Win a copy of Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones

Author Nicole Mones is currently on a blog tour with HF Virtual Book Tours and Passages to the Past is proud to be hosting it today with a giveaway!

02_Night in ShanghaiPublication Date: March 4, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Genre: Historical Fiction

In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war.

Song Yuhua is refined, educated, and bonded since age eighteen to Shanghai’s most powerful crime boss in payment for her father’s gambling debts. Outwardly submissive, she burns with rage and risks her life spying on her master for the Communist Party.

Only when Shanghai is shattered by the Japanese invasion do Song and Thomas find their way to each other. Though their union is forbidden, neither can back down from it in the turbulent years of occupation and resistance that follow. Torn between music and survival, freedom and commitment, love and world war, they are borne on an irresistible riff of melody and improvisation to Night in Shanghai’s final, impossible choice.

In this impressively researched novel, Nicole Mones not only tells the forgotten story of black musicians in the Chinese Jazz age, but also weaves in a stunning true tale of Holocaust heroism little-known in the West.

Praise for Night in Shanghai

“Based on true episodes and peppered with the lives and experiences of actual characters from the worlds of politics, music, the military, and the government, Mones’ engrossing historical novel illuminates the danger, depravity, and drama of this dark period with brave authenticity.” — Carol Haggas, Booklist

“Mones’ breathless and enlightening account of an African-American jazzman and his circle in prewar Shanghai… keep(s) the suspense mounting until the end.” — Kirkus Reviews

"Amid the plethora of World War II fiction, Mones’s fourth novel (after The Last Chinese Chef) offers a rarely seen African American and Asian perspective. Fans of works such as Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility will appreciate the use of jazz as the backdrop to a world at war. Historical fiction fans will not be disappointed." — Library Journal

"With a magician’s sleight of hand, Nicole Mones conjures up the jazz-filled, complex, turbulent world of Shanghai just before World War II. A feast for the senses…the lives and loves of expatriate musicians intertwine with the growing tensions between the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party, while the ominous threats from the Japanese stir the winds of war. A rich and thoroughly captivating read." – Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Samurai’s Garden

"What an incredible thing Mones does in this novel of the compelling, sexy, rich and complicated world of historical Shanghai. Every page reveals some custom, some costume, some food, some trick of language that exposes a fascinating moment in history — the Japanese invasion on the eve of World War II. Mones weaves the multiple strands of her story much the way themes and melodies are woven into the jazz her protagonist plays, with subtle and suggestive undertones of human greed, power, and passion." – Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin

READ AN EXCERPT.

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About the Author

03_Nicole MonesA newly launched textile business took Nicole Mones to China for the first time in 1977, after the end of the Cultural Revolution. As an individual she traded textiles with China for eighteen years before she turned to writing about that country. Her novels Night in Shanghai, The Last Chinese Chef, Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light are in print in more than twenty-two languages and have received multiple juried prizes, including the Kafka Prize (year’s best work of fiction by any American woman) and Kiriyama Prize (finalist; for the work of fiction which best enhances understanding of any Pacific Rim Culture).

Mones’ nonfiction writing on China has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Gourmet, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. She is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. For more information visir www.nicolemones.com.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, April 7
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, April 8
Spotlight & Giveaway at The Bookworm

Wednesday, April 9
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Thursday, April 10
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Friday, April 11
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Monday, April 14
Spotlight & Giveaway at A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Tuesday, April 15
Review, Interview, & Giveaway at Drey's Library

Wednesday, April 16
Review at A Bibliotaph's Reviews

Friday, April 18
Review & Giveaway at Our Wolves Den

Monday, April 21
Guest Post at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at WTF Are You Reading?

Wednesday, April 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, April 24
Interview at Mina's Bookshelf

Friday, April 25
Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please

Monday, April 28
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Giveaway

To enter to win a copy of Night in Shanghai please complete the form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on May 3rd.

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Interview with Phyllis T. Smith & Giveaway of I Am Livia

Today I am happy to be kicking off author Phyllis T. Smith's TLC Book Tour for I Am Livia with an interview & giveaway!

I had the recent pleasure of reading this and it was absolutely wonderful! My review will be posted a little later on in the tour, stay tuned. But first, please enjoy the interview and be sure to enter the giveaway!

Hi Phyllis, thank you so much for spending some time with us here at Passages to the Past! Congratulations on the upcoming release of I AM LIVIA, I am thrilled to be a host on your tour.

Thanks, Amy! I’m delighted to be here with you.

First, can you please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a native of Brooklyn with a thing for ancient Rome—loved studying about it in college, love Roman literature and Roman art. I wanted to write historical novels for years before I did. I worked as a computer applications trainer while taking fiction writing classes and belonging to writing critique groups. Eventually I wrote I AM LIVIA which became a finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

I AM LIVIA will be released on May 1st, how do you plan on celebrating?

I know I’ll be smiling a lot. Beyond that, I haven’t decided.

What was the inspiration for writing I AM LIVIA?

I’m drawn to all things Roman and naturally loved I, Claudius—the book and the miniseries made in the ‘70s. The portrait of Livia in both is chilling. She is diabolical, poisoning a string of victims. This was once the view historians took of her, but nowadays many believe her reputation was unjustly blackened. She was the most powerful woman in Roman history and may have been vilified precisely because in her society she broke the mold. The mystery about what kind of person she actually was intrigued me. As I researched Livia’s life and wrote in her first person voice, I increasingly empathized with her and wanted to do her historical justice.

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

I’ve made the book as true to Livia’s life as I could get it. She battled high odds. I feel her story has something to say to us about the value of being strong in the face of hardship and how far you should go in being loyal to those you love.

How would you like for people to remember Livia Drusilla?

I see her as a brave survivor. She experienced danger and loss which tempered her at a young age. I wouldn’t hold her up as a heroine without flaws. Right at the center of her story is a scandal that in some ways is still shocking, a marital rupture that it would be easy to judge and condemn. But the tales about her being a murderer get ridiculous when you examine the details of what she is supposed to have done. In actual fact, she was honored for many acts of charity and mercy. At a time when women were expected almost to be chattel, she had an impact on history.

Did you come across anything in your research that surprised you or caused you to re-scene?

I was surprised by what you might call Caesar Augustus’s sensitive side. We don’t tend to think a Roman ruler would be squeamish about cruelty. He certainly could be ruthless. But one ancient Roman source describes him being lenient as a judge and even leaning over backwards to acquit a man of patricide because the penalty was so savage. A scene in the book in which he reacts with great anger when someone wants to have a slave fed to man-eating eels is based on ancient sources.

What was the hardest scene to write?

The scene in which Livia is caught in a forest fire. It’s based on a true incident in her late teens. I suspect what happened was psychologically important. She must have experienced absolute terror. After that, she knew she could survive the worst. What happened was so over the top I worried about making the scene believable. I did a lot of research on modern people caught in forest fires, how they manage to escape.

What was your favorite scene to write?

The dinner party scene in which Livia meets Caesar again after they have been separated by civil war. She has every reason to hate and fear him. He was her father’s deadly enemy and now he is ruler of half the Roman Empire. They are both married to other people. On top of all that, she’s pregnant. And still they can’t take their eyes off each other. I had to keep two conversations going at the same time, the surface one—very staid and proper--and the real one underneath that, in which Livia is so torn by conflicting feelings she almost loses it.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was eight. My third grade teacher liked a poem I wrote. She told me I should write books when I grew up, and for some reason I believed her. What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I’m particularly drawn to ancient Greece and Rome, but some of my favorite novels are set in other eras. Right now, the book I’m most looking forward to is the final volume in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, which I believe she is currently writing. I love many books that are set in medieval Europe or in nineteenth and early twentieth century America. So really I’m all over the place.

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

I read a lot, most kinds of fiction and nonfiction, too—history, psychology, politics. I also enjoy almost every historical miniseries that come on TV—adore Downton Abbey. And I love to travel.

Who are your writing inspirations?

There are so many great historical novelists whose work I admire and have tried to learn from. Two who come to mind are Edith Pargeter—she also wrote under the name Ellis Peters—and Mary Renault.

What was the first historical novel you read?

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. I remember reading it at my desk in school, hidden in a math book when I was supposed to be doing arithmetic.

What is the last historical novel you read?

The Strangled Queen by Maurice Druon. It was written in the 1950’s, part of a classic series, and recently became available on Kindle.

If there was a soundtrack for your novel, what songs would we find on it?

I’d want Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” for the love scenes. There isn’t a more romantic or sensual love song. And it would perfectly express the emotions Livia and Caesar felt the first time they looked at each other. I’d add some of the score of the movie Gladiator for the war scenes. Then, I’d like a song about a woman triumphing over adversity. “Roar” by Katy Perry would work, and it has that line about “dancing through the fire”—very appropriate for Livia.


Pub Date: May 1, 2014 | Lake Union Publishing | eBook, Paperback, Audio

Her life would be marked by scandal and suspicion, worship and adoration…

At the tender age of fourteen, Livia Drusilla overhears her father and fellow aristocrats plotting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Proving herself an astute confidante, she becomes her father’s chief political asset—and reluctantly enters into an advantageous marriage to a prominent military officer. Her mother tells her, “It is possible for a woman to influence public affairs,” reminding Livia that—while she possesses a keen sense for the machinations of the Roman senate—she must also remain patient and practical.

But patience and practicality disappear from Livia’s mind when she meets Caesar’s heir, Octavianus. At only eighteen, he displays both power and modesty. A young wife by that point, Livia finds herself drawn to the golden-haired boy. In time, his fortunes will rise as Livia’s family faces terrible danger. But her sharp intellect—and her heart—will lead Livia to make an unbelievable choice: one that will give her greater sway over Rome than she could have ever foreseen.

About the Author


Phyllis T. Smith was born and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. After obtaining a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College and a master's degree from New York University, Phyllis pursued a practical career in computer applications training, yet found herself drawn to literature and art of the ancient world. I Am Livia is her first novel. She has another novel set in ancient Rome in the works.

www.phyllistsmith.com

Phyllis T. Smith’s TLC Book Tours Tour Stops

Monday, April 21st: Passages to the Past – author guest post
Wednesday, April 23rd: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, April 25th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views – author guest post
Monday, April 28th: Historical Tapestry – author guest post “Why I Love Rome…”
Monday, April 28th: Words for Worms
Tuesday, April 29th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, April 30th: Italian Brat’s Obsessions
Thursday, May 1st: Literally Jen
Monday, May 5th: Ageless Pages Reviews – author guest post
Wednesday, May 7th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, May 8th: The Most Happy Reader
Monday, May 12th: Passages to the Past
Tuesday, May 13th: Unabridged Chick
Thursday, May 15th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Monday, May 19th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, May 21st: The Most Happy Reader - author guest post
Thursday, May 22nd: Books Without Any Pictures
Tuesday, May 27th: Col Reads
Tuesday, June 3rd: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, June 4th: Luxury Reading


Giveaway

Passages to the Past has one paperback up for grabs. Giveaway is open to US/Canada residents only and ends on May 1. To enter please complete form below.

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Cover Reveal: The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones

The cover of The Sharp Hook of Love has just be revealed and it's a stunner! Sherry Jones' upcoming novel will be published in November and I will be anxiously awaiting the release!


Pub Date: November 25, 2014 | Gallery Books | eBook, Paperback 

The first retelling of the passionate, twelfth-century love story since the discovery of 113 lost love letters between Heloise d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abelard—the original Romeo and Juliet.

He was the most famous philosopher in the world, a headmaster and a poet whose dashing good looks would make any woman swoon. She was Paris’s most brilliant young scholar, beautiful and wry, and his student. Forbidden by the church and society to love each other, these enchanting lovers defied all the rules to follow their own hearts and risk everything that mattered to them, including each other. An illicit child, a secret marriage, a vengeful uncle: nothing can come between them—until a vicious attack tears them apart forever…or does it?

Incorporating original text from their achingly beautiful love letters, this is the tale of Heloise and Abelard, whose love affair, like that of Romeo and Juliet, and Antony and Cleopatra, has become one of the greatest stories of all time. The Sharp Hook of Love is an imaginative, intimate, and erotic portrayal of the star-crossed lovers whose tale of passion and tragedy still touches hearts today.

New & Upcoming History/Non-Fiction Titles (Pt. 1)

Feast your eyes upon these delectable new and upcoming history/non-fiction releases...


Elizabeth: A Biography by Lisa Hilton
UK Pub Date: October 9, 2014

'We are a prince from a line of princes'

Lisa Hilton's majestic biography of 'The Virgin Queen', Elizabeth I, provides vibrant new insights on the monarch's compelling, enthralling life story. It is a book that challenges readers to reassess Elizabeth's reign and the colourful drama, scandal and intrigue to which it is always linked.

Using new research from sources in France and Italy, Lisa Hilton to presents a fresh interpretation of Elizabeth as a queen who saw herself primarily as a Renaissance prince. She delivers a new perspective on the most intimate details of Elizabeth's life, and upon her attempts to fashion England into a Renaissance state. Elizabeth was not an exceptional woman but an exceptional ruler, and Hilton redraws English history with this animated portrait of an astounding life. Her biography maps the dramatic journey that Elizabeth took from being a timid and meek newly-crowned queen, to one of the most powerful and vivid monarchs ever to rule England.


 Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams
Pub Date: November 4, 2014

A new biography of Napoleon's love and consort that explores the unbelievable life of an incredible woman and lays bare one of the world's most violent love affairs.

Josephine de Beauharnais began as a kept woman of Paris and became the most powerful woman in France. She was no beauty, her teeth were rotten, and she was six years older than her husband, but one twitch of her skirt could bring running the man who terrorized Europe.

The tale of Napoleon and Josephine is one of the most famous love stories in the world. They were bound together by a scorching erotic fascination. With her, he became the greatest man in Europe, the Supreme Emperor. And yet, envisioning Josephine as the calm consort on the sofa obscures many of the most fascinating aspects of her story. How did she rise to such an astonishing position? How did she perfect the art of the beautiful, sweet chameleon -- and thus fool so many? What and whom did she sacrifice on the bonfire of her ambition? France in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was a country in such extreme flux that everything was accessible -- and possible. But it took an incredible woman to seize the opportunities. Ambition and Desire shows how the little girl from Martinique became the Queen of France.

Drawing on new sources from the Paris archives, Ambition and Desire is a searing story of sexual obsession, war, heartbreak, affairs, devastating love, plots and murder and politics -- in a world that was being altered forever.


Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts
Pub Date: November 4, 2014

The definitive biography of the great soldier-statesman by the New York Times bestselling author of The Storm of War

Austerlitz, Borodino, Waterloo: his battles are among the greatest in history, but Napoleon Bonaparte was far more than a military genius and astute leader of men. Like George Washington and his own hero Julius Caesar, he was one of the greatest soldier-statesmen of all times.

Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon is the first one-volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty-three thousand letters, which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation. At last we see him as he was: protean multitasker, decisive, surprisingly willing to forgive his enemies and his errant wife Josephine. Like Churchill, he understood the strategic importance of telling his own story, and his memoirs, dictated from exile on St. Helena, became the single bestselling book of the nineteenth century.

An award-winning historian, Roberts traveled to fifty-three of Napoleon’s sixty battle sites, discovered crucial new documents in archives, and even made the long trip by boat to St. Helena. He is as acute in his understanding of politics as he is of military history. Here at last is a biography worthy of its subject: magisterial, insightful, beautifully written, by one of our foremost historians.


A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III by Janice Hadlow
Pub Date: October 21, 2014

The surprising, deliciously dramatic, and ultimately heartbreaking story of King George III’s radical pursuit of happiness in his private life with Queen Charlotte and their 15 children

In the U.S., Britain's George III, the protagonist of A Royal Experiment, is known as the king from whom Americans won their independence and as "the mad king," but in Janice Hadlow’s groundbreaking and entertaining new biography, he is another character altogether—compelling and relatable.

He was the first of Britain’s three Hanoverian kings to be born in England, the first to identify as native of the nation he ruled. But this was far from the only difference between him and his predecessors. Neither of the previous Georges was faithful to his wife, nor to his mistresses. Both hated their own sons. And, overall, their children were angry, jealous, and disaffected schemers, whose palace shenanigans kick off Hadlow's juicy narrative and also made their lives unhappy ones.

Pained by his childhood amid this cruel and feuding family, George came to the throne aspiring to be a new kind of king—a force for moral good. And to be that new kind of king, he had to be a new kind of man. Against his irresistibly awful family background—of brutal royal intrigue, infidelity, and betrayal—George fervently pursued a radical domestic dream: he would have a faithful marriage and raise loving, educated, and resilient children.

The struggle of King George—along with his wife, Queen Charlotte, and their 15 children—to pursue a passion for family will surprise history buffs and delight a broad swath of biography readers and royal watchers.


A Knight's Tale: The Story of William Marshal, Medieval England's Most Celebrated Knight by Thomas Asbridge
Pub Date: December 2, 2014

No synopsis or description available yet.


The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley
Pub Date: October 15, 2014

From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to the cosy crimes of the Golden Age, renowned historian Lucy Worsley explores the evolution of the traditional English murder—and reveals why we are so fascinated by this sinister subject.

Murder—a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very English obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves?

In The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which caused a nationwide panic in the early nineteenth century, and the case of Frederick and Maria Manning, the suburban couple who were hanged after killing Maria’s lover and burying him under their kitchen floor. Our fascination with crimes like these became a form of national entertainment, inspiring novels and plays, prose and paintings, poetry and true-crime journalism. At a point during the birth of modern England, murder entered our national psyche, and it’s been a part of us ever since.

The Art of the English Murder is a unique exploration of the art of crime—and a riveting investigation into the English criminal soul by one of our finest historians. 24 pages of color and B&W illustrations.


Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millennium of Unholy Mismatrimony by Leslie Carroll
Pub Date: September 2, 2014

It’s no secret that the marriages of monarchs are often made in hell. Here are some of the most spectacular mismatches in five hundred years of royal history....

In a world where many kings, queens, and princes lacked nothing but true love, marital mismatches could bring out the baddest, boldest behavior in the bluest of bloodlines. Margaret Tudor, her niece Mary I, and Catherine of Braganza were desperately in love with chronically unfaithful husbands, but at least they weren’t murdered by them, as were two of the Medici princesses were. King Charles II’s beautiful, high-spirited sister “Minette” wed Louis XIV’s younger brother, who wore more makeup and perfume than she did. Forced to wed her boring, jug-eared cousin Ferdinand, Marie of Roumania—a granddaughter of Queen Victoria—proved herself one of the heroines of World War I by using her prodigious personal charm to regain massive amounts of land during the peace talks at Versailles.

Brimming with outrageous real-life stories of royal marriages gone wrong, this is an entertaining, unforgettable book of dubious matches doomed from the start.


The Tudor Miscellany by Elizabeth Norton
UK Pub Date: November 1, 2014

From the first Tudor king to the Virgin Queen, a primer on who the Tudors were and why they remain so popular to this day

This history begins when the dynasty was secured by the plotting of Margaret, the mother of Henry VII, who returned from exile to take the English throne. In time, a 17-year-old prince was crowned Henry VIII, ushering in a golden era that would gradually darken as the king broke away from Rome to establish the Church of England and dissolve the monasteries. His death brought fresh intrigue that eventually saw his daughter Mary become queen, and her attempts to restore Catholicism saw hundreds of "heretics" burned at the stake. On her death, her sister Elizabeth came to the throne, and retained it. She snuffed out plots and defeated rebellions, and her navy thwarted the Armada sent by the King of Spain. She was a woman who won the admiration of many, not least for her skillful ability to remain independent while exploiting the possibility of marriage. Her reign was also an age of exploration, which saw Walter Raleigh venture to the New World and Francis Drake circumnavigate the world.


Dear Abigail: The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Two Remarkable Sisters by Diane Jacobs
Pub Date: February 25, 2014

For readers of the historical works of Robert K. Massie, David McCulough, and Alison Weir comes the first biography on the life of Abigail Adams and her sisters.

“Never sisters loved each other better than we.”—Abigail Adams in a letter to her sister Mary, June 1776

Much has been written about the enduring marriage of President John Adams and his wife, Abigail. But few know of the equally strong bond Abigail shared with her sisters, Mary Cranch and Elizabeth Shaw Peabody, accomplished women in their own right. Now acclaimed biographer Diane Jacobs reveals their moving story, which unfolds against the stunning backdrop of America in its transformative colonial years.

Abigail, Mary, and Elizabeth Smith grew up in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the close-knit daughters of a minister and his wife. When the sisters moved away from one another, they relied on near-constant letters—from what John Adams called their “elegant pen”—to buoy them through pregnancies, illnesses, grief, political upheaval, and, for Abigail, life in the White House. Infusing her writing with rich historical perspective and detail, Jacobs offers fascinating insight into these progressive women’s lives: oldest sister Mary, who became de facto mayor of her small village; youngest sister Betsy, an aspiring writer who, along with her husband, founded the second coeducational school in the United States; and middle child Abigail, who years before becoming First Lady ran the family farm while her husband served in the Continental Congress, first in Philadelphia, and was then sent to France and England, where she joined him at last.

This engaging narrative traces the sisters’ lives from their childhood sibling rivalries to their eyewitness roles during the American Revolution and their adulthood as outspoken wives and mothers. They were women ahead of their time who believed in intellectual and educational equality between the sexes. Drawing from newly discovered correspondence, never-before-published diaries, and archival research, Dear Abigail is a fascinating front-row seat to history—and to the lives of three exceptional women who were influential during a time when our nation’s democracy was just taking hold.


The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
Pub Date: October 14, 2014

The author of the New York Times bestseller The Plantagenets chronicles the next chapter in British history—the historical backdrop for Game of Thrones

The crown of England changed hands five times over the course of the fifteenth century, as two branches of the Plantagenet dynasty fought to the death for the right to rule. In this riveting follow-up to The Plantagenets, celebrated historian Dan Jones describes how the longest-reigning British royal family tore itself apart until it was finally replaced by the Tudors.

Some of the greatest heroes and villains of history were thrown together in these turbulent times, from Joan of Arc to Henry V, whose victory at Agincourt marked the high point of the medieval monarchy, and Richard III, who murdered his own nephews in a desperate bid to secure his stolen crown. This was a period when headstrong queens and consorts seized power and bent men to their will. With vivid descriptions of the battles of Towton and Bosworth, where the last Plantagenet king was slain, this dramatic narrative history revels in bedlam and intrigue. It also offers a long-overdue corrective to Tudor propaganda, dismantling their self-serving account of what they called the Wars of the Roses.



Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte by Carol Berkin
Pub Date: February 11, 2014

From the award-winning historian and author of Revolutionary Mothers (“Incisive, thoughtful, spiced with vivid anecdotes. Don’t miss it.”—Thomas  Fleming) and Civil War Wives (“Utterly fresh . . . Sensitive, poignant, thoroughly fascinating.”—Jay Winik), here is the remarkable life of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, renowned as the most beautiful woman of nineteenth-century Baltimore, whose marriage in 1803 to Jérôme Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, became inextricably bound to the diplomatic and political histories of the United States, France, and England.

In Wondrous Beauty, Carol Berkin tells the story of this audacious, outsized life. We see how the news of the union infuriated Napoleon and resulted in his banning the then­pregnant Betsy Bonaparte from disembarking in any European port, offering his brother the threat of remaining married to that “American girl” and forfeiting all wealth and power—or renouncing her, marrying a woman of Napoleon’s choice, and reaping the benefits.

Jérôme ended the marriage posthaste and was made king of Westphalia; Betsy fled to England, gave birth to her son and only child, Jérôme’s namesake, and was embraced by the English press, who boasted that their nation had opened its arms to the cruelly abandoned young wife.

Berkin writes that this naïve, headstrong American girl returned to Baltimore a wiser, independent woman, refusing to seek social redemption or a return to obscurity through a quiet marriage to a member of Baltimore’s merchant class. Instead she was courted by many, indifferent to all, and initiated a dangerous game of politics—a battle for a pension from Napoleon—which she won: her pension from the French government arrived each month until Napoleon’s exile.

Using Betsy Bonaparte’s extensive letters, the author makes clear that the “belle of Baltimore” disdained America’s obsession with moneymaking, its growing ethos of democracy, and its rigid gender roles that confined women to the parlor and the nursery; that she sought instead a European society where women created salons devoted to intellectual life—where she was embraced by many who took into their confidence, such as Madame de Staël, Madame Récamier, the aging Marquise de Villette (goddaughter of Voltaire), among others—and  where aristocracy, based on birth and breeding rather than commerce, dominated society.
Wondrous Beauty is a riveting portrait of a woman torn between two worlds, unable to find peace in either—one a provincial, convention-bound new America; the other a sophisticated, extravagant Old World Europe that embraced freedoms, a Europe ultimately swallowed up by decadence and idleness.
A stunning revelation of an extraordinary age.


Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead
Pub Date: October 14, 2014

No description available.

Guest Post by Katie Thomas + Giveaway of The Illusionists

Please help me welcome author Rosie Thomas to the blog today! Rosie is here as part of her blog tour with a guest post on the 'Eight Female stars of Victorian Music Hall' in honor of her latest release, The Illusionists! Thanks to Harper Collins I also have a copy to give away to one lucky reader!

Eight Female stars of Victorian Music Hall

by Rosie Thomas

The old halls were at the heart of popular entertainment in Victorian London, when ‘music hall’ meant both the buildings that housed the shows and the style of entertainment itself. As soon as they opened they drew huge crowds, hungry for fun and music and spectacle. Before the1850s there was no place of public entertainment for ordinary women - except the squalid taverns.

1. Marie Lloyd was the Queen of Music Hall. She had made her debut as a table singer at the Eagle, but soon she was the naughty phenomenon of the age. In her distinctive trill she warbled innocent-seeming lyrics with titles like ‘Oh! Mr Porter, What Shall I Do?’ and ‘She’d Never Had Her Ticket Punched Before’ that were loaded with double entendres – innocent enough today, but shocking to the Victorians and Edwardians. When the moralists protested about her song ‘I Sits Among the Cabbages and Peas’ she amended it to ‘I Sits Among the Cabbages and Leeks’ – to howls of appreciation from her admirers. Marie had a colourful private life; she was refused entry to the US at the start of a tour because she had shared a cabin on the voyage over with a man to whom she was not married. Her ending was a sad one – she took to the brandy and fell over drunk on stage. The audience thought it was part of the act and roared with laughter, but she was mortally ill and died a few days later aged only 52. A hundred thousand people came to her funeral.



2. Vesta Tilley was a male impersonator. She was Burlington Bertie, every inch the monocled dandy to look at, but singing in a high and very feminine voice. Retired from the stage she ended her long life as Lady de Freece, wife of the MP for Blackpool.



3. Lottie Collins began her career in 1877 in a skipping rope dance act with her sisters as 'The Three Sisters Collins'. While in America in 1891 she heard what was to become her trademark song, ‘Tar-ra-ra-boom-der-ay!’. She sang it at the Tivoli in London and it became a major hit. Lottie would pause after the demure first verse and then whirl into an uninhibited version of the skirt dance. Her legs flashing in high-kicking Can-Can style steps would reveal her stockings held up by sparkling suspenders. This sent the audience wild and left Lottie exhausted.

Although she performed other songs and sketches, Lottie was forever associated with her one song. The exhausting nature of the dance may have contributed to her early death in 1910 at the age of only 44.

4. El Niño Farini 'the boy' Farini first performed at the age of 10 on stage at the Alhambra theatre in London with his adoptive father. Exactly where Farini found El Nino is uncertain, but he was born Samuel Wasgate somewhere in Maine, USA.

He was an attractive boy, with blond curly hair, and no fear of heights.

El Niño first performed as Lulu in Paris in 1870 appearing as ‘The Beautiful Lulu the girl Aerialist and Circassian Catapultist’. Returning to London he performed as Lulu and was top of the bill ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’ at the Holborn Amphitheatre in 1871. Her act consisted of being catapulted from the ground up to a trapeze and turning three full somersaults.

Following an accident at a performance in Dublin 'Lulu' was rushed to hospital where the secret of his gender was discovered. By this stage he was growing tired of his stage persona, had his hair cut and wore men's clothes. There was much embarrassment amongst male admirers when it was revealed in 1878 that Lulu was in fact a man.


5. Nellie Wallace British music hall star, actress, comedienne, dancer and songwriter became one of the most famous and best loved music hall performers. She was noted for her eccentric appearance “The Essence Of Eccentricity", dressing in ultra-tight skirts (so tight in fact, that she would lie down on the stage and shuffle back and forth on her back to pick up whatever she had contrived to drop), her hat sported a lone daisy, feather or a fish bone and once even a lit candle (supposedly, so she could see where she was going and where she had been).

Not a naturally pretty woman, her 'grotesque get-up' started the audience laughing the moment she appeared on stage; her cleverness, vivacity and facial expressions were second to none. Her main character was as a frustrated spinster, singing ribald songs such as Under the Bed, Let's Have a Tiddley at the Milk Bar and Mother's Pie Crust.

Nellie Wallace died age 78 in a London Nursing Home. The gyrocropter “Little Nellie” in the James Bond film You only live Twice is named after her.


6. Lily Morris, who specialized in singing comedic songs, notably 'Why Am I Always The Bridesmaid' and 'Don't Have Any More Missus Moore’, had a dynamic personality and a great repertoire of songs. She retired from the stage in 1940, except for a brief appearance in 1948. In 1941 she appeared as the formidable "Lady Randall" in the Arthur Askey comedy I Thank You but reverts to type in the final scene where she gives a rendition of the old music hall standard "Waiting at the Church" at an impromptu concert in a tube station bomb shelter.


7. Bessie Bellwood was a London music hall performer, popular with the working classes and noted for her singing of 'Coster' songs, including "What Cheer Ria." In 1876, aged 20, Catherine 'Kate' Mahoney assumed the stage name Bessie Bellwood and made her music hall debut at Bermondsey in London. Although she lacked the versatility of her rivals Marie Lloyd and Jenny Hill, she nevertheless became a popular performer noted for her 'saucy' stage manner and her ability to argue down even the toughest of hecklers, including a 15 stone coal-heaver who left the music hall where she was appearing after a five minute dispute during her act. Her volatile, unpredictable nature was such that within four hours of having a devout conversation with Cardinal Manning about some Catholic charity or other she was shortly afterwards arrested in the Tottenham Court Road for knocking a down a cabman because she believed he had insulted the man she loved. A devout Roman Catholic, she was admired by her public for her many acts of kindness to the poor. In later life, Bellwood suffered from alcoholism as a result of her financial troubles and bankruptcy. With her health in decline, she died at her home in London aged 40.


8. Jenny Hill (born Elizabeth Jane Thompson) was known as "The Vital Spark" and "the Queen of the Halls". Her vast repertoire of songs included "Arry", "The Boy I Love Is in The Gallery", "The Little Vagabond Boy", "I've Been a Good Woman to You" and "If I Only Bossed the Show".

A later contemporary of Marie Lloyd and Bessie Bellwood, Hill made her stage début at an early age when she performed in Mother Goose at the Aquarium Theatre in Westminster. Embarking on a career in music hall, Hill sang at, amongst others, the London Pavilion and from 1868 to 1893, Hill was at the peak of her fame, enjoying top-billing at music halls across London and in the Northern provinces. In 1879 she became a proprieter of her first music hall in Bermondsey. From 1882 to she kept a public house in Southwark which lasted a year.

By 1889 the privations she had suffered in her early life were taking their toll, and she was forced to cancel a number of theatrical engagements due to ill health. Hill died in London aged 48. She is buried in Nunhead Cemetery in London.


About The Illusionists


UK Pub Date: February 27, 2014 | Harper Collins | Hardcover

From the bestselling author of the phenomenally successful The Kashmir Shawl

London 1870.

A terrifying place for a young, beautiful woman of limited means. But Eliza is modern before her time. Not for her the stifling if respectable conventionality of marriage, children, domestic drudgery. She longs for more. Through her work as an artist’s model, she meets the magnetic and irascible Devil – a born showman whose dream is to run his own theatre company.

Devil’s right-hand man is the improbably-named Carlo Bonomi, an ill-tempered dwarf with an enormous talent for all things magic and illusion. Carlo and Devil clash at every opportunity and it constantly falls upon Eliza to broker an uneasy peace between them. And then there is Jasper Button. Mild-mannered, and a family man at heart, it is his gift as an artist which makes him the unlikely final member of the motley crew.

Thrown together by a twist of fate, their lives are inextricably linked: the fortune of one depends on the fortune of the other. And as Eliza gets sucked into the seductive and dangerous world her strange companions inhabit, she risks not only her heart, but also her life…

Praise for The Illusionists

“Rival, revenge, love and obsession combine to make this journey into the underworld of Victorian London utterly rivetin” - Fanny Blake, Woman and Home

“A brilliant gothic mix of glitter and grime and so atmospheric you can almost see the pea-soupers” - Wendy Holden The Daily Mail

About the Author


Rosie Thomas is the author of a number of celebrated novels, including the bestsellers The Kashmir Shawl, Sun at Midnight, Iris and Ruby and Constance. Once she was established as a writer and her children were grown, she discovered a love of travelling and mountaineering. She has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas, competed in the Peking to Paris car rally, spent time on a tiny Bulgarian research station in Antarctica and travelled the silk road through Asia. She lives in London.

For more information visit Rosie's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook.
Rosie's blog tour continues tomorrow with a stop on The Friendly Shelf!


 

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2014 Release: The Major's Daughter by J.P. Francis



Pub Date: July 29, 2014 | Plume | eBook, Paperback

Like Snow Falling on Cedars, a stirring tale of wartime love...

April, 1944. The quiet rural village of Stark, New Hampshire is irrevocably changed by the arrival of 150 German prisoners of war. And one family, unexpectedly divided, must choose between love and country.

Camp Stark is under the command of Major John Brennan, whose beautiful daughter, Collie, will serve as translator. Educated at Smith and devoted to her widowed father, Collie is immediately drawn to Private August Wahrlich, a peaceful poet jaded by war. As international conflict looms on the home front, their passion blinds them to the inevitable dangers ahead.

Inspired by the little-known existence of a real World War II POW camp, The Major’s Daughter is a fresh take on the timeless theme of forbidden love.

2014 Release: Treason's Daughter by Antonia Senior


 Pub Date: October 1, 2014 | Atlantic Books | Paperback

A stunning coming-of-age novel set against the backdrop of the English Civil War, as one extraordinarily loyal and headstrong girl battles to save the people she loves.

In 1640 London 15-year-old Henrietta Challoner dreams of adventure, of a life lived at the gallop, of the opportunities afforded to her brothers, Ned and Sam. She cannot know how devastatingly real these dreams will become, as the country slides towards vicious civil war. The crisis threatens to tear Henrietta's family apart. As religious and political tensions spill into the streets, they all must decide what comes first—their family, their country, or their desires. But while she strives to maintain the peace at home, Henrietta becomes embroiled in a deeper plot: to hand London over to the King.
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