2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge: May Reviews

Holy cow, I am so incredibly sorry that this is late!

Welcome to the May link page for the 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. This is the page where you will enter the links to your reviews during the month of February.

Visit the link pages for past months:

January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015

If you haven't already signed up for the challenge, it's not too late! The sign up post is here.

HF Reading Challenge Instructions...

  • Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please, do not add your blog link, but the correct address that will guide us directly to your review). A direct link to your Goodreads review is also acceptable
  • Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, etc.)
  • Don't forget to look some of the other links that are present. You never know when you will discover new blogs or books!

Please leave your links for your April reviews in Mr. Linky below or if you don't have a blog, in the comments below.

If you have any questions or need assistance please email Amy at passagestothepast.com

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On My Wishlist: The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great

December can't come fast enough, I am so geeked out about this release! What about you?

Pub Date: December 1, 2015 | Penguin/NAL

Genre: Historical Fiction

A novel from the acclaimed author of The Tiger Queens, for readers looking for “strong and determined female protagonists” (Historical Novel Society) and “a sprawling historical saga” (Renee Rosen)...

We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.

And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.

Instead he was a god.

330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander's boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia's throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…

Teresa of the New World Blog Tour Wrap Up + Giveaway {YA HistFic}

Today is the last day of Sharman Russell's Blog Tour for Teresa of the New World and in case you missed any of the posts I have them here for you, plus a chance for one of you to win a copy!

What bloggers said about Teresa of the New World

"The story is both haunting and magical. 4 stars!" - Svetlana's Reads and Views

"I’m not sure what prompted me the tackle Teresa of the New World by Sharman Apt Russell, but I’m very happy I took the chance. The book is different, but I greatly enjoyed the scope and artistry of the piece. Russell flirts with both spirituality and history over the course of Teresa’s story and while I would definitely classify it as a young adult piece, I think it has certain appeal for more mature readers as well." - Flashlight Commentary

Guest Posts by Sharman Russell

People Live Inside Us hosted at What Is That Book About

Talking to Animals hosted at A Literary Vacation

02_Teresa of the New World Cover 

Publication Date: March 3, 2015 | Yucca Publishing/Skyhorse Publishing
Formats: Hardcover, Ebook | ISBN: 978-1631580420

Genre: Historical Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

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From the bestselling author of An Obsession with Butterflies comes a magical story of America in the time of the conquistadors.

In 1528, the real-life conquistador Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked in the New World where he lived for eight years as a slave, trader, and shaman. In this lyrical weaving of history and myth, the adventurer takes his young daughter Teresa from her home in Texas to walk westward into the setting sun, their travels accompanied by miracles--visions and prophecies. But when Teresa reaches the outposts of New Spain, life is not what her father had promised.

As a kitchen servant in the household of a Spanish official, Teresa grows up estranged from the magic she knew as a child, when she could speak to the earth and listen to animals. When a new epidemic of measles devastates the area, the sixteen-year-old sets off on her own journey, befriending a Mayan were-jaguar who cannot control his shape-shifting and a warhorse abandoned by his Spanish owner. Now Teresa moves through a land stalked by Plague: smallpox as well as measles, typhus, and scarlet fever.

Soon it becomes clear that Teresa and her friends are being manipulated and driven by forces they do not understand. To save herself and others, Teresa will find herself listening again to the earth, sinking underground, swimming through limestone and fossil, opening to the power of root and stone. As she searches for her place in the New World, she will travel farther and deeper than she had ever imagined.

Rich in historical detail and scope, Teresa of the New World takes you into the dreamscape of the sixteenth-century American Southwest.

Praise for Teresa of the New World

“Wow! The magical elements were a total thrill-ride, and what a satisfying ending. After finishing it I had that wonderful sensation I get from a great read—the mysterious feeling of having been somewhere, of dreams having risen up and carried me along on a wild journey.” - Sarah Johnson, Editor

Praise for Sharman Russell

Russell has written twelve previous books with numerous starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The San Francisco Chronicle has said “Russell’s writing is luminous” and Kirkus Reviews wrote, “A deep reverence for nature shines throughout Russell’s rich, enjoyable text.” The Seattle Times described her An Obsession with Butterflies as a “masterpiece of story-telling” and the San Diego Union Tribune called it “A singular work of art, with its smooth, ethereal prose and series after cascading series of astonishing lore.” The New York Times and Discover Magazine both described her book on hunger as “elegant.”

Teresa of the New World Available at

Barnes & Noble
Skyhorse Publishing

03B_Author Sharman RussellAbout the Author

Sharman Apt Russell has lived in Southwestern deserts almost all her life and continues to be refreshed and amazed by the magic and beauty of this landscape. She has published over a dozen books translated into a dozen languages, including fiction and nonfiction. She teaches graduate writing classes at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, New Mexico and Antioch University in Los Angeles, California and has thrice served as the PEN West judge for their annual children’s literature award. Her own awards include a Rockefeller Fellowship, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Henry Joseph Jackson Award.

For more information visit Sharman Russell's website. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Teresa of the New World Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 11
Guest Post at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, May 12
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Wednesday, May 13
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, May 15
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Monday, May 18
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, May 20
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, May 21
Spotlight at Cheryl's Book Nook

Friday, May 22
Blog Tour Wrap Up & Giveaway at Passages to the Past


Passages to the Past has one paperback of Teresa of the New World up for grabs! To enter the giveaway please leave a comment below with your email address.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on June 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canadian 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 have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Blood of a Stone Blog Tour Wrap Up

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Jeanne Lyet Gassman's Blog Tour for Blood of a Stone is coming to an end and I have a tour wrap up for you today in case you missed any posts! There is a giveaway still running, so be sure to enter to win a copy of this fascinating new historical novel!

Giveaway @ Raven Haired Girl (Ends May 29th)

Blogger Reviews

"This book is well written. The author brings us into Jerusalem during the time of Christ. Jesus himself is a minor character, as are Peter, Mary, John and Judas. I found myself imagining life at this time. Was it as the author described? Probably, she did such a fantastic job with her descriptions of the characters and the settings. I give this book 4/5 stars for it's concept, originality and ability to hold my interest." - Book Lovers Paradise

"Blood of a Stone is an interesting book. I found myself very intrigued with where the story was going and...found myself anxiously turning virtual pages as quickly as possible to find out how the book ended. There is much to praise in this book and I enjoyed it very much." - A Book Geek

"Blood of a Stone was a very good read. The author immediately captured my attention with the characters and the storyline. Overall, very interesting read about a very interesting time period." - Book Nerd

Guest Posts

Capturing the Flavor of Ancient History at Curling Up With a Good Book
It Began With a Dream at Book Lovers Paradise
Oh, Those Critters and Varmints at Latte Da
Everything You Always Wanted to Know about BLOOD OF A STONE (But were Afraid to Ask!) at Raven Haired Girl

02_Blood of a Stone Cover 

Publication Date: March 17, 2015 | Tuscany Press | Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle | 371 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Set in the first century on the edges of the Roman Empire and the Jesus movement, Blood of a Stone is a sweeping story of murder, betrayal, love, and the search for redemption.

Faced with the brutality of slavery, Demetrios confronts his master and flees by the blood of a stone. Determined to escape his past, he struggles to create a new life and a new identity with his friend and fellow escaped slave, Elazar.

However, freedom has its price. Secrets cannot remain secret forever. A chance for love is lost. Elazar betrays Demetrios to a so-called prophet named Jesus of Nazareth. Fearing the Roman authorities and Jesus, Demetrios risks everything to silence those who would enslave him again. His quest leads him to startling discoveries and dire choices. Demetrios must answer the question we all ask: Can we ever be free of our past?

Praise for Blood of a Stone

“Blood of a Stone takes the reader on an adventure in a fascinating period of history where the Roman Empire and the birth of Christianity converge. An extremely well written historical novel.” -Amazon Best Selling Author of The Olivia Series, Yael Politis

“Jeanne Gassman has composed a spiritual journey of one man's heart-rending path to redemption on the fringe of the Jesus movement. Wrapped in polished prose and vivid depictions of life in 1st Century Palestine, Gassman's story transcends genres to offer a rich biblical tale of love, loss, forgiveness, and the restorative power of faith.” -Barbara Devlin, Bestselling Author of the Brethren of the Coast series

"BLOOD OF A STONE by Jeanne Gassman is an enthralling, introspective historical tale that studies the human spirit in all its various forms: the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. The novel is touching, wonderfully written and has a stunning story line that will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommend!" -Eliza Knight, USA Today Bestselling Author, My Lady Viper

“Details of 1st-Century Palestine come alive as Jeanne Lyet Gassman weaves a compelling story of unspeakable challenge and the search for redemption. Trapped in a life of desperation, Demetrios will do whatever it takes to escape, even kill those who enslave him. But when his life comes in contact with the man, Jesus, everything that seemed so important begins to shift. The story moves from pulse-pounding action to heart-wrenching honesty, as Demetrios pursues the Peace every heart craves.” -Amazon Best-seller Author, Christy M. Bellar, The Lady and the Mountain Man

"Grace, one of the most challenging journeys of life and literature, is explored in this fine debut novel by Jeanne Lyet Gassman. Set in first century Palestine during the time of Jesus, BLOOD OF A STONE is a moving, well-researched, beautifully turned novel that had me engaged and in tears. Highly recommended!" -Best-selling author Allegra Jordan, The End of Innocence

"Jeanne Gassman is a remarkable writer who brings a Biblical era stunningly to life in this powerful and fast-moving tale of sin and redemption." -American Fiction Prize Winner, Clint McCown, author of Haints

"In art man finds a conduit to the divine. Blood of a Stone, Jeanne L. Gassman’s artful debut, is a tale of murder, love, betrayal, and redemption in 1st century Judea. Crafted with imagination and superlative style, her story tracks slaves Demetrios’ and Elazar’s arduous climb from sin to forgiveness." -Winner of the Independent Publisher Book Award, David Beckett, The Cana Mystery

"Jeanne Lyet Gassman's stunning evocation of 1st-century Palestine in all its teeming, multifaceted complexity compelled me, page after page, to follow the fateful pilgrimage to Jerusalem while also walking the rocky path from undeserved suffering and terrible guilt to the possibility--open to all of us--of forgiving and being forgiven." -Diane Lefer, co-author of The Blessing Next to the Wound

"Blood of a Stone is a gripping story of friendship and betrayal, love against all odds, a brutal Roman Empire, and the threat of a revolt that becomes instead the beginnings of freedom. Jeanne Lyet Gassman tells us what it was like to live in the time of emperors and slavery, a world into which Christ was born." -National Book Award Winner, Gloria Whelan, Homeless Bird

"A meditative journey on the ways that life cripple us all -- and the choices we make that lead to bitterness and blame or joy and forgiveness -- Gassman's BLOOD OF A STONE is a biblical journey of self-discovery that will strike a chord in every reader." -Michelle Zink, Author of Prophecy of the Sisters Trilogy

"Jeanne Lyet Gassman is an astonishingly good writer. The ancient world of Blood of a Stone feels alive on every page. And if you think there's nothing fresh to say about the fragility of freedom and the difficult road towards redemption, this novel—chock-full of compelling characters and propelled by a polished, downright luminous prose—will provide new and heartfelt insights." -Nance Van Winckel, author of Boneland: Linked Stories

"In Blood of a Stone, author Jeanne Lyet Gassman leads the reader on a journey of surprise and suspense. Her well-researched work is the story of Demetrios, a slave who sinks to murder to defend his own life. He is a Gentile, in partnership with Elazar, a Jew. They travel Palestine in the midst of the Jesus movement and each in his own way finds his life changed." -Wall Street Journal Top Ten book selection author, Donna Foley Mabrey, Maude

Available at

Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble

03_Jeanne Lyet GassmanAbout the Author

Jeanne Lyet Gassman lives in Arizona where the desert landscape inspires much of her fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has received fellowships from Ragdale and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

In addition to writing, Jeanne teaches creative writing workshops in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area. Her work has appeared in Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Red Savina Review, The Museum of Americana, Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters, Switchback, Literary Mama, and Barrelhouse, among many others. Blood of a Stone is her debut novel.

Author Links

Jeanne Lyet Gassman
Jeanne's Writing Desk
Facebook Author Page

Blood of a Stone Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 4
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, May 5
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, May 6
Spotlight at Cheryl's Book Nook

Friday, May 8
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, May 12
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, May 13
Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise

Thursday, May 14
Review at A Book Geek

Monday, May 18
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, May 19
Guest Post & Giveaway at Latte Da
Excerpt & Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads

Thursday, May 21
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Guest Post & Giveaway at Raven Haired Girl

Friday, May 22
Blog Tour Wrap-Up at Passages to the Past

Interview with Barbara Hawkins + Giveaway of Behind the Forgotten Front {HFVBT Blog Tour}

Please welcome to the blog author Barbara Hawkins! Barbara has been on tour with HF Virtual Book Tours for her historical novel, Behind the Forgotten Front, and today with an interview & giveaway! IO hope you enjoy getting to know more about Barbara and her novel, and good luck to those who enter the giveaway!

Interview with Barbara Hawkins, author of Behind the Forgotten Front

Welcome to Passages to the Past, Barbara, and congratulations on the release of your novel! Thank you for stopping by and letting us get to know you better. First, can you please tell us a little about yourself.

Hello Amy and thank you for inviting me to interview on your blog.

How to tell you about myself without sounding like I’m interviewing for a job? Well, I have an active mind that doesn’t stop when I go to sleep. I’ve been known to sleepwalk out of a hotel room onto the street in my PJs. I was at a party several months ago when someone I hadn’t seen in twenty years remembered me as the woman who had just returned from the jungle with a Botfly larvae in her skull. I’ve been to six continents and dragged my daughter to five of them; Antarctica being one that’s not on my bucket list having grown up in Minnesota. I make it a habit to have fresh flowers in my house. And my favorite job is being a mom, but being an engineer brings home the bacon.

What inspired you to write Behind the Forgotten Front?

I’ve taken a crack at writing several stories but was ‘inspired’ to write only one, Behind the Forgotten Front. While growing up I remember Ed Pfeifer, a friend of my dad’s from The War, coming to visit and always being shushed away while they relived their previous lives as soldiers. That only made me want to listen more. I come from a family of seven kids and not a lot of money. So when my dad pulled out his purple silk bag from the time he spent in Ceylon during WWII, with trinkets of tiny ivory elephants, rupees, jade, and rubies, my imagination got the better of me and I daydreamed of Siam. Three months before my dad died he told me about his final days in The War and flying into Shanghai for the surrender. My dad was not one to spare the belt and spoil the child but I never saw a man who cried as unashamedly as him at the funeral of a friend. So knowing he hadn’t met one of his life-long goals, to write about the boys who never came home from The War, I decided to pick up the gauntlet for him.

What was the hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene for me to write in Behind the Forgotten Front was Collin’s death. I don’t think they had a term like Traumatic Stress Syndrome back then. That doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer from it. What I wanted to portray in Collin’s breakdown was being drafted or volunteering to fight in a war, far from home, wasn’t something they taught in school, then or now. Getting into Collin’s shoes was next to impossible for me. But I felt I owed it to all the soldiers who have had to face that struggle.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

Getting into the voice of a character is the biggest challenge for me as a writer. I haven’t perfected a method, but I’ve learned that I don’t know my characters very well until I’m about half-way through the book. So go back to the beginning and rewrite the book to make sure everyone’s personality is reflected from the start. Sure, I could plow on and finish my stories faster is I just kept writing, but my characters would be flat at the start.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

The reason I enjoy writing Historical Fiction is because it gives me an excuse to research whatever I want. I’m fascinated by people who made history rather than historical facts. It’s been said if we learned from history we wouldn’t repeat our mistakes. But if we only study the facts we won’t understand the origins of the problems. If we understood the people who made history and the conditions that shaped their lives, then we might have a chance to ‘learn from history.’

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

If readers take anything away from my book I hope they think of the soldiers who never came back as real people, with parents, children, and lovers they left behind. In one of the WWII cemeteries I visited in a recent trip to India the following was written on one of the grave stones: He gave the greatest gift of all, that of his unfinished life.

Who are your writing inspirations?

I got hooked on historical fiction after reading Leon Uris’ QB VII. Following Uris, I found James Clavell. Once I find an author I like, I can’t move on until I’ve read everything they’ve written. After Clavell, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett caught my attention. Then I tackled Bernard Cornwell’s writings, starting with Stonehenge, moving on to the Sharpe series, which I couldn’t believe I was reading with all the gore and guts. I don’t know how I stumbled upon Phillipa Gregory’s Boleyn series but was pleased to find a female Historical Fiction writer and just recently started reading Anne Perry, who’s been around forever. My all-time favorite is Paul Scott’s The Jewel in the Crown.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

Adventure travel is a passion of mine. I generally don’t stay at five star hotels and will lose about twenty pounds after trekking to remote sites. But I know I can always return to 1st class comfort and will gain back all that weight. I marvel at the people I meet along the way and treasure the memories of our time together. I realize this is a luxury for only a few, and I was lucky enough to be born in the USA in the 20th century.

What was the first historical novel you read?

I read my first historical fiction novel in the fifth grade. I don’t remember the author or title but it was about a boy living in the Middle Ages, an ignorant period in history, or so I thought. It was a time when books were burned and people tortured for pursuing what we value now; astronomy, medicine and art. But it was also a period of critical change. When I was ten years old I tried to find similar novels, but there were none. Instead I was encouraged to read detective novels about teenage girls, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Still, I believe historical fiction was severely lacking in YA novels then and now.

What is the last historical novel you read?

The last historical fiction novel I read was by Anne Perry, A New York Christmas. Her stories are like a tapestry of lives, interwoven and full of peculiar depth.

Lastly, are you working on something new and if so, can you tell us about it?

Right now I’m working on a Young Adult SciFi/Fantasy novel. I’d say it was also Historical Fiction, except I recently read that to be Historical Fiction it can’t have any speculative nonsense. My story starts in the 22nd century but moves back in time to 350 C.E. Being a scientist, I get to throw in make-believe inventions and as a historical fiction addict, I include scenes from the Roman Persian Wars. I want our youth to learn about the past and believe in a positive future, not be bullied into accepting a dystopian end of the world. I’m having a blast writing this story.

About Behind the Forgotten Front

02_Behind the Forgotten Front Cover 

Publication Date: August 22, 2014
e-book: ISBN 978-0-9915984-2-7 (309 pages)
Paperback: ISBN 978-0-9915984-1-0 (318 pages)

Genre: Historical Fiction/World War II

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It’s 1942 and Harry Flynn enlists to fight in the war expecting to find the thrill of danger and honor of military service. He leaves behind the love of his life to journey into a world of tigers, elephants and Himalayan Mountains. Instead of a fighting position, Harry is sent to the Forgotten Front in the Indian subcontinent as an ordinary supply officer. There, General Joseph ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell is constructing a ‘road to nowhere’ through Japanese-occupied Burma. The general will do anything to get the road built.

In this exotic world with Naga headhunters, opium-smoking Kachin tribesmen, and marauders who scorn both life and death, Harry forges unlikely friendships. He’s forced to obey orders that challenge his principles and is torn between being true to himself or ‘no man at all.’ Eventually, not willing to let Uncle Sam needlessly condemn the road crew to death, he rebels.

He tries to sabotage the road’s progress where an Afro-American construction regiment is losing a man a mile due to disease and crumbling mountain slopes. Then a commanding officer spots his unconventional skills. Immediately he’s transferred to America’s first guerrilla-supported unit: Merrill’s Marauders and later the Mars Task Force. Here, he must entrust his life to others. During a time when boys were forced to come of age on the battlefield, Harry must find what makes his life worth living or die.

The lessons learned in World War II apply to all wars, where men walk away carrying unspeakable memories and lives that ‘could have been’ haunt those that lived. Behind the Forgotten Front brings them all back to life and shows that history is about facts driven by passions and sometimes the mistakes of real people.

Praise for Behind the Forgotten Front

"Barbara's debut novel is a compelling examination of man and war and the interaction between them. The miracle of this novel is how Barbara brings this `forgotten front' to life. Barbara accomplishes her goals in this her debut - bringing to our attention the impact war has on all soldiers, no matter their assignment. She also sets a very high standard for her next book. Brava!" - Grady Harp, Amazon Reviewer

Buy the Book

Amazon (eBook)
Amazon (Paperback)

About the Author

Barbara Hawkins started writing a pseudo-memoir about her time spent in Guatemala during the 1970’s-1980’s civil war. It was too close to her heart, so she had to switch to something she wanted to tell a story about but also had a worthwhile message. Her father had always wanted to write a book about the time he’d spent in World War II but died before he could reach that goal. So she thought she’d give it a try.

She knew he was stationed in Sri Lanka, but she didn’t find much to write about there. So she gravitated to what she knew best, engineering and jungles. The story of the Afro-American construction regiment building Stilwell’s Road grabbed her attention and who could not be mesmerized by American’s first guerrilla supported units: Merrill’s Marauders and the Mars Task Force? Half-way through the book her sister found her dad’s diary from the War. He was actually in the Mars Task Force. The scene with Lt. Jack Knight was taken from his diary and the ending was from a conversation she had with her dad just before he died. Having given a promise to keep his WWII missions a secret for fifty years, it was the only time her father spoke of the War.

Ms. Hawkins holds BS degrees from the University of Minnesota where she studied Botany and Mathematics. She taught mathematics and science in High School until she realized she hated being a disciplinarian. From there she traveled to jungles in Latin America collecting plant specimens for several universities. She also has a MS in Civil Engineering. For the last twenty-five-years she has worked as a professional engineer. Her hobbies vary from cooking and yoga to bicycling and adventure travel.

For more information visit Barbara Hawkins' website.

Behind the Forgotten Front Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 11
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, May 12
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Wednesday, May 13
Review & Giveaway at Forever Ashley
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, May 14
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, May 15
Review & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Saturday, May 16
Review at Impressions in Ink
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Monday, May 18
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Tuesday, May 19
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past


Passages to the Past has one paperback of Behind the Forgotten Front up for grabs! To enter the giveaway please leave a comment below with your email address.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US 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 have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Author Jeffrey Smith on How the Mesabi Pioneers Came To Be {Mesabi Pioneers Blog Tour}

Passages to the Past is so excited to bring you a fascinating post by Jeff Smith, author of Mesabi Pioneers today as part of his Blog Tour with HF Virtual Book Tours! I hope you enjoy the post as much as I did and please check out the novel!

How Mesabi Pioneers came to be by Jeff Smith

In 2013 I was living in a small town on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, a year-and-a-half into my new job as full-time stay-at-home father, house-husband and writer. My daughter was a joy, the house was moderately (according to my wife) clean, and for the first time in more than a decade I was writing. Not just as a hobby, but as a job.

I got up every morning at 5am, before the kid woke, and I wrote for two hours. Then I made some breakfast, and went for a run. During my daughter's morning nap I would edit what I had written the day before. Soon enough, the kid woke. We'd play games, or go swimming, or go for a walk, or read together, until it was time to start getting dinner ready.

At night I read--histories, mostly. I had for years been fascinated by the history of American infrastructure: highways, bridges, buildings, cities planned and unplanned. I was not interested in the mechanics of how America was built as much as in understanding the men and women who did the building. The workers who made the things we take for granted every day: tall buildings; automobiles; telephones; electricity; long stretches of concrete cutting swaths across the American landscape.

I wanted to write a story about the people who did the work of building America. I kept reading, and kept writing, and kept submitting. The right story, however, never seemed to come together, either in my head or on paper.

Then, early in the summer, I connected with a woman who told me an idea for a novel she and her father had talked about for years. It seemed a story right up my alley: a novel about the immigrants who came to northern Minnesota in the late 19th and early 20th century to mine iron ore.

I had never heard of the Iron Range, had never heard of Mesabi nor that there was a place in Minnesota north of Walnut Creek. My knowledge of Minnesota came from reading that storied Laura Ingalls Wilder series both when I was a boy and later to my daughter. But the more I learned about the history of the place, and about the man who would be my co-author, the more I wanted to write this story.

Russell Hill was born on the Iron Range, a child of Finnish immigrants who came to America to work the iron mines. Russell first conceived of a story about the Mesabi in 1968 when he was an educator in Minnesota. His idea was to write the story of the Range, how it began, and how it evolved from multiple sprawling towns of disparate ethnic and cultural groups to an almost singular community of Rangers stretching more than a hundred miles. Russell wanted to tell the story of the men who worked long hours in the mines, their wives who worked long hours in the home, and their children who grew up American.

I began to research. I discovered that the Mesabi range was the largest cache of iron ore in America, that it had been mined since 1892 and that it was still being mined today. Estimates are that there is enough iron ore in the ground on the Mesabi Range that it could be mined for another hundred years. Maybe more.

I learned of a great rags to riches to rags story virtually unknown outside of Minnesota: how a timber cruiser from Duluth discovered and developed the largest iron mine in the world. Leonidas Merritt and his six brothers amassed a fortune on paper. They built a mining empire, then they built a railroad, and finally a set of ore docks in Duluth where the iron could be shipped to market.

To pay for it all they formed a partnership with that titan of oil, John D. Rockefeller, who loaned them the money to pay for the railroad and the ore docks and to help equip the mines, taking as collateral the mines themselves.

This was a story with built in historical drama; with a tragedy both personal and professional; with larger than life figures who played chess with America's industrial titans and lost.

More than that it was a story about people. Immigrants from all over Europe and Scandinavia who came to Minnesota looking for the American dream. They believed the streets of America were paved with diamonds. But on the Mesabi they found the streets paved with the red dust of iron ore. They endured harsh conditions: remote locations set in the dense forest, bitterly cold winters, brutally hot summers, biting insects, thick bogs, floods and fires.

They were the foundation of America's 20th century industrial revolution. The iron they brought out of the ground became the steel that helped America win two world wars, created a giant automobile industry that spawned the interstate highway system, formed the backbone for bridges and skyscrapers, was turned into pots and pans and stoves and refrigerators that went into every kitchen in America.

These men, these immigrants who came from farms, who had themselves never heard of Minnesota or of the iron range, were the very men and women I had been seeking. In their lives I found the story I yearned to write. It is a story that continues to this day. They created a legacy of community that is a microcosm of America itself, built by immigrants, by working men and women, for the betterment of themselves and their children and their children's children. They built a place on the Iron Range they are proud to call home.

And a story that Russell would be proud bears his name.

About Mesabi Pioneers: A Novel

02_Mesabi Pioneers Cover 

Publication Date: October 6, 2014 | Lempi Publishing | Formats: eBook, Hardcover | 238 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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In the early 1890s, a group of brothers discovered iron ore in the dense pine woods of northern Minnesota. Mesabi Pioneers tells the story of the immigrants who dug that ore out of the ground, who carved towns from trees, and who built new lives for themselves and their families.

Arthur Maki, a Finnish immigrant known for his carpentry skills, has been hired by the persuasive and poetic Leonidas “Lon” Merritt to join a crew of explorers in the forest. From this remote and formidable locale, Arthur must construct a camp and foster a community into which he can bring his wife and son.

The camp, which the Merritts call Mountain Iron, sits on what Lon believes to be a huge lode of iron ore. However, the rest of the world thinks the Merritts are crazy. While Arthur builds a camp with a Chippewa Indian everyone calls Charlie and a French-Chippewa fur trader named Richardson, the other members of the team explore the surrounding woods for more caches of iron. When a second lode is discovered at Biwabik, Arthur and the rest of the crew know the finding is real. And the iron mining world knows it, too.

As the mine gets deeper and mining operations expand, the camp crowds with a diversity of ethnic and cultural groups. Tragedy strikes in ways large and small. And it is from the ashes of destruction that Arthur finds the community he has been seeking.

Praise for Mesabi Pioneers

“…a refreshingly enjoyable read… Hill and Smith kindle complicated emotions, important questions and a driving curiosity about Northern Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range…The novel give(s) us a remarkable point of view, a vision of the Iron Range before it was anything like our modern understanding of the place. The size of the forest, the difficulty of travel, the majesty of the Missabe hills before they were opened up and moved like chess pieces: we see all of this in fresh prose." -Aaron Brown, Hibbing Daily Tribune and minnesotabrown.com

“Hill and Smith pepper their story with some very good character development, plenty of sarcastic humor, and a good deal of research into a period never before explored in historical fiction. In their handling, the enterprising and occasionally cutthroat, bygone world of iron mining comes vividly alive. A strong debut installment.” -Charlotte Kirsch, Historical Novel Society

“A wonderful book. I’d recommend it to anyone.” -Scott Hall, KAXE, Northern Community Radio

“In Mesabi Pioneers, Jeffrey Smith has skillfully crafted a wonderful story that respects the historical facts while bringing the experience of these pioneers to life. This book is a steeped in the social history and physical geography of this region in Minnesota that played such a significant role in the economic rise of the United States. In a few words, this is good creative writing with an enjoyable style.” -James Dilisio, author Maryland Geography

“What a fascinating story, with finely drawn characters and compelling subject matter. The authors take us inside the hearts and souls of newly arrived immigrant pioneers, full of hope and promise, who accomplished extraordinary feats under dire circumstances; and the Native Americans who watched their homeland undergo such dramatic and irrevocable change. I highly recommend it.” -Kathryn Leigh Scott, actress and author, Down and Out in Beverly Heels

Watch the Book Trailer

Mesabi Pioneers Available At

Barnes & Noble
Mesabi Project Website

About the Author

Jeffrey Smith began his love of letters at fourteen on a Smith-Corona electric typewriter borrowed from his father. He is a full-time writer, homemaker and stay-at-home parent in Berlin, Maryland. Also an accomplished distance runner, Jeffrey has completed 16 marathons, seven 24-hour relay races, and multiple ultra-runs, including several 100-mile races. He blogs about writing, running, and parenting at rustlingreed.com/blog.

For more information visit mesabiproject.com. You can also follow Mesabi Pioneers on Facebook and Twitter.

Mesabi Pioneers Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 4
Blog Tour Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, May 5
Guest Post at The Maiden's Court

Monday, May 11
Review at Unshelfish

Thursday, May 14
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, May 18
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Tuesday, May 19
Guest Post at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 20
Review at Beth's Book Nook Blog

Thursday, May 21
Review at Broken Teepee

Monday, May 25
Review at Griperang's Bookmarks

Tuesday, May 26
Review at Book Nerd
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, May 28
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, May 29
Review at A Novel Kind of Bliss

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Win a copy of To Wed an Heiress by Rosanne E. Lortz! {Historical Romance}

Today kicks off Rosanne E. Lortz's Blog Tour for To Wed an Heiress with HF Virtual Book Tours and I have a chance for one of you to win an eBook of her latest Historical Romance novel.

02_To Wed an Heiress 

Publication Date: April 30, 2015 | Madison Street Publishing | Paperback; 300p

Genre: Historical/Romantic Suspense

Haro Emison, thrust into his new role as Earl of Anglesford, discovers that his late father has left the family teetering on the edge of financial ruin. Intent on rescuing the estate, Haro abandons his long-held interest in his cousin Eda and searches instead for a wealthy heiress. But when pride and jealousy cause his plan to spiral out of control, he begins to wonder if he has made a dreadful mistake….

Eda Swanycke is enjoying her first season in London when her debut comes to a crashing halt. Jilted by her cousin, she suffers the indignity of watching Haro’s new intended lay claim to his person and position. But when a brutal murder upends the household with Haro as chief suspect, Eda must put her wounded pride aside, match wits with the investigator from London, and try, at all costs, to save Haro Emison’s neck from the gallows….

About the Author

03_Author Rosanne E. LortzRosanne E. Lortz ("Rose") is a history lover, a book addict, a mom to four boys, and a native of Portland, Oregon. When she's not writing, she teaches Latin and English composition and works as an editor at Madison Street Publishing.

For more information visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

To Wed an Heiress Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 18
Excerpt & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Spotlight & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Tuesday, May 19
Interview at Boom Baby Reviews
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Wednesday, May 20
Review at Queen of All She Reads
Spotlight & Giveaway at Let them Read Books

Thursday, May 21
Review at Book Nerd
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Friday, May 22
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Spotlight & Giveaway at View from the Birdhouse


Passages to the Past has one eBook of To Wed an Heiress up for grabs! To enter the giveaway please leave a comment below with your email address.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY!
– 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 have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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