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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Interview with Donna Baier Stein

Hi Everyone!! I want to take the opportunity to welcome Donna Baier Stein, author of The Silver Baron’s Wife, to The Maiden’s Court today.  I was intrigued by this book from the first time I saw the blurb.  We hear about western migration in the USA, but not much about life actually in the west very often and The Silver Baron’s Wife sounds like a great novel.

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Heather: Your novel, The Silver Baron’s Wife, focuses on Lizzie Doe Tabor, who I had never heard of before, and I’m sure that many of our readers have not either.  Could you give us a little introduction about her to whet our appetites and help us to dive into your book?

Donna Baier Stein: Baby Doe Tabor lived in Colorado in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was in many ways a woman ahead of her time. She worked in the silver mines despite the prevalent superstition that women brought bad luck to miners… was a key figure in one of the Wild West’s most scandalous love triangles… and wrote down thousands of her dreams at a time when, though psychoanalysis was becoming popular in Europe, people were not regularly keeping dream journals! She noted spirit visitations on her wall calendars.

Some people have considered her a female American mystic; others thought she was simply eccentric. She was also married to one of America’s wealthiest men, silver baron Horace Tabor.

H:  She sounds like she has such a fascinating story to tell.  How did you come across the story of Lizzie Doe Tabor and what was it about her story that called out to you to fictionalize it?

DBS: I first learned about her on a family vacation to Colorado when I was seven years old. I still own the postcards I got on that trip. Even as a child I recognized something very special in her life – the contradictions between materialism and spirituality, family ties and loneliness, wealth and poverty. And I’m sure those last decades of her life, writing down her dreams, especially attracted me. My obsession with her lasted into my adulthood.

H: For a story to stick with you for so long it must be fascinating! 

What type of research did you do for this book? Were there sites that you were able to visit or any places that had special collections or valuable resources that helped you bring your story to life?

DBS: I travelled several times to Leadville and Denver as an adult. The Denver Public Library and Colorado Historical Society were especially helpful. I remember my first visit to the Denver Library, photocopying many of Lizzie’s dreams. It was mysterious, overwhelming, and addictive reading. I’ve spent time in both the Matchless Mine and Tabor Opera House in Leadville. It’s a town that has a very special appeal to me. I also found helpful information in John Burke’s nonfiction book about Baby Doe Tabor and in Judy Nolte Temple’s nonfiction book Madwoman in the Cabin. I’ve listened to Douglas Moore’s Ballad of Baby Doe as well and seen that opera performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. I also visited the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC where Lizzie and her second husband Horace were married.

H:  Oh wow!  That sounds like some really cool resources.  I love that there is an opera about her!

The Silver Baron’s Wife is your first novel – what has that experience been like bringing your idea to fruition?  Has anything been more difficult than you expected?  Easier?

DBS: The novel took me quite a long time to write. I initially thought that because Lizzie’s story was so dramatic, it would be easy to develop a plot. That was a naïve expectation! I had to revise several times in order to find a compelling narrative arc. I also experimented with telling the story in both first person and third person limited. First person was my final choice, because I felt strongly that I wanted her story to come through me. The biggest surprise—or mysterious circumstance—was that while I was revising a chapter on the fire that destroyed Lizzie’s childhood home in Oshkosh, I had a fire in my own home office. Luckily, I had just emailed the novel to a friend and fellow writer. Otherwise, it would have been lost.

H: Talk about art emulating life and vice versa!  I love hearing the different iterations that a novel goes through before arriving at the final product.

You have written other types of works (non-fiction and poetry).  How has that experience compared to writing a novel?

DBS: I actually sometimes enjoy the more limited time frame imposed in writing short stories. I’m a stickler for language and there are fewer sentences to rewrite when you are writing a story! It’s hard to pick one genre, though. I tend to work on multiple projects at once. For me, the important thing is to do the writing and to be engaged in what I’m writing about.

H: I feel like that is important too because your reader will feel it if you aren’t. 

When you are not reading for research, what types of books or authors do you enjoy reading?

DBS: I just finished Mark Haddon’s The Pier Falls and Other Stories; it is exquisite. I also enjoyed B.A. Shapiro’s The Muralist, and I’ve just started Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I like contemporary literary fiction and historical fiction. And Dean Koontz’s books are my secret guilty pleasure.

H: I have The Muralist on my list of books to read soon, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it! 

Having now published a novel, do you have any further writing plans?

DBS: Oh yes! I’ve published eight short stories set in the 1930s and 1940s based on lithographs by the Midwestern artist Thomas Hart Benton. Once I write two more, I’ll have a collection to submit. This has been a fascinating project, and I have high hopes for its publication as a book. I’ve also started a new novel but it is in a very early stage. I want to write many more books and am fortunate to be in a situation where writing can be my life priority now.

H: Oh that sounds like it could be a fascinating collection!  I look forward to when it gets released.


Award-winning novelist, short story writer and poet.  Iowa Fiction Award Finalist and 2015 IndieBook Awards Finalist.  PEN New England Discovery Award Winner.  Bread Loaf Scholar.  Johns Hopkins University MFA. 

Find Donna Baier Stein: Website | Facebook | Twitter 

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Book Blurb:

The Silver Baron’s Wife is the true story of a fiercely independent woman who rose above every social and gender expectation, and became a key figure in the West’s most scandalous love triangle.  In the 1870’s, Lizzie Tabor notoriously defied convention: when her first husband failed as a provider, she descended into the mines herself.  When she caught her husband in a brothel, she divorced him.  And when she captured the attention of Horace Tabor, a silver baron 30 years her senior, she married him after he left his wife amid huge scandal – officially branding Lizzie one of the wealthiest women in America, and an outcast in high society.  When the couple lost everything with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act, Lizzie stayed by Horace’s side until his death, moving to a one-room shack at the Matchless Mine where she lived the rest of her life in mysterious isolation, writing down thousands of dreams and spiritual visitations.

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


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cover Reveal: The Beauty Shop by Suzy Henderson

I am so excited to share this beautiful new cover with you guys today!  If I wasn’t on the cover reveal tour, it would have certainly made my Cover Crush series!  I wasn’t at first sure that a novel titled, The Beauty Shop could be a historical novel, but here is a little description from the author about why that is really the case.

As the novel is set during the dark days of World War Two, the title might appear to be rather unusual. The beauty shop was a nickname for a ward at a small hospital in East Grinstead, a market town in southern England, where a maverick New Zealand plastic surgeon cared for severely burned airmen.

Such was the humour of the men there that one airman said to a visitor one day, “Stick around here long enough, miss and they’ll whip a piece off you and stick it on one of us.”

This was no ordinary hospital ward. There was beer for one thing, and pretty girls for nurses, music all day long and dancing. The air that flowed here drifted through smiles, laughter, love, and loss. And when surgeon Archie McIndoe spoke to each man, his eyes shone with such radiance, and his words sang with such confidence and compassion, instilling each man with fresh hope.

Based on a true story, via three interlocking experiences of WWII, The Beauty Shop explores the nature of good looks, social acceptance and the true meaning of ‘skin deep’.

And now what you are all here for…the GORGEOUS cover!!

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The Beauty Shop by Suzy Henderson
Publication Date: November 2016
eBook & Paperback; 350 Pages
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Blurb:

England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their destinies and those of many more.

Dr Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealand plastic surgeon with unorthodox methods, is on a mission to treat and rehabilitate badly burned airmen – their bodies and souls. With the camaraderie and support of the Guinea Pig Club, his boys battle to overcome disfigurement, pain, and prejudice to learn to live again.

John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and doubt stalk him on the ground and in the air, and he’s torn between his duty and his conscience.

Shy, decent and sensible, Stella Charlton’s future seems certain until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she falls head over heels for the handsome airman. But when he survives a crash, she realises her own battle has only just begun.

Based on a true story, The Beauty Shop is a moving tale of love, compassion, and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.

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Suzy Henderson lives with her husband and two sons in Cumbria, England, on the edge of the beautiful Lake District, a rich and inspiring landscape of mountains, fells, and lakes. She never set out to be a writer, although she has always been a voracious reader.

Some years ago after leaving an established career in healthcare, Suzy began to research family history, soon becoming fascinated with both World War periods. After completing a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, she took a walk along a new path, writing from the heart. She writes historical fiction and has an obsession with military and aviation history.

Other interests include music, old movies, and photography – especially if WW2 aircraft are on the radar. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society. Her debut novel, The Beauty Shop, is to be released in November 2016.

Find Suzy Henderson: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Goodreads | Blog

04_The Beauty Shop_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL 

Blogs Participating in the Cover Reveal:

100 Pages a Day

A Book Geek

Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Book Lover’s Paradise

Book Nerd

Passages to the Past

The Lit Bitch

The True Book Addict


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Two Sides to Every Story: Madame de Montespan, Guilty or Innocent?

Two Sides

Today I have the opportunity to welcome Kate Braithwaite, author of Charlatan, to The Maiden’s Court with another contribution to the Two Sides to Every Story sseries.  Today we travel to the world fo the French court of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan.  I hope you will enjoy this as much as I have!

Fully-Fledged Poisoner or Dabbler in Love Potions? Madame de Montespan, Guilty or Innocent?

In 1680, a prisoner in the Château de Vincennes, on the outskirts of Paris, alleged that Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan, the long-time mistress of Louis XIV had used her connections to an underworld of fortune-tellers and poisoners to attempt to poison the King and his new mistress Angélique de Fontanges. The informant was Marie Montvoisin, daughter of Catherine Montvoisin, a woman suspected of involvement in several poisonings, an illegal abortion business and even of using black magic and satanic rituals to satisfy the demands of her wealthy clientele.

Marie Montvoisin was not the only one to accuse Athénaïs. Other prisoners – part of the scandal known as the Affair of the Poisons – joined in, describing infant sacrifice, plots to kill the king with poisoned parchment or murder Angélique with poisoned gloves. Marie claimed that Athénaïs had been her mother’s client for years and trial records showed that she had been named as a client of another fortune-teller, a man called Lesage, as far back as 1668.

Angélique de Fontanges died in on June 28th, 1681 aged only nineteen. Poison was immediately suspected although autopsy records suggest she may have suffered from lung disease or possibly from complications from a miscarriage. Versailles was rife with whispers about which courtiers were involved with the prisoners in the Château de Vincennes and several noblewomen were arrested and tried for their connections to Catherine Montvoisin, Lesage and many others.

Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan, however, was never arrested or interrogated. Louis XIV instructed his investigators to record any mention of his famous lover separately. All the papers related to their investigation of her were hidden from the public record. Whatever rumors there were of her involvement with the Affair of the Poisons, gradually dissipated over the years. In 1709, Louis requested that all the records of that investigation be brought to him and he burned them one by one. He did not know, however, that his investigator, La Reynie, had kept another copy of the documents and in the 1870’s these papers were published by François Ravaisson in Les Archives de la Bastille.

Athénaïs’ guilt or innocence has been a subject of debate ever since.

Madame de Montespan
Photo Credit: Pierre Mignard [Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

Who was Athénaïs?

Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan, the famously beautiful and witty maîtresse-en-titre of the Sun King Louis XIV, was born in Lussac in 1640. She was the third child of the Duc and Duchesse de Mortemart, one of France’s most noble families.

At the age of twenty, Athénaïs arrived at court to take up a position within the household of Queen Marie-Thérèse where she became known for her beauty, intelligence and virtue. Although highly marriageable, it wasn’t until three years later, in 1663, that she married the Marquis de Montespan. Together they had two children, but the marriage, arranged in haste only a week after Athénaïs’ previous fiancée was forced to leave Paris after a duel, did not last. Montespan was a gambler. His family connections weakened Athénaïs at court and they quickly found it impossible to live the lavish life she demanded – and needed – to succeed in the Queen’s household.

That the marriage ended bitterly is evidenced by the fact that Montespan tried to attack her at the Château de St Germain and threatened to visit brothels with the express purpose of contracting a disease he could pass on to his wife. Eventually he was forced by the King to retire to his estates in Gascony with their two children where he held a full-blown mock funeral for his wife.

Of course the King’s intervention was self-motivated. Athénaïs’ relationship with Louis most likely began in 1667 as he tired of his then mistress, Louise de la Vallière. Louise had to remain at court, however, and provide cover for her friend Athénaïs even as she supplanted her. The double adultery (as both parties were married) was considered far more scandalous than Louis’ affair with the unmarried Louise, and as a result, they were separated by the Church for a year in 1675.

In the hey-day of their love affair though, Athénaïs and Louis appeared to be the perfect match in wit, beauty and creativity. They both loved ballet and theatre and loved to perform themselves, as well as support artists like Racine and Molière. It was during this period that Versailles was developed as the center of Louis’ court. Athénaïs and the King made love and bathed in the Appartement des Bains, held gondola parties, built fountains, designed gardens and filled Versailles with the baroque paintings and sculptures for which it is famous. In 1676, the now divorced Athénaïs’ suite at Versailles comprised of twenty rooms on the second floor, right next to the King’s. The Queen, in comparison, only had eleven rooms. Between 1669 and 1678, Athénaïs gave birth to seven of Louis’ children.

But maintaining the attention of the King through seven pregnancies was not easy. Louis had notable dalliances with other women including the Princesse de Soubise (until she fell and knocked out a tooth and much of her charm with it) and Isabelle La Ludres who may have feigned a pregnancy to try to prologue her affair with Louis. For nearly ten years, Athénaïs saw off all challengers but, in 1678, a beautiful young woman called Angélique de Fontanges arrived at Versailles and Louis, aged 40, was instantly smitten. Although he still visited her every day, Athénaïs as a lover was clearly put to one side in favor of Angélique who soon fell pregnant. Unfortunately for Angélique, her child died at birth and she never recovered physically. She died in 1681 and at the time many observers believed she had been poisoned - by Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan.

Was she guilty?

The most commonly held view of modern historians is that Athénaïs was guilty of extensive use of love potions in her attempts to maintain her position with Louis, but not guilty of the wilder accusations made against her by the prisoners in the Château de Vincennes. Louis’ behavior towards her, after the Affair of the Poisons was concluded in 1682, is held to be the best indicator of her innocence. Although their love affair was over, the King continued to visit his former mistress and the mother of so many of his children. She was promoted to the post of Superintendent to the Queen’s household, a high honor, and she remained at court until 1691 when, in a fit of temper over not being consulted about her children’s education, she asked for permission to retire. Before she could change her mind, Athénaïs’ apartments at Versailles were re-allocated. Athénaïs spent the next sixteen years travelling and doing charitable works, until her death in 1707.

Further Reading/Sources

The Affair of the Poisons, Murder, Infanticide and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV, Anne Somerset, 2003.

Love & Louis XIV, The women in the life of the Sun King, Antonia Fraser, 2006.

The Real Queen of France, Athénaïs & Louis XIV, Lisa Hilton, 2002.


Kate Braithwaite is the author of Charlatan, a historical thriller about the Affair of the Poisons that sent shockwaves through the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. Charlatan was long-listed for the Mslexia New Novel Award and the Historical Novel Award in 2015.  You can find her on her website, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.

Buy the Book: Amazon

Book Blurb:

1676. In a hovel in the centre of Paris, the fortune-teller La Voisin holds a black mass, summoning the devil to help an unnamed client keep the love of Louis XIV.

Three years later, Athanais, Madame de Montespan, the King’s glamourous mistress, is nearly forty.  She has borne Louis seven children, but now seethes with rage as he falls for eighteen-year old Angelique de Fontanges.

At the same time, police chief La Reynie and his young assistant Bezons have uncovered a network of fortune-tellers and prisoners operating in the city.  Athenais does not know it, but she is about to be named as a favoured client of the infamous La Voisin.


So, what do you think about Madame de Montespan?  Have you read any good books about her?  I would love to hear your thoughts!!


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: Fall of Poppies by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Beatriz Williams, Jennifer Robson, Jessica Brockmole, Kate Kerrigan, Evangeline Holland, Lauren Willig, and Marci Jefferson

fall of poppies

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War
by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Beatriz Williams, Jennifer Robson, Jessica Brockmole, Kate Kerrigan, Evangeline Holland, Lauren Willig, and Marci Jefferson
ARC, e-book & paperback, 368 pages
William Morrow Paperback
March 1, 2016

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Genre: Historical Fiction, Short Stories, Anthology

Source: Received from the publisher for review via Edelweiss

November 11, 1918. After four long, dark years of fighting, the Great War ends at last, and the world is forever changed. For soldiers, loved ones, and survivors, the years ahead stretch with new promise, even as their hearts are marked by all those who have been lost.
As families come back together, lovers reunite, and strangers take solace in each other, everyone has a story to tell.

In this moving, unforgettable collection, nine top historical fiction authors share stories of love, strength, and renewal as hope takes root in a fall of poppies.

I have been loving the trend recently for historical fiction authors to come together in between their individual works and put together anthology collections. It’s excellent for the community and the themes that the projects have focused on have been different and compelling. So far, of these collections, I have read: Grand Central (revolving around a single day at Grand Central at the end of WWII), A Day of Fire (the day of the volcano eruption that destroyed Pompeii), and A Year of Ravens (they year of Boudica’s rebellion). This was my 4th foray into these anthologies and this one focused on different experiences in different places at the time of the end of WWI. I’m first going to comment a bit about the book itself and then break down each of the stories a little bit as you can buy the stories that interest you individually as well as part of the collection.

This collection is structured like a standard anthology that revolves around one point in time. The stories do not connect or relate to each other as A Day of Fire or A Year of Ravens do, rather each is a self-contained, stand-alone short story. One of the things that I loved about this collection is the breadth of experiences and locales that are featured. Of the settings we are treated to: Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, England, and America. We see experiences of those who fought in the trenches, those who flew airplanes, those who stayed at home, and those who tended to the injured. I felt that the stories very well represented a little bit for each element of the war. For me, there did not appear to obviously be any strategy to the organization of the book as far as which stories appeared in which order, but with a collection that is set at a specific point in time I don’t know that this would matter much. I was well versed with the works of Marci Jefferson, Heather Webb, and Kate Kerrigan, having read two novels each and was interested in seeing how they would tackle short stories. I had heard of (and even met) several of the other authors in this collection, but had yet to have time to read their solo works – hopefully that will change after having read these stories.

The Daughter of Belgium by Marci Jefferson

This was the story that I loved the setting of the story the most as I have never read any WWI story set in Belgium. So that element was refreshing. The Germans are falling back as the war is drawing to a close and we hear about and see the devastation that is being wrought during this time: loss of property, attacks on people/women, etc. This was a story of the drama beyond the front lines, the revolutionaries and the stirring up of the homefront. The story of Mistress Cavell, a nurse who was executed for revolutionary activity, had to have drawn some interest from the author’s own life experiences as a nurse. This story brought danger and drama at every turn and contained action packed, fast-paced scenes. A great story to kick off the collection as it had a little bit of everything in it and this remained one of my favorite stories throughout the whole collection.

The Record Set Straight by Lauren Willig

This was a sweeping, epic, family drama story about dealing with love, war injuries, and family conflict. You get a lot from this story; it felt like what you should get in a full length novel which made the short length feel more robust. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel rushed at all. I spent much of the first portion of this story trying to put the pieces together of just who everyone was, which I found to be a little confusing. I thought this story was overall very well-written and had a great reveal at the end.

All for the Love of You by Jennifer Robson

This story tackles another element that you do not see reflected very often, that of dealing with war injuries, particularly those that disfigured the face. I loved learning about how these face masks were made and how they were the forefront of technology to deal with disfigurement. It was also a sweet romance story about the connections that can be made over life changing experiences. However, I did struggle to get into this story a little bit. The beginning did not grab my attention right from the start and I would have liked a better hook. I actually put this book down at this point for a couple months because I just couldn’t get into it. I thought the story picked up once we hit the flashbacks and I honestly could have done without the more contemporary of the parts of the story. I’m glad this wasn’t the kick-off story as it might have colored my opinion for the whole collection.

After You’ve Gone by Evangeline Holland

This was the second story in a row that I struggled to connect to. This one takes place in Paris with a woman who has been left behind after the loss of her cohort to various war reasons. She is simply struggling to get through day-to-day until she runs into a group of American tourists who appear interested in helping her out. I had difficulty getting into any of the characters as I didn’t feel like I had enough descriptors to draw a solid mental picture of who they were. I thought the revelation at the end should have been a little more shocking but again I didn’t understand the characters enough to feel the impact.

Something Worth Landing For by Jessica Brockmole

This was one of my favorites among this collection. This is one of two stories within this collection that focused on pilots and both of the experiences were very different. Brockmole’s story was a bit more lighthearted that what we would later see from Beatriz Williams. The relationship that transpires in this novel didn’t feel the slightest bit contrived because relationships happened differently during times of war. I loved that there is an element of the epistolary style of Brockmole’s earlier novels and I enjoyed the revelation of character that can come through in a letter.

Hour of the Bells by Heather Webb

This story was another that I enjoyed, it was evocative of what it might be like to live with the ghosts of loss – those voids that exist when someone isn’t there and what it is like to be a survivor and try to continue on. That is stressful in a normal world and even more so in a world at war. Webb’s writing brings you right into the world that she is writing about. The feelings of retribution that Beatrix feels were believable and full of pain, but I couldn’t quite place myself in her shoes.

An American Airman in Paris by Beatriz Williams

Another one of my favorites in this collection and very different than the other airman story previously seen in Something Worth Landing For. It was darker, grittier, and dirtier in not only subject, tone, language, and writing style. This story was also a bit different in that you are within the head of the main male narrator and told in retrospect. It’s a story of bravery in the face of things that go wrong and what that does to a person. Loved every minute of this and look forward to jumping into one of Williams’ full length novels soon.

The Photograph by Kate Kerrigan

This was the most different and unique story in this collection and wasn’t exactly what I expected – maybe in a good way. This story draws on Kerrigan’s tales of Irish identity and the scope of this story is set during the Irish Revolution which ran concurrently with the Great War. It carried a different tone because WWI is just a idea at the back of the storyline that is occurring elsewhere, while the Revolution is in the forefront. While I thought that it was really unique to include that element because it was occurring at the same time and involved those British soldiers who were not sent to the front which built out the whole world, I waver as to whether it felt appropriate to be included in this collection. I loved the story being told though, both the contemporary framework and the historical story: a forbidden love based on ethnicity, family perceptions, the animosity between Irish and British. My perception of the story is about the same as how I have felt about Kerrigan’s novels, story is well told, but maybe not my cup of tea.

Hush by Hazel Gaynor

As I loved the first story in this collection, just the same I loved the story that concluded it. I loved how this story juxtaposed the lack of air and quiet on the battlefield with the same experience in the birthing room. The manner in which it is written and how it moves seamlessly back and forth between the two settings brings the home front and the battlefield closer. It also addressed the experiences of being a postman during this time (which is not something I would have wanted to do at the time) as well as those who remained at home due to dissenting from the war. An excellent inclusion in the collection.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, September 19, 2016

Winner of Rivals of the Republic

Good evening everyone!  Just a quick drop in tonight to share a winner of the giveaway for Rivals of the Republic. 

While I have you here, please bear with me over the next couple weeks.  We just bought a house and are in progress of packing, moving, unpacking and at the same time I’m trying to prep for my program final for my Masters degree – so it’s just a tiny bit crazy around here.  Trying to keep up some content though.  And my husband bought me a new little laptop for my birthday and I’m enjoying how much easier it is to post than my last computer. 

Ok, but you are all really here to find out if you won Rivals of the Republic, so without further ado, the winner is…

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Anne F!!

Congratulations Anne and thank you to everyone who entered!  An email has been sent to the winner.  Have a great evening all!


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cover Crush: The Echo of Twilight

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.

I think this cover is just beautiful.  No headless woman, which is something we have seen too much of in recent years - and even though she is looking away from us you can still see her face in its contemplative pose.  I love how the background actually seems to mirror the twilight in the title and in more somber gray/brown tones hinting at something bad happening than happier colors.  And I love her dress and hair style!

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what covers my friends are crushing on today?  I will update some links later this evening.

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Book Alert: Discovery of Desire by Susanne Lord - Excerpt & Giveaway

Discovery of Desire by Susanne Lord
Book 2 of The London Explorers Series
Kindle & Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Published: September 6th 2016
ISBN: 9781492623539
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Blurb:
The one man who’s not looking for a wife

Seth Mayhew is the ideal explorer: fearless, profitable, and unmarried. There is nothing and no one he can’t find—until his sister disappears en route to India. His search for her takes him to Bombay, where Seth meets the most unlikely of allies—a vulnerable woman who’s about to marry the wrong man.

Discovers a woman who changes his dreams forever

Teeming with the bounty of marriageable men employed by the East India Company, Bombay holds hope for security for Wilhelmina Adams. But when the man she’s traveled halfway around the world to marry doesn’t suit, Mina finds instead that she’s falling in love with a man who offers passion, adventure, intimacy—anything but security…
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Chapters | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo

About the Author:

Susanne Lord is a writer of Victorian-era romance and author of the London Explorer series published by Sourcebooks. Originally from Okinawa, off-base and on, she now makes her home in Chicago where she is an active member of Chicago North RWA. When not writing, attending theater or reading, she enjoys hiking the English countryside and visiting historic homes and gardens.

Find Susanne Lord: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

The second in Susanne Lord’s critically acclaimed London Explorers series, Discovery of Desire, is out this September. To give you a taste of her latest release, Susanne Lord has selected one of her favorite quotes from the book to share with us.

An Excerpt:

Author’s Note: Seth has disembarked from the steamship, onto the crowded, bustling port of Bombay. The other passengers, including the four dozen lady passengers who had sailed to wed East India Company men, are rushed by the bachelors and huddled together in the chaos…


A woman’s voice. Sweet and low and nearly swallowed in the fray.

Maybe it was because his explorer’s senses were honed to seek the rare, the anomalies in nature, but Seth trailed that voice to a venture girl twenty feet away. She wore a trim white jacket and green skirt with starry, white flowers all over it. Her sun helmet concealed all but a bit of brown hair.

“Ladies, as no one has told us yet what to do, if you are to be met by someone, would you move to this end?” She gestured and the ladies shuffled to do her bidding, obedient as soldiers.

Seth jerked to follow, then paused. He was to meet someone. Should he wait with them?

A small wave of her hand and the ladies leaned forward in attention. He did, too.

“And the others can wait here for Captain Travers,” she said. “He will accompany you to the customs house.” The women sorted themselves, fear in every pair of eyes clinging to their officer.

Seth dragged in a lungful of air that didn’t ease the tightness in his chest. Wasn’t any of his business. And wasn’t a thing he could do to help.

He turned to plunge into the crowd, but then the little officer spoke again.

“We are here, ladies,” she said gently. “And we are fine.”

The words were plain, but it was like she’d hushed the whole world. He didn’t want to, but he looked again. The venture girls stood in two close circles, their small valises and parasols clutched to their chests, and watched the chaos around them with wide eyes.

But they kept their chins up now.

For the first time in months, a real smile curved his lips. People needed someone to depend on. Like those ladies depended on that little officer.

And she was little, at least to him. She wouldn’t stand any taller than his chin and his hands could span her waist. But little or not, she wore that dainty, braided jacket like a captain of the Eleventh Hussars. There wasn’t a wrinkle on her skirts or wayward crease in its folds. And that straight spine was all the sight he had of her—she didn’t fidget and she didn’t turn.

Composed, capable, orderly-like. He’d drive a woman like that to Bedlam.

But he fell a little bit in love with her anyway.

He was bumped from behind. The mustache-man angling for a closer look. “Give the ladies their breathing room, mate,” Seth said. “They might like a bit of time to repair themselves.”

The man swung about. “You traveled with them, didn’t you?”

“I suppose.”

“Did you learn any names? Which are the prime articles?”

“The prime—? Hell, I don’t know.”

The man turned around to survey the girls. “Not that I expect them all to be handsome. They couldn’t find a husband back home, could they? But taking an ugly wife…” He grimaced, then squared his shoulders. “I mean to have one, just the same.”

Seth stared down at the man and muttered, “There you go, mate. Words to set a lady’s heart aflutter.”

Irritated, Seth waded against the stream of bachelors closing in on the ladies. Wasn’t any of his business.

The men holding signs had formed a line and were shuffling toward the ladies to be claimed. They obeyed the little officer, too. His translator might be among them, so he read his way through the crush. MISS EUNICE SIMMS…MISS LOUISE ALPERT—


The man holding the card eyed him suspiciously. So this was his translator. Brown hair, spectacles, younger than he’d expected. But he looked clever. He’d do.

“Tom Grant?” Seth asked.

“I am. You’re Will Repton?”

Seth grinned. “For your purposes, I am.” He shook his hand. “I’m Seth Mayhew. You’ll be working for me instead.”


“This explains it.” Seth handed him Will’s letter. “Will couldn’t leave England on account of his being leg-shackled and expecting a little baby. But Georgie’s my sister after all, and the orphan in Tibet is who she was after, so I’m here and Will’s not. It’s all a bit Hamlet-without-the-prince, but there it is.”

Tom Grant blinked behind his spectacles. “Who are you?”

Maybe he just looked clever.

“Seth May—” He never was skilled at explaining. “Read the letter, mate.”

Tom Grant passed the sign to him, cracked open the letter, and began to frown. That frown wasn’t how Seth wanted to start their partnership, but the man had agreed to the job, and would be earning a hell of a salary for the effort.

But Tom’s expression wasn’t growing any happier as he started page two.

Tom flipped the letter over and started reading from the beginning. Again.

With a sigh, Seth dropped his bag at his feet to wait—and remembered the sign: CLAIMING MISS W. ADAMS. Tom Grant was collecting one of the venture girls then.

W? The man couldn’t write her name in full?

Wasn’t any of his business.

Meaning to be helpful, Seth held the sign high and waited.


“Mina!” Emma clutched her arm. “I see him. I see your Thomas Grant.”

Mina’s stomach rolled. Thomas was here. Of course he was—of course he would be. If only the ground would steady. Her sister’s sudden grab had nearly toppled her. Ninety-nine days on a boat and she couldn’t seem to lock her knees.

Mina reached into her skirt pocket and squeezed the stone in her hand. Through her lace glove, the quartz was as cool as if it still held the weather of England within it…


As part of the tour for Discovery of Desire, we also have a tourwide giveaway for 10 copies of In Search of Scandal, an earlier novel by Susanne Lord. The giveaway will run from August 28, 2016 through September 18, 2016.  Please note, that as I am not the tour coordinator I cannot answer any questions about this giveaway, you should contact the coordinator.  Good luck to everyone!


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Book Alert: The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis

The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis
eBook & Hardcover, 272 pages
Thomas Dunne Books
Published: September 13th 2016
ISBN: 978-1250095800
Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Blurb:
Katerina inherits a scented, wooden spice box after her grandmother Mariam dies. It contains letters and a diary, written in Armenian. As she pieces together her family story, Katerina learns that Mariam's childhood was shattered by the Armenian tragedy of 1915.
Mariam was exiled from her home in Turkey and separated from her beloved brother, Gabriel, her life marred by grief and the loss of her first love. Dissatisfied and restless, Katerina tries to find resolution in her own life as she completes Mariam's story – on a journey that takes her across Cyprus and then half a world away to New York.
Miracles, it seems, can happen – for those trapped by the past, and for Katerina herself.

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

**The Spice Box Letters was long-listed for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize in 2015 based on it's UK release from Sandstone Press**

This might be a great selection for a book club or other reading group - here is the publisher's discussion guide.
Praise for The Spice Box Letters:

"The Spice Box Letters is a beautifully evocative novel that moves from past to present and affirms the enduring love of family and explores the tragic, unsettling wake of the Armenian genocide. Eve Makis has written a novel that should be read, contemplated, and read again."
—Peter Golden, author of Wherever There Is Light

"Heartwarming, funny, tragic, and uplifting...the story has a feel good factor to equal My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
—Narinder Dhami, author of Bend It Like Beckham

"Fans of Victoria Hislop's prose or Khaled Hosseini's storytelling will love The Spice Box Letters, for Eve Makis's latest novel is remarkable. It deserves to be an international bestseller and I have no doubt it will pick up an award or three. Beautifully written with inventive structure, compelling characters, historical horrors, and natural humor, it's a rich feast."
— Notts Lit (UK)

"I would advise buying a packet of tissues before you start reading this extraordinary novel which depicts the human cost of war. The novel is peppered with vividly evoked scenes of the physical, emotional, and mental trauma that many Armenian families went through during the massacre of their people in WWI."
About the Author:

EVE MAKIS studied at Leicester University and worked as a journalist and radio presenter in the UK and Cyprus before becoming a novelist. She is the author ofThe Spice Box Letters. Eve is a part time tutor in creative writing at Nottingham University. She is married with two children and lives in the UK and Cyprus.  You can read more about her in an interview from Writing Magazine from April 2005.

Find Eve Makis: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, September 12, 2016

TV Show Review: Home Fires (Season 1)

Home Fires - Season 1
ITV Studios
45 Minutes Episodes (6)
October 2015 (US)

There are so many shows and movies that are made about World War II that take place on the battlefield in some way or another, but not much centers on the life on the home front, the life at home. Home Fires brings the viewer into the lives of several women living in a rural village in England dealing with the effects of the war on them. While these women didn’t serve on the battlefield they served in a different way – they handled the privations brought to them by rationing and restrictions and also came up with some brilliant ideas of how to give even more to their men on the front.

I loved how the show covered not only the ways the war affected their lives, but also the everyday stuff that occurred at that time – affairs, marriages, jobs, and class issues. It was well balanced in the handling of these two different elements of the show.

There was an extensive cast and quite honestly I couldn’t remember any of their names while watching the show, however each character was a distinct individual and stood out in my mind for what they were going through. I thought there was some excellent acting here and they were all believable in their roles. The costume and setting were beautiful.

I binge watched this show in two sittings – absolutely inhaled it. It left me wanting more at the end of the series – ending in 1940, so there is more story to tell for sure. Glad I listened to all the recommendations from friends to watch the show!

Here is a trailer of this show for your enjoyment.


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 8, 2016

New Book Alert: The Rebel Heir by Elizabeth Michels - Excerpt and Giveaway

The Rebel Heir by Elizabeth Michels
Book 2 of The Spare Heirs Series
Kindle & Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Published: September 6th 2016
ISBN: 9781492621362
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Blurb:
The Spare Heirs Society Cordially Invites You to Meet Ash Claughbane: The Imposter

Lady Evangeline Green is living a lie. To please her family, she masquerades as the perfect debutante…until she meets the wickedly charming Lord Crosby. With him, there are no rules. She’s finally free to do as she desires—but freedom comes with a price, and Lord Crosby is not what he seems…

Ash is not Lord Crosby. He’s a con artist, a noble Spare Heir living off his silver tongue. When the Greens ruined his family, he swore he’d make them pay, and he never doubted his devotion to revenge…until he met Evangeline. Now, caught in a web of lies, torn between duty and desire, what’s a con to do but deceive all of London and steal the one lady who dared match wits with the devil himself?

Buy the Book: Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Chapters | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo

About the Author:

Elizabeth Michels is the award-winning author of the Tricks of the Ton series.  This romance author lives in a lake-side town in North Carolina with her husband and son.  She’s a fan of shoes, coffee, mimosas, laughter, hugs, things that are sparkly, and tater tots. Oh, and she likes her readers a lot too. Dive into her latest series about the members of a secret club in London, The Spare Heirs Society, today!

Find Elizabeth Michels: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Two Truths and a Lie with Elizabeth Michels:

Hi, everyone! Let’s play a game! Since deception is a key ingredient in THE REBEL HEIR, the second book in my Spare Heirs series, I thought it would be fun to play two truths and a lie.  Can you guess which fact isn’t true about me?  Good Luck!

Fact 1.)  The Tragic Snow Angel Incident.

One winter I took a trip with my family to the mountains of North Carolina.  While we were there being cozy in front of the cabin’s stone fireplace on the top of a mountain, there was a snow storm and we woke up to 18 inches of snow.  For a southern girl, that’s pretty exciting.  So I was out the door that morning with a smile on my face.  Spying an area that was untouched by footsteps, I knew I wanted to make a snow angel!

I closed my eyes and fell backward, ready to meet a cold pillow at my back.  Instead, the surface crunched as it swallowed me whole.  Minutes later I was still sprawled on the gravel drive, looking up from a person shaped hole in the snow much like when a cartoon character jumps out a window and only that section of glass breaks.  As it turns out, snow isn’t that soft.  And that’s how I broke my tailbone—in a tragic snow angel incident.

Fact 2.)  The Hair Debacle.

When my husband was in college, I had many different jobs.  He went to Clemson University, (Go Tigers!) which is in the small town of Clemson, South Carolina.  Needless to say jobs in my field of interior design weren’t plentiful.  I tried many different paths during that period of time from measuring people for a weight loss company, to managing a plumbing parts showroom, I tried it all.  But the worst of my jobs, in my opinion, was when I sold hair to bald men. 
I managed a local branch office of a toupee company.  Men would come into the salon and have their hair glued down every few weeks and leave with luxurious heads of hair.  I was in charge of an inventory of hundreds of toupees and the staff who administered the glue.  And the worst part of this?  I was fired for improper filing of hair pieces.  It was quite the hair debacle.

Fact 3.)  The Glitter Fiasco.

I’m a huge fan of sparkly things.  Years ago, I took my fondness for bedazzling to the next level with the help of an author friend when we started adding a bit of sparkle to the lives of our friends at writer conferences.  Some may refer to it as Glitter Bombing hotel room doors at 3 am, but I like to think of it as spreading cheer—lots of glittery cheer.  *grins*

At a conference last year, armed with glittery confetti and a roll of scotch tape, we slipped out the door.  Two doors into spreading cheer around the conference hotel, we paused at a long, narrow table opposite the hotel elevator doors.  We knew that our next friend was still awake and we needed to get in and get out as quickly as possible.  To get ready, we looped pieces of tape around our fingers and stuck them to confetti for the door.  There we were, each with ten pieces of sticky paper on our fingers and bags of glitter on the table in front of us when a member of the housekeeping staff walked around the corner carrying an armful of towels.  We froze.  She pressed a button on the elevator. 
Always a quick thinker, my friend picked up the only thing other than our bags of glitter and confetti on the table—the telephone receiver.

“Front desk.”

She pushed the button to hang up, but kept the phone to her ear, never saying a word.  We had no reason to be standing there at 3 am, shoulder to shoulder, staring at the blank wall opposite the elevators.  And the lady’s elevator simply refused to arrive. 
Had it been 3 minutes?  10?  Would the silence ever end?

Fighting back laughter, I turned to my friend.  “They’re not answering?”

My friend had been poised with the phone to her ear for longer than could be considered normal.  Still, silence.  Finally the elevator arrived, the doors opened, closed again, and we ran.  Anxious to get away from the scene of the crime, we tore into the bag of glitter faster than we’d intended, leaving a HUGE pile of glittery confetti on the floor outside our friend’s door.  And that was when hotel security arrived... 

We were escorted off the property, still in our pajamas and with glittery evidence covering our hands.  And that’s how I was arrested for being too sparkly, as well as banned for life from a major hotel chain.  It was a complete glitter fiasco.

I'm going to go with... The Hair Debacle??!?

An Excerpt from The Rebel Heir:

His heart beat beneath Evangeline’s hand.

“Ash, this is dangerous— whatever is happening here…”

“I know.” He grinned the wicked grin of a swindler about to steal the prize. “Say that you enjoy it as much as I do, Evie. Admit that you like breaking your rules with me.”

“They aren’t my rules,” she said.

“Then why follow them?”

She swallowed and looked up at him. “I make poor decisions on my own.”

“I disagree,” he said, still holding her close. He toyed with the hair that fell over her shoulder.

“I haven’t thrown you from my bedchamber. I’m certain that’s a poor decision.”

“That’s a matter of opinion,” he said with a grin. “What’s your opinion? What do you want, Evie?”

You, her heart screamed, but her mouth refused to form the word. Her gaze dropped back from the depths of his eyes to his lips. He was so close, and yet he only touched her hair and held her hand to his chest. It would be so easy to rise to her toes and show him what she wanted. And yet it wasn’t easy at all.

“You think I haven’t noticed that you’ve been staring at my mouth since I arrived?”

“I have not…” She began to disagree, but it would have been a lie and he knew it.

“Say that you want me to kiss you, Evie.”

“I would never…” she began, but fell silent.

“Tell me you want me. Say the words and I’ll kiss you.”

Evangeline’s lips parted, but she said nothing.

“Say, ‘I want your lips on mine, Ash.’ That’s all you have to do. I could show you so many things, Evie. Do you want me to? Say the words.”

Her breathing came out harsh as her heart pounded in her chest. How was he making her so unsettled simply with words?

“I could bring you so much pleasure, Evie. Do you want me to touch you? To truly touch you? If you asked me, I would fit your breasts into the palms of my hands just like this.” His hand hung in the air over her breast, close enough that she could feel the heat of his skin through her night rail. “Then I would lower my mouth to take your nipple between my teeth, tugging at your polished exterior until the real Evie pulled me closer. I would take your breast into my mouth and with my tongue…” He sighed, dropping his hand away from her. “But you have to tell me you want it.”

“Ash,” she whispered, already missing the heat of him close to her skin.

“There’s a world out there that you could experience. All you have to do is stop hiding and tell me what you want.”

It wasn’t that simple, was it? She opened her mouth, unsure how to speak of her own desires. She never talked that way, not like Ash was able to do. But the truth was, she did want him to kiss her. She wanted everything about this man. That was also the trouble. She couldn’t be trusted to speak— not just now. “I…”

He grinned and brushed a strand of hair from her face, placing a kiss on the top of her head as he did. “You’re almost there. Just a few more words. Perhaps you need more encouragement.”

“No.” She took two steps backward until her heels bumped the wall. “I- I’m quite…”

“Evie, has anyone ever spoken to you this way?” He took slow steps to close the gap between them.

“No,” she breathed.

“Do you like it when I do?” He grinned down at her as if he could hear all the thoughts she was too afraid to voice aloud. “I think you do. Do you want me to continue?”

“Do I have to say that as well?” she asked.

“No. I’ve learned in my line of work that it’s sometimes necessary to give someone a taste of what they want before they’ll pay the price.”

“Is that what you’re doing to me? Is this a taste of what’s to come?” Heaven help her, she hoped it was.

“Only if you want it. That’s my price.” He shifted her hair from her shoulder as he spoke, letting it fall down her back.

“That seems…” Whispers of his touch brushed down the side of her neck as he moved her hair. She worked not to lean into his palm and feel the full force of his hand on her skin. “…reasonable.”

“I thought so as well.” He shifted even closer to her, leaning his arm on the wall above her head and surrounding her without the benefit of his embrace to steady her. “If you tell me you want me to kiss you, I’ll kiss you here.” He spoke the words against the sensitive skin beneath her ear before moving down her neck, not touching her, but close enough that she could feel the warmth of his lips.

She splayed her hands on the wall behind her to keep from tipping sideways. He wasn’t even touching her, and still she struggled to breathe.

“I would kiss my way down your neck to just here where I can see your pulse beating rather fast. Is it beating fast because you want me to kiss you, Evie?” he asked against her skin. “You know my terms. Say the words. This is only the beginning…”


As part of the tour for The Rebel Heir, we also have a tourwide giveaway for 10 copies of The Infamous Heir, the first in the Spare Heir series. The giveaway will run from August 28, 2016 through September 19, 2016.  Please note, that as I am not the tour coordinator I cannot answer any questions about this giveaway, you should contact the coordinator.  Good luck to everyone!


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

And the Winner Is...

Just a quick little giveaway post -

First I want to thank those of you who entered the giveaway for The Valley by Helen Bryan!  I appreciate all the support always.  For those of you who might have missed this giveaway announcement last week, I have a giveaway open through September 11th for a copy of Rivals of the Republic by Annelise Freisenbruch.

Now the announcement of the winner of the giveaway for The Valley by Helen Bryan:


Congratulations!  I hope you enjoy the book.  I have already emailed the winner.  Thank you again to everyone who participated!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

New Book Alert: The Gatekeeper by Kathryn Smith

The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith 
Kindle, Hardcover, & Audiobook, 352 pages
Published: September 6th 2016
ISBN: 9781501114960
Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Book Blurb:
The first biography of arguably the most influential member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, FDR’s de facto chief of staff, who has been misrepresented, mischaracterized, and overlooked throughout history…until now.
Widely considered the first female presidential chief of staff, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand was the right-hand woman to Franklin Delano Roosevelt—both personally and professionally—for more than twenty years. Although her official title as personal secretary was relatively humble, her power and influence were unparalleled. Everyone in the White House knew one truth: If you wanted access to Franklin, you had to get through Missy. She was one of his most trusted advisors, affording her a unique perspective on the president that no one else could claim, and she was deeply admired and respected by Eleanor and the Roosevelt children.
With unprecedented access to Missy’s family and original source materials, journalist Kathryn Smith tells the captivating and forgotten story of the intelligent, loyal, and clever woman who had a front-row seat to history in the making. The Gatekeeper is a thoughtful, revealing unsung-hero story about a woman ahead of her time, the true weight of her responsibility, and the tumultuous era in which she lived—and a long overdue tribute to one of the most important female figures in American history.

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

Want to know more about Missy LeHand before choosing to read the book?  Check out this short video with the author discussing 5 facts about her.

About the Author:

Kathryn Smith is a journalist and writer with a life-long interest in FDR and his circle. She has lived all her life in Georgia and South Carolina, and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Georgia. She worked as a daily newspaper reporter and editor, and has been the book columnist for the Anderson Independent Mail for twenty years. Her specialization in health care reporting led to the establishment and management of a charity for cancer patients in her hometown of Anderson, S.C. She has been involved through Rotary International in the worldwide effort to eradicate polio, called PolioPlus, and she has lectured and spoken on FDR’s leadership in that arena. Smith is the author of an oral history of World War II told by living veterans and civilians called “A Necessary War.”

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, September 5, 2016

Book Review: Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker

Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker
ARC, e-book, 432 pages
Lake Union Publishing
May 10, 2016

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Reviewed for review via Netgalley
It’s 1864 in downtrodden Lowell, Massachusetts. The Civil War has taken its toll on the town—leaving the economy in ruin and its women in dire straits. That is, until Asa Mercer arrives on a peculiar, but providential, errand: he seeks high-minded women who can exert an elevating influence in Seattle, where there are ten men for every woman. Mail-order brides, yes, but of a certain caliber.
Schoolmarmish Josephine, tough-as-nails Dovey, and pious perfectionist Sophronia see their chance to exchange their bleak prospects for new lives. But the very troubles that sent them running from Lowell follow them to the muddy streets of Seattle, and the friendships forged on the cross-country trek are tested at every turn.
Just when the journey seems to lead only to ruin, an encounter with a famous suffragist could be their salvation. But to survive both an untamed new landscape and their pasts, they’ll need all their strength—and one another.
So Mercer Girls…I have a lot to say about this book and it’s a real mixed bag of feelings. This book came extraordinarily close to being a second DNF this year, but with this one after setting it aside for months I came back and finished reading through it. And I think that was absolutely necessary as it divided the book into virtually two books in my brain (which is what I felt needed to be done here anyway).

Let’s start with what I loved about the book…the cover! I don’t know that the cover really gives any relation at all to the story, mayyyybe she could have been a Mercer girl, who knows. But, this cover would have drawn me to it if I saw it sitting on a shelf regardless of what the story was about or what section it was in. While the majority of the image is in gray-scale, the aqua color pops in the areas where it appears and the red used for the title area added complementing colors. Beautiful cover and I’m not ashamed to say that it contributed to my desire to grab up the book in combination with the book description.

I liked the idea and the historical story behind Mercer Girls. I had never heard of Asa Mercer’s two expeditions to the east coast to round of young women looking to move west to Seattle to marry the men who had went west to build the city. This was the portion of the novel that I did enjoy. The tribulations that Mercer faces in trying to gather more than a few women, even from towns and cities that were facing hardships as a result of the Civil War, were striking. You would have thought that more wanted to travel for opportunity, but not quite the case. Mercer wasn’t trusted, people were afraid that these women would end up as prostitutes instead of wives. But our three heroines (Jo, Sophronia, and Dovey) agree to go with Mercer each for their own reasons – pasts that they are trying to escape. The women’s experience getting to the west was harrowing, the trip by sea was dangerous and quite literally gut-wrenching. I appreciated the bonding of these women over their shared experiences and how they helped each other to survive. Upon arriving in Seattle it was an entirely different experience than what the women expected to find – they were not welcomed and the world was a more spare existence than they anticipated. It was about this time that I felt the novel should have wound to an end, but unfortunately this was only about the halfway point, and where I had set down the novel for a while.

The second portion of the novel was about their new life in Seattle, which I didn’t find nearly half as interesting and felt like a separate story from the earliest part. The women sort of went their separate ways and the story became mired down in the fight for women’s suffrage, which felt heavy and a little bit preachy. Ultimately, the story wound up fairly well, but I struggled to get through this second portion. I did not really like any of the women, especially when they had their own storylines. Together, they were a united front and they interacted well with each other, but on their own they were just uninteresting. Sophronia (what kind of name is that?) was exceptionally preachy, uptight, and small-minded. Jo had the most interesting of a backstory (and that’s not saying too much), but as a person she was boring. Dovey she was just too much of everything: a wreck and a daredevil. They each were more of a stereotype than an actual woman. I did not feel like their decisions were well thought out and they were all over the place.

If this story had ended before the women’s suffrage storyline, this probably would have been a 4 star for me as I enjoyed that plotline. However, the second half of the story was a real drag for me and brought it lower in my opinion of the book as a whole.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by Libbie Hawker:

Daughter of Sand and Stone


Find Libbie Hawker: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court