On My Wishlist: Somerset by Leila Meacham

I've heard nothing but raves for this author and I think it might be time for me to finally check her out because this sounds really yummy!

Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Grand Central Publishing
Hardcover; 624p
ISBN-10: 1455547387

One hundred fifty years of Roses' Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph-all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love Roses so much-are here in abundance.

About the Author

Leila Meacham writes of East Texas with authority. She has lived in Texas all of her life with the exceptions short sojourns out of state with her Air Force husband and her birth in Minden, Louisiana, because her father could not get her mother across the border of the Sabine River into Texas for her to be born. She says that as far as she knows, it's the only regret he ever had of his daughter.

Leila graduated from North Texas State University with a Bachelor's Degree of Arts. She married a pilot in the US Air Force during the war years of Viet Nam and served in numerous capacities of volunteer work as a military wife before resuming her teaching career in San Antonio. She taught high school English until her retirement from that profession, developing the gifted and talented program still used in the tenth grade curriculum of Converse Judson. She was twice elected by her peers as Teacher of the Year.

She came to her love of writing late, she says, even though she dabbled briefly into the process when she wrote a romance novel in the mid-eighties that she never expected to be published. It was followed by two others because she was under contract, but the experience and genre left her with a desire never to pick up a pen again.

"That changed when I ran out of things to do after retirement," she says, "and one day I sat down and wrote ROSES."

Leila has no children and has been married to her husband for forty-three years.

Facebook Party for History Lovers: Stephanie Dray's Daughter of the Nile/Ara Pacis Commemoration Event

Fans of Historical Fiction unite!

Tomorrow there will be 10 hours of historical fun at Stephanie Dray's Facebook Party!  Yours truly will be stopping by at 3:30pm to chat and share a cool giveaway.  There will be lots of HF authors participating, so be sure to check the schedule below to see when your favorite authors will be posting.

I am so excited for this event and I hope to see all of you there!

In commemoration of the opening of the Ara Pacis on January 30, 9 BC and in celebration of Stephanie Dray's new book about the daughter of Cleopatra, which is, in part, about this famous monument, there will be an event to talk about ancient Rome, Augustus, and win goodies from historical fiction authors!

Party Schedule

Stephanie Dray 12pm-10pm
Jeannie Lin at 12:00pm
M.M. Bennetts at 12:30pm
Kate Quinn at 1:00pm
Erika Shephard Robuck at 1:15pm
Heather Webb at 1:30pm
Vicky Alvear Shecter at 1:45pm
J.F. Ridgley at 2:00pm
Kristina McMorris at 2:15pm
Donna Russo Morin at 3:00pm
Amy Phillips Bruno at 3:30pm
Eliza Knight at 4:00pm
Gillian Bagwell at 4:15pm
Sophie Perinot at 4:30pm
Mary Hart Perry at 5:00pm
Audra Friend at 6:00pm
Helen Hollick at 6:15pm
Alma Katsu at 7:00pm
Roberta Oliver Trahan at 8:00pm
Marci McGuire Jefferson at 8:15pm
Stephanie Thornton at 8:30pm
Stephanie Cowell at 9:00pm
Sabrina Darby at 9:45pm

To learn more about Stephanie Dray's Nile series, visit:
Lily of the Nile
Song of the Nile
Daughters of the Nile

Jeannie Ruesch's Cloaked in Danger Launch Party, January 27 3-7pm pst

Cloaked in Danger LBP Banner

Please join author Jeannie Ruesch and HF Virtual Book Tours at the Cloaked in Danger Facebook Launch Party on Monday, January 27th from 3:00-7:00pm PST.

We have some fabulous guest authors lined up including Elizabeth Essex, Eliza Knight, Veronica Wolff, Ciara Knight, Bella Love, Michelle McLean, Lynn Rush, Brenda Novak, Renee Hagar-Smith, Tracey Devlyn, Melinda Curtis, Kelsey Browning, Bella Andre, and Karenne from Coffee Time Romance!

Help us celebrate Jeannie's special day! There will be fantastic giveaways, trivia, prizes, author Q&A, and other bookish fun! We hope to see you there!

About Cloaked in Danger

Cloaked in DangerPublication Date: January 27, 2014
Carina Press

Aria Whitney has little in common with the delicate ladies of London society. Her famous father made his fortune hunting archaeological treasures, and her rustic upbringing has left her ill prepared for a life of parties and frippery. But when Gideon Whitney goes missing in Egypt, Aria must embrace the unknown. Armed with only the short list of highborn men who'd backed her father's venture, she poses as a woman looking for a husband. She doesn't intend to find one.

Adam Willoughby, Earl of Merewood, finds London's strangest new debutante fascinating, but when he catches her investigating his family's secrets, he threatens to ruin her reputation. He doesn't intend to enjoy it so much.

When their lustful indiscretion is discovered, Adam finds that he regrets nothing. But now, as Aria's father's enemy draws near, Adam must convince his betrothed that she can trust him with her own secrets…before it's too late.

Praise for Cloaked in Danger

“Cloaked in Danger has all the elements readers crave— larger-than-life characters, a vivid and believable setting, heart-pounding romance and just the right amount of mystery. Don’t miss it! It kept me reading deep into the night.” — New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak

“In ‘Cloaked in Danger’ Jeannie Ruesch has crafted a taut, emotional thrill-ride through the streets of Regency London. Archaeological adventure and drawing room intrigue are combined in a story that will keep you reading late into the night. Jeannie Ruesch is an author to watch.” — RITA Award Nominated Author Elizabeth Essex

Purchase the Book

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Jeannie RueschJeannie Ruesch wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. That journey to destiny took a few detours along the way, including a career in marketing and design.

Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published in 2009, but the darker side of life had always captivated her. So after a dinner conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing. (The legal outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read - stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in Northern California with her husband, their son and an 80 pound lapdog lab named Cooper.

She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer's tool to help stay organized while you write, which you can find at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.

 Jeannie will be touring virtually as well for Cloaked in Danger from January 27 - February 7, check out where she will be stopping here.

Guest Post by Ella March Chase & Giveaway of The Queen's Dwarf

Please welcome Ella March Chase to Passages to the Past!  Ella's novel, The Queen's Dwarf, hits stores today so join me in congratulating her on the release!

After you enjoy the post, be sure to enter to win a copy of The Queen's Dwarf!

How to Delight Your Guests with a Dwarf in a Pie

By Ella March Chase

It isn’t every day someone ‘bakes’ you in a pie, even if you are going to be served to the Queen of England. One of the pivotal historical scenes in the life of Jeffrey Hudson, hero in my novel, The Queen’s Dwarf, involved being hidden in a pie and being served to Charles I’s French born Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria. Jeffrey was the climax of the royal banquet’s entertainment. He was supposed to delight the homesick and somewhat surly teenage queen who comforted herself with ‘pets’: monkeys and dogs, and human curiosities of nature. What better present for such a young queen than a living doll? What better way to smooth rocky relationship between the king’s best friend, the duke of Buckingham and the queen whose influence over the king Buckingham was determined to limit?

So how does one ‘bake’ an eighteen-inch-tall lad from the village shambles into a culinary showpiece worthy of a queen?

Bulwark pies, or coffin pies were part of every cook’s repertoire, expected for their flash and sense of drama at the end of a banquet. The crust was not intended to be eaten, but rather was viewed as a container, since, during Jeffrey’s time, pie tins had not yet been invented. So how did the bakers get the crust into the correct form to hold “four and twenty blackbirds” as in the nursery rhyme, or, as in Jeffrey’s case—a queen’s dwarf?

The crust was rolled out thick then molded up over a wooden pie dolly, which can still be bought to make a pork pie. It basically looks like the flat end of a mallet that would have been made to the circumference of the pie. The wooden pie dolly would have been gently placed in the center of the rolled out dough, then the edges of the crust would have been folded up around the wooden sides and smoothed to make the pie shape. The pie dolly would have been gently lifted out and set aside. A hole would have been cut in the bottom of the crust then the whole pie shape filled with flour to hold it in shape while baking. It would have been baked, removed from the oven and then the flour removed through the hole in the bottom.

That baked crust would now be used as the ‘pan’ for a second layer of crust, which would be carefully laid inside it and smoothed up the sides. This would be baked, and you would have the bottom and sides of the crust, a fairly sturdy ‘coffin’ or a ‘bulwark’ of crust. Often these ‘bulwarks’ could be shaped into the form of whatever filled them, for example a fish shaped pie, or could be made in other fanciful shapes. The top of the pie would be baked separately and often decorated with piping and cut out shapes from extra crust in elaborate designs.

Once all the pieces were cooled, the cook would assemble the pie with filling to be eaten, black birds to sing, or Jeffrey Hudson, dressed in his miniature suit of armor, ready to entertain a queen. The cook would tuck in the ‘filling’ then, in what must have been a tense kitchen moment, gently lift the whole top crust and lay in place. Final decorations would then be affixed and gold leaf painted on. The masterpiece would be delivered on a silver tray as the high point of the banquet, with a flourish of trumpets.

It could not have been comfortable for Jeffrey—or the blackbirds! Waiting, entombed in that bulwark of crust. One wrong move, and Jeffrey could break the crust. George Villiers, duke of Buckingham would not take Jeffrey’s mistake lightly. Especially since he planned to place Jeffrey into Queen Henrietta Maria’s household as a spy.

And so. . . prepare to share Jeffrey’s experience of being entombed in the pie that could carry him to royal favor or disaster.

Excerpt from The Queen’s Dwarf:
The cook led Ware to where a piecrust was cooling in two separate pieces, the bottom crust upon a silver tray. The master cook signaled and two of his underlings lifted me above the bottom crust.

My feet instinctively searched for purchase. “Do not move under your own power!” the cook snapped. “Go limp so we can fold you up tight.” Hands began to wedge my limbs into positions that made them ache. When I grunted protest, the cook ignored me. “I do not care how you force his leg to fit. It must seem impossible that this dwarf emerged from such tiny space.”

My breastplate gouged my armpit and my teeth all but embedded in my knee. I could taste silk and hoped my spittle would not leave a blotch on my blue hose. When I could not be wedged any tighter, the Cook jammed in the red-and-gilt-striped pole on which pennons were strung, the man forcing it between my legs and the curve of my arms like a bodkin.

“You must not spring out until the perfect moment or the effect will be spoiled,” Ware warned. “Burst from the crust with these pennons waving and march up and down the table.”

With apprentices tucking fabric around my legs, I was more likely to stumble around like a prisoner in shackles. “My foot is going numb,” I said, my hands slickening with sweat where they gripped the wooden pole…

“Seal the coffin lid, boys,” the master cook commanded.

Two underlings scrambled to do so. I watched, helpless, as the crust blotted out the smoke-blackened ceiling, the stone walls, then all the world. It forced all the air from the tiny space allowed me, entombing me in darkness.

About The Queen's Dwarf

Publication Date: January 21, 2014
Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover; 384p
ISBN-10: 1250006295

A richly imagined, gorgeously written historical novel set in the Stuart court featuring a unique hero: Jeffrey Hudson, a dwarf tasked with spying on the beautiful but vulnerable queen

It's 1629, and King Charles I and his French queen Henrietta Maria have reigned in England for less than three years. Young dwarf Jeffrey Hudson is swept away from a village shambles and plunged into the Stuart court when his father sells him to the most hated man in England—the Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham trains Jeffrey to be his spy in the household of Charles’ seventeen-year-old bride, hoping to gain intelligence that will help him undermine the vivacious queen’s influence with the king.

Desperately homesick in a country that hates her for her nationality and Catholic faith, Henrietta Maria surrounds herself with her "Royal Menagerie of Freaks and Curiosities of Nature"—a "collection" consisting of a giant, two other dwarves, a rope dancer, an acrobat/animal trainer and now Jeffrey, who is dubbed "Lord Minimus."

Dropped into this family of misfits, Jeffrey must negotiate a labyrinth of court intrigue and his own increasingly divided loyalties. For not even the plotting of the Duke nor the dangers of a tumultuous kingdom can order the heart of a man. Though he is only eighteen inches tall, Jeffrey Hudson's love will reach far beyond his grasp—to the queen he has been sent to destroy.

Full of vibrant period detail and perfect for fans of Carrolly Erickson and Philippa Gregory, The Queen's Dwarf by Ella March Chase is a thrilling and evocative portrait of an intriguing era.


To enter to win one hardcover copy of The Queen's Dwarf please complete the form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on January 31st.

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Win a copy of Isabella: Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer (HF Virtual Book Tours)

Passages to the Past is pleased to be hosting a giveaway for Isabella: Braveheart of France as part of Colin Falconer's virtual tour.

IsabellaPublication Date: September 3, 2013
Cool Gus Publishing
Paperback; 218p
ISBN-10: 1621250911

She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.

Isabella is just twelve years old when she marries Edward II of England. For the young princess it is love at first sight - but Edward has a terrible secret that threatens to tear their marriage - and England apart.

Who is Piers Gaveston - and why is his presence in the king’s court about to plunge England into civil war?

The young queen believes in the love songs of the troubadours and her own exalted destiny - but she finds reality very different. As she grows to a woman in the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, she must decide between her husband, her children, even her life - and one breath-taking gamble that will change the course of history.

Does she submit to a lifetime of solitude and a spiritual death - or seize her destiny and take the throne of England for herself?

This is the story of Isabella, the only woman ever to invade England - and win.

Praise for Isabella: Braveheart of France

“What an intriguing story! … I'm enchanted indeed! Loved it!” - Montreal Times

“Author Colin Falconer has brought Isabelle's story to life … wonderful descriptive and succinct prose graces each page of this biographical novel.” - Great Historicals

“Isabella: Braveheart of France is a gripping read … this is phenomenal historical fiction that is highly recommended.” - Crystal Book Reviews

About the Author

Colin FalconerBorn in London, Colin first trialed as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages.

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz.

His most recent novels are Silk Road, set in the 13th century, and Stigmata, set against the backdrop of the Albigensian Crusade in Southern France in 1209. He currently lives in Barcelona.

For more information please visit Colin Falconer's blog. You can also find him on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

Follow the rest of the tour...

Monday, January 20
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, January 21
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Thursday, January 23
Spotlight & Giveaway at Words & Peace

Friday, January 24
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Monday, January 27
Review at Carpe Librum
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, January 28
Review at Reading the Ages

Wednesday, January 29
Review at Book Drunkard

Friday, January 31
Review at Turning the Pages

Monday, February 3
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, February 4
Review at Historical Fiction Notebook

Thursday, February 6
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, February 7
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Review at Found Between the Covers


Passages to the Past has two paperback copies up for grabs! To enter, please complete form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on January 30th.

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2014 Historcal Fiction Releases (Part III)

I've got a bevy of beautiful historical fiction titles to share with you! Break out the wishlists, folks!

The Fortune Hunter
by Daisy Goodwin

US Publication Date: July 29, 2014
UK Publication Date: April 24, 2014

In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies.

Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything - except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Joseph, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her and engaged to the rich and devoted Charlotte, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.

Full of passion and drama, THE FORTUNE HUNTER tells the true story of a nineteenth century Queen of Hearts and a cavalry captain, and the struggle between love and duty.

Queen Elizabeth's Daughter
by Anne Clinard Barnhill 

Publication Date: March 18, 2014

From Anne Barnhill, the author of At the Mercy of the Queen, comes the gripping tale of Mary Shelton, Elizabeth I’s young cousin and ward, set against the glittering backdrop of the Elizabethan court.

Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.

Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.

The Visitors
by Sally Beauman

Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Based on a true story of discovery, The Visitors is New York Times bestselling author Sally Beauman's brilliant recreation of the hunt for Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings-a dazzling blend of fact and fiction that brings to life a lost world of exploration, adventure, and danger, and the audacious men willing to sacrifice everything to find a lost treasure.

In 1922, when eleven year-old Lucy is sent to Egypt to recuperate from typhoid, she meets Frances, the daughter of an American archaeologist. The friendship draws the impressionable young girl into the thrilling world of Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter, who are searching for the tomb of boy pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings.

A haunting tale of love and loss, The Visitors retells the legendary story of Carter and Carnarvon's hunt and their historical discovery, witnessed through the eyes of a vulnerable child whose fate becomes entangled in their dramatic quest. As events unfold, Lucy will discover the lengths some people will go to fulfill their deepest desires-and the lies that become the foundation of their lives.

Intensely atmospheric, The Visitors recalls the decadence of Egypt's aristocratic colonial society, and illuminates the obsessive, daring men willing to risk everything-even their sanity-to claim a piece of the ancient past. As fascinating today as it was nearly a century ago, the search for King Tut's tomb is made vivid and immediate in Sally Beauman's skilled hands. A dazzling feat of imagination, The Visitors is a majestic work of historical fiction.

Cavendon Hall
by Barbara Taylor Bradford

Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them, just as their ancestors did over the centuries. Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, lives there with his wife Felicity and their six children: Guy, the heir, who is studying at Cambridge; their younger son Miles, attending Eton; and their four daughters Diedre, Daphne, DeLacy and Dulcie, affectionately called the Four Dees by the staff. Walter Swann, the premier male of the Swann family, is valet to the earl. His wife Alice, a clever seamstress, who is in charge of the countess's wardrobe, also makes clothes for the four daughters. For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. But now, with World War I looming, these two families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties are tested and betrayals are set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: these two families will never be the same again. Set over a period of sixteen years (from 1913 to 1929), Cavendon Hall is Barbara Taylor Bradford at her very best.

The Beautiful American
by Jeanne Mackin

Publication Date: June 3, 2014

From Paris in the 1920s to London after the Blitz, two women find that a secret from their past reverberates through years of joy and sorrow....

As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920s Paris, when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever. Will Nora’s reunion with Lee give them a chance to forgive past betrayals…and break years of silence to forge a meaningful connection as women who have shared the best and the worst that life can offer?

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women.

Win a copy of The Winter Siege by D.W. Bradbridge (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

D.W. Bradbridge is currently on tour for his novel, The Winter Siege, and so far the reviews have been stellar! Erin from Flashlight Commentary rates it 5 stars and says "Meticulously detailed and wonderfully atmospheric, this convoluted murder mystery was simply impossible to put down." Erin also hosted a fascinating interview with DW, see here to read it.

D.W. Bradbridge is on tour through February 14, see the schedule of stops here.

Winter SiegePublication Date: October 1, 2013
Electric Reads
Paperback; 488p
ISBN-10: 1492795712

1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe.

While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause.

When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him.

He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder.

With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love.

When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?

Purchase the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

About the Author

D.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge's website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


To enter to win a copy of The Winter Siege please complete the form below. Giveaway is open to US, UK & Canada residents and ends on January 26th. Good luck!
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On My Wishlist: Bittersweet by Collen McCullough

I think I'll be picking this one up at release day, it sounds incredible!

Publication Date: August 19, 2014
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover; 352p
ISBN-10: 1476755418

In her first epic romantic novel since The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough weaves a sweeping story of two sets of twins—all trained as nurses, but each with her own ambitions—stepping into womanhood in 1920s and 30s Australia.

Because they are two sets of twins, the four Latimer sisters are as close as can be. Yet these vivacious young women each have their own dreams for themselves: Edda wants to be a doctor, Tufts wants to organize everything, Grace won’t be told what to do, and Kitty wishes to be known for something other than her beauty. They are famous throughout New South Wales for their beauty, wit, and ambition, but as they step into womanhood, they are not enthusiastic about the limited prospects life holds for them.

Together they decide to enroll in a training program for nurses—a new option for women of their time, who have previously been largely limited to the role of wives, and preferably mothers. As the Latimer sisters become immersed in hospital life and the demands of their training, they meet people and encounter challenges that spark new maturity and independence. They meet men from all walks of life—local farmers, their professional colleagues, and even men with national roles and reputations—and each sister must make weighty decisions about what she values most. The results are sometimes happy, sometimes heartbreaking, but always . . . bittersweet.

Rendered with McCullough’s trademark historical accuracy, this dramatic coming of age tale is wise in the ways of the human heart, one that will transport readers to a time in history that feels at once exotic and yet not so very distant from our own.

Post by Sophie Schiller + Giveaway of Spy Island

Please welcome Sophie Schiller to the blog today. Sophie is here to talk about her novel, Spy Island, and she has graciously offered up one copy to give away!

Guest Post: Spy Island by Sophie Schiller

Spy Island is a WWI spy thriller set on a Caribbean island replete with German spy characters, Old World Danish characters, colorful West Indian characters, blazing Luger pistols, a mad Voodoo Queen, and a brave and resourceful heroine who demonstrates how adversity can bring out the best in people.

During the height of the Great War, Abigail Maduro plunges headfirst into the dangerous world of espionage when she travels to St. Thomas, an island in the Danish West Indies, to live with her Aunt Esther, a bitter spinster, and her houseful of eccentric servants. Despite the island's veneer of tranquility, St. Thomas is a hotbed of German spies and saboteurs who use their Hamburg-America Line steamers to aid the Kaiser's war effort. To escape the confines of her aunt's house, Abigail explores the lively town of Charlotte Amalie and meets some of her more colorful residents, such as Henrik Neergaard, a sympathetic Danish judge, and Queen Coziah, the legendary leader of the coal carriers who riles the people up against the Danish government.

When Abigail stumbles into a handsome foreigner with a mysterious past, she is unwittingly drawn into the conflict. Erich Seibold claims to be a stranded sailor, but is tight-lipped about his past. In spite of the danger, Abigail agrees to shelter the scholarly foreigner in the basement of her aunt's house and friendship and love soon blossom between the unlikely pair, even after Abigail learns that Erich is really a deserter from a German U-boat.

"The minute I fired the pistol at the governor, I crossed the line from being a runaway deserter to a wanted German spy."

When the island's German Consul, Lothar Langsdorff, discovers that Erich is a deserter, he blackmails him into aiding the Kaiser's war effort by committing sabotage. In a desperate attempt to stop the Americans from annexing the Danish West Indies, Langsdorff orders Erich to shoot the governor. Gunshots ensue, and panic erupts on the once-tranquil island. When Erich is arrested, Abigail relies on her wits, bravery, and a little island magic to save her island, and the man she loves, from a nest of German spies.

About the Author

Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies amid aging pirates and retired German spies. She received a degree in International Business from American University, Washington, D.C. and lives in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently at work on a historical thriller set during the Great Game in Tibet.


To enter to win one copy of Spy Island please complete the form below. Giveaway is open internationally and ends on January 24th.

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Guest Post by Patricia Bracewell + Giveaway of Shadow on the Crown

Please welcome Patricia Bracewell to the blog today! Patricia's novel Shadow on the Crown was released in paperback on New Year's Eve. If you haven't had the opportunity to read it yet I highly recommend that you do. It's the first in a trilogy on Emma of Normandy and it's phenomenal, especially given it is a debut novel.

I am so happy to be hosting Patricia today with a post on Emma and a giveaway of Shadow on the Crown.

Take it away, Patricia...

A Tale of Two Emmas

I have been living cheek by jowl with two queens for some time now. They are both named Emma of Normandy. The first Emma lived in the 11th century. She was at the very root of the Norman Conquest, and her actions have been scrutinized by historians for about 900 years. The second Emma is one I’ve created: a character in a book, someone I’ve made up from the historical record, from legend, and from my own imagination.

Neither of these queens who haunt me is real. Even the historical Emma lived such a long time ago that no one today can possibly know who she was, what she looked like, what she felt, believed, desired or understood. We can only guess at any of that.

Both women, though, are very real to me, each blurring into the other like some trick photographic image.

The historical Emma of Normandy lived a long and eventful life, of that much we can be sure. She was probably born in the 980’s, but her birth date is a mystery. She lived well into her 60’s, and although she was born in Normandy – hence her name – she lived in England for nearly fifty years, and was far more involved in England’s interests than she was in Normandy’s. Twice wed and twice widowed, she witnessed the reigns of seven kings of England and she was intimately involved in some way with all of those kings. She married two of them, was stepmother to one, mother to two, and from two of them she had to flee for her life.

I believe that Emma must have been made of pretty stern stuff, and although she was called The Flower of Normandy, she was no shrinking violet. She lived in a time that was ruled by the sword and in a kingdom ravaged by war. Men, especially rulers, had to be ruthless, and the men that Emma married most certainly had blood on their hands. Her first husband, Æthelred II, was described by 19th c historian Edward Freeman as a bad man and a bad king. Her second husband was a Viking conqueror. Need I say more?

But Emma, too, was of Viking stock, from both mother and father. I’m not implying that she ever hefted an axe or a sword, but in her prime she wielded the powers of an early medieval queen, using them with intelligence and skill. She may even have been a little ruthless herself when it came to negotiating with the fierce men around her.

One year after the death of Emma’s first husband she married the second one – the Viking conqueror of England. The men had waged a bloody war for the English crown, and they must have hated each other. One has to wonder what Emma’s thoughts and feelings were as she went from the bed of one king to the bed of the other. Sleeping with the enemy, indeed! Certainly some later historians would regard it that way.

In her 1974 book The Kings and Queens of England Janet Murray observes dryly that when Emma made that second marriage she was playing both ends against the middle, and this was pretty raw, even in the 11th century. But is that true? The attitudes of the 11th century were different from our own, and besides, we cannot know how that marriage actually came about. No one can even say for sure, at this distance, if Emma went to it willingly, or if she was strong-armed into it by her brother the Norman Duke, by English nobles, or perhaps by the new warrior king himself. There is historical evidence for all three possibilities. You can probably guess, just from reading this, what I think happened. However it came about, Emma’s authority and influence would increase. She would have vast lands and wealth and would be a patron of the arts who could shower lavish gifts on churches in England and Normandy. She would eventually see a son by each of her husbands on the English throne.

The Emma that I have imagined in my novel is not yet the powerful queen that the historical Emma would become. She is young, on the cusp of womanhood, sent to a foreign land to seal an alliance with an older king who is haunted by past sins. A difficult road lies ahead of her, but she has strength, courage and intelligence, and she will use those gifts to play a significant role in the formation of England. SHADOW ON THE CROWN is just the beginning of Emma’s story. There is a great deal more to come.

Publication Date: December 31, 2013
Penguin Books
Paperback; 432p
ISBN-10: 0143124358

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 and the perfect antidote to Tudor fatigue, Shadow on the Crown is packed with nonstop action, romance, and plenty of deliciously creepy Gothic flavor.

About the Author

Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon a writing career. This is her first novel. She lives in Oakland, California.



To enter to win please complete the form below. Giveaway is open to US & Canada only and ends on January 23rd.

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Susanna Kearsley & Friends Tour + Giveaway of The Splendour Falls

Author Susanna Kearsley is going on tour for the release of The Splendour Falls and she's bringing along some friends!  Check out where Susanna will be visiting and enter to win your own copy of The Splendour Falls courtesy of Sourcebooks!

Susanna Kearsley & Friends Tour
Celebrating the release of The Splendour Falls!

Friday January 17th @ 7 pm
With Julie James & Mary Robinette Kowal
Anderson’s Bookshop
Naperville, IL
Friday January 17th is also Susanna Kearsley’s birthday! Her local Naperville publisher, Sourcebooks, will be providing champagne & cupcakes for the event!

Saturday January 18th @ 2 pm
With Deanna Raybourn & Joanna Bourne
Central Rappahannock Regional Library: Salem Church Branch
Fredericksburg, VA
With special guest and moderator, Lynn Spencer, one of the two publishers of the popular review site, All About Romance.

Monday January 20th @ 6:30 pm
With Karen White & Kimberly Brock
FoxTale Book Shoppe
Woodstock, GA
With special guest and moderator, Ariel Lawhon, co-founder of the popular online book club She Reads, and author of The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress."

Tuesday January 21st @ 7 pm
With Lauren Willig & Beatriz Williams
WORD Bookstore
Brooklyn, NY
With special guest and moderator, Sarah Wendell, co-founder and current mastermind of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

About The Splendour Falls

Publication Date: January 14
Sourcebooks Landmark
Paperback; 384p
ISBN-10: 1402258615

An Ancient Castle, a Tragic Love, and a Web of Secrets Begins to Unravel...

Emily Braden has stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings. When her fascinating but unreliable cousin Harry invites her on a holiday to explore the legendary own of Chinon, and promptly disappears—well, that's Harry for you.

As Emily makes the acquaintance of Chinon and its people, she begins to uncover dark secrets beneath the charm. Legend has it that during a thirteenth-century siege of the castle that looms over the city, Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, hid a "treasure of great price." And in the last days of the German occupation during World War II, another Isabelle living in Chinon, a girl whose love for an enemy soldier went tragically awry.

As the dangers of the past become disastrously real, Emily is drawn ever more deeply into a labyrinth of mystery as twisted as the streets and tunnels of the ancient town itself.


To enter to win one copy of The Splendour Falls please complete the form below. Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents and ends on January 20.

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HFVBT Blog Tour: Win a copy of The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas

Author Sam Thomas is on tour for the release of The Harlot's Tale from January 6 - 24, and we are hosting him today with a giveaway!

The Harlot's TalePublication Date: January 7, 2014
Minotaur Books
Hardcover; 320p1250010780
ISBN-10: 1250010780

It is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, whipping is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution.

Bridget and Martha—assisted once again by Will, Bridget’s good-hearted nephew—race to find the killer even as he adds more bodies to his tally. The list of suspects is long: Hezekiah Ward, a fire and brimstone preacher new to York; Ward’s son, Praise-God, whose intensity mirrors his father’s; John Stubb, one of Ward’s fanatic followers, whose taste for blood may not have been sated by his time in Parliament’s armies. Or could the killer be closer to home? Will’s brother Joseph is no stranger to death, and he shares the Wards’ dreams of driving sin from the city.

To find the killer, Bridget, Martha, and Will must uncover the city’s most secret sins, and hope against hope that the killer does not turn his attention in their direction.

Purchase the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

About the Author

Sam ThomasSam Thomas is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Alabama with his wife and two children.

For more information, please visit Sam Thomas' website and blog. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, January 6
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review at Words and Peace

Tuesday, January 7
Review at A Bookish Affair
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, January 8
Review at Broken Teepee
Interview at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, January 9
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, January 10
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Monday, January 13
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, January 14
Review at Impressions in Ink
Interview & Giveaway at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, January 15
Review at Book of Secrets
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, January 16
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, January 17
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, January 20
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, January 21
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Wednesday, January 22
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Interview at The Most Happy Reader

Thursday, January 23
Review at Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews

Friday, January 24
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader


Passages to the Past has one copy of The Harlot's Tale to give away. Open to US & Canada residents only and ends on January 19. To enter, please complete form below.

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The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam: Excerpt and Giveaway

Today I would like to feature (belatedly) author Jennifer Laam's 2013 release, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar! Thanks to the publisher I have an excerpt to share with you and a copy of Laam's book to give away!

Hvidore Estate, Copenhagen
October 1927
The clanging of the old woman’s summoning bell echoed across the kitchen. Annika raised her voice higher with the other girls to drown out the sound. She wanted to hear the latest gossip free from interruption.
                The laughter soon gave way to intermittent giggles and then ceased altogether. A moon-faced sous chef regarded her with a sly smile, as though Annika’s every move was destined for failure. Annika stuffed another bite of herring in her mouth and let the greasy skin slide across her tongue. The glacial stares sank her spirit like a stone. If Annika proved derelict in her duties, she’d be released without pay. Someone else would inherit the unenviable task of gratifying Marie Romanov’s every last whim. She passed a linen napkin over her lips and excused herself.
Upstairs, Annika found Marie perched in her favorite flowered armchair. Despite the frigid autumn chill, the exiled dowager empress had ordered her chair moved from its place in the sun to a less conspicuous corner of the room. Annika suspected Marie didn’t want the young visitor to count her wrinkles in the fading light.
The visitor was bent over a tarnished silver samovar now, pressing the wolf’s head-shaped spout to refresh Marie’s tea. “Nicholas and Alexandra encouraged your granddaughters to pursue sports, did they not?” He spoke impeccable Danish, but his thick German accent struck each consonant like a mallet. “I understand that even at the end, while the royal family was held captive in Siberia…” When he spotted Annika at the door, he hesitated mid-pour and forced a tight smile.   
“There you are,” Marie snapped. “What took so long?” She drew her ratty ermine stole closer around her neck and made a flicking motion with two fingers. “Show Herr Krause to the door.  His audience with me has quite come to a close.”
Annika lowered herself into one of the quick curtsies that sufficiently pleased Marie without making her calf muscles ache terribly. The German visitor scowled at her and Annika responded with a small shrug.  Despite his fine-looking features, she found nothing appealing about this grim young man. 
Herr Krause turned the crushing weight of his attention back to Marie. “Your highness, I can’t leave yet. You haven’t finished telling me of your family’s holidays along the Baltic Coast, before the troubles began.”
Underneath her thick layer of facial powder, Marie’s expression softened. She caressed the gilt edges of the leather album on her lap. Her gaze flashed over a discolored photograph of her four granddaughters standing in a row, shortest to tallest, hands clasped together. The girls wore identical white cotton dresses and giant sunhats with long ribbons. Their heads were tilted coyly to the side, flirting with the camera, untroubled by any hint of the difficulties to come.
“Nicky and Alix are excessively fond of tennis.” Marie reached for the delicate porcelain cup perched underneath the samovar. Herr Krause pressed the hot water spout once more. The tea emitted a fragrant aroma of cloves and cinnamon. “They have taught the older girls to play and lament Grand Duchess Tatiana’s weak serve.”
“I understand your son Tsar Nicholas was an avid athlete,” Herr Krause said. “And even in his final days sought comfort in his daily walks and calisthenics.”
                Marie snatched her cup back. Boiling water splashed Herr Krause’s hand.  He yelped and fell back into a chair. Annika found Marie’s speed astonishing, given her age. Then again the dowager empress always greeted reality with nasty swipes, like a bear disturbed during winter hibernation. “See him to the door,” Marie said crisply.
                 Herr Krause snatched a linen napkin from atop Marie’s china cabinet and pressed it to his hand. His slender backside melded into the faded upholstery of the guest chair until he appeared intractable. “I don’t understand.”
                “The tsar has not suffered through his last days yet.” Marie’s husky voice rose in pitch.  The thin blue veins in her neck strained against her papery skin. Annika shifted her weight and prepared to stand silently for a quarter of an hour at least, while Marie delved into another bewildering account of how the tsar and his family might have escaped the Bolshevik firing squad to live in hiding in Paris or San Francisco or the Siberian wastelands. Annika had heard a hundred scenarios, each more outlandish than the last.
This evening, however, Marie merely patted the fringed bangs cut high on her forehead. “We will rescue Nicky, Alix, and the children. We will find my missing granddaughter.” Her voice cracked and dropped an octave. “Alix will forgive me then.”
Herr Krause extended his hand toward Marie. She shot him a withering look and he quickly dropped his hand back into his lap. “Forgive you for what?”
 Marie pursed her lips and leaned against the window sill. She drew the silken curtains back and stared at the gravel beach outside. Marie’s sorrowful, searching gaze once again reminded Annika of the precarious nature of the old woman’s circumstances. Hvidore belonged to Marie, yet since the Russian Revolution she had lived here only at the pleasure of her nephew, King Christian of Denmark.
                 “You are fatigued. I have stayed too long.” Herr Krause tossed his soiled napkin back on the cabinet, rose to his feet, and started across the room. He stopped abruptly at the door, bony knuckles splayed on the loose knob. 
“Don’t abandon hope, dowager empress. Remain steadfast and true.” Herr Krause drew back his right leg and placed his left palm over his heart. A welt blistered beet red on the back of his hand. “We will restore your family’s throne. I promise you that.” He bowed deeply in Marie’s direction, and then followed Annika out to the hall.
Most visitors to Hvidore couldn’t keep their gaze from wandering to the domed ceiling, the statuary lining the walls, or the silvery crests of Baltic waves visible from the high windows. This opulence seemed misplaced in the otherwise sensible residence, like the furs and pearls Marie wore with her practical house dress and sturdy black shoes. Yet Herr Krause’s gaze remained fixed on each step before him. He removed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wrapped it around the welt on his hand. “Does the dowager empress not understand what happened to the tsar’s family?”
“The poor creature lost everyone in the Revolution.” Annika trailed her fingers along the wrought iron railing as she led him down the central staircase. “She won’t speak of them in the past tense and refuses to indulge those who do so.”
 Herr Krause winced. “Should I return and apologize?”
                “I doubt it will do any good. It looks like she’s lost to the world for the evening.”
 He tilted his head to the side. “Did you understand what she said about a missing granddaughter?”
Annika suppressed a shiver. She didn’t care for this topic. On the other hand, once Herr Krause left, she would spend the rest of the night in Marie’s room with a needle and colored thread, embroidering flowers on dish towels while the old woman rambled on about the old country and the old ways. “She mentioned a missing granddaughter before. Some of the girls think she’s talking about Anna Anderson.”
He gave an abrupt laugh. Annika didn’t care for the harsh sound of it. “The lunatic who claims she’s Grand Duchess Anastasia?”
                “No one knows. No one dares remind the dowager what happened. Why should we? The truth is too horrible to bear.” Annika imagined the Romanov family on that final night, crowded together in the basement of the house in Siberia where they were kept prisoners. By now, she knew the story too well. She could hear the girls’ high-pitched screams, the blast of gunfire, and the sickening sound of flesh ripping underneath the curved tip of a bayonet. Sometimes, she felt as though she’d been in the room herself. 
“Besides, the dowager empress dismissed Anna Anderson’s petition immediately.” Annika quickened her pace. “She called her a silly imposter out for money. Of course, the dowager is eighty years old.  She can’t distinguish the living from the dead anymore, poor woman.” Annika stopped just short of the main doors and opened the hall closet. She stood on her tip toes to retrieve Herr Krause’s overcoat and black fedora from the top hooks. “I wouldn’t put much stock in anything she says about a missing granddaughter.”
                Herr Krause grabbed her arm. Annika tried to wriggle out of his grip. It wasn’t painful, but he held her fast. “What does she say? What have you heard?”
His icy blue eyes bore into her, reminding Annika of the Romanian hypnotist who sometimes performed at Tivoli Gardens in the summer. She understood now why Marie had allowed this young man into her chambers when she’d shunned so many visitors before. “Late in the afternoon, when her mind is least clear, I hear her calling out: ‘Alix. Forgive me. We’ll keep her safe. We’ll protect your fifth daughter.’”
                 “I don’t understand.” Herr Krause dug his fingers deeper into Annika’s flesh. “Tsar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra had only four daughters and a son.”
 “Yet another figment of the dowager’s imagination, I’m sure.”
 “Of course. Clearly, she is an ill woman.” Herr Krause released Annika’s arm and allowed her to retrieve his hat and coat. “Perhaps I might speak with Dowager Empress Marie again in the morning, when her thoughts are more lucid.”
                   An entire morning free of the dowager’s prattling? Annika smiled to herself. “I could tell her you were misinformed about the fate of the tsar and his family. She might agree to see you again then.”
                Herr Krause bent forward to take her hand. He kissed her fingertips with surprisingly soft lips. “I would like that very much.”
                Annika opened the front door to a freezing coastal gale. Undeterred, Herr Krause placed his hat on his head, tightened his coat around his chest, and took the steps down to the courtyard two at a time. He looked back one last time and tipped his hat in her direction.  She found his sudden burst of energy odd, considering he’d spent the better part of his afternoon dealing with Marie’s delusions. Then again Marie often commented on the strange quirks of the German race. Perhaps the old woman was more perceptive than Annika realized.

Publication Date: October 22, 2013 
St. Martin's Griffin 
Paperback; 344p 
ISBN: 125002868X 

A compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter—smuggled out of Russia before the revolution—continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences.

In her riveting debut novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her. Lena, a servant in the imperial Russian court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandra. After conceiving four daughters, the Empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanov’s treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie. Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer’s interest in her stems from his longstanding obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy. Then as Veronica's passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, the reader learns just how these three vastly different women are connected. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is thrilling from its first intense moments until its final, unexpected conclusion.

About the Author

Jennifer Laam's debut novel is The Secret Daughter of the Tsar (St. Martin's Griffin, October 2013). She holds a master's degree in History. Jennifer has lived in Los Angeles and the suburbs of Detroit, and has traveled in Russia, England, France, and Finland. In addition to Russian History, Jennifer's interests include film, music, pop culture, and politics. She currently lives in Northern California.



Passages to the Past has one copy up for grabs. To enter, please complete form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on January 18.
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Guest post by Jennifer Robson + Giveaway of Somewhere in France

Welcome author Jennifer Robson to the blog today! Jennifer's novel Somewhere in France was released on New Year's Eve and I for one can't wait to devour it! Jennifer is here today to talk about women's effect on the war effort during World War I. She also has graciously offered a signed copy of her novel as a give away!

Take it away, Jennifer...

A century ago, at the outbreak of the Great War, women were almost entirely excluded from all wings of the military in most combatant nations. That’s not to say that soldiers of the past hadn’t marched and fought without women among them, for women had been present as wives, servants and camp followers for as long as human beings had fought in organized wars. Few observers could have guessed, in August 1914, how vitally important the contributions of women would soon become to the success of the war effort, in Britain in particular.

The earliest women’s services with military connections were of relatively recent vintage, and were almost exclusively focused on nursing. Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service was formed in the wake of the Boer War in 1902, and was followed by the Territorial Force Nursing Service in 1908. The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, established in 1907, concentrated its efforts through the war on assistance to the Belgian and French armies, and had little direct contact with the British Army as such.

Other women’s auxiliary services of note were the Women’s Royal Naval Service, popularly known as the Wrens, which was founded in 1917 and had 5,500 members at its height; and the Women’s Royal Air Force, established in 1918, which eventually had approximately 30,000 members. The Voluntary Aid Detachments, though they were never formally aligned with the military, also played a significant role in the war effort. First appearing in England in1909, largely as a way of training the civilian population in basic first aid and emergency preparedness, the VADs had nearly 40,000 members serving as nurses, cooks and ambulance drivers by the end of the war.

The Women’s Legion, founded by Lady Londonderry in 1915, provided cooks, waitresses, gardeners and motor transport drivers to the British Army, but never in very great numbers. In any event, it was largely superseded by the establishment of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which was founded in the early months of 1917.

Of all the women’s services, it was the WAAC that arguably had the greatest effect on the war effort and, in the long run, helped most to change perceptions of women’s roles and their place in society. It was created with the express intent of freeing able-bodied men from non-combat duties; casualties and lower-than-expected conscription rates had left the army badly undermanned. In the words of a WAAC recruiting poster, “Every fit woman can release a fit man.”

Women responded enthusiastically to this call to not-quite-arms, with thousands vying to join the WAAC in its early months. By the end of 1918 there were 57,000 WAACs, most of them based in Britain, working in a wide variety of occupations: as clerks, cooks, waitresses, mechanics, drivers and more.

The admission of women into the military, even in an auxiliary role was highly controversial at the time, not least because of fears for the safety and virtue of the young women taking on such roles. Helen Gwynne Vaughan, the Corps’ first Controller, later described her disappointment at the initial reaction to the WAAC among other branches of the armed services:

I discovered that the objection to the employment of women was almost universal. The Services, of all professions, had, naturally the least experience of working with women, they knew little of the extent to which, even then, men and women were working easily together, they mistrusted the complications which the influx of a large body of women might entail, they disliked the intrusion into their offices and workshops of an alien element.

Almost immediately, rumors began to circulate that WAACs were engaging in inappropriate and even licentious behavior, although an official investigation later revealed that only 21 WAACs were discharged between 1917-1918 as a result of pregnancy.

Anxiety about the WAAC didn’t arise simply because women were being asked to take part in dirty, disagreeable and dangerous work, for being a WAAC was no more dangerous than making munitions, nor was it any more physically taxing than being a scullery maid or a charlady, for instance. It was highly visible, however—its members wore uniforms, they could be seen going about their work, and when they were injured or killed there was no hiding it.

And yet, in spite of all this, by the end of the war most observers were readily able to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of the women’s services. Queen Mary herself—never at the vanguard of change—was so impressed by the WAAC that she allowed the corps to be renamed Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps in April 1918.

After the Armistice in November 1918, most members of the women’s services were demobilized within a year, with the WAAC finally disbanding in 1921. Life returned to normal, or as normal as could be expected after a war that had taken as many as sixteen million lives worldwide. The status quo that had prevailed before 1914, one in which men worked and most women remained at home, was for the most part restored; often it meant that women were sacked from the positions they had held throughout the war so a returning serviceman might take up the job. This was accepted equably by most of the women affected, for the positions they’d held had been offered to them as “meantime” employment, to quote historian Trevor Wilson, that would only continue as long as the war endured.

The vote was extended to a minority of women in time for the general election of 1918, with a full extension of the franchise not following until 1928. At the time, Prime Minister David Lloyd George publicly acknowledged that women’s contribution to the war effort had played a factor in offering them the vote, although privately he and other leading politicians considered women’s suffrage less important to postwar stability than extending the franchise to all returning servicemen.

Women being part of the military’s auxiliary services hadn’t turned Britain on its ear, for there were greater rifts to mend in the fabric of society. It had, however, opened the door on a world of wider horizons and greater possibilities for women of all social classes, and it had also set a precedent that would not easily be set aside or forgotten. When war came again, a generation later, women were ready, and flocked to “do their bit” for their country as their mothers had once done.

About Somewhere in France

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother's rigid expectations forbid Lily from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women's Army Auxiliary Corps -- an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

Assigned to a field hospital in France, Lilly is reunited with Robert Fraser, her dear brother Edward's best friend. The handsome Scottish surgeon has always encouraged Lily's dreams. She doesn't care that Robbie grew up in poverty -- she yearns for their friendly affection to become something more. Lilly is the most beautiful -- and forbidden -- woman Robbie has ever known. Fearful for her life, he's determined to keep her safe, even if it means breaking her heart.

In a world divided by class, filled with uncertainty and death, can their hope for love survive. . . or will it become another casualty of this tragic war?

About the Author

Jennifer Robson first learned about the Great War from her father, acclaimed historian Stuart Robson, and later served as an official guide at the Canadian National War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France. A former copy editor, she holds a doctorate in British economic and social history from the University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and young children. This is her first novel.



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