Friday, December 26, 2014

Heir to a Prophecy by Mercedes Rochelle

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: December 15, 2014

Shakespeare's Witches tell Banquo, Thou Shalt Get Kings Though Thou Be None. Though Banquo is murdered, his son Fleance gets away. What happened to Fleance? As Shakespeare's audience apparently knew, Banquo was the ancestor of the royal Stewart line. But the road to kingship had a most inauspicious beginning, and we follow Fleance into exile and death, bestowing the Witches prophecy on his illegitimate son Walter. Born in Wales and raised in disgrace, Walter's efforts to understand Banquo's murder and honor his lineage take him on a long and treacherous journey through England and France before facing his destiny in Scotland. 

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Mercedes Rochelle's Heir to a Prophecy was an interesting choice for me. The fact that it is historic fiction and relates to the royal Stewarts were major selling points, but I personally feel Shakespeare overrated and wasn't at all convinced the book would work. The realist in me screamed proceed with caution, but I hoped for the best am happy to report the risk proved worthwhile. 

Historically speaking, the novel touches a lot of wonderful material and I actually like how it acts as a sort of bookend to the play on which it is based. There are a few graphic scenes, but I felt the content necessary and entirely appropriate to the subject matter. 

I liked the balance Rochelle managed to create between fact and fiction and was pleasantly surprised at how she was able to manipulate the Shakespearean elements of the story without allowing them to overwhelm her own vision and voice. Ideally I have liked fewer protagonists and more character development, but I'm not at all disappointed with the time I spent with this piece.

A highly creative read, Heir to a Prophecy was both fun and original. A solid selection for fans of both historic fiction and light fantasy.

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Daughters of kings were destined to be peace makers, giving their hand in marriage to cement a political bond. Love was a luxury that wasn’t considered important.
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Check Out All the Stops on Mercedes Rochelle's Heir to a Prophecy Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, December 8
Interview & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, December 10
Guest Post at Boom Baby Reviews
Thursday, December 11
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, December 12
Interview at Let Them Read Books
Saturday, December 13
Spotlight at I’d So Rather Be Reading
Tuesday, December 16
Review at Book Nerd
Guest Post at Queen of All She Reads
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, December 17
Review at Back Porchervations
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Friday, December 19
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Saturday, December 20
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, December 22
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, December 23
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Friday, December 26
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, December 30
Review at Unshelfish
Review at The True Book Addict


Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Dangerous Madness by Michelle Diener

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: May 22, 2014

The Duke of Wittaker has been living a lie... He’s been spying on the dissolute, discontented noblemen of the ton, pretending to share their views. Now he’s ready to step out of the shadows and start living a real life...but when the prime minister of England is assassinated, he's asked to go back to being the rake-hell duke everyone believes he still is to find out more. Miss Phoebe Hillier has been living a lie, too... All her life she's played by society's rules, hiding her fierce intelligence and love of life behind a docile and decorous mask. All it's gotten her is jilted by her betrothed, a man she thought a fool, though a harmless one. But when she discovers her former fiancé was involved in the plot against the prime minister, and that he's been murdered, she realizes he wasn't so harmless after all. And now the killers have set their sights on her... The only man who can help her is the Duke of Wittaker--a man she knows she shouldn't trust. And she soon realizes he's hiding behind a mask as careful as her own. As the clock ticks down to the assassin's trial, the pair scramble to uncover the real conspiracy behind the prime minister's death. And as the pressure and the danger mounts, Phoebe and Wittaker shed their disguises, layer by layer, to discover something more precious than either imagined–something that could last forever. Unless the conspirators desperate to hide their tracks get to them first.

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Michelle Diener is a jack-of-all-trades, a gifted writer who can move between genres with ease and find success among multiple demographics. The historic mystery in The Emperor's Conspiracy proved her a master of intrigue while fantasy adaptations like Mistress of the Wind and The Golden Apple highlighted her creativity and original narrative style. She wields a wickedly witty pen and though her work leans toward lighter fiction, I've always found it delightfully entertaining and A Dangerous Madness was no exception. 

Like the earlier installments of Diener's Regency London series, the story builds on an actual event. I was not familiar with the assassination of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval prior to picked up this book, but found my naiveté enhanced my experience with the novel as it prompted me to look deeper into the material. Phoebe and Wittaker are wonderful characters and I enjoyed the chemistry they shared, but the facts of their story were easily my favorite aspect of the narrative.

The books are written as stand-alones and can be read in any order, but that said, I like the subtle nod Diener offered those already acquainted with Giselle Barrington, Lord Aldridge, Charlotte Raven and Lord Durnham. I don't think the mysteries themselves particularly perplexing, but they've momentum and character, a playfulness that is as evident in their construction as it is their heroines and heroes. Some elements feel a tad far-fetched for the period, but Diener makes up for it with plenty of lighthearted mischief and lively banter. 

Chock full of secrets, romance, and suspense, A Dangerous Madness proved an absolute pleasure. A fun and engaging tale from beginning to end. 

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She ached to break the rules, to heave off the yoke of polite manners that kept her small and cowed and unable to follow her inclinations. But the cruel joke was she did not want to be alone, either. Did not want to be a social pariah.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Searching for Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: December 9, 2014

For a small-town girl with a big dream in 1955, there is no address more glamorous than New York’s Barbizon Hotel. Laura, a patrician beauty from Smith, arrives in its vaunted halls to work at Mademoiselle for the summer. Her hopelessly romantic roommate Dolly comes from a working-class upstate town to attend secretarial school. Vivian, a brash, redheaded British bombshell with a disregard for the hotel’s rules, rounds out the unlikely trio of friends. As the summer wears on, Laura struggles to find her footing in the chic but formidable world of Manhattan publishing while Dolly battles her own demons of self-doubt. Vivian longs to sing at the Stork Club instead of just shilling cigarettes there, but finds herself floundering in more ways than one. Together, the girls embark on a journey of self-discovery that will take them from the penthouse salons of Park Avenue to the Beat scene of Greenwich Village to Atlantic City’s Steel Pier — and into the arms of very different men who will alter their lives forever.

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Many know I'm a self-proclaimed cover slut, so I want to be perfectly clear when I say that Greta Sibley's design had nothing to do with my decision to read and review Michael Callahan's Searching for Grace Kelly. The truth is I've many delightful character flaws and one is a tendency to let my imagination run wild which likely explains my bypassing the description under the assumption the title's focus was the famed Princess of Monaco. If memory serves, I was somewhere in chapter three when I broke to read the premise and erupted into giggles 
over own incompetence. Looking back, I'm almost sorry no one was 'round to witness that realization because if it was even half as amusing as I imagine we'd all have a tale to tell.

I suppose you're wondering where I'm going with this and I promise, I've a point. You see, that moment gave me reason to pause and reflect on exactly what I'd gotten myself into. Callahan's themes lean toward women's fiction, a genre I've a historically rocky relationship with and I'm not particularly keen on the 1950s. Had I bothered to do my homework, I'd have skipped the title without a second thought, but as it stood I'd managed a good thirty pages and am too damned stubborn to give up without a fight. So, skeptical of my prospects and suspicious of the material, I continued dubiously down the rabbit hole. And what did I discover at the bottom? A captivating novel that defied both odds and expectation.

Atmospherically, Searching for Grace Kelly presents a fascinating portrait of New York. The glitz and glamour of Park Avenue plays beautifully against the bohemian counterculture of Greenwich Village and the seedier elements of the city's back alleys, but none of this holds a candle to the sisterhood Callahan created behind the walls of the Barbizon Hotel. Laura, Dolly and Vivian forge a unique bond despite their differences and I found the ambiance of their shared living situation and the experiences it fostered quite entertaining.

The girls themselves are very well-drawn and universally engaging, but it was the supporting cast that captured my attention. Metzger, Nicky, Jack, Pete, Box, Betsy and Connie enjoy minor roles, but they are essential to the telling and I loved how Callahan gave each a significant moment with one or another of his protagonists. I also appreciate that not all of these characters are admirable and applaud Callahan's decision to include such a colorful group of individuals within his narrative.

Wicked, witty and overflowing with intrigue, Searching for Grace Kelly was an absolute pleasure. A surprising fiction that caught me off guard in the best possible way. 

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“It’s like she’s made of steel, yet the most lovely, beautiful steel ever crafted. There’s something always lingering just beneath the surface when you look at her — a sense of mystery and sex, of all the weapons one can use to be a truly compelling woman.”
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: December 20, 2014

In Reconstruction-era America, vampire Henry Sturges is searching for renewed purpose in the wake of his friend Abraham Lincoln's shocking death. It will be an expansive journey that will first send him to England for an unexpected encounter with Jack the Ripper, then to New York City for the birth of a new American century, the dawn of the electric era of Tesla and Edison, and the blazing disaster of the 1937 Hindenburg crash. Along the way, Henry goes on the road in a Kerouac-influenced trip as Seth Grahame-Smith ingeniously weaves vampire history through Russia's October Revolution, the First and Second World Wars, and the JFK assassination. Expansive in scope and serious in execution, The Last American Vampire is sure to appeal to the passionate readers who made Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a runaway success.

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Every reader I know has a guilty pleasure and I am no exception. Some like steamy romances, others favor straight-up erotica, but I myself gravitate to steampunk and paranormal fiction which is how I discovered Seth Grahame-Smith back in 2010. I'd just reread Pride and Prejudice and feeling game for a laugh, I decided to follow it up with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. 

Honestly I found the book amusing, but I wasn't overly impressed with the title, so I very nearly passed when a local bookseller recommended Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Please excuse the pun, but I like books I can sink my teeth into and while my first experience with Grahame-Smith had been entertaining, I'd found Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fluffy and I didn't consider a second go round particularly promising. Fortunately for all, I ignored my initial impulse and threw the recommendation on top of my other purchases. 

For the record, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a much better book than it is a movie. It is playful and dark, but it is also remarkably clever. Grahame-Smith wove several elements of Lincoln's life into the fabric of his fiction and placed some very imaginative twists on Civil War battles like Bull Run and Antietam. The author's inclusion of headliners such as Edgar Allan Poe, William H. Seward, Stephen A. Douglas, George B. McClellan, and John Wilkes Booth further emphasized his appreciation for the history on which the story was based and brought a unique dynamic to a genre typically void of authentic detail. In short, I loved it. 

Naturally, this appreciation prompted significant enthusiasm for The Last American Vampire (Bout time I got round to the book in question eh?). A sequel for lack of a better term, Grahame-Smith's latest release reunites readers with Henry Sturges and chronicles the vampiric history of America from Roanoke to the assassination of JFK while tying Abe's enigmatic mentor to the Whitechapel Murders and the October Revolution. Notable cameos represent a who's who of history with appearances by Abraham Lincoln, Adam Fitzroy Plantagenet, Frederick Abberline, Sir Henry Irving, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John White, Virginia Dare, Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, Felix Yusupov, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Grigori Rasputin, Alexei Nikolaevich, John D. Rockefeller, Chief Powhatan, John Smith, Niels Bohr, J. Edgar Hoover, Eliot Ness, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Howard Hughes, Lee Harvey Oswald, John F. Kennedy and Jack Ruby.

So what are my thoughts? Did The Last American Vampire live up to its predecessor or did it fall short like Grahame-Smith's adaptation of Austen's classic? Honestly, I think it somewhere in between. The historic scope of the novel appealed to my interests and I get a kick out of Grahame-Smith's sense of humor, but feel the execution lacked necessary cohesion and question the significance of much of the material in relation to Henry's pursuit of Grander. It's a fun piece, but much like Norrington's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the final product fails to meet its full potential. 

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Just as the towering myth of Abraham Lincoln—honest backwoods lawyer, spinner of yarns, righter of wrongs—tells only part of the truth, so, too, is the myth of America woefully incomplete. The country that Ronald Reagan once called “a shining city upon a hill” has, in fact, been tangled up in darkness since before she was born. Millions of souls have graced the American stage over the centuries, played parts both great and small, and made their final exits. But of all the souls who witnessed America’s birth and growth, who fought in her finest hours, and who had a hand in her hidden history, only one soul remains to tell the whole truth.
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Monday, December 22, 2014

The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: December 1, 2014

Hugh of Singleton, fourth son of a minor knight, has been educated as a clerk, usually a prelude to taking holy orders. However, he feels no real calling—despite his lively faith—and he turns to the profession of surgeon, training in Paris, and then hanging his sign in Oxford. Soon after, a local lord asks Hugh de Singleton to track the killer of a young woman whose bones have been found in the castle cesspool. Through his medical knowledge, Singleton identifies her as the impetuous missing daughter of a local blacksmith. The young man she loved—whom she had provoked very publicly—is quickly arrested and sentenced at Oxford. But this is just the beginning of the tale. The story of Singleton's adventure unfolds with realistic medical procedures, droll medieval wit, romantic distractions, and a consistent underlying sense of Christian compassion.

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Mel Starr's The Unquiet Bones landed in my inbox as most tour books do. I'd not heard of the author and the series was entirely unknown to me, but I like medieval fiction and felt the premise promising enough to take the plunge.

Now I'll be honest, it took me a while to get into this one. Starr's style isn't typical and I was several chapters in before I really got a handle on it, but it was smooth sailing from there on. Hugh de Singleton is an easy protagonist to understand and I liked that he isn't pompous or arrogant. In point of fact, his struggle to gain confidence in himself makes him rather empathetic and relatable. 

The mystery itself could have been more complex, but I wasn't dissatisfied with how things played out. I liked the atmospheric quality of Bampton and I felt Starr's treatment of religion quiet interesting. That said, the surgical descriptions were by far my favorite element of the book and I think Starr's attention to detail in regard to the practice of medieval medicine brought something very special to the narrative.

Enjoyable and entertaining, The Unquiet Bones is an engaging tale of a compassionate man in uncertain times. Recommend to fans of Ellis Peters, Umberto Eco and Ariana Franklin. 

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The youth spoke of his reasons for desiring Margaret for a wife, among which were her health, her likely fecundity, her reputation for hard work won at her father’s forge, and even her appearance. He did not mention love, but such emotion is trivial compared to the important issues of survival, work, and heirs.
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Check Out All the Stops on Mel Starr's The Unquiet Bones Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 1
Review at Carpe Librum
Wednesday, December 10
Spotlight & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, December 18
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession
Friday, December 19
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Saturday, December 20
Review at Book Nerd
Monday, December 22
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, December 26
Spotlight at Layered Pages
Monday, December 29
Review at A Book Geek
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Tuesday, December 30
Review at My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace
Wednesday, December 31
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Friday, January 2
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Interview with Alex Graham, heroine of The Graham Saga by Anna Belfrage

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I was super excited about welcoming author Anna Belfrage back to Flashlight Commentary to discuss Whither Thou Goest.

Unfortunately, Anna's busy schedule left little opportunity for causal conversation which is how I found myself dubiously considering a mug of tea across from Alex Graham while our mutual acquaintance worked busily away in the next room. Not being one to look gift horse in the mouth I took advantage the moment and improvised an impromptu Q&A. I hope Anna isn't too upset, but deadlines are deadlines after all. 

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Please excuse my impertinence, but every time I pick up one of Anna's novels I wonder what you miss most about life in the twentieth century? 
Err… What I miss the most? The most, she says? Umm… Hot showers, I think. Or maybe cars. No, wait: a washing machine. Or a newspaper. Or seeing The Lord of the Rings – I only got to see the first movie. Hmm. No, if I have to choose one thing it is the hot showers.

You haven't seen the rest of the trilogy! Anna is going to hear about this. Least she can do is put it on while you're waiting to review her manuscriptIs there anything you’re happy to be rid of? 
Stress? Not that it isn’t stressful here as well, but the constant dividing of the day in minute segments of time, in deadlines and stuff, that we don’t do here. Things take the time they take, and sometimes it takes one day, sometimes it takes two. Somehow, modern man has lost the capacity to savour life as it is – as I recall it, we were constantly on our way to the next big thing, the next buzz. Here, I’ve REALLY learnt to appreciate the humdrum – but that may have something to do with the more adventurous aspects of my life.

A quiet existence is hard to come by anymore, though Anna seems to have found a happy medium at her summer house. What part of seventeenth century life do you like the most? 
Goes together with the answer to the previous question, I believe. The capacity to live in the here and now, to be grateful for the fundamentals such as health and having food on our plates. From a more personal perspective, the single best thing with life is Matthew.

I think all Anna's readers are jealous of what you and Matthew have with one another, but it didn't come without sacrifice. There must be elements you dislike about the path you've chosen. 
It is very insular. It’s not as if I can keep abreast of what is happening in the big, wide world. Generally, by the time I hear the news, they’re nowhere close to being news anymore. 

I can't imagine. Daily life must be a completely different experience in Graham's Garden. It isn't as if you can just run down to the grocery store. What seventeenth century life skill was the most difficult for you master? 
That of pretending to consider men my betters – but Matthew says I have ways to go before I’ve got that one down pat. Plus I have still haven’t quite mastered the art of knitting…

Knitting isn't so hard, I actually find it rather therapeutic in that it gives me time to think things over. Speaking of which, do think about the politics and religion differently than you used to? 
Yes. Used to be, I wasn’t all that sure God existed. Now I know He does, even if at times I find Him unfair – but Matthew says that’s because we can never fully comprehend God. Hmm. I think it is because He IS unfair – from a narrow human perspective. What hasn’t changed is my opinion of religious fanatics – and let me tell you they pop out of the woodwork here. Men (and women) can at times have the most intolerant approach to their fellow-men. Idiots! 

As to politics; same old, same old. Those who have power don’t want to relinquish it – those that don’t have it, want it. The methods to achieve power are perhaps more visibly brutal in the 17th century than in modern times, but it is essentially the same cutthroat approach that is valid. 


Politicians, some things never change do they? If you could go back to the day of the thunderstorm, what piece of advice would you give yourself? 
Not leave the car? But if I hadn’t, I would never have met Matthew, and that is such an unbearable thought it almost makes me cry. So I guess my advice to myself would be “Do exactly what you did last time”. 

That's so amazing, considering all you and your family have been through. Do you have any regrets? 
Isaac. I failed him – not perhaps, out of any fault of my own, but all the same. Sometimes I wish I had not sent him back to his time that summer when he was seven. I should have kept him with me, raised him, loved him. Loved him? I never loved him as he deserved – it wasn’t his fault his father was a sadistic bastard. Poor Isaac. (Alex falls silent, staring blankly at the wall)

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry, but I think everyone has moments like that, chapters they wish they could rewrite, demons who dog their steps. Is there anything you fear might be in your future?
That I will have to bury another of my children. Mothers shouldn’t survive their babies – but in the here and now, mothers very often do. It feels wrong, somehow. And then there’s the paralyzing fear that one day I might wake up and discover I’ve been transported back to my original time – without my Matthew. Sheesh… (Alex digs around for a handkerchief) Actually, thinking of life without Matthew is pretty awful. I intend to die before him, let me tell you!

What you have together is truly special, at least that's how it comes across in Anna's writing. What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
My children. All ten of them, even if I have no idea what kind of person Isaac might have become, lost in the future as he is. I think he’s okay – and sometimes I have these glimpses of him, and he seems happy. 

But it is my children in the here and now that make me swell with pride – after all, I can’t take any credit for Isaac, can I? 


I suppose not, but I understand what you mean. My children are my greatest joy and I'm fiercely proud of them both. What do you consider your greatest strength? 
I don’t give up – ever. And I’m as protective as an enraged lioness when it comes to my family – all of them, including Matthew. Especially Matthew…

That definitely comes through in the books. What do you consider your greatest weakness? 
I don’t give up – ever. Sometimes your greatest strength is also your weakness. There are battles one cannot win, and it is better to admit defeat and go on to fight another day than to continue arguing your case.

Well said. Two sides of the same coin and all. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 
I’d like to become better at dissimulating. As it is, Matthew can read my face as if it were a book – and not only Matthew, I fear.

I know the feeling... If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? 
I’d sneak off and lie naked in the sun – I haven’t worked on a tan since I got here. And when I got bored with that, I’d do some serious disco dancing. Plus eat cake. A good day includes cake. 

Do you get a lot of sun in Maryland? I've always imagined it cloudy and overcast. Guess that's what I get for making my home on the west coast. Is there anything you've always wanted to do but haven't? 
Not really. I wasn’t intending to time travel, and that has been quite the experience in itself. I used to dream of visiting Tibet, but that isn’t about to happen, I think. 

You never know. Portuguese missionaries began work in Tibet in 1624. Maybe you and Matthew could contribute to their cause. On that note, how would you define your relationship with your husband?   
He completes me, makes me a better person. Together, we carry each other through the darkest of days – and we’ve had a few of those, let me tell you. But we also have the wonderful moments, those instances in time forever engraved in my heart, a sequence of memories of him and me, lying close together, talking, kissing, making love… And at times, it’s like we merge together, you know? Two halves made into a stronger one – that’s Matthew and me. Which is why it is so crippling to even consider a life without him: how could I live on, if I am yanked in two? 

I'm not a gambler, but I'd bet money on readers sighing when they read that response. What do you like best about him? 
I take it you’re talking inner qualities, right? I mean, his physical attributes are obvious – tall, strong, handsome, beautiful hazel eyes, hands that can be so very, very gentle one moment, so very, very demanding at others…And his mouth – look at the curve of his lower lip. (Alex clears her throat) As to his other qualities, what I like best about him is that he loves me just as I am. 

Ha! No shame in appreciating what you have. What do you like least about him? 
I can’t say I’m a major fan of his “I’m the man, so I decide” approach to some things. In fact, it pisses me off no end when he pulls the gender card on me. To his credit, he doesn’t do it all that often – even if he’s entitled to do so, what with me being nothing but his property – at least as per the law. Ugh!

I think I'd scream if someone tried preaching the superiority of the Y chromosome, but I'm a single mom so my tolerance for that sort of pigheadedness is pretty short. If asked, how do you think Matthew would describe you? 
Me? Ha! I guess you should ask him, right? I think he’d describe me as opinionated. He says that a lot when he’s upset with me… I also think he’d say I am brave – foolhardy at times. I think he’s as proud of me as I am of him – I hope so at least. 

If he has even half Anna's admiration for you, you're golden. Speaking of which, what is it like working with Anna? 
She’s very determined. And bloody stubborn. Not the best at compromising, either, and she gets this bright look in her eyes when she starts devising a plot and I go “uh-oh” because I know that whenever she looks at me or Matthew like that, she is planning yet another adventure for us. But she’s good at listening – to me and Matthew – and I know for a fact she loves us. Very, very much, does she love us, which is probably why she’s been crying her eyes out while she’s been writing the next book – the last book, she says. Huh. 

I've anticipated tears of my own since finishing Whither Thou Goest. Truth is I'm not ready to say goodbye. Have you enjoyed the response her books have generated?
Mostly, yes. But some of the stuff she writes is so intimate, and just the thought of someone peeking in on me and Matthew… well, it makes me blush, okay? 

I'm not even gonna touch that one though I certainly see where you're coming from. How about your family? What do they think of the series?
Ruth is less than thrilled, muttering that she comes across as quite the prim little madam (which she is – sometimes). The boys are pretty okay with being minor celebrities, even if Samuel has not quite forgiven Anna for that business with his ear. Sarah was a wreck after the sixth book. A total wreck. Now, she’s in a better place, and more than pleased about her role in the latest book. Mrs Parson thinks more time should be expended on describing her knitting, but Anna has told her (rather brutally) that readers aren’t that interested in how she stripes her stockings. Mrs Parson refused to speak to Anna until she apologized. 

With all due respect to Mrs Parson, I have to side with Anna on that one. Wouldn't want To Catch a Falling Star to be a how to guide to needle-craft after all. I know it's frightfully rude to ask, but can you give readers any hints at what we might expect when it is published next March? 
Not sure I should – Anna can be quite a pain in the butt at times, and she will NOT like it if I give away parts of the plot. To be quite honest, there are parts she hasn’t even shared with me, but I know for a fact we will be going back to Scotland – and it is killing me to do so! I want us to stay here, with our children and grandchildren, but no, Matthew has decided he wants to see Hillview again. I can’t exactly let him go on his own, can I? Plus I must admit to being rather curious about Luke – has time mellowed him? According to Anna, there will be plenty of Luke in the next book, so maybe I’ll find out. And Isaac, Anna adds. WHAT? Look, I don’t have time to talk to you right now. I have to find out just what Anna is planning to put my son through. Let me tell you, I don’t like the look on her face. HEY, ANNA! Don’t you dare…(Alex fades away)


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ABOUT ALEX GRAHAM

Date of Birth: August 24, 1976

Astrological sign: Virgo (“Virgo? How boring is that,” she says with a laugh)

Education: Degrees in Computer Engineering and Programming. Most useful in her new environment she says sarcastically. A karate practitioner since childhood, she holds a black belt 4th dan and has also dabbled in jujitsu. Never got beyond “Smoke on the water” on guitar, but knows the lyrics to all her favourite rock songs – although she’s not quite sure this qualifies as education. Is a proficient user of the staple gun – has used it for everything from upholstery to fixing Halloween disguises. Sadly, staple guns do not exist in the seventeenth century. Good at drawing, crap at sewing and knitting. Used to consider herself a good chess player – until she met Matthew.

Favourite dish: Chocolate cake. Or maybe chocolate mousse, or chocolate ice cream or … Chocolate, she summarises with a little sigh.

Favourite pastime: Hot baths and Matthew.

Appearances: A Rip in the Veil, Like Chaff in the Wind, The Prodigal Son, A Newfound Land, Serpents in the Garden, Revenge and Retribution, Whither Thou Goest, To Catch a Falling Star 


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I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

Website ❧  Blog ❧  Facebook ❧  Twitter ❧  Goodreads


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Check Out All the Stops on Anna Belfrage's Whither Thou Goest Blog Tour Schedule


Tuesday, December 2
Review at Broken Teepee
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Wednesday, December 3
Review at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, December 4
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Friday, December 5
Guest Post at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Monday, December 8
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, December 9
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, December 10
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, December 11
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, December 12
Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, December 15
Review at Kincavel Korner
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Tuesday, December 16
Review at Layered Pages
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, December 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, December 18
Interview at Flashlight Commentary


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Whither Thou Goest by Anna Belfrage

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Read: December 14, 2014

Whither Thou Goest is the seventh book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham. In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour. Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds? So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met. Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all. Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?

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Readers often talk about escaping into novels, about stepping into the shoes of another and living a thousand different lives between the pages of their books. It's an interesting concept and one I certainly subscribe to, but it takes new meaning with each installment of The Graham Saga. Where most authors capture a moment, Anna Belfrage recreates a lifetime, an intimate portrait that few of her peers can rival. 

On the surface, Wither Thou Goest is an adventure. A quest that takes the Grahams from their comfortable colonial home to the turmoil of the West Indies. It is a rescue mission complete with danger, heartbreak and intrigue. Pretty straightforward stuff, until one looks beneath the surface. Behind the scenes, every member of the family is struggling with personal demons, the ripple effects of events seen in earlier installments of the series and while I love the drama created by Charlie's situation, I found the emotional foundation of the book far more captivating.

Sarah's plight was a challenge for me, as were Ian's struggle with responsibility, Matthew's private pain and Samuel's divided loyalties. Alex's attempts to navigate the storm while managing her own conflicts represented yet another obstacle, but the dynamic illustrated by the family's interactions created an engaging and intricately complex portrait of loyalty and honor and I love the inherent contrast it bore in comparison to Luke's branch of the Graham family as well as the Burley/Connor relations. 

Beautifully written, thought-provoking and intense, Whither Thou Goest lives up to its predecessors in every possible way. A must read for any fan of historic fiction. 

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His mouth stretched into a mirthless smile. No doubt Graham thought him well and truly dead, for how was someone to survive disfigurement and pain such as the one he had been subjected to?
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Check Out All the Stops on Anna Belfrage's Whither Thou Goest Blog Tour Schedule


Tuesday, December 2
Review at Broken Teepee
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Wednesday, December 3
Review at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, December 4
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Friday, December 5
Guest Post at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Monday, December 8
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, December 9
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, December 10
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, December 11
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, December 12
Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, December 15
Review at Kincavel Korner
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Tuesday, December 16
Review at Layered Pages
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, December 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, December 18
Interview at Flashlight Commentary


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