Interview & Giveaway: Farewell My Life by Cynthia Sally Haggard

Happy Monday everyone! Today on the blog I am super excited to share my interview with Cynthia Sally Haggard. Her blog tour for Farewell My Life kicks off today and she stopped by to answer a few questions! We also have a giveaway so be sure to enter!


Hello Cynthia and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Farewell My Life!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I was born & raised in England, and came to the US at the age of 21. I’ve lived my entire adult life in the Mid-Atlantic region. (It was tough getting used to those steamy summers.)

What inspired you to write Farewell My Life?

I had a picture in my mind of the practical sister (Violet) bringing a violin for the dreamy sister (Grace) who had had to leave home under a cloud. That was all I knew when I started writing.

What research did you undertake when writing Farewell My Life?

I read LOTS of books, about fashion, manners, history…anything that gave me a vivid picture of life in the 1920s and 1930s. Of course, I also went online too, but that was just to fill out the research I’d gleaned from books.

What would you like readers to take away from reading Farewell My Life?

Life is fragile. Things can unravel much more quickly than any of us like to admit.

What was your favorite scene to write? 

The last scene of Part 1, when Russell is unmasked.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

The very last scene of the novel, because it is so harrowing.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Not until fairly late in life (at the age of 43). Prior to that, I’d been a violinist and then a cognitive scientist.

What does your writing routine look like?

The truth is that I don’t have a writing routine. When I write, I work every day in the morning because that is my best time of day. But as I have to promote my books myself there are times when I can’t write. For example, right now I’m editing audio files so that I have Audible versions of both of my novels.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer?

Writing dazzling prose.

Have you been able to overcome it?

Based on the early reviews of Farewell My Life, it seems as it I have!

Who are your writing inspirations?

I was the typical bookworm from the age of 10 on, when I started reading for three hours every day. I read all the classics, so of course I was inspired by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Fanny Burney. The actual inspirations for my novels come from disparate sources. My first novel “Thwarted Queen,” was inspired by a Time Team program on Richard III. “Farewell My Life” is loosely based on the story of my college violin teacher, who went to Berlin to study violin circa 1925.

What was the first historical novel you read?

I’m not sure, but I remember enjoying Jean Plaidy’s Isabella & Ferdinand trilogy (“Castile for Isabella,” “Spain for the Sovereigns,” and “Daughters of Spain.”)

What is the last historical novel you read? 

“I, Eliza Hamilton” by Susan Holloway Scott. I loved the voice, the blend of love & exasperation in Eliza’s voice as she talked about her husband.

What are three things people may not know about you?

I learned to play violin when I was 3 years old. I have a PhD in Experimental Psychology. I wanted to study ballet.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

Well, I love living in the past, so historical novels are the perfect venue for my imagination.

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

That depends on what I’m working on. When I was writing “Thwarted Queen” I read historical fiction about the middle ages. When I created “Farewell My Life” I read historical fiction about the 19th and 20th centuries.

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

Play piano, walk, hike, exercise at the gym, play landlady, organize my husband.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

My next novel is set in Sicily circa 831, when Palermo was attacked by Muslims from North Africa…

Sounds fascinating! Thank you so much for stopping by today!


Farewell My Life by Cynthia Haggard

Publication Date: April 7, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 586 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


Angelina led a life which required her to fib. When Angelina, the black sheep of the Pagano family, meets the mysterious Mr. Russell, she has no idea that she has seen him before…in another country. And so begins Farewell My Life, a novel in three parts, which spins an operatic tale of dangerous love and loss.

The Lost Mother, the first part of this novel, slices back and forth between time and space, opening in the charming village of Georgetown, Washington D.C. while reflecting a family’s troubled past in the lovely village of Marostica in the Italian Veneto.

An Unsuitable Suitor, the second part of the novel, is a Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes who inhabit the edgy setting of 1920s Berlin.

Farewell My Life, the last part of the novel, set again in Berlin, Germany, during the dark 1930s as the Nazis gain power, takes comfortable lives, assumptions and civilizations and crumbles them into ash.

Amazon | IndieBound

Praise for Farewell My Life

"A unique, deftly scripted, and extraordinary novel by an author with a distinctive narrative storytelling style that will hold the readers dedicated attention from beginning to end, "Farewell My Life: Buona Notte Vita Mia" is an impressive and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. One of those rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished."--Mid-West Book Review

"The author knows her characters very, very well; this shows in the consistent and very individual way they act. This is not a plot-driven story; it's character-driven. In this book, the characters are the jam which holds everything together. The best example of this is Grace, the talented violinist, who, simply, jumps off the page. I loved her."--Wishing Shelf

"This is not your typical mystery; it's for fans of thrilling action and historically­-inspired events...Contra to the status quo of the genre, the men are the romantics - though in a deranged manner - and the women showcased are the core strength of the novel."--BookLife Prize.

"The author...adeptly summons the era in all its manners and details with her descriptive prose...Her omniscient, third-person narrator effectively flits through the heads of various characters, offering momentary glimpses of their inner lives."--Kirkus Reviews

"I loved the elaborate descriptions of all the places in this book. This is the kind of book that shows instead of just telling. The characters are very well-developed and interesting to read about. Angelina is a fascinating character, as is Grace. Along the duration of the book, Grace learns a lot about herself. I was amazed by her quiet yet vibrant personality, and her brilliant talent."--Pavani Mathur (The Voracious Bibliophile)

About the Author

Cynthia graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, Cambridge MA, in June 2015.

Her first novel, Thwarted Queen, a frustrating tale (hence the title) of Lady Cecylee Neville (1415-1495) who was nearly crowned Queen of England, was shortlisted for many awards, including the 2012 Eric Hoffer New Horizon Award for debut authors. To date, sales have surpassed 38,000 copies.

Her forthcoming novel, Farewell My Life, is a Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes who inhabit the edgy setting of 1920s Berlin.

When she’s not annoying everyone by insisting her fictional characters are more real than they are, Cynthia likes to go for long walks, knit something glamorous, cook in her wonderful kitchen, and play the piano. You can visit her at www.spunstories.com. You can also find Cynthia on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 9
Interview at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, September 10
Feature at Books In Their Natural Habitat

Thursday, September 12
Excerpt at A Darn Good Read

Friday, September 13
Excerpt at Maiden of the Pages

Monday, September 16
Review at girl-who-reads

Tuesday, September 17
Feature at Beth's Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, September 18
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Thursday, September 19
Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Saturday, September 21
Excerpt at Broken Teepee

Monday, September 23
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads

Tuesday, September 24
Review at Unabridged Chick

Friday, September 27
Excerpt at Coffee and Ink

Sunday, September 29
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, September 30
Interview at Unabridged Chick

Saturday, October 5
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 8
Feature at I'm All About Books

Wednesday, October 9
Excerpt at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two eBooks of FAREWELL MY LIFE! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on October 9th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Farewell My Life


Review: Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson


Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson
Translated by David Warriner


Publication Date: September 19, 2019
ORenda Books

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

The third book in the award-winning, critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, featuring true-crime writer Alexis Castells and profiler Emily Roy. Previous titles in the series, Block 46 and Keeper, have won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards and sold in 19 countries. A French, Swedish and English TV series is in production, adapted by and starring award-winning French actress Alexandra Lamy.

Spain, 1938 The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Teresa witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Teresa gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016 A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

‘Gustawsson’s writing is so vivid, it’s electrifying. Utterly compelling’ Peter James

Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson is a brilliant, unrelenting thriller that will sink its hooks into you and not let go! I have no idea how I can possibly do justice in my review to how amazing this read was.

This is the third book in Gustawsson's Roy and Castells series, and while I haven't read the first two books I didn't feel lost at all. I will be purchasing the first two books in the series soon because I am so in love with the way this author writes.

There are two timelines in the story and I was unsure of how they would connect, but it was masterfully done. One was definitely more emotional than the other. There are some pretty heartwrenching scenes when the story flips back to the time during Franco's regime in Spain, with Gordi's story, that are hard to read so be sure to have tissues handy. I haven't read much about this time in history so it was all new to me and absolutely horrifying.

The current timeline was equally fascinating with Alexis, Emily, and Aliénor trying to solve a series of vicious murders. The author knows just how to keep the suspense going and the reader intrigued!

I can't even begin to express how much I loved this book. I was furiously turning the pages to see how it would play out and glared at anyone that dared attempt to speak with me while reading. It's the kind of book that you think about all day until it's reading time, and when it's finally time to sit down and get back into it, your heart beats a little faster. I love that feeling!

Blood Song is perfect for fans of fast-paced thrillers and historicals. I highly recommend it and can't wait to pick up the other books in the series.

Thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for the opportunity to read this book!

About the Author


Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons. She drew on her own experience of fertility clinics and IVF to write Blood Song and is happy to speak and write pieces about this.


Review & Giveaway: With Kisses from Cécile by Jan Agnello & Anne Armistead


With Kisses from Cécile by Jan Agnello & Anne Armistead

Publication Date: September 12, 2019
eBook & Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction


A heartbroken Maggie travels to Paris to visit the grave of her great-grandmother’s French pen pal Cécile and uncovers 100-year-old secrets that give her courage to rebuild her own life.

NOW

Maggie Ruth Mitchell’s failed attempt at reconciliation with her unfaithful husband has left her more confused than ever—and with a consequence that will change her life forever. Heartbroken, Maggie travels to Paris to visit the grave of Cécile, the French pen pal of her great-grandmother Ruth. Reading Cécile's letters and learning about Ruth’s past gives Maggie not only an understanding of the strength and courage of the women in her family—all sharing the name Ruth—but also allows Maggie to find her way forward.

THEN

In the year 1919 following World War 1, two young girls, Ruth and Cécile, find each other through a Pen Pal program between American and French students. In their letters they share their dreams and bare their heartaches. A tragic death of a loved one has torn Ruth’s family apart, leaving her with a dark secret to hide. Cécile, having survived the bombs that devastated Paris, is battling against consumption. Ruth draws courage from her pen pal’s inspiring letters, each signed With Kisses from Cécile, to face what fate brings.

Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

With Kisses From Cécile is based on a true story of Jan Agnello's great-grandmother, Ruth, and her Fench pen pal, Cécile. It is a poignant and lovely historical that tells the story of two young women, one American and one French, whose friendship defied geographic restrictions. Through their letters, readers are given a glimpse into what their lives were like and the history they witnessed.

There are two timelines in this book. In the present timeline, Maggie is at a pivotal time in her life and marriage. Estranged from her husband, and now pregnant, she is gifted a trip to Paris with her grandmother. On the plane ride to Paris, her grandmother shows her the letters between Ruth and Cécile, and tells her of their friendship.

In the past timeline, Ruth and her family just moved in with her grandfather (and one feisty rooster!), after the tragic death of her brother. She joins a Pen Pal program at school and receives her first letter from Cécile in June of 1919, the day of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, when the Great War ended. Cécile lives in Paris and writes to Ruth of the events she witnesses and tells her of her life and family. It was fascinating!

You can't help but be drawn to the strong women in this book, and it was co-written seamlessly. I absolutely loved every minute I spent reading it!

It also brought back some memories as I had a pen pal as a teenager as well. They captured the allure of writing letters - the excitement you feel when a new letter would arrive, and the disappointment when it didn't. I kind of feel bad for kids these days that won't know the bittersweetness of it all.

In addition to including the letters from Cécile, we are also gifted with photos of the real Ruth, Cecile, and drawings from the letters. That was really amazing to see! They were both so lovely! I am sad that they never got to meet, and I am grateful to know their story and be a witness to such a lovely friendship.

I highly recommend With Kisses From Cécile and can't wait to see what Jan & Anne write next!

Available on Amazon


About the Authors


Photo Credit: Sitting Pretty Photos

JAN AGNELLO comes from several generations of hobbiest antiquers. Her love of stories behind the antiques inspired her in 2013 to form Storyology Design, now Storyology Design and Publication. The necklaces Jan crafts from antique coin purses have generated a loyal customer following and garnered attention from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, jewelry network executives, and TV and film costume designers. Her love of books, romance, history, and unique jewelry design led her to collaborate with author Anne Armistead to offer a series of historical novels, each paired with heirloom quality jewelry named for the female protagonist. The first in the series, WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE, is a story of love and redemption drawn from Jan’s family history. It is paired with THE CÉCILE JEWELRY COLLECTION. Visit storyologydesign.com to learn more about Jan and Storyology.

ANNE ARMISTEAD is a writer of historical romance. She earned her English literature degree from the University of Georgia and her MFA in creative writing from Spalding University. Her background includes project management with AT&T and teaching English at the middle, high, and college levels. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Georgia Writers of Romance. WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE is her second romance, following the publication of DANGEROUS CONJURINGS (Soul Mate Publishing, April 2018). Anne writes for and serves as an editor for Storyology Design and Publication. Visit annearmisteadauthor.com to learn more about Anne and her novels.

Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday, September 7
Feature at I'm All About Books
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 9
Review at my.boys.mom
Excerpt at A Darn Good Read

Tuesday, September 10
Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Wednesday, September 11
Excerpt at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, September 12
Review at Maiden of the Pages
Excerpt at Short Book and Scribes
Excerpt at Books In Their Natural Habitat

Friday, September 13
Review at Amy's Booket List
Excerpt at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Monday, September 16
Review at Jessica Belmont
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, September 17
Review at Melissa Reads

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of With Kisses From Cecile! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on September 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

With Kisses From Cecile


Interview & Giveaway: With Kisses from Cécile by Jan Agnello & Anne Armistead

Hello, dear readers! Today on the blog I am super excited to be hosting the co-authors of With Kisses From Cecile, Jan Agnello & Anne Armistead! Today kicks off their blog tour so be sure to check out the blogs that will be hosting them. My review will be up later today. It was a wonderful read! And don't forget to enter to win a copy at the end of this post.

I hope you enjoy getting to know these two fascinating women writers! Have you ever had a pen pal? Let us know in the comments!


Hello Jan & Anne and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about With Kisses from Cécile!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

Jan: My first job after graduating college from Washington State University was in advertising sales for KIRO Newsradio followed by KMPS radio. After that I brokered Cable television advertising. Then two babies came along with a corporate move for my husband to Bucks County Pennsylvania, an area that has been home to some of our great writers, Pearl Buck, James Michener, and musical lyricist Oscar Hammerstein to name a few. Many snowy evenings gave me the opportunity to read a lot of great books. When I wasn't working for the local newspaper, I loved antiquing and learning about the areas rich history. Then, you guessed it, another corporate move to Atlanta. For many years I substitute taught Language Arts and Social Studies to Middle School students. I started my antique and designer heirloom jewelry business, Storyology Design, and have a devoted following in the antique community, especially for my antique coin purses. With Kisses from Cécile marks the first of a series of novels planned for publishing by Storyology Design and Publication, merging my love of historical fiction with my love of designing jewelry!

Sandra: I am a native Georgian who attended the University of Georgia and married a “Jersey” boy who attended the rival Georgia Tech. Somehow, our “house divided” has worked out! We have two grown daughters and one rescue dog, Jackpot (so named because we hit the jackpot when he rescued us!). My career after college was with AT&T as a project manager, trainer, and writer of documentation. After having my two daughters, I resuscitated my dormant teaching certificate and taught English at the middle, high, and college levels, until my retirement this past spring. I completed my MFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University’s program under the administration of the wonderful award-winning author Sena Naslund (Ahab’s Wife). Now, I am thrilled to fill my days with my creative writing instead of lesson planning and grading essays! I have been published in Highlights Magazine and have won or placed in several writing contests sponsored by the Romance Writers of American chapters, The Atlanta Writers Club, the Alabama Writers Conclave, Society of Children Writers and Illustrators, and WOW! Women on Writing. My debut historical novel is Dangerous Conjurings (Soul Mate Publishing, April 2018), followed by With Kisses from Cécile as my second.

How did the idea to co-write With Kisses from Cécile come to be?

Jan & Sandra: We met over a decade ago at an Atlanta Writers Club meeting where we read from our works in progress at the time, which for Jan was a draft of With Kisses from Cécile. Sandra was so intrigued with the background of Jan’s story, and we decided to meet for lunch so Jan could share more about the pen pal letters her grandmother Ruth received from Cécile, and from that moment forward, we decided we had to collaborate to introduce others to Cécile.

What research did you undertake when writing With Kisses from Cécile?

Jan & Sandra: The “then” part of the story is framed by Cécile’s letters which created the timeline for Ruth’s story, meaning we had to research the 1919-1922 timeframe. Cécile’s letters guided our research of World War I historical events and locations in France. Jan’s family mementoes of that era’s rail schedule, brochures, and maps helped us dramatize Ruth’s travel from Oakland, California, to Colorado Springs, Colorado. We learned more about Cragmor Sanatorium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which plays a significant role in the story, by reading the book The Asylum of the Gilded Pill: The Story of Cragmor Sanatorium by Douglas R. McKay. We learned more about tea rooms of the era by reading Jan Whitaker’s Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn, A Social History of the Tea, Room Craze in America, which helped us with the scenes of the runaway Ruth at the Busy Bees Tea House in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jan traveled to Paris and visited where Cécile lived and traveled and her grave in the Gentilly Cemetery, which deepened the emotional resonance of the story. We added in our Author Notes details of our research which we felt would help the reader.

What would you like readers to take away from reading With Kisses from Cécile?

Jan & Sandra: One of the main themes of our story is the strength we gain from those who came before us in our families. The lineage chart we included in the book was not only provided to help understand the women’s relationships to each other but to also highlight how we inherit resilience from stories of those in our family who triumphed over sadness and sorrow. Maggie is a composite of both Jan and Sandra, in that she represents a woman facing an event in her life that has derailed her, yet learning what her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, as well as Cécile, had to overcome inspires her to move forward in her life with grace, courage, and forgiveness. We hope the readers will be encouraged to uncover similar stories in their own families from which they may gain inspiration and courage.

You co-wrote With Kisses from Cécile together, what did that process look like?

Jan & Sandra: The history of this story goes back actually to a non-fiction article Jan’s daughter Marie wrote and submitted to Stone Soup, and it was published in the May/June 2002 edition of the magazine. A NYC agent saw the article and contacted Jan asking if she and her daughter had considered writing the story as a middle grade novel. That was when Jan began drafting the first manuscript, and when she met Sandra in 2010, together they worked on completing and polishing that draft for submission. Unfortunately, the agent who requested it had moved on from representing middle grade. Life events intervened and the project was dropped. Sandra moved into writing historical romance, and her debut novel Dangerous Conjurings was published in April 2018 from Soul Mate Publishing. By that time, Jan had created Storyology Design, her antique and heirloom quality jewelry business, and had built a clientele who enjoyed not only Jan’s antiques and jewelry but also her stories she relayed behind each item. Jan contacted Sandra with the idea of taking their beloved With Kisses from Cécile in the direction of the historical romance genre and jewelry collection, targeting adult readers this time. She expanded Storyology Design into Storyology Design and Publication with the plan to publish a series of historical romances, each with a jewelry collection names after the protagonists. With Kisses from Cécile became reframed as a historic romance with the dual narrative timeline embedding Cécile’s letters. So, over a decade after Jan and Sandra’s initial meeting, the world can now meet and fall in love with Cécile!

What was your favorite scene to write?

Jan & Sandra: In Ruth’s narrative, I loved writing the scenes with the rooster Herkimer, as well as the poignant scene with Ruth and Clinton with his homing pigeons at Lake Merritt. In Maggie’s narrative, I enjoyed writing Chapter Nineteen. Grams reads to Maggie Cécile’s letter in which Cécile writes of sitting in Park Montsouris and worries that the boy sitting in the park thinks of her as a “fast girl.” This chapter includes humor and pathos and deepens the reader’s appreciation of the sweet relationship between Maggie and Grams.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

Jan & Sandra: In Ruth’s narrative, the most difficult scene by far was when Ruth confides her “secret” and comes to an understanding and forgiveness of herself. In Maggie’s narrative, the most difficult to write was Chapter Thirty-Seven, after Maggie has learned of Ruth’s secret and of Cécile’s illness and begins to experience a turning point in how she views her own hurt and betrayal.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Sandra: I cannot remember a moment in my life when stories have not been a part of my life and my desire to write and share stories with others has not been a dream! My dad was the consummate storyteller, and I loved hearing him share his stories from growing up during the Depression. I turned one of his stories about hobos visiting his home for food into my first published piece in Highlights Magazine (“The Sign of the Cat”). I ran my mother ragged when I was a child, carting me back and forth from the library multiple times a week for me to keep a stack of books at the ready. My most favorites including Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew Mysteries, and Little Women, Victoria Holt Gothic romances, and of course, Gone with the Wind.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

Sandra: I spend my morning working on my work-in-progress, researching, outlining, writing scenes, as well as revising after the first draft of a manuscript is completed I spend the afternoons outlining my next WIP, checking in on blogs I follow, posting across my social media accounts, and volunteering time with the writing community (judging entries for contests, developing and delivering workshops, and mentoring other writers). One morning every two weeks is spent with my writing group. We have been together for almost a decade and provide each other not only support in our writing but emotional support in life! I devote time each evening and on weekends to reading books in the historical romance genre as well as contemporary romance and romantic suspense. I believe a writer must be a voracious reader!

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

Sandra: My greatest challenge is to harness all the stories I want to write and actually write one of them to arrive at that ever-elusive THE END! My writing group helps keep me moving forward, as does keeping setting self-imposed deadlines and celebrating each I meet a deadline by munching on my favorite snack of popcorn with M&M’s while watching an episode of my latest British show I am binging. Right now I’m re-watching all of Downton Abbey to prepare for the movie!

Who are your writing inspirations?

Jan: I read antique books for fun. I love the voices in the old novels and regularly compare them to how books are different today. Books I loved as a child are Charlotte's Web, The Secret Garden, and Anne of Green Gables. As a teenager I loved all the Bronte novels, all of Jane Austin's novels, The Great Gatsby, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Prime of Miss Jean Brody. This year I have enjoyed The Lost Girls of Paris and The Only Woman In The Room.

Sandra: As an undergraduate, I chose American Literature as my major because of my American Literature high school teacher, who introduced me to Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor, among other genius writers. I have always said that if I could author any sentences as gorgeous and perfect as those that make up Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby or Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, I would die happy. Other than these famous “classic” writers of the American canon, I probably have been most inspired by Margaret Mitchell’ Gone with the Wind. Scarlet. Rhett. Melanie. Ashley. “Tomorrow is another day.” These are the story elements that ”dreams are made of” (to paraphrase the end line of The Maltese Falcon movie—I am an incurable Turner Classic Movies devotee). I also am inspired by Nina George’s exquisite The Little Paris Bookshop. My family and friends are getting tired of me talking about and quoting from that book incessantly!

What was the first historical novel you read?

Sandra: I was eleven when I read Gone with the Wind, so I would have to say that was my first “adult” historical novel that I voraciously consumed. I also remember being introduced to Philippa Carr’s historical novels around that age. (It totally blew my mind when I realized Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr were the same writer!) I also was captivated by Leon Uris (favorite: Exodus) and James Michener (favorite: Shogun).

What is the last historical novel you read?

Jan: It All Comes Back To You by Beth Duke. I didn't want it to end. Duke is the best wordsmith of classic Southern Fiction!

Sandra: The Gown by Jennifer Robson—how could I pass up a glorious story about Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown? And that sumptuous cover drew me in.

What are three things people may not know about you?

Jan: 1) I grew up in Okinawa, Taiwan, and Washington State. 2) I adore my fur baby Westie, Beaux. 3) I am a Francophile! My Zen place is to imagine walking the streets in the 5th and 6th arrondissements in Paris.

Sandra: 1) While growing up, I played songs on the piano for my brother to sing along while we pretended to be a famous sister-brother act. 2) As a devotee of old movies and the TCM channel, I can quote Casablanca line by line and tear up every time I see the “La Marseillaise” scene. 3) Sometime before his death in 1818, my ancestor Lieutenant Colonel George Armistead acquired the flag that was immortalized in Key’s poem as the “Star-Spangled Banner” from the War of 1812, and the family eventually in 1912 offered the flag as a permanent gift to the country. It is on display in the Smithsonian Museum in DC. My other ancestor is the Civil War Confederate General Lewis Armistead, who was killed while leading Pickett’s Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg. His friendship with the Union General Winfield Scott Hancock was immortalized in Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Killer Angels and was a significant storyline in the movie made from that book, Gettysburg.

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

Jan: The historic time period I love is the Belle Epoch. I am a huge fan of French antiques from that Era. And I love the Victorian Era. I made a point of visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The collection of Queen Victoria's jewelry is exquisite. Also, I love novels set in WWI.

Sandra: My background in studying American Literature and teaching it honed my keen interest in the American Civil War period, and I am intensely drawn to the time period of World War I and World War II.

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

Jan: I watch PBS, BBC, Fox News, and HGTV. I love on my sweet Westie, Beaux, refurbish antiques, design jewelry, and fly to LA and Ft. Lauderdale to visit by three granddaughters.
Sandra: When not writing, I’m reading tales conjured by others, torturing myself at my Pilates classes, and watching BBC shows, to which I am hopelessly addicted.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

Jan & Sandra: We are researching the era of the turn of the last Century and the “Grand Tour” that American teen girls would take as part of their rite of passage into “adult” society as a basis for the next Storyology Design and Publication historical romance, which will be released with another jewelry collection!

Sandra: I am working on a contemporary heartwarming series, marking a departure from historical fiction for me. However, it is set in a small Southern town, so I am sticking to my Southern roots!

I am so excited for both of these upcoming books! Thank you for taking the time to let us know more about you! Good luck with your new book!


With Kisses from Cécile by Jan Agnello & Anne Armistead

Publication Date: September 12, 2019
eBook & Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction


A heartbroken Maggie travels to Paris to visit the grave of her great-grandmother’s French pen pal Cécile and uncovers 100-year-old secrets that give her courage to rebuild her own life.

NOW

Maggie Ruth Mitchell’s failed attempt at reconciliation with her unfaithful husband has left her more confused than ever—and with a consequence that will change her life forever. Heartbroken, Maggie travels to Paris to visit the grave of Cécile, the French pen pal of her great-grandmother Ruth. Reading Cécile's letters and learning about Ruth’s past gives Maggie not only an understanding of the strength and courage of the women in her family—all sharing the name Ruth—but also allows Maggie to find her way forward.

THEN

In the year 1919 following World War 1, two young girls, Ruth and Cécile, find each other through a Pen Pal program between American and French students. In their letters they share their dreams and bare their heartaches. A tragic death of a loved one has torn Ruth’s family apart, leaving her with a dark secret to hide. Cécile, having survived the bombs that devastated Paris, is battling against consumption. Ruth draws courage from her pen pal’s inspiring letters, each signed With Kisses from Cécile, to face what fate brings.

Available on Amazon


About the Authors


Photo Credit: Sitting Pretty Photos

JAN AGNELLO comes from several generations of hobbiest antiquers. Her love of stories behind the antiques inspired her in 2013 to form Storyology Design, now Storyology Design and Publication. The necklaces Jan crafts from antique coin purses have generated a loyal customer following and garnered attention from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, jewelry network executives, and TV and film costume designers. Her love of books, romance, history, and unique jewelry design led her to collaborate with author Anne Armistead to offer a series of historical novels, each paired with heirloom quality jewelry named for the female protagonist. The first in the series, WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE, is a story of love and redemption drawn from Jan’s family history. It is paired with THE CÉCILE JEWELRY COLLECTION. Visit storyologydesign.com to learn more about Jan and Storyology.

ANNE ARMISTEAD is a writer of historical romance. She earned her English literature degree from the University of Georgia and her MFA in creative writing from Spalding University. Her background includes project management with AT&T and teaching English at the middle, high, and college levels. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Georgia Writers of Romance. WITH KISSES FROM CÉCILE is her second romance, following the publication of DANGEROUS CONJURINGS (Soul Mate Publishing, April 2018). Anne writes for and serves as an editor for Storyology Design and Publication. Visit annearmisteadauthor.com to learn more about Anne and her novels.

Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday, September 7
Feature at I'm All About Books
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 9
Review at my.boys.mom
Excerpt at A Darn Good Read

Tuesday, September 10
Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Wednesday, September 11
Excerpt at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Thursday, September 12
Review at Maiden of the Pages
Excerpt at Short Book and Scribes
Excerpt at Books In Their Natural Habitat

Friday, September 13
Review at Amy's Booket List
Excerpt at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Monday, September 16
Review at Jessica Belmont
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, September 17
Review at Melissa Reads

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of With Kisses From Cecile! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on September 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

With Kisses From Cecile


2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge: September Reviews


Holy cow, how is it September already?!

Welcome to the September link page for the 2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. This is the page where you will enter the links to your reviews during the month of September 2019.

Reading Challenge Instructions...

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

There's still time to sign up for the 2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge! Sign Up Here.


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Nancy Bilyeau's Dreamland Cover Reveal

Today on the blog I am super excited to share with you the cover for Nancy Bilyeau's upcoming novel, Dreamland! Isn't it stunning?! I cannot wait for January!


Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

Publication Date: January 16, 2020
Endeavor Quill

Genre: Historical Fiction



The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

But the invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer at the Moonrise Bookstore where she works voluntarily, than keeping up appearances with Brooklyn socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy more of the freedom she has been longing for. For one, she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything…even murder.s

It is up to Peggy to overcome the oppression of her family and clear the name of her vulnerable lover, before she or her beloved sister become the next victims of Dreamland.

Extravagant, intoxicating and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class and dangerous obsession.

About the Author

"Dreamland" is Nancy Bilyeau's fifth novel of historical suspense. She is the author of the best-selling historical thriller “The Blue” and the Tudor mystery series “The Crown,” “The Chalice,” and “The Tapestry,” on sale in nine countries.

Nancy is a magazine editor who has lived in the United States and Canada. She studied History and English Literature at the University of Michigan. After moving to New York City, she worked on the staffs of “InStyle,” “Good Housekeeping,” and “Rolling Stone.” She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributing writer to “Town & Country" and "Mystery Scene Magazine."

Nancy’s mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in Forest Hills in the borough of Queens. "Dreamland" is her first novel set in her adopted hometown of New York City.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub

Cover Reveal Schedule

Monday, August 19
A Bookish Affair
Gwendalyn's Books
What Is That Book About

Tuesday, August 20
Clarissa Reads it All
Just One More Chapter
Books In Their Natural Habitat

Wednesday, August 21
Unabridged Chick
Donna's Book Blog
Let Them Read Books

Thursday, August 22
A Book Geek
The Lit Bitch
Tar Heel Reader
Kris Waldherr Art & Words

Friday, August 23
I'm All About Books
Lost_in_a_book_reviewer
Historical Fiction with Spirit

Saturday, August 24
Broken Teepee
Passages to the Past
Locks, Hooks and Books

Sunday, August 25
A Darn Good Read
Orange County Readers
So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, August 26
Coffee and Ink
Jessica Belmont
Maiden of the Pages


Review: The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan by Cynthia Jeffries



The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan
by Cynthia Jeffries


Publication Date: November 22, 2018
Allison & Busby

Genre: Historical Fiction

1660, England. War is at an end, yet for Christopher Morgan his personal conflict rages on. Haunted by the tragic death of his wife, Christopher is desperate to escape the pain her memory brings, although looking into the eyes of his young son, Abel, he cannot help but be reminded of what he has lost. Over time, father and son develop a strong bond until they are callously torn apart when Abel is snatched by smugglers and sold overseas. From the shores of Constantinople to the coast of Jamaica, time and tide keep them apart. Christopher will sail across oceans to find Abel, never losing faith that one day they will be reunited, and, as the years pass, Abel will learn that fortune favours the brave.

Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

When Christopher Morgan arrives new to town to take over as owner of the local Inn he is still mourning the loss of his dear wife who died giving birth to their son. Believing his son to be dead as well he hardens his heart to the new reality. However, his son, Abel, miraculously survives and through the years they develop a close relationship.

"Loving Abel was not difficult. Christopher very soon found life unimaginable without him. Setting himself to be a mother as well as a father to the child, he rejoiced at his first smile, encouraged his first steps and soothed him from his nightmares"

When Christopher crosses a member of the town's notoriously dangerous families it starts off a series of events that will years to set right.

The first 20% of the book is told by Christopher's point of view until Abel is kidnapped and taken on a ship to a mysterious location, and then we get Abel's perspective. This young boy's resilience was amazing - it was great to see him handle himself so well in such a scary situation. When Christopher sets off to find his boy using a dangerous and mysterious map his travels take him to the court of Charles II, where we meet the King and Samuel Pepys, who happens to be the main character in another book I will be reading soon. Small world, eh?

"Sometimes, I think there's no hell like loving too well." - King Charles II

I have to admit that the unique cover is what first drew my attention to this book, and after reading the description I knew I had to check it out as I love a good adventure story! And it sure did not disappoint!

The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan is a love letter to the bond between father and son. Jeffries' writing is exceptional and she keeps the reader engaged and entertained. I was flippin' the pages so fast to see if they would ever find each other again! My heart was in my feet a few times :)

I absolutely loved this book and can't wait for more from Cynthia Jeffries!

Thanks to Anne Cater for the opportunity to read and review this amazing book!

About the Author



Cynthia Jefferies is a long-established writer for children, whose work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. She was born in Gloucestershire and her love of history was encouraged by regular family outings to anything of interest, from great cathedrals to small museums. Having moved to Scotland and back to Stroud, she has always made time to write and her abiding interest in Restoration England has never left her. The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan is her first historical novel for adults.

Review & Giveaway: The Fire of Winter by DK Marley


The Fire of Winter by D.K. Marley

Publication Date: June 1, 2019
eBook; 355 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


She is known as Lady Macbeth.
What leads her down the path of murder?
What secrets fire her destiny?

Gruah, granddaughter of King Cìnéad III of the Royal Clan Alpin, marries two men in less than six months, one she loves and one she hates; one in secret, the other arranged by the High King of Scotland. At the age of eighteen, she lays her palm upon the ancient stone of Scone and sees her destiny as Queen of Scotland, and she vows to do whatever necessary to see her true love, Macbeth macFindlaech, beside her on the throne.

Amid the fiery times and heated onslaughts from Denmark and England, as the rule of Scotland hangs in the balance, Gruah seeks to win the throne and bring revenge upon the monsters of her childhood, no matter the cost or amount of blood tainting her own hands; yet, an unexpected meeting with the King called the Confessor causes her to question her bloody path and doubt her once blazing pagan faith. Will she find redemption or has the blood of her past fire-branded her soul?

The story weaves the play by William Shakespeare with the actual history of Macbeth and his Queen in 11th-century Scotland.

“...a woman's story at a winter's fire...” (Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV)

“This beautifully written reworking of the Macbeth tale told from Lady Macbeth’s point-of-view flows from the page and you quickly become immersed in the politics and intrigues of feudal Scotland as she fights for her rightful place and her true love! A mesmerizing read that grips from start to finish and Gruah is now one of my all-time favorite literary crushes. “ - Iain Leonard, ARC Reviewer

“Brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, The Fire of Winter is a tale not to be missed by lovers of Shakespeare, lovers of history, or lovers of the written word.” - Riana Everly, Author of Teaching Eliza and Through a Different Lens

Amazon | IndieBound


Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

"Innocent I am not, nor have I ever been."

The cunning and fierce Lady Macbeth takes center stage in DK Marley's The Fire of Winter!

This is a modern re-telling of Shakespeare's Macbeth told by Gruah, later known as Lady Macbeth. I've never read the play before (no judging!!) so I have no point of reference but based on other's reviews it seems that Marley sticks close to the original story. I must say though, I kind of want to read it now!

Gruah is a fiercely ambitious woman that will stop at nothing to reach her goal to be with Macbeth and become Queen of Scotland, even if it means using deceit, murder, and black magic.

"I want a man whose blood is Scotland, whose ancestry reaches deep like the roots of a mighty oak, whose dark eyes reflect like the pools near Callanish and a voice as smooth as the wind from the slopes of Ben Nevis. A man who traverses the Highlands quick like the red deer stag with ambition to match."

As with anyone who is desperate for power and control, Gruah finds out it's a long fall from the top. She isn't a particularly likable character but I found her story fascinating.

If you're in the mood for a book that will keep you turning the pages, filled with court intrigue, witches, revenge, passion, and danger then I highly recommend The Fire of Winter!

About the Author

D. K. Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an English Literature teacher, gave her a volume of Shakespeare's plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel "Blood and Ink," an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio. She is an avid Shakespearean / Marlowan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops and is a graduate of the intense training workshop "The Writer's Retreat Workshop" founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes. She lives in Georgia with her husband and a Scottish Terriers named Maggie and Buster.

For more information, please visit D.K. Marley's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, July 22
Review & Guest Post at Gwendalyn's Books

Tuesday, July 23
Review at Amy's Booket List

Wednesday, July 24
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Friday, July 26
Feature at Words and Peace

Monday, July 29
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, July 30
Excerpt at The Order of the White Boar

Thursday, August 1
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Friday, August 2
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Monday, August 5
Review at Jorie Loves A Story

Tuesday, August 6
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Thursday, August 8
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Faery Tales Are Real

Saturday, August 10
Interview at Jorie Loves A Story

Monday, August 12
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, August 13
Guest Post at History From a Woman's Perspective

Wednesday, August 14
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Friday, August 16
Review at Impressions in Ink
Review at Book Reviews from Canada

Monday, August 19
Excerpt at Broken Teepee
Review at Passages to the Past

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away copies of The Fire of Winter + a surprise gift to three lucky winners! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on August 19th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

The Fire of Winter


Interview & Giveaway: The Quest for the Crown of Thorns by Cynthia Ripley Miller

The lovely Cynthia Ripley Miller is our second guest for the day and I am super excited to share our interview with you. We also have a chance for you to win a copy of The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, so be sure to enter the giveaway!


Hello Cynthia and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about The Quest for the Crown of Thorns!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I’m the daughter of Italian-American immigrants. I’ve lived and worked in Europe. I hold two degrees and taught English and history. I love to travel and have been as far east as Istanbul, which helped when I was writing this book, the second in my series. My bucket list countries are China and New Zealand. I have an adventurous nature, and this has affected my writing. A well-known historical writer and friend told me that she admired the way my characters move through events and situations. Movement is a part of the plotting and action that I enjoy.

I’m a romantic by nature. I’ve read and studied some of the best writers in our time who wrote novels where romance plays a role in their stories from Bronte, Austen, to Tolstoy and Hardy. I also like the idea of ‘love at first sight.’ I did some research on this theme and found as many men claiming to have had this experience as women. My mother claimed when she first saw my father, she thought, I’m going to marry him. Consequently, my hero, Garic, has this experience after rescuing the heroine, Arria, from a dangerous attack. His desire and love for her carry them through their cultural differences, class status, and political upheaval.

My other passion is history. I like thinking about time travel to the past and what I would experience: the sights, sounds, smells, the grittiness, and beauty. I found the fifth century filled with plenty of recorded drama. An empire is dying, but a new era is being born that will lead to the medieval period. I’ve attempted to bring the fifth century, an untapped period of history in historical novels, and romance (with a touch of passion—a real part of life) to my novel series.

I also love mystery, suspense, intrigue, and twists, which are a part of my novels.

What research did you undertake when writing The Quest for the Crown of Thorns?

A lot. For my books, I network with experts, read books, go to the internet and libraries for information, and I especially like forums. Just a few of the forums I use are UNRV (United Nations of Roma Victrix) Germanic—L, Horse Forum, and All Empires History Forum. I’ve also interacted with experts on cultural and political aspects of life and weapons in Late Antiquity. A few of the experts read pages from my manuscript and discussed with me the point in question. I appreciate their time and interest and find it enjoyable. I feel like a detective.

What would you like readers to take away from reading The Quest for the Crown of Thorns?

I’d like them to feel that they read a story with adventure, romance, mystery-suspense, and exciting history that helped them escape and be entertained for a while.

What was your favorite scene to write?

The climax. It’s what I’ve been building up to through my characters’ words and deeds. I try to make it strong and converge with events and any subplots that impact the story.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

Fluid. No kidding. I usually use a timer, most often set in chunks of two hours. An understanding or rule of watercolor painting is not to get too close for too long to your work. The painter needs to stand back or leave it for a while. I try to do this with my writing. For example, I’ll write for a few hours and then walk the dog. Sometimes, I’ll come back to it several hours later, or I may work on marketing or research. Other times, I might spend an entire day writing.

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

To push through the fads. For example, eleven years ago, I was at a conference where we were told by some editors and agents to avoid writing stories set in America or WWII, which is not true today. And to try and publish several books a year. I decided to focus on quality over quantity, persevere, and enjoy myself.

Who are your writing inspirations?

I admire the contemporary writers, Saylor, Gabaldon, Sienkiewicz, Renault, Penman, and Auel; the greats, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Bronte; the adventure writers, Sabatini, and Costain.

What was the first historical novel you read?

As a teen, a story about Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia

What is the last historical novel you read? 

Catilina’s Riddle by Steven Saylor

What are three things people may not know about you? 

I speak Italian, I like to cook Italian food and other ethnic cuisines, and I love painting with watercolors.

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

I like exploring, so I'm open to many periods, but I especially like the ancient world and the 1700’s in Europe.

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

Walks, exercise, and binge watch TV series, which are usually historical: The Crown, Victoria, Poldark, Outlander, Grantchester, The Last Kingdom, Medici, Marco Polo, and the historical exception, Big Little Lies. I’m also open to any suggestions.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m working on book 3 of this series, The Long-Hair Saga. Arria and Garic are caught up in another mystery and quest set in 5th century Jerusalem.

That sounds great! Thank you so much for spending time with us today!


The Quest for the Crown of Thorns by Cynthia Ripley Miller

Publication Date: June 12, 2017
Knox Robinson Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 308 Pages

Series: The Long - Hair Saga, Book 2
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery


AD 454. Three years after the Roman victory over Attila the Hun at Catalaunum, Arria Felix and Garic the Frank are married and enjoying life on Garic's farm in northern Gaul (France). Their happy life is interrupted, when a cryptic message arrives from Rome, calling Arria home to her father, the esteemed Senator Felix. At Arria's insistence, but against Garic's better judgment, they leave at once.

Upon their arrival at Villa Solis, they are confronted with a brutal murder and the dangerous mission that awaits them. The fate of a profound and sacred object--Christ's Crown of Thorns--rests in their hands. They must carry the holy relic to the safety of Constantinople, away from a corrupt emperor and old enemies determined to steal it for their own gain.

But an even greater force arises to derail their quest--a secret cult willing to commit any atrocity to capture the Crown of Thorns. And all the while, the gruesome murder and the conspiracy behind it haunt Arria's thoughts.

Arria and Garic's marital bonds are tested but forged as they partner together to fulfill one of history's most challenging missions, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Praise

“In this thriller, set in fifth-century Rome, rivals race to possess Christ’s crown of thorns. Ripley Miller (On the Edge of Sunrise 2015) astutely brings to life a Rome teetering precariously on the brink of collapse … The plot advances energetically, and the combination of political and romantic drama—spiritual as well—is rousing. The reader should be glad to have read this volume and eager for a third. Intelligent and artfully crafted historical fiction … Recommended.” -Kirkus Reviews

"From cover to cover a gripping read - in all senses of the word! Grips your interest and imagination, your held breath and your pounding heart! A thumping good novel!" -Helen Hollick USA Today bestselling author of the Sea Witch Voyages

"Forbidden love, a turbulent time period, and world-changing events combine to produce a real page-turner." -India Edghill, author of Queenmaker, Wisdom's Daughter, and Delilah.

"A passionate and intriguing take on the often overlooked clash of three brutal and powerful empires: the Romans, Franks, and Huns. A Compelling read!" -Stephanie Thornton, author of The Secret History and The Tiger Queens

"Readers will be absorbed by a setting of barbarian Gaul and the constancy of Arria's and Garic's destined love amid the strife of a dying Roman Empire." -Albert Noyer, author of The Getorius and Arcadia Mysteries

"The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, is an elegant masterpiece of historical fiction. This book totally ensnared me in its clasps, and it did not release me until I had read it all. The attention to detail was exquisite The characterisation was sublime, and the romance was breathtakingly beautiful. I adored the world that Miller has created, as well as the characters in it. This is a sit-down and finish book and is one I would Highly Recommend." -Mary Anne Yarde author of the Du Lac Chronicles

About the Author

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages and books. She has lived, worked, and travelled in Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean. As a girl, she often wondered what it would be like to journey through time (she still does), yet knew, it could only be through the imagination and words of writers and their stories. Today, she writes to bring the past to life.

She holds two degrees and has taught history and teaches English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com and The Scriptor. A Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist for her novel, On the Edge of Sunrise, she has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus

Cynthia has four children and lives with her husband, twin cats, Romulus and Remus, and Jessie, a German Shepherd, in a suburb of Chicago.

On the Edge of Sunrise is the first in the Long-Hair Saga; a series set in late ancient Rome and France and published by Knox Robinson Publishing. The second book in the series, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, was released in June 2017.

For more information please visit Cynthia Ripley Miller's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, August 14
Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Thursday, August 15
Interview at Unabridged Chick
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Friday, August 16
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Saturday, August 17
Feature at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Monday, August 19
Interview at Passages to the Past
Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Tuesday, August 20
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Unabridged Chick

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 1 paperback and 2 eBook copies of The Quest for the Crown of Thorns! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on August 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to the US only. Ebooks are available for international entries.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Crown of Thorns - Tour #3


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