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.

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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.

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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


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