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

Guest Interview with Tyler R. Tichelaar, author of the Children of Arthur series

Some of you may remember my friend, author and fellow Arthurian nut Tyler Tichelaar, from his 2012 guest post where he talked about a trip he took to Turkey and the Arthurian connections he found there. Well, now he’s back, talking about the fifth and final book in his Children of Arthur series about King Arthur and his descendants.

Tyler is an author of Arthurian nonfiction and historical fantasy and an enthusiast for, if not expert on, modern Arthurian fiction. His nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, which I reviewed here, was published by Modern History Press in 2011. It explores various traditions concerning King Arthur’s children in Welsh and medieval sources, the possible historical descendants of King Arthur, and more recent creations of descendants for King Arthur in modern fiction. (It’s a great book, one that has been a resource for more than one of my novels and non-fiction books.)

Tyler began writing King Arthur’s Children as his master’s thesis in 1994 and as research so he could write his first King Arthur novel, which eventually became the five-book Children of Arthur series, consisting of Arthur’s Legacy (2014), Melusine’s Gift (2015), Ogier’s Prayer (2016), Lilith’s Love (2016), and the newly released Arthur’s Bosom (2017).

I’m thrilled to have him here today to talk about the publication of his fifth novel in the series, Arthur’s Bosom.

Without giving too much away, can you give us an overview of the series for readers not familiar with it?

Tyler: Sure, Nicole, and thank you for having me here. The premise of the series revolves around the idea that King Arthur had descendants. Most people are not aware that he had any children other than Mordred, and depending on which version of the story you read, Mordred is often just Arthur’s nephew. However, there are ancient Welsh traditions that Arthur had several other sons—namely Gwydre, Llacheu, and Amr. There are also traditions that Mordred had children. Furthermore, several families over the centuries have tried to claim descent from King Arthur, including the Scottish Clan Campbell, and the Welsh Tudor family, which, of course, means the current British royal family can claim descent from King Arthur. Whether any of this is true is open to speculation. Many people are very interested in determining the historicity of King Arthur, but to me, the magic has always existed in the legend’s flexibility to recreate itself for each new century and even decade. My premise then is that King Arthur did have descendants, they are living among us today, and considering the fifteen hundred years separating King Arthur’s time period from our own, most of us are King Arthur’s descendants.

Wow. That would be really cool to be a descendant of King Arthur. (I have always thought I was a queen…) So will you tell us a little about what King Arthur’s descendants do in your novels?

Tyler: In the first novel, Arthur’s Legacy, the story starts in 1994. The main character, Adam, has been raised by his grandparents. His mother gave birth to him outside wedlock and then basically abandoned him. He doesn’t know who his father is. I don’t want to give too much away, but eventually at age twenty-two, he starts to get answers, which lead him to finding his father in England and also meeting a strange professor named Merle (you can guess who that is). Eventually, Merle arranges for Adam to fall into a deep sleep and dream the true story of Camelot. In that dream, we learn that Mordred had descendants who survived the fall of Camelot. We also learn that Mordred was one of the good guys, and instead, other villains brought about the fall of Camelot. In the successive volumes, Mordred’s descendants battle the evil ones who destroyed Camelot and who continue to try to destroy them over the centuries, including during the time of Charlemagne, during the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and during World War I.

Is it giving too much away to ask who these villains are who were really responsible for the fall of Camelot?

Tyler: No, you learn that right in the opening pages of Arthur’s Legacy. There are two of them, but they are not the usual suspects, although I believe they are the most likely ones when you dig a bit deeper into the legend. First of all, we understand today that history is written from the conqueror’s perspective, so think about who ends up ruling Britain after Arthur—it’s Constantine of Cornwall. It’s never clear why he is chosen as Arthur’s heir; he seems to be some shirttail relative. However, in the sixth century book De Excidio et Conquestu Brittainiae, written by Arthur’s contemporary Gildas, there is reference to a king named Constantine who murdered two royal youths. I believe these youths are Mordred’s sons. In Arthur’s Legacy, one of those sons, Meleon, has a child before he dies, and that child carries on Arthur’s bloodline. The other villain is Gwenhwyvach, whom I imagine most readers have never heard of. However, there is a statement in the Welsh triads that one of the causes of the Battle of Camlann was the blow Guinevere struck to her half-sister Gwenhwyvach. There is a later tradition in the Prose Lancelot that Guinevere’s half-sister, Gwenhwyvach, tried to pass herself off as Guinevere on Arthur and Guinevere’s wedding night. The trick was discovered and Gwenhwyvach, known as the False Guinevere in the Prose Lancelot, was imprisoned in Hengist’s Tower. So it is Gwenhwyvach and Constantine who bring about Camelot’s fall.

I’ve learned a lot about Gwenhwyvach in my non-fiction research. What you say makes perfect sense. I love this theory. But I’m confused; how can they continue to pursue and try to kill Arthur’s descendants in successive centuries? Is it reincarnation?

Tyler: Not exactly. Constantine can’t since he’s just human, but Gwenhwyvach can in my novels because she is a witch, and even more than that, she is an ancient sorceress who is able to reincarnate and has for many centuries since the beginning of time—the title of the fourth book in the series, Lilith’s Love, gives away her real identity. You see, Lilith was Adam’s first wife in the Garden of Eden. Tradition says she refused to let Adam be on top (a sign of submission) when they had sexual intercourse; consequently, she was derided in Jewish folklore as a monster (a totally sexist attitude), and in my series she acts that way.

Interesting. Tell me about the other women in your novels. You know I’m all about the girl power.

Tyler: One thing I absolutely wanted to avoid was just another story of good vs. evil. Lilith/Gwenhwyvach does many evil things in the novels, but she is a complicated character, and in Lilith’s Love, she gets a chance to explain her own side of things. There are lots of gray areas in my novels—nothing is black and white or exactly as it seems at first. One thing I refused to do was just follow the traditional storylines of various medieval legends that I used. I wanted to turn everything on its head, showing that these stories I use are not necessarily what we have been taught. I did that first by retelling the Camelot story.

I also turn everything on its head in the second novel, Melusine’s Gift, where the French fairy Melusine is the strong female protagonist. Traditionally, Melusine was raised in Avalon, so it only made sense to me that Melusine must have grown up knowing King Arthur, who was there recovering from his wound. Melusine marries one of Arthur’s descendants and uses her fairy powers to try to bring about good. However, in tradition, Melusine made her husband promise she could always hide herself away on Saturday and not be seen by him. Eventually, he broke his promise and discovered she took on a mermaid or serpent form (depending on which version of the legend you read) on Saturdays. At first, he kept her secret, but later in a fit of anger, he called her a serpent in front of his court and she flew away. She is treated as an evil character in tradition, but I am much more kind to her. She is the strength of her family and also works to bring about good, though others cannot accept her because she is different.

Another strong female character throughout the series is Morgan le Fay. Since she shows up in the Charlemagne legends, I thought she obviously must be immortal and live beyond Arthur’s time, so throughout the series, she intercedes as needed to help Arthur’s descendants (and her own since she is Mordred’s mother in my novels).

People know know you through King Arthur’s Children (both the blog and the book) may not know that you have another blog where you write about Gothic literature. Can you explain what that influence is on your Arthurian novels?

Tyler: Yes, one of the main influences that carries through all five novels is the Gothic format of using stories within stories to move forward the plot. It was used in such classic Gothic novels as Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). All five novels in the Children of Arthur series use this format. By inserting stories within stories, I am able to peel back the layers of the onion—to reveal the secrets about the characters and secrets lost to time that King Arthur’s modern descendants must learn in order to succeed in their goals.

I also use Gothic elements particularly in Lilith’s Love, which includes in it the story of Quincey Harker, the son of Jonathan and Mina Harker, who defeat Dracula in Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Because Mina drank Dracula’s blood, I imagined that Quincey, who is born at the end of Dracula, must have some of Dracula’s blood in him, which gives him some superhuman powers. In his quest to understand his vampiric origins, Quincey has several Gothic experiences that make up bulk of the novel, which you might call a sequel to Dracula really.

And what about your latest novel, Arthur’s Bosom? When does it take place and how does it bring the series to an end?

Tyler: I wrote Arthur’s Bosom for two reasons. The first is because I wanted to bring the series full circle since the first novel largely takes place during Arthur’s time but the three novels after that take place in different centuries, so this novel returns the storyline back to the time of Camelot. In the novel, Arthur’s modern-day descendants, Lance and Tristan Delaney, travel back in time to sixth century Britain.

The second reason I wrote this novel as the series finale is because in the first book of the series, Merlin tells Adam that he and his family (Lance and Tristan are Adam’s grown sons) will be responsible for helping to bring about King Arthur’s return. I’ve been sorely disappointed by the few novels that have tried to depict Arthur’s return, so I set about to write my own version of what Arthur’s return would be like, and hopefully, I pulled it off in a way that will surprise and satisfy readers. So far, the response I’ve received has been positive.

Why did you pick the title Arthur’s Bosom?

Tyler: It’s actually from a line in Shakespeare’s Henry V where Falstaff is said to have gone to Arthur’s Bosom. Shakespeare was playing on the biblical phrase of Abraham’s Bosom. I used the term to refer to a type of Arthurian heaven. I must admit I have no desire to sit around on a cloud and play a harp all day. I think I’d much rather go to a heaven that resembles King Arthur’s Britain as depicted in Malory, so in the novel, Arthur’s Bosom is used to refer to the Arthurian version of heaven where Arthur’s true believers go when they die.

What do you hope readers will come away with after they read the series?

Tyler: The theme of this series is “Imagination is the salvation of mankind.” I am a firm believer in the Law of Attraction and that our thoughts create our world. I want people to use their imaginations to think outside the box, to question the past we believe we know to find new truths in it, and also to imagine new and positive possibilities for our future. Through imagination, we have the power to shape our world. We don’t have to believe in a doomed world where global warming and the possibility of nuclear war make us think humanity’s best days are past. The future is still ours to write, and through the power of our thoughts, we can make it into a glorious one. I even think it possible we could change the past if we concentrated hard enough upon it. Why can’t the King Arthur and Camelot we dream of have been real? Why can’t we make it real in the future, even if it is in the past? What would it mean to us if we learned we were descended from King Arthur? Would it make us want to live those ideals of Camelot? So, ultimately, I hope that in the Children of Arthur series, I have used legends—that of King Arthur, but also Charlemagne, Prester John, Ogier the Dane, the Wandering Jew, Dracula, etc.—as inspiration and encouragement for all of us to want to create a better world for our future.

Wow, that’s a lofty but worthwhile goal. Before we go, where can readers purchase your books?

Tyler: The books are for sale at my website www.ChildrenofArthur.com. They are also at the major online booksellers—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, etc. They are available in paperback and ebook formats. At my website there is also more information about the Arthurian legend and I have a blog where I regularly write about Arthurian modern fiction and other related topics.

Your blog really is a great resource. I’ve been reading some of your old posts lately. So everyone, go check it out. Thanks again, Tyler for being here today. It’s been a pleasure having you. I wish you all the best with your series.

Tyler: Thanks, Nicole. I’ll be looking forward to reading your own last Guinevere novel when it comes out.

Do you have questions for Tyler? If so, please leave them in the comments. He’ll be stopping by to answer them.

A Podcast and an Interview

Just a quick note to let you know that the Unscrambled Authors podcast episode I was interviewed for a few weeks ago is up: Listen here. I haven’t listened to it yet, but the interview went really well.

Also, I’m up on Mary Tod’s blog today talking about what makes successful historical fiction. Check it out.

Portraying Strong Women in Historical Fiction

She may not be a superhero, but there is more than one way for a woman to be strong. Image purchased from Adobe Stock.

I was interviewed last week for a podcast and one of the points that came up was the importance of historical accuracy when portraying women in history. Then a few days ago, I came across this interview with historical fiction author Hilary Mantel where she urges novelists to stop re-writing history to falsely empower women.

I could not agree more. It DRIVES ME CRAZY when I see so-called “costume drama” where women are in period dress but everything they do or say is modern feminist. It happens in all sub-genres of historical fiction, but I’ve seen it most often in historical romance (I’m not picking on that sub-genre; just expressing my experience). So many of those women would at the very least have had the snot beat out of them if they really acted that way in their time, if not be jailed or killed for it. It’s only been in the last 40-50 years or that a woman dared speak against her husband in public in the US; in some parts of the world, a woman still doesn’t dare contradict her father, husband, brother, etc. You have to think about the norms of the day when planning action and reaction in historical fiction.

Yes, it bothers me when I read a historical fiction novel where the men are being all “God created man first and he was perfect. You were just pulled from his side, and therefore are inferior” but that was one of the real justifications for men to behave how they wanted for a long stretch of history (at least in the Judaeo-Christian world). I’ve been known to mutter, “you bastard,” when I read such attitudes, but I also appreciate the writer’s faithfulness to the views of the time. The same goes for books that show women being physically, emotionally and sexually abused and then turning around and defending the perpetrator, but I understand why they would and did. For so long women were totally dependent on the men in their lives that even if society wouldn’t have shunned them for fighting back or speaking out (and that’s a BIG “if”), they had no jobs, no shelter, no money without their father/husband/king, so they were stuck. It is at times like this when seeing the mental and emotional fortitude of a woman is more powerful than all the swords or sharp words about independence she could wield.

One of the main responsibilities of a historical fiction writer (I would argue third only to 1. telling a good story and 2. doing their research) is to accurately portray the worldview of the time. If women were expected to cover their heads and be subservient, that is the way you must portray them. You might show the subtle ways in which women were known to fight back, but make sure they are documented. For example, in some time periods and societies, learning to read or write was an act of rebellion that would have been done in utmost secrecy and at great risk to both teacher and student. That woman would not get up the following Sunday and lector in a church, nor was she likely to read her child a bedtime story. She would have to be hyper-vigilant that she never even hinted at having the ability to read, lest she accidentally betray herself. This is when the quiet courage comes in, when we might see people doing extraordinary things in spite of the restrictions of society, but not necessarily in an overt manner.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and telling those stories is great fun. In every time and place there are queens, noblewomen, leaders of religious orders, even everyday women who bucked the trend and spoke up for the myriad women in their societies who could not and their stories should be told. But it is important that the reader understand them for the anomalies that they were; I would argue that their uniqueness is part of the appeal of their stories. When you can find a historically strong woman, go for it – show her in all her outrageous glory! This is what I’ve been doing so far. Victoria Woodhull really was an outspoken, ankle-bearing, sometimes cross-dressing suffragist. There is another woman who was Victoria’s contemporary who demanded equality within her marriage and received it, even publicly (I may write about her in the future). Celtic women had the most rights of any culture in the ancient world, and so my Guinevere is very strong. However, if I was writing about a Roman or Greek woman, I would not have portrayed her in the same way, as those women were considered property of their nearest male relatives and had very little outward power.

Reaction to these outstanding women must be accurate. Just because it is en vogue now to be open about your views, that doesn’t mean it holds true in history. For example, not everyone liked it when Victoria gave her speeches. There was a fair amount of threat, protest and danger. She was lambasted in the papers and lost her reputation quickly, being called “Mrs. Satan,” among other colorful things. She certainly was not widely embraced, not by men or even other women in the suffrage movement. Think about the first women in medicine or science. Do you think men welcomed them into schools, hospitals and laboratories? Not so much. They were routinely harassed, abused, discredited and had their accomplishments usurped by men. It may be hard to read about but that doesn’t make it any less accurate.

As historical fiction writers we owe to everyone – the subjects of the past we’re writing about, our present readers, and future generations who may read us to learn – to portray history as it happened. As Mantel said, we shouldn’t rewrite history to make the victims the victors just because we want to write about strong women. But we can and should dig deep and find those untold stories where women dared to be different. For women constrained by their time/culture, we can peel back the layers and find the less obvious sources of mental, emotional and spiritual strength. I don’t know about you, but my grandmother had steel in her bones and ice in her veins when she needed to. That is the kind of strong woman who lived in every time period, no mater what her society dictated, and that is the woman whose story needs to be more often told.

What are your thoughts on how women are portrayed in historical fiction? What have you read that you’ve liked or disagreed with?

Double Winner at the Midwest Book Awards + Discovering Diamonds Reviews

Midwest Book Awards
I found out over the weekend that Daughter of Destiny won the fantasy category (Camelot’s Queen was also up for that award; I had 2 of 3 finalist slots) and Been Searching for You won the romance category at the Midwest Book Awards!

The winners were covered in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, which is my first mention in my hometown paper. (I didn’t enter the IPPY Awards that are also mention in the article. Those awards are of questionable value for their price.)

Discovering Diamonds Reviews
Plus, Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen and Madame Presidentess have all been honored with the Discovering Diamonds badge for outstanding indie historical fiction.

If you read nothing else, check out the review for Madame Presidentess. I wish everyone was as as enthusiastic about the book as this reviewer! Here are the links to the other reviews:

Other Big News
Daughter of Destiny reached #49 in the historical fantasy category on Amazon over the weekend, which is HUGE! It stayed there are all weekend and is still in the low 50s. Thank you to everyone who has bought it and spread the word among your friends, family and acquaintances. We will get to #1 yet, together!

And I know about two more awards, but I can’t announce them because they aren’t public yet.

 

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!

Daughter of Destiny Takes Home Book of the Year!

Book of Year RibbonI was hoping to write this post a bit sooner than a week after the fact, but with traveling, the day job and other book-related events, I just haven’t had time. (What a wonderful problem to have!)

For those who haven’t heard on social media, my books took home four awards at the Chanticleer Author’s Conference in Bellingham, Washington, last weekend. I knew going in that Daughter of Destiny and Madame Presidentess were both going to get first in category awards, for romance/women’s fiction and historical fiction, respectively.

Chatelaine AwardI had no idea that Daughter of Destiny was going to continue on to take home overall category Grand Prize in the Chatelaine (romance/women’s fiction) Awards. They asked me to speak (which I wasn’t expecting) and I told a short version of how I got here (two years to find an agent, two years with an agent, getting close to traditional publications so many times, then leaving my agent, unsuccessfully trying to get another and finally going indie) with the theme of never giving up, which I almost did many times.

Imagine my shock when it was proclaimed Book of the Year! I will never watch awards shows the same way again. Those reactions you see? They are genuine. I leaned forward, covered my face with my hands and uttered some sort of guttural cry. I think at a time like that, it’s all you can can do. When they asked me to speak again, I felt like the Oscar winner who didn’t prepare an acceptance speech. People told me the next day I was very eloquent, though I have little memory of what I said. I know I thanked my mom, who is always my first reader, and who was there in the room with me. I talked about other things, but I can’t recall them.

Two first place ribbonsLater, when i was trying to hold up all four ribbons at once, i felt like the multi-Grammy winner who can barely hold all her awards. It is so overwhelming and humbling all at once. On top of that, you are in a state of shock.

I can’t even put into words what that night meant to me. I am so thankful to everyone who listened to me complain and be scared and frustrated and reassured me that I would figure it out. All of you who have been with me on this journey (whether from the beginning or just recently) are the reasons why I can now say I have written the Book of the Year.

I still can’t believe it a week later. All I can say is believe with everything in you, put in the hard work and it will happen. Manifestation, or as some of us know it, the Red Feather process, is a real thing and it does work, but you have to put in the work as well.

Thanks to everyone who has read my books or supported me in any way, shape or form.

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?