Beloved Mother by Laura Hunter is a saga that follows the lives of several members of the Parsons, a poor coal-mining family. The story begins in Covington, Virginia in 1923 when thirteen-year-old Mona Parsons is taken away to Carolina by Jackson Slocomb. He abuses her, and she’s rescued by a Native American man named Walks in Tall Corn. He takes her in and raises her son, Briar, as his own. Ten years later, Tall Corn is injured in a farming accident and his wound becomes infected. He dies and Mona (River of Two Tears) returns to Covington, but her father doesn’t welcome her. She and her son end up in a coal mining town, Breakline Mining Camp. Mona’s younger sister, Anna, runs away with Clint, and they end up in in the coal mining town, too. But although Two Tears and Anna interact and live in close proximity to each other for many years, they never realized that the other is their sister. Told from a number of different points of view, this book spans generations and decades, even going back in time to earlier generations.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and her vivid descriptions drew me into the story. I liked the bits of history that the author added throughout the book. The story touched on a number of different time periods, from the great depression and World War II to the mid 1800’s.
I enjoyed the Native American aspect of the book–the Great Spirit, Sister Sun and Brother Moon, and the Cherokee medicine woman (called a Beloved Mother). It added an interesting element to the story that I would have loved to read more of. The characters lives were hard, as they struggled to scrape by, but I felt that most were selfish, thinking of their own wants and needs, in desires to get ahead. There is a lot of colorful, and questionable relationships, from adulterous affairs to a twenty-six-year-old man married to a thirteen-year-old girl, and an older man with romantic feelings for his young half-sister–though he was unaware of their connection. This made it hard for me to relate to, although I certainly appreciated, the characters.
Overall, this is an emotional story that pulls at your heart. I would have enjoyed a more uplifting theme, if not a few moments. There were a number of deaths, and very few characters were still alive by the end of the story, but I suppose… such is life.
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Madeline Clark’s life seems like the life of a dozen different individuals. From the beginning of her troubled life, she is met head-on with one horrific circumstance after another at the hands of people she hopes and prays will be her saving graces. After finding her way out of South Africa, Maddie finds fleeting hope with David Blakely, a man she has no choice but to trust to pull her from poverty and imminent death, but cannot possibly know that his attention will be the beginning of her end and the catalyst for a lifetime of heartache and repeated loss and grief.
Maddie’s life, laid out for readers by Lucia Mann in her book, Addicted to Hate, is one of the most tragic about which I have ever read. It’s difficult to know where to begin explaining the layers Mann has revealed with her vivid and gripping descriptions of Maddie’s harrowing childhood, her abusive marriage to a vile man, and the horrific road she travels as a mother to three girls who could not care less if she lived or died. It is almost beyond comprehensible that Maddie could survive the mental and physical challenges with which she is faced from the beginning to the bitter end of her amazing and tortured life.
Mann has taken this story, based on actual events, and set Maddie forth as an unlikely heroine who overcomes insurmountable odds as she talks herself through each of her hardships including three pregnancies that, by all accounts, were miracles and curses at the same time. Maddie is the poster child of life testing us. She seems to have received each and every trial imaginable, the most tragic of which is the complete abhorrence her daughters have for her. I found myself rooting, paragraph by paragraph, for a turn of events for Maddie. I felt a visceral reaction with each mention of her daughter Mara’s blatant and evil brutalization of her mother. I wanted desperately for Maddie to see the light and make a break from her toxic children, but Maddie is better than most; she may be better than all of us.
Maddie’s intellect is her own saving grace. Her abilities are put to use in the most fascinating ways, and even that amazing opportunity cannot completely pull her from her spiral. Mann is a master at having her readers draw hopeful conclusions before letting them down abruptly.
The overall subject matter of Mann’s work is enhanced by the tone in which she writes. While maintaining a third person point of view, she manages nicely to incorporate a hint of second person questioning while drawing the reader further into Maddie’s overpowering drama.
Mann has given audience to an amazing tale of endurance and determination. In addition to the heartbreaking events of Maddie’s life, Mann shows readers the embodiment of true and unwavering unconditional love. Nowhere else can readers find a more poignant tale of loss, betrayal, and incredible triumph.
Pages: 254 | ASIN: B07K4TXQC7
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The Rigel Affair is a thrilling love story following two young people caught up in World War II. Why was this an important book for you to write?
My mother took her box of Charlie’s letters down from a bedroom cupboard, and talked about them constantly… telling me all the stories of her love affair with Charlie and the mysteries behind it. Many years later, after her death, I finally had the courage to read them for the first time. She made me promise that these letters must always be kept special. They were so compelling… it was like Charlie was in the room with me.
This is a story based on the letters and stories your mother passed down to you. How has your perception of the stories changed from childhood to adulthood?
My perception has not changed. Even today, it is like my mother is with me when I view these letters.
What were some things in the story that you felt had to be 100% accurate and what were some things you took some liberties with?
The pathway of the USS Rigel had to be 100% historically accurate. When we approached the US Navy and they realized the scope of our project, they assigned me an Officer who supplied us with many of Charlie’s Orders, and also the position of the Rigel for every day of the war. Then we could research events that were happening around the Rigel from time to time, and knowing that Charlie was leader of the Navy Divers on board, we could pick out actions and events that were typical of his duties.
Took Liberties – Roxy, Mrs Frisken, Mattie, – while Charlie’s locations were actual, we did not know exactly what he was doing. But we interview some of his shipmates who filled us in on day-to-day activities. But many of Charlie’s missions were secret.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
We are working on the Sequel – mainly set in the early 1950’s, but this is a WIP. Hopefully, to be published circa late 2019.
Abandoned by his part-Cherokee Ma, Charlie Kincaid escapes servitude with his uncle. He jumps a boxcar, accompanied by his schoolmate Roxy, who is escaping troubles of her own. Charlie becomes a US Navy Diver.Mattie Blanc is from a genteel New Zealand family. But when her brother’s friend persuades her to take a ride, it all goes horribly wrong. Desperate, she flees her family’s stifling expectations for a new life in Auckland.After the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, Charlie sets sail for Auckland aboard the USS Rigel. And there she is, the girl of his dreams. Mattie is everything that Roxy isn’t— sophisticated, tender, and patient. But the war intervenes… Rigel embarks for the Pacific war zones.Charlie’s letters are sporadic. Mattie is tormented by doubts; did he truly love her, or was it only a dream?The Rigel Affair produces a rip-roaring wartime romance and chilling danger unknown to most.
Posted in Interviews
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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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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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Pyre to Fire follows two stories, the fate of a Spanish village during the Inquisition and the contemporary story of a Cuban girl trying to find her roots. Why was this an important book for you to write?
This was the story of my own family with information that I gleaned from all the archival material that I found while researching my own genealogy. While the trajectory of the family, their occupations, names, etc are the not fiction, I had to embellish on the scenes and fill in the blanks. The little girl in Miami is me and it was important to show the relationship between me and my ancestors in as real a way as possible.
I enjoyed the detail in your vision of the village of Fermoselle during Spain’s sudden and devastating conversion to Catholicism. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure your book was accurate?
All my material is primary sourced. I have every single birth, death and marriage certificate as well as land purchases, notarial deeds and last wills of testaments going back to 1545. I then have just wills, notarial deeds and Inquisition records in the archives going back to 1405 Spain and Portugal.
Maria’s character was one that I thought was well developed and captured her soul. What was the inspiration for her character?
I am Maria. The whole description of incidents is exactly as they happened to me.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book is The Recipes of the 15 Grandmothers. I was able to locate recipes that were passed to my Mother from Crypto Jewish times through today. The are special in that any keep the kosher laws even when the family was Catholic and are clearly showing a sign of their times. This book is finished and in the editing process.
A compelling work of historical fiction that engages the reader to follow the story of a family from the burning Pyres of the Spanish Inquisition to a young Cuban Catholic girl in Miami, Florida whose soul was ablaze with a desire to return to its’ rightful place among the Jewish people.
Posted in Interviews
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Matthaios is a prince and Sara is a slave girl. In ancient Rome, their love is forbidden. In fact, true love like theirs is not what royal marriages are made of. Matthaios is not cut from the same cloth as his father, Titus. Titus, being Caesar, is prone to all the atrocities and savagery of his title. Matthaios, kind and loving, is forced to marry a woman he does not and cannot possibly love. When Sara’s untimely death is foreseen by her trusted friend, the course of both their lives and any life they may ever have together takes a sudden and tragic turn.
Yet again, I am drawn to the characters in Catalina DuBois’s series. Infinity: A Crown of Golden Leaves is filled with a myriad of characters from all walks of life. From Medusa to Daniel, a merman and best friend of Sara, to Titus and Arrecina, his bride, DuBois pens some amazing and rich portraits of her cast of characters.
I didn’t want to be drawn to Titus. I fought hard against it for several chapters. Everything in me told me that Titus was not supposed to be my pick, but that’s exactly how outstanding DuBois’s writing is. She spins a backstory like no one else in this genre. Titus, in all his loathsome and vile glory, is truly the standout in this book. Without giving away too much, I will say the backstory the author has chosen to give him is heart-wrenching and sheds new light on his choices and his treatment of Sara. He absolutely stands as my favorite in the long list of DuBois’s characters.
I enjoy the mix of settings DuBois provides within the Infinity series. I didn’t expect to come across the element of fantasy so deeply intertwined with historical fiction. If an author isn’t careful, that cross can become an awkward and difficult pill for readers to swallow. DuBois however combines the two seamlessly. The reader quickly accepts the change of setting from above sea level to below as all part of the charm of the story.
As with DuBois’s other Infinity installments, romance is plentiful. However, DuBois constructs tasteful scenes that never border on vulgar or obscene. Her writing is touching and truly conveys a sense of deep and lasting love between her main characters.
Just as DuBois writes vividly of true love, she creates excruciatingly realistic scenes of her characters’ pain and heartache. I had a similar experience with Infinity: The Fifth Bride of Pharaoh. DuBois includes some of the most engaging prologues I have ever read. She pulls you in from the first paragraphs and keeps your interest piqued throughout the reading, moving along a roller coaster track of emotions and back again.
Readers seeking a quick but gripping historical fiction book with a tasteful amount of fantasy won’t be disappointed with the love story of Prince Matthaios and the love of his life, Sara.
Pages: 185 | ASIN: B076JLW85G
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Posted in book trailer
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When the Cossacks invade their village, young Avrum and his brother Hershel manage to hide and survive the attacks which kill more than 80 members of their small Polish community. Trying to gather their wits about them and come to terms with the deaths of both parents, the two boys decide to make their way to the synagogue in Lvov. The road to Lvov is paved with one horror after another, and a harrowing experience at the home of a decrepit old woman leads to the brothers’ ultimate separation. Avrum, the tragic main character in Arnold Holtzman’s To The End of Days, spends the better part of his young life making his way to America to build a life for himself and, hoping beyond hope, to reunite with Hershel.
Holtzman has the striking ability to appeal to all of the reader’s senses through his writing. The scene in which Avrum and Hershel are fighting for their lives at the cottage of the old woman is particularly gripping. I was utterly repulsed by the vivid descriptions of the vile woman and the filth in which she lived. As horrific as the circumstances were, I was unable to tear myself away from this disturbing string of events. The same can be said for each stage in Avrum’s life. As he moves across the country and eventually on to North America, each new circumstance brings rich details, vivid images of despair, and poignant scenes of his struggle as an immigrant.
The various settings described throughout Avrum’s journey are exceptionally well-written. At every turn, I felt myself immersed in the sights and sounds of early 1900’s America and the Jewish culture. Holtzman leaves nothing to the imagination which, in turn, leaves the reader more time to focus on the plot surrounding Avrum and the subplot focusing on Fanny.
Avrum captured my heart from the moment he and Hershel faced the fate of their mother. His heart-wrenching grief and his determination to find his brother dominate his life for years, and are the driving force behind everything he does from finding work and wrestling when offered the opportunity to pursuing every lead no matter how futile it may seem. Avrum’s strength is unmatched.
Bella is not a character I enjoyed–but I wasn’t supposed to feel warm toward her. Holtzman has done a phenomenal job creating a selfish, arrogant, and needy female match for unlucky Avrum. Though she doesn’t make her true intentions known until much later in her relationship with Avrum, I admit I was suspicious of her from the beginning. She is one of those characters who is far too concerned with making herself understood and appreciated. The author has succeeded phenomenally in creating a character worthy and deserving of the reader’s loathing.
Intermingled with the characteristics of historical fiction is a pleasing amount of mystery. Avrum encounters numerous clues to Hershel’s fate throughout the years, but the author skillfully weaves a web of subplots while redirecting the reader’s attention. Even to the final pages, I was yet unsure of poor Hershel’s fate. Kudos to Holtzman–this is how I prefer my fiction.
Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the insanely detailed descriptions of the havoc wreaked by the Cossacks and the accuracy regarding the Jewish culture. Avrum and Hershel represent everything that was wrong with this period in world history and everything that can go incredibly right when a man remains unfailingly loyal to his family.
Pages: 410 | ASIN: 1977981844
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Xaghra’s Revenge by Geoff Nelder begins with a family on a Maltese island circa fifteen hundreds that is torn apart by a barbaric pirate attack. The pirates take the island’s people captive, split up families and destroy lives in the process. I was pulled in by the fine historical detail and the emotional human experience. It starts as a historical fiction novel, but then you are catapulted into modern day where we follow two people; Zita and Reese. Paranormal forces bring these characters together and events they cannot control set them on a dangerous and thrilling journey that I enjoyed reading.
I enjoyed Zita and Reece’s characters. They were multifaceted and well developed. Their love story, although a bit contrived, is emotional and believable once events start to unfold. One thing that I really enjoyed about this novel, as I’m sure many historical fiction fans enjoy, is the depth of detail in the story’s setting and the experiences of those in the past. Reading about what happens to the captives is heartbreaking and really makes you feel as if they were real people, or at least these things could have happened to real people. I felt like I was reading a Dan Brown novel at times. The descriptions were exceptional and I felt like the author really did his homework and has the technical ability to transport me to exotic places without slowing the pace of the book. When I review books I try to take mental notes while reading, but I often got so caught up in this book that I forgot to, and found myself several chapters in before I remembered. The connection between the past and present is not immediately apparent, and lends to the overall mystery and enables some fascinating plot twists.
When the spirits of the past seek revenge, Zita and Reece are left with little choice, although they don’t know it. This novel was fun to read and getting swept away was easy. It’s hard to nail down this books genre; is it historical fiction, paranormal, romance, mystery? I think it does a magical job of blending all of them into one thrilling novel. I highly recommend this book as it has one of the more unique plots that I’ve read this year.
Pages: 360 | ASIN: B0746PHZKR
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