My mother rejected her advice. When Grand-mère’s horror at Sandrine’s possession by La Lune was mistaken for madness, she was put in a sanatorium. Eventually my mother used magick to help restore Grand-mère to health. Part of her healing spell slowed down my great-grandmother’s aging process so in 1918, more than two decades later, she looked and acted like a woman in her sixties, not one approaching ninety.

Grand-mère was one of Paris’s great courtesans. A leftover from the Belle Époque, she remained ensconced in her splendid mansion, still entertaining, still running her salon. Only now she employed women younger than herself to provide the services she once had performed.

“But I don’t want you in Paris,” my mother argued. “Of all places, Opaline, Paris is the most dangerous for you to be on your own and . . .”

The rest of her sentence was swallowed by a burst of crackling. In 1905, we’d been one of the first families to have a telephone. A decade later almost all businesses and half the households in France had one, but transmission could still be spotty.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“It’s too dangerous for you in Paris.”

I didn’t ask what she meant, assuming she referred to how often the Germans were bombarding Paris. But now I know she wasn’t thinking of the war at all but rather of my untrained talents and the temptations and dangers awaiting me in the city where she’d faced her own demons.

I didn’t listen to her entreaties. No, out of a combination of guilt over Timur’s death and patriotism, my mind was set. I was committed to living in Paris and working for the war effort. Only cowards went to America.

I’d known I couldn’t drive ambulances like other girls; I was disastrous behind the wheel. And from having three younger siblings, I knew nursing wasn’t a possibility—I couldn’t abide the sight of blood whenever Delphine, Sebastian, or Jadine got a cut.

Two months after Timur died, his mother, Anna Orloff, who had been like an aunt to me since I’d turned thirteen, wrote to say that, like so many French businesses, her husband’s jewelry shop had lost most of its jewelers to the army. With her stepson, Grigori, and her youngest son, Leo, fighting for France, she and Monsieur needed help in the shop.

Later, Anna told me she’d sensed I needed to be with her in Paris. She had always known things about me no one else had. Like my mother, Anna was involved in the occult, one reason she had been attracted to my mother’s artwork in the first place. For that alone, I should have eschewed her interest in me. After all, my mother’s use of magick to cure or cause ills, attract or repel people, as well as read minds and sometimes change them, still disturbed me. Too often I’d seen her blur the line between dark and light, pure and corrupt, with ease and without regret. That her choices disturbed me angered her.

Between her paintings, which took her away from my brother and sisters and me, and her involvement with the dark arts, I’d developed two minds about living in the occult world my mother inhabited with such ease.

Yet I was drawn to Anna for her warmth and sensitive nature— so different from my mother’s elaborate and eccentric one. Because I’d seen Anna be so patient with her sons’ and my siblings’ fears, I thought she’d be just as patient with mine. I imagined she could be the lamp to shine a light on the darkness I’d inherited and teach me control so I wouldn’t accidentally traverse the lines my mother crossed so boldly.

Undaunted, I’d fled from the dock in Cherbourg to Paris, and for more than three years I’d been ensconced in Orloff’s gem of a store, learning from a master jeweler.

To teach me his craft, Monsieur had me work on a variety of pieces, but my main job involved soldering thin bars of gold or silver to create cages that would guard the glass on soldiers’ watch faces.

To some, what I did might have seemed a paltry effort, but in the field, at the front, men didn’t have the luxury of stopping to pull out a pocket watch, open it, and study the hour or the minute. They needed immediate information and had to wear watches on their wrists. And war isn’t kind to wristwatches. A sliver of shrapnel can crack the crystal. A whack on a rock as you crawl through a dugout can shatter the face. Soldiers required timepieces they could count on to be efficient and sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of combat.

Monsieur Orloff taught me how to execute the open crosshatched grates that fit over the watch crystal through which the soldiers could read the hour and the minute. While I worked, I liked to think I projected time for them. But the thought did little to lift my spirits. It was their lives that needed protecting. France had lost so many, and still the war dragged on. So as I fused the cages, I attempted to imbue the metal with an armor of protective magick. Something helpful to do with my inheritance. Something I should have known how to do. After all, I am one of the Daughters of La Lune.

But as I discovered, the magick seemed to only make its way into the lockets I designed for the wives and mothers, sisters and lovers of soldiers already killed in battle. The very word “locket” contains everything one needs to know about my pieces. It stems from old French “loquet,” which means “miniature lock.” Since the 1670s, “locket” has been used to describe a keepsake charm or brooch with a personal memento, such as a portrait or a curl of hair, sealed inside, sometimes concealed by a false front.

My lockets always contained secrets. They were made of crystal, engraved with phrases and numbers, and filled with objects that had once belonged to the deceased soldiers. Encased in gold, these talismans hung on chains or leather. Of all the work I did, I found that it wasn’t the watches but the solace my lockets gave that proved to be my greatest gift to the war effort.

About M.J. Rose:

New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother's favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice... books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.

Rose's work has appeared in many magazines including Oprah Magazine and she has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, WSJ, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors - Authorbuzz.com

The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Reincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and currently serves, with Lee Child, as the organization's co-president.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

Find M.J. Rose:  Website | Twitter| Facebook | Author Goodreads | Novel Goodreads | Newsletter | Pinterest

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review: A Leap in the Dark by John Ferling

A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic 
by John Ferling
E-book, 577 pages
Oxford University Press
April 4, 2003

Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Source: Purchased for my Masters class
It was an age of fascinating leaders and difficult choices, of grand ideas eloquently expressed and of epic conflicts bitterly fought. Now comes a brilliant portrait of the American Revolution, one that is compelling in its prose, fascinating in its details, and provocative in its fresh interpretations.

In A Leap in the Dark, John Ferling offers a magisterial new history that surges from the first rumblings of colonial protest to the volcanic election of 1800. Ferling's swift-moving narrative teems with fascinating details. We see Benjamin Franklin trying to decide if his loyalty was to Great Britain or to America, and we meet George Washington when he was a shrewd planter-businessman who discovered personal economic advantages to American independence. We encounter those who supported the war against Great Britain in 1776, but opposed independence because it was a "leap in the dark." Following the war, we hear talk in the North of secession from the United States. The author offers a gripping account of the most dramatic events of our history, showing just how closely fought were the struggle for independence, the adoption of the Constitution, and the later battle between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. Yet, without slowing the flow of events, he has also produced a landmark study of leadership and ideas. Here is all the erratic brilliance of Hamilton and Jefferson battling to shape the new nation, and here too is the passion and political shrewdness of revolutionaries, such as Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry, and their Loyalist counterparts, Joseph Galloway and Thomas Hutchinson. Here as well are activists who are not so well known today, men like Abraham Yates, who battled for democratic change, and Theodore Sedgwick, who fought to preserve the political and social system of the colonial past. Ferling shows that throughout this period the epic political battles often resembled today's politics and the politicians--the founders--played a political hardball attendant with enmities, selfish motivations, and bitterness. The political stakes, this book demonstrates, were extraordinary: first to secure independence, then to determine the meaning of the American Revolution.
John Ferling has shown himself to be an insightful historian of our Revolution, and an unusually skillful writer. A Leap in the Dark is his masterpiece, work that provokes, enlightens, and entertains in full measure.
I’m going to preface this by saying that this is part of an opinion review that I wrote for my class, so the style is a little different from my normal reviews, but I still though it would be a valuable contribution to the blog.

I have read widely on the subject of the American Revolution, more than on any other historical subject, and A Leap in the Dark by John Ferling is one of the better ones that I have read. I enjoyed the style in which he writes; it took me a while to read each chapter, but that was because there was a lot of information and new styles of analysis to digest. That being said, it never felt like the flow was bogged down by information that was included just because it had been researched. The book is expansive in the elements that it covers and I did not feel like anything important had been left out.

The text focused on not only the political elements, but also the social issues surrounding the American Revolution. In my experience, a lot of time in other courses and texts is spent on the political implications of the various Acts and taxes imposed by the British Parliament; while this is important, and Ferling does spend time on these areas, I most appreciated how he drilled down into what the motives were behind the different historical figures actions on both sides of the Atlantic. This is where I encountered the most new material and a more well-rounded perspective on the lead up to hostilities; most notably for me were his commentaries on Samuel Adams and the Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party was a much more complicated event than the mere surprising coming together of Bostonians to spill the hated tea into the harbor and to understand that makes the interpretation of this iconic event much more significant. Additionally, Samuel Adams deserves a lot more credit for his historical role than just being a rabble rouser. I also appreciated that the author did not limit his in-depth attention to those on the colonial side, but also gave significant background attention to the figures in Parliament and why they were interested in penalizing the colonists despite growing indications of hostilities. This made it easier to understand why the British acted the way they did, even though it may have seemed counterproductive to the large scale goals. Ferling does this well with many other events that occurred during the timeframe covered by this book and I am more knowledgeable for it.

One thing I appreciated that Ferling did not do in his book was spend ample time on the battles of the Revolution. I am not one who likes to read about battlefield logistics and I tend to space out and skim past these sections when they crop up in books I am reading; it is just not an area that interests me. However, I do like to learn about the implications of battlefield decisions or how a singular event or battle factored into the grand scheme of the war. This is exactly what I found in A Leap in the Dark. Ferling brings attention to select battle actions, such as Washington’s attacks at Trenton and Princeton, because they offered significant glimpses into the character of people and reasons why the war was able to continue despite many setbacks. I do not need to know how each battle was carried out, but rather what it meant to the whole of the war. Ferling never lost my attention through these sections.

While I was a fan of most of Ferling’s historical interpretations, he started to lose me when he began the discussions surrounding the animosity between the Federalists and Republicans, particularly Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. I detected a noticeable bias against Hamilton in Ferling’s analysis and a favoring of Jefferson. As historians, we are encouraged to make efforts to keep personal bias out of historical interpretation, but Ferling appears to have had issue with this here. He did not have much nice to say about the man; the closest he came to something kind was when he indicated that latter politicians should have taken a note from Hamilton’s playbook and immediately fess up when caught out in a less than desirable action. The author appears to have went out of his way to highlight all the underhanded things Hamilton did or might have done. While he also discusses the work Jefferson did behind the scenes, the manner in which he discusses these actions comes off in a more positive and respectful manner than when he discusses Hamilton. From a personal perspective, this bothered me more than it might have others because I tend to find myself favoring Hamilton over Jefferson in these discussions, but regardless, Ferling’s treatment of Hamilton felt heavy-handed.

I think that the timeframe that Ferling chose to cover in this book was well chosen. Most would expect that a book on the American Revolution might cover the war exclusively or maybe through the presidency of George Washington, as this would be the real start of the United States as we recognize it now. Ferling chooses to bring the narrative up through the election of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the country. I think this was an excellent choice because everything was still very rocky for the fledgling country up through then and it could have easily foundered. Up until Jefferson’s election, the country had been run by those who had significant roles in the pre-revolution days as well as the founding of the country and led the country in a similar style. With the election of Jefferson it was a transition of power from one political party to another. In many other countries, a shift in political power was accompanied by bloodshed or even the collapse of a newly formed country, and others were waiting to see what would happen to the United States. Here it was a peaceful shift in power which signified the strength of the country to be able to do so and showed the world, and those in the States, that they had made it to a new stage in development; they were arguably no longer in their revolutionary days.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by John Ferling:

Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence

Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800

John Adams: A Life

The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon

Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation

Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free

Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the American Revolution

Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It

Find John Ferling:


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, June 20, 2016

New Book Alert Book Blast & Tour Wide Giveaway

Náápiikoan Winter by Alethea Williams
eBook and Paperback, 295 pages
C.A. Williams
Published: May 9, 2016
ISBN: 1532710569
Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Blurb:
At the turn of a new century, changes unimagined are about to unfold.
THE WOMAN: Kidnapped by the Apaches, a Mexican woman learns the healing arts. Stolen by the Utes, she is sold and traded until she ends up with the Piikáni. All she has left are her skills—and her honor. What price will she pay to ensure a lasting place among the People?
THE MAN: Raised in a London charitable school, a young man at the end of the third of a seven year term of indenture to the Hudson’s Bay Company is sent to the Rocky Mountains to live among the Piikáni for the winter to learn their language and to foster trade. He dreams of his advancement in the company, but he doesn’t reckon the price for becoming entangled in the passions of the Piikáni.
THE LAND: After centuries of conflict, Náápiikoan traders approach the Piikáni, powerful members of the Blackfoot Confederation. The Piikáni already have horses and weapons, but they are promised they will become rich if they agree to trap beaver for Náápiikoan. Will the People trade their beliefs for the White Man’s bargains?
Partially based on the works of Canadian trader, explorer, and mapmaker David Thompson, Náápiikoan Winter spans a continent, examining the cultures in flux at the passing of an era and the painful birth of another.
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Praise for Náápiikoan Winter:
"When we read NAAPIIKOAN WINTER our hearts were swept back in time. Alethea Williams writes with the same authority and beauty that A. B Guthrie, Bernard de Voto, Wallace Stegner, and Conrad Richter imparted to the page. We marveled at the quality of her research, and the precision with which Williams recreated the world of the Blackfeet at the time of white contact. Find the first page, dear reader, and you'll fall effortlessly into a long-gone world filled with both the noblest of humans, and the dross that always follows. This is no Western romance, but the nitty-gritty reality of the Northern Plains. We call NAAPIIKOAN WINTER masterful!" -W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, authors of PEOPLE OF THE MORNING STAR
About Alethea Williams:

Alethea Williams grew up in southwest Wyoming. Willow Vale is her first novel of the immigrant experience, dealing with the Tyroleans after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. Her second novel details the Irish immigrant experience and the Orphan Train movement in Walls for the Wind. Walls for the Wind is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first at the Laramie Awards in the Prairie Fiction category. Her third book, a Western American pre-history spanning the North American continent, entitled Náápiikoan Winter is now available.
She also has a collection of newspaper columns in print:Boomer Blues Book: Staying Alive and Sane in the Modern American West. Twice president of Wyoming Writers, Inc. she lives in her native state with long-time friend, Amazon parrot Bob.

Find Alethea Williams: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Tour-Wide Giveaway
There are 5 copies of Náápiikoan Winter  up for grabs as part of the entire tour.  Please note that this tour is not hosted by me and if you have any questions please contact the tour coordinator.  All entries will be made via the GLEAM app below.

Here are the Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 1st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.​

Follow the Tour!

On Twitter: #NaapiikoanWinterBookBlast

Monday, June 13
Passages to the Past

Tuesday, June 14
Diana's Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 15
Let Them Read Books

Thursday, June 16
The Book Junkie Reads

Friday, June 17

Monday, June 20
The Maiden's Court

Tuesday, June 21
Book Nerd

Wednesday, June 22
CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, June 24
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Monday, June 27
Broken Teepee
A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, June 28
A Holland Reads

Wednesday, June 29
It's a Mad Mad World

Friday, July 1
The True Book Addict

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Review: To Wed a Rebel by Sophie Dash

To Wed a Rebel by Sophie Dash
ARC, e-book
Carina Press
May 23, 2016

Heat Rating:

Genre: Historical Romance

Source: Requested through Netgalley for Review

** This review was previously posted at Romantic Historical Reviews**
“It was done, they were bound, all was finished…”
A fighter, a drinker and a notorious seducer, Isaac Roscoe was the last man that innocent Ruth Osbourne would ever consider as a husband – but that was before Roscoe ruined her prospects and reputation!

Now destitute and disinherited Ruth is faced with an impossible choice, a life on the streets or exchanging vows with the man who put her there. Yet, knowing that marriage was Roscoe’s last wish, Ruth knew her revenge would be best served by saddling him with a reluctant wife.

Determined to punish Isaac for his actions Ruth will stop at nothing to destroy him, body and spirit. Until it becomes clear that nothing she can do will hurt her disloyal husband more than he can hurt himself…
Ruth has what any young woman would want: to be engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors, but he is boring, and droll, and not at all her type. However, she is happy to have her future secure and maybe everything will work out. Someone else has other plans for her though, and they don’t involve marrying her intended, and that is where Isaac comes in. Isaac has been hired to ruin Ruth so that she is no long fit to marry in society and he’s good at his job, but the surprise result of his plan gone awry is that Isaac and Ruth wind up wed and have to now navigate their mutual outward hatred for their circumstances.

I love reading stories where there is not an instant romance, but the two have to really work for it. That is the case here in To Wed a Rebel and man are there obstacles! Ruth had her life all mapped out and would be soon marrying one of the richest bachelors available, but she doesn’t really like him. She is practical and is just trying to fulfill her mother’s request for her to never be a burden to her family – so in her heart she is settling. Isaac Roscoe is a rogue (and I kept thinking of him in that way through the whole book, to the point where I thought a better title would have been To Wed a Rogue because I didn’t find him much of a rebel). In an effort to avoid family obligations he has made a job of taking contracts to ruin women to get them out of various marriage arrangements; dirty and deceitful work, but he rather enjoys it and typically finds no qualms in doing it. But his contract to ruin Ruth bothers him in a way that the others have not; he finds her charming and sweet, and an all-around nice person. So when his mission ends in a success (sort of) he’s sorry it had to work out this way…until the unexpected result is his forced marriage to Ruth. The two battle it out throughout the novel as they try to wrangle their feelings about what happened early in their relationship with new feelings that grow as they get to know each other. Their relationship develops slowly, which made sense given their background, but at times their blindness to each other’s intentions was frustrating beyond measure!

Beyond the events of the early part of the novel which revolve around the ruination of Ruth, there is plenty of action here. There is a plot to save a friend, having to navigate Isaac’s family, as well as the all-around trouble Isaac tends to find himself in through his beyond the law activities. All of these events and adventures serve to help Ruth and Isaac get over their animosity toward each other and come together.

There are just a couple sex scenes in this novel and while they are not graphic you are definitely present in the room for them. It was well used by the author for the development of the characters relationship and even set up yet another roadblock down the road in their love/hate relationship. I thought it was very well done.

Overall, this novel worked for me. Even though there are so many problems between the two of them you are still rooting for them at the end. I look forward to reading other books by Sophie Dash.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Also by Sophie Dash:

The Unmasking of a Lady

Find Sophie Dash: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court