‘Tyringham Park’ by Rosemary McLoughlin

tp rmclSTORY: The country estate of Tyringham Park is the epitome of wealth and privilege. Home to the Blackshaws, it finds itself the backdrop to tragedy.

It is a beautiful day in 1917, and Tyringham Park is in an uproar after Victoria Blackshaw, an innocent toddler, disappears without a trace. The feverish search for Victoria soon uncovers jealousies and deceits that both the upstairs and downstairs inhabitants of the grand estate have fought for years to keep hidden.

As time passes, Victoria’s disappearance casts a long shadow over all of their lives. Charlotte, the Blackshaws’ less-favored eight-year-old daughter, finds herself severely impacted by the loss of her sister. Charlotte’s greatest wish is to escape the con­fines of the estate, but Tyringham Park and its many mysteries may never release their hold on her. Like all those at Tyringham Park, she is caught in a web of passions and secrets, trysts and betrayals that seems to ensnare everyone connected to this once great house.

REVIEW: 1917 – Tyringham Park, Ireland

Little Victoria Blackshaw, age 22 months, has been taken out for a stroll in her pram by her mother, Lady Edwina.  Thinking she was sleeping, her mother left in to go to the stables.  When she returned, Victoria was gone.  Fearing she had wandered over to the river and drowned, everyone searched for her but she was never found.

Victoria’s older sister, Charlotte, was left to bear the brunt of her mother’s temper.  Her mother felt she was ugly and could never measure up to Victoria.  Charlotte’s nurse Dixon was completely hateful to Charlotte and had been the same way to Victoria.  She hurt Charlotte, screamed at her and made her life miserable.  Charlotte’s mother, Edwina, did not care and her father, Lord Waldron Blackshaw, spent his time at the War Office in London.  The man did nothing but drink and was constantly drunk.

In the meantime, Edwina gives birth to Harcourt, son and heir.

Charlotte was left devastated at Victoria’s loss; totally ignored by her family; and mistreated by her nurse.  As time passes, we see the different stages that Charlotte goes through in her life to make some meaning of it. As far as her mother is concerned, she can never do anything right.  Lady Edwina is evil personified in her life-long treatment of her.  As a child, Charlotte is a very accomplished horsewoman. Later on, she becomes a very talented artist.

Charlotte falls in love with Lochlann Carmody, the friend of her younger brother, Harcourt.  Both young men are attending medical school to become doctors.  One night, when Lochlann is partying at Tyringham with Harcourt, they get drunk and Charlotte becomes pregnant by Lochlann.  Appalled at what he did, Lochlann agrees to do the right thing and marries Charlotte.  They then head to Australia where Lochlann will be the physician at a small hospital in a remote area of the country.

Their marriage is not a loving one but Lochlann tries all he can.  Charlotte faces difficult ordeals one of which requires Lochlann to make a very difficult decision.

This saga is an amazing story that includes both upstairs and downstairs characters.  Another Downton Abbey type book.  I was mesmerized as I read it and even though it was nearly 500 pages long, I did not want to see the book end.  I hope readers will enjoy this novel as much as I did.

Connie for b2b

#Ask Outlander with @caitrionabalfe!

asko cait

 

Alrighty peeps… Bring It ON… Start your questions now

What’s your favourite radio station with

Currently a personal 80s compilation tape..

What is something you miss about the states while in Scotland?

So many things… Mostly my friends, NY theatre and LA art galleries

How many of Diana’s books have you read & which one is your favorite?

I’ve read two, Outlander and DIA… The first was the most special but DIA is great too

Are you a born badass or is it something you have been working on?

Born to be WILD !!!

How do you handle the film schedule? Do u ever think I CAN’T DO IT TODAY?! What if u have cramps or get sick?

You visit the nurse, get a huge coffee and muddle through, but yeah sometimes it ain’t easy

Is it difficult for you to make yourself cry on cue or are you just “in that place”?

Whenever I look @SamHeughan I want to cry… JOB DONE

Does the cast get together off set often?

Sometimes… when someone mentions whiskey, or sushi or beer or…

Best thing about Frank Randall?

Sweet man, that try his best… Kind eyes!!

Loved your singing in 114! Will you sing in Season 2 – Lullaby perhaps?

Please no, I hope not!!

Has your family been on set yet for S2?

No not yet for S2… but I’m sure they will

Who inspires you the most? =)

My amazing friends… !!!

What was the last music you heard?

New girl called SOAK

Which one do you like so far season one or season two costumes @draiochta14

@draiochta14 Like fav children – I couldn’t choose, but fun to try out a new look!!

You’ve amazed me each week!! Would you fall in love with Jamie? Is he your type?

Sweet, sensitive, funny and thoughtful??? Nope not my type!! ;-)

Which scene do you think is the most romantic in the next season? I’m looking forward for “The Boat” one!

When they reconnect after the duel…

How do you like riding horses throughout the show? Beautiful horses and countryside!

One of the most magical things I have had the pleasure of doing!!!

The series is turning into a worldwide phenomenon! Are you preparing yourself for what this may entail?

What can I expect???

Why in this season your character spend most of the time with crossed-arms?

Where would you have me put them??? Bum roll in the way!!!

What countries or cities would you like to visit?

I dream of visiting Mongolia

Have you been injured on set?

Ask Tobias!!! @TobiasMenzies

Have a scene that you are anxious to record this new season?

The duel and its aftermath… (no spoilers..!!)

What’s your dream role (besides Claire, of course)?

Anything that teaches me something about humanity that I didn’t already know

Can you tell us something about your chemistry test with @Samheughan that we don’t already know?!

@Samheughan They made me take my high heels off

What do you think about story beyond and after “Dragonfly in Amber“?

It’s all a mystery to me… I’ve yet to read…

My question is what are your thoughts on the upcoming #Wentworth ep? Having read the books I know its brutal

Then you know whats coming… We stay true to the books

Don’t knock Cindy Lauper! She, too, is a Bad Ass Lass. And she is on The Goonies Soundtrack.

@SamHeughan @andrew_finnie Who was knocking??? Not me

Is really hot in real life as in TV?

@SamHeughan Nope, the makeup team really do an amazing job!!

No wolves, but will there be cows in the Wentworth escape scene?

Couldn’t say Mooooooooooo

What does @SamHeughan think of Eddie? does he get along with her? #divafaceoff!

@SamHeughan Still waiting for the offer to cat sit..!!

For the sake of all that’s holy, can you please beat @SamHeughan in tennis?!?

@SamHeughan That’ll be easy, the challenge will be @TobiasMenzies

Your accent is very good. I wouldn’t have guessed that you weren’t English. Are accents fairly easy for you?

It’s a part of acting I really enjoy… Accents allow you access to different parts of yourself I think

How often do hair ppl have to perm ur hair to get the cute curls or, do u have natural wave they enhance?

I had it permed twice last year… This year trying something new!!!

What are they doing to age you and Sam for the second book?

They’ll just work us hard for a few weeks then won’t have too!!

Any advice on surviving the Wentworth episode? I don’t think my heart & mind can withstand the pain.

Remember its TV… and have a stiff drink and a pillow near at hand..!

What was the last lie you told?

@TallShipProds … that she wasn’t my favorite producer… Course she is!!

What is ur favourite italian fashion designer?

Love Valentino!!

What’s your favourite place in the world?

Nepal (and sending love to all there) or my friends place in Mexico.

Have u ever been in Argentina??? If not please visits us

Yes I was in Buenos Aires once… LOVED IT!

What is the most surprising aspect of being part of the Outlander adventure?

Just how much I love it all

Are you already on location filming season 2?

Yes we started a week ago…

What was your favorite location to film in terms of scenery? I’ve never been abroad and am jealous!

Loch Rannoch, hands down…. Stunning and there is magic there..

All of my friends and I LOVED your singing and performance in the last epi. How was it filming that sequence?

Terrifying!!!!

Will I get reply from you? Just once

YES ;-) xx

I wonder if Scots can dance salsa. Do you know @caitrionambalfe? Cc @SamHeughan

@SamHeughan Now why on earth would anyone want to see that.????

Hi! What advice would you give to a girl who wants to be an actress and generally achieve their dreams? :)

Work hard, invest in your craft and have fun!!

If you could witness anything in life what would it be?

Nasca Lines

Easy to get back to your acting role Claire after that amount of time between?

It was like we never left… In the best way.

If you could act with anyone dead or alive who would you pick?

Gena Rowlands and her deceased husband John Cassavetes

How opulent and out there will the French court costumes be?

As we say… Go Big Or Go Home

Outlander pilot starts here in Finland in about 20 minutes. Any last words?

Enjoy !!!!! xxxx

We know your sister and @SamHeughan run triathlons. Will you join the club anytime soon?

@SamHeughan Is there a pill for motivating lazy asses????

What was the last scene shot for S1?

I believe my last one, they had me in cage…. (not sure it was actually for the show!?!?)

What do you admire most about Claire?

Resilience, intelligence and strength… She’s got it all

How r u liking fan interaction w Twitter? Treating u nicely I hope

It’s incredibly humbling and fun too!! They are very generous and it is much appreciated

Will the events of Wentworth be shown in flashback form or “real time” chronologically? So dreading this.

Got to watch and see!!!

I heard that this coming episode is going to be hard to watch? How hard was it to film?

Pretty tough but we are all proud of it… I’m very proud of @SamHeughan @TobiasMenzies Really went there

How did Eddie do on the plane ride?

She was a trooper… Just hungry on arrival!!

What’s the future scene you are more excited to shoot?

Maybe La Dame Blanche scene..? That should be fun

Cait?? Can I get a reply?? Pretty please with sugar on top!

Sugar is bad for you !! ;-))) xxx

If you could play any character besides Claire Beauchamp, who would it be?

Mrs Fitz… not as well as Annette Badlands though!!

If you were on a deserted island and could only bring one thing… What would it be?

Food… otherwise I wouldn’t last very long!!

Will you see The Wentworth prison episode??? Alone or with @SamHeughan ?

@SamHeughan I have already seen it .. Alone. Pretty harrowing but amazing stuff

HI! Have you already proved the beautiful Claire’s new wardrobe??

It’s amazing @driochta14 has really outdone herself

Do you have any advice to be more confident?? PLEASE :(

Remember, everyone thinks everyone else has it more together than them… Simply not true!! We’re all a mess

When you started reading DIA were you as surprised by the 1st chapter as the rest of us?

Eh YES!

Is it hard to switch from Cait to Claire? Or is it second nature now?

No… I can turn it off pretty easy x

Have you been to any of Glasgows art galleries or museums? If so which do you like best?

Yes was at GOMA on Sunday. Pretty cool!

How are the French lessons going?

Tres bien

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at set?

The lovely Jude usually hands me a coffee … Then I let them speak to me ;-)) ( jking !!!!!)

Do you have any superstitions regarding auditions?

Just have worked really hard… And don’t talk about it until you got the job

Who is the biggest flirt on set @TobiasMenzies or @SamHeughan or you?

@TobiasMenzies @SamHeughan It’s like asking who’s the better athlete Mo Farrah or Roger Federer…

@SamHeughan Do u and Sam break out laughing at times?? What will make u laugh usually?

@SamHeughan All the time… Usually for no reason

Can you tell something WEIRD about @SamHeughan ? Or he is literally PERFECT??W?

@SamHeughan No one is perfect… But he…… comes pretty close #Samyouowemeatenner

Is there something on a person what make you dislike her/him immediately?

Arrogance … or Rude

Favourite ‘dad joke’ Caitriona?

Horse walks into a bar.. Barman says Whats with the long face??

Were you really starting to laugh when Drunk Jamie put his chin on your shoulder or was it scripted?

Wanted to show she found it funny even though pretending to be annoyed…

The sweetest thing @SamHeughan has done for you?

Been a good friend

Why are Claire and Jamie so stubborn?

Because sometimes when you are a strong person and used to taking control, it can be hard to switch it off.

What’s your go to karaoke song?

Blondie!!

Cait!! why won’t you notice me?? Looking forward to playing a pregnant Claire?? Do you get to eat for two?

It’ll be a new experience … always fun to do something different..

What is your fav movies or tv dramas? Except outlander of course

Fav movies.. Full Metal Jacket, Manhattan, A woman is a woman, Breakfast at Tiffanys

What is the first thing you do after a long day of filming?

Eat, learn lines then sleep!!!!

Wow, thats all folks… sorry if I missed your question. Thanks for tuning in Mmuuuah xxxx

‘It Started With a Scandal’ by Julie Anne Long

iswas jalSTORY: Lord Philippe Lavay once took to the high seas armed with charm as lethal as his sword and a stone-cold conviction: he’ll restore his family’s fortune and honor, no matter the cost. Victory is at last within reach–when a brutal attack snatches it from his grasp and lands him in Pennyroyal Green.

An afternoon of bliss brings a cascade of consequences for Elise Fountain. Shunned by her family and ousted from a job she loves, survival means a plummet down the social ladder to a position no woman has yet been able to keep: housekeeper to a frighteningly formidable prince.

The bold and gentle Elise sees past his battered body into Philippe’s barricaded heart…and her innate sensuality ignites his blood. Now a man who thought he could never love and a woman who thought she would never again trust must fight an incendiary passion that could be the ruin of them both.

REVIEW: Elise Fountain was turned out by her family when she found she was expecting after a liaison with a man who left her unmarried and with a son. Elise is a very strong young woman who worked as a teacher at a school for “difficult” young ladies. She has now lost that position due to some jealous remarks by a society woman. So, it is with great fortitude that she applies for the position of Housekeeper at the home of Lord Philippe Lavay in Pennyroyal Green. After a fairly grilling interview with Lord Lavay, he agrees to hire her giving her a fortnight to get his house and his servants straightened around.

Elise’s meeting with the servants is hilarious. They figure that they will only be working there for a short time and are sure they don’t really have to do anything but sit around and play cards all day. Elise sets them straight and thanks to her way with words, the home soon begins to sparkle with cleanliness and the surly servants working as they should.

Lord Lavay is living in England after losing most of his family and fortune to the war in France. In fact, Philippe is a Prince of the House of Bourbon. Having suffered numerous injuries in the war, he is trying to heal and get his strength back. Then, he wants to return to France and see if he can rescue his family’s home.

Elise and Philippe work closely together and he is quite impressed with her getting his home clean and running efficiently, as well as getting his servants back on track. She helps him with his correspondence as his hand has been injured and offers him special herbal tea to help with his pain.

When he meets Elise’s son, he in intrigued by the young boy and they become friends. In addition, the meetings between Elise and Philippe soon spark an attraction that they cannot resist.

Will the difference in their positions keep them apart? Will Philippe look at Elise as just a fling and return to France soon forgetting her?

This was a totally delightful novel with lots of humor and a terrific story all combined to make for a read that one does not want to put down. I look forward to reading even more from Julie Anne Long. She’s a great author.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Outlander – #1.14, Let’s discuss!

o114 1a

This episode picks up mere moments after Claire learns that Jamie has been captured by the redcoats.

o114 1o114 2

We see Jenny holding wee Maggie while giving instructions to Mrs. Crook to milk the goat, giving the viewer a clear sign that she’s getting ready to head out to search for her brother. At the same time Ian is talking to Claire and trying very hard to talk her into letting him go with her, which she rebuffs for obvious reasons, like his leg is missing and Jenny also points out to him that he’s wounded in one arm, so feeling inadequate, he offers to at least draw Claire a map of where they were ambushed and separated.

Talk about being impotent! I felt sorry for the guy. I can only imagine how Jenny’s declaration, to join Claire in this search, went!

o114 3 o114 4

As Claire is mounting a horse, Jenny runs down the stairs and mounts her own and the two set out to track down Jamie.

The first thing that hits me is the tune accompanying their hard ride, tracking and the whole search montage. It’s a Scottish folk tune, ‘My Bonnie Moorhen’, arranged in such a way that it reminded me of the old Spaghetti Westerns [and if you’ve never heard of those, that tells you how old I am!].

Our daring duo is successful in finding the redcoats and while they spot Taran, the head Watch dude, they can’t see Jamie, so as soon as they see one of the redcoats leave the camp, they head out to intercept him.

o114 5 o114 6

As Jenny plays the damsel in distress, Claire shows up with a pistol and both women point their weapons to the man’s head. Next we see Jenny pull some torture moves on the poor bloke, while Claire is beseeching him to tell them where the tall redheaded Highlander is. This guy’s not saying anything, and Claire is squirming at Jenny’s tactics, and as soon as she hears the man say he’s only a courier, she heads on to inspect his dispatches and finds a letter in which it says that Jamie had escaped them and they need help in catching him.

o114gOutlander 2014

Jenny promptly rips it into pieces, assesses that Jamie wouldn’t go to Lallybroch, but would certainly keep going even further north so that redcoats wouldn’t follow that deep into Highlands.

Outlander 2014

That accomplished, our nurse Claire is getting ready to bind the wounds of a redcoat, when Jenny stops her to tell her that they can’t let the guy live. Claire goes all righteous on her and while they’re having it out, who shall save the day but Murtagh.

Now that the redcoat is dead, they set up a camp and spend the night together. I liked the way women bonded as they were setting up the camp and at the camp fire.

 

The next day Jenny is getting ready to head out to Lallybroch and she gives Claire some advice along with Ian’s sgian-dubh. Claire decides to give Jenny some advice as well, warning her to plant potatoes, get rid of any land not producing for gold, and be ready for famine and war [I wish they also added the line about the Priest hole/it’s important for the future episodes]. Jenny acknowledges all that Claire has to say because her brother told her she may do so, and for her to pay heed to it. They part as sisters, with Jenny kissing Claire’s cheek and we’re reminded of when Claire gave her one on the steps of Lallybroch as Jenny gave her the tusk bracelets. Very touching moment.

o114 29o114 9

Now that Jenny’s off to Lallybroch, Claire and Murtagh come up with a plan to establish her as a healer and instead of them searching, they hope Jamie would find them, so off they go scouring the highlands, traveling across the fields and through forests, from village to village in hopes that Jamie will hear of a Sassenach healer and her Highland dancing companion.

o114 10o114 30

Murtagh sucks at this dance thing and Claire suggests to him to enliven his dance with a more catching tune, like ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’!

o114b

Upon hearing her sing the tune, Murtagh thinks she may be right! And we have now Claire, dressed as a man, singing the tune but with bawdy Scottish lyrics.

o114 11 o114 12 o114 14 o114 32

It so happens that a gipsy king comes to like their act so much that he and his merry cohorts are more than happy to steal it from them and perform it themselves.

o114h

Claire’s not so happy about it and makes a deal with the guy to let her perform it, paying him with all the money Jenny gave her [WHAT?!].

 o114 15 o114 16

Murtagh tries to tell her she’s not playing this right, but she gets all stubborn and pulls rank on him. Of course, that’ll bite her in the ass later on!

As they go from place to place, over hills and waters, they come to a place that is all water, and basically they hit the bottom. Spending the night in the cave by the water, both are frustrated and angry so they buttheads and come out of it friends. We find out why he loves Jamie as a son, and also that he gave Ellen those tusk bracelets. Another touching moment.

o114 17 o114 18 o114 19 o114 20 o114 21 o114 22

In the morning they set out back to where they started, and finally that gypsy king approaches Claire giving her a message from Jamie. He’ll meet her at Glen Rowan Cross. Claire and Murtagh rush off right away.

o114 23 o114 24

In the end, she doesn’t find Jamie but Dougal. He tells her that Jamie has been caught, tried and sentenced to hang. He’s at Wentworth prison awaiting execution. He also has a proposition for her. Marry him for her protection, as Jamie would want that for her. She won’t hear of it, and while he still may have a chance, she will do anything to save him. However, if those options aren’t available to her anymore, she’ll marry him [WHAT?!]. She also wants his men to help her out in this endeavor, but Dougal tells her he’s not so keen to hand over his men, but if any of them want to volunteer, he won’t stand in their way.

o114 25 o114 26

Claire tries to rally them, but none are willing to go but wee Willy, shaming Angus and Rupert and off the little posse goes.

o114 27 o114 28

The end of this episode looks so sad as we catch a glimpse of the huge fortress ahead as our Fierce Five is looking on.

This episode left me in knots, sad and disappointed at the same time. While we had awesome musical arrangements throughout the episode, a reminder that our chick is from 1940’s, gypsies, dancing and breathtaking Scottish scenery, I was left wanting. This is my least favorite episode. I finally figured out why! I missed Jamie and I hated the plot about the gypsy king stealing the song. What was all that about?! It was completely unnecessary.

While I know he was gone for a reason, I think adding scenes of Jamie making his escape, on the run and hiding out and finally being recaptured, would have added more suspense than not having him at all.

Given the many Jamie POV scenes added this half of the season, I’m surprised they opted out of having us see more of him. Instead, we got this weird gypsy story that went nowhere. It just didn’t fit.

I forgot to mention the “boob scene” with Jenny. I loved it and it was great that finally we see boobs for what they’re made for: food for our wee ones! I hear Canadian station cut the scene out and women went all out on them. Good for us!

What I liked most about this episode was more of Murtagh. I was happy to see his character come to life big time!

My heart went out to him as he related the story of how the bracelets came to be. His love for Jamie and his mother was all on his weathered face.

All in all, ‘The Search’ wasn’t so bad because it had several memorable scenes from the book and as usual the subtle performances by the entire cast are greatly appreciated.

And now I need to get ready for the last two … Have you gotten your survival kit ready?

LOL ;)

I’ve booked my daughter and bought couple of bottles of my favorite wine ;)

What did you think of this episode?

‘A Wedding to Die For’ by Adrianne Lee

awtdf alSTORY: Welcome To Weddingville

A hundred years ago, a tiny town on the Puget Sound attracted a passel of bachelors desperate to marry. Thanks to the miracle of mail order, they did, and Weddingville was born. Hollywood costumer Daryl Anne Blessing knows that story all too well, and she hasn’t missed it, or much else about her hometown—except for hunky photographer Seth Quinlan. Now Daryl Anne returns to Weddingville to see her best friend say I do… and witnesses a whole lot of something hitting the fan—and it’s not rice.
As the maid of honor, Daryl Anne must keep the bride calm, no matter what. But last time she checked, “what” didn’t include the bride’s estranged mother turning up, scandalizing the locals—and getting herself murdered. Nor did it include digging for clues with Seth, while trying to remember exactly why she left him behind. It’s quite a juggling act, even for a seasoned multi-tasker like Daryl Anne. She soon attracts lusty glances from Seth—and the attention of a killer who’s determined to take this town out of business…

REVIEW: May – Weddingville, Puget Sound

Weddingville is a town named for a place where the founding fathers commissioned mail order brides many, many years ago.  Since then, the town has evolved into a place where lots of weddings take place and there are many wedding-themed shops, restaurants and hotels.

Daryl Anne Blessing is the maid of honor for her best friend, Meg Reilly.  Daryl is struggling to make sure that the wedding goes off perfectly until the bride has a meltdown when she finds her mother, Tanya, is going to attend.  But let’s back up just a bit.

Meg Reilly and Daryl Anne Blessing have been friends since they were small children and grew up in Weddingville.  They have always been close especially from the day that Daryl’s father died.  Meg consoled her then.  After school, Meg and Daryl moved to Los Angeles and got great jobs in the acting arena.

Meg’s father runs a successful diner in town.  Meg’s mother, Tanya, abandoned her and her father when she was just 11-years-old and has never contacted her since.  Thinking she was doing the right thing, Meg invited her mother to her wedding never thinking she would accept but she has.  Tanya is now a well-known reporter.

Daryl’s mother, Susan, and paternal grandmother, Billie, run a bridal shop in town.

Meg met and is now engaged to well-known actor, Peter Wolfe.  Peter is a very wealthy man and an arrogant one as well.  He wants a wedding that will be secure and away from the public eye.  Lots of elaborate plans have been put into place and the wedding is ready to go.  Oh, but when Meg sees her old heart-throb, Troy, she begins to hesitate.  Tanya sashays into town asserting herself like a Queen.  The wedding venue is vandalized just before the rehearsal dinner.  Pictures are taken of Meg acting a bit risqué at her bachelorette party.  All the while, Daryl is trying to hold everything together in her job as maid of honor.

The ceremony itself is interrupted when the minister passes out and a dead body floats up next to the wedding venue outside.  That’s when everything goes nuts.  Who is the dead person?  Were they murdered or was the death an accident?  If murdered, who could have done it?  All of the characters in this scenario are suspicious of one another and it takes some extra sleuthing by Meg and Daryl to try and find the real killer.

This was a very well-done mystery and I enjoyed it very much.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Deception on Sable Hill’ by Shelley Gray

dosh sgSTORY: The World’s Fair is nearing its end, but the danger in Chicago lingers.

It’s mid-September of 1893 and Eloisa Carstairs is the reigning beauty of Gilded Age Chicago society. To outsiders she appears to have it all. But Eloisa is living with a dark secret. Several months ago, she endured a horrible assault at the hands of Douglass Sloane, heir to one of Chicago’s wealthiest families. Fearing the loss of her reputation, Eloisa confided in only one friend. That is, until she meets Detective Sean Ryan at a high-society ball.

Sean is on the outskirts of the wealthy Chicago lifestyle. Born into a poor Irish family, becoming a policeman was his best opportunity to ensure his future security. Despite society’s restrictions, he is enamored with Eloisa Carstairs. Sean seethes inside at what he knows happened to her, and he will do anything to keep her safe-even if he can never earn her affections.

REVIEW: Chicago – 1893

Eloisa Carstairs is a lovely young debutante whose mother is pushing her to attend more social events in hopes of finding a husband.  While Eloisa enjoys these things, she is uncomfortable being in public as she was once accosted and defiled by a man who is now dead.  No one else knows of this but it has severely limited her confidence and happiness.

There is also a slasher on the loose who has been attacking and killing young society woman.  Therefore, many events are using police detectives to act as security during the soirees.

This is where Eloisa meets young Irish Police Detective Sean Ryan.  While Sean understands the big difference between them socially, he is very attracted to him and Eloisa enjoys chatting with him at events.  In addition, he becomes very attentive in insisting that he escort her home, as well as to and from other gatherings.

During their talks together Eloisa is very interested to learn that Sean and his sister volunteer to help at a home for abused women and their children who have no other place to go.  This gets them off the streets and they are learning trades so that they can get jobs and support themselves and their children. Eloisa is fascinating by this and wants to use some of her extra time to volunteer as well.  While she is met with some skepticism at the home, her sweet nature endures and manages to break down the barrier so that she is slowly accepted.

The friendship between Eloisa and Sean grows and becomes an attraction.  Both of their families know that this is not good as their differences in society means they will not be readily accepted as a couple.  But when Eloisa is attacked by the slasher and nearly dies, things come to head in hunting this person down.

There is a mystery here and lots of intrigue.  The story explains very well how the classes felt about each other and how difficult it was to change this.

This is the second book of the author’s Chicago World’s Fair Mystery Series.  The first novel was “Secrets of Sloane House” which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The third and last book of the series “Whispers in the Reading Room” will be published in November 2015.

Connie for b2b

Spotlight on C. C. Humphreys and ‘The Curse of Anne Boleyn’!

tcoab cchSTORY: From the masterful C.C. Humphreys, comes the captivating sequel to The French Executioner.

Nearly twenty years have passed since Anne Boleyn died at the hands of her slayer and savior, Jean Rombaud. All he wants is to forget his sword-wielding days and live happily with his family. Yet her distinctive six-fingered hand, stolen at her death—and all the dark power it represents—still compels evil men to seek it out.

When Jean’s son, Gianni, joins the Inquisition in Rome and betrays all his father worked for, Jean discovers that time alone cannot take him—or his son—far from his past. But he never expected his whole family, especially his beloved daughter Anne, to become caught up once more in the tragic queen’s terrible legacy.

From the savagery of way in Italy to the streets of London and Paris and the wilds of North America, The Curse of Anne Boleyn sweeps readers into a thrilling story that puts love, loyalty, and family to the ultimate test.

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REVIEW: If you haven’t read ‘The French Executioner’ I would really advise you to do it before you read its sequel.

I’m not saying that this novel can’t stand on its own. It can. But personally, I think you’ll be missing an important view and dynamic of the story as a whole. But that’s just me.

This story is set twenty years later and tells the story of the next generation of Rombaud, Jean’s son, Gianni and his daughter Anne, who are both caught in Anne Boleyn’s terrible legacy.

Once more Mr. Humphreys manages to draw me in with a fast paced, well written and researched story that had taken me on an exhilarating journey from Siena to Canada.

Reading one of Mr. Humphreys novels is like having history lessons, but you’re not bored because he weaves the tale so well that you’re all caught up in the telling of it.

His action scenes are unbelievably well done and highly suspenseful and entertaining that they feel like I’m watching a movie.

With a solid plot filled with suspense, intriguing characters and propper to the times dialogue, I was taken on an adventure of a lifetime. Hope you’ll give it a try.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

EXCERPT: 

The freezing mist seemed to pool thicker about the chapel doors, yet no one seemed anxious to seek shelter from it. Tucknell fiddled with the keys in his hand, the three laborers leaned on shovels and picks, avoiding each other’s eyes. Even Thomas felt a reluctance to proceed. Outside the iron-studded doors, the frigid air was at least connected to the world of the living, their footprints in the frost a trail back to light and warmth. Ahead, within the darkness, lay a deeper cold – the realm of the dead. And they were there to violate that realm.

After a few moments watching plumes of breath stripe the night, Thomas shifted, made to speak, to command. Before the breath could become a voice in him, the warder pulled him slightly to one side, whispered, “Sir. Let me ask of you once more. Beg of you. Do not do this. It is a sin.”

“I have my orders, Tucknell. And you have yours. You saw the signature on the papers. This command comes from the Queen herself.”

It was not strictly true, but the officer was not to know that. He drew back, seeking Thomas’s eyes.

“I know our gracious sovereign Mary has little reason to love… she who lies here. But to thus despoil her tomb?” His voice softened. “You are an Englishman, sir, and a gentleman I can tell. Let us spare an English lady further humiliation.” Off Thomas’s silent stare he cried, “For Jesu’s sake, man, hasn’t she suffered enough?”

Thomas leaned in, so his voice, softened now, beguiling, would not carry to the waiting, shifting men.

“I do not like this either, man. But we have had reports that this woman may have taken something with her to the grace. Something that may… be of use to Her Majesty.”

Tucknell’s face twisted, as if containing a violent struggle. “She took nothing with her save a prayer book and the clothes she wore. I know, sir, because I was there.” The struggle overpowered him. “I know because I helped to kill her and to bury her afterward. May God have mercy on my soul!”

“Amen.”

Thomas watched a tear that had nothing to do with the harsh wind run from this tough soldier’s eye, and wondered at the power this woman, dead nearly twenty years, still had over the living. A power to be turned into a weapon for the Catholic cause, so his superiors in the Society of Jesus believed. But only if he, Thomas Lawley, did his duty now.

“Come, Master Tucknell. You have merely to show me the way. If there is sin after that, it is I, and I alone, that will commit it.” The soldier before him hardened, the tears withdrawn. Without another word he turned to the door and fitted into its lock the largest of the keys he carried. It grated there, with a cry like that of the raven defending its cache of food. The doors, in contrast, swung open, as silent as on any tomb.

Up for grabs: 3 copies of THE CURSE OF ANNE BOLEYN by CC Humphreys

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AUTHOR BIO: Chris (C.C.) Humphreys is an actor, playwright, fight choreographer and novelist.  He has written nine historical fiction novels including The French Executioner, runner up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers; Vlad – The Last Confession,  the epic novel of the real Dracula; and A Place Called Armageddon. His latest YA novel is The Hunt of the Unicorn. His work has been translated into thirteen languages.

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