Feature & Giveaway: The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

Passages to the Past is so excited to be a stop on Nancy Bilyeau's virtual book tour for her new release, The Chalice! Nancy will be on tour through May 3rd and you can find the schedule of stops here

The ChalicePublication Date: March 5, 2013 
Touchstone Publishing
Hardcover; 512p 
ISBN-10: 1476708657

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era. In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last. Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies…

Praise for The Chalice

"Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII's reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed." - C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen's Vow

"The Chalice offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England's most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don't let you go even after the last exciting page. - Karen Harper, author of Mistress of Mourning 

"An exciting and satisfying novel of historical suspense that cements Nancy Bilyeau as one of the genre's rising stars. The indomitable Joanna Stafford is back with a cast of powerful and fascinating characters and a memorable story that is gripping while you are reading and haunting after you are done. Bravo! The Chalice is a fabulous read." - M.J. Rose, author of The Reincarnationist 

About the Author

Nancy BilyeauNancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. Her latest position is features editor of Du Jour magazine. A native of the Midwest, she graduated from the University of Michigan. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Connect with Nancy Bilyeau: Website | Facebook | Twitter


Passages to the Past has one copy of The Chalice up for grabs.  To enter, please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway entry form below.

Giveaway is open to US only.  Ends on March 11th.  Good luck!

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Guest Post by Kathryn Harrison & Giveaway of Enchantments!

Passages to the Past is pleased to be hosting Kathryn Harrison today as part of her virtual book tour with TLC Book Tours with a guest post and giveaway of her novel, Enchantments! 

You can read my review of this wonderful novel here.

Take it away, Kathryn...

My interest in Revolutionary Russia was ignited by Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra. I was no older than 12 when I read it, an eager consumer of vampire stories, accounts of Catholic martyrdoms, novels with consumptive heroines coughing blood. A car accident when I was 5 had left me fascinated by blood, permanently under the spell of its power. Flowing from a wound I didn’t yet feel, it summoned rescue, snapping me into a bright circle of blinding and terrifying attention. As soon as I understood that Prince Alexei, the sole heir to the Russian empire, was a hemophiliac who might, a hundred years ago, have died as the result of something so little as a nosebleed or a bump on the knee, I was hooked. Massie is a novelistic biographer; he stays so close to his subjects that history - in this case, the rise of the Bolsheviks - is revealed from the inside out. My adventures in Russia didn’t begin with sweeping social changes or ideologies or chronologies or precipitating events or any of what would come to represent my academic relationship to history. 

In fact, I protected the idea of Russia as I grew up - not on purpose, but I avoided taking classes in Russian history and consciously allowed the land to become wholly a realm of the imagination, undisturbed by professors or cramming for tests or any of what might deaden a topic. Undisturbed by travel, too, as I’d never been there. Instead, I had literature, magic stories like Gogol’s “The Overcoat” or Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita; narratives with twisted fever logic like Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Anna Karenina. And all the White Russians - Nina Berberova, Nabokov, Pasternak. 

In preparation for writing the novel I did my homework, just as diligently as I did when in high school. I checked my dates and facts, but not to serve them. I was writing fiction, looking for which events and people would serve my ends as a novelist. Long after I’d discovered Grigory Rasputin, he’d continued to trouble me - so mysterious and sinister. I read a few books about him and discovered that his elder daughter had escaped Russia and eventually became a successful lion-tamer - who toured the United States as the “Daughter of the Mad Monk Whose Feats in Europe Astonished the World” - I was instantly riveted. How could it be that Rasputin had been a family man, of all things, with a wife and children of his own? It made me reconsider his role in history. And the fact of his having a daughter who knew the Romanov family, and who had been made the tsar’s ward upon her father’s assassination, gave me a means of entering the Romanov’s world, seeing it through the eyes of an unconventional young woman who loved a father whose flaws she accepted, and who had her own vantage from which to view the Romanovs and the Revolution. 

Though Masha couldn’t fulfill the tsarina’s hope that the daughter of Rasputin could do as her father had done and protect Alexei from injury, she could provide him the solace of her company. She’s a story-teller, one who can find magic and romance in the least likely of places, and so she can transform the prince’s bleak vision of the world crumbling around him. Their time together is short—only a few months—but her gift for story-telling transports the two of them to an imagined realm of endless possibility, a world in which they live out the fairytale endings the real world cannot promise. 

In many ways that’s what Enchantments is about - the power of stories to transport a listener, or a reader, to another realm of consciousness. That they open the door between conscious and unconscious. Which I suppose is what art is about, all of it.  

by Kathryn Harrison

Paperback Publication Date: February 26, 2013 
Random House Publishing 
Paperback; 352p 
ISBN: 0812973771 

St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin’s body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to her son, the headstrong prince Alyosha, who suffers from hemophilia. Soon after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and the Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha find solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, and to distract the prince from the pain she cannot heal, Masha tells him stories—some embellished and others entirely imagined—about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s exploits, and their wild and wonderful country, now on the brink of an irrevocable transformation. In the worlds of their imagination, the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close at hand. 

About the Author

Kathryn Harrison was born in 1961 in Los Angeles, California, where she was raised by her mother's parents. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers Workshop, where, in 1986, she met her husband, the novelist Colin Harrison. They had a first date on Friday, April 25, and on Monday, April 28, they moved in together. The Harrisons married in 1988, and live in Brooklyn with their three children. Kathryn writes novels, memoirs, personal essays, biography, and true crime. She is a frequent reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, and teaches memoir at Hunter College's MFA program in Creative Writing, in New York City.

Kathryn Harrison is currently on tour with TLC Book Tours, please see the schedule of stops here.  Stop by tomorrow for a guest post by Kathryn Harrison and a giveaway of Enchantments!


Passages to the Past has one paperback copy of Enchantments up for grabs!  To enter the giveaway, please complete the RaffleCopter giveaway form below.

Giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only.  Ends on March 10th.
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Review: Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

by Kathryn Harrison

Paperback Publication Date: February 26, 2013 
Random House Publishing 
Paperback; 352p 
ISBN: 0812973771 
Genre: Historical Fiction 
Source: TLC Book Tours 

Reviewed by: Amy Bruno 
Rating: 4/5 

Every now and a book comes along that provides a fresh and unique view to a well-known piece of history and Enchantments is a great example of that. Smart, imaginative and endearing, Kathryn Harrison has written a very engaging novel set in 20th century Russia.

Masha is eighteen when her beloved father, the “Mad Monk” Rasputin is murdered and she is sent to live, along with her sister, with the Romanov family. Soon after arriving, Tsar Nicholas is forced to abdicate his throne and the royal family, including Masha and Varya, whose fate is now tied to the Romanovs, are put under house arrest by the Bolsheviks. The Tsarina wishes for Masha to take Rasputin’s role as healer to Prince Alexei, who suffers from the dreaded disease of hemophilia, but Masha doesn’t have her father’s gift. What she does have a gift for is storytelling and it’s in this respect that she tends to the young royal. Masha transports Alyosha away from his pain-filled, broken body with stories of her father’s past, his healings and love of women. They talk of Alyosha’s parents, the Tsar and Tsarina, of history and reading, of Russia and its fate, anything that will take their mind off of their dire situation. It’s through Masha and Alyosha’s stories that the backdrop of the story is told and I rather liked how Harrison accomplished this. It was an entertaining and creative way to tell the history without dragging the story down with facts. 

I also really enjoyed Harrison’s style of writing. It is very unique and once I slowed down to really savor the words, I was hooked. It’s clever and intriguing and hard to put down. With having my own business and an 8 month old at home my reading time is pretty much non-existent, so it’s a good testament to Enchantments that I found myself staying up late, way after the baby went to bed just to keep reading this fabulous book. I am so very glad that I found Kathryn Harrison and I look forward to more from her in the future.

About the Author
Kathryn Harrison was born in 1961 in Los Angeles, California, where she was raised by her mother's parents. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers Workshop, where, in 1986, she met her husband, the novelist Colin Harrison. They had a first date on Friday, April 25, and on Monday, April 28, they moved in together. The Harrisons married in 1988, and live in Brooklyn with their three children. Kathryn writes novels, memoirs, personal essays, biography, and true crime. She is a frequent reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, and teaches memoir at Hunter College's MFA program in Creative Writing, in New York City.

Kathryn Harrison is currently on tour with TLC Book Tours, please see the schedule of stops here.  Stop by tomorrow for a guest post by Kathryn Harrison and a giveaway of Enchantments!

Giveaway Winners

Time to make some readers very happy, here are the winners of PTTP's recent giveaways... 

The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn - Kimberlee 

India Black & the Rajah's Ruby by Carol Carr (eBook) - Terri Martini 

The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan - Lisa Garrett 

Captain Blackwell's Prize by V.E. Ulett - Michelle Miller 

The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas - Jasmyn Novachek 

A Tainted Dawn by B.N. Peacock - Mary Preston 

Susanna Kearsley 4 Book Prize Package - Sara Marsala 

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell - Patty Woodland 

Congratulations to all of the winners and thanks to all of you who entered and helped spread the word!

Giveaway: The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs

Thanks to the generous people at HarperCollins Passages to the Past has one copy of Dana Sach's The Secret of the Nightingale Palace up for grabs! 

Publication Date: February 19, 2013 
Paperback; 368p 
ISBN-10: 0062201034 

Struggling to move on after her husband's death, thirty-five-year-old Anna receives an unexpected phone call from her estranged grandmother, Goldie, summoning her to New York. A demanding woman with a sharp tongue and a devotion to fashion and etiquette, Goldie has not softened in the five years since she and her granddaughter last spoke. Now she wants Anna to drive her to San Francisco to return a collection of exquisite Japanese art to a long-lost friend. 

Hours of sitting behind the wheel of Goldie's Rolls-Royce soften Anna's attitude toward her grandmother, and as the miles pass, old hurts begin to heal. Yet no matter how close they become, Goldie harbors painful secrets about her youthful days in 1940s San Francisco that she cannot share. But if she truly wants to help her granddaughter find happiness again, she must eventually confront the truths of her life. 

Moving back and forth across time and told in the voices of both Anna and Goldie, The Secret of the Nightingale Palace is a searing portrait of family, betrayal, sacrifice, and forgiveness—and a testament to the enduring power of love. 

About the Author 

Dana Sachs was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and spent her childhood there. Throughout those years, she thought Memphis was the most boring city in the world, but she changed her mind when she left for college and realized that not everyone got to grow up along the Mississippi River, tramping through Overton Park, eating peach cobbler at the Buntyn Café, and listening to B.B. King, Alex Chilton, and the Panther Burns. Obviously, it takes traveling far away to realize the things you most love about home. Since leaving Memphis, Dana has learned to love (and happily reside in) other complex and captivating cities, including San Francisco, Hanoi, Budapest, and Wilmington, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Todd Berliner, and their two sons. 

Dana began her writing career as a journalist, publishing articles, essays, and reviews in, among other publications, National Geographic, Mother Jones, Travel and Leisure Family, and The Boston Globe. Her first book, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam (2000) was chosen as an American Booksellers Association Book Sense Pick (the precursor of the Indiebound Next List). Her first novel, If You Lived Here (2007) was also a Book Sense Pick and was chosen for inclusion in Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Program. Her nonfiction narrative The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam (2010) resulted from a Fulbright Foundation Fellowship in Vietnam. She is the co-author, with Nguyen Nguyet Cam and Bui Hoai Mai, of Two Cakes Fit for a King: Folktales from Vietnam (2003) and co-translator of numerous Vietnamese short stories into English. With her sister, filmmaker Lynne Sachs, she made the documentary about postwar Vietnam, “Which Way is East.”

For more information, please visit Dana Sach's website.  You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


Passages to the Past has one copy up for grabs!  To enter, please complete the RaffleCopter entry form below.

Giveaway open to US only and ends on March 4th.  Good Luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Alana White, author of The Sign of the Weeping Virgin + Int'l Giveaway

Passages to the Past is very pleased to be hosting Alana White today with an interview and giveaway of her novel, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin!  Alana is currently on a virtual tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, you can find the full schedule of stops at the bottom of this post.

The interview questions have been provided by Audra from Unabridged Chick.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction? 

What an interesting question! I wrote a coming-of-age story about a young girl growing up in the Smoky Mountains in 1949. So, it was a historical novel. She and another girl argue about whether or not Rhett Butler returns to Scarlett O'Hara at the end of Gone With the Wind (my protagonist is a romantic who is absolutely convinced that he does, the other girl pronounces he certainly does not, but she has her reasons.) So, my protagonist writes to the author, Margaret Mitchell, for the definitive answer, an answer she and the reader receive at the end of the book. It's called Come Next Spring, and it's still in print. 

Do you have any writing rituals or routines? 

I have to write at the start of the day; after that, it's even harder. I don't set a word goal. But I do face the page at least five to six hours a day. And I am always thinking about Guid'Antonio, his frame of mind, and what he is up to. I also spend time taking notes from any new research I may have acquired. 

Was The Sign of the Weeping Virgin the original title of your book? 

Yes. And I'm pleased to say my publisher never mentioned changing it. 

As you were writing The Sign of the Weeping Virgin was there a particular scene or character that surprised you? 

Yes...I'm surprised how the woman doctor, Francesca, who is Guid'Antonio's former lover, nudged her way into the story. Francesca and her father are the doctors of the house at the hospital founded by Guid'Antonio's great-grandfather. The surprise is she led me into setting the next book a few years earlier, so we can read more about that romance! (The Vespucci hospital is still there on Guid'Antonio's street, a few steps down from Guid'Antonio's family church, Ognissanti, or All Saints, and his house. The church, with Botticelli's fresco of Saint Augustine and Ghirlandaio's fresco of Saint Jerome, is open to tourists, but the hospital and the Vespucci house are not.) 

Place as character -- in this case, Florence -- is an important element in your book.  What's your favorite sight/building/vista in Florence? 

I have to say Ognissanti Church. I feel close to Guid'Antonio there. And when I look at Botticelli's Saint Augustine, I look up and try to see the written clue that solves the mystery in the book. Also, the Medici Palace and the chapel therein, where Guid'Antonio talks with Lorenzo de' Medici's mother, despite his apprehension that she blames him for her son's death. Again, the palace and chapel are open to the public. The chapel holds Gozzoli's Adoration of the Magi, as described in the book. 

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do? 

This question caught me truly by surprise. I had to think about it! I love estate sales. Pondering that made me realize why: they take me back to the time of my grandmother. I'm from the South, and sales here usually involve antiques such as Shaker furniture, cast iron pots, and so on. They take me home, somehow, though I often find them sad. Someone loved these items, cherished them. And so, I almost always purchase a little something, even if it is only a lacy handkerchief, in that person's memory. 

Read any good books recently? 

It's hard to get past Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Love, love, love those books! And for the Historical Novel Society, I reviewed The Sadness of the Samurai, by Victor del Arbol, which I admire for the writing and the story set in 20-c. pro-Nazi Spain. That's an arena I am not at all familiar with, and I enjoyed it especially for that reason, I think.  

Publication Date: December 9, 2012
Five Star Publishing
Hardcover; 384p 

ISBN-10: 1432826239

The year is 1480, and celebrated Florentine lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his nephew, Amerigo, return home to Italy from a government mission to find their dreams of peace shattered. Marauding Turks have abducted a beautiful young girl and sold her into slavery. Equally disturbing, a revered painting of the Virgin Mary is weeping in Guid’Antonio’s family church. Angry and fearful Florentines interpret these stunning events as signs of God’s wrath for their support of the city’s leader, Lorenzo de’ Medici, and Lorenzo’s refusal to end his war with the Pope.

Faced with losing control of the city, Lorenzo enlists Guid’Antonio, his friend and staunch political ally, to investigate the tears. In an evocative tale that brings the Italian Renaissance gloriously to life, following a seemingly unrelated trail of clues–a name whispered in the marketplace by a hooded monk, a secret message painted by Sandro Botticelli on the wall of the Vespucci family church–Guid’Antonio and Amerigo chase across Florence to the workshops of Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli, to churches where frescoes seem to fly off the walls, from Florence to the village where the girl disappeared, and, finally, to the hilltop of Vinci itself.

In The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, a finely wrought story that will appeal to lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere, Guid’Antonio uncovers the thought-provoking truth about the missing girl and the Virgin Mary’s mystifying–and miraculous?–tears, all pursued as he comes face to face with his own personal demons.

Praise for The Sign of the Weeping Virgin

“A Florentine lawyer must solve a murder to keep his city from imploding. One hopes that White’s clever tale, meticulously researched and pleasingly written, is the first in a series that will bring Florence and its many famous denizens to life.” – STARRED Kirkus Review

“Fans of historical mysteries will thoroughly enjoy this chance to visit the Italy of 1480 in the company of real-life historical figure Guid’Antonio Vespucci, a Florence lawyer. Backed up by sure-handed storytelling and scrupulous research into the period, White creates richly evocative descriptions of Renaissance-era Florence certain to please the amateur historian and armchair tourist.” - Publishers Weekly Review

“Intrigue and danger…White’s debut Renaissance mystery is overflowing with historical details and fascinating subplots…the author’s knack for describing settings is stellar. Ian Morson writes historicals with a similar tone.” - Library Journal

About the Author

Alana White’s fascination with the Italian Renaissance led to her first short historical mystery fiction, then to a full-length novel, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, forthcoming from Five Star Mysteries in December 2012. Set in Renaissance Florence, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin features lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his adventurous young nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, as they investigate crime in Renaissance Florence. Alana’s articles and book reviews appear regularly in Renaissance Magazine and the Historical Novels Review. In young adult+ books, she is the author of Come Next Spring, a novel set in 1940s Appalachia, and a biography, Sacagawea: Westward with Lewis and Clark. She is currently working on her second Guid’Antonio Vespucci mystery.


Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, February 11
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Interview & Giveaway at Enchanted by Josephine

Tuesday, February 12
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, February 13
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Guest Post & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Friday, February 15
Review at The Novel Life
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Monday, February 18
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 19
Review at A Bookish Libraria
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, February 20
Review & Giveaway at Ageless Pages Reviews

Friday, February 22
Review & Giveaway at The Book Garden


Passages to the Past has one hardcover copy up for grabs.  To enter, please complete Rafflecopter giveaway form below.

Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY and ends on February 28th.  Good Luck!

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Q&A with Patricia Bracewell, author of Shadow on the Crown, plus Giveaway!

Today is the publication day of Patricia Bracewell's debut historical fiction novel, Shadow on the Crown, and I am thrilled to be hosting her with an interview! 

Hello, Patricia and Happy Release Day! We are so honored to have you here to answer a few questions for us!

To begin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thank you, Amy, for having me here. I’m a California girl who, like so many other girls, grew up with my nose in a book. I studied Literature in college, taught high school English, married, and while my two sons were growing up I wrote whenever I could – before the boys were awake, usually. When they went off to college, most of my available time went into my writing, and that’s how it stands today. 

What inspired you to write SHADOW ON THE CROWN? Were you always drawn to the Medieval time period? 

I have always been drawn to the Medieval period and to even earlier times. I once aspired to write a book about Arthur, but that avenue, like the Tudors, seemed over-crowded. And then I ran across a queen of England I’d never heard of before, and I was smitten. Emma of Normandy had me in the palm of her hand. 

How did you come up with the title, SHADOW ON THE CROWN? 

Originally the book was called “Royal Hostage”; that was its title when my agent submitted it to editors starting in late 2009. By early 2011, although we had received a number of positive rejections, the book still had not sold. So at her suggestion I made some revisions and began re-thinking the title as well. She wanted something bigger, something that did not refer to just Emma. I gave that a lot of thought and I finally came up with SHADOW ON THE CROWN. I think it has resonance for every one of the four viewpoint characters in the book. 

What do you hope readers take away from reading Emma's story? 

Emma of Normandy
I wrote this novel because I wanted people to know who Emma of Normandy was, how strong a character she must have been, and to imagine, with me, what difficulties she might have faced. I also hope that they will come away with an interest in a little-known era in English history that is every bit as fascinating as what would come later. Finally, I hope that they will close the book with the satisfaction that comes from reading an intriguing story about men and women who were not so very different from people today. 

On your research travels, what was the most inspiring location you visited? 

I would have to award that to the seaside town of Fecamp in Normandy, perhaps because it was the only place with 11th century ruins still visible. The remains of the ducal palace originally built by Emma’s father, Richard I, and rebuilt in stone by her brother can still be seen. It was the favored retreat of the ducal family, and I believe that Emma may have spent much of her girlhood there. I was able to stand at a window embrasure and imagine myself as Emma, gazing at the nearby abbey or watching shipmen make their way to the palace from the harbor. When I went down to the beach, it was the first time I realized that the coast at Fecamp has white cliffs just like the coast at Dover. You can’t see that on a map. That wall of white chalk cliffs would have been the last thing that Emma saw when she left Normandy, and the first thing she saw when England came into view. 

What do you find is the toughest part of the writing process? 

Writing the first draft of anything – even the answer to this question! – is difficult for me. Before I begin a scene I think long and hard, and I ask myself dozens of questions. Who is the best viewpoint character? Where is this happening? What does it look like, smell like, feel, like? Who else is there? What does each character want? I might have conversations on paper with the characters or I might draw a map of the space they’re in. I suspect that a lot of writers can do this all intuitively, but I’m a pencil and paper gal. I need visuals. So that first draft of any scene is almost always grindingly hard work. 

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

I enjoy tennis and gardening. I live in a wonderful neighborhood with grocery stores, libraries, and bookstores an easy walk away, so I do a lot of my errands on foot. If a scene isn’t working for me, getting away from the computer by taking a short walk will often help me reach a solution. 

What is the book that first introduced you to the historical fiction genre? 

I have to go all the way back to my senior year in college when I designed an Independent Study Course around the figure of King Arthur. One of the books I read was Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset, which transformed the Arthurian tales into a very realistic story of a 6th century warrior king. That’s the first book I can pinpoint by name. I still have the paper I wrote for that course – 20 pages long, which I thought at the time was monumental. Little did I know what lay ahead of me! 

If you could recommend one historical fiction book which one would it be and why? 

The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett. It has a fabulous hero in Francis Crawford, and it’s beautifully written with lots of action. It’s breathtaking, really, and it’s gloriously long. I love lengthy historicals that you can sink into for days. Don’t expect an easy read, but if you make it through the first 100 pages you’ll be hooked, and it’s the first book in a marvelous six-book series. 

Can you tell us about the next project you are working on? Will you be staying in Medieval England? 

Because Shadow on the Crown is the first book of a trilogy, I’m already nearing completion of the follow-up book. It begins about a year after the final scene of Shadow, and follows the story some years into a pretty harrowing future. 

As a debut author, do you have any advice for those that are looking to be published? 

That is such a hard question. Every piece of advice seems like a cliché. My own route to publication was very traditional. I wrote my first book-length manuscript (a romance) in the late 90’s, a second manuscript (another romance) in the early years of this century, and now here it is 2013 and I’m finally a debut author with a third manuscript that bears no resemblance to the first two. I’m not exactly a poster girl for Overnight Success! I think that old saw about persistence and determination, whatever publishing route one takes, is absolutely true. Nothing can guarantee success, not even a mainstream publisher, so it’s important to write what you love, and to make decisions about your career that feel right for you. 

About the Book

Publication Date: February 7, 2013 
Publisher: Viking Adult
Hardcover; 432p
ISBN: 0670026395

A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen.

In 1002, fifteen­-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.

Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.

 Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Shadow on the Crown introduces readers to a fascinating, overlooked period of history and an unforgettable heroine whose quest to find her place in the world will resonate with modern readers. 

About the Author

Patricia Bracewell is a native of California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. A lifelong fascination with British history and a chance, on-line reference to an unfamiliar English queen led to years of research, a summer history course at Downing College, Cambridge, and the penning of her debut novel SHADOW ON THE CROWN. Set in 11th century England, SHADOW is the first book of a trilogy about Emma of Normandy who was a queen in England and a power behind the throne for nearly four decades. Patricia is working on the two follow-up novels in the series, but takes time out for tennis, gardening and travel. She is the mother of two grown sons and lives with her husband in Northern California. 

Find more information at Patricia's website and blog.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Passages to the Past has one copy of Shadow on the Crown up for grabs.

Giveaway is open to US residents ONLY.  To enter, please complete Rafflecopter Entry Form below.

Ends on February 17.  Good luck!

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Excerpt from Susanna Kearsley's THE FIREBIRD + 4 Book Giveaway!

Passages to the Past is thrilled to be a stop on the pre-publication tour for Susanna Kearsley's next release, THE FIREBIRD!  

Thanks to Susanna and Sourcebooks Publishing I have an excerpt from the highly-anticipated release of THE FIREBIRD and a complete prize pack of Susanna's previously published books: The Rose Garden, Mariana, The Winter Sea and The Shadowy Horses! 

By Susanna Kearsley 


I’d rehearsed this scene, with variations, all the way from Edinburgh, perfecting my dialogue based on the things I felt sure he would ask me, but all of that went out the window the minute he took the seat opposite, leaning back easily into the bench as though these past two years hadn’t happened. In that heartbeat as I looked across at him, I could have made myself believe they hadn’t. 

He looked just the same, with his almost too-perfect face. When I’d first met him I’d thought he looked French from his bone structure—straight nose and boldly drawn eyebrows and deep-set blue eyes, and that sensual mouth that could suddenly change from its serious line to a quick boyish smile more in keeping with the black unruly hair that always flopped onto his forehead. At the moment his hair was damp, trying to curl at the ends. In a gesture I remembered well he pushed it back and nodded at my drink. “You want another one of those?” 



He didn’t need to call the waitress over. She had seen him coming in and was beside us in an instant. 

“So you’ve found each other, then.” “We have, aye. Sheena, this is Nicola.” 

She gave a nod of greeting and assured him we’d already met. “George sent her from the police station. I’d just heard it on the radio that you were on your way back in. Everyone all right, then?” 

“Aye. It was fairly straightforward, a couple of fishermen taking on water. We gave them a tow back to Burnmouth.” 

“Better than Tuesday’s shout,” Sheena agreed. Then, to keep me included, she told me, “A couple of tourists capsized off St. Abbs, Tuesday morning. The woman was nearly done in when the lifeboat arrived, and she’d have likely drowned if not for Keenan, here. He’d seen it already, up here,” she said, tapping her temple, “and he’d telt the coxswain who did a phone round so the crew were all kitted up and on their way in the lifeboat afore the call even came in.” She winked at me. “He likely kent that you were coming, too. That’s why he’s dressed so nice.” 

He said to her drily, “There are other places to eat in Eyemouth. I could take her to the Ship…” 

But Sheena only grinned and told him, “Never. Did you want a pint of Deuchars?” 

“If you think that you can manage it. And one more glass of wine, please.” 

As I listened to their easygoing banter, I was trying to imagine how incredible it must feel to be living in a place where everybody knew—and from the sound of it, accepted—that you saw things that they couldn’t see. Small wonder Rob McMorran was so well adjusted. 

And he was dressed nicely, now I noticed it. His fine knitted sweater of deep navy blue looked like cashmere, and followed the breadth of his shoulders and chest in a way that looked tailored without being tight. He kept his head bent as he studied the menu, but from the quick glance that he gave me I halfway suspected he’d noticed me noticing, so I looked down myself, reading the menu without really seeing it, trying to summon up small talk. I could start by asking why everyone here called him Keenan, I thought. 

“It’s no Keenan,” he answered my unspoken question without looking up. “It’s ‘Keen-Een’—keen eyes—from my having the Sight, ye ken.” 

“Oh. So it’s a nickname.” 

“My bye-name, aye. Sort of tradition in Eyemouth, it helps sort us out. In a small place like this with so many old families, it’s nothing to find a few men with the same name—a few David Dougals, say—so we use bye-names to tell them apart.” 

“And how many Rob McMorrans are there here in Eyemouth?” 

“Only me.” He looked up then. “But I got my bye-name from some of my dad’s friends the summer I went to the fishing with them, when I turned twelve, and it’s stuck.” His blue eyes smiled the way that I remembered. “Go ahead.” 

I hadn’t noticed that the waitress had returned, but now I turned to her and ordered. “Can I have the chicken curry, please, with rice?” 

“No problem. Keen-Een?” 

“Make it two. With chips for mine.” He thanked her as she took the menus from us, then he raised the pint of dark ale that she’d brought him as he settled back and faced me as before. “So.” 

Breathing deep, I echoed, “So. It’s good to see you, Rob.” 

“It’s good to see you, too.” 

“I’m really sorry—” 

“There’s no need,” he cut me off, and took a drink before continuing, “I told you at the time I understood your reasons. I still do.” 

He very likely understood them better than I did myself, I thought. I cleared my throat and said, “I’ve been to Edinburgh this afternoon.” 

Whatever else he knew, it was apparent that he hadn’t known that, because he lifted his one eyebrow in the way he always had when I’d surprised him. “Oh, aye?” 

“Yes. I went to visit Dr. Fulton-Wallace.” 

When I hesitated, not quite sure how to proceed from there, he sent me a lopsided smile. “Is this a twelve-step program that you’re on then? Making peace with all the people from your past?” 

His tone was teasing, but I shook my head with an unnecessary force. “No, it isn’t. I…” I faltered, not sure how to ask this question. 

Rob said, “Of course I will.” 

“Will what?” 

“Come with you to Dundee.” 

There was no need for him to ask if that was what I’d wanted; I had always been an open book for him to read. Too bad it didn’t work the other way around, I thought. I tried to read him now, and met a stubborn wall of static as his blue gaze leveled calmly on my own. 

I took a long drink of my wine. “I suppose that you already know all the details.” 

“No,” he said, “but you’ve had a long day, it’ll keep. I’ve the day off tomorrow, we’ll drive to Dundee in the morning, and on the way up you can tell me the whole story. Suit you?” 

It suited me fine, and I said so. “Rob?” 


“I am sorry.” 

The warmth of reassurance wrapped around me like a hug, so nearly physical I couldn’t quite believe he hadn’t moved. He looked away. “I ken fine how you feel,” he said, and moved his pint of ale aside to make room for the plates as Sheena brought our meals. 

About the Book

Publication Date:  June 4, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Paperback; 544p

Whoever dares to seek the Firebird may find the journey — and its ending — unexpected. 

Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes sees images; glimpses of those who have owned it before. It’s never been a gift she wants, and she keeps it a secret from most people, including her practical boss Sebastian, one of London’s premier dealers in Russian art. 

But when a woman offers Sebastian a small wooden carving for sale, claiming it belonged to Russia’s first Empress Catherine, it’s a problem. There’s no proof. Sebastian believes that the plain carving — known as “The Firebird” — is worthless. But Nicola’s held it, and she knows the woman is telling the truth, and is in desperate need of the money the sale of the heirloom could bring. 

Compelled to help, Nicola turns to a man she once left, and still loves: Rob McMorran, whose own psychic gifts are far greater than hers. With Rob to help her “see” the past, she follows a young girl named Anna from Scotland to Belgium and on into Russia. 

There, in St. Petersburg — the once-glittering capital of Peter the Great’s Russia — Nicola and Rob unearth a tale of love and sacrifice, of courage and redemption…an old story that seems personal and small, perhaps, against the greater backdrops of the Jacobite and Russian courts, but one that will forever change their lives.  


One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Rose Garden, Mariana, The Winter Sea and The Shadowy Horses.

To enter, please complete the Rafflecopter entry form below.

Giveaway open to US and Canadian residents ONLY.  Ends on February 15.  Good Luck!

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