Guest Post/Review by Savannah Cordova of MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Good day, book people. We’ve made it to the end of another month, yay! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been spending my days either reading or thinking about what I should read next from my alarmingly huge TBR list. (I know, if I stopped re-reading, I might actually be able to whittle down the TBR list. Hey, let’s not get crazy people!) While I ponder what to read next and get ready to celebrate my youngest brother’s birthday (our birthdays are exactly one week apart minus a bunch of years), I’m pleased to welcome a guest writer/reviewer today. Please help me welcome Savannah Cordova as she provides us a with her review of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Thank you, Savannah for stopping by today and providing us this review. I can’t wait to see what your thoughts are on this book.

MEXICAN GOTHIC - SMGarciaMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
ISBN: 9780525620808 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780525620792 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593213865 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07YK1K1YK (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B082TKH2K7 (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: June 15, 2021 (Paperback edition)
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Horror | Science Fiction & Fantasy

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

 

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Mexican Gothic: A Bold Postcolonial Promise That Doesn’t Quite Come Through

Creepy gothic mansion? Check.
Page-turning, thrilling plot? Check.
Confident female protagonist? Check.
Stayed up late to finish it? Cheeeeck.

And yet, for a book that features so many of my favorite literary ingredients, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic fell short of my expectations. Before we examine why, let’s talk about the book’s premise.

Mexican Gothic begins in Mexico, 1950. Noemí Taboada and her father have just received a disturbing letter from Noemí’s cousin Catalina, who has recently married an Englishman, Virgil Doyle, and gone to live in his family’s mansion in the Mexican mountains. Urged by her father, Noemí heads to the mysterious old house to assess her cousin’s health, understand what prompted her letter, and rescue her if necessary.

Certain key strengths immediately stand out in this novel: the setting of the story, for example, is immaculately realized, rich in detail, and highly immersive in its creepy atmosphere. Similarly, it’s hard not to appreciate the tightly controlled story structure Moreno-Garcia employs. What at first appears to be a realist narrative gradually builds suspense through quietly observed bizarre moments, gaining seriously page-turning momentum and reaching a climax where — if you’ll pardon my language — shit really hits the fan.

Much like a murder mystery, it’s impossible to resist the draw of the book once it gets going, and that takes real skill to accomplish. More than that, the thriller dimension of this book didn’t feel cheaply done, like the author had just thrown in a few random ideas to shock the reader; rather, it felt like a steady, deliberate effort that was successfully horrifying (I won’t give specifics to avoid spoilers, but consider this your trigger warning for body horror and sexual assault).

Returning to the premise of the novel, Mexican Gothic is based on a genuinely cool, exciting concept. Unlike the Gothic classics it evokes (Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The Yellow Wallpaper all lurk in the shadows), it is written from a postcolonial perspective, and dares to tackle things that Jane Eyre, for example, famously overlooks (though perhaps Moreno-Garcia was inspired by Wide Sargasso Sea). Colorism, racism, and eugenics all come into play in the clashes between Noemí and the Doyle family. Unfortunately, this is where my qualms with the novel begin.

I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that near its resolution, Mexican Gothic takes a sharp turn toward fantasy, leaving most of its postcolonial dimensions behind — which seemed a shame. The fantasy elements, in contrast to the ideas introduced earlier in the novel, felt rushed and vague, filling me with all sorts of last-minute questions about the world-building and how things worked. So while the novel swept me along with the force of a powerful wave, I did feel a bit like the ending dropped me flat on my back.

Another frustrating thing about this book was its somewhat lazy characterization, especially in comparison to the vivid realization of the setting. I found out an awful lot about Noemí’s fashion choices, for example, but not so much about why she likes what she likes or why she behaves the way she behaves. Similarly, the entire Doyle family, and Catalina, struck me as shockingly flat characters, whose personalities aren’t explored in much depth. There’s a reason the “show, don’t tell” rule exists, and Mexican Gothic is not the book to provide an exception.

Style and dialogue were another distracting issue in this novel. Inconsistently shifting between vaguely dated, formal-sounding language to contemporary informal speech (e.g. Noemí exclaiming “what the fuck?”), the novel failed to convince me that it was set in the mid-century. Instead, it comes across as temporally insecure and adrift between time periods.

In summary, this was a book I wanted to enjoy, and one I read with hungry enthusiasm, but which didn’t quite meet my (admittedly high) expectations. When style is among a book’s weaknesses, it becomes frustrating to read; it’s like you’re persisting in spite of your various issues with the language.

That said, I’d still recommend this book to readers of creepy, thrilling, or suspenseful fiction who don’t mind the occasional stylistic lapse — precisely because it’s a novel that still succeeds in building tension, creeping you out, and thrilling you out to an impressive degree.


Meet the Reviewer

Savannah Cordova headshot newSavannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that helps authors self-publish their books by connecting them with the world’s best publishing professionals — and helps aspiring authors with their creative writing so they can get there. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and low fantasy, as well as writing the occasional short story.

Book Spotlight: LOST LOVE’S RETURN by Alfred Nicols

LOST LOVE'S RETURN by Alfred Nicols book cover; sepia-tone pictures, top picture is of WW1 hospital room featuring patients and nurses, bottom picture is of a man facing a woman on a cobblestone street.

Lost Love’s Return by Alfred Nicols
ISBN: 9781953865281 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781953865168 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781953865175 (ebook)
ASIN: B091QBVNT9 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Books Fluent
Release Date: June 8, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Romance

 “Fans of long-lost love will appreciate the sincere bond between Peter and Elizabeth as they navigate the ups and downs of rediscovering each other.” –BookLife

In 1918, in a dramatic battlefield scene on the Western Front, young American soldier Peter Montgomery sustains a severe wound. He’s transported to a British hospital, where he falls hard for Elizabeth, a young English nurse, and she for him. Upon his release, they engage in an intense love affair, forever changing both of their lives.

Separated and shipped home, Peter tries desperately to reconnect with Elizabeth, but the War and the Spanish flu epidemic have the world in turmoil. Despite his every effort, desperate and in great distress, he is unable to reconnect with her. And then, suddenly, all hope is gone.

For the next twenty-seven years, Peter stoically meets many challenges in his life: finding a way to make a living during the Depression; being a devoted father to his son, born eleven months after marriage to a woman he does not love.

This debut novel from Alfred Nicols takes you from the battlefields of Europe during WWI to postwar Mississippi and into WWII and begs one question. Will true love prevail?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Alibris | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository.com | eBooks.com | Kobo eBook

 

Meet The Author

Author - Alfred Nicols

ALFRED NICOLS received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Mississippi. Following military service, he had a career as a lawyer, a state trial judge, and a federal judge. He and his wife, Mary, live on rural acreage in Mississippi. Lost Love’s Return was written as an effort to leave his children and grandchildren, perhaps others, insight into issues in life and the value of family ties, even to imperfect people.

This spotlight brought to you courtesy of Books Forward

Book Showcase: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR by Pam Jenoff

Blog Tour Banner: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR, book cover features wet cobblestone street, a pair of red t-strap ladies shoes, and a white armband with a blue Star of David embroidery; Quote: "Filled with twists, turns, and displays of bravery and love that you will never forget!" Lisa Scottoline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of ETERNAL

THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR - PJenoff

The Woman With the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff
ISBN: 9780778389385 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780778311546 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781488073915 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488211706 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08PDTQ5TB (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08DL12NM8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Park Row Books
Release Date: May 4, 2021

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris comes a riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

 

 

Read An Excerpt:

Sadie

Kraków, Poland

March 1942

Everything changed the day they came for the children.

I was supposed to have been in the attic crawl space of the three-story building we shared with a dozen other families in the ghetto. Mama helped me hide there each morning before she set out to join the factory work detail, leaving me with a fresh bucket as a toilet and a stern admonishment not to leave. But I grew cold and restless alone in the tiny, frigid space where I couldn’t run or move or even stand straight. The minutes stretched silently, broken only by a scratching—unseen children, years younger than me, stowed on the other side of the wall. They were kept separate from one another without space to run and play. They sent each other messages by tapping and scratching, though, like a kind of improvised Morse code. Sometimes, in my boredom, I joined in, too.

“Freedom is where you find it,” my father often said when I complained. Papa had a way of seeing the world exactly as he wanted. “The greatest prison is in our mind.” It was easy for him to say. Though he manual ghetto labor was a far cry from his professional work as an accountant before the war, at least he was out and about each day, seeing other people. Not cooped up like me. I had scarcely left our apartment building since we were forced to move six months earlier from our apartment in the Jewish Quarter near the city center to the Podgórze neighborhood where the ghetto had been established on the southern bank of the river. I wanted a normal life, my life, free to run beyond the walls of the ghetto to all of the places I had once known and taken for granted. I imagined taking the tram to the shops on the Rynek or to the kino to see a film, exploring the ancient grassy mounds on the outskirts of the city. I wished that at least my best friend, Stefania, was one of the others hidden nearby. Instead, she lived in a separate apartment on the other side of the ghetto designated for the families of the Jewish police.

It wasn’t boredom or loneliness that had driven me from my hiding place this time, though, but hunger. I had always had a big appetite and this morning’s breakfast ration had been a half slice of bread, even less than usual. Mama had offered me her portion, but I knew she needed her strength for the long day ahead on the labor detail.

As the morning wore on in my hiding place, my empty belly had begun to ache. Visions pushed into my mind uninvited of the foods we ate before the war: rich mushroom soup and savory borscht, and pierogi, the plump, rich dumplings my grandmother used to make. By midmorning, I felt so weak from hunger that I had ventured out of my hiding place and down to the shared kitchen on the ground floor, which was really nothing more than a lone working stove burner and a sink that dripped tepid brown water. I didn’t go to take food—even if there had been any, I would never steal. Rather, I wanted to see if there were any crumbs left in the cupboard and to fill my stomach with a glass of water.

I stayed in the kitchen longer than I should, reading the dog-eared copy of the book I’d brought with me. The thing I detested most about my hiding place in the attic was the fact that it was too dark for reading. I had always loved to read and Papa had carried as many books as he could from our apartment to the ghetto, over the protests of my mother, who said we needed the space in our bags for clothes and food. It was my father who had nurtured my love of learning and encouraged my dream of studying medicine at Jagiellonian University before the German laws made that impossible, first by banning Jews and later by closing the university altogether. Even in the ghetto at the end of his long, hard days of labor, Papa loved to teach and discuss ideas with me. He had somehow found me a new book a few days earlier, too, The Count of Monte Cristo. But the hiding place in the attic was too dark for me to read and there was scarcely any time in the evening before curfew and lights-out. Just a bit longer, I told myself, turning the page in the kitchen. A few minutes wouldn’t matter at all.

I had just finished licking the dirty bread knife when I heard heavy tires screeching, followed by barking voices. I froze, nearly dropping my book. The SS and Gestapo were outside, flanked by the vile Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst, Jewish Ghetto Police, who did their bidding. It was an aktion, the sudden unannounced arrest of large groups of Jews to be taken from the ghetto to camps. The very reason I was meant to be hiding in the first place. I raced from the kitchen, across the hall and up the stairs. From below came a great crash as the front door to the apartment building splintered and the police burst through. There was no way I could make it back to the attic in time.

Instead, I raced to our third-floor apartment. My heart pounded as I looked around desperately, wishing for an armoire or other cabinet suitable for hiding in the tiny room, which was nearly bare except for a dresser and bed. There were other places, I knew, like the fake plaster wall one of the other families had constructed in the adjacent building not a week earlier. That was too far away now, impossible to reach. My eyes focused on the large steamer trunk stowed at the foot of my parents’ bed. Mama had shown me how to hide there once shortly after we first moved to the ghetto. We practiced it like a game, Mama opening the trunk so that I could climb in before she closed the lid.

The trunk was a terrible hiding place, exposed and in the middle of the room. But there was simply nowhere else. I had to try. I raced over to the bed and climbed into the trunk, then closed the lid with effort. I thanked heavens that I was tiny like Mama. I had always hated being so petite, which made me look a solid two years younger than I actually was. Now it seemed a blessing, as did the sad fact that the months of meager ghetto rations had made me thinner. I still fit in the trunk.

When we had rehearsed, we had envisioned Mama putting a blanket or some clothes over the top of the trunk. Of course, I couldn’t do that myself. So the trunk sat unmasked for anyone who walked into the room to see and open. I curled into a tiny ball and wrapped my arms around myself, feeling the white armband with the blue star on my sleeve that all Jews were required to wear.

There came a great crashing from the next building, the sound of plaster being hewn by a hammer or ax. The police had found the hiding place behind the wall, given away by the too-fresh paint. An unfamiliar cry rang out as a child was found and dragged from his hiding place. If I had gone there, I would have been caught as well.

Someone neared the door to the apartment and flung it open. My heart seized. I could hear breathing, feel eyes searching the room. I’m sorry, Mama, I thought, feeling her reproach for having left the attic. I braced myself for discovery. Would they go easier on me if I came out and gave myself up? The footsteps grew fainter as the German continued down the hall, stopping before each door, searching.

The war had come to Kraków one warm fall day two and a half years earlier when the air-raid sirens rang out for the first time and sent the playing children scurrying from the street. Life got hard before it got bad. Food disappeared and we waited in long lines for the most basic supplies. Once there was no bread for a whole week.

Then about a year ago, upon orders from the General Government, Jews teemed into Kraków by the thousands from the small towns and villages, dazed and carrying their belongings on their backs. At first I wondered how they would all find places to stay in Kazimierz, the already cramped Jewish Quarter of the city. But the new arrivals were forced to live by decree in a crowded section of the industrial Podgórze district on the far side of the river that had been cordoned off with a high wall. Mama worked with the Gmina, the local Jewish community organization, to help them resettle, and we often had friends of friends over for a meal when they first arrived, before they went to the ghetto for good. They told stories from their hometowns too awful to believe and Mama shooed me from the room so I would not hear.

Several months after the ghetto was created, we were ordered to move there as well. When Papa told me, I couldn’t believe it. We were not refugees, but residents of Kraków; we had lived in our apartment on Meiselsa Street my entire life. It was the perfect location: on the edge of the Jewish Quarter but easy walking distance to the sights and sounds of the city center and close enough to Papa’s office on Stradomska Street that he could come home for lunch. Our apartment was above an adjacent café where a pianist played every evening. Sometimes the music spilled over and Papa would whirl Mama around the kitchen to the faint strains. But according to the orders, Jews were Jews. One day. One suitcase each. And the world I had known my entire life disappeared forever.

I peered out of the thin slit opening of the trunk, trying to see across the tiny room I shared with my parents. We were lucky, I knew, to have a whole room to ourselves, a privilege we had been given because my father was a labor foreman. Others were forced to share an apartment, often two or three families together. Still, the space felt cramped compared to our real home. We were ever on top of one another, the sights and sounds and smells of daily living magnified.

“Kinder, raus!” the police called over and over again now as they patrolled the halls. Children, out. It was not the first time the Germans had come for children during the day, knowing that their parents would be at work.

But I was no longer a child. I was eighteen and might have joined the work details like others my age and some several years younger. I could see them lining up for roll call each morning before trudging to one of the factories. And I wanted to work, even though I could tell from the slow, painful way my father now walked, stooped like an old man, and how Mama’s hands were split and bleeding that it was hard and awful. Work meant a chance to get out and see and talk to people. My hiding was a subject of much debate between my parents. Papa thought I should work. Labor cards were highly prized in the ghetto. Workers were valued and less likely to be deported to one of the camps. But Mama, who seldom fought my father on anything, had forbidden it. “She doesn’t look her age. The work is too hard. She is safest out of sight.” I wondered as I hid now, about to be discovered at any second, if she would still think she was right.

The building finally went silent, the last of the awful footsteps receding. Still I didn’t move. That was one of the ways they trapped people who were hiding, by pretending to go away and lying in wait when they came out. I remained motionless, not daring to leave my hiding place. My limbs ached, then went numb. I had no idea how much time had passed. Through the slit, I could see that the room had grown dimmer, as if the sun had lowered a bit.

Sometime later, there were footsteps again, this time a shuffling sound as the laborers trudged back silent and exhausted from their day. I tried to uncurl myself from the trunk. But my muscles were stiff and sore and my movements slow. Before I could get out, the door to our apartment flung open and someone ran into the room with steps light and fluttering. “Sadie!” It was Mama, sounding hysterical.

“Jestem tutaj,” I called. I am here. Now that she was home, she could help me untangle myself and get out. But my voice was muffled by the trunk. When I tried to undo the latch, it stuck.

Mama raced from the room back into the corridor. I could hear her open the door to the attic, then run up the stairs, still searching for me. “Sadie!” she called. Then, “My child, my child,” over and over again as she searched but did not find me, her voice rising to a shriek. She thought I was gone.

“Mama!” I yelled. She was too far away to hear me, though, and her own cries were too loud. Desperately, I struggled once more to free myself from the trunk without success. Mama raced back into the room, still wailing. I heard the scraping sound of a window opening and felt a whoosh of cold air. At last I threw myself against the lid of the trunk, slamming my shoulder so hard it throbbed. The latch sprang open.

I broke free and stood up quickly. “Mama?” She was standing in the oddest position, with one foot on the window ledge, her willowy frame silhouetted against the frigid twilight sky. “What are you doing?” For a second, I thought she was looking for me outside. But her face was twisted with grief and pain. I knew then why Mama was on the window ledge. She assumed I had been taken along with the other children. And she didn’t want to live. If I hadn’t freed myself from the trunk in time, Mama would have jumped. I was her only child, her whole world. She was prepared to kill herself before she would go on without me.

A chill ran through me as I sprinted toward her. “I’m here, I’m here.” She wobbled unsteadily on the window ledge and I grabbed her arm to stop her from falling. Remorse ripped through me. I always wanted to please her, to bring that hard-won smile to her beautiful face. Now I had caused her so much pain she’d almost done the unthinkable.

“I was so worried,” she said after I’d helped her down and closed the window. As if that explained everything. “You weren’t in the attic.”

“But, Mama, I hid where you told me to.” I gestured to the trunk. “The other place, remember? Why didn’t you look for me there?”

Mama looked puzzled. “I didn’t think you would fit anymore.” There was a pause and then we both began laughing, the sound scratchy and out of place in the pitiful room. For a few seconds, it was like we were back in our old apartment on Meiselsa Street and none of this had happened at all. If we could still laugh, surely things would be all right. I clung to this last improbable thought like a life preserver at sea.

But a cry echoed through the building, then another, silencing our laughter. It was the mothers of the other children who had been taken by the police. There came a thud outside. I started for the window, but my mother blocked me. “Look away,” she ordered. It was too late. I glimpsed Helga Kolberg, who lived down the hall, lying motionless in the coal-tinged snow on the pavement below, her limbs cast at odd angles and skirt splayed around her like a fan. She had realized her children were gone and, like Mama, she didn’t want to live without them. I wondered whether jumping was a shared instinct, or if they had discussed it, a kind of suicide pact in case their worst nightmares came true.

My father raced into the room then. Neither Mama nor I said a word, but I could tell from his unusually grim expression that he already knew about the aktion and what had happened to the other families. He simply walked over and wrapped his enormous arms around both of us, hugging us tighter than usual.

As we sat, silent and still, I looked up at my parents. Mama was a striking beauty—thin and graceful, with white-blond hair the color of a Nordic princess’. She looked nothing like the other Jewish women and I had heard whispers more than once that she didn’t come from here. She might have walked away from the ghetto and lived as a non-Jew if it wasn’t for us. But I was built like Papa, with the dark, curly hair and olive skin that made the fact that we were Jews undeniable. My father looked like the laborer the Germans had made him in the ghetto, broad-shouldered and ready to lift great pipes or slabs of concrete. In fact, he was an accountant—or had been until it became illegal for his firm to employ him anymore. I always wanted to please Mama, but it was Papa who was my ally, keeper of secrets and weaver of dreams, who stayed up too late whispering secrets in the dark and had roamed the city with me, hunting for treasure. I moved closer now, trying to lose myself in the safety of his embrace.

Still, Papa’s arms could offer little shelter from the fact that everything was changing. The ghetto, despite its awful conditions, had once seemed relatively safe. We were living among Jews and the Germans had even appointed a Jewish council, the Judenrat, to run our daily affairs. Perhaps if we laid low and did as we were told, Papa said more than once, the Germans would leave us alone inside these walls until the war was over. That had been the hope. But after today, I wasn’t so sure. I looked around the apartment, seized with equal parts disgust and fear. In the beginning, I had not wanted to be here; now I was terrified we would be forced to leave.

“We have to do something,” Mama burst out, her voice a pitch higher than usual as it echoed my unspoken thoughts.

“I’ll take her tomorrow and register her for a work permit,” Papa said. This time Mama did not argue. Before the war, being a child had been a good thing. But now being useful and able to work was the only thing that might save us.

Mama was talking about more than a work visa, though. “They are going to come again and next time we won’t be so lucky.” She did not bother to hold back her words for my benefit now. I nodded in silent agreement. Things were changing, a voice inside me said. We could not stay here forever.

“It will be okay, kochana,” Papa soothed. How could he possibly say that? But Mama laid her head on his shoulder, seeming to trust him as she always had. I wanted to believe it, too. “I will think of something. At least,” Papa added as we huddled close, “we are all still together.” The words echoed through the room, equal parts promise and prayer.

Excerpt from The Woman With the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff.

Copyright © 2021 by Pam Jenoff. Published by MIRA Books. All Rights Reserved.

 

Meet The Author

Author - Pam Jenoff photo credit Mindy Schwartz Sorasky

Pam Jenoff is the author of several books of historical fiction, including the NYT bestseller The Orphan’s Tale. She holds a degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her JD from UPenn. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and 3 children near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.

Connect with the Author:

Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website | Park Row Books

This excerpt brought to you courtesy of Park Row Books

Book Showcase: ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER by Rebecca Anderson

Blog Tour Banner: ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER by Rebecca Anderson, Proper Romance Series, May 3-16, 2021 Blog Tour, features book cover with Regency Era dressed couple walking through a gate; quote: "Isabelle's loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver's heart." Booklist

ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER - RAndersonIsabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson
ISBN: 9781629728476 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781629739953 (ebook)
ASIN: B08WJT83XR (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B093K2MQ7X (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Release Date: May 4, 2021

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father’s coal mines with Alexander Osgood’s prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander’s wife.

However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.

Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn’t bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle’s opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.

 

Advance Praise

“Anderson’s first foray into historical romance is an atypical, yet satisfying story set in Victorian Manchester’s upper middle class. Hand this to readers looking for a book that navigates the peaks and valleys of two strangers attempting to make a life together despite the hardships life throws at them.”— Library Journal

 

“Isabelle transitions from an unaware, leisure-class woman to a more enlightened spouse and supporter of the working class. Intimacy and romance develop between Isabelle and Alexander because of simple gestures, like a long look or a thoughtful gift, and their conversations. Their slow, stately courting is reader appropriate for any age or audience. Manchester also gets its due as a place of grit and incredible production. Descriptions of bustling mills reveal their impact on the couple’s family and its fortunes. Isabelle and Alexander is an intimate and touching romance novel that focuses on women’s lives in the business class of industrial England.”— Foreword Reviews

 

“Isabelle must use her quiet spunk, busy mind, and compassionate spirit to woo her husband in a wholly new way. Anderson’s debut is a lovely northern England Victorian romance about confronting the seemingly impossible and the power of empathy. Anderson also addresses the time period’s treatment of physical and intellectual disabilities. Most of all, she beautifully depicts love in its many forms beyond romance, such as compassion, patience, and vulnerability; and her characters illustrate the ways that these expressions of love carry us through even the darkest hours. Isabelle’s loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver’s heart.”— Booklist

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 2

Pages 11-15

Two weeks into their marriage, Isabelle believed she understood exactly what was expected of her, and what she could expect in return. It was not what her mother had led her to suppose.

Alexander was polite, if cold, and exceedingly busy. It appeared to Isabelle that their marriage had changed his daily routine very little. In the city, he woke early and breakfasted alone before walking the four blocks to his mill, where he spent his days overseeing the workings that remained a mystery to Isabelle. When he arrived home for supper, he spoke little of his work, and Isabelle cast about for any topic of conversation they’d not scratched the days before.

Trouble was, there was very little for her to offer.

Welcome home, Mr. Osgood, she could imagine herself saying. Dinner is served as you requested. I spent the day managing your small staff of servants who are fully capable of managing themselves, waiting for visitors to appear, nodding and smiling at people who passed the parlor window, and staring at the supremely masculine decorations on the walls.

As a result, dinner was a quiet affair. Every evening.

After dinner, the couple retired upstairs. Separately. This part was far from what Isabelle’s mother had led her to anticipate. Not that she’d spoken of specifics. But Isabelle had arrived at certain ideas, and her current reality did not reflect them in the least. Isabelle knew she had nothing of which to complain, except that every day, she felt the burden of loneliness and yearned for a friend with whom to commiserate. She understood that what was missing was someone who wanted to talk with her.

Edwin, home at the Lakes, would have replaced her within a month. It was so easy for him to take anyone into his confidence. He would certainly have found a friend with whom to talk and listen and laugh.

Isabelle spent an hour each morning writing letters. She wrote to her mother, informing her of the duties she performed, the sights she saw in the city, and the food she ate. These letters spoke of dirt and fish and household management. She took care to add enough detail to create a picture of fulfillment. She wrote to Ed, reminding him of childhood escapades and telling him how she missed his laugh. She wrote to her old governess, thanking her for teaching her all she needed to know in order to fill her days with meaning. After two weeks of writing such letters, she had not yet posted one.

A gentle knock on the door prompted Isabelle to look up from yet another letter she would not send. Mrs. Burns, the housekeeper, stepped inside the drawing room and said, “Pardon, ma’am, but have you a moment?”

“Is there a problem?” Isabelle could not keep the excitement from her voice. Perhaps there had been trouble at the market and the menu would need to be remade. Or an issue with the ordering of candles. Her hands came together in anticipation of being permitted to fix something.

Mrs. Burns shook her head. “Not any problem, ma’am. You have a caller.” She handed a card to Isabelle, who felt the air rush out of her lungs.

Company. A visitor. Precisely what she had been waiting for. Why did she now dread that for which she had so long hoped?

Without even reading the name on the card, Isabelle rushed to the writing table and straightened her papers, then ran her hands down her dress to make herself unwrinkled and presentable.

When Mrs. Burns next opened the door, she ushered in a short, round, bald man dressed impeccably in a blue tailcoat. “Mr. Lester Kenworthy, ma’am.”

Isabelle rose from the chair she had taken only seconds before.

Mr. Kenworthy shook his head and blustered toward her. “Oh, please, sit. No ceremony is needed between us. I only wanted to come and meet the new Mrs. Osgood. Your Alec would have you kept a tight secret from us all, and we can’t have that, can we?” He said all this in a cheerful waterfall rush of words as he pumped her hand with both of his. “Lovely, if I may say so. Lovely.”

His words were masked in an accent so sharp that she found herself startled that she’d understood him. The proximity of Cumbria to Lancashire had given her no reason to believe there would be such a disparity in inflection. But this man’s vowels seemed utterly shuffled and remade. Delight danced through his articulation.

“I am the business manager at Osgood Mills and pleased as can be to see you. I thought if I came and made myself known to you, we could get you into a room with my wife and daughter. Fast friends, I’m sure you’ll be.”

Isabelle nodded and gestured to a chair. Mr. Kenworthy sat, laughing and bumbling about the loveliness she added to the room. Certainly he’d been there before and could tell that nothing had changed since it was the drawing room of a bachelor.

When he stopped for a breath, Isabelle realized she’d not said a word since Mr. Kenworthy entered the room. “It is a pleasure to meet you, sir, and I’d be honored to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Kenworthy and your daughter.” Isabelle blushed to realize that she’d taken on some of the tilting vowels of his accent.

He must have heard it as well because he reached for her hand again and laughed. “We’ll make a local of you in no time, sure enough. Would your schedule permit you to take tea at our home tomorrow?”

Isabelle had only seconds to determine if accepting this unexpected invitation would be wise. What would Alexander say? In fact, she was fairly sure Alexander would say nothing, as he said nothing on practically every matter.

“Mr. Kenworthy, I am delighted to say that I have no standing appointments for tomorrow. I’d be very glad to come.”

“Lovely, lovely.” He’d repeated the same word so many times that Isabelle was certain it would forevermore sound correct only when spoken in his Lancashire accent. He stood and pumped her hand again. She wasn’t sure that hand-shaking was the proper greeting of the moment, but it felt so wonderful to have someone reaching for her that she returned the squeeze to his fingers. Her smile was genuine as she thanked him for his visit.

Excerpt from Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson.

Copyright © 2021 by Rebecca Anderson. Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing.

 

Meet The Author

Author - Rebecca Anderson aka Becca Wilhite headshotRebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.

High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.

 
Author Links:    Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website | Goodreads
 
 
This excerpt and tour brought to you courtesy of AustenProse.com

Guest Post: Eleanor Kuhns – DEATH IN THE GREAT DISMAL

As most of you have probably discerned by now, I’m somewhat of a fanatic when it comes to reading. Seriously, if a day goes by and I don’t read I feel as if there’s something seriously wrong. (Okay, there’s probably something wrong with the fact that I’m addicted to reading, but that’s a problem I’m not even thinking about seeking treatment for anytime soon!) My reading style can only be classified as eclectic as I enjoy reading mysteries, suspense, thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance, romantic-suspense, ChickLit, YA, and nonfiction. I read contemporary fiction and historical fiction without a preference for any time period. One of the many things I enjoy about reading historical fiction is that many authors will include interesting historical tidbits that pique my interest in learning more. Eleanor Kuhns writes the Will Rees Mystery series, historical fiction, and Death In the Dismal is the latest addition to this series. I’m incredibly honored to host Ms. Kuhns today. Ms. Kuhns will be providing us with some background on the history and current use of the Great Dismal Swamp. I hope you’ll enjoy learning something new about this swampland, follow the blog tour to read some great reviews, and add Death in the Great Dismal to your TBR list. Dear book people, I give you Eleanor Kuhns. Thank you, Ms. Kuhns, for taking the time to stop by and visit with us today. I look forward to learning more about the setting of your latest book.

The History of the Great Dismal

by Eleanor Kuhns

In Death in the Great Dismal, Rees and Lydia take an unusually long journey. They go south, to the Great Dismal Swamp, at the request of their friend Tobias. He and his wife Ruth are free blacks, born in Maine, but they are taken off the street and sold down south (in Death of a Dyer.) Tobias and Ruth both flee servitude but while Tobias escapes back to Maine, Ruth runs to the Great Dismal Swamp and a community of other fugitives like herself.

Now Tobias wants to rescue her. He believes he will have a better chance returning north if accompanied by White friends.

At first Rees refuses. But Lydia persuades him to agree. After the conflict between them (in A Circle of Dead Girls), the previous spring when their marriage was sorely tested, she feels they need a time away from home to mend their relationship.

But the swamp is much more challenging than either Rees or Lydia expects.

Although native peoples knew of the swamp, it was discovered by Europeans only in 1665, by William Drummond. He was the first governor of North Carolina and the large shallow lake in the swamp is named for him. George Washington visited the swamp when he was a young British Officer. He saw potential for development in this wilderness and later founded the Great Dismal Swamp Canal company, with others, with the intention of draining the swamp.

The original size of the swamp is estimated at between one million and three million acres. It is a peat bog and the water-saturated peat is very thick. Despite the difficulty of draining the water, some of the swamp has been developed. The area that is left, which spans a section of southern Virginia and reaches into North Carolina, is 112 acres. It is now a Wildlife Refuge, a habitat for over 200 species of birds, a large black bear population, deer, bobcats, snakes and turtles, and many insects. (All biting, I think. Insect repellant is a must.) There are no rocks or stones of any kind in the swamp.

This is the environment that fugitives from the surrounding plantations fled to. The runaways were called maroons. (The origin of the name is not known although one theory posits it is from the French marronage – to flee.) They found refuge on the islands of higher ground that dot the swamp. Small villages and farms were established, although most of the fields were little more than an acre in size. Sweet potatoes, corn and squash were the most common crops. Feral cattle and pigs that had escaped from their pens, as well as deer, turtles, and other animals provided meat.

Some of the villages were located on the outskirts of the swamp. As I describe in the novel, the Maroons made regular forays to the plantations to take supplies, especially those items they could not find or make within the swamp. Bands of slave takers and their dogs regularly pursued the fugitives into the swamp, both to recapture what they saw as property, as well as to stop the raids on the plantations.

Other runaways lived deep within the swamp, far away from the reach of the white world. Both men and women escaped bondage, although more men than women. Family groups were established, and children were born. Many of these Maroons did not leave the swamp until after the end of the Civil War; at that point the children and grandchildren born in the swamp had never seen a white person.

Trapped within the small village by the inhospitable ecosystem outside, Rees and Lydia are the outsiders, already distrusted because of their white skins. Within days of their arrival, there is one murder and then another. Who among these few people is a murderer and why?

Death In The Great Dismal

by Eleanor Kuhns

March 22 – April 16, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

DEATH IN THE GREAT DISMAL - EKuhns

Finding themselves in a slave community hidden within the Great Dismal Swamp, Will Rees and his wife Lydia get caught up in a dangerous murder case where no one trusts them.

September 1800, Maine. Will Rees is beseeched by Tobias, an old friend abducted by slave catchers years before, to travel south to Virginia to help transport his pregnant wife, Ruth, back north. Though he’s reluctant, Will’s wife Lydia convinces him to go . . . on the condition she accompanies them.

Upon arriving in a small community of absconded slaves hiding within the Great Dismal Swamp, Will and Lydia are met with distrust. Tensions are high and a fight breaks out between Tobias and Scipio, a philanderer with a bounty on his head known for conning men out of money. The following day Scipio is found dead – shot in the back.

Stuck within the hostile Great Dismal and with slave catchers on the prowl, Will and Lydia find themselves caught up in their most dangerous case yet.

Kuhns’ vivid portrayal of the community that developed inside the swamp captures a group of naturally cunning and vigilant people who provided a family for one another when most had none. . . the story shines for its historical backbone and atmospheric details.

Booklist

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Published by: Severn House Publishers
Publication Date: January 5th 2021
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN: 0727890239 (ISBN13: 9780727890238)
Series: Will Rees Mysteries #8
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

 

Author - Eleanor Kuhns

Eleanor is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime novel winner. After working as a librarian, she transitioned to a full time writer. This is number eight in the Will Rees Mystery series.

Catch Up With Eleanor Kuhns:
Website
Goodreads
BookBub
Twitter
Facebook

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Eleanor Kuhns. There will be 5 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on March 22, 2021 and runs through April 18, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: Mally Becker – THE TURNCOAT’S WIDOW

the-turncoat’s-widow-by-mally-becker--banner

 

Good day, my bookish peeps. I hope everyone of you is safe and warm. Can you believe we’ve almost made it to the end of the second month of 2021?! I know most of you are avid readers like myself. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably curious about what author’s do when they aren’t writing. Is writing their only career? Do they have other work responsibilities and write on a part-time basis? Did they wait until retirement to begin writing? Did they wait until their children had graduated from high school (or its equivalent) before writing or are their children still at home and in school? Inquiring minds want to know…okay, my inquiring mind wants to know. Thankfully, today’s guest author will reveal a few answers to these questions. Please help me welcome freelance journalist turned attorney turned children’s advocate, Mally Becker. Ms. Becker’s historical suspense novel, The Turncoat’s Widow was recently released. I hope you’ll enjoy Ms. Becker’s words of wisdom and that you’ll follow the blog tour to read some enlightening reviews of this book. Thank you, Ms. Becker, for visiting with us today. The blog is now yours.

Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams

by Mally Becker

My 18th century heroine, Rebecca Parcell, is a young widow and an outsider in her hometown. The War for Independence is literally on her doorstep, there’s a growing whisper campaign that she’s a Loyalist sympathizer. Becca is angry, defensive, and scared. Who wouldn’t be? But she manages by the end of the book to reinvent herself as she faces each challenge.

I still don’t have my heroine’s hard-won confidence. But I’ve reinvented myself, too, as I wrote my historical mystery, The Turncoat’s Widow, and here’s the lesson I want to share: Don’t give up on a dream, whether or not it has anything to do with writing, even if it seems – or is – out of reach today.

Writing isn’t my first career. It’s isn’t even my second. Like so many others, I’ve always imagined writing a novel one day. I nibbled around the edge of that wish for a long time, crafting a few freelance pieces for my local newspaper, starting then shelving the beginnings of other stories.

But I finished The Turncoat’s Widow, and my story was published about a week ago. So what changed? How did I change? In retrospect, I can point to three things, and I think they apply to more than writing.

Enjoy the ride. I was 30 pages into my first draft when a mystery writer said to me at a writers conference, “If you’re not having fun writing, just don’t do it.” I had let myself become too judgmental about my own beginner efforts. I’d almost forgotten that I loved to write, forgotten how remarkable it is when a character veers off in a direction I hadn’t considered until my fingers hit the keyboard. That writer’s message came at the right time.

I stopped stressing over whether what I wrote was any good or whether I’d be published. I focused on my story and having fun figuring out what would happen next. I would think about the rest later, I told myself, or maybe I wouldn’t. I was just at the keyboard to have fun and keep writing.

Focusing on the process and not the outcome sounds simple, right? It was, and it wasn’t. But it was liberating to think only about the next sentence, the next scene, the next chapter. I couldn’t control whether a publisher would eventually want to pick up my book or what readers will think now that it’s launched. But I could control whether I sat down in front of my laptop to write each day.

Studies show that feeling in control is a major component of happiness. Writing regularly–focusing on what I could control–made me happy.

Find your people. Writing is a lonely business, or so the cliché goes. Except it is a cliché and not always true. Talking to people whose goals were similar to mine kept me motivated. I still sit in on virtual weekly workshops at The Writers Circle in New Jersey, where I found my tribe. I also searched online for free and low-cost options for writers. Maybe the only upside of Covid is that so many writing conferences and authors’ readings are available online for free now.

Be kind to yourself. Some people carve out writing time while they’re working full time, raising a family, and volunteering a favorite charity. Nope. Not me. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t beat myself up for “failing” to write more when I was doing all of the above. I didn’t find the energy to focus on The Turncoat’s Widow until our son had graduated from high school.

“Trust the process,” another writer told me. It sounds like something Yoda would say in a Star Wars films, right? But life has its seasons, and is there anyone who gets to do everything they’ve ever wanted to do all at the same time? I didn’t realize back in the day that the low-cost writers conferences I attended, the short articles I wrote and the journals I filled were like a pianist’s finger exercises. They were just enough to keep my writing muscles limber until the right idea and time presented themselves.

Are you moving closer to a goal you’ve had for a long time? What keeps you going?

 

The Turncoat’s Widow

by Mally Becker

February 22 – March 19, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Turncoat's Widow

 

Recently widowed, Rebecca Parcell is too busy struggling to maintain her farm in Morristown to care who wins the War for Independence. But rumors are spreading in 1780 that she’s a Loyalist sympathizer who betrayed her husband to the British—quite a tidy way to end her disastrous marriage, the village gossips whisper.

Everyone knows that her husband was a Patriot, a hero who died aboard a British prison ship moored in New York Harbor. But “everyone” is wrong. Parcell was a British spy, and General Washington – who spent two winters in Morristown – can prove it. He swears he’ll safeguard Becca’s farm if she unravels her husband’s secrets. With a mob ready to exile her or worse in the winter of 1780, it’s an offer she can’t refuse.

Escaped British prisoner of war Daniel Alloway was the last person to see Becca’s husband alive, and Washington throws this unlikely couple together on an espionage mission to British-occupied New York City. Moving from glittering balls to an underworld of brothels and prisons, Becca and Daniel uncover a plot that threatens the new country’s future. But will they move quickly enough to warn General Washington? And can Becca, who’s lost almost everyone she loves, fight her growing attraction to Daniel, a man who always moves on?

Praise for The Turncoat’s Widow

The Turncoat’s Widow has it all. A sizzling romance, meticulous research, and an exhilarating adventure. Becca Parcell is too independent for both 18th-century Morristown and her feckless English husband. Her individual plight when she is pressed into service as an unwilling spy after her husband’s death reflects the larger situation of colonists during the American Revolution, whose lives were upended by a political fight they cared nothing about. Becker balances the ruthlessness of George Washington and the underhanded charm of Alexander Hamilton with the excesses of the British, as part of a detailed picture of how the colonies were governed during a war that was far from a simple fight between two opposing nations. But historical exactitude is balanced by dashing romance between Becca and Daniel Alloway, the escaped prisoner charged with protecting her, and plot full of bold escapes and twists. A great series debut. I can’t wait for the next installment.
– Erica Obey, author, Dazzle Paint (coming 02/2021), The Curse of the Braddock Brides, and The Horseman’s Word.

An exciting Revolutionary-era thriller with a twisty mystery, great characters, and historical accuracy to boot.
– Eleanor Kuhns,author of the Will Rees mysteries

The Turncoat’s Widow reminds readers that treachery from within and without to our republic were real, and those early days for American independence from the British were fragile, the patriot cause, unpopular. This is a rousing debut novel with insights into the hardships of colonial life, the precarious place of women in society, while giving fans of historical fiction a tale with suspense, surprises, and anoutspoken and admirable heroine in Becca Parcell. Mally Becker is an author to watch.
– Gabriel Valjan, Agatha and Anthony-nominated author of The Naming Game

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Suspense / Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 16, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-953789-27-3
Purchase Links: Amazon || Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Author - Mally Becker

Mally Becker is a writer whose historical suspense novel, The Turncoat’s Widow, was published in February 2021 by Level Best Books. She was born in Brooklyn and began her professional career in New York City as a publicist and freelance magazine writer, then moved on, becoming an attorney and, later, an advocate for children in foster care.

As a volunteer, she used her legal background to create a digest of letters from US Supreme Court Justices owned by the Morristown National Park. That’s where she found a copy of an indictment for the Revolutionary War crime of traveling from New Jersey to New York City “without permission or passport.” It led her to the idea for her story.

​A winner of the Leon B. Burstein/MWA-NY Scholarship for Mystery Writing, Mally lives with her husband in the wilds of New Jersey where they hike, kayak, look forward to visits from their son, and poke around the region’s historical sites.

Catch Up With Mally Becker On:
www.MallyBecker.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram – @mallybeckerwrites
Twitter – @mally_becker
Facebook – Mally Baumel Becker

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=300480

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Mally Becker. There will be Five (5) winners for this tour. One winner will receive a $20. Amazon.com Gift Card, Two (2) winners will each win a physical copy of The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker (U.S. addresses only), and Two (2) winners will each win an eBook copy of The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker. The giveaway begins on February 22, 2021 and runs through March 21, 2021.

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2021 Book 42: WILD RAIN by Beverly Jenkins

Wild Rain, Women Who Dare #2, by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062861719 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780063075153 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062861726 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062861733 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZTVKBPW (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZP1NLD8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: February 9, 2021

The second novel in USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins’ compelling new Women Who Dare series follows a female rancher in Wyoming after the Civil War.

A reporter has come to Wyoming to do a story on doctors for his Black newspaper back east. He thinks Colton Lee will be an interesting subject…until he meets Colton’s sister, Spring. She runs her own ranch, wears denim pants instead of dresses, and is the most fascinating woman he’s ever met.

But Spring, who has overcome a raucous and scandalous past, isn’t looking for, nor does she want, love. As their attraction grows, will their differences come between them or unite them for an everlasting love?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | BookDepository | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

 
 
Read an excerpt here.
 
 I was rather late in discovering Beverly Jenkins, but when I did I rapidly devoured every title of hers I could find. I’m a huge fan of her contemporary fiction the “Blessings” series (and it’s being developed into a television show). But I was introduced to her via her historical fiction and I reread all of them every year. (Yes, you read that correctly. I re-read all of her historical fiction titles every year!) I kicked off this year by re-reading her “Old West” series, and I’m glad I did because book three of that series introduced us to the Lees of Wyoming, Dr. Colton Lee, his sister, Spring Lee, and their cantankerous grandfather, Lee. Although it wasn’t necessary to read Tempest before reading Wild Rain, it helped to refresh my memory a bit. (Hey, you try reading 450+ books a year and see if you can remember all of the details of every book read!)

Wild Rain is the second book in the Women Who Dare series and the action takes place a few months after Tempest ended. Tempest featured Colton Lee and his relationship with his wife, Regan Carmichael Lee. Wild Rain centers on Spring Lee, her developing relationship with Garrett McCray, a reporter from the East trying to help his father’s sundown newspaper survive by bringing in stories of intriguing people of color from the US territories, namely Dr. Colton Lee. However, once Garrett McCray arrives in Wyoming territory, he finds that he is ill-prepared for riding horseback most of the day, days filled with snow, and his encounters with the unique Spring Rain Lee. Spring winds up saving Garrett on numerous occasions and introduces him to the folks in and around Paradise. Just when it seems as if Garrett is beginning to acclimate himself to life in Paradise and spending time with Spring, someone from her past makes an appearance in town and revives stories that belittle and demean her as a woman of worth. Can Garrett accept his attraction to a woman willing to stand up for herself and go against the norms of the time or will he succumb to his family wishes and return to D.C. and a life filled with constraints?

Although I had been looking forward to the next installment in the Women Who Dare series by Beverly Jenkins, I had no idea it was centered on a character from a previous book. Yes, I should have known and would have known if I had just read the synopsis. But all I saw was a new Beverly Jenkins book, historical fiction, and it was “hey, count me in!” Readers were introduced to a bit of Spring Lee’s backstory in the book Tempest, but Ms. Jenkins provides quite a bit more in Wild Rain. We’re also provided more information about Colton and Spring’s paternal grandmother, and parents. It was quite nice getting to know more about Spring and her family heritage and it helped to explain why she made the decisions made in the past and why she lives as she does in the present. To say that Spring had a bit of a harsh upbringing after her parents’ death would be a major understatement and most of that rests with her paternal grandfather, Ben. Garrett McCray was an interesting male protagonist. He was a former slave, former sailor during the Civil War, a skilled carpenter, and a reporter for a sundown newspaper (a newspaper that people worked on part-time basis after they worked their full-time jobs, usually after the sun went down). Initially, Garrett was taken aback by Spring’s lack of a male guardian, the fact that she owned and operated her own ranch, wore what he considered male clothing meaning denims, and went into saloons, but he grows to respect and love her for exactly who she is. Ms. Jenkins always provides interesting tidbits of Black American history in her fiction and her books usually feature an author’s note at the end with a list of suggested reading (just one of the many reasons I enjoy reading her books). Wild Rain is a romance so of course it has a HEA, but you’ll need to read it to find out how the couple arrives at their “Happy Ever After.” There’s plenty of drama and even trauma before they get there. If you’ve read Tempest, then you’ll definitely want to read Wild Rain. If you read Rebel, book 1 in the Women Who Dare series, then you should grab a copy of Wild Rain to read. If you enjoy reading historical romance or simply well-crafted romance, then I suggest you grab a copy of Wild Rain to read. For all you Ms. Bevy fans, I don’t have to tell you anything because I know you already have this one on your TBR list or you’ve pre-ordered it. I’ll be ordering a print copy to give to my 86-y.o. mother now that I have her hooked on reading Ms. Bevy’s books. Hope you enjoy reading this one as much as I did.
 

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Spotlight: THE GENTLEMAN AND THE THIEF by Sarah M. Eden



The Gentleman and the Thief, Dread Penny Society Book #2, by Sarah M. Eden
ISBN: 9781629727905 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781629739557 (ebook)
ASIN: B0872F3399  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08KFLFV6S   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Publication Date: November 3, 2020

A standalone novel in The Dread Penny Society set in 1865 London brimming with secrets, scandal, suspense, and romance.


From the moment Hollis Darby meets Ana Newport, he’s smitten. Even though he’s from a wealthy, established family and she isn’t, he wishes he could have a life with her by his side. But Hollis has a secret: the deep coffers that have kept his family afloat for generations are bare, so he supports himself by writing penny dreadfuls under a pseudonym. If not for the income from his novels, he would be broke.


Ana Newport also has a secret. Though she once had a place in society thanks to her father’s successful business, bankruptcy and scandal reduced his fortune to nothing more than a crumbling town house. So Ana teaches music during the day, and at night she assumes the identity of the “Phantom Fox.” She breaks into the homes of the wealthy to reclaim trinkets and treasures she feels were unjustly stolen from her family when they were struggling.


When Hollis’s brother needs to hire a music tutor for his daughter, Hollis recommends Ana, giving him a chance to spend time with her. Ana needs the income and is eager for the opportunity to get to know the enigmatic gentleman. What neither of them expects is how difficult it will be to keep their respective secrets from each other.


When a spree of robberies rocks the city, Ana and Hollis join forces to solve the crimes, discovering that working together deepens the affection between them. After all, who better to save the day than a gentleman and a thief?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:   IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible audiobook  |  BookDepository  |  BookShop |  BookBub  |  Kobo eBook



Praise for the Book

“The real joy in Eden’s follow-up to The Lady and the Highwayman (2019) is the furthering of the overarching crime story and the work of the Dread Penny Society as Hollis and Ana pursue a chaste romance. Eden excels at exploring the realities of Victorian life and class differences. Once again, chapters of penny dreadfuls written by the characters are interspersed throughout, with Hollis’ story about a school for ghosts offering particular delight. Fans of Eden’s smart series will be thrilled and impatient for the next installment.”— Booklist, starred review

“Every time I thought my racing heart just couldn’t take the suspense anymore, I’d turn the page and smile.”— Bookconfessions

“Eden writes it well, so thoroughly researched that you’re transported and in Victoria England. Great suspense and romance.”— Leslie, Books and Socks Rock

“Undeniably clever, suspenseful, well-researched, and deftly written…”— Katie Jackson, RegencyProofreading.com

“Charming, suggestive, and featuring rich historical details, The Gentleman and the Thief has the elements of a gritty, juicy penny dreadful.”— Foreword Reviews




Meet The Author


Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today best-selling author of witty and charming historical romances, including 2019’s Foreword Reviews INDIE Awards Gold Winner for Romance, The Lady and the Highwayman, and 2020 Holt Medallion finalist, Healing Hearts. She is a two-time “Best of State” Gold Medal winner for fiction and a three-time Whitney Award winner. Combining her obsession with history and her affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting deep characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library.



Connect to the author via her Website, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and Twitter.

Blog Tour

Join the virtual online blog tour of The Gentleman and the Thief, Sarah M. Eden’s highly acclaimed second novel in The Dread Penny Society Series, November 2 through November 29, 2020. Forty popular blogs specializing in historical mystery/suspense, historical romance, and inspirational fiction will join in the celebration of its release with exclusive excerpts, spotlights, or reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in London, England. 



Nov 02 The Lit Bitch (Excerpt) 
Nov 03 Getting Your Read On (Review)
Nov 03 Literary Time Out (Review)
Nov 03 Storybook Reviews (Review)
Nov 04 Heidi Reads (Review) 
Nov 05 Library of Clean Reads (Review) 
Nov 06 Relz Reviewz (Review) 
Nov 07 Probably at the Library (Spotlight)
Nov 08 The Christian Fiction Girl (Review) 
Nov 09 So Little Time… (Spotlight)
Nov 09 Captivated Reading (Review) 
Nov 10 Among the Reads (Review) 
Nov 10 Bookworm Lisa (Review) 
Nov 11 For Where Your Treasure Is (Spotlight)
Nov 12 Books, Teacups & Reviews (Spotlight)
Nov 12 Fiction Aficionado (Review) 
Nov 13 Randi Loves 2 Read (Spotlight)
Nov 14 The Book Diva’s Reads (Spotlight)
Nov 15 My Jane Austen Book Club (Excerpt)
Nov 16 Gwendalyn’s Books (Review)
Nov 17 Book Bustle (Review) 
Nov 18 Jorie Loves a Story (Review)
Nov 18 An Historian About Town (Review) 
Nov 19 Lu’s Reviews (Review) 
Nov 20 Reading with Emily (Review)
Nov 20 Books and Socks Rock (Review)
Nov 21 Bringing Up Books (Review)
Nov 21 Bookish Rantings (Review) 
Nov 22 The Bibliophile Files (Review)
Nov 23 Impressions in Ink (Review)
Nov 23 A Bookish Way of Life (Review) 
Nov 24 Bookfoolery (Review)
Nov 24 Wishful Endings (Excerpt)
Nov 25 Chicks, Rogues and Scandals (Review) 
Nov 25 Joy of Reading (Review) 
Nov 26 From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
Nov 27 Fire and Ice (Review)
Nov 27 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
Nov 28 Impressions in Ink (Review)
Nov 29 Laura’s Reviews (Review)

This spotlight and blog tour brought to you by Austenprose

2020 Book 419: THE RIGHT KIND OF FOOL by Sarah Loudin Thomas

The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas 
ISBN: 9780764234019 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780764237843 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781493428144 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781705003466 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08M41K6MF  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B087RTM4JC  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 3, 2020 
Publisher: Bethany House Fiction

Thirteen-year-old Loyal Raines is supposed to stay close to home on a hot summer day in 1934. When he slips away for a quick swim in the river and finds a dead body, he wishes he’d obeyed his mother. The ripples caused by his discovery will impact the town of Beverly, West Virginia, in ways no one could have imagined.


The first person those ripples disturb is Loyal’s absentee father. When Creed Raines realized his infant son was deaf, he headed for the hills, returning only to help meet his family’s basic needs. But when Loyal, now a young teen, stumbles upon a murder it’s his father he runs to tell–shaping the words with his hands. As Creed is pulled into the investigation he discovers that what sets his son apart isn’t his inability to hear but rather his courage. Longing to reclaim the life he abandoned, Creed will have to do more than help solve a murder if he wants to win his family’s hearts again. 

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible Audiobook  |  Audiobooks  |  BookDepository  |  Downpour Audiobook  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo Books  |  Kobo Audiobook  |  Kobo eBook  

Small-town life in West Virginia has always been difficult if you’re different. Loyal Raines has a tendency to stick out in people’s minds because he’s deaf, uses sign language, and his father – Creed left the family and headed for the hills. Even though Loyal doesn’t have a relationship with his father, all he really wants is to prove to his father that he is worthy of his love and attention. When Loyal comes upon a dead body, he doesn’t go home to his mother, he climbs the mountain and turns to his father. This action will forever change the dynamics of the Raines family and the community of Beverly.


It seems hard to believe that a teenage deaf child could have such a strong impact on not only his family but an entire community, but Loyal does just that in The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas. It seems as if all of the characters in this story are searching for their rightful places within their family and the community, including Creed and Loyal Raines, teens Rebecca and Michael and their father, community leader and businessman Hadden Westfall, and others. The Right Kind of Fool is more than a coming-of-age story, or a self-discovery story, or even about the courage it takes to be different, it is also a murder mystery that gradually unfolds and touches the lives of numerous families in the community. I found this to be a delightful story and enjoyed the way Ms. Thomas artfully described the signs used by Loyal and his efforts to teach others including his father. I especially enjoyed the developing father-son relationship between Creed and Loyal, the friendship between Loyal, Rebecca, and Michael, and the rekindled romance between Creed and Delphy. There are so many layers to this story and Ms. Thomas has deftly woven them together to craft an amazing story with intriguing characters and action set during an interesting period in West Virginia history. I can’t imagine this story without any of the characters or without the hillside settings. If you enjoy reading historical fiction or stories with unlikely characters, then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of The Right Kind of Fool to read. I’ll be purchasing a book for my 86-y.o. mother (she hasn’t returned any of the books I’ve “loaned” her so far this year, so now I buy books for her personal library!). I hope you’ll enjoy The Right Kind of Fool as much as I did. For now, I’m putting this on my to-be-re-read (TBRR) shelf!

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free print review copy of this book from the author/publisher. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Showcase: PROSPECTS OF A WOMAN by Wendy Voorsanger

 



PROSPECTS OF A WOMAN by Wendy Voorsanger

Prospects of a Woman by Wendy Voorsanger
ISBN: 9781631527814 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781631527821 (ebook)
ASIN: B083W7MJTW   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: October 20, 2020

The story of one woman’s passionate quest to carve out a place for herself in the liberal and bewildering society that emerged during the California gold rush frenzy

Elisabeth Parker comes to California from Massachusetts in 1849 with her new husband, Nate, to reunite with her father, who’s struck gold on the American River. She soon realizes her husband is not the man she thought—and neither is her father, who abandons them shortly after they arrive. As Nate struggles with his sexuality, Elisabeth is forced to confront her preconceived notions of family, love, and opportunity. 


She finds comfort in corresponding with her childhood friend back home, writer Louisa May Alcott, and spending time in the company of a mysterious Californio Don. Armed with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance, she sets out to determine her role in building the West, even as she comes to terms with the sacrifices she must make to achieve independence and happiness.


Prospects of a Woman is a fresh, authentic retelling of the West that explores women’s contributions in California and shatters the stereotypes of the typical hard-boiled novel of the West that has captured the American imagination for over a century.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:   IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  BookDepository  |  !ndigo  |  Kobo eBook



Praise for the Book

Prospects of a Woman is a fascinating, complex, dark, and beautiful novel of women and sexuality on the frontier of the California gold strike days.” 

— Douglas Glover, two-time Governor General’s award-winning author of Elle

“I loved this surprisingly feminist story of Gold Rush-era California! Elizabeth Parker is a heroine to fall in love with–plucky, sensuous, courageous and clear-eyed. It is a rare and unusual pleasure to—finally—have a narrative of the Gold Rush told from a woman’s point of view.”

—Janis Cooke Newman, author of Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln

Prospects of a Woman is thoughtful and thrilling. The landscape of California – the rough-scrabble mining towns, the wildness of the river and woods — sings on every page.”

—Alex Myers, author of the novels Revolutionary and Divide

Prospects of a Woman is a riveting read about a woman who comes to California during the Gold Rush determined to escape societal constraints, find love and strike it rich. As a woman in a man’s world, she faces innumerable challenges but manages to rise above them. This is a bold, rollicking and satisfying tale, one that is hard to put down.”

—Frances Dinkelspiel, award-winning journalist and author of the best-selling books, Tangled Vines and Towers of Gold



Watch the Video:



Read an Excerpt


PART 1

Upon hearing a circus had come to town, an excited farmer set out in his wagon. Along the way he met up with the circus parade, led by an elephant, which so terrified his horses that they bolted and pitched the wagon over on its side, scattering his vegetables and eggs across the roadway. “I don’t give a hang,” exulted the jubilant farmer as he picked himself up. “I have seen the elephant.”

— NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICAN FOLKTALE


1

“The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”

— RALPH WALDO EMERSON, “SELF-RELIANCE”

Elisabeth counted the stitches holding together their dingy canvas tent. Twice. She got 946 both times. Cooped up in the midday heat, she seethed at Nate for leaving her alone. They’d lost too much time already. Refusing to wait another goddamn minute on his frittering and scheming, she untied the tent flaps and crawled out, stretching her arms long overhead. A soft air of relief touched her cheeks. Aching with hunger, she stumbled downriver, in the direction of Culoma Town. She hadn’t eaten since a bite of beans for breakfast the day before.
Nate had left early that morning, again. Gone digging for gold in the river, refusing to let her join. Telling her to stay put. Warning about unsavory men roaming around, men with a mind to take what they will. Elisabeth was done waiting on him to bring her something decent to eat. She grabbed her satchel and headed for the river trail, thinking on how she’d get food in her belly with no money left.
She wasn’t thinking about the roaming men but about the blisters on her feet still burning something awful from that long journey getting to the river. Elisabeth walked all afternoon alongside the American River roiling loud, cutting through the valley, tempting her. Tempting Nate. Her eyes burned with the honest light shining lush and vibrant through the narrow valley. The grass glowed golden along the river trail, and the rich green pines marched up the steep sides of the canyon, swaying alive and standing taller and fuller than the scraggly pitch pines at home in Concord. Warm air whooshed through the branches, spreading a sweet smell around.
Arriving in Culoma Town, Elisabeth picked her way through a mess of empty tents strewn haphazard. Plopping down on a log in the center of town, she unlaced her boots to let her stockinged feet breathe and witnessed new beginnings. Industrious fellas buzzed around, hammering up buildings with fresh-hewn boards and siding and plank floors and shingle roofs. Jabbering and rushing. Heaving pails and shovels and pans and timber. Haggling for food and supplies. No women milled about, and she wondered if they were all hiding away too.
Some of the fellas in town noticed her sitting alone on the log. One man dropped his hammer and walked over, stammering and stuttering as if he hadn’t seen a woman in years. She smiled polite, introducing herself as Mrs. Nathaniel Parker. More men came. And more. Until over a dozen stood around gawking at the only woman in Culoma Town. She pulled at her dress collar. Shifted her bottom on the log. Cleared her throat. When a few of the men sat down in the crisped-up grass like they had all the time to waste, she wondered why but didn’t dare ask. A fella with a long curly beard dripping down his chin offered her a cup of cool river water. She took it, gulping. Wiping her cheek with the back of her hand, she reddened with shame. When one man tossed two bits into her empty cup she looked at him coolly, thinking him daft. When another coin clinked into the cup, then another, she didn’t give them back. Didn’t look at the coins either. She simply stared up at the clear sky, fanning herself with her shabby straw hat, acting like she couldn’t care less if those foolish men wanted to waste good money just to sit near a woman looking not exactly pretty.
“I’m not out here to beg,” she said. “Of course not,” said the long-beard fella. She shuffled her unlaced boots, tamping down the dry grass. “I’m simply out getting some air,” she said. “We all see that,” he said. An older man, wrinkled up like a prune, scooted up to her left knee. She caught him looking her up and down, leering, and she wanted to slap him for the lack of manners but held back. Letting men stare for money was unseemly, no matter the circumstances, but she knew each clink of a coin meant she and Nate would eat tonight. Oh, he’d be furious, of course. He’d probably even accuse her of flirting. Maybe she was. Flirting. Encouraging. She didn’t care. She needed a proper supper and a hot bath. Besides, the men seemed harmless.
She considered how many coins those fools had given her, but was too afraid to count for fear they’d wise up to this absurd payment-for-gawking scheme and demand all those coins back. The men stared at her wide-eyed while a pecker pounded on a nearby trunk, knocking and knocking for grubs, matching the thud in her head.
“Any of you know a Henry Goodwin?” Elisabeth asked. “That your husband?” “My father. He settled a claim up the North Fork,” she said. It’d been nearly a month since he’d run off with that Indian girl, and she still stung sore and angry at his leaving. She convinced herself he’d change his mind. Convinced
he’d return to the claim eventually.
“Sing us a song?” A prune-face fella asked. “Not hardly,” she said. “Can’t? Or won’t?” Not exactly delicate, Elisabeth lacked the finer qualities admired in most ladies. Her singing sounded more feeble frog than melodious finch, and she had no patience for sitting still for parlor conversations, finding the feminine topics of curtain colors and canning peaches dreadfully dull. Nate said she walked too heavy, but she knew he’d appreciated her strong back when they’d taken turns pushing their cart loaded down with his case of books through the foothills and into the river basin.

Excerpt from Prospects of a Woman by Wendy Voorsanger.  
Copyright © 2020 by Wendy Voorsanger. 
Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.




Meet The Author

Wendy Voorsanger

Born and raised on the American River in Sacramento, Wendy Voorsanger has long held an intense interest in the historical women of California. She started her career in Silicon Valley, writing about technology trends and innovations for newspapers, magazines, and Fortune 100 companies. 


She currently manages SheIsCalifornia.net, a blog dedicated to chronicling the accomplishments of California women through history. Her debut historical novel, Prospects of a Woman will be published in October 2020 (She Writes Press); an excerpt entitled “Shifting in California” won 1st place in the California Writers Club short story contest and is published in the Fault Zone: Shift: An Anthology of Stories


She earned a B.A. in Journalism from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a member of the Castro Writers’ Cooperative, the Lit Camp Advisory Board, and the San Mateo Public Library Literary Society. 


In addition to being an author, Wendy has worked as a lifeguard, ski instructor, and radio disc jockey. Wendy lives in Northern California with her husband and two sons. 


Connect to the author via her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and blog.


This showcase, excerpt, and blog tour brought to you by PR by the Book