Saturday, April 30, 2016

Review: Bride of a Distant Isle by Sandra Byrd

Publisher: Howard Books
Pub. Date: March 22nd, 2016
Pages: 384

Series: The Daughters of Hampshire (Book 2)


An unforgettable romance set in Victorian England, Bride of A Distant Isle is the engrossing story of Annabel Ashton, who fights to save her family home and her mother's honor while trying to figure out if the man she loves wants her—or just wants to use her to achieve his own ambitions.

Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.

Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.

She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?

And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?


What Did I Think About the Story?

I have long been a fan of Sandra Byrd's writing and have read and enjoyed all three books in her Ladies in Waiting series (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, and Roses Have Thorns) as well as the first book in this Daughters of Hampshire series (Mist of Midnight). I always know that when I see a new historical fiction book by Sandra is coming out I'm going to want to read it and I'm going to enjoy it. I'm happy to say that Bride of a Distant Isle kept her on this streak and once again provided hours of entertainment.

From the get-go I knew I was going to like Annabel. Right from the start she is thrown into one horrible situation after another - from being ripped from the school she loved teaching at to being thrown at a man she couldn't stand to having her very freedom ripped out from under her - and at every obstacle she refused to give up and barreled through to try and find the best outcome of each dire situation...and she did it all with more grace than I believe I could ever have had.  I found her to be such a well drawn character, along with Captain Dell’Acqua and a most of the other secondary characters. I have to admit I wasn't as big a fan of the development of Mr. and Mrs. Everedge or Mr. Morgan (the man her cousin tried to force her to marry and who I didn't think necessarily warranted the vile disgust she seemed to feel for him, but that could just be me) but all of the other characters seemed very realistic.

I also really enjoyed the development of the surroundings our characters found themselves in. Sandra Byrd did an exceptional job of immersing me in the dark, slightly decaying Highcliffe Hall as well as the asylum we get to peek into. This whole world was so easy to see and experience along with the characters and I'm always delighted when an author is able to make me feel like I'm actually seeing the situations play out in front of  me. It makes the reading experience so much more enjoyable!

I do have to say that I didn't have a very hard time figuring out the mysteries surrounding Annabel and who was involved in them. I don't want to say too much and spoil any surprises for other readers, but for me I had most of it figured out pretty soon, even if I didn't know the exact why's and how's. There weren't any big surprises or gasp-y moments, but that isn't to say that it wasn't enjoyable going along for the ride and seeing Annabel figure out what was really going on and whom she could really trust.  I should also mentioned that this is clearly Christian fiction, so if you do not enjoy those elements in your historical fiction please take note. I think Sandra did a good job of never becoming too preachy (which I've experienced in other Christian fiction books and didn't enjoy) but I thought it should be noted.

I really do mean it when I say that I always know I'm going to enjoy a Sandra Byrd historical. She hasn't disappointed yet and this being my fifth book of hers I've read I have the upmost confidence that she'll continue to entertain me.  Any reader who enjoys Christian fiction will especially love her books.    

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think it's beautiful! It represents the story very well, with the grassy lands by the sea and the old house on the cliffs. I can't really think of anything else I would want in this cover, so great job cover designers!!

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

I received a free copy of Bride of a Distant Isle from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Sandra! To read more reviews and find the various links to purchase a copy visit the Goodreads page HERE.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Tip of My Wish List - The Below Stairs Life

To change things up this year, I've decided to do a monthly post on 5 books from my insane wish list that I am most excited about getting to. Some might be new, some old and some out of wish list has it all! I'll pick a theme each month and share my wish list post on the last Friday of the month. I know a number of excellent reviewers who will be doing similar posts and I'll be sure to link to their posts as well so you can see all the goodies we're excited about and, hopefully, add a few new book to your own wish list. 

For April I've decided to highlight books - fiction and nonfiction - that show what it's like to work "below stairs" as a servant. Now that Downton Abbey is over I'm really craving this sort of story.  I'll link the titles to Goodreads where you can read reviews and find the various ways to purchase a copy if it sounds like your style. I really hope you enjoy and let me know if you've read any of these or have others you would add to the list.

Servants' Hall: A Real Life Upstairs, Downstairs Romance

Margaret Powell's Below Stairs, a servant's firsthand account of life in the great houses of England, became a sensation among readers reveling in the luxury and subtle class warfare of Masterpiece Theatre's hit television series Downton Abbey. In Servants' Hall, another true slice of life from a time when armies of servants lived below stairs simply to support the lives of those above, Powell tells the true story of Rose, the under-parlourmaid to the Wardham Family at Redlands, who took a shocking step: She eloped with the family's only son, Mr. Gerald.

Going from rags to riches, Rose finds herself caught up in a maelstrom of gossip, incredulity and envy among her fellow servants. The reaction from upstairs was no better: Mr. Wardham, the master of the house, disdained the match so completely that he refused ever to have contact with the young couple again. Gerald and Rose marry, leave Redlands and Powell looks on with envy, even as the marriage hits on bumpy times: "To us in the servants' hall, it was just like a fairy tale . . . How I wished I was in her shoes."

Once again bringing that lost world to life, Margaret Powell trains her pen and her gimlet eye on her "betters" in this next chapter from a life spent in service. Servants' Hall is Margaret Powell at her best—a warm, funny and sometimes hilarious memoir of life at a time when wealthy families like ruled England.


Maid to Match

From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled—by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in the ways of refined society, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid.

But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs...and their hearts.

Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants

Last year, the telly-watching public was gripped by Downton Abbey -- the most successful British period drama in years and the number -- one most-watched new drama programme of 2010. Captivated by the secrets, the scandal and the servant-master divide of an Edwardian household, viewers religiously watched in their millions.

In Life Below Stairs, bestselling author Alison Maloney responds to the public's desire to know more, going behind the scenes to reveal a detailed picture of what really went on 'downstairs', describing the true-life trials and tribulations of the servants in a gripping non-fiction account.

Thoroughly researched and reliably informed, it also contains first-hand stories from the staff of the time. This charming and
beautifully presented volume is a must-read for anyone interested in the lifestyle and conduct of a bygone era.

Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor

In 1928, Rosina Harrison arrived at the illustrious household of the Astor family to take up her new position as personal maid to the infamously temperamental Lady Nancy Astor, who sat in Parliament, entertained royalty, and traveled the world. "She's not a lady as you would understand a lady" was the butler's ominous warning. But what no one expected was that the iron-willed Lady Astor was about to meet her match in the no-nonsense, whip-smart girl from the country.

For 35 years, from the parties thrown for royalty and trips across the globe, to the air raids during WWII, Rose was by Lady Astor's side and behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly. In charge of everything from the clothes and furs to the baggage to the priceless diamond "sparklers," Rose was closer to Lady Astor than anyone else. In her decades of service she received one 5 raise, but she traveled the world in style and retired with a lifetime's worth of stories. Like Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, Rose is a captivating insight into the great wealth 'upstairs' and the endless work 'downstairs', but it is also the story of an unlikely decades-long friendship that grew between Her Ladyship and her spirited Yorkshire maid.

The Maid's Tale: A Revealing Memoir of Life Below Stairs

Born in 1910, Rose Plummer grew up in an East End slum; she knew at first hand a soot-blackened world, lit by candles and oil lamps, where you slept in your clothes - if you hadn't already been sewn into them for the winter - and fought an unending battle with hunger and bed bugs.
At its best, life was lived on the bustling, noisy streets where fish sellers jostled with hurdy-gurdy men, organ grinders and street fighters, where children dodged between the wheels of horse-drawn carts and where money could still be made by mudlarks and the rag and bone man.

At the age of fifteen, Rose left the noise and squalor of Hoxton and started work as a live-in maid at a house in the West End. Despite the poverty of her childhood, nothing could have prepared her for the long hours, the backbreaking work and the harshness of this new world; a world in which servants were treated as if they were less than human.

It was a world in which Rose found herself working from six in the morning till nine at night in a house where the only unheated bedroom was the one she slept in. Here and in later, grander, houses Rose had to endure the strict hierarchy of the servants' world where the maid was expected to put up with sex pests, deranged employers, verbal and even physical abuse. But however difficult life became, Rose found something to laugh about, and her remarkable spirit and gift for friendship shines through in her memories of a now-vanished world.

This is upstairs downstairs as it really was.

Part of the Lives of Servants series. Other titles in the series are: The Cook's Tale, They Also Serve and Cocoa at Midnight.
Check out these lovely blogs for more books to add to your wish list:

Stephanie at Layered Pages shares five Sherlock Holmes themed books on her wish list HERE.

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede also has a Sherlock Holmes theme this month (great minds think alike!). Find her picks HERE.

Erin at Flashlight Commentary shares five books featuring covers with non-romaticized men HERE.

Heather at The Maiden's Court shares five novels with female spies from WWII HERE.

Holly at 2 Kids and Tired has five books about celebrities HERE.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spotlight on The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay + Giveaway!!

Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Atria Books
Hardcover, eBook, & AudioBook; 288 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary

Amidst the strange, silent aftermath of World War II, a widow, a poet, and a doctor search for lasting peace and fresh beginnings in this internationally acclaimed, award-winning novel.

When Anikka Lachlan’s husband, Mac, is killed in a railway accident, she is offered—and accepts—a job at the Railway Institute’s library and searches there for some solace in her unexpectedly new life. But in Thirroul, in 1948, she’s not the only person trying to chase dreams through books. There’s Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, but who has now lost his words and his hope. There’s Frank Draper, trapped by the guilt of those his medical treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle to find their own peace, and their own new story.

But along with the firming of this triangle of friendship and a sense of lives inching towards renewal come other extremities—and misunderstandings. In the end, love and freedom can have unexpected ways of expressing themselves.

The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can sometimes be to tell them apart. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

Praise for The Railwayman's Wife

“Hay immerses the reader in Mac and Ani’s relationship, splicing flashbacks to happier times into the central narrative. Hay’s poetic gifts are evident in her descriptions of the wild coastal landscape and Roy’s measured verse. This poignant, elegant novel delves into the depth of tragedy, the shaky ground of recovery, and the bittersweet memories of lost love. Fans of Jodi Daynard and Susanna Kearsley will adore this.” -Booklist

“Hay has lovingly crafted a poignant, character-driven novel filled with heartache and hope, which is transferred to the reader through lyrical prose, poetic dialogue and stunning imagery.” -RT Book Reviews

“Hay is both cerebral and emotional in portraying life’s catastrophes and the way people cope. As if her message is too raw to lay out in blazing color, she camouflages it in poetry and half-seen images—and it works. The message is clear, and the shocks are softened but no less there. Multilayered, graceful, couched in poetry, supremely honest, gentle yet jarring, Hay’s thought-provoking novel pulls you along slowly, like a deep river that is deceptively calm but full of hidden rapids. Much to ponder.” -Kirkus

“Exquisitely written and deeply felt…a true book of wonders.” –Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Secret Chord

“An absorbing and uplifting read.” –M.L. Stedman, author of The Light Between Oceans

“This is a book in which grief and love are so entwined they make a new and wonderful kind of sense.” –Fiona McFarlane, author of The Night Guest

Buy the Book

About the Author

Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of four nonfiction books, including The Secret: The Strange Marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron, and the novels The Body in the Clouds and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

For more information please visit Ashley Hay’s website.

Giveaway Time!!!

I am so excited to be able to offer up one print copy of The Railwayman's Wife for giveaway, open to US only! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on May 2nd, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.

Good Luck!!

The Railwayman's Wife Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 19

Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Wednesday, April 20

Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Thursday, April 21

Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Monday, April 25

Review & Giveaway at Poof Books

Tuesday, April 26

Interview & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 28

Review at A Silver Twig

Monday, May 2

Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, May 3

Review at Book Nerd
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Thursday, May 5

Review & Giveaway at Bibliotica

Friday, May 6

Review at Back Porchervations

Tuesday, May 10

Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Monday, May 23

Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, April 25, 2016

Excerpt of When It Rained at Hembry Castle by Meredith Allard + Giveaway!


Drawn as though by the man’s impatience, Edward looked at the time. Nearly 11 a.m. No more dilly-dallying. He had to work. As he was turning from the window he saw her. At first he thought his eyes deceived him. Certainly, he only thought he saw her because she had been so much on his mind since the Earl of Staton’s funeral, but no, it was her.
Miss Daphne Meriwether stood near her father, whom Edward recognized from the funeral. Though she was still in full mourning, she was a vision, her pale skin set off by the crinkled black crepe that fell in ripples from her waist. Edward memorized every detail of her—her gold hair pulled back in a simple knot at the base of her neck, a few strands loose beneath her black bonnet. She wasn’t wearing a veil, and Edward was able to focus on the heart-shaped face with the same kind smile as her father, who wore his mourning as a black band around his arm. As Mr. and Miss Meriwether crossed the street, the cab drivers pulled their horses to a halt and doffed their hats in the young woman’s direction. Her father doffed his hat in return, and the Meriwethers crossed unmolested by man, vehicle, or beast, a near miracle on the busy London streets. As they walked, Mr. Meriwether gestured toward the building from where Edward watched them. Edward felt embarrassed suddenly. He wanted to hide, but where? Under his desk? Should he run up the stairs to the next floor? He couldn’t possibly let her see him. She would know at a glance that he had been thinking improperly about her—well, not improperly, perhaps, but not entirely properly either. But he didn’t run. His feet wouldn’t move. She was too lovely, after all, and who knew when he would see such a sight again.
As father and daughter were about to enter the building, a ruddy, plump-cheeked boy raced across the street, dodging vehicles, horses, and low-flying birds, causing shouts from annoyed pedestrians. The boy held a small bouquet of yellow calla lilies toward the golden-haired young woman, and Edward saw the ruddy, plump-cheeked flower vendor wiping his hands on his apron, laughing at his son. The boy stopped short, nearly running father and daughter over in his haste to get to them before they disappeared inside. The boy, shy suddenly and pulling his slouch cap over his eyes, grinned sheepishly as Miss Meriwether kneeled next to him, took the bouquet, inhaled deeply as though the flowers smelled of ambrosia, and kissed the boy’s cheek. The boy clasped his hand to his face as though he meant to keep the kiss forever. He looked back toward his father and beamed. He had won his prize. Mr. Meriwether reached into his coat pocket and handed a few coins to the boy, who was clearly in love. Edward leaned close to the open window and heard the boy say, “Oh, no, sir. My pa says the flowers are a gift for the pretty young lady in black. To cheer her from her sadness.”
“That is a most generous gesture,” Frederick Meriwether said. “Where is your father, young man?”
“Just there, sir.” The boy pointed to where his father waited by the flower barrow.
“How very kind,” Miss Meriwether said. “You see, Papa, people in London can be as considerate as people in New London.”
Edward watched as Mr. and Miss Meriwether walked the boy back to his father and Frederick Meriwether and the flower vendor began talking. The younger brother of the Earl of Staton speaking to a flower vendor in the street, where anyone could see? Edward wondered what Mr. Meriwether’s mother, the Countess of Staton, would have to say about that. He realized too late that Roberts and Wellesley were beside him.
“Whatever has your rapt attention, Ellis?” asked Roberts.
“Ahhh...” Wellesley pointed to where Mr. and Miss Meriwether still chatted with the flower vendor and his son, who was now partially hidden behind his father while he stared at the young woman as though she were the goddess Aphrodite come to earth.
“You have excellent taste, Ellis,” said Roberts. “The young woman is in mourning. Perhaps she needs a shoulder to cry on.”
As Mr. and Miss Meriwether left the flower vendor and his son, the rain picked up again. Suddenly, as though she sensed someone watching her, Miss Meriwether looked up and Edward knew he had been seen. Then she smiled. It wasn’t a perturbed smile, which Edward would have expected from a well-born young English woman, a “How dare that strange man have the indecency to notice me!” sort of aggravation. It was a friendly smile, an acknowledgement—hello, I see you—and it made Edward’s heart stammer. Then he did the unthinkable. He smiled back.
“I see you’re acquainted with the young woman,” said Wellesley.
“That’s Mr. Meriwether and his daughter,” Edward said.
Roberts looked toward the door. “Here they come.”
Edward stood. He cursed the fact that bright colors had gone out of fashion because he suddenly thought his black frock coat and brown waistcoat were too dreary. He ran his fingers through his hair, brushing it first to the right, then to the left, then away from his face, then to the right again. He sat at his desk, crossing his right leg languidly over the left. He leaned back as though this were the most ordinary thing in the world. He was at work where he belonged and it was a daily occurrence for beautiful young women to visit there. Why shouldn’t it be? 
Roberts grinned. “You’re prettying yourself up for the daughter of the brother of the Earl of Staton?”
“I am not prettying myself up.”
 The door opened and there were Mr. and Miss Meriwether. The office went silent. Mr. Meriwether smiled in a fatherly manner at the scrutinizing faces, though the young men brightened considerably when they noticed Miss Meriwether. Randall Tewson hurried from his desk as quickly as his short legs would carry him and he nearly prostrated himself in front of the new editor as though Mr. Meriwether were the Duke of Somewhereorother. In Mr. Meriwether Edward saw a tall, straight-backed man with the upright stature of an aristocrat and the manner of a friend. Mr. Meriwether’s chestnut-colored hair was graying at the temples, and he was clean-shaven, as Edward was—a contrast to the style of the day since only men and very old women could grow beards properly. Though on another man his small blue eyes and refined features might look cold, Mr. Meriwether didn’t appear disagreeable at all. With introductions led by Tewson, Mr. Meriwether made his way around meeting the men who would work for him. Edward noticed the way Mr. Meriwether looked everyone in the eye and asked everyone’s name and their responsibilities at the paper. Yes, he spoke in the swanky tones of the aristocracy, but otherwise he could have been anyone from anywhere. If Edward didn’t know better he would never have guessed that Mr. Meriwether was reared in the ancient halls of Hembry Castle. Then Frederick Meriwether stood before Edward as Tewson introduced them.
“I can’t believe we haven’t met before, all things considered,” Mr. Meriwether said. Edward struggled to keep his eyes on the father, and he succeeded in looking at the daughter only twice. “I believe you know Mitchell Chattaway?”
“I do,” Edward said. “I worked for him at the beginning of my career.”
“He’s a good man to know if you’re in the newspaper business. My daughter and I dined with Chattaway and his family when we first arrived in England. Allow me to introduce my daughter. Daphne, this is Edward Ellis, the young man I’ve heard so much about. Mr. Ellis, my daughter Miss Meriwether. I’ve been telling everyone in my family about you, young man.  Mr. Barden told me of your talents as a reporter as well as an editor, and he showed me some of the short pieces you’ve had published. I must admit, I’m rather impressed.”
Miss Meriwether smiled, and Edward forgot why he was standing there. Mr. Meriwether had just said something nice about him—he was sure of it—but he couldn’t say what and he couldn’t guess how to respond. He nodded until Miss Meriwether rescued him.
“Is it true you’re the fastest shorthand transcriber here? And the most accurate?”
“That’s what Mr. Barden has been saying about him,” said Mr. Meriwether. “Mr. Ellis, you’ll be running this place before long if I have anything to say about it.”
“Thank you, Mr. Meriwether.”
Frederick allowed Tewson to escort him to the men he hadn’t been introduced to yet. With Mr. Meriwether gone, Edward was at a loss. He tried to look everywhere but at Miss Meriwether, though he could feel her watching him. She wasn’t being indiscreet, staring like a coquette at men she didn’t know. She was curious, and she was, after all, American. No well-born young English woman would dare be caught in a place where people performed work. To be associated with a trade? Never! Yet here was Miss Meriwether, unembarrassed, curious, and her father didn’t appear concerned with exposing her to something as common as a newspaper office.
When Edward could no longer ignore the fact that Miss Meriwether’s full attention was on him, he had to resist the urge to hide in the supply closet. Though his left foot was turned toward the door, his right foot stayed stubbornly in place. He realized, after some thought, that he needed to either stay where he was or trip over himself in his haste to get away, looking even more ridiculous in Miss Meriwether’s eyes than he was sure he already did. He decided to stand strong, so he scanned himself—trousers fastened, boots on the correct feet, waistcoat right side out. Was his hair a mess? He wanted to run a hand through it again, but he didn’t want to seem vain so he resisted.
“I saw you looking out the window,” Miss Meriwether said. 
“I saw the flower boy give you that bouquet.” Edward gestured to the yellow calla lilies she held in her black-gloved hand. Her eyes were so blue they appeared violet, and those violet eyes watched him like two amethysts.
“He was a sweet little boy.” Miss Meriwether watched her father speaking to several men across the room. “You needn’t worry, Mr. Ellis. You’re in good hands with my father. You won’t find a fairer employer anywhere, and he already thinks you’re so talented.”
“That’s good to know.” Edward wanted to say something bright, something witty to make her laugh, but, as it always happens in moments when you most want to sound impressive, his grasp of the English language eluded him. Finally, seeing her mourning dress, complete sentences formed and he even managed to speak them aloud.   
“I’m sorry about your grandfather. I’ve had the privilege of meeting him on more than one occasion, and I know he was a kind man, a magnanimous man, respected by everyone who knew him. I was at his funeral, covering it for the paper. That’s where I saw you the first time.” Edward pictured himself with his pen running a delete line through that last sentence.
Miss Meriwether was about to respond when Mr. Meriwether called her to join him and Mr. Tewson at his desk. Edward tried to work for the third time that day, but now his thoughts were consumed by wishes for a glimpse of the golden-haired, violet-eyed beauty. Whenever he looked in her direction all he saw was the backside of Randall Tewson.
“Look!” cried Wellesley. “He keeps looking in Miss Meriwether’s direction. Ellis is in love.”
“Don’t be daft,” said Edward. “I’m thinking of my article and how little time I have to finish it.”
“And longing for a glimpse of the radiant Miss Meriwether.”
Edward grimaced at Wellesley before fastening his eyes onto the notes with the dots and doodles. He picked up his quill, filled it with ink, and began working. All around him were the manic scrapes of feather tips on paper as others scrambled to meet their deadlines. Edward thought of the beautiful young woman on the other side of the room as he translated those dots and doodles into English.
Finally, as Edward readied his copy, he heard snickering. He was about to say something rude to Wellesley and Roberts, but he realized Mr. Meriwether was standing near his desk and caught himself in time.
“Is your piece ready to go?” Mr. Meriwether asked. Edward handed the editor his work, which somehow he managed to finish. Mr. Meriwether scanned the piece. “This looks quite good.”
“Thank you, Mr. Meriwether.”

Publication Date: January 28, 2016
Copperfield Press
Paperback & eBook; 465 Pages
Series: The Hembry Castle Chronicles (Book 1)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary
From Meredith Allard, author of the bestselling Loving Husband Trilogy, comes When It Rained at Hembry Castle, a lush historical novel set in Victorian England. Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, it’s the story of an aristocratic family, a mysterious death, secrets that dare not be told, and the wonder of falling in love.
When the 8th Earl of Staton dies, his eldest son, the unreliable Richard, inherits the title and the family’s home—Hembry Castle. The Earl’s niece, the American-born Daphne, is intrigued by Edward Ellis, a rising author with a first-hand knowledge of Hembry Castle—from the servants’ hall. And Edward, though captivated by the lovely Daphne, has his own hurdles he must overcome. Can Richard come to terms with his title before bringing ruin on his family? Will Edward and Daphne find their way to each other despite the obstacles of life at Hembry Castle?
When It Rained at Hembry Castle is a page-turning, romantic novel with vivid characters and an engrossing story that will keep you guessing until the end.

About the Author

Meredith Allard is the author of the bestselling novels The Loving Husband Trilogy, That You Are Here, Victory Garden, Woman of Stones, and My Brother’s Battle. Her newest release, the historical
novel When It Rained at Hembry Castle, is a great read for fans of Downton Abbey.

Visit Meredith online at You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Buy the Book


Giveaway Time!!!

I am so excited to be able to offer one copy of When It Rained at Hembry Castle up for giveaway, winners choice of either paperback or eBook copy (please note that the paperback version is open to US only, but the eBook is international)!! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on May 2nd, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address and whether they want a paperback or eBook copy. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
Good Luck!!

When It Rained at Hembry Castle Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, April 14

Interview at Books and Benches
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, April 15

Excerpt at The Lit Bitch
Interview at The Book Connection

Monday, April 18

Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, April 19

Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Excerpt & Giveaway at CelticLady’s Review

Wednesday, April 20

Review & Giveaway at A Holland Reads

Friday, April 22

Excerpt at Historical Fiction Addicts

Saturday, April 23

Guest Post & Giveaway at Brooke Blogs

Sunday, April 24

Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Monday, April 25

Review at Luxury Reading
Review at To Read, Or Not to Read
Excerpt & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Friday, April 22, 2016

Guest Post by Phyllis Edgerly Ring, Author of The Munich Girl

Please join me in welcoming Phyllis Edgerly Ring, author of The Munich Girl, to the blog today! She has a fascinating guest post for us on the meaning behind The Munich Girl and how Eva Braun plays into that meaning. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I have, and be sure to continue after for more information about the book!

“They called her ‘stupid cow’, though she was smart enough to capture the man she loved when everyone—he, most of all—said he’d never marry.

Considered insignificant by those around Hitler, she was one of the Third Reich’s best-kept secrets and filmed the private lives of many notorious Nazis.

Eva Braun paid a big price for the name ‘Hitler’. And in the end, it was hers only for a day, and now, no one ever calls her ‘Eva Hitler’. 

Her life with the Führer mirrors Germany’s: He first seduced, then neglected and abandoned them. Finally, he led them into the jaws of destruction.”

With these words, Anna Dahlberg begins an exploration of the life of Hitler’s infamous mistress, and of her friendship with Anna’s mother, in my novel, The Munich Girl.

Seventy-one years ago this month, Eva Braun’s world, and life, were coming to their end as Germany succumbed to defeat and ruin. From a bunker under Berlin, the 33-year-old, who had spent nearly half her life with Hitler, wrote her final letters to her younger sister, Gretl, and longtime friend, Herta. She writes of preparing to die (she would commit suicide alongside Hitler eight days later), and her bewilderment at how things were ending; about dreams she’d long held, which weren’t ever going to come true.

On this same day, she chose an action whose significance would only be revealed later, during the war crimes trials in Nuremberg. In testimony there, a high-ranking German officer credited her with ensuring that one of Hitler’s last desperate orders had come to him, on April 22, rather than to someone who would actually carry them out.

As a result, the lives of about 35,000 Allied prisoners of war were saved. That’s a whole town’s worth of people who were the loved ones of many tens of thousands of others. Among them were two relatives of my own, one of whom had been a prisoner in both world wars (and, curiously, was one of the happiest people I’ve known.) Years ago, after he’d died, I had a dream in which he spoke the words “moral courage” to me. This was the very first thing I thought of when I learned, decades later, that Eva Braun’s decision in that Berlin bunker may have been the reason he survived.

The story of The Munich Girl is about many things, including, of course, Eva Braun and history from the time of the war in Germany. It is also about the power of friendship, and the importance of our often ignored and overlooked inner life, without which our world careens increasingly out-of-balance.

At its heart, it is a story about outlasting that chaos and confusion by valuing, and believing in, the ultimate triumph of all of the good that we are willing to contribute to building, together. Part of our ability to do that, I’ve come to believe, rests in being able to recognize that human beings aren’t usually all good, or all bad, but a complex mix of where our experience, understanding, and choices have led us.

As a result, The Munich Girl is about two things that matter a great deal to my heart: the experience of reunion with and “coming home to” our truest self, and the role that others play in that process, often in highly mysterious and unexpected ways. 


Publication Date: November 14th, 2015
Publisher: Whole Sky Books
Pages: 356
Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third Reich family history is entwined with Anna’s. Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged. With Hannes’s help, she retraces the path of two women who met as teenagers, shared a friendship that spanned the years that Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress, yet never knew that the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Eva’s story reveals that she never joined the Nazi party, had Jewish friends, and was credited at the Nuremberg Trials with saving 35,000 Allied lives. As Anna's journey leads back through the treacherous years in wartime Germany, it uncovers long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her heart to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war.

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About the Author

As a child in Germany, and when she returned to visit as an adult, Phyllis Edgerly Ring heard little about the years of the Second World War -- mostly just “thank God it’s behind us.” Yet, similar to characters in The Munich Girl, some of the kindest, most morally courageous people she knew wereLife at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details. She is also a co-author of With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past, When We Can Investigate Reality? She lives in New Hampshire.
those who never wanted the war, or National Socialism, and found creative ways to outlast it and to help others as they did. The meaningful example in their lives applies more than ever in our world, she feels, and offers spiritual gifts and lessons we’ve barely begun to uncover. The author has studied plant sciences, worked as a nurse, taught English to kindergartners in China, and been an editor and contributing writer for a variety of publications. She is the author of two novels and the inspirational nonfiction

You can learn more about Phyllis on her blog and Amazon author page, and can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Review of 300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson + Giveaway!!

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 12th, 2016
Pages: 384


A mesmerizing novel that transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past—where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.

Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career; Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But Joanna soon realizes that behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline more than two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically suggests she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I can't start this review without mentioning that both of Deborah Lawrenson's previous novels - The Lantern and The Sea Garden - are among my favorite novels and are solid 5-star books for me (click on each title to read my review). I am so impressed with her ability to twist around a mystery and keep me surprised as well as drench my senses with her skillful descriptions. I've been on the look out for her next novel and did a little dance when I saw 300 Days of Sun come up for review. So, did this newest novel make it to my favorites list? Unfortunately, while there were still aspects I did enjoy, I can't say that, for me,  this newest venture quite lives up to its predecessors.

Now, I will say that Ms. Lawrenson's skills at description are still on point in 300 Days of Sun. From the beginning the main location - Faro, Portugal - is described beautifully, with warmth and sunlight mixed with deterioration and decay. We see beautiful old building by the sea left to rot and seemingly innocent and kind locals tinged with darker, hidden components. Everything seems a contrast: the warmth and light at odds with the darkness and shadow that, for years, stayed hidden but is now starting to come back into the light given the increased political and economic strife of the country. This very aspect - the politics and economic hardships of the area - is exactly where my interest began to wane.

From reading the description, I was very excited to see how this novel dealing with WWII and German Nazis might relate to the missing children that our characters in the present storyline are trying to locate. Unfortunately the story didn't quite unfold the way I expected. I didn't find the modern storyline very interesting and the rushed and lukewarm romance between Joanna and Nathan seemed kind of unnecessary. They don't seem all that interested in the history of Faro except where it relates to the missing children (or one child in particular really) and I kind of had a hard time caring about their search after a while. The WWII storyline seemed just a means to an end and really didn't play as much into this modern mystery as I would have liked. This is a real shame in my opinion, actually, since the story that unfolds within the pages of The Alliance was my favorite part.

I think it's brilliant that the past is told through excerpts from this book dealing with Portugal during WWII and immediately following it. We learn pretty quickly that there is truth within the pages of The Alliance and it was trying to decipher what those truths were that kept me reading through these snippets. The most interesting part, and something I did not know before reading this book, was just how varied the populace of Portugal was during that time. Not only do they have the well-meaning Portuguese but foreigners from both the Allied and Axis countries mingling together, pretending at cordialities but really spying on each other, some working as double agents. The characters within this story were far more interesting than the present timeline and I couldn't help but wish that the majority of the story was what was happening in The Alliance instead of the other way around. 

While the missing children aspect didn't work into the story as I expected and really wasn't as interesting as I anticipated, I still loved trying to figure out where the story was headed and how we would ever get from what happened in the 40s and 50s to the hunt that was happening in the present time. In this same vein, while I think there were aspects of the story that seemed unnecessary and didn't really add to the plot (discussions about someone killing seabirds, the "romance' between Joanna and Nathan), I can't state enough that the descriptions are absolutely beautiful and it was easy to travel along with the various characters in their adventures and their searches for truth. I wasn't very satisfied by the ending, either, but all in all I was along for the ride and never felt like I wanted to just give up but continued as I luxuriated in the authors wonderful way with words. 

All in all I am still a fan of Deborah Lawrenson's writing even as this is my least favorite of her books that I've read. I have a feeling that my being such a fan girl worked against my enjoyment of this novel, so others might enjoy it more. However, if I am recommending her books, I would definitely recommend starting with The Lantern as it is my favorite of her novels to date.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think it's perfect for the story!  Such a big part of the description of Faro and the Algarve coast has to do with the beautiful water and these large rocks shooting out of it like little mountains, shaped and reshaped by the unpredictable and always shifting waters.  It's bright and beautiful and makes me think of not only sunshine and happiness but also the danger of the jagged rocks. There's also fake scratches and scuffs on the cover, making me think of a picture thats older and used, which evokes the older storyline expressed in Esta Hartford's novel. I can't really think of a better cover for the book.

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of 300 Days of Sun in exchange for an honest review! Be sure to continue below for information on the author, the book, and the blog tour!

Buy the Book

About the Author

Deborah Lawrenson studied English at Cambridge University and worked as a journalist in London. She is married with a daughter, and lives in Kent, England. Deborah’s previous novels include The Lantern and The Sea Garden.

Find out more about Deborah at her website, read more at her blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.


Giveaway Time!!!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to offer up one copy of 300 Day of Sun for giveaway, open to US only! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on April 27th, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
Good Luck!!

TLC Blog Tour of 300 Days of Sun

Tuesday, April 12th: Raven Haired Girl
Thursday, April 14th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, April 15th: Luxury Reading
Monday, April 18th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Tuesday, April 19th: FictionZeal
Thursday, April 21st: A Literary Vacation
Monday, April 25th: Lavish Bookshelf
Tuesday, April 26th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, April 27th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, April 28th: Kahakai Kitchen
TBD: Curling Up by the Fire

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Excerpt of The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt + Giveaway!!

The Liberty of Norton Folgate, 1576
Papa was a magician. No one was ever more loving or wise than he.

Seven years old, Aemilia nestled by his side in the long slanting light of a summer evening. Friday, it was, and Papa was expecting a visit from his four brothers. This was a change in custom, for previously Papa had always gone to meet them at Uncle Alvise’s house in Mark Lane. But this evening was special, Aemilia thought, glancing at Papa’s expectant face. The air seemed golden, filled with blessing, even as from outside their garden walls came the cries of the poor lunatics locked up within Bedlam Hospital. From the west came the baying of the beasts held within the City Dog House. Drunken revelers sang and howled as they spilled out of the Pye Inn just down the road. Yet none of it could touch them here within the boundaries of Papa’s magic circle. Aemilia imagined his sweet enchantment rising around their family like fortress walls. This garden was his sanctuary, his own tiny replica of Italy on this cold and rainy isle.
The pair of them sat beneath an arbor of ripening grapes, planted from the vine Papa had carried all the way from Veneto. Around them, his garden bloomed in abundance. Roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, wisteria, and gillyflowers released their perfume while from within the house echoed the music of her mother singing while Aemilia’s sister, Angela, played the virginals. Beyond the flower beds, Papa’s kitchen garden brimmed with fennel, haricots verts, and rows of lettuce that they ate in plenty. Papa even ate the bloodred love apples, though Mother swore they were poison and she would not let her daughters near them. It was an Italian habit, Papa said. In Veneto, people prized the scarlet pomodoro as a delicacy.

Beyond the vegetable beds lay the orchard of apples, plums, and pears, and beyond that the chicken run and the small paddock for Bianca, the milk cow. Food in London was expensive, so what better reason to plant their own? Aemilia’s family never lacked for sustenance. While Papa was away, a hired man came to look after the gardens for him.

They dwelled on the grounds of the old priory of Saint Mary Spital, outside London’s city wall. The precinct was called the Liberty of Norton Folgate, Papa told her, because here they were beyond the reach of city law and enjoyed freedom from arrest. Some of their neighbors were secret Catholics, so it was rumored, who hid the thighbones of dead saints in their cellars. But Papa’s secrets lay buried even deeper.

When Aemilia begged him for a fiaba, a fable, a fairy tale, he told her of Bassano, the city that had given him and his brothers their name. Forty miles from Venice, it nestled in the foothills below Monte Grappa. Italian words, as beautiful as music, flew off his tongue as he described the Casa dal Corno, the villa where they had dwelled that occupied a place of pride on the oldest square in Bassano. A grand fresco graced the Casa dal Corno’s façade. Holding Aemilia close, Battista described the fanciful pictures of goats and apes, of stags and rams, of woodwinds and stringed instruments, and of nymphs and cherubs caught up in an eternal dance.

Aemilia turned in her father’s lap to view their own house that had no fresco or any adornment at all, only ivy trained to grow along its walls. Loud black rooks nested in the overhanging elm trees.

“Why didn’t you stay there?” she asked, thinking how lovely it would be to live in that villa, to be sitting there instead of here. She pictured white peacocks, like the ones she had seen in Saint James’s Park, strutting beneath the peach trees in that Italian garden.

Papa smiled in sadness, plunging an arrow into her heart. “We were driven away. We had no choice.”

“But why?” Her fingers tightened their grip on his hand. “It was so beautiful there. Bellissima!”

Aemilia believed that Italy was paradise, more splendid than heaven, and that Papa was all-powerful. How he could have been chased away from his home, like a tomcat from her mother’s kitchen? Aemilia’s father and uncles were court musicians who lived under the Queen of England’s patronage. They performed for Her Majesty’s delight and wore her livery. Papa was regarded as a gentleman, allowed a coat of arms. Though the Bassanos of Norton Folgate weren’t rich, they had glass windows in their parlor and music room. Their house boasted two chimneys. They’d a cupboard of pewter plates and tankards, and even two goblets of Venetian glass. A fine Turkish rug in red and black draped their best table. Their kitchen was large, and they’d a buttery and larder attached, and a cellar below. Battista Bassano was eminently respectable, a man of means. How could such a fate have befallen him?

Papa cupped Aemilia’s face in his hands. “Cara mia, you will never be driven from your home. You’ll be safe always.”

“When I grow up, I shall be a great lady with sacks of gold!” she told him. “I’ll sail to Italy and buy back your house.”

With the red-gold sun dazzling her, it seemed so simple. She would grow into a woman and right every wrong that had befallen her father.

Papa stroked her hair, dark and curling like his own. “How will you earn your fortune, then? Will you marry the richest man in England?” His voice was indulgent and teasing.

Solemnly, she shook her head. “I shall be a poet!”

“A poet, Aemilia. Truly?”

Even at that age, it was her desire to write poetry exquisite enough to make plain English sound as beautiful as her father’s native tongue. Poets abounded at court, all vying for Her Majesty’s favor. The Queen herself wrote poetry.

As Papa held her in his gaze, she offered him her palm. “Read my future!”

He took her hand in his, yet instead of looking at her palm, he stared into her eyes. Aemilia imagined her future unfolding before his inner vision like one of the court masques performed for the Queen. Cradling her cheek to his pounding heart, he held her with such tenderness, as though he both mourned and burned in fiercest pride when he divined what she would become.

“What do you see?” she asked him. “What will happen to me?”

Before he could answer, her uncles slipped through the back gate, which Papa had left unlatched. She watched as Uncle Alvise carefully bolted it behind them. Her uncles were usually boisterous, making the air around them explode with their noisy greetings, but this evening they were as quiet as thieves. Aemilia’s heart drummed in worry. What could be wrong? Papa was old, already in his fifties, and her uncles even older, their hair thinning and gray. Giacomo, Antonio, Giovanni, and Alvise kissed her and patted her head before Papa instructed her to go inside to her mother and leave them to their business.

The child wrapped her arms around her father’s waist. “No, no, no! I want to stay with you!”

The garden at this hour was at its most enchanting, with moths and fireflies emerging from the rustling leaves. She could believe that the Faery Queen might step out from behind the blossoming rowan tree, her endless train of sprites and elves swirling round her.

But there was no pleading with Papa. Stern now, he swept her up and delivered her into the candlelit music chamber. Without a word, he closed the door and left her there.

“Come here, Little Mischief.” Angela held out her arms.

At sixteen, Angela was already a woman. She hoisted Aemilia into her lap and positioned Aemilia’s fingers on the virginals keys. “You play the melody and I’ll play counterpoint.”

Papa called Aemilia his little virtuosa, for she was nearly as skilled in playing as her sister was. Their fingers danced across the keyboard while Mother and Angela sang in harmony, as though to cover the noise of Papa and his brothers descending into the cellar.

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover, eBook, Audio Book; 416 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.
London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.
Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.
The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

Advanced Praise for The Dark Lady's Mask

“An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy, who may — or may not — be Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.”
— MARGARET GEORGE, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I

“Perfectly chosen details and masterful characterization bring to life this swiftly moving, elegant story. As atmospheric and compelling as it is wise, The Dark Lady’s Mask is a gem not to be missed.”
— LYNN CULLEN, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End

“Mary Sharratt’s enchanting new novel, The Dark Lady’s Mask, is a richly imagined, intensely romantic and meticulously researched homage to lauded poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, an accomplished woman of letters who many believe to be Shakespeare’s Eternal Muse. Sharratt unfolds a captivating tale, a compelling ‘what if ’ scenario, of a secret union that fed the creative fires of England’s greatest poet and playwright.”
— KATHLEEN KENT, bestselling author of The Heretic’s Daughter

“Mary Sharratt is a magician. This novel transports the reader to Elizabethan England with a tale of the bard and his love that is nothing short of amazing. Absorbing, emotional, historically fascinating. A work of marvelous ingenuity!”
— M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

“I enjoyed this exciting fantasy of Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady.’ There was adventure, betrayal, resilience, and above all, the fun notion that Shakespeare might have had far more than a muse to help him create his wonderful plays.”
—KARLEEN KOEN, bestselling author of Dark Angels and Before Versailles

“Through the story of Aemilia Bassano, a talented musician and poet, Mary Sharratt deftly tackles issues of religious and gender inequality in a time of brutal conformity. The Dark Lady’s Mask beautifully depicts the exhilaration and pitfalls of subterfuge, a gifted woman’s precarious reliance on the desires of powerful men, and the toll paid by unrecognized artistic collaborators. Resonant and moving.”
—MITCHELL JAMES KAPLAN, author of By Fire, By Water

“In The Dark Lady’s Mask, Mary Sharratt seduces us with a most tantalizing scenario —that the bold, cross-dressing poet and feminist writer Aemilia Bassano is Shakespeare’s mysterious muse, the Dark Lady. Romantic, heart-breaking, and rich in vivid historical detail and teeming Elizabethan life, the novel forms an elegant tapestry of the complexities, joys, and sorrows of being both a female and an artist.”
—KAREN ESSEX, author of Leonardo’s Swans and Dracula in Love

“Mary Sharratt has created an enchanting Elizabethan heroine, a musician, the orphaned daughter of a Jewish Italian refugee who must hide her heritage for her safety. Taken up by powerful men for her beauty, Amelia has wit and daring and poetry inside her that will make her a match for young Will Shakespeare himself and yet she must hide behind many masks to survive in a world where women have as much talent as men but little power.”
— STEPHANIE COWELL, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

“Prepare to be swept away by Mary Sharratt’s latest foray into historical fiction. Inspired by the true story of poet, Aemilia Bassano, THE DARK LADY’S MASK explores her relationship with William Shakespeare. Richly detailed and well researched, this lush tale brings Aemilia out of the shadows of history and let’s her emerge as one of the founding mothers of literature. Drama, intrigue, and romance will have readers racing through this brilliant celebration of the muse.”
PAMELA KLINGER-HORN, Sales & Outreach Coordinator, Excelsior Bay Books

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About the Author

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire,
England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.
Learn more about Mary on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway Time!!! 

I am so excited to be able to offer up one copy of The Dark Lady's Mask for giveaway, open to US only! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on April 27th, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
Good Luck!!

The Dark Lady's Mask Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 19

Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 20

Review at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Excerpt & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 21

Review at A Book Drunkard
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, April 22

Review & Giveaway at History Undressed

Monday, April 25

Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review

Tuesday, April 26

Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, April 27

Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, April 28

Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, April 29

Review at A Chick Who Reads

Saturday, April 30

Review at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, May 2

Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at Cynthia Robertson, writer

Tuesday, May 3

Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, May 4

Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 5

Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, May 6

Review at Book Nerd

Monday, May 9

Review at A Dream within a Dream

Tuesday, May 10

Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, May 11

Review at Puddletown Reviews

Thursday, May 12

Review & Giveaway at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, May 13

Review at First Impressions Reviews
Excerpt at Layered Pages

Monday, May 16

Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, May 17

Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 18

Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, May 19

Review & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, May 20

Review at Broken Teepee