Review: It All Comes Back to You by Beth Duke


It All Comes Back to You by Beth Duke

Publication Date: August 28, 2018
The Heart of Dixie

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Romance

Alabama, 1947.

War's over, cherry-print dresses, parking above the city lights, swing dancing.

Beautiful, seventeen-year-old Violet lives in a perfect world.
Everybody loves her.

In 2012, she's still beautiful, charming, and surrounded by admirers.

Veronica "Ronni" Johnson, licensed practical nurse and aspiring writer, meets the captivating Violet in the assisted living facility where Violet requires no assistance, just lots of male attention. When she dies, she leaves Ronni a very generous bequest―only if Ronni completes a book about her life within one year. As she's drawn into the world of young Violet, Ronni is mesmerized by life in a simpler time. It's an irresistible journey filled with revelations, some of them about men Ronni knew as octogenarians at Fairfield Springs.

Struggling, insecure, flailing at the keyboard, Ronni juggles her patients, a new boyfriend, and a Samsonite factory of emotional baggage as she tries to craft a manuscript before her deadline.

But then the secrets start to emerge, some of them in person. And they don't stop.

Everything changes.

Alternating chapters between Homecoming Queen Violet in 1947 and can't-quite-find-her-crown Ronni in the present, IT ALL COMES BACK TO YOU is book club fiction at its hilarious, warm, sad, outrageous, uplifting, and stunning best. In the tradition of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and Olive Kitteridge, Duke delivers an unforgettable elderly character to treasure and a young heroine to steal your heart.

Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

This year is shaping up to be one of my best years of reading yet! I've been super lucky with books this year and have found some true gems. And now I can add It All Comes Back to You to that list!

Ronni works at an upscale Nursing Home when a patient that she was close to, Violet, passes away and leaves her an inheritance in her will. There's a stipulation to the inheritance though. Ronni must write a book within one year based on Violet's life using the letters that Violet left to Ronni. She must tell no one about the book, or ask for any assistance.

The book alternates between Ronni's current storyline and flashes back to Violet's past as a teenager and beyond. As usual, I preferred the historical timeline for Violet but Ronni's story was great too. In addition to finding out about Violet's past, there is also a mystery surrounding her passing and who she was with that added an extra mystery to the book.

I found It All Comes Back to You as a good mix of Southern and Historical Fiction. You will laugh, cry, and root for Ronni and Violet. I felt like with Ronni, she was a character I could finally relate to! She wasn't the usual gorgeous and skinny heroine - she had insecurities and self-conscious about her weight. It was nice to be able to connect with a character like that. And Violet reminded me of my Southern grandmother - sassy and the center of attention. Men loved her and the women did not. She was a lot of fun!

It All Comes Back to You was charming, entertaining, and hard to put down. You should definitely pick it up!

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Through My Letterbox for allowing me to host the tour!

About the Author

Beth Dial Duke is an Amazon #1 Best Selling author and the recipient of short story awards on two continents. She is eyeing the other five.

Beth lives in the mountains of her native Alabama with her husband, one real dog, one ornamental dog, and a flock of fluffy pet chickens. She loves reading, writing, and not arithmetic. Baking is a hobby, with semi-pro cupcakes and amateur macarons a specialty. And puns—the worse, the better.

Travel is her other favorite thing, along with joining book clubs for discussion. Please invite her to London...England or Kentucky, either is fine. Anywhere! Please see bethduke.com for more information.


Review: Smoke in her Eyes by Anna Belfrage


Smoke In Her Eyes by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: March 15, 2019
Timelight Press
eBook & Paperback; 352 Pages

Series: The Wanderer, Book Two
Genre: Romance/Erotica/Paranormal


Six months ago, Helle Madsen would have described herself as normal. Now she no longer knows if that terms applies, not after her entire life has been turned upside down by the reappearance of not one, but two, men from her very, very distant past.

Helle Madsen never believed in mumbo-jumbo stuff like reincarnation—until she came face to face with Jason Morris, a man who purportedly had spent fifty lives looking for her. Coping with being reunited with the lover from her ancient past was one thing. Having Sam Woolf, her vindictive nemesis from that same ancient past join the party was a bit too much. Suddenly, Helle finds herself the reluctant heroine of a far-flung, time-transcending epic story, one in which pain and loss seem to play a very big part.

This time round, Jason and Helle are determined to make it to the happily ever after. Unfortunately, Sam Woolf will stop at nothing to crush them. That ride into the golden sunset seems awfully far away at times…

Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book #1 Read. Book #2 Read. Now I'm waiting ever so impatiently for Book #3!

There is nothing better than getting lost in an Anna Belfrage series, and her Wanderer series is fastly becoming one of my faves. The concept is so unique, the characters are easy to like (or easy to hate where Sam is concerned), and the plot moves quickly. Anna's writing has an easy flow to it and her romance scenes are hot and passionate.

As much as I enjoyed the first book, A Torch in His Heart, I think I loved this one even more!

Jason and Helle's relationship is a big aspect of the novel. Jealousy rages high and their new relationship is in danger as an old friend of Jason's threatens to break them apart. They are also on the hunt for Sam, to find proof of his shady business dealings and to bring him to justice for attacking them.

What I love most is the Jason/Helle/Sam love/hate triangle. Sam is hell bent on killing Jason, and Jason wants revenge against Sam so bad he can taste it, and Helle who wants to kill them both at one point.

Gripping and entertaining, I had the best time with Smoke in Her Eyes, and I am counting the days until the final book is released. I can't wait to see what happens to Jason and Helle!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history and writing.

Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. (Medieval knight was also high on Anna’s list of potential professions. Yet another disappointment…)

With Jason and Helle, Anna has stepped out of her historical comfort zone and has loved doing so.

Find out more about Anna by visiting her website, www.annabelfrage.com, You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitterAmazon, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 30
Feature at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, May 1
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, May 6
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, May 8
Interview at The Book Connection

Thursday, May 9
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Monday, May 13
Review at Bri's Book Nook

Tuesday, May 14
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Friday, May 17
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Saturday, May 18
Feature at The Lit Bitch

Monday, May 20
Review at Bookish

Thursday, May 23
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Monday, May 27
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, May 28
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Friday, May 31
Feature at Coffee and Ink
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away two copies of Smoke In Her Eyes by Anna Belfrage! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is 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 new winner is chosen.

Smoke in Her Eyes


Interview with Anna Belfrage + Giveaway for Smoke In Her Eyes

Hello, dear readers! Today on the blog I have an interview with the awesome Anna Belfrage! The latest book in her Wanderer series is out and it's fabulous! Stay tuned for my review which will be up later today.


Hello Anna and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Smoke in Her Eyes!

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

I’m Anna Belfrage and had I been able to choose the profession I really, really wanted it would have been to be a time traveller. Or a page to Richard Lionheart. Obviously, none of these were a realistic option and instead I ended up a Financial Professional with a passion for history and writing. I have authored the acclaimed series The Graham Saga which is the tory of reluctant time traveller Alex Lind and her 17th century hubby, Matthew Graham. There is an excessively exciting life, let me tell you… I have also written a series set in 14th Century England called The King’s Greatest Enemy which features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and the political turmoil surrounding Edward II’s reign and deposition. I am very proud to say that I recently found out one of the books in that series was awarded a First by the Chaucer Awards! Now, I have just published smoke in Her Eyes, the second in a trilogy called The Wanderer, which is the story of Jason and Helle, fated lovers since the Earth began.

What inspired you to write Smoke in Her Eyes?

I’ve had the story of Jason and Helle lurking about in my brain for years, a story of ancient lovers cruelly separated in their first life but finally given a chance to reunite 3 000 years later. It’s not easy, let me tell you…

I absolutely love the title, how did you come up with it?

Probably because all the time I was writing this book, I kept on hearing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in my head. Love that song, even if it always leaves me a bit teary. I wanted a title that indicated sadness and a little heartbreak – and in this book Helle finds out the hard way that loving can hurt—a lot.

What research did you undertake when writing Smoke in Her Eyes?

Very little as this is set in our time and is essentially a fast-paced rather steamy romantic suspense. I did read up on possession – the arcane art of taking over someone’s mind and soul—and was somewhat amazed that so many seem to believe this is a “real” thing, i.e. people out there believe demons can possess you. I would like to make it very, very clear that I do NOT believe it is possible—but it is a great concept to play around with!

What would you like readers to take away from reading Smoke in Her Eyes?

I’ve tried to weave an ancient conflict between good and bad into the warp of a love story that transcends time. I would love people to come away believing love is worth it—even if at times you have to wait 3 000 years before you get to a Happily Ever After. Having said that, Jason and Helle are still not at their HEA moment. They just think they are…. He he he *rubs hands in evil glee*

What was your favorite scene to write?

Well, I do love my love scenes ­čśŐ I also enjoyed writing from Sam’s perspective. Sam Woolf is the very, very bad guy in Jason’s and Helle’s complicated life. He too has been around since yonks and he is determined to destroy Jason and “claim” Helle as his. “When Hell freezes over,” Helle assures him, but sometimes Woolf comes very close to achieving what he wants. By giving him his own voice in this book, I can add layers to all that evil, add touches of frustrated loss, or anger.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

Some readers seem to feel the more introspective scenes – the chapters in which Helle’s and Jason’s fated love seems to eb rapidly going down the drain—are abit slow. I find them intensely moving and very difficult to get right, so as to steer clear of melodrama while still conveying the anguish both Helle and Jason are feeling. Then, of course, there is a very, very nasty scene involving multiple TV screens and Helle chained to a chair that still has me breaking out in a sweat.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I had read all the Bobbsey Twin books in the school library and realized that if I wanted more, I’d need to write it myself.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

Ahhh…the famous routine. I think my challenge is to find blocks of undisturbed writing time as there is so much else to do as a writer, very much of that focused on trying to increase visibility. Generally, I invest three hours every morning on the promotional aspect of things and hope to have two-three hours in the afternoon to create.

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

The greatest challenge is to make people discover you. A never-ending task, I believe.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Very, very many. When it comes to my exploration of Romantic Suspense, I just have to mention Jayne Ann Krentz. I do not write like her—I do not want to write like her, as I have my own voice—but I learn SO much from reading her books about how to construct a plot, how to write dialogue, how to make the characters that more human by giving them a quirk or two. When I’m doing my Historical stuff, obvious inspirations are Sharon K Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick as well as Pamela Belle and Edith Pargetter.

What was the first historical novel you read?

I’m not sure I remember. It was probably a book by Henry Treece or Rosemary Sutcliffe

What is the last historical novel you read?

I’ve just finished an excellent Historical Romance by Anna Campbell and I am halfway through a Historical in Spanish called Canci├│n de Sangre y Oro. Great book set in 13th century Sicily and Aragon

What are three things people may not know about you?

Hmmm… Well, let’s see: I only drink tea—the only time I drink coffee is when I’m pregnant and should that happen again it would be a biological miracle. I have a thing about boots. Hubby says I have boots enough to see me through the rest of my (hopefully long) remaining life. I’m not so sure: can one have enough boots? I sing a lot: in the shower, while cooking, when I’m walking the dog…

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

Genres, not genre ­čśŐ When it comes to my historicals, I guess the desire to time travel takes over. I love submerging myself in the past, blowing life into long-dead peeps, whether invented or real and creating a historical context that springs into vibrant life. When it comes to Romantic suspense, I guess I’m a sucker for him-and-her stories in which the challenge is to survive all the scary stuff the baddies hurl at my leading couple.

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

I read a lot of Regency, have a preference for books set in medieval times or in the 17th century.
What do you like to do when you aren't writing? Doesn’t happen that often, but when it does I like taking long, long walks or binge-watching TV

Lastly, what are you working on next?

A lot. I have a new series set in 13th century England and Spain, I have the last book in the Jason and Helle story due out this autumn, I have a couple of ideas for a new time-travel series (well, two different series), I am thinking of writing yet another installment in The Graham Saga and wouldn’t you know but that Adam de Guirande, my 14th century knight, is about to gallop off on new adventures. Then there’s the book about Sofia Carolina and Jon Crowne, him an exiled English royalist, she an unwilling confidante to Queen Kristina of Sweden and finally these last few weeks a certain Darius Bruce and Zadie Tamaris have been very much to the forefront, a sort of very indirect spin-off to my Jason and Helle series. I guess the conclusion is that my main challenge is not a lack of ideas but of time…

Wow, I am so excited for your your new stuff in the works! I can't wait to read the last Wanderer book, such a great series!


Smoke In Her Eyes by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: March 15, 2019
Timelight Press
eBook & Paperback; 352 Pages

Series: The Wanderer, Book Two
Genre: Romance/Erotica/Paranormal


Six months ago, Helle Madsen would have described herself as normal. Now she no longer knows if that terms applies, not after her entire life has been turned upside down by the reappearance of not one, but two, men from her very, very distant past.

Helle Madsen never believed in mumbo-jumbo stuff like reincarnation—until she came face to face with Jason Morris, a man who purportedly had spent fifty lives looking for her. Coping with being reunited with the lover from her ancient past was one thing. Having Sam Woolf, her vindictive nemesis from that same ancient past join the party was a bit too much. Suddenly, Helle finds herself the reluctant heroine of a far-flung, time-transcending epic story, one in which pain and loss seem to play a very big part.

This time round, Jason and Helle are determined to make it to the happily ever after. Unfortunately, Sam Woolf will stop at nothing to crush them. That ride into the golden sunset seems awfully far away at times…

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history and writing.

Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. (Medieval knight was also high on Anna’s list of potential professions. Yet another disappointment…)

With Jason and Helle, Anna has stepped out of her historical comfort zone and has loved doing so.

Find out more about Anna by visiting her website, www.annabelfrage.com, You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitterAmazon, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 30
Feature at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, May 1
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, May 6
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, May 8
Interview at The Book Connection

Thursday, May 9
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Monday, May 13
Review at Bri's Book Nook

Tuesday, May 14
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Friday, May 17
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Saturday, May 18
Feature at The Lit Bitch

Monday, May 20
Review at Bookish

Thursday, May 23
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Monday, May 27
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, May 28
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Friday, May 31
Feature at Coffee and Ink
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away two copies of Smoke In Her Eyes by Anna Belfrage! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is 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 new winner is chosen.

Smoke in Her Eyes


Review: Listen to the Wind by Susanne Dunlap


Listen to the Wind by Susanne Dunlap

Publication Date: April 22, 2019
Bellastoria Press
eBook & Paperback; 388 Pages

Series: The Orphans of Tolosa, Book 1
Genre: Historical Fiction/Medieval


Sent away from their families for their own protection when they were very young, Azemar and Azala├»s become separated when they are forced to flee from the band of outlaws who served as their supposed protectors. Armed only with scraps of memories and the wits and intelligence that have helped them survive brutal conditions, they struggle to find each other again and discover the mysterious past that links them across distance and time. Who are they? And do they hold the secret of the legendary Cathar treasure? All they know is that knights and monks spell danger, and they must find a way to survive at all costs if they are to fulfill their destiny—and preserve their vanishing culture.

Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I stayed up way too late last night and Susanne Dunlap is entirely to blame! It was just to hard to put down Listen to the Wind and I have no will power but I sure slept soundly after finishing this incredible novel.

Listen to the Wind features Azalais and Azemar who are living in an Orphanage in Tolosa at the beginning of the novel. The two friends spent their days playing fantasy games of knights and damsels, until one day their Orphanage gets raided. A recent illness in the town is being blamed on the Orphanage so they run away and soon get separated, with plans to meet up later.

As Azalais and Azemar embark on their own path they meet people who help them along the way. It actually reminded me a bit about Game of Thrones. It could be because I binged the whole series for the past month! Ha! But really, the way we follow Azemar and Azalais and see who they meet and how they learn from everyone along the way, right to the fateful moment with the two friends finally meet again years later (great scene!) reminded me of Arya's storyline, which was my absolute favorite.

So, take the two amazing main characters, add in a third and equally fascinating character, throw in some knights, a few battles, secret identities, court intrigue, and you have one hell of a read!

Susanne's writing really brought this book to life. She has an amazing way with words. It's a book that will grab you from the start and keep you hooked til the end. I loved it and will be counting the days until the next book in the trilogy, The Spirit of Fire, releases!

Highly recommended!

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Kobo

About the Author

Susanne Dunlap is the author of six works of historical fiction. Two are for adults (Emilie's Voice and Liszt's Kiss, both published by Touchstone books of Simon & Schuster). Four are for young adults (The Musician's Daughter, Anastasia's Secret, In the Shadow of the Lamp, and The Academie, published by Bloomsbury). A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn and Northampton, MA. She now lives in Northampton with her long-time partner, Charles, has two grown daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson, a stepson and a stepdaughter, four step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter—that's a total of four children and nine grandchildren!

In her spare time she cycles in the beautiful Pioneer Valley.

For more information, please visit The Orphans of Tolosa website. You can follow author Susanne Dunlap on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and BookBub.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 13
Review at Bibliophile Reviews

Tuesday, May 14
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Wednesday, May 15
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 16
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Friday, May 17
Review at Bookish Sarah
Review at Comet Readings
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, May 20
Review & Guest Post at Clarissa Reads it All
Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Tuesday, May 21
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, May 22
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, May 23
Interview at Donna's Book Blog

Friday, May 24
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, May 27
Review at Macsbooks
Feature at The Lit Bitch

Tuesday, May 28
Review at Coffee and Ink
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews
Review & Guest Post at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away one copy of Listen to the Wind by Susanne Dunlap! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is 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 new winner is chosen.

Listen to the Wind


Review: The Royal Secret by Lucinda Riley


The Royal Secret by Lucinda Riley


Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Atria Books
eBook & Paperback

Genre: Historical/Romance/Mystery

When Sir James Harrison, one the greatest actors of his generation, passes away at the age of ninety-five, he leaves behind not just a heartbroken family but also a secret so shocking, it could rock the English establishment to its core.

Joanna Haslam, an up-and-coming reporter, is assigned to cover the legendary actor’s funeral, attended by glitzy celebrities of every background. But Joanna stumbles on something dark beneath the glamour: the mention of a letter James Harrison has left behind—the contents of which many have been desperate to keep concealed for over seventy years. As she peels back the veil of lies that has shrouded the secret, she realizes that she’s close to uncovering something deadly serious—and the royal family may be implicated. Before long, someone is on her tracks, attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. And they’ll stop at nothing to reach the letter before she does…

Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I've been wanting to read Lucinda Riley for a while now after seeing my blogger friends praise her Seven Sisters series, and I am so glad that I took the plunge. Lucinda is magician with words!

Joanna is a journalist with a demanding job and fresh out of a failed relationship when she is assigned to cover the funeral for a famous actor. While at the funeral she meets an elderly woman who sends her a letter which begins a series of events that could absolutely ruin the Royal family. Joanna's investigating is fraught with danger as she gets closer to finding the truth. A secret that the Royal family will do anything to hide.

I. Was. Riveted! It's almost 600 pages long but I was so invested that the pages flew by! It's a great feat for an author to keep the suspense going for that long. I was totally surprised at the end and never figured out the mystery. I was like this for most of the book....

via GIPHY

I highly recommend The Royal Secret! It had a fabulous plot line, wonderful characters, and the writing is phenomenal. I will definitely be picking up Riley's Seven Sisters series soon!

Thanks to Atria Books for my review copy.

*Please note: This book is known as The Love Letter in the UK.

About the Author

Lucinda Riley is the New York Times bestselling author of The Orchid House, The Girl on the Cliff, The Lavender Garden, The Midnight Rose, and the Seven Sisters series. Her books have sold more than fifteen million copies in thirty-five languages globally. She was born in Ireland and divides her time between England and West Cork with her husband and four children.

Interview with Author Linda Bennett Pennell + Giveaway

Hello, dear readers! Today on the blog I have author Linda Bennett Pennell here to talk about her novel. Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel! You can also enter to win a copy the book, along with her other book, Miami Days, Havana Nights, so be sure to enter!


Hello Linda and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel!

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

Thank you for hosting me!

I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, "Let's pretend."

What inspired you to write Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel?

The Blanche Hotel sits on the main street through the heart of my hometown, Lake City, Florida. My parents and I stayed at the hotel while we were waiting for our furniture to arrive after moving from Georgia. I have eaten many meals is its now defunct restaurant. The scenes in the novel are based upon personal experience.

Opened in 1902, the Blanche, as locals call her, is home to the state’s first elevator and has played host to both the famous and the infamous. Al Capone is known to have stayed there while in transit from Chicago to his mansion in Palm Isle, Miami. Johnny Cash and other artists stayed as well. Lake City has always been and remains the logical overnight stopping spot when traveling into Florida by car.

The main east/west and north/south arteries into the state pass through or near the town, making it Florida’s Gateway City. Being at the junctions of US 90 and US 41, and later Interstates 10 and 95, has benefited the town and county through tourist trade. Being situated thus has also brought some serious negatives. The town and Columbia County of which it is the county seat have historically been the conduit for moonshine and illegal drugs and early on developed a reputation as a wide open area where vice was tolerated and the law turned a blind eye. It was so when I was a child and did not change until a Federal investigation in the 1970’s that led to indictments of the sheriff and local judge on 67 counts of racketeering, graft, promoting prostitution, accepting bribes, drug trafficking, and other forms of vice activity.

The fact that everyone, and I do mean everyone, in the county and for miles around knew about what was going on under the noses of state and federal law enforcement fascinated me as a high school student and saddened me when a friend’s father went to federal prison. Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel grew out of these experiences as I played an adult form of Let’s Pretend.

What research did you undertake when writing Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel?

I am a stickler for historical accuracy so I do a great deal of research in my fairly extensive personal library, in local libraries, on-line, and by purchasing topic specific volumes. If there is a historical inaccuracy, it will be intentional and integral to the plot. Since I lived in Lake City and my husband’s family has lived in the county since the early 1800’s, my sources were my own observations and stories that my in-laws shared. In addition, I have quite a few books dedicated to Florida history.

Did you find anything surprising about Al Capone during your research?

Ole Scarface has been so thoroughly researched, catalogued, and documented that there is little left to uncover. That fact is what led me to create “new” information for my contemporary timeline heroine, history professor Liz Reams, to “discover.” It made her a rising star among her peers!

What was your favorite scene to write?

It was the first two paragraphs of the last chapter. They involved an old dog and an old man and I loved them both! Here they are.

After all of the months of searching and frustration, it had come down to this — an old man rocking on his front porch with a fat beagle snoozing at his feet. Liz watched the pair from the relative anonymity of her front seat, alternating between elation at the prospect of having her questions finally answered and the gnawing fear that this too would be a dead end.

The old man squinted expectantly in her direction, but didn’t in any other way acknowledge the presence of an unfamiliar car in his driveway. The beagle, whose white muzzle indicated that in dog years he was nearly as old as his master, raised his head momentarily and then dropped back into his dreams, nose wiggling, soft yipping, paws paddling after some enemy that only he could see. The old man reached down and patted his companion, soothing him into more peaceful dreams. They made a good couple.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

I cried all the way through writing a scene with a significant death. Any more than that would be a spoiler!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

My high school did something fairly unique my senior year. I am not sure whether this is still policy, but that year they divided senior English into semester courses. I took writing for research papers, the requisite British lit, and creative writing. I enjoyed the creative writing the most, but majoring in history and then getting a masters in education put paid to the creative side of writing for me until I retired. In retirement, I have reinvented myself!

What does your daily writing routine look like?

I write everyday; although, it may or may not be on my work-in-progress. I also participate in a cooperative blog, History Imagined. And then, there are my friends and the arts groups on whose boards I sit. Anytime anything needs to be written, all eyes turn my way. Hey, you’re the writer, they all say!

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

Marketing – hands down. I hate it. Except for speaking to book clubs and appearing on other people’s blogs. That, I love!

Who are your writing inspirations?

There are really too many to name, but I am particularly drawn to the works of Charlotte Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, Harper Lee, Ann Rivers Siddons, and Kathryn Stockett.

What was the first historical novel you read?

Mistress of Mellon by Victoria Holt, if gothic romance counts as historical fiction!

What is the last historical novel you read?

The Orphan Train. Writing takes up soooooo much time!!

What are three things people may not know about you?

Two are rather ordinary. 1. I sing soprano I with my church’s chancel choir and Texas Master Chorale. 2. For a time, we bred Quarter Horses. 3. At one point in my life, I had close relationships with gangsters. As a secondary assistant principal, my school district’s Latin Kings and Crips were definitely on my radar!

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I have always loved history. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to hear all the old stories and visit any place of historical significance. I still do!

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

The Medieval period commanded a great deal of my attention for a while. I have read the entire Ellis Peters Cadfael series among others. I also enjoyed the Napoleonic Wars Richard Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell. More recently, I have enjoyed anything set in the latter half of the 19th century through the end of World War II.

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

I am involved in arts organizations and choirs.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m so glad you asked! My WIP is set during the Gilded Age on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia. Think dark secrets, a gloomy mansion, a young woman with her first teaching post, and a difficult pupil who knows something that puts her in grave danger. I hope All That Glitters will be published in late 2019 or early 2020.

Ohhhh...that sounds exciting! Can't wait to hear more! Thank you for spending time with us today!


Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel by Linda Bennett Pennell

Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Soul Mate Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 320 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel tells a story of lives unfolding in different centuries, but linked and irrevocably altered by a series of murders in 1930.

Lake City, Florida, June, 1930: Al Capone checks in for an unusually long stay at the Blanche Hotel, a nice enough joint for an insignificant little whistle stop. The following night, young Jack Blevins witnesses a body being dumped heralding the summer of violence to come. One-by-one, people controlling county vice activities swing from KKK ropes. No moonshine distributor, gaming operator, or brothel madam, black or white, is safe from the Klan's self-righteous vigilantism. Jack's older sister Meg, a waitress at the Blanche, and her fianc├ę, a sheriff’s deputy, discover reasons to believe the lynchings are cover for a much larger ambition than simply ridding the county of vice. Someone, possibly backed by Capone, has secret plans for filling the voids created by the killings. But as the body count grows and crosses burn, they come to realize this knowledge may get all of them killed.

Gainesville, Florida, August, 2011: Liz Reams, an up and coming young academic specializing in the history of American crime, impulsively moves across the continent to follow a man who convinces her of his devotion yet refuses to say the three simple words I love you. Despite the entreaties of friends and family, she is attracted to edginess and a certain type of glamour in her men, both living and historical. Her personal life is an emotional roller coaster, but her career options suddenly blossom beyond all expectation, creating a very different type of stress. To deal with it all, Liz loses herself in her professional passion, original research into the life and times of her favorite bad boy, Al Capone. What she discovers about 1930’s summer of violence, and herself in the process, leaves her reeling at first and then changed forever.

Praise for Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel

5 Star Top Pick "...brilliantly written..." - BTSemagazine

"...The characters were so well done that I latched onto them and wanted to know where their journey was going to end up. It's a fascinating read. The way the author wrote this story made it so easy to get a visual of the characters, the setting and just life in general - you could feel yourself in the '30′s, living what they were living and you could feel yourself in the present time, living what Liz was living. I highly recommend it." - Maggie Thom, The Write to Read

4 out of 4 Stars "... a compelling, multifaceted book. It captured my attention from beginning to the end." - OnlineBookClub.org

Available on Amazon



Miami Days, Havana Nights by Linda Bennett Pennell

Publication Date: June 18, 2018
Soul Mate Publishing
eBook; 302 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romantic Suspense


Sometimes our biggest debts have nothing to do with money.

1926. When seventeen-year-old Sam Ackerman witnesses a mob hit, he is hustled out of New York under the protection of Moshe Toblinsky, A.K.A., the mob’s bookkeeper. Arriving in Miami with no money, no friends, and no place to hide, Sam’s only choice is to do as the gangster demands. Forced into bootlegging, Sam’s misery is compounded when he falls in love. Amazingly, the beautiful, devout Rebecca wants only him, but he cannot give her the life she deserves. When Prohibition ends, Sam begs the mobster to set him free. The price? A debt, as Toblinsky puts it, of friendship. A debt that will one day come due.

Present Day. History of American Crime professor Liz Reams has it all—early success, a tantalizing lead on new info about Moshe Toblinsky, and a wonderful man to love. Life is perfect. So what’s keeping her from accepting her guy’s marriage proposals? Confronting a long-standing personal debt sets her on a journey of self-discovery. While she delves ever deeper into Sam’s and Toblinsky’s relationship, her understanding of her own relationships increases as well, but the revelations come at a price. The emotional and physical dangers of her dual journeys may prove too big to handle.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to herself or himself, "Let's pretend."

I currently reside in the Houston area with my sweet husband and a German Shorthaired Pointer who thinks she's a little girl.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 13
Review at Macs Books

Tuesday, May 14
Review at Coffee and Ink

Wednesday, May 15
Review at Bookish Sar

Thursday, May 16
Feature at The Book Junkie Reads

Monday, May 20
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, May 21
Interview at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 22
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a signed set of Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel & Miami Days, Havana Nights! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is 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 new winner is chosen.

Linda Bennett Pennell


Baby Doe Tabor interviews Author Rebecca Rosenberg + Giveaway

Baby Doe Interviews Rebecca

Baby Doe Tabor interviews author Rebecca Rosenberg prior to the Gold Digger launch.


BABY DOE TABOR: What made you want to write a novel about me, Elizabeth McCourt Doe Tabor, when people have already written an opera, a movie, a screenplay, a one-woman show, a dozen books and countless articles? How is Gold Digger, the Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor, any different? Am I really so fascinating?

REBECCA: Don’t get a bee in your bonnet, Baby Doe. One question at a time. No. 1, I’ve seen the Ballad of Baby Doe opera and read twenty books and I just don’t think they understood you. That leads to No. 2, how is my Gold Digger novel different? It tells your story, Baby Doe, what you went through, that nobody saw, because they judged you unfairly. And No. 3, yes, you are fascinating and bull-headed and impetuous and generous and conniving. I tell it all, Baby Doe, so brace yourself.

BABY DOE: What type of research did you do for writing Gold Digger? I want to make sure you did your homework!

REBECCA: I grew up in Colorado, camped in the Rockies, ate peanuts in the honkey-tonk bars listening to piano your husband Harvey would have played. I panned for gold, rode donkeys and narrow-gauge trains, watched a play in the Central City Opera House, saw the face painted on the Teller House floor. I drank sarsaparilla in the Silver Dollar Saloon. I imagined how you came west at twenty and ended up pregnant and abandoned and running a gold mine alone. I explored your Matchless Mine and understood how it was your only hope. In the Tabor Opera House, where you watched Tabor and his wife, I felt your jealousy and passion.

BABY DOE: What was your favorite scene to write?

REBECCA: I think the most fun scene to write was when Oscar Wilde comes to perform at the Tabor Grand Opera House. Oscar Wild is such a hoot! So wise and witty! Some people say it is their favorite scene!

BABY DOE: What was the most difficult scene to write?

REBECCA: The scene where Billy Bush attacks you, was the most difficult scene to write. I tried to show Billy’s passion for you which grows to obsession. How Billy was competitive with Tabor, and you were the prize. How you needed Billy and relied on him, and how hard it was for you to report his attack to Tabor because of all Billy has done for you.

BABY DOE: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

REBECCA: I know you won’t believe this, but I was inspired to start writing when I heard the story of Baby Doe when I was about ten years old. I wanted to do you justice, show your spirit and heart, tell your story. I started writing it fifteen years ago, on and off, then spent last year really diving in. At one point, Gold Digger was 140,000 words and I cut it down to 85,000 which makes a fast read.

BABY DOE: What about my life inspired you?

REBECCA: It was your “Impossible Dream” that inspired me. Your family lost everything in the Oshkosh fires, and the one thing you could do to help them was to marry and go west for his gold mine. But know one expected YOU to work it, especially after he abandons you! In your life, you showed resilience to the “trials and tribulations” we all have felt in our lives. Abandonment. Death of a close friend. Divorce. Shunned by friends. Falling in love with the wrong person. A child that is difficult to get along with, like your daughter, Lillie. She never understood you, and it hurt. Isolation. Poverty. You faced all these things with an indomitable spirit that inspires me.

BABY DOE: Who was your favorite character in the book?

REBECCA: You mean, besides you, Baby Doe? I loved Chin Ling Sou, the Chinese miner supervisor in Central City. He was six feet tall with blue eyes! Chin understood that a beautiful woman like you would be in trouble in the rough mining towns and Hop Alley, the Chinatown of Denver with opium dens and whore houses. He protects you in many life-threatening situations, just because you were vulnerable. Chin Ling Sou is so famous, he has a stained-glass window in the Denver capitol. I loved how Chin transforms himself to a mystical beast to rescue you from harm.
Chin Ling Sou is an ancestor of my friend, James Chin, and when I found that out, I added him to Gold Digger!

BABY DOE: Well, you’ve certainly told them a bit about me. Now it is your turn. What are three things people may not know about you?

REBECCA:

1. I write as soon as I wake up. Sometimes 4:00 a.m. The house is quiet, and I can embody my character, and really feel what she is feeling, and see what she is seeing.
2. I play Mahjong most Friday afternoons with my Mahjong Majesties. My goal is to win one game and have fun!
3. I have a lavender farm which burned down in the California fires. The house, the barn, the fields, everything burned. But now, we are rising from the ashes, our house half finished. We are even planting the fields in May!

BABY DOE: What appeals to you most about historical fiction?

REBECCA: There are so many interesting women of the past who lived lives of courage and humor and tenacity, I find it hard to chose which one I want to write about next! They keep popping up saying, Me! Me! Me! I have three new women up for consideration—I have to really love their story, because I will spend tow to three years with them!

BABY DOE: You said you empathize with tough things that happened to me. What hard things have you gotten through in life? How do you get through them?

REBECCA: Just like our readers, I imagine. Divorce, loneliness, children moving away, losing a treasured friend. Most things you can learn from: like treating loved ones with all the love you can, so they know how much they mean to you. If I can do that, I am happy.

BABY DOE: What do you do when you aren't writing?

REBECCA: My husband and I love to travel. This week I am in Sedona, Arizona, visiting with our sister and brother in law. I’ll try to send a picture from here every day, so you can see how amazing it is! where I’ll be sharing pictures.

BABY DOE: What are you writing next?

REBECCA: Well, I have to finish your saga, which I’m calling Silver Dollar. It is what happens to Baby Doe after Horace Tabor dies, when she takes her daughters up to Leadville, Colorado to work the Matchless Mine! What happens to Billy Bush? What about Baby Doe’s brother, Peter? Who is the mysterious man who looks like Horace Tabor? The Silver Dollar story is fascinating! I hope it will come out next year.

I just finished the second draft of Champagne Widows, which is a series about the five widows in Champagne, France that made champagne a world-wide drink-of-choice! The first book is an amazing story about Barbe-Nicole Clicquot and her struggles with Napoleon Bonaparte! I LOVE this story!

BABY DOE: I’ve enjoyed our little talk. I don’t get to talk to women like this much. How do we stay in touch with you?

REBECCA: Follow me on social media.


BABY DOE: Where can we buy Gold Digger, the Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor? I might want to give them as gifts!

REBECCA:

Ebook ISBN 978-1-7329699-0-2

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-578-42779-9




Gold Digger by Rebecca Rosenberg

Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Lion Heart Publishing
eBook & Paperback; 312 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Romance/Historical/American


One look at Baby Doe and you know she was meant to be a legend! She was just twenty years old when she came to Colorado to work a gold mine with her new husband. Little did she expect that she'd be abandoned and pregnant and left to manage the gold mine alone. But that didn't stop her!

She moved to Leadville and fell in love with a married prospector, twice her age. Horace Tabor struck the biggest silver vein in history, divorced his wife and married Baby Doe. Though his new wife was known for her beauty, her fashion, and even her philanthropy, she was never welcomed in polite society.

Discover how the Tabors navigated the worlds of wealth, power, politics, and scandal in the wild days of western mining.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble


Praise for Gold Digger

“Rosenberg’s rollicking Western adventure strikes gold with a gutsy, good-hearted spitfire of a heroine and action aplenty.” —THELMA ADAMS, bestselling author of Bittersweet Brooklyn and The Last Woman Standing

"Gold Digger tells the true story of Lizzie 'Baby Doe' Tabor, a beautiful young woman who in 1878 marries the son of a wealthy miner in order to save her family from penury. Shrewd and stubborn, Lizzie fights back-biting Victorian society, wins and loses vast fortunes, and bests conniving politicians in her larger-than-life story. A twisting tale worthy of Mark Twain, with a big-hearted heroine at the center." —MARTHA CONWAY, author of The Underground River

About the Author

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Visit the Facebook page for The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 15
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, May 16
Review at Passages to the Past

Friday, May 17
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Monday, May 20
Interview at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, May 21
Excerpt at Donna's Book Blog

Friday, May 24
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Monday, May 27
Review at Orange County Readers

Tuesday, May 28
Excerpt at Kimber Li
Review at Diana_bibliophile

Wednesday, May 29
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at Oh, the Books She Will Read

Thursday, May 30
Review at A Bookish Affair
Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Friday, May 31
Interview at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Monday, June 3
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, June 4
Excerpt at Maiden of the Pages

Wednesday, June 5
Review at A Book Geek

Thursday, June 6
Review at Comet Readings

Friday, June 7
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Saturday, June 8
Interview at Comet Readings

Monday, June 10
Review & Guest Post at Clarissa Reads it All

Tuesday, June 11
Excerpt at Old Timey Books

Wednesday, June 12
Interview at T's Stuff
Review at Proverbial Reads

Thursday, June 13
Review at Cheryl's Book Nook

Saturday, June 15
Review at Suzy Approved Book Reviews

Monday, June 17
Author Spotlight at RW Bookclub

Tuesday, June 18
Review at Books In Their Natural Habitat

Thursday, June 20
Review at A Holland Reads

Monday, June 24
Review at RW Bookclub
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, June 27
Review at Mama's Reading Corner

Friday, June 28
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Cover To Cover Cafe

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a copy of Gold Digger, a gold facial mask & soap set, and recipe brochure to five winners. Three winners will receive an ebook of Gold Digger.

To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is 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 new winner is chosen.

Gold Digger


Interview with Kathleen Shoop & Giveaway of The Strongman and the Mermaid

Happy Friday eve, dear readers! Today on the blog I am super excited to share my interview with Author Kathleen Shoop with you! Kathleen is currently on blog tour with HF Virtual Book Tours for The Strongman and the Mermaid. It's a fabulous book. If you haven't picked it up yet I highly recommend doing so! You can enter our giveaway for a copy of the book and a $50 Amazon Gift Card!


Hello Kathleen! Thank you for stopping by Passages to the Past to talk about The Strongman and the Mermaid!

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

Thanks, Amy! I’m so honored to be part of the incredible tours you put together. I write historical, women’s fiction and romance and had my first book published in 2011. The book, The Last Letter, was inspired by family letters and was written as a standalone but so many people wanted to know more about the story that I’m now finishing up book four in that series. The Strongman and the Mermaid is part of the Donora Story Collection which is a set of books joined by the town of Donora. There are some characters that stretch across books, but it’s the historic, infamous town (site of the 1948 Killing Smog) that ties everything together.

What inspired you to write The Strongman and the Mermaid?

The Strongman and the Mermaid is book two in the Donora Story Collection and it was inspired by the lives of Stan Musial’s (one of the best baseball players in history) parents. I am working on a novel about Stan’s childhood (Book 3—The Magician) but didn’t feel as though I should write about him before writing about how his parents came to be married.

What research did you undertake when writing The Strongman and the Mermaid?

Lukasz and Mary Lancos Musial first met in 1910 in Donora, PA. Lukasz had arrived in Donora from Poland and started work in the wire mill. Mary worked there as a nail girl. She also had been working as a housekeeper since she was eight, rowing her father across the Mon River to and from work each day, and doing other odd jobs. She was a tall, athletic girl and Lukasz was short but very strong and also shy according to Stan’s autobiography. Mary’s big personality and his shyness apparently attracted them to each other. My research involved reading many of the Stan Musial biographies, autobiography, the archives in Donora about the town and its people at the time, and also Polish immigrant research. All of these threads are interwoven to create characters that are “real” even if I’m putting them in situations that are fictionalized. I worked backwards building Mary and Lukasz’s character’s from how Stan described them in all the available sources. Life in a steel-town in 1910-13 was difficult. Yet I knew there would be happy, optimistic times that these characters would experience. I did a lot of research on ethnic holiday traditions to bring structure and meaning to the plot and character development.

What would you like readers to take away from reading The Strongman and the Mermaid?

First, I’d like them to be entertained and love the book and its characters! I’d like them to gain or deepen their sense of life for immigrants during the industrial heyday of America. These people did incredible physical labor and fulfilled their dreams at a time when expectations were simpler and the basics in life were both something to strive for and decadent for people who started with nothing. The history and the love story of Lukasz and Mary are powerful and instructive even though fictionalized and imagined using the research paths mentioned above. I hope I did a good, “true,” rendering of what life might have been like for these two people in this particular place at that time.

What was your favorite scene to write?

I had a lot of fun with the scenes involving the way that Lukasz won his passage to America. I smile every time I think of those scenes. I drew from a lot of Polish and American mythology and those things played a big part in those scenes, too. Lots of fun.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

Some of the scenes where Lukasz and Mary were affectionate were hard to write. I wanted to be sure that Lukasz’s “bigness” and strength was conveyed while also conveying that he was shorter than Mary by quite a bit. There’s something so interesting and lovely about two opposites attracting the way they did and portraying that so it was believable was hard for me. Again, I hope I achieved that in a way that makes the reader love it, love them.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Probably in high school. But I was a voracious reader from the beginning and so the seeds were sewn early. My father wrote every day of his life (in addition to his job) so that influenced me seeing the power of words as well. Everyone in my house had their nose buried in books and that really made me love the idea of creating books for others.

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

Making the decision to publish all my books on my own was a huge challenge, but the freedom that came with the decision has far outweighed the negatives. It’s a challenge still, in that many historical fiction readers are the ones in the bookstores and online less than romance readers, so I feel like I’m missing a bit of the audience I’m aiming for. But It feels good to have control over the stories I tell and with the right people in place to edit, proof, cover design, promote and market, I feel I made the right decision and I see the results over and over again.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Sarah Gruen, Kate Morton, Elizabeth Strout, Geraldine Brooks, Julianna Baggott and so many more!

What was the first historical novel you read?

Gone with the Wind as a kid!

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I love that with historical fiction, everything comes across as unique and new even though I’m reaching back in history to write the story!

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m working on The Thief’s Heart (Book 4 The Letter Series), The Magician (Book 3 Donora Story Collection), Hint of Organza (Book 2 Bridal Shop Series), Cul-de-Sacked Series (Women’s fiction serial release coming soon!) and Tiny Historical Stories –little wisps of stories to give away to readers and also sell for a very discounted price so I get content to readers faster than with full length historical fiction!

Woah, you are a busy writer! I'm excited for ALL of them! Thank you for stopping by today!


The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop

Publication Date: February 28, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 573 Pages

Series: The Donora Story Collection (Book 2)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Saga


Myscowa, Poland—1910
Once upon a time in tiny, rural Myscowa, Lukasz Musial competes in feats of strength against his lifelong nemesis to win passage to America. He leaves behind grinding poverty and despair, to seek the clear blue skies, and better life he sees on a postcard. Settled in Donora’s Polish community, Lukasz secures a coveted job in the wire mill, and is matched to marry Donora’s very own Polish princess. Life is set on course. The American Dream is nearly his.

Donora, Pennsylvania—1910
Mary Lancos is no princess. A tall, athletic girl who loves the water, she spends her days keeping house for families in town, digging coal out of a backyard seam and rowing her father across the Monongahela River for work. Mary is dependable, tenacious, and always ready to help when someone needs her. She dreams of a gas-heated home, a bedroom for each of her future children, and good meals on the table each night. To help make that happen Mary attends local dances, waiting for the few men who are taller than her to ask her to dance, hoping one of them is right for her.

An unexpected Christmas Eve visitor brings bad luck, and Lukasz’s world crumbles. Meanwhile, tension grows at the Lancos home when money is short and Mary’s dreams clash with her parents’ old world expectations. Just when Mary and Lukasz are at their lowest, they find themselves under an odd pink moonlit sky and Lukasz rescues Mary from a fall into frigid river water. The attraction between them is sudden and consuming, turning the pair onto an unexpected path. With mounting disapproval from Mary’s parents, and increased pressure on Lukasz, they must decide if love is enough to risk losing everything else that matters.

Available on Amazon

Praise

Kathleen Shoop has bejeweled this book with her magnificent imagination and impeccable writing. The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a romance that goes beyond looks and settles deep into the souls of readers. Every so often, a love story comes that your heart can't let go. One of those love stories, for me, has been Mr. Darcy and Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice. Now Mary and Lukasz in The Strongman and the Mermaid will stay with me for a long time to come. –Ankita Shukla for Readers’ Favorite

The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a gorgeous story, a gripping romance with a strong setting. The plot structure is unusual and it has beautiful twists. I love stories with great characters and a well-developed conflict and I always want to see characters evolve through the conflict. It is something that this author does impeccably well. The narrative is emotionally rich…The writing is cinematic, punctuated by exciting dialogue. The Strongman and the Mermaid will keep you awake through the night. –Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite

I was hooked from the very start...The Strong Man and the Mermaid is skillfully plotted and written in beautiful prose. The reader is pulled into a fairytale-like world with strong and memorable characters. The love adventure between Mary and Lukasz is one of the key elements that add to the entertaining potential of this narrative. Kathleen Shoop keeps it real and human, succeeding in creating an emotional connection between the reader and the characters.—Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite

About the Author

Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 1
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 2
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Feature at Comet Readings

Friday, May 3
Review at Bibliophile Reviews

Saturday, May 4
Feature at Book Addict Rambles

Tuesday, May 7
Excerpt at To Read, or Not to Read
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, May 8
Feature at Donna's Book Blog

Friday, May 10
Review at View from the Birdhouse
Feature at What Is That Book About
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Monday, May 13
Review at Orange County Readers

Tuesday, May 14
Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, May 15
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, May 16
Interview at Passages to the Past

Monday, May 20
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Tuesday, May 21
Review at Macsbooks

Wednesday, May 22
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Peaceful Pastime
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at My Reading Chronicles

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a copy of The Strongman and the Mermaid and a $50 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is 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 new winner is chosen.

Strongman and Mermaid


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