Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

ISBN-10: 0812994787 - Hardcover $26.00
Publisher: Random House (July 1, 2014), 512 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

The blurb:
Celebrated brain surgeon Thomas Eapen has been sitting on his porch, talking to dead relatives. At least that is the story his wife, Kamala, prone to exaggeration, tells their daughter, Amina, a photographer living in Seattle.

Reluctantly Amina returns home and finds a situation that is far more complicated than her mother let on, with roots in a trip the family, including Amina’s rebellious brother Akhil, took to India twenty years earlier. Confronted by Thomas’s unwillingness to explain himself, strange looks from the hospital staff, and a series of puzzling items buried in her mother’s garden, Amina soon realizes that the only way she can help her father is by coming to terms with her family’s painful past. In doing so, she must reckon with the ghosts that haunt all of the Eapens.

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing delivers a hilarious and moving story of three generations of an Indian (South Asian) family. Mira Jacob delivers complex characters, nuanced relationships, and an engrossing story.

The book opens with Amina Eapen, single professional photographer working on weddings and celebrations, learns from her mother Kamala that her brain surgeon father Thomas has been acting strange. Thomas has apparently been seeing and speaking to dead family members and seems even more distracted than usual. Amina finds replacement photographers for her assignments and leaves her comfortable life for what she expected would be one week.

But as Amina learns more details of her parents' changed behavior, she finds that she's unable to return to her old job and life - at least until things normalize. Her close family friend, a.k.a. "cousin" Dimples, is a go-getter, beautiful and works at an art gallery. Dimples is used to getting her way and has no qualms about taking advantage of Amina. But even in her most manipulative, Dimples is still a sympathetic character.

Throughout the novel, even the most difficult and temperamental characters are easy to sympathize with and to love. Mira Jacob gives us a beautiful and sympathetic immigrant story from multiple points of view: the perspective of the parents left behind in the homeland who long for their successful doctor son Thomas to return and the resentful and overlooked younger brother who lives with the widowed mother in the family home, the successful Thomas who has decided to make a home in Albuquerque with his Indian wife Kamala and their young children, the brilliant children who adjust, with differing degrees of success, to their lives in their privileged part of America.

About the Author:

Mira Jacob is the author of the novel, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing (Random House).
She is the co-founder of the much-loved Pete’s Reading Series in Brooklyn, where she spent 13 years bringing literary fiction, non-fiction, and poetry to the city’s sweetest stage. Previously, she directed editorial content for various websites, co-authored shoe impresario Kenneth Cole’s autobiography, and wrote VH-1’s Pop-Up Video.
Her writing has been published in books, magazines, on television, and across the web. She has appeared on national and local television and radio, and has taught writing to students of all ages in New York, New Mexico, and Barcelona.

She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, documentary filmmaker Jed Rothstein, and their son.  Learn more about Mira Jacob on her website at


Friday, August 1, 2014

Mortal Bonds (A Jason Stafford novel) by Michael Sears

Mortal Bonds by Michael Sears

ISBN-10: 0399158677 - Hardcover $26.95
Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (October 1, 2013), 352 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

The blurb:
William von Becker ran one of the largest privately held investment banks in North America, until the bottom fell out, and the whole edifice was demonstrated to be a fraud.

After von Becker dies in prison, financial investigator Jason Stafford is hired by his family. There is still a lot of missing money out there, he’s told, and they want Stafford to find it before the Feds do—and certain other parties, some of whom are nowhere near as scrupulous in their methods. Bad things start happening to the people Stafford talks to. Soon bad things are happening to him as well.

Making it worse, his treacherous ex-wife has come to town, ostensibly to visit their young son. Stafford suspects there’s more to it than that, but even he has no idea how much that visit is about to change all their lives—and send him off to the next chapter of his life.

I hadn't read Michael Sears' earlier Jason Stafford novel and you needn't have had done so to lose yourself completely in Mortal Bonds.

Jason Stafford is a quant/financial genius who made a killing on Wall Street. Unfortunately, some of his money was well earned but a significant part of it came from securities fraud. After a stint in jail, he's worked to rehabilitate himself and his reputation. He's worked with the FBI and the SEC to help identify financial fraud in the past and he hires out his talents to the private sector. Corporations will call on him to find if money is being diverted and where it might be, how to prevent fraud, etc. Jason gets a call and a helicopter ride to a meeting with the matriarch of a Madoff like family. The family is publicly scorned and is the subject of civil suits, death threats and an extensive investigation by the SEC and FBI. Jason's asked to find roughly $1B which has gone missing ostensibly for the family to return to the government to rehabilitate the family name and to allow them to keep their investment business in play. His compensation will be a consulting fee of $1M per year for the rest of his life as well as an upfront payment of a reasonable sum (that will not draw the attention of Jason's creditors).

Jason's uniquely suited for the task as his skills and his network allow him to gather and evaluate information in ways not available to government investigators. So we follow him to opulent rooms in secret clubs in Manhattan, the offices of big money, to the homes of longtime and loyal employees, to private banks in Switzerland and to unexpected danger.

Fascinatingly complex, Mortal Bonds is one of the best financial thrillers I've read in a long time.

About the Author:

Michael Sears spent over twenty years on Wall Street, rising to become a managing director at Paine Webber and Jeffries & Co., before leaving the business in 2005. He lives in Sea Cliff, New York.

Monday, July 21, 2014

ThrillerFest IX Debut Authors - Interview with Jenny Milchman, author of Cover of Snow & Ruin Falls

Today's debut author is  Jenny Milchman.  After reading her books and hearing about her journey to publication makes one realize that if you want to write and if you have a story to tell, you have to keep at it.  This is something that the published authors - speakers, panelists, and members of the audience alike - emphasize.
By the time that Jenny Milchman's debut novel, Cover of Snow, was published, she had actually written 8 novels.  And when Cover of Snow came out in January 2013,  Jenny and her family embarked on what Shelf Awareness has described as "the world's longest book tour."  It sounds like it must have been a glorious trip, meeting booksellers and fans.  The book itself gathered much attention and love from readers - Cover of Snow was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick and received nominations for the Mary Higgins Clark and Barry Award.   Jenny's second novel, Ruin Falls, came out on April 22, 2014 and she's now in the middle of a four month book tour with her family.

Jenny's willingness to take the time to interact with her readers goes hand in hand with her support of independent bookstores.  Jenny founded the Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

Cover of Snow and Ruin Falls are standalone novels with no overlap in characters but each have as a heroine an ordinary woman,  who had been deeply reliant on her husband and reasonably satisfied with her life until things go awry.   And when things start to go bad, they do so spectacularly and quickly.   Nearly overtaken by events, the heroines fight back and in doing so they dig deep, reach back into themselves to confront their demons.

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman
  • ISBN-10: 0345534212 Hardcover $26 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (January 15, 2013), 336 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0345534220 Paperback $15
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (December 31, 2013), 336 pages.
  • Booklist's description:
  • This superlative dark, wintry debut is set in a small town in upstate New York. Nora Hamilton oversleeps one morning to find that her husband, Brendan, has hung himself. Nora is bereft, and she struggles to reconcile Brendan’s suicide with their seemingly happy life together and with his job as a cop in his hometown. Her mother-in-law, a cold, forbidding woman, blames Nora, who tries talking to his partner, a cop who was also Brendan’s best friend, but he advises her to move on with her life. Nora can’t move on, not without some answers, and as she starts digging, she uncovers secrets about her husband and the town, the kind of secrets that people will do anything, including murder, to cover up. The ravages of winter impede her progress, but she plows on, determined to learn why Brendan never confided in her, but the answers prove more shocking than anything she might have imagined. These well-defined characters take us on an emotional roller-coaster ride through the darkest night, with blinding twists and occasionally fatal turns. This is a richly woven story that not only looks at the devastating effects of suicide but also examines life in a small town and explores the complexity of marriage. Fans of Nancy Pickard, Margaret Maron, and C. J. Box will be delighted to find this new author. 


Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman
  • ISBN-10: 0345549074 - Hardcover $26.00
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (April 22, 2014), 352 pages.

The blurb:
Liz Daniels has every reason to be happy about setting off on a rare family vacation, leaving behind her remote home in the Adirondack Mountains for a while. Instead, she feels uneasy. Her children, eight-year-old Reid and six-year-old Ally, have met their paternal grandparents only a handful of times. But Liz’s husband, Paul, has decided that, despite a strained relationship with his mother and father, they should visit the farm in western New York where he spent his childhood.

On their way to the farm, the family stops at a hotel for the night. In the morning, when Liz goes to check on her sleeping children, all her anxiety comes roaring back: Ally and Reed are nowhere to be found. Blind panic slides into ice-cold terror as the hours tick by without anyone finding a trace of the kids. Soon, Paul and Liz are being interviewed by police, an Amber Alert is issued, and detectives are called in.

Frantic worry and helplessness threaten to overtake Liz’s mind—but in a sudden, gut-wrenching instant she realizes that it was no stranger who slipped into the hotel room that night. Someone she trusted completely has betrayed her. Though she knows that Ally and Reid are safe, Liz will stop at nothing to find them and get them back. From her guarded in-laws’ unwelcoming farmhouse to the deep woods of her own hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.

Jenny opened up about Cover of Snow and Ruin Falls, her life as a writer, and her involvement in ThrillerFest.  The interview was conducted over the phone - any errors are mine in the transcription.  Now, please welcome, Jenny Milchman!

Q: Could you share the journey to publication?  What is it like going on these extended book tours - it sounds exhausting. 

JM: Cover of Snow is the 1st published and 8th novel I'd written. By the time that the book was sold, I'd worked with 3 different agents.  Another author had read it as an unpublished manuscript and reached out to have it read by her editor.  

JM: I wrote the 8 novels in 11 years.  The first 6 years I worked as psychotherapist and completed everything except my dissertation. I'd practiced without the doctorate. Then I had two kids and stayed at home with them and writing the books really kept me going.   I would lose myself in a new story. The stories were such a joy to write - the process of creating the character who is going to overcome odds and restore justice to her life is powerful.  I love it. Creating a new character kept me going through those years of rejection.  

JM: After landed with the right editor, my publisher and editor were very excited that writing a book a year worked for me.  So I was able to have my second novel come out the year later. The book tours don’t feel grueling.  It is so much fun to be on the road and meet people that I'd gotten to know,   to see plenty of ITW and Facebook friends becoming real.  People you only tweet at becoming real - it's been a magical experience. 

Ruin Falls had been written and was being edited on the road.  I can’t write on the road but editing is manageable. 

Q:  Had you heard of ITW before you’d become an author?  How did you feel when they’d asked you to join?

ITW has become one of the biggest parts of begin a writer for me.  I didn’t know about it until Cover of Snow had sold. Carla Buckley reached out to me when she saw the Cover of Snow. Even though I had written her a fan letter I hadn’t known about the ITW connection. 

Q: I’ve attended the breakfasts where the Debut Authors are introduced.  I find it to be one of the highlights of ThrillerFest.  As Chair of the ITW Debut Authors Program, what else goes on behind the scenes?  How has the ITW Debut Author program helped or made a difference for you?

JM: It’s beautiful.  One funny thing that happened, last year we had 29 debuts. the maximum that we could ever have. I had been instructed that everyone was to talk 1 minute and no more and each speaker had to keep to schedule. It was the first year I was organizing it.  I didn’t know how good a job I had done, but we were on schedule.  When it was my turn,  I said I could talk 15 minutes about my own book.  (Smile.)

JM: The story that I think of and share most often is that of Lisa Price who wrote a dystopian novel that my daughter loved. It was her fifth ThrillerFest and she made good on her promise to herself that one day she would be sitting be up there. Sometimes it takes a long time for a dream to come true but it does come true.

JM: One of my huge literary heroes it’s not even normally what I read, the Reacher series.  I talk about Lee Child more than about myself.  I realize that what I love about Reacher is that he’s a purveyor of justice. We’ve done a Skype chat with Lee Child, signings and talks with Doug Preston at The Mystery Bookshop. MJ Rose has stood beside me at my own book launch.   The community and support is unparalleled.

Q:Tell us about Cover of Snow  and/or Ruin Falls.
JM: The protagonists’ journey of discovery.  The women tend to be so lost at the start - and then they slowly find their bearings and make sense of what’s actually happening.

JM: When I spoke about loving to go to the story and the cathartic experience, the heroines start very small and weak at the beginning. They have different reasons and they’re good reasons that they have these holes in their own lives and that they didn't come into adulthood equipped to handle things. They dig deep to find that part of themselves and to balance the scales of justice.  The feeling that justice can prevail m - a woman becoming strong and taking the reins of her own life or reacher killing whomever needs killing.

Q: Favorite book/author as a child?  Who did you read?  Which authors or books do you pre-order? Influences?

JM:  "Kujo" if any novel influenced Cover of Snow. Kujo is about a series of dominoes.  If one was not in a row it would not have fallen the way it did.  25 years ago, if things hadn’t lined up, we wouldn’t have reached the result that it had.  A real master, a character who plays a role even for one page you won’t forget one person.

JM: The author who helped me, not thrillers or mysteries or horrors,Nancy Pickrd.  She’s been a big influence on me as an adult writer - the kindness and generosity you see in her characters and story with that kind of strength and richness. 

Q: What’s on your night stand?

JM: I just finished Those Who Wish Me Dead by Micheal Koryta. It’s a thriller about a little boy who becomes a witness to something no one has ever walked away from before.  

Q:  Independent bookstores have been described as germinating nurseries for writers.  Can you tell us a bit about your current book tour?  Are you making any stops in July in NYC? 

JM:  I love independent bookstores.  Take Your Child to a Bookstore day. The magic for me is when the virtual meets the real.  In a world when we can walk into a space inhabited by books. The healthy ecology of bookstores,  the conversations that take place can’t take place online.  Bookstore meets fan in writer world. The brick and mortar experience has to be treasured and we have to support the people that are keeping it alive.

Q: What are you working on now? 

JM: Editing  Night Falls which is coming out in 2015. When we get back to NY state and the kids get back to school I’m excited to write the next one. 

JM: I don’t outline but because of the [tight] schedule. An idea and/or character comes to me.  This comes to me and the months before, I jot down notes, dialogue, and a sense of turning point but nothing organized.  When I'm writing, I'm living the story as if it were happening.  One reason that writing is painful is I write as if it’s real, it is real.  When the first readers say it could happen this way, etc.  

Q: Advice for writers just starting out?

JM: This is a big part of ITW it’s what we do. We’re there for brand new writers.  For those just starting out,  it’s a better time than ever. There are more ways to bring one's work to readers. You know that the traditional publishing system saved me from myself. Writers starting out need to be aware all the time, need to make sure their work is as good as it can get.  Then the writing world and the reader world is going to embrace them. Educate themselves on the best way to publish, to know the best way for them and for their work.  And to never give up.

JM: Hank Philippe Ryan talked about  the Never Know day, the day before she and her husband met, the day before she sold her first book.  If you celebrate that, you’ll have the strength to keep writing. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

ThrillerFest Debut Authors of 2013-2014: Interview with Kelly Parsons, MD, Author of Doing Harm


ThrillerFest IX is going on from July 8-12, 2014 in NYC. Sponsored by International Thriller Writers (ITW), ThrillerFest starts out with writing seminars (CraftFest) and a chance to meet with agents (PitchFest) and leads into discussions about writing, books, trends (ThrillerFest) and a chance to meet and socialize with famous authors, aspiring writers, industry professionals, agents and fans of the genre. On Saturday mornings, ITW hosts a special Debut Authors Breakfast to recognize, celebrate and introduce the newest members of that year's class of published authors.  

For those of us who love reading thrillers, the chance to hear some of our favorite writers talk about their craft and what moves them is a wonderful experience. My favorite part of ThrillerFest is the Debut Authors Breakfast. A morning dedicated to hearing the stories of newly published authors and of their journeys to publication and seeing the warmth and generosity with which the more senior and authors try to encourage and help them navigate the pitfalls of publishing, what's not to love? 

This year, through the help of ThrillerFest organizer Kimberly Howe, Anthony Franze, and Jenny Milchman, I was able to interview a few of the authors in the ITW's debut class of 2013-2014.
First up is Dr. Kelly Parsons whose thriller Doing Harm was released last Feb. 4, 2014.

Doing Harm by Kelly Parsons
ISBN  978-1-250-03347-5  Hardcover $25.99
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (February 4, 2014), 368 pages.

The blurb:
Chief Resident Steve Mitchell is the quintessential surgeon:  ambitious, intelligent, confident.  Charged with molding a group of medical trainees into doctors, and in line for a coveted job, Steve has a bright future.  But then a patient mysteriously dies, and it quickly becomes clear that a killer is loose in his hospital.  A killer set on playing a deadly game with Steve.  A killer holding information that could ruin his career and his marriage. Now, alone and under a cloud of suspicion, Steve must discover a way to outsmart his opponent and save the killer's next victim before the cycle repeats itself again and again....

The book opens with
"My patient is dying.
And it's all my fault." 

We follow as Steve Mitchell describes the scene as the code team tries to unsuccessfully revive the patient. One of the top surgical residents faces what seems to be his first patient death.   Prior to this, he'd been a rising star at the hospital and may be offered a permanent post.  

Steve's more of a doctor's doctor - he doesn't empathize with patients and dislikes having to interact with them but if you were faced an operation, you'd want him to be in charge.  The patient death rattles him and leads to an internal investigation.   One thing follows another and somehow a life that seemed so orderly and perfect is ready to implode. Steve Mitchell's quick decline and loss of prospects is unnerving.  

Parsons puts Steve Mitchell through the wringer so well, it reminded me of Scott Turow's writing.  You have a highly paid and well respected professional at the top of his game suddenly undone by a seemingly unlucky chain of events.  During Walter Walker's talk on Writing From the Professions yesterday, someone mentioned that they were drawn to medical and legal thrillers because she felt that aside from the mystery and suspense aspect, she felt that she was learning something from these books as well.  In  Doing Harm Kelly Parson weaves in a larger point of view that goes beyond the story of Dr. Steve Mitchell.  I'm not the only one that thinks that Doing Harm stands out among medical thrillers, author Stephen King tweeted:

DOING HARM, by Kelly Parsons: best damn medical thriller I've read in 25 years. Terrifying OR scenes, characters with real texture.

How's that for a recommendation?

I'd like to share my interview with author Kelly Parsons, MD:

Q: You must be very busy with your work as professor of surgery at UC San Diego and with your young family.  How did carve out the time to write?  How long have you been writing?

KP:  I work at a university hospital as medical school faculty.  At a university, you work very hard but you have a bit more flexibility in structuring your time and dividing up your responsibilities during the day.  In terms of finding the time to do write, it’s not something I stopped to think about until I published the book.  

KP:  Writing's a passion - I'd find time and make time. It usually means getting up at 5 am, writing before everyone else gets up and gets going,  weekends, and whenever I have a spare moment. I write during vacations.  So, really, I write anytime I can find the time to squeeze it in. There’s more time than we think it is.   I’m passionate about writing.

KP:  I’ve been writing since I was a kid. As a resident I started taking notes and writing the material that became the book which took 6 years.   I f
ound an agent and took 2 years to sell the book.  

Q: Had you heard of ITW before you’d become an author?  

KP: I didn’t know about it. It would have been nice to have known about the community.  

KP: After I had sold the manuscript, my agent told me about ITW.  I joined.  There's another level as a debut author.  Once the book came out I changed your status.

KP: I’ve just become part of the community. It’s great to be part of this community of similar interests, who give support and feedback, and share common passions.  I’m looking forward to meeting a lot persons during ThrillerFest.

Q: Who have been influences or inspiration?  Who are you reading?

KP: Scott Turow a practicing attorney even as he was a writer.  I get inspiration from the fact that Michael Crichton practiced medicine.   John Grisham is a practicing attorney.  I’d like to speak with him.  

KP: In terms of who I read, I try to read everybody and everything I can get my hands on. I’m always striving to make myself better and to become a better writer.  Only by reading different genres and types of prose and narrative structures do I get that exposure that can make me a better writer.  

Dr Sleep by Stephen KingAmerican Gods by Neil GaimenCryptonomicon and Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson  Snowcrash cyberpunk is clearly known for being a writer in that genre.  Steel crash.  Fusion of historical fiction and thriller.  WWII and presentThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

KP:  For nonfiction, I just finished Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink.  I'm about to read Michael Lewis's Flash Boys.   You have to try to expose yourself to different writing. 

Q: What are you working on now?  Will steve mitchell be back? 

KP:  I'm working on my second novel.  I've a two-book deal with St. Martin's.  It’s also medical thriller. Set in a hospital in San Diego and involves biotech.

Q:  Independent bookstores have been described as germinating nurseries for writers.  Do you go on book tours?   Blog interviews?

KP:  All of the above.  As a debut author, it’s very hard to break in and to have your work noticed by a very crowded marketplace. I go to independent bookstores in the west coast and some panels and compliments of ITW I participated in a panel on "The Birth of a Thriller" in April in Florida. That was wonderful, a great opportunity.

KP:  If you love reading, please support your local independent bookstore.  They  are such an important part of the community. Not just for book lovers but for communities in general.  I was at my local independent recently and there was a group of teenage girls just sitting in a circle in the YA section.  Sitting quietly talking.  That’s exactly what a bookstore is about.  Kids sitting, sharing ideas and hanging out.  

Q: Last words for aspiring writers?

KP:  Keep writing.  Follow your passion.  Write when you can.  Read when you can.  I hadn’t imagined that it would come this far.  I wrote because I  had to write.  I had an inner voice to write and am glad I did it. 

KP: A plug for ITW, I wish I had known about the community earlier in the process.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and gather with them.  I’m looking to ThrillerFest.

Thank you to Kelly Parsons for taking the time to talk and for sharing your insights.  Congratulations on Doing Harm!  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Tour of Murder by Misrule: A Francis Bacon Mystery by Anna Castle

Welcome to the book tour of Murder by Misrule: A Francis Bacon Mystery by Anna Castle, courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. 

The blurb:
Thomas Clarady, son of a wealthy privateer, is a law student at Gray's Inn, seeking to climb the Elizabethan social ladder by any means necessary.  When his tutor is murdered during the Queen's Day pageant, he hires the young Francis Bacon to replace him.  Francis is requested by his uncle, the Lord Treasurer, to investigate the murder.  Eager to curry favor with his powerful relation, he agrees, even though he rarely leaves his chambers and mislikes anything that takes time from reading philosophy.  Far better to send Tom out to find clues and talk to witnesses.

At first, Francis suspects that Catholic conspirators murdered the lawyer to keep him from exposing their plans, but other motives quickly emerge.  Renowned beauty Lady Rich fears the scandal of being dragged into court.  High-tempered Sir Avery Fogg will stop at nothing to achieve a judgeship.  Other barristers contend hotly to succeed the murdered man to his legal honors, fine chambers, and wealthy clients.  

Francis and Tom embark on an investigation that reaches from Whitehall to the London streets.  Francis does the thinking; Tom does the fencing.  Barristers fall down stairs -- or are they pushed?  Tom falls in love with a crucial witness and then can't find her again.  Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve.  Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss - and in danger -- until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule. 

At the start of Murder by Misrule, Francis Bacon had been banished from court for his impolitic writings and was deeply in debt.  Bacon tries to obey his powerful uncle's instructions and to win Queen Elizabeth's favor back but he would prefer to focus on his reading and studies.   As he undertakes to investigate the death of his tutor, he faces Catholic conspirators and the jockeying for power in Gray's Inn.   The persistence and creativity of his pupils push the investigation forward and liven up the book.  

Of the four pupils, it's Tom Clarady, the wealthy privateer's son that gives the story it's romance, adventure, and conflict.  Tom is striving to become a gentleman and has agreed to underwrite the education and expenses of Stephen Delabere, the eldest son of the seventh Earl of Dorchester.  There's tension between the two, especially as Stephen grows progressively more demanding and prickly.  Also part of their group is Trumpet, Allen Trumpington, a slight and studious aspiring member of the Bar.  Benjamin Whitt, is the fourth in their group - older by a few years, large and with a quiet wit.  

The four pupils come across their tutor, stabbed and murdered in the street.  When their new tutor Francis Bacon enlists their help to find the killer, this search takes them from the small side streets of London to Queen Elizabeth's court - and to grave danger.

I enjoy a good mystery and love historical fiction, so Murder by Misrule was treat for me.   I didn't know much about Francis Bacon and was happy to discover that while he'd been brilliant at deduction, a rational thinker and the father of the scientific method, he was clumsy in his social life and would unintentionally offend those whose attention and respect he was seeking.   Anna Castle combines humor with a complicated mystery to deliver a fun, satisfying read.  

Thanks to Amy  of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours,  I was able to interview author Anna Castle.  

(1) I can see how someone with great natural curiosity can enjoy the
learning and challenge of writing historical fiction.  What was it that
drew you to Francis Bacon?

AC: First the obvious thing: he was the Father of Modern Science. He advocated sound empirical methods more ardently and more eloquently than anyone else ever had. Any good detective must be a little bit like Francis Bacon, so why not work with the man himself? I worked in academia for many years and have known a few bona fide geniuses; I thought I could draw such a character. I'm an introverted smarty pants myself, come to that. So I had the foundations for a good historical mystery sleuth. Then as I read biographies and learned more about his life and times, I came to recognize what a complicated and curious man he was. The more I strive to create those facets on the page, the more I want to learn; and the more I learn, the more I want to be faithful to the real human being that he was.

And you are right on target: curiosity totally drives this particular cat.

(2)  What makes him interesting to people of our time?

AC:  He was principled in the important ways -- he honored truth above all, the facts about the world both human and natural. He subjected his own habits of thought and perception to ruthless examination, searching out biases and blind spots so he could offer advice to all humanity about learning to see past those impediments. He was a great man. We can admire him. 

But he was also just a human being with flaws like all human beings have. He was vain, sometimes arrogant and sharp-tongued, and he was a helpless spendthrift. We tend to demand perfection from our public figures -- no vices, no lapses, no slips of the tongue. Putting ourselves in the shoes of a man like Francis Bacon can help us learn empathy for the clay feet of the people we put on pedestals.

(3) When you do your research, which primary sources have proven most useful to you, if any?

AC:  I read vastly in this field, so I can't list single sources. I'm lucky to have staff privileges at one of the greatest research libraries in the world -- the Perry CastaƱeda Library at the University of Texas at Austin -- and through that major resource, I have access to the JSTOR repository of journal articles and the Online Oxford English Dictionary. In terms of every day access while writing and editing, that would be the OED. And I love Wikipedia for checking dates and looking at faces and remembered how to spell names.

(4) Aside from Francis Bacon and Walter Raleigh,  have you incorporated other historical figures?

AC:  Well, there's Queen Elizabeth the First, or QEI, as I write her in notes. Monarchs first! Then her Lord Treasurer, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who was also Francis Bacon's uncle by marriage. Bacon's mother Lady Anne Bacon is an historical person of interest in her own right. There are a few walk-ons. I list all the real people who appear in each book in the Author's Notes at the end.

(5)  Which authors have influenced you?  OR Are there authors that you particularly love and enjoy?

AC: This is a very hard question. Everything I have ever read or watched or heard has had some influence. This is the well writers talk about. You fill it up by reading and you should read widely. I've read the complete works of Louis L'Amour, for example. Also George Bernard Shaw, Helen McCaffrey, and Robert Ludlum. At the risk of seeming lowbrow, I'll also mention the Star Trek series Deep Space Nine, my all time favorite TV series and my most important laboratory for understanding plots and sub-plots.

(6)  What's on your nightstand now?

AC: A Kindle stocked with classics and indie fiction, like Uneasy Spirits by M. Louisa Locke and The Mystery Box by Eva Pohler. And a library book: Crime and Punishment in the England of Shakespeare and Milton by John W. Weatherford.

About the Author:
Anna Castle has been a waitress, software engineer, documentary linguist, college professor, and digital archivist. Historical fiction combines her lifelong love of stories and learning. She physically resides in Austin, Texas, and mentally counts herself a queen of infinite space.
For more information please visit Anna Castle’s website  at and blog at You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Blog Tour: The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

The Lost Duchess

  • ISBN-10: 0091949246 - Paperback $8.
  • Ebury Press (June 5, 2014), 448 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
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An epic Elizabethan adventure with a thriller pace and a high tension love story that moves from the palaces of England to the savage wilderness of the New World.
Emme Fifield has fallen about as far as a gentlewoman can.
Once a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, her only hope of surviving the scandal that threatens to engulf her is to escape England for a fresh start in the new America where nobody has ever heard of the Duchess of Somerset.
Emme joins Kit Doonan's rag-tag band of idealists, desperados and misfits bound for Virginia. But such a voyage will be far from easy and Emme finds her attraction to the mysterious Doonan inconvenient to say the least.
As for Kit, the handsome mariner has spent years imprisoned by the Spanish, and living as an outlaw with a band of escaped slaves; he has his own inner demons to confront, and his own dark secrets to keep...
Ever since Sir Walter Raleigh's settlement in Virginia was abandoned in 1587 its fate has remained a mystery; 'The Lost Duchess' explores what might have happened to the ill-starred 'Lost Colony' of Roanoke.

While I've always been fascinated by Queen Elizabeth, I hadn't given much thought to the explorers during her rule nor to the early settlers in America.  The Lost Duchess gives us the story of a young, beautiful, and relatively unimportant lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth.  We learn that Elizabeth ruled her ladies with strict discipline and quite a lot of jealousy - it appears that she discouraged romances and marriage for her ladies.  When Emme is targeted by a powerful, wealthy, and unscrupulous lord, she feels as though she has very little options.

She's young and idealistic enough to dream of escaping to the Americas with mariners under Sir Raleigh.  Given permission to travel and explore the new territory as long as she agrees to report back to her Queen, Emme undertakes the perilous journey.  She must go incognito and undertakes to work as a lady's maid to a middle-class settler.  While the sea voyage is difficult, the real danger that Emme and the settlers face comes when they reach Virginia.  The earlier settlers have disappeared, likely killed, and the natives have declared war on the English.  It is with luck, courage and much planning that Emme and Kit, her handsome mariner, are able to face the dangers and make a home for themselves. 

The Lost Duchess is a fun read for historical fiction fans.  It gives a clear impression of the dangers that the early settlers faced as well as a glimpse into the intrigues of Queen Elizabeth's court.  

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About the Author

I've had a love of history and adventure ever since an encounter in infancy with a suit of armour at Tamworth Castle. Training as an artist, followed by a career as a city Jenny (Portrait 2)solicitor, did little to help displace my early dream of becoming a knight. A fascination with the Age of Discovery led to travels in South and Central America, and much of the inspiration for my debut came from retracing the footsteps of Francis Drake in Panama. The sequel centres on the first Elizabethan 'lost colony' of early Virginia. I am currently working on an epic adventure during the threat of invasion by the Spanish Armada.
My work has appeared in short story collections and anthologies and I've written for non-fiction publications including the Historical Novels Review. I am active in many organisations, having run the 'Get Writing' conferences for several years, and undertaken the co-ordination of the Historical Novel SocietyĆ­s London Conference 2012. I am a member of that organisation as well as the Historical Writers' Association, the Romantic Nevelists' Association and the Society of Authors. I'll be co-ordinating the RNA's annual conference in 2014.
I have four children and now live on a farm in Dorset with my long suffering husband and an ever increasing assortment of animals.
I love travelling, art, reading and scrambling up hills and mountains (though I'm not so keen on coming down!).

Author Links


Also by Jenny Barden

Mistress of the SeaPublication Date: June 20, 2013
Ebury Press
Formats: Paperback, Ebook
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Mistress Cooksley may be a wealthy merchant's daughter, but she blushes at my words and meets my eyes look for look. Yet I cannot hope to court her without fortune, and a dalliance with a pretty maid will not hinder me from my path.
Captain Drake's endeavour might bring me gold, but I, Will Doonan, will have my revenge.
The Spaniards captured my brother and have likely tortured and killed him. For God and St George, we'll strike at the dogs and see justice done.
I thought I'd left Mistress Cooksley behind to gamble everything and follow Drake, and here she is playing the boy at the ends of the world. She's a fool with a heart as brave as any man's. Yet her presence here could be the ruin of us all...

Virtual Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, May 26
Book Blast at Reading the Ages
Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse
Book Blast at Bibliophilia, Please
Tuesday, May 27
Book Blast at Flashlight Commentary
Book Blast at To Read or Not to Read
Wednesday, May 28
Thursday, May 29
Book Blast at The Maiden's Court
Book Blast at Cheryl's Book Nook
Friday, May 30
Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer
Book Blast at Curling Up by the Fire
Saturday, May 31
Book Blast at From L.A. to LA
Book Blast at Gobs and Gobs of Books
Sunday, June 1
Book Blast at Lily Pond Reads
Monday, June 2
Review & Giveaway at The Tudor Enthusiast
Book Blast at The Bookworm
Book Blast at CelticLady's Reviews
Tuesday, June 3
Book Blast at West Metro Mommy
Book Blast at bookworm2bookworm's Blog
Wednesday, June 4
Review at The Wormhole
Book Blast at Kelsey's Book Corner
Thursday, June 5
Book Blast at Books and Benches
Book Blast at Book Lovers Paradise
Friday, June 6
Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Book Blast at Kincavel Korner
Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes
Saturday, June 7
Book Blast at Royal Reviews
Book Blast at History Undressed
Sunday, June 8
Book Blast at Book Nerd
Monday, June 9
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, June 10
Review at She Reads Novels
Book Blast at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, June 11
Book Blast at Books in the Burbs
Thursday, June 12
Book Blast at Big Book, Little Book
Friday, June 13
Saturday, June 14
Book Blast at Hardcover Feedback
Book Blast at One Book at a Time
Sunday, June 15
Book Blast at Passages to the Past
Monday, June 16
Review at Layered Pages
Review at Starting Fresh
Tuesday, June 17
Review at The Lit Bitch
Book Blast at Griperang's Bookmarks
Wednesday, June 18
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Book Blast at Princess of Eboli
Thursday, June 19
Review at A Bookish Affair
Book Blast at Girl Lost in a Book
Friday, June 20
Review at Broken Teepee
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
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