In Christine Trent’s newest novel Lady of Ashes which releases tomorrow she hits on an intriguing story line – a woman undertaker in Victorian London. This novel is great mix of historical details along with a tale that keeps you turning the pages. Lady of Ashes is the first book in a new historical mystery series that Christine is writing and I can’t wait to read more. She is one author who can spin a tale that never fails to draw me in and keep me there! I must say as well that I adore this cover along with the title!
Violet Morgan is no normal lady of society. In fact, she is an undertaker who works along with her husband in their shop which is something unheard of back in the 1860’s. Not only is she an undertaker but she’s spirited, opinionated, independent, and quite intelligent – again out of the norm that most women followed back then of the quiet, polite, homemaking lady. Violet can dress up a deceased person but don’t ask her to roast a duck because it’s unlikely she could. While she loves working with her husband Graham trouble seems to be brewing on the marital front. The very thing that first attracted Graham to Violet which was how she took so quickly to the undertaking business now seems to be turning him off and he’s complaining that she doesn’t keep a proper home for him. It’s not long before Graham is keeping secrets from Violet and staying out all night and it leaves her wondering what her husband is up to.
Too add to Graham’s displeasure of his wife she takes in an orphan of whom she becomes quite attached. In the meantime Graham is still up to no good and it’s not long before he and his brother have to flee London for their lives. This leaves Violet on her own with the orphan Susanna but Violet is no weeping willow and she pulls up her boots and moves on with, of course, the help of a handsome fellow who is more than willing to help her. As all of this is unfolding Violet is noticing disturbing things with the corpses she is attending for burial and she begins to wonder if there isn’t someone causing these deaths. To this end Violet finds herself in even more dire straits and soon enough she is fighting for both her and Susanna’s life. Who will be victorious – the murderer or Violet?
While this novel is full of many true historical characters and happenings which I really liked as I learned quite a bit, it is still Violet who steals the show. It is her story that kept me turning the pages. I really liked her and the way she stood up for what she believed in. Of course she elicited a few giggles from me when she was angered and would becomes incensed at people who she felt deserved a verbal battering. The novel also takes us back to Victorian London in a way that made me feel as though I was there. Trent is a very descriptive writer and I could almost feel the darkness of the streets and the swirling mist that seemed to constantly fill the air. One of my favorite parts though would have to be the diary entries of the murderer every few chapters as they contemplated the people getting in their way and the next move that they would have to make. What I found to be the most intriguing thing about the book was the information on the undertaking business back in the 1800’s. It was fascinating to learn how they prepared bodies back then and that embalming was thought to be evil and not a common practice as it is today.
Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent is another winner for me. I enjoy her writing and her stories and I could not have found a better way to spend my weekend than to immerse myself in the tale she wove. I am already looking forward to the next novel in this series!
Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent is on tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and today is the kick off day so be sure to stop by all the other tour stops coming up for more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways! Christine can be found on her website and Facebook so be sure to check out more of her work there. Your own copy of Lady of Ashes can be purchased at Amazon or Amazon Canada.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS (International)
I have one copy of Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent to share with my readers. To enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment entering the giveaway.
- For 2 entries follow my blog. If you already do let me know so I can pass the entry on to you as well.
- Tweet, Like on Facebook, or Blog about this giveaway for 3 entries.
This giveaway is open Internationally! I will draw for the winner on Saturday, March 9/13. Good luck!
Source: Review copy provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Christine Trent. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.
Although it is early in the new year The Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas will make my list of favorite historical novels of the year. This novel has it all; a great historical setting, a mystery, and characters that you care about. Even better it deals with the practice of midwifery which is something that has always fascinated me. This is a very well written novel that is sure to capture your interest and not let go just as it did mine!
Bridget is a widow twice over and a wealthy and important woman in society, not only because of her exceptional skills as a midwife but also because of her connections as her late husband’s brother is prominent within society and has stayed close to Bridget after the death of her husband. It is unusual for a woman to be as independent as Bridget is in the 1600’s but Bridget really is no ordinary woman. She’s strong, smart, and opinionated. Even more she is respected as such.
When her friend Esther is accused of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive Bridget knows in her heart she is innocent and determines to find out who the real killer is. It turns out her new servant Martha is skilled in more ways than just that of a cleaning woman and she assists Bridget. The more embroiled they become in the mystery of who the killer is the more trouble they seem to find and in no time at all even their lives are at risk.
While I love historical novels I find that I don’t always make connections with the characters but that is not so with this book. I was drawn into Bridget’s life from the very first pages and I respected her knowledge and the fact that she was such a strong and independent woman for the times. Her servant Martha and nephew Will were another two characters that I really liked.
I’ve read a few books that dealt in the practice of midwives but nothing like Sam’s book. He gave a very good overview of what is involved and also of how births took place back in the 1600’s. It was fascinating! I had no idea that midwives held such power if they were considered very skilled at what they did not to mention that they were privy to quite a few family secrets as well. So aside from a good mystery in this novel I also got to learn something about a subject I’m interested in so that is always a huge plus for me in a book.
While the story woven within the pages of this novel is fictional the character of Bridget is actually based on a real woman which you learn in Sam’s author’s note. That made the novel even better for me. If you’re a lover of historical fiction this is a must read and even if you’re not this novel fits in with a mystery lover as well. The Midwife’s Tale is a must read this year!
The Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas is on tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours so be sure to check out the other tour stops for more reviews and giveaways of this fantastic novel. You can find Sam on his website as well as Facebook and Twitter. Your own copy of The Midwife’s Tale can be purchased at Amazon and Amazon Canada.
GIVEAWAY DETAILS (US/Canada)
I have one copy of The Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas to share with my readers. To enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment entering the giveaway.
- For 2 entries follow my blog. If you already do let me know and I’ll pass the extra entry on to you as well.
- For 3 entries blog or tweet this giveaway.
This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winner on Saturday, January 26/13. Good luck!
Source: Review copy provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and the Publisher. No compensation was received for this review and all opinions are my own.
Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn is another journey to Ancient Rome that will keep you spellbound within its pages as you experience betrayals, adventure, battles, greed, power, and love. I first discovered Kate Quinn when I read her first book Mistress of Rome (my review) and I loved it. I haven’t read Daughters of Rome yet but it’s next on my list. You do not have to read these books in order. They stand alone quite well but it was nice to be able to recognize some of the characters and events being spoken about having read the first book.
Vix has decided that there is nothing for him in his home country so he ventures to Rome to try to make a life for himself. The only thing he knows for sure is he doesn’t want to be a gladiator – those days are over. What he does want to do is be a soldier; more specifically lead his own legion someday. Luckily for Vix he has an important contact in Rome who owes his family a favor or two so he heads to Senator Norbanus’s home. It is there that he catches his first look at the intriguing Sabina, who after a while, he remembers from when they were kids and she stole a kiss. Eventually Vix ends up as a guard in Sabina’s home and a secret relationship forms between the two. Little do they know that it will likely last a lifetime.
Sabina is a girl who craves adventure. She may love Vix but he can’t give her the adventure she craves – he isn’t ambitious enough in that regard as all he really wants to do is fight for the Emperor. One of her suitors Hadrian, a ward of the Emperor, catches her attention and they marry. Sabina gets her adventure following her husband on the road in battles and she also manages to get more of Vix. What Vix ends up learning the hard way though is that Sabina craves adventure more than she craves him. The one thing that Vix and Sabina always have and will agree on though is their devotion to Trajan and both will do anything to serve and protect him. Will it be enough though?
The characters in this novel just jump out at you. They have a depth to them and the life in Ancient Rome is described so vividly you feel sure you are experiencing it all with your favorite characters. Vix is by far my favorite. You know by his description that he is gorgeous and strong – all man. He is at times funny and often bawdy but he captures your heart nonetheless. Another character I adored was Titus, a man who isn’t described as handsome but is smart and quotes books all the time. I found him charming and loved his devotion to those he cared about like Vix and Sabina. Of course there are the bad people lurking as usual especially Plotina, the Emperor’s wife. She’s just evil and you would love to see someone squash her at some point. The novel is full of people who you will want to see succeed whether in battle or love.
Empress of the Seven Hills is everything historical fiction should be. If you have an interest in Ancient Rome you will love this novel as well as Kate’s other books as well. She brings Ancient Rome to life in a most interesting way. Her novels are never dull or boring – they are just exciting. It is clear that she has done her research and in her author’s note she tells us that the majority of characters and events are all based on things that have actually happened. The end of this novel leaves you wanting more because it ends on a note that pretty much tells you there is a sequel in the works and I can’t wait! Empress of the Seven Hills is a magnificent novel by Kate Quinn and well worth reading!
Be sure to check out the giveaway I have running right now for your own chance to win a copy of Empress of the Seven Hills as well as check out the excellent guest post Kate wrote for us on ‘A Day in the Life of a Writer’.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher. No compensation was received for this review and all opinions are solely my own.
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory is a great historical tale mixing fact with fiction that tells the story of the Plantagenets who came before the Tudors in the ruling of England. I really enjoy Gregory’s books, The Other Boleyn Girl being my absolute favorite, but I have to say The White Queen is right up there with it weaving the fact in with the fiction in a most creative way.
The White Queen follows Elizabeth Woodville Grey in her rise from poverty to Queen of the Kingdom. At twenty-seven years old Elizabeth is a widow left with nothing but two young sons to raise. She decides to stand along the side of the road and try to get King Edward’s attention as he goes by. Now keeping in mind that Elizabeth is an extraordinarily beautiful woman this was not hard to do. The young King, five years younger than Elizabeth, is quite taken with her and of course tries to have her. She will have none of it, she will not be a mistress to the King. They finally marry in secret and King Edward goes to war promising her he will return.
When King Edward returns he still says their marriage must be kept secret but finally gets up the nerve to tell his advisors that he has married Elizabeth. They, of course, are infuriated. He was to marry in order to advance his Kingdom, not for love. Here in lies the story and all of the tumult that follows. King Edward battles not only his advisors but his brother because of this marriage. Worse yet are the rumors that Elizabeth comes from a family that practices magic. This doesn’t matter at this time though as Elizabeth’s family rises to power as the backing behind the King.
As always though there is scheming in the background and everyone plotting against each other. There is enough treachery and betrayal in this book to go around. The King’s brother George tries to destroy him from the beginning feeling that Edward shouldn’t be on the Throne. His brother Richard is loyal but after Edward dies he takes a route to gain the throne that doesn’t put him in the best light either. Then there is the mystery surrounding the missing Princes from the Tower. From start to finish there is enough going on to keep those pages turning late into the night as they did for me.
Then there is also the element of magic in this novel. Elizabeth comes from a line of women who descend from Melusina, a water goddess. Elizabeth, her mother and then Elizabeth’s daughter all have the Sight. They can see things in dreams or hear things coming off the water. In some instances they can cause storms or ailments to afflict someone. I did enjoy the magical element because that’s my kind of thing and it’s not an overwhelming aspect to the story as it’s more behind the scenes probably because people were beheaded in those times for being witches. I liked that Gregory added this spin on the book, it added a different flavor to the story and it also set the scene for some things that occured in the book and then in the future.
As for characters I liked the way Elizabeth was portrayed in this book. She was a strong woman who would stop at nothing to protect her family and ensure their rise to power. King Edward, although quite the womanizer, still cut an empowering figure and I liked him. Again there are things about this world back then that just horrify me like betrothing your children when they are still babies to others just to ensure alliances and secure finances. I just can’t imagine the life women had then pretty much being bargaining chips.
The White Queen is Book One in The Cousins’ War – this is to be a trilogy telling of the feuds of England known as the War of the Roses – and I can’t wait to read the next one. It’s called The Red Queen and will focus on Margaret Beaufort who was the mother of Henry VII. Be sure to pop by and visit Philippa Gregory’s wonderful website here. The White Queen releases tomorrow, August 18, but you can buy now in the US here and in Canada here. I’d like to thank Kelly Bowen with Simon and Schuster for my copy of The White Queen.
I’d like to thank Kelly with Simon and Schuster as well for offering up 2 copies of The White Queen for my readers. This giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only (no PO boxes) as they will be sent out by the publisher. What can you do to enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment with a way to contact you.
- For 2 entries follow my blog. If you already do, thanks, and please let me know in your comment so I can pass the extra entry on to you.
- For 3 entries blog or tweet this giveaway and spread the word.