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The Empress (A Review)

From a bestselling author in Mexico comes her English-language debut–an enthralling historical novel about the tragic reign of Empress Carlota of Mexico.

It’s 1863. Napoleon III has installed a foreign monarch in Mexico to squash the current regime. Maximilian von Habsburg of Austria accepts the emperor’s crown. But it is his wife, the brilliant and ambitious Princess Charlotte, who throws herself passionately into the role. Known to the people as Empress Carlota, she rules deftly from behind the scenes while her husband contents himself with philandering and decorating the palace.

But Carlota bears a guilty secret. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she’s thrown herself into a reckless affair. Desire has blinded Carlota to its consequences, for it has left her vulnerable to her sole trusted confidante. Carlota’s devious lady-in-waiting has political beliefs of her own–and they are strong enough to cause her to betray the empress and join a plot to depose her from the throne. As Carlota grows increasingly, maddeningly defenseless, both her own fate and that of the empire are at stake.

A sweeping historical novel of forbidden love, dangerous secrets, courtly intrigue, and treachery, The Empress passionately reimagines the tragic romance and ill-fated reign of the most unforgettable royal couple of nineteenth-century Europe during the last throes of the Second Empire.

This is the first review I’m writing in ages and I admit, I feel like a novice. But I shall endeavor to do my best as I tell you why I did not enjoy this and why I eventually gave up. It caught my interest because I admit, the cover is intriguing. But this was proof that one should never judge a book by its cover. If you have Amazon Prime, they allow you to pick a new release every month through a program called First Reads. You get said book about a month ahead of release. It’s a fantastic program. I don’t always pick something, but if they have something eye-catching, I go for it.

I had never heard of Empress Carlotta, which was a delight for me. I love discovering new figures to read about and I love reading about things I’m unfamiliar with. As we begin in 1863, I thought it would be interesting to see other world events since we were in the midst of our own Civil War. (We tend to forget that the world has other goings on.)

Let’s just say the first scene was…peculiar. I’m not opposed to sex in books. I’m really not. If it’s tasteful and appropriate, I am entirely fine with it being there. But when it’s the first thing and the lady bits are compared to a ripe, juicy mango…(I kid you not.) We are not off to a good start. (I don’t know about you, but that was a touch strange and offputting to me. But I kept calm and carried on. Haha.)

After that, ah, eye-opening intro, we get introduced to Charlotte, who is known in Mexico as Carlotta. The daughter of Emperor Leopold I of Belgium. She was an idealistic young bride…who surprise, surprise, ends up in a marriage that isn’t very happy. Her husband…is forgettable, as are every other character mentioned. I do recall that her sister in law, the famed Sissi, and she did not get along.

I’m not one to give up on books. But I had to in this case. Every single character is a cliche and they’re each so stuff and one dimensional that cardboard seems to be more lively. I was hoping to get pulled in, but I never did, which was extremely disappointing to me. I know little about Mexico’s rich history and I still know little.

Also…the choppiness was atrocious. This book hopped around more than a jackrabbit that a hunter keeps shooting at. It wasn’t linear, which, if it was interesting wouldn’t have been so bad, but this just added to the confusion. Whilst I realize that this was a translation, and perhaps it would have been better in its original language (Spanish), I was disappointed. It’s definitely good that this was free, else I would request a refund.

If you’re interested in learning more, I daresay that Wikipedia might provide more beneficial information to you.

It was a 1 of 5 for me…and the one is because the cover was pretty.

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The Golden Hour: A Review

It seems like forever since I’ve written a review, hasn’t it? I am doing my best to get better with that. This year has been rough reading wise for me, which sucks. But I will get there. I’m doing my best for now. Anyway! Onto the good stuff. 🙂

The Bahamas, 1941: Newly-widowed Lulu Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the new Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that infamous couple posted to this colonial backwater during World War II after their marriage nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees. What more compelling setting for a magazine feature than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?

Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glitter of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies a complex—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau roils with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of magnetic charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the willful and wounded Lulu falls in love.

Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting cover-up reeks of royal privilege. Benedict disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London to unpick his complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a German mother, the baroness Elfriede von Kleist, from whom all joy is stolen.

Thread by thread, the stories of Lulu and Elfriede weave together in this remarkable tour de force of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and courage, set against a shocking true crime… and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple.

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Beatriz Williams is one of those authors to whom I’m late to the party in reading. I’ve heard many good things, even own two of her other books, but I hadn’t yet read them, given that I found myself busy reading other things. But as I’ve been in the midst of this dreadful book rut, I picked this one up through Book of the Month club. What a delight! It’s so rare that when I’m in a book rut, that anything grabs my attention. Now, I admit…I found the beginning slow and I did find Lulu’s way of speaking a tad…frustrating. I just couldn’t click with it, if that makes sense. I found myself more drawn to Elfriede’s story rather than Lulu’s. Elfriede is in a sanitarium because she feels absolutely nothing towards her new baby. It’s what we know today as postpartum depression. Her timeline is WWI, whilst Lulu is in WWII. It was amusing to see a mention of Pearl Harbor–nowadays, everyone would know within a second. But as Lulu was in the Bahamas, the news took a bit to reach there.

I also enjoyed learning about the unsolved murder and reading about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. If you thought they were the main focus, I am sorry to disappoint. This isn’t to say they’re not part of it–they’re just more secondary figures. (And yet…still feel larger than life.) They’re amongst some of my favorite figures in history; so very maligned and so fascinating. They were controversial and remain so, but perhaps that is what makes them intriguing.

I’m not the biggest fan of split storylines, but Lulu and Elfriede’s stories came together quite nicely. I wasn’t entirely sure how that would work, but when it clicks, it clicks. I haven’t read Ms. Williams ‘Schyuler Sisters’ novels (no, not the ones from Hamilton), but apparently, there’s a surprise tie in? A fun tidbit for the hardcore followers. (Thanks to my pals for pointing that out to me! <3)

Regardless, I’d give this a solid three stars. I may reread it when I’m out of this rut, but for now, I am simply grateful it held my attention to get me back to doing what I love most.

PS: Isn’t that cover beautiful?

 

 

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Mistress of the Ritz: A Review!

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A captivating novel based on the story of the extraordinary real-life American woman who secretly worked for the French Resistance during World War II—while playing hostess to the invading Germans at the iconic Hôtel Ritz in Paris—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors, where they’re welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamor and glitz to take their mind off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests—and each other.

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For the falsehoods they tell to survive, and to strike a blow against their Nazi “guests,” spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.

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If you’re like me, when the word ‘The Ritz’ comes to mind, you think of one of two things. The first is more than likely the song, Puttin’ On The Ritz or you think of a really swanky hotel that makes the word ‘splendor’ seem inadequate. I never knew that Nazis took over the one in Paris; rather I never really thought about it, which frustrates me for some reason. I love history and I hate not knowing (or thinking further) things.

Little did I know that there was more I didn’t know about. I had no idea about Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude. They were the Managing Directors at The Ritz and what a life! Of course, as this is called ‘Mistress of the Ritz’, the focus on Blanche is refreshing, considering that history seems to have relegated her to the footnotes of history as being unimportant, despite her work with the French Resistance. As always with Ms. Benjamin’s work, I was brought right into the heart of the Second World War. I could almost envision the sounds of Nazis marching down the street, of the sound of tanks rolling down the streets; of the coarseness of the Nazis in such a place of refinement. I am always looking for an author to bring me to the world in which they’ve written. I’m glad that Ms. Benjamin has yet to disappoint me. I adore her work. That she told me the story of Blanche and her assistance to the Resistance, about her steadfastness, even when the odds were against her. She was a resilient woman and I quite admired that about her.

And when I say the odds were against her, they were at numerous times in her life. Does she get the happy ending she deserves? Will she persevere? You’ll find yourself thinking this, I’m sure. Keep reading is all I’ll say. You know I won’t give you spoilers! 😉

The first part of the book focuses on Claude and Blanche’s marriage, which I found slightly slow, admittedly. But enjoyable regardless. When you read about how utterly different the pair of them are, you do wonder how and why they got married. He makes it clear that he dislikes her friends and the make up she wears and she makes it clear that she doesn’t care. It’s a curious view of opposites attracting. When we get more into the war era and the goings on, that’s when the book really picked up for me. I truly felt for Blanche and for Lily as well, her contact in the Resistance.

There are moments where you’ll gasp or you’ll panic, but I guarantee you’ll certainly feel something and be on the edge of your seat. Even on slower parts, your attention is still hooked.

Ms. Benjamin’s skill at bringing this story to the page is beautiful and ought to be appreciated, given how much research has obviously gone into this. (Which, I’m sure my long-time readers know is something I love– well-researched books!)

My hat is off, once again to you, Ms. Benjamin. Truly a wonderful story and I look forward to wherever you lead me next.

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Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE and THE AVIATOR’S WIFE, as well as the national bestseller ALICE I HAVE BEEN, and THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB. THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE, about the creative, feminist friendship between Mary Pickford and Frances Marion, icons of early Hollywood, will be out in January 2018. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and is currently at work on her next historical novel.

 

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Girls of Paper and Fire: A Review.

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Publisher
: Jimmy Patterson/Little Brown (US)
Pub date: 6 November 2018

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

Presented by James Patterson, Natasha Ngan’s lyrical, searing, visceral fantasy, Girls of Paper and Fire, will remind us how precious freedom is–and the price we must pay to achieve it.

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 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

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I will begin by saying that if violence or sexual assault is a trigger for you, that this may be a hard read for you.

If you push ahead, however, I promise you that you’ll find a stunning novel that is full of such promise that waiting for the next book is going to be agonizing. I hadn’t heard a great deal about this book, admittedly, but I saw the cover and I was instantly fascinated. I mean, look at those eyes! Lei-Zhi is our narrator and the one who possesses those very eyes. She is part of the lowest caste, Paper. Her life hasn’t been the easiest; given that her mother was taken away from the family when she was young and she spends her time working in the Herb Shop with her father and Tien, who seems to be a psuedo-mother figure to her, despite being of another (higher!) caste. Life can turn in the blink of an eye, however, and the little bit of peace Lei knows is shattered when she is taken to the royal court. She is to be a Paper Girl, despite there already being eight.

Thrust from one world into one where nothing is certain, rules are strongly enforced, and your life is not your own, Lei has to learn how to survive. Though initially hesitant, she finds friends amongst the girls, particularly amongst Aoki and Lill, her handmaiden. And, not only must she learn to survive, she must assimilate if she means to survive.  However, Lei somewhat endures, despite hiccups. Surprising to even herself, she finds love.

But in this place, love is forbidden and choices must be made. What will she do? What path will she take?

I absolutely loved the world of Ikhara and I hope we get to explore it more in future books. There’s so much I’d like to learn still and read. I also was excited about representation–this is an Asian inspired world and it’s beautiful. Also, can we get a ‘yaaasss‘ for Lei x Wren? I was so happy for some LGBTQ representation. I seldom read books where it is present and is so sweetly and respectfully written. The story is nuanced and paced nicely, painting a true image into Lei’s life. I truly felt a kinship with her, enjoying her spirit and how she refused to be broken, despite being close to it and honestly, having every reason to do so.

The world she lives in is not a pleasant one and I can say with great confidence, I would not wish to live there either. Court life is oppressive, catty, and one never really knows where they stand. The King is a cruel, cruel man. One who in some moments, we are presented with some facts that made you understand why he was, but mostly, he seems to just thrive off the power he possesses. I also love how demons and those of other castes could be different animal shapes. It is difficult to describe them, but to read about them, it’s easy to picture them. (I think I would want to be a bird of some sort. My luck would be that I’d have catlike features and fur to match, and I’d be allergic to myself.) Now, this isn’t to say that life is easy anywhere, because the King wields his power and attacks other villages and cities. Whether fuelled by paranoia or just cruelty, I’ll let you wonder, but I think you should go grab this book and read it.

To try and summarize it perfectly for you, I’d do a disservice. I am rambling as it is, but I’m still half in Ikhara as I write this. I can honestly say though, you will love this story and you’ll embrace the characters like they’re old friends. Well, some of them.

((You should take a look at Natasha’s Pinterest Aesthetic Board for this; it definitely adds to the visuals.))

  • I’d give it ★★★★★ stars.
  • I won my copy in a giveaway on Twitter! )And it’s definitely a ‘never getting rid of this copy/not lending it out’ kind of book.)
  • I highly recommend this to everyone!! Go. Stop reading this and go read THAT.

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 Natasha Ngan is a writer and yoga teacher. She grew up between Malaysia, where the Chinese side of her family is from, and the UK. This multicultural upbringing continues to influence her writing, and she is passionate about bringing diverse stories to teens. Natasha studied Geography at the University of Cambridge before working as a social media consultant and fashion blogger.

She recently moved to Paris, where she likes to imagine she drifts stylishly from brasserie to brasserie, notepad in one hand, wineglass in the other. In reality, she spends most of her time getting lost on the metro and confusing locals with her French.

She is represented by Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary. Her YA novels THE ELITES and THE MEMORY KEEPERS are out now from Hot Key Books, and GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE will be published in October 2018 by Jimmy Patterson/Little Brown (US) and Hodder & Stoughton (UK). Head on over to the Books page for more info!

Natasha is also co-owner of fashion, travel and lifestyle blog Girl in the Lens.

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Becoming Mrs. Lewis (Review)

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The love story of C. S. Lewis and his only wife, Helen Joy Davidman Gresham, was improbable-and seemingly impossible. Their Eros-story led to some of C. S. Lewis’s greatest works on love, grief, and faith, yet Joy is most commonly known for how she died. Becoming Mrs. Lewis allows us to see how this brilliant and passionate woman lived-and why she stole Jack’s heart.

In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice. In a God beyond the religion of her birth, she found faith.

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis-known as Jack-she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice-and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story-a love of literature and ideas, a love of God, and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.

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It’s always disappointing when a book you were looking so forward to doesn’t live up to your expectations. I had been looking forward to this one since I’d first heard about it. As a child, I admit, I didn’t enjoy C.S Lewis that much; but as an adult, I am always keen to get a look into the lives of people I previously was ‘meh‘ about. I knew little of him–and I still do–and I knew nothing of his personal life nor his marriage to Joy. I was keen to get a look at that site of him.

Sadly, what I got was one of the most self-centered and irritating main characters ever. Now, it bears saying that in real life they may be totally different, so my review here simply covers the fictional version of the Lewises.

This was a rare DNF for me; which ass I said is a pity. Where did I go wrong? I just could not get into this. Perhaps it was because I found I couldn’t find anything about Joy that I liked. I also found her name ironic as she seemed to have little ‘joy’ in her life. I found ‘Jack’ just as irritable. Joy was one of those characters who need a good shaking and maybe a slap. She left her first husband and had the audacity to be mad when said husband moved on. (That annoyed me thoroughly.)

You guys don’t know how much I wanted to love this…well, I’m sure you do. You can just take this title out and replace it with something you looked forward to and didn’t reach your expectations.

Also, the flashbang conversion to being religious was something. I mean, it literally just happened. Then the going over it in letters…I lost interest.

I would like to say I would read another of the author’s books; clearly, she cares deeply for the subject of her story and the research was sublime. I just didn’t enjoy this.

  • I’d give it ★ star. 😦
  • I received this in exchange for an honest review.
  • I did recommend this to a friend. Just because I didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean other people won’t.

 

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ARC Review: The Woman In The Lake.

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Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: HQ
Publish Date: 7 Mar. 2019


‘I see it all again: the silver moon swimming beneath the water and the golden gown billowing out about her…’

1765: Lady Isabella Gerard asks her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it. Its shimmering beauty has been tainted by the actions of her husband the night before.

Three months later: Lord Eustace Gerard stands beside the lake looking down at the woman in the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this is not his intended victim…

1996: Fenella Brightwell steals a stunning gown from a stately home. Twenty years later and reeling from the end of an abusive marriage, she wonders if it has cursed her all this time. Now she’s determined to discover the history behind the beautiful golden dress…

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Book Depository || Amazon || Books-a-Million || Indie Bound || Barnes & Noble

 

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Generally, I don’t enjoy split timelines. They don’t do very much for me except give me a headache not to mention, I find that sometimes they are poorly written or that the one character is lackluster in comparison to another and makes for a dreary experience.

However, in this time, we have three narrators and two of them are in the eighteenth century, Lady Isabella and her maid, Constance, whilst Fenella is in today’s time period save for a flashback to the 90’s. I rather enjoyed each of their narratives, though I admit Isabella was my favorite. Trapped in an unhappy and violent marriage, Isabella is at her wits end. Constance, who has secrets of her own, works for the lady but is actually spying upon her for her husband. Fenella, in the modern period, is dealing with the aftermath of her marriage and the loss of her grandmother.

All three of them have one thing in common–a golden gown that was meant for Isabella. However…there is far more to the gown than anyone anticipated.

At first, I wasn’t sure how they were going to tie together but amazingly, they do and they do so seamlessly. (No pun intended!) The way Ms. Cornick brought it together was brilliant, dropping little hints here and there so that you would experience that ‘aha!’ moment. I liked the parallels between the three women as well and their story with Fen’s life. It was seriously quite brilliant how they all tied in together.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and how one dress could really bring this rich cast of characters together. Even though, as I said, I dislike split storylines, this one is tolerable since it works to be a full, cohesive story. The characters are lovely and fun; not fully knowing their true motives made it enjoyable. I’d have liked them fleshed out a little more–I couldn’t quite picture each person as the descriptions were sort of vague–but perhaps that is the intent; to let us wonder who they are. And I’d have adored more description to the locales but still, a fun read.

I also thought the momentary time slips were a great deal of fun to read. A little offputting–I’d definitely be scared if I saw things in another time or was transported to another time!–but I loved those moments.

I think if you enjoy Outlander or the series A Discovery of Witches, you’ll more than likely enjoy this book.

  • I’d give it ★★★ stars.
  • I received this in exchange for an honest review.
  • I might recommend this to a friend.

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International bestselling author Nicola Cornick writes romantic historical mysteries and witty and passionate Regency romance. She studied History at London and Oxford and was awarded a distinction for her dissertation on historical heroes. It was a tough study but someone had to do it. Nicola has a “double life” as a writer and guide at the stunning 17th century hunting lodge, Ashdown House.

Nicola lives near Oxford and loves reading, writing, history, music, wildlife, travel and walking her dog. She also loves hearing from her readers and chatting to them on her blog at www.nicolacornick.co.uk She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter @NicolaCornick

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Lady of A Thousand Treasures: A Review.

Lady of a Thousand Treasures

by Sandra Byrd

Publication Date: October 9, 2018

Tyndale House Publishers

Hardcover, Paperback, & eBook; 480 Pages

Series: The Victorian Ladies Series, #1

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.

The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.

Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.

With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Praise for Lady of a Thousand Treasures

“Sandra Byrd’s amazing cast of characters and Victorian settings pull the reader right into the story. I became happily lost in this compelling, lovely book.” -Karen Harper, NYT bestselling author of The Royal Nanny

“Lady of a Thousand Treasures delivers mystery, romance, and suspense in a well-researched Victorian setting.” -Julie Klassen, bestselling author

“I’m always swept away by a Sandra Byrd novel, and Lady of a Thousand Treasures will be long remembered as one of Sandra’s best.” -Jane Kirkpatrick, NYT bestselling author of All She Left Behind

“Sandra Byrd is the rare writer whose evocative, prose grabs hold and doesn’t let go. The Victorian Ladies Series is off to a stunning start!” -Laura Frantz, author of The Lacemaker

“With stunning characters and impeccable research, Sandra Byrd has woven together an exquisite treasure hunt with an ending that will leave you breathless.” -Melanie Dobson, award-winning author of Catching the Wind

“Sandra Byrd’s writing is an absolute piece of art! If I had to sum up this story all in one word, it would be satisfying.” -Michelle Griep, award-winning author of the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series

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Sandra Byrd is one of those authors that when I hear is releasing a book, I get excited. I am seldom disappointed by her work–and by seldom, I mean, never thus far. She has written several books that presently have a home on my shelves. I am delighted to say this is one of them.

Without rehashing the plot again, I can honestly say that this is one of those books that draws you in from page one and does not let go of it until you’re done. Even then, you may find yourself going back and thinking about it, as I did. I think that is a mark of a good read, when the story sticks with you for a time after you’ve finished.

As you guys know, I love research. I love when an author has done it and clearly done it so well that it blends in seamlessly to the story making a delectable read. I’m all for it. The Victorian age is a time that requires that attention to detail because of the rules of society, the way people spoke and dressed, and lived. It enhances the experience when reading. Historical fiction and all of its sub-genres require that to make it interesting, else it reads flatly.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story and the pacing. I haven’t got a single complaint about that. I also loved all of the characters, finding them believable and vibrant. I love when they feel like old friends, if that makes sense. All in all, this makes for a sumptuous experience and I read this in a day. I could have taken my time but you get quite invested right away.

A very good read and I look forward to the next in the series!

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About the Author

Bestselling author Sandra Byrd has published more than fifty books over her editing and writing career. Her traditionally published books include titles by Tyndale House Publishers, Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, WaterBrook Press, a Penguin Random House imprint, and Bethany House. She’s also an independent author.

Sandra’s series of historically sound Gothic romances launched with the best-selling Mist of Midnight, which earned a coveted Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, has been selected by Romantic Times as a Top Pick. The third in the series, A Lady in Disguise, published in 2017 and was named by the American Library Association’s Booklist as one of the Top Ten Inspirational Fiction books of the year.

Her contemporary adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, which was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2011, and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012.

Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more or to invite Sandra to your book club via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, October 9

Review at Pursuing Stacie

Wednesday, October 10

Review at Faery Tales Are Real

Thursday, October 11

Review at A Bookish Affair

Feature at Naomi Finley’s Blog

Friday, October 12

Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, October 15

Feature at The Lit Bitch

Review at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Tuesday, October 16

Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, October 17

Review at Among the Reads

Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, October 18

Review at A Darn Good Read

Friday, October 19

Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Monday, October 22

Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, October 23

Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Wednesday, October 24

Review at Library of Clean Reads

Thursday, October 25

Feature at Let Them Read Books

Friday, October 26

Interview at Among the Reads

Monday, October 29

Review at Maiden of the Pages

Tuesday, October 30

Review at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, November 1

Review at Bibliophile Reviews

Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, November 2

Feature at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 6

Feature at Hisdoryan

Wednesday, November 7

Review at The Book Mind

Review at LadyJ’s Bookish Nook

Friday, November 9

Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 5 copies of Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 9th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.

– Only one entry per household.

– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Lady of a Thousand Treasures Giveaway!!

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A Well-Behaved Woman (A Review)

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So, you guys have seen how excited I have been for this one. I’ve brought it up in several different posts over the last few months and well, here we are! It was released yesterday and I’m over the moon. I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy and I’m delighted to tell you that I wasn’t disappointed, I enjoyed the read. The author was truly brilliant, the book well researched and the world lively enough for me to lose myself for a while. Whilst I wish certain parts were a little faster paced, it didn’t take away from the book for me.

Ms. Fowler painted the portrait of turn of the century beautifully. I loved reading about the rules of society and what one had to do or know to get accepted into it. When one hears the name Vanderbilt, one doesn’t think if a family who has to struggle for acceptance. They are part of that legendary echelon that most of us will never be part of. Yet, it was quite a different time and I was not at all disappointed in learning about the maneuvering to attain and keep the desired status. Reading about Alva’s privileged life was certainly one of interest for me. I liked reading about the different balls and events, how she dealt with things. She was a strong woman, even though occasionally I did find her being docile when she shouldn’t have been.

You may find that the book is slow in places, that you’re left wanting. However, I attributed that to the fact that most women’s lives were like that. There were rules and one was meant to follow them. To have a woman like Alva, who is headstrong and thinks for herself, was quite uncommon. In a time when divorce was unheard of, Alva did it. She was an outcast for a time but recovered nicely. When she wasn’t granted a box in the Academy of Music, she founded The Met. Yes, that self-same Opera House in New York. (And I don’t know about you, but I damn love a level of petty. Who’s ever heard of the Academy of Music? Well, maybe a lot of people have, but The Met! C’mon!) Alva’s influence is still very present in this day and age. Her spirit and reach lives on, nearly a century after her death.

This isn’t to say that you will love her at every moment in the book. Despite nearly being destitute and facing a life where she might have needed to work for a living, Alva is surprisingly unsympathetic to the poor in certain moments. She also, for being rather progressive on some things, was a bit backward in how she raised her daughter. Despite not enjoying the silliness of one needing a husband, she was quick to try to get her daughter with the highest bidder, so to speak. She dominates this book and I found she was very well developed. I’d have liked a bit more on her best friend, Consuelo, who became Duchess of Manchester.

Also, ladies, she was a huge part of the suffrage movement. So when you vote next month, think of Alva.

So if you want a fast pace tone, this may not be the read for you. Don’t let that hinder you though, I really think you’d enjoy this. Especially if you like historical fiction. If you love The Gilded Age and reading about those prominent families of New York, like the Astors, the Roosevelts, the Rockefellers, and of course, the Vanderbilts, you’ll enjoy this. I enjoyed her Ms. Fowler’s previous work on her book about Zelda Fitzgerald, this was no different.

  • I’d give it ★★★★ stars.
  • I received this in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)
  • I would recommend this to a friend.

Amazon || Indie Bound || Barnes & Noble || Books-A-Million

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Therese Anne Fowler (pronounced ta-reece) is the third child and only daughter of a Version 2couple who raised their children in Milan, Illinois. An avowed tomboy as a child, Therese protested her grandmother’s determined attempts to dress her in frills, and then, to further her point, insisted on playing baseball even though Milan had a perfectly good girls’ softball league. She was one of the first girls in the U.S. to play Little League baseball.

After a too-early first marriage and a stint as the single mother of two terrific (now grown-up) sons, she went on to earn a BA in sociology/cultural anthropology and an MFA in creative writing, both from North Carolina State University.  Her first novel was published in 2008.

A book’s fate is almost entirely outside its author’s control. Some are published with a lot of marketing and publicity support, but most are not. After the publication of three contemporary novels, each of which sold fewer copies than the previous one, Therese faced a hard truth: her career was in a nosedive. Her editor at the time felt she should take on a pen name and try again with the same sort of book, but Therese was not persuaded. She decided, instead, to write a biographical historical novel about Zelda Fitzgerald, Z, which was published in 2013.

Therese’s work has been translated into more than twenty foreign languages and is published around the world. Z is now available as an original dramatic series for Amazon Studios starring Christina Ricci, with Killer Films producing. (Amazon has elected not to continue with its order for a second season.)

What Therese has discovered is that she has an affinity for badass women from history whose stories have been either mistold or are largely untold. Her next novel centers on Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, a determined, opinionated, compassionate, often amusing woman from America’s Gilded Age. A Well-Behaved Woman, a kind of homage to Edith Wharton with a dash of affection for Jane Austen for good measure, will be published by St. Martin’s Press on October 16, 2018.

Therese has been a visiting professor at North Carolina State University and occasionally teaches fiction writing at conferences and workshops. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and PEN America, she is married to award-winning professor and author John Kessel. They reside in North Carolina.

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The Storyteller’s Secret {Review}

51gc3g1ssxlThis was a very interesting read. I have to say that whilst I couldn’t always relate to Jaya’s struggles, I still liked her as the main character and I found her interesting. I loved how vivid the scenery was written and I liked how the characters seemingly came to life. Whilst not as lively as some books, it did well for this one. Whilst there are occasional moments where it’s emotional, it isn’t very overwhelming. You’ll be able to read through. However, Jaya is on her third miscarriage, so if that is a trigger, you may want to be wary.

The author is stunningly talented. I found that to be very apparent. Yet, I still found myself wanting. You know when something doesn’t quite click for you? That was this. I just couldn’t get into it 100%, I felt like Ms. Badani was holding back. I wish she hadn’t because I wanted that emotional read that was going to leave me reeling. I wanted to get lost entirely. Yet, I did not. But I still enjoyed myself, I enjoyed the story.

We get to see a journey of personal growth for Jaya and as I get older, I feel that way. I did relate there. I wonder who I am? What am I? I think it’s wonderful to be able to search and find oneself, or a portion of oneself.

My biggest complaints would be, I couldn’t really gauge the time frame. Were we in the present day? Because even though Jaya is a blogger, she makes it seem like no one has cell phones. Even in poor countries, people seem to have them. She also makes mentions of scarves that’d sell in the states for hundreds of dollars, selling for 5 or 10 rupees. That doesn’t sound correct to me, but I don’t know. I could be wrong.

Another mention that had me scratching my head was when Jaya’s grandmother brought someone from the ‘untouchable’ caste into her home…and no one freaked out. The castes, from what I understand, are very much respected and you don’t cross them. But again, I could be wrong. I’d welcome being corrected.

The ending of the book was pretty predictable, but if you like that, that is all for you. It disappointed me slightly but I still enjoyed it overall.

  • I’d give it ★★★ stars.
  • I received this in exchange for an honest review.
  • I might recommend this to a friend.
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Happy Release Day to Dracul! {Review.}

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  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Publish Date: October 2, 2018

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The prequel to Dracula, inspired by notes and texts left behind by the author of the classic novel, Dracul is a riveting novel of gothic suspense that reveals not only Dracula’s true origins but Bram Stoker’s — and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connects them.

It is 1868, and a twenty-one-year-old Bram Stoker waits in a desolate tower to face an indescribable evil. Armed only with crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle, he prays to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to record what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles down the events that led him here…

A sickly child, Bram spent his early days bedridden in his parents’ Dublin home, tended to by his caretaker, a young woman named Ellen Crone. When a string of strange deaths occur in a nearby town, Bram and his sister Matilda detect a pattern of bizarre behavior by Ellen — a mystery that deepens chillingly until Ellen vanishes suddenly from their lives. Years later, Matilda returns from studying in Paris to tell Bram the news that she has seen Ellen — and that the nightmare they’ve thought long ended is only beginning.

1926361t70bnztsmwIt is strange to say that I never much enjoyed the book, Dracula. It has its perks and points that had me intrigued, but I never fell head over heels. I enjoyed the film with Gary Oldman greatly; as well as Dracula Untold with Luke Evans. (I was in the minority for that, I think.) Regardless, I have always loved the lure of the supernatural and when I heard about this particular book, I was interested. I never thought that I’d receive an advanced copy but I requested…and voila! Despite its large size–just over 500 pages, I finished it in two nights.

This is a stunning mix of both reality and fiction meeting. The events of this story is what inspires Bram to eventually write ‘Dracula’. If you’re looking for a bland, sparkly sort of vampire story, this isn’t it. If you like a traditional, I’m-going-to-scare-the-hell-out-of-you vampire? This is it. Both authors write seamlessly and it’s easy to forget that there are actually two people writing. Dacre Stoker has a wealth of information at his fingertips that he imbued in the story, giving life to the Stoker family in a way that we don’t really get.

I loved the vivacity of the characters. Not a one was dull nor one dimensional. Everyone seemingly jumped off the pages, even Ellen, whom we learn little about until she’s ready to tell about herself. She is a mystery yet, you do feel that you know her well. I loved Matilda, Bram’s sister. She is ahead of her time, not willing to submit to the rubbish rules of society, though using them occasionally to get her way. I loved that she was able to call things as they were even if no one else wanted to see or hear it.

Written as journal entries by the central characters, you’re brought into the mindsets of each of them, all of them forming a stunning read that I guarantee you won’t want to pull away from. I promise that if you like horror, you’ll be intrigued. Rather, you’ll be besotted by this, which I am pretty certain will become a classic and something you return to every Halloween. I loved reading things from Bram’s POV, which we get from childhood to adulthood. I enjoyed that greatly. He was a sickly young boy but when Nana Ellen comes to the Stoker household, Bram improves. No one knows quite how she does it, but eventually, she just leaves which begins the great mystery of their lives.

I read this in June, so I’ve been sitting on my excitement for months. But I’m about to reread it because, hey, it’s autumn and it’s October! Read all the spooky things!

  • I’d give it ★★★★★ stars.
  • I received a copy of this in exchange for my honest opinion.
  • I would and have (!) recommend this to a friend. 🙂

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AuthorDacre Stoker is the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker and the international bestselling co-author of Dracula: The Un-Dead, the official Stoker family-endorsed sequel to Dracula. He is also the co-editor of The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years. He currently lives with his wife, Jenne, in Aiken, South Carolina, where he manages the Bram Stoker Estate.

J.D. Barker is the internationally bestselling author the internationally bestselling J.D. Barker Publicity Headshotsauthor of ForsakenThe Fourth Monkey, and The Fifth to Die. He was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, and winner of the New Apple Medalist Award. His works have been translated into numerous languages and optioned for both film and television. Barker currently resides in Pennsylvania with his wife, Dayna, and daughter, Ember.