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

 

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.

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.

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!

I’m in the July/August Issue of Ind’tale Magazine

Just wanted to let everyone know I’m all over the July/August issue of Ind’tale Magazine.

  1. I have an article on how to do your own writing retreat. (p. 38-40)
  2. Daughter of Destiny (p. 132) and Been Searching for You‘s (p. 133) audiobooks are reviewed.
  3. I have an ad in there as well. (p. 41)

Happy reading!

 

Book Review: Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper by Sara Dahmen

dr-kinneyFull disclosure: I met the author at the Chanticleer Author’s Conference last year and we’ve become online friends. That doesn’t influence my review, however. This is my honest opinion.

Our modern world makes complexity out to be the be-all-and-end-all, and as a result life seems to get more and more complex by the day. Because of this, sometimes simplicity is refreshing, and that is one of many reasons why I truly cherished my time reading Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper by Sara Dahmen.

I mean no insult by calling the book simple. Rather, that is a compliment of highest regard. It’s easy to write flowery prose; spare language in which every word pulls its weight is much harder. More difficult still is using such prose to paint a picture of rough-and-tumble frontier life while avoiding cliché and giving the reader a viable sense of a bygone era in which life was slower-paced and values meant something. Ms. Dahmen does all this in spades and it’s easy to see why this book won the Grand Prize in the Laramie Awards for Western Fiction (sponsored by Chanticleer Reviews).

Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper is the story of Jane, a widowed, childless woman seeking a life away from her home and family after her husband’s death. In answering an ad for a housekeeper in the Dakota Territories, she sets her life on an unexpected course in which she encounters love, friendship, grief, prejudice and joy in the company of wonderfully drawn characters that range from a dusty cowboy to a wise Sioux widow. The plot is quietly powerful, as are the characters, all of whom evoke a strong sense of personhood and strength, remaining with you long after you’ve read the closing words of the book.

This is one of those sleeper books that has much more to it than one might think at first glance. More than just another work of historical fiction, more than a love story, more than a western – though it is all of these things – Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper is a story of patience and triumph over adversity through faith and steely determination, of allowing our lives to change and mould us into better human beings through trials and sorrow, and of treasuring the simple joys in life. This is a book not to be missed, one that will haunt you for weeks to come as you ponder the curious depth of plot and the bravery of its characters.

Sara Dahmen is a writer of true talent and rare gifts. I look forward to reading more from her.

Book Review and Giveaway: In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson

513b1uxrXNL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I was lucky to review this book for the Historical Novel Society a few months ago and I LOVED it. Then I recently unwittingly entered a contest to win a copy (which I already have because I reviewed the book), so I decided to give away my extra copy to one of you. If you want to enter for a chance to win, please let me know in the comments below. I will choose a winner at random on July 15.

Here is my review of the book.

This dual time period story parallels the modern-day life of Lia, a historian writing her dissertation on the beliefs of the early 13th-century Cathars, and a conspiracy-style tale behind the 1208 historical murder of papal legate Pierre de Castlenau, an act of violence which sparked the religious crusade against the Cathars. Having moved to France to grieve the untimely death of her husband, Lia quickly learns that past and present aren’t as far removed as they may seem, and not all souls rest peacefully after death. The deeper she gets involved, the more Lia realizes history may not tell the truth of what happened to Castlenau and the Cathars; the real story may be far more dangerous, with the possibility of changing not only her own life, but also the history of the Church.

In Another Life grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go. The prose is rich and evocative, transporting the reader to rural France with an ease unusual for a debut author. The story is intriguing, weaving past and present in an ever-tightening braid that eventually dissolves the separation altogether, adeptly illustrating how the Cathars’ belief in reincarnation might play out in the real world. Lia is especially well-portrayed as the unwitting catalyst uniting two deaths, three men, and 800 years of history, while the male characters are slowly revealed as we learn their unlikely pasts and how they affect the present. Very highly recommended.

Leave a comment for a chance to win this book!

Book Reviews: In the Shadow of the Storm by Anna Belfrage & The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about books here that weren’t my own, so today I thought I’d share my thoughts on two wonderful, very different books that I’ve just finished over the weekend.

Shadow of the StormIn the Shadow of the Storm by Anna Belfrage – ****
If the author’s name sounds familiar, it may be because she kindly read my first two Guinevere novels and gave a blurb for each. Or maybe because she was the winner of the 2015 Historical Novel Society Indie Award. Either way, she’s a fabulous writer.

In the Shadow of the Storm is set in 13th century England, a time of great political unrest, due in part to a weak king who is enthralled by one of this favorites, Hugh Despenser, an evil man bent on violence and revenge, who exacts a strong toll on the hero and heroine of this book, making it one part dark history. The other part is a solid love story. The main protagonists, Kit and Adam, are forced together into a marriage based on deception, one he soon learns of, but they both keep it up to save their lives and their marriage. When Adam’s lord rises against the king, Adam has no choice but to follow, even though the act is treason. His unwavering loyalty leads to many trials for the newlyweds, and for me, this was when the book became a page-tuner, racing toward an end that was satisfying in many respects but left the path wide open for the rest of this new series.

This is very much a character-driven book, as a lot of it sets up the rest of the series, so the plot is really showing the reader the relationships between the characters and the political realities of the time. I have to admit to being captivated by the love story in this book. Kit and Adam were worthy protagonists, believable in their actions and reactions as they grew to get to know and love one another. We all know I love strong female characters, and Kit delivers in spades, so much so that a few points, I wanted the male characters to grow a pair and stand up to her! Hugh Despenser is the the most scum-sucking low-life villain since…well, Father Marius in my own books. I think that’s why I hated him, but also secretly couldn’t wait to see what depravity he would stoop to next.

Anna has a talent for really taking you back in time, evoking sights, sounds and sometimes unpleasant scents you may not otherwise have associated with the period. As a reader, I felt like I was there amid the dirt and grime, the stinking river water and unwashed bodies. That’s one of the marks of great historical fiction for me. All in all, I highly enjoyed this book and am interested to see where this series goes, especially since I’m not familiar with the history of the time period.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The rumorThe Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand – *****

If you’re looking for a fun beach read that will transport you to the shores of Nantucket where the filthy rich live lives you can’t even begin to imagine, The Rumor is the right indulgence for you.

Told from multiple viewpoints, The Rumor does exactly what the title promises by showing how a few innocent situations can get misconstrued and exaggerated to the point where they begin to wreak havoc on lives…but even they can’t compare with the dark reality hiding behind the truth. Not all is as shiny and perfect as it seems on this idyllic island, as it’s residents deal with money problems, marital issues, teenage rebellion and career-ending betrayal. But for all that, this isn’t a dark book. In fact, it’s as sunny as the beach or Grace’s garden.

Hilderbrand is a master of voice in this light women’s fiction, seamlessly switching from a teenage girl’s POV to a failing middle-aged male real estate broker and a frustrated author with writer’s block who may just stab her equally (sexually) frustrated best friend in the back with the plot for her next novel. And that’s only the beginning. The characters are well drawn for all of the seeming cliché of their situations, and Hilderbrand manages to have you both rooting for and despising each character, depending on who is doing the narrating at the time.

This book is a fun diversion from daily life and I’m glad I discovered this author. I have two more of her books on my phone (I listened to The Rumor in audio format) and I look forward to seeing if her other books live up to this one.

Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think? Are you interested in either of them?

RT Book Reviews Gives Been Searching for You 4 Stars!

OMG, I am shaking right now. For an indie to get a review in RT, especially on a debut romance, is huge. If you can’t read the review, click on it and it will link to the web site.

RT Review

I hope you all agree that it’s a fun, worthwhile story when it comes out May 10. You can pre-order the ebook now here:

amazon-logo-iconbook-button-smashwords-icon  or add it to  goodreads

I’m going to pick up a copy tonight and will share a picture of the print review soon.