#BlogTour : Listen To The Wind (The Orphans of Tolosa #1) by @Susanne_Dunlop #Review & #GuestPost #ListenToTheWind #TheOrphansOfTolosa @HFVTB
Hello everyone! I have the great pleasure to be todays stop on this wonderful blog tour for; Listen To The Wind by Susanne Dunlap. Let me tell you that I have a mammoth post for you all today; Not only will I be sharing my review of this splendid book, I also have an exclusive guest post by Susanne for you all – and it is an amazing post and there is a chance to win a cop of Listen To The Wind. So without further ado, sit back and enjoy.
Listen to the Wind by Susanne Dunlap
Publication Date: April 22, 2019
Publisher: Bellastoria Press
Format: eBook & Paperback; 388 Pages
Series: The Orphans of Tolosa, Book 1
Genre: Historical Fiction/Medieval
Sent away from their families for their own protection when they were very young, Azemar and Azalaïs become separated when they are forced to flee from the band of outlaws who served as their supposed protectors. Armed only with scraps of memories and the wits and intelligence that have helped them survive brutal conditions, they struggle to find each other again and discover the mysterious past that links them across distance and time. Who are they? And do they hold the secret of the legendary Cathar treasure? All they know is that knights and monks spell danger, and they must find a way to survive at all costs if they are to fulfill their destiny—and preserve their vanishing culture.
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Guest Post by Susanne Dunlap
One of the best things about being a historical novelist is having the opportunity to delve deeply into a period and imagine the world as it was at that time. Perhaps that’s why, in order to put in the months (or years) of researching and writing a historical novel I have to become completely passionate about my subject and my characters—real or invented.
Most of my novels have taken place in the modern world, from the 17th-20th centuries. But something about the world of thirteenth-century Languedoc caught me and simply wouldn’t let me go.
It all started in grad school. I was studying music history at Yale University, working toward a PhD, and loving every minute of the research and writing. When in the medieval seminar I found out about the women troubadours (trobairitz) of Languedoc in the 12th and 13th centuries, I was utterly intrigued. Apparently all 20 of the trobairitz historians know of came from one small region of what is now southern France, but was then its own patchwork of political entities and its own culture. They didn’t even speak French, but spoke what is now referred to as Old Occitan, and was then sometimes referred to as Lemozin.
The troubadours and trobairitz wrote courtly poetry in very complex metrical forms. The subjects were love, of course, but in the case of the trobairitz, the love was decidedly earthly. They spoke of disappointments, of unrequited love, of friendship, and passion—where the men tended to go in a more esoteric direction, making the object of their love poetry the idea of a lady rather than an actual living, breathing, woman.
So, I thought, these women who weren’t afraid to be honest must have been strong, intelligent, educated, and imaginative. What’s not to like?
Very little is known about the real lives of the trobairitz, so I found myself creating characters and a story that integrated the poetry and music, and captured the volatility of the period. Because trobairitz came from the educated upper classes, Jordane de la Moux d’Aniort, daughter of a baron, is the trobairitiz in Listen to the Wind.
The Orphans of Tolosa trilogy (of which Listen to the Wind is book one) takes place as the culture of the region is being crushed by the inquisition, which not only sought to eradicate the Cathar heretics, but to impose the legal systems of northern France and subsume the region into the territories ruled by the King of France.
Although the region is now fully part of France, a modern version of the language is still spoken, and the descendants of those fiercely independent people cling to their cultural heritage. In recognition of this heritage, what used to be known as Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrenees is (as of 2016) now referred to as Occitanie, and if you visit there, you’ll see many street signs in both French and Occitan.
It is my hope that readers will not only be drawn into the adventures of the characters in Listen to the Wind, but also appreciate the culture that inspired the story.
More historical tidbits and a glossary of Old Occitan terms featured in the book is at https://orphansoftolosa.com.
Well, what can I say about this book? Thrilling, engaging, illuminating and brilliantly entwined with history and a wonderfully complex story. It takes you on a real adventure through 13th Centaury France, the colourful writing makes every scene so beautifully detailed and vivid you can see it playout like a film in your mind.
I haven’t read any of Susanne Dunlap’s work before, but after reading this – or should that be; devoured – I will definitely be reading more, her writing is so imaginative and atmospheric that you become completely lost in the story and before you know it you have whiled away a full afternoon.
The story opens with siblings; Azalais and Azemar who are living in a orphanage in Tolosa, they live a happy simple life roaming around the woods and surrounding area, making up games with the other orphans abuts knights in shining armour and damsels in distress. Everything in their life is good, that is until a illness spreads throughout the area and the people who were supposed to be protecting them soon turn on them and the other orphans, thinking it them that has caused all this illness and death. The children flee for their lives and in the melee Azalais and Azemar become separated, promising to meet up.
But, all doesn’t go to plan and what should have been a simple meet each other again in the next town turns into years of uncertainty and adventure for our two youngsters. What at first appears to be a very simple story of these two young people trying to forge their way through such hardships and attempting to find one and other again, you soon realise that this is far more then that. There is a ethereal and magical quality to the story, that is both surprising and addictive reading. We soon see that there is more to these two then meets the eyes, they have secrets buried within them that even they don’t know and even though once they have separated and when they try to find their feet they are more intricately entwined to one and other then originally thought.
So when they meet again years later, which is an amazing and gorgeous scene their shared past and destined future soon becomes clear.
This is an intriguing and complex story with lots of secrets and lies interwoven within the characters personal stories, it is charming, exciting and mesmerising. Ms Dunlap’s writing is wonderfully immersive and brilliantly atmospheric, there is a real starlight quality to this book which will grab any readers attention.
Definitely a must read, I cannot wait to see what comes next in this series.
This was a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, thank you Susanne and Amy.
About the Author
Susanne Dunlap is the author of six works of historical fiction. Two are for adults (Emilie’s Voice and Liszt’s Kiss, both published by Touchstone books of Simon & Schuster). Four are for young adults (The Musician’s Daughter, Anastasia’s Secret, In the Shadow of the Lamp, and The Academie, published by Bloomsbury). A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn and Northampton, MA. She now lives in Northampton with her long-time partner, Charles, has two grown daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson, a stepson and a stepdaughter, four step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter—that’s a total of four children and nine grandchildren!
In her spare time she cycles in the beautiful Pioneer Valley.
Blog Tour Schedule
Make sure you go back through the blog tour and check out all the blogs which have participated.
Monday, May 13
Review at Bibliophile Reviews
Tuesday, May 14
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Wednesday, May 15
Interview at Passages to the Past
Thursday, May 16
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Tuesday, May 21
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots
Wednesday, May 22
Feature at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, May 23
Interview at Donna’s Book Blog
Friday, May 24
Review at Passages to the Past
During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away one copy of Listen to the Wind by Susanne Dunlap! To enter, please use the Gleam form here – Listen to the Wind
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 28th. 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 suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
#BlogTour : The Catherine Howard Conspiracy (The Marquess House Trilogy #1) by Alexandra Walsh #Review & #GuestPost @purplemermaid25 #TheCatherineHowardConspiracy @SapereBooks
Hello my lovely readers, I have the great pleasure to be today’s stop on this wonderful blog tour for The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh, and I have an amazing post for you all to get stuck into. Not only sharing with you my review of the fabulous book, but I also have an exclusive to Chicks, Rogues and Scandals guest post from Alexandra for you all – and it is a doozy! So, grab yourselves a cuppa and tuck in.
The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh
A timeshift thriller that will have you completely gripped! Perfect for fans of Dan Brown, Philippa Gregory, Kate Mosse and Tom Harper.
What secrets were covered up at the court of Henry VIII …?
Whitehall Palace, England, 1539
When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of King Henry VIII to be a maid of honour in the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves, she has no idea of the fate that awaits her.
Catching the king’s fancy, she finds herself caught up in her uncle’s ambition to get a Howard heir to the throne.
Terrified by the ageing king after the fate that befell her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine begins to fear for her life…
Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2018
Dr Perdita Rivers receives news of the death of her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy.
Mary inexplicably cut all contact with Perdita and her twin sister, Piper, but she has left them Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire.
Perdita sets out to unravel their grandmother’s motives for abandoning them, and is drawn into the mystery of an ancient document in the archives of Marquess House, a collection of letters and diaries claiming the records of Catherine Howard’s execution were falsified…
What truths are hiding in Marquess House? What really happened to Catherine Howard?
And how was Perdita’s grandmother connected to it all?
THE CATHERINE HOWARD CONSPIRACY is the first book in the Marquess House trilogy, a dual timeline conspiracy thriller with an ingenious twist on a well-known period of Tudor history.
Available at Amazon
About The Author
From tales spun for her teddies when she was a child (usually about mermaids) to film scripts, plays and novels, Alexandra Walsh has always been a storyteller. Words are her world. For over 25 years, she has been a journalist writing for a wide range of publications including national newspapers and glossy magazines. She spent some years working in the British film industry, as well as in television and radio: researching, advising, occasionally presenting and always writing.
Books dominate Alexandra’s life. She reads endlessly and tends to become a bit panicky if her next three books are not lined up and waiting. Characters, places, imagery all stay with her and even now she finds it difficult to pass an old wardrobe without checking it for a door to Narnia. As for her magical letter when she was 11, she can only assume her cat caught the owl!
Alexandra’s other passion is history, particularly the untold tales of women. Whether they were queens or paupers, their voices resonate with their stories, not only about their own lives but about ours, too. The women of the Tudor court have inspired her novels. Researching and writing The Marquess House Trilogy (Book One: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy) has brought together her love of history, mysteries and story telling.
The Queen In Isolation by Alexandra Walsh
When I began the story that has become The Marquess House Trilogy, my first plan was to write it as one tale. However, as the plot grew and the sheer amount of historical detail required to make the story flow became apparent, I braced myself for a longer task and, perhaps, two books. Again though, my optimistic hopes were dashed and suddenly, it was a trilogy.
Why the surprise at this, you may ask? Well, it’s because my starting point with this series was not Catherine Howard, it was Elizabeth Tudor, my favourite historical person, and I had thought Catherine would be a minor character. Catherine Howard, however, was having none of it and quickly stepped forward from the myriad historical women wandering around my head to make it clear that book one was all about her – The Catherine Howard Conspiracy. Who was I to argue?
As she became the focus of some intense research, her story laying itself before me, my protectiveness of this much maligned young woman grew. It was not until I was immersed in her world though, that one thing struck me, something which my main protagonist, Dr Perdita Rivers, mentions: Catherine Howard is always portrayed as being alone. As I learned more about the teenage queen, I found this a problematic presentation of her.
The perpetual image of the tragic teenager is as a naïve orphan who was easily led astray by more powerful men and women preying upon her innocence. You can almost feel the moustache-twirling, Victorian-esque villain hovering just off the page waiting to lead the poor fainting damsel into disaster. The wicked harridan sizing her up as a potential meal ticket as she encouraged Catherine into lewd and boisterous behaviour with the wrong sort of men. Yet, if you look a little more closely, this myth is soon banished and a very different view of Catherine emerges.
It is true that Catherine was an orphan. Her mother, Jocasta Culpeper died in 1528 and her father, Lord Edmund Howard, 11 years later in 1539, only eight months before Catherine was summoned to court to be a Maid of Honour to Anne of Cleves. However, Catherine Howard was one of 11 children. Five of her siblings were full brothers and sisters: Henry Howard, Sir Charles Howard, Sir George Howard, Margaret Howard and Mary Howard. While five were half siblings from her mother’s, first marriage to Sir Ralph Leigh: John Leigh, Ralph Leigh, Isabel Leigh, Joyce Leigh and Margaret Leigh.
Even more surprising are her step-siblings: Edmund Howard married twice more, giving Catherine two step-mothers. His second wife was Dorothy Troyes, and after her death in 1530 he married Margaret Mundy. Both women were widows with children. Dorothy Troyes was mother to eight: Arthur, John, William, Richard, Francis, Agnes, Anne and another unnamed daughter, while Margaret had three children: Bernard, Juliana and Anna. A total of 11 step-siblings. Not quite the isolation suggested in most biographies.
The reason I’ve chosen to highlight this point is because while I was considering how best to portray Catherine, the discovery of siblings gave me a clue to her personality. To be surrounded by so many relations destroys the Victorian suggestion of the vulnerable orphan making her way in the world. If she had so many siblings, people with whom you can always be yourself (I’m one of seven, some step-siblings, some not, I understand), there is always someone to turn to in times of trouble. You may not always get on with your siblings but when times are hard, no matter how much you’ve squabbled over the last slice of cake, there is usually someone who is willing to fight your corner.
Being part of a large family also teaches you skills which would have been invaluable at the Tudor court. You learn to develop a thick skin, you understand about power plays (I refer you back to the last-slice-of-cake scenario), you learn how to, both, stand out and blend in with the crowd depending on which is going to protect you from the most trouble, you learn how to defend yourself and you know when to back down and forgive. While the broadness of the age range between the siblings suggests Catherine did not live with all the entire 22 at any one time, she would certainly have spent a portion of her childhood with a varying crowd of brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters. Life was probably noisy, chaotic and fun, even with the limitations placed on women in Tudor times.
When she became Henry VIII’s fifth queen, at least two of her sisters were with her as ladies-in-waiting: Lady Isabel Baynton nee Leigh and Margaret Arundell nee Howard. One of her brother’s Charles Howard became engaged to Lady Margaret Douglas, the king’s niece. Charles was also a member of the king’s bedchamber, while another brother, George, was also at court. It is likely more of the extended Howard, Leigh, Troyes and Mundy gang were there, too. Possibly not in positions of power but enjoying the reflected glory of Catherine’s reign.
It seems unlikely that they would all have abandoned her the moment she slipped from Henry’s favour. Again, I suspect the influence of the Victorian view of events, not to mention the old-fashioned male view of how they thought women behaved towards each other. Despite what they may have assumed, women are not generally out to get each other. It is more likely her sisters would have done their best to help, even if their power was limited due to their status as women.
The joy of writing historical fiction is that I can take these facts and spin them around to create a new version of events. I can guess her reactions, I can imagine myself into Catherine’s world and try to see things from her perspective. It also helped that I have a 15-year-old niece and I imagined her reaction to Catherine’s situation – a top show of bravado as she is thrown into a situation way above her capabilities, her, perhaps, foolish behaviour a cover for her fear and doubt.
We will never know what really happened, what Catherine felt and how she managed to face her death with such courage. We can only guess from the documents that have been left behind, examine the clues and the reactions of the people around her. I hope that by putting her back into the context of her family, Catherine becomes more human again, no longer the isolated child and we must hope that when we re-imagine her personality and tell her tale, that we have done her story justice.
Oh, my this is good! What an introduction to this author, this is an amazing book that will have shackle you to your chair until the very last word, I can guarantee that this will be devoured by again and again. I absolutely loved the premise of this, I have a soft spot for time-slip stories when done properly they can change your whole view on what you love to read and this is one of the best I’ve read. Ms Walsh has a real gift as a narrator, she has meticulously entwined an out of this world great piece of fiction with a bit of history, thrilling plot line and amazing character’s who you will be rooting for from day one.
The book opens in 1539 and from that brief chapter set during the court of Henry VIII where innocent and young Catherine Howard, has just been appointed the newest maid to honour new Queen Anne of Cleves. Let me tell you that this opening is gripping, it had me hooked with the undercurrent of danger that surrounds Catherine. I won’t say too much, other than this is how you grab hold of your reader from the off.
Fast Forward to 2018 where historian archaeologist Perdita is currently working at a dig that has unearthed a part of the Armada when she get some news that changes her life forever. Her grand mother has passed away and she has left everything, her multi-billion pond estate to Perdita and her twin sister Piper. But, it’s not all there is a secret luring deep in their history one that will bring danger in to their lives if ever revealed.
Honestly, there is so much going on in this book I daren’t go into too much detail with my review, I wouldn’t wish to spoil this book and the start of this new series for others but I will say that there are aspects to it’s that just blew my mind, I was literally reading and then I’d be like “Whoah, did that really just happen?”.
There is something very magical about this book, it’s imaginative with it’s duel timeline and various inter-twining factors from past to present and that mix of fact and fiction so seamlessly and beautifully done. It’s gripping and classy!
If you want a thrilling and intriguing time-split story with the feel of Dan Brown you really want to read this one. I was completely and utterly gripped by it, I love the time-split with it’s duel storyline that were interlinked together.
Overall this is an astounding start to what I know is going to be an impressive and brilliantly addictive series, think Dan Brown and Kate Mosse and you will have an inkling of just how glorious this is. It’s stylish, smart as a whip, engaging, thrilling, atmospheric, clever, magical – I could go on. It really is a must read for any who loves their thrillers with an extra oomph!
This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, thank you Caoimhe!
Do have a look at the other blogs which are participating in the great blog tour.
#Exclusive Guest Post : The Truth About Love And Dog’s; The Cover by Lilly Bartlett @MicheleGormanUK #GuestPost #TheTruthAboutLoveAndDogs
Hello my lovelies, Today I have a brilliant guest post for you to feast your eyes over, from the utterly charming Michele Gorman aka; Lilly Bartlett. Lilly is here chatting all about her new book; The Truth About Love and Dogs and the difference in US and UK covers. So, I will hand you over to Lilly…
The Cover by Lilly Bartlett.
How often do you pick up a book because of the cover? I do it all the time. It’s what makes me take the time to look at the description, read the first few paragraphs, and, if I like all that I see, decide to buy it.
So, is it any wonder that covers cause us authors so much angst? They might even make us more nervous than writing the book itself. That’s because writing is an evolutionary process. It takes months to do, plus there are many rounds of editing. But the cover is the instant, one-and-only first impression your book will make. It’s like getting ready for a first date with someone that you really really want to impress! You’ve only got one chance.
Every single author I know holds her breath when that email comes through from the publisher saying “Here’s the cover art and we hope you’ll love it as much as we do.”
So here it is: my one chance. These are the two covers we’ve chosen to make a first impression for The Truth About Love and Dogs.
What do you think? They’re very different from one another, aren’t they? That’s because tastes in romcom covers in the UK are so different from preferences in the US.
For the US cover – the basket of pups – we wanted something fun and eye-catching that conveys the book’s tone rather than the story exactly. Publishers go for the look and feel more than an image that literally tells you what the story is about (that’s the job of the title and the description). There are pugs in the book, by the way!
The UK cover might have a very different look, but its tone is the same. There, we wanted to project a cover the reader can fall into, with intriguing groupings of people that provoke curiosity.
I always ask my Facebook friends and newsletter followers for their feedback about my proposed covers, and the US readers mostly go for a photographic cover while UK readers love the illustrated ones. Does that hold true for you? Which do you like better?
Whichever cover grabs you most, I hope you’ll love the story inside!
About The Book
Four little words, uttered by her husband…
‘Oh my god,’ he gasped into her shoulder. ‘Shannon!’
There’s just one problem: her name isn’t Shannon.
Rewind six months and Scarlett and Rufus aren’t in the honeymoon stage anymore so much as the honey-should-we-bother phase. Desperate to get their sparkle back, Scarlett has plotted, planned and waxed more than any woman should have to, but none of it is working. Which makes it very hard to start the family they want.
At least her business is going strong, even if her marriage isn’t. She and her best friend spend their days tangled up in dog leads and covered in fur. Scarlett/ is the fairy dogmother, training hopeless pets like compulsive eater Barkley, impulsive Romeo Murphy and bossy Biscuit. Meanwhile, her best friend walks the dogs and pines for the man who doesn’t know she exists. Thank goodness the women have each other.
If only Scarlett could work out how to get her marriage back on track. But Rufus isn’t sharing his feelings with her. He is, though, sharing with her best friend. Her best friend, Shannon.
About The Author
Michele writes books packed with heart and humour, best friends and girl power. Call them beach books, summer reads, romantic comedy or chick lit… readers and reviewers call them “feel good”, “thought-provoking” and “laugh out loud”. She is both a Sunday Times and a USA Today bestselling author, raised in the US and living in London with her husband. She is very fond of naps, ice cream and Richard Curtis films.
Michele also writes cosy chick lit under the pen-name Lilly Bartlett. Lilly’s books are full of warmth, romance, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.
If you want to connect with me on Facebook or through my newsletter then you can get involved in my next cover choices!
#Review The Escape by Clare Harvey @ClareHarveyauth and #Exclusive Guest Post. #TheEscape #BlogTour #GuestPost #HistoricFiction @simonshusterUK
I have the very great pleasure to be todays stop on The Escape by Clare Harvey blog tour. I have a brilliant exclusive guest post by Clare – it is an amazing post. Plus I am sharing my review of The Escape, so grab a cup of tea and have a look.
I was born in North Devon, and lived there until just after my seventh birthday, when my family uprooted and moved to Mauritius for two years. After living overseas, we moved back to Surrey, and then later back to Devon, where I went to secondary school and took a foundation course in art and design.
I read Law at the University of Leicester, but chose not to follow a legal path, deciding instead to do voluntary work in Tanzania and hitch-hike from Zanzibar to Cape Town, where I stayed for a year. After my African adventure, I worked for an overseas charity, picked up a journalism qualification, and fell in love with a soldier. Much to my parents’ dismay, a safe career as a solicitor never looked likely!
I’ve had an itinerant adulthood, working variously as a freelance journalist, radio reporter and English tutor in Nepal, Germany and Northern Ireland as the trailing spouse of a serving soldier.
I’m now settled in Nottingham, with husband, three children, a black German Shepherd dog, and a father-in-law who lives in a detached annexe in the garden – it’s a busy household. However, I haven’t given up on the wanderlust just yet. Although Nottingham’s home for now, we’ve got a camper van and a canal boat, so who knows where next…
Procrastination by Clare Harvey
Let’s talk about procrastination. No, wait, let me make a cup of tea and Google the definition of procrastination, and then we can make a start (see what I did there?)…
Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. Most of us, but authors in particular, are very good at procrastination. When you work from home there are tempting lollygagging opportunities a-plenty. This morning, for example, I promised myself I’d be at my desk by 9am, but six acts of procrastination delayed the start of my working day by an hour and a half.
I was a little late back from my morning dog walk (and as there’s no boss to shout at me if I’m not at work on time, I don’t tend to rush). Then, whilst the coffee was brewing, I decided to post a photo on my Instagram feed, which meant I got sucked into social media for a while, and there was an interesting person on Desert Island Discs on Radio 4, too, so I didn’t rush drinking my coffee. Just as I was giving myself a metaphorical kick up the backside, my husband phoned, then the postman arrived with a parcel – a new hairstyling gadget, which I felt I just had to test out…I finally opened my laptop at 10.30. In any normal job this amount of shilly-shallying would surely get me the sack?
I should be stricter with myself, shouldn’t I? Shorten that dog walk, limit my use of social media before I’ve completed my to-do list, turn off the radio, ignore personal phone calls, leave the parcels unopened. In short, I should flipping well get on with things, right?
I believe that procrastination – or at least a kind of managed mindlessness – is positively beneficial to writers. Let’s go through my dilatory start to the day again, and I’ll tell you why:
1. The extended morning dog walk/run:
Writing is a sedentary occupation – we need to get out from behind our desks and move about. Exercise has been shown to boost creativity, and running to thumping bass beats increases self-confidence, both of which are essential to authors. Being outdoors is also an ideal opportunity for a spot of mindfulness. When I’m out I try to spend a few minutes internally describing my surroundings (today it was the pink vapour trails criss-crossing the powder blue skies, my breath puffing dragon-clouds in front of my face, and the slide of my boots on the muddy path, for example); this has the twin benefits both of calming me down before the day begins, and also exercising my writer’s mind by practising a bit of word painting.
2. Personal phone calls:
As I mentioned, authors lead a hermit-like existence. I’m not sure about other writers, but I spend a lot of time talking and listening to the voices of made-up people inside my head! Real life – family and friends – are critically important in keeping me grounded and sane, and I’m sure that’s true for most other authors too.
3. Dithering on social media:
For authors, social media performs two critical functions: writing is a lonely job, and social media connects you with the world. Almost all the contact I have with fellow writers is via Facebook groups and Twitter feeds, and without it I’d run the risk of feeling increasingly isolated. In addition, social media is a crucial marketing tool. I usually post something every weekday so that I’m maintaining contact with my readers. This morning I posted a photo of some old graffiti I’d spotted on my walk, which I just thought was unexpectedly beautiful. I also put a promo link on a FB group for saga readers, inviting them along to my book launch. Social media helps market my work, connects me to readers and writers, and is sometimes an outlet for creativity, too.
4. Listening to the radio:
I like having Radio 4 quietly chattering along in the background in the kitchen, and although it doesn’t usually stop me from getting to work, sometimes it’s worth allowing myself to be diverted. A couple of years ago Hillary Mantel’s Reith lectures on historical fiction were an essential listen for hist fic authors like me. And only a few weeks ago an item on the radio sparked an idea that I developed into a synopsis, and is now my current work-in-progress. You never know when an obscure radio feature might send you off down a new creative path, so it’s always worth a listen.
5. Taking the time to brew a cup of real coffee:
Most authors probably swear by a caffeine shot to get their creative juices going, but it’s more than that. My morning cuppa is a ritual – I have a little Italian-style coffee pot that you heat on the hob, and I have to go through the rigmarole of filling the pot with water, spooning the coffee into the chamber, tamping it down with the back of the special coffee spoon, heating the milk in a separate jug, etc. Rituals give focus and structure to our lives. I might not go out to work, but making that coffee helps make my brain transition from home to job, and after I have finished drinking it, I’m ready to leave behind thoughts of shopping, washing, homework projects, and doctor’s appointments, and open my laptop, or pick up my pen.
6. Opening parcels:
Okay, I admit it, this one really does count as procrastination. I just wanted the fleeting thrill of unwrapping something, and once it was open, I couldn’t help giving my new hair styling gadget a try. I probably could have been at my desk a few minutes earlier – but at least I’m definitely not having a bad hair day today…
Five out of six ain’t bad, I’d say. Stalling, temporizing, dilly-dallying, vacillation – call it what you like, some kind of delaying tactics are an essential part of an author’s day, and for me this morning has definitely been a procrastination win!
The Escape is out now in paperback, e-book and Audible.
About The Book
A compelling wartime drama for fans of Lucinda Riley, Rachel Hore and Katherine Webb
Detta works as a translator for a Nazi-run labour camp for French workers. One winter morning in early 1945, Detta passes a group of exhausted British prisoners of war who are being force-marched westwards. The following day she receives an urgent message to contact the local priest. He is harbouring a group of escaped British prisoners of war in the manse: can she help?
London, 1989. Miranda is a 19-year old photography student in London, in thrall to her older boyfriend, a journalist called Quill. In November the fall of the Berlin Wall is all over the news. Quill asks Miranda to come with him to Germany: before they leave, Miranda’s grandmother gives her an old postcard of the village she was born in. Miranda hopes that working together in Berlin will help cement the cracks in her relationship with Quill, but one night his behaviour spills over into violence, and Miranda ends up fleeing through the rubble of the Berlin wall and into the East. As she travels further, she begins to suspect she’s being followed by the Stasi. If she goes on, she worries that she’ll be taken into custody and be accused of spying; if she turns back, it means returning to Quill.
At last her grandmother’s photograph offers the solution. She tells people that she is going to find her family in the East. The Catholic church, and the manse, opposite where her grandmother once lived, are still standing. And the secrets of the past begin to be revealed.
Wow, what a gripping and thought- provoking book. From the very first page when Detta spot’s the Russian planes flying over her office, I was hooked. I wanted to know what would happen to her and what came of Tom. I was turning the pages lightening quick, becoming more and more engrossed in a story that spans from 1945 to 1989. This is a truly thrilling and moving book, set during two unsettled and dangerous times, and centres around two women in particular.
This is the first book I have read by Clare Harvey, I didn’t know what to expect from her writing. Yes, I have read a lot of great things about her work, but I like to make my own opinions, and my opinion is that Ms Harvey has a true skill. She has a rare gift, time slip stories at times don’t always work and some can fall a little flat or become confusing the further into the story the reader gets. But not this one. Ms Harvey easily takes the reader from Detta in 1945 and jumps cleanly to Miranda in 1989, the transitions from one woman and one era to the next and then back again is perfectly timed and written.
As I said above the story is split between two era’s; in 1945, Detta lives in a little village in Germany working as a translator – which gives a real insight into what was going on at this stage in the war. The Russian are moving in, there is a quiet hostility that just jumps out at you read. The part with the mother and baby trying to get on the train and facing an onslaught of hostility was particularly moving. When she receives word from the local priest for help, she at first is uncertain as whether to assist as he is harbouring escaped British prisoners of war. Dare she help him and these poor men, while putting her own life at risk if she was ever caught?
The second part of the story set during 1989 the Berlin wall has fallen and trainee photographer is right in the thick of it. She is only in Berlin as her older boyfriend; Quill asked her to go with him, but one thing leads to another and the night ends in violence. As she flees the feeling of threats and danger is ever present, it leaped of the pages and your heart is in your mouth as your follow Miranda as she makes her way through some pretty harrowing moments, believing she is being followed she ends up using the old postcard her grandmother gave her, and says she is going to find her family in East Germany.
The threads that start to appear which link the two women makes for compelling and intriguing reading. The way Ms Harvey has entwined raw history throughout the story is beautifully done. There is a real sense of not knowing what’s to come, at not letting anything slip through your fingers as you never know if you will ever get the chance or see the person again. There are moments which had shivers running down my back and tears in my eyes; such as the march of the concentration camp workers, wearing nothing but rags and skeletal thin as they lumbered past Tom’s prisoner of war camp is harrowing.
This is an absolute stunning piece of writing, it’s sensitive, poignant, engaging, compelling, beautifully written, rich in historic detail, a thrilling story which will grab you and not let you go. Really this is a perfect book for all those who love historic fiction, if you love the likes of Pam Jenoff, Alison Richman or Kate Mosse then read this book.
It is in one word; Perfection! – Honestly, I can’t say any more it is really is.
This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for a honest review as apart of this blog tour, thank you so much Jess.
The Escape can be found at Amazon, do buy it, I cannot recommend it enough.
A Romantic History by Lynne Shelby
A boy and a girl grow up together in the country and fall in love. He is lured away by a sophisticated woman from the city, she is pursued by two other men, but eventually the young couple get back together and marry. It sounds like the plot of a romantic novel – and it is – but this particular book, ‘Daphnis and Chloe,’ was written in ancient Greece, around 1,800 years ago. Unsurprisingly, as they were written on papyrus scrolls, only five romantic novels have survived from that time, but I like to imagine that the ancient Greeks, when they weren’t inventing politics, philosophy and maths, liked nothing better than to settle down with a cup of wine and a good romance!
Skip a few centuries to the Middle Ages, and people were still reading or listening to love stories, particularly tales of heroic knights rescuing damsels in distress and winning their love. The epic poems and other fiction of Medieval times aren’t ‘novels,’ as we think of them today, and they have far fewer happy endings than we might like, but they are certainly romantic, and the names of the couples whose often doomed love affairs are told by Medieval authors are still well known – think of Tristan and Isolde or Lancelot and Guinevere.
Another popular romance was that of Troilus and Cressida, which takes place against the background of the Trojan War. In the 14th Century, Chaucer, better known as the writer of the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ wrote a version of this story, ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ in which the hero doesn’t believe in love – until he sees the heroine. He falls for her, she falls for him, there is an exchange of love letters, a night of bliss, mistaken jealousy – all the ingredients of a romantic novel, although, sadly for a modern reader, the story does not end well.
Love stories have been told and retold for centuries, but the first romantic novel in the modern sense, ‘Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded’ by Samuel Richardson, written entirely from the heroine’s POV, was published in 1740. In the novel, Pamela Andrews, a young serving maid, constantly fights off the attempts of her master, Mr B, to seduce her, and he eventually rewards her virtue when he proposes. Back in the 18th Century, marriage between a lower class maid and a landowning squire was considered shocking, and Pamela has to wait for her happy ending until Mr B’s family accept her as his wife. More shocking to modern readers is the fact that Mr B appears to be a serial sexual predator, but in its day the novel was a huge success – there were even playing cards and ladies’ fans printed with scenes from the book.
Half a century later, in 1811, Jane Austen published ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ the first of her six books that were to ensure the continuing popularity of the romantic genre and inspire romantic novelists right up to the present day. The romance between the feisty Elizabeth Bennet and the proud Darcy, an iconic alpha hero if ever there was one, in ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ their love overcoming the obstacles of her prejudice and his pride, has surely influenced most romantic novels that have been written since.
Fast forward to the 20th Century, when, with mass market books readily available to all, and the publishers Mills & Boon starting to sell books in newsagents and supermarkets, the popularity of romantic fiction continued to grow.
In 1919, ‘The Sheik’ by E M Hall became a best-seller. Again, modern readers would find much of the plot, in which the hero rapes the heroine, completely horrific, but back then, the book’s extraordinary success led to it being made into a film starring heartthrob of the day, Rudolph Valentino, that broke box-office records.
Much more palatable to modern readers, are the books of Georgette Heyer. Her first novel, The Black Moth, published in 1921, was set in the 1750s, but she is still best known for her popular Regency romances, that with their impeccably researched historical background, essentially created and established the historical romance.
Another book that had a lasting influence, is ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ by Helen Fielding. Published in 1996, this novel, inspired by ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ was one of the first books to be described as chick-lit, and with its hapless yet likeable heroine, it certainly set the tone for many rom coms written since.
And no look back at 20th Century romantic fiction would be complete without mention of Dame Barbara Cartland, one of the most prolific and commercially successful romantic novelists of all time, with 723 books published between 1925 and the year 2000.
Times change, and today’s romantic novels have evolved to reflect the 21st Century lives of their readers. Sweet young innocent heroines who resist the advances of overbearing males have given way to independent women of all ages, with careers and past relationships. What hasn’t changed, is the love story at the heart of the book.
About The Author
Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance, and her new novel, The One That I Want, is published on 26 July 2018. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Reykjavik – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.
There are many reasons why I love reading and writing historical novels. Firstly, I love history. Secondly, I am just a big softie and like nothing better than a Happy Ever After ending. I should like, therefore, to say a big thank you to Frankie for inviting me to contribute to her blog.
I began by making a list of things which draw me to my favourite era, the Regency. As it grew, just for fun I thought I would make it a Romantic Fiction ABC. Here, then, is my Top Twenty of why I love Historical Romance novels.
I just love Georgian architecture, whether as a London town house or a beautiful country mansion. There is something hugely romantic about the arrangement and shape of windows, pediments and porticoes; of marbled floors and the symmetry of rooms around a central entrance hall; of rococo plaster work on ceilings and mantelpieces, and – far from least – the glorious richness of murals and ceiling paintings.
Breeches and Top-boots
Some ladies find attraction in Giorgio Armani, Gucci and Boss. Not so this romantic author. For me, men in breeches, neckcloths and elegant coats, with top-boots or Hessians, have a swoon factor the half-naked men depicted on some modern covers just don’t have (not that I don’t appreciate a manly chest, you understand!) The sight of Richard Armitage’s Mr. Thornton will always win the heart over his be-stubbled Guy of Gisburne. Although… ahem.
There is just something about a four-in-hand and a beautifully turned out equipage that modern cars cannot emulate. Although they were nowhere near as comfortable to travel in (and I appreciate many will disagree with me), cars have nothing to compare with the jingle of harness, the stamp of a shod hoof, the snort of the proud ‘cattle’ poled up. Flying feathers, tossing manes, swinging tails; the glorious, pungent smell of sweat glistening on warm equine hides… ah, sweet bliss to the horse fan!
Dresses and Drawers
What can be more romantic than beautiful gowns with frills and flounces? I will confess they have never been my idea of comfortable clothing, but I love to see them and certainly wouldn’t mind possessing an elegant riding habit. I love to read a book where the author has taken the trouble to describe what characters are wearing. For me, that is part of the magic of historical fiction – to be carried away to another time, to escape reality for a while. I hope I succeed in sweeping my readers away to the world my characters inhabit.
The Georgian era is renowned for its elegance. Georgette Heyer’s heroes appreciate a well-turned ankle, do not leer over some Page 3 girl. Beautiful porcelain, cut glass and tableware; delicate fans, with their own discreet language; pretty frills and fichus; embroidery, lace and silks; the smooth rotation of a perfect waltz… the instances are many. When I have time, reading a well-written novel or watching an historical drama takes me away from the ordinariness of everyday 21st Century life and allows me the illusion such elegant living has not gone for good.
Having longed for a Hygena bedroom in my youth, I now appreciate the beauty of hand-crafted wood and especially that of the Georgian age. I love most old furniture, even utility stuff made during WWII. I should love to have a big kitchen with Welsh dressers, solid oak tables and cupboards. Part of the romance of the Regency era, though, is the elegant mahogany and marquetry you find in many a National Trust property. One day, I have promised myself, I will have Georgian-style winged armchairs and elegant side-tables!
Georgette Heyer is the reason I am writing this blog. Had it not been for discovering her books when I was about eleven or twelve, I probably would not be where I am today. She is the Queen of Regency and although she dismissed her novels as ‘fluff’, you would be hard put to find better written romantic novels. I love her style and wit, her masterly descriptions and the sense of fun her novels convey. When you laugh out loud at a book, it can only be a winner. May I proffer humble thanks, ma’am.
I admit it. I am a sucker for a happy ending. While there can be an emotional satisfaction in a sad conclusion to a story, if that is what the plot demands, I do like to see my characters happily settled at the end of a novel and I prefer to read books with either a happy ‘ah’ ending or a witty one. Georgette Heyer was particularly adept at the latter and it always left me with a warm feeling. I try to do that with my own stories, because romantic historical fiction should be about escapism. We have enough reality in this modern world.
I love visiting a stately home and seeing a room decorated as it would have been in eras gone by. It is fascinating, especially when it is done in Regency style. Old buildings have an amazing atmosphere. Although a ruin, Witley Court in Worcestershire has the most wonderful feel of secrets and ghosts from times long past. Many years ago I was lucky enough to visit Salzburg in Austria, where the fortress is alive with the spirits of previous centuries. (No, I’m no madder than any other writer, honest!) I try and convey this to my readers through my writing, because for me, romance is not only about the love story.
What Regency author doesn’t love Jane Austen’s works? She was, of course, writing about her own time and did not invent the Regency genre. Georgette Heyer can be credited with that. However, Jane has bequeathed us so many gems of insight, custom and historical detail. From her works we know the modern delight in contracting words in dialogue (one of my bête noirs in historical novels) is not accurate. She gave us the wicked romp in Lydia and the serene beauty in Jane. She gave us the intelligent, independently minded heroine in Elizabeth and the interfering one in Emma. She also gave us the toe-curling Mr. Collins, the wonderful Colonel Brandon and the worst marriage proposal in English literature! Thanks to Auntie Beeb and Andrew Davies, though, I can no longer read Pride and Prejudice without thinking of Colin Firth and that scene…
Love. One of the strongest emotions, it comes in so many forms: Love of life, a subject, a place, a view; love of family, of friends, of pets… and of that one special person in your life. Love is all you need sang the Beatles and they weren’t far wrong. Love makes the world go round. Within the pages of novels from the Circulating Libraries, ladies of the Regency found solace from their humdrum lives and loveless marriages. Nowadays, we buy romance novels by the zillion, just for the sheer pleasure of that perfect, joyful connection with another person. There are few more satisfying feelings than reaching the end of a wonderful book with a happy ending. That warm, fuzzy sensation is love in itself.
Manners and Courtesy
I am a traditionalist, and appreciate it when a gentleman holds open a door for me or a child says please and thank you. I’m aware I am a dying breed and yes, I am perfectly capable of opening my own door, but it is nice to have it done for me. It is nice when a gentleman helps you out of a car (or down from a carriage!) It is nice to be escorted on a proffered arm and treated with old-fashioned courtesy. It is particularly nice when the gentleman next door mows your front verge with his ride-on mower to save you having to struggle with your old electric one! I love that about Regency novels, that even when people were insulting each other, it was couched in such a manner as to be civil, rather than screaming abuse heavily littered with profanity.
There have been lots of great names throughout the centuries which are now virtually obsolete. Joscelin, for a man, is one of my favourites and finally found its owner in the hero of Carpet of Snowdrops. There is a certain romantic beauty in many old names, I feel… although perhaps not Godfrey, Wat or Alf!
Heroines must have something about them. They must be strong and engaging and preferably have some trait or quirk which makes them unique. That strength need not mean they are independent and headstrong, but that they can deal with whatever ‘life’ throws at them in a fashion which is enjoyable to read. They must also behave in a manner befitting the era they live in. If a Regency heroine talks and behaves in the manner of a modern miss, it throws me out of the story. It is part of the charm and romance of an historical novel to discover how the heroine can claim her hero without overstepping the bounds and mores of the time.
Posting Houses and Coaching Inns
I just love old inns, especially if they still have their original stable yards! I am fascinated by the history of them; the stories of past landlords and noble (or well-known) patrons, of smugglers and highwaymen, of ghosts and crimes. I am also fascinated by the growth of such buildings and how they became famous. Romance comes in so many forms.
Rakes and Rogues
What reader of historical romance doesn’t love a rake or a rogue? With a nod to Frankie, this article would not be complete without them! I admit I do have a soft spot for one – provided he has some redeeming features, loves his lady and is reformed (or at least faithful) by the end of the book. He must be tender as well as masterful and recognize his shortcomings. After all, a gentleman with experience is better set to please his bride! Perhaps my favourite literary rake is Damerel in Georgette Heyer’s Venetia.
Well-written and well-researched novels are a fascinating window on the way people lived in a previous time – and what a great way to learn! This is one of the best of the many facets of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen novels: the historical detail. I love to know what people ate, drank, slept in, sat on, used, wore and did for recreation and entertainment. I’m just a nosey so-and-so!
As a horse lover, a visit to London isn’t complete without a look-in at Hyde Park Corner and a walk down Rotten Row. The most famous horse sales and bloodstock agency in the world began life here, founded in the 1770s by Richard Tattersall. The Duke of Kingston’s former groom and trainer rented land behind St. George’s Hospital, close to the Corner. It quickly became the place to be seen among gentlemen with an interest in equestrian matters, as well as the place to buy and sell horses. A weekly sale was held and ‘Black Monday’ became the not always humorous nomenclature for Settling Day. It meant the ruin of many an aristocratic name. Tattersall’s is one of the must-see places for young Johnny Raws from the country in any Regency novel.
What can be more romantic than a trip down the river to Vauxhall for the characters in an historical novel? Picture the shadowed paths, the tree-lined walks, the music playing and figures bedecked in their finery, flitting like butterflies and chattering like sparrows. It is the perfect setting for a clandestine meeting, a risqué masquerade or an elegant concert followed by supper and a romantic walk along the lantern-lit paths. Such intrigues can be envisaged, such dastardly actions performed, and all for the stroke of pen or press of keypad… Vauxhall was made for romantic fiction!
Of all the elements of good Regency fiction, possibly the one I like best is the witty dialogue. While Jane Austen had an acerbic wit, Georgette Heyer was the grande dame of the concept in her novels. I laugh aloud when I am reading her books and that does not happen with many authors. I love it when I find someone who writes with that same sense of humour. Of course, beside JA and GH, the rest of we poor mortals can but aspire.
This is one of my favourite quotes and comes from Faro’s Daughter, first published by Wm. Heinemann Ltd. in 1941.
“You will find it very inconvenient to keep me in your cellar indefinitely, I imagine, but I must warn you I have not the smallest intention of leaving it, except upon my own terms.”
“But you cannot let the race go like that!” cried Deborah, aghast.
“Oh, have you backed me to win?” he said mockingly. “So much the worse for you, my girl!”
© Heather King. All photographs © Heather King, Other images Public Domain
About The Author
Heather King has made up stories since she was a small child. History lessons at school were rarely dull and the discovery of Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels in her early teens set her on a lifelong love of that era. A confessed romantic and bookworm, writing gives her a chance to indulge all these passions – and call it work!
She has her own voice, but likes to follow traditional Regency precepts and pen uplifting stories with witty dialogue, engaging characters and bags of emotion.
Visiting her Dark Side as Vandalia Black, she writes Vampire and Paranormal romance. She is the author of ‘Vampires Don’t Drink Coffee and Other Stories’ which includes a novella set in the English Civil War.
When not looking after her two hairy ponies, three cats and boisterous Staffie X, or frowning over keypad or notebook, she likes nothing better than to curl up with a good book.
Comparison between Writing Romance and Reading Romance
by Jenna Hines
Why I Love Romance:
Romance is a means of escape. It can give us hope and comfort and allows us to disappear into another world. To forget for a short time, our daily commitments.
I have been reading Romance all my life, which spans more than sixty years. My writing of Romance, however, only covers the last fifteen of those years.
First, let me tell you why I read and write Romance. Simple, I am a born Romantic and love a happy ending. Romance is very important to me as it has always formed part of my life. I fell ‘in love’ for the first time at the tender age of fourteen and the romantic notion of being with ‘The One’ has stayed with me forever, even though sadly, my first love remained a part of my past! I have kept my romance alive with each relationship I have been involved in, but alas many times it has not been reciprocated. I still live in hope! I have learned that being romantic helps me to get through all the ups and downs life throws at us. As I said before I am a born Romantic and have a tendency to look at life through those proverbial ‘rose tinted’ spectacles!! I will continue to read and write Romance as I believe one can truly be embroiled in it!
Here are my comparisons using a chart showing, for ease of demonstration, the two main characters who are romantically involved; How I read about them and how I would write about them. Each point showing the difference.
A. I lose myself in the characters who are romantically involved and build up a picture of them in my mind.
B. I automatically relate to the ‘couple’ who are romantically together.
C. I become engrossed in the couple I am reading about and wrapped up in their journey.
D. When the couple has a disagreement, I wonder why and try to understand the reason for the fallout.
E. When the couple ‘make-up’ I am engrossed in the process.
F. If one half of the couple is interested in a.n. other I read on to see what will happen.
G. For the final romantic passages. I read on enthralled.
A. I manipulate the characters to become romantically involved. Sometimes they manipulate me! I describe each one in detail to give the reader an insight into how they look and act.
B. I ensure the ‘couple’ come together by showing/telling the reader how.
C. I develop the couple and make sure the reader is engaged in their journey together by my description.
D. If the couple has a falling out I explain why to the reader by adding dialogue; maybe in the form of an argument.
E. When the couple re-engages, I elaborate on how and why by explaining to the reader the circumstances of making up and the reasons why.
F. For the one who is unfaithful, I describe the ‘other’ person and describe how and why they got to this point.
G. A smooth ending is described by me in detail on how the characters reach the finale of their romantic journey.
About the Author
A born romantic, Jenna Hines has finally followed her dreams. As a child she spent all her spare time in the public library, engrossed in stories of romantic fiction that enthralled her. In her early teens she craved to write her own stories, but it was much later in life that Jenna found the opportunity to fulfil her ambition. Victorian/Edwardian history had always captivated her. She re-familiarised herself with the era and began a new career, writing romantic stories set in the periods.