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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Book Alert & Giveaway: The Bookman’s Tale

bookmans tale

The Bookman’s Tale
By Charlie Lovett
Hardcover, 368 pages
Viking Adult
ISBN: 0670026476
May 28, 2013

Book Blurb:

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt's Possession.

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

You can read an excerpt of the novel here as well as a couple reviews at I Be Readin! and Bookalicious Babe Book Reviews.

Here are some choices for pre-ordering the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

However, I do also have a giveaway that I can offer to you, courtesy of the publisher.  One copy open to those in the USA only.  Last day to enter the giveaway is June 16th.  The winner will receive the book from the publisher.  Fill out the Rafflecopter below for your entries:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mailbox Monday #142


Good morning on this Memorial Day!  Hope you are taking some time to enjoy the day off with some family and friends.  Be sure to take a few minutes (at least) to think about those who served and thank them if you get the chance.  I work with veterans everyday and try to not miss the opportunity to thank them for their service. 

In terms of books, I received one book this week.  It was The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton.  I will be partaking in a book tour on this one coming up soon (end of June).  This copy was sent by the author.  Here is the blurb:

Where Theodora went, trouble followed…

In sixth century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds, and rose from being a common theater tart to become empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. But the woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was, in fact, a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told…

When her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation on the streets. Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can—first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage of the city’s infamous amphitheater in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a back-door entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector—only to face heartbreak and betrayal.

Ever resilient, Theodora rises above such trials and by a twist of fate, meets her most passionate admirer yet: the Emperor’s nephew. She will thrive as his confidant and courtesan, but many challenges lie ahead. For one day, this man will hand her a crown. And all the empire will wonder—is she bold enough, shrewd enough, and strong enough to keep it?

I think I love the uniqueness of setting/time period with this one.  Looking forward to reading it. 

How about you?  What did you receive this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of May it is being hosted by 4 The Love of Books.

Here are some choices for where you can pick up the book (preorder): Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Guest Post by Author Andrei Baltakmens & Giveaway

Looking for a new historical mystery?  Look no further than The Raven’s Seal by Andrei Baltakmens.  The novel takes place in 18th century England and is “a tale of corruption, betrayal, murder, and--ultimately--redemption and love”.  The author wrote us a piece today about love knowing no boundaries in this novel to whet your appetite.   There is a publisher sponsored giveaway at the end of the post, so read on!

Love Beyond the Confines of Class

Guest Post by Andrei Baltakmens, author of
The Raven’s Seal

the ravens seal

In my historical mystery, The Raven’s Seal, I wove a romantic subplot into the story of Thaddeus Grainger, an aimless, young, upper-class gentleman who finds himself imprisoned for murder and must untangle the motives behind this false charge to secure his freedom. From early on, his predicament ensnares Cassie Redruth, a determined and quietly ambitious young woman from the lower-class slum known as The Steps, and between them they work toward resolving the mystery while the relationship between them blossoms. Handling this relationship was delicate work for me as a writer. I was always conscious that a love affair between a gentleman and a commoner would prove the sort of cliché that P.G. Wodehouse lampooned in his Jeeves and Wooster stories when he quoted the invented novel, Only a Factory Girl: “Be her origin ne’er so humble, a good woman is the equal of the finest lady on earth!”

But looking back at the classics, I’m convinced that it’s not so much a familiar plot that will bother an alert reader as a hackneyed or clichéd handling of a such a plot. To be sure, the “marriage plot” is a fixture of English literature, from the complex negotiations of class, property, and propriety in Jane Austen’s comedies to the happy marriages that round out Dickens’s sprawling multiplot serials. In the latter case, Dickens’s handling of the relationship between Eugene Wrayburn, the indolent gentleman, and Lizzie Hexam, the riverside scavenger’s daughter, is one of the most interesting features of his last great complete novel, Our Mutual Friend. Indeed, for a writer who often fell into the trap of sentimentalizing or idealizing his heroines, Lizzie Hexam is a particularly interesting and well-drawn character, and one of the seeds for the creation of my own character, Cassie Redruth.

One of the advantages of drawing a relationship like this into a mystery novel was the way the murder plot and subsequent intrigues could transfigure and complicate the progress of these characters. Before he is charged with murder and locked in the noxious Bellstrom Gaol, Thaddeus Grainger’s interest in Cassie is speculative and exploitative: he is attracted to Cassie and dissatisfied with the expectations of his station, but still considers her a potential conquest, from a position of privilege. It’s only when Grainger suffers a catastrophic fall from grace into the criminal society of the prison that he can begin to shape a relationship with Cassie that is not based on class expectations. Cassie, on the other hand, when challenged on the witness stand by a devious lawyer, acts to reassert her honesty, for when her testimony is drawn into question she feels the sting of the court’s opinion deeply. The reality of her life in the slums is that a good name is the only asset she can truly possess.

Cassie, thereafter, is as much a detective as Grainger, because she has the power to investigate outside the prison walls and among the under-classes that other characters cannot access. This was important for maintaining the balance of the plot and keeping the action moving beyond the prison walls. She begins, as one might expect, as a servant. I can safely say that I could hardly exaggerate the hardships of domestic service and the hazards of sexual predation that Cassie would have encountered historically. In a novel intended as an entertainment with the occasional gesture towards social themes, this presented the problem of showing something of the reality a character like Cassie would confront, without losing her in the harsh realities of the period. Domestic service provided one of the few avenues to a better life to a young woman in Cassie’s position, but as Kirstin Olsen describes it in Daily Life in Eighteenth Century England, life as an “Abigail” was a matter of interminable household labor for these women, and they were often considered sexually available by their employers (not to mention other male servants). Cassie’s graduation to lady’s maid at least offers less back-breaking work, but she is then faced with the choice of marrying respectably within her station or capitalizing on her good looks and intelligence as the mistress of a wealthier man.

Prostitution, in one form or another, was rife during the period, and treating her body as a negotiable asset was one of the few courses a woman could take outside of the domestic sphere. One of my favorite characters in the novel is Cassie’s mistress, Mrs. Wenrender, a high-class “procuress,” or madam (among other things), who, as it turns out, is closely connected to the mystery. In the complex social stew of the eighteenth century, where “good-breeding” or “blood” was the dominant marker of social status, she represents a path to social mobility, power, and influence which, nevertheless, is also fraught with contradictions and danger. Cassie’s bind is that the higher she edges in society under Mrs. Wenrender’s patronage, the further she draws from the honesty and sense of justice that motivates her.

Grainger’s choice is sharper, but no less complicated. The necessity of surviving as a prisoner gives him enough insight to know that he endangers Cassie as much as he needs her to investigate on his behalf. But in trying to restore his good name and family honor, could he risk a marriage with an unsuitable woman, or keep his personal integrity by drawing her to his cause with a promise of marriage he could not keep?

For these two characters, then, the romance plot, set against the background of mystery and crime, provides the complexity of characterization as well as raising the stakes. Mysteries are often centered on plot and incident, while characters move gracefully to the side to allow the clues and puzzles to sort themselves out. But human motivation is, to my mind, the deeper and more intriguing mystery, and by bringing two strong characters into a complicated relationship I was able, I hope, to enliven the narrative as well as keep the reader interested and off-guard.

author photo

Thank you for that wonderful post!  You can visit the author at his blog or the publisher’s website for more information.

Here are a few options of where you can buy the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

However, I do have a giveaway opportunity for you all courtesy of the publisher, Top Five Books – copy will be mailed out by the publisher.  It is for two copies of The Raven’s Seal to entrants from the USA.  Please complete the Rafflecopter for entries.  Last day to enter is June 2nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Review: Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell

Murder as a Fine Art

Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell
E-Book (Kindle), 368 pages
Mulholland Books
May 7, 2013

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Source: Received through Netgalley as part of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour


Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,’is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier.

The blueprint for the killings seems to be De Quincey's essay ‘On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.’ Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.
In Murder as a Fine Art,David Morrell plucks De Quincey, Victorian London, and the Ratcliffe Highway murders from history. Fogbound streets become a battleground between a literary star and a brilliant murderer, whose lives are linked by secrets long buried but never forgotten.”

This was one powerful novel. At every turn the reader is taken by surprise and the suspense keeps you moving on to that next page. You don’t know who the murderer is until the author wants you to know – I dare you to guess in advance and see if you are right!  The style very much reminds me of Dan Simmons in The Terror.

The point of view of this novel was interesting. You get both 3rd person omniscient, which is more of a rarity, as well as 1st person in the form of a series of journal entries. While I didn’t mind either the 3rd person omniscient or 1st person on its own, I didn’t really like them juxtaposed one after another. It didn’t seem like the segues between them made sense. If hard pressed, I would state that I didn’t find much value in the journal entries of Emily De Quincey. Her character seemed to be with the others who were being narrated about in the other sections and we didn’t learn anything new from these sections. According to an author’s note, this POV style was used in keeping with the styling of a Victorian sensation novel and in accordance with the time period and events transpiring in the novel, which I find admirable, however as this isn’t a style I’m used to, it was a little difficult to adapt to.

There were also some awkward areas where the novel seemingly turned into a non-fiction. The author would begin doing a lot more telling and a lot less showing. The things that he was choosing to explain I didn’t feel needed explaining necessarily; it felt jarring and unnecessary.

I do have to admit that I loved the characters. Detective Inspector Ryan and Constable Becker were my two favorites. I enjoyed learning about the early use of forensics within Scotland Yard as well as the understanding of medicine. These two men were quite admirable and were enjoyable to read about in every scene, especially when they were in them together. I wouldn’t mind seeing them in a series.

Author David Morrell has written many other books within the thriller/mystery category, but as far as I can tell, this is his first historical. You can visit his website for additional information about the book.

You can also watch the book trailer below:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

Murder as a Fine Art Virtual Tour FINAL2

You can follow along with the rest of the blog tour by visiting the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #MurderAsAFineArtTour.

Also, as part of the tour, I have a giveaway opportunity for one lucky person from the United States.  Simply make your entries in the Rafflecopter below before June 2nd to have a chance to win.  The giveaway is sponsored as part of the HFVBT tour for the book and will be mailed out by the publisher. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, May 20, 2013

Interview with Author Elle Marie

Good morning everyone!  Hope you are having a good start to your week – for me Monday mornings are always crazy.  To kick off the week we have author Elle Marie joining us to tell us a little bit about her new novel, Chronicle of the Mound Builders

Chronicle of the Mound Builders

How did you come across the idea of writing about the Mound Builders? I have never heard of the Mississippians before.

I live in St. Louis, which is also known as Mound City because of all the ancient mounds in the area. So I was familiar with the Mississippians in general, but didn’t really know much about their history. I got the idea to write about them from a newspaper article about an archaeological dig called Dampier Dig in my hometown of Chesterfield. Evidence of the long-lost civilization of the Mound Builders was found there, which piqued my curiosity. I thought it would be fun to develop a story around what might have happened to them.

I’m assuming that there isn’t a real wealth of knowledge about the Mound Builders, and that there would be a little more available about the Aztecs. Where did you get your information from?

You’re right, not a lot is known about the Mound Builders. I've tried to provide accurate information about the culture and lifestyles of both the Aztecs and the Mound Builders. Dr. Meredith Hawkins of Archaeological Research Center of St. Louis graciously showed me around the Dampier Dig site and shared her knowledge of the Mississippians. I also visited Cahokia Mounds to get a feel for the area. Of course, I read a lot of books and did online research to learn as much as I could about both societies.

How long have you been working on this book? Was it an idea that you always had to write or was it an idea that came about sometime later?

I love to write and always knew I wanted to write a novel, but it’s a part-time hobby for me so I have to fit it in on weekends and evenings. It took about 6 months to develop a workable outline for the story, and another 2 years to complete the writing. Before tackling Chronicle, I published a non-fiction book called Living the Thin Life about maintaining a healthy weight. I’m always writing something!

What has been the most challenging aspect of the writing process?

Since Chronicle of the Mound Builders has two main story lines, I had to mesh them together carefully. Interweaving the timelines so that Angela learns about the Indian family at the same time the reader is following their struggles and adventures was a tricky balancing act. I wanted to make sure just enough of each story was revealed in each chapter to keep the reader’s interest before switching gears to the other.

Why historical mystery? Did the original plan start out as a mystery?

I love mysteries - I’ve been hooked on them since reading Nancy Drew books as a ten-year-old. To me it’s exciting to wonder what will happen next and find out how the characters manage to get out of whatever situation they find themselves in. I wanted my readers to experience that same excitement. I like the historical fiction aspect because the reader actually learns about the ancient cultures while enjoying the adventure.

Do you have any future writing plans? Is Dr. Angela Hunter going to be a historical mystery series heroine?

Right now I have two more ideas for mysteries for Angela to tackle. One of them will be a prequel, which will shed some light on Angela’s prior relationship with Dr. Oettendorf. Stay tuned!

Elle Marie

Coming from a large family of readers, Elle Marie grew up with a love of reading. Her passion for reading led to a desire to write. After first publishing a nonfiction book, Living the Thin Life, she turned to fiction.
A visit to Cahokia Mounds sparked a fascination with the mysterious Mound Builders, about whom so little is known. What was their culture like? How did ordinary people live in the 14th century? What caused the civilization to vanish, seemingly overnight? She put her imagination to work and came up with a story line that put it all together. Extensive research enabled her to create a believable, engrossing world.

By day, she works in the information technology field at a large financial services firm. She is a graduate of the Missouri University of Science & Technology and lives in the St. Louis area with her husband. Chronicle of the Mound Builders is her first novel.

You can find the author at the following sites: Website.


You can follow along with the rest of the tour at the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour website or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #MoundBuildersTour.

Some places you can buy the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (fav. indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: The Hour of Peril by Daniel Stashower

hour of peril

The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower
Unabridged, 13 hr. 45 min.
Macmillan Audio
Edoardo Ballerini (Narrator)
January 29, 2013

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review

Daniel Stashower, the two-time Edgar award–winning author of The Beautiful Cigar Girl, uncovers the riveting true story of the “Baltimore Plot,” an audacious conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War in The Hour of Peril.

In February of 1861, just days before he assumed the presidency, Abraham Lincoln faced a “clear and fully-matured” threat of assassination as he traveled by train from Springfield to Washington for his inauguration. Over a period of thirteen days the legendary detective Allan Pinkerton worked feverishly to detect and thwart the plot, assisted by a captivating young widow named Kate Warne, America’s first female private eye.

As Lincoln’s train rolled inexorably toward “the seat of danger,” Pinkerton struggled to unravel the ever-changing details of the murder plot, even as he contended with the intractability of Lincoln and his advisors, who refused to believe that the danger was real. With time running out Pinkerton took a desperate gamble, staking Lincoln’s life—and the future of the nation—on a “perilous feint” that seemed to offer the only chance that Lincoln would survive to become president.  Shrouded in secrecy—and, later, mired in controversy—the story of the “Baltimore Plot” is one of the great untold tales of the Civil War era, and Stashower has crafted this spellbinding historical narrative with the pace and urgency of a race-against-the-clock thriller.

With the life of Abraham Lincoln being one of the most written about presidential biographies, I was surprised to learn about the “Baltimore Plot” to murder the president before he could be inaugurated. In Lincoln by David Herbert Donald there were a few lines of mention about this plot, but that was it. This book details the whole story, from the lead up, to the plot action, to the resolution.

Besides enlightening the reader to this little known, but very important, aspect of Civil War history we learn about the growth of the railroads and the evolution of the private investigation business. I was fascinated by the story of Allan Pinkerton. I had heard of him with regard to “the Pinkertons” as strike breakers – but interestingly enough, that wasn’t Allan Pinkerton, but relatives after he was deceased. I loved hearing how he came to the United States, built himself up, and created his private detection agency.

This was a fast paced narrative and not boring in the slightest. I appreciated the look at a new angle of Lincoln’s story.



The narration was well done and engaging. The narration kept the plot moving. Otherwise, the audio production was a standard production.

Author Daniel Stashower also has written several other books including: The Beautiful Cigar Girl, Teller of Tales, The Boy Genius and the Mogul among others. You can visit Stashower’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try listening to this excerpt of the book?

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interview with Author Ben Kane

Please help me welcome author Ben Kane.  His newest novel, Spartacus: Rebellion, was released earlier this week.  I had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his work – I had a particular interest in this subject as I am taking a Roman Republic and Empire class right now – which is currently his area of specialty.  Welcome Ben!


You have written novels about Roman Legions (The Forgotten Legion, The Silver Eagle, and Road to Rome), the Second Punic War (Hannibal: Enemy of Rome), and gladiators (Spartacus: The Gladiator and Spartacus: Rebellion).  What is it about this time period of Roman history that inspires you to write about it? 

I’ve always been interested in ancient civilizations, but particularly Rome. My first trilogy came about because of the storyline ― in a way, it was a coincidence that it was set during the fall of the Roman Republic. However, once I had become immersed in that world, I came to love it. I think I found myself drawn to the fact that it was still nominally democratic, whereas under the emperors, things were very different indeed. Also, what’s not to love about major historical figures such as Hannibal and Spartacus?!

I’m sure you have read and referred to many, many non-fiction books during your novel writing.  Are there any great ones that you could recommend?  I have a personal interest in this question as I am currently taking a Roman Republic and Empire class. 

The list is as long as my arm. I’ll list a few of the ones that I return to, again and again.

  • A History of Rome by Cary and Scullard ― absolutely indispensable.
  • The Oxford Classical Dictionary ― incredibly useful for looking up annoying names; great for explaining those details that in larger texts, are so often frustratingly vague.
  • Caesar by Adrian Goldsworthy ― just one of the excellent books written by one of the foremost experts on Ancient Rome. I could list a dozen of his.
  • Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles ― after decades without a new, well-researched text on the Carthaginians, this text was a really welcome arrival.
  • Greece and Rome at War by Peter Connolly ― if you are interested in the Roman army in any way, shape or form, you need to have this book. End of story. It has been newly republished too.

Thanks for these! I actually have the Cary and Scullard book as one of my assigned texts for this class – small world! I will have to take a look at the Miles book.

Why military historical fiction as opposed to some other type?  Did you have military experience or family inspiration?

I don’t, no! It’s just that since I was a boy, I’ve loved stories to do with men, swords and/or guns. I do have ancestors who served in various wars, but they’re not the reason that I write about soldiers and their comrades.

I have to ask, have you watched any of the Starz series Spartacus?  I have not, but have heard it is excellent.

I wondered if I’d get asked this! I have watched all but the final series, and am in the middle of watching that. It’s a mixed bag, to be honest. Some of it is really well done, and much of it is good TV – gripping, fast moving, and with a good storyline. Andy Whitfield, who played the first Spartacus, was great. Sadly, he died, however. There are other parts of the series that are truly awful. I’m sorry to say that the final series is proving to be the latter. It has departed almost entirely from historical fact, and become a sort of kung-fu fantasy effort. Spartacus deserved better.

With regard to future writing plans – do you plan to continue to write about Rome, other Ancient cultures like the Greeks, or something entirely different?

I plan to move to other time periods, yes. Next on the list is the Hundred Years War, between England and France, a conflict which actually lasted for 116 years (1337-1453). The first book will be called Crécy, and culminate with that famous battle.

When you have the chance for leisure reading, what books or authors do you enjoy?

I have to say that I still love historical fiction. My interests range through all time periods. Some of my favorite authors include Christian Cameron, C.W. Gortner and Robert Lyndon, author of the amazing Hawk Quest. After a twenty year hiatus from reading fantasy, I’ve been lured back into the fold by the dark and blackly humorous writing of Joe Abercrombie.


Ben Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin, and worked in Ireland and the UK for several years. After that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for seeing the world and learning more about ancient history. Seven continents and more than 65 countries later, he decided to settle down, for a while at least.

While working in Northumberland in 2001/2, his love of ancient history was fuelled by visits to Hadrian’s Wall. He naïvely decided to write bestselling Roman novels, a plan which came to fruition after several years of working full time at two jobs – being a vet and writing. Retrospectively, this was an unsurprising development, because since his childhood, Ben has been fascinated by Rome, and particularly, its armies. He now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family, where he has sensibly given up veterinary medicine to write full time.

You can visit the author on the following sites: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Goodreads.

spartacus rebellion tour button

You can follow along with the rest of the blog tour at the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #SpartacusRebellionTour.


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Maryanne O’Hara Author Event

This past Thursday I had the chance to attend an author event with Maryanne O’Hara, author of Cascade, at my favorite indie bookstore, RJ Julia.


When I go to an author event I am looking to learn something about the book that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.  When they bring photos, a slideshow, music, or some other accessory that is pertinent to provide background history it makes it so much more interesting.  O’Hara did just that.  She had photos of the towns of Enfield and Dana before and after destruction for the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir.  She also had a list (quite extensive) of other cities that have been destroyed for water projects. 

I also loved the format of the event – it was a very open and free-flowing discussion rather than a structured format of reading, discussion, Q&A.  I liked how there was an interchange of thoughts back and forth.  It was fascinating to learn that the novel Cascade started out as several different short-stories that ultimately were pulled together. 

Maryanne will be doing several more tour stops over the next few months.  I hope you get the chance to check out one of them.  Here are a few of her upcoming stops this month:

  • Saturday, May 18, 2013 12:15 PM - GAITHERSBURG BOOK FESTIVAL – Gaithersburg, MD
  • Tuesday, May 21, 2013 7:00pm - Jones Library - Amherst, MA
  • Wednesday, May 22, 2013 7:00PM – “The Human Cost of Water” - Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, Boston, MA

You can check out the rest of her tour stops on her site.


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mailbox Monday #141


It has been a few slow weeks around here – and like the last time, these books didn’t come in my mailbox, they were purchased by me. 

I went to a reading/author event with Maryanne O’Hara at RJ Julia on Thursday and picked up a copy of Cascade and had it signed. 

I also picked up (on a whim) Founding Myths by Ray Raphael while at Old Sturbridge Village this weekend.  This one sounded interesting and called out to me. 

With wit and flair, Founding Myths exposes the errors and inventions in thirteen of America’s most cherished tales, from Paul Revere’s famous ride to Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech. Exploring the dynamic intersection between history-making and story-making, award-winning author and historian Ray Raphael shows how these fictions—conceived in the narrowly nationalistic politics of the nineteenth century—undermine our democratic ideals.

And that’s all I got.  How about you?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of May it is being hosted by 4 The Love of Books.


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, May 10, 2013

Interview with Barbara Kyle

Good morning all.  I hope you will help me welcome a favorite historical fiction author, Barbara Kyle, author of the Thornleigh series and the recently released, Blood Between Queens.  Welcome Barbara!

Blood Between Queens

Blood Between Queens is about Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I.  What made you decide to write about these iconic rivals?

Like many history lovers I'm fascinated by the deadly rivalry between these two royal cousins. When Mary escaped her enemies in Scotland and arrived in England asking for Elizabeth's help, she could never have suspected that Elizabeth would keep her under house arrest for the next nineteen years, and finally, after Mary's incessant plotting for Elizabeth's crown, execute her. For over four hundred years this story has enthralled the world. It enthralled me even more when I began the research. And I quickly learned that Mary generates high emotions in people: they either love her or hate her. Once I'd done enough research to form my own opinion, I had to weigh in. I don't want to give any spoilers, so I'll just say that Blood Between Queens takes no prisoners!

From what I can tell, Blood Between Queens appears to be your first historical novel that is not part of the Thornleigh Saga (please correct me if I am wrong!).  Do you have plans to return to the Thornleigh’s at any point or is their story completed?

Actually, Blood Between Queens is book #5 of the Thornleigh Saga, which follows a rising, middle-class English family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. But each book stands alone, so readers don't need to have read the previous books to enjoy this story. And, yes, there are lots more adventures of the Thornleigh family in the works, with the next book in the saga scheduled for release in 2014 and another after that.

Your historical novels are all set during the Tudor dynasty – what is it about this period that draws you to set your stories there?

The Tudor/Elizabethan era is endlessly fascinating, not just to me, but to so many readers. That's because of its larger-than-life personalities, like Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I. Their actions had a tremendous impact on the people of England and the world. One example is Henry's amazing creation of a national church just so he could divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boleyn. Another is Elizabeth's famous rivalry with Mary Queen of Scots, keeping her under house arrest for nineteen years and eventually executing her. I call crucial events like these the hinges of history, and I set my Thornleigh stories during these times to test my characters’ mettle as they're forced to make hard choices about loyalty, duty, family, and love. 

I am assuming that Blood Between Queens is a stand-alone novel. How has the writing of a single novel compared with the experience of writing a series?

Blood Between Queens is indeed a stand-alone novel, introducing a new Thornleigh family member, Justine, but it also carries on with the storylines of some characters who appeared in previous Thornleigh books, so there were challenges in creating it. On one hand, some background about the ongoing characters is essential for readers who may be meeting them for the first time, but on the other hand the background has to be brief enough and distilled enough for readers who already know these characters. It's a balancing act. 

Are you currently working on any projects, and if so, can you tell us anything about it?

Yes, I'm just finishing the next Thornleigh book. It's set in 1572 and features my fictional seadog Adam Thornleigh joining the Dutch rebels who called themselves the Sea Beggars in their real-life fight against the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands. (I liken them to the Resistance in World War 2 fighting the Nazis.) It's been a pleasure to write because it brings back a young Scottish woman, Fenella Craig, who was a minor character in The Queen's Gamble. Her story in that novel was so intriguing I gave her the "starring" role in this new one. After I finish it I'll start the next Thornleigh book, which will return to the crisis between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. It will also feature Honor, my fictional heroine who began the saga with the first Thornleigh book, The Queen's Lady. I'm eager to get started on that.

What is your process for writing a novel?  Are you a outliner or a write the story as it comes person?

I always develop an extensive outline first. For me, the outline is where the heavy lifting of creation gets done: the development of characters and plot. My books always have complex plots, so I take a long time creating them in the outline, about three months per book, during which time I'm also doing lots of research.

What is your favorite part of being a writer? The research, writing, marketing, etc?

I adore the research. It's so absorbing, delving into biographies and poring over letters and maps, that I have to cut myself off after a few months and get to writing!

When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

I take a long walk almost every day after writing. (That's actually where a lot of story wrinkles get ironed out in my mind.) Also, my husband and I are sailors and we sail our Cal-46 ketch on beautiful Lake Huron. And I have to say that one of the things I enjoy doing most is hearing from readers and replying to them. That interaction - connecting with the readers I write for - makes my work a joy.

Barbara Kyle

Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Tudor-era Thornleigh novels Blood Between Queens, The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady which follow a rising middle-class family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. She also writes contemporary thrillers. Over 400,000 copies of her books have been sold in seven countries. In July 2013 Barbara will be a speaker at Ontario's world-renowned Stratford Festival with her talk "Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens: A Study of Leadership Lost and Won" about the cousin-queens Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots featured in Blood Between Queens.

Barbara has taught writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the US.

You can visit Barbara on her website for further information.

Blood Between Queens Tour Banner FINAL

You can follow along with the rest of the tour at the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #BloodBetweenQueensTour.

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Author Event with Mary Beth Keane

I had the opportunity to attend an author book talk at RJ Julia bookstore last week with Mary Beth Keane, author or Fever.


I always love attending author events – from the selections they choose to read to the questions from the audience – it is always fun.  And events at RJ Julia are always small and intimate. 

Keane chose to read a selection from Fever where Mary is thinking about the new hat that she bought – I think from Ch 5.  Keane told us that when she spends time describing an item of clothing there always needs to be a purpose to the description – not just to fill some word count.  I think that this scene very well fulfills that purpose.   

I was really surprised to learn that there isn’t a whole heck of a lot known about Mary’s life.  Obviously we know about the spreading of typhoid part, but her private life before coming to stay on North Brother Island is very vague.  This gave a lot for the author to work with.  I also enjoyed learning about how the author had to make a decision about Mary’s decisions – did she understand she was spreading disease and didn’t care thus being the malicious devil described in the papers – or was she confused about the new science and didn’t understand enough and thought she was being unjustly persecuted?  As I stated in my review, the book would have benefited from a Historical Note section, however this portion of the book talk really filled in some of the gaps for me.  

Everyone in attendance who had read the book, myself included, stated that the author did such a good job of making this marginalized person real – so we were surprised to learn that Keane doesn’t have any intentions right now of writing about a real historical figure.  Although she did it well – she found it extremely difficult to do.  Her next novel will be more contemporary and I think she said set in New York – but it is apparently in the very earliest planning stages.

the walking people

Several people there praised her earlier novel, The Walking People, so I would be remiss to not mention it.  It is an immigration from Ireland to the United States story that spans a 50 year time period.  Here is the blurb:

“Greta Cahill never believed she would leave her village in the west of Ireland until she found herself on a ship bound for New York, along with her sister Johanna and a boy named Michael Ward. Labeled a "softheaded goose" by her family, Greta discovers that in America she can fall in love, raise her own family, and earn a living. Though she longs to return and show her family what she has made of herself, her decision to spare her children knowledge of a secret in her past forces her to keep her life in New York separate from the life she once loved in Ireland, and tears her apart from the people she is closest to. Even fifty years later, when the Ireland of her memory bears little resemblance to that of present day, she fears that it is still possible to lose all when she discovers that her children—with the best of intentions— have conspired to unite the worlds she’s so carefully kept separate for decades. A beautifully old-fashioned novel, The Walking People is a debut of remarkable range and power.”

Stay tuned later this week (hopefully) for a post about North Brother Island – where “Typhoid Mary” spent a significant portion of her life.

My review of Fever

Mary Beth Keane’s website


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review: Fever by Mary Beth Keane


Fever by Mary Beth Keane
Unabridged, 9 hr. 53 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio
Candace Thaxton (Narrator)
March 12, 2013

Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Audio download received from publisher for review

“On the eve of the twentieth century, Mary Mallon emigrated from Ireland at age fifteen to make her way in New York City. Brave, headstrong, and dreaming of being a cook, she fought to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic-service ladder. Canny and enterprising, she worked her way to the kitchen, and discovered in herself the true talent of a chef. Sought after by New York aristocracy, and with an independence rare for a woman of the time, she seemed to have achieved the life she’d aimed for when she arrived in Castle Garden. Then one determined “medical engineer” noticed that she left a trail of disease wherever she cooked, and identified her as an “asymptomatic carrier” of Typhoid Fever. With this seemingly preposterous theory, he made Mallon a hunted woman.

The Department of Health sent Mallon to North Brother Island, where she was kept in isolation from 1907 to 1910, then released under the condition that she never work as a cook again. Yet for Mary—proud of her former status and passionate about cooking—the alternatives were abhorrent. She defied the edict.

Bringing early-twentieth-century New York alive—the neighborhoods, the bars, the park carved out of upper Manhattan, the boat traffic, the mansions and sweatshops and emerging skyscrapers—Fever is an ambitious retelling of a forgotten life. In the imagination of Mary Beth Keane, Mary Mallon becomes a fiercely compelling, dramatic, vexing, sympathetic, uncompromising, and unforgettable heroine.”

I was drawn to this book the moment I heard it was about Mary Mallon, or Typhoid Mary. I didn’t know much about the woman at all, but from the propaganda I had heard about her, I was sure that she was getting something of a bad rap. I hoped that Keane would bring us a version of what Mallon might have been like as a real person – and that is exactly what we get from this book. Mary Mallon is presented to the reader as a woman who doesn’t understand the medical significance of being a healthy carrier and just wants to be able to live a regular life. She feels persecuted, hunted, treated unfairly, but isn’t the evil, intentional disease spreading devil that she was presented as by the media. She is such a believable character as it is easy to imagine that many people wouldn’t understand how someone could be a healthy carrier who spreads disease in her path.

Mary and her cohorts show us what it was like to be of the working class in New York City around the turn of the century. We see the dirty underbelly of the city and what those conditions led to: disease epidemics, the Triangle Fire, etc. These were some interesting scenes. I really, morosely, appreciated the first-person view of the Triangle Fire disaster. This has always been a topic of interest for me and I would love to know if this is something that Mary Mallon actually witnessed.

Keane does a great job of setting up the scenery for us – whether it is North Brother Island, New York City, or the backwoods of Minnesota. She has a way of showing much more than telling. These are vivid scenes which make the events seem all the more real.

I would have loved to have had a historical note included in the book. As there is so much information about Mary that has been tainted by propaganda and what is actually known about her is somewhat sparse, I would have loved to know what was real and what was the author’s imagination. I had the chance to listen to a book talk with the author last week and will be including some of what I found out in a post later this week.



The narration here was so wonderfully done. The narrator fit well into the role of Mary Mallon as she had an Irish accent that brought her even more to life. She also had a great pace to her reading and kept the plot interesting and moving.

Author Mary Beth Keane also has written The Walking People. You can visit her website for additional information about the book.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court