Collette should be one of the happiest women around. As the wife of a wealthy plantation owner, she has everything she could possibly want and lives in the home of her dreams. Her husband, however, makes living her best life impossible. As he has taken up with Amana, one of their slaves, Collette’s life has taken quite a tragic and sad turn. When Amana finds herself in just the right place at the ideal moment to save Collette’s life, both women begin to realize there is much more to their relationship than either of them could have ever imagined.
Keeper of Slaves, Antebellum Struggles Book 2, by Dickie Erman, traces the drama surrounding Trent and Collette Winters and the battle to survive via the Underground Railroad. Erman skillfully crafts a cast of characters who are deeply involved in making the Underground Railroad successful. The author appeals successfully to readers’ emotions and describes incredibly intense scenes of fearful and anxious moments of planning as the book’s main characters attempt to do what feels like the impossible given the time period and the extreme circumstances of their lives.
Even though Erman includes a brief summary of events from Book 1 at the outset, I feel there are several key elements I was missing as I read. Quite a bit of time was spent trying to visualize situations and subplots. There is a history between this entire cast of characters that is begging to be read.
I am beyond intrigued by the “ghost ship.” I found it to be a fantastic addition to the plot and was able to visualize each and every aspect of the ship and its lack of life, the missing supplies, and the eerie and overwhelming silence. Though it sounds a bit out of place in a story of this genre, it actually works quite well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the concern I have over the dialect. While the bulk of the dialogue feels quite authentic, there are a few things I found distracting as I read. Accents and turns of phrase felt accurate throughout the book for the most part, but a few terms like “machismo” and “space aliens” struck me as odd and felt out of place for the book’s antebellum setting. Periodically, the reader is given the impression that the third person narrator is, indeed, part of the story. While this works in some cases, it doesn’t feel effective here. I was especially confused when, in the narration, the alligator that attacks Collette is referred to as a “gata.” The sudden switching on and off of the more personal narration is a bit difficult to reconcile with the rest of the book.
I am giving Keeper of Slaves, Antebellum Struggles Book 2, by Dickie Erman, 4 out of 5 stars. Fans of historical fiction who desire a bit of romance in their plots will enjoy Erman’s work. I highly recommend Keeper of the Slaves, Antebellum Struggles Book 2 to those who are particularly attracted to Civil War stories with generous amounts of character interaction and authentic dialogue.
Pages: 211 | ASIN: B07NN5ZF8X
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This saga begins amid the wealth of Southern plantation owners and Northern investors. By identifying the equities gained, greater concerns began to rise among the nation’s abolitionists. As a consequence, regional politicians began moving the citizenry into opposing camps.
COTTONBLOOD tracks the lives of two adolescent murderers: The first, a mixed-breed Canadian entering American waters as a deckhand aboard a French freighter. The second, a youngster captured from Sierra Leone to a foreign land where a strange language is spoken. Although the two men never meet, their journeys lattice one another as each search for some form of security. When false hope leads one into an unsolicited life of labor, the other haphazardly finds a future of opulence.
The plot traces their lives, and relations, through generations of survival leading the inheritors into the first year of America’s horrendous Civil War.
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The Twisted Crown is a fascinating story about a free black woman from the North searching for her mother in the post-Civil War South. What served as your inspiration while writing this novel?
My father’s family is from Moncks Corner, SC, and we still own property there. I was born in Ohio and grew up in the North. I have always been fascinated by stories about our land in Moncks Corner, called Bryan Tract, and how it was acquired, as well as our family’s unusual genealogy. My great-grandfather was a white man from Iowa, who went to South Carolina during Reconstruction, and eventually became a wealthy state senator. I have always felt that period in American history was not well documented from the female, Afro-centric point of view. So, I decided to focus on that time period. Once I began to acquire primary source documents that provided details of my great-grandfather’s life, I wanted to pen the novel from the point of view of a woman from the North who travels into the South during Reconstruction.
This is an entertaining novel that is high in social commentary. What were some themes you wanted focus on in this book?
Romance: My family’s mixed race background demonstrates the crossing of racial lines at that time, as is really evident throughout history. I wanted to present this aspect of society through characters who could see past the racial, cultural, and societal barriers that existed during this time period. Political: I wanted to better define what Reconstruction actually was. It was not rebuilding bridges and constructing new buildings, but an effort to establish a solid political structure and an economic base to replace the defeated Confederate government. Societal: My goal was to showcase the work of the Freedman’s Bureau and underscore its importance in helping freed slaves establish new lives in freedom after the Civil War.
Eva is an intriguing character that continued to develop as the story progressed. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a young black woman during this tumultuous time in history?
As a novelist of historical fiction, I have always focused on examining a period in history through the eyes of an African-American woman. My own family experiences, coupled with years of researching the role of black women throughout pivotal periods in history helped me shape Eva.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
Writing historical fiction takes time, detailed research, and inspiration. I always spend time traveling to the geographic locations that I plan to use in my books I’m mulling time periods, traveling, and pulling my next story together without any release date in mind.
The Twisted Crown takes readers from the bustling streets of Boston at the height of the Abolitionist movement to the war-ravaged landscape of Reconstruction-era South Carolina.
In 1867, Eva Phillips, who was born a slave yet lived in freedom, travels across the chaotic landscape of South Carolina in search of the mother who gave her away. During her journey, she is befriended by a black political activist promoting the rights of the newly freed slaves, a wealthy northern Carpetbagger, and a gutsy lady gambler who teaches Eva how to survive in the tumultuous Post-war environment.
When the spirited young widow’s quest draws her into a dangerous web of theft, lies, and murder, she becomes the target of a long-awaited confrontation that forces her into a fight for her life.
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The Twisted Crown, the newest historical fiction novel by Anita Bunkley is a fascinating look into the post-Civil War South. Focused on the story of a free black woman from the North, Eva Phillips takes advantage of the abolition of slavery in the South to embark on a treacherous journey to South Carolina to try to find the mother who gave her a chance at freedom as a child. Along her way, readers meet a captivating cast of characters ranging from cunning professional gamblers to complex carpetbaggers to innocents turned corrupt by hardship. Eva has to navigate a part of the country decimated by the bitterest of fighting as it struggles to regain its footing. And like Eva, readers will never know if the character with the checkered past they just met will be someone who can be trusted or or who will surprise them with an unexpected betrayal.
Along the way she meets up with Chicago lawyer and profiteer Trent Hartwell who, against the recommendations of his new Charleston acquaintances, offers to help Eva in her quest. Although he came to the South to benefit from the financial opportunities blossoming in the wake of so many people’s misfortunes, he can’t quite understand the unwritten rules governing the South about the proper roles of white people and black people and why there should be any difference.
This book also sheds light on the important and dangerous work that took place during this time by black activists to promote equal participation in government for all races. This work made many who benefited from the pre-war social structure very angry and prone to violence, so the lobbying had to be done secretively.
While the story is solid and flows well, I thought that the characters and dialogue lacked some depth. This book kept me very engaged, however. The quick pace, many edge-of-your-seat situations, and several sultry moments kept me reading along without any lulls.
I also came away with a much clearer understanding of what life in the South was like after the Civil War for both whites and blacks. I didn’t know the depth of poverty freed slaves were faced with and this book provided a very interesting example of the creative and sometimes unfortunate ways that people used to survive and start a new life. Anita Bunkley is famous for writing stories that show what a famous period in history was like from the perspective of black women, and I really appreciated having the opportunity to experience this after so many other Reconstruction books (Gone With the Wind, That Bright Land, ect.) only focus on the white experience. This is important because, clearly, this was a period where the African-American experience is integral to understanding the situation appropriately.
I highly recommend joining Eva on her exciting voyage to the land of her birth and learning more about the United State’s most interesting periods of history in The Twisted Crown by Anita Bunkley.
Pages: 336 | ASIN: B07G7GPX2F
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The Infinity series follows star crossed lovers through the ages and combines fantasy and historical fiction to breathtaking effect. What served as your inspiration while writing this series?
Most authors will say that their books can be read in any order but they are lying through their teeth. You’ll pick up one book and read 75 spoilers for another. I really hate that. You’ll select a later book and be completely lost while reading as if you’re in a convoluted fog until you eventually give up. My goal with the Infinity series was to create a set of books that could truly stand alone. Every book takes place in an entirely different lifetime. Readers can choose the setting and plot that seems interesting and jump right in without having to work their way down a reading list. You can start the series where ever you want, read just one book or the whole set, and no story will ever spoil another.
Sarah is an amazing and strong character that continued to develop throughout the series. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?
The fantasy genre has a serious deficit of characters of color. Growing up, I was a huge Fear Street fan. I must have read at least forty of these young adult novels. I found one black character out of all the stories and she wasn’t even the main character. She was merely a side note featured in just one book. There were no black people in Middle Earth, no Hispanic archeologists raiding tombs like Indiana Jones, and there were no Asian teens living on Fear Street. I love a badass white man with a sword adventure as much as anyone else and I don’t mind reading my hundredth reluctant to marry white princess story. But there are no words to express how it feels to NEVER be able to read about a character who looks like you. This is especially important for children and young adults who are still unsure of themselves and not quite comfortable in their own skin. Authors should not be sending a message that white is the default setting (nor should we be sending the message that one body type is the default setting). I will never understand how the most imaginative of all the book genres could be so utterly closedminded in regard to the way characters look. Fantasy authors can envision elves, fairies, goblins, and orcs but characters of color are not in the realm of possibilities. I intend to change this with Sarah’s character and many others.
Although the settings changed in each book, you were still able to deliver some outstanding backdrops and characters. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing this series?
The main theme I wanted to express was that love is never easy. While doing research for my Civil War era series I stumbled upon the most stunning love stories I’d ever read and they were all true life events. The one that touched me most was about a former slave man, who I’ll call Jim. His wife and children were still slaves, though he was working tirelessly to earn the money to free them. The plantation master had gotten behind on his taxes and the government was going to seize his property (including slaves) and auction off everything (and everyone) to cover his debts. Jim’s wife wrote him letters in regard to this pending catastrophe. It soon became clear that no matter how hard Jim worked he would never have enough money in time to free them all. He would never see his wife again, they would never see their children again because being sold often meant sold separately. Jim did the only thing he could to save his family. He met with a group of abolitionists and they planned a rescue mission. The mission was foiled by a snitch and Jim died. They found his body with love letters from his wife still in his pocket. His story was no exception. There were many like it. Why are these tragedies relevant? Because love like this is rare in our day and age. Absentee parents have to be forced to pay child support, forced to even visit their kids, while Jim sacrificed everything for his kids. Couples divorce for trivial and absurd reasons, while Jim died with his wife’s letters in his pocket during a battle to the death to save her. I wanted to write a series that reminds my generation that love is never easy but people used to fight for it anyway. Why can’t we?
What is a Medium Adult novel?
Medium Adult Literature is a term I use for books that are more mature and complex than Young Adult novels but not as daunting as a 400-page Adult story. My Medium Adult books are written for people who’ve outgrown Harry Potter and Goosebumps but aren’t ready to dive into Stephen King and Game of Thrones. The romances in my medium adult series are more passionate and involved than a teen book but not as smutty as an adult romance. Sexuality, bad language, and graphic descriptions of violence are dialed back in my medium adult books without making the plot childish and unrelatable. I keep these books short and fun, usually 150-200 pages, an adventure that a busy college student can squeeze into his/her schedule without having to read a children’s book.
With that said… I must warn that the Infinity books are the only ones I’ve written with such restraint. My full adult novels are raw and uncensored beware.
What is one thing you felt the fantasy genre was missing that you wanted to introduce in your series?
PASSION!! I’ve always loved fantasy stories. I am swept off my feet by all the chivalry, action, and supernatural mystique. But the romance in fantasy books leaves me disappointed at worst and underwhelmed at best. The lead characters either can’t stand one another or completely ignore one another for over half the book. When they finally acknowledge their feelings you spend the entire second half of the book waiting for them to act. After reading 400 pages and wasting a week of your life you are rewarded with one measly kiss on the very last page. In traditional fantasy, the action moves fast but the romance moves sloooooooow. My desires for passion, drama, and love led me to historical romance. This turned out to be a mistake. While historical romance books were chock full of passion, drama, and love, I found the plots predictable, unimaginative, and incredibly slow moving. To this day I have never finished a traditional romance novel. I wrote the Infinity series as a hybrid of fantasy and historical romance so readers can enjoy the best of both worlds.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Infinity: Transylvania will be the next installment in print. Matthew and Sarah, are plunged into a world of darkness. Immortal beings with an insatiable hunger for blood rule the night. As a ruthless foreign army threatens to conquer Transylvania, Matthew is forced to choose between watching his kingdom fall, or joining forces with the vampires…
I hope to have it written and submitted for review in December. I can’t give an exact release date because the review process can take weeks or even months but I aim to have Transylvania available for purchase mid-March of 2019. Every book I create endures a rigorous screening process. Only books that receive EXCELLENT reviews from at least three different companies are marked as fit for readers. Novels are judged on many elements, such as plot, characters, dialogue, scenery and accuracy of setting. The purpose of all this reviewing is to provide high-quality stories for an enjoyable reading experience. For a complete list of five-star ratings refer to the Banner of Excellence on each cover.
Literary Titan is always my first stop on the road to a great novel because of the phenomenal work they do. I have trusted them with all my books and it’s been an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
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Natalie leads a life like no other woman. The man in her life is not her husband and her son is not her own. As a woman in the pre-Civil War days, she does as she is told, and her life is simply not her own. Her son, Matt, who she lovingly protects from the hatred and violence of his brother, the man in her life, is being raised with no idea of what true love is. As Natalie continues to serve Pete and put up with his endless brutality, she simultaneously succeeds in teaching Matt how to recognize his brother’s faults and steers him toward the life he deserves.
Catalina DuBois’s Revelations: The Colburn Curse contains rich tidbits of various genres, and they all seem to blend flawlessly into one breathtaking piece. With mystery being the underlying and ever-present element, DuBois’s book is laced with romance, historical fiction, and tantalizing snippets of fantasy.
As I read, I felt as if I were on an emotional roller coaster of the most bizarre kind. I desperately hated Pete from the moment he entered the picture. There was not a signal redeeming quality present in him, and I felt no qualms about despising the sight of his name. Then DuBois throws a monkey wrench into the equation– a complete game-changer. I was amazed at how swiftly the author was able to make me change my mind. Then, as quickly as she brought me to a new line of thinking, she reintroduces the Pete of old. DuBois is a master of the plot twist. I was two breaths away from an audible gasp when she had Natalie suddenly reveal her own revelation about Pete’s true identity. Who doesn’t yearn for a book that gives them that feeling?
I will admit that I had a difficult time in the early chapters seeing how the vast array of characters would fit together by the book’s end. DuBois, however, is more than adept at pulling together characters from settings that are seemingly unrelated. I might add, when she does, it is amazing.
The storyline centering about Ambassador Florian Lafayette and his sister, Embrasia, is the most engaging in the book. The two are, without a doubt, bent on living on the edge. Their antics would seem to lead them down a path of destruction, but a few chance meetings change the siblings and their wild ways like no amount of preaching could. I find their storyline to be filled with the most rapidly moving action.
Having read several other books by the author, I can say this one is, by far, my favorite. When you can finish a book and feel immediately like rereading it, you know you have found a keeper. DuBois is the queen of prologues. I never ceased to be amazed at her ability to pull me in within the first paragraphs. There is no one else out there penning romances with touches of fantasy based on historical fiction like Catalina DuBois.
Pages: 285 | ASIN: 1973233002
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Award Winners
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The Civil War was filled with pain, suffering, and too much death for both the North and the South. The often-untold stories of suffering and valor are those of the slaves and former slaves. Out in Missouri and Kansas some of the most brutal fighting occurred, not from the armies, but from guerrilla warfare. Honor Among Outcasts continues the story of the Dark Horse inhabitants that have joined the Union Army as soldiers in the Missouri State Militia Ninth Calvary. This is a story of how a group of former slaves fight for their freedom along with their half Indian partner. They face war, racism, and the loss of family and friends, and a multilevel conspiracy; but through it all, their spirit and honor never waver.
Ed Protzel uses historical fiction to bring light to things that went on during the Civil War. While the story of Durk and Antoinette is fabricated there is truth underlying their situation. Generals in the war often didn’t agree with the side they were on; but cared more for their political status than the men they sent off to die. Colored soldiers were especially expendable and were not given adequate supplies and provisions to fulfill their missions, yet few cared. Protzel does an amazing job showing the fear for each decision and action that the soldiers in the Dark Horse regiment had to make. It was never a simple decision of what makes the most sense, it was always about, what will keep us alive the longest while maintain honor. Paralleling their story, is the one of the women from the Dark Horse plantation. These women could not join the army, so they had no protection when all their papers are lost. This was a common issue among freed slaves. You could not go anywhere without your documentation or you were at risk of being put in jail or hung. This fear is so prevalent in the writing.
Reading about the harsh conditions in Missouri that the soldiers lived in is hard, starvation, lack of medical care, equipment shortages in the way of horses and weapons. Soldiers being sent out with little more than their bare hands to fight off guerrilla attacks. I know growing up and learning history I never heard about the guerrilla warfare and the complete brutality of it all. It didn’t matter who you supported, they were merciless and only cared about collecting the spoils of war. Killing meant nothing to these mercenaries. Double agent spy’s playing to whatever side they could is not a far-fetched idea and I’m sure it happened more often than even Protzel makes mention of. Lives and families torn apart and those left alive must suffer from it all.
Reading Honor Among Outcasts, I can see where Ed Protzel got the title. Everything is stacked against the Dark Horse group, men and women, but through it all they retain their honor. They refuse to take the easy way out of things to save their own lives. As I read this book I wanted to see the happy ending, I wanted everything to be okay, but true to real life, that isn’t always the case, not everyone will live, not everyone has a happily ever after. There is still another book in this series and I look forward to reading it to see what happens with the remaining Dark Horse members’, just maybe they will find peace.
Pages: 269 | ASIN: B077YRFB9J
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Masks by Nataly Restokian is salacious from the very beginning. We’re brought into the story where two relative strangers are having a one-night stand, one married woman with a lover on the side! It may appear to be an adult erotica novel at first, but keep reading, this is only one of the many layers to the plot that got me hooked and kept me flipping pages.
The protagonist is a fiery but spirited female named Anna that is surrounded by the glitz and glamour of the television industry. She is beautiful and successful, with her own show that sets her up to be an icon to woman in her country. The background setting gives the story a more visceral feel as one goes through the story. Anna is confident, daring, unstoppable and vivacious, but she is also hurting, bitter and cynical. She puts on her masks, as props to keep up appearances, lest others take advantage of her. The story evolves quickly and picks up speed from the risque beginning. Anna’s pursuit of happiness takes the reader on an emotional ride through the dark side of fame and fortune.
The story takes place in different cities throughout the middle-east which give you the same globe trotting feeling that Anna must have felt. I’ve never visited any of these places so this all seemed magically exotic to me. The settings are genuine and natural and lend to the emotional turmoil of the story.
There is a fresh feel in the author’s approach as she has been a keen observer of the societal nuances of the region, and is able to express it in terms that I felt were original and thought provoking. People from the west are inundated with reports everyday in the media and news channels about the region’s political and economic turmoil and forgets completely about the people, as individuals, living their lives. Hoping for a better future, like Anna. That’s what I like most about this story, that it’s a human story that I could relate to, because sometimes we too wear masks. I admire this story because it casts the region and culture in a different light, one that is not a hot spot for terror but instead brings forth the spirit of resilience. The spirit that makes people persevere in the face of difficulties and yet still have a passion for life. People that are scarred by their past, but not a prisoner of it. I feel that Anna embodies this spirit. I was intrigued by the exotic setting, Anna’s complex character, and the twists and turns that the story took as she risked it all in her quest for love and acceptance. I highly recommend this book.
Pages: 221 | ASIN: B07BB6RMDS
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Letters to Mary Susan chronicles the life and adventures of a Missouri outlaw that is in prison for manslaughter and is trying to reconnect with his daughter through letters. What was your inspiration behind this story?
The book’s main character, Jim Howard, was one of my father’s boyhood heroes and he’d retained “Jim Howard stories” for over 70 years. I’d promised him, in 2002 to make these stories central to a book with Jim Howard as its main character.
This is a great historical fiction novel that got a lot of the details right. What kind of research did you do for this novel to keep things accurate?
I did a lot of online and library research re: pre-Civil War, Civil War, post-Civil War “outlawry (“guerilla warfare”), Cattle drives, the rise of Montana outlawry and the “Wild Bunch,” Big Muddy outlawry, leading to personal interviews and old newspaper/library reviews regarding homesteading and personal interviews with prison personnel regarding prison characteristics as well as older individuals with recollections of the Prison Chaplain’s, Howard’s lawyer’s and Howard’s daughter’s roles in his release from jail.
What I liked about James’s character was that he held nothing back and didn’t try to cast himself in a good light, just told it like it is. What themes did you want to capture while you were writing his character?
That redemption and a new start is possible for us all.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
A book of poetry that I hope to have ready before the end of this year.
In his historical novel, LETTERS TO MARY SUSAN, Jerry Hammersmith chronicles the life and adventures of a Missouri outlaw, James Marion Howard. The novel is narrated by an aging Jim Howard as he begins to serve a sentence of fifteen years for Manslaughter. His lonely prison cell in the newly built Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert is the impetus to repent and reconnect with his past.
Through Jim’s reflections and letters to his long-estranged daughter, Mary Susan, the novel becomes a chronicle of the life of a Missouri outlaw who fled post Civil War America, leaving behind his wife and family and seeking escape from the law by racing across the western states, robbing stage coaches, trains and banks, until a posse chases him across the 49th parallel and into the newly formed Saskatchewan, Canada. He finds a new life and becomes a citizen of Canada after fulfilling the homestead requirements and establishing a new identity there.
As Howard recalls his outlaw past, Hammersmith leads the reader into the saga of the American Civil War, the tragedy of post war devastation and the flight of an insurgent guerrilla on the run to homestead in the ‘promised land’ of Canada. The surprising identity of that outlaw and his place in the small community of Teddington, Saskatchewan provides a tale of adventure, mystery and passion.
The twists and turns of this amazing story offer a glimpse into the ravages of the Civil War and the aftermath of the brutal and senseless vengeance that stole the lives of many young men. It leads the reader to an understanding of the path of a man’s choices and the hope that redemption is possible for us all.
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