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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Interview with Alison Morton

Good morning everyone!  Today I have the opportunity to introduce you to Alison Morton author of Insurrectio, a recipient of the BRAG Medallion and the most recent novel in the Roma Nova series.  I love the subject matter for this novel and hope you will pick it up!


Heather: Hi Alison! Welcome to The Maiden’s Court.  I’m happy to have you here today to share about your recent novel that received the BRAG Medallion. First, can you tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Alison Morton: Hi Heather. Thank you so much for inviting me!

I think I heard about the BRAG Medallion from somebody on Facebook back in 2013, but since I met Geri Clouston, the president, in 2015 when we were on a panel together I’ve felt even more part of the indieBRAG family!

H: INSURRECTIO is the most recent novel in your Roma Nova series of twenty-first century alternate history thrillers. This is a new concept to me; could you give us a little background behind the series? Why choose this genre over a straight thriller or historical novel?

AM: Alternate history is where the time line we know took a different direction and there’s no going back. In my stories, Roma Nova is the last remnant of the Roman Empire. A group of Roman pagan families trekked north-east out of Italy in 395 AD because they wanted to preserve their values and way of life – they were under threat of death as pagans in a Christian empire. It was a hard struggle over the next fifteen hundred years, but tough people that they were they made it, and prospered. Fighting side by side with their fathers and brothers to defend their tiny homeland – there weren’t enough men – the women of Roma Nova gained equal status. You can read the full story here.
When I wrote the first story, INCEPTIO, I thought I was writing an exciting story in a slightly altered world. I didn’t know it belonged to a genre called alternate history! I was partly inspired by Robert Harris’s Fatherland, which like The Man in the High Castle supposed that Germany (and Japan in the latter case) had won the Second World War.

I’ve been fascinated by Ancient Rome since I was an eleven year old walking on my first mosaic in northern Spain and have now clambered over most of Roman Europe. But I wanted to have a female lead in my stories in an egalitarian society. This wouldn’t be possible in ancient Rome, even in Late Antiquity when women had gained many more rights than in classical times. So I projected the idea of a Roman society into the modern age. Ancient Rome had essentially been a military society and modern Roma Nova reflects this. My own six years in uniform gave me the experience to write my characters in that environment.

And the thrillers? I grew up on crime fiction and mysteries as well historicals and love the adventurous side of spy and conspiracy thrillers. All these strands came together and the result was the Roma Nova series.

H: That’s a fascinating concept – I think my husband has one alternate history novel set during WWII - and I think wars are the more obvious choices for an alternate result, but I love that you take the Roman Empire further!

Is Roma Nova a series where each book builds off of events in the prior or are they loosely connected, but able to stand alone?

AM: All the books are standalones – I can’t bear stories that aren’t properly resolved – but readers would gain even more from reading all of them! The first three books, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, and SUCCESSIO, feature Carina Mitela and episodes in her life at 24, 32 and 39 years old – pivotal moments for her.
AURELIA, INSURRECTIO, and RETALIO (out April 2017) span the late 1960s and early 1980s and tell the story of Carina’s grandmother, Aurelia, as a young woman and her rather hidden role in the Great Rebellion and of her secret lover. Both women have some similar character traits, but are distinct in their personalities and reactions. Linking them is Marina, Aurelia’s frail daughter and Carina’s lost mother…

H: I’m with you there about desiring a story to wrap up! I don’t mind encountering the same characters again, but don’t leave me hanging!!

Without giving away any plot points, what does book 5, INSURRECTIO, offer the reader.

AM: INSURRECTIO is the story of a power grab by a charismatic and amoral demagogue, Caius Tellus, Aurelia’s personal and political enemy. The two have fought each other since childhood; he wants to destroy her. Caius has outside help from a world superpower that has wanted to exert influence over Roma Nova, but which Roma Nova has resisted. I channelled 1930s Germany when I first drafted INSURRECTIO; if readers draw any more modern parallels, then that is for them to do.

Readers can follow the emotions of personal gains and losses as the two tussle, plus ideas of loyalty, strength of character, Aurelia’s heartbreak of the pull of mother love against duty, and of whether to sacrifice her life-long love for her country. And Caius is a pretty nasty villain. But there are no dripping body parts!

H: Oooh that sounds ominous!

What drew you to writing in an alternate world, but still connected to the ancient Roman culture?

AM: Alternate history can give you enormous freedom – you can step outside the real historical timeline and explore ‘what if’. You can order that world to your own ideas. As a bit of a control freak, that’s perfect for me. But, and it’s a big but, you have to keep your new world both plausible and consistent or you’ll lose readers.

Why the Roman connection? Well, I’ve mentioned my lifelong fascination with Rome. The physical remains are enticing enough, but the best of the ideas that sustained that civilisation for more than 1200 years are even more alluring: rule of law, high artistic endeavour, their engineering genius, their complex trading networks, their robust response to threats, the idea of service to the state being paramount and the clarity of purpose. Take those and mix them in with a more enlightened social support environment in an egalitarian society and you have Roma Nova.

H: I think that keeping the alternate world believable would be highly necessary, but could also be highly challenging as you have to balance the realistic with the creative.

Each of the novels in this series have been awarded the BRAG Medallion, that is quite impressive and illustrates the high quality of your work! What drew you towards independent publishing as opposed to seeking out a traditional publisher? Has there been anything that was more or less challenging that you expected?

AM: At the beginning of my writing career, I looked for a traditional deal and was rather put off by the rejections. However, a lot of them, even from the start, were very encouraging; “great concept, attractive characters, intelligent writing, good research,” so I knew I had stories with legs. The problem was they didn’t fit an easily marketable genre; although thrillers, they contain historical, alternate and romantic elements. So I decided to publish independently. Fortunately, I was in the middle of the strong tide of the indie revolution.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of self-published dross; indeed, indieBRAG has a high reject rate itself of 90%. But there are absolute gems by indie authors some of which have sold very well and gathered acclaim. One of the hardest things has been to convince others in the publishing world that indie publishing can be good, even outstanding, and that at its best it’s a very valid route to publishing.

The twin challenges for indies are visibility and discoverability. Our work is generally not in bookshops and not reviewed in the national press or by the traditional reviewing networks.

H: So true! I am glad to have organizations like IndieBRAG that help readers to find high quality independent novels to spend our money on! At least the rejections showed that you had something worth pursing even in a publishing house wasn’t willing to step outside their closely held comfort zone.

Have you had any struggles in the writing/publishing process?  How have you worked through these?  Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

AM: “Struggles” is perhaps too dramatic a word. Rejection isn’t pleasant, but it taught me to sharpen up my writing. Prejudice can be met with smiles, knowledge and confidence. But the main struggle is that for any writer – sitting down and writing the darned book! Novel writing is fun, but it’s also a slog. Checking, editing, honing and refining, rewrites and revisions, edits and checking again are the less glamorous aspects.

My advice? Stick with it because nothing beats seeing your name on your book except people saying nice things about it. One thing I would emphasise: quality. The book marketplace is extremely competitive. Your prose must sparkle, be lean and mean, your characters rounded, your plot perfect and enticing. A beautifully designed cover, well formatted and edited interior are essential.

H: I would agree with those recommendations – as you stated and I have experienced, there are a lot of independently published options out there and you want your novel to rise above the chaff.

Are there more books planned for this series? What can we expect?

AM: Yes! RETALIO the third in the AURELIA trilogy is out in April. This is the endgame between Aurelia and Caius. Expect many twists, turns and shenanigans, some romance, rivalry, friendships, betrayal and fierce determination – an escape from the everyday!

H: Are you a full time author or do you have to find time to write around a typical 9-5 job?  How do you find time to write?

AM: I am a full-time author/marketer. Being a writer is now a business and sometimes writing time has to take a backseat. But not for long as stories keep bursting into my head and beg to be released…

H: Thank you Alison for those wonderful responses! I am so thrilled to be able to host you and your novels here today!

Alison MortonNov16_sm

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison Morton continues to be fascinated by that complex, power and value driven civilisation. Armed with an MA in history, six years’ military service and the love of a good thriller, she explores via her Roma Nova adventure thrillers the ‘what if’ idea of a modern Roman society run by strong women.

Represented by Blake Friedman Literary Agency for overseas and ancillary rights.

Alison now lives in France with her husband, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine.

Find Alison Morton: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


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Book Blurb:

‘The second fall of Rome?’
Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and imperial councillor in Roma Nova, scoffs at her intelligence chief when he throws a red file on her desk.

But early 1980s Roma Nova, the last province of the Roman Empire that has survived into the twentieth century, has problems – a ruler frightened of governing, a centuries-old bureaucracy creaking for reform and, worst of all, a rising nationalist movement with a charismatic leader who wants to destroy Aurelia.

Horrified when her daughter is brutally attacked in a demonstration turned riot, Aurelia tries to rally resistance to the growing fear and instability. But it may already be too late to save Roma Nova from meltdown and herself from entrapment and destruction by her lifelong enemy.…

You can watch a trailer for Insurrectio here!

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

A Message from IndieBRAG

We are delighted that Heather has chosen to interview Alison Morton. who is the author of, Insurrectio, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Insurrectio, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

brag interview team


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cover Crush: In the Shadow of Denali

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.

shadow of denali

I will admit that I have Alaska on the brain since I will be going there this coming summer and we will be going to Denali National Park.  I like that this cover is sort of three images: the wilderness of the Park, the girl (who I assume is the heroine), and a bustling frontier town at the bottom.  I like that the town is in sepia tone and the nature is is bright color – it contrasts the natural with the industrial – I wonder if that plays into the feelings of the main character, like feeling free out in nature.  It also doesn’t scream historical romance to me, which is refreshing.. 

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what my friends are crushing on this week? Let’s check it out: A Bookaholic Swede, 2 Kids and Tired Books, Layered Pages, A Literary Vacation.  

keep calm and support book bloggers_thumb[1]_thumb_thumb


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Interview with Murray L. Eiland Jr

Good morning everyone!  Today I have the opportunity to introduce you to Murray L. Eiland Jr, author of The Sword of Telemon, a recipient of the BRAG Medallion.  I love the subject matter for this novel and hope you will pick it up!

sword of telemon

Heather: Hi Murray! Welcome to The Maiden’s Court. I’m happy to have the opportunity to introduce you and your novel to my readers today. First, can you tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Murray Eiland: I think the indieBRAG site is great because it lists and reviews independently published books that I like to read. Many sites only cover straight up fiction/novels. IndieBRAG also deals with historical fiction. I read several books recommended by the site and I enjoyed every book. It was a natural that I would want to have an indieBRAG review to see how I compare with authors I like. One of the strengths of self-publishing is the ability to re-write things that readers do not like. With real reviews indie writers have a good idea what to re-write.

H: I think that is great, being able to really feed off your readers! Your novel, The Sword of Telemon, is set during the Bronze Age and at the time of the Minoans and Mycenaeans. I am familiar with this period as I just completed my Masters in the Ancients and Classics, but for those who are less familiar, could you give us a brief introduction to the period you discuss in your novel?

ME: First of all, congratulations on your degree! I would have loved to study for a degree in ancient history, but I picked the more conventional choice of medicine as a career. I can think of nothing more interesting to do with my time than study ancient cultures. I took Latin in High School and some ancient history in college, and it stayed with me for decades. I really love the Iliad and Odyssey, which are set in the Bronze Age in the ancient Mediterranean. For many people ancient Greece is all about the Classical period. By the 5th century BC the Greeks were becoming rational. I think just about everyone can relate to the age of Socrates (470 – 399 BC), Plato and Aristotle. If you go back in time, I think the Classical Greeks would have thought that their ancestors lived liked barbarians.

Bronze making technology spread from the Near East and arrived in Greece in about 3000 BC. The Iliad and Odyssey were first written in the 12th century BC and adapted from stories told by bards. The ideal Greek of that age was not a thinker, but a warrior. They were not rational. They were bound by a very different set of values than the Classical Greeks. However, I wanted to show that even at this early time they were striving towards something better, towards civilization.

H: Thank you, it took a lot of pushing to get it done, but it’s something I’m proud of! To build on this discussion, Bronze Age Mycenaean culture is not something that I have seen frequently written about and I would love to know what led you to choose this as the setting for your novel?

ME: I appreciate Classical civilization. The ideals of democracy, science, and rational thought were all there. But what came before that? I have always been interested in heroes, in warriors, and in what motivated them. Many people say that it all just boils down to power, but does it? Orpheus was regarded as a hero to Classical Greeks. He sang and wrote poetry. According to some ancient sources, it is Orpheus and not Asclepius who should be credited as giving medicine to humankind. He was also conventionally heroic. He was fearless. He returned from the underworld. I wanted to write historical fiction in the Bronze Age, and I wanted to flesh out a hero who did not just have strength, but was truly wise. If a whole mythic cycle was written about a hero like the Orpheus we know now, what would it be like?

I had read the Greek myths from various psychological perspectives. Greek myths were required reading for a psychiatrist in the 1950s. Sigmund Freud wrote on the psychoanalysis of myths. While the method is interesting I did not believe sex was the root of everything. Carl G. Jung’s works on myths was very thought provoking. I agreed that myths should been seen through the lens of an individual. Maybe even an individual can be seen through the lens of mythology that the society constructed.

I think that the Greek myths are trying to express something that the culture wanted to instill in future generations (Joseph Campbell has a lot to say about this). My son is an archaeologist, and he gave me a copy of the book the Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology by Martin Nilsson. This really captured my imagination, and I wanted to write something about characters that would have spawned myths. After reading that book I really started seriously re-writing the first few Orfeo books, which had been sitting around for years. I originally wrote them as “sword and sorcery” books. They took a very different direction than I originally thought.

H: I think writing about the hero that isn’t necessarily all brawn is someone that more people could relate too and we need more of that! You have several main characters in your novel, Telemon, Clarice, Orfeo, and Zurga to name but a few. Did you find it more challenging to write any of your characters, and if so, why?

ME: By far the most difficult to write passages for me are those of female characters. I wanted to make characters who reflected ancient values. Women of the Bronze Age were not cloistered in a home. They were active members of recently settled nomadic peoples. We know from history that the Classical Greek legend of the Amazons has a historical basis. A fraction of the graves of Sarmatian women (living north of the Sea of Azov) contained weapons. Some people who have read the series suggest that I was trying to get a feminist angle in the book. In fact I am trying to be historically accurate.

It is easy to see how the Greeks and Romans saw barbarian society. It was alien. It caused them to question their values. Some Classical sources suggest that the Amazons removed their right breast so that they could shoot a bow. This can be seen as a kind of warning to women during the Classical period. Of course women can shoot a bow without surgery, as many modern female Olympic champions show. The Romans had to deal with the resurgence of Britain under Queen Boudica (who died in about AD 60). To the Classical world this was a disruption of social order. Could a woman have that kind of power in Roman society?

For barbarians this was accepted. I think the earliest Greek myths are also telling us that early Greeks were used to powerful women too. Think of Athena, goddess of wisdom, craft and war. This is the kinds of character I wanted to think about when writing the dialog for Clarice in the Orfeo Saga. I tried to capture the essence of female characters who never thought “I am doing what a man does” but rather “I am doing what all my women relatives did, and what my society expects me to do.” Characters like that would take risks just to survive.

H: It is difficult to not put our modern perceptions on historical peoples, but I’m thrilled to hear that you wanted to be true to the history. Did you do a lot of research before writing this book? What type of research?  Were you able to visit any places that feature in your novel?

ME: When I was younger I visited many countries in the Near East and Central Asia to study carpets and textiles. I also travelled to Greece and Turkey, where there are lots of ancient things to admire. I thought about how people lived thousands of years ago. I still like to think about questions like what motivated those people, what they dreamed about, and what kind of future they wanted. When writing the Orfeo Saga I read about the history of various regions. I really like to study maps. I can spend hours and hours looking at the geography of places. So much of ancient history was dictated by geography.

H: My hats off to you! I struggle with geography! This is the first book in what looks to be a planned extensive series. What can you tell us about the direction this series will take?

ME: I have a list of books that I have published and which I am planning to publish (http://murrayeiland.godaddysites.com/future-books.html). The series features Orfeo as the titular character, but there are books where other characters take the lead. It is not really surprising given my interest in eastern art that several books move to Afghanistan (including Orfeo 6 to be published). I have very fond memories of Afghanistan before the revolution. At the time it seemed stable. Many people assumed that it would reach a high standard of living in a very short period of time. Looking at television broadcasts today you could not believe it, but the people were extremely friendly and open. I suppose that Afghanistan is gone for now, but it can live on in fiction.

H: For those who have not read your work, how would you describe your writing style?

ME: This is one of the most difficult questions for an author to answer honestly. Luckily it seems that reviewers can judge me better than I can. A consensus of reviews state my characters seem to be led by events. This is a very interesting observation, but one that I agree with. Some books go into great detail regarding what characters are thinking and feeling. I concentrate more on what they are doing, and I usually let the reader piece together what they think and feel. I am fairly sure that this is from my training as a psychiatrist. I want every reader to make a judgement for themselves what happened. I like to think that I describe things well enough so this is possible.

One thing that interested me is that several people commented that because of the lack of “adult themes” the series is a perfect fit into the young adult category. I am delighted if young adults read the books. However, my intent was to write a saga. In the series of books I envisaged there is no gore and mindless violence. There is no overt sex, and men do not come together and get drunk and rowdy. This is not because I am some sort of prude. I have worked in the mental health field for decades and at this point I doubt if I can be shocked by any kind of behavior. The reason I do not include “adult themes” is that neither the Iliad nor Odyssey did so. I did not want to depart too far from that style.

I hope that I have a light writing style so that people can read and enjoy what I write. I inject more or less humor into each novel. The first Orfeo book does not have much humor, but the other books in the saga can. Out of the Orfeo Saga perhaps the novel with the most humor is Orfeo 7, The Raid on Troy (to be published). This book takes a familiar story and tells it from a different perspective. Out of all the books in the series this was the most fun to write. I hope other people enjoy my sense of humor!

HC: I really think it is awesome that you wanted your novel to feel like something that would have come out of the style of your inspiration. What drew you towards independent publishing as opposed to seeking out a traditional publisher?  Has there been anything that was more or less challenging that you expected?

ME: I did try to seek out a traditional publisher. In fact I tried many times, over many years. I have no idea how someone with novels a bit out of mainstream can find someone to take a risk on a new author.  Looking back I wasted time looking for a traditional publisher. I spent hours sending out letters. I felled so many trees printing manuscripts that were never read I now literally feel guilty. Most of all I would have liked to use that time to write. Self-publishing allowed me to share my voice with others, and I am grateful.

The thing I did not remotely imagine is how difficult it is to promote self-published novels. A very small percentage of readers leave Amazon reviews. Finding the right places to advertise books takes countless hours. Compared with writing a novel, writing a book blurb and finding the correct keywords to use is a herculean task. I learn something new every day, literally. My biggest regret is that I did not self-publish sooner. I tell everyone who thinks they want to write a novel to do it now. Get it out there and try to get other people to read it. It will be work, but all good things in life take work.

H: I think those are some great tips! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and share more with us about your novel! This sounds just like the kind of book my husband would enjoy reading about.

murray eiland

When Murray Eiland was younger he was a psychiatrist as well as a rug collector and dealer. He traveled to the East to learn more about carpets and the people who made them. He was exposed to cultures that preserved much from their past.

Eiland developed an interest in how and why states form. He wanted to write books that explored the characters of people who created civilizations. He wanted to come to grips with what makes leaders tick. Eiland supposes this comes back to his training as a psychiatrist.
The Orfeo series is designed for audiences young adult and up. Unlike some modern books set in the "heroic age" they have little sex and violence. He hopes they convey the spirit of the Bronze Age and not our age. He covers a variety of cultures in the books. The main interest is ancient Greece, but also goes east to Mesopotamia and even the New World.

Find Murray Eiland: Website | Facebook

sword of telemon

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Book Blurb:

The Homeric "long-haired Achaeans" were part of the Mycenaean culture of Greece (1600 BC - 1100 BC). They were a Bronze Age people who were quite removed in time and culture from the Classical period (5th - 4th centuries BC). In this novel a young Achaean prince is captured in a raid. His younger brother Orfeo, and a group of warriors, are sent on a mission to look for him. Telemon, a legendary warrior, and Zurga, an elderly member of a group called the Wanderers, are soon joined by Clarice, a girl who is a master of disguise. To their dismay they find that the kidnapped prince has been made a galley slave and that the maritime power of Thera plans to conquer the entire Mediterranean. Can they avert disaster?

The story starts just before the eruption of Thera in about 1600 BC. This cataclysm destroyed the lavish Minoan culture of Crete. It also allowed the Mycenaeans to expand throughout the eastern Mediterranean. The Mycenaean culture - while originally warlike and rather rustic - developed vibrant cites, such as Pylos. This era was the setting for Homer's epic poems about the Trojan War (perhaps 12th or 11th century BC).

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

A Message from IndieBRAG:

We are delighted that Heather has chosen to interview Murray Eiland Jr. who is the author of, The Sword of Telemon, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Sword of Telemon, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

brag interview team


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: The Worthington Wife by Sharon Page

the worthington wife

The Worthington Wife by Sharon Page
Book 2 in the Roaring Twenties Series
ARC, e-book, 442 pages
HQN Books
December 27, 2016

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Heat Rating:
2 flames (1)

Genre: Historical Romance

Source: Received from Publisher for Review

Lady Julia Hazelton is the most dazzling among 1920s England's bright, young things. But rather than choosing the thrill of wanton adventure like so many of her contemporaries, Julia shocks society with her bold business aspirations. Determined to usher the cursed Worthington estate into a prosperous, modern new era, and thus preserve her beloved late fiancé's legacy, the willful Julia tackles her wildest, most unexpected adventure in Cal Carstairs, the reluctant new Earl of Worthington.

The unconventional American artist threatens everything Julia seeks to protect while stirring desires she thought had died in the war. For reasons of his own, Cal has designed the ultimate revenge. Rather than see the estate prosper, he intends to destroy it. But their impulsive marriage—one that secures Julia's plans as well as Cal's secrets—proves that passion is ambition's greatest rival. Unless Cal ends his quest to satisfy his darkest vendetta, he stands to ruin his Worthington wife and all her glittering dreams.

The Worthington Wife was a lot of things; it is part romance novel, part mystery, and part straight historical, and it did most of that successfully.

The novel evokes the time following WWI and how the life on the great estates in England were struggling against the modernization of the coming world. We see a little bit of the Roaring Twenties with regards to unsavory characters and some of the jazz/dance clubs, but it doesn’t take front stage here. The novel explores some of the effects of the war on those who were on the field, both men and women, and how their experiences effected them at home and how their service was perceived upon returning home. I felt that there was more historical depth here than in many romance novels and I appreciated that.

The romance was more subtle through about two-thirds of the novel and then ratchets it up into the world of a more traditional historical romance after that complete with somewhat detailed bedroom scenes. I felt the scenes were tasteful and well built into the narrative and made a lot of sense to the characters as they had been established thus far. I believed the romance here.

The mystery part I can’t get much into without giving a lot away, but suffice to say it comes and goes throughout the novel and you don’t realize early on that it is really anything important, but it becomes more so as time goes on. I didn’t figure it out right away, but my suspicions started to raise themselves about three-quarters through and I was ultimately right. It played a lot into the motivations of the characters and drove some of their decisions throughout.

The author did a great job creating these characters. I loved Julia and Cal, they were each interesting on their own, but brought out the best and worst in each other when together. They could both be infuriating, but coming from a good place, even if they expected different outcomes. Most of the peripheral characters were well fleshed out, I think the exception would have to be Cal’s female cousins (beyond Diana). They all live with him, but I can’t remember the other two girl’s names or know anything about them.

There was one thing that bothered me throughout my experience reading this book, and that was the interaction between my expectations based on the book blurb and the reality of the book. I don’t particularly think that this blurb was as effective as it should have been. Typically, I expect that what is revealed in the blurb is not a main plot point and that the events discussed will occur relatively early in the novel – this is meant to pull you in to the plot, not give it away. Based on this idea, I expected this “impulsive marriage” to occur relatively early and then we would watch as events played out based on their not well thought out marriage. I kept waiting and waiting for the marriage and even checked back to make sure I had not made up the fact that there would even be a marriage! It doesn’t happen until a couple chapters before the end, which frustrated me as it felt like I was sold something a little different than I was told. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the story and was compelled to pick it up to read at times that I probably should have been doing other things, but I just felt I was kept waiting too long.

When I started reading The Worthington Wife I didn’t know that it was the second book in a series, however right away I knew I was missing something. It wasn’t that I felt I didn’t have enough information to understand what was going on, but it was instead the opposite. I feel like the author almost tried to give too much information, but in a way that was too obvious and lacking in fluidity. In that first chapter I didn’t feel that I needed to know all about the American Duchess, the sister-in-law to the heroine of The Worthington Wife. It could have been more appropriately placed in a later chapter when Zoe was actually important to the story. Having not read the first book (although I do have it), I’m not sure what we came to know of Julia in that book, but I felt like I was able to get to know her just fine in The Worthington Wife, as well as the other characters. That first chapter just felt very clunky to me.

I will definitely be going back to read the first book as well as any subsequent ones, this could have just used a little clean up.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers: 

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

Also by Sharon Page:

Sharon Page has also written erotic historical romance novels and paranormal novels of which you can find the complete list here.

the heaven that is home
The Heaven that is Home (Prequel)

the american duchess
An American Duchess
(Book 1)

Find Sharon Page: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Tour Wide Giveaway

There is a tour-wide giveaway for a $25 gift card that is hosted by the TLC Book Tours company.  Any questions should be directed to the tour coordinator.  Entries can be made thru the Rafflecopter below, good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Follow the Tour!

TLC Book Tours Website

Monday, January 23rd: The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 24th: Deborah Blanchard

Wednesday, January 25th: Let Them Read Books

Thursday, January 26th: Buried Under Romance – excerpt

Friday, January 27th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, January 3oth: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, January 31st: Books that Hook

Wednesday, February 1st: Laura’s Reviews

Thursday, February 2nd: Luxury Reading

Friday, February 3rd: A Holland Reads

Monday, February 6th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 8th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, February 9th: What I’m Reading

Friday, February 10th: Cindy Burnett

Monday, February 13th: A Night’s Dream of Books

Wednesday, February 15th: The Sassy Bookster – excerpt

Wednesday, February 15th: Books a la Mode -excerpt

Thursday, February 16th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, February 17th: View from the Birdhouse



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 20, 2017

Top 5: Literary Themed ETSY Shops


I realized that I only make lists at the end of the calendar year when I’m looking back at what I have accomplished, but there are so many other times when a list of awesome things would be appropriate.  I know I’m always finding cool bookish things that I want to share with you all, so I’m starting this Top 5 series to highlight some of those items.

I shop from ETSY a lot (I bought many of my wedding gifts/accessories there, anniversary gifts, birthday gifts/cards) and have always had very good luck with the sellers on there and have found excellent quality products.  If you have never shopped ETSY it is a site that brings together mostly smaller “stores” selling handmade or vintage items.  This month I thought it would be cool to highlight 5 literary themed ETSY shops that have some great gifts for every book lover and carry goods that span from jewelry, to art prints, to even fabric and clothing!  I haven’t yet purchased anything from these specific shops, so I don’t have personal experience with them, so I’m rating them based on what I think of the goods they carry.  Links for each shop are provided below the description if you are interested in checking them out!

5. CSLiterary Jewelry

csliterary jewelry
Photo Credit: CSLiterary Jewelry ETSY Shop

This shop has some really cute charm bracelets.  The one above is from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare.  They also feature rings, necklaces, brooches, and more.  Everything seems to be a reasonable price too.

Visit CSLiterary Jewelry ETSY Shop

4. Rooby Lane

rooby lane 
Photo Credit: Rooby Lane ETSY Shop

This is the shop for you literary fabric needs!  Everything in this shop is SUPER cute.  The above is one of many awesome skirts featuring literary characters or book classics.  She also carries scarves, dresses, and accessories.  Gorgeous work! 

· Visit Rooby Lane ETSY Shop

3. Obvious State

obvious state
Photo Credit: Obvious State ETSY Shop

Obvious State is a print shop – they carry wall art, mugs, tote bags, note cards, etc., all with a literary theme!

Visit Obvious State ETSY Shop

2. Literary Emporium

literary emporius
Photo Credit: Literary Emporium ETSY Shop

LiteraryEmporium has a little bit of everything: pins, pencils, note cards, some jewelry.  I have always loved these book lover/writing quote pencils and I keep waiting to get some for Christmas/birthday etc… *hint hint husband*

Visit Literary Emporium ETSY Shop

1. A Likely Story

a likely story
Photo Credit: A Likely Story ETSY Shop

I’ve had my eye on this shop for awhile.  They are basically jewelry (bracelets, earrings, necklaces), but they also have a few other things like bookmarks.  I love the idea of the bracelets like the above and there is a variety of wordings that they feature.  This would be a perfect gift!

Visit A Likely Story ETSY Shop


Do you shop from ETSY?  Do you have a favorite literary shop or item that you have purchased or had your eye on?  Please share with us as I’m sure we would love to see more!



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cover Crush: Becoming Bonnie

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.

becoming bonnie

This being a novel about the Bonnie – as in Bonnie and Clyde – you might except to see some sort of depiction of the infamous car or with a man, gun, or other criminal element in the image.  But Becoming Bonnie looks at the girl before she became that famous criminal.  It’s the Jazz Age and you certainly get that message from the cover.  I also like the lettering style and how the title is written. The colors go well together.

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what my friends are crushing on this week? Let’s check it out: A Literary Vacation, A Bookaholic Swede, Flashlight Commentary, Layered Pages, 2 Kids and Tired Books

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: The Beauty Shop by Suzy Henderson

the beauty shop

The Beauty Shop by Suzy Henderson
e-Book, 313 pages
Avis Press
November 28, 2016
★★★★ ½☆

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 Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Personal purchase

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.

The first place that you start with any book is the experience a reader has with the cover of the book, and the cover of this one is gorgeous…but deceiving. As is the title. And I think these items are extremely important to discuss upfront as it might change your mind about deciding to read the book. The book cover and the title appears to allude to this being a typical women’s fiction novel, possibly set in a gossipy beauty shop. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! The Beauty Shop is a war novel that focuses of three main points-of-view: Mac, an American Air Force pilot; Stella, a member of the WAAF; and Dr. McIndoe, a renowned plastic surgeon. And the titular Beauty Shop isn’t a place ladies go to get their hair done, it is actually a surgical ward where those who have endured the worst of burn and crush injuries in the war effort go to be put back together. A VERY different concept given the context!

This novel has a little bit of everything. It is part a romance novel, as Stella is pulled between two men and faces the trials and tribulations of love during wartime. I loved getting to see the relationship with Stella and Mac grow, but could also understand her continued relationship with Alex. It was complex and fulfilling. It is also part war novel set on the home front. Stella and her friend work in the WAAF and we get a glimpse of their lives. We also see how men would let off steam and how they lived on the base in between missions. We experience what it was like for men who were terribly injured and disfigured during crash landings and the hope that Dr. McIndoe was able to bring to them with the ministrations he provided in his “beauty shop”. It is also a novel of the battlefield – in the air! There are some mean dogfights and bombing missions that are featured here and these were some of the scenes that I couldn’t wait for. They were full of tension, and fear, and drama. I was thrilled with how the author was able to juggle these three elements and create a cohesive story that feels like a full wartime experience.

I didn’t want to put this book down! I awaited the bombing mission scenes because they were full of tension, but I was always unsure of if they would be coming back home. This was extremely appropriate because I’m sure that is how many of those men felt while actually on those missions. The scenes set in the hospital ward were also fascinating because of all the innovative medicine that Dr. McIndoe was practicing (we get an in-depth look at how a nose was re-crafted and the many hardships that could come along with it). While it isn’t grossly detailed, it is enough for you to get the picture. I felt for the men who were experiencing these hardships and thought the things that Dr. McIndoe was doing at that time with regard to the social experience of those who were disfigured was fascinating and ahead of its time. If any of the characters grated at me it would have to be Stella. While I enjoyed her for the most part, some of her decision-making process made me frustrated, even if I can understand her reasons.

Overall, this was a stellar read and I am so glad that I was encouraged to read it by a friend. My main goal here is to make sure this book doesn’t get overlooked because of a title that while technically perfect, upon initial glance provides a very different expected experience than that which it truly offers.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon

Find Suzy Henderson: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Interview with J.B. Rivard

Hi Everyone!! I want to take the opportunity to welcome J.B. Rivard, author of Illusions of Magic, to The Maiden’s Court today.  I was intrigued by this book from the first time I saw the blurb, I mean, magic, an attempted assassination on a president, and a murder that turned a major city upside down! 

02_Illusions of Magic

Heather: Welcome to The Maiden’s Court! I’m glad you could drop by. Your novel, Illusions of Magic, introduces the reader to a character who was a vaudeville performer, which is not a common profession in novels.  Why choose this for your character’s identity?

J.B. Rivard: In my early teens, I was fascinated by conjuring. I read everything I could find about the great magicians, including Houdini and the Blackstones, as well as manuals describing card tricks, sleight-of-hand, and stage illusions. I purchased some magic paraphernalia, practiced endlessly, and actually performed a few times before local audiences.

In 2010, I abandoned the initial version of my Chicago novel, titled variously The Heedless Spring, or Chicago Story. Revisiting the manuscript in 2014, I realized a change of focus and a revised protagonist were required if the novel were to be improved and rewritten. Casting Nick Zetner as “The Amazing Mr. Z” appealed. It seemed both appropriate and interesting, plus it allowed me to use my earlier-acquired knowledge of magic and magicians in reworking the book.

H: I’m always fascinated by stories about the Presidents and I had never heard about an assassination attempt on Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Was this something you came across early on and knew you would build a novel around or was it an element that developed later on?

JBR: Sometime around the turn of the 21st century, I happened upon a description of the attempted assassination of Franklin D. Roosevelt by Giuseppe Zangara in early 1933. (Roosevelt had been elected president in November of 1932, but was not inaugurated until March 4, 1933.) This little-known attempt is seldom reported in histories of the 1930s, perhaps because Zangara missed his target with all five of his shots at Roosevelt.

One of the bullets, however, struck Chicago’s mayor, Anton Cermak. I realized that in Cermak’s life and death 19 days later lay a terrific real-life struggle that could provide a dramatic backdrop for a Chicago novel. I didn’t actually begin to write the novel, however, until 2006. It was then that I discovered another amazing and equally dramatic fact: that Chicago’s City Council faced a crisis caused by a lack of legal means for replacing the city’s mayor in the event of his death.

H: I can certainly see how that could cause a significant crisis and a drama for a novel! You include hand-drawn illustrations in your novel – why make the decision to include these in Illusions of Magic?

JBR: We would be surprised, I think, by an edition of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland that didn’t include the fabulous illustrations of John Tenniel. The 1940 Limited Edition Club edition of The Grapes of Wrath—a text noted for Steinbeck’s descriptive excellence—proves that its illustrations, lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton, enlarge and enhance our comprehension of the Joad family saga.

Rather than competing with literary expression, well-conceived artwork alongside texts complements authors’ written effects. In addition, illustration, as historical evidence shows, can make novels more attractive and inviting to an audience well-versed in visual images.

As you may know, my earlier career as an artist resulted in many exhibitions and numerous awards. So it was only natural, when Anya suggested illustrating Illusions of Magic, that I agreed to draw them, even though it was my first experience in book illustration.

H: I think that is a cool element and for it to include your personal talents! Have you had any struggles in the writing/publishing process?  How have you worked through these?  Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

JBR: My experience includes stints as a newspaper reporter and stringer for a national magazine. Also, as a staff member at a U.S. National Laboratory, I wrote or co-wrote many technical reports, papers, and monographs—some still listed on Google Scholar.

Since beginning writing novels in 1990, I estimate I’ve generated more than a million words of fiction. Although the published output is modest, and every new venture presents challenges, there are fewer struggles as long as I remember to write, revise and re-write. And then to repeat.

Struggles with publishing issues, however, are a continuing, and different matter.

Following the completion of the draft of the current novel, we sought to interest traditional publishers. In the current era of decline for agents and traditional publishers, they are forced at every turn to seek potential bestsellers. By and large, this means manuscripts that are ready-made to meet reader expectations. Because Illusions of Magic did not meet that requirement, the attempt came to naught.

Upon considering self-publishing, the plethora of options seemed endless. Each merited consideration, but much research was needed to achieve an adequate understanding. Thus we found the learning curve to be very, very steep.

By early 2016, however, we had decided that an inexpensive eBook was the mode best suited for this book. Then came issues of providing a fast-loading, professional-appearing website, producing an ARC to draw pre-publication reviews, producing a Collectors Print Edition for promotional efforts, writing description, author page and introduction, selecting categories, keywords, etc., pricing and uploading to KDP, planning and executing a marketing campaign, and on and on.

Although we didn’t initially recognize it, being one’s own publisher is more than a full-time endeavor. Aspiring authors should carefully consider this before deciding to go it alone.

H: I have heard many people who have had a similar experience. Navigating this self-publishing world comes with so many hidden elements you never would imagine! When you are not reading for research, what type of books or what authors do you enjoy reading?

JBR: When not writing or tending to publishing matters, I read extensively. However, I read so widely, it’s difficult to characterize. Recently, for example, I read William Randolph Hearst: Final Edition, 1911-1951 by Ben Procter; The Man Who…, by Richard Oulahan; “The Trip to Bountiful” screenplay by Horton Foote; and Sleepless in Hollywood by Lyda Obst.

H: That Hearst book sounds like it might be fascinating! I have to go look it up! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today, I am so excited to be able to introduce you and your novel to my readers.

03_J.B. Rivard

Almost everyone is familiar with the illustrations in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. However, the number of illustrated novels published–for adult readers–declined steadily from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century, although not for lack of popularity. “Illusions of Magic” dares a return to the edgy, swirling arts of the illustrated story, with pen and ink illustrations by the novel’s author, Joseph B. “J. B.” Rivard, supplementing this exciting story.

As a young child, Rivard began drawing by copying newspaper comics. In his teens, he drew illustrations for his high school’s award-winning yearbook. He attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and his artworks have appeared in more than fifty juried exhibitions, earning many prizes and awards. He’s an artist-member of the Salmagundi Club of New York City.

Rivard’s writing draws on wide experience–he served in the U.S. Navy, graduated from the University of Florida, worked as a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, and on the engineering staff of a U.S. National Laboratory where he wrote and co-authored many technical papers listed on Google Scholar. His broad background supports a wide array of significant publications, from short stories to song lyrics, from essays to novels. He calls Spokane, Washington home.

Find J.B. Rivard: Website

02_Illusions of Magic

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Book Blurb:

The withering of vaudeville was bad enough in 1933. Because of the Great Depression, bookings for stage magician Nick Zetner disappeared. With his marriage cracking under the strain, Nick reluctantly accepts a devious banker’s deal: He earns a generous reward if he retrieves photos stolen during a break-in at the bank. Along the way, a love he thought he’d forever lost reappears. Despite his skill in the arts of magic, penetrating the realm of the thieves grows increasingly perilous, especially when it endangers his newfound romance.

Illusions of Magic seamlessly merges this tale with the true-life assassination attempt on President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt resulting in Chicago’s mayor, Anton Cermak, being shot. His lingering death and a lack of legal means for his replacement causes great civic and social upheaval in the city.

In modern style, this novel propels the reader through emotional highs and subterranean lows with knife-edged dialogue, easy humor, page-turning action and authentic history.

Read an Excerpt of Illusions of Magic

Buy the Book: Amazon

Tour Wide Giveaway!

To win a paperback copy of Illusions of Magic by J.B. Rivard, please enter via the Gleam form below. Three copies are up for grabs!  Please note that this giveaway is being hosted by the tour coordinator and any questions should be addressed to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours as I have no control over this giveaway.  Good luck!


  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on January 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to residents in the US 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.

Illusions of Magic


Follow the Tour!

04_Illusions of Magic_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

On HFVBT Website

On Twitter: #IllusionsofMagicBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #Giveaway

Monday, January 9
Blog Tour Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, January 10
Review at Books, Dreams, Life

Wednesday, January 11
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, January 12
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, January 13
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Monday, January 16
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Tuesday, January 17
Interview at The Maiden’s CourtThat’s Me!
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, January 18
Review at Creating Herstory

Thursday, January 19
Review at Laura’s Interests

Friday, January 20
Review at Broken Teepee

Monday, January 23
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Tuesday, January 24
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing

Wednesday, January 25
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, January 26
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Friday, January 27
Review & Interview at Quitterstrip


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 13, 2017

Audiobook Discussions: What Do You Listen To?

IMG_20161207_184007_065000 (1)

I have been doing a lot of audiobook listening lately and I attended a recent blogger webinar about audiobook reviewing which got me thinking more and more about audiobooks.  So I wanted to know more of what you think about them!  From there, Audiobook Discussions has been born!

So this should be a simple question – what do you listen to?  Do you have a certain genre that you listen to exclusively on audio? 

For the most part i find that I listen to a lot more non-fiction, contemporary fiction, and romance titles on audiobook.  These are genres that I enjoy reading but don’t often review and because of that I can’t fit them into my schedule for print books – it’s all just too full!!  While I review some audiobooks, my schedule is much more open and I can enjoy books that I might not otherwise have time for.  I have been listening to the Outlander series mostly because those books are so long it would take me forever to get through a print version (I mean, the shortest audio is like 39 hours long!) 

I would love to hear what you listen to!  Or check out my other posts on Why and How you listen!



Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cover Crush: The Wardrobe Mistress #2

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.

wardrobe mistress 2

You might be thinking, “Didn’t she feature a cover crush last week about The Wardrobe Mistress?”  Why, yes I did!  But this is a different book, by a different author, about a very different subject – just the same name.  And, they are both being published this year!  While I am indeed tired of the headless woman on book covers, I like how the emphasis is on the stunning dress – which makes sense if the main character is actually a mistress of the wardrobe of Marie Antoinette, which she appears to be in this novel.  I LOVE the color of the dress – one of my favorites so it calls out to me naturally.   And I like how the color is carried through to the titled and author lines. 

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what my friends are crushing on this week? Let’s check it out: A Literary Vacation, A Bookaholic Swede, Flashlight Commentary, Layered Pages, 2 Kids and Tired Books.  

keep calm and support book bloggers


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court