Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Review: Paris in Ruins by M.K. Tod

 Title: Paris in Ruins 

Author: M.K. Tod 

Format: eBook

Publisher: Heath Street Publishing

Publish Date: March 30, 2021 (Today!) 

Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Paris 1870. Raised for a life of parties and servants, Camille and Mariele have much in common, but it takes the horrors of war to bring them together to fight for the city and people they love.

A few weeks after the abdication of Napoleon III, the Prussian army lays siege to Paris. Camille Noisette, the daughter of a wealthy family, volunteers to nurse wounded soldiers and agrees to spy on a group of radicals plotting to overthrow the French government. Her future sister-in-law, Mariele de Crécy, is appalled by the gaps between rich and poor. She volunteers to look after destitute children whose families can barely afford to eat.

Somehow, Camille and Mariele must find the courage and strength to endure months of devastating siege, bloody civil war, and great personal risk. Through it all, an unexpected friendship grows between the two women, as they face the destruction of Paris and discover that in war women have as much to fight for as men.

War has a way of teaching lessons—if only Camille and Mariele can survive long enough to learn them.

My Two Cents:

 In 1870, Paris is being torn apart in a fight between self-determination and the foreign Prussian Army seeking to bend the French to their will. The gorgeous city is now a place of chaos and destruction, beset by violence and chaos. With the advent of war, people from different walks of life are on much more equal footing: each pulled into a fight for survival. Mariele and Camille were both born to a life of luxury but the war rips all of that away. Both of them will be forced to fight for their survival and for those that they love. Will they be able to rise to the occasion?

Both of the heroines at the center of the book are fascinating! Both of them are willing to leave their extremely comfortable lives in order to find some way to contribute to their country. Camille finds herself tending to the wounded in a theater-turned-hospital, run by none other than famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. Camille is also called into service as a spy to watch the communards. Mariele works hard to save the children orphaned by the war. Camille and Mariele will be called on over and over again to show what they are made of and both will discover that they are made of tougher stuff than they realized. These are two heroines that you can stand up and cheer for!

Paris is one of those places where although I have never been, I want to read about every chance I get. The Franco-Prussian War is really not a time period that I have read much in and so it was amazing to see how quickly war descended upon the country and how quickly things turned upside down. The detail in this book was fantastic. The author does a great job of bringing Paris under siege to life. There are so many different groups at odds during this time period and the author infuses great historical detail so that you can understand all of the different motives that helped to throw the city into chaos. This is a wonderful tale of resilience, strength, and hope - perfect for my fellow historical fiction lovers!



Monday, March 29, 2021

Author Interview: Elizabeth Bell

Hello and happy Monday! Today, I am thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Bell, author of "The Lazare Family Saga." All four books in the series are out now!

1. All four books in the Lazare Family are now out: did you know from the beginning that you wanted the series to be four books? Did you write all four books before publishing the first book?

When I started this project back in the 1990s, I thought I was writing a single novel. I knew it would be doorstopper-sized, but so were my inspirations: Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds, Alex Haley’s Roots, and John Jakes’s North and South. My final word count is over half a million, so I broke up the narrative into four books of 400-500 pages each. Because the characters’ lives are so interconnected, because I wanted to include both foreshadowing and callbacks and truly make the story satisfying, I waited till I’d written a complete draft of the whole series before publishing Book One, Necessary Sins.

2. Tell us about your latest, "Sweet Medicine," which just came out in February. Who is your favorite character? What is your favorite scene?

I'll pick my blood transfusion scene, an incredibly risky procedure in 1860 before doctors understood either blood types or infection. I consulted with real medical professionals in a Facebook group called Trauma Fiction, and I took a deep dive into Victorian medicine. So many 19th-century medical texts have been digitized by Google Books—with illustrations! They're not for the faint of heart, but they're invaluable. The final blood transfusion scene works on both literal and symbolic levels, and it epitomizes the book's title, Sweet Medicine.

A fan-favorite character is the patriarch of the Lazare family, René. The saga begins with his conception, and the final Epilogue is from his point-of-view as an octogenarian. Those are the only pages in the first-person. I didn't plan them that way, but that's how René gave them to me. That Epilogue really felt like a gift, and it ties the whole saga together. Not wrapped up with a bow—history and life are messier than that—but nevertheless in a satisfying conclusion. René is the most progressive of the characters, and he's got the best sense of humor, both of which are essential to his appeal. So if I have to pick one character, it would be him.

3. What was your research process like for "Sweet Medicine?" Has your research process changed at all from the first book to the last?

Because I was already familiar with my time period and settings, much of my research for Sweet Medicine was refreshing and deepening what I already knew. I went back to my research notes from years ago to guide me. What did I want to emphasize? What did I need a better understanding of? I've always cast my research net wide, so I was also reading—and listening to—new books. I discovered Clara Brown, an important real-life supporting character, through an audiobook called Frontier Grit about strong women of the American West. Then I chased down other sources about Mrs. Brown, a formerly enslaved woman who was a true entrepreneur. Fortunately, I work in a university library.

4. How are you feeling about the Lazare series ending? Do you have any future books planned?

I'm experiencing something akin to empty nest syndrome! My babies are all out in the world! The Lazare Family Saga is the culmination of nearly three decades of research, revision, and persistence. I've had some people try to tell me I have more books in me, but I don't think I do. These characters' struggles and triumphs are so personal for me. I feel as if every word of this series is written with my blood. It's also a matter of having limited time and energy. My challenge now is to make the most of this magnum opus. I'm planning new formats, audiobooks and hardcovers, and I'm striving to reach new readers.

5. I know your path to publishing was not clear cut. Why did you end up choosing the path you chose? Do you have any words of wisdom for other authors trying to get published?

After nearly three years of knocking on the gates of traditional publishing and receiving only rejections, my choices were: 1. Throw your life's work into a trash can, or 2. Publish your work independently. I hate that this is the case, but it doesn't matter if you've written a good book. It matters if you've written a low-risk, easily marketable book. Aspiring authors should decide whether they're going to write the books that are in their hearts or if they're going to write to market. Occasionally, these two things align, but often they do not. For me, they did not. Agents and editors looked at my work, saw risk, and dismissed it as worthless to them. That's why it's been so gratifying to receive glowing reviews, including two Editors' Choice designations from the Historical Novel Society. My work does have merit and it does have an audience; it just doesn't fit into traditional publishing's pigeonholes. My advice to aspiring authors is: If you don't write to market—and if you don't know someone in publishing—be prepared to publish your work yourself and find your own audience.

6. If you could bring three people, real or fictional, with you to a deserted island, who would you bring with you?

Instead of company, can I have a library?

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

TLC Book Tours: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper

 Title: The Girl in the Painting

Author: Tea Cooper

Format: ARC

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publish Date: March 9, 2021

Source: TLC Book Tours

 What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Australia, 1906

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship. Having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel her story before it’s too late."

My Two Cents:

In the late 1800s, Michael and Elizabeth go to Australia to reunite with their family. What they find is that the family they thought they were reuniting with is no more. So they are forced to build a new life in a new country that is often difficult to find footing in. Fast forward to the early 1900s, Elizabeth and Michael are older now and established. They pluck Jane out of an orphanage. She has a head for a numbers and easily slides into Michael and Elizabeth's lives, becoming more than just a partner in her business. In each other, they each find the family that they never had before and have been yearning for. Jane is happy with her new station in life so when Elizabeth begins to face a lot of different troubles that seem to affect both her physical and mental well-being, Jane is especially concerned about unraveling how Elizabeth's past continues to shape her present. This is a great historical fiction with a brush of mystery!

I loved the characters. The author does a great job of showing what motivates Michael, Elizabeth, and Jane. Each of them has so much tragedy in their backgrounds that drive them to do whatever it takes to prevent tragedy from striking again. Jane was especially interesting to me. We get to see less of her background but the way she finds herself involved with Michael and Elizabeth was fascinating. Jane speaks before she thinks things through but she has a gift for numbers. Although she doesn't show it, she really cares for Michael and Elizabeth and the way she dives in to uncover Elizabeth's past when she starts to have seemingly unexplained mental episodes was really endearing.

 I loved the mystery at the center of this book so between that and the wonderful setting, I was hooked! I have read so little historical fiction set in Australia. I loved reading about what it was like both when Michael and Elizabeth first arrived and when Jane meets both of them in the 1900s. The author does a wonderful job of bringing Australia to life, a place where so many people with such different life stories and from so many different places came together. The detail was rich and I loved how vividly everything was described. You can see the streets, you can smell the air - this really was a treat!

Historical fiction lovers who like great settings and secrets will enjoy this book!

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