Interview with Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen's Exiles

Mikhail PetgraveToday marks the final day of Barbara Kyle's Blog Tour for The Queen's Exiles, the latest release in her popular Thornleigh Saga, and I am happy to be wrapping up things with a final interview!

Hi, Barbara and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for taking some time to answer a few questions!

Thanks so much for inviting me, Amy. I'm a long-time fan of "Passages to the Past."

To begin, can you please tell us about yourself and the Thornleigh saga?

Happy to. I'm Canadian, a full-time writer, married to a filmmaker environmentalist, and we live in the lovely university town of Guelph, Ontario. My Thornleigh Saga is a series of historical novels that follow a middle class English family’s rise through three tumultuous Tudor reigns during which they make hard choices about loyalty, duty, family and love. The Queen's Exiles, just released, is the sixth book in the series.

What has been your greatest pleasure with writing the series?

Hearing from readers. I cherish every email that readers send. It means a lot to me when people take the time to let me know how much they've enjoyed the books and how the Thornleigh family's trials and tribulations have moved them.

Do you have a favorite book in the Thornleigh series, or is that like asking you to pick your favorite child?

Oh dear, that is a tricky one. I love the first book, The Queen's Lady, because of its indomitable heroine, Honor Larke, and her tempestuous relationship with Richard Thornleigh that launched the saga. And I love the most recent book, The Queen's Exiles, because it was a joy creating its entrepreneur heroine, Fenella Doorn. And I also have a soft spot in my heart for all four books in between!

THE QUEEN'S EXILES is the latest Thornleigh book, can you tell us what readers can expect in this novel?

Adventure. Love and heartbreak, risk and valor, and loyalties challenged in treacherous Tudor times. My favorite line from a recent review sums it up: "An epic tale of patriotism and treason, political upheaval and oppression, familial love and the ties that bind."

What was the hardest scene to write?

A horrific scene of two children being killed by order of the brutal Duke of Alba. It was heart-wrenching. In writing it, I wept.

What was your favorite scene to write?

The book's opening. It introduces Fenella Doorn running her successful ship-refitting business on the island of Sark when Baron Adam Thornleigh sails into her bay in a shot-up ship and changes her life. The surprising and dangerous action that Fenella takes in this opening scene forces her to flee Sark, and she joins Thornleigh in his search for his stolen children.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I won a short story contest. That lit up my world. The win came later in life - at the time, I was enjoying a successful career as an actor - so it was a challenge to put that career on hold and focus on writing instead. (The first novel took me three years.) But the change of direction paid off when that novel attracted a top agent, Al Zuckerman of Writers House in New York. He sold it within a month and I've been with Al ever since.

Who are your writing inspirations?

I've been inspired all my life by big sagas. Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. Herman Wouk's The Winds of War. Leon Uris's Trinity. Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. James Clavell's Shogun. I admire the way these works combine adventure, game-changer moments in history, and personal crises of conscience.

What genres do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

These days I'm reading a lot of narrative non-fiction. I love the works of great non-fiction authors like John McPhee and Simon Winchester and Adam Hochschild. Although, right now I'm in the middle of a novel, The Goldfinch, the Pulitzer prize-winner by Donna Tartt, and I'm finding it simply magnificent.

What was the first historical novel you read?

Something I read when I was about twelve, about Eleanor of Aquitaine. I'm ashamed to say I forget both its title and author.

What is the last historical novel you read?

An Officer and a Spy, the stunning new novel by Robert Harris. It's gripping, deeply moving, and brilliant.

What are three things people may not know about you?

1. I'm a sailor. My husband and I sail our Cal-46 ketch on beautiful Georgian Bay, Lake Huron.
2. I'm a vegetarian.
3. My daughter Sara is a registered holistic nutritionist with a terrific blog called "If Your Body Could Talk." Check out her great recipes!

What are you working on next?

Finishing my new novel, The Traitor's Daughter, which will be released in June 2015. It's set in the dangerous spy world of Elizabeth I. The adventures of the Thornleigh family continue!

The Queen's Exiles 

Pub Date: May 27, 2014 | Kensington Publishing | eBook, Paperback

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Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. And in the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise. Scottish-born Fenella Doorn salvages crippled vessels. It is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him. But Adam and Fenella will put their lives in peril as they attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the Crown, and restore a peace that few can remember. With eloquent and enthralling finesse, Barbara Kyle illuminates one of history's grimmest chapters. The Queen's Exiles breathes new life into an extraordinary age when love and freedom could only be won with unmitigated courage.


Praise for The Queen's Exiles

“Riveting Tudor drama in the bestselling vein of Philippa Gregory” – USA Today

“A bold and original take on the Tudors that dares to be different. Enjoy the adventure!” – Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author

“This moving adventure pulses with Shakespearean passions: love and heartbreak, risk and valour, and loyalties challenged in a savage time. Fenella Doorn, savvy and brave, is an unforgettable heroine.” – Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival

“Brilliant. A page-turner of love and loyalty in treacherous Tudor times. A truly unforgettable adventure.” – Deborah Swift, author of A Divided Inheritance

“A vivid and compelling novel by an author at the very top of her craft.” – Diane Haeger, author of I, Jane

Praise for Barbara Kyle's Books

“Kyle knows what historical fiction readers crave.” – RT Book Reviews on Blood Between Queens

“A complex and fast-paced plot mixing history with vibrant characters” – Publishers Weekly on The King’s Daughter

“An all-action thriller, bringing to life the passion and perils of the Tudor period.” – Lancashire Evening Post on The King’s Daughter

“Riveting…adventurous…superb!” – The Historical Novels Review on The Queen’s Gamble

“An exciting tale of the intrigue and political manoeuvring in the Tudor court.” – Booklist on The Queen’s Captive

“Boldly strides into Philippa Gregory territory…sweeping, gritty and realistic.” – The Historical Novels Review on The Queen’s Lady

Buy the Book

Amazon CA
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

About the Author

Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed, internationally-published Thornleigh Saga novels which follow a middle-class English family's rise through three tumultuous Tudor reigns:

The Queen's Exiles
Blood Between Queens
The Queen’s Gamble
The Queen’s Captive
The King’s Daughter
The Queen’s Lady
The Queen's Exiles
The Traitor's Daughter (June 2015)

Barbara was a speaker in 2013 at the world-renowned Stratford Festival with her talk Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers' organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S.

For more information visit You can also connect with Barbara at Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Lies Told In Silence Book Blast & Giveaway

Today at Passages to the Past I am proudly hosting M.K. Tod's Book Blast & Giveaway for Lies Told in Silence, her latest historical release set during World War I. I had the honor of reading an early version and it was fabulous! I have three copies up for grabs, so be sure to enter the giveaway below!

02_Lies Told in Silence Cover 

Pub Date: June 29, 2014 | Tod Publishing | eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

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In 1914 Paris half the city expects war while the other half scoffs at the possibility.

With knowledge gained from his role at the War Department, Henri Noisette fears that Germany may soon attack Paris. He therefore sends his wife, mother and two younger children to Beaufort, a small village in northern France. By late 1914, instead of a safe haven, Beaufort is less than twenty miles from the front.

As war unfolds, Henri’s daughter, Helene, grows up quickly and in 1917 falls in love with Edward Jamieson, a young Canadian soldier.

The novel examines love and loss, duty and sacrifice and the unexpected consequence of lies.

Praise for Lies Told in Silence

‘Dramatically depicts the horror and heartbreak of war, while also celebrating the resilience of the human spirit.’ - SHARON KAY PENMAN author of A King’s Ransom

'An intricate, well-researched novel of life forever changed by WWI yet still sweet with the tender innocence of the age.’ - DONNA RUSSO MORIN author of The King’s Agent

‘M.K. Tod is a powerful new voice in the historical fiction genre.’ - AMY BRUNO Historical fiction blogger at Passages to the Past

‘An absorbing and rewarding historical read .. depicting the ruinous impact of war on human lives across the generations.’ - MARGARET EVANS PORTER author of The Proposal

‘A compelling read right up to its taut page-turning ending.’ - RICHARD LEE founder of the Historical Novel Society

Buy the Book

Amazon US
Amazon UK

About the Author

03_M.K. TodM.K. Tod has enjoyed a passion for historical novels that began in her early teenage years immersed in the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer. During her twenties, armed with Mathematics and Computer Science degrees, she embarked on a career in technology and consulting continuing to read historical fiction in the tiny snippets of time available to working women with children to raise.

In 2004, she moved to Hong Kong with her husband and no job. To keep busy Mary decided to research her grandfather’s part in the Great War. What began as an effort to understand her grandparents’ lives blossomed into a full time occupation as a writer. Her debut novel is UNRAVELLED: Two wars, Two affairs. One Marriage. LIES TOLD IN SILENCE, her second novel, is set in WWI France and tells the story of Helene Noisette who featured in Unravelled. Mary has an active blog - - which discusses all aspects of historical fiction and includes author and reader interviews. Additionally, she is a book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. Mary lives in Toronto where she is happily married with two adult children.

Connect with M.K. Tod on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Lies Told in Silence Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, July 28
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Book Blast at Our Wolves Den

Tuesday, July 29
Review at Just One More Chapter
Book Blast at Book Babe
Book Blast at A Book Geek
Book Blast at Mel's Shelves

Wednesday, July 30
Review at Bookish
Book Blast at Passages to the Past

Thursday, July 31
Book Blast at Royalty Free Fiction

Friday, August 1
Book Blast at Back Porchervations
Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time

Saturday, August 2
Book Blast at Mythical Books

Monday, August 4
Review & Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Book Blast at Historical Tapestry

Tuesday, August 5
Book Blast at Layered Pages
Book Blast at Princess of Eboli
Book Blast at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, August 6
Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse
Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes

Thursday, August 7
Review at The Book Binder's Daughter
Book Blast at Kinx's Book Nook

Friday, August 8
Book Blast at The Maiden's Court
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter

Monday, August 11
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Book Blast at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Tuesday, August 12
Book Blast at Book Nerd
Book Blast at The Bookworm

Wednesday, August 13
Review at The Writing Desk

Thursday, August 14
Book Blast at Words and Peace
Book Blast at CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, August 15
Review at Lost in Books
Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer

Sunday, August 17
Book Blast at Brooke Blogs

Monday, August 18
Review at The Librarian Fatale
Review at Historical Fiction Notebook


To win a copy of M.K. Tod's Lies Told In Silence please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open internationally!

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on August 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 19th and notified via email.
Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Blog Tour Wrap-Up: Go Away Home by Carol Bodensteiner

Today is the last day on Carol Bodensteiner's Blog Tour for her newly released historical Go Away Home and what a tour it's been! Here's a recap for you, as well as links to the giveaways that are still going on.

What reviewers are saying about Go Away Home...

Patty @ Broken Teepee: (4.5 stars) "This is a well written story about a young woman, Liddie who was born on a farm in Iowa at the turn of the 20th century. I felt myself quite engrossed in the story and found it very hard to put down. It wasn't all sweetness and light and Liddie learns some hard lessons as she grows up. Ms. Bodensteiner has a very strong feel for the era and its mores and I would love to follow the characters further."

Kathryn @ A Bibliotaph's Reviews (4 stars): "Bodensteiner draws on familial history within this tale, and her writing leaves the reader with a sense of homesickness for one's family. Her writing style is detailed but not in a manner that overloads the reader with information. She often leaves them guessing as to what will come next. I highly recommend this book."

Lauralee @ History from a Woman's Perspective (4 stars): "Overall, the book is about family, friendship, love, loss, sacrifice, choices, and hope. It is also about a person’s quest for home. The pace of the novel is easygoing, reminiscent of a leisurely Sunday morning. However, it is pleasing and you care what happens to Liddie. I recommend this book to anyone interested in early 20th century America, life in the rural Midwest, and those who face tough choices in their own lives."

Kathleen @ CelticLady's Reviews: "Go Away Home is written abut the daily struggles within a family during a tough time in our American history. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am not sure if there is to be a sequel, but I think it would be interesting to see what happens to Liddie in the future. I highly recommend this book!"

Guest Posts

Carol Bodensteiner on Inspiration

Researching Historical Fiction "Just in Time"


Let Them Read Books (Ends July 28)
Broken Teepee (Ends August 1)

Review & Giveaway: The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport

Pub Date: June 3, 2014 | St. Martin's Press | eBook, Hardcover
Acquired by: Publisher| Edelweiss

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★  
Genre: History/Non-Fiction

They were the Princess Dianas of their day—perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.

Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it.

The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I and the Russian Revolution. Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionados.

My Review

Wow, what an incredibly fascinating and heart-wrenching read! I've long been intrigued by the story of the Romanov family and in particular, the four sisters, Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia - collectively known as OTMA - so I immediately requested to review Rappaport's book as soon as it popped up on Edelweiss and I am so glad that I did!

Rappaport delivers a highly enjoyable and insightful read that was never dry or boring. The Romanov girls personalities shine through and the reader comes away with a sense of having known them intimately, which makes their ending all that more tragic with the final scene (be sure to have hankies at the ready!) Rappaport of course also touches on the politics of the time, their dominating mother Alexandra, and their brother Alexei's hemophilia.

I would recommend The Romanov Sisters to anyone wanting to learn more about the ill-fated Romanovs. It's one that will stay with you a long time after closing the book.


I have one copy of The Romanov Sisters up for grabs thanks to St. Martin's Press. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on August 3.

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Interview & Giveaway: A Triple Knot by Emma Campion

Today at Passages to the Past please welcome author Emma Campion!  Emma is currently on Blog
Tour with TLC Book Tours and today I have the honor of hosting her with an interview and giveaway!

Hi Emma and welcome to Passages to the Past! We really appreciate you stopping by and congratulate you on the release of A TRIPLE KNOT!

Thank you! And thank you for inviting me to Passages to the Past.

What inspired you to write about Joan of Kent?

Long ago I read Karl Wentersdorf’s article “The Clandestine Marriages of the Fair Maid of Kent” (Journal of Medieval History 5: 1979, 203-231) with astonishment. It’s an account of Joan’s knotty marital status gleaned primarily from the papal records of Thomas Holland’s petition claiming Joan as his wife. What a story! But I couldn’t think how to use it at the time, so I filed it away. When I was researching Alice Perrers’s life for The King’s Mistress I became aware of how accepting the reputations passed down through generations of scholars without pausing to question them blinds us to how little we actually know, distracts us from delving and discovering the subtleties and the pain that make up the individual. Historians, myself included, had certainly fallen prey to this regarding Alice Perrers. It happened with Joan as well. Wentersdorf said that early historians assumed that she and Thomas Holland made up a story they hoped would free her from an unhappy marriage. Historians simply rejected the idea that such a young woman—though one considered of marriageable age in that period—would do something so radical. Essentially, they preferred to think that the papal court had been duped by lovers telling a painfully obvious lie. Really? Weren’t the more interesting questions how Joan and Thomas managed to secretly wed, and why? Isn’t their steadfastness a remarkable story? That’s certainly the one I wanted to tell.

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

Most of all, I want to engage readers in an emotional experience, and show why Joan chose to be buried beside Sir Thomas Holland.

I see Joan as a poignantly human figure. Tragedy struck her family when she was very young, and I doubt that she, her brother, or her mother ever felt entirely safe at court. Fear provoked her to take matters into her own young hands. I hope that comes through.

And I like to think I’ve poked some holes in the romantic image of Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince. The chronicles make clear that he was as ruthless as his grandfather, Edward I. Surely that wasn’t an aspect of his personality that he shed with his armor.

What was the hardest scene to write?

The one that comes to mind was not so much the hardest to write, but the one I had trouble settling on, and that was the first scene. Originally the book opened with Joan’s mother remembering her husband, Edmund of Kent, supporting young Philippa, his nephew’s wife, at her coronation. Then I tried the same scene from Philippa’s point of view. After going back and forth with those for months, I decided it was far more interesting and to the point to show Joan and Ned together as children, and Joan’s fierce determination that her father should be remembered, honored, avenged. Yet still I couldn’t quite decide on the scene until I settled on the significance of the white hart emblem to Joan. Then it all fell into place.

What was your favorite scene to write?

Joan in the orchard at her aunt’s castle, as the pestilence ravishes the land. It’s one of the few scenes I wrote in the very first draft. Something about the memory of childhood summers—I kept returning to that to remind myself of Joan’s vulnerability.

A very close second is the shipboard scene when Joan and Thomas meet. It’s a scene naturally rich in atmosphere—a young woman on a journey away from all she knows, out on deck at night on a sailing ship on the North sea, the man on whom she’s developed a crush being so kind to her.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer and why historical fiction?

I toyed with writing at a very young age—poetry. Oy. You can imagine. In high school I fell in love with journalism. At some point in graduate school I began to dabble in fiction. I didn’t try historical fiction until Ursula LeGuin encouraged me to do so at a workshop on science fiction and fantasy, a few summers out from grad school. I felt right at home.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Ursula LeGuin for clean, authentic voice and the glimmer of a smile, and for the advice she gave me that set me on my path. For this particular book, Anthony Goodman, the historian to whom I dedicated the book, who shared with me his notes toward a biography of Joan. When I laughingly warned him that my impression of Edward of Woodstock (the Black Prince) wildly differed from his, he applauded me and encouraged me to go with my gut feeling. JRR Tolkien for his marvelous evocation of wayfaring life in the middle ages. And far too many gifted novelists to name here. Though I must mention the late great Anya Seton, whose Katherine was for all practical purposes a prerequisite (along with Tolkien) for graduate school in Anglo Saxon and Medieval studies.

 What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

It varies. Of late it’s been WWI. I read Pat Barker’s Life Class and Toby’s Room this past winter, then decided to reread her Regeneration Trilogy.

What was the first historical novel you read?

The earliest one that left a strong impression was a biography of Marie Antoinette—I thought it cruel how, in full view of a number of officials, she was ceremoniously stripped of her clothes and then dressed in French court attire, a symbol that she had left her family and country behind.

What is the last historical novel you read?

Lady Macbeth by Susan King. Magnificent! Actually, after that I read Mary-Rose MacColl’s In Falling Snow, which is partially historical—WWI again. An absorbing read, particularly the background of the hospitals run by women.

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

Here are the CDs on endless loop: La Bele Marie and An English Ladymass, Anonymous 4; A Song for Francesca, Lancaster and Valois, and The Service of Venus and Mars, Gothic Voices; Codex Chantilly: Airs de Cour du XIVe siécle, Ensemble Organum; English Songs of the Middle Ages, Sequentia.

What are three things people may not know about you? 

I’m almost 100% Polish, according to my parents. I’ve begun perhaps a dozen haunted house stories only to abandon them as trite. I don’t know what keeps pulling me back, though the inspiration usually strikes in early autumn. I have been within a foot of lutefisk and lived to tell the tale, with my sense of smell intact.

What are you working on next?

At the moment, I’m working on A Rumor of Wolves, the 11th Owen Archer mystery (writing as Candace Robb). My agent has submitted a proposal for a second novel about Joan of Kent, covering her marriage to Prince Edward.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014 | Broadway Books | eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

The critically acclaimed author of The King's Mistress brings another fascinating woman from history to life in an enthralling story of political intrigue, personal tragedy, and illicit love.

Joan of Kent, renowned beauty and cousin to King Edward III, is destined for a politically strategic marriage. As the king begins a long dynastic struggle to claim the crown of France, plunging England into the Hundred Years’ War, he negotiates her betrothal to a potential ally and heir of a powerful lordship.

But Joan, haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution at the hands of her treacherous royal kin, fears the king’s selection and is not resigned to her fate. She secretly pledges herself to one of the king’s own knights, one who has become a trusted friend and protector. Now she must defend her vow as the king—furious at Joan’s defiance—prepares to marry her off to another man.

In A Triple Knot, Emma Campion brings Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent” to glorious life, deftly weaving details of King Edward III’s extravagant court into a rich and emotionally resonant tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal.

Praise for A Triple Knot

“Emma Campion brings Plantagenet history to life in this 'You Are There' historical novel. A Triple Knot unties a fascinating puzzle from the past and pulls the reader into the loves and losses, tragedies and triumphs of a dynamic woman, Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent. An impressively researched and realistically rendered novel.”
—Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of The First Princess of Wales

“A Triple Knot is a superbly written, evocative tale of Joan of Kent that captivated me from the first page and held me until the very end. With a deft eye for detail and a wonderfully authentic evocation of time and place, Campion has delivered what is certain to become a classic.”
—Diane Haeger, author of The Secret Bride: In the Court of Henry VIII

“In this meticulously researched, richly detailed and empathetic novel, Emma Campion skillfully brings to life the enchanting Joan, Fair Maid of Kent and First Princess of Wales who was described by the chronicler Jean Froissart as ‘the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving.' With a bigamous union bracketed by two secret marriages—one to the Black Prince—she makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the glittering court of Edward III where intrigue and danger walk hand in hand with royalty and love.”
—Sandra Worth, author of The King’s Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen

“Emma Campion's portrayal of Joan of Kent is exquisite. A Triple Knot dazzled, packed with all the romance and intrigue of Plantagenet England. Vivid, well researched and beautifully written, Campion's Joan of Kent is a worthy heroine and one you will never forget.”
—Ella March Chase, author of The Virgin Queen’s Daughter and The Queen's Dwarf

“With grace, accuracy and authenticity, Emma Campion brings Joan of Kent and her world to vivid, captivating life in A Triple Knot. Campion’s 14th century is as detailed, gorgeous and fascinating as a millefleur tapestry—her history is immaculate, her characters convincing, and Joan, who is sometimes glossed over in the history books as the Fair Maid of Kent and little more, is complex yet sympathetic as Campion clarifies all the questions that historians might raise about this enigmatic woman. This exciting, compelling historical novel immerses the reader until the very last sentence. I loved A Triple Knot and I look forward to more from Emma Campion!”
—Susan Fraser King, author of Lady Macbeth and Queen Hereafter

“A Triple Knot is the story of a steadfast love pitted against the cold, political maneuverings of 14th century Plantagenet royals. Set amid the hardships and uncertainties of the Hundred Years War, Emma Campion’s portrayal of Joan of Kent and of the men who seek to claim her is masterful, sweeping us into a high medieval world that is both gracious and grim. Brilliantly imagined, this is a complex and ravishing blend of history, intrigue, scandal and romance.”
—Patricia Bracewell, author of Shadow on the Crown

About the Author

EMMA CAMPION is the author of The King's Mistress and did her graduate work in medieval and Anglo-Saxon literature. She lives in Seattle. Visit her at

Emma Campion's TLC Blog Tour Stops for this week...

Wednesday, July 23rd:  Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, July 23rd:  Unabridged Chick
Thursday, July 24th:  Historical Fiction Notebook


To win a copy of A Triple Knot please complete the form below. Giveaway is open to US/Canada only and ends on August 2nd.

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Excerpt & Giveaway: Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Today I have the honor of hosting Susanna Kearsley's pre-publication excerpt tour with Sourcebooks and sharing with you a sneak peek from Susanna's upcoming book, Season of Storms! I also have one advanced reading copy to give away, be sure to enter the giveaway below.

From Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

“It isn’t me he wants, it’s just the name,” I said to Robert.

We’d stopped walking now to stand beneath the central southern window that was glowing with that softly golden light that seems to seek out empty churches in the quiet early evening. I had to tilt my head a long way back to read the lettering cut in the marble stone above. And though I’d read it countless times before, it still felt strange to see my own name spelt there: Celia Sands.

Rupert, at my shoulder, gave a cough that stirred my hair, and from the angle of the sound I knew that he was looking up as well. “Perhaps,” he said, his quiet voice not echoing as mine had in the soaring space. His tone was noncom¬mittal. Rupert rarely offered an opinion. I’d always found that maddening, especially when as a child I’d wanted his advice, but it was one of those small things that made him such a good director, his ability to let a thing develop, not to interfere.

That said, I didn’t think it wholly accidental that he’d wanted me to meet him here, at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden.

This was the “actor’s church,” a landmark of the theatre district, the names on its marble memorials reading like some sort of heavenly cast list: Sir Michael Redgrave, Dame Edith Evans, Sir Noël Coward…all properly humbling to someone like me, who had only just cracked the West End, and that in a role with ten minutes onstage and three lines, barely noticed by anyone.

“I don’t know, Roo.” I exhaled a breath that fell short of a sigh and looked down again, turning away from the memorial stone. “I don’t know that I’d feel quite comfort¬able taking a role like this.”
“Why not?” His question made no judgment.

“Well, for one thing, I haven’t auditioned. He’s never even seen me act. He’d never have known I existed if you hadn’t told him.” There was an accusation in my tone, and he responded with a calm defense.

“You only came up in conversation because—”

“Because of my name. I know.”

Silence for a minute, as both of us looked up again at the marble memorial stone. Rupert coughed.

“He does have my word for your abilities.”

“Yes, well.” I glanced back, slanting him a smile. “You are a little biased, don’t you think? And anyhow, that’s just what I’ve been saying—I don’t want to get a part because of who I know, or whose daughter I am, or whose name I happen to have. Besides,” I said, “I’m building a career as Celia Sullivan, I can’t just throw that all away, not now. And if I do this play as Celia Sands, I might as well forget about my stage name, because everyone else will—it’s going to get attention, this play, because of what it is, and where it’s being done. If I do it, I’ll be Celia Sands for the rest of my life.”

“You have to do what you think best, of course.” Glancing down at his watch, he said, “Come on, time we were going. I told Bryan we’d meet him at the club at seven sharp, and it doesn’t do to leave him sitting too long in the bar.”

“You think I should take the part.”

“I haven’t said anything.”

“But you think I should take it.”

He smiled, not replying; turned and, hands in pockets, led me back along the peaceful dimness of the aisle towards the door, while from the shadows in the corners all the actors who still haunted St. Paul’s Church appeared to watch and wait, as I did, for his answer.

Pub Date: September 2, 2014 | Sourcebooks Landmark | eBook, Paperback

In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D’Ascanio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed.

Now, two generations later, Alessandro D’Ascanio plans to stage his grandfather’s masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands—at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D’Ascanio’s magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake’s disappearance—and to the compelling, enigmatic Alessandro.

But the closer Celia gets to learning the first Celia’s fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back…

Season of Storms just received a STARRED review from Booklist:

“Kearsley seems to be channeling Mary Stewart or Victoria Holt in this mesmerizing modern gothic.”—Booklist, starred review

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards. Other honors include finaling for the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award, National Readers’ Choice Awards, and the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize. Her popular and critically-acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audio books. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.


To win an advanced reading copy of Season of Storms please enter the form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on August 1st.

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2015 Release: Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb

Major squeal alert! Heather Webb just unveiled the cover of her highly-anticipated upcoming release of Rodin's Lover and it's awesome!

Pub Date: January 27, 2014 | Plume

A mesmerizing tale of art and passion in Belle Époque France...

As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness.

Rodin’s Lover brings to life the volatile love affair between one of the era’s greatest artists and a woman entwined in a tragic dilemma she cannot escape.

Praise for Rodin's Lover

"Camille Claudel is an audacious and authentic character who deserves to be remembered. Rodin’s Lover is epic and unflinching--a book you won't soon forget." --Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author of City of Jasmine

“Written with great empathy, this novel of the visceral world of Paris ateliers, of clay-stained dresses and fingernails, and talent which endures, comes vividly to life." -Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet

About the Author

Heather Webb is a former French teacher, a blogger, and a member of the Historical Novel Society. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

Giveaway: Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

Today is the release day in the US of the first book in Conn Iggulden's series, Wars of the Roses: Stormbird, and thanks to the publisher I have two copies to give away!

Pub Date: July 8, 2014 | G. P. Putnam’s Sons | eBook, Paperback

In the middle of the fifteenth century, a mentally unstable and physically feeble young King Henry VI makes a fateful bargain, under the influence of spymaster Derry Brewer, giving up a large swath of England’s hard-won territory in France in exchange for twenty years of peace and marriage to a young French princess. But the deal quickly sours, as the newly reclaimed French territories slide into warfare, Henry’s nobles seethe, and thousands of his subjects revolt. Henry’s new queen, the remarkable and resourceful Margaret of Anjou, finds that instead of enjoying a life of peace and luxury, she must save her weak-willed husband from multiple threats to his throne. A rebel army attacks the heart of London, sons and fathers battle one another, and great men betray their king. It is the beginning of the Wars of the Roses, when the House of York, represented by a white rose, and Henry VI’s House of Lancaster, symbolized by a red one, bitterly fought for control of what would ultimately become the world’s most powerful and influential nation.

Conn Iggulden is one of the most successful and critically praised authors of historical fiction writing today, with over seven million copies of his books sold worldwide. Now, with WARS OF THE ROSES, he plunges readers into one of the most bloody and brutal periods in history, when two rival branches of one royal English family threw their country into a devastating, decades-long civil war. In a starred review, Kirkus says:

“Capturing the stink and gore, violence and romance of medieval life, Iggulden makes real those grand characters who live in the collective memory. A page-turner sure to have readers eager for the next in the series.”

Watch the Book Trailer

About the Author

Conn Iggulden is the author of two previous series on Julius Caesar and on the Mongol Khans of Central Asia and also the co-author of The Dangerous Book for Boys. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and children.


Passages to the Past has two copies of Wars of the Roses: Stormbird up for grabs! To enter please complete form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on July 18.

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Spotlight & Giveaway: Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

Today kicks off Susan Spann's Blog Tour for Blade of the Samurai: A Shinobi Mystery (Book #2, Shinobi Mysteries Series) and I have a chance for one of you lucky people to win a copy! Susan's tour with HF Virtual Book Tours runs through August 1st, be sure to see the schedule of stops below.

Blade of the Samurai 

Pub Date: July 15, 2014 | Minotaur Books | Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Series: Shinobi Mystery
Genre: Historical Mystery

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June, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the Shogun’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the Shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the Shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor.

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the Shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the Shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the Shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the Shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time … or die in his place.

Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in 16th century Japan.

Book One of the Shinobi Mysteries series, Claws of the Cat, was released in 2013.

Praise for Blast of the Samurai

“The second Hiro Hattori mystery (after 2013’s Claws of the Cat) finds the sixteenth-century ninja—and unofficial investigator—presented with an interesting problem…A strong second entry in a very promising series.”—Booklist

“Hiro and Father Mateo’s second adventure (Claws of the Cat, 2013) combines enlightenment on 16th-century Japanese life with a sharp and well-integrated mystery.”—Kirkus Reveiws

Buy the Book

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

About the Author

Susan Spann 1Susan Spann acquired her love of books and reading during her preschool days in Santa Monica, California. As a child she read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest. When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, online gaming, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her highly distracting marine aquarium. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.

For more information please visit Susan Spann's website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Blade of the Samurai Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, July 7
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, July 8
Review at Closed the Cover

Wednesday, July 9
Review at Staircase Wit
Guest Post & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Thursday, July 10
Review at Boolover Book Reviews

Monday, July 14
Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, July 16
Review at Buried Under Books

Thursday, July 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Claws of the Cat)
Spotlight at Reviews by Molly

Friday, July 18
Review at History Undressed

Monday, July 21
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Tuesday, July 22
Review at Judith Starkston
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, July 23
Review at The True Book Addict

Thursday, July 24
Interview at Layered Pages

Monday, July 28
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, July 29
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, July 30
Review at Princess of Eboli

Thursday, July 31
Review at A Fantastical Librarian

Friday, August 1
Review at Reading the Ages


To win a copy of Susan Spann's Blade of the Samurai please enter the form below. Giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only and ends on July 17th.

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Interview with Carol Bodensteiner + Giveaway of Go Away Home

Please welcome author Carol Bodensteiner to the blog today! Carol's Blog Tour for her novel Go
Away Home kicks off today and she has graciously stopped by to answer some questions for us. I also have a copy of this exciting new historical up for grabs!

Hi Carol! Congratulations on the release of Go Away Home and many thanks for spending some time with us here at Passages to the Past! 

My pleasure, Amy. Thanks for inviting me to talk about my latest favorite project, Go Away Home!

Go Away Home was inspired by the story of your maternal grandparents, when and why were you inspired to write about them?

The idea that became Go Away Home has been in my head since I learned as a child that my grandfather died of the Spanish Flu in 1918. Throughout my life, I’ve been intrigued by my connection to this major world event. Of course I never knew my grandfather and even though my grandmother lived until I was well into my 20s, I never asked her a single question about him or their lives together. And she was not the type to share.

So, this story is based on a few facts, but it’s entirely fiction. In a way, the book creates a life for the man I never knew and for the grandmother I only knew as a stern old woman.

After I published my memoir, Growing Up Country, the thought of doing something with this story wouldn’t get out of my head. Five or six years late, here we are.

How much of Go Away Home is fact and what parts did you have to fill in?

The longer I worked on the story, the more it became fiction. I was told, for instance, that my grandmother went to a sewing school. Research told me that the town in question didn’t have a sewing school, rather that young girls apprenticed with seamstresses as a way to learn an important life skill and to meet a man to marry. This idea that seamstresses were invited to their clients’ house parties had a lot more dramatic potential so I ran with that. Another bit of fact to fiction. My grandmother took pictures, but the whole part in the book about the main character’s work for a photographer and her relationship with him is entirely fiction. Most of the book is that way. Tiny fact. Huge fiction.

What would you like readers to take away from reading Go Away Home?

Overall, I hope readers will be touched by the characters and the story. That would mean they felt the story was well told, which was my goal. I hope readers will empathize with the challenges the main character Liddie faces in making choices and perhaps go further to consider their own choices. Are we happy with our choices? What regrets do we have? Finally, I hope readers come away from the book knowing more about rural life in the early 20th century.

What was the hardest scene to write?

Without getting into the details because it would be a spoiler, the hardest scene to write was early in the book when a character dies. The reason this was hard to write was because I was drawing from a well of emotion created when someone close to me died. I had to relive those moments during the writing. It’s hard to see the computer monitor when I’m crying!

What was your favorite scene to write?

One of my favorite scenes is when my main character Liddie makes a serious mistake at her job and attempts to hide it. When she’s found out, she takes responsibility as she never has before. I liked this scene because it shows real growth for Liddie. Go Away Home is a coming of age novel, and in this scene, Liddie really grows up.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been a writer all of my life. In the third grade I entertained thoughts of being a creative writer. Those thoughts gave way to a more-practical-at-the-moment career in business where I wrote all the time but in a different way. About 15 years ago, I decided to try my hand at creative writing again. I’ve been in heaven learning the tools and techniques of creative writing and now publishing my second book. I’ve never regretted leaving the business world behind to take this new road.

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

I’m enjoy the outdoors. My husband and I live on an acreage. I put a portion of the acreage in prairie flowers and grasses when we moved here nine years ago. That’s now an area of joy for me and every child who visits. We also have a big vegetable garden, and the flower gardens around the house get bigger every year. These spaces are wonderful for giving my writing brain a break.

What was the first historical novel you read?

I know John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath wasn’t written as an historical novel, but when I read it in the 1960s, I read it as such. It’s a book that made a profound impression on me. I knew those people. I understood their desperation. I felt the heat and the grit. It’s that kind of writing I aspire to.

What is the last historical novel you read?

One of the best I’ve read recently is The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. Set in post-WWI Australia, the story is built on a powerful metaphor of choice - a lighthouse marking the way between the calm Indian Ocean and the stormy Southern Ocean. The writing excellent. The premise thought-provoking. The situation disturbing.

What historical time period or setting do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I enjoy any historical era if the stories are well written, but in the past few years I find myself most often seeking out novels from the early 20th century. No doubt because that’s the era I’m writing about. One hundred plus years ago isn’t really so long ago. I can relate to the people and situations because I can imagine my own grandparents in that time.

Is there another novel in the works that you can tell us about?

I’ve started outlining an idea that’s been simmering in the back of my brain for several years. In time-honored writing tradition, the frame of this story is ancient, though the setting will be modern. I won’t be able to give it my full attention until the end of July, after Go Away Home is launched to the world, but the idea is persistent. I’m sure it won’t let me get away.

Many thanks for letting me chat with your readers, Amy. And thanks for kicking off this great month with the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour. I’m excited.

02_Go Away Home 

Pub Date: July 1, 2014 | Rising Sun Press | Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Liddie Treadway grew up on a family farm where options for her future were marriage or teaching. Encouraged by suffragette rhetoric and her maiden aunt, Liddie is determined to avoid both and pursue a career. Her goal is within her grasp when her older sister’s abrupt departure threatens to keep her on the farm forever.

Once she is able to experience the world she’s dreamed of, Liddie is enthralled with her independence, a new-found passion for photography, and the man who teaches her. Yet, the family, friends, and life of her youth tug at her heart, and she must face the reality that life is not as simple, or the choices as clear-cut, as she once imagined.

GO AWAY HOME is a coming-of-age novel that explores the enduring themes of family, friendship, and love, as well as death and grief. This novel will resonate with anyone who’s confronted the conflict between dreams and reality and come to recognize that getting what you want can be a two-edged sword.

Praise for Go Away Home

“Go Away Home is … a tale of choices, dreams realized and rejected, and how values evolve … gently compelling and highly believable.” – D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“Excellent characters and an extremely realistic plot … Go Away Home is the perfect story of coming home.” – Samantha Rivera, Readers’ Favorite reviewer

“… a heart-warming and heart-wrenching tale … a story that promises to fulfill what it is to be alive when one chooses the life one wants to live, despite the consequences” – Paulette Mahurin, author of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

“Go Away Home is a coming of age novel that is well-written, compelling, and endearing … a strong sense of place, excellent character development, and an engaging plot line.” – Kara Logsden, Iowa City Public Library

“Every life is a story, no matter how mundane it may appear on the surface, but it takes a writer like Carol Bodensteiner to draw a reader in and keep them turning the pages. Bodensteiner … writes characters with depth … she’s captured the era … with meticulous historical detail.“ – J. P. Lane, author of The Tangled Web

About the Author

Carol Bodensteiner grew up in the heartland of the United States, and she continues to draw writing inspiration from the people, places, culture, and history of the area. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She is the author of Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, a memoir. Her essays have been published in several anthologies. Go Away Home is her first novel.

For more information please visit Carol Bodensteiner's Website/Blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn. Sign up for Carol's Newsletter.

Go Away Home Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 8
Interview & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, July 10
Guest Post at Closed the Cover

Friday, July 11
Review & Giveaway at History From a Woman's Perspective

Monday, July 14
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, July 15
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, July 17
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Friday, July 18
Review at A Bibliotaph's Reviews
Guest Post at Jorie Loves a Story

Monday, July 21
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Tuesday, July 22
Spotlight & Giveaway at Caroline Wilson Writes

Thursday, July 24
Review & Giveaway at Closed the Cover

Friday, July 25
Tour Recap at Passages to the Past


Passages to the Past has one paperback copy up for grabs! To enter please complete the form below. Giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only and ends on July 17.

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New Release: The Darkest Hour by Barbara Erskine

Pub Date: July 3, 2014 | HarperCollins | eBook, Hardcover

From the Sunday Times bestselling author comes an epic tale of love, passion and heartbreak.

Love is as uncertain and as untameable as war…

In the summer of 1940, most eyes are focussed on the skies above the South of England. The battle for Britain has just begun. But young Evie Lucas has eyes for no-one but a dashing young pilot called Tony. Evie has a glittering career as an artist ahead of her but seems to be wasting her time sketching endless portraits of Tony. She wants his parents to have something to remember him by in case it all goes wrong in the war…

Seventy years later, and recently widowed art historian Lucy is trying to put the pieces of her life back together. And in order to do that, Lucy needs to uncover the mystery surrounding a painting in her home. But as she accidentally ends up stirring up a hornet’s nest of history which has been deliberately obliterated, Lucy finds herself in danger from people past and present who have no intention of letting an untold truth ever surface.

New Release: Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion (a #HistFic Collaboration)

Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love is an exciting new historical collaboration novel from some of today's most talented writers! I picked up my copy the other day and can't wait to dive in!

Pub Date: July 1, 2014 | Berkley Trade | eBook, Paperback, Audio 

A war bride awaits the arrival of her GI husband at the platform...

A Holocaust survivor works at the Oyster Bar, where a customer reminds him of his late mother...

A Hollywood hopeful anticipates her first screen test and a chance at stardom in the Kissing Room...

On any particular day, thousands upon thousands of people pass through New York City's Grand Central Terminal, through the whispering gallery, beneath the ceiling of stars, and past the information booth and its beckoning four-faced clock, to whatever destination is calling them. It is a place where people come to say hello and good-bye. And each person has a story to tell.

Now, ten bestselling authors inspired by this iconic landmark have created their own stories, set on the same day, just after the end of World War II, in a time of hope, uncertainty, change, and renewal....

Featuring stories from...

Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife
Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us
Amanda Hodgkinson, New York Times bestselling author of 22 Britannia Road
Pam Jenoff, bestselling author of The Ambassador's Daughter
Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter
Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Baker's Daughter
Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of The Pieces We Keep
Alyson Richman, bestselling author of The Lost Wife
Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Call Me Zelda
Karen White, New York Times bestselling author of After the Rain

With an Introduction by...

Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Home Front

Review: Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Pub Date: July 8, 2014 | Thomas Dunne Books | Hardcover
Acquired by: Publisher

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Fairytale Retellings

“Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It’s my fate to be trapped here forever…”

Meet Captain Hook, a witty, educated pirate captain cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. Everything changes, however, with the arrival of Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, who dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.

With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release, that is if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt Stella down and drag Hook back to partake in their never-ending game.

My Review

"Fancy, a public statue of Pan, the boy tyrant in his motley of leaves, like a king or a hero. While Hook is reviled, the evil pirate, the villain. There is no statue to me."

Peter Pan was one my favorite children’s stories when I was little…fairies, flying, lost boys, mermaids, what isn’t there to love? Then came the release of the movie HOOK, starring Robin Williams, when I was a teenager and it was fantastic to re-visit the magical world of Pan, Tinker Bell, and Captain Hook. Now as an adult I am back again in Neverland, but this time author Lisa Jensen has turned it on its head! Take everything you know about Peter Pan and throw it out the door because nothing is as you remembered.

Alias Hook is a darker, R-rated version of the Peter Pan story that you know, as told from the villainous Captain Hook, but as the real man behind the legend. He tells of his life as the son of an aristocrat and how he ended up stuck for centuries in a Neverland purgatory, endlessly harassed by Pan and his Lost Boys. That sweet chance at freedom will come to Hook in the form of Stella Parrish, but it won’t be easy to break the spell keeping him there.

"It's folly to believe in phantom chances whispered on the wind in this kingdom of delusion."

One of the things that I love best about my Kindle is the ability to highlight passages, and boy did I highlight the crap out of this book. There were so many fantastic lines and quotes that I wanted to share but didn’t dare since I have an early reviewer copy. However, I stalked Lisa Jensen on Facebook and ran the lines by her and she kindly confirmed that the quotes I used in this review did make the final version.

There is no other way to describe Jensen’s writing other than magical. I was “hooked” from the very first page…and yes, that pun was indeed intended :) …and didn’t want to put it down until I absolutely had to, or when threatened by my husband or kids. Jensen is a natural storyteller, and she knows how to suck a reader in and keep them enthralled. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to read Alias Hook and I cannot wait to see what else in store from Lisa Jensen. If she reads this review, maybe she’ll comment and let us know! Whatever it is, I’ll be checking it out for sure!

Would you like a copy of Alias Hook for yourself? Enter my giveaway! Ends on July 13th.

Alias Hook Excerpt 

Him Or Me

Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile, which drags him down to a watery grave. Who could guess that below the water, the great beast would spew me out with a belch and a wink of its horned, livid eye? It was not yet my time to die, not then nor any other time. It’s my fate to be trapped here forever in a nightmare of childhood fancy with that infernal, eternal boy.

No one knows what came next, the part you never read about in the stories. I clawed through water bloodied by the corpses of my crew driven overboard to make a meal for the sharks, flailed for the hull of my ship before the sharks caught up to me.

I saw it all by moonrise as I hooked my way up the chains to the deck. One of my men lay asprawl on the hatch coaming, dead eyes staring at the moon, curled fingers frozen over his ruptured belly. Another had dragged himself a few paces toward the rail before he expired, leaving a smear of fresh blood on the deck that could never be stained red enough to disguise it. Half a dozen others lay about in shadowy heaps, limbs twisted, faces ghastly, silent as waxworks.

Everything stank of blood and decay. One man was draped face down over the foredeck rail, arrows sprouting from his back. The redskins were teaching the boys archery, as if they needed any more advantage over us in battle. None of the dead were boys.

Those who’d gone over the side screamed no more. The ship’s bell, rung when the battle commenced, tolled no more. Even the monstrous ticking had subsided. My ship was as silent as the tomb she had become. The boys had gone larking off again, but not in my ship; all of the fairies’ black arts could not raise my Jolie Rouge out of her moldering berth in the bay. Solemn drumbeats from the island told me the Indians were collecting their dead from our skirmish in the wood, but none were left to mourn my men but me.

I started for the nearest body, to drag it to the ship’s boat, but as I passed the deckhouse, something groaned within. The deckhouse. That’s where he’d hidden to lure us into his trap.

I shoved open the door, peered into the reeking gloom. Jukes I recognized by the sprawl of his tattoos in the ghostly moonlight. The Italian lay nearby, face frozen in an eternal scream. I crept in across sticky planks toward a soft grumble of pain, a sudden seizure of breath. My fingers touched still-living flesh, and Jukes groaned again. There was a new hieroglyph on his naked chest, thrust in with less art than the rest, and still leaking red. I knelt in the puddle, worked my hook arm round his back and propped him up. Heavy as a corpse already, yet his head lolled back on my arm and his dull eyes opened to look at me.

One. The boy had left me only one.

“Well, Bill.” I could scarcely steady my voice.

“Sorry, Cap’n,” he lisped through the blood in his mouth. “He come at me in the dark.”

“Don’t talk,” I cautioned, yet I was desperate for the comfort of his voice. We’d sailed together since New Providence; his pictographic skin was a living gallery of our exploits from the Indies to the Gold Coast. He was the closest thing I’d ever had to a friend in the pirate trade. “Save your strength.”

But it was already too late. We both knew it. The boy hadn’t even done it proper; life was escaping in an agonizing drip, not a clean burst.

Jukes dragged another tortured breath out of his ruined lungs. “Thought you was done for,” he wheezed.

“Come, now, you know me better than that.” I clenched my teeth in assumed heartiness. “No mere boy is a match for me.”

A furtive smile glimmered briefly amid the blue and black dots and calligraphic swirls on his face. I could see what even so slight a movement cost him in misery. There was only one way to help him now, could I but steel myself to do it.

“The women are warm in Hell, eh, Cap’n?” he prompted me.

“Save me a place at the Devil’s mess,” I answered by rote, summoning every ounce of my resolve.

Red bubbled between his teeth. “Aye, aye—”

His eyes bulged for an instant, whites agleam in the shadows, then the lids drooped in relief.

“Thank’ee, Cap’n,” wafted out on his last breath, as I extracted my knife from between his ribs.

Gone, all of them gone now. Slaughtered one by one, like a game. It’s all a game to the boys.

I stretched Jukes out beside the twisted Italian, sat back on my heels, forced my brain to think on practical matters. Two or three trips in the gig it would take to see them all properly consigned to deep water. The eerie, animal keening of the loreleis singing to the moon rose up across the water, cold and tormenting. I was the last human left alive in the Bay of Neverland.

The Neverland, they call it, the infant paradise, the puerile Eden where grown-ups dare not tread. They are wise to fear it. But all children visit in their dreams. He finds them by their longing, stray boys for his tribe and girls to tell him stories.

They are not always English children, although he is partial to London. They have erected a statue to him there. Fancy, a public statue of Pan, the boy tyrant in his motley of leaves, like a king or a hero. While Hook is reviled, the evil pirate, the villain. There is no statue to me.

I’ve heard all the stories. I know the world thinks me not only a simpering fop but a great coward, so affrighted by the crocodile I would empty my bowels at the first sinister tick of its clock. But it’s the ticking itself I can’t bear, the tolling of the minutes, the very seconds, that I am forced to spend in the Neverland for all eternity. Elsewhere, time is passing in the normal way, but not here. Not for me and the boy.

“It’s Hook or me this time,” the boy jeered as the massacre began. But it’s never him. And it’s never me. Since then, he has defeated me innumerable times, but never quite to the death. He wills it so, and his will rules all. How often have I felt my skin pierced, imagined in my wounded delirium that Death has relented and come for me at last? Yet every time, my blood stops leaking, my flesh knits. Sooner or later, my eyes open again to yet another bleak new day, with nothing to show for my pains but another scar on the wreckage of my body.

Is it any wonder I so often tried to kill him? Would not his death break the enchantment of this awful place and release us both? But I can never best him. He flies. He has youth and innocence on his side, and the heartlessness that comes with them. I have only heartlessness, and it is never, ever enough.

Outside the deckhouse, the night had gone dark. I crept out again, still drenched in Bill Jukes’ blood, and saw that the moon itself, so full and white an hour before, had turned red, as if she too were awash in blood. A red eclipse, as mariners say, but never before had I seen the shadow of the old world fall across the Neverland moon. Perhaps it was only a trick of my fevered imagination, or some monstrous reflection from the deck of the Rouge, yet it glared down on me like a bloodshot eye, catching me out in all my crimes.

Once, I thought I could never have enough of blood. It was all that could satisfy me, for so long. But it wearies me now, the tyranny of blood-lust, the serpent that feeds on itself. The game that never changes. The game that never ends.

“How long can you stay angry at the world?” she asked me once. Why didn’t I listen?

About the Author

LISA JENSEN is a veteran film critic and newspaper columnist from Santa Cruz, California. Her reviews and articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Cinefantastique, Take One, and Paradox Magazine. She has reviewed film on numerous area TV and radio stations. She also reviewed books for the San Francisco Chronicle for 13 years, where her specialty was historical and women’s fiction.

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