Book Review: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

I am SO not a math and science person, but I think The Other Einstein may well end up as my favorite book of 2017. I remember seeing it reviewed in the New York Times when it first came out, but because I don’t give a hoot about science, I didn’t read it. I was afraid it would go over my head. (There is a little science in there I didn’t understand, but it is not at all overwhelming.) Over the next year or so it kept showing up in various places and when it appeared in the “People Also Bought” section on the Amazon pages for my books, I knew I had to read it. I wanted to know what readers (and Amazon’s algorithm) thought the books have in common.

As it turns out, that was identifiable right away. Not only is it about a strong historical woman whose story really hasn’t been told, the tone or “voice” of the book strongly matched my own. That is a hard thing to qualify, so you may just have to go with me on that idea. But I was hooked immediately and knew this was going to be the tale of my kind of woman: intelligent, determined and unwilling to let anyone or anything stand in her way.

The story opens with the early education and formative family years of Mileva Maric, an unusually smart Serbian woman, for whom no marriage is expected because a deformed hip has left her with a limp. Because of this, her father sees fit to encourage her love of school and studying, especially science. He even goes so far as to move the family to help her become one of only a handful of women who study at the Zurich Polytechnic university. During her first year of study – she is the only female physics student in her section – she makes a pact with one of her female roommates that they will eschew men and embark upon a life dedicated to study and science.

As we know from the title, that’s not what happens. A charming Mr. Einstein enters her life and everything changes. After years of her fending off his advances and a prolonged courtship due to money issues, Albert promises to build a life with Mileva based in intellectual discussion, shared science and joint experiments – the very thing of which she has always dreamed.

I won’t ruin the plot by telling you what happens, but I will say this: the very same things that made Einstein charming in the beginning make him a royal asshole as the story progresses. I can’t tell you the number of times I said out loud while reading this book, “You are such a dick.” Kudos to Marie Benedict for being able to create such a complex character that I was drawn in by him, only to be betrayed right alongside Mileva.

I wish Mileva would have fought back more. That is the one thing I wish was different in this book and about her character. She was so smart, so strong in many other ways, but Albert was her weakness. There were many times when I said to her, “why are you still taking this?” (I listened to the book on audio, so it wasn’t quite as weird to talk back to the character.) I would have told him off and gotten out of the relationship at the first hint of trouble. But then again, I’m a 21st century girl (great, now I’m singing “21st Century Digital Boy” by Bad Religion) who was raised on a healthy dose of feminism and the message that I can do anything I want and not to let anyone stop me. I’m sure being a woman in Serbia in the early 1900s, raised on the idea that your role in life is to keep house and have children would have given me a totally different mindset. As an author, I know Marie Benedict was being true to the time period, but it frustrated me as a reader.

And maybe that is not a bad thing. The fact that she elicited such strong emotion from me is testament to the author’s talent. I know I will never look at a picture of Einstein again within inwardly (and maybe outwardly) grumbling. I can’t even hear/read his name without shuddering now, given that he takes great pains in the book to remind Mileva that Einstein means “one stone” and point out that when they married they became one. You’ll have to read the book to see how that gets used against her. What Albert did to Mileva is appalling and puts her squarely in the ranks of some of history’s most royally-screwed women. If this book is to be believed (and it IS fiction, so Marie Benedict has had no shortage of controversy from readers/reviewers) Mileva was robbed of an honor that would have firmly emblazoned her name in history, among many other slights.

I can’t fathom why this book wasn’t a runaway bestseller. That is perhaps the highest praise I can give a book, and its author. I will definitely be reading Marie’s other books as she writes them. I only hope they all uncover stories like Mileva’s. They may be rough on the emotions, but they are stories that need to be told.

PS – Interesting side note: Marie Benedict has written three other books under the name Heather Terrell, The ChrysalisThe Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare. I read one of them a long time ago and HATED it. HATED IT! She has come a long way. (No, I’m not telling you which one.) But I plan to read the other two now.

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Updates: Awards, New Booksellers and More!

1) I found out last night that both Been Searching for You (long contemporary) and Camelot’s Queen (mainstream with romantic elements) finaled in the Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice Contest! That’s an RWA contest hosted by the Ancient City Romance Writers chapter.

2) A few days ago, Madame Presidentess was named an Honorable Mention in the Reader’s Favorite book awards in the fiction – historical personage category. It may not be a win, but it is still and honor (no pun intended), and it puts me in the company of Anna Belfrage, who blurbed both of the Guinevere books. She also received an Honorable Mention and a second book of hers was a finalist. That is the kind of company I want to keep!

3) I am hard at work on beta reader edits to The Once and Future Queen. I’m hoping for a late October release, but it may end up being early November. I will let you know for sure once my editor and proofreader have seen the book.

4) If you’re in St. Louis/St. Charles, Missouri, be sure to stop at Main Street Books. They are now selling all of my books!

I should have news on Madame Presidentess audio soon, so stay tuned for that…

Twitter Chat Recap

If you missed the Twitter chat I did last week, you’re in luck. They’ve storified it and given me permission to re-blog it.

Here’s the link to the full chat or you can click on the image below. Hope you enjoy!

Join Me Tonight for a Twitter Chat!

I’m doing a twitter chat tonight from 7-8 p.m. CST on strong female characters in history and I’d love to hear from you!

Visit Strong Women Write to learn more! #StrongWomenWrite

Cover Reveal: My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

 

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

We’re celebrating Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s Birthday today and you get the gift! Don’t miss the beautiful cover below and a special giveaway, and don’t forget to pre-order your copy today!

 

About My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton (Coming 4.3.2018):

Wife, Widow, and Warrior in Alexander Hamilton’s Quest to Form a More Perfect Union

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A founding father’s wife…

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…

 

Pre-Order on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GooglePlay | iBooks | Kobo

 

To celebrate Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s Birthday today, we have a surprise for you! Share the cover of MY DEAR HAMILTON and fill out the Rafflecopter below to receive an Exclusive Excerpt!

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New York Times bestselling author, Stephanie Dray is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW’s Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women’s fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation’s capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.

 

 

 

Stephanie’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

 

 

New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kaye. Her New York Times bestselling debut historical novel, America’s First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.

 

 

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Book Review: Love, Second Time Around by Penny Appleton

I came upon Love, Second Time Around completely by chance. I was on Twitter and I saw an author assistant I follow ask if anyone likes sweet romance. I said I do. She then told me she had one that needs a review and sent me a copy.

Before I get to my review, here’s a quick synopsis from the back of the book:

Maggie Stewart is a retired lawyer, working to preserve the heritage of her little English cottage in Summerfield village. Her children have grown and she’s content to ride horses in the countryside and enjoy her retirement.

Except she needs money for her renovations … and she’s lonely.

When she joins her old environmental team to go up against an oil company, Maggie finds herself working in opposition to a man she once loved from afar, many years ago.

Idaho ranch owner Greg Warren is rich and entitled, with a dark past that he hides behind a professional smile. But inside, he struggles with loneliness after the loss of his wife, and the rage of a wild daughter who won’t let him move on.

Love blooms as Maggie and Greg take a chance on a new start, but can they find a balance between their two worlds?

In this sweet romance, set between the English countryside and the mountains and farmland of Idaho, can Maggie and Greg find love second time around?

I have to admit that if I’d come across the book on the shelf, I would have passed it by because the couple on the front is older. Shame on me! That actually turned out to be one of the things I liked about the book. It was refreshing to see two people who are mature in their dealings on love, as opposed to the selfish 20- and 30-somethings that normally populate romance novels. The characters felt real and I could truly believe the heroine, Maggie, and the hero, Greg, have been meant for each other all along. I do have to admit that Greg’s sometimes misogynistic attitude that comes out toward the end turned me off of him a bit, but that is in keeping with the generation he belongs to, so I can give the author that. It is nice to see a flawed hero whose wound is something realistic, unlike a lot of the brooding heroes out there. Same goes for Maggie. I felt really bad for her once I learned her back story. And oh, could I relate to her financial woes!

Two actors immediately popped into my head for the main characters, that’s how well they were drawn. Richard Gere for Greg and Rosemary Dunsmore for Maggie.

By far my favorite part of the book was the settings, especially Maggie’s Square House cottage in England. I didn’t want to leave those parts because the writing was so vivid that I felt like I was living in rural England. (We all know that is a weakness of mine!) Even Greg’s Idaho ranch came to life for me, despite me not generally liking anything to do with the American West. This book is a great example of how setting can teach you something about the character, as their different home lives really serve to show just how far apart they are in what they are comfortable with. Understanding that really made me want to know if they could work past those differences to make their love happen.

I have to admit being a little in love with silver fox Greg. He’s my kind of man: rich and fond of the grand gestures. Yes, this book definitely fulfilled a fantasy for me. But beyond that, he’s kind and truly loving to his family – perhaps too indulgent with his bitchy daughter – and that’s the kind of man I want to end up with. I’ve always liked older men, and now that I’m staring down 40, perhaps this is the kind of man I’ll look for in the future.

This book is short – I read it in a matter of hours – but it has surprising depth for it’s length. It’s sweet, but in a romantic way, not in a religious or sickeningly trite way. It’s a beautiful, old-fashioned romance that will sweep you up and then gently put you down when it’s over. We need more books like that. This would be perfect for a Hallmark Channel movie adaptation. I will definitely be reading the other books in this series, and anything else Penny Appleton (the pen name of a mother-daughter duo) writes.

PS – This book is written in first person from Maggie’s POV, just like Been Searching for You is from Annabeth’s! Yay to more authors breaking the romance “rule” that the book has to be written in third person and be from both the hero and heroine’s POVs.

An Interview with Aimee Brown, Author of Little Gray Dress

I’m so excited for all of you to meet author Aimee Brown, whom I’ve known online for a few years now. Yesterday, I reviewed her debut novel, Little Gray Dress, which is definitely a don’t miss! She gave me the opportunity to pick her brain so I asked her about her book, chick lit and what she sees in the future. Take it away, Aimee!

  1. What inspired you to write Little Gray Dress? I was actually participating in NaNoWriMo last November. I didn’t have an exact idea or inspiration I just knew it would be romantic comedy. I sat down and wrote out the rough draft in 12 days and that helped me piece together what was actually happening and draft two began shortly after. For me, the inspiration was more to finally complete a book, about anything really. What turned up on the page was a fun look at what’s been going on in my head for the last ten years.
  2. We’ve all heard of the little black dress. Why is yours gray? Gray is my favorite color and I didn’t want to do the same thing that’s already been overdone. I actually didn’t even intend to have a little gray dress it just kind of worked its way in. In the end, I was able to tie it all together with the dress in a way that just made sense.
  3. Your main character, Emi, is a normal woman in that she is a more full figured lady who has real problems, as opposed to the model thin vapid women who populate a lot of similar books. Why was it important to you to make Emi different, or should I say real? (And thank you for that. I love her!) I read somewhere a while back that the average American woman wears a size 14. I think that’s actually been upped to a 16 now. I wanted the main character to struggle with the same thing most women do. It seems self-esteem of our young girls has gone down the shitter because no one wants to admit that a size 2 isn’t normal. I’m not sure I’ve ever worn a size two? I’m not a tiny supermodel of a woman and I know the struggles that can go with it in our very visual world of social media. It’s important to me that women know they are beautiful no matter what size they are in comparison to what the world creates as an unrealistic normal.
  4. Portland, Oregon is a very important location in the book. What made you want to set your book there? I grew up in Oregon in a town about 1.5 hours south of Portland (all of my family are still there) and as an adult, my husband and I moved our family to Portland and lived there about 6 or 7 years. It’s a great city, as weird as they get but, also gorgeous and a lot of fun. I’ve always loved Portland and the essence that comes with it so it was just natural to use the place I know the best.
  5. The book takes place around a series of weddings, which are a common theme in chick lit fiction. What do you think draws readers to that theme? I think a lot of us chick lit authors grew up in the 80’s & 90’s when romantic comedies were Hollywoods best films. They were based on uniquely funny, yet not overdone, and sometimes innocent situations that we all have in life. You know I think over the years we’ve lost that in film and if I can help bring some of it back in my books, I’m more than happy to do so. What did you have to say that you think makes your version unique? My book is simple. There is conflict, romance and laugh out loud moments but there is nothing too out of the ordinary. I didn’t go extreme or use all the fancy big words available to man. It’s real and I feel like it’s a great representation of the classic rom/com films I so miss from my youth.
  6. What is it about chick-lit that makes you want to write in the genre? It’s just me. The first time I read Sophie Kinsella I knew it was my genre. In the same way that when I watched Sleepless in Seattle when I was 14, I knew I’d never love any other genre of film as much. When I write, chick-lit is what appears on the paper so I guess it’s just my ‘thing’.
  7. What are some of your favorite chick lit books and movies? Books, I loved the Shopaholic series by Kinsella and the chick-lit cozy mysteries by Evanovich (Stephanie Plum Series) and Cabot (Size 12 is not fat). For movies, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Father of the Bride, It Could Happen to You, While you were Sleeping, the list seriously goes on and on. I wish they made those types of movies again.
  8. You’ve been a blog tour coordinator for other authors for many years now. (Including mine for Been Searching for You.) What did you learn from those authors that helped you in launching your own career? SO MUCH! Seriously, Y’all have taught me everything I know about marketing. I may appear to know a lot on the outside but I’m all about the researching, the listening to other authors and their stories. So many of you are knowledgeable in different areas that to be able to be involved in so many amazing authors releases (yours included!) has been quite an honor for me as well as a great learning experience.
  9. What’s next for you as an author? Right now I’m working on my next novel, a stand-alone that involves a character from Little Gray Dress. I’ve also got a novel in the works that takes place in a vintage Tiki Bar… I’ve got quite a few cool things happening behind the scenes that I can’t wait to tell you all about.
  10. What else would you like to add? Thank you so much for being such an amazing supporter of my debut novel. This whole process is really surreal. It’s an odd feeling to be on the other side of the publishing industry. But, I love it and it’s what I’ve worked so long for.

Thank you, Aimee! I hope everyone goes out and orders your book. I, for one, can’t wait to read those two books you teased above!

Questions or comments or Aimee? Leave them for her below.

Book Review: Little Gray Dress by Amiee Brown

I am so thrilled to be part of Aimee’s blog tour for her debut novel, Little Gray Dress! Full disclosure: I used Amy’s company Hello Chick Lit for the blog tour of Been Searching for You, but that in no way influenced my review.

Little Gray Dress is a very cute romantic comedy/chick lit story about Emi Harrison, a 30 something Portland resident who is about to face her worst nightmare, seeing her ex-fiance, Jack Cabot, again after a disastrous breakup two years prior. Little does she know that this is just the beginning of her troubles, which will range from a little too much alcohol at an inopportune time to a run-in with her worst enemy that changes everything. Add into the mix the hot new bar owner she may or may not be falling for, one outrageously ugly bridesmaid dress, and the tension that goes along with being sister of the bride when you have to be escorted down the aisle by your ex, and you’ve got a recipe for…well, let’s hope not disaster!

Told in two timelines – the present and flashbacks that go in reverse order from when Jack and Aimee broke up to the day they met – this book is unique in structure. I mean, a lot of books employ flashbacks, but I’ve never seen an author do it backwards, or do it so well. The flashbacks are key to getting to know this couple, what made them tick, and what was the moment that finally stopped the clock for them. Aimee does a masterful job at making sure each flashback fits in its place and helps you learn something about both the past and the present, so that at first you don’t even notice her technique, and by the time you do, she’s proven it to be so helpful, you’re grateful for it.

The thing that draws me into any book are its characters, and this was no exception. I loved that Emi is a real woman, one with weight issues, lack of coordination and a tendency to say the wrong thing or curse. I could actually relate to her, unlike the skinny, cardboard idiots that populate a good portion of chick lit. Jack is definitely my type of hero: well-educated, good at his job, rich and with a penchant for grand romantic gestures. (Yes, he reminds me a little of my character, Alex. We need more men like this in romance!) Hell, I even loved to hate Greta, the conniving villain of the story who for some reason I pictured as Kristin Chenoweth. The secondary characters blurred together a little for me, but I really liked Liam. Poor Liam. I was torn about where I wanted his character/storyline to go. (Maybe he can star in the next book. Hint for Aimee.)

Overall, the plot was strong and well-paced. This being a chick lit/rom-com, not everything is believable or realistic, but I have to admit that when I get to those parts in these kinds of books I just grimace a little and then move on. They kind of get a pass from me as to be expected as part of the genre. There is one little twist toward the end that felt really over the top to me, but it also saved the story from being like 80 million other similar ones, so I’m on the fence. But if you expect moments like that here and there (and there really aren’t many), this is a very cute beach read (I read it in four days) that you won’t want to miss! And the ending will warm your heart – though I doubt you will see the details coming.

I do still want to know why the dress is gray instead of black!

5 stars. Aimee is now one of my auto-buy authors. I will be reading everything she publishes in the future! Be sure to stop by tomorrow when I have an interview with Aimee!