Monday, October 27, 2014

Interview with Deanna Raybourn, author of Night of a Thousand Stars

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Deanna Raybourn to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her latest release, Night of a Thousand Stars. 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Deanna. Great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Night of a Thousand Stars. 
Thanks for having me! NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS is a1920s adventure story featuring a runaway bride in search of the man who helped her escape her society wedding—a man who might have put his life in peril by trying to help her.

What inspired you to write this story? Where did it start? 
It had its roots in my previous book, CITY OF JASMINE. The lead male character in that novel, Gabriel Starke, even has a cameo in NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS. I realised when I wrote JASMINE that there was so much more to explore in that part of the world, and I had set up a long story arc I wanted to pick up again. STARS gave me a chance to push that further and also tie in some characters from my Victorian Lady Julia Grey series which was tremendous fun.

What was your favorite aspect of writing a story set in the Jazz Age? 
The Jazz Age offers an embarrassment of riches. It was a time of incalculable social change—there were the aftereffects of the Great War, socially,  politically, historically. There were new developments in technology and travel, and the role of women was changing on an almost daily basis. Manners and opportunities were evolving—even the clothes were glorious!

What theme do you hope resonates with readers of Night of a Thousand Stars? 
Poppy’s story is very much about bucking expectations to be your own person—wherever that leads. Whatever happens, Poppy is true to herself, and I think that’s essential to happiness.

Many readers have praised your heroine. What kind of woman is Poppy Hammond and why do you think she holds so much appeal? 
Poppy is a very modern girl. She is right on the cusp of adulthood, and she chooses this particular moment in her life to make that leap out of the expected and into something completely new. She is intrepid and brave and fiercely loyal, and I think that’s why readers like her so much. I also think they respond to the fact that she has no plan; she is clearly making it all up as she goes along.

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about Sebastian Cantrip? 
That his name isn’t Sebastian Cantrip! It’s apparent early on that this is a pseudonym and that what you see with Sebastian is definitely not all you get…he has many hidden talents, and he is definitely not  your usual English clergyman.

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing? 
The opening passage where Sebastian helps Poppy run away from her wedding was especially fun. Their conversation is so outrageously in appropriate—entirely Poppy’s fault!—that I was cracking up the entire time I wrote it. There’s a discussion of “sex-tides” that I found enormously enjoyable. 

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it?  
Oddly enough, the opening scene—the one I enjoyed so much! I had originally written that as the opening to CITY OF JASMINE, and for six weeks, I wrote and rewrote it and still wasn’t happy. So I scrapped it and wrote an entirely new opening to JASMINE, but I kept the idea of the runaway bride. It turns out that the scene that was thoroughly wrong for JASMINE was just perfect for NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS. It was a case of trying to make a heroine do something out of character just to fit the plot, and it kept biting me until I realised that and cut it. It kept reading ‘sad’ at the beginning of JASMINE, which is not at ALL what I wanted. When I used the scene in STARS instead, it immediately became comic because Poppy has an outrageous sense of humour. And then it worked precisely the way I wanted it to. I don’t usually advocated rewriting, but I’ve found if I can get my opening, the rest falls into place. Writing that same scene for six weeks gave me a chance to figure out exactly who the heroine of JASMINE was—and that she would never run away from a wedding!

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
Aunt Dove from CITY OF JASMINE. I absolutely adore her, and she had to be offstage for a good part of the action. I was able to give her a brief scene in the prequel novella, WHISPER OF JASMINE, but she really needed a project of her own. She ended up being the inspiration for my new lead series character, an adventuresome lepidopterist with Aunt Dove’s broadminded view of the world!

Historical novelists frequently have to adjustment facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing Night of a Thousand Stars and if so, what did you alter and why? 
I never change history. I will alter my plot if necessary, but not the facts. It’s very much a personal call for an author how much they will change, and I enjoy the challenge of making my timeline work WITH history instead of the other way around. And sometimes it leads to very interesting developments that are entirely serendipitous. In my current manuscript, I have the heroine away from England during a crucial point in her sidekick’s life; I just realised that during that period of time, there was a cataclysmic event in the part of the world where I wanted to put her. That gives me a chance to push her character in a direction I wouldn’t have thought to do without history giving that nudge. I can explore how she reacts to this event, how it shapes her going forward, and how she uses it to push herself to live in the moment. 

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why? 
Portia, Lady Bettiscombe. She’s ended up being a major foil to Lady Julia Grey but without revealing everything about her character. She still has loads of secrets, and I would love to spend time figuring out all about her. There are many questions I haven’t asked myself about why she is the way she is—and those would be interesting to finally answer.

Just because I’m curious, if you could pick a fantasy cast of actors to play the primary roles in a screen adaptation of your work, who would you hire? 
Tom Hiddleston and whoever he cares to bring. He has the most adorable joie de vivre!

Okay, we've talked a lot about your book. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit about you. How would describe your writing process? 
I’m an organised pantser. I have a general outline and several main points when I begin. As I work my way through, I flesh it out, figuring how to link the points as I go. Once the first draft is done, I prefer to let it sit a few weeks and then redraft, adding flesh to the bones. It isn’t always possible to have that resting time—I write very close to my deadlines. I write fast, but I don’t like to start early. Instead I read and plot and make notes and think. Then I panic and write. I am better under pressure because then I don’t overthink.

Who are your favorite authors? 
My short list would have to include Elizabeth Peters, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Jane Austen, Stella Gibbons, E. M. Delafield, Sarah Caudwell. 

What are you currently reading? 
I just finished MURDER AT THE BRIGHTWELL by Ashley Weaver. Highly recommended—it was charming!

What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies? 
No. I’m astonishingly lazy. I prefer to putter—I’ll play with knitting or art but I don’t actually aspire to produce anything. I love to travel and manage a fair bit of that. Otherwise it’s reading, vintage movies, and spending time with people I adore.

Where do you stand on the coffee or tea debate? 
Tea! The only time I’ve ever drunk coffee was on a fishing boat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico when I was seven. I generally stick to Earl Grey or Lapsang souchong. 

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works? 
I am just finishing up the first novel in my new Victorian mystery series for NAL/Penguin! My sleuthing heroine is a globe-trotting butterfly hunter with a penchant for handsome men and unsolved mysteries…The first book is tentatively scheduled for release in autumn 2015. 

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A sixth-generation native Texan, Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio, where she met her college sweetheart. She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history. During summer vacation at the age of twenty-three, she wrote her first novel. After three years as a teacher, Deanna left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time.

Deanna Raybourn is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Lady Julia series, as well as, The Dead Travel Fast, A Spear of Summer Grass, and City of Jasmine.

Website ❧   Blog ❧   Facebook ❧   Twitter ❧   Goodreads

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"Night of A Thousand Stars brims over with romance, adventure, suspense and humour. I wish someone would make it into a movie!" - Kate Forsyth, bestselling author of BITTER GREENS

"Raybourn's first-class storytelling is evident....Readers will quickly find themselves embarking on an unforgettable journey that fans both old and new are sure to savor." - Library Journal on City of Jasmine

"Raybourn skillfully balances humor and earnest, deadly drama, creating well-drawn characters and a rich setting." - Publishers Weekly on Dark Road to Darjeeling

"From sweetly touching moments requiring tissues to hot-blooded hunts for prey of both two- and four-legged varieties, this book elicits the widest range of emotions, and does it with style." - Library Journal on A Spear of Summer Grass

"With a strong and unique voice, Deanna Raybourn creates unforgettable characters in a richly detailed world. This is storytelling at its most compelling." - Nora Roberts, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"[A] perfectly executed debut... Deft historical detailing [and] sparkling first-person narration." - Publishers Weekly on Silent in the Grave, starred review

"A sassy heroine and a masterful, secretive hero. Fans of romantic mystery could ask no more-except the promised sequel." - Kirkus Reviews on Silent in the Grave

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Format: Print &eBook
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Released by: Harlequin MIRA
ISBN-13: 978-0778317753
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Check Out All the Stops on Deanna Raybourn's Night of a Thousand Stars Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 29
Review & Giveaway at Bookish
Tuesday, September 30
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, October 1
Spotlight at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, October 2
Review at Ramblings From This Chick
Friday, October 3
Review at Book Babe
Monday, October 6
Review at Unabridged Chick
Spotlight & Giveaway at Reading Lark
Tuesday, October 7
Review at Candace’s Book Blog
Wednesday, October 8
Review at Good Books and Good Wine
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Thursday, October 9
Excerpt at A Book Geek
Guest Post & Giveaway at Good Books and Good Wine
Monday, October 13
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, October 14
Review at Reading the Past
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, October 15
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Thursday, October 16
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Friday, October 17
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Monday, October 20
Review at The Life & Times of a Book Addict
Excerpt at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, October 21
Review & Giveaway at Bookshelf Fantasies
Spotlight & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing
Wednesday, October 22
Review, Excerpt & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, October 23
Review at Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Friday, October 24
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Monday, October 27
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, October 28
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Wednesday, October 29
Review & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please
Thursday, October 30
Review & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry

Friday, October 24, 2014

Jazz Baby by Téa Cooper

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: October 14, 2014

In the gritty underbelly of 1920s Sydney, a fresh-faced country girl is about to arrive in the big, dark city – and risk everything in the pursuit of her dreams. Sydney is no place for the fainthearted – five shillings for a twist of snow, a woman for not much more, and a bullet if you look sideways at the wrong person. Dolly Bowman is ready and willing to take on all the brash, bustling city has to offer. After all it is the 1920s, a time for a girl to become a woman and fulfil her dreams. Turning her back on her childhood, she takes up a position working as a housemaid while she searches for her future. World War I flying ace Jack Dalton knows he’s luckier than most. He’s survived the war with barely a scratch, a couple of astute business decisions have paid off, and he’s set for the high life. But a glimpse of a girl that he had forgotten, from a place he’s tried to escape suddenly sets all his plans awry. Try as he might he can’t shake the past, and money isn’t enough to pay the debts he’s incurred.

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I'm not much of a romance reader, but I rolled the dice on Téa Cooper's Jazz Baby. The WWI reference caught my attention and I was more than a little intrigued by the setting. Unfortunately, the novel didn't work for me and I admit, I'd be hard pressed to recommend it.

For one, I felt the jacket description incredibly misleading. The blurb paints Dolly Bowman as an adventurous and determined young woman, but her character is neither. Exceedingly naive and prone to making brash assumptions, Dolly is much more of a Dumb Dora. Her romantic interest, Jack Dalton, had potential, but he's far too pure of heart for a Lounge Lizard. 

I was similarly turned off by Cooper's highly coincidental plot twists. I wont ruin the story for anyone, but
 Jack and Number Fifty-Four, the man he meets at Susie's, Cynthia's sudden change of heart, all of it left me rolling my eyes. There is no tension here and very little mystery, just a drawn out chain of events leading to one inevitable conclusion and forgive me, but that's not the kind of literature that appeals to me.

It was a crap shoot going in and this time fortune failed me. I wanted something historically authentic, characters who radiated the attitudes and conscience of the jazz age, but I afraid Jazz Baby missed the mark and left me wanting. 

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He cast his eye up and down her trim figure. She'd undone the dreadful brown worsted coat and the sight of the heart-shaped neckline on her plain cotton dress made a man wonder what lay beneath. Jack quelled the desire to laugh at his reaction, sitting here watching his erstwhile sister, thinking thoughts he didn't even dare admit. 
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rosings by Karen Aminadra

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: May 11, 2013

Trapped and cloistered in her own home. Anne de Bourgh, wealthy heiress daughter of the inimitable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, yearns to be set free from her luxurious prison, Rosings Park. Her life stretches out before her, ordered and planned, but it is a life she does not want. She wants more. She wants to be free. She wants to do everything that has been forbidden her, and she wants more than anything to fall in love with whom she chooses. Lady Catherine de Bourgh has other plans for Anne. Will Lady Catherine have her own way as always? Will Anne succeed? Can she break through the barriers of wealth, rank and duty?

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I think most book junkies can understand the impulse that led me to Karen Aminadra's Rosings. I finished book one, looked the author up, realized she'd written a sequel and quickly succumbed to the enthusiasm that lingers after completing a title you've enjoyed. That's right folks, I am an addict. I'm not at all interested in rehabilitation so don't ask, but I'm always accepting recommendations if you have something you think I should consider.  

For the record, I liked this piece. Anne is practically a footnote in Pride and Prejudice and I really enjoyed seeing her step into the spotlight. As with Charlotte, I think the premise set forth in the jacket description compliments Austen's classic and I appreciate how Aminadra sought to build on details established in the original text. I'll grant she takes liberties with the material, but all things considered I have only one complaint: Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Anne's mother terrorizes Lizzie for flashing her 'fine eyes' in Darcy's direction and she isn't any kinder to the residents of Hunsford in Charlotte, so why Aminadra attempted an about-face in Rosings is beyond my comprehension. I adore the layers Aminadra gifted Miss de Bourgh, but the effort she put toward reforming her ladyship seemed entirely unnatural considering the earlier incarnations of the character. 

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Anne realised , with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, that if she did not assert herself now and on this particular issue, she would quite possibly never be happy again.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Charlotte by Karen Aminadra

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: May 10, 2013

When Charlotte Lucas married Mr Collins, she did not love him but had at least secured her future. However, what price must she pay for that future? She once said she was not romantic, but how true is that now after almost one year of marriage? Mr Collins is submissive in the extreme to his patroness, and his constant simpering, fawning and deference to the overbearing and manipulative Lady Catherine de Bourgh is sure to try the patience of a saint, or at least of Charlotte. As Charlotte becomes part of Hunsford society, she discovers she is not the only one who has been forced to submit to the controlling and often hurtful hand of Lady Catherine. She feels trapped and realises her need for love and affection. She is not as content as she once thought she would be. The easiest thing to do would be to maintain the peace and do as she is told. But as Charlotte witnesses the misery around her due to her inimitable neighbour, she must decide to remain as she is or to begin a chain of events that will change not only her life but also the lives of those around her in the village of Hunsford forever. But...after all, doesn't every girl deserve a happy ending?

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In the world of Austen based lit, Karen Aminadra's Charlotte was a pleasant surprise. I'd picked it up as a freebie and didn't expect much from the piece, but ultimately enjoyed the author's refreshingly original take on Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Building on Austen's beloved classic, Aminadra chronicles the early days of William and Charlotte's marriage, offering readers the opportunity to indulge their love of Pride and Prejudice while affording two of its minor characters a rare chance at redemption. 

What I liked most about the piece is how natural it feel alongside the original. As with all spin-offs, I feel it important for writers to acknowledge the spirit of the piece on which their story is based. As such, I truly appreciated that Aminadra allowed the character attributes Austen established in the original to factor in her continuation. The said, the depth Aminadra brings to William and Charlotte is certainly worth acknowledging. The Collinses are fairly one dimensional beings in Pride and Prejudice and  I was drawn to the idea that time, perspective and circumstance might allow them to grow beyond those 'first impressions' and into a mutually compassionate and loving couple. 

Aminadra isn't as charitable in her treatment of Lady Catherine de Burgh, but every good story needs an antagonist. The indomitable mistress of Rosings caused her share of trouble in Pride and Prejudice, but her campaign against Lizzie has nothing on her treatment of Hunsford and its residents. While not exactly endearing, the character proves an excellent foil for the Collinses and brings an exceptional sense of melodrama to the novel. I have similar feelings regarding Colonel Fitzwilliam, but again, the story needed someone to push Charlotte and really liked how his role furthered the narrative.

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Charlotte paused with her cup halfway to her mouth at his invitation to meet her again there in the clearing. She did not know how to react. Her mind screamed that she was a married woman and that her husband was a clergyman but her body and heart had other ideas.
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: October 19, 2014

A terrible loss. A desperate journey. A mother seeks the truth. In December of the year 1377, five children were burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths. Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village. For years, she has concealed herself and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption.

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Author Ned Hayes was entirely unfamiliar to me when Sinful Folk arrived in my mailbox and I'll be honest, I didn't really know what to expect from the book when I cracked it open. All I know for certain is that I was pretty ticked by the time I finished chapter eight. 

Now before you jump down my throat, realize context is everything. I began reading Sinful Folk in August when I'd landed an excerpt of the novel in nationwide contest. An excerpt that only included chapters one through eight. Do you see what I'm getting at? If not, allow me to spell it out for you. I was hooked on this piece from page one and wasn't exactly thrilled at only having part of the novel at my immediate disposal. 

For two months the story hovered on the edge of my imagination, but thankfully, Sinful Folk turned out to be worth waiting for. I actually reread the opening chapters and finished the entire novel in two days, but that's neither here nor there. What matters is that the delay and anticipation didn't outweigh my ultimate admiration for Hayes narrative.

First and foremost, I liked the tone of the piece. It's dark, heavy and desperate. Everything I'd imagine life in the fourteenth century to be. A lot of authors have a tendency to romanticize the era and I really appreciated the edginess of Hayes' prose especially when you consider the material he covers over the course of the story. There's a lot more in these pages than the jacket suggests - suspicion, anti-semitism, revenge, etc. - and here again, I think the layers and subplots bring a very authentic level of drama to the story. 

Mear is also worth noting. Her situation and lifestyle allow her to be a somewhat androgynous narrator. At times she feels masculine, at others feminine and I thought it really interesting to see that voice develop as she came into her own. It's not unusual to see a character evolve, but it isn't every day that an author is so creative in illustrating that transition. 

Sinful Folk is heavy reading and covers a substantial amount of historic material. There were a couple moments that I found almost overwhelming, but even so, I consider the time the time I gave this piece well spent and look forward to reading Hayes again in the future.  

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The good, the bad, the virgin, and the harlot: no one is spared, all go rose-spattered with plague lesions. I see no sense, no judgment before doom strikes. Death takes us all with the black malady or the sweating sickness, or the white blindness or the winter croup, or the crops failing or bitter water in our mouths.
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Check Out All the Stops on Ned Hayes' Sinful Folk Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 20
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, October 21
Review at Historical Novel Review
Wednesday, October 22
Spotlight at What is That Book About
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, October 23
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Guest Post at Books and Benches
Monday, October 27
Review at Just One More Chapter
Spotlight & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, October 28
Interview at Layered Pages
Wednesday, October 29
Review at Back Porchervations
Thursday, October 30
Interview at Back Porchervations
Friday, October 31
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Monday, November 3
Interview at Triclinium
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews
Tuesday, November 4
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, November 5
Review at Deal Sharing Aunt
Thursday, November 6
Review at bookramblings
Saturday, November 8
Review at Book Nerd
Monday, November 10
Review at Book Babe
Tuesday, November 11
Review at Impressions in Ink
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Friday, November 14
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, November 18
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, November 19
Review at Books in the Burbs
Review at Bookworm Babblings
Thursday, November 20
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Friday, November 21
Review at Library Educated

The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours/Netgalley
Read: October 12, 2014

In 1688, torn by rebellions, England lives under the threat of a Dutch invasion. Redheaded Calumny Spinks is the lowliest man in an Essex backwater: half-French and still unapprenticed at seventeen, yet he dreams of wealth and title. When his father’s violent past resurfaces, Cal’s desperation leads him to become a coffee racketeer. He has just three months to pay off a blackmailer and save his father’s life - but his ambition and talent for mimicry pull him into a conspiracy against the King himself. Cal’s journey takes him from the tough life of Huguenot silk weavers to the vicious intrigues at Court. As the illicit trader Benjamin de Corvis and his controlling daughter Emilia pull him into their plots, and his lover Violet Fintry is threatened by impending war, Cal is forced to choose between his conscience and his dream of becoming Mister Calumny Spinks.

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Ask Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour coordinator Amy Bruno, acclaimed author Anna Belfrage or B.R.A.G. host Stephanie Moore Hopkins and they'll tell you my name is synonymous with one thing: coffee. I wont waste time denying it, the ambrosial beverage is my life blood, the fuel that keeps me writing reviews at all hours of the night. It's no exaggeration, I can rarely be found without a steaming hot cup at my side so when I heard author Piers Alexander had incorporated the robust bean and the coffeehouses of seventeenth century London into the plot of The Bitter Trade, let's just say I sat up and took notice. I've picked up novels on less, but few have impressed me as much as Alexander's debut. Richly atmospheric, the narrative plunges readers into the cutthroat world of England's capital, immersing them in a deliciously dark climate of suspicion and intrigue. 

Calumny Spinks, the unfortunately named son of an ill-favored union, proves a captivating and charismatic protagonist. Young though he is, the resourceful seventeen year old develops a bold, ambitious and passionate persona over the course of the narrative. A cheeky, foul-mouthed rogue with a propensity for trouble, the boy is memorable for all the right reasons and he isn't the only one. Across the board, Alexander composes a host of engaging and thought-provoking characters, individuals who illustrate what it meant to be outsiders, subject to English law but beyond its protection.

The explicitness of Alexander's language might offend more sensitive readers, but personally, I liked his wickedly sharp and biting prose. Fast-paced and quick-witted, one can't help being swept into Cal's world and the conspiratorial schemes of which he finds himself a part. There were several instances where I felt Alexander might have done more with the story, but by and large I've no significant complaints over the time I spent with his work. 

Food for thought, The Bitter Trade is set against the Glorious Revolution, a period that is not well-known this side of the Atlantic and I while I certainly appreciated the historic scope of the novel, I'm not above suggesting readers familiarize themselves with the Huguenots before delving into this debut. It is not a requirement by any means, but a basic understanding of events might prove beneficial, especially to those who've never studied the overthrow of James II.

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“Ale makes men foolish,” snapped Peter, “but coffee makes them dangerous. Do not think on it. Where merchants gather, there is knavery in the air."
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Red Wolf's Prize by Regan Walker

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Read: September 28, 2014

Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed the heiress that goes with them, Lady Serena. Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord. Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans. As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart?

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Delving into eleventh century fiction always feels like coming home. It's pretty much where I started my love affair with period based literature and I don't think I've ever really gotten over it. Heavy romance isn't my usual stomping ground, but the premise of Regan Walker's The Red Wolf's Prize, with its reference to the Norman Conquest, piqued my interest so I figured it worth a shot. 

Generally speaking think this a fine piece. It's a great example of the genre and I liked how Walker used the tension between the English and the Normans as a foundation for the tension between Renaud and Serena. I also enjoyed the subplots surrounding supporting characters Cassie and Rhodhi.

Ideally, I'd have liked to see more emphasis on the politics of the day and a more complex story overall, but that's just me. All told, The Red Wolf's Prize is a lighter historical, perfect for those who appreciate heavy romantic story lines and heated passion. 

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With sudden clarity, he realized he’d been played the fool. Rage filled him as he slowly rose. The lady had deceived him, living beneath his nose disguised as a servant, determined to thwart his claim to her. Well, her deception was at an end.
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Check Out All the Stops on Regan Walker's The Red Wolf’s Prize Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, October 1
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Friday, October 3
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry
Monday, October 6
Review at Historical Romance Lover
Tuesday, October 7
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Wednesday, October 8
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession
Thursday, October 9
Spotlight at Book Reviews by Lanise Brown
Friday, October 10
Review at Unshelfish
Saturday, October 11
Spotlight & Excerpt at The Lusty Literate
Monday, October 13
Review at The Life & Times of a Book Addict
Tuesday, October 14
Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes
Wednesday, October 15
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, October 16
Review at Book Marks the Spot
Saturday, October 18
Spotlight at Romantic Historical Reviews
Wednesday, October 22
Review at Princess of Eboli
Spotlight & Giveaway at bookworm2bookworm’s Blog