Wednesday, July 18, 2018

FLASHLIGHT COMMENTARY HAS MOVED


Hello fellow book lovers! Flashlight Commentary has moved and rebranded itself as 


Please join me at my new site for more book reviews and author interviews. 

Happy Reading!


Monday, April 30, 2018

#CoverCliche: In Secret Kept, In Silence Sealed

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting. 

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Willow Madison and her friends Copper and Audrey taught school in neighboring Texas towns until the Yankees rode in and burned them out. In the midst of fear and chaos, survivors banded together to fight for what remained of their homes. Then word reached the people that the terrible war was over.

Now penniless but still hopeful, Willow vows she will take care of her friends, and her ailing uncle, in Thunder Ridge, Texas, even if it means having to marry wealthy Silas Sterling, a man thirty years her senior. But standing in her way is sawmill owner Tucker Gray, with his enticing eyes and infuriating headstrong manner—the man Willow cannot get out of her head . . . or her heart. Even though her friends beg her not to give up her dream of happiness, Willow is determined to do the right thing for those who are dearest to her. But which path does God want Willow to take: a life of duty and commitment . . . or a life of everlasting love?

He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for "a reliable wife." She responded, saying that she was "a simple, honest woman." She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving her a wealthy widow, able to take care of the one she truly loved.

What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own. And what neither anticipated was that they would fall so completely in love.

Filled with unforgettable characters, and shimmering with color and atmosphere, A Reliable Wife is an enthralling tale of love and madness, of longing and murder. 

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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Monday, April 23, 2018

#CoverCliche: Celtic Queen

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting. 

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On the night of Guinevere’s birth, a wise woman declares a prophecy of doom for the child: She will be gwenhwyfar, the white shadow, destined to betray her king, and be herself betrayed. Years pass, and Guinevere becomes a great beauty, riding free across Northern Wales on her beloved horse. She is entranced by the tales of the valorous Arthur, a courageous warrior who seems to Guinevere no mere man, but a legend. Then she finds herself betrothed to that same famous king, a hero who commands her willing devotion. Just as his knights and all his subjects, she falls under Arthur’s spell.

At the side of King Arthur, Guinevere reigns strong and true. Yet she soon learns how the dark prophecy will reveal itself. She is unable to conceive. Arthur’s only true heir is Mordred, offspring of a cursed encounter with the witch Morgause. Now Guinevere must make a fateful choice: She decides to raise Mordred, teaching him to be a ruler and to honor Camelot. She will love him like a mother. Mordred will be her greatest joy–and the key to her ultimate downfall.

Return to a time of legend–the days of Guinevere and Arthur and the glory that was to become Camelot.


Forced to flee Ireland, Gracelin O’Malley boards a coffin ship bound for America, taking her young daughter with her on the arduous transatlantic voyage. In New York, Gracelin struggles to adapt to a strange new world and to the harsh realities of immigrant life in a city teeming with crime, corruption, and anti-Irish prejudice. As she tries to make a life for herself and her daughter, she reunites with her brother, Sean . . . and a man she thought she’d never see again. When her friendship with a runaway slave sweeps her into the volatile abolitionist movement, Gracelin gains entrée to the drawing rooms of the wealthy and powerful. Still, the injustice all around her threatens the future of those she loves, and once again, she must do the unthinkable.





The captivating story of Cot Daley, kidnapped in Galway and shipped to Barbados and sold as a slave. The survivor of a failed rebellion, in which black and Irish slaves have conspired to overthrow their masters, Cot Daley is called in for questioning. She agrees to give her account only as part of her life story, wanting to set the record straight for posterity. The tale of her amazing life unfolds: the journey to Barbados, the harrowing years of fieldwork on the sugarcane plantations, and her marriage to an African slave and rebel leader. Kate McCafferty brilliantly re-creates this little-known part of seventeenth-century history, when more than fifty thousand Irish were sold to the plantation owners of the Caribbean.



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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Monday, April 16, 2018

#CoverCliche: Stolen Kisses

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting. 

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The first retelling of the passionate, twelfth-century love story since the discovery of 113 lost love letters between Heloise d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abelard—the original Romeo and Juliet.

"While I sleep you never leave me, and after I wake I see you, as soon as I open my eyes, even before the light of day itself." —Abelard to Heloise

Among the young women of twelfth-century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.

But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Notre-Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

Martine Leavitt offers a spellbinding story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and high romance in this National Book Award Finalist. Keturah follows a legendary hart into the king's forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near. Little does she know that he is a young, handsome lord, melancholy and stern. Renowned for her storytelling, Keturah is able to charm Lord Death with a story and thereby gain a reprieve but only for twenty-four hours. She must find her one true love within that time or all is lost. Keturah searches desperately while the village prepares for an unexpected visit from the king, and Keturah is thrus into a prominent role as mysterious happenings alarm her friends and neighbors. Lord Death's presence hovers over this all until Keturah confronts him one last time in the harrowing climax.

Love is for women who have choices. She has none.

In eleventh-century France on the eve of the First Crusade, Isabel de Vermandois becomes the wife of a man old enough to be her father. He is Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan. A hero of the Norman victory at Hastings and loyal counselor to successive English kings, Robert is not all Isabel had expected. Cruel and kind by contrast, he draws her into the decadent court of King Henry I. As Robert's secrets are unraveled, Isabel finds her heart divided. Her duties as a wife and mother compel her, but an undeniable attraction to the young William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, tempts her. In a kingdom where love holds no sway over marital relations, Isabel must choose where her loyalties and her heart lie.

Based on the life of a remarkable medieval woman forgotten by time, The Burning Candle is a story of duty and honor, love and betrayal.

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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Monday, April 9, 2018

#CoverCliche: Lost in Thought

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting. 

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Will the dam hold?

Julie Wallace has always wanted to write. Trying to escape the Great Depression, Julie’s father buys The Alderton Sentinel, a small-town newspaper in flood-prone Alderton, Pennsylvania, and moves his family there. As flash floods ominously increase, Julie’s investigative reporting uncovers secrets that could endanger the entire community.

Julie, the newspaper, and her family are thrown into a perilous standoff with the owners of the steel mills as they investigate the conditions of the steelworkers. Battle lines are drawn between the steel mill owners and their immigrant laborers. As The Sentinel and Julie take on a more aggressive role in reforming these conditions in their community, seething tensions come to a head.

When a devastating tragedy follows a shocking revelation, Julie’s courage and strength are tested. Will truth and justice win, or will Julie lose everything she holds dear?

"This collection... escorts readers through historic Europe’s romantic settings in search of the perfect love story." --DESERET NEWS, Melissa DeMoux

In WAR OF HEARTS, Annette Lyon’s exciting novella, Anna, a journalist, is desperate to escape the magazine where Pete, her now-former boyfriend, also works. Heartbroken and still in love with him, Anna snags an assignment to cover the Winter War in Finland. She arrives at a snowy Finnish battlefront only to discover that Pete is already there—as her photographer. She’s determined to be professional about the situation until a battle breaks out in camp, putting her and Pete in harm’s way and putting their love to the test.

In bestselling regency romance author G.G. Vandagriff’s enchanting novella, THE EARL OF OAKSEY TAKES A WIFE, Melissa Burroughs is the new Countess of Oaksey. Her whirlwind romance and subsequent elopement was worth every divine moment, even if her parents did disapprove. When Melissa learns about her new husband’s apparently empty pockets, she wonders if the intimacy they’ve shared is only the ruse of a fortune-hunter. Melissa is devastated and determines to live a separate life from her new husband. But the Earl has other plans, which do not include staying away from his wife.

In Michele Paige Holmes’ charming story, GIFT OF LOVE, Ethan Mooreleigh knows he’ll never love another woman after the loss of his beloved wife. Yet he needs a male heir to inherit his vast fortune. Ethan’s best friend, Stuart, has an idea and retrieves his sister, Amelia, who has been living in a convent since the tragic death of her parents. Amelia only agrees to enter into the contract marriage because there’s a child involved, Ethan’s neglected three-year-old daughter. When Amelia meets Ethan for the first time at the altar, she realizes that the last thing she wants her marriage to be is loveless. But winning a man whose heart is still broken may be impossible.

A LESSON IN LOVE, a delightful novella by bestselling regency romance author Sarah M. Eden, captures the uncertainties of newlywed life. Lucy Stanthorpe arrives for the London Season, planning to attend every ball and musicale with her new husband, Reed, only to discover he has no intention of taking part in the social whirl. Spurred on by their family and friends, Lucy and Reed each formulate increasingly outlandish plans to teach the other a lesson in appreciation. Their battle of wills threatens to pull the young couple apart unless they can both soften their stubborn hearts.

In AN OCEAN AWAY, Heather B. Moore’s captivating story, Gina Graydon knows the last thing she’ll attract on her holiday in France is an eligible bachelor. Tall, outspoken, and with a weakness for laughing at the wrong moment, not to mention being much too occupied with reading gothic romances, Gina decides she’d rather live in her fictional world. Besides, the only man who pays attention to her at the resort hotel happens to be her father’s worst enemy. And that is far from romantic. Reading in a secluded garden, and dreaming about the perfect kiss, all keep Gina much too busy to consider Mr. Edmund Donaldson any sort of hero.

Nancy Campbell Allen’s entrancing regency romance novella, WHAT HAPPENS IN VENICE, follows Evangeline Stuart as she determines to enjoy her vacation in Venice—her first and likely her last since she lives under the strict confines of her step-father’s control. When she meets the mysterious and romantic Conte Bellini, who happens to be Italy’s most eligible bachelor, she decides he is all part of the dream of visiting Venice. It’s impossible for her to believe that his interest in her is anything more than kindness to a foreign visitor. But when he discovers the true betrayal of her step-father, Evangeline learns the Conte may be the one person with the power to restore her happiness.

Return to a Jazz Age tale of grand adventure by New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.

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

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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Monday, April 2, 2018

#CoverCliche: Across the Lonesome Prairie

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting. 

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Follow the paths of Sarah and Will (or Sam) as they tell their stories of trust, secrets, and betrayal on the frontier in the old West. Their pioneer spirit helped to fuel the expansion into the Western territories of the United States. The two are historically on their separate journeys, yet they remain intimately connected.

In 1878, Will is on the run after killing a man in a barroom gunfight. He escapes the Texas Rangers by joining a cattle drive as a cook headed to Dodge City. He struggles with the dilemma of saving his life or attempting to return to his pregnant wife and five children. Just when he thinks he might be able to return home, he is confronted by a bounty hunter who captures him and plans to return him to Fort Worth, Texas to be hanged.

Although Will changes his name to Sam, he remains an irresponsible, lonely and untrustworthy man on the dodge from the law who abandons the women he loves. He ultimately seeks redemption and marries Sarah.

In 1911, Sarah, a pioneer woman, and a widow with five children, struggles to find the inner strength to overcome betrayal, loneliness, fears, and self-doubt. Her husband, Sam, thirty years her senior, died with a mysterious and defiant declaration, "I won't answer!." Despite poverty and a crippling illness, she draws on her pioneer spirit to hold her family together and return to Nebraska to be near her parents and siblings.

When Sarah returns to Nebraska she receives staggering news which complicates her efforts to support her children. She is shocked, angry and emotionally devastated. Since she is attempting to establish herself in the community as a teacher, she believes she must keep her secret even from her own family. Will Sarah find forgiveness in her heart and the resolve to accept her new life alone?




One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.




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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Monday, March 26, 2018

#CoverCliche: Cautious by Nature

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting. 

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At the heart of truth lies madness...

Two months before Hitler's rise to power, a beautiful young woman is found naked and near death in the woods outside Berlin. When she finally wakes from her coma, she can remember nothing, not even her name. The only clue to her identity is a handbill found nearby, advertising a public lecture by Albert Einstein: 'On the Present State of Quantum Theory'.

Psychiatrist Martin Kirsch takes the case, little suspecting that this will be his last. As he searches for the truth about 'the Einstien Girl', professional fascination turns to reckless love. His investigations lead him to a remote corner of Siberia via a psychiatric hospital in Zurich. There the inheritor of Einstein's genius - his youngest son, Eduard - is writing a book that will destroy his illustrious father and, in the process, change the world.

A beautiful American spy flees into the night. On her own, she must live by her wits to evade capture and make it to the safety of the Allied forces.

Lily Saint James grew up traveling the European continent, learning languages as she went. In 1938, her mother’s abrupt death brings her back home to Washington, D.C., and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Lily comes to the attention of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Her knowledge of German, French, and Italian makes her the perfect OSS Agent, and her quick thinking places her as a nanny in the household of an important German Army Colonel, where she is able to gather intelligence for the Allies. After her marketplace contact goes missing, she makes a late-night trip to her secondary contact only to find him under interrogation by the SS. When he commits suicide, she flees into the frigid winter night carrying false identification papers that are now dangerous and a mini film cartridge with vital strategic information. In order to survive, Lily must make it out of Germany, into the hands of Allied-controlled France, through a path fraught with peril. 






In the midst of the Second World War, and charged with taking vital equipment via the 9:45 train, Ena Dudley makes regular trips to Bletchley Park, until on one occasion she is robbed. When those she cares about are accused of being involved, she investigates, not knowing whom she can trust. While trying to clear her name, Ena falls in love.






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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Monday, March 19, 2018

#CoverCliche: Dark Elegance

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting. 

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The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is a dazzling novel of mothers and daughters, stories told and untold, and the binds that tie four generations of women.

Gabriela's mother Luna is the most beautiful woman in all of Jerusalem, though her famed beauty and charm seem to be reserved for everyone but her daughter. Ever since Gabriela can remember, she and Luna have struggled to connect. But when tragedy strikes, Gabriela senses there's more to her mother than painted nails and lips.

Desperate to understand their relationship, Gabriela pieces together the stories of her family's previous generations—from Great-Grandmother Mercada the renowned healer, to Grandma Rosa who cleaned houses for the English, to Luna who had the nicest legs in Jerusalem. But as she uncovers shocking secrets, forbidden romances, and the family curse that links the women together, Gabriela must face a past and present far more complex than she ever imagined.

Set against the Golden Age of Hollywood, the dark days of World War II, and the swingin' '70s, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem follows generations of unforgettable women as they forge their own paths through times of dramatic change. With great humor and heart, Sarit Yishai-Levi has given us a powerful story of love and forgiveness—and the unexpected and enchanting places we find each.

Based on the author's discoveries about her great-grandfather, this stunning debut novel takes place over three days when World War II comes to the doorstep of an ordinary German family living in an idyllic, rural village near the Swiss border.

When World War II breaks out, Edith and Oskar Eberhardt move their family--their daughter, Marina; son-in-law, Franz; and their granddaughters--out of Berlin and into a small house in the quiet town of Blumental, near Switzerland. A member of Hitler's cabinet, Oskar is gone most of the time, and Franz begins fighting in the war, so the women of the house are left to their quiet lives in the picturesque village.

But life in Blumental isn't as idyllic as it appears. An egotistical Nazi captain terrorizes the citizens he's assigned to protect. Neighbors spy on each other. Some mysteriously disappear. Marina has a lover who also has close ties to her family and the government. Thinking none of them share her hatred of the Reich, she joins a Protestant priest smuggling Jewish refugees over the nearby Swiss border. The latest "package" is two Polish girls who've lost the rest of their family, and against her better judgment, Marina finds she must hide them in the Eberhardt's cellar. Everything is set to go smoothly until Oskar comes home with the news that the Fuhrer will be visiting the area for a concert, and he will be making a house call on the Eberhardts.

Based on the author's discoveries about her great-grandfather, this extraordinary debut, full of love, tragedy, and suspense, is a sensitive portrait of a family torn between doing their duty for their country and doing what's right for their country, and especially for those they love.

English Title: The Good at Heart

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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Monday, March 12, 2018

#CoverCliche: Girl Talk

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting. 

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In January 1943, 230 women of the French Resistance were sent to the death camps by the Nazis who had invaded and occupied their country. This is their story, told in full for the first time—a searing and unforgettable chronicle of terror, courage, defiance, survival, and the power of friendship. Caroline Moorehead, a distinguished biographer, human rights journalist, and the author of Dancing to the Precipice and Human Cargo, brings to life an extraordinary story that readers of Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La, Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, and Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken will find an essential addition to our retelling of the history of World War II—a riveting, rediscovered story of courageous women who sacrificed everything to combat the march of evil across the world.


Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. 

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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


Friday, March 2, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Linda Stratmann, author of An Unquiet Ghost

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Linda Stratmann to Flashlight Commentary to discuss the third installment of the Mina Scarletti Series, An Unquiet Ghost.

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Release Date: March 1, 2018   |   Sapere Books   |   Historical Fiction/Paranormal Mystery
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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Linda. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about An Unquiet Ghost.
The setting is 1871 Brighton. Séances were extremely popular, and without independent investigation, there was something of a free-for-all for charlatans. Mina Scarletti has successfully exposed fraudulent mediums who callously extorted money from the vulnerable bereaved, but now she has a new problem. A young couple, second cousins, wish to marry, but twenty years ago an aged relative, Henry Fernwood, was poisoned, and the killer can only have been a blood relation. If they marry will they pass on a dreadful taint to their children? Only one person knows the identity of the killer - the murdered man - and the couple want Mina to find a genuine medium who can contact his unquiet ghost. They visit two mediums, one who receives messages chalked on slates, and an emaciated young woman who has visions of both the living and the dead. Are they truthful, false or simply deluded? And who killed Henry Fernwood? When Mina finds the answer it is worse than she could possibly have imagined. 

An Unquiet Ghost is the third installment of the Mina Scarletti Mystery series. At risk of sounding impertinent, where did the idea for these books come from? Did it strike like lightening out nowhere or was is something that came to you over time? 
Oddly enough it did strike like lightning!  I was walking along my street approaching a corner, when the idea just popped into my head, and by the time I had turned the corner I knew I had something I wanted to write. Of course it must also have been the culmination of all the reading and researching I had been doing. I find that when the time is right, ideas that have been floating about randomly in my head just come together and click. 

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about Mina Scarletti’s character and personality?
Mina is 25 and is 4ft 8” tall with a twisted spine. When she was sixteen she was told she should never marry and have children. Physically frail, she has great strength of character, and decided that if the traditional role of a woman was denied her, this gave her the chance to do anything else she wanted. She has great imagination as a storyteller, but at the same time feels she knows the difference between what is real and what is invention. She particularly dislikes people who try to extort money from those who are grieving for loved ones. With few weapons at her disposal, she takes a mischievous pleasure in stirring up others in order to achieve what she wants. 

Mina is a writer by trade, but is becoming well-known for unmasking fraudulent psychics by this point in the series. How did Mina fall into this secondary profession? 
In the first book, Mr Scarletti’s Ghost, Mina’s mother and friends are excited by the seances of a visiting spirit medium, Miss Eustace. Mina is not seriously concerned until she reads about the renowned medium D D Home, (1833-1886) who attempted to separate a 75 year old widow from her fortune. Appalled by this, Mina determines to make sure that her mother and friends are not in the thrall of an extortionist. 

Though she is not a believer in ghosts, Mina is intrigued when George Fernwood and Mary Clifton request her help in tracking down a genuine spiritual medium. What about this request strikes her interest? 
She feels sympathy for the couple who wish to marry, and is interested in the mystery that lies behind their request. Also, as a writer constantly looking for inspiration from her surroundings, their offer to give her the full story behind the 1851 murder is too tempting to resist! 

Do you have a favorite scene in An Unquiet Ghost? 
Not exactly a scene, but there are letters passing between Mina and her older brother Edward, and Mina and her mother which were huge fun for me to write as we get different views of the same situation, and sometimes we have to read between the lines to see the real picture. 

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing An Unquiet Ghost?
I didn’t feel that, but I have laid groundwork for the future. We know very little as yet about Edward’s fiancée, and what will happen when Mina’s sister’s husband, Mr Inskip who is currently abroad, finally re-appears?  

If you could sit down and talk with one of the characters in An Unquiet Ghost, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite and why? 
It would be great to chat with Nellie, as she has had a fascinating career as a conjuror’s assistant, and knows a few tricks of her own. I’m sure she would have some colourful stories to tell. 

If you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of An Unquiet Ghost, who would you hire? 
I would love to see Lisa Hammond (Donna in Eastenders) as Mina. She radiates drive, determination and inner strength.  And while we’re about it, what about Nitin Ganatra (Masood) as dishy Dr Hamid? Lily James would make a sparkling Nellie. Leo Suter (Edward Drummond in Victoria) would be great as Mina’s dashing scallywag of a brother, Richard.  Joanna Lumley would be ‘Ab Fab’ to play Mina’s difficult mother. 

A character who appears in The Royal Ghost, (book 2) and is destined to appear again, is the devilishly charismatic war hero and explorer Arthur Wallace Hope and I can’t help thinking about Aidan Turner to play that part!  

What do you hope readers take from their experience of An Unquiet Ghost? 
Admiration for Mina who has overcome difficulties that would crush another person in order to be her true, spirited self, a wish to understand more about the nature of hallucinations and a burning desire to read the other books in the series!

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I was born in the City of Leicester. My parents were in the tailoring trade, and belonged to the Orthodox Jewish community. They wanted me to be educated, have a career, and marry a nice Jewish doctor. I managed two out of the three. All four of my grandparents had immigrated from Poland early in the 20th century, and my parents were born in London. During the second world war, my parents moved to Leicester, though they maintained close ties with the family in London. I have always felt that if there was any place I really belonged, it was London. Much as I enjoy rural pleasures I am a city person at heart, and nowadays would find it hard to live more than a tube ride from the British Library!

My love affair with the printed word probably started when I was two, when I eagerly absorbed the alphabet as taught to me by my mother. I have had my nose in a book ever since. The scribbling of poems and stories certainly dates back as early as six, and my first efforts at a novel from the age of eleven. I attended Medway Street Infants and Junior School, in the days of the eleven plus, and from there I went to Wyggeston Girls Grammar School. My earliest ambition was to be an astronomer, and I both read and wrote a great deal of science fiction. I also read biology, zoology and medicine, and seriously considered a medical career. By my teens, however, I had developed my absorbing and life-long interest in true crime, probably taking after my mother who loved to read about famous trials.

After taking my O levels, I left school, and trained to be a chemist’s dispenser with Boots. I was first married at the age of 18 and my son was born when I was 20. Whatever I was destined to be it was not a housewife, and I took my A levels and went to Newcastle University in 1971, graduating with first class honours in psychology three years later. I then joined the civil service, and trained to be an Inspector of Taxes.
From the early 70s I was very active in science fiction fandom, attending a great many conventions. I was living in Co. Durham , working in Newcastle, yet virtually everything I wanted to do, and most of my friends were in London. In 1987, unable to resist the pull of London I moved there, and my first husband and I were amicably divorced in 1992. I married my second husband, Gary in 1993. In the same year I began practising aikido, and obtained my black belt in 2000.

In 2001 I left the civil service, and in 2002 was commissioned to write my first published book on the history of chloroform.

I am delighted to be Artistic Patron of Talliston House and Gardens.

Website   |   Facebook   |   Goodreads   |   Twitter

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Clarissa Harwood, author of Impossible Saints

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Clarissa Harwood to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her debut release, Impossible Saints.

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Release Date: January 2, 2018   |   Pegasus Books   |   Historical Fiction/Family Life
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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Clarissa. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about Impossible Saints.
Thank you for having me here! Impossible Saints is set in 1907 England and is about the competing ambitions and growing love between a schoolteacher turned militant suffragette and an Anglican clergyman. Lilia, an agnostic, considers marriage to a clergyman a fate worse than death. Paul, a supporter of women’s suffrage but not of militancy, is well aware that his love for Lilia is incompatible with his ambition to become the next dean of the cathedral. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

At risk of sounding impertinent, where did you find this story? Did it strike like lightning out of nowhere or was is something that came to you over time? 
What first sparked the novel was a scene that popped into my head about twenty years ago: it was as vivid and detailed as a scene in a movie. I saw a confrontation in a meadow between a quiet, studious boy who didn’t know how to play, and a fiery girl pretending to be Jeanne d’Arc, leading her army of brothers.

When the idea first came to me, I had just started my PhD studies and didn’t have time to write the novel, but that scene haunted me for about ten years before I finally gave in and started writing Paul and Lilia’s story. The meadow scene was cut from the finished novel, but both Paul and Lilia refer to it and remember it as their first meeting. Their personalities as children were so clear in the meadow scene that it was easy to imagine what they’d be like as adults.

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about heroine Lilia Brooke?
Lilia is a young woman with very modern ideals. She believes women should have the vote, and she’s willing to break the law to fight for it. She believes contraception should be legal. She believes in free unions, not marriage. She might seem extreme or too modern to contemporary readers, but the primary sources I found in the course of my research suggest otherwise: there were plenty of women like her in the early 20th century, though they weren’t accepted in most respectable middle-class circles.

The Women's Social and Political Union was a militant organization that campaigned for Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom. Why is Lilia drawn to this particular group? 
At the beginning of the novel, Lilia belongs to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), a non-militant suffrage group that was socially acceptable and pursued quieter, legal methods to get the vote. But she learns that the government doesn’t listen to these quieter methods, and after a tragedy involving a friend, she joins the militant WSPU founded by Emmeline Pankhurst, the only real person who makes an appearance in Impossible Saints. The WSPU was known for window-breaking, arson, and other property destruction, but what many people don’t realize is how brutally they were attacked by the police and bystanders even when they attempted to stage peaceful demonstrations and speeches. 

Belonging to the WSPU fits Lilia’s personality: she is strong, brave, and fearless when fighting for a cause she believes in, and there’s nothing she believes in more than women’s rights. But she’s not perfect: she lacks insight into her own heart!

Do you have a favorite scene in Impossible Saints? 
I have several favorites! Without giving too much away, one of them is possibly the worst marriage proposal in the history of marriage proposals. Another is a flirtatious scene in which Paul and Lilia argue about translating Horace’s Odes. One of my beta readers commented after reading that scene, “If I knew it could be this sexy, I would have paid more attention in Latin class!”

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing Impossible Saints?
Paul has a nemesis named Thomas Cross who intrigued me, but I couldn’t allow him to take over the story. The way I solved this problem was by making Thomas Cross the protagonist of a new novel!

If you could sit down and talk with one of the characters in Impossible Saints, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite and why? 
I don’t think either of my protagonists would want to just sit and talk with me, though I’d love to do that with either of them. I don’t know if other writers have inferiority complexes about their characters, but I certainly do: I’m constantly plagued by doubts that my characters would want to be friends with me if they knew me in real life!

Paul is harder than Lilia to get to know and I could see myself becoming frustrated with his reserved nature. The two of us might just sit in opposite corners of a room reading books! Lilia would certainly talk to me, but she wouldn’t want to sit still for long, so she’d probably prefer that I follow her around, hearing her speeches and watching the effect she has on the people around her. Maybe she’d let me be her personal assistant!

If you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of Impossible Saints, who would you hire?
I would cast James Norton as Paul, which is a no-brainer for anyone who’s watched Grantchester. I’m not as sure about Lilia. Gal Gadot could do it, but in proper period dress, of course, not her Wonder Woman costume! One of my readers suggested Maggie Gyllenhaal, and I’d be happy with her, too.

What do you hope readers take from their experience of Impossible Saints? 
I’ve built a lot of layers into Impossible Saints, so I’d like to think it has something for everyone. Readers who like deep philosophical themes will be challenged to examine their beliefs about religion and feminism. Readers who love history will learn what women in England went through to get the vote. Readers who want romance will see that the novel is at its core a love story. I hope readers feel both satisfied and empowered after they turn the last page.

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Clarissa was born and raised on the Canadian prairies, where she spent her childhood forcing her younger relatives to play roles in her interminably long family Christmas plays. (She has since apologized to her Traumatized Cousins and Very Patient Elders, all innocent victims of her attempts to realize her artistic vision.) She now contents herself with trying to manipulate the characters in her novels, who regularly surprise her by being just as resistant to her interference as real people.

Clarissa writes historical fiction set mainly in Victorian and Edwardian England. She has been fascinated by all things Victorian since she was a child: the clothes, the elaborate social rituals, the gap between rich and poor, the dizzying pace of advancements in science and technology. When it was time to choose a major in university, she had trouble deciding between history and English literature because she really just wanted to study the Victorians. Ultimately, she chose English and earned a PhD specializing in nineteenth-century British literature.

Her novels pay homage to her favourite Victorian authors: the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Frances Hodgson Burnett. Her favourite living authors include Diane Setterfield, Kate Morton, Jessica Brockmole, and Susanna Kearsley.

In addition to being a novelist and proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Clarissa is a part-time university instructor and full-time grammar nerd who loves to explain the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

Website   |   Facebook   |   Goodreads   |   Blog   |   Twitter

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Kevin O'Connell, author of Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Kevin O'Connell to Flashlight Commentary to discuss his latest release, Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe.

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Release Date: November 1, 2017   |   Gortcullinane Press   |   Historical Fiction/Family Saga
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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Kevin. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe. 
Thank you so much for having me! 

Two Journeys Home is the second of what appears will be a series of four, or perhaps even five, works of historical fiction, which will together comprise what’s become The Derrynane Saga. The story is based on what little is historically documented about several members of the O’Connell family of Derrynane, in far southwest County Kerry, Ireland. As it relates their largely-fictional lives from 1760 until the mid-1790’s, set in Ireland, Vienna and France, this provides a time-line for each book and the Saga as a whole.  

The period covered in Two Journeys is Spring, 1767 until mid-Summer 1770 – which proves to be a highly-eventful, albeit relatively-brief span of time, in which several of the O’Connells’ lives are changed forever, amidst a melange of romance, intrigue, betrayal, violence and conflict within and without the clan. In some parallels, one or two other major characters’ lives are similarly altered.

At risk of sounding impertinent, where did you find this story? Did it strike like lightening out nowhere or was is something that came to you over time? 
‘Tis not impertinent at all – it’s a great question! 

I believe it is accurate to say that, without being aware of the fact, I seemingly had the story within me for much of my life. Having heard any number of “O’Connell tales” since childhood, I ultimately studied both the O’Connells and the Eighteenth Century in Europe in quite some detail, in the process subconsciously tucking away many wee snippets of what has become this story – a mix, as are all Irish stories, of fact and fancy.

The writing itself began just about six years ago this Winter, as a bit of a lark. I must admit that writing was not something I’d dreamt about or deferred all of my life. When I did start – with a gossamer-thin story line, and no experience in writing fiction – or anything else, other than incredibly-dull, complex legal opinions and massive legal transactional documents, the stories literally – and surprisingly – “poured out of me”.  

I was somewhat heartened relatively early-on in the process by a small article written by Hilary Mantel which appeared, in of all places, the Wall Street Journal, which was entitled The Art of Making the Dead Speak; as I read it and critiqued what my characters were saying and how they spoke, I felt that I actually might have some knack for this! 

During the course of writing both books, I’ve frequently had a sense of almost watching things unfold, “hearing” what was being said, following the characters rather than creating them and what appears on the pages. I’ve come to learn that this is a phenomenon experienced by some writers. Whatever it may be . . . it continues to be an incredible wonder.

There were certain immutable historical facts about the O’Connells that I knew, and which I’ve used as “mile-markers’ within the story – these facts were few, minute even – footnotes in history, actually –  so there are huge gaps in time that needed to be provided for, and it is here that my imagination kicked in and from whence the story emerged. 

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about Eileen O'Connell? What kind of person is she? 
Ah, Eileen!  I grew up hearing of her, referred to at times as “Auntie Eileen,” and I’ve always felt some type of a numinous, mystical connection with her. I know her, at least the Eileen who strides elegantly across these pages, better than anyone for she is in many, albeit not all ways, a product of my imagination.

At this stage of her life, virtually all that is known for certain, as she is historically referred to, in Irish, as “Eibhlin Dubh” – which in English translates as her being “Dark Eileen” or, perhaps more poetically, “Eileen of the Raven Locks”, is that she had black hair.

In developing her character, I have used this as a distinguishing feature – one that sets her apart, even from her own family, as the O’Connells of the period whose appearance we do know were largely fair-haired. In the books, Eileen’s hair is a thick blue-black mane that cascades to her waist. So unique is it and such is the personality that I have created for her (based on a single written reference that she was apparently a “headstrong” young girl), in a time when “ladies at court” wore their hair fashionably-dressed and, at least in part, covered, Eileen does neither.

She stands “six feet tall, plus an inch – perhaps two” with the deepest of blue eyes, a luminous complexion and a manner befitting a member of the vestiges of the now-fallen Gaelic Aristocracy. Though she is, as the O’Connells are said to have been, proud and arrogant – and intimidating, she is also loving, gentle and quite brilliant – fluent in Irish, English and French, near-fluent in Latin, conversant in German; well-read, equally so-travelled. She speaks in a husky, almost sensual voice. She is a complex character, strong, courageous and – for her time – independent, but also highly-conservative, traditional, and a fervent absolute monarchist.  Lastly, she is skilled in the use of firearms – and does not hesitate to meet violence with her own armed ferocity

By the time Two Journeys begins, after having been wed (in an arranged marriage solely for the benefit of the O’Connells and their smuggling activities) and widowed before her seventeenth birthday, she has been at the Hapsburg court for almost six years. There, she is amongst its best-recognised members, serving as governess, teacher, riding-mistress and companion to two of Maria Theresa’s daughters, with the younger of whom, the Archduchess Maria Antonia, she has developed an intimate, maternal relationship.  
Not too far into Two Journeys, Eileen will make a life-changing decision, about which I shall say no more!

Eileen is not the only member of her family in the Habsburg Court. Can you tell us a bit about Abigail?  
I smile whenever I think of Abby: One reviewer flatly stated, “I love her . . . she is a doll!” whilst a reader wrote to me that “I would love her to be my best friend!”

She is several years older – and several inches shorter – than Eileen, more than just pretty, she has, soft curly reddish-blond hair, lying just past her shoulders. Her sky-blue eyes sparkle, a smile or the warmest of laughs seems always close to the surface and her complexion glows, with cascades of faint freckles over her nose and down her cheeks, her manner is perhaps best described as being “elegantly casual”.

One of the best examples that comes to mind, one through which her unique personality truly shines, is a scene after she’s just arrived at Vienna and is being introduced to the Empress, hew new mistress, for the first time:

“Abby was, as her mother would have said, “being Abby”: warm, intelligent, humorous, thoughtful and genuine, posing even the most delicate questions in such a guileless
way that Maria Theresa could only laugh and answer — “No, darling, there are those people amongst us whose tasks specifically include the removal of such ‘pots’”. 

Despite a subtle comedic aura about her, during the rest of the first book Abby matures rapidly and settles into a “career path” that had been set out for her even before she arrived in Vienna; she also weds Denis O’Sullivan, a young Irish (a Kerryman she’d met whilst still at home) officer in the Hungarian Hussars, in a magnificent ceremony staged for her by Maria Theresa.

By the time Two Journeys Home picks up her story, far from being overshadowed by her more colourful younger sister Abigail has risen to what many consider to be the highest post at court: principal lady-in-waiting to the Empress Maria Theresa; as head of her household and “gatekeeper,” Abigail is the servant closest to the most powerful woman in the world.  She is a beloved – and commanding – figure at court, who is still able to make people – including readers - laugh.

She is also Eileen’s anchor, her constant, who provides her younger sister with invaluable degrees of wisdom and insight.

Hugh O’Connell, Eileen and Abigail’s younger brother also appears in the novel. What can you tell us about him and the Irish Brigade?  
Hugh was first introduced as a little boy in Beyond Derrynane, youngest of the 22 children born at Derrynane to Donál Mór and Maire ni Dhuibh, during the course of their long marriage, some 16 of whom survive. Virtually from the time of his birth until she departed home as a teenage bride in 1760, Eileen mothered him; the two have remained close. Like most of his siblings, Hugh is tall, fair, dirty-blonde and blue-eyed. Like his older sister, he is an excellent rider and is also said to be brilliant, an avid reader, multi-lingual and confident. He has an easy-going manner and, at least when he first arrives in Vienna, a somewhat wide-eyed, guileless view of the world.

When Hugh reappears in Two Journeys Home he as at that juncture in the life of a younger son in a still somehow-landed native Irish family – of deciding whether to go to Continental Europe for a more formal education (the O’Connells having been taught from an early age by “a succession of it always-seemed handsome young Jesuit priests” who had been smuggled into Derrynane by their father for this purpose) and/or to enter the military service of one of the Catholic monarchs.

As the on-going story is related in the Derrynane books, for several centuries there had been any number of Irish Catholic officers and other-ranks in service to Catholic monarchs from Russia to Spain.  Eileen, Abby and Hugh’s uncle, Moritz O’Connell, a general in the Imperial Austrian army, a count (wed to the Empress’s former lady-in-waiting) and a counsellor to Maria Theresa, is far from being the highest ranking Irish officer in Vienna.

In terms of the Irish Brigade, briefly, its history really begins with James II’s vanguishment by the forces of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1689 and the subsequent defeat of General Patrick Sarsfield at Limerick in 1691, the latter of which that resulted in what has become known as the “flight of the Wild Geese”. This term is applied to the soldiers who, having been loyal to James’s cause, were permitted to leave Ireland as a relatively-intact, albeit defeated army, to follow the Stuarts into permanent exile in France – this led to the formation of the famed “Irish Brigade of France”, which plays an increasingly-important role in Two Journeys Home and even more so as the Saga continues, as Hugh will follow his older brother, Daniel Charles, into the service of King Louis XV.  Hugh’s career will be as an officer in Dillons Regiment of the Brigade, whilst Daniel Charles, who began his French service with the Swedish Brigade, will spend some time in Lord Clare’s Regiment of the Irish one, he will go on to become an ennobled general and live long enough to be imprisoned by Napoleon. 

Ah, but I digress . . .

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing Two Journeys Home?
I have been extremely fortunate to have the most wonderful editor an author could possibly want! Randy Ladenheim-Gil is nothing short of remarkable, as she has guided, nudged, pushed, pulled and carried me through the creative process, employing a not-always-subtle mix of wisdom, humour, patience and great kindness. It is because of her that I can say that I’ve not had to toss away any character or major concept whilst writing Two Journeys or its predecessor. She has always managed to assist me in salvaging worthy ideas – even well-written but misplaced language which, absent her skill, might have fallen victim to the “delete” button.

In much the same way, she has prevented me from making potentially-damaging creative errors, one lengthy scene between Eileen and Maria Antonia comes to mind - it would have negatively-impacted the entire story had she not caught it.

If you could sit down and talk with one of the characters in Two Journeys Home, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite and why? 
My choice of a companion for good German beer and conversation would be Colonel Wolfgang von Klaus, of the Imperial Austrian Army. Von Klaus, a member of one of Austria’s oldest and most prominent noble families, first appeared in Beyond Derrynane during the Winter of 1764, and became Eileen’s lover and companion. Their relationship goes well beyond the bedroom, as the two share a love of books and reading, and horses. Over time they became each other’s closest confident, Eileen learning from von Klaus the intricacies of European politics, “as tawdry as they are magnificent”, such that as her knowledge expands he comes to rely on her insights and thoughts in his role as counsellor to the Emperor Joseph. Von Klaus continues his intermittent appearances in Derrynane until he departs rather abruptly for the court of Catherine the Great at St Petersburg, as a direct emissary of the Emperor and his co-reigning mother, Maria Theresa. He reappears briefly several times in Two Journeys Home and will make a significant return to the Saga in the third volume. 

Von Klaus is an engaging character, tall, blonde, bluff, handsome and unassuming despite his vast wealth and lofty social and military stature. I would be interested to learn his “take” on the Habsburgs, especially the Empress, as well as Eileen and the other O’Connells at court, and also of the expatriate Irish overall serving in Catholic Europe, his views on the European political and social landscape, his experience at the court of Catherine the Great –  and how he really feels about Eileen O’Connell.

If you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of Two Journeys Home, who would you hire? 
Eileen O’Connell: Margot Robbie
Abigail O’Connell: Emily Blunt
Maire O’Connell [mother]: Emma Thompson
Anna Pfeffer: Joanne Froggatt
General O’Connell: Liam Neeson
Countess von Graffenreit: Julianne Moore
Empress Maria Theresa: Cate Blanchette
Archduchess Maria Antonia: unknown teenage actress
Hugh O’Connell: unknown teenage actor
Art O’Leary: Ryan Gosling

What do you hope readers take from their experience of Two Journeys Home? 
I should hope that they take away an understanding of the unique history of the period and places as presented in the book, as well as a curiosity to perhaps learn more about at least some aspects of it all.  I have included a fairly detailed bibliographical essay in both books as there is a fair amount of excellent non-fiction available; I hope more than a few readers will have been intrigued enough by this fictional introduction to want to read more.  

In all honesty, I also hope the experience the readers have had with Two Journeys Home might make them want to read Beyond Derrynane, as well as the books to come!

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Kevin O'Connell is a native of New York City, the descendant of a young officer of what had—from 1690 to 1792—been the Irish Brigade of the French army, believed to have arrived in French Canada following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October of 1793. At least one grandson subsequently returned to Ireland and Mr. O'Connell's own grandparents came to New York in the early twentieth century. He holds both Irish and American citizenship.

He is a graduate of Don Bosco Preparatory School, Ramsey, New Jersey; Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre.

For much of his four decades-plus long legal career, O'Connell practiced international business transactional law, primarily involving direct-investment matters, throughout Asia (principally China), Europe, and the Middle East.

Mr. O’Connell has been a serious student of Eighteenth Century Europe, especially of Ireland and France, for much of his life; one significant aspect of this has been a continuing scholarly as well as personal interest in the extended O’Connell family of Derrynane, many even distant and long-ago members of which, especially the characters about whom he writes, he has “known” intimately since childhood.

The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland, USA.

Website   |   Facebook   |   Goodreads

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Monday, January 8, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Heather Webb, author of The Phantom's Apprentice

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Heather Webb back to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her latest release, The Phantom's Apprentice.

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Release Date: February 6th 2018   |   Sonnet Press   |   Historical Fiction/Romantic Suspense
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Welcome back to Flashlight Commentary Heather. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about The Phantom’s Apprentice.
Thank you for having me! The Phantom’s Apprentice is a re-imagining of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, complete with a historical context of the period—illusionists, spititualism, what it means after we die, music as a means to find one’s inner power, Belle Epoque Paris in all its glory. It’s a sort of mash-up of genres, really; suspense, historical fiction, romance, women’s fiction (if that’s a true category). It’s all about Christine Daaé’s inner life, and who she “really” is—how her story “really” happened, at least in my imagination.

The Phantom’s Apprentice is less a re-telling than it is a re-imagining of The Phantom of the Opera. Why did you opt to make such dramatic departures from the source material? 
It’s funny you say this. I had a couple of publishers tell me it wasn’t different enough, that I had followed the original too closely. My agent and I scratched our heads about it. I can’t tell you how much I wrestled with this element of writing the book. How much canon from the novel do I retain? How often can I stray from the original story? If I strayed too far, it would be unrecognizable; if I didn’t stray far enough, I would be repeating the story that already exists. This was a very difficult thing to balance. My critique partners could tell you how much angst I had about this very thing—it was constant. The other issue is, what is so famous in Webber’s version isn’t necessarily what the book was trying to illustrate at all, so it added another layer of angst. The public knows and loves the play. Do I follow this outline more heavily or the original Leroux version?

In the stage play version of the story, so much is left out that was either touched upon in the novel, or was eluded to (Erik having conjuring skills, for example). I reconstructed that world, expanded it, sort of combining the two versions. Also, I used most of the original cast, but I gave them deeper motivations, as well as created another layer of stakes for each character beyond just “there’s a creep in the opera who is trying to kill us”, or “she’s really pretty, I want to be with her”. There were a couple of new characters that I hadn’t planned on, too, who butted their way into the narrative unexpectedly. When Delacroix showed up, I thought “who the heck is this guy and what does he want?” It led me down the spiritualism path.

Ultimately, this is a question about artistic license, and about what the original means to me personally, where I see its strengths and flaws and how I wanted to flesh out certain elements, how I wanted to add something new to a beloved story that a modern audience could relate to. I found that in Christine Daaé’s voice. 

Spiritualism plays a unique role in the story. Can you tell us a little about the Spiritualist movement and its connection to the world of magic and illusion?
I was absolutely fascinated by this movement, and really wanted to incorporate it as historical context for the novel. First of all, Gaston Leroux lived during this time when the movement was at its height in popularity. He ingeniously weaved in this question of ghosts and spirits, as well as political commentary from the times into the narrative that doesn’t really come through in the play version. 

Spiritualism began with an innocent séance between the Fox sisters in the first half of the 19th century that evolved into a sensation. Did the dead communicate with the living? Had they really passed on or did they live among us, evolving alongside us in the afterlife? This era is when you see the rise of Gothic novels and the occult, as well as the use of mediums and turning tables for séances. Add the technological push and rapid series of inventions and everyone grapples for the essence of what matters—their loved ones, the evolution of their souls, and so on. 

Spiritualism evolved into a religious sect in some circles, and like with any religion, beliefs were tied to its principles and emotions ran high. There was much debate over the validity of spiritualism, and Scientists and philosophers sought to disprove or prove (whatever angle they were coming from), the likelihood that spirits were real. Many magicians/conjurers tapped into this emotionally volatile well and manipulated it for their own gain, especially as advances in projecting images and different types of glass were designed. They could “create” apparitions. Riots broke out after an illusionist’s show from time to time, because viewing the dead so easily in public caused a fright.

Erik could throw voices, used mirrors to deceive, made trap doors, dressed like an illusionist. Leroux was poking fun at the movement while simultaneously giving a nod to its ingenuity. I LOVED this about the novel and thought, how could this have gone unnoticed among modern audiences? We see magicians in top hats as hokey. This is because society today doesn’t understand the era when all of this was happening, how modern technology began, really, during this time, and the way it frightened the bejesus out of people. Major change was afoot. Fascinating stuff that I just HAD to include. 

Speaking of magic, the narrative is filled with numerous illusions and tricks. Were these techniques inspired by any particular magician or popular performances of the period? 
Yes, they were inspired by many illusionists that were popular during the time. I mentioned a few of them by name in the book. If you’re curious, I’d recommend reading Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer. It’s a terrific book about the history of magic and the world’s most popular magicians. I read a few others, but this one was, by far, the best.

Do you have a favorite scene in The Phantom’s Apprentice? 
Hmm. I’ll just say my favorite scenes to write were when Christine sees Raoul for the first time at Carlotta’s salon, when she confronts Carlotta near the end, and also the masquerade ball when she discovers a few unsavory details about all those she has cared for and trusted.

How funny! The confrontation scene was my favorite while reading the book. 

Is there a character you felt particularly close to while writing The Phantom’s Apprentice? 
Interestingly, I’d say Claudette. As much as I enjoyed giving Christine Daaé a backbone, I just really loved Claudette’s voice. She popped up unexpectedly and I thoroughly enjoyed her. At times, I wanted the story to be more about her. 

As a side note, I had trouble with Erik. I had to really scale him back because every time I started working on a scene with him, he wanted to take over the story. He’s a larger-than-life figure in our minds and I had to remind myself again and again that it wasn’t his story, that he already had a story. This was Christine’s. 


Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing The Phantom’s Apprentice?
YES! Initially, I toyed with the idea of setting up a framing device that was in Gaston Leroux’s voice. My intention was to show how he became inspired to write the original through things that happened to him and around him in society. I tried and tried to make this work—Leroux was kind of a wild man, and was the original and first celebrity journalist—but it just didn’t fit so I had to ditch it. I’m still mourning that. It just didn’t happen. Incidentally, I’d love to write a book about him.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite and why? 
I assume you mean in The Phantom’s Apprentice and not from all of my novels? I think I’d choose Monsieur Delacroix. He was incredibly intelligent and had loads of baggage as well as some interesting views on things. I’d like to pick his brain. 

If you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of The Phantom’s Apprentice, who would you hire? 
I would hire Amber Heard for Christine Daaé. (In the novel, she was a blond, Swedish babe, not the brunette we’ve come to recognize in the play.) For Raoul, Liam Hemsworth, I think. I see Erik being played by someone with a middle-aged, slightly creepy affect like Kevin Spacey. I have no one in mind for the others. If Mariah Carey were an actress, I’d cast her as Carlotta. Ha!

What do you hope readers take from their experience of The Phantom’s Apprentice? 
I usually like to allude to something meaningful about being alive and struggling as people on this earth. In The Phantom’s Apprentice, the struggle is about finding a place of your own, about discovering the bravery inside of you to face hardships that life throws at us. It’s also about using that bravery to strike out, do something meaningful in our short time on this planet. We should not grieve forever about what is lost, or we also lose our present and our future. It’s also about spirituality. What do you believe about souls and the afterlife? Is it scientifically-based, or do you believe in a higher power? Do they go hand-in-hand?

Finally, I was heavily inspired by The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, one of my very favorite novels. That novel, to me, is much less about plot and so much more about atmosphere. It’s an experience, almost, rather than a story. I aimed to channel some of that essence in The Phantom’s Apprentice. I wanted to create a lush, Gothic ambiance that was so unique to the era, make the book an experience of its own. Most of all, I just want to entertain my readers! 


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When Josephine Bonaparte appeared to Heather in a dream, she switched gears from fun-loving high school teacher to author & history nerd on the prowl for fascinating stories.

To date, her historical novels have sold in multiple countries, received national starred reviews, and have been featured in print media including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Cosmo, Elle, and more. In addition, RODIN'S LOVER was chosen as a Goodread's Pick in 2015.

Her recent release, LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, an epistolary love story set during WWI, she co-wrote with NYT bestseller Hazel Gaynor with lots of laughs, tears, and trans-Atlantic phone calls. It's available in stores everywhere.

Stay tuned for her up and coming, THE PHANTOM'S APPRENTICE, a Gothic re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera from a newer, stronger Christine Daae's point of view. Out February 6, 2018.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills, geeks out on pop culture and history, or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world, (especially her beloved France).

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads

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FLASHLIGHT COMMENTARY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FANS OF HEATHER WEBB:

Rodin's Lover
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Becoming Josephine
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Fall of Poppies
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
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