Wednesday, May 12, 2021

My review of The Shadows of Versailles (An Affair of the Poisons Book One) by Cathie Dunn #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalMystery #BookReview #CoffeePotBookClub @cathiedunn @maryanneyarde


The Shadows of Versailles

An Affair of the Poisons Book One

By Cathie Dunn

Dazzled by Versailles. Broken by tragedy. Consumed by revenge.

When Fleur de La Fontaine attends the court of King Louis XIV for the first time, she is soon besotted with handsome courtier, Philippe de Mortain. She dreams of married life away from her uncaring mother, but Philippe keeps a secret from her.

Nine months later, after the boy she has given birth to in a convent is whisked away, she flees to Paris where she mends gowns in the brothel of Madame Claudette, a woman who helps ‘fallen’ girls back on their feet.

Jacques de Montagnac investigates a spate of abducted children when his path crosses Fleur’s. He searches for her son, but the trail leads to a dead end – and a dreadful realisation.

Her boy’s suspected fate too much to bear, Fleur decides to avenge him. She visits the famous midwife, La Voisin, but it’s not the woman’s skills in childbirth that Fleur seeks.

La Voisin dabbles in poisons.

Will Fleur see her plan through? Or can she save herself from a tragic fate?

Delve into The Shadows of Versailles and enter the sinister world of potions, poisoners and black masses during the Affairs of the Poisons, a real event that stunned the court of the Sun King!

Publication Date: November 20th, 2020
Publisher: Ocelot Press
Page Length: 251 (ebook) / 277 (pb)
Genre: historical fiction / mystery


Blanchefleur ‘Fleur’ wanted love, she wanted to experience the feeling of being in a man's arms whom she desired above all others. Whereas her mother, the distant and cold, Sophie de La Fontaine wanted her daughter to marry for financial gain and she cared not a wit for her daughter's feelings.

Nothing about her childhood prepared Fleur for Versailles. Everything they said about The Sun King's Palace was true. It was stunningly in both its beauty and extravagance. And then Fleur meets Philippe de Mortain, a handsome courtier. With an innocence that was befitting for a young woman who grew up in a convent, Fleur believes and hangs onto every word he says. But Philippe is not the man that Fleur thought he was. He could not have hurt her more if he had torn out her heart and stamped upon it. There would never be a future for them, but their starlight lovemaking would lead to a catastrophic series of events that would shock the court of Versailles with devastating consequences. 

Away from the glamorous Versailles, Jacques de Montagnac is investigating the disappearance of newborn babies. With his collogue body discovered floating in the Seine, Jacques is one of the few men still undercover. He fears that the missing children were linked to the black masses, and he is determined to find out the truth. It seems a world away from Versailles, but the paths of both Fleur and Jacques will cross.

This novel starts with the execution of Marie-Madeleine, Marquise de Brinvilliers. Marie-Madeleine had finally given her accusers what they wanted, a confession—although this had only happened after a prolonged and agonised torture. Marie-Madeleine execution foreshadows the entire novel. 

The Shadow of Versailles is a deeply moving novel about a young woman who is cruelly abused and taken advantage of. Her innocent love for Philippe is thrown back in her face, although I do believe that his feelings for her were genuine, but his destiny was never to marry this innocent flower. And although his actions were deplorable, he had no idea of the consequences that Fleur would endure because of him. Philippe is not really the antagonists of this tale, he is merely the instrument that sets off a catastrophic chain of events. 

Fleur is a young woman who is punished by her mother for simply existing. Sophie is a cruel, bitter woman. Fleur represents everything that has gone wrong in Sophie's life. She cares not a bit for Fleur's happiness. There are several villains in this tale but I think Sophie was in a league of her own. Her cruelty, her twisted sense of justice and punishment spoke volumes. This was a woman who was not only self-seeking but there was also a very sinister and dark side to her character.

Fleur finds herself in the most desperate of situations, but she always holds onto the belief that she would make a life for herself, alas that is not to be. When her baby is stolen from her, the very moment she had birthed him, Fleur finds herself on a collision course with all the people that had led her up to that moment. Her heart, having been torn to shreds, now desires only one thing - revenge.

This riveting story is certainly one where I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat while the tragedy played out in front of me. There are scenes of unbearable agony in this novel and I certainly shed a few tears especially for Fleur and the horrors that she has to endure. Salvation always lags one step behind her, and because of this, she cannot be saved. She is consumed with the idea of revenge. She wants those who had lied and abused her to know the extent of her wrath. But by allowing this desperate need for vengeance, Fleur becomes someone unrecognisable, someone the reader could no longer connect with.

I have always been intrigued by the Affairs of the Poisons. Behind the masquerade, behind the glamour, there was a seedy and dark side that thrived during the reign of King Louis XIV. Maybe it was hysteria, maybe there was murderous intent, but it certainly led to many arrests. Although fictional in the telling, Dunn has depicted how easy it was to slip a little poison in a drink, and how the wealthy could manipulate events to hide their dark intentions.

The Shadows of Versailles was a very engaging read, although I did think that the ending was a little rushed. Nevertheless, it is a novel that I certainly enjoyed and would happily recommend. 

This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited 

Cathie Dunn

Cathie Dunn writes historical fiction, mystery, and romance.

Cathie has been writing for over twenty years. She studied Creative Writing, with a focus on novel writing, which she now teaches in the south of France. She loves researching for her novels, delving into history books, and visiting castles and historic sites.

Her stories have garnered awards and praise from reviewers and readers for their authentic description of the past.

Cathie is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

After nearly two decades in Scotland, she now lives in the historic city of Carcassonne in the south of France with her husband, two cats and a rescue dog. 

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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Read my review and an excerpt from Whisper by Tracy Bilen – OUT NOW! #Romance #Thriller #YA #YoungAdult #Review @TracyBilen @XpressoTours


by Tracy Bilen

Stop him.

After her friend Samantha is murdered, seventeen-year-old Olivia is the only one who still hears her voice.

Years ago, Jacob closed his eyes. In a park. Playing hide-and-seek. His little brother is still missing. And Jacob’s mom is the FBI agent who couldn’t find him.
Now Jacob has dreams he can’t explain. And draws faces of those about to die.

In a town terrorized by a serial killer, Jacob meets Olivia. Sparks ignite.

Until the voice in Olivia’s head echoes the warning in Jacob’s dream…

You’re next.

Publication date: May 8th 2021
Genres: Romance, Thriller, Young Adult


With a serial killer on the loose, and Olivia’s friend, Samantha, found dead, Olivia can’t help but feel unnerved, if not scared, when she hears Samantha’s voice. Despite her friend being gone, Samantha speaks to her from beyond the grave, whispering in Olivia’s head, giving her warnings.

Jacob’s little brother went missing years ago, an event that tore his family apart. After a drunk driving accident, he is sent to live with his mother, whom he has barely lived with since this bother disappeared. His mother just so happens to be an FBI agent, one who was unable to find her own son.

When Olivia and Jacob meet, their pasts and futures collide to take them down a path that neither could have predicted.

Olivia’s struggles were incredibly well written. Her father was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and he would hear voices, listen to them, talk to them. When she starts hearing Samantha talking to her, her thoughts go directly to one thing – that she is becoming like her father, that she will, someday, do something like he did, and someone will end up worse off than she did, with just a scar on her arm. Olivia grows scared of herself, of what she might do, or say. Her descent into the unknown, as she finds herself scared to go to a doctor in case they would confirm her fears, and is afraid to tell Jacob what she is going through, should it drive him away, is heartbreaking to read, and I really felt for Olivia as the story progressed.

Since Jacob’s accident, he gets bad headaches, with blinding pain that makes him pass out, and dreams, nightmares, of people jumping off a cliff and being unable to save them. When he wakes up, he draws them, sketches the portraits of each person who jumps, and it seems that each time, he finds out that the person has died soon after the dream. Like Olivia, being scared of her mind, Jacob starts to grow afraid, for he can’t account for the times lost when he passes out, and it is a mystery as to how he knows the faces – how can you know someone you’ve never seen? It all seems too much like a coincidence to him and, with an FBI agent for a mother, he ends up worrying, trying to keep his dreams from Olivia, lest she feels unsafe around him or wants to leave him. Then again – maybe she should feel unsafe, maybe she should get away.

Jacob and Olivia’s love story is a slow burn, full of hand-holding, blushing, and hiding in closets when parents come home unexpectedly. They make the perfect couple, being incredibly supportive of each other, and looking after each other. Olivia gets cold and tired very easily when she hears the voices, and Jacob not only notices when this is happening, but makes sure she is warm or has somewhere to lie down. They tease each other, but the jokes never go too far, and they respect each other’s boundaries. It was beautiful to read about the growth of this relationship, from a sapling to a flower in full bloom, and I would be happy to read more about their day-to-day conversations and activities.

There was one thing that bothered me a little, and that was the lack of a clear explanation about Olivia’s hearing voices and Jacob’s dreams. Both seem to be premonitions, and there is a hint of supernatural elements, but there is no clear explanation given. This being said, it was not enough for me to lower the rating. 

I read this book in one sitting, extending the time I had given myself within which to read, so I could continue turning the pages. I expected a young adult thriller, but what I got was so much more, with romance, mystery, and action, all stirred in together and tied up in a little package. This is the kind of book that you can read again and again and not get bored of, for even knowing the story, you can enjoy it just as much the second and third time as the first.

I must say, at the end, we do learn about what happened to Jacob’s brother, and I cried. This book can certainly stir emotions – keep some tissues close by!

I immensely enjoyed reading this book, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone wanting a book that will give you a little of everything, while not leaving you bored at any point. You will be thoroughly entertained and enthralled throughout the entire experience.


“Why did you bring all these broken drumsticks?” my mom asks, pulling a coffee can full of them out of the moving box. She picks one up and squints, reading the writing on the side. “Hysteria?”

If she hadn’t ditched my dad and me four years ago, she’d know that I always write the name of the song I was playing and the date when a stick breaks. I’m just about to explain it to her when she says, “It took a week, but you’re finally all unpacked. Not bad. Well, I’ll leave you to it. I’ve got to get back to the case.”

Big fucking surprise. It’s always about the case. Once upon a time my brother was the case. Now it’s someone else’s kid. Or spouse. Or whatever. Anything so my mom doesn’t have to face the people still in her own life. My dad gave up trying to matter to her a long time ago. That’s when he and I moved to northern Michigan. My dad’s a day trader. He buys and sells stocks on his laptop. You can pretty much do that from anywhere. Except from where you’re not wanted. We were doing fine. Then my dad got himself a new wife. And I got into a car with my drunken best friend.

Okay, yeah, I was drunk too. We hit a tree in Ricky’s piece-of-shit car that’s too old to have airbags. And yeah, I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. So I cracked my head against the dashboard. And I guess I passed out. From the conk in the head or the booze, I’m not sure which. I’m pretty much okay now except for the occasional pounding headache and some freaky-ass dreams. And the fact that my parents actually spoke to each other and decided I should move in with my mom. Get a change of scenery. Get away from my jackass friends.

I shuffle after my mom. I don’t know why we bothered unpacking that last box. My mom will realize soon enough that she doesn’t want to deal with me and my crap, and I’ll be on a plane out of here.

In the kitchen, I pour myself a glass of ginger ale, missing the beer that my dad used to have piled in the fridge, free for the taking. Then I score some chips and M&M’s from the counter. In clearing off a space on the table for my snack, I knock a file folder on the floor, and papers spill out everywhere.

“Seriously, Jacob?” my mom says, pissed. Hey, maybe if I dump my drink all over the papers, I can get myself shipped back home in time for dinner. Well, at least I could be in Pittsburgh in time to get on a plane before dinner. I tilt the glass, and then my conscience kicks in. Fuck it. I take a drink instead and reach down to scoop up a photo. That’s when I choke on my ginger ale. I swear I’ve seen that girl somewhere before.

“Who’s this?” I ask between coughs, holding up the picture.

“Damn it, Jacob. You’re not supposed to touch that.” Of course. I bite my lip. Here we go again.

I stare at the girl’s face and feel another headache coming on. Why does she look familiar? “She been missing a long time?”

My mom rolls her eyes. “Jacob, that’s the girl that we found on Monday.”

Tracy Bilen is the author of What She Left Behind and Whisper. She is a high school French teacher in Michigan where she lives with her husband and children. Tracy studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and taught Spanish at a high school ski academy. She loves biking, traveling, and red velvet cake.

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Read The Inspiration behind Sigurd’s Swords by Eric Schumacher #HistoricalFiction #Vikings #KindleUnlimited #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @DarkAgeScribe @maryanneyarde


Sigurd’s Swords

(Olaf’s Saga, Book 2)

By Eric Schumacher

From best-selling historical fiction novelist, Eric Schumacher, comes the second volume in Olaf’s Saga: the adrenaline-charged story of Olaf Tryggvason and his adventures in the kingdom of the Rus.

AD 968. It has been ten summers since the noble sons of the North, Olaf and Torgil, were driven from their homeland by the treachery of the Norse king, Harald Eriksson. Having then escaped the horrors of slavery in Estland, they now fight among the Rus in the company of Olaf’s uncle, Sigurd. 

It will be some of the bloodiest years in Rus history. The Grand Prince, Sviatoslav, is hungry for land, riches, and power, but his unending campaigns are leaving the corpses of thousands in their wakes. From the siege of Konugard to the battlefields of ancient Bulgaria, Olaf and Torgil struggle to stay alive in Sigurd’s Swords, the riveting sequel to Forged by Iron. 

Publication Date: June 28, 2021
Publisher: Bodn Books
Page Length: 300 Pages (print)
Genre: Historical Fiction

The Inspiration for Sigurd’s Swords

To understand my motivation for writing Sigurd’s Swords, it’s helpful to know that it is the second novel in a series about Olaf Tryggvason, one of Norway’s most colorful kings. 

I began writing about Olaf Tryggvason for several reasons. Although the words written about him were penned centuries after his death, Olaf seems to be nothing short of a demi-god. He is born on an island while being pursued by his enemies, a tale that reminded me much of a certain Christian child being born in a manger. He grows into a tall and fair boy who is skilled in all manner of kingly pursuits: sports, weapon-craft, word-craft, music. As a young man, he attracts warriors and women to his side and sparks the jealousy of lords and kings. All of these things were interesting to me, but also one-dimensional and clearly chronicled by historians who were eager to elevate our thoughts of him. I wanted to create a more three-dimensional character. One with flaws to which I could relate –– flaws that could lead to his many successes but also his failures. 

There was something else about Olaf’s story that attracted my attention. He travels extensively through the Viking world and is involved in many of the key events that defined the late 10th century. My first book, Forged by Iron, tells of his harrowing flight from Norway and the many injustices he and his companions experience during their time in Estonia. In this second novel, he fights among the Rus in what is now Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Bulgaria during some of the most battle-torn years of the Rus kingdom’s existence. In later books, he will go on to live in Wendland, to fight on the Danevirke, and to plunder in Frisia, the Netherlands, and Germany. He will battle the Anglo-Saxons at the famous Battle of Maldon before heading to Ireland. Finally, he will return to his homeland of Norway to claim his birthright. His travelogue and his participation in so many of these events had my research and writing mind salivating. He was someone I had to write about.

Let us return, though, to Sigurds Swords, which is currently available to pre-order on Amazon. The book tells the story of Olaf as seen through the eyes of his sworn protector, Torgil, as they struggle to survive in the kingdom of the Rus, known then as Kievan Rus’. While Olaf’s chroniclers aren’t 100% accurate, we believe he was in that area of the world sometime around AD 965 to 973 because he is in Wendland (modern-day Germany) by AD 973-974. I could have skipped over this portion of Olaf’s life, but in the course of my research, I came across several events that would be perfect for my protagonist and his friend: the Siege of Kyiv (known to the Norse as Konugard) and the Siege of Drastar, which was an old Roman outpost in the kingdom of Bulgaria. Both were brutal affairs in which the Rus were involved, and I could tell early on that both would provide the ideal scenarios to test my characters.

So it was that I dove headfirst into Olaf’s life during his time in Kievan Rus. I hope you will pick up a copy to read about his exploits in that long-ago kingdom.

Sigurd’s Swords (Olaf’s Saga, Book 2) is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.


Eric Schumacher

Eric Schumacher (1968 - ) is an American historical novelist who currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended college at the University of San Diego.

At a very early age, Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Those discoveries continue to fuel his imagination and influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God's Hammer, was published in 2005.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

My review of Under the Light of the Italian Moon by Jennifer Anton #HistoricalFiction #Italywwii #rememberwomen #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @boldwomanwrites @maryanneyarde


Under the Light of the Italian Moon

By Jennifer Anton

A promise keeps them apart until WW2 threatens to destroy their love forever

Fonzaso Italy, between two wars.

Nina Argenta doesn’t want the traditional life of a rural Italian woman. The daughter of a strong-willed midwife, she is determined to define her own destiny. But when her brother emigrates to America, she promises her mother to never leave.

When childhood friend Pietro Pante briefly returns to their mountain town, passion between them ignites while Mussolini forces political tensions to rise. Just as their romance deepens, Pietro must leave again for work in the coal mines of America. Nina is torn between joining him and her commitment to Italy and her mother.

As Mussolini’s fascists throw the country into chaos and Hitler’s Nazis terrorise their town, each day becomes a struggle to survive greater atrocities. A future with Pietro seems impossible when they lose contact and Nina’s dreams of a life together are threatened by Nazi occupation and an enemy she must face alone…

A gripping historical fiction novel, based on a true story and heartbreaking real events.

Spanning over two decades, Under the Light of the Italian Moon is an epic, emotional and triumphant tale of one woman’s incredible resilience during the rise of fascism and Italy’s collapse into WWII.

Publication Date: 8th March 2021
Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
Page Length: 394 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical Fiction


For some people, emigrating to America is the only way they can make enough money to feed their families. Nina Argenta is only ten when people around her start to leave, namely her friend Pietro Pante and her older brother. Her mother may be tough, the midwife of the area, but with one of her children moving overseas, she can’t help but feel like it is her fault – if only she’d paid more attention to him, spent more time with him. With her mother, so uncharacteristically, upset, Nina makes a promise – she would never leave her mother. For a ten-year-old, this is an easy promise, for why would she ever want to leave her mother? 

When Pietro returns many years later, Nina feels things she has never felt before – a need to be with the man that has returned in the place of the boy who left. However, it is Nina’s older sister who has come of age, so finding Nina a partner is not on her parent’s minds. Pietro has to leave before long, to return to America and his job, and neither Nina nor Pietro can forget about the other. But even as Nina grows, her mother holds onto the promise of a child, and Nina has to choose between following her heart or keeping her promise.

A novel of joy, heartbreak, and the struggle of trying to maintain a relationship through irregular and insufficient letters, Under the Light of the Italian Moon tells the story of Nina as she follows her mother's footsteps and creates her own family, throughout the rise of WWII.

Nina is what one can only call an incredibly strong character. With the love of her life living so far away and their only contact through letters, their relationship is bound to suffer. It is not that Nina doesn’t have things to do, but one cannot help but feel a deep sense of loneliness when the only one you want to be with cannot be there. This novel follows her life, from a young child, making impossible promises, to a woman, trying to escape the grasp her family has on her life and to navigate her way through a time where Mussolini is getting increasingly popular and knowing people living under Hitler’s control makes her feel uneasy about their safety.

Nina was her mother’s gift, sharing a birthday with her, but while Adelasia may have brought thousands of children into the world, Nina is the child who is relied upon too much. She is ten years old when she promises never to leave, and such a promise made by a child shouldn’t be taken seriously. At such an age, Nina had no idea of what she would want in the future and simply wanted to comfort her mother. While some of Adelasia’s actions can be understood, it seemed unfair to Nina for her mother to treat her in such a way. She greatly affected Nina’s life, for while she could have been in America with the one she loved, raising a family together, instead they are forced apart. At times, Adelasia came across as incredibly cold, and uncaring. She forces Nina to miss a festival to help with a birth, and when Nina is going through an incredibly emotional time, she sends her away to do a course that would cause increased pain and misery. I found it difficult to summon any sympathy for Adelasia to begin with, but as the story progressed, we get a more in-depth look into her life and start to see her in a more flattering light.

While none of the women in this novel are a part of the resistance, it is not as if they have nothing to resist – with the rise of fascism in the country and new ideas in the country, the women have difficult decisions to make. Adelasia must start being careful when telling women they shouldn’t have any more children, or how to prevent unwanted pregnancies due to a body unsuited to bearing children. Mussolini wanted people to have large families, and it was easy for the men to obey. It was the women who struggled in the background, giving birth and caring for young children, but they didn’t have a choice. As WWII intensifies around them, Nina struggles to keep her family safe as more soldiers appear around them and more people are killed, or worse.

This novel is enchanting, intriguing, and heartbreaking all in one. Nina’s story will captivate you and will not let you out of the spell until you have finished reading – until the early hours of the morning when the moon is gone and the sun has started to rise.

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Jennifer Anton

Jennifer Anton is an American/Italian dual citizen born in Joliet, Illinois and now lives between London and Lake Como, Italy. A proud advocate for women's rights and equality, she hopes to rescue women's stories from history, starting with her Italian family.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Find out where #HistoricalFiction author, Emma Lombard, got hers!! #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @LombardEmma @maryanneyarde


Discerning Grace
(Book One of The White Sails Series)
By Emma Lombard

As the first full-length novel in The White Sails Series, DISCERNING GRACE captures the spirit of an independent woman whose feminine lens blows the ordered patriarchal decks of a 19th century tall ship to smithereens.

Wilful Grace Baxter, will not marry old Lord Silverton with his salivary incontinence and dead-mouse stink. Discovering she is a pawn in an arrangement between slobbery Silverton and her calculating father, Grace is devastated when Silverton reveals his true callous nature.

Refusing this fate, Grace resolves to stow away. Heading to the docks, disguised as a lad to ease her escape, she encounters smooth-talking naval recruiter, Gilly, who lures her aboard HMS Discerning with promises of freedom and exploration in South America.

When Grace's big mouth lands her bare-bottomed over a cannon for insubordination, her identity is exposed. The captain wants her back in London but his orders, to chart the icy archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, forbid it. Lieutenant Seamus Fitzwilliam gallantly offers to take Grace off the fretting captain's hands by placing her under his protection.

Grace must now win over the crew she betrayed with her secret, while managing her feelings towards her taciturn protector, whose obstinate chivalry stifles her new-found independence. But when Grace disregards Lieutenant Fitzwilliam's warnings about the dangers of the unexplored archipelago, it costs a friend his life and she realises she is not as free as she believes.

Publication Date: 22 February 2021
Page Length: 372 pages
Genre: Historical Women’s Fiction

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?
By Emma Lombard

Where the Inspiration for Discerning Grace Came From

The idea for my historical women’s fiction, romantic adventure, Discerning Grace, came about when my grandmother told me that my 3x great grandmother eloped with an English sea captain. This is what my grandmother letter says, ‘Your GGG grandmother was only 16 when she ran away from home to marry a sea captain … her family cut her off and she sailed the seas with him …’ How freaking awesome it that! I just knew I had to write a story about it!

Armed with a little knowledge of my 3x great grandmother’s character, I had a great foundation upon which to build my fictional tale. I’ve been thrilled by the journey of writing it and all the research too, but most of all, I’ve loved imagining the incredible courage and fortitude it would have taken my ancestor to choose such a life! Especially because I’m afflicted by sea sickness and always end up laying face-down on the deck of any boat or ship I travel on. 

Plus, there is my 3x great grandfather’s side of the tale to consider too. As my grandmother put it, they were ‘obviously a very enlightened couple, and she a very, very liberated woman.’ Knowing these kinds of people really existed back then made writing about my fictional characters’ boundary-pushing pursuits even more exhilarating.

While the foundation for my novel comes from a piece of ancestral gossip, I have been very mindful not to encroach on my ancestor's lives and so my story is a purely fictional, historical naval adventure—with a dash of romance.

My Inspiration

I’ve drawn inspiration from Wilbur Smith’s galloping historical adventures that don’t shy away from sweeping the globe and diving into rugged terrain. Diana Gabaldon’s epic historical Outlander tomes brilliantly makes readers use all their senses, building a realistic picture of the old world. I’ve created an epic tale that I hope will appeal to a wider audience as it isn’t overly bogged down with the technicalities of sailing or navigation found in most naval fiction. 

And as one of my Goodreads reviewers pointed out, it’s “…for lovers of … romance which isn’t all flutters and butterflies.” It also focuses on the dynamics of relationships between rank and class, and on breaking down social and gender stereotypes of the day. All while sweeping readers along on a tall ship across the world’s oceans, where new discoveries and mishaps happen a plenty.

History is full of pioneering individuals and I hope to have captured this spirit in my characters. And let’s not forget, it’s also a rollicking romantic adventure!

Historical Fiction or Historical Romance?

It was only after some excellent advice from a couple of literary agents who I queried that I realized I’d blurred the lines between the genres of historical fiction, women’s fiction, and romance. So, after a substantial re-write to tighten up the voice of my novel, I finally launched Discerning Grace out into the world as historical women’s fiction. 

I hope that Grace Baxter will appeal to the same readers who love Claire Fraser from Outlander, and Demelza Poldark from Poldark. In other words, fans of feisty historical female leads. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an element of romance in my novels, it just means that it doesn’t follow the romance formula.

The romance genre has quite a distinct arc in the relationship between the two main characters, with a resolution to this relationship coming to a (usually) happy-ever-after scenario at the end of the book. It also zooms in on the more intimate moments between the two love interests (touches, glances, and proffered love).

The women’s fiction genre focusses more on the story arc of the female lead, independently of any love interests. It explores the character’s journey and the effects it has on her along the way, including how she manages challenges and grows from experiences. 

In Grace’s instance, she has to stay disguised as a young man aboard a ship of roughened sea dogs, and then ultimately stand her ground as a woman among the patriarchal ranks. Throw in a few perils of life at sea on an exploration vessel mapping the world, and Grace ends up on the adventure of a lifetime. Though she’s not averse to secretly making eyes at a certain dashing lieutenant.

My Goal as an Author

I write to entertain. Yip, it’s that simple. I hope my readers will be able to laugh, scream, cry and sigh with satisfaction that my story wholly immersed them in another time and place with characters who they cheered on and championed for (or booed and hissed at if they’re the baddy). As one passionate Goodreads reader put it, “Silverton’s vileness seeped through the pages to the point I wanted to climb into the book and sort him out myself.”
And another invested reader responded, “Also thank you for the laughs and the tears (and when I say tears I mean it). Why?? Oh, why Emma??? Why did you do that!? You know what I am talking about. Yes… that. Although I forgive you…”

Mwahaha! *Evil author laugh

THAT’s what I’m talking about! Lol! Mission accomplished.

Emma Lombard

Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa—calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years—before finally settling in Brisbane Australia, and raising four boys. Before she started writing historical fiction, she was a freelance editor in the corporate world, which was definitely not half as exciting as writing rollicking romantic adventures. Her characters are fearless seafarers, even though in real life Emma gets disastrously sea sick. Discerning Grace, is the first book in The White Sails Series.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

My review of Two Fatherlands (A Reschen Valley Novel Part 4) by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger #BookReview #HistoricalFiction @ckalyna @maryanneyarde

Two Fatherlands 

(A Reschen Valley Novel Part 4)

By Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger

It's a dangerous time to be a dissident...

1938. Northern Italy. Since saving Angelo Grimani's life 18 years earlier, Katharina is grappling with how their lives have since been entwined. Construction on the Reschen Lake reservoir begins and the Reschen Valley community is torn apart into two fronts - those who want to stay no matter what comes, and those who hold out hope that Hitler will bring Tyrol back into the fold.

Back in Bolzano, Angelo finds one fascist politician who may have the power to help Katharina and her community, but there is a group of corrupt players eager to have a piece of him. When they realise that Angelo and Katharina are joining forces, they turn to a strategy of conquering and dividing to weaken both the community and Angelo's efforts.

Meanwhile, the daughter Angelo shares with Katharina - Annamarie - has fled to Austria to pursue her acting career but the past she is running away from lands her directly into the arms of a new adversary: the Nazis. She goes as far as Berlin, and as far as Goebbels, to pursue her dreams, only to realise that Germany is darker than any place she's been before.

Angelo puts aside his prejudices and seeks alliances with old enemies; Katharina finds ingenious ways to preserve what is left of her community, and Annamarie wrests herself from the black forces of Nazism with plans to return home. But when Hitler and Mussolini present the Tyroleans with “The Option”, the residents are forced to choose between Italian and German nationhood with no guarantee that they will be able to stay in Tyrol at all!

Out of the ruins of war, will they be able to find their way back to one another and pick up the pieces?

This blockbuster finale will keep readers glued to the pages. Early readers are calling it, "...engrossing", "...enlightening" and "...both a heartbreaking and uplifting end to this incredible series!"

Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Publisher: Inktreks/Lucyk-Berger
Page Length: 636 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction (WW2)


Progress? Is that a good enough excuse to evict people from their homes? It has been decided that the Reschen Valley is to be turned into a new reservoir. Katharina is determined to stop the dam from being built and thus flooding their homes.

In Austria, Katharina's daughter, Annamarie, is desperately chasing her dreams. She longs to become to an actress, acting in films or on stage. She has friends, people she believes she can trust, but her life takes a turn when she is offered a job with the Bund Deutsher M├Ądel (BDM). She would make money, enough to fund her acting lessons, and she willingly registers as a party member. Her dreams are in sight, and she is unaware of where such a path will lead.

There is one tie remaining between Katharina and Angelo Grimani, and that is Annamarie, their daughter. Despite Katharina's husband, Florian, raising Annamarie as his own, there is no denying her true parentage. His daughter's existence and his abandonment of Katharina all those years ago is what gives him the incentive, or rather what gives Katharina a truth to hold him to, to help the inhabitants of the Reschen Valley. 

With the carabinieri making any excuse to arrest people, bring them in for questioning, or to destroy some aspect of someone's life, and her eldest son causing trouble, Katharina has a right to be concerned. Her youngest son, Manuel, may be just like her, but Bernd attracts trouble, or rather he goes searching for it. Getting involved with the carabinieri one too many times will be his downfall if he is not careful, yet he refuses to listen to his parents or learn from his actions. His stubborn trait, not to mention falling in with the wrong kind of people who encourage the behaviour that Katharina tries so hard to discourage, means it is near on impossible to make him listen. Katharina's frustration is understandable, but she is determined to keep trying, to not give up on him. If she could only teach him, get him to realise the errors of his ways, he would realise that violence is not always the answer. If she could just make him see, then maybe her son will stay out of trouble, and his life will be less likely to end in bloodshed or in a cell.

Annamarie's perspective shows the Nazi Party's persuasive techniques and how they could manipulate a person's viewpoint. Annamari has her dreams, and she will do what she can to achieve them, but she still has morals. When she joins the BDM, she needs papers from her parents to prove her lineage, but she refuses to speak to them. She asks, instead, through a relative, and when the papers do not arrive, she can only assume that her mother is withholding them from her to be spiteful, to stubbornly prove her own point. Annamarie's friends are a mixed group of people, but the ideology of the Nazi Party begins to cloud her mind. Annamarie is so wrapped up in the thought of achieving her dreams that she fails to grasp the significance of what is happening around her.

Angelo is another conflicted character. He wants to divorce from his wife — he has been asking for one for a very long time. And now his son refuses to speak to him. He is trapped. And he also feels duty-bound to keep his promise to Katharina. But that is proving easier said than done.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and cannot wait to get my hands on the previous books in this series to read how this story started now that I know how it ends.

Universal Book Link

Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger

Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger is an American author living in Austria. Her focus is on historical fiction. She has been a managing editor for a magazine publishing house, has worked as an editor, and has won several awards for her travel narrative, flash fiction and short stories. She lives with her husband in a “Grizzly Adams” hut in the Alps, just as she’d always dreamt she would when she was a child.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Read an excerpt from Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg #YoungAdult #Contemporary #Excerpt #NewRelease @LeeMatthewG @XpressoTours

Runaway Train

By Lee Matthew Goldberg

They told me I was an out-of-control train about to crash…

Everything changed when the police officer knocked on the door to tell me – a 16-year-old – that my older sister Kristen had died of a brain aneurysm. Cue the start of my parents neglecting me and my whole life spiraling out of control.

I decided now was the perfect time to skip town. It’s the early 90’s, Kurt Cobain runs the grunge music scene and I just experienced some serious trauma. What’s a girl supposed to do? I didn’t want to end up like Kristen, so I grabbed my bucket list, turned up my mixtape of the greatest 90’s hits and fled L.A.. The goal was to end up at Kurt Cobain’s house in Seattle, but I never could have guessed what would happen along the way.

At turns heartbreaking, inspiring, and laugh out loud funny, Runaway Train is a wild journey of a bygone era and a portrait of a one-of-a-kind teenage girl trying to find herself again the only way she knows how.

Publication date: April 29th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Out now!


I’m still high after leaving Winter’s house and decide to just drive around and around as the sun sets beyond the hills coating the sky orange and purple. I adjust the rearview mirror to apply my MAC Viva Glam Taupe Lipstick with brown lip liner and take a moment to assess myself. My hair has been dyed so many colors it appears clumpy and lifeless. The baby fat has finally fled from my cheeks, but my chin still looks weak (thanks Mom), unlike Dad or Kristen’s strong jaw. My smile makes me resemble a chipmunk, and no one would ever call me beautiful, pretty maybe if I spend hours doing my makeup, but most likely, simply cute. Again, like a chipmunk. 

I hit play on my mixtape and “Runaway Train” blasts. I roll up the windows so I can sing it loud without feeling embarrassed, belting the chorus that coincides with my upcoming journey, my flight to nowhere and everywhere at the same time. I’ve got the courage to run away now, but what would happen once I come down from my high? I’ll likely curl up in bed to the sounds of In Utero, solely on my Walkman since Mom had freakin’ broken my stereo. 

I arrive home during Mazzy Star’s luscious and mournful “Fade Into You.” When I walk through the front door, Mom and Dad are waiting on opposite couches. Dad clears his throat.

“Park it, Scrap,” he says, a nickname that used to be endearing when I was little, but now indicates how little he’s involved in my life. I’m just a scrap to him, leftovers on a plate. 

Dad has a sweep of silver hair that might have been called dashing like a movie star, but his tired, weighed-down eyes keep him ordinary. Winter once said that from far away he looks like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman and that she’d “do him.” I responded by punching her in her big boob.

Mom gives a shy wave, as if we’re old friends reuniting. I don’t even bother to check if I give off a weed odor. Screw ‘em both. 

“I know about your mother and Mr. Ferguson,” Dad says. He doesn’t sigh like I expect him to; he explains their tryst like he’s rattling off what we’re having for dinner. “I have been seeing someone else as well. Annette.”

I scrunch my face up. “Annette?” I picture some over-sexed French lady sharing my father’s office cot after a boink session and feeding him escargot. 

“Your mother and I are getting a divorce.”

An image of Jeremy sashays into my thoughts, hands on hips, and an “I told ya so” pouring from his lips over and over. When I look at Mom, she gives a sobering nod. 

“This is for the best, Nico,” she says, and tries to grab my hand but I whip it away. 

“I’ll be staying with Annette at her place in Los Feliz,” Dad continues. “You won’t have to move.”

“What if I don’t want to live with her,” I say, pointing at my mother like she’s a defendant in a courtroom. That woman!

Mom chews on her lip. “Nico, we don’t want to uproot you. And your father needs time to settle in.”

“I don’t wanna live with him either.”

Finally, the two of them glance at each other, former opponents aligned against a new adversary.

“I’m gonna stay with Winter,” I shout. “Her mom already said it’s okay. They have an extra room.”

“That’s a big imposition,” Dad barks, smoothing down his tie as if we’re in a goddamn business meeting. 

“I’ll help around their house. Edina’s practically begged me. And this isn’t working out so we’ll try it.” 

I stand up like I’m the parent who already made the decision. The allies glance at each other again, neither willing to put up too much of a fight for me.

“O-kay,” they both say in eerie harmony. 

“I just need to pack,” I say. “I’ll be out of your hair tonight.”

“Nico, there’s no rush,” my mom says. She stands up but just teeters in place, afraid to make a move.

I’m holding back tears, refusing to be emotional in front of them. I tell myself to be cold like Dad, a robot in flannel. 

“Why waste any more time,” I say, flapping my arms. “Like, we waste so much time all the time, ya-know? And then one day…”

I mime the action of dropping dead and watch their faces scrunch up in response. 

“So, it’s been fun parental units. I’ll call you in a few days when I’m settled too.”

I spin around to head up the stairs. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Mom try to come after me, but Dad raises his palm to hold her back. Am I not even worth an argument? I guess fucking not. 

I dash into my room, get out a duffel bag, and throw in everything I think I’d need. My yellow Sports Walkman and a shit ton of batteries. A dozen different band T-shirts and four practically identical flannels, a few various chokers, an off the shoulder leotard, two straight fit jeans, and two jeans shorts that I made by cutting up old pairs, some glitter nail polish, a couple of baby doll dresses, a Jansport backpack, some joints, my fake ID where my name is Sasha Lioni and I go to USC, a bag of makeup and hair dye, a Nirvana poster that I’d tape up in my car, and finally a picture of Kristen and I, nine and ten years old at camp on a trip up to Big Sur, the sun a bright melon ball making us squint, our arms around one another, smiles filled with braces, still innocent and unexposed to any tragedies. 

On my way down, Dad meets me at the bottom of the stairs. He has his gas card in his hand. 

“Use it as much as you need,” he says, tucking it in my jeans pocket. He gives me a pat on the shoulder. I can hear my mother sniffling in the kitchen. I keep my eyes trained to the floor and duck out of there, tossing the duffel bag in the passenger’s seat and roaring off into the night.

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com

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