May 20, 2011

{Giveaway!} Guest Post by author Debra Brown, A Passion for the Victorian period

Please join me in welcoming to our blog, Debra Brown.  

Greetings! I have enjoyed a life of reading and various kinds of creative pursuits. Although I read many Nancy Drew books as a child and especially enjoyed Charles Dickens in my school years, I didn’t really have much time for reading in my earlier adult life. Therefore, I did not find my niche, or at least realize
it, until the last decade. I now realize that the things I remember from Nancy Drew revolve around old Victorian houses! Period. And that is the sort of thing that stands out to me in anything I’ve read in the past. For the last decade and a half I had a jewelry business that was doing well, but the creative part of it was the first few years. After that, I was filling orders for repeats of the same items. It was not creative and not fulfilling. It was boring. I began to put on movies, and before long I began to order only period movies. I had fallen in love with the genre decades ago, but only realized it more recently. As the economy began to take down my jewelry business and I began to run out of new period movies to watch, I decided to, just for fun, write my own Victorian story. I had no intention of publishing it at the time. I obtained books from the library and began researching the period and enjoying pictures of the British landscape. It was then as if the book mushroomed into being in my mind. I could not get it down on paper as fast as it grew, and it was nearly impossible to sleep at night for needing to write! I fell in love with writing, and it is what I will be doing for the rest of my life. I hope others can enjoy my work as much as I do.

My book, The Companion of Lady Holmeshire, will be published this spring. Please watch for it! My book site and a Reader’s Game are at I will give away a download copy of the book here, via the Historical Fiction Connection. I thank Michelle for the privilege of posting here. And now for the story!

A foundling infant, early in Queen Victoria's reign, grown to become the lovely servant girl, Miss Emma Carrington, has been chosen by the Countess of Holmeshire as her companion to keep her from the lonely hours of widowhood. Emma returns from London, where she had been receiving training in the arts of refinement, to the country castle home of the Lady in Northumbria. There she receives a warm welcome from her former workmates downstairs. The Countess intends to introduce this former servant girl into aristocratic society, alongside herself, despite much anxiety over it on the part of the former housemaid. Soon the Lady’s son, the 7th Earl of Holmeshire, who is engaged to an aristocratic London lady, returns from his travels to the Continent. How does he take to the presence of this former servant girl at tea? A day in the village below reveals some hint of danger to Emma; what is the source of that threat? Follow the enjoyable (nonerotic) romantic developments and enjoy life with both the aristocrats and the servants. Join them as they travel into London for The Season, and learn how Emma is received, or not, in snobbish upper class society. See some of the harsh realities of life while visiting a poor area in Victorian London. Attend a ball along with the young Queen Victoria. Follow the backstory into the Regency era. Last, but not least, quite some intriguing mystery has been woven through the book: an expensive bracelet has been stolen, and the identities and behaviors of several people are puzzling. See what you can deduce before reading the last two chapters! Please leave your guesses on my Reader's Game page. And then watch for the great surprise ending!

If you would like to win this download copy of Debra's book, please comment below with your email address and tell us what is your favorite aspect of the Victorian period in history.

--Get an extra entry for each tweet, facebook that you link this post to!
--And get an Extra 3 entries for posting on your blog with the graphic above, linking to this post.
--Be sure to leave those links in the comments.  You may put everything in ONE comment.
--Since this is a download copy, the giveaway is open worldwide and will end on Tues, 5/31 at 11:59 pm CT

Thanks for stopping by and for entering! And thanks again to Debra for being our guest today!

May 16, 2011

21 Aldgate by Patricia Friedberg

Introducing 21 ALDGATE by Patricia Friedberg:

21 ALDGATE set in pre-WWII London’s Jewish East End and fashionable Chelsea, is a story of the relationship between the artist, Paul Maze and its lasting effect upon the life of his young married assistant, Clara, during and after the writing of his memoir of the Great War, Frenchman in Khaki, Heinemann, London 1934.

It is a story of love and war that bears witness to the prejudice, bias, aggression and propaganda that influenced British society during the buildup to WWII; contrasting the political climate of Mosley’s fascists, the brutal attacks and police protected march through the Jewish East End culminating in the infamous Cable Street Riot - to the charade of the Upper class societies denial of the impending Nazi threat.

21 Aldgate is an address in the East End of London. It is home a working class Jewish family, the Levys, and in particular their married daughter Clara and her husband Sidney.

A few miles away in Chelsea is 14 Cheyne Walk, home to the wealthy, successful and charismatic Paul Maze. The distance only a few miles, yet in 1930’s England it was a social divide virtually impossible to imagine, let alone cross. And so begins a journey for Clara, every day a few miles on the bus, every day a little further from Aldgate and her family and the husband she loves.

Clara is introduced to the society Maze moves in, the privilege he enjoys and despite the prejudice she encounters, a passion grows between she and Maze.

We learn of Maze friendship and support of Churchill during the period that has come to be known as the Appeasement. Clara travels with Maze, first to France and later on a dangerous undercover mission to Germany where she witnesses first-hand the Nazis thwart upon the Jews. Even as she ventures further from 21 Aldgate, attacks on her East End community by Mosley’s fascists and her strong family ties cause her equal consternation.

Maze largesse, regardless of his elitist place in society, undertakes dangerous war assignments during WWII, engages Clara in the recording the placement of mines along England’s southeastern coast with the German forces only miles across the channel; and during the war, asks her to assist at his London gallery which fronts for the French Resistance.

Caught between two worlds and the two men she loves, Clara is forced to choose between tradition and class distinction, love and duty and ultimately between passion and responsibility.

21 ALDGATE is about a place in time, a place that no longer exists except in rapidly fading memories. It tells a story of social classes, people and their traditions, a family and its fate, a country and its fight against fascist and a woman with a secret she must take to her grave.

Patricia Friedberg’s screenplay based on her novel 21 ALDGATE, Rainbow Books, Inc., Highland City, Florida, USA. 2010 is in development in the UK to become a major feature film.

May 09, 2011

Giveaway! Signed copy of Rivals in the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan

Please welcome author D.L. Bogdan with this guest post regarding her newest Tudor novel:

 by DL Bogdan

2010 release

My fascination with Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk evolved while writing my debut novel SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT. I had been writing about his daughter, the oft’ overlooked Mary Howard, who was the wife of King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, and trying to fill in the gaps of a tragic life that remained far too sketchy. As I wrote about her, I wondered what factors could have led her father to become the callous abuser he was during his daughter‘s life. Did the answer lie in the old “nature vs. nurture” debate? As most psychological studies indicate, abuse is typically cyclical, passed down from one abuser to another. Who abused Norfolk? Or did he start the cycle? With these questions in mind, I began to delve deeper into his life, along with the lives of his wife Elizabeth Howard and mistress, Bess Holland.

Bred for ambition and fueled by avarice, the duke’s lot wasn’t easy. The Howard family were the “comeback kids” of their time, falling from grace to rise again on numerous occasions. I imagine, as the eldest child and heir to the on-again-off-again dukedom of Norfolk, this had to put a lot of pressure on Thomas Howard, who was a “hostage” in King Henry VII’s court along with his brother since childhood while their father, the attainted Earl of Surrey, was doing time in the Tower of London for his supporting Richard III. Thomas was married to Lady Anne Plantagenet and together they had a family of four children. There is little indication is his early years that he would be the abuser he became as he aged. Besides a by-the-whip childhood typical of a medieval upbringing, I assert that the major turning point in Thomas’ life was the loss of his first wife and all four children in quick succession. I cannot imagine any normal human being surviving such grand-scale loss and coming out unscathed.

Shortly after Lady Anne’s death, Thomas was encouraged to marry again to ensure the Howard line. He chose the fiery Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of the Duke of Buckingham. Years of struggle and misunderstandings ensued as the couple bore and lost children, entwining their fates with Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, alliances that would become a divisive factor in their marriage. As Thomas gained power and lost perspective, he took on a mistress Bess Holland and became progressively more abusive toward his wife and controlling of Bess and his children. Elizabeth was a woman ahead of her time, seeking help from Privy Seal Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII himself. She was a lone voice in a time when women were silent. Her cries for justice were ignored by the men of her time, but they resonated through the centuries to our time. If the reader only takes away one thing from this book, I would hope it would be this: that women today have a voice. We don’t have to be the prisoners so many of our sisters in the past were: there is help and there is healing for both the abused and the abusers.

While trying not to impose contemporary thought into their unbearable situation, remaining true to the ideals and accepted values of the time period, the novel is a powerful illustration of abuse in a brutal time when getting through each day alive and sane remained an act of heroism, a fact that is rarely appreciated in our desire for larger than life, save-the-day leads. RIVALS IN THE TUDOR COURT explores Thomas’ descent into inhumanity and chronicles the remarkable women who loved him despite himself.
Thanks so much to D.L. Bogdan for stopping by! You can read a review of Secrets here or here, and Rivals here.
Also, D.L. was here before with this article she provided for HF-Connection. You can also visit her blog here. 

If you would like to read Rivals in the Tudor Court, comment here for your chance to win your very own autographed copy! The author is generously providing this to one of our lucky followers, so let's show her some well deserved love!

Comment with your email address telling us what intrigues you about the Tudor courts, or Thomas the Creep Howard!
Get an extra entry for each tweet, facebook that you link this post to!
And get an Extra 3 entries for posting on your blog with the graphic above, linking to this post.
Be sure to leave those links in the comments.

Open to USA Followers of HF-Connection, ends 5/21/11. Good luck!

May 06, 2011

{Giveaway!} Elves, Myths and Irish Legend: Article from author J.S. Dunn

It was then they made the sun stand still
to the end of nine months—strange the tale—
warming the noble ether
in the roof of the perfect firmament.

From: Metrical Dindshenchas

Thank you to Historical Fiction Connection for the opportunity to comment on what inspired Bending The Boyne, set at 2200 BCE . This new novel reworks a bit of Irish legend, the oldest literature of western Europe.

Myth has endless possibility for interpretation and re-telling. The Isles’ myths were transcribed in a much later millennium from the native tongues (old Irish, and old Welsh) by devout but cold, hungry, physically cloistered monks. How much authentic oral history or fact the written version contains from a time prior to any Celts or to Christianity, is hotly debated.

What inspired Bending The Boyne specifically was a passage of medieval text that describes the huge and intricately engineered Boyne mounds as “elfmounds.” Wow, that’s some piece of propaganda! Newgrange at the river Boyne has over half of Europe’s prehistoric rock art and is a UN World Heritage site. How did these impressive mounds come to be later dismissed as the home of elves and fairies? As it happens, the Boyne mounds and the ancient Kerry copper mine are among the few places in the Isles where early “Beaker” pottery has been found. That Beaker presence implies a new culture, new belief systems. By our era around the year 2000, academics began to see a pattern of the megaliths having been abandoned or even proactively destroyed along the north Atlantic coasts of what is now Spain, Brittany, and the Isles. The common factor appears to be metals and the Beaker influx at around 2500-2200 BCE. The plot for the novel plays with the concept of hidden gold on Eire, that the invaders cannot find the real gold right under their noses any more than they understand the natives’ golden knowledge.

A story of drastic change and cultural conflict developed, from what I saw traveling in Spain, Brittany, and Ireland, and also read in extensive research; a conflict between the native astronomers and the incoming metal-seekers. There is also a Who’s Your Daddy? twist to Boann’s legend and the mysterious birth of her son Aengus that highlights the differences between natives and the newcomers. “...they made the sun stand still to the end of nine months / strange the tale...” : from the Dindshenchas.

Astronomy plays a major part since it is clear that the ancients built the mound landscape to connect with the skies. The magic in this novel relies on the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction! This tale is probably not for readers looking for mysticism or stories of druids, cauldrons, and clashing sword battles—and anyway those are anachronisms to the early Bronze Age. This is fiction in the vein of Jean Auel set in prehistoric Europe, or the Gears’ works set in ancient North America.

Historical fiction can bring science to life in a way that nonfiction or academic works usually cannot. I hope Bending The Boyne accomplished that. It’s one thing to read about the count of various animal bones per square meter in the excavation report from Newgrange mound; it’s another thing to realize that the horse bones are from Ireland’s first horses, visualize how the horses came to the Boyne and the foreigners, warriors with long knives, who brought them and how that impacted the natives; and put all that into a story line in a meaningful way.

For readers who want an adult fairy tale this novel would not be their best choice. For those willing to look deeper for symbolism in a new spin on the myths, it is a great choice. This is the first novel that brings to the public the new approach taken by eminent scholars like Barry Cunliffe at Oxford and linguist John Koch, to what “Celtic” means and where the north Atlantic shared culture probably began: not in central Europe with the Iron Age.

As Ireland’s centennial of the Rising approaches in 2016, it is also hoped this novel contributes toward understanding of the past and the Troubles, and the reunification of all Ireland “for all eternity” as the mythical Aengus had it.

Bending The Boyne (March 2011)
Circa 2200 BCE: Changes rocking the Continent reach Eire with the dawning Bronze Age. Well before any Celts, marauders invade the island seeking copper and gold. The young astronomer Boann and the enigmatic Cian need all their wits and courage to save their people and their great Boyne mounds, when long bronze knives challenge the peaceful native starwatchers. Banished to far coasts, Cian discovers how to outwit the invaders at their own game. Tensions on Eire between new and old cultures and between Boann, Elcmar, and her son Aengus, ultimately explode. What emerges from the rubble of battle are the legends of Ireland's beginnings in a totally new light.
Bending The Boyne draws on 21st century archaeology to show the lasting impact when early metal mining and trade take hold along north Atlantic coasts. Carved megaliths and stunning gold artifacts, from the Pyrenees up to the Boyne, come to life in this researched historical fiction.

The author resided in Ireland during the past decade to research Bending The Boyne. J.S. Dunn can be found on: or  The author has a second novel underway, set later in the Atlantic Bronze Age during another period of great change.

How about snagging your own copy of Bending the Boyne?
Leave a comment here with your email address, and you are entered in this book giveaway, courtesy of the publisher.
Get an extra entry for each tweet, facebook that you link this post to!
And get an Extra 3 entries for posting on your blog with the graphic above, linking to this post.

Be sure to leave those links in the comments.

Open to USA Followers of HF-Connection, ends 5/21/11. Good luck!

May 02, 2011

Giveaway of Signed copies of Eromenos by Melanie McDonald!

Eromenos by Melanie McDonald

This coming-of-age novel recounts the brief, tumultuous life of Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth who becomes the lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian at age twelve, after he is plucked from the obscurity of his home in Asia Minor following an earthquake; shipped overseas to Rome; enrolled in the Imperial School, and asked to serve at court, along with a cadre of fellow students all handpicked for their beauty, intelligence and athletic prowess, in order to please the emperor.

Antinous soon captures the attention of Hadrian, fourteenth ruler of the Roman Empire, and joins him as a hunting companion on a boar hunt in the Arcadian forest, where Hadrian takes the boy as his beloved (eromenos), a practice he and other Roman aristocrats follow in emulation of the ancient Greek bond between man and boy.

Afterward, Antinous becomes Hadrian's acknowledged "favorite," a position that complicates his relationships with friends and nemeses at court, even as his intimacy with the emperor deepens and he matures toward manhood. Antinous witnesses the wonders and horrors of the Empire at its zenith; meets the eminent philosophers, writers, architects and scientists of the imperial courts in Rome and Athens; and undergoes initiation into religious mysteries within the cults of Demeter and of Mithras.

On a lion hunt during a sojourn to Egypt and Africa, Antinous is subjected to a test of skill during a lion hunt which almost proves disastrous. Afterward, while the imperial flotilla navigates the Nile, Antinous, now almost nineteen, grapples with questions of love, power, honor, manhood and selfhood which have arisen from seven years of intimacy with Hadrian, and makes a decision to undergo an act of ritual devotion, the consequences of which reverberated throughout the world of antiquity.

In a style similar to Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar, EROMENOS gives voice to a character who captivated an Emperor both in life and after death—Hadrian commissioned hundreds of works to immortalize his beloved youth, many of which still may be seen in museums today—and who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of late antiquity, one whose cult of adoration lasted hundreds of years after his death at age nineteen in 130CE (and far outlasted the cult of Hadrian himself); this account of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates a beautiful, brilliant young man whose story often outraged early Christian church fathers and historians such as St. Athanasius, who vilified Antinous as a "shameless and scandalous boy," the "sordid and loathsome instrument of his master's lust."

In Eromenos, Antinous, long silenced and scorned by history, speaks at last.

Melanie McDonald received an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas, where she also taught World Literature and Honors World Literature, and received the Claude Faulkner Award, the Fulbright College Baum Award, and the University Graduate Teaching Award for teaching excellence. Her work has appeared in Fugue, New York Stories, Indigenous Fiction and other literary magazines. She has received a fellowship for a residency with the Hawthornden International Writers Program in Scotland in November 2008; she also received a fellowship toward a residency at Vermont Studio Center in 2002. She attended the international summer writing program at NUI, Galway, in 2005, and has participated in various writing workshops in New York City, Squaw Valley, Napa Valley, and in Paris, where she studied with C. Michael Curtis, the senior fiction editor for The Atlantic Monthly. Eromenos, her debut novel, has just been released by Seriously Good Books, a new small press for historical fiction.

Thank you to Melanie for providing us with all of this background on Eromenos.
For those readers interested in Ancient Rome and want to read Eromenos, today is your lucky day! If you enjoy Kate Quinn's bools or Michelle Moran's, I bet you would enjoy Eromenos also.

Melanie is generously offering two lucky followers of HF-Connection each an autographed copy of her book Eromenos!

To enter, just simply comment here with your email address! Open to USA, and giveaway ends 5/13.

For extra entries:
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Good Luck!