Wednesday, July 27, 2016

THE RINGMASTER'S WIFE by Kristy Cambron

An ounce of courage. A leap of faith. Together, they propel two young women to chase a new life—one that’s reimagined from what they might have become.
In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confi nes of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World’s Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny—a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.
A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her arranged marriage. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.
When Rosamund’s path crosses with Mable’s and the Ringlings’ glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, choosing instead the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers’ circus.
A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster’s Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the Greatest Show on Earth!
OPINION:
I often do judge a book by its cover, and I did so in this circumstance. Inside is a wonderful biography about a lesser known women in history. Surrounded by wonderfully quirky circus characters and a nomadic lifestyle, Mabel meets the handsome John Ringing, falls in love with him, and marries. 
Written in clear, moving prose, I learned about the wonderful relationships and the many kindnesses of Mabel Ringling. The secondary, fictional character in the story is another woman named Lady Rosamund Easling, a wealthy socialite who leaves her titled family and wealth to be with her horse and to join the circus in America. 
Although the story is not fast paced, it is very interesting and kept me hooked due to the vivid descriptions pertaining to characters and the circus itself. It is filled with emotional happenings and interesting facts. I loved every page of this book as it gave me a glimpse into a romantic way of life that is fading into the anals of history. Highly recommended. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.


Mabel Burton was born in a small town in Ohio in the year 1875. Of humble origins, she left her parents and her five siblings behind and headed to Chicago to pursue her own destiny which included not only a way to make a living, but to find herself a good husband. It is unknown exactly how she met John Ringling, but when she did, they fell in love and were soon married. She was thirty and he was thirty-nine at the time. 
John Ringling
After they wed, they began building their dream home in Sarasota, Florida.  s, juilcmoved to Hoboken, New Jerseyy
tJohn Nicholas Ringling. They wed in Hoboken, New Jersey when Mable was 30 and John was 39 years old.[2] John and Mabel, in 1924, began the creation of their dream home in Sarasota, Florida. 

Built in the Roaring Twenties, after visiting Venice, Ca' d' Zan (House of John in the Venetian dialect), a Venetian Gothic style mansion that resembles the many elegant palazzos of Venice's Grand Canal. The 36,000 square foot mansion sits on a large waterfront and was filled with numerous expensive furnishings including rare art and intricate furnishings that she collected herself in her travels across Europe. Many rooms and items are green as this was her favourite color. 

Sadly, they lived in the home for three years as Mabel died at the age of fifty-four due to Addison's Disease and Diabetes. John was devastated at the loss for he loved her greatly and it is said he never recovered. His soul mate with whom he shared a love for travel, culture, and art was gone. 
Mable and John are buried at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, just in front and to the right of the Ca d'Zan. It is behind the Secret Garden.
Author Kristy Cambron has researched Mabel's life and has written a rich tale about her quiet life, despite the fame of her name. 

THE GILDED YEARS by Karen Tanabe


“Tanabe immerses the reader in a world of romance and manners, but also leaves you gripping the edge of your seat…An elegant and extremely gratifying imagining of one remarkable woman's life.” —USA TODAY

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families. Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret. Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.

Anita Hemmings looks white, but is partly black. And  in 1894 that fact alone will segregate her from many things, including an education from a prestigious school. So keeping her black heritage a secret, and after taking and passing the entrance exams, she enters Vassar University, her life long dream, despite Vassar's anti-black policy. She struggles to keep her race a secret, even from her white socialite room mate with whom she has developed a close friendship.

This novel explores what it means to be black in a white world and the risks members of the black race faced in thir struggle for equal rights. I could not help but admire the protaganist and her determined, courageous stance to overcome her obstacles. Poignant and heart-wrenching, the plot was gripping as Anita faces danger and is forced to risk all in her aim to keep her secret.

This is a story of contrasts - of rich and poor, of black and white, of educated and uneducated, and of the struggle to survive against insurmountable odds. Thought-provoking, this would me a great read for book clubs!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Monday, July 25, 2016

CAVENDON LUCK by Barbara Taylor Bradfordl

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a captivating epic saga of courage and honor, following the aristocratic Inghams and the loyal Swann family who have served them for centuries.
It is 1938 in England, and Miles and Cecily Ingham have lead the family in bringing the Cavendon estate back from the brink of disaster. But now, with the arrival of World War II, Cavendon Hall will face its biggest challenge yet. It is a challenge that will push the Inghams and Swanns to protect each other and the villagers, and reveal their true capacity for survival and rebirth. Told with Bradford’s deft, evocative prose and featuring a beloved cast of characters, The Cavendon Luck is a story of intrigue, romance, sorrow, and joy that readers won’t soon forget.

OPINION:

I've been a fan of Barbara Taylor Bradford for decades. CAVENDON LUCK is the third book in the family saga / series about the Ingham and Swann families. This part of the saga picks up approximately a decade after the 2nd book where Cavendon Hall was restored from nearly being lost. It begins as World War II threatens and the two families must face new, more dangerous troubles and struggle to keep their home and people safe. Once again, the story plot is steady and truly breathes life into the turbulent era in the years before, during, and after the war. The characters are real and highly developed.  gives you an idea of what life would have been like during the Second World War in Britain. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire saga, but especially this one because of its satisfying ending. Well done! Highly recommended for lovers of epic family sagas, but I recommend reading the entire series (Cavendon Hall and Cavendon Women) to get the most impact from these two fascinating families. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Friday, July 22, 2016

AMY SNOW by Tracy Rees

Winner of the UK’s Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition, this page-turning debut novel follows an orphan whose late, beloved best friend bequeaths her a treasure hunt that leads her all over Victorian England and finally to the one secret her friend never shared.

It is 1831 when eight-year-old Aurelia Vennaway finds a naked baby girl abandoned in the snow on the grounds of her aristocratic family’s magnificent mansion. Her parents are horrified that she has brought a bastard foundling into the house, but Aurelia convinces them to keep the baby, whom she names Amy Snow. Amy is brought up as a second-class citizen, despised by Vennaways, but she and Aurelia are as close as sisters. When Aurelia dies at the age of twenty-three, she leaves Amy ten pounds, and the Vennaways immediately banish Amy from their home. But Aurelia left her much more. Amy soon receives a packet that contains a rich inheritance and a letter from Aurelia revealing she had kept secrets from Amy, secrets that she wants Amy to know. From the grave she sends Amy on a treasure hunt from one end of England to the other: a treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. Ultimately, a life-changing discovery awaits...if only Amy can unlock the secret. In the end, Amy escapes the Vennaways, finds true love, and learns her dearest friend’s secret, a secret that she will protect for the rest of her life. An abandoned baby, a treasure hunt, a secret. As Amy sets forth on her quest, readers will be swept away by this engrossing gem of a novel—the wonderful debut by newcomer Tracy Rees.

OPINION:

I loved every page of this book. Not only is it unique, but the plot is very intriguing. An abandoned child, Amy Snow, is rescued by a young girl who becomes like a mother to her, even though her family does not accept the child in their hearts. When her life is cut short, she does all she can to take care of Amy both finacially and spiritually. She creates a bit of a treasure hunt, leaving behind clues that not only reveal secrets, but provide Amy with lasting friendships and relationships. The prose was delightful and the characters endearing. I was hooked from start to finish. This is a stunning debut novel and I highly recommend this author.  

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

MAGRUDER'S CURIOSITY CABINET by H.P. Wood

A hypnotic debut in turn-of-the-century Coney Island, where an abandoned girl collides with a disgruntled ménage of circus freaks.
Kitty Hayward and her mother are ready to experience the spectacles of Coney Island's newest attraction, the Dreamland amusement park. But when Kitty's mother vanishes from their hotel, she finds herself penniless, alone, and far from her native England. The last people she expects to help are the cast of characters at Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of oddities. From con men to strongmen, from flea wranglers to lion tamers, Kitty's new friends quickly adopt her and vow to help find the missing Mrs. Hayward. But even these unusual inhabitants may not be a match for the insidious sickness that begins to spread through Coney Island...or the panic that turns Dreamland into a nightmare.
With shades of Water For Elephants and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet sweeps readers into a mesmerizing world where nothing is as it seems, and where "normal" is the exception to the rule.


OPINION:

The best way to describe this book is to say it is enchanting. It takes place in Coney Island in the late 1800's. Kitty is the main protaganist who comes to Coney Island for a holiday with her mother. But when her mother goes missing, she finds herself in dire straights. Hungry and without money, she encounters a charming gentleman who takes her under wing and introduces her to a sideshow with a vast array of strange freaks and characters., 

Fast paced, intricate historical details and great writing add to the wonderful storyline. This book is fascinating in its unusualness with plenty of eccentric characters. This novel is a great escape, a delightful read for the summer. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

JUNE by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore


From the New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet comes a novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake made sixty years ago that threatens to change a modern family forever. 
 
Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery's vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.


OPINION:

I very much enjoyed this novel. It is written by different voices set in 1955 and 2005. I would describe this novel as a gothic mystery as it is set in an old mansion in Ohio. At the heart of the story is a young woman named Cassie who inherits from her estranged father, actor Jack Montgomery. And this brings frustration from the other siblings. What unfolds are secrets of betrayal and blackmail, even murder. Each sibling comes across with their own strong personality. The story ends in a wholly satisfying way. A lovely gothic suspense story! 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY: Davinci's Disciples Book One by Donna Russo Morin


One murder ignites the powder keg that consumes a Florence under the iron rule of the powerful Medici family. 

Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a dangerous plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed. 

Seeking to wrest power, members of the Pazzi family draw blades in church and slay the beloved Giuliano. But Lorenzo de’ Medici survives the attack, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe. 

Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought-after painting before she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era—the peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci. 

It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place. 

Historical fiction at its finest, Donna Russo Morin begins the Da Vinci’s Disciples series with a novel both vibrant and absorbing, perfect for the readers of Sarah Dunant. 

Opinion:

My initial gut reaction is "Wow, what a book!" It appeals to me on many levels: my preference for Italian historical fiction set during the Renaissance, great writing, and stories that border a bit on the dark side. From its first page to last, I throughly loved the story. It is a tale of 5 women who are artists and who must secretly hone their talent. Enter Leonardo da Vinci who befriends the women and becomes their secret tutor. 

The story opens with attempted murder of L|orenzo de Medici and the murder of Giuliano de Medici. Donna Russo Morin brings this opening scene to life with vivid, shocking detail. She also does not shy away from describing the brutality of the ongoing aftermath when the de Medici family seek revenge against the Pazzi loyalists and conspiracies. The five women soon find themselves surrounded by danger as one of them goes missing with an important painting. Together, they band together to save their friend.

I love great women's historical fiction and Donna Russo Morin does a wonderful job with describing the plight of women during this very dangerous era. At the end of the book, she describes what was fact and what was fictional in the story. And there's a wonderful Reader's Guide that is great for book clubs. This is a five star read and I highly recommend it to avid lovers of history.   

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

THE LIAR'S KEY - Mark Lawrence

From the international bestselling author of the Broken Empire Trilogy, the Red Queen’s War continues...
 
After harrowing adventure and near death, Prince Jalan Kendeth and the Viking Snorri ver Snagason find themselves in possession of Loki’s key, an artifact capable of opening any door and sought by the most dangerous beings in the Broken Empire—including the Dead King.
 
Jal wants only to return home to his wine, women, and song, but Snorri has his own purpose for the key: to find the very door into death, throw it wide, and bring his family back into the land of the living.
 
And as Snorri prepares for his quest to find death’s door, Jal’s grandmother, the Red Queen, continues to manipulate kings and pawns towards an endgame of her own design…



OPINION:

The Liar's Key by Mark Lawrence is a high fantasy adventure novel that will definitely appeal to men. It is the second book in a trilogy in the Red Queen series. 

Prince Jalan is a bit of a rogue and renegade. He is prone to vices (drinking, women, and gambling), getting trapped in sticky situations, and a self-professed coward. Despite his rotten luck and his low self-esteem, he somehow has a penchant for good luck and getting out of scrapes, ultimately always landing on his feet and being hailed as a hero. 

He teams up with the powerful Viking Snorri, a battle-honed swordsman of great wit and wisdom. Together they come into possession of Loki's Key, an artifact many will kill for and that will open any door in the kingdom. They must outsmart the Red Queen who has a malicious agenda of your own. 

Plenty of fight scenes mixed with humor and wiliness. It really is a book that will appeal to men. Women will enjoy it too, despite the lack of female protaganists and romantic liaisons. I highly recommend readers read book one in the series first to get the full story, but in case you don't, the author did a fabulous job of providing a brief, entertaining summary of book one at the start! So you can easily start with book two and fall into the story. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

THE SORCERER'S DAUGHTER - Terry Broks

The inspiration for the epic MTV series, the world of Shannara is brimming with untold stories and unexplored territory. Now bestselling author Terry Brooks breaks new ground with a standalone adventure that’s sure to thrill veteran readers and recent converts alike.


The mysterious, magic-wielding Druid order has existed for long ages, battling any evil that threatens the Four Lands—and struggling to be understood and accepted by outsiders. But their hopes of building goodwill are dashed when a demon’s murderous rampage at a peace summit leaves their political opponents dead—casting new suspicions upon the Druids and forcing them to flee from enemies both mortal and monstrous. Paxon Leah, the order’s appointed protector, knows that blame lies with Arcannen Rai, the vile sorcerer he has battled and defeated before. But there’s no time to hunt his nemesis, if he is to lead the wrongfully accused Druids to their sanctuary. It is a quest fraught with danger, as a furious government agent and his army snap at their heels, and lethal predators stalk them in the depths of the untamed wilderness. But Arcannen is playing a deeper game than Paxon realizes. Paxon’s sister possesses a powerful magic that the sorcerer longs to control—but Arcannen has not reckoned with the determination of his own estranged daughter, Leofur, who is also Paxon’s devoted lifemate. Leofur sets out on a perilous quest to thwart her father’s desires—while the vengeful Arcannen conjures his blackest magical skills, determined to destroy them all . . . and claim the most powerful of magics for his own.

Opinion:

It has been several years since I read a Terry Brooks novel. He is definitely one of my favourite fantasy writers. IF you're unfamiliar with Terry Brooks and the world of Shannara, The Sorcerer’s Daughter is a good book to start with. This book easily stands alone, so therefore makes a good introduction. It contains many of the same characters and you won't need to know any prior knowledge of previous stories. In this novel, Leofur is the daughter of a tyrannical sorcerer and she teams up with the hero, Paxon Leah, the High Druid's blade, to thwart her father's evil intentions.  

There is a touch of everything in this book - romance, tragedy, treachery, flying machines, a steampunk style setting, and an adventurous quest. It is perhaps due to this denseness that sometimes I felt the characters became secondary to the story. Otherwise, there 
were plenty of twists and turns and a very evil villain that definitely did not disappoint. All in all, this is a great book to start with to get to know Terry Brooks and the world he creates. 

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

THE PROMISE - Fredrik Nath

 The Cyclist and an Inspiration
by
Fredrik Nath
The early morning sunlight flickered from behind the high clouds and reflected golden and crisp from the monument in Bergerac’s market square. Around me, shoppers bustled and in the roadway a car beeped its horn. The grey stone pillar rose fifteen feet above me, its shadow pointing away towards the elm trees that line the roadway. A smell of garlic wafted as I read those brave words that showed the strength of the French and France’s indomitable leaders. The monument was a reminder of the valour and sacrifice of those brave local partisans who gave up their lives in the struggle against the occupying Nazi forces all those years ago.
Yes, it is moving. Surely there’s a story here.
In my head a story began to form. What would it have been like to have to make the choices needed to protect oneself and one’s family yet still remain French? The main character would need to do something admirable. He would need to depart from the norm. If you became a partisan you would endanger the people nearest you. What if you were caught?
I began to think of how it would be to be the one who is rounding up the local Jewish people. Would you hate it? Of course you would, even if you were forced to it for fear of endangering your family. For a religious man it would be even harder. Surely one would do anything to avoid such ‘duties’ if you had a conscience?
The story began to form. A Vichy French policeman, a man of conscience, a family man working with evil Nazis whom he secretly hated. I created Auguste Ran, a good policeman, but in essence weak, until a certain event tips him over the edge and slowly he begins to fight back.
That’s where THE CYCLIST came from and it was my springboard for the other books in my French resistance series. Each takes a character and makes life hard for them, allowing them to become. In the end, THE CYCLIST sold 30,000 copies. It was Editor’s choice in the Historical Novel Review in 2011.
You can catch all six books on Amazon: a policeman, a teacher, an artist, a chef, a philosopher and in THE PROMISE a medical student.
THE PROMISE is the last and most recent of the series. Jean Valois, a medical student before the war, swears to his sister he will protect her. But in war, who can keep such promises? Trained to kill by SOE, in a desperate bid to save his sister Rebecca, he undertakes a mission deep into enemy-occupied Poland, risking all for the sake of a promise made long ago. A story of love, war, hatred and revenge, THE PROMISE tells a tale of courage and staunchness.
If you like drama and character-based plots check them out!
If you have questions you can reach me at: