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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Book Alert: Holiday Romance Novels


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

First up is an anthology collection featuring men in kilts!

Christmas in Kilts_Cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Publisher

With This Christmas Ring_Cover

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Publisher 

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, October 16, 2017

Wish List 5: Westward Expansion


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

empire of the summer moon
Empire of the Summer Moon

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

  • Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede –
  • Colleen @ A Literary Vacation –
  • Erin @ Flashlight Commentary –
  • Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books –
  • Stephanie @ Layered Pages –

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cover Crush: Where the Light Falls

cover crush

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

where the light falls

I love how this cover is framed like it is looking out a window or other type of opening; I love taking pictures that way so it is cool to see a cover that way.  That sky is a little ominous and I’m not really sure where that light source is, but I do like the cover.

What are your thoughts on this cover?

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

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

New Book Alert: Highland Promise by Alyson McLayne - Excerpt & Giveaway


Highland Promise by Alyson McLayne
Book 1 in The Son of Gregor MacLeod series
e-Book & Mass Market Paperback; 385 pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca
October 3, 2017
Genre: Historical Romance
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Book Blurb:

Five boys destined to become Highland lairds are fostered together as brothers. Darach, Lachlan, Callum, Gavin and Kerr fight for their clans, for each other, and for their own true loves.

When forced to choose between duty and honor…

Darach MacKenzie vowed never again to let a woman near his heart after his betrothed betrayed him. It sparked an intense feud between his clan and the Frasers. With all-out war on the wind, Darach can’t be distracted—not even by a sweet and charming lass who desperately needs his help.

This Highland Laird will find a way to have both

When Darach rescued Caitlin MacInnes from the clutches of vile Laird Fraser, she vowed to never let men or misery rule her life again. With Darach and the MacKenzie clan, Caitlin finally feels safe. But when Laird Fraser shows up to claim what’s rightfully his, or go to war, Darach will have to use all his brawn and brains to protect Caitlin—even if it means losing his heart.

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

Highland Promise graphic

I have a wonderful excerpt to share with you today from Highland Promise!  Enjoy!

“I’ll not be marrying the lass, Oslow, but if I did, she’d more than likely give me daughters. All of them looking like her, causing trouble. I’d be an old man in my grave before I was forty.”

“Nay. She’d give you sons. Braw lads as strong-minded and fearless as her. But if you’re not interested in the lass, I’ll introduce her to my Angus. He needs a wife, and I’m sure he’d be as smitten with her as Gare and Brodie.”

The blood heated in Darach’s veins, flushing his face. He looked toward the field, trying to make out what Caitlin and the two younger men were doing. Naught of consequence. Just playing with the kittens.

Playing with the kittens—like hell. Brodie was a right rogue with the lasses, and Gare was such a pitiful lad, caught betwixt man and boy, she’d want to save him just like she’d saved the baby bird. Most likely he’d try to make himself look as pathetic as possible with the hopes of ensnaring her, the devil.

Darach stood abruptly and made his way across the rocky shore to the field. Lachlan’s snort followed him. Sure enough, Gare and Brodie sat beside her, hanging on to every word. Scoundrels, both of them. He frowned, and they jumped to their feet. Let Caitlin see who was master and laird here—the most dominant MacKenzie male.

After sending them to Oslow, he sat on the grass beside her. She looked pleased to see him. Maybe now would be the time to tell her the kittens were going to the miller’s. He willed himself to begin, but one of the cats tumbled into his lap and mewed up at him. Bloody fiend.

“Och, would you look at that. He loves you, Darach. Maybe he will be called Justice, for he is drawn to you and you are the most just man I know.”

He puffed up and deflated at the same time. ’Twas a good decision to send the cats to the miller. Not only did it show Justice, but also Prudence, Fortitude, and Temperance. Surely she would see the right of it.

The kit ran up his body and batted his hair. Darach started in surprise. Grabbing it, he held the wee thing in front of him. The cat reached out and swatted his chin.

Caitlin fell sideways onto the grass, laughing. “You’ve ne’er had a cat before, have you?”

Darach grunted and brought the kitten closer. He had to admit it was sweet—big eyes and downy, soft fur. It suckled the stubble of his beard, and his heart turned over.

“They’re starved, poor babies,” she said. “He’s trying to nurse. All we had was water. It helped, but their bellies are empty.”

There would be lots of milk at the miller’s.

“Caitlin, I doona think…”

She gazed at him, her eyes wide, trusting. A happy glow surrounded her, and the words stuck in his throat. Maybe she could keep the kits ’til they were old enough to be on their own. House them in the kitchens and out of his sight and the sight of his dogs for a week or two. Then they could go to the miller.

“Aye, Darach?”

“’Tis naught, lass. We’ll be home soon and they can have their meal.”

Picking up a kitten, she held it close. “I think this little lass will be Temperance, for she’s the only female and needs to have much restraint to live with three brothers. It must be a trial, doona you think?”

“I lived with four brothers, and aye, ’twas a trial.”

A wistful look crossed her face. “I did so wish for a brother. Or a sister. But my parents were not blessed with bairns after me. Instead, I had lots of pets—cats, dogs, horses, and pigs.”


“Aye, pigs are wonderful pets. Although I caused such a fankle when my father wanted to butcher the dear thing, I was ne’er allowed to bond with a pig again.”

“And what happened to it?”

“I doona know. I lost more than just my parents the night of the fire. Verily, ’twas a torment. I longed for pets after that, but I feared to show favor to any creature, lest my uncle hurt the animal. I was verra careful when I fed Cloud apples. The guards who followed me knew, I’m sure, but one older guard in particular didn’t mind.” She turned to smile at the stallion tethered with the other horses. “I’m thankful you saved him too.”

His stomach soured at the insight into her life after her parents’ death, at how afraid, alone and sad she must have been. Yet she’d shown none of that to him or his men. And he knew she must have felt it—her heart was as big as the loch.

“I want you to have, Cloud,” he said suddenly. It was the least he could do.

Her eyes grew round. “Truly?”

“Aye. But wait to ride him until we return to the keep. I doona want him to spook and throw you out here. Let him get used to you in the stables first, aye?” Where he could have a healer on hand and spread out some hay to soften her fall.

With an excited holler, she threw her arms around his neck and almost knocked him backward. One arm settled around her waist, the other hovered just above her hair. The devil take him, he wanted to touch her, to hold her still for his kiss.

AlysonMcLayne_standing_credit_Tamara Roberts

A stay-at-home mom of twins and award-winning writer, Alyson McLayne is a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the west coast where she worked in film for several years and met her Prop Master husband.

Find Alyson McLayne: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Now for something fun and different!  Alyson McLayne has a short letter for all her readers!

Hello Lovely Readers!!

My name is Alyson McLayne, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to introduce you to my book, HIGHLAND PROMISE, a Scottish Highlander Romantic Adventure!

It’s the first book in my historical romance series, THE SONS OF GREGOR MACLEOD, starring five Highland Lairds, who were fostered together as lads to become brothers. Darach, Lachlan, Callum, Gavin, and Kerr fight for their clans, for each other, and for their own true love.

These Highland Lairds are a band of brothers, who will defend each other to the death—if they don’t kill each other first with their sharp wit and hilarious banter. They take their oaths seriously, whether it’s to bring peace to the Highlands and defend one another as friends and allies, or to razz each other so hard, only one brother is left standing—and then they’ll take him down too.

And the women they love? They have spirit, and tenacity, and they take care of others before they take care of themselves. They’re all different—their backgrounds, their struggles, their interests and talents—but at the core of each woman is a strength, compassion, and a capacity to love that brings their man to his knees.

Totally. Slayed.

Before I tell you about HIGHLAND PROMISE, here’s a little about me. J I live on the west coast of Canada with my adorable (aka annoying) 5 year old boy/girl twins; my sweet yet sarcastic husband (who just said he’s not sarcastic at all, he’s ironic!); my counter-surfing puppy, Jasper, who turns one year old the same day HIGHLAND PROMISE debuts (Happy Birthday, baby!!); and my 86 year old dad who gets a look on his face every time it’s mentioned there are—gasp—sex scenes in my books…but then goes on to tell me young people (meaning me) did not invent sex.

Ears…burning…must pour…hot oil…inside…

Speaking of ears, as I’m writing this, I have ear plugs in because my son is beside me in my office (aka my bedroom) building a fort under the covers on the bed, while my Slytherin-declaring daughter waits to knock it down, which results in WW3; Jasper hovers at the edge, barking, until he can’t stand it anymore and jumps onto the bed with the monsters, er, I mean children; my husband comes in and says something “ironic” about the chaos; and I stare fiercely at my computer screen determined to ignore it ALL—and thanking God my dad can turn his hearing aids OFF.

Just grist for the mill…grist for the mill…said all writer-moms everywhere.

Okay. Onto the important part: HIGHLAND PROMISE! I started writing HIGHLAND PROMISE almost 10 years ago after reading ALL of Julie Garwood’s medieval-set historicals, most of which were set in the Highlands. I LOVED them. I don’t read a lot of books over and over, but I did hers. I found them completely captivating.

I think HIGHLAND PROMISE captures that same tone and spirit: Caitlin MacInnes is the archetypal Waif/Free Spirit who turns the archetypal Chieftain, Laird Darach MacKenzie’s life upside down—and then spins it around and dribbles with it for a while. As Lachlan MacKay, Darach’s foster-brother, says of Darach’s and Caitlin’s courtship:

“I doona know when I’ve laughed so much as watching Darach trying to control [Caitlin] over the past few weeks. Her intentions are good, but she’s trouble. It follows her around like a faithful hound.”

Darach is undone by her. His heart, which he swore he’d NEVER give to another woman, is torn from his body and becomes putty in her hands. Of course, he doesn’t know that at first, and even when he finally figures it out, he doesn’t tell her—he’s a warrior, a leader of his people, not a poet. And Caitlin, who is determined to make Darach happy whether he wants her to or not, doesn’t believe there’s any possible way she can stay with him. She needs to leave the Highlands immediately and find her mother’s family in France.

’Cause there’s a whole lotta trouble on her tail (some might call it a shite storm—haha!) heading straight for Darach. But what Caitlin fails to realize is that Darach, along with his brothers and their clans, is strong enough to handle it.

War is coming. Caitlin didn’t start the blood feud between the Frasers and the MacKenzies, nay, Laird Fraser and his sister, Darach’s former betrothed, did that, but she will be the catalyst that ends it—pinning the good men of the Highlands against a monster.

And hopefully winning.

(Well of course they win, and of course Darach and Caitlin live happily ever after—it’s a romance, after all!!)

Now go—before I start rambling and give too much away. Read the words and feel the feels. Fall in love with both Darach and Caitlin…and prepare yourself for Lachlan’s story next.


Alyson McLayne

Tour Wide Giveaway

Thanks to the publisher, as part of this tour, I have the opportunity to participate in a tour-wide giveaway!  There are 5 copies of Highland Promise up for grabs.  You can enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below or on any of the host blogs in this tour.  If you have any questions please contact the publisher who is hosting this giveaway.  Good luck!

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Cover Crush: The Writing Desk

cover crush

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

the writing desk

I’ve had something lately with ethereal covers.  This one based on the light surrounding her almost seems like she could up and float out the window, or even that she is in someone's memory. 

What are your thoughts on this cover?

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

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Two Sides to Every Story: The Women Who “Settled” The West

two sides

Today I have the opportunity to welcome not one, but two authors to the Two Sides to Every Story series!  I don’t get to do that every day!  I have had the great pleasure of working with M.K. McClintock several times in the past with her Montana Gallagher series and she brought Samantha St. Claire with her to discuss the two sides to the women who settled the western United States.  I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have!

The Women Who “Settled” The West: For Good or Bad

Samantha St. Claire ~ The Good

Putting the morality of prostitution to the side, I’d like to consider how the institution made positive contributions to frontier development. Yes, positive contributions, by soiled doves and working girls.

Working camps brought the men first; the women followed. Scattered shacks and tents transformed to towns upon arrival of the fairer sex. Money became the common denominator as both sexes came seeking fortune. The women, especially those serving as madams, often succeeded where the men did not. Many were shrewd business women investing their earnings in land and new businesses in these boom towns. Some even acted as loan agents, providing banking services.

However, it is their charitable acts that make these women noteworthy. Let’s start by considering Annie who as a young girl traveled west with her family in search of a better life. Both parents died of cholera, leaving the orphan to find a way to survive. With her tall, slender body and flaming red hair, she thrived the working girl life in a variety of camps. Moving to San Francisco, she came into the employ of the celebrated Madam Mina Hayman. The young woman, showing an aptitude for finances, soon became Madam Hayman’s protégé. Taking over the business years later, Annie, now calling herself Jessie Hayman, expands the business. When the San Francisco fire of 1906 ravages the city, she provides the victims food and clothing.

“Diamond” Jessie Hayman was not alone in her charitable deeds. Laura Evans of Leadville, Colorado fame was reputed to be “tough as nails” but stories abound testifying to her generous heart. She provided food to families of injured or out-of-work fathers. Most remarkable was how she disguised her girls in nurses uniforms during the flu pandemic of 1918, sending them to care for the sick.

Often, our obituaries say much about how we used our days. When Virginia City’s Madam Julia Bulette was murdered, all the mines and saloons closed out of respect and her funeral was attended by thousands. Like others, she was remembered best for nursing victims of influenza and donating to miners suffering hardship.

Julia Bulette
Julia Bulette, Virginia City Madam
Credit: Public Domain

MK McClintock ~ The Bad

Mary Katharine Haroney, Mattie Blaylock, and Molly Hall all sound like the names of respectable women, but names—and appearances—can be deceiving. These were the fallen women, soiled doves, and sportin' women in what we commonly call the “Wild West.”

Sure, some of these women who braved the west went onto become millionaires and national heroes, building towns and helping others, but at what cost? Some were outlaws and thieves like Laura Bullion, who joined the Wild Bunch gang. Many others died from childbirth and disease, plying their trade from the back of wagons, shacks, or grubby tents for little more than $0.25. If they were lucky, they might pull in up to a dollar or more. Many died violently, became addicted to drugs, or committed suicide, preferring that to a slow and miserable death.

Maggie Hall, a young beauty from Dublin, arrived in America and found it difficult to secure a job. She became a saloon girl then fell and love and married a wealthy man whose father cut him off when he found out. At her husband’s behest, Maggie started to entertain men so they could bring in more money. When she finally left her husband and became a high-priced prostitute, there are some who would say she was redeemed by helping a small town through a small-pox epidemic. Soon after, she died from consumption.

Maggie Hall
Credit: Public Domain

Most of these women were young and illiterate, though not all, and while it’s optimistic to think of the grand madams being respected and praised for their contributions to building the west, those powerful and wealthy were far and few between. Then there were the poor souls forced into the sex trade by family, captors, or husbands, with little choice to spend their short lives as working girls, addicted to opium.

The more populated the West became, the more respectable the women who arrived. With them came more close-knit communities, families, churches, and more respectable men. And criticism toward prostitution grew.

Would the “Wild West” have boomed and built up if these ladies of the night found another way to earn a living? There’s no denying that some of these women were in it for business and knew how to make a lot of money, earn respect, and become prominent citizens. But what about the young women who worked for them? Who searched for a better life out west, and instead of being told they were too good for that way of life, started on a path of misery from which few escape.

No matter which side of the story you choose to believe, there’s no doubt that the working women contributed a great deal to “settling” the West.

Samantha St. Claire is the alter-ego and pen name of an author of YA historical fiction. Kat's Law was her first venture into romantic historical fiction. With residences in both Washington and Idaho, she's spent long hours traveling the route of the old Oregon Trail, gathering inspiration for her novels along the way. The second book in The Sawtooth Range Series, High Valley Promise, released in 2017. She is currently at work on her next story.  Learn more at https://samanthastclaire.net/

High Valley Promise_SamanthaSt.Claire
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In this thrilling and romantic conclusion to Kat's Law, Dr. Kathryn Meriwether must deal with a Cholera outbreak threatening the residents she cares for in Snowberry, Idaho, a killer not armed with a gun as the one whom ex-Texas Ranger Jonathan Winthrop pursues into the Sawtooth Range, but just as deadly and unpredictable. Once again, each will handle the crisis with the skills they've been given, but ultimately will find a greater strength in facing their future together. A high valley promise will unite them as an undeniable force to meet the challenges of their frontier home.

Buy the Book: Amazon

MK McClintock is an award-winning author who has written several books and short stories, including the popular "Montana Gallagher" series, the "Crooked Creek" series set in post-Civil War Montana, and the "British Agent" series. She spins tales of romance, adventure, and mystery set in bygone times. MK enjoys a quiet life in the Rocky Mountains. Learn more at www.mkmcclintock.com.

Journey to Hawks Peak_MK McClintock
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One woman's desperation to escape would become the greatest journey of her life.

Amanda Warren arrived in Briarwood, Montana with one satchel and a dream. After death destroyed her happiness, she fled, unwillingly to believe that was the end, yet her weary spirit thought only of survival.
Then she met the Gallaghers.

They took a chance and gave her a home and a family, but is she strong enough to make a new start?

Ben Stuart has seen more of life than he wants to remember, but with the Gallaghers he had found a place where he could forget times gone by and live the life he always wanted. When Amanda arrived at Hawk's Peak, Ben saw a woman hiding from secrets and running from her past. Will he be able to convince her that the journey is over?

Buy the Book: Amazon

Copyright © 2017  by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, September 29, 2017

Cover Crush: The Light Keeper’s Daughter

cover crush

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

the light keepers daughter

The rainbow of colors here just arrests my eye!  As I look at it I can truly see how they might be real in the proper conditions.  The script style of the title font evokes the concept of a letter or diary, which I think I remember from the cover blurb.  But really for me, it’s all about the colors here.

What are your thoughts on this cover?

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

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Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Book Review: Pleasing Mr. Pepys by Deborah Swift

02_Pleasing Mr. Pepys_Cover
Pleasing Mr. Pepys
by Deborah Swift
e-Book, 407 pages
Accent Press
September 28, 2017
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for review for tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

From acclaimed historical novelist Deborah Swift, Pleasing Mr Pepys is the story of Deb Willet, Samuel Pepys’s servant, told from a fresh perspective.  Well-educated but, due to circumstances beyond her control, not quite respectable, Deb Willet is desperate to escape her domineering aunt and takes a position as companion to Elisabeth Pepys, Samuel’s wife. Deb believes it will give her the respectability it craves – but it proves far more complicated than she could ever have imagined. London during the 1660s is a time of turmoil. Although Charles II has been restored to the throne, there is the prospect of war with the Dutch – the world’s great power of the era. In the midst of this tumult strides Samuel Pepys – diarist and man of note. Pepys’ influence in Restoration London means that the Dutch are keen to get their hands on his secrets – even if that means murder, espionage and blackmail to get them… Deb is soon caught up in the middle of a dangerous game – while at the same time trying to counter Mr Pepys’s lust for her…

There are so many different elements to talk about with Pleasing Mr. Pepys that I’m not totally sure which to begin with…so I will just begin at the…beginning!

I really had no idea what I was getting into when I started Pleasing Mr. Pepys. I knew that I had enjoyed Deborah Swift’s prior novels, so regardless the subject, I knew I would probably enjoy the writing, so I dove right in with not a preconceived notion in sight! The first chapter will suck you right in immediately; there is drama and intensity…before you even know who these characters are! I was hooked!

Swift’s narrative is told from several different perspectives that put you into the different aspects that surround Samuel Pepys: from the servant, to his wife, to a disgraced mistress of a colleague, to a local cleric. I liked that each had their own perspective of the man complete with his flaws. I wasn’t his biggest fan to be honest, he seemed to like to play the victim a lot and I never warmed to him. Deb Willet is a sympathetic heroine, but I didn’t find her to necessarily be my favorite character; she took awhile to get her feet under her but she found who she really is by the end and I did come around to liking her.  However, I found Abigail to be much more complex and fascinating. 

Most exciting, and this shouldn’t be unexpected because I have commented on this in all my other reviews of her works, was how London was a living world. This novel is set relatively recently after the fire of London, so there is a lot of devastation, poverty, displaced persons, and a general dreariness that engulfs the city. For me this is one of few novels that I have read set in this time period that don’t take place solely within Charles’ court, which is an entirely different world to visit. Swift also engulfs the reader into the political drama of the time that existed between the English and the Dutch as well as the problems socially being faced by the people who are struggling to just get by in the ravaged city and the sailors who are awaiting to be paid. I creates a very complex world that Deb has to move her way through.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Chapters

Also by Deborah Swift:

the lady's slipper
The Lady’s Slipper

gilded lily
The Gilded Lily

[My Review]

a divided inheritance
A Divided Inheritance
[My Review]

shadow on the highway
Shadow on the Highway
(Highway Trilogy #1)
[My Review]

spirit of the highway
Spirit of the Highway
(Highway Trilogy #2)
[My Review]

lady of the highway
Lady of the Highway
(Highway Trilogy #3)

Find Deborah Swift:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog |

Tour Wide Giveaway

During the blog tour there is a giveaway open tour wide and entries can be made at any participating blog. Up for grabs is a signed copy of Pleasing Mr. Pepys to one lucky winner! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below. Any questions should be directed at the tour coordinator.  Good luck!

Giveaway Rules –

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 20th.
  • You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

 Pleasing Mr. Pepys

Follow the Tour!

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At HFVBT Website

On Twitter: #PleasingMrPepysBlogTour #DeborahSwift

Thursday, September 28
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Guest Post at Books of All Kinds

Friday, September 29
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Monday, October 2
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, October 3
Review at The Lit Bitch
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, October 4
Feature at A Holland Reads

Thursday, October 5
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, October 6
Feature at Passages to the Past

Monday, October 9
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, October 10
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Wednesday, October 11
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, October 13
Review at Poppy Coburn

Monday, October 16
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Tuesday, October 17
Review at Laura’s Interests
Interview at Suzy Approved Books

Wednesday, October 18
Review at Jo’s Book Blog

Thursday, October 19
Feature at T’s Stuff

Friday, October 20
Review at A Literary Vacation
Guest Post at The Writing Desk

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Interview with Suzy Henderson

Good morning everyone!  Today I have the opportunity to welcome Suzy Henderson, author of The Beauty Shop, back to The Maiden’s Court!  Before she was a recipient of the BRAG Medallion I grabbed up this book based on comment from friends who loved it, and so did I! You can find my review here.  I love the subject matter for this novel and hope you will pick it up too!


Heather: Hi Suzy! Welcome to The Maiden’s Court.  Can we get started today by first telling me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Suzy Henderson: Hi, Heather. Thank you so much for the lovely welcome – it’s a pleasure to be here. I recall googling indieBRAG after reading about it on an author’s website, and I remember thinking how fantastic it was to have such an award specifically for indie authors.

H: I am pleased to have had the chance to read your book, The Beauty Shop, and I loved it!! The title, The Beauty Shop, is extremely relevant to the events that transpire within its pages, but it might give off the wrong vibe. For those that have not read your book yet, because they definitely should, could you give our readers an idea of what your book is about and give context to the title?

SH: Of course. When I first came across the real story of plastic surgeon, Archibald McIndoe and the Guinea Pig Club, I was compelled to write about it. Archie, as he was known, was a pioneer and innovator of plastic surgery. WW2 was very different to WW1 because it was a bomber’s war. Aerial warfare had progressed tremendously, and the injuries the airmen presented with had never been encountered before. Surgeons had a difficult job ahead of them, and very few were skilled enough to deal with the most severe cases. Archie was one of a few who was, and the truth is he was one of the leading plastic surgeons of the day. However, what drew me to him was not his surgical expertise, but his model of care. He believed in holistic care, and in the value of life.

What he saw unfolding before him was hordes of young men lying in ruins, robbed of their youth, and quite possibly of any future. He reared up against it all and fought battles with the Air Ministry for fair rights for those who were to be pensioned off. He fought the Royal College of Surgeons as he battled to have outdated and unsafe treatments banished once and for all. He did whatever he had to for his ‘boys’ as he often called them. He was determined they were to have futures with work, spouses, children – all the trimmings. It was his vision, and he achieved this with the aid of his team at the hospital in East Grinstead and with the support of the entire town. Then there was the club which became a charity, attracting many donations. The funds helped some members over the years, and the men themselves bonded to form a dedicated support group. The club and everything the men achieved, became Archibald McIndoe’s legacy.

The Beauty Shop unfolds via three perspectives and begins late 1942. First, we have the real person, Archibald McIndoe, a maverick New Zealand plastic surgeon on a mission. He’s in charge of the burns unit at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, England, and cares for airmen and pilots with severe burns and injuries. Some of his patients are so badly burned they are unrecognizable. They fear that life is over, but Archie has some very interesting and unorthodox methods to help ease them back into living. Archie considers their social and psychological health as he recognizes he must heal souls as well as bodies. The war presents many challenges, and he faces battles of a different kind, but help is far closer than he initially realizes.

Next, we have Mac, an American B-17 pilot serving with the 8th Air Force. He struggles with the morals of war and is torn between his duty and his conscience. He meets Stella, an English WAAF at a dance and falls in love. However, just as nothing is certain in war, nor is it in love and his life is about to take a major turn.

Stella is the stereotypical young English woman. When she meets Mac she falls in love, but there is a problem – she already has a boyfriend. After a brief time, Stella does what she believes to be morally right and decides not to see Mac anymore. But when he survives a serious crash, she rushes to see him in hospital, quickly realizing her own battle has only just begun.

The title was a source of contention for months until I came across a real account in one of the biographies. It was some time in 1942 when a fighter pilot who had lain unconscious for a short while came around and asked the first man he saw where he was. The airman, an Australian replied, “This is the beauty shop, mate. The place where they make you up again.” Well, that was it – a lightning bolt moment.

The title encapsulates the entire story for me and beauty is a recurring theme in the book. When faced with losing their entire faces, those men feared they had lost their identity; they feared that their lives were over. It was through the work and support of McIndoe and his team that 649 airmen lived on and thrived after the war. Archie insisted on beautiful nurses for his ward. He had the ward re-decorated to make it appear more homey. There were fresh flowers daily. Volunteers were often pretty girls, drafted in to take the men out to a dance or the pub. There were handsome pilots, airmen, GI’s, dances, love, and not forgetting the motto of beauty itself which was used as propaganda to an extent with posters and write-ups in the press and magazines. ‘Beauty is your duty’ became a well-known slogan. Beauty surrounded all of the men in one form or another. Learning to accept and love yourself is difficult for some, but it’s even more so once you’re dealing with disfigurement. This issue is as relevant today as it was then and just as it was during the war, the attitudes of others are critical. Almost 78 years have passed since the beginning of WW2 and yet there is still so much discrimination and prejudice simmering within communities, sometimes escalating into hate crimes. Beauty really is more than skin deep.

H:  I agree that the title is SO perfect for the events that unfold, thanks for sharing that deeper meaning with us!

Did you do a lot of research before writing The Beauty Shop?  Could you share any excellent resources that we might enjoy checking out for further reading?

SH: Oh, mountains of research! My desk at times had towers of books leaning precariously close to the edge, looking like they’d topple at any moment, but I needed them all. There were medical books, medical articles, biographies, history books, personal accounts of veterans, fiction, movies and youtube clips. Youtube is an excellent resource, and it’s also where I found the only clip of Archibald McIndoe where he speaks – it’s very short, but it was an amazing discovery and helped me so much.

I can recommend all the biographies on McIndoe and the Guinea Pig Club, but for me, the best by far was Faces From The Fire by Leonard Mosely. It was an invaluable resource and a far more personal account than any of the others. For other books check out:

The Last Enemy by fighter pilot Richard Hillary

The Reconstruction of Warriors by E. R. Mayhew

McIndoe’s Army by Edward Bishop

The Blond McIndoe Research Foundation is excellent and has much information about Archie’s work and the Guinea Pig Club.

H: That is incredible about the YouTube video of McIndoe!  Thank you for the additional resources, I will have to check them out!

One of the parts of the book that I found the most compelling were the dog fighting flight scenes. These scenes were super realistic. How did you craft those scenes?

SH: Well, these were difficult to get right, and at the time of publication, I confess I still wasn’t fully certain that they were good enough, but so many readers have graciously told me how much they enjoyed them and how graphic they were, so perhaps I did okay. In the beginning, I wrote the scenes out simply, so I had a very rough draft. Initial research had given me what I needed at that stage, but the finer detail, the imagery was missing.

Then it was back to the research stage before I could paint the scenes. I read many graphic personal accounts from bomber & fighter pilots and aircrew and watched movies such as the Memphis Belle, Twelve O'Clock High and even the trailer for the new Mighty Eighth series. The tv adaptation of fighter pilot, Geoffrey Wellum’s book First Light was also a great resource. I studied how aircraft fly, whether alone or in formation. I studied the positions of the crew and how they did their job while on a mission. I also found old film reels from WW2 of aerial combat where I could see the gunners firing at German fighters, see how the line of tracer fire shoots across the sky, see how it looks when a bomber explodes mid-air, men baling out etc. Having a visual representation along with personal accounts of aerial warfare helped me to craft those scenes, and I can’t stress enough just how important and relevant movies are to the craft of writing. I was quite literally studying graphic scenes and attempting to repaint in words.

H: That research was well worth it in my opinion – those scenes were so realistic to me.

Plastic surgery was only in its infancy during WWI, how did you come across such a topic originally.

SH: I was researching another story when I came across a clip about fighter pilot Geoffrey Page who was a member of the Guinea Pig Club, and it was one of those classic cases of a writer going off on a tangent during research (perhaps procrastinating when I ought to have been writing). However, it turned out to be a fabulous discovery because that led me to Archie McIndoe and the entire real story. I knew that no matter what it took, I simply had to write the book and try to spread the word about this amazing piece of history.

H:  I love how little things that weren’t even on the radar before take over and become the thing you HAVE to write about. 

There is always something fun that you spend time researching but for whatever reason doesn’t make the cut into the book. Do you have such an example you would like to share with us?

SH: It seems so long ago since I researched this book that I can barely remember. There was a funny story of a tall, strong Scot who went out one evening with some of the men, became very drunk and returned to the ward in the early hours, singing at the top of his voice. Of course, he woke everyone up and the nurse gave him a sharp dressing down and ordered him to bed. Within minutes she heard him yell out and found him in the bathroom. He’d tripped over something and ended up sitting in a bucket of Lysol, which resulted in a first-degree burn on his buttock! He was a lieutenant with the Highland Light Infantry and his reason for being one of Archie’s patients was because he’d broken his jaw while out in the blackout in Glasgow. So he ended up suffering a burn anyway!

H:  That is ironic right?!

Can you tell us what led to the choice to independently publish? Have you found anything challenging or surprising easy in terms of independent publishing? Any tips for aspiring authors?

SH: The truth is, when my manuscript was finally complete and ready for the professional edit in mid-2016, I suddenly discovered that it was also the 75th anniversary of the Guinea Pig Club and there were to be certain events in honor of this. I realized that the time was right to publish and I didn’t have time to find an agent, publisher or both, and that’s how I entered the indie publishing world.

Having gone through the process of physically publishing an e-book and a paperback I can say that it’s straightforward. Unfortunately, I was rather hopeless at formatting my manuscript, so I had assistance with that. Being an indie author is challenging work because the only person you can rely on is yourself. You must do everything including marketing your book and all while writing the next story, so time management is crucial.

There are many positives, such as being able to write what I love, as opposed to what the publisher would like, keeping all royalties and setting your own deadlines.

For new authors who are considering self-publishing, I’d say do your research and once you’re clear about the work involved and providing you feel it’s right for you, then go for it. You can always go agent hunting later with the next book. It seems that more traditionally published authors are self-publishing today – termed hybrid authors as they publish via both routes.

H: Thank you for that insight.  That makes sense considering the time line of how long it can take to publish a book and then it wouldn’t have had the timeliness appeal of the anniversary.

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

SH: I’m a fan of Hillary Mantel and love her writing so much. Then there’s Pat Barker who has written many books, but I love the Regeneration Trilogy, set during WW1. The third book in the trilogy, Ghost Road, won the Booker Prize in 1995 and it’s incredible. Daphne du Maurier is another whose writing I greatly admire, and I also happen to be a Jane Austen fan.

One book that left a lasting impression was Sunset Song written by Lewis Grassic Gibbon in 1932. It’s a fascinating story and regarded to be one of the most important Scottish novels of the 20th century.

There are too many to mention, but these five are among my favorites. And, as you can probably guess, I devour anything WW2 related. Right now, I’m reading my first Maggie Hope MysteryThe Paris Spy by Susan Elia Macneal.

H:  I’ve had by eye on the Maggie Hope Mystery series, but haven’t had the chance to read any of them yet.  I hope you enjoy it!

What type of things do you like to do for leisure?

SH: Living on the edge of the Lake District is amazing as I’m very close to the Scottish borders, so I love exploring Hadrian’s Wall and the old Roman Forts as well as hiking in the lakes. There are also a few literary connections to my home region which makes exploring even more interesting – Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter for example.

Being a writer means sitting a lot which is great for the muse but not the physique! So, I recently took up yoga which I enjoy. Aside from that, I walk my dogs daily, sometimes go cycling, but I love nothing more than curling up with an enjoyable book, especially in winter.

H: That sounds beautiful! I would love to see Hadrian’s Wall!  Thank you so much for stopping by today Suzy!

suzy henderson

Suzy Henderson lives with her husband and two sons in Cumbria, England, on the edge of the Lake District, a beautiful and inspiring landscape of mountains, fells, and lakes. She never set out to be a writer, although she has always loved reading and experiencing the joy of being swept away to different times and places.

In a previous life she was a Midwife but now works from home as a freelance writer and novelist. While researching her family history, Suzy became fascinated with both World War periods and developed an obsession with military and aviation history. Following the completion of her Open University Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, she began to write and write until one day she had a novel.

Other interests include music, old movies, and photography – especially if WW2 aircraft are on the radar. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society. Her debut novel, The Beauty Shop, was released in November 2016 and Suzy is now busy writing her second book which she hopes to release later in 2017.

Find Suzy Henderson: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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Book Blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Message from IndieBRAG:

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

brag interview team

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court