Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Under These Restless Skies by Lissa Bryan

Under These Restless Skies 
Lissa Bryan 

Available from AmazonKoboBarnes and Noble, and TWCS


Will Somers has always thought himself unlovable. When he encounters a creature of myth and magic, he seizes the chance to finally have a wife and family of his own. Emma is a selkie—one of the immortal fae-folk of the sea—bound to Will by the magic of her kind, and eager to learn about life on land. She has to learn to adapt quickly to human customs, because Will is headed for the court of Henry VIII, to serve as the king’s fool. It’s a glittering, dangerous world, where a careless word can lead to the scaffold and the smallest of gestures is loaded with political implications. Anne Boleyn is charmed by Emma’s naïveté and soothing selkie magic and wants Emma for her own fool. Can Will protect his newfound love from the dangers that lurk in every shadow? Circa regna tonat: around the throne, the thunder rolls.
Author Bio:

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medallist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist, who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot . . . though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

My Review:

I’m not going to lie, when I first started reading “Under These Restless Skies” by Lissa Bryan, I wasn't that into it. I was having trouble getting past the ‘magical’ elements and the idea of ‘selkies’. I even put the book down for a few days and started to read something else. I decided to go back to this book and give it another chance, and I’m so glad that I did! It ended up being a fantastic read, and very well researched! I had trouble putting the book down once I started reading it again. Lissa Bryan did a great job at writing a book that a lover of historical fiction can get totally lost in.

Her writing style was interesting, and she did an excellent job with descriptions and imagery, allowing a reader to picture everything that is happening as clearly as if you were there.

As a reader you do have to let go a little, and realize it's not purely historical fiction. There are some magical elements, but they don’t take over the story. They are a part of the story, but not the main part, which I thought was great. I was able to suspend my disbelief while reading, and by the end I found the magical elements of the story endearing. It’s a great story of love, as well as tragedy, the tragedy being Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall. I would recommend this novel to any lover of historical fiction. The author did a great job writing a historical novel, but weaving something out of the ordinary into the story. I’m so glad I gave this novel a second chance!

Even though it took me a couple chapters to get into it, I still give this novel a FIVE out of FIVE stars for how great it ended up being!
Connect with Lissa Bryan on: 
Other novels by Lissa Bryan

                                                  Ghostwriter                The End of all Things

Short stories by Lissa Bryan

                                             Tales From The End   The Golden Arrow and The Butterfly

 Coming soon The Land of the Shadow 

Monday, February 24, 2014

INTERVIEW & GUEST POST: Under These Restless skies by Lissa Bryan

Interview with Lissa Bryan, author of Under These Restless Skies

1 – You started by writing fanfiction. How important was this for your writing career? How has it influenced your books and writing?

I wouldn’t be a published author today if it wasn’t for fanfiction, and so it’s made a profound difference in my life and career.

I have always written stories in my head, sometimes taking books and movies and re-writing them to have an ending I liked better, or sending the characters off on new adventures. I had no idea other people did this until I discovered fanfiction. I decided to write out some of the stories that had lingered in my mind over the years. One of them became popular and brought me to the attention of my publisher. They approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in writing a novel.
Without the support and kindness of the fanfiction community, I couldn’t have done this. It was a great place to begin writing, because the encouragement and enthusiastic support gave me the courage to try new things.

2 – Under These Restless Skies is your third book. How did you come up with the idea of “Tudors meet selkies”?

I had explored the selkie myth in one of my fanfiction stories, and I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to try it again, but with a few new twists.

There is an old Celtic fairy tale called “The Selkie Wife,” in which a man kidnaps a selkie bride to raise his children. It’s a very sad story, and it sparked my imagination.  I wanted to re-write it to have a happy ending, but I didn’t want to set it in the modern day. Tudor history has always fascinated me, and so I decided to set it during that time period.

My fanfiction story covered the reign of “Bloody” Mary Tudor. I decided my novel would be set earlier, during the reign of Henry VIII.

3- What was your research process for Tudors and Selkies?

There isn’t much available on selkies, so I took what I could find and built my own legend around them. Selkies were shape-shifters who could assume the form of a seal by slipping into magical piece of fur. If it was stolen from them, they would be bound to whomever took it until it was willingly returned. They could also be summoned by shedding seven tears into the sea. They were said to be beautiful in their human form, gentle-hearted, and playful. I took those characteristics and added a little magic to come up with Emma, the heroine of Under These Restless Skies. Will, the hero, steals her pelt, but she ends up stealing his heart.

As I mentioned before, I’ve always been fascinated by the Tudor era, and I’ve read countless books on Henry VIII and his wives. But despite my basic familiarity, the book was research-intensive, which is why this book took me a year to write. If I was writing a dinner scene, I wanted to make sure every food item I described was correct, and at one point, I even ended up going to NASA to find out the phase of the moon on a certain date. But it was a lot of fun and I ended up learning so much more about the time period.

3 – Why Anne Boleyn and not another one of Henry VIII’s wives?

Anne Boleyn is one of the most slandered and misunderstood women in history. She was also one of the most important women in history, because without her, the English Reformation would not have happened as it did.

Henry’s subsequent wives will be covered in the sequel, which I’m going to start writing in the next couple of months.

4 – Your books are very different from each other, but all of them have a paranormal element. Why is that?

Paranormal storylines interest me because I like to explore possibilities and impossibilities. I’m always asking the question, “What if…?” What if the most unexpected thing happened? How would people react to it? How would their lives change? Who would they become?

Guest Post by Lissa Bryan

I’ve been writing stories for about three years now, and I’m sort
of a genre-hopper. I’ve done everything from sci-fi to Gothic romance. I guess the best way to put it is that I like to explore possibilities as a writer, and there’s just too many to confine myself to one genre.

Decades ago, I read Margaret George’s magnificent Autobiography of King Henry VIII. One of the characters is Will Somers, the king’s jester. He’s not a main character in the novel, but the real Will seems to have been very important to the king, more of the king’s confidant than a comedian. Over the years, I’ve wondered what Will must have thought watching the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, and all the wives that came after her.

For my third novel, I decided to write Will’s story. We don’t know much about the life of the real Will Somers, except that he was likely born to a farming family in Shropshire, and likely had scoliosis, which twisted his back and made him walk with a limp. There’s no record he ever married. At the time, people with physical imperfections would have a difficult time finding a spouse. Will is an unusual choice for a romantic hero, but I like a challenge.

I’ve already written an online story set in the Tudor era, based on the old Celtic fairy tale, “The Selkie Wife.” Selkies have fascinated me since I heard first heard that terribly sad old story, and I wanted to write a version of it that had a happy ending. But even after I completed that story, I knew I wasn’t done writing about selkies. The legends still captivated my imagination.

 Unlike the aggressive supernatural characters like vampires and werewolves that have been explored so much in fiction, selkies are gentle creatures whose powers stem from love. In the old legends, they could be summoned by a lonely maiden shedding seven tears into the sea. In their human form, they were beautiful and warm-hearted, though they could be fierce protectors of the weak. The women made excellent wives and mothers, which was why the men in the old legends wanted to capture them.

I wondered what it would be like if Will Somers, rejected all his life because of his back, suddenly encountered a chance to have a wife of his own? What would happen if an innocent, soft-hearted creature like a selkie was suddenly brought into the glittering, cutthroat court of Henry VIII? That’s how Will and Emma came into being in my imagination.

Aside from the paranormal elements, I wanted to try to be as accurate as possible with the story of King Henry and Anne Boleyn. Anne is such a maligned figure, especially since much of what we “know” about her comes from the reports of her enemies. Writing this book required a lot of research, but it was a lot of fun. I’m starting work on the sequel in a few months, and I can’t wait to see where that story takes me.

Click here to purchase Under These Restless Skies!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

BOOK BLAST: The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

The Chalice
by Nancy Bilyeau

Paperback Publication Date: February 13, 2014
Orion Publishing
Paperback; 432p
ISBN-13: 978-1409135807
Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Two
Genre: Historical Mystery

A curse to kill a king, a fight to save a nation. Follow young 
Joanna Stafford right into the dark heart of King Henry VIII’s court in this stunning Tudor thriller.
England, 1538. The nation is reeling after the ruthless dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.
Cast out of Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford – feisty,
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courageous, but scarred by her recent encounter with rebellion at court – is trying to live a quiet life with her five-year-old charge, Arthur. But family connections draw her dangerously close to a treasonous plot and, repelled by violence and the whispered conspiracies around her, Joanna seeks a life with a man who loves her. But, no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny. She must make a choice between those she cares for most, and taking her part in a mysterious prophecy foretold by three compelling seers.
Joanna embarks upon a testing journey, and, as she deciphers the meaning at the core of the prophecy, she learns that the fate of a king and the freedom of a nation rest in her hands.

Praise for The Chalice

“Expect treason, treachery, martyrs and more.” — Choice magazine

“A time in which no one at all can be trusted and everyday life is laced with horror. Bilyeau paints this picture very, very well.” — Reviewing the Evidence

“Bilyeau creates the atmosphere of 1530s London superbly.” — Catholic Herald

“Bilyeau continues from her first novel the subtle, complex development of Joanna Stafford’s character and combines that with a fast-paced, unexpected plot to hold the reader’s interest on every page. — Historical Novel Society

“Joanna Stafford is a young novice caught up in power struggles familiar to readers of Hilary Mantel and C.J. Sansom, but with elements of magic that echo the historical thrillers of Kate Mosse.” — S.J. Parris, author of ‘Heresy,’ ‘Prophecy’ and ‘Sacrilege’

“Second in this compelling and highly readable Tudor thriller series following the 16th century adventures of (now cast out) nun Joanna Stafford. Treason, conspiracies and a dangerous prophecy draw Joanna back from the quiet life she had made for herself after being cast out of Dartford Priory – but she isn’t prepared for the gravity of the situation she finds herself in or the responsibility she now holds. Nancy Bilyeau has followed up her impressive debut with an accomplished historical thriller perfect for fans of C. J. Sansom, Philippa Gregory and S. J. Parris.” — Lovereading UK

“Sharply observed, cleverly paced and sympathetically written, this book more than fulfils the promise of THE CROWN, itself named as last year’s most impressive debut novel by the CWA Ellis Peters judges. If Joanna Stafford is to return to see out the final years of Henry’s tempestuous reign and the accession of his Catholic daughter Mary, I am sure I will not be alone in waiting eagerly for her.” — crimereview.co.uk

“A stunning debut. One of the best historical novels I have ever read — ALISON WEIR

THE CHALICE offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England’s most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don’t let you go even after the last exciting page” — KAREN HARPER, bestselling author of MISTRESS OF MOURNING

“Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII’s reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed.” — C.W. GORTNER, author of THE QUEEN’S VOW

“Bilyeau paints a moving portrait of Catholicism during the Reformation and of reclusive, spiritual people adjusting to the world outside the cloister. This intriguing and suspenseful historical novel pairs well with C. J. Sansom’s Dissolution (2003) and has the insightful feminine perspective of Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Heretic’s Wife (2010).” — BOOKLIST

“As in The Crown, Bilyeau’s writing style means that the story reads almost flawlessly. The narrative really makes the reader throw themselves into the story, and makes it so the book is really difficult to put down. I was really very impressed with Bilyeau’s writing (As I was in The Crown), and honestly can’t recommend this book highly enough.” — LOYALTY BINDS ME

“THE CHALICE is a compelling and pacey time machine to the 16th Century. And when you’re returned to the present, you’ll have enjoyed an adventure and gained a new perspective on a past you’d wrongly thought to be a done deal.” — Andrew Pyper, author of THE DEMONOLOGIST

“The Chalice is a gripping, tightly-plotted mystery, with a beguiling heroine at its heart, that vividly conjures up the complex dangers of Reformation England. Bilyeau’s deftness of touch and complete control over her complex material make for a truly exciting and compelling read.”— ELIZABETH FREMANTLE author of QUEEN’S GAMBIT

“THE CHALICE is brimming with sinister portents, twisted allegiances, religious superstition and political intrigue. It’s a darkly fascinating Tudor brew that leaves you thirsting for more.” — PATRICIA BRACEWELL, author of SHADOW ON THE CROWN

Watch the Book Trailer:


Buy the Book

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013.
Some earlier milestones: In 1661, Nancy’s ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough’s founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.
Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Author Links

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Book Blast Schedule

Thursday, February 20

Friday, February 21
HF Book Muse-News
On the Tudor Trail
Flashlight Commentary
Ageless Pages Reviews
Muse in the Fog Book Reviews
Confessions of an Avid Reader

Saturday, February 15, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Girl on the Golden Coin by Marci Jefferson

Praise for Marci Jefferson’s GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN

“Jefferson’s intoxicating first novel superbly draws readers into the mischief and maneuverings, loyalties and treacheries, and lust and hostility of powerful 17th century kings and scheming court sycophants…this is an exciting, solid debut.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Jefferson fictionalizes the life of a little-known—yet exceedingly familiar—historical figure in her authentically detailed debut. This small leap from the Tudors is a must-read for Alison Weir–Philippa Gregory fans.”

A novel as rich and golden as the coin she graced. Frances Stuart’s face was truly her fortune and left its mark on history, a rare achievement.”
Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth I: A Novel

A Novel of Frances Stuart
Marci Jefferson

In her first work of historical fiction, debut novelist, Marci Jefferson, tackles Frances Stuart, whose influence over England’s Charles II and rejection of three of the seventeenth century’s most illustrious kings became the talk of a nation. Jefferson instills a fierce spirit and spine in the beautiful Frances Stuart, proving she was much more than a royal mistress. What Philippa Gregory did for the Tudors, Jefferson will do for the Stuarts, with the elegant and addictive, GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN (Thomas Dunne Books; February 11, 2014; ISBN: 978-1-250-03722-0; $25.99).

In 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns Frances Stuart and her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and goes to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches the Sun King’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty—she has Stuart secrets to keep and her family to protect. King Louis XIV turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He sends her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and help him form an alliance with England. The Queen Mother likewise orders Frances to become her son's mistress, in the interest of luring him away from the Protestant mistress he currently keeps.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal, determined to keep her family from shame. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him and the two embark on a tenuous relationship. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. A startling discovery will leave her with no other choice but to break his heart, while the fate of England hangs in the balance.

MARCI JEFFERSON grew up in an Air Force family and so lived numerous places, including North Carolina, Georgia, and the Philippines. Her passion for history sparked while living in Yorktown, Virginia, where locals still share Revolutionary War tales. She lives in Indiana with her husband and children. This is her first novel. Visit her website at http://marcijefferson.com/

By Marci Jefferson
**On Sale February 11, 2014**
Published by Thomas Dunne Books for St. Martin’s Press
ISBN-13: 978-1-250-03722-0 | $25.99

More Praise for Marci Jefferson’s GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN

Girl on the Golden Coin is a sexy, exciting tale featuring vivid characters, rich historical detail, scintillating court intrigue, and a complexly rendered heroine in Frances Stuart, Maid of Honor to the Queen of England, who will capture the reader’s heart—as will the man she loves, that rascal King Charles II.”
Sherry Jones, internationally bestselling author of Four Sisters, All Queens

“In her wonderfully evocative debut, Marci Jefferson recreates the fascinating story of Frances Stuart, whose influence over England's Charles II became the talk of a nation. As vibrant and delightful as the woman it's based on, Girl on the Golden Coin is a jewel of a novel!”
Michelle Moran, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Empress

“Beauty is not always a blessing, as young Frances Stuart finds out when her lovely face pits her between the desires and politics of rival kings Louis XIV and Charles II. Frances makes an appealing heroine, by turns wary and passionate, sophisticated and innocent, as she matures from destitute young pawn to the majestic duchess whose figure would grace Britain’s coins for centuries. Her struggles to support her loved ones, uncover her family secrets, and somehow find a life of her own amid the snake-pit courts of the Sun King and the Merry Monarch make for lively, entertaining reading in this lush Restoration novel by debut author Marci Jefferson.”
Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Rome

“Fans of historical fiction featuring interesting but previously overlooked women have reason to celebrate the release of Girl on the Golden Coin. With a deft hand, Marci Jefferson brings to vivid life Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond—a woman with the charms of Josephine Bonaparte and style of Marie Antoinette, who captured the hearts of Kings on both sides of the channel. Frances is a thoroughly likeable heroine who puts duty to her King, her country, and her family before the desires of her own heart. But Frances, as written by Jefferson, is no paper-saint. She is a flesh and blood woman who modern readers will recognize and identify with. The balance of the novel’s characters are equally well drawn—full of nuance and complexity. Do not miss this marvelous debut!”
Sophie Perinot, author of The Sister Queens

Girl on the Golden Coin is a fantastic novel. I couldn’t put it down. The plot is fast-paced and compelling, with intriguing characters, lush settings and captivating narrative voice. Jefferson’s debut paints an intriguing portrait of Frances Stuart, a novel worthy of the determined, golden spirit of the woman whose face became the model for Brittania herself.”
Susan Spann, author of Claws of the Cat

My Review:

I can’t say enough positive things about “Girl on the Golden Coin” by Marci Jefferson! I was pulled in from the very first page, and had no problem finishing it in a couple of days. The author really brought Frances Stuart and the people closest to her to life for me. I felt like I was able to get to know Frances as person, and was impressed on how the author was able create a novel that is so interesting, yet stays true to historical facts. I have read novels in the past about King Charles II’s mistresses, but this is by far my favorite.  The author also brings popular historical people like King Charles and his mistress Lady Castlemaine to life for the reader.

The author’s writing style is exceptional, and her descriptions of places and events allow the reader to get completely lost in this novel. There’s nothing better than getting lost in a good novel with characters that you actually care about. The author also did a great job with the portrayal of King Charles II and Frances’ love affair. I’ve read other books where Frances is portrayed negatively, or is barely mentioned because Lady Castelmaine was the main mistress, so it was nice to read about her in a positive light.

I am so happy that I was asked to read and review this novel for my blog, and for the blog tour. “Girl on the Golden Coin” fits along perfectly with the other books I’ve reviewed on my blog. I also really enjoyed learning more about King Charles II, and this time in history in general. This book is definitely worth reading if you are a fan of historical fiction!

I give this novel a five out of five stars (I would give it more if I could!)