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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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Cover Reveal….

WomenofChateauLafayette_final cover It is with great pride, on this Bastille Day no less!, that I introduce to you the cover and synopsis for Stephanie Dray’s new, upcoming release The Women of Chateau Lafayette (Follow the link to pre-order!) You all know that I am a big fan of Stephanie and thus, cue my excitement. You, of course, want details. I’ve got you! But before you do, please add this to your Goodreads!

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An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy in three of humanity’s darkest hours.

Most castles are protected by powerful men. This one by women…

A founding mother…

1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband’s political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must choose to renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary…

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Astor Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing–not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France and delivering war-relief over dangerous seas, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what’s right.

A reluctant resistor…

1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan’s self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and beautifully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we find from standing together in honor of those who came before us.

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Q&A WITH STEPHANIE DRAY

What made you fall in love with Adrienne Lafayette and why do you think readers will fall for her as you did?

Thanks to a popular musical, the Marquis de Lafayette is known to a new generation as “America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman”–and there’s good reason for that. He’s easily the most lovable of our Founding Fathers, and his wife, whom he called his dear heart, is just as lovable if not more so. Adrienne was our French Founding Mother, so right up my alley as a heroine, but at first I worried she was too sweet, devoted, and forgiving. In short, too gentle for a novel. Little did I realize that more than any other historical heroine I’ve ever written, Adrienne fought and sacrificed for her principles, courageously threw herself into danger, confronted tyrants, and endured trials that would have broken lesser mortals. She truly humbles me, and when I talk about the Lafayette legacy, I think of it as every bit as much hers as it is his.

How long did it take you to write this book? Did the story evolve as you researched, or did you always know you wanted to take on the lives of these particular women?

I was always interested in Lafayette–an interest that grew as Laura Kamoie and I co-authored America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton. I think I had the germ of the idea for a Lafayette novel at least seven years ago, but I had other projects in the way. And I was always in search of an angle that would be fresh and unique. That came to me when I discovered that Lafayette’s castle in Auvergne, which had been purchased and renovated by Americans, served to shelter Jewish children from the Nazis. Knowing how deeply the Lafayettes both felt about religious freedom, I knew this would have pleased them, and it touched me. I was then determined to know which Americans had purchased the chateau, and when I found out, yet another glorious chapter in the Lafayette legacy was born. That’s when the story took shape for me about one special place on this earth where, generation after generation, faith has been kept with principles of liberty and humanity. I find that very inspirational, now more than ever.

The book is centered around Lafayette’s castle, the Château de Chavaniac, and the pivotal role it played during three of history’s darkest hours—the French Revolution and both World Wars. If you could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive) at Chavaniac, who would you choose and why?

Believe it or not, this is actually a difficult choice because so many incredible men and women passed through those doors. I’d have to start with the Lafayettes–though I hope they would not serve me pigeons, which were a favorite at their wedding banquet. To join us for dinner, I’d choose the colorful stage-star of the Belle Epoque, Beatrice Chanler, because she was a force of nature without whom Chavaniac might not still be standing. Actress, artist, philanthropist, decorated war-relief worker and so-called Queen of the Social Register, she was as mysterious as she was wonderful, and even after all the startling discoveries I made researching her larger-than-life existence, I have a million questions about the early life she tried so hard to hide. I can’t wait for readers to meet her!

If you want updates or just to keep up, Stephanie has newsletter that you can subscribe to. (I promise she doesn’t spam you!)

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Happy Release Day to Chanel Cleeton!!

 

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One of Bustle’s Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2020

“The perfect riveting summer read!”—BookBub

“Cleeton’s beach reads are often lit by the sun of places like Florida and Cuba, and her latest doesn’t disappoint.”—OprahMag.com

In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys.
 
For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

After the Cuban Revolution of 1933 leaves Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position, she agrees to an arranged marriage with a notorious American. Following her wedding in HavanaMirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to her new husband, his illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship but her life.

Elizabeth Preston’s trip to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles after the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.

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Amazon

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound

Kobo

Penguin

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Chanel Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of When We Left Cuba and the Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana. Originally from Florida, she grew up on stories of her family’s exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Richmond, the American International University in London, and a master’s degree in global politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

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THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST is a perfect storm of great storytelling, fast-moving plot, and rich historical detail. Lush, tropical, thirties-era Florida provides a hypnotizing backdrop as a battered wife, a runaway debutante, and a gangster’s bride find their lives intersecting in the face of a terrifying hurricane. Tense, tight, and atmospheric, this may be Chanel Cleeton’s best yet!

Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Huntress

In her latest tantalizing novel, Chanel Cleeton explores the intersecting lives of three women seeking their place, and true selves, in a country upended by the First World War. With a treacherous hurricane looming, The Last Train to Key West takes the reader on a tumultuous ride bursting with romance, secrets, and unrelenting hope. A wonderfully transportive summer read!

Kristina McMorrisNew York Times bestselling author of Sold on a Monday and The Edge of Lost

As one of the largest storms in Florida’s history approaches the Keys, three young women, each with a secret, are entangled in new relationships and old debts amid the rising waters. Pregnant Helen is thinking of leaving her abusive husband, while newlywed Mirta has a contract marriage with a mobster. Elizabeth is searching for a mystery man in one of the WWI veterans’ work camps in Florida. All of them are achingly vulnerable against the backdrop of the coming storm. Brimming with secrets, hope, and love, this is a book that you’ll devour in one sitting (like I did!).

— Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Tiger

Chanel Cleeton’s beach reads are often lit by the sun of places like Florida and Cuba, and her latest doesn’t disappoint.

OprahMag.com

Chanel Cleeton simply never disappoints! Cleverly constructed and expertly delivered, THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST is a feast for readers across multiple genres. This book has it all – great characters, a compelling historical backdrop, quests for love and purpose and refuge, and a fully satisfying conclusion that will have you cheering.

 — Susan Meissner, bestselling author of THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR

The Last Train to Key West takes you on an incredible and emotion-charged journey through the lives of three women facing a catastrophic hurricane that changes them forever – and shows them how courageous they really are. This book has everything a reader could want: not one but three incredible love stories, page-turning drama and rich historical detail. I finished the last chapter with a sigh of satisfaction that only a great book can bring about.

Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Orphan

Cleeton finds the right balance of historical detail and suspense, making this a riveting curl-up-on-the-couch affair.

Publishers Weekly

Cleeton’s depiction of the catastrophic hurricane is both gripping and terrifying, and she skillfully balances each woman’s internal growth with the various romantic subplots. Fans of Cleeton’s previous books, as well as readers who enjoy Beatriz Williams’ historical fiction, will devour this exciting, romantic tale.

— Booklist

…the historical events are riveting. Cleeton’s strength is in exploring the lives of women longing to push back against restrictive social expectations, but portions of the story dealing with the U.S. government’s treatment of World War I veterans are also extremely moving. … Cleeton should add to her growing fan base with this title, which is well suited for book clubs and for historical fiction fans of authors such as Renée Rosen and Susan Meissner.”

Library Journal

THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST by Chanel Cleeton is a gorgeously written, absorbing novel set against the backdrop of a real, devastating hurricane in the Florida Keys in 1935. Cleeton masterfully weaves the stories of three very different and beautifully drawn women, all struggling to survive in their own ways with love, heartbreak, and ultimately resilience. An addictively good page-turner!”

Jillian CantorUSA Today bestselling author of The Lost Letter and In Another Time

Once again Chanel Cleeton has delivered a masterful story, filled with twists and turns as the lives of three courageous women intersect on a hurricane’s destructive path.  In their quest for survival, each one comes face to face with the force of nature and the force of love. THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST is a remarkable work of historical fiction that grabs hold of your heart and is guaranteed to keep you turning pages!

Renee Rosen, author of Park Avenue Summer

As turbulent as the Labor Day hurricane itself, The Last Train to Key West weaves a gripping tale of survival and strength when three women are forced to ride out one of the most powerful storms in history. Lush, atmospheric, and suspenseful, Chanel Cleeton’s latest is not to be missed!

Stephanie Marie Thornton, USA Today bestselling author of American Princess

Chanel Cleeton is known for her stories of strong women in exotic, historical settings forging their way into futures of promise. THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST is no exception, and all its romance, intrigue, and suspense make it impossible to put down. Gripping!

Erika Robuck, national bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl

The Last Train to Key West is another exceptional story by Cleeton, who has quickly become a favorite among historical fiction fans. When the lives of three women from vastly different circumstances intersect even as the winds from the ocean threaten devastation, secrets are exposed, love is questioned and new life emerges even as others are in danger. Cleeton has fashioned a story that is gripping, romantic, and packed with drama. Readers will be up late eager to find out what happens!

Camille Di Maio, author of The Beautiful Strangers

 

Next Year in Havana  ||  When We Left Cuba

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My Quarantine Reads.

This Quarantine life, am I right? I find reading about other time periods is somewhat of a balm to me, making me forget the stressful time we’re living in here. History always repeats itself, so if one looks in the past, there are moments we can learn from. Thus, historical fiction will always remain at the top of my list. I also just love reading them. Some of these have been released already, some are forthcoming–all are titles I can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on, lol!

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Spanning nearly a century, from 1930s Siberia to contemporary Brighton Beach, a page-turning, epic family saga centering on three generations of women in one Russian Jewish family―each striving to break free of fate and history, each yearning for love and personal fulfillment―and how the consequences of their choices ripple through time.

Odessa, 1931. Marrying the handsome, wealthy Edward Gordon, Daria―born Dvora Kaganovitch―has fulfilled her mother’s dreams. But a woman’s plans are no match for the crushing power of Stalin’s repressive Soviet state. To survive, Daria is forced to rely on the kindness of a man who takes pride in his own coarseness.

Odessa, 1970. Brilliant young Natasha Crystal is determined to study mathematics. But the Soviets do not allow Jewish students―even those as brilliant as Natasha―to attend an institute as prestigious as Odessa University. With her hopes for the future dashed, Natasha must find a new purpose―one that leads her into the path of a dangerous young man.

Brighton Beach, 2019. Zoe Venakovsky, known to her family as Zoya, has worked hard to leave the suffocating streets and small minds of Brighton Beach behind her―only to find that what she’s tried to outrun might just hold her true happiness.

Moving from a Siberian gulag to the underground world of Soviet refuseniks to oceanside Brooklyn, The Nesting Dolls is a heartbreaking yet ultimately redemptive story of circumstance, choice, and consequence―and three dynamic unforgettable women, all who will face hardships that force them to compromise their dreams as they fight to fulfill their destinies.

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Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines Murillo, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. Even the school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves within the formidable iron gates of Catherine. For Ines, it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had. But the House’s strange protocols soon make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

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A striking historical novel about an ordinary young British woman sent to uncover a network of spies and war criminals in post-war Germany that will appeal to fans of The Huntress and Transcription.

World War II has just ended, and Britain has established the Control Commission for Germany, which oversees their zone of occupation. The Control Commission hires British civilians to work in Germany, rebuild the shattered nation, and prosecute war crimes. Somewhat aimless, bored with her job as a provincial schoolteacher, and unwilling to live with her overbearing mother any longer, thirtysomething Edith Graham applies for a job with the Commission—but she is also recruited by her cousin, Leo, who is in the Secret Service. To them, Edith is perfect spy material…single, ordinary-looking, with a college degree in German. Cousin Leo went to Oxford with one of their most hunted war criminals, Count Kurt von Stavenow, who Edith remembers all too well from before the war. He wants her to find him.

Intrigued by the challenge, Edith heads to Germany armed with a convincing cover story: she’s an unassuming Education Officer sent to help resurrect German schools. To send information back to her Secret Service handlers in London, Edith has crafted the perfect alter ego, cookbook author Stella Snelling, who writes a popular magazine cookery column. She embeds crucial intelligence within the recipes she collects. But occupied Germany is awash with other spies, collaborators, and opportunists, and as she’s pulled into their world, Edith soon discovers that no one is what they seem to be. The closer she gets to uncovering von Stavenow’s whereabouts–and the network of German civilians who still support him–the greater the danger.

With a unique, compelling premise, Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is a beautifully crafted and gripping novel about daring, betrayal, and female friendship.

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Is he a hero or a traitor? Based on astonishing true events set in the darkest days of World War II in Budapest, this is an enthralling story of heroism, vengeance, passion, and betrayal. It is also the story of three women linked by a secret that threatens to destroy their lives. For readers of The Tattooist of AuschwitzAll That I Am and Schindler’s Ark (List).

An act of heroism, the taint of collaboration, a doomed love affair, and an Australian woman who travels across the world to discover the truth…

It is 1944 in Budapest and the Germans have invaded. Jewish journalist Miklos Nagy risks his life and confronts the dreaded Adolf Eichmann in an attempt to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the death camps. But no one could have foreseen the consequences…

It is 2005 in Sydney, and Annika Barnett sets out on a journey that takes her to Budapest and Tel Aviv to discover the truth about the mysterious man who rescued her grandmother in 1944.

By the time her odyssey is over, history has been turned on its head, past and present collide, and the secret that has poisoned the lives of three generations is finally revealed in a shocking climax that holds the key to their redemption.

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Acclaimed author Elise Hooper explores the gripping, real-life history of female athletes, members of the first integrated women’s Olympic team, and their journeys to the 1936 summer games in Berlin, Nazi Germany. Perfect for readers who love untold stories of amazing women, such as The Only Woman in the Room, Hidden Figures, and The Lost Girls of Paris.

In the 1928 Olympics, Chicago’s Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything.

Outside of Boston, Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team.

From Missouri, Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of her farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life.

These three athletes will join with others to defy society’s expectations of what women can achieve. As tensions bring the United States and Europe closer and closer to the brink of war, Betty, Louise, and Helen must fight for the chance to compete as the fastest women in the world amidst the pomp and pageantry of the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

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The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker returns to her most famous heroine, Mary Todd Lincoln, in this compelling story of love, loss, and sisterhood rich with history and suspense.

In May 1875, Elizabeth Todd Edwards reels from news that her younger sister Mary, former First Lady and widow of President Abraham Lincoln, has attempted suicide.

Mary’s shocking act followed legal proceedings arranged by her eldest and only surviving son that declared her legally insane. Although they have long been estranged, Elizabeth knows Mary’s tenuous mental health has deteriorated through decades of trauma and loss. Yet is her suicide attempt truly the impulse of a deranged mind, or the desperate act of a sane woman terrified to be committed to an asylum? And—if her sisters can put past grievances aside—is their love powerful enough to save her?

Maternal Elizabeth, peacemaker Frances, envious Ann, and much adored Emilie had always turned to one another in times of joy and heartache, first as children, and later as young wives and mothers. But when Civil War erupted, the conflict that divided a nation shattered their family. The Todd sisters’ fates were bound to their husbands’ choices as some joined the Lincoln administration, others the Confederate Army.

Now, though discord and tragedy have strained their bonds, Elizabeth knows they must come together as sisters to help Mary in her most desperate hour.

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For fans of The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See, a spellbinding story of an impossible love set against the backdrop of the Nazi regime.

She must choose between loyalty to her country or a love that could be her destruction…

As the dutiful daughter of a high-ranking Nazi officer, Hetty Heinrich is keen to play her part in the glorious new Thousand Year Reich. But she never imagines that all she believes and knows about her world will come into stark conflict when she encounters Walter, a Jewish friend from the past, who stirs dangerous feelings in her. Confused and conflicted, Hetty doesn’t know whom she can trust and where she can turn to, especially when she discovers that someone has been watching her.

Realizing she is taking a huge risk—but unable to resist the intense attraction she has for Walter—she embarks on a secret love affair with him. Together, they dream about when the war will be over and plan for their future. But as the rising tide of anti-Semitism threatens to engulf them, Hetty and Walter will be forced to take extreme measures.

Will the steady march of dark forces destroy Hetty’s universe—or can love ultimately triumph…?

Propulsive, deeply affecting, and inspired by the author’s family history, Daughter of the Reich is a mesmerizing page-turner filled with vivid characters and a meticulously researched portrait of Nazi Germany. In this riveting story of passion, courage, and morality, Louise Fein introduces a bold young woman determined to tread the treacherous path of survival and freedom, showing readers the strength in the power of love and reminding us that the past must never be forgotten.

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For readers of The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris, an immersive, heart-pounding debut about a German heiress on the run in post-World War II Germany.

Clara Falkenberg, once Germany’s most eligible and lauded heiress, earned the nickname “the Iron Fräulein” during World War II for her role operating her family’s ironworks empire. It’s been nearly two years since the war ended and she’s left with nothing but a false identification card and a series of burning questions about her family’s past. With nowhere else to run to, she decides to return home and take refuge with her dear friend, Elisa.

Narrowly escaping a near-disastrous interrogation by a British officer who’s hell-bent on arresting her for war crimes, she arrives home to discover the city in ruins, and Elisa missing. As Clara begins tracking down Elisa, she encounters Jakob, a charismatic young man working on the black market, who, for his own reasons, is also searching for Elisa. Clara and Jakob soon discover how they might help each other—if only they can stay ahead of the officer determined to make Clara answer for her actions during the war.

Propulsive, meticulously researched, and action-fueled, The German Heiress is a mesmerizing page-turner that questions the meaning of justice and morality, deftly shining the spotlight on the often-overlooked perspective of Germans who were caught in the crossfire of the Nazi regime and had nowhere to turn.

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If you love Jennifer Robson or The Crown you will love New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper’s novel about Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

1939. As the wife of King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.

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Spotlight: A Conspiracy of Wolves

A Conspiracy of Wolves
by Candace Robb

Publication Date: August 1, 2019
Severn House/Crème de la Crime
Hardcover & eBook; 256 Pages

Series: Owen Archer, Book 11
Genre: Historical Mystery

 

 

When a prominent citizen is murdered, former Captain of the Guard Owen Archer is persuaded out of retirement to investigate in this gripping medieval mystery.

1374. When a member of one of York’s most prominent families is found dead in the woods, his throat torn out, rumours spread like wildfire that wolves are running loose throughout the city. Persuaded to investigate by the victim’s father, Owen Archer is convinced that a human killer is responsible. But before he can gather sufficient evidence to prove his case, a second body is discovered, stabbed to death. Is there a connection? What secrets are contained within the victim’s household? And what does apprentice healer Alisoun know that she’s not telling?

Teaming up with Geoffrey Chaucer, who is in York on a secret mission on behalf of Prince Edward, Owen’s enquiries will draw him headlong into a deadly conspiracy.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

I’m Candace Robb, a writer/historian engaged in creating fiction about the late middle ages with a large cast of characters with whom I enjoy spending my days. Two series, the Owen Archer mysteries and the Kate Clifford mysteries, are set in late medieval York. The Margaret Kerr trilogy is set in early 14th century Scotland, at the beginning of the Wars of Independence. Two standalone novels (published under pseudonym Emma Campion) expand on the lives of two women in the court of King Edward III who have fascinated me ever since I first encountered them in history and fiction.

I am a dreamer. Writing, gardening, walking, dancing, reading, being with friends—there’s always a dreaming element.

Website | Facebook | Twitter  | BookBub

Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, August 1
Review at Book Frolic
Excerpt at Books In Their Natural Habitat

Friday, August 2
Review at A Book Geek

Saturday, August 3
Feature at The Writing Desk

Monday, August 5
Feature at Book Addict Rambles

Tuesday, August 6
Excerpt at Broken Teepee
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Wednesday, August 7
Interview at Bookish Rantings

Thursday, August 8
Guest Post at Reading the Past
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Friday, August 9
Feature at I’m All About Books
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Saturday, August 10
Feature at Clarissa Reads it All

Sunday, August 11
Excerpt at A Darn Good Read

Monday, August 12
Excerpt at Just One More Chapter
Review & Interview at Gwendalyn’s Books

Tuesday, August 13
Review at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, August 14
Guest Post at Words and Peace
Excerpt at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, August 15
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Book Reviews from Canada

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a Hardcover copy of A Conspiracy of Wolves by Candace Robb! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on August 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– Only one entry per household.
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– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Conspiracy of Wolves

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

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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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Happy Release Day: The Lost History of Dreams!!

Today is the publication day for Kris Waldherr’s THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS! In this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale, a post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future.


When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead in his bath one morning in 1850, the task of burying his body falls to his estranged cousin, historian turned postmortem photographer Robert Highstead. De Bonne’s will instructs that he should be buried in an unusual chapel, a stained glass folly set on the Shropshire moors, built to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. It has since been locked to all outsiders—especially the rabid, cultlike fans of de Bonne’s final book, The Lost History of Dreams. Only Ada’s grief-stricken niece, Isabelle, holds the key—but she refuses to open the glass chapel unless Robert agrees to her bargain: Before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record the real story behind her aunt’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

Sweeping and darkly atmospheric, THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is a Gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between past and present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death. And remember, all love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

Now available at LostHistoryBook.com.

Read the first three chapters: Download EPUB | Download PDF | Read online

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Atria Books
Hardcover & eBook; 320 Pages

Genre: Historical/Gothic/Mystery

A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.

All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave.

Kris Waldherr effortlessly spins a sweeping and atmospheric gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Praise for The Lost History of Dreams

“Scheherazade-like … haunting… Waldherr writes that ‘love stories are ghost stories in disguise.’ This one, happily, succeeds as both.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An unexpected delight that grows steadily more compelling as its pages fly by.” —Booklist

“A sensual, twisting gothic tale that embraces Victorian superstition much in the tradition of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.”—BookPage

“Eerily atmospheric and gorgeously written, The Lost History of Dreams is a Gothic fairy-tale to savor.” – Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK and THE HUNTRESS

“The Lost History of Dreams is a dark, shimmering gem of a novel, glittering with love lost, secrets kept, and long-buried truths revealed. Wonder, memory, death and passion haunt every page of Kris Waldherr’s powerhouse Gothic debut.” – Greer Macallister, bestselling author of THE MAGICIAN’S LIE and WOMAN 99

“Brooding, romantic, and thoughtful, The Lost History of Dreams is a rare bird in that it shines throughout with wit. I loved every page of it.” – Erika Swyler, bestselling author of THE BOOK OF SPECULATION and LIGHT FROM OTHER STARS

“With luminous prose, stunning poetry and a fascinating cast of characters, Waldherr weaves a wonderfully atmospheric tale. Not to be missed!” – Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME and THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER

“A riveting, addictive read. Sarah Waters fans will be entranced. – Mary Sharratt, author of ECSTASY and DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL

“A novel of haunting mystery and passion reminiscent of Wuthering Heights and Byatt’s Possession.” – Crystal King, author of FEAST OF SORROW and THE CHEF’S SECRET

“An atmospheric tale of lost love, family secrets, and an inquiry into how our own histories define us, I relished every poetic page.” – Heather Webb, international bestselling author of LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS and THE PHANTOM’S APPRENTICE

“With beautiful prose and poetry, Waldherr weaves a darkly seductive Gothic tale of love, art, death, and obsession. You’ll want to keep reading this one late into the night.” – Alyssa Palombo, author of THE SPELLBOOK OF KATRINA VAN TASSEL

“A sumptuous feast for all the senses.” – Clarissa Harwood, author of IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS and BEAR NO MALICE

About the Author

Kris Waldherr is an award-winning author, illustrator, and designer. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, and her fiction has been awarded with fellowships by the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts and a reading grant by Poets & Writers.

Kris Waldherr works and lives in Brooklyn in a Victorian-era house with her husband, the anthropologist-curator Thomas Ross Miller, and their young daughter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub

Release Day Blast Hosts

100 Pages a Day
A Book Geek
A Chick Who Reads
Book Addict Rambles
Book Frolic
CelticLady’s Reviews
Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Clarissa Reads it All
Coffee and Ink
Comet Readings
For the Sake of Good Taste
Historical Fiction with Spirit
Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots
Passages to the Past
The Book Junkie Reads
To Read, Or Not to Read

 

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The Moloka’i Series. (Double Spotlight)

(Grab a Copy!)

  • Series: Moloka’i
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin;
  • Publish Date: October 4, 2004

This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai’i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead, she discovers it is only just beginning.

(Grab A Copy!)

  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
  • Page Count: 320
  • Publication Date: February 19, 2019

The highly anticipated sequel to Alan Brennert’s acclaimed book club favorite, and national bestseller, Moloka’i

Alan Brennert’s beloved novel Moloka’i, currently has over 600,000 copies in print. This companion tale tells the story of Ruth, the daughter that Rachel Kalama―quarantined for most of her life at the isolated leprosy settlement of Kalaupapa―was forced to give up at birth.

The book follows young Ruth from her arrival at the Kapi’olani Home for Girls in Honolulu, to her adoption by a Japanese couple who raise her on a strawberry and grape farm in California, her marriage and unjust internment at Manzanar Relocation Camp during World War II―and then, after the war, to the life-altering day when she receives a letter from a woman who says she is Ruth’s birth mother, Rachel.

Daughter of Moloka’i expands upon Ruth and Rachel’s 22-year relationship, only hinted at in Moloka’i. It’s a richly emotional tale of two women―different in some ways, similar in others―who never expected to meet, much less come to love, one another. And for Ruth it is a story of discovery, the unfolding of a past she knew nothing about. Told in vivid, evocative prose that conjures up the beauty and history of both Hawaiian and Japanese cultures, it’s the powerful and poignant tale that readers of Moloka’i have been awaiting for fifteen years.

ALAN BRENNERT is the author of Honolulu, Palisades Park, and Moloka’i, which was a 2006-2007 BookSense Reading Group Pick; won the 2006 Bookies Award, sponsored by the Contra Costa Library, for the Book Club Book of the Year; and was a 2012 One Book, One San Diego Selection. He won an Emmy Award for his work as a writer-producer on the television series L.A. Law.

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The Tubman Command: A Spotlight

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade
  • Publish Date: May 7, 2019

By the bestselling author of The Hamilton Affair, the Tubman Command is an impeccably researched historical novel that brings to light the bravery and brilliance of American icon Harriet Tubman.

It’s May 1863. Outgeneraled and outgunned, a demoralized Union Army has pulled back with massive losses at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Fort Sumter, hated symbol of the Rebellion, taunts the American navy with its artillery and underwater mines.

In Beaufort, South Carolina, one very special woman, code-named Moses, is hatching a spectacular plan. Hunted by Confederates, revered by slaves, Harriet Tubman plots an expedition behind enemy lines to liberate hundreds of bondsmen and recruit them as soldiers. A bounty on her head, she has given up husband and home for the noblest cause: a nation of, by, and for the people.

The Tubman Command tells the story of Tubman at the height of her powers when she devises the largest plantation raid of the Civil War. General David Hunter places her in charge of a team of black scouts even though skeptical of what one woman can accomplish. For her gamble to succeed, “Moses” must outwit alligators, overseers, slave catchers, sharpshooters, and even hostile Union soldiers to lead gunships up the Combahee River. Men stand in her way at every turn–though one reminds her that love shouldn’t have to be the price of freedom.

 

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An award-winning novelist, historian, and documentary filmmaker, Elizabeth Cobbs is the author of eight books, including the New York Times bestselling novel, The Hamilton Affair, and The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers, which has been made into a musical. Elizabeth earned her Ph.D. in American history at Stanford University. She holds the Melbern Glasscock Chair at Texas A&M University and is a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. She lives in La Mesa, California.