Blog Tour Feature: A Slave of the Shadows by Naomi Finley

Today I’m also part of the blog tour for A Slave of Shadows by Naomi Finley.

A Slave of the Shadows
by Naomi Finley

Publication Date: March 5
Huntson Press Inc.
eBook & Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

In 1850 Charleston, South Carolina, brutality and cruelty simmer just under the genteel surface of Southern society. In an era where ladies are considered mere property, beautiful and headstrong Willow Hendricks’ father has filled her life with turmoil, secrets, and lies.

Her father rules her life until she finds a kindred spirit in spunky, outspoken Whitney Barry, a northerner from Boston. Together these Charleston belles are driven to take control of their own lives—and they are plunged into fear and chaos in their quest to fight for the rights of slaves. Against all odds, these feisty women fight to secure freedom and equality for those made powerless and persecuted by a supposedly superior race.

Only when they’ve lost it all do they find a new beginning.

Book 1 presents Willow and Whitney—and the reader—with the hardships the slaves endure at the hands of their white masters.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Chapters Indigo | iBooks | Kobo

About the Author

Naomi lives in Northern Alberta. Her love for travel means her suitcase is always on standby while she awaits her next plane ticket and adventure. Her love for history and the Deep South is driven by the several years she spent as a child living in a Tennessee plantation house. She comes from a family of six sisters. She married her high school sweetheart and has two teenage children and two dogs named Ginger and Snaps.

Creativity and passion are the focus of her life. Apart from writing fiction, her interests include interior design, cooking new recipes, throwing lavish dinner parties, movies, health, and fitness.

A Slave of the Shadows is her first novel.

For more information, please visit Naomi Finley’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 23
Interview at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, April 24
Excerpt at Donna’s Book Blog

Wednesday, April 25
Feature at Creating Herstory

Friday, April 27
Interview at Maiden of the Pages

Monday, April 30
Review at Books and Glamour

Tuesday, May 1
Excerpt at Teaser Addicts Book Blog

Thursday, May 3
Feature at Button Eyed Reader

Friday, May 4
Feature at A Holland Reads

Monday, May 7
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, May 8
Feature at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, May 10
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Friday, May 11
Feature at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Saturday, May 12
Review at Cup of Sensibility

Monday, May 14
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 16
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Review & Interview at Clarissa Reads it All

Friday, May 18
Feature at Nicole Evelina’s Blog

Tuesday, May 22
Review at Reviewing Nerds

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a Kindle Fire HD 8″ 32GB & signed copy of A Slave of the Shadows! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US/UK/Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Slave of the Shadows
https://js.gleam.io/e.js

 

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Interview with Author Mary Sharratt

Mary Sharratt

Today, author Mary Sharratt joins us to talk about her new book Ecstasy, which I reviewed yesterday. I’m very excited to find out the details behind this fascinating and unusual book!

1. What initially drew you to Alma Mahler as a book subject?

I am a lifelong Gustav Mahler fan and Alma has always fascinated me. Few twentieth century women have been surrounded by such as aura of scandal and notoriety. Her husbands and lovers included not only Mahler, but artist Gustav Klimt, architect and Bauhaus-founder Walter Gropius, artist Oskar Kokoschka, and poet and novelist Franz Werfel. Yet none of these men could truly claim to possess her because she was stubbornly her own woman to the last. Over fifty years after her death, she still elicits very strong reactions. Some people romanticize her as a muse to great men while others demonize her as a man-destroying monster. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s famous observation that well-behaved women seldom make history could have been written about Alma.

Although Alma was a composer in her own right, most commentators, including some of her biographers, completely gloss over this fact and instead focus quite narrowly on her sexuality and on how they believe she failed to be the perfect woman for the great men in her life. How dare she not be perfect!

But I wanted my fiction to explore who Alma really was as an individual—beyond her historical bad girl rep and beyond all the famous men she was involved with.

2. What kind of research did you do to help bring Alma to life?

For me, both primary sources and place are paramount. The key primary sources I relied on in writing Ecstasy were Alma Schindler’s diaries (her published diaries end shortly before her marriage to Gustav Mahler) and Mahler’s letters to Alma during their life together. Taken together and supplemented with their music, these primary sources form a narrative. First we have a very beautiful and passionate young woman who yearned to be a composer. Then she fell in love with composer and star conductor Gustav Mahler who demanded that she give up her own music as a condition of their marriage. Bowing to social convention, she reluctantly agreed. Then his letters to her reveal what a shadow Alma’s sense of anguish and loss cast on their marriage. Interestingly, Alma later destroyed most of her letters to Gustav, so we only get his side of their voluminous correspondence. Her self-imposed silence in this historical record forms its own narrative, as well.

I also read biographies of the Mahlers, but I like to begin with the primary sources and form my own conclusions, rather than just taking any one biographer’s word for it.

The other main stream of my research is place—literally inhabiting the same landscape as my characters. I went on three separate research trips to Vienna and immersed myself in the art and music of turn-of-the-twentieth century Vienna. I listened obsessively to the music of both Mahlers while writing the novel. I also visited their summer homes in Maiernigg and Toblach. It helped that I studied German and used to live in Austria and that I played violin up until my college years.

[Note from Nicole: Oh, I am so jealous of your research trips! I haven’t been to Austria since I was 11, but I loved it then. My mom was born there.]

3. What is the most surprising thing you learned in your research?

Once I sat down and did the research, an entirely new picture of Alma emerged that completely undermined the femme fatale cliché. I read Alma’s early diaries compulsively, from cover to cover, and what I discovered in those secret pages was a soulful and talented young woman who had a rich inner life away from the male gaze. She devoured philosophy books and avant-garde literature. She was a most accomplished pianist—her teacher thought she was good enough to study at Vienna Conservatory, though her family didn’t support the idea. Besides, Alma didn’t want a career of public performance. Instead she yearned with her whole soul to be a composer, to write great symphonies and operas.

[Note from Nicole: I have a feeling we’re going to see more and more stories like this as authors like you and I take on famously maligned women in order to right their histories.]

4. Why did you choose that specific time in Alma’s life to highlight as opposed to covering her whole life?

Originally, I wanted the novel to tell the story of Alma’s entire life, but it took me 400 pages just to try to do justice to her young adulthood and first marriage. Narrating the full sweep of Alma’s long and turbulent life would require a trilogy, at the very least. Who knows—maybe if Ecstasy is super-successful, my publisher might ask me to write a sequel or two!

[Note from Nicole: Good luck! I’d like to see a few more!]

5. What’s your favorite scene/part of the book?

I loved writing about the young Alma Maria Schindler, this gifted young woman effervescent with creative potential. The scenes of her composing and losing herself in her piano playing were the most delightful to write. I also, of course, enjoyed writing about this very passionate young woman exploring her burgeoning sexuality. When I was workshopping one of those scenes with my writers group, such glee and hilarity ensued, including enthusiastic whoops, that someone knocked on the door of our meeting room and asked us if we could please shush. We rent our meeting room at the local Buddhist center and our spirited discourse had disturbed the meditation class!

6. What do you think Alma’s life says to women today?

Gustav Mahler famously asked Alma to stop composing as a condition of their marriage. Deeply in love and in awe of his genius, she reluctantly agreed, even though this broke her heart. In this regard, her story is a starkly cautionary tale and also, alas, one that is all too relevant today. What do women still give up in the name of love? How much female potential never reaches fruition because of the demands of motherhood and domesticity?

What Alma’s story reveals is how hard it was (and often still is) for women to stay true to their talent and creative ambition in a society that grooms women to be caretakers. Why are female composers so sorely underrepresented, even in the twenty-first century? I am a classical music fan and attend concerts every chance I get. I’ve never seen a female composer on the repertoire of any major orchestra or venue I have visited. Nor have I ever seen a female conductor.

Fortunately, though, Alma does eventually triumph and take back her power.

7. What message or feeling to do you hope readers come away with after finishing Ecstasy?

 I hope my readers will be as moved by Alma’s story as I am. I think the time has truly come for a more nuanced and feminist appraisal of Alma’s life and work, and I hope Ecstasy challenges some of the commonly held misperceptions about her.

Alma has been traditionally viewed through a very male-centered lens. Only within the last decade or so have more nuanced biographies about her emerged and only in German! Ecstasy is currently the only book available in English, to my knowledge, that takes her seriously as a composer and as a woman who had something to say and give to the world besides just inspiring genius men.

[Note from Nicole: Wow, that is an amazing accomplishment! Congratulations and thank you for bringing her proper story to the English-speaking world!]

 8. What’s next for you? Any books currently in the works?

My next book is a trip back to the late Middle Ages. Revelations, my new novel in progress, should be of special interest to fans of my 2012 novel, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Here I return once more to the realm of the female medieval mystics. Revelations is the story of the intersecting lives of two spiritual women who changed history—earthy Margery Kempe, globetrotting pilgrim and mother of fourteen, and ethereal Julian of Norwich, sainted anchorite, theologian, and author of the first book in English by a woman. Imagine, if you will, a fifteenth century Eat, Pray, Love.

[Note from Nicole: Ahhhhh! I’m so excited! I loved Illuminations. In fact, it’s my favorite book of yours. I’m all over this new one.]

9. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m on a mission to write women back into history. To a large extent, women have been written out of history. Their lives and deeds have become lost to us. To uncover the buried histories of women, we historical novelists must act as detectives, studying the sparse clues that have been handed down to us. To create engaging and nuanced portraits of women in history, we must learn to read between the lines and fill in the blanks.

It’s important that women today realize how quickly our lives and achievements can be forgotten and buried. Or heaped with misinterpretation and condemnation if we push too hard against the traditional feminine life script—Alma is remembered but she’s also been slated as a “bad” and even “hysterical” woman. We must do everything in our power to keep alive the memory of accomplished women and hope that future generations of women will remember what we have accomplished.

[Note from Nicole: We share the same mission. Men do love to call us hysterical, don’t they? Hopefully together, and with the other female authors who also focus on women, we can make a dent in history.]

Thank you so much for being here, Mary! Readers, if you have questions or comments, please leave them below and I will make sure Mary sees them.

Book Review: Ecstacy by Mary Sharratt

I’m so excited to be part of my friend Mary Sharratt’s blog tour for her book Ecstasy, which has one of the best covers I’ve ever seen. Mary and I met through the Historical Novel Society when we were on a panel together on women in history at the 2017 conference.

Ecstasy tells the story the relatively unknown Alma Mahler, a composer who would become the wife of famed composer Gustav Mahler. Alma was a woman ahead of her time (1879-1964), one who insisted on educating herself and working as a composer, even as all the women around her, including her sister, were doing the societally-acceptable thing and getting married. But through them, Alma witnessed that she would be forced to give up her dreams and so resolved to devote herself to music. Unfortunately, as any reader of women’s history or female historical fiction can tell you, such independent thinking – especially prior to the last few decades – rarely resulted in happiness for the woman.

If there is one idea to sum up Alma’s life and Sharratt’s book, it is that if Alma didn’t have bad luck with men, she wouldn’t have any at all. Before Alma even marries, one can see that she is desperate to find love and so has a tendency to adore the men who catch her fancy, an all-encompassing adulation that can only lead to ruin. As a result, her story – through no fault of Sharratt’s – often feels like watching a moth flit from one candle flame to the next, if only to find out how badly it will get burned this time.

As I reader, I wanted to shake Alma. Even I could see that she would have been better off with impoverished Alexander von Zemlinsky, than the rake Gustav Klimt (her first kiss) or any of her husbands, especially Gustav Mahler, on whom the balance of the book focuses. Alexander was the only one who truly respected Alma’s talent and would have allowed her to continue composing. While their relationship had its share of troubles – not the least of which was her family’s opposition to him being poor and Jewish – it was Alma being dazzled by Mahler, an older, womanizing star composer that killed her chance at happiness. (How many of us have been there? Those bad boys might be pretty, but they are also trouble.) She didn’t like his music, wasn’t inspired by him and knew he was controlling, yet she married him anyway, like so many other women in times when marriage was a requirement. The irony is that he was also Jewish and was known to be in debt. But yet, her parents allowed the relationship, albeit reluctantly.

Sharratt does an excellent job of portraying the misogyny of the period, especially as shown through Mahler. The only historical fiction portrayal that irritated me more was Marie Benedict’s Albert Einstein in The Other Einstein. I consider any strong feelings that I experience – especially loathing a character – a compliment to the author and a sign of his/her talent. Sharrat does not pull her punches. Mahler has the audacity to lay out to Alma exactly what he expects of her as a wife, demanding that she give up her own composing and “regard my music as your music (127)” and saying she “must become the person I need if we are to be happy together. My wife and not my colleague” (127).

The very traits which Sharratt uses to make Alma a historically accurate character make her also maddening for a modern reader. In her relationship with Mahler, she vacillates between being adoringly googly-eyed at her husband and feeling unworthy of his greatness (she almost acts like a victim of emotional abuse) and railing at him quite rightly for the injustices of the way he mistreats her. I think this is not only a personality trait, but a reflection of the times in which Alma lived. It seems like every time she is nearly brave enough to act as an independent woman, she recoils into the shell of the obedient housefrau that society expects. For all of her modern thinking, Alma has very little self-esteem, which is reinforced by Mahler, her parents and society at every turn. At one point she thinks to herself, “My only hope of distinguishing myself, of doing something truly remarkable, is by marrying a great man and sharing in his destiny” (131) and at another, Sharrat’s narration tells us, “Since she couldn’t find her way back to her old self, she would allow Gustav to shape her into a better self” – both thoughts inconceivable to my modern, feminist mind.

As a tale of what one woman endured and was willing to sacrifice for love, this book is a great read. It will be of particular enjoyment to fans of opera and classical music of the period, especially that produced in Vienna. Not knowing much about either, many of the references went over my head and I wonder how much richness I missed by not having the proper education to fully appreciate the book.

Ecstasy tells only a portion of Alma’s life, but her luck didn’t seem to improve any after Mahler’s death. In her Author’s Note, Sharratt writes that at after Mahler, Alma “made good on her aspiration for an independent life,” but not necessarily a happy one. She married two more times, but had affairs during each marriage, which says to me her bad luck with men and her desperate search for love continued throughout her life. I have to wonder how different Alma’s life would have been had she lived now, in a society that allowed and encouraged her to make her own choices, to be exactly what she wanted, with or without a man.

Join me here tomorrow for an interview with Mary Sharratt. Don’t forget to scroll down to the end of the post for a chance to win a paperback copy of the book.

Ecstasy
by Mary Sharratt

Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover & eBook; 400 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary

 

 

READ AN EXCERPT.

In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era.

Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time center stage.

Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?

Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

Available in Hardcover & eBook:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Indiebound

Also in AudioBook:

Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

Praise for Ecstasy

“In ECSTASY, Mary Sharratt plunges the reader into the tumultuous and glamorous fin de siècle era, bringing to life its brilliant and beguiling leading lady. Finally, Alma Mahler takes center stage, surging to life as so much more than simply the female companion to the brilliant and famous men who loved her. Sharratt’s portrait is poignant and nuanced, her novel brimming with rich historic detail and lush, evocative language.” – Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress

“A tender, intimate exploration of a complicated woman, Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY renders in exquisitely researched detail and fiercely imagined scenes the life of Alma Mahler — daughter, wife, mother, lover, and composer — and the early 20th Century Vienna and New York in which she came of age. I loved this inspiring story of an early feminist standing up for her art.” – Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Race for Paris

“Evocative and passionate, ECSTASY illuminates through its tempestuous and talented heroine a conundrum that resonates across the centuries: how a woman can fulfill her destiny by being both a lover and an artist.” – Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers

“Mary Sharratt makes a triumphant return to the page with this masterful portrait of Alma Mahler, the wife of the famous composer Gustav Mahler. Set in a time and place when a woman could only hope to be the power behind the throne, Sharratt brings a meticulously researched and richly illuminated account of a young woman who was a brilliant composer in her own right. Alma may have had to suppress her own talents to support Mahler; however, ECSTASY reveals that she was a woman who “contained multitudes.” ECSTASY is an important work of historical fiction, as well as a timely and topical addition to the canon of knowledge that needs to better represent important women and their contributions.” – Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books

“Alma Mahler’s unexpected, often heartbreaking journey from muse to independence comes to vivid, dramatic life in Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY. Sharratt skillfully evokes turn-of-the-century Vienna and the musical genius of the era, returning Alma to her rightful place in history as both the inspiration to the men in her life and a gifted artist in her own right.” – C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel

“Mary Sharratt has more than done justice to one of the most interesting, shocking, and passionate women of the 20th century. Overflowing with life and lust, ECSTASY explores this flawed but fascinating woman who was not only muse but a genius in her own right.” – New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose

“A deeply affecting portrait of the woman rumored to be the most notorious femme fatale of turn-of-the-century Vienna. Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY is as heartbreaking and seductive as Alma Mahler herself.” —Kris Waldherr, author of Doomed Queens and Bad Princess

About the Author

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Her novels include Summit Avenue, The Real Minera, The Vanishing Point, The Daughters of Witching Hill, Illuminations, and The Dark Lady’s Mask.

For more information, please visit Mary Sharratt’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of Ecstasy! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

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

Ecstasy

 

Madame Presidentess is an Eric Hoffer Award Finalist

Hi everyone! Just a quick note to share the good news that Madame Presidentess is a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. It didn’t end up winning, but it is on the list with my friend Neal Katz’s book Outrageous, which is also about Victoria, which is an honor. As I told him, two books about Victoria on one prize list should be enough to change the cosmos, at least a little!

According to an email from the contest organizers, they had over 1,500 entries and those who finaled were in the top 10% of entrants.

 

 

Meet Marie Rose Ferron, America’s First Stigmatist

My favorite photo of Rose. If I use one on the book cover, this likely will be it.

If you’ve been following this blog in the last few months, you may remember me mentioning that I’m writing a biography of Marie Rose Ferron, a little-known Catholic mystic who, though born in Canada, lived most of her life in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. In fact, I’m going to be visiting the foundation promoting her cause for canonization in June, including viewing their archives, visiting her grave and interviewing experts about her.

I mention her today because in the Catholic Church, someday this will be her feast day. (The date you die is considered your feast day when you become a saint. May 11 is the 82nd anniversary of her death. May 24 would have been her 116 birthday.)

Childhood
The first documented case of stigmata – a holy person bearing wounds of Christ in their bodies – in the United States was Marie Rose Ferron, known by many as “Little Rose.” She was born on May 24, 1902, in St. Germain de Grantham in Quebec, Canada, into a pious Catholic family who moved to Fall River, Massachusetts, when Rose was three. Rose was the 10th of 15 children, all of whom were dedicated to one of the mysteries of the rosary by their mother. Prophetically, Rose was dedicated to the crucifixion of Christ.

She was a very religious child, who had occasional visions of Jesus and saints from a young age. Her family was large and poor, so at the age of 12, she left school to work as a caregiver to local children. About a year later, Rose became seriously ill and her right hand and left foot were left paralyzed. Rose also suffered from a stomach or intestinal disease that made it difficult, and then impossible, for her to digest or keep down solid food. In addition, she had tetanus, which resulted in lockjaw, and made eating nearly impossible.

By 1925, when her family moved to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Rose was nearly bedbound. She had to be secured to her bed, which was only a board without a mattress, with strips of linen; otherwise, her body would contort and roll up like a hoop. The doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong with her, even though she was in great pain. Seeking to find meaning in her sad life, she turned to Father Gauthier, who taught her the value of redemptive suffering. This led to her offering herself up as a “victim soul” to expiate the sins of others.

The Sentinellist Affair
Around the same time, the diocese into which Rose moved was embroiled in a great controversy that would come to be known as the Sentinellist Affair. In short, Bishop Hickey was raising funds for a new school through a voluntary drive, but he warned it would be turned into a parish tax if people didn’t contribute willingly. The French Canadians of his diocese felt that they shouldn’t be taxed and that the Irish Catholic bishop was plotting to destroy their French-speaking schools and cultural identity in order to “Americanize” them by forcing them into his English-speaking schools. The difference of opinion became so great that the French Canadians took the bishop to court and he excommunicated them.

Bishop Hickey had heard of Rose and her growing reputation for sanctity and so appealed to her to offer her sufferings up to Jesus for the souls of those who were excommunicated and for the good of his diocese. She did so, and all eventually returned to the Church. This was the beginning of Rose’s saintly reputation in the community.

Rose as Mystic

A photo taken just after Rose’s death, showing the Crown of Thorns stigmata.

In addition to her physical sufferings, Rose experienced many mystical phenomenon, including ecstasy, stigmata, the ability to receive Communion without swallowing, bilocation, the ability to discern blessed objects and consecrated hosts, to tell who was a priest vs. a lay person, to read consciences, and to survive for long periods of time without eating solid food. She often took on the pains and illnesses of others, from childbirth to alcoholism, in order to spare others and benefit their souls.

At the end of 1926, Rose received the stigmata, beginning with wounds of the scourging on her arms. During Lent 1927, the marks of the hands and feet appeared. In January 1928 the stigmata of the crown of thorns (which was to become nearly permanent and very clear according to witnesses and photography) appeared and during Lent of 1929 she received the stigmata of the heart. In August of the same year she began to cry tears of blood like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and each Friday took on the countenance of the Holy Face. Other wounds appeared only when she suffered Christ’s passion for three hours on Fridays, such as that of the shoulder (from carrying the cross), one on her lower neck and one that bisected her forehead. Rose’s wounds would appear on late Thursday, remain until approximately 3 p.m. on Friday, and disappear completely by Saturday, as if they had never been and without a trace of infection.

Longing to live the life of a religious, but far too ill to join a convent, for many years Rose was a lay member of the Franciscans and also affiliated with the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood. On December 8, 1928, with the permission of Bishop Hickey, Rose took part in a ceremony of consecration in which she took a private vow of perpetual virginity as the first Sister of Reparation of the Sacred Wounds of Jesus. This did not make her a nun, but rather a consecrated lay person. Unfortunately, she did not live to see her order formally revived and approved in the mid-1950s and continue into the 21st century.

Victim of Reparation
By August 1931, fearful of the all the attention the stigmata brought to her and of developing pride, Rose prayed that her wounds would be removed. Jesus made all of them invisible, except for the crown of thorns. Rose still suffered from them; she felt blood rush to them and they caused her great pain, even more, she said, than when they were visible.

Around this time, rumors began to circulate that Rose’s wounds were never real and that all of her sufferings were a hoax. People began to call her a fraud and even close family friends publically turned against her. Believing these false accusations, Rose’s new spiritual director, Father Joseph Baril, told her that her spiritual life was built on a false foundation and that his task was to destroy it and rebuild it properly. So great was his zeal that even Rose began to question her own experiences and wonder if she had been deceived by an illusion.

Death of “Little Rose”

Rose’s grave in Precious Blood cemetary

Once when Rose was in ecstasy, she asked Jesus how much longer it would be before she could join him in heaven. The answer was seven more years, indicating that she would die at the age of 33. By April of 1936, just a month before her 34th birthday, it appeared Rose’s prediction was going to come true. She fainted when she tried to speak, was unable to even drink water, and the pain in her head was so great she would lose consciousness when she heard loud noises. Soon she was blind and deaf. She received last rites on May 2 and died on May 11.

Nearly 15,000 people viewed her remains and more than 4,000 people attended her funeral. In 1947, her grave was opened and her body was found to be incorrupt, a sign of sanctity often attributed to saints and other holy people in the Catholic Church.

Cause for Canonization
But Rose’s story does not end with her death. Almost immediately, friends, family, neighbors and those who had been devoted to Rose during her life began calling for a cause for canonization to be opened, which is the first step in a person becoming a saint in the Catholic Church. Led by Rose’s spiritual director, Father Boyer, a cult quickly formed around Rose. In 1941, Father Boyer published She Wears a Crown of Thorns, the first biography of Rose, and continued to actively promote Rose’s cause until his death in 1959.

To date, there have been two inquiries into Rose’s life for the purpose of deciding whether or not there is sufficient evidence to open a cause for canonization in Rome. The first was in the late 1950s and was led by Bishop Russell McVinney of Providence, Rhode Island. The second was conducted a few years later by Father William McKitchen. This one ended in 1963 with a decree against her case, rendering it effectively closed. The details of the diocese’s findings have never been made public and nor have they given any reason for the negative outcome, leaving Rose’s admirers confused and often outraged.

But that has not stopped those who believe her case has been grossly mishandled. According to Father John Baptist Palm, who worked for Rose’s cause for 50 years, the negative opinion of Rose by members of the clergy appears to stem from the testimony of four people among hundreds. In addition, according to Monsignor Arthur Geoghegan, testimonies in favor of Rose disappeared from the chancery files, and in 1951, a Father O’Brien destroyed all the papers about Rose after being told by the bishop Rose was a fraud. Later, when the second investigation was opened and Father Palm presented the 200 positive testimonies he had collected to Father William McKitchen, leader of the investigation, Father McKitchen refused to even look at them.

Spreading the Word About Rose

Purchased from Adobe Stock

In spite of the 1963 decree, various groups have kept Rose’s cause alive over the years through in-home prayer groups, pamphlets and the now defunct “Little Rose Magazine.” Devotion to Rose is particularly strong in Asia, where she is said to have appeared many times.

From the 1950s through his death in 2009, one of Rose’s strongest advocates was Father John Baptist Palm, who wrote several books regarding Rose and her cause and compiled over 2,000 pages of testimony by people who had known Rose. In 1971, he sent this information to the Holy See, as well as the bishops of North America, but with no resulting change.

In the Internet age, Rose’s supporters are finding new ways to spread the word about her and connect with one another. There is an online apostolate at http://www.marieroseferron.com and there are several lengthy articles about Rose at http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com, in addition to numerous blog posts, social media and articles that tell her story or detail healings in her name.

In 2015, the Rose Ferron Foundation of Rhode Island was founded with the intention of preserving the contents of a chapel built by Rose Myette, Rose’s cousin and caregiver, under Rose’s guidance. But since then, the foundation has expanded into actively working for Rose’s cause for canonization.

Learn more
In case you want to learn more about Rose (and don’t want to wait for my book and/or future blog posts from me), here are some links that contain good information about her:

Two Honors for The Once and Future Queen

I’m happy to be able to say that The Once and Future Queen recently received two awards:

  1. First in category for Instructional & Insightful Non-Fiction Books at the Chanticleer Book Awards.
  2. The Indie BRAG Medallion, which honors the best in independently published books. This is my fourth Indie BRAG Medallion.

Here are some comments from the Indie BRAG reviewers:

“When I chose this book, I wanted to send out a warning to the author “I LOVE Guinevere stories and have read a great many of them. Well, good for you Ms. Evelina, this was not a disappointment! This is a very well researched book told in a very fluid and readable way. I will certainly be looking forward to the next book in this incredible story. Thank you.”

“This is a very thorough examination of Queen Guinevere in literature for at least 1000 years. It is well-researched and well-documented with an abundance of footnotes. There is a clear line discussing the changes in the character through the years. I enjoyed the book very much.”

“Extremely well-researched with comprehensive footnotes. An excellent compendium of scholarly research and fictional sources, both ancient and modern. A useful reference book to have in the library of anyone interested in this period.”

“This is a very well researched book with a number of new, to me, insights. I will be interested in reading what the author does next.”

Guinevere’s Tale Book 3

Publication date: September 15, 2018

Legend says Guinevere spent her final days in penance in a convent, but that is far from the truth.

Having escaped death at the stake, Guinevere longs to live a peaceful life in Brittany with Lancelot, but the threat of Arthur’s wrath quickly separates the lovers. Guinevere finds herself back in Camelot, but it is not the peaceful capital she once knew; the loyalty of the people is divided over Arthur’s role in her death sentence. When war draws Arthur away from Britain, Mordred is named acting king. With Morgan at his side and a Saxon in his bed, Mordred’s thirst for power becomes his undoing and the cause of Guinevere’s greatest heartache.

In the wake of the deadly battle that leaves the country in civil war, Guinevere’s power as the former queen is sought by everyone who seeks to ascend the throne. Heartbroken and refusing to take sides in the conflict, she flees north to her mother’s Votadini homeland, where she is at long last reunited with Lancelot. The quiet life she desires is just beginning when warring tribal factions once again thrust her into an unexpected position of power. Now charged with ending an invasion that could bring an end to the Votadini tribe and put the whole island in the hands of the Saxons, Guinevere must draw upon decades of experience to try to save the people she loves and is sworn to protect.

Pre-order print and ebook

  

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo pre-orders will be available in July. Audio information TBA.

This book is also listed on:

Formats: paperback, ebook, audio
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing
ISBN:

  • 978-0-9967632-5-7 (print)
  • 978-0-9967632-6-4 (ebook)
  • 978-0-9967632-7-1 (audio)

Mistress of Legend Cover Reveal and Publication Date

I sent this out to my newsletter subscribers and Street Team members last week, but totally forgot to post it here!

Mistress of Legend, the final book in the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, will be published September 15 – exactly 19 years to the day when Guinevere first spoke in my head and I started writing the prologue of Daughter of Destiny. (Which is still in tact, minus one paragraph BTW.) Here’s the back cover copy:

Legend says Guinevere spent her final days in penance in a convent, but that is far from the truth.

Having escaped death at the stake, Guinevere longs to live a peaceful life in Brittany with Lancelot, but the threat of Arthur’s wrath quickly separates the lovers. Guinevere finds herself back in Camelot, but it is not the peaceful capital she once knew; the loyalty of the people is divided over Arthur’s role in her death sentence. When war draws Arthur away from Britain, Mordred is named acting king. With Morgan at his side and a Saxon in his bed, Mordred’s thirst for power becomes his undoing and the cause of Guinevere’s greatest heartache.

In the wake of the deadly battle that leaves the country in civil war, Guinevere’s power as the former queen is sought by everyone who seeks to ascend the throne. Heartbroken and refusing to take sides in the conflict, she flees north to her mother’s Votadini homeland, where she is at long last reunited with Lancelot. The quiet life she desires is just beginning when warring tribal factions once again thrust her into an unexpected position of power. Now charged with ending an invasion that could bring an end to the Votadini tribe and put the whole island in the hands of the Saxons, Guinevere must draw upon decades of experience to try to save the people she loves and is sworn to protect.

Pre-order print and ebook

  

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo pre-orders will be available in July.

Audiobook
Right now I don’t know if audio will be available at the same time or slightly after print and ebook. I need to work that out with my narrator.

Guinevere’s Tale Box Set
I will also be releasing all three books in the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy in a box set on September 15, both as an ebook and a huge print book. Cover, ordering info and details to come.

Guest Post – On Making Paperweights: Jacqueline Friedland Talks Strong Women and Memorable Books

Happy Beltane, everyone! I’m so excited to have Jacqueline Friedland as my guest here today. As her post below makes clear, she’s a soul-sister of mine in her love for strong women. Her post really got me thinking about how our early experiences with reading shape who we are later on as writers. I think I may do a follow up post on that with my own thoughts. But this post is about her, not about me. Take it away, Jacqueline!

Photo: Rebecca Weiss Photography

Did you ever try to figure out why certain novels make you fall in love and others make you fall asleep?  Perhaps you’ve wondered if there is a common thread, a specific literary ingredient that draws you so deeply into certain stories?  Maybe if you could identify a trend in the books that invariably keep you reading late into the night, that knowledge might allow you to better hone in on other books that would provide you with equal delight.

As a voracious reader and an author, it has been important to me to pinpoint the devices and themes embedded in the books I most adore.  Not only can such knowledge save me from muddling through books that don’t speak to me, but it can also help me to create written work of my own that feels appropriate and substantive in all the right ways.  Over the past several years, I have identified several characteristics that lead me to gravitate towards a novel.  I like a fast-pace, a strong plot, accessible prose, maybe some romance, perhaps some humor.  Nothing scary, gory, or overly experimental.  But there is something more elusive that has made certain books stay with me for years.

When my mother read aloud to me during my early childhood, we loved The Little Engine that Could, The Secret Garden and Little House on the Prairie.  As I grew older, I was drawn to books like Nancy Drew, The Babysitters Club and Anne of Green Gables.  Then there were the books that shot to the top of my list as I reached adulthood: Gone with the Wind, Jane Eyre and The Bronze Horseman.  What these books all have in common are strong female characters (and if you weren’t aware, Watty Piper’s plucky little engine is indeed female).  These works of fiction portray girls and women who have grit, the will and determination to continue striving until they reach their goals.

There is an additional commonality between these characters though, which is that these females are not only strong, but kind.  In today’s world, there is so much discussion of women needing to be strong, but not enough emphasis on the fact that in appropriate circumstances, kindness should be perceived as a type of strength.  The ability to think about others and see past one’s own experience in interacting with people requires a special kind of fortitude.

In creating my debut novel, Trouble the Water, I felt it was imperative to include positive messages about feminine power and decision making.  The manner in which my characters approach the circumstances fate deals them is what I believe defines their spirits and ethos.  I wanted to portray characters who could make the best of difficult circumstances while also being brave enough to reject conformity.  I created women who took the lemons life handed them and decided to use those lemons as paperweights.  After all, not everyone likes lemonade.

The central female characters in Trouble the Water are each willing to think outside the Victorian or antebellum box, despite the constraints of the 1840s.  The women are courageous enough to make their own choices and to shout until they are heard.  Abigail Milton, the story’s protagonist, has worked in a cotton mill in Lancashire England, receiving a pittance in recompense since she was eleven years old.  When her parents ask her to travel to America so that she may live off the charity of their old friend in Charleston, and thereby lighten the financial burden on her family, she agrees to set off on her own, traveling across the Atlantic Ocean with little more than a stale bread crust and unwavering determination to make a better life for herself.

As the story unfolds and Abby discovers that her new home is rife with clandestine efforts to free local slaves, she is excited, energized, and eager to participate in the abolitionist effort.  Rather than judging the high-risk and profoundly illegal activity of her patron, Douglas Elling, Abby wants to jump directly into the trenches of abolition with him.  It’s a whole different kind of #metoo.

Throughout the story, Abby repeatedly resists being corralled into any of the stereotypical gender molds of the day.  From her penchant for physical exercise to her continued rejection of assistance from men, even those who simply offer to carry her bundles, Abby is her own person.  She is desperate to create meaning in her life, which she believes can be achieved through teaching and helping others.  When she develops romantic feelings for another character, she struggles greatly over how to reconcile those feelings with her burning desire for independence.

In addition to Abby, the other women featured in the novel are full of conviction and tenacity.  Cora Rae Cunningham, a beautiful, spicy, nineteen-year-old who has rejected one marriage proposal after another will not be seduced by wealth nor forced into an arrangement that is not to her romantic satisfaction, much to the dismay of her plantation-owning, socially conforming parents.  Clover, a house slave impregnated by her master, refuses to birth her baby into a life of bondage, and in the ultimate act of bravery and sacrifice, takes her chances on running North.

Creating a realistic historical novel that depicts female characters who are ahead of their time, models for women in any time period, is a challenge that I was glad to undertake.  I felt it was incumbent on me to portray women who were progressive for their time, active players in their life stories, rather than passive guests, living out the scripts that had been handed to them by other forces.  My characters have strong backbones, as well as moments of unexpected kindness and generosity.  They are just the type of women who would keep me reading deep into the night.

Sounds like your characters and mine would get along great! Thank you so much, Jacqueline! I know I can’t wait to read her book! If you have any questions for Jacqueline, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll make sure she sees them.