Friday, September 15, 2017

Spotlight: Virtue: Sons of Scotland #1 by Victoria Vane

Virtue: Sons of Scotland Book One
by Victoria Vane

Release Date: Septmber 15, 2017
Dragonblade Publishing
ebook; 225 pages
Historical Romance

A man without a past…

Abandoned at a monastery as a young child, Alexander serves two masters—God and the fading memories of his past life—the one he never got to live. As he nears the day to take his vows, he’s sent on a last sojourn into the real world, but what begins as a test of faith becomes a journey to manhood.

And a woman who doesn’t know her own heart…

Born from the line of two kings, Lady Sibylla Mac William is abandoned by her sire as a child and then ruled illegitimate. Though she lives a happy life under her uncle’s protection, Sibylla craves something more, but never could she imagine losing her heart to the would-be monk who unexpectedly arrives to tutor her brother.

Together, they will forge the future of a kingdom…

When dark secrets from the past come to light, Alex and Sibylla’s fates become inextricably entwined. Will Alex choose the safe and secure path he knows, or will he reject holy orders to embrace his true destiny… and the woman he loves?

Excerpt:

Twilight made a rapid descent on Cnoc Croit na Maoile, cloaking the forested part of the path in deep shadow and making the way difficult. Twice, she stumbled and a short while later, caught her foot on a root that sent her sprawling to the ground.

Alex was there swiftly to help her back up. “Are ye a’right, lass?”

“Aye. I’m nae hurt,” she lied.

He could clearly see that her face was scratched, her palms were scraped, and her tunic had been torn by a limb. He gently brushed away the dirt and tenderly kissed her palms before entwining his fingers with hers. “’Tis best if I lead ye now.”

Although the rest of the way was easier, Alex was reluctant to release her hand.

“Ye still havena told me what troubles ye, Alexander,” she said, breaking the silence.

“I’ve learned some things about my family since coming here,” he said.

“Aye?” She stopped to face him. “How did this come about?”

“Yer uncle recognized my sgian-dubh. He says he kent my faither.”

“He did? How? What did he tell ye?” she asked.

Alex drew a great breath into his lungs and released it on a sigh. There was so much he wished to confide, but what could tell her? How much did he dare to share? “Only that my faither was an enemy of the king.”

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Guest Post: Drawing Inspiration from the Women Who Lived through the Third Reich by C.F. Yetmen, author of What is Forgiven

Please join me in welcoming C.F. Yetmen to Let Them Read Books! C.F. is celebrating the release of the second book in the Anna Klein series, What is Forgiven, and she's here today with a guest post about her real-life inspiration. Read on and grab the first book in the series, The Roses Underneath, for 99-cents!

The Anna Klein series

Wading through the suspicion, corruption, and uncertainty of 1945 Germany, Anna Klein clings to the hope for normalcy and returning to her pre-war life. But when her job as a translator for Monuments Man Captain Henry Cooper lands her in the position to right wartime wrongs, Anna realizes her future holds a much greater purpose.

What is Forgiven

At the end of 1945 in a shattered Germany, Anna Klein is faced with tough choices about her future. Her plum job working as a translator for Captain Henry Cooper, one of the American Monuments Men, means she has a house and an income, as well as hands-on access to some of the world’s most precious art. But her life is falling apart on all fronts: her family is displaced, the boy in her care is being sought by authorities, and she must resolve to finally end her marriage. When she realizes that someone has tampered with two important paintings taken from a Jewish collector—paintings she was charged with safeguarding—Anna is determined to solve the crime. But without hard evidence and no motive, she can prove nothing and as State Department big wigs threaten to shut down the Monument Men’s operation, she and her boss are under special scrutiny. As all signs begin to point to an inconvenient suspect in the crime, she must play it by the book to keep her job and return the art to its rightful owner, if she can find him.

Drawing Inspiration from the Women Who lived through the Third Reich 
by C.F. Yetmen

In 1945, my grandmother was a 28-year-old German woman with a five-year-old daughter. She was displaced, separated from her husband and her entire family, homeless, and destitute. Meanwhile, also in 1945, the US Army Monuments Men (officially the US Army Monuments Fine Arts and Archives Division) had in their possession the most valuable art collection, probably in the history of the world.

The idea for the Anna Klein series came to me when my interest in my grandmother’s real-life story converged with my interest in the Monuments Men’s race to save art during the war.

World War II is the most studied and storied of all wars, but there is very little information on what ordinary German women went through. How do they care for their kids, get food, keep their families safe, and deal with the necessities of life? What do ordinary women do to survive the horror of a war like the ones the Nazis waged on Europe? We know more and more about the stolen art from that time but still so little about the women who lived through the experience of the Third Reich.

My grandmother died in 1998 and only shared small snippets of that time with me. Like many of her generation, she wouldn’t talk about it. When I was researching The Roses Underneath, the first book in the series, my mother very gently introduced the subject with the few of my grandmother’s friends who are still living. At that point in 2010, some 70 years removed, they were ready to speak with me. Sitting in comfortable living rooms sipping coffee from pretty cups, they told me horrifying stories that gave me nightmares. Stories of small acts of courage and unspeakable loss, of terror and devastation. And surviving.

The story of Anna Klein unfolded from there. I hope Anna grew into one of those sweet, old ladies like the ones I knew. They were survivors who were able to recapture some meaning and beauty in the life that came after.

The kindle edition of the first book in the trilogy, The Roses Underneath, is currently on sale for 99-cents!



About the Author:

C.F. YETMEN is the author of The Roses Underneath, which received the 2015 IPPY Gold Medal for Historical Fiction, was named a 2014 Notable Indie Book by the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition, and was a 2014 Finalist in the  Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards. She lives and works in Austin, Texas. Visit www.cfyetmen.com.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Guest Post: Retelling History Through Poetry by Kate Garrett, Author of Deadly, Delicate

I have a unique offering for you dear readers today! Please join me in welcoming Kate Garrett to Let Them Read Books! Kate is here today to talk about her pirate poetry book—yes, you read that right, pirate poetry!—and I'm excited for you to read her guest post about how she combines her passion for history and poetry while illuminating the very human sides of these larger-than-life legends. Read on and snag your own ecopy of Deadly, Delicate for less than two bucks!

Here are fifteen poems circumnavigating the world of historical piracy, presented at a slant where the mensuch as Calico Jack and Blackbeardare dangerous, and the womenthe likes of Mary Read, Grace O'Malley, Jacquotte Delahaye, Anne Bonnyare lethal. The violence and the sweetness, the freedom and the acceptance of death are all given equal footing. Never straying from the brutality of a lawless life on the seas, Deadly, Delicate welcomes you to the depths…


"You made the pirates feel like people"
Retelling history through poetry in Deadly, Delicate

by Kate Garrett

Combining pirates and poetry in a serious, not-for-kids fashion might seem like a rather niche goal. After all, poetry is a literary form even many avid readers still treat with suspicion, thanks to past school curriculums around the world. As for historical fiction, it’s already a well-established genre in prose and other mediums, so those grown-ups who are interested in pirates already have a wide range of novels, films, even video games at their disposal.

But, as writers do, I had an idea and it snowballed. I started with a poem here and there, about this pirate or that pirate, and became obsessed with turning it into a book. And I hoped to take my own obsessions (poetry, pirates, history) to new audiences—the poetry-shy, the pirate-shy, or the history-shy, depending on who stumbled upon the book and why. I also had specific reasons for using poetry to tell these particular stories.

The romanticised view is of pirates as swashbuckling, freedom-loving rogues, but the historical reality can be just as interesting—possibly even more interesting—than the legends surrounding them. Pirates were human beings with complex lives and thoughts and emotional motivations, just like any of us, and one reason historical fiction exists at all is to give us the people behind the dusty names and dates taught in school. Pirate crews had their own social systems, often resembling democratic socialism, and as individuals were far more diverse—in terms of gender, nationality, race, (dis)ability, sexuality, etc.—than the popular imagination tends to assume.

Part of my focus on the human side of these legendary characters was to include the stories of mostly female pirates. Beyond the most famous names, like Anne Bonny and Mary Read, I also included a few 17th century French-Caribbean buccaneers who predated the Golden Age, like Jacquotte Delahaye, or “Back from the dead Red.” She was so called because she spent several years living as a man—and hiding her bright red hair—having faked her own death. She then returned to her previous identity, very much alive and a woman. It is assumed Jacquotte, who was from a French and Haitian background, took to piracy to support her younger, intellectually disabled brother after their father was murdered, their mother having already died in childbirth. Jacquotte also never married; she was as independent a woman you could ever hope to meet. And for me, a mother of several children and a big sister with many siblings of my own, it made me consider how deeply she must have cared about her brother. This led to my prose poem “Back from the Dead Red,” featured here:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Guest Post: Injecting Humor into the Wild West by Bryan Ney, Author of Calamity Jane: How the West Began

Please join me in welcoming author Bryan Ney to Let Them Read Books! I'm thrilled to have Bryan here today with a guest post about his debut young adult historical novel, Calamity Jane: How the West Began. Read on, and grab a copy of the ebook edition for $1.99!

A teenaged girl arrives in the goldfields of 1860s Montana, impoverished and despised for her parents' behavior. Through her exploits, she soon makes a name for herself as Calamity Jane, wins friends, and becomes the toast of the town. But murder and robbery stalk all who travel the surrounding trails, and Jane thinks she knows who is responsible. Can she and her new friends rally forces to clean the place up? 

“A light, fun, and atavistic Western novel!” ~Kirkus Reviews


Injecting Humor into the Wild West
by Bryan Ney

“Teen-aged Calamity Jane has to convince her frontier town that a respected citizen among them leads the outlaws, or Jane's friend won't be the last to die.”

The Western genre is populated with violent stories filled with stern, self-reliant characters, seemingly bereft of humor. A lone hero has to overcome obstacles on his (usually his) own. My debut historical novel, Calamity Jane: How the West Began, is a stern tale as well, as in the log line above.  In contrast to the classic Western, however, (High Noon comes to mind) mine is a coming-of-age tale where Calamity is more a catalyst than a hero. She brings together the diverse elements of the town at a critical moment. And she has a sense of humor. Here is an excerpt from early in the story as an example. Rough-and-tumble Jane is making her acquaintance with Andrew, a boy from a prominent family. (Incidentally, this little exchange is the favorite of Andrew's real-life granddaughter, but that is whole other story.)

There was an awkward pause. “You catch it when you got home?” Andrew asked.

“Catch what?” Jane said. Andrew seemed nice enough. Not really her sort, though: he seemed a bit timid.

“You know. Catch…heck.”

“Heck? You mean catch hell? ” Jane asked. “Are you a Mormon or something, ain’t supposed to swear?”

“No, we’re agnostic.”

“Agnostic. Never heard of that one.” Jane prided herself on being as clever as anyone else she met, but her schooling had been sparse. “Agnostics don’t swear?”

“Not as much as whatever you are.”

“Never mind what I am,” said Jane. “Queer mix of folk hereabouts. Are agnostic sermons really boring?”

“Ain’t no agnostic church. It’s a philosophy.”

“So where do agnostics go on Sunday?”

“It’s not like that. Agnostic just means you figure that you don’t know if there is a God or not,” Andrew said.

“I thought that was what an atheist was.”

“Nope. An atheist is sure there is no God.”

“Oh,” she said. “No matter. “I ain’t much of one for church anyhow.”

The reason I inject humor as often as I can is two-fold. One is just a matter of style. Good writing (I am told) is an ebb and flow of tension building and tension relief. When I can use humor for that tension relief, I do. The above excerpt follows an episode (firmly historically based) where Jane goes begging, ill-clad, cold, and hungry, little sister in tow. Some sort of tension relief is needed after that.

The other reason I use humor is to be true to the primary historical sources, particularly Langford's Vigilante Days and Ways. I came to this history biased by austere TV Westerns I had seen as a child and  was surprised to find so much humor woven into Langford's story. As that author tells us explicitly, in the darkest hour of this frontier town, humor was a daily undercurrent. In order to be true to history, I had to inject humor as well.

Calamity Jane:How the West Began is on sale!
Grab the ebook for $1.99 on Amazon. Ends September 1st.

About the Author:

Bryan Ney is a medical doctor in Los Angeles. In the 1990s he stumbled upon the history of how the outlaws held sway in 1860s Montana, and was fascinated by the dynamics of how the good guys finally united and overcame them. This book, a finalist in four contests in the months after publication, is the fruit of that fascination. Dr Ney now dreams of a second career, bringing the Old West to life in a new way for devoted fans. www.bryanney.com

Friday, August 18, 2017

Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway: Traitor's Knot by Cryssa Bazos

Please join me in welcoming Cryssa Bazos to Let Them Read Books! Cryssa is touring the blogosphere with her debut novel, Traitor's Knot. I had the privilege of offering Cryssa some editorial assistance before the novel was picked up by Endeavour Press, and I could not be happier to see the wonderful reception it's receiving. I recently had the chance to ask Cryssa some questions about her story and her characters. Read on and enter to win a signed paperback copy of Traitor's Knot!

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

Can you tell us what first drew you to the English Civil War period?

I have always felt a strong connection to the 17th century and have gravitated to books set during this time period. The era was a time characterized by exploding literacy, scientific discovery and exploration. The war accelerated this social and political change. People started to question their loyalties, place in society and relationship to God. This was an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary change. Historically, times of great destruction, like world wars, result in the greatest leaps for mankind, and the English Civil War marked the dawn of the modern period.

The war had a devastating effect on England, Scotland and Ireland. About a quarter of a million people died, either directly or indirectly. You think about homes being destroyed and civilians becoming collateral damage, but the more insidious enemy was starvation. Thousands of troops required free quarter and ate up most of the winter stores. It must have been an impossible situation for the women and children that were left behind facing starvation. What made it even worse was that it struck so close to home—the enemy wasn’t a foreign power coming to invade and thereby rallying the people to defend the country. Instead, the war divided families and communities, the very connections that are ingrained into us from birth. England had had civil wars before: the Anarchy and the War of the Roses to name a couple, but those conflicts were nobles fighting against nobles to found a new dynasty. The English Civil War was the first time when commoners and noblemen jointly rose up against the monarchy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Guest Post: Feuding with Marie Antoinette by Meghan Masterson, Author of The Wardrobe Mistress

Please join me in welcoming author Meghan Masterson to Let Them Read Books! I had the pleasure of meeting Meghan at the Historical Novel Society conference in Oregon in June, and her debut novel, The Wardrobe Mistress, was high on my new-release radar. I'm thrilled to have her here today with a guest post about two of Marie Antoinette's famous feuds! Read on, and check back next week for my review of The Wardrobe Mistress!

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM | Macmillan

THE WARDROBE MISTRESS is Meghan Masterson's fascinating and visceral debut, an inside look at Marie Antoinette's luxurious life in Versailles remarkably juxtaposed against life in third estate as the French Revolution gains strength. A propulsive exploration of love, loyalty, danger, and intrigue...not to be missed.

It's Giselle Aubry's first time at court in Versailles. At sixteen, she is one of Marie Antoinette's newest under-tirewomen, and in awe of the glamorous queen and her opulent palace life. A budding designer, it's a dream come true to work with the beautiful fabrics and jewels in the queen's wardrobe. But every few weeks she returns home to visit her family in Paris, where rumors of revolution are growing stronger.

From her position working in the royal household, Giselle is poised to see both sides of the revolutionary tensions erupting throughout Paris. When her uncle, a retired member of the secret du roi, a spy ring that worked for the old King, Louis XV, suggests that she casually report the queen’s actions back to him as a game, she leaps at the chance. Spying seems like an adventure and an exciting way to privately support the revolution taking the countryside by storm. She also enjoys using her insight from Versailles in lively debates with Léon Gauvain, the handsome and idealistic revolutionary who courts her.

But as the uprising continues to gain momentum, and Giselle grows closer to the queen, becoming one of the few trusted servants, she finds herself dangerously torn. Violence is escalating; she must choose where her loyalty truly lies, or risk losing everything...maybe even her head.

Feuding with Marie Antoinette
by Meghan Masterson


Upon her marriage to the future Louis XVI in 1770, Marie Antoinette came to Versailles at the tender age of fifteen. In spite of her youth, she was determined to fulfill her rank as dauphine and future queen. Unfortunately, in one case, this meant starting a feud. She had a couple of feuds through her lifetime, being stubborn enough to stand by her principles and sensitive enough to hold a grudge. Let’s examine two of them and determine if they were justified or not.