Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Promise of Tomorrow by AnneMarie Brear



Charlotte Brookes flees her lecherous guardian, McBride, taking her younger sister with her. After a year on the road, they stumble into a Yorkshire village where the Wheelers, owners of the village shop, take them in. This new life is strange for Charlotte, but preferable to living with McBride or surviving on the roads
Harry Belmont is an important man in the village, but he’s missing something in his life. His budding friendship with Charlotte gives him hope she will feel more for him one day, and he will marry the woman he yearns for. 


When McBride discovers where Charlotte lives, his threats begin. Harry fights to keep Charlotte safe, but World War I erupts and Harry enlists. 

Left to face a world of new responsibilities, and Harry’s difficult sister, Charlotte must run the gauntlet of family disputes, McBride's constant harassment, and the possibility of the man she loves being killed.



Can Charlotte find the happiness that always seems under threat, and will Harry return home to her?

AnneMarie Doust has once again successfully captured the plight of women in a tumultuous period of English history. The novel opens with a young woman, Charlotte Brookes, and her young sister, fleeing their home in desperation. Homeless, penniless, and hungry, the two spend a year in desperate indigence. And then finally, in a small Yorkshire village, they find a childless couple who rescues them from their dire situation and gives them a home. And then Charlotte encounters Harry Belmont, a prominent man of wealth in the village. Friendship soon turns into much, much more, as the two face their own individual insurmountable problems.

Once again, AnneMarie Brear has written an engaging historical fiction novel that highlights a tumultuous era and how women of the time were impacted. I've long been a fan of this author and have read all her novels. At the heart of each book is a sympathetic heroine and an honorable hero who find themselves fighting a prevalent, dark social issue: be it poverty, hunger, abuse, and more. With each story, I have been heartened and enlightened, and taught how courage and perseverance can help me succeed in my own life. AnneMarie Brear is a talented author who knows how to wrench a reader's heart, taking the reader from desolation to utter joy. The Promise of Tomorrow is another wonderful ready by this talented writer. Highly recommended. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Novel about Prince Edward Island by Anita Davison



In honor of last year's 150 celebration of the Canadian Confederation, BWL Publishing has produced a series of novels, each set in a different province. One of my favourites was written by Anita Davison who lovingly incorporated one of Canada's most cherished authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery in a novel set in Prince Edward Island.

When I read the novel, I was overjoyed at the way Lucy Maud was portrayed - a lovely woman who longed to write, and who battled sadness. The places Grace and Lucy visited were beautifully described and I could visualize the quaintness of the lovely island. 

Anita Davison is a multi-published author who has gained international acclaim! This is a lovely read not only for Canadians, but for everyone who wants to learn more about this beautiful province that was home to one of the world's most beloved authors.  

I've invited Anita to tell us a bit about her novel. 


Envy The Wind
by
 Anita Davison
and
Victoria Chatham

When I was asked to write a novel as part of the Canadian Historical Brides series, I was flattered but somewhat bemused. For one thing although I have visited Canada several times, I have never been to Prince Edward Island, the province I was asked to write about.  The books are being released as part of the 150 year celebration of the Confederation of Canada by BWL Publishing, and are being distributed in Canadian schools in English and French. I had no idea how to approach writing about the island, so my first task was to read everything I could find about PEI and what sort of place it was in the year 1905.

As with all my novels, once I began the research, I became completely hooked and when I discovered there was a near collision of an Atlantic steamship in Halifax Harbour at just the right time, I was handed my beginning. Trawling through old photographs and some fascinating online articles written at the time, including the Easton’s catalogue, the 1906 copy is available online – gave me a picture of life there I had gleaned as a child when reading Anne of Green Gables. This led me to discovering all I could about the author of that book, one of Canada’s heroines, and during 1905, Lucy Maud Montgomery, or Maud as she preferred to be called, was living at the MacNeill farm in Cavendish, looking after her widowed grandmother and running the Cavendish post office. At this stage in her career she had gained some success writing short stories, and had embarked on a novel – Anne of Green Gables which was published three years after my novel is set.

I couldn’t ignore Maud, so my character, Grace, finding herself in new surroundings wondering what to do with her life, has a chance encounter with Maud and they embark on a friendship. In 1905, there was a railway on the island but it ran from one end to the other, so the rural countryside was still a challenge to cross. Isolated in Cavendish, Maud and Grace keep in touch by an exchange of letters, although I have included a visit Grace makes to the village Maud loved and was homesick for whenever she left.

From nerves that I couldn’t possibly get this right, I came to know PEI through my research, reading and magazine articles, and hope I was able to give an partly accurate picture of what it was like living in this island paradise at a time just before the seven motor cars on the island were banned for upsetting the horses and alcohol was forbidden so was driven underground into ‘blind pigs’ or for medicinal purposes only.

One day I am determined to visit Prince Edward Island, and walk the streets where Grace did with a view of the past in my mind’s eye.

Book Blurb

Grace Aitken's life changed forever when she was twelve and her parents were killed in a carriage accident in a London street. She then became the ward of her father’s business partner, Angus MacKinnon. In this Victorian household, Grace was continually upbraided for her ‘wicked ways’, which were no more outrageous than going for walks in the village without a maid, or reading a Women’s Suffrage pamphlet. 

At seventeen, Angus MacKinnon convinced Grace she owed him a debt of gratitude which could be expunged by marrying his son, Frederick, a quiet, shy boy dominated by his father. Surprisingly, Grace discovered a brotherly friendship with her husband, whose delicate health after five years of marriage culminated in his contracting pneumonia, although their childlessness was a fault placed squarely at Grace’s door.

At twenty-three and a widow, her in-laws assumed Grace would take on the role of dependent housekeeper and nurse, especially to her semi-invalid mother-in-law; a condition Grace suspects she has chosen. 

Several weeks after her husband's death, Grace finds a solicitor's letter hidden amongst Frederick's belongings which details the inheritance her parents left in trust for her until her 21st Birthday. 

Beneath the guise of running an errand, Grace visits the solicitor’s office where she discovers she is not poor and dependent upon her in-laws after all. Her rebellious side emerges and she makes a bid for freedom by booking passage for Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada on the SS Parisian and a new life far away from England and everything she knows.

On board she meets Aoife, a chirpy Irish girl from Liverpool on her way to become a mail order bride with whom she strikes up an unusual friendship. On their arrival in Canada, Grace is faced with a dilemma when the ship is in a near collision with another vessel in the harbour, creating panic as the captain makes a frantic dash for the quayside.  In the ensuing chaos, Grace encounters a handsome stranger who comes to Grace and Aoife’s assistance and offers Grace a way out of her problems.

Will Grace have the courage to accept the help of a stranger, or will she take the easy way out and go back to a comfortable, if restrictive life?

Anita’s Websitehttps://www.anitadavison.co.uk

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The School of Venus or the Ladies Delight Reduced into Rules of Practice


I've been working on a new novel which takes place in 17th century France and New France when I stumbled upon this little gem of a book. The author wrote it in 1680 but chose to remain anonymous. 
The cover is self-explanatory, but if you choose to read further, you will find it full of drawings and descriptions about the "deed" itself. .

The book clearly proves that men and women of this era were far from inhibited when it came to sex. The story is told in dialogue form between the two main characters who are a young teenage virgin named Katy, the young man named Roger who wishes to make her a woman, and her sexually experienced cousin, Frances who likes to be called "Frank". 

In the first part of the book, Frank teaches Katy about erections, the names of erotic body parts, and how sex happens. In the latter part of the book, Katy describes how she was deflowered by Roger and the various sexual positions they tried.

I found the book amusing, of course, and it did provide a bit of fodder for my current work in progress. 

You can access the book for free for your reading device at:




  




Saturday, March 24, 2018

Masks of 18th Century Venetian Women


My roots are in the Veneto and Abruzzi of Italy and hence I've written more than one novel set in historical Italian peninsula. 

I'm currently working on my 7th novel, TREACHEROUS AFFAIRS. The novel is a retelling of the 18th century novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos entitled Dangerous Liaisons. Although I'm following the basic plot, I've changed the setting from Paris to Venice and the style from epistolatory to third person narrative, so it is completely told in my own words and scenes. 

18th century Venice was at the height of decadence, where Casanova ran rampant and sexual freedoms reigned. Masks were worn all the time - at gambling houses and festivals and balls and political events. Masks do make an appearance in my novel. 

Specific types of masks were made for women. 


MORETTA MASK

Only women wore the Moretta mask or the "muta" (Mute) as it was nicknamed. It is round shaped and of covered with fine black velvet. They called it the Mask of Seduction and mystery for good reason. It covered a woman's face completely. There were no laces to hold the mask on the face. Instead, a woman had to bite a strategically placed button at mouth level to keep it on. Hence, she was unable to speak, adding to her mystery and allure. In this way, a lady's true intentions were unknown, adding to the magic.  


THE COLOMBINA

The Colombina was perhaps one of the most popular masks of the time. This is a half mask decorated in an array of colors, fabrics, decorations, and jewels. Often they were made to match a lady's gown! Light-weighted, it covers only the eyes and cheeks, and sometimes the nose. One's identity was obvious. 



THE VOLTO

The Volto provided covers the entire face which assured a woman could keep her identity completely hidden. Only a woman's voice could reveal her true identity.  



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott



In this beautifully written novel of historical fiction, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott tells the story of Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza—a fascinating, strong-willed heroine in her own right and a key figure in one of the most gripping periods in American history.

“Love is not easy with a man chosen by Fate for greatness . . .”
As the daughter of a respected general, Elizabeth Schuyler is accustomed to socializing with dignitaries and soldiers. But no visitor to her parents’ home has affected her so strongly as Alexander Hamilton, a charismatic, ambitious aide to George Washington. They marry quickly, and despite the tumult of the American Revolution, Eliza is confident in her brilliant husband and in her role as his helpmate. But it is in the aftermath of war, as Hamilton becomes one of the country’s most important figures, that she truly comes into her own.  
In the new capital, Eliza becomes an adored member of society, respected for her fierce devotion to Hamilton as well as her grace. Behind closed doors, she astutely manages their expanding household, and assists her husband with his political writings. Yet some challenges are impossible to prepare for. Through public scandal, betrayal, personal heartbreak, and tragedy, she is tested again and again. In the end, it will be Eliza’s indomitable strength that makes her not only Hamilton’s most crucial ally in life, but also his most loyal advocate after his death, determined to preserve his legacy while pursuing her own extraordinary path through the nation they helped shape together.

REVIEW

I am passionate about reading historical biographical novels about the lesser known women of history. I am especially thrilled when authors break away from the over abundance of novels about the same women over and over again - i.e. Cleopatra, the Tudors, Marie Antoinette, etc. to name a few.

So I was thrilled to read about Eliza Hamilton, a woman deeply in love with one of the most brilliant writers and politicians in the time of George Washington and Benedict Arnold. The novel begins with the start of a strong physical and emotional chemistry between Eliza and Alexander Hamilton, a ruthless soldier and military aid. The author has researched this era completely, putting together a tale true to the times, complete with the actual politics and politicians and famous personages. What results is a true picture and analysis of the times. But beyond the political atmosphere, we meet a strong, determined woman who loved her husband, with all his qualities and faults. 

There is much to laud about this wonderfully told story through the point of view of a determined, supportive woman who stood by her man despite scandals, political intrigue, and the financialo struggles they faced.

Highly recommended!