Reviews

Review: The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh by Molly Greeley

Book Review

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh by Molly Greeley
Historical Fiction, Retelling

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Synopsis
In this gorgeously written and spellbinding historical novel based on Pride and Prejudice, the author of The Clergyman’s Wife combines the knowing eye of Jane Austen with the eroticism and Gothic intrigue of Sarah Waters to reimagine the life of the mysterious Anne de Bourgh.


As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh’s doctor prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. Growing up sheltered and confined, removed from sunshine and fresh air, the pale and overly slender Anne grew up with few companions except her cousins, including Fitzwilliam Darcy. Throughout their childhoods, it was understood that Darcy and Anne would marry and combine their vast estates of Pemberley and Rosings. But Darcy does not love Anne or want her.

After her father dies unexpectedly, leaving her his vast fortune, Anne has a moment of clarity: what if her life of fragility and illness isn’t truly real? What if she could free herself from the medicine that clouds her sharp mind and leaves her body weak and lethargic? Might there be a better life without the medicine she has been told she cannot live without?

In a frenzy of desperation, Anne discards her laudanum and flees to the London home of her cousin, Colonel John Fitzwilliam, who helps her through her painful recovery. Yet once she returns to health, new challenges await. Shy and utterly inexperienced, the wealthy heiress must forge a new identity for herself, learning to navigate a “season” in society and the complexities of love and passion. The once wan, passive Anne gives way to a braver woman with a keen edge—leading to a powerful reckoning with the domineering mother determined to control Anne’s fortune . . . and her life.

An extraordinary tale of one woman’s liberation, The Heiress reveals both the darkness and light in Austen’s world, with wit, sensuality, and a deeply compassionate understanding of the human heart. 

What I thought
Have you ever stumbled upon a book and realized that you really needed this story? And that story is based on a side character from a beloved book?  Well, here is that book for me.

There are a lot of people who don’t remember who  Anne de Bourgh is in Pride and Prejudice.  I will be honest I had to think about it for a moment too.  She is a side character you only see maybe once twice and it’s her mother that ends up overshadowing her character in the book.  This book is her life story and I loved it so much.  You are never really told anything about her other than she is sicky and I think that even Austen would like this telling of her.  Please do note that this is a slow-paced book from the perspective of Anne who is sometimes drugged. 

For anyone who has not read Pride and Prejudice (P&P) or does not really remember Anne, she is the cousin that was promised from birth to Darcy.  Neither Darcy nor Anne are supposed to have a choice in the matter because it was their mother’s wishes.  So I guess we all should be thankful that it does not appear that anything formal was set up.  Due to Anne’s father’s estate set up, it can be inherited by a woman which is very rare for that time.  So yes the sisters were thinking about how large an estate this would pull together if their children married, and not about the happiness of those children. 

In this book we follow Anne throughout her life and as sheltered as she is you really get to see her spirit as you go through this book.  I loved that we get to see her take her life into her own hands and finally come into her own.   Anne proves she doesn’t need a man to run her estate and I loved her for that.  

We all knew from P&P that Anne’s mother Catherine was a piece of work but drugging your baby just so they wouldn’t cry and would act well behaved is a whole new low.  As a mother I am appalled but I am sadly not surprised.  However, at this time Laudanum was the magic fix all and they were just beginning to realize how bad it was.  

I think my favorite part of this book is how Darcy and Elizabeth are brought back into Anne’s story later in life.  It really warmed my heart. 

I think that whether or not you are a P&P fan you would like this if you enjoy a good historical book set in Regency England.

My Rating: /5

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Reviews

Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Book Review

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Historical Fiction, Mystery

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Synopsis
A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

What I thought
Thank you Harper Audio and Netgalley for giving me an ARC copy of this book for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings expressed are my own.

This story goes back and forth between two-time lines with three different points of view (POV).  The first time line takes place in present-day London and the POV is from Caroline. The second time line takes place in 1791 and this is where the other two POVs take place, first we have Nella an Apothecary and then we have Eliza a 12-year-old girl.

Nella who was wronged in a horrible way has turned to the darker side of her profession. She begins creating poisons for women in dire situations to free them of the men who have harmed them.  Nella records every transaction as a way to record these women since she wants their stories to be remembered.  Nella has let her loss and grief harden her until she meets Eliza a 12-year-old girl who has come for her mistress.  Eliza takes a liking to Nella and comes back to the shop and their fates become intertwined.  

Caroline who has taken her anniversary trip to London alone after finding out her husband has been cheating on her.  She came to London to figure things out and she gets much more than she has bargained for.  This is a story about Caroline’s self-discovery as she unravels the past connected to an old vile she found mudlarking along the Thames.  Caroline learns how much of herself and her passion she has buried these past 10 years when she gave up her dreams to take a safe job and get married.  

This was such an amazing story and I think that there is a lot to learn from Caroline’s journey.  I won’t spoil anything but what her husband does in the end just infuriates me so much.  I am just happy that Caroline had come so far even though the time was short to see what he was doing.  

If you want to read a beautiful story then pick this one up. 

My Rating: /5

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New Releases · Tours

Blog Tour: The Book of Uriel by Elyse Hoffman @Project613Books @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #TheBookofUriel

Congratulations to author Elyse Hoffman on the release of her absolutely stunning novel, The Book of Uriel! 

“The Book of Uriel is a heartbreaking blend of historical fiction and Jewish folklore that will enthrall fans of The Book Thief and The World That We Knew.”

Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

The Book of Uriel by Elyse Hoffman
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Jewish Fiction/ Jewish Folklore/ Holocaust Fiction
Expected Publication Date: January 26, 2021
Publisher: Project 613 Publishing

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In the fires of World War II, a child must save his people from darkness…

Ten-year-old Uriel has always been an outcast. Born mute in a Jewish village known for its choir, he escapes into old stories of his people, stories of angels and monsters. But when the fires of the Holocaust consume his village, he learns that the stories he writes in his golden notebook are terrifyingly real.

In the aftermath of the attack, Uriel is taken in by Uwe, a kind-hearted linguist forced to work for the commander of the local Nazi Police, the affably brutal Major Brandt. Uwe wants to keep Uriel safe, but Uriel can’t stay hidden. The angels of his tales have come to him with a dire message: Michael, guardian angel of the Jewish people, is missing. Without their angel, the Jewish people are doomed, and Michael’s angelic brethren cannot search for him in the lands corrupted by Nazi evil.

With the lives of millions at stake, Uriel must find Michael and free him from the clutches of the Angel of Death…even if that means putting Uwe in mortal danger.

Demons Without the Devil: How To Write Demons and Angels From A Jewish Perspective.

To say that Judaism has contradictory opinions regarding demons and angels would be an understatement. From a Christian point of view, telling a story involving angels and demons is made at least somewhat easier by the presence of Lucifer, the fallen angel, an opponent of God. But in Judaism, Satan never fell. The figure of Ha-Satan (literally Hebrew for “the Adversary”) which in Christian tradition became synonymous with evil is, in Jewish myth, little more than a heavenly lawyer who is, at his worst, a pessimist. HaSatan works in the Heavenly Court, and he does not cause sin, not directly at least: in Jewish thought, HaSatan is the equivalent of Mr. Slugworth from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: an employee of the big guy who tempts people to sin in order to test them, but is not actually devilish in nature.

So if you, like me, happen to be a Jew wanting to tell a story about angels and demons, you now face a problem: in Judaism, the devil does not exist. So how are you going to write a demon/angel story without the devil as an antagonist?

Fortunately, while demons are never actually mentioned in the Torah, there is a relatively rich Jewish tradition of demonology. Within the Talmud—the over 1000-page book of Jewish oral law—we are even told that while there is no devil, there is a king of the demons, a creature known as Asmodeus (sometimes also called Ashmedai). Asmodeus, despite his title of Demon King, is not quite a ‘devil’ figure. His first and arguably most villainous appearance in Jewish lore is in the Book of Tobit, where he kills the seven husbands of a woman named Sarah out of jealousy, but was eventually defeated by her eighth husband, Tobias. However, later tales from the Talmud portray the so-called demon king as, at most, obnoxious and even occasionally helpful—-teaching King Solomon humility in the old story of The Beggar King and setting a drunk man on the correct path in the Talmud. Asmodeus, then, is less of a Satan-like figure and is, in fact, surprisingly humanized throughout Jewish lore.

More devilish is his partner—Lilith. Lilith is said to be the first wife of Adam, created like him from the dust of the earth and cast out of Eden after she and her husband had an argument in which she refused to submit to him (the exact nature of this argument varies from tale to tale and often ventures into NSFW territory.)  she fled from the Garden of Eden (or was banished depending on the version.). Lilith is regarded in Jewish lore as the mother of all demons, a woman who slaughters human babies and seduces weak men away from their paternal and marital duties, and alternatively the wife of either Asmodeus or, alternatively, the Angel of Death.

Lilith, having a more fleshed out backstory and being more vicious than Asmodeus, appears in more works than the King of Demons—especially in darker stories, often involving adultery, witchcraft, and a child-murder. Lilith has the potential of being problematic if she is not handled with care; her backstory is laden with misogynistic overtones and undertones, as she is cast from Eden for refusing to ‘submit’ to her husband, turning her into a monster who ‘entraps’ weak but good-hearted men and who kills the descendants of her ex-husband out of pure spite. If reworked, however, Lilith can not only act as a frightening demonic figure but one with a tragic, sympathetic backstory that many feminists have latched onto. It is notable, however, that despite being regarded as a demon queen, the mother of demons, and despite being more wicked than her husband Asmodeus, Lilith is not herself a demon—she is a human woman, the first human woman in fact, and while that fact perhaps doesn’t say great things about Jewish lore’s opinions on women, it does demonstrate that throughout Jewish lore, humans are often portrayed as more evil than any demon.

The final creature in Jewish folklore that comes close to the Christian concept of the “Devil” is not a demon, but an angel, specifically the Archangel of Death, Samael. While some Jewish sources and scholars describe Ha-Satan and Samael as being the same person, many others separate the two. As with most Jewish lore, Samael’s characterization and backstory vary from tale to tale. Some stories describe him as the father of Cain, some post-Christian myths adopt a Luciferian take and say that he was the serpent who tempted Eve to eat of the Forbidden Fruit, and some take that a step further and describe him as a fallen angel who married Lilith.

Generally, however, these are from more Christianized stories and myths, and most folklore merely regards him as a dark angel—still within the Heavenly Court, but not a figure to be trifled with. Several stories even state that Samael, in addition to or even prior to being the Angel of Death, was the Guardian Angel of Esau, the brother of Jacob and traditionally considered the father of the enemies of the Jewish people. This generally puts him into conflict with the Archangel Michael, who in Jewish tradition is the guardian angel of Israel, and many times the two angels will come to blows over their respective nations. In this way, Samael represents not only death, but the specter of anti-Semitism who fights with Michael over the fate of the Jewish people—a tradition I utilized in my upcoming novel, The Book of Uriel.

Samael is certainly a backstory grab-bag of an archangel, and he offers a wide array of potential for any author seeking to write angel/demon stories from a Jewish perspective. If one feels better keeping with a more Luciferian fallen angel perspective, Samael offers the opportunity to write that without mischaracterizing poor Asmodeus. On the other hand, any one of his backstories—father of Cain, Guardian Angel of Esau, loyal servant of God with a nasty job—can potentially offer a sympathetic, interesting, even tragic villain. While most Jewish folklore does not make him a devil, Samael, even when he remains loyal to God, is significantly more dangerous than even the King of Demons.

If all of this seems confusing, you’re not alone! The diversity of the Jewish experience means that these folkloric figures range in character from friendly anti-hero to terrifying villain, from tragic fallen figure to ruthless monster. Their backstories are never consistent, their relationships to one another and other figures good and evil shift depending on the source.

There is no uniform mythology, which can be imposing to a writer. But all these contradictions and shifting backstories can be a blessing: it offers freedom to write what you want without stepping on any toes. Since these demons and angels are never or only briefly mentioned in the Bible, an author can pick whatever backstory suits them, whichever characterization will make their story better, and run with it while being fully backed up by existing lore. If you want a lot of freedom in what you write and how you write it while still having a lot of lore to fall back on, Jewish mythology is a great place to look! And if you want to add a lot of humanity and feature a lot of sympathetic villains in your angel/demon story, Jewish lore has a ton of lore bricks to build with.

If you’re interested in writing angel/demon stories from a Jewish perspective, the best thing to do is read some myths and get inspired! There’s a lot out there! I recommend anything by Howard Schwartz, especially his book Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism to get started! Lilith’s Cave also provides a lot of demonic Jewish lore to look at! The online Jewish Encyclopedia is a bit confusingly written, but pretty comprehensive. Gertrude Landa’s Book of Jewish Fairytales and Legends is free on kindle. Louis Ginsberg’s Complete Legends of the Jews is quite comprehensive and also free on kindle! Those are some bulk resources, but there are a lot of stories out there, and stories from a European Jewish perspective vary a lot from Mizrahi or Sephardic stories. Give them a read, pick whatever speaks to you, and go tell a great story!

GIVEAWAY!!

For a chance to win (International) a $25 Amazon gift card, enter the giveaway HERE!

Elyse Hoffman can write a lot of things, but finds her own story dull and difficult. She has been interested in the Holocaust and Nazi Germany since she was thirteen. Her somewhat morbid fascination is purely intellectual and emotional. She advises you to be careful when signing contracts. You never know where or when you may end up.

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Book Blitz: Passengers by Elizabeth Collums @RRBookTours1 #RopeSwingPress #RRBookTours #Historical Fiction

Congratulations to author Elizabeth Collums on the release of her epic family drama, Passengers! Read on for an excerpt and more book details!

Passengers by Elizabeth Collums
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: November 12, 2020

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A mysterious letter arrives from America to the village of Highland Way, where Annie, the oldest daughter in the Ewing Family was left to care for her mother and younger sister after her father left to find work in Dublin. Soon, Annie, Lily, and Katy find themselves on a harrowing journey.

The hand-written note not only will expose deep secrets, it will also challenge the strength and fortitude of the Ewing women, leading each member into their own soul searching voyage.

Follow this extraordinary passage that begins in Ireland and leads each woman to uncover their own courage and truths in this new world.

As Annie was trying her best to capture and absorb all these extraordinary surroundings so she could accurately relay every detail to her daddy one day her ears picked up the sound of humming. Annie had never heard her mama sing much less hum but she knew it was a woman’s voice. Her visual recording would have to wait as she slowly pulled her arm out from underneath Lily’s head, got to her feet and followed the sound out of the big room they had spent the night in and down the long hallway. The woman’s voice was now on the other side of last door on the end. All her muscles tightened as her feet froze to the floor. She had dreams like this before. When she needed to run, when she was being chased and couldn’t see who was chasing her, but she still knew she needed to move. Her breathes became shallow and she could feel her heart pounding like her senses were telling her there was danger on the other side. “Oh God, please help me, I’m so tired, I’m scared, and this can’t be my fault. Lily and I need somebody. We need our mama”….then suddenly some invisible strength, not of her own making, lifted her hand as she pushed the hinged door open. There in the middle of this huge stark white kitchen was her mama swirling around. Katy had a long white apron tied to her waist with the bottom lifted like it was a ball gown and she was making her own music while dancing to a waltz. Annie saw her mama’s burn scarred face like she had never seen it before. She was smiling and having a whispered conversation with her imaginary dance partner. She had the most peaceful and contented expression that Annie had ever seen before. Annie was certain that this was somehow a miracle in the making. God had finally heard her prayers and her mama had been transformed.

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International Giveaway A $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Ann C. Purvis, chose to publish her first novel under her birth name, Elizabeth Collums; this is her true roots and where she has drawn from many of the experiences she wrote about. She lives in Denham Springs, Louisiana and enjoys DIY projects. She has two daughters, a step daughter, son-in-law, two amazing granddaughters, and her dog Daisy.

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Reviews

Review: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Book Review

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk
Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction

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Synopsis
Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

What I thought
Thank you Erewhon Books and Netgalley for giving me an ARC copy of this book for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings expressed are my own.

*Note: Please read past the first paragraph. I sum up the points of the story first.

This is a historical fantasy that put me in the mind of Victorian London. In this story, Beatrice is at her first Bargaining Season. It is very obvious that this is the only season that she is going to get and she has no choice but to attract a suitor. The Bargaining Season is only for girls that have magical ability. It has been decided in this world that only men are allowed to move forward in the pursuit of magic and women who have the ability are “sold off” to be able to produce more magical children. Once women marry they are put into collars until their husbands let them out. Which usually only happens after they are no longer able to produce children. This is portrayed as a for their own protection move.

Okay now that I have that boiled down to what sounds like a huge gripe let me tell you that I really enjoyed this story. I loved watching these girls (Beatrice and Ysbeta) take charge of their futures and not letting someone else decide what they are meant for. I love watching strong female characters take charge.

Yes, this story does have some instalove, however, I have to think that Ianthe liked/appreciate that Beatrice did not hold back and pretend to be the perfect debutante with him. When asked she told him what she wanted even though it could have had her collared before her marriage and I think that on some level he loved that part of her.

One character that I could not stand was Beatrice’s father. There was something at the beginning of the story that gave me a weird vibe about him and it just got worse as the story went on. He did not deserve the family that he had. But that is just my opinion.

All in all, I really enjoyed this story and I wouldn’t mind a spinoff to see what Ysbeta has been up to.

My Rating: /5

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Waiting On Wednesday: The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M. Eden

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday was a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Each Wednesday you got to highlight a book that you were really looking forward to. Unfortunately, the original creator is no longer able to host the meme and it has now linked up with Can’t Wait Wednesday over at Wishful Endings.

This week I’ve chosen:

The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M. Eden
(Proper Romance Victorian #2)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Mystery
Expected Publication: November 3, 2020

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A gentleman scribes penny dreadful novels by night and falls in love with a woman who is a music teacher by day—and a thief at night.

LONDON 1865

From the moment Hollis Darby meets Ana Newport, he’s smitten. Even though he’s from a wealthy, established family and she isn’t, he wishes he could have a life with her by his side. But Hollis has a secret: the deep coffers that have kept his family afloat for generations are bare, so he supports himself by writing penny dreadfuls under a pseudonym. If not for the income from his novels, he would be broke.

Ana Newport also has a secret. Though she once had a place in society thanks to her father’s successful business, bankruptcy and scandal reduced his fortune to nothing more than a crumbling town house. So Ana teaches music during the day, and at night she assumes the identity of the “Phantom Fox.” She breaks into the homes of the wealthy to reclaim trinkets and treasures she feels were unjustly stolen from her family when they were struggling.

When Hollis’s brother needs to hire a music tutor for his daughter, Hollis recommends Ana, giving him a chance to spend time with her. Ana needs the income and is eager for the opportunity to get to know the enigmatic gentleman. What neither of them expects is how difficult it will be to keep their respective secrets from each other.

When a spree of robberies rocks the city, Ana and Hollis join forces to solve the crimes, discovering that working together deepens the affection between them. After all, who better to save the day than a gentleman and a thief?

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New Releases

Waiting On Wednesday: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday was a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Each Wednesday you got to highlight a book that you were really looking forward to. Unfortunately, the original creator is no longer able to host the meme and it has now linked up with Can’t Wait Wednesday over at Wishful Endings.

This week I’ve chosen:

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Expected Publication: October 6, 2020

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France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name. 

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