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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cover Crush: The Lacemaker

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.


As it should be, based on the title, this cover is ALL ABOUT THE DRESS!  The detailing in this dress image is fantastic – I can almost FEEL the texture!  And I love the color too.  This cover is spot on and I would love to grab up this book. 

What are your thoughts on this cover?

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

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Interview with M.J. Neary

Good morning everyone!  Today I have the opportunity to welcome back an author whom I have had the wonderful opportunity to have previously hosted.  M.J. Neary stopped by back in 2014 for her release at that time of Never Be At Peace (you can check out that interview here), but is back with her newest release, Blood of the Stone Prince.  Read all the way through for a giveaway at the end too.  Welcome M.J.!

blood of the stone prince

Heather: Hi Marina! Welcome back to The Maiden’s Court! I’m excited to have you back and have the chance to talk about your new novel, Blood of the Stone Prince, as well as what else you have been up to since we last chatted. First could you tell us a little bit about how you arrived at the topic at the heart of Blood of the Stone Prince?

M.J. Neary: Don’t faint, but I started drafting this novel in high school! We are talking mid-1990s. I had the characters developed, but they floated in vacuum. They were very real and tangible to me. At the time I did not have the literary skill to produce anything publishable. Besides, my early drafts received a volley of criticism and ridicule from my mother, so I begrudgingly shelved the project until better days. 20+ years and 11 novels later, I finally was able to resurrect my manuscript. The title character, Daniel Dufort, a self-absorbed musical prodigy nicknamed Stone Prince, came to me in my sleep and voiced his grievances. He wanted to see the light of day. The Stone Prince is one of my long-term imaginary friends. In my mid-teens I started fantasizing about a tall boy with long red hair and pale blue eyes who played the organ. I developed complications from pneumonia, so I spent a lot of time in the fog. The Stone Prince is just one figure that emerged from that fog.

H:  Wow! That’s been bouncing around in the back of your head!  It’s cool that you were able to finally bring that idea out of that bottom drawer, so to speak, and bring it to life!

The description of this book certainly leads me to believe that there was likely some interesting Google search history in the research process! What was the most interesting part of your research for this novel?

M.J. N: I didn’t need to do much Googling, really. I come from a family of classical musicians, so I always had plenty of Medieval and early Renaissance music in my house. My birth father, a lapsed Catholic, always had books about the history of the Church, including a few titles on the Inquisition, featuring some of the more prominent ecclesiastic scandals and trials. I use references to real historical figures and weave them into the plot. Behind the veneer of austerity, medieval clergymen led such adventurous, thrilling lives. They trafficked forbidden books, conducted controversial scientific research, had affairs with beautiful and scholarly women and then found cushy positions for their illegitimate children. If a priest took certain precautions and conducted himself properly in public, he could get away with just about anything. As long as you are saintly and ascetic before the flock, what you do behind the scenes is your own business. After the service, the sacristy would turn into a locker room. Men of God would snap their liturgical sashes at each other, the same way jocks snap towels, and brag about their conquests. For many of them, true fun only began after the ordination. Imagine an adolescent boy observing this freak show. How would that form his character, his perception of right and wrong?

H: That could certainly be one heck of an eye-opening experience!

Why choose 15th century France for the setting of your novel?

M.J. N: For one, there aren’t many novels set during that period, and I like to work with something that hasn’t been overdone. If you have a chance, please watch “The Hour of the Pig” (known as “The Advocate” in the US), a dark comedy depicting an absurd religious trial with a common pig as the defendant. Late 1400s was such a fascinating time, the waning of the Medieval period. The Catholic Church, having morphed into something rather remote from the original ideal, was on the verge of reformation. The French were also slightly behind their German and Italian neighbors in terms of progress. Humanist ideology and the printing press were met with resistance, while the clergy were pushing for more privileges and more autonomy. The Church had reached the point where it was a bubble filled with lava, waiting to burst.

H: I will have to check “The Advocate” out, that sounds interesting.  As a reader, I too like to read outside the box that the big publishers tend to push us into, so kudos for that! 

All of your novels seem to be very different from each other; how would you characterize Blood of the Stone Prince?

M.J. N: It’s a Medieval “hipster” novel. I deliberately wanted to make the characters accessible and recognizable to modern audiences. It was my goal to convey the decadency and the neurosis of urban living. Some archetypes are timeless: the sickly art chick, the drama club geek, the self-absorbed child genius, the burned-out jock. Each chapter is narrated by a different character. Like the rest of my novels, it’s permeated with dark, irreverent humor.

H: I like that description, a Medieval “hipster” novel!

When I last had the chance to interview you it was March 2014 and you had just released Never Be At Peace. What have you been up to in the intervening years?

M.J. N: The past few years have been rather prolific. I have written Saved by the Bang, an autobiographical novel set in Belarus after the Chernobyl disaster.

Saved by the Bang

There is also The Gate of Dawn, featuring the lives of pagan communities in rural Lithuania.

Gate of Dawn

Trench Coat Pal is a young adult cyberpunk retelling of the Robin Hood myth.

Trench Coat Pal

Big Hero of a Small Country is another novel in my Irish nationalism series.

Big Hero of a Small Country

Last but not least, there is Sirens Over the Hudson, set in Tarrytown after the financial crash of ’08. So six novels in total, counting Blood of the Stone Prince.

Sirens Over the Hudson

I like to use my actor friends for the covers. My publishers are totally supportive of the idea. I am not a huge fan of the same stock images being recycled. It’s funny to recognize the same corseted bosom or sexy back on various covers.

H:  I have to agree on the cover element!  A fellow blogger friend has a running series where she chronicles some of those recurring cover trends (Cover Cliché at Flashlight Commentary)  and when you look at them all together it can just be a bit ridiculous.  Awesome idea to use people you know for your covers

What do you have next planned for your readers?

M.J. N: I am dusting off more abandoned projects. My next one is “EuroMedika”, a medical thriller set in 1980s Philadelphia, depicting a string of pharmaceutical scandals. I went to college in Philly, so I am passionately attached to that city.

H: Very cool! I love that you work what you know into your novels. 

When you are not engaged in the writing/publishing process, what do you do for leisure?

M.J. N: I have a lovely day job in foreign exchange that takes up much of my time. I have been busy breeding Siberian cats. My ginger stud Rory has fathered seven litters in the past year. There is nothing like the joy of having kittens.

H: We have 3 cats ourselves – my husband is a veterinarian which is how we ended up with them all in way or another.  Must. Love. Cats! 

Thank you so much for stopping by today! I’m excited to help spread the news about your newest release!

marina neary

A Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin. Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explore human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.  Her debut novel Wynfield's Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal. With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks.  Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.

Find M.J. Neary: Blog

blood of the stone prince
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Book Blurb:

From the alchemy labs of fifteenth-century France comes a tale of one beauty and three beasts on a macabre journey through the Parisian underworld. After sixteen years of priesthood, Monseigneur Desmoulins secretly wishes for excommunication. Fed up with sacristy intrigues and tedious inquisition proceedings, he keeps himself amused by dissecting rats, playing with explosives and stalking foreign women. Some of his dirty work he delegates to his nineteen-year-old protégé Daniel Dufort nicknamed Stone Prince, who plays the organ at the cathedral. The gaunt, copper-haired youth looks may look like an angel, but his music is believed to be demonic, pushing the faithful towards crime and suicide.

To keep themselves safe amidst urban violence, the master and his ward take fencing lessons from Lucius Castelmaure, an alcoholic officer facing a court martial. Their alliance is tested when a Wallachian traveler implores them to entertain his terminally-ill daughter Agniese, whose dying whim to is be buried inside the Montfaucon cellar alongside felons and traitors. The three men jump at the chance to indulge the eccentric virgin in the final months of her life.

Raised in the spirit of polyamory, Agniese has no qualms about taking all three men as lovers. In a city of where street festivals turn into massacres, it's only a matter of time before the romantic quadrangle tumbles into a pit of hellfire. Filled with witch-hanging, bone-cracking, gargoyle-hugging humor, Blood of the Stone Prince is a blasphemous thriller for the heretic in each one of us.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble 


I have the wonderful opportunity to offer a copy of Blood of the Stone Prince to one lucky reader in the USA.  Please enter the Rafflecopter below.  The giveaway will close November 1st.  Good luck!

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, October 23, 2017

New Book Alert: Third Son’s a Charm by Shana Galen–Excerpt & Tour-Wide Giveaway


Third Son’s a Charm by Shana Galen
Book 1 in The Survivor’s series
e-Book & Mass Market Paperback; 416 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca
November 7, 2017
Genre: Historical Romance
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Book Blurb:

Ewan Mostyn thinks a job as a duke's daughter's bodyguard will be easy―but Lady Lorraine has a few tricks up her sleeve that spark an undeniable passion...

Fiercely loyal to his friends and comrades, Ewan Mostyn is the toughest in a group of younger sons of nobility who met as soldiers and are now trying desperately to settle back into peaceful Society. Ewan trusts his brawn more than his brains, but when he's offered a job watching the Duke of Ridlington's stubbornly independent daughter, he finds both are challenged.

Lady Lorraine wants none of her father's high-handed ways, and she'll do everything in her power to avoid her distressingly attractive bodyguard―until she lands herself in real trouble. Lorraine begins to see Ewan's protectiveness in a new light, and she can only hope that her stoic guardian will do for her what he's always done―fight for what he wants.

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

Check out this fun EXCERPT from Third Son’s a Charm!

In this scene, Lady Lorraine is trying to escape her bodyguard, Ewan Mostyn, to rendezvous with his cousin and her would-be lover.

Little by little, she climbed down the tree until she had gone far enough that she felt safe in glancing down.

Immediately, she wished she hadn’t.

Standing below the tree, arms crossed and brows creased into a V, was the Viking. With a little squeal, Lorrie began climbing back up the tree, but the dratted giant reached up and grasped her about the waist, hauling her down into the garden beside him.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked, his voice so low it was more of a growl.

She pushed against him until he set her on her feet, but he didn’t release her arm.

“You really shouldn’t use such language in the presence of a lady.”

“Ladies do not climb trees.”

“Quite right,” she said. “I will just return to bed then—” She tried to walk away, but he yanked her back. None too gently either.

He’d lit a lamp in the house, and the light spilled from the French doors of the parlor on the first floor and into the garden. She wished she didn’t have such a clear view of his expression. The throbbing vein in his neck seemed to indicate he was furious.

“You want an explanation,” she said with a sigh.

He nodded.

“Would you believe I was sleepwalking?”


“How about midnight gardening?”

He didn’t even bother to respond.

“You won’t mention this to my father, will you?”


“Traitor,” she muttered, knowing he’d heard. “How did you know?” she asked. “Welly’s barking?”

His careful expression revealed nothing. He would have made a good spy. If captured, he would have revealed none of his secrets.

“It’s all your fault, you know,” she said, finally.

His brow arched upward.

“If you would have allowed me to speak to Francis at the garden party—”

“Out of the question,” he interrupted.

“You see!” She pointed a finger at him. “You left me no other choice. I had to see him.”

“Not on my watch.”

Lorrie could have argued further. It was in her nature to argue, but she could not see the point of it. “Fine. If you would release me, I will go to bed.”

“Not yet,” he said.

Lorrie’s heart jumped with anticipation. Perhaps he would want to kiss her first.

But, no! She could not allow that. Even though she really, really wanted to kiss him again. Strange that she could hate him so and still want him to press his lips to hers.

“I want your assurance this will not happen again.”

“I’m sorry. I cannot give it. I will marry Francis, and I will find a way to see him again. You will have to find another way to torture him.”

The look that crossed the Viking’s face actually made Lorrie cringe. His light eyes darkened with anger, and his cheeks reddened. The grip on her arm did not tighten, though, and she could only imagine the amount of control it took to leash that sort of fury.

“That is what you believe of me?” he asked. “That I tortured Francis when we were children.”

Lorrie didn’t particularly want to answer the question—not with him glaring at her so. “What else am I to believe? Francis told me all about it,” she whispered.

“I see.”

“What do you see?” she asked.

He shook his head as though he would not waste the effort it took to answer.

“Are you saying—or rather not saying—that you did not bully and torment Francis when you were children?”

“I did not.” The simple way he said it, the ring of truth in his voice confused her. He gave her no particulars, offered no protests. He humbly denied the charge. He made it hard to argue and, she had to admit, difficult not to believe him.

“Then why did he say you did?”

“Ask him.”

Lorrie saw her chance and jumped. “Very well, I will. Release me, and I will go and ask him at once.”

The Viking shook his head and pulled her back toward him. Lorrie was growing colder by the moment, and she rather wished she might step a tiny bit closer to the Viking to share his warmth. She still remembered how warm he’d been in the prince’s garden. Tonight he wore only breeches and shirtsleeves, but he did not appear cold in the least.

She supposed she could demand to return inside now, and he would probably allow it, but she wasn’t quite ready to part from him. “Putting aside the matter of whether or not you bullied Francis, why do you hate him? And do not say you don’t. I can tell that you do. Anyone who saw the way you looked at him would know you want to kill him.”

“Why do you love him?” the Viking asked.

Lorrie wasn’t prepared for the question. “I…” But why did she love Francis? He was handsome and charming, but were those reasons to love him? “You cannot do that,” she said, pointing an accusatory finger at him. “You cannot answer a question with a question.”

“Apparently, you cannot answer the question at all.”

Lorrie had the urge to stomp her foot. Instead, she glared at the Viking. “I do love him. He is kind and considerate and respectful. He has never tried to take advantage of me. He loves me.”

And how pathetic did that sound? She loved him because he loved her? Was she so starved for love and affection?

The answer echoed in her mind—yes!

All her life her mother had practically ignored her while her father had lectured her. Her brothers had been away at school or consumed with their own affairs. Welly was the only creature who ever appeared genuinely pleased to see her, who wanted to cuddle and snuggle with her.

“Is it so wrong to want affection?” she asked no one in particular, freeing herself from the Viking’s grip and pacing about a square of the garden. “Is it so wrong to want to be loved and held and kissed and—and ravished?”

“Ravished?” The word came out so low it was barely audible.

Lorrie ceased pacing and glanced at the Viking. She’d forgotten he was there for a moment. But then what did it matter. It was not as though he were a gentleman who would be shocked at her admission. “Just because I am a woman does not mean I don’t have desires. I want to be kissed and touched, like you touched me at the prince’s ball.”

The Viking shook his head as though he would rather she hadn’t mentioned the incident. Well, she had to mention it. She couldn’t seem to forget it. “I know it is sinful to want such things when I’m a maiden, but if you would only allow me to leave the garden, I will go to Francis and persuade him to elope. Then even the church will sanction all my wicked feelings.”


Lorrie did stomp her foot then, and she wished she could lift the rock under her foot and hurl it at his head. “You kiss me then.”

shana galen

Shana Galen is the bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals, including the RT Reviewers' Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Booklist says, "Galen expertly entwines espionage-flavored intrigue with sizzling passion," and RT Bookreviewscalls her "a grand mistress of the action/adventure subgenre." She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston's inner city. Now she writes full time. She's happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making.

Find Shana Galen: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Tour Wide Giveaway!

Thanks to the publisher we are able to take part in hosting the tour-wide giveaway for a Shana Galen prize pack which includes books and a wine charm!  You can enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below or on any of the host blogs in this tour.  If you have any questions please contact the publisher who is hosting this giveaway.  Good luck!

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, October 20, 2017

Announcing The Maiden’s Court Book Club!

Have you checked out the Facebook page for The Maiden’s Court lately?  There are lots of fun things going on over there that are exclusive to the Facebook page.  I have integrated Facebook Live into The Maiden’s Court (so if you want to actually hear/see me talk about books that is a great place to do so!).  In that manner I’m hosting segments where I give some initial impressions right after reading (not quite a review but more emotional thoughts). 

The Maiden's Court Book Club October

I’m also starting up an occasional book club!  It will not be an every month occurrence, but I thought it would be fun to do and get us all even more involved with our books.  The book club will be exclusively within a Facebook event, so I encourage you to follow the Facebook page as well to keep on top of those exciting announcements.  Our first book pick was just announced this morning: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie in anticipation of the film.  I would love for you to join us!

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Audiobook Review: The Jersey Brothers by Sally Mott Freeman

the jersey brothers

The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family’s Quest to Bring Him Home by Sally Mott Freeman
Unabridged, 18 hr. 41 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio
Cassandra Campbell (Narrator)
May 9, 2017
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Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Received download from the publisher for review

The extraordinary, real-life adventure of three brothers at the center of the most dramatic turning points of World War II and their mad race to change history—and save one of their own.

They are three brothers, all Navy men, who end up coincidentally and extraordinarily at the epicenter of three of the war’s most crucial moments. Bill is picked by Roosevelt to run his first Map Room in Washington. Benny is the gunnery and anti-aircraft officer on the USS Enterprise, one of the only carriers to escape Pearl Harbor and by the end of 1942 the last one left in the Pacific to defend against the Japanese. Barton, the youngest and least distinguished of the three, is shuffled off to the Navy Supply Corps because his mother wants him out of harm’s way. But this protection plan backfires when Barton is sent to the Philippines and listed as missing-in-action after a Japanese attack. Now it is up to Bill and Benny to find and rescue him.

Based on ten years of research drawn from archives around the world, interviews with fellow shipmates and POWs, and primary sources including diaries, unpublished memoirs, and letters half-forgotten in basements, The Jersey Brothers is a remarkable story of agony and triumph—from the home front to Roosevelt’s White House, and Pearl Harbor to Midway and Bataan. It is the story, written with intimate, novelistic detail, of an ordinary young man who shows extraordinary courage as the Japanese do everything short of killing him. And it is, above all, a story of brotherly love: of three men finding their loyalty to each other tested under the tortures of war—and knowing that their success or failure to save their youngest brother will shape their family forever.

The war in the Pacific during WWII is something of a new area for me in non-fiction (or fiction for that matter); I have read more widely on the European front of this war. To be honest, I found it harder to connect to because I didn’t know anything about the locations and pretty much only knew about Pearl Harbor. However, when I saw this book, I knew I had to dive into this one. Not only is the cover hauntingly fabulous, but the story of these three brothers encapsulates so many elements of the war that I felt it would give me a thorough indoctrination into the Pacific side of the war. At the same time it is memoir-like in my mind as it was written by the daughter of one of the three brothers from the book. Oh and I forgot to mention that it is narrated by one fabulous narrator who I LOVE – but more on that later!

Throughout The Jersey Brothers we follow Benny, Bill, and Barton through their WWII travails. Bill begins his war time as an aid to President Roosevelt in his Map Room while brings us into the political machination of the war and then later he serves aboard several ships in the Pacific and physically searches for Barton in the Philippines. Benny serves primarily aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, which was involved in MANY major battles in the Pacific arena, and his story brings us right into the heart of an ocean battlefield. Then we have the story of Barton, who was captured as a Prisoner of War when the Philippines fell to the Japanese early in the war. Benny and Bill try everything they can think of to try to find and rescue Barton and their quest gives a physical face to the quest of the many families who sought information about their sons/husbands/relatives that were taken captive in the Pacific field of war.

It is very clear from the earliest pages of the book that either something terrible happens to Barton or that he doesn’t come home; the author discusses how her quest to write this book spun from an overheard family dispute about her uncle Barton. Although I knew that this book would not result in a positive outcome, I kept hoping and hoping that the result would somehow be different. The author made me feel so much for these three brothers and their families. Although this is a story personal to the author it was also able to keep enough distance from the subjects to feel impartial, but still imbue it with heart and passion in every word.

I couldn’t get enough of this book and thoroughly absorbed every word of it.



Cassandra Campbell is a narrator that you should look for when perusing the lists for new audiobooks. I have had the opportunity to listen to her read both fiction and non-fiction titles and she has done it brilliantly each time, although very different. In this circumstance, her voice lends a soothing and respectful tone to the severity of the events transpiring. Another thing that blew me away was her pronunciation of the foreign words and names that are fast and furious in this book; while I may not know if they are correct, they sounded well practiced and added to my impressions of the book. Stellar narration.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

You can preview a sample of this audiobook below:

Find Sally Mott Freeman: Publisher’s Website | Facebook

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cover Crush: The Dutch Wife

Cover Crush

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

the dutch wife

Um, what is not to love about this cover?!  I don’t know where my eye wants to go first.  The colors of the city on the bottom – the blues always draw me in and the little pops of red!  The woman above also fairly seamlessly blends into the city image below.  I saw this pop up in my Pinterest feed and knew I had to include it in my cover-crush line up. 

What are your thoughts on this cover?

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

keep calm and support book bloggers

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

last christmas is paris

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Paperback, 384 pages
William Morrow Paperbacks
October 3, 2017
★★★★ ½☆
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for review with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…
Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

Last Christmas in Paris was my first truly epistolary style novel that I have read. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this type of novel, it is a novel written almost entirely of letters between characters and not in the typical prose style that a novel usually contains. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this style. Thinking about it conceptually it could be more difficult to move the plot forward because how much drama can be put forth in correspondence! Additionally, given the time frame where this novel takes place, the letters were more constrained between the home and the front as both sides tried to keep the other’s spirits up and away from the grotesques of the war. But I have loved the work that I have read from both of these authors and I enjoy reading books set in this time period, so I was sure it would be handled well.

The book is framed within a narrative set in 1968 as Thomas is looking back at the letters from his time in the war as his health is failing – so there is some prose, but not much. The bulk of it is letters, with the majority being between Evie and Thomas, but also to some secondary characters of their friends, family, and business associates. These secondary characters were sometimes critical to advancing the plot and the groundwork for their inclusion was laid right from the start, even before their need was necessary. With letters just between two people the scope of the world is limited in ways similar to first person dialogue. These letters to friends who were located in different places and experiencing different things allows the reader to have a more rounded world view. Evie’s friend Alice goes to the front early on and Evie gets a view of the battlefield from a woman as well as that from Tom. We also learn about world events through Tom’s correspondence with the colleagues at the newspaper his family runs, which also helps with events too.

I think that the authors touched on SO many different aspects of the war that it felt so true to life for me – it is clear that they put time into the research. From small little details about daily life in the trenches, to large scale events like battles, it was all there. And what I think was really unique here was that we see what is transpiring on both sides at the same time – not chapters apart from each other like you might experience in a standard structure novel, which made it feel more real. Oh, and one of the things that I loved the most and made the letters real – the censoring that shows up in the book itself! Letters being sent from the front to their families back home were oftentimes heavily censored by the military before being released so that no locations or wartime data that they didn’t want the opposition to get their hands on would go out. Well, here in the letters from Tom we see actual blacked out portions of the letter, just like Evie would have seen if she was receiving that letter. This was excellent.

I felt that I truly was able to know Tom, Evie, and friends through their letters in ways that I might miss in another novel. In letters you can pour your heart out without the guard that we tend to put up sometimes when speaking directly with someone in person – which Evie actually addresses several times in her letters. I may have shed a few tears throughout this book!

I thoroughly enjoyed Last Christmas in Paris and can’t wait to read more, not only from these authors, but to give other epistolary novels a chance.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by Heather Webb:

fall of poppies
Fall of Poppies

[My Review]

rodins lover
Rodin’s Lover

[My Review]

becoming josephine
Becoming Josephine
[My Review]

the phantoms apprentice
The Phantom’s Apprentice
Coming 2018!

Also by Hazel Gaynor:

fall of poppies
Fall of Poppies

[My Review]

the cottingley secret
The Cottingley Secret

the girl who came home
The Girl Who Came Home

a memory of violets
A Memory of Violets

girl from the savoy
The Girl from the Savoy

Find Heather Webb: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Find Hazel Gaynor: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Tour Wide Giveaway

As part of the blog tour we have a tour wide giveaway open for 2 copies of Last Christmas in Paris! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada 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.
  • If you have any questions please contact the tour coordinator as I am not involved in the giveaway administration.  Good luck!

Last Christmas in Paris

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On the HFVBT website
or on Twitter: #LastChristmasinParisBlogTour

Monday, September 25
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at Books of All Kinds

Tuesday, September 26
Review at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, September 27
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, September 28
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, October 2
Review at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, October 3
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, October 4
Review at A Literary Vacation

Friday, October 6
Review at Library Educated

Monday, October 9
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Suzy Approved Books

Tuesday, October 10
Interview at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, October 12
Review at Creating Herstory

Friday, October 13
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Monday, October 16
Review at Curling up by the Fire

Tuesday, October 17
Review at Faery Tales Are Real

Wednesday, October 18
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Interview at Faery Tales Are Real

Thursday, October 19
Review at A Holland Reads

Friday, October 20
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Book Alert: Holiday Romance Novels


St. Martin’s Press has a wonderful line up of books coming out in the month of October ready to take you into the holiday season.  Whether you like contemporary romance, westerns, or historical novels there is a little something for everyone.  Below I’m highlighting the two historical novels of the bunch, but you can check out all of them in the banner image above.

First up is an anthology collection featuring men in kilts!

Christmas in Kilts_Cover

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Christmas in Kilts by Terri Brisbin, Lecia Cornwall, Bronwen Evans, Lavinia Kent, and May McGoldrick
Published by Swerve on October 31, 2017

Tis the season to fall in love! These five bestselling authors bring you great tiding of highlanders and romances this holiday season!

A HIGHLANDER’S HOPE by Terri Brisbin
A village harlot who would never dream she could have a different life meets a Highlander who visits for the holidays and brings with him an offer and hope.

When a snowstorm forces a charming lass hiding a broken heart to take shelter in a castle with three fine Highland lairds just days before Christmas, there’s a game afoot—who will be the first to win a kiss and maybe her heart.

She’s ready to embrace her life and future as a spinster, he’s trying to have one last hurrah before he gives into his family’s wishes and proposes marriage to his neighbor, but fate has other ideas when the lady and the Scot meet at a holiday house party in the wilds of Scotland.

What happens when a highlander finds himself stranded, maybe kidnapped, with an English lady around Christmas... maybe the mistletoe will help answer that question.

An encounter between an English officer and a desperate aunt trying to keep custody of her young niece leads to a little magic during the holidays.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Publisher

With This Christmas Ring_Cover

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With this Christmas Ring by Manda Collins
Published by Swerve on October 3, 2017

A wallflower determined to fulfill a dying promise, the rogue she jilted years ago, and an orphaned baby are all brought together amidst the magic of Christmas in this new novella from Manda Collins.

Miss Merry Parks makes a deathbed promise to a schoolfriend that her infant daughter will be taken to her absent father. There’s only one problem—to find the baby’s father, she’ll have to consult his cousin, Viscount Wrotham, the man she jilted five years ago. The man she couldn’t forget.

Alex Ponsonby, Viscount Wrotham, is stunned to find Merry Parks—looking more lovely than ever--on his doorstep with an infant in her arms. His shock soon turns to dismay when he learns his own cousin William is the man who abandoned his wife and child. As head of the family he’s duty bound to see right is done. But he can't let this opportunity pass. He’ll take Merry and the baby to his cousin, but he’ll woo her back in the process.

Merry agrees to travel with Alex and the baby to Wrotham Castle, where the entire Ponsonby family has gathered for Christmas, but her plans to see the baby settled then leave are ruined by a snowstorm. After five years apart, Alex and Merry will spend the week getting reacquainted. Perhaps it’s the spirit of the holiday, or the magic of the season, but there could be something else in the air this Yuletide…A Christmas Reunion.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Publisher 

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, October 16, 2017

Wish List 5: Westward Expansion


Once a month I am planning on sharing with you all 5 of my biggest wish list books broken up by theme.  I know that you all need more on your TBR!!!  I have always been intrigued by the push westward in the United States.  From grade school when we played the original Oregon Trail during computer lab, to reading the Little House series, to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the movement westward was a hardscrabble existence that many were too little prepared for.  These are their stories … (sorry for the Law & Order reference, I couldn’t resist!).

Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab by Steve Inskeep

jacksonlandJacksonland is the thrilling narrative history of two men—President Andrew Jackson and Cherokee chief John Ross—who led their respective nations at a crossroads of American history. Five decades after the Revolutionary War, the United States approached a constitutional crisis. At its center stood two former military comrades locked in a struggle that tested the boundaries of our fledgling democracy. Jacksonland is their story.

One man we recognize: Andrew Jackson—war hero, populist, and exemplar of the expanding South—whose first major initiative as president instigated the massive expulsion of Native Americans known as the Trail of Tears. The other is a half-forgotten figure: John Ross—a mixed-race Cherokee politician and diplomat—who used the United States’ own legal system and democratic ideals to oppose Jackson. Representing one of the Five Civilized Tribes who had adopted the ways of white settlers—cultivating farms, publishing a newspaper in their own language, and sending children to school—Ross championed the tribes’ cause all the way to the Supreme Court. He gained allies like Senator Henry Clay, Chief Justice John Marshall, and even Davy Crockett. In a fight that seems at once distant and familiar, Ross and his allies made their case in the media, committed civil disobedience, and benefited from the first mass political action by American women. Their struggle contained ominous overtures of later events like the Civil War and set the pattern for modern-day politics.

At stake in this struggle was the land of the Five Civilized Tribes. In shocking detail, Jacksonland reveals how Jackson, as a general, extracted immense wealth from his own armies’ conquest of native lands. Later, as president, Jackson set in motion the seizure of tens of millions of acres—“Jacksonland”—in today’s Deep South.

Jacksonland is the work of renowned journalist Steve Inskeep, cohost of NPR’s Morning Edition, who offers here a heart-stopping narrative masterpiece, a tragedy of American history that feels ripped from the headlines in its immediacy, drama, and relevance to our lives.

Harrowing, inspiring, and deeply moving, Inskeep’s Jacksonlandis the story of America at a moment of transition, when the fate of states and nations was decided by the actions of two heroic yet tragically opposed men.

Jefferson’s America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation by Julie M. Fenster

jeffersons americaThe surprising story of how Thomas Jefferson commanded an unrivaled age of American exploration—and in presiding over that era of discovery, forged a great nation.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation.

Responsible for orchestrating the American push into the continent was President Thomas Jefferson. He most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, but at the same time there were other teams who did the same work, in places where it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike—all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier and keep up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findings.

But they weren’t always well-matched—with each other and certainly not with a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. These tensions threatened to undermine Jefferson’s goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West. Deeply researched and inspiringly told, Jefferson’s America rediscovers the robust and often harrowing action from these seminal expeditions and illuminates the president’s vision for a continental America.

Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier by Jeffrey A. Lockwood

locustsIn 1876, the U.S. Congress declared the locust “the single greatest impediment to the settlement of the country between Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains.” Throughout the nineteenth century, swarms of locusts regularly swept across the American continent, turning noon into dusk, devastating farm communities, and bringing trains to a halt. The outbreaks subsided in the 1890s, and then, suddenly—and mysteriously—the Rocky Mountain locust vanished. A century later, entomologist Jeffrey Lockwood vowed to discover why.Locust is the story of how one insect shaped the history of the western United States. A compelling personal narrative drawing on historical accounts and modern science, this beautifully written book brings to life the cultural, economic, and political forces at work in America in the late nineteenth century, even as it solves one of the greatest extinction mysteries of our time.

A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent by Robert W. Merry

a county of vast designWhen James K. Polk was elected president in 1844, the United States was locked in a bitter diplomatic struggle with Britain over the rich lands of the Oregon Territory, which included what is now Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Texas, not yet part of the Union, was threatened by a more powerful Mexico. And the territories north and west of Texas -- what would become California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and part of Colorado -- belonged to Mexico. When Polk relinquished office four years later, the country had grown by more than a third as all these lands were added. The continental United States, as we know it today, was established -- facing two oceans and positioned to dominate both.

In a one-term presidency, Polk completed the story of America's Manifest Destiny -- extending its territory across the continent, from sea to sea, by threatening England and manufacturing a controversial and unpopular two-year war with Mexico that Abraham Lincoln, in Congress at the time, opposed as preemptive.

Robert Merry tells this story through powerful debates and towering figures -- the outgoing President John Tyler and Polk's great mentor, Andrew Jackson; his defeated Whig opponent, Henry Clay; two famous generals, Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott; Secretary of State James Buchanan (who would precede Lincoln as president); Senate giants Thomas Hart Benton and Lewis Cass; Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun; and ex-president Martin Van Buren, like Polk a Jackson protégé but now a Polk rival.

This was a time of tremendous clashing forces. A surging antislavery sentiment was at the center of the territorial fight. The struggle between a slave-owning South and an opposing North was leading inexorably to Civil War. In a gripping narrative, Robert Merry illuminates a crucial epoch in U.S. history.

Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of Westward Expansion by Robert Morgan

lions of the wesstFrom Thomas Jefferson’s birth in 1743 to the California Gold Rush in 1849, America’s Manifest Destiny comes to life in Robert Morgan’s skilled hands.

Jefferson, a naturalist and visionary, dreamed that the United States would stretch across the continent from ocean to ocean. The account of how that dream became reality unfolds in the stories of Jefferson and nine other Americans whose adventurous spirits and lust for land pushed the westward boundaries: Andrew Jackson, John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman, David Crockett, Sam Houston, James K. Polk, Winfield Scott, Kit Carson, Nicholas Trist, and John Quincy Adams. Their tenacity was matched only by that of their enemies—the Mexican army under Santa Anna at the Alamo, the Comanche and Apache Indians, and the forbidding geography itself.

Known also for his powerful fiction (Gap Creek, The Truest Pleasure, Brave Enemies), Morgan uses his skill at characterization to give life to the personalities of these ten Americans without whom the United States might well have ended at the Arkansas border. Their stories — and those of the nameless thousands who risked their lives to settle on the frontier, displacing thousands of Native Americans—form an extraordinary chapter in American history that led directly to the cataclysm of the Civil War.

With illustrations, portraits, maps, battle plans, appendixes, notes, and time lines, Lions of the West is a richly authoritative biography of America as compelling as a grand novel.

Looking for some recommended reads set during the time of westward expansion that I have read before?

empire of the summer moon
Empire of the Summer Moon

If you are looking to add more books to your list, here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month: (to be updated as they go live)

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court