My Books Available in Stores & On New Site

I’m happy to say that if you live in LA or near Bellingham, Washington, you can now purchase my books from two physical book stores!

rippedboddiceThe Ripped Bodice – Los Angeles, CA
You may remember that I was a proud Kickstarter backer for the opening of this romance-only bookstore. (I sponsored a shelf.) Now, they are selling Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, Been Searching for You and Madame Presidentess (once it’s published), both in-store and online. 

Village Books – Bellingham, WA
A perk of being one of the top five bestsellers at the Chanticleer Author’s Conference is that Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen are now for sale in their store. Been Searching for You and Madame Presidentess (pre-order) are available on their website.

Books by the Bay

Ireadbooks.com
This is a new site by the folks behind Serious Reading. Daughter of Destiny and Been Searching for You are available for free on this site. Yes, you read that right. You can download them for free and I get paid for every download. I will eventually add my other books as well.

More to Come, and You Can Help!
As soon as I get some time to talk with my local indie book store owners, you’ll be seeing my books on shelves here in St. Louis and hopefully Chicago as well. I’ve also been told of a book store in Glastonbury, England that is interested; I need to follow up on that one. Not bad for an indie author who just published her first book on January 1!

Are there book stores in your area you’d like to see carry my books? If so, let me know. You asking them is always a big help, but if I know where you like to shop, I will contact them as well. Together, we can get books on shelves all over the world!

My First Radio Interview

Speak up talk radioQuick update on something I think you may want to know about. I was on Speak Up Talk Radio today and you can listen to my interview. It was my very first radio interview, so I think it went pretty well.

If you are a writer, I highly recommend checking them out. Pat, the host, regularly hosts authors of all ilks. The only cost is a $25 donation to charity, the pillowcase project, which sends handmade, one-of-a kind pillowcases to homeless Veteran shelters and women’s shelters. To me, that’s well worth it.

[Guest Post] The Long Road to a Debut Historical Novel by Jeannine Atkins

Photo1LITTLE-WOMAN-webGrowing up, I liked to read books about ordinary girls doing things like fighting with or forgiving their sisters, but set in the past. Cooking in pots over fires or slogging through snow to reach wells or cold horses seemed thrilling. I started with an orange-covered series called “Childhoods of Famous Americans,” which were then shelved with biographies, though their use of dialogue and other fictional elements have convinced some librarians to put them elsewhere. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about Little Houses in woods or on prairies, another series that has made a similar shift to the fiction sections. I’m happy to browse for what I want, which remains books based on real girls and women who are full of dreams.

I found such a girl in one of the first fat books I cracked open. Many years ago, Little Women’s Jo March — huddled in a chilly garret penning plays and stories — gave me my first inkling that a girl could grow up to be a writer. My curiosity about other women writers stuck and carried me through college. I was unsatisfied with most reading lists, but scanned the stacks for books by women who’d been forgotten. I wrote some papers about them, and while I kept a scholarly tone, felt as if I were playing dress-up, again immersed in history.

The challenges and triumphs of women who came before me kept me good company as I wrote some stories that were published and two novels that weren’t. After I became a mom and read to my daughter, I found myself happily back with once-cherished books and the mother of the co-president of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Fan Club. The girls made posters (“Laura rocks! Ma rules!”) and wore old dresses to bake cornbread. Reminded of how life-changing children’s books can be, I put away my novels about angsty adults to write books for the young. I published picture books about paleontologist Mary Anning and religious reformer Anne Hutchinson, and collections about women explorers and pioneers in air and space.

No one should write history who doesn’t love doing research, and some of that is rereading books you once adored. I came back to Little Women, but what got inside me most this time was the half-hidden story of the youngest sister. In the novel, Amy March gives up art when she realizes she might not become great. In real life, May Alcott stuck with her paints.

I believed this real person who tried to balance art and love deserved more attention. Children and teens are a wonderful audience, but I wanted the girl I first met in Little Women to step out as fully adult, finding her way through or around traps and temptations and reveling in romance, too. For Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott, I circled back to writing for adults who may find May’s struggles familiar, though they took place more than 150 years ago. Could May find a true love, in a period, after the Civil War, when eligible men seemed scarce? Could she keep making art in a time when women painters were rarely taken seriously? I loved exploring those questions, and finding a way to let another woman step out from the shadows of the past.

To learn more about Jeannine Atkins’s books about girls and women in history, please visit her website at www.Jeannineatkins.com.

Do you have any questions or comments for Jeannine? She’ll be around checking out the comments.

New Book Titles Selected

I wasn’t thinking it would happen this fast, but my best friend Courtney and I did some brainstorming yesterday and came up with new titles for both books. Thank you to everyone who gave suggestions.

The new titles are:

Daughter of Destiny (was Guinevere of Northgallis)
(Other two books in the series are Camelot’s Queen and Mistress of Legend)

Been Searching for You (was He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not)

I’ll be able to tell you in a bit why I needed these new titles. You will be very happy when I do. Now I need to go and change them throughout this site.

Book Review: Blythewood by Carol Goodman

BlythewoodWhy wasn’t this book on the top of the New York Times YA bestseller list? And how quickly can I start the second one? That’s what I wanted to scream when finished the first book in Carol Goodman’s Blythewood Tales trilogy, in a mere three days.

First, a quick recap:

Seventeen-year-old Avaline (Ava) Hall is a regular factory girl in 1911 New York until the day of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which claims the lives of 145 workers. But Ava survives, thanks to the help of a mysterious winged boy who begins to visit her in her dreams after the fire. After months in an insane asylum, thanks to someone who wasn’t happy she survived, Ava begins a new life as a student of Blythewood, which is anything but the all-girls finishing school the normal world sees. The initiated know it for what it is: the training ground in a centuries-old fight against evil – a world of strange creatures who eat mortal souls, creatures not unlike her winged savior. As Ava begins to uncover the mysteries of Blythewood, she also reveals mysteries about herself and her family – conspiracies of wild magic, charmed bells, mysterious smoke and cursed bloodlines that affect not only her world, but the events that shape modern history.

Think Harry Potter in an all-girls boarding school in the Hudson Valley, with echoes of Robin Lefevers’ His Fair Assassin series. But yet, this book is anything but a rip-off. Goodman’s intricate mythology is the number one reason to read Blythewood. While her school is much like any other single-sex institution, the ancient bent of its traditions and study give it a fresh purpose. Run of the mill courses like Latin, history and literature take on deeper meaning when they are used for magic. Archery isn’t just another form of physical education; it’s a matter of life and death. You see, in this world, what we perceive with our human eyes is only part of the story. The creatures from our children’s books and our worst nightmares live right under our noses, some fighting to protect us, others plotting our demise. Part fairy tale, part female hero’s journey, Blythewood is unlike anything else you’ve ever read.

I am a huge fan of Goodman’s adult work, particularly Arcadia Falls and The Sonnet Lover, but even after having read several of her books, she continues to impress me with her skill at creating atmosphere and painting a world which you never want to leave. I was thinking about it at work. I wore my class ring because I went to an all-girls high school (but not a boarding school) and that gave me a small connection to Blythewood. I found myself wondering what my special powers would be, if I had any, and which of the main characters/roles at the school I would be. I even debated which side of the love triangle I’m on (don’t groan; it’s an interesting one that I don’t think will resolve as simply as many other YAs have).

The only thing that itched at me the whole time I was reading was the fact that the book takes place in the early 20th century instead of the modern era, which I kept forgetting. Then I read the last 20 or so pages. Without giving anything away, I will say that Goodman connected her story to a major event in history in a way I never would have suspected. I was so excited actually cheered when I read it.

This is a book you don’t want to miss. Trust me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to reading the next book, which I can’t devour fast enough.

PS – If you like this one and want something similar in the adult realm, check out The Demon Lover, also written by Goodman, under the pen name of Juliet Dark.

Have you read Blythewood or any of Carol Goodman/Juliet Dark’s books? If so, what did you think? If not, what interests you about this book?

[Guest Post] Elaine of Corbenic by Tima Z. Newman

image001Today, my special guest is Tima Z. Newman, whose new book, Elaine of Corbenic, is new take on an often overlooked character in Arthurian legend. I personally love the character of Elaine and can’t wait to read Tima’s book. Take it away, Tima!

—–

He opened the door.

A woman stood looking out the window, her back to him. She was clothed in blue and azure interfaced with rose, her black hair tumbling loose. It was not Guinevere.

She turned at the sound of the door opening.

“I had thought to find the queen here,” Launcelot began.

“No.” Elaine’s lips trembled as she spoke the single word. She wore no jewelry. The open neckline revealed the young throat he had once glimpsed wet in the stream from a distance. A quality like the moistness of dew lay upon her, yet in that moment he saw that she whom he had thought child was also woman….

Elaine of Corbenic is an Arthurian character that is often eclipsed in the shadow of Elaine of Astolat, immortalized by Tennyson’s “Lady of Shallot” and John Waterhouse’s and Rosetti’s art, as well as overshadowed by the legendary passionate love of Launcelot and Queen Guinevere.  Elaine of Corbenic only briefly appears in Malory’s account of the Arthurian saga.  Yet she is the one who bears Launcelot’s son. And unlike Elaine of Astolat, Elaine of Corbenic does not pine away for Launcelot, to be carried down a barge, but goes to King Arthur’s court to fight for recognition by Launcelot, and when two years later he is discovered in his madness, it is the Grail of which Elaine was once bearer which brings Launcelot healing.

I found myself drawn to her character when I came across the tale some many years ago, and began writing her storyand my book has just now been released by Savant Books.  Based on Malory’s account in Le Morte d’Arthur of the three brief encounters of Launcelot and the Fisher King’s daughter, my ELAINE OF CORBENIC is the chronicle of their poignant romance—and of Elaine’s journey through abandonment and despair to the finding of inner strength and deepening wisdom.

I have taken poetic liberties with Malory’s account, telling it from Elaine’s point of view, and leaning at times toward a metaphoric and symbolic interpretation.  For instance, in Malory’s account Launcelot lay with Elaine thinking all the while she was Guinevere, both times drugged by a potent potion of Lady Breusen’s. It seemed clear to me that while the more magical an enchantment Launcelot might claim, the more efficacious an excuse it might have been, any such enchantment in reality was more like due to the close presence of the young Elaine than to any potion or brew.

Offering the poetry of medieval legend, for me the tale speaks to contemporary themes of love, betrayal, abandonment and the finding of identity—and also the deep longings of the spirit, the quest for the sacred, and the search for meaning in the mystery threading through our lives.  My rendition approaches the grail legend in a way that reflects an evolving relationship to the mystery of the grail embodied in life itself. In the heart of the heroic Arthurian legend, it offers a deeply feminine spirituality, threading through the pain and joys of a young girl’s heart, a single mother’s hopes and broken dreams, and a fierce determination to find the grail’s meaning.

The novel wrote itself over the course of a few months the spring of the year of my arrival in the Bay Area, its first paragraphs emerging as I climbed among the gorse covered hills, my own young son in tow….

Corbenic’s valley lay hidden, in a corner of Lystenoys close by the sea, and it was not wholly by chance that any man found his way there, including Launcelot.

It was spring when he came; the hills of the valley were verdant, and the evening mists fragrant. Spring was short in that part of the country, except in the valley where the castle lay, where the mists rolled in from the sea, and a stream from the hill flowed into the river which bordered the castle’s south wall. The rains were meager and often did not come, so that the land surrounding the valley was barren and wasted, the tufts of grass dry and sparse over the rocky soil. What green did come from the winter snow quickly browned and withered in the summer sun. That week though, in the rocky barren seacoast land of Lystenoys, spring was in the air, the sky was blue and the gorse blooming yellow

She was not looking for love that day. It is true she had not passed through her youth without hearing minstrels’ songs and dreaming girls’ dreams of some noble prince bearing her away….. Though her father lacked wealth, and his land was no great lure, her blood was royal, and her face fair. There was, true, a strangeness about her family, the strain of mystery that hung about their lineage. Lystenoys lay sequestered far from the main thoroughfares of Britain, and Corbenic’s valley was hidden. However, that the strangers were few who came through was of little import, for there were worthy enough lords in the court of Corbenic itself.

Yet in the end, she had no thought for the knights of her father’s court. The aura of the grail that haunted her dreams was fullness enough for her. She was Elaine, daughter of the fisher king and of the lineage of the grail keepers, and the mystery of the grail, the sacred cup that lay within Corbenic’s walls, was in her very blood. Nothing else could find space in her heart. Until Launcelot came.        

There is a short Youtube video produced by the publisher at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJUxyY_Y1yk.

The press release for the book can be found at http://www.prlog.org/12449579; and signed copies are available (with free postage in the U.S.) through my author website  http://elaineofcorbenic.yolasite.com/  (The book may also be ordered directly from the publisher at www.savantbooksandpublications.com or from Amazon.)

Tima Z. Newman
Author of ELAINE OF CORBENIC (Savant 2015)
http://elaineofcorbenic.yolasite.com/

Zoe Newman, MFT, is a psychotherapist in Berkeley, California

Zoe Newman, MFT, is a psychotherapist in Berkeley, California

Tima Z. Newman has written as far back as she can remember, and has always loved medieval times, fairy tales and legends, and brings an attunedness to myth, symbol and archetypal fairy tale motifs in listening to the narrations of those she work with.  Originally from Minnesota, she currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she practices as a psychotherapist and dream group leader. She has written several children’s books, as well as the adult nonfiction Lucid Waking: Using Dreamwork Principles to Transform Your Waking Life, which explores approaching our everyday life as a waking dream, similarly as we might work with our night dreams, to find in it the same opportunity for guidance, insight and creative possibilities.

If you have any questions or comments for Tima, please leave them in the comments. She’ll be monitoring them and will respond as she can. Hope you enjoyed hearing from her and are interested in her book.

Summer Writing Challenge: Beach Witch

I don't know the source of this, but it would be my ideal book cover for Beach Witch. If anyone knows whose image it is, please tell me. I'd love to give credit.

I don’t know the source of this, but it would be my ideal book cover for Beach Witch. If anyone knows whose image it is, please tell me. I’d love to give credit.

The Challenge: Can a Midwestern, land-locked writer successfully tell a contemporary tale set in a magical (fictional) seaside town in Virginia using only these things as inspiration?

  • A local man-made lake with a beach
  • A pool
  • A CD of ocean waves
  • One day on Santa Monica Beach in September
  • Her imagination
  • A Pinterest board

I hope the answer is yes, because that’s what I’ll be spending the next few months doing! Because of other trips I have planned (like the one to LA in September), I don’t have the time/money to visit the real-life area the town is located in, so I’m going to have to do the best I can with what I have access to.

I can’t wait to introduce you guys to this town, because I love it. The plot is still taking shape, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to end up as light (read: happy) women’s fiction with a bit of magical realism, which is ironic because I don’t normally like magical realism. The working title is Beach Witch (which I don’t like and will change, but it has to have something for now). It’s about a 30-something woman’s struggle to find her purpose in life with the help of her family in this strange little town. And yes, there is a love story. Think of it as Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells meets Barbara Davis’ The Wishing Tide.

Also Happening: I’ll also be researching my next historical fiction novel, which I hope to start in the fall. I can’t say who it’s about, but it’s another 19th century American woman who is little known. Her story is totally different from Victoria’s and she isn’t in any way involved with politics or women’s suffrage. It also takes place in a totally different part of the country, which is going to stretch my research and writing skills and my imagination. But it’s one I HAVE TO TELL NOW. She’s in my head and she wants to be heard.

Plus, I’ll be starting my DIY MFA as I finish plotting Beach Witch. Will let you know how that goes.

Any other suggestions for bringing the ocean to a land-locked girl? Thoughts on Beach Witch?

DIY MFA

DIY MFA copyAs anyone who knows me will attest, I am a lifelong learner. If I had known when I was in school that being a scholar was a valid career choice, I totally would have done it (history or religion). But as things are, I have two jobs, a day job for which I’ve gotten a master’s and professional accreditation (that’s as far as I can go as a PhD would make me overqualified) and my job as an author. I really, really want to advance my knowledge in the craft of writing, but I really have no desire (nor the time or money) to get a traditional MFA.

So, to that end, I’ve created my own course curriculum, based on books and DVD and online courses I want to take in my areas of focus (general craft, historical fiction and romance). I have no idea how long this will take me to complete, but I will do regular updates here to share what I’ve learned, give you an update on my progress and give myself a method of accountability. I plan to use what I learn as I write my next several books (I have a few contemporary love stories in mind and at least two historicals. I’ll be using my alpha/beta readers, critique partners and future agent as the criticism part of an MFA.)

I know I won’t end up with a piece of paper at the end of this, nor will I will able to add to the letters behind my name, but I should emerge from all this learning as a stronger writer, and that’s the whole point.

If you want to come along this journey with me, all of these sources are available to anyone, either from Amazon, or in the case of the Great Courses or Lawson Writer’s Academy, on their respective web sites. I have no idea what order I’m going to do things in, but you are welcome to journey along with me. In fact, I’d love to be able to discuss these books along with you.

Here’s my course of study:

(List updated 09/30/16. I’ve added more and crossed out those I’ve already completed as of today.)

General Craft:

  • Building Great Sentences (The Great Courses)
  • Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques (The Great Courses)
  • Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel (Volume 2) (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing plots with drama, depth and heart: Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction (Book by CS Lakin)
  • The Short Fuse Guide to Plotting Your Novel (Book by Connor Goldsmith)
  • Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish (Book by James Scott Bell)
  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life (book by Noah Lukeman)
  • 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • A Writer’s Guide to Characterization: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, and Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • Story Structure Architect (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • Story Engineering (book by Larry Brooks)
  • Story Physics (book by Larry Brooks)
  • Page Turner (book by Barbara Kyle)

Writing:

  • The Architecture of the Historical Novel (In-person course with Larry Brooks – HNS USA 2015)
  • Attitude & Altitude of Historical Novel: (In-person course with Larry Brooks – HNS USA 2015)
  • Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel (Book by Cheryl St. John)
  • Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense (Book by James Scott Bell)
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (book by Renni Browne and Dave King)
  • How to Capture Your Reader in the First 10 Pages (Lecture by Michael Hauge)
  • Writing Screenplays that Sell (Book by Michael Hauge)
  • Story Fix: Transform Your Novel from Broken to Brilliant (book by Larry Brooks and Michael Hauge)
  • Diving Deep into Deep Point of View (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Course instructor: Rhay Christou)
  • Digging Deep into the EDITS System (highly recommended for a unique perspective on editing) (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Advanced Deep Editing: A Master Course (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Empowering Characters’ Emotions (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • 30 Days to a Stronger Novel (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Course instructor: Lisa Wells)
  • The Hero’s Journey, Parts I & II (DVD by Michael Hauge)
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (book by Christopher Vogler)
  • The Virgin’s Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening (book by Kim Hudson)
  • Save the Cat (book by Blake Snyder)
  • Writing the Other: A Practical Approach (book by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward)
  • The Secrets of Storytelling: How to Write Compelling Stories (Webinar by Jerry Jenkins)
  • The Story Toolkit: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Stories that Sell (Book by Susan Bischoff)

Romance Specific:

  • On Writing Romance (Book by Leigh Michaels)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Lecture – Michael Hauge)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Book by Billy Mernit)
  • Old RWA conference workshop handouts
  • How To Sell Romance Novels On Kindle (Book by Michael Alvear)

History/Research:

  • The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • The Story of Medieval England (The Great Courses)
  • The Information-Literate Historian (Book by Jenny L. Presnell)
  • From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods (Book by Martha C. Howell)
  • The Craft of Research (Book by Wayne C. Booth)
  • Historical Fiction Writing: A Practical Guide (Book by Myfanwy Cook)
  • How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction (Book by Persia Wooley)*
  • Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders (book by Susanne Allyen)*
  • Writing Historical Fiction: Advice for the Digital Age (book by Marilyn Weymouth Seguin)
  • Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction (book by Emma Darwin)*

Non-fiction

  • The Non-fiction Proposal Demystified  (Book by Nina Amir)
  • The Short Fuse Guide to Book Proposals (Book by Gordon Warnock)
  • Step by Step Pitches and Proposals by Chip Macgregor

The Business of Writing/Marketing

  • Authorpreneur: How to Build a Business Around Your Book (Book by Nina Amir)
  • The Author’s Guide to Marketing (Book by Beth Jusino)
  • Getting Published in the 21st Century: Advice from a Literary Agent (book by Carly Watters)
  • How to Market a Book (Book by Joanna/JF Penn)*
  • Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur (Book by Joanna/JF Penn)
  • SMART Social Media for Authors (Book by Chris Syme)
  • Guerrilla Marketing for Writers (Book by Jay Conrad Levins)
  • Opening Up to Indie Authors (Book by Debbie Young and Dan Holloway)
  • Green Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing (Book by Brooke Warner)
  • Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Book by Fauzia Burke)
  • How to Get Publicity for Your Book (Book by Natalie Obando)
  • Red Hot Internet Publicity (Book by Penny Sanseivieri)
  • 52 Ways to Sell More Books (Book by Penny Sanseivieri)
  • How Authors Sell Publishing Rights (Book by Helen Sedwick and Orna Ross)
  • Successful Self-Publishing (Book by Joanna Penn)
  • The Naked Truth About Self Publishing (Book by Dorien Kelly)
  • Author Identity: Build Your Brand, Sell More Books, Change the World (Book by Angie Mroczka)
  • Let’s Get Visible (Book by David Gaughran)*
  • Library as a Discovery Platform (IBPA Webinar)
  • Wherever Books are Sold: How to Convince Huge Chains to Sell Your Books (IBPA Webinar)
  • Audiobook Marketing Tips & Tools (IBPA Webinar)
  • Book Marketing with Internet Media (IBPA Webinar)
  • Sell More Books with Less Social Media (Book by Chris Syme)
  • Talk Up Your Book: How to Sell Your Book Through Public Speaking, Interviews, Signings, Festivals, Conferences, and More (Book by Particia Fry)
  • Public Speaking for Authors and Creatives (Book by Joanna Penn)

* Indicates I’ve started this book/course

What do you think about my DIY MFA program? Is there anything you would recommend adding? Have you read any of these books/taken any of these courses? Will you be joining me for all or part of this journey? If so, which part(s)? 

Book Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Mortal HeartThere aren’t enough stars in the sky to show much I loved this book (no way is five enough)! I haven’t had a book touch me so personally since reading The Mists of Avalon back in 1998.

But before I get into why this book affected me the way it did, a little explanation of the story. Mortal Heart is the third and final book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin Lafevers. The trilogy centers on a convent of nuns in medieval France who are devoted to one of the nine old gods of Brittany, Mortain, the god of death. As Death’s handmaidens they are trained to be assassins to carry out His will. This fictional setup is blended seamlessly with actual historical events of the time, namely a 13-year-old duchess’ fight to keep Brittany independent from the French.

Each book is told from a different character’s point of view, but is part of a continuing story. The first book, Grave Mercy, is told from Ismae’s point of view and is very much about politics and court intrigue. The second, Dark Triumph, is Sybella’s story, one of adventure and heart-pounding action. In Mortal Heart, Annith finally gets to tell her story, one of romance, love and faith. (If you haven’t read the rest of the series, start with Grave Mercy. You’ll be lost if you pick up with Mortal Heart.)

Throughout all of the other books, Annith has patiently waited in the convent where she was raised for her turn to be sent out to do Mortain’s work, which is her life-long dream. She’s watched Ismae and Sybella be sent out before her, even though she is the most skilled. When she finds out that the abbess has other plans for her, ones that involve her never leaving the convent, she must make a decision whether to obey the rules as she has always done, or seek Mortain’s will on her own. Her choice leads her on a journey not even the convent seeresss could have predicted, revealing long-held secrets that threaten to unravel everything she’s ever believed about herself and the convent and send her straight into the arms of Death himself.

Being a fan of love stories and fantasy, as well as someone who is fascinated by religion, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that this my favorite book of the series. It delves much more deeply into the religion and mythology of the series, placing a truly devoted nun, Annith, at the fore. As someone who used to want to be a nun (although, not the assassin kind), I deeply related to Annith. I understand what it’s like to “be in love with” your God, to want to do his will more than anything else in the world, as well as the frustration of not understanding how you’re supposed to bring this cherished dream to fruition. Add to this that the old gods are based on the Celtic pantheon (which is near and dear to my heart), and that this book deals with the intersection of the old religion and Christianity, and how the gods and mortals interact, and you have what is personally for me, a life-changing book.

But I also realize that most people won’t have this personal connection to the book. Even if you don’t relate to it on the level I do, I believe you will be moved by the themes of love, trust, faith and hope – things we all struggle with, no matter what our personal beliefs are. Mortal Heart is also very much about the lengths to which we are willing to go for those we love, and the impact of the secrets that each and every one of us carry around with us. There is something for everyone in this richly layered tale of devotion, love and adventure.

Maybe it’s because this is the final book in the trilogy, but I felt like I was much more a part of the world of this book than in the previous books. It was a joy to see Ismae, Sybella and Annith together again and learn the final resolution of the political situation I’ve been invested in since the first book. I also loved getting to see the inner workings of some of the other orders devoted to the old gods.

There is so much more I want to say about this book, but I can’t because it involves spoilers for key plot points. Please trust me on how wonderful this book is and give it, and the series, a chance. Even though it’s marketed as YA, it certainly doesn’t read like a YA book. To me it’s a wonderful historical fantasy perfect for those who love their fantasy with strong female characters, unlikely love, a bit of mystery, and a dash of danger.

Have you read any of the books in this series? Did you like them? Why or why not? Are you planning to read Mortal Heart? Does anything I’ve said about this series intrigue you? Why?