Friday, April 19, 2019

0 Song of Songs by Marc Graham: Guest Post, Giveaway, and Excerpt! #HFVBTBlogTours

Song of Songs: A Novel of the Queen of Sheba
by Marc Graham

Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Blank Slate Press
Paperback; 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Lift the veil of legend for the untold story of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and Bathsheba, wife and mother of Israel’s first kings.

When Makeda, the slave-born daughter of the chieftain of Saba, comes of age, she wins her freedom and inherits her father's titles along with a crumbling earthwork dam that threatens her people's survival. When she learns of a great stone temple being built in a land far to the north, Makeda leads a caravan to the capital of Yisrael to learn how to build a permanent dam and secure her people's prosperity.

On her arrival, Makeda discovers that her half-sister Bilkis (also known as Bathsheba) who was thought to have died in a long-ago flash flood, not only survived, but has become Queen of Yisrael. Not content with her own wealth, Bilkis intends to claim the riches of Saba for herself by forcing Makeda to marry her son. But Bilkis’s designs are threatened by the growing attraction between Makeda and Yetzer abi-Huram, master builder of Urusalim’s famed temple. Will Bilkis’s plan succeed or will Makeda and Yetzer outsmart her and find happiness far from her plots and intrigue?

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The Master opened his mouth to continue the invocation but, instead of the expected words, a high-pitched whistle rang throughout the quarry. The workers looked about for the source of the noise. Yetzer’s eyes settled on the side of the quarry where the fire blazed before the quartz outcropping. The limestone on the fringe glowed red-orange, while the quartz shimmered behind the veil of heat.
“Water,” Huram called, and the neat assembly dissolved as men raced for the great leather bladders that sat on either side of the fire.
Huram had explained to Yetzer how firing the quartz, then rapidly quenching it with water, would make the rock brittle and more easily broken up. That had been his intent. As Yetzer watched, his father’s plan rapidly came undone.
Steam hissed from the rock face. The whistle turned into a scream. The very earth seemed to bulge around the outcropping. In a moment, Yetzer foresaw what was to happen and knew he was unable to stop it.
“No,” he screamed anyway.
He ran toward his father and Pharaoh, who stood between the water bladders. Each skin held a copper tube, which a pair of workers aimed at the furious rock. Other men lowered cedar beams atop the skins to force the water’s flow.
Huram turned toward Yetzer as he cried out, but the men were already pressing down on the bladders. Water streamed toward the outcropping and the scene was lost in a cloud of vapor.
“Yetzer, be silent,” Huram ordered, but his shout was overwhelmed as the rock’s scream rose in pitch and volume.
Yetzer leapt toward the men. Huram tried to block him, but succeeded only in knocking his son into the king. The boy managed a glance at his father, whose face was masked with fury.
Then the world shattered.
Nature slowed as Yetzer’s senses raced ahead of the disaster. A storm of destruction rolled toward him, preceded by the invisible fist of some nameless god who punched him in the chest and drove the air from his lungs. The water bladders ruptured and men were thrown off their feet. They hadn’t reached the ground before the next wave struck.
Steam rolled over the men closest to the explosion, cleansed them of the dust that coated their bodies, and turned their skin sun-red. The flood from the bladders outpaced the steam, engulfing Yetzer and protecting him from the searing wave as it passed overhead.
A flurry of dust followed and, behind this, a hail of stone shards. The air hummed with the passage of the missiles. Yetzer lifted a hand in feeble defense, even as Huram clutched his throat. A crimson mist enveloped his father just before Yetzer’s upraised hand blossomed with blood.

Guest Post

De-constructing Legend To Find the True Story
by Marc Graham

We’ve all heard the story of the Queen of Sheba. Wasting away in her sun-worshiping idolatry, she hears of King Solomon’s legendary wisdom, travels a great distance to Jerusalem bearing gifts of gold and jewels and incense, sits at his feet to bask in his brilliance and piety, then returns to her homeland enlightened, unnamed, but much better for the experience.

That’s the most well known, Biblical version. But what of the others?
The Judaic Song of Solomon hints at a romance between the two monarchs, but still fails to name the fabled queen. (Providing prurience to the priestly class since 300 BCE. Breasts like twin fawns? Really?)

Imperial Coat of Arms of Ethiopia | Tom Lemmens [CC BY-SA 3.0
The Quran at least gives us a name, but makes Balkis (or Bilkis) a goat-legged, goose-footed infidel who may or may not have congress with demons.
In the Ethiopian national legend Kebra Negast (the Book of the Glory of Kings), she is called Makeda and is assaulted by the righteous King Solomon. Too bad for her, but it gave Ethiopia a holy(-ish) dynasty descended from King David that lasted nearly 3,000 years. Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974, but his heirs-in-exile still hold out hope for a return to the throne.
The tale that captured my imagination, though, is one I discovered in the lore of Freemasonry. While the Craft reveres King Solomon as the Founder of our Art, this version of the story suggests that the great and beautiful Queen of Sheba fell in love not with Solomon, but with Hiram Abiff, the builder of his temple to Yahweh. In a fit of jealousy and rage, Solomon sabotages the foundry where the great bronze works for the temple are being prepared. When this fails to discredit Hiram, Solomon has him kidnapped and murdered. How all this affects our Queen, we are not told.
I am a firm believer in the old adage that history is written by the victors. I’ve also been a big fan of the underdog (and Underdog) most of my life. I’m fascinated by the stories that disappear, swept away in the detritus of defeat. So how do we learn these stories?
Western history provides us a few examples, through the serendipitous discoveries of Qumran (Israel), and Nag Hammadi and Beni Masar (Egypt), all in the mid- to late-20th Century. These sites provided us with versions of the gospels that had been wiped out by the political and ecclesiastical victors of the Roman-occupied Middle East as the official version of Christianity began to take shape.
These documents (most burned, lest they otherwise be deemed gospels in their own right) paint a very different picture than the Gospels handed down to posterity by the holy and beneficent powers that be. Rather than a long-suffering anointed one who only seeks peace between the people and their political masters, we find an iconoclastic rebel who teaches personal freedom (and responsibility) and who orchestrates his own demise so that the power of the truth might be liberated for the masses.
The best-laid plans...
But these discredited gospels provide us with a template of how to read backward through history, how to peer through the other end of the looking-glass and decipher the images we’re left with.
The dominant version of the Queen of Sheba story was drafted some five hundred years after the events they purport to represent. Israel had been demolished, and her cousin Judea survived only in name. In response to the threats by foreign powers, the political and religious powers decided that a new national myth was in order. While the common folk continued to worship the ancient gods and goddesses of the land, their leaders established a new order under a single male deity, and did away with the ancient customs for good.
In crafting Song of Songs: A Novel of the Queen of Sheba, I had to look back through this lens of a fledgling monotheist patriarchy. What would men of tenuous power fear? What ancient beliefs would need to be buried by those seeking to create a new way of worship? By understanding this perspective, the needs and fears of the victors, I was able to weave a way back into the story of the underdogs, the losers of this particular piece of history.
This method of rediscovering history can serve us well. In an age when the victor-of-the-moment establishes history, when the public memory spans only a few days, storytellers need to understand how to look back. By reverse-engineering our history-as-fact and breaking it down into its basic elements, the real story, the stories of flesh-and-blood women and men, may be preserved for those who come behind us.

About the Author

Marc Graham studied mechanical engineering at Rice University in Texas, but has been writing since his first attempt at science fiction penned when he was ten. From there, he graduated to knock-off political thrillers, all safely locked away to protect the public, before settling on historical fiction. His first novel, Of Ashes and Dust, was published in March 2017.

He has won numerous writing contests including, the National Writers Assocation Manuscript Contest (Of Ashes and Dust), the Paul Gillette Memorial Writing Contest - Historical (Of Ashes and Dust, Song of Songs), and the Colorado Gold Writing Contest - Mainstream (Prince of the West, coming from Blank Slate Press in Fall 2019).

He lives in Colorado on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, and in addition to writing, he is an actor, narrator, speaker, story coach, shamanic practitioner, and whisky afficianado (Macallan 18, one ice cube). When not on stage or studio, in a pub, or bound to his computer, he can be found hiking with his wife and their Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 16
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, April 17
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, April 18
Review at Bookfever

Friday, April 19
Guest Post & Excerpt at To Read, Or Not to Read

Saturday, April 20

Monday, April 22

Tuesday, April 23
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, April 24

Thursday, April 25

Friday, April 26

Tuesday, April 30
Review & Excerpt at Clarissa Reads it All

Wednesday, May 1

Friday, May 3

Monday, May 6

Tuesday, May 7

Thursday, May 9
Excerpt at Kimber Li

Friday, May 10

Monday, May 13

Tuesday, May 14

Wednesday, May 15
Feature at Donna's Book Blog

Friday, May 17
Review at Coffee and Ink


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away two paperback copies of Song of Songs! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US & Canada only.
– 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.

Song of Songs

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

0 The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr #TheLostHistoryofDreams #KrisWaldherr #BookBirthday #HFVBTBlogTours

Today is the publication day for Kris Waldherr’s THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS! In this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale, a post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead in his bath one morning in 1850, the task of burying his body falls to his estranged cousin, historian turned postmortem photographer Robert Highstead. De Bonne’s will instructs that he should be buried in an unusual chapel, a stained glass folly set on the Shropshire moors, built to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. It has since been locked to all outsiders—especially the rabid, cultlike fans of de Bonne’s final book, The Lost History of Dreams. Only Ada’s grief-stricken niece, Isabelle, holds the key—but she refuses to open the glass chapel unless Robert agrees to her bargain: Before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record the real story behind her aunt’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

Sweeping and darkly atmospheric, THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is a Gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between past and present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death. And remember, all love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

Now available at

Read the first three chapters: Download EPUB | Download PDF | Read online

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Atria Books
Hardcover & eBook; 320 Pages
Genre: Historical/Gothic/Mystery

A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.

All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave.

Kris Waldherr effortlessly spins a sweeping and atmospheric gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Praise for The Lost History of Dreams

“Scheherazade-like … haunting… Waldherr writes that ‘love stories are ghost stories in disguise.’ This one, happily, succeeds as both.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An unexpected delight that grows steadily more compelling as its pages fly by.” —Booklist

“A sensual, twisting gothic tale that embraces Victorian superstition much in the tradition of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.”—BookPage

“Eerily atmospheric and gorgeously written, The Lost History of Dreams is a Gothic fairy-tale to savor.” – Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK and THE HUNTRESS

“The Lost History of Dreams is a dark, shimmering gem of a novel, glittering with love lost, secrets kept, and long-buried truths revealed. Wonder, memory, death and passion haunt every page of Kris Waldherr’s powerhouse Gothic debut.” – Greer Macallister, bestselling author of THE MAGICIAN’S LIE and WOMAN 99

“Brooding, romantic, and thoughtful, The Lost History of Dreams is a rare bird in that it shines throughout with wit. I loved every page of it.” – Erika Swyler, bestselling author of THE BOOK OF SPECULATION and LIGHT FROM OTHER STARS

“With luminous prose, stunning poetry and a fascinating cast of characters, Waldherr weaves a wonderfully atmospheric tale. Not to be missed!” – Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME and THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER

“A riveting, addictive read. Sarah Waters fans will be entranced. – Mary Sharratt, author of ECSTASY and DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL

“A novel of haunting mystery and passion reminiscent of Wuthering Heights and Byatt’s Possession.” – Crystal King, author of FEAST OF SORROW and THE CHEF’S SECRET

“An atmospheric tale of lost love, family secrets, and an inquiry into how our own histories define us, I relished every poetic page.” – Heather Webb, international bestselling author of LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS and THE PHANTOM’S APPRENTICE

"With beautiful prose and poetry, Waldherr weaves a darkly seductive Gothic tale of love, art, death, and obsession. You’ll want to keep reading this one late into the night.” – Alyssa Palombo, author of THE SPELLBOOK OF KATRINA VAN TASSEL

“A sumptuous feast for all the senses.” – Clarissa Harwood, author of IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS and BEAR NO MALICE

About the Author

Kris Waldherr is an award-winning author, illustrator, and designer. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, and her fiction has been awarded with fellowships by the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts and a reading grant by Poets & Writers.

Kris Waldherr works and lives in Brooklyn in a Victorian-era house with her husband, the anthropologist-curator Thomas Ross Miller, and their young daughter.

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Release Day Blast Hosts

Friday, April 5, 2019

0 Review: A Dangerous Collaboration

A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4)
by Deanna Raybourn
336 pages
Published March 12th 2019 by Berkley


Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker's brother calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly's house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée--much to Stoker's chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly's wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband's mind.

As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker's help to discover the host's true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund...

My Thoughts

*I was provided a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Veronica Speedwell is one of my favorite fictitious heroines of all time. She's an intelligent, witty woman full of fervor. I had one dilemma upon reading this novel: Do I devour it in one sitting, or do I take my time, enjoying every delicious scene. After all, it will probably be another year before the next Veronica Speedwell novel is released. Despite my internal struggle, I ended it up devouring it. Because once I started reading A Dangerous Collaboration, I couldn't stop.

Deanna Raybourn left her readers dangling at the end of A Treacherous Curse with the question will they or won't they? No spoilers here, folks, so don't ask. Raybourne once again teases her audience with the wonderful verbal sparring of Veronica and Stoker that escalates once Stoker's older brother, Tiberius, becomes part of the picture. Tiberius swoops in and whisks Veronica away to a secluded island with the promise of a rare butterfly. How could she say no? 

Once they get to the island, the plot starts to unfold, and the mystery is revealed. Tiberius's old friend, Lord Malcolm Romilly, has invited a small group of people to help him figure out what happened to his missing bride, who disappeared three years before. Stoker, perhaps fueled by jealousy, tags along to keep his eye on Veronica and Tiberius. 

A Dangerous Collaboration taps into the Gothic mystery of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Just when I think Raybourn could not top her last novel, she absolutely does. The story is fast-paced and well-written. I love the evolution of Veronica and Stoker, together and separately. I am so ready for the next book to come out. I can't wait to see how she surpasses this one!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

1 Cover Reveal for THE TURNCOAT

The Turncoat by T.J. London

Publication Date: May 23, 2019
eBook & Paperback
Series: The Rebels and Redcoats Saga, Book 3
Genre: Historical Fiction

Spy. Redcoat. Traitor.

After Captain John Carlisle’s dance with death, he’s retreated to the serenity of the Oneida village with his beloved Dellis McKesson, trying to hide from the inevitable truth: war is coming. But when duty calls, and John’s expertise is needed to negotiate a treaty between the Six Nations of the Iroquois and the Crown, he’ll once again be faced with a decision: his King or his conscience.

Many truths that have yet to be revealed, and a deal with the Devil made in desperation, threatens to ruin Dellis and John’s hard-won love. As ghosts of the past resurface, and bitter family rivalry exposes betrayal from those closest to her, Dellis is dragged down a devastating path to the truth of her parents’ murders.

Now, the die is cast as war comes to the Mohawk River Valley in the Summer of 1777. St. Leger and his native allies siege Fort Stanwix. They're also plotting a secret attack that will force the Rebels and the Oneida to face off against the Crown and their allies, further dividing John’s loyalties, leaving him on the precipice of another decision: Rebel or Redcoat?

About the Author

T.J. London is a rebel, liberal, lover, fighter, diehard punk, and pharmacist-turned-author who loves history. As an author her goal is to fill in the gaps, writing stories about missing history, those little places that are so interesting yet sadly forgotten. Her favorite time periods to write in are first and foremost the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, the French and Indian War, the Russian Revolution and the Victorian Era. Her passions are traveling, writing, reading, barre, and sharing a glass of wine with her friends, while she collects experiences in this drama called life. She is a native of Metropolitan Detroit (but secretly dreams of being a Londoner) and resides there with her husband Fred and her beloved cat and writing partner Mickey.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Cover Reveal Schedule

Tuesday, March 26

Wednesday, March 27

Thursday, March 28

Friday, March 29

Saturday, March 30

Sunday, March 31

Monday, April 1

Tuesday, April 2

Wednesday, April 3

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

0 The Golden Hour Book Blast and Giveaway

The Golden Hour by Malia Zaidi

Publication Date: March 26, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 398 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Lady Evelyn Mystery, Book 4

Lady Evelyn Carlisle has barely arrived in London when familial duty calls her away again. Her cousin Gemma is desperate for help with her ailing mother before her imminent wedding, which Evelyn knew nothing about! Aunt Agnes in tow, she journeys to Scotland, expecting to find Malmo Manor in turmoil. To her surprise, her Scottish family has been keeping far more secrets than the troubled state of their matriarch. Adding to the tension in the house a neighbor has opened his home, Elderbrooke Park, as a retreat for artistic veterans of the Great War. This development does not sit well with everyone in the community. Is the suspicion towards the residents a catalyst for murder? A tragedy at Elderbrooke Park's May Day celebration awakens Evelyn's sleuthing instinct, which is strengthened when the story of another unsolved death emerges, connected to her own family. What she uncovers on her quest to expose the truth will change several lives forever, including her own. With the shadow of history looming over her, Evelyn must trust in her instinct and ability to comb through the past to understand the present, before the murderer can stop her and tragedy strikes again.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

Malia Zaidi is the author of The Lady Evelyn Mysteries. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Oxford. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides vicariously (if temporarily) in countries around the world.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, March 26

Wednesday, March 27

Thursday, March 28

Friday, March 29

Saturday, March 30

Monday, April 1

Tuesday, April 2

Wednesday, April 3

Thursday, April 4

Friday, April 5

Monday, April 8


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a paperback copy of The Golden Hour! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on April 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– 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.
– No sweepstakes accounts.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner will be chosen.

The Golden Hour

Thursday, March 21, 2019

0 Review: The True Queen

The True Queen (Sorcerer Royal #2)
by Zen Cho
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 12th 2019 by Ace Books


When sisters Muna and Sakti wake up on the peaceful beach of the island of Janda Baik, they can’t remember anything, except that they are bound as only sisters can be. They have been cursed by an unknown enchanter, and slowly Sakti starts to fade away. The only hope of saving her is to go to distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal has established an academy to train women in magic.

If Muna is to save her sister, she must learn to navigate high society, and trick the English magicians into believing she is a magical prodigy. As she's drawn into their intrigues, she must uncover the secrets of her past, and journey into a world with more magic than she had ever dreamed.

My Thoughts

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. It has in no way influenced my opinion.

Last week I reviewed Sorcerer to the Crown. (If you'd like to read my review, click here.) I fell head over heals for that book. And I was ecstatic to jump back into the world that Zen Cho has created. If you haven't had a chance to read Sorcerer to the Crown yet, don't worry, this book can be read as a standalone. However, you're going to want to read the first book because it's awesome.

The True Queen takes place two years after Sorcerer to the Crown ended. The book begins with two sisters, Muna and Satki, waking up on a beach. They have no memory of who they are or how they got there. The only thing they do know is that they're sisters. And they're cursed. Satki is slowly disappearing, so they are sent to the Sorceress Royal by Mak Genggang. On the way there, Satki disappears. Muna must head to England and find a way to save her sister. 

Dragons, capers, mysteries, regency era, balls, fairies, magicians, and that's just the first few chapters. Cho could have gone in any direction for the second book in this series, but I love the way she went. Her characters are, once again, fantastic. The story line had me glued to the pages. I just want more of this type of novel. It checks so many boxes on my list that I can't wait for the third book in this series to come out.

Monday, March 18, 2019

1 Book Blast: Josephine's Daughter by A.B. Michaels #JosephinesDaughter #ABMichaels #BookBlast #PreOrder #HFVBTBlogTours

Josephine's Daughter
by A.B. Michaels

Publication Date: March 10, 2019
Red Trumpet Press
eBook; 395 Pages

What's worse than a mother like Josephine? Turning out to be just like her.

In the late nineteenth century, wealthy and headstrong Kit Firestone chafes under the strictures of the Golden City’s high society, especially the interference of her charming but overbearing mother, Josephine. Kit’s secret rebellion leads to potentially catastrophic results and keeps her from finding true happiness.

When her brother nearly dies from a dangerous infection, Kit defies convention and becomes a working nurse. Through her troubled romance with a young doctor and a series of dramatic events, including a natural disaster and her mother’s own critical illness, Kit begins to understand who her mother truly is and what their relationship is all about. She may not get the chance to appreciate their bond, however, because, through no fault of her own, a madman has Kit in his crosshairs.

"...the novel's fast-paced narrative and engaging dialogue will draw readers in from the start. It's full of intriguing details about San Francisco near the turn of the last century,... A solidly entertaining, feminist tale that's also well-suited for medical-history buffs." Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

A native of northern California, A.B. Michaels earned masters' degrees in history and broadcasting, and worked for many years in public relations and marketing. Now that she's an empty nester, she has time to write the kinds of stories she loves to read. Her historical series, "The Golden City," follows characters who make their way in turn of the twentieth century San Francisco. "I love creating flawed characters I can relate to, who have to make difficult choices, and who long for happiness like the rest of us. So much was happening in the early 1900's that help shape my novels. Once I tear myself away from the underlying research, they are fascinating stories to write."

Currently, Ms. Michaels lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and two furry creatures who are unclear on the concept that they are just dogs. In addition to writing, she loves to read and travel. A dabbler in fabric art, she also plays bocce in a summer league.

Friday, March 15, 2019

0 Review: Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal #1)
by Zen Cho 
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 12th 2016 by Ace


At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large… 

My Thoughts

*I received a copy of this book from Ace for reviewing purposes. This in no way influenced my opinion. describes this book as Jane Austen crossed with Susanna Clarke and Ignatius Sanco. Their blurb sold me on this book. I'm a huge Austen fan, but I also love a good fantasy. Magic and political intrigue check my "I want to read that book" boxes. Not to mention, the cover is absolutely gorgeous! 

The award wining Zen Cho creates a mysterious, magical world that is everything you expect it to be plus much more. Zacharias Wythe is the main character of the book. He is the Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers. He's also a freed slave and faces many obstacles and prejudice from the other philosophers, not to mention somebody is trying to murder him. The society is in a bit of trouble when magic starts to dry up.

On his travels, Zacharias meets Prunella Gentleman. She's a fierce, kickass woman, who is also a very talented magician. The only problem is women in this era are taught to suppress their magical abilities. But Prunella wants to change that with the help of Zacharias. Mystery and intrigue also surround Prunella as she starts to uncover the truth about her past.

I love everything about this book. The characters are fantastic and dynamic. The story line is fast-paced and clever. I love the era that it's set it. The manners, the clothes, I love it all. I also love how Cho takes this already familiar world and builds upon it. The magical world that she built is as diverse as her characters. Cho is a gifted writer who has enchanted this reader. I can't wait to read the next book in this series. It's everything I've been wanting and more.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

0 Conversation with Christopher Castellani

By Christopher Castellani
On Sale: February 12, 2019
ISBN: 9780525559054
Price: $27.00


1. LEADING MEN is based on the real-life love affair between legendary playwright
Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo. What first attracted you to their love story, and why did you decide to explore it in the form of a novel?

I’d always been a fan of Williams’s plays—especially Suddenly, Last Summer and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof—but I didn’t know much about his life until I stumbled upon Dotson Rader’s 1985 memoir, Tennessee: Cry of the Heart at a used bookstore in 1997. It was in those pages where I first met Frank Merlo, this working-class gay Italian guy from Jersey who’d been Williams’s longtime lover, and who died at forty after days of waiting for one last visit from him. I myself was a twenty-five year-old working-class gay Italian guy from Delaware with dreams of being a writer, feeling an instant kinship—which eventually became an obsession—with both men: the neurotic and ambitious Tenn and the steadfast and searching Frank.

I wrote them into a short story in my MFA program, but the story didn’t quite work, so I wisely expanded it into an even more glaringly flawed novella. The idea wasn’t “big enough” for a novel, I feared, and, worse, I didn’t fully believe I had the right to write about them. It took reading Christopher Bram’s Gods and Monsters, Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, and Colm Toibin’s The Master to convince me I could fashion these real people into fictional characters, and it took learning about the fate of another real-life literary couple—John Horne (“Jack”) Burns and Sandro Nencini, contemporaries of Frank and Tenn—to widen the lens of the novel.

2.  How did you approach your research for the novel, and did you find anything particularly interesting or surprising along the way?

I spent nearly twenty years dipping in and out of as many texts as possible – Williams’s and

Merlo’s and Burns’s letters and journals, all the biographies, all of their fiction and plays and poetry and criticism. There’s a lot. I didn’t read to add to their biographies; I read to find the cracks in them, a place where my imagination could take root. I retraced the steps of the four men in the various places they lived in Italy: Portofino, Florence, Rome, Livorno. I talked at length with Burns’s brother, Tom, well into his nineties at the time. I was surprised at every turn: by the cosmic  connections between these four men who never officially met, and between them and my own life; by their shared sensibilities and tensions; by the theories as to whether or not Sandro murdered Jack (the jury is still out, but Leading Men puts forth one potential scenario);  by the honesty and openness of their romantic and sexual relationships, and—most compelling to me—how little attention Frank Merlo has received in the many books and essays written about Tennessee Williams. The more I researched, the more convinced I became of the profundity of his influence on the great playwright’s life and work. 

3. Frank and Tennessee were together for fifteen years. Why did you decide to focus specifically on their time together in Italy?

While reading Williams’s collected journals, which he kept regularly, I noticed there were no entries between “circa Tuesday 28 July or Wednesday, 29 July 1953” and “Friday, 7 August 1953,” when he and Merlo were living in Rome. In his collected letters to Maria Britneva, I learned that Truman Capote had sent them an invitation to join him in Portofino around that same time. When I realized that John Horne Burns died a few days later under mysterious circumstances, I knew I had to set the story during that “missing week.”

Though Williams and Merlo traveled extensively and constantly, often apart, they returned together regularly to Italy, where they spent some of their happiest summers. Like fiction itself, though, their relationship thrived on trouble, and so it felt right to set the novel in the stormy summer of 1953, when Frank’s ongoing affair with a Roman man named Alvaro came to a head, and when Tenn escaped to Barcelona to avoid Frank’s perceived cruelty.

And finally, when I read in Capote’s July 1953 letter to David O. Selznick that one of the big scandals in Portofino that summer concerned a Swedish mother and daughter who were sleeping with the same fishermen, I knew I had another storyline—a completely fictional one—to somehow weave into the lives of these four men. I just had to figure out who these women were…

4. Almost all of the characters in LEADING MEN are based on real people in Tennessee’s elite literary circle, with the exception of Anja Bloom – an aspiring actress the pair meets at one of Truman Capote’s parties. Why did you invent the fictional character of Anja to accompany the very real characters of Frank and Tennessee? Was she inspired by anyone in particular?

I always sensed that, for this novel to work, it needed the “air” that only a character and a time period outside the four men’s tight circle could provide. Not only would an entire book set in 1953 Italy feel claustrophobic, it wouldn’t be true to the breadth and depth and impact of these influential lives; nor would it account for the important role that women—especially actresses as muses—played in William’s life in particular and in the lives of gay men in general. Also: so much of the book was already about the role of the “man behind the famous man;” what about the inner life of the famous woman who’d had many leading men of her own? This is what, I hope, makes Frank and Anja such complementary main characters, and why I was so compelled and moved by the idea of their friendship.

That said, Anja’s most significant leading man was not Frank, the friend of her youth, or Pieter, her husband, or Hovland, her director and former lover, but the father she abandoned. This dimension of her character fascinated me, and it also unlocked so many of the themes that run through the novel. Without Anja as the hinge between the two main time zones of the novel, I don’t think I would have fully understood how the entire story fit together.

Some have assumed Anja is based on Maria Britneva, Williams’s controversial longtime friend, ambitious actress, and eventual executor of his estate, whom I deliberately omitted from this novel. But it was Liv Ullmann, not Britneva, who first inspired Anja, after a chance conversation I had with her at a dinner party, and which she has surely forgotten. In that conversation, Ullmann briefly and vividly described both the loneliness of living in cold, unforgiving Boston, and also the one memorable time many decades ago when she met Williams in the lobby of a hotel in Paris. I asked myself, “what if that young Swedish daughter who caused the Portofino scandal turned out to be someone like Ullmann?” And then: “what if she’d held onto something from her time in Italy in 1953, something that becomes part of a present-day drama?” I didn’t know what that thing might be, so I wrote in order to find out.

5. LEADING MEN jumps through several different time periods, one of which features an aging Anja in possession of a manuscript for Tennessee’s “final play,” Call It Joy – which you created and included in full. What was it like trying to channel one of America’s most famous playwrights, particularly during his period of decline?

I put off writing Call It Joy for as long as I possibly could, almost convincing myself that I didn’t need its full text in the novel. But given how much of Leading Men’s plot hinges on its production, and, given the opportunity it gave me to let Williams “speak” about Frank one final time through this imaginary play, I knew I had no choice but to include it. In retrospect, it would have been cowardly not to give readers the play in its entirety. I hope Williams fans and scholars will forgive me for my audacity – that they will see Call It Joy not as a parody but as an homage.

For the play’s content, I actually plagiarized myself: the story of a well-meaning bartender who tricks Williams into taking home a Frank Merlo look-alike in 1982 is the plot of that flawed short story I wrote back in my MFA program. I just needed to work up the courage to turn this content from a half-baked Castellani short story to a late one-act by the then-desperate and then-brain-addled Tennessee Williams. I tried hard to make it a “failed play” that was still readable and that still pushed the plot of Leading Men forward. I wanted it to mean something different to each character: to Tenn, to Anja, and to the young men who convince Anja to mount it in Provincetown.

6. Many alternative history books focus on respected literary figures, such as Michael
Cunningham’s The Hours (Virginia Woolf) and Colm Toíbín’s The Master (Henry James). However, LEADING MEN concentrates on Frank instead of Tennessee. Why did you decide to write about the man behind the man?

The short answer is that I found the question of Frank’s “double closet” vastly more compelling than any of the questions I had about the inner life of Tennessee Williams. Williams nakedly and poetically explored his demons and obsessions in his work (often, by the way, in the voices of actresses like Anja Bloom); biographers and critics have then insightfully explored them in their biographies and reviews. But what about Frank’s inner life? What about how it felt to be not only the nearly invisible partner of the great artist, but one without any sort of legal or societal legitimacy? I wanted to give Frank Merlo—my interpretation of him, at least—a louder voice, and I wanted him to be recognized and remembered not only for his contribution to Williams’s career, but for his essential value as a human being who died too young, before his own ambitions and desires could be fully realized. And finally, I related to his status as a working-class son of immigrants, and I wanted to dramatize how a man like this—who was also an autodidact, an aesthete, and a fun-loving extrovert—navigated the lofty and elite and exclusive literary world.

7. Tennessee and Frank were constantly surrounded by celebrities, many of whom make an appearance in the book. If you were in Tennessee’s crowd, who would you have liked to get to know?

That’s an easy one: Anna Magnani, who’s been called the “volcanic earth mother of all Italian cinema.” I had the most fun writing the scenes in Leading Men where she makes an appearance. I love her fire and honesty and integrity and confidence, and I’d give anything to have been there each morning in Rome when she called up Frank and Tenn to say, “Ciao ciao, what’s the program?” She and Frank always got along particularly well, and I have a feeling we would have, too.

My second choice would have to be Truman Capote, of course, though I fear I’d be too intimidated by his fierce brain and his vicious wit to be able to say a word in his presence. I rewrote his dialogue in Leading Men at least a hundred times.

8. The three central characters in the book—Frank, Tennessee, and Anja—all struggle
with the double-edged sword of fame, and deal with their notoriety (or lack thereof) in different ways. What made you want to explore this theme, and how does it relate to the book’s title?

Fame is a tricky business, of course – anxious but addictive, more lonely than liberating. It seems to destroy more people than it sustains. We all think we’d handle it better if only we had a crack at it. What we really crave, though—all of us, the famous and the ordinary—is not so much the fortune that notoriety might bring, but for it to convince us that we matter, that our time on Earth had some impact. It’s not just a need to be loved, though that’s certainly part of it; it’s a need to be seen, to be valued for our uniqueness. What better subject to explore in a novel?

Williams enjoyed his fame immensely, but it certainly did more to exacerbate his neuroses than it did to alleviate them. His successes bedeviled him as much, if not more, than his failures did. He worked every day, simultaneously convinced he’d never write anything great again and that the next project was the one that would get him back on top. His legitimacy and relevance were always at stake, always precarious, primarily because he’d achieved so much of both early in his career. Frank had a front-row seat to this show, and the misery it often caused Tenn, and yet he still wanted a piece of it for himself, to be more than a minor player on the set. He wanted to be convinced of his leading role not only in Tenn’s life, but in his own. I saw his unique position as a man in the shadow of a great artist as an extreme version of the desire we all have to measure our own significance against something or someone.

At first glance, Anja might appear to be a different creature. She didn’t ask for fame, and, after she achieved some degree of it, she willingly gave it up to live as a recluse. But she struggles with the same questions of purpose and identity, especially after she finds herself completely alone after Pieter’s death. When Sandrino comes to town offering her a piece of her past, she is seduced as much by his company as by a return to a time of greater possibility. The boys’ attempt to convince her to produce and direct and star in Call It Joy is another form of that seduction. It’s not fame and fortune she’s after—she’s already got plenty of that—it’s to play her own leading role in someone’s life again.

9. Frank and Tennessee were together during the mid-twentieth century, a more repressive time for gay couples. The book examines the nature of same-sex relationships—both then and now—and pays homage to queer spaces, including Provincetown. What did you want to explore here, and what relevance do you think Frank and Tennessee’s relationship has to our current moment?

Though we live in the age of federally-recognized same-sex marriage, and of increased protections and so-called acceptance of queer lives (however illusory or precarious they are in the current political climate), the truth is that queer people continue to set our own unique terms for our relationships, just as Frank and Tenn did in the fifties and sixties. In the meantime, we continue to create and nurture queer communities like the one still going strong in Provincetown, places that exist alongside but distinct from other communities.

I am surrounded by men in long-term relationships with each other, but no two relationships look exactly alike or define themselves by the same set of rules or codes. Frank says in Leading Men that he doesn’t know what to call his relationship with Tenn; he can only define it in relation to heterosexual marriage and to the examples set by the same-sex couples around him: Truman Capote and Jack Dunphy, and Jack Burns and Sandro Nencini. He struggles to find the right metaphor to describe this other thing he has with Tenn, which is different from what these other men have with each other, and what straight people seem to have. I think that if Frank were alive today, he’d struggle just as much, and perhaps more, to fit his and Tenn’s notion of a relationship into a tidy definition. Queer people are still inventing ourselves and exerting a kind of pressure on cultural norms, a pressure that didn’t begin or end either in the fifties or sixties or with the political gains of the last twenty years.

I was equally interested in the queer relationship that Anja and Sandrino develop over the course of the novel – a relationship that surprised me even as I was writing it. The two have a frisson that isn’t sexual, but also isn’t not sexual, especially when it is triangulated by Trevor. She describes the simultaneous unease and thrill of conducting the current between the two men. She’s attracted to Provincetown not just because Frank and Tenn met there, but because it’s a place that not only recognizes but celebrates such asymmetry. I like that she challenges the gay men in her life to see her in her full humanity and not as a stop on the way to self-actualization. On a personal note, I want to say that, in creating Anja, I channeled the lifelong friendships I and virtually every gay man I know have had with the women who’ve loved us unconditionally, who took us in when our families rejected us, who spent countless hours with us trying to solve the puzzle of the male mind and heart. It felt very right to me to make Anja a central figure in her own right and not one who is simply defined by the men who helped shape her life.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

0 Brandon-Tudor Knight Feature and Giveaway #BrandonTudorKnight @tonyriches @hfvbt

Brandon - Tudor Knight by Tony Riches

Publication Date: December 3, 2018
Preseli Press
Genre: Historical/Tudor/Biographical

From the author of the international bestselling Tudor Trilogy comes a true story of adventure, courtly love and chivalric loyalty.

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.

Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell.

Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full-time writer and lives with his wife in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present-day Kenya. A specialist in the history of the early Tudors, he is best known for his Tudor Trilogy. Tony’s other international bestsellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’.
For more information please visit Tony’s website and his blog The Writing Desk. He can also be found on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, February 28

Friday, March 1

Monday, March 4
Interview at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 5

Wednesday, March 6

Thursday, March 7
Feature at T's Stuff

Friday, March 8

Monday, March 11
Guest Post at On the Tudor Trail

Tuesday, March 12
Review at Hisdoryan

Wednesday, March 13

Thursday, March 14

Friday, March 15
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at A Darn Good Read

Sunday, March 17

Monday, March 18

Tuesday, March 19


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of Brandon-Tudor Knight! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 19th. 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.

Brandon Tudor Knight


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