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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Top 5: Non-Fiction Books I’ve Read


I realized that I only make lists at the end of the calendar year when I’m looking back at what I have accomplished, but there are so many other times when a list of awesome things would be appropriate.  I know I’m always finding cool bookish things that I want to share with you all, so I’m starting this Top 5 series to highlight some of those items.  This month, in keeping with Non-Fiction November, I’m highlighting the Top 5 Non-Fiction Books that I have read thus far – and boy was that list hard to narrow down!

5. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

devil in the white city

I have always been interested in crime stories, since I was a criminal justice major in my undergraduate work.  I loved how Larson integrated a true crime story with that of the process of creating the St. Louis World Fair.  The juxtaposition and how it all came together was seamlessly done.  I would read anything that Larson writes. 

My REVIEW of Devil in the White City

4. Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson

isaacs storm

Funny that I was just talking about how I would read anything by Larson!  Isaac’s Storm was the first book that I had read by Larson and that really started my love of his style.  The narrative of this epic natural disaster was frenetic and dramatic and I found myself sucked into the world of early weather forecasting in a way I NEVER expected.

My REVIEW of Isaac’s Storm

3. The Circus Fire by Stewart O’Nan

circus fire

This was the first non-fiction book that I can remember being truly passionate about.  It consumed by life during the weeks in which I was reading it.  It was all I told my husband about every day after listening to it on my ride home from work.  It didn’t hurt that I was working and driving through the areas being featured in this book at that time.  It was so reverently written.   This was the first non-fiction that I can remember crying about while reading.

My REVIEW of The Circus Fire

2. Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne

rebel yell

The top two books were a real struggle for a decision and not much at all separates them in my book.  Rebel Yell is a book that I highly recommend to everyone I know.  It is a book that made me truly feel compassion for a member of the Confederacy.  S.C. Gwynne creates a man, not just a stereotype.  It was so well researched and I again couldn’t stop telling my husband about this book and I cried at Jackson’s death.  I couldn’t put the book down!

My REVIEW of Rebel Yell

1. Destiny of the Republic by Candace Millard

destiny of the republic

Presidential fiction has always fascinated me and the awesome thing about this book is it brings to life the man who was among our shortest serving presidents and one of those who was sadly assassinated.  To say that I learned SO much is an understatement.  But beyond the life and death of the president, Millard tied in a wide variety of other pertinent topics as well: the process of antiseptic sterilization and the medical care (or lack there of) that President Garfield endured and how the process of the telephone and Alexander Graham Bell factored in.  It was just a well written piece about an undervalued subject.  I was emotionally tied to this book and could tell that Millard was invested in her subject.

My REVIEW of Destiny of the Republic

Really these top 3 books were interchangeable in my mind and could easily be in the top spot depending on what elements I was analyzing.  If you are looking for a non-fiction to read, I could HIGHLY recommend all of these books in a heartbeat.

Do you have a favorite non-fiction book?


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Review: To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin


To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin
ARC, e-Book, 304 pages
Flatiron Books
November 29, 2016
goodreads button

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for review and buddy read via Netgalley

Set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower, this novel charts the relationship between a young Scottish widow and a French engineer who, despite constraints of class and wealth, fall in love.

In February 1887, Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier meet in a hot air balloon, floating high above Paris, France--a moment of pure possibility. But back on firm ground, their vastly different social strata become clear.

Cait is a widow who because of her precarious financial situation is forced to chaperone two wealthy Scottish charges. Émile is expected to take on the bourgeois stability of his family's business and choose a suitable wife. As the Eiffel Tower rises, a marvel of steel and air and light, the subject of extreme controversy and a symbol of the future, Cait and Émile must decide what their love is worth.

Seamlessly weaving historical detail and vivid invention, Beatrice Colin evokes the revolutionary time in which Cait and Émile live--one of corsets and secret trysts, duels and Bohemian independence, strict tradition and Impressionist experimentation. To Capture What We Cannot Keep, stylish, provocative, and shimmering, raises probing questions about a woman's place in that world, the overarching reach of class distinctions, and the sacrifices love requires of us all.

To Capture What We Cannot Keep is the most recent buddy read that I took on with my friends Stephanie at Layered Pages and Colleen at A Literary Vacation. We were so excited to read this one together because of the idea of the construction of the iconic Tower; ultimately this turned out to be somewhat of a dud for all of us, leading us to consider how we are selecting our next read!

One thing that Colin does exceptionally well is craft a world that you can see, feel, touch, and smell. It comes to life off the page, no matter if it is a dank alleyway or the lap of luxury. We were constantly enthralled with the way even such simple things that we experience every day were described in a whole new way. Some of the best world crafting I have ever read! Here are a couple of my favorite examples for some flavor:

“The room had gradually lost its allure. It was too hot, the air too close, and the smell of perspiration and shoe leather had become overpowering. The gold and paint, the class and crystal, were as cloying as the scent of the white lilies that had been artfully displayed in a vase on the mantelpiece.” (Chapter 37)

“At the top, a door opened on to a warren of rooms set around a huge chandelier, the lowest of its crystals falling only inches from the floor. It was impossible to stand upright; Emile had to stoop. The worker lay in bed in the back room, a filthy curtain drawn across the top half of what was once the drawing-room window.” (Chapter 14)

The other element that I found fascinating and done to perfection was the integration of the building of the Eiffel Tower into the story of two young adults and their chaperone travelling abroad. The two elements couldn’t be more different, but came together in seamless perfection. Emile is one of Eiffel’s right hand men and as such he is right in the thick of every disaster and upheaval that occurred during the process of erecting this behemoth. I honestly found the portions related to the Tower to be the most interesting of the whole novel and could have handled even more set on the scene.

The rest of the novel held a lot of promise, but did not live up to the expectations set out in the description. Cait as a chaperone for Alice and Jamie was plain awful at her job; I mean, she is there for one reason and can’t even keep track of these two as they run off every five minutes. And while this could lead to some interesting antics, they never turned out to be all that exciting. Alice is SO naïve it was cliché. Jaime, while somewhat more worldly, is still quite naïve as demonstrated in a few select scenes. I found them to be paper thin – actually I found most of the characters to be that way. Cait is disappointed with the options left her as a widowed woman and some of that is explored, but I never was made to really care about what option she would choose in the end. Even the touted romance between her and Emile seemed based on very little and was certainly not enough to drive the plot or make a difficult decision. The character with the most promise was Gabrielle, Emile’s mistress, who was sure to leave trouble in her wake, and she did, but I certainly expected a lot more from her considering how disappointed I was with the rest of the plot and characters.

Speaking of the plot, it moved at an almost glacial pace, sometimes feeling like we were going in reverse. Many chapters would pass by with almost no forward progression; I was often left waiting for something to happen only to be left disappointed with the little bit that did. Ultimately I just wanted to get to the end of the novel to see how it resolved, but I didn’t exactly care what happened to the characters either. So much promise, but not enough follow thru.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Find Beatrice Colin: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book Pairings: Non-Fiction November


I am excited to bring a new featured series to you all today – introducing Book Pairings! If you are anything like me, sometimes you get hooked on a subject while reading your current book and you can’t let it go upon closing the cover.  Sometimes you want to know more about the real subject involved, while other times you might just want to pick up another novel about the same thing.  Maybe you are even looking for other categories like film or music that might pick up on elements of something you read.  Here is where Book Pairings comes in.  Each installment of Book Pairings will have a theme that pairs up several books with something else that would compliment them beautifully (most often this will be other books).  I’m excited to explore where this will take me!

So where will this inaugural installment take us?  I wanted to continue with the Non-Fiction November theme and thought it might be fun to pair up some fiction with non-fiction on a similar subject.  Then I thought “How cool would it be to integrate my selections from my Wish List this month?”  Yeah, well, some of those titles were on very obscure subjects so I had to flex my mental muscle a little to find pairings (and one of them is something of a cheat). 

In an effort to not repeat myself, if you want to know more about the non-fiction books on this list, check out my Wish List post.  I will include blurbs for the pairings in the below post.

City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker | Charlatan by Kate Braithwaite


I had to think long and hard about this one before I realized it shouldn’t have been so difficult.  City of Light, City of Poison is a non-fiction book set during the reign of Louis XIV and is about Nicolas de la Reynie who was the first police chief of Paris.  Much of his time was spent dealing with the dark occult underbelly of the city at the time.  Charlatan, a novel released just a couple months ago by Kate Braithwaite exists in the same world and explores the Affair of the Poisons.  A great combination!  You can read more about Charlatan and the story behind the Affair of the Poisons in Kate Braithwaite’s guest post.

About Charlatan:

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

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

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

"This book kept me reading into the night... luxury and squalor, royal scandal and sorcery... how could it not?" Fay Weldon, author The Life and Loves of a She-devil.

Ice Ghosts by Paul Watson | The Terror by Dan Simmons


The story of the Franklin Expedition to the Arctic has always been one of those tragedies that has fascinated me.  The expedition was attempting to explore uncharted areas of the Northwest Passage and was stranded in the ice before ultimately all the men ended up dying.  What is kind of cool is that Paul Watson, author of Ice Ghosts, was on the ship that discovered the wreck in 2014 of one of the Franklin ships the HMS Erebus, so that lends some legitimacy of the book.  In The Terror Dan Simmons spins a tale of this Franklin Expedition and what they might have encountered and how the psyche might have been affected by being stranded in the Arctic.  I really enjoyed this book and it would appeal to both historical fiction and horror fans while not falling squarely into either category.  You can check out my review of The Terror here.

The Zoo by Isobel Charman | Minsk: Poems by Lavinia Greenlaw


Ok, so here is the cheated a little bit one – I noticed that I sort of worked myself into a real corner with the specificity of a book about the founding of the London Zoo – (The Zoo).  Accordingly I had to be a little creative with this one and found something really kind of cool to pair with it.  Minsk is a book of poetry about a bunch of things but one section focuses on the different exhibits as they opened at the London Zoo! How cool is that?!   Segments such as “Bunk” feature the opening of The Raven’s Cage or “Spin”, The Giraffe House.  There is a great preview of many of these poems on Google Books.  I’m not the biggest fan of poetry, but I was excited to be able to tie these two together. 

March 1917 by Will Englund | Fall of Giants by Ken Follett


The events leading up to WWI have been heavily studied and discussed and have resulted in several different interpretations regarding the onset of the war.  March 1917 looks specifically at the entrance of the United States into the war and what the myriad of events that occurred during that month meant to the war – talk about a microhistory!  In Ken Follett’s sweeping epic novel, Fall of Giants, he explores the war through the eyes of many different characters from varying backgrounds which I found all encompassing.  There is even a chapter directly focused on March 1917.  You can read my review of Fall of Giants here.

Battle Royal by Hugh Bicheno | Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith


I don’t know about you, but I find the period of English history about The Wars of the Roses to be more fascinating that almost any other period of English history (closely in contest with Roman Britannia and the time of the Saxons/Norman Conquest). Battle Royal is part one of a two part series following these Wars during the 15th century.  In Queen by Right, author Anne Easter Smith looks at the origins of the wars, beginning with the Duke of York, but from the perspective of his wife, Cecily.  I really enjoyed seeing this perspective that is the road less traveled in Plantagenet history.  You can check out my review of Queen by Right here.

Are there any better titles that you would pair with these non-fiction ones?  I’d be interested to hear if you have anything else for The Zoo as I looked long and hard and didn’t want to venture into the SciFi world.


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Weekend Cooking: Apple Pie

weekend cooking

Hi everyone! I know it’s been awhile since I have posted one of these, it’s been crazy with moving to the new house and everything.  One of the things I am sure that many of us made this week for Thanksgiving was some sort of pie, and for me that always means apple pie!  When I thought about apple pie it brought me back to our experience cooking over the open hearth at Old Sturbridge Village back in February where one of the items we had was apple pie!

One of the things that I found most surprising during that experience was that in the 1800’s apple pie would not have been eaten as a dessert, but rather with the meal! How cool is that!?!  I’m all for eating pie with my meal because I never have room for dessert after, however it felt a little bit strange as we are so programmed that a sweet comes as a dessert.  The other thing that was fascinating was that you would typically eat a cheese, like cheddar, with you pie – a bit of each in every bite.  I had not tried this before, and was a little hesitant, but OMG how the flavors of the two compliment so well!  I encourage you to give it a try with you next pie – we meant to this Thanksgiving, but forgot to buy the cheese…next time for sure!  An apple pie also was easy to prepare even when apples were out of season because it could be prepared using dried apples that were put up at the end of autumn for storage.  A very versatile recipe.

Apple Pie
Makes 1 - 9 Inch Pie

Recipe from The American Frugal Housewife, 1833

When you make apple pies, stew your apple very little indeed; just strike them through, to make them tender.  Some people do not stew them at all, but cut them up in very thin slices, and lay them in the crust.  Put sugar to your taste; it is impossible to make a precise rule, because apples vary so much in acidity.  A very little salt, and a small piece of butter in each pie, makes them richer.  Cloves and cinnamon are both suitable.  Lemon brandy and rose water are both excellent.  A wine glass full (about 2 oz) of each is sufficient for three or four pies.  If your apples lack spirit, grate in a whole lemon.

Modern Translation from Old Sturbridge Village Cookbook:


6 cups apples (fresh or dried) or 2 cups applesauce
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp. cloves or cinnamon
Piecrust for a double-crust pie
1 Tbsp. butter
½ tsp. salt (optional)
1 Tbsp. lemon peel, if apples are sweet
1 Tbsp. lemon brandy or rosewater (optional)


1. To prepare apples, follow one of these three methods:
     a. Peel and slice apples, toss with sugar and spice until all are coated.
     b. Peel and core whole apples, slice into rings.  Put into saucepan with 1 inch of water on the bottom, sugar, and spices.  Stew for 10 minutes.
     c. Put dried apples in a bowl and cover with water.  They will swell up in a couple of hours in a warm place.  Put apples, a small amount of water in which they soaked, sugar, and spice into a saucepan and cook for 10 minutes.

2. Prepare piecrust

3. Line a 9-inch plate with pastry.

4. Arrange prepared apples in pie plate.  Add juice if stewed.  Dot with butter.  Add salt, lemon peel, and brandy or rosewater, if desired: Cover with top crust, make slits to let steam escape. 

5. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour if stewed apples are used or for 1 hour and 15 minutes for uncooked fruit.

Not a 2-Crust Pie – A Dutch Apple Version

Ok, so I didn’t have the foresight to have taken a photo of the pie when we were at the event (it was eaten too quickly), but the above photo is a picture of a Dutch apple pie that I made for this Thanksgiving that was fairly similar.  Everyone thought the pie was spectacular.  The team that made it followed the traditional method and used uncooked, fresh apples, cloves, and a pat of butter.  It was an excellent contribution to the dinner and I highly recommend playing around with the recipe a bit to meet your needs.  It would be interesting to try it out starting with dried apples and see how the final product comes out.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and anything even remotely cooking related can participate in this event.


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Interview with Janie Dempsey Watts

Good morning everyone!  Today I have the opportunity to introduce you to Janie Dempsey Watts, author of Return to Taylor’s Crossing, a recipient of the BRAG Medallion.  Her book is on such an interesting subject, I hope you will love it too!

return to taylors crossing

Heather C: Hi Janie! Welcome to The Maiden’s Court.  Can you tell me how you discovered indieBRAG and what the BRAG Medallion has meant to you?

Janie Dempsey Watts: Thank you for having me visit, Heather. I discovered indieBRAG through another author who had received the Medallion and encouraged me to try for it with my second novel. How glad I am that I did! I am so honored to receive this award, especially since Medallion books are chosen by a panel of readers from around the globe. Having the gold seal on one’s book is like the “Good Housekeeping” seal, in a literary sense. The Medallion tells readers that a book is worth their time. The Medallion has been a big boost!

HC: I’m so happy to hear that you have had such a wonderful experience with IndieBRAG!

Return to Taylor’s Crossing explores themes of racism and violence during the Civil Rights era that are becoming familiar again in today’s era. While writing did you draw any parallels between the two times?

JDW: I saw many parallels while writing. Our country is again in a time of rapid social change as it was in the 1960s. Many people feel threatened by these changes. As experienced during the Civil Rights movement, people may fear someone who is different than they are, for example someone of a different race or cultural background. Those who feel threatened by those not like themselves often lash out to express their fear or even hate. In the 50s and 60s, a group such as the KKK was a well-known way to express hate, and today, that group is still around. There’s now also a new way to lash out and express hate: social media. Back in the 50s and 60s, the attackers hid behind white robes and hoods; today, the haters can hide behind computer screens, and be emboldened by their anonymity. As the saying goes, “Haters are gonna hate.”

HC: It really amazes me how history seems to operate in cycles and we see some of the same trends come and go – unfortunately racism is one of those that we would rather not repeat.

How did the story of Return to Taylor’s Crossing come about?

JDW: When I was very little, my family often visited my grandmother who had a dairy farm where a kind and gentle African-American man worked, along with some of our family. He also helped with other farm chores. I remember him boosting all of us up on our big draft horse one day—all four of us kids! One morning, I woke up to find my parents very upset. The KKK had broken into his cabin, beaten him up, and told him to never return to the area. My parents couldn’t understand why someone would do this, and neither could I. After he was forced to leave, I always wondered what happened to him and how this attack had affected his life. I decided to give him a voice, and the seed for the story was planted.

HC: Wow! That’s an incredible basis for a story – uniting something you know from personal experience with something fictional.

There are 6 different narrators in your novel. Was it difficult to provide balance to the novel with this many narrators, especially considering that the page count is under 300 pages?

JDW: There are three African-American characters, Abednego, Lola, and Marvelous, and three white characters, Sewell, Adelaide, and Iris. Violent attacks spin their lives in different directions over a 50-year span. Abednego, the dairy worker, and his girlfriend, Lola, predominate the story since, being the targets, their lives are the most affected by hate crimes. The other four characters have fewer chapters, but come into the story as the plot unfolds. In order to decide whose perspective a chapter would be told from, I determined who was the character most impacted by the action. For example, the KKK attack is told from Abednego’s point of view since he is the one who fears for his life. As I got deeper into the plot, deciding whose chapter came next became easier. One “extra” narrator, the owner of the general store, Xylia, really needed her own chapter, too. So, counting Xylia’s one chapter, there are seven narrators! Each one moves the story forward.

HC: It always impresses me how authors can keep all of their points of view straight; it sounds like you had a little easier method here.

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

JDW: What a great question! Just throw me in the briar patch, as Mama used to say. My two novels, Return to Taylor’s Crossing and Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge, are both southern literary fiction with elements of history, mystery, and romance. The plots are character-driven. My writing style has been described as having a sense of humor and irony, and being realistic. Having written five screenplays before tackling novels, I enjoy creating settings and scenes where the readers feel they are right there with the characters, and creating dialogue that is true to the character speaking. In researching Return to Taylor’s Crossing, I researched African-American vernacular English to try and make the dialect true to the time and setting of the story. I also had several friends check the dialogue to make sure it was alright, and when it wasn’t, I changed it according to their suggestions to make it more authentic.

HC: It sounds like you put a lot of effort into the right places in your novel which shows why it was deserving of the Medallion!

What drew you towards independent publishing as opposed to seeking out a traditional publisher?  Has there been anything that was more or less challenging that you expected?  Would you do it again?

JDW: My first novel was published by a small, traditional publisher. At the urging of several author friends who had successfully self-published, I decided to try it myself. I liked the idea of having creative freedom in the editing of my work. The most challenging part was formatting the text onto the page the correct way. Spacing issues keep popping up in the galleys. My cover designer graciously offered to help me fix the errors. I had to proofread the book about 10 times before I got it right! And yes, I will tackle self-publishing again in early 2017 with my short story collection, Mothers, Sons, Beloveds, and Other Strangers.

HC: It is always fascinating to me to see where those who have independently published find struggles and how they overcome those – to help others trying the same thing. Thank you for sharing.

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

JDW: I write in my “spare” time, and there’s not much of that. I work four days a week in a college writing lab, so I work around that and marketing my first two novels. Marketing and selling books takes up a good bit of my time, and this can include making appearances at literary events or speaking to book clubs or other groups. Right now I am busy editing my short story collection, a very left brain activity, but I look forward to soon beginning my third novel which will also be set in the South.

HC: I’m sure it takes a lot of work and commitment to do all the roles of publishing and marketing yourself.

When you are not reading/writing – what do you like to do in your spare time?

JDW: Every chance I have, I spend with my horses out in the pasture which is located on my grandmother’s farm near Taylor’s Ridge, a prominent landmark in both my novels. I spent many happy hours there as a child. Sometimes I ride the horses, but often I just hang out with them, talk to them. I also enjoy spending time with my family. And when I can break away, I love taking a day trip over the back roads to fire up my imagination. I enjoy stumbling upon places with a lot of history—general stores, homes, and even graveyards. I also like eavesdropping in restaurants to improve the dialogue in my fiction.

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience with us!

janie dempsey watts

A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Janie Dempsey Watts has strong roots there and in Ringgold, Georgia where she spent much of her childhood on horseback.  She holds journalism degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Southern California. In addition to her novel Moon Over Taylor's Ridge, she has been published in newspapers and magazines. She also authored five screenplays. Her stories have been published in Christian Science Monitor, Guideposts, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and in Georgia Backroads Magazine. She is a columnist for Catoosa Life Magazine.

Janie's current emphasis is fiction. She has just completed her own collection of short stories and her second novel, Return to Taylor's Crossing. Two of her short stories were honored as finalist and semi-finalist by the William Faulkner Pirate's Alley Creative Writing Contest.

After many years of living in California, Janie returned to the North Georgia to live close to the family farm and Taylor's Ridge. When not writing, she and her husband care for three horses, a barn cat and their American.

Find Janie Dempsey Watts: Website | Blog | Facebook

return to taylors crossing

goodreads button

Book Blurb:

Summer, 1959. In a small Georgia town, dairy worker Abednego Harris, 19, not only stands out for his skillful handling of bulls, but because of his color. When Lola James, 17, arrives to do day work for a nearby family, Abednego is smitten. As the young couple falls in love, racial tensions heat up, threatening their world. A violent attack tears them apart and spins their lives in different directions. This is their story, and the story of four others whose lives are forever changed by violence. One of them will return to Taylor's Crossing seeking answers.

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

A Message from IndieBRAG:

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

brag interview team


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Excerpt from Season of Love by Vivi Holt

I have another treat for you today on this Cutter’s Creek Christmas tour!  I have an excerpt for you from the book that I reviewed last week, Season of Love by Vivi Holt.  Take a look at what Ms. Holt brings to the spirit of the season!

It’s a Christmas sugarplum celebration! Christmas in Cutter’s Creek means a Christmas social; sugarplum contest, dancing, a dash of mayhem and a heaping helping of romance.

First off is Kit Morgan’s Recipe for Christmas. This novella is set in 1866 and is the very first Cutter’s Creek Christmas social, and so much mischief happens, it’s a wonder they had another!

Lucius Judrow from Love is Blind has a brother and he’s on his way to Cutter’s Creek. Come see who Eldon meets in this hilarious and sweet romance!

The next is Vivi Holt’s Seasons of Love. It takes place in 1872. The social has changed just a bit. You’d think they’d learned with all the trouble, but no, the social is more fun than trouble. Margaret is a lonely school teacher from the East looking for a little love and adventure. She finds just that and a whole lot more in this sweet Christmas romance!

Third Christmas novella is just a few years later and the social has changed yet again, to a cider competition! The contestants get a little rowdy and words are said that might ruin Christmas! Felicity will need special help to solve this mess. Find out more in Annie Boone’s Christmas Spirit.

The fourth and final Christmas novella takes place in 1892 and rumors of Christmas social’s past dominate the festivities. Carol needs to find a husband and the new doctor in town provides a great opportunity. A snowball fight leads to romance in Kari Trumbo’s A Carol Plays.

Recipe for Christmas ǀ Season of Love ǀ Christmas Spirit ǀ A Carol Plays

Find the Cutter’s Creek authors on Facebook!


Margaret cinched her scarf more tightly around her neck and shivered as her booted feet crunched through the icy snow. The main street of Cutter’s Creek sparkled in the sunlight, and drifts of snow pushed up against storefronts and house walls all up and down the street. Juniper and hemlock branches drooped under the weight of the white powder, and icicles hung from the eaves. Her breath burst from her mouth in white clouds as she struggled along, being careful not to lose her footing.

When she pushed open the door to the mercantile, a bell dinged above the doorway, announcing her arrival. She stamped the snow from her boots, and unwound her scarf to greet Abigail Smith.
“Abi, it’s good to see you. How’s Jasper Jnr? Last time I came in he had a cold.”

“Why, hello there Meg. Junior is doin’ just fine now, thank you for askin’. He’s still got a bit of a cough, but nothin’ some chicken broth and gruel won’t fix.”

The bell over the door rang again, and Margaret turned to discover Mrs Agatha Waverley tapping her boots on the welcome mat.

“Mornin’ Abi, mornin’ Meg. What a day it is.” Agatha had a habit of grumbling and complaining first thing, to get it out of the way so she could deal with the more important matters of conversation over the rest of the day.

“Good morning Mrs Waverley. It’s lovely to see you on this fine day.” Margaret removed her gloves with a tug at each fingertip, and smiled at the older lady. She strode to the counter, and began perusing the wares behind it, calculating in her head the supplies she’d need to get through the week.

Mrs. Waverly nodded, and followed Abigail, who was stacking a new supply of brooms in a corner of the store. “Did you hear about the incident over at the school,” she whispered conspiratorially, with a dip of her head.

Margaret’s ears pricked at the mention of the school. She listened closely, her eyes still focused on a barrel of red and white striped candy.

“No, I did not. But I’m sure you’ll tell me all about it,” sighed Abigail as she pushed the last of the brooms into place. She turned and hurried back to the counter to wait on Margaret. Mrs Waverly followed her like an eager pup.

“As you know, Mr Waverley checks on the schoolhouse regular-like through the winter months, since no one else seems to feel the responsibility.” Here she paused with a meaningful look at Margaret, who was running her fingers over a bolt of blue and tan calico. She gasped in surprise and turned to face the women. Abigail’s face flushed red. She scurried the last few steps, to stand before Margaret.

“I’m so sorry to keep you waiting, Meg. Have you decided yet what you’ll need?”

“Yes please. I’ll have a pound of flour, a half-dozen of your wonderful eggs, and a half pound of butter, thank you kindly.”

Abigail set about wrapping the items in brown paper.

Mrs. Waverley waddled close, and interrupted them to continue. “Well, he went by the schoolhouse yesterday, and noticed smoke comin’ from the chimney. Well now, he says to hisself, ain’t no one supposed to be in there, then how come there’s smoke a’comin’ from the chimney?” She grinned with delight at the intrigue of her own story, and Margaret and Abigail exchanged a glance of aggravation.

“Is that so?” asked Abigail, strumming her fingernails against the counter top.

“Yep. And when he went inside, do you know what he found?”

“I do not. Pray tell.”

season of love

Season of Love by Vivi Holt
Book 11 in the Cutter’s Creek series
ARC, e-Book, 82 pages
Black Lab Press
October 27, 2016
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**My REVIEW of Season of Love by Vivi Holt**

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Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: The Duke of Deception by Darcy Burke with Excerpt and Tour-Wide Giveaway

The Duke of Deception - BK 3
The Duke of Deception by Darcy Burke
Book 3 in The Untouchables Series
ARC, eBook, 222 pages
Self Published
November 15, 2016
★★★★ ½☆
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Heat Level:

Genre: Historical Romance, Regency

Source: Received from Publicist for Review
After five years on the Marriage Mart, Miss Aquilla Knox is ready for spinsterhood until a benefactress steps in to help her secure a husband. Only Aquilla doesn’t actually want to marry—her failure is entirely on purpose. When the earl she’s nicknamed the Duke of Deception sets his sights on her, she refuses to be drawn in by her attraction to him. If there’s one thing she knows it’s that a gentleman is never what he seems.
Edward Bishop, Earl of Sutton, has a reputation for courting young misses and dropping them without a second thought. This has earned him a reputation for deceit, a description he can’t refute because he does in fact, harbor secrets and will do anything—deceive anyone—to ensure they don’t come to light. As he comes to know the charming Miss Knox, his resolve is tested. However, trust comes at a price and Ned won’t pay with his heart.
What a fun romance adventure this was! Aquilla and Ned were an excellent match of wits that their exchanges were so entertaining to read. Both of them are keeping secrets from each other – and they know that they are – but unlike some other novels featuring secrets, it was less about a constant state of misunderstanding. Aquilla doesn’t intend to marry, that’s part of her secret, but when pushed into a corner, marriage to the “Duke of Deception” seems the better of the options available. Ned needs to find a wife, but he is looking for someone that meets some very specific requirements, that Aquilla seems to meet. While they don’t know each other very well, they quickly form an attachment.

Aquilla reminded me of myself in some ways which made her very realistic and easy to connect with. She is quite loquacious, in ALL situations, which sometimes slowed down some of the romantic moments – but at least the hero found that intriguing, so it all works out. Some of these moments felt a little explanatory, which makes some sense as she is a novice, but I could have done with less “training” during each subsequent encounter. Their sexual relations are definitely hot, but not scorching. Ned has been named the “Duke of Deception” by Aquilla and her friends because he is well-known for leading women toward thinking he is going to offer marriage and then ultimately not, but that name goes deeper than they even realize.

I loved how the pace of the story barreled forward getting closer and closer to the secrets being revealed. The two characters don’t fixate too much throughout the novel about how the revelation of the secrets would play out as they knew it would eventually need to be revealed, but it does cross their find from time to time. As I stated before, while this wasn’t a constant state of misunderstanding, there was one major moment toward the end that actually in its own way started to bring everything back together as the characters had begun to drift apart. I was surprised by how Ned’s secret played out and the drama that unfolded there, because I had my own idea, but not the way it actually turned out.

This is the third book in this series, however it read perfectly well as a stand alone. Two of Aquilla’s friends who make appearances in this book (as well as their husbands) have their own stories featured in books 1 and 2, as well as the forthcoming book 4 as well. I could sense there was backstory between them, but it wasn’t necessary to the story being told in The Duke of Deception. I will certainly be going back to read the earlier installments in this series.

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The other titles in this series by Darcy Burke include:

The Forbidden Duke - BK 1
The Forbidden Duke (Book 1)

The Duke of Daring - BK 2
The Duke of Daring (Book 2)

Find Darcy Burke: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

DoD Teaser 4


The soft utterance came from the door behind Ned. He pivoted and listened, wondering if he’d imagined the sound amidst the steady pit-pat of rain.

“Ahem.” The statement came more loudly. “Pardon me, but might I ask a favor?”

Ned turned fully toward the feminine voice coming from the dim veranda. He pulled the door wider. “Come in.”

“No.” She stood just outside. Ned could only make out her vague shape. “I can’t come into the ballroom. I need to enter another way and get to the retiring room. I’m afraid I was caught in this rain and...” Her voice trailed off.

Ned strained his eyes to try to see her features, but it was dark and she was standing too far away from the light of the ballroom. “I believe there’s another door along the terrace.” He gestured behind her. He’d visited Middlegrove House a few times and had been outside before.

“Yes, but it’s locked. That is why I need a favor. I don’t suppose you could find Lady Satterfield and ask her to unlock that door for me?”

Lady Satterfield and not Lady Middlegrove? He glanced back at the crowded ballroom and doubted he could find either of them, especially quickly. “Are you out there unprotected in the rain?” She had to be freezing. It was a cool night amidst a particularly cold spring.

“Er...yes.” She sounded resigned. “It was not my best idea.” Her calm tone carried an edge of humor that Ned found intriguing. He would’ve expected most women to be far more agitated by such a predicament.

Clearly she was alone, and he wondered what she was doing out there by herself. However that hardly mattered while she was standing there likely shivering. “Go to the door, and I’ll ensure it’s unlocked posthaste.”

She exhaled sharply, and the sound carried a thrum of relief. “Thank y-you.”

Yes, she was shivering.

He considered handing her his coat through the open doorway, but that would invite unwanted attention and scandal—something Ned was always careful to avoid.

“I’ll hurry.” He left the doorway and cut around the edge of the ballroom, making his way to the card room next door. He wasn’t exactly sure which room the locked terrace door opened into, but suspected it was just on the other side of this one.

He ought to find Lady Middlegrove or a retainer or even Lady Satterfield, since the young woman had asked for her, but he was too concerned with getting her inside as quickly as possible. And since he didn’t see any of those people, he decided to help her himself.

He left the card room and looked around to discern if anyone was about to pay him any mind. Satisfied that he was alone and unobserved, he went into the next room, which appeared to be Lord Middlegrove’s office and closed the door firmly behind him. A low fire burned in the grate as he walked swiftly toward the exterior door. After unbolting it, he opened it wide.

Standing at the threshold looking little better than a drowned cat was a young woman, her face pale and her eyes wide. She hugged her arms around her waist and stepped inside.
He took her gently by the arm and pulled her farther into the room before closing the door sharply behind her. “Come to the fire.”

Her peach-colored dress was sodden and dark. Wet curls stuck to her temples and cheeks. A droplet of rain slid from her nose.

“Th-thank y-y-you.” The words trembled from her mouth like a newborn foal as she moved to stand in front of the fire. She stuck her hands out, warming her palms.

“Give me those.” He took her left hand and pulled off the damp glove then repeated the action with the right. Uncertain of what to do with them, he set them on the mantel.

She looked at him then scanned the room. “Wh-where is L-lady Satterfield?”

“I didn’t see her. I thought it prudent to get you inside as quickly as possible.”

Her eyes widened briefly before narrowing to scrutinize him. “W-we’re in here alone?”

“Regrettably, but no one saw me, and no one will learn we are here.” He crossed back to the door he’d used to enter and locked it. “Better?” he asked when he returned to her side.

“N-no, I’m not at all certain that’s better. N-now we’re l-locked in a room together.” She cast him an ambivalent glance before turning her attention to the fire. She edged closer and turned her hands to warm the backs.

“Just what were you doing on the terrace?”

She closed her eyes briefly before cocking her head to glance at him. “T-trying to be discreet? My gown has a tear and I wanted to find the retiring room without having to cross the ballroom. I thought I could take a shortcut via the terrace. Unfortunately it was raining—softly at first, so I hurried. B-but the door was locked, and the heavens decided to punish my foolishness by making it rain harder.”

“You weren’t being foolish.”

She cast him a glance heavy with doubt. “I appreciate your d-defense of my character, but I was.”

“You didn’t know the door would be locked or that it was going to rain like that. You were trying to be sensible.”

She laughed softly, but it quickly turned into a shiver. Her shoulders hunched.

Ned shrugged out of his coat and draped it about her shoulders. She turned her head sharply and gave him another wide-eyed look. “As long as we’re ignoring propriety...” he said. “Just wear my coat for a few minutes while I determine how to get you out of the house and on your way home.”

“Y-yes, that would be lovely.” She didn’t sound disappointed in the slightest. In fact, Ned would’ve said she sounded pleased. Enthusiastic even, particularly given the smile tugging at her mouth. 

Perhaps her attitude was simply due to her predicament. What young woman was happy to leave Lady Middlegrove’s ball? And wasn’t completely overcome when caught in a rainstorm in a ballgown?

The kind that piqued his interest.

Tour-Wide Giveaway!
Deception blog tour giveaway (1)
This giveaway is coordinated by the publicist and I have nothing to do with how it is run or with the drawing of a winner.  Here is what is up for grabs (and it is open internationally too!):
A Duke of Deception Prize Pack filled with the following:
  • Signed copy of The Forbidden Duke and The Duke of Daring
  • Jane Austen jigsaw puzzle
  • Jane Austen inspired candle
  • Pride & Prejudice board book
  • Bath salts from author Wendy LaCapra
  • Darcy Burke trading cards, bookmark, and cleaning cloth
Entries are made through the Rafflecopter widget below – good luck to all who enter!


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wish List 5: Non-Fiction November


Once a month I am planning on sharing with you all 5 of my biggest wish list books broken up by theme. I know that you all need more on your TBR!!! This month's theme focuses on upcoming non-fiction to coincide in part with Non-Fiction November.  I mean, who doesn’t need more non-fiction!  There are SO many upcoming titles I was excited about, but since I’m keeping this to 5 titles, I limited myself to things coming out over the next 6 months.

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker

city of lightAppointed to conquer the “crime capital of the world,” the Paris’s first police chief faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light.

The fearless La Reynie pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the city. He unearths a tightly knit cabal of poisoners, witches, and renegade priests. As he exposes their unholy work, he soon learns that no one is safe from black magic—not even the Sun King. In a world where a royal glance can turn success into disgrace, the distance between the quietly back-stabbing world of the king’s court and the criminal underground proves disturbingly short. Nobles settle scores by employing witches to craft poisons and by hiring priests to perform dark rituals in Paris’s most illustrious churches and cathedrals.

As La Reynie continues his investigations, he is haunted by a single question: Could Louis’s mistresses could be involved in such nefarious plots? The pragmatic and principled La Reynie must decide just how far he will go to protect his king.

From secret courtrooms to torture chambers, City of Light, City of Poison is a gripping true-crime tale of deception and murder. Based on thousands of pages of court transcripts and La Reynie’s compulsive note-taking, as well as on letters and diaries, Tucker’s riveting narrative makes the fascinating, real-life characters breathe on the page.

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson

ice ghostsThe spellbinding true story of the greatest mystery of Arctic exploration—and the rare mix of marine science and Inuit knowledge that led to the shipwrecks' recent discovery.

Ice Ghosts weaves together the epic story of the Lost Franklin Expedition of 1845—whose two ships and crew of 129 were lost to the Arctic ice—with the modern tale of the scientists, divers, and local Inuit behind the incredible discovery of the flagship’s wreck in 2014. Paul Watson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was on the icebreaker that led the discovery expedition, tells a fast-paced historical adventure story: Sir John Franklin and the crew of the HMS Erebus and Terror setting off in search of the fabled Northwest Passage, the hazards they encountered and the reasons they were forced to abandon ship hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization, and the decades of searching that turned up only rumors of cannibalism and a few scattered papers and bones—until a combination of faith in Inuit lore and the latest science yielded a discovery for the ages.

March 1917: On the Brink of War and Revolution by Will Englund

march 1917“We are provincials no longer,” said Woodrow Wilson on March 5, 1917, at his second inaugural. He spoke on the eve of America’s entrance into World War I, as Russia teetered between autocracy and democracy. Just ten days after Wilson’s declaration, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne, ending a three-centuries-long dynasty and ushering in the false dawn of a democratic Russia. Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany a few short weeks later, asserting the United States’s new role as a global power and its commitment to spreading American ideals abroad. Will Englund draws on a wealth of contemporary diaries, memoirs, and newspaper accounts to furnish texture and personal detail to the story of that month. March 1917 celebrates the dreams of warriors, pacifists, revolutionaries, and reactionaries, even as it demonstrates how their successes and failures constitute the origin story of the complex world we inhabit a century later.

The Zoo: The Wild and Wonderful Tale of the Founding of London Zoo: 1826-1851 by Isobel Charman

zooThe founding of a zoo in Georgian London is a story of jaw-dropping audacity in the Age of Empire. It is the story of diplomats, traders, scientists, and aristocratic amateur naturalists charged by Sir Stamford Raffles with collecting amazing creatures from all four corners of the globe.

It is the story of the first zoo in history, a weird and wonderful oasis in the heart of the filthy, swirling city of Dickensian London, and of the incredible characters, both human and animal, that populated it—from Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria to Obaysch the celebrity hippo, the first that anyone in Britain had ever seen. This is a story of Victorian grandeur, of science and empire, and of adventurers and charlatans.

And it is the story of a dizzying age of Empire and industrialization, a time of change unmatched before or since.

This is the extraordinary story of London Zoo.

Battle Royal: The Wars of the Roses: 1440-1462 by Hugh Bicheno

battle royalEngland, 1454. A kingdom sliding into chaos.

The mentally unstable King Henry VI, having struggled for a decade to contain the violent feuding of his dukes, is losing his mind. Disgruntled nobles support the regal claims of Richard, Duke of York, great-grandson of Edward III. The stage is set for civil war.

The first volume of an enthralling two-part history of the dynastic wars fought between the houses of Lancaster and York, Battle Royal traces the conflict from its roots in the 1440s to the early 1460s—a period marked by the rise and fall of Richard of York, the deposition of Henry VI following the Lancastrian defeat at Towton, and the subsequent seizure of his throne by Richard's son Edward.

Populating this late-medieval saga of ambition, intrigue, and bloodshed are such fascinating characters as the vacillating Henry VI himself, his indefatigable queen Marguerite of Anjou, Richard of York (father of kings but never king himself), his opportunist ally Richard Neville—"the Kingmaker"—and the precociously virile Edward of York.

Charting a clear course through the dynastic complexities of fifteenth-century power politics, and offering crisply authoritative analysis of the key battles of the Wars of the Roses, Battle Royal is a dynamic and rigorously researched account of England's longest and bloodiest civil war.

Here are some of the wish lists from my friends this month!

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Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: Rules for a Rogue by Christy Carlyle

rules for a rogue
Rules for a Rogue by Christy Carlyle
Book 1 of the Romancing a Rogue Series
ARC, e-Book, 368 pages
Avon Impulse
November 1, 2016
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Heat Level:

Genre: Historical Romance, Victorian England

Source: Received from publisher for review for Romantic Historical Reviews
From the USA Today bestselling author of ONE DANGEROUS DESIRE comes a sparkling new series about a rogue who must learn how to follow the rules and a woman who wants to break all of them, perfect for fans of Maya Rodale and Lorraine Heath.
Following the rules never brought anything but misery for Christopher “Kit” Ruthven. After rebelling against his controlling father and leaving the family’s Ruthven Rules etiquette book empire behind, Kit has been breaking every one imaginable for the past six years. He’s enjoyed London’s sensual pleasures and secured his reputation as a Rogue, but he’s failed to achieve success. When he inherits his father’s publishing business, Kit is forced back into the life he never wanted. Worse, he must face Ophelia Marsden, the woman he jilted but never forgot.

After losing her father and refusing a loveless marriage proposal, Ophelia has learned to rely on herself. To maintain the family home and support her younger brother, she tutors young girls in deportment and decorum. But her pupils would be scandalized if they knew their imminently proper teacher was also the author of a guidebook encouraging ladies to embrace their independence and overthrow outdated notions of etiquette like the Ruthven Rules.

As Kit rediscovers the life, and the woman, he left behind, Ophelia must choose between the practicality she never truly believed in, or the love she’s never been able to extinguish.
**This Review was previously posted at Romantic Historical Reviews**

Kit and Phee were close friends and very nearly lovers before he left the country life for the siren call of London and the thrilling life of a playwright.  During those next four years apart, Kit and Phee both tried to convince themselves that they were not hurt by the decision and could move on, but when the death of Kit’s father brings him back home to settle the estate, the past doesn’t seem so much in the past between these two.  Can they get their feelings sorted out and make a go of it again or are they destined to remain apart?  

I very much enjoyed Rules for a Rogue and I credit most of that to the fact that the situations that unfolded within the story did not feel contrived, but were instead natural and believable.  I wasn’t required to suspend reality for one moment.  Kit leaves for the city because he doesn’t fit into his father’s strict rules at home and he wants the thrill of the stage in the great city of London, yet he leaves behind his heart as well.  His father’s death was due to a long-standing illness, not some sudden onset, and Kit returns home with the plan to just put his family back together then return to the city…that is, until he runs into Phee again.  Meanwhile, Phee has a secret; she has penned a guidebook for young ladies that pushes the envelope toward modernity and she doesn’t want her close-minded community to find out that she is the author.  Her secret and Kit’s family’s business dealings come together in a way that could bring them closer or set them farther apart and I liked how both Kit and Phee vacillated between the possible outcomes here. I felt that the right balance was struck here between a few light, comedic moments and the more serious elements that contributed to the believability of the story.  

I really enjoyed the characters in this novel.  Carlyle makes each one into a full figure – even the peripheral characters like Kit’s sisters, Phee’s sister and aunt, and both of their friends.  Very quickly each had a distinct personality that was anything but cookie-cutter.  While on the outset they might represent tropes (the hard-headed heroine, the rogue, the spinster friend, etc.) there are so many layers here that you have the ability to peel back as the story goes on to discover more complexities that previously thought.  Even the “villainous” character isn’t a representation of evil; rather in Carlyle’s hands he is more of a persistent prig that causes our couple hardship by getting in the way rather than intentionally wreaking havoc.  Additionally, I believed in the character’s motives.  Both Phee and Kit have been hurt and are trying to protect their hearts, but also make the hard decisions to do what is right by their families, and each other.  We also have just enough back-story to fill in the details of their relationship before Kit went to London to make the reader understand just what they gave up in that decision.

In continuing with the trend about believability in this story, the romantic element here was spot on.  The author did not need to spend ample time in the build up as these two had been nearly lovers in the past, but did need to give the readers something to connect with first.  It was sweet, but needed and didn’t feel all that scandalous despite how it would have been perceived by society.  

Often I don’t pay much attention to the quotes that can sometimes appear at the start of each chapter or section because they are too oblique for me to pick up on the reference while reading the chapter – not so here!  The majority of the chapters begin with either an excerpt from one of Ruthven’s Rules books or, alternatively, Miss Gilroy’s guidebook for young ladies.  These two books do play a significant role in the greater story arc and each rule or guideline directly connects to an action taken by either Kit or Phee in that chapter.  There was a clear purpose here an I appreciated it.   

Overall, I was very satisfied with this story as I just ate up the pages and was left wanting more.  

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Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court