Excerpt of Imperial Passions by Eileen Stephenson – Plus a Giveaway!

Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea
by Eileen Stephenson

Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Blachernae Books
Paperback & eBook; 387 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

At the center of Byzantine society, fifteen-year old orphaned Anna Dalassena lives with her grandparents among the most powerful men and women in Constantinople. But the cutthroat politics of the Great Palace sends the family into exile in a distant corner of the mepire. Her bleak situation finally turns promising after meeing a handsome young soldier, John Comnenus, and his brother Isaac, before the are finally permitted to return home.

The vicious power struggles, uprisings, and betrayals at the highest levels of the empire push Anna and John unwillingly into its center as they struggle to deal with their own tragedies. When rebellion puts her life and those of everyone she loves at risk, is the reward a throne for her family – too big a gamble?

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Excerpt

For those of you interested in 11th century Byzantium, here is an excerpt from my novel, Imperial Passions – The Porta Aurea. This scene takes place in the church of the great monastery of St. John Stoudion, not far from the Porta Aurea (Golden Gate) of Constantinople. It marks the end of the 5 – 6 month reign of the young and foolish Byzantine Emperor, Michael V Kalaphates. This incident was described in some detail by Michael Psellus in his Fourteen Byzantine Rulers history.

Setting the scene: Rioting has broken out in Constantinople as the people have become outraged at the shabby treatment Michael V has given his adopted mother, the rightful Empress Zoe. Anna Dalassena, her grandparents and two women servants have gone to the Monastery of St. John Stoudion where Anna’s uncle is a monk and they hope to be safe until the commotion has died down, not realizing they have entered the eye of the storm.

The End of Michael V Kalaphates

“The emperor is here, with his uncle Constantine. They are with the hegoumenos. They’ve begged for sanctuary, and to be tonsured as monks. They sailed from the palace to our dock a little while ago.”

Grandfather swore under his breath. Suddenly, the sounds of the angry mob were close and I turned to see an immense number of people swarming up the street that had been empty only moments earlier. Uncle Simeon looked over my shoulder, his usual calm gone.

“Theotokos help us,” he prayed, then pulled us in before barring the gate. “Come with me. I’ll put you in an alcove in the church. It should be safe there. They won’t dare desecrate the sanctity of the church.”

Uncle Simeon secured the gates to the monastery before turning us all towards the church. I grabbed hold of Maria and Alethea’s hands and we raced through the gardens towards the archway that held the door the monks used. We’d been in the church many times before, but always from the visitors’ entrance, never from the monks’. Uncle Simeon rushed us through a back corridor and up steep stairs to a gallery overlooking the nave. He glanced over the railing, then gasped.

“They’re here,” he whispered, looking towards a few figures we could see through the entrance in the iconostasis.

That time of day, the gallery was in shadows, hiding us while we could see all that transpired below.

The man I had seen proudly attired in imperial purple just a day earlier, was now in the plain robes of a monk, his head pink where he had just been tonsured. Another man stood near him, also pink with the tonsure, but a beardless eunuch. They were pleading for protection from the Hegoumenos, Matthias, their hands grasping the altar.

The door to the church crashed open below and a voice called out, “They’re in here.” The rabble rushed in while the two new monks frantically grabbed the altar, crying out “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” repeatedly. I thought the people would seize the men at that moment, but the hegoumenos raised a hand.

“Stop! Stop! Not one step further, you are in the house of God. I will not have you desecrate it with violence.” Matthias, a soft-spoken elderly man, would have had better luck trying to stop the waves from lapping on the shore than to deter this mob.

A couple of the larger men pushed the sputtering hegoumenos to the other side of a door near the altar, shutting it and ending any further monkish interference. Uncle Simeon, up in the balcony with us, was the only monk to witness to the retribution dealt the two miscreants.

One of the men in the crowd, with light brown hair that poked out at odd angles, a beaky nose and receding chin, and wearing the garb of a palace official, pulled away from the mass of people and began berating first Constantine, and then Michael for their sins against the empress. The two men cowered, hands gripping the holy altar.

“Was there anything she ever did that could have justified your cruel treatment?” Looking directly at Michael, his angry rebuke continued, “The empress is your adopted mother and has been only kindness and generosity to you. I saw it with my own eyes. And this is how you repay her? With baseless accusations and imprisonment?”

The crowd surrounding them cried out in assent to these statements, shaking fists and waving swords at the two figures clinging to the altar.

The beardless one began stammering a reply, pointing a finger at Michael. “It was him—I couldn’t stop him. I tried to but he would’ve killed me.” He gibbered on, lapsing into incoherent sobbing excuses for what had happened.

The one who had been emperor gaped at his uncle’s efforts to absolve himself from any blame. He started to speak, looked around at the crowd and thought better of what he had planned to say, then began again.

“It is true, I sinned against my kind mother, the empress.” Michael stopped and gulped hard, looking around to gauge the impact the admission had on his listeners. “But I’ve repented and taken the holy vows and tonsure, as I deserve for my wickedness. My kind mother has told me she forgives me. Please, please have mercy.” With that, he bent his face to the altar and rested his cheek against it, almost daring the mob to pull him off.

The rabble was slowed by this speech of repentance, but not stopped. The anger and outrage throbbed through the air, thirsting for blood. A few men with spears jabbed their weapons at the two, sometimes pricking the skin and rousing the crowd to greater frenzy as bloody cuts appeared. I heard one woman call out to finish them off.

Suddenly, two soldiers entered with about twenty of the Varangian guards. I recognized among the Varangians the tall blonde guard called Harold who three years earlier had escorted my family to our ship and exile. Grandfather whispered that one of the men was Constantine Cabasilas, the one who had gone to bring Zoe’s sister, Theodora, back from her convent.

In the fading light I tried to see who the other man with the Varangians was. His shape looked familiar when I realized with a shock that it was John Comnenus.

Cabasilas ordered Michael and his uncle to leave with him, that the new empress Theodora had ordered it, Zoe conveniently forgotten for the moment. All eyes were on the sobbing men gripping the altar, and I moved out into the little remaining light in the church that came through the windows. John had been speaking to some of the Varangians when my movement caught his attention and he saw me, eyes widening in disbelief. Grandmother pulled me back into the shadows.

“Didn’t you see him? That’s John down there with the soldiers,” I whispered urgently to her.

“I don’t care who it is, we need to stay hidden until this mob is gone,” her voice edgy at my recklessness.

Michael and his uncle were steadfastly refusing to leave the altar, but none were ready yet to physically remove them from it.

Cabasilas tried another way to remove them willingly from the church, but I think he was lying when he spoke.

“I swear by the Holy Relics of the holy St. John of this Church, and by the Theotokos, that you, Michael, and you, Constantine, will come to no harm, by order of the Empress Theodora. But you must leave with me now,” he concluded.

It did no good; they still refused to be moved from their sanctuary. At that, Cabasilas lost all patience. He nodded at the leaders of the mob. The two men were pulled from the altar and dragged, screaming desperately, out to the street in their new monk’s robes, sick fear in their cries.

I turned to Grandmother, shaking at what I had witnessed. Her pale face was as shocked as mine. The church grew quieter as the crowds surged through the doors back to the open area outside. Almost without realizing it, we were drawn like iron filings to a magnet, turning to look through the windows at the front of the church down at the scene below.

The mob poked and taunted Michael and his uncle, making ribald jokes about the old eunuch, nicking them with their swords, spinning them around until they fell, weak kneed and dizzy, into a heap. Damp spots on their robes showed the fear they felt. Suddenly a beefy man appeared carrying a brazier with several pokers sticking out of it.

“Phillip, welcome, we have been waiting for you so this party can begin,” Cabasilas said with sick humor.

It seemed Michael’s uncle recognized the man before Michael did, and let out a horrified moan before falling into an unnatural silence, resigned to his fate. Michael took a few more seconds before he, too, realized the inevitable. Yet he, instead of accepting the punishment as his uncle did, fought frantically, if unsuccessfully, against it. Several men took pleasure in restraining him with the occasional fist.

Phillip came up to the men with his instruments at the ready, the crowd closing in on them. The view from our vantage point was crystal clear.

Suddenly I heard the eunuch speak, “You there,” to Cabasilas, “make the people stand back, so all can see how bravely I bear my punishment?”

Cabasilas looked over the crowd before nodding and people spread back in anticipation of the gory show. The old uncle looked in vain for mercy, before lying down on the cold stones, ready for Phillip’s hot irons. Phillip started to bind his victim’s arms but Constantine stopped him.

“If you see me flinch, then nail me down. Until then, leave me as I am.”

With a shrug, Phillip took up the first of his hot pokers, touching close to first one eye of the man, and then the other. Constantine took his punishment bravely, not moving or screaming at all, despite the agony he must have felt. Michael, seeing his uncle’s now blind face, began wailing and struggling more. The grinning soldiers forced him to the ground and bound him more tightly. Still he writhed, trying to escape punishment, forcing more men to grab and hold him down. It was not long, though, before he shrieked like a wounded animal from the first wound.

Voices in the crowd muttered, “Got what he deserved,” and “Piece of horse shit,” and “Dug up your bones.” Most approved what happened, but a few of the women fell back in shock.

Still they were not finished. Another anguished scream rose from the man who had been emperor, as the poker pierced his other eye. I stood mesmerized until the mob’s cheering broke the spell, and I turned around. Someone put his arms around me as Michael’s anguished cries echoed in the square.

The ghastly job completed, the mob dissipated like a morning mist on the Marmara. It had had its fill of blood and laughed in satisfaction at their accomplishments. Monks emerged from the monastery to tend the two blind men in the street, leading them to its infirmary to bind up their wounds.

I finally looked up and realized it was not Grandfather’s arms around me as I had thought, but John’s. I leaned against him in relief, wiping my tears on his shirt.

About the Author

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but after a peripatetic childhood ended up in the Washington, DC area, where I attended college, married, worked a day job in finance, and raised three children.

My first book, Tales of Byzantium, contains short stories taking place in the middle years of the Byzantine Empire. My second book and first novel, Imperial Passions – The Porta Aurea, introduces Anna Dalassena, the extraordinary mother of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Comnenus, and an unstoppable force in her time.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 19
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, November 21
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 22
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, November 23
Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books

Monday, November 26
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, November 27
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, November 28
Excerpt at Tea Book Blanket

Thursday, November 29
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, December 3
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Tuesday, December 4
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, December 6
Excerpt at Introvert Booklover

Friday, December 7
Feature at Jathan & Heather
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Monday, December 10
Review at Bookramblings

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a beautiful Byzantine-style Sterling Silver Bracelet! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Imperial Passions

Enjoy a Christmas Historical Romance with A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews – Giveaway!

A Holiday by Gaslight
by Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Perfectly Proper Press
eBook & Paperback; 172 Pages

Genre: Historical Romance/Christmas/Novella

 

 

A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

Available on Amazon

Praise for A Holiday by Gaslight

“Matthews includes all the required elements of a cozy English Christmas and a classic Victorian love story. Matthewsí novella is full of comfort and joyóa sweet treat for romance readers thatís just in time for Christmas. A very merry tale of romance thatís perfect for the holiday season.” -Kirkus Reviews

“Matthews (The Matrimonial Advertisement) pays homage to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South with her admirable portrayal of the Victorian era’s historic advancements in addition to courtship struggles arising from societal castes. Revealed incrementally throughout are family circumstances molding the characters of both Sophie and Ned, allowing their genuine identities to evolve naturally, just like their sincere and sweet romance…Readers will easily fall for Sophie and Ned in their gaslit surroundings.” -Library Journal, starred review

“A Holiday by Gaslight is a real delight. Completely satisfying as a graceful love story, it also doubles as a family drama and an authentic presentation of the 1860s that reads with the simplicity and visual gusto of a period movie…It’s a sweet tale filled with believable characters…Fun to read and fun to read again, this book is one of my favorites now.” -Readers’ Favorite

“This is magical, it beautifully entwines a gorgeous Victorian Christmas, social prejudices of the era and the most marvellously different cast of characters that you would ever want in a historical romance…[A] wonderfully charming and vividly rich romance, that will have the readers swooning with absolute delight. Perfect!” -Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

“A perfect holiday treat for Victorian-loving romantics. Sophie and Ned’s sweet romance is sure to steal your heart.” -Lena Goldfinch, bestselling author of The Unexpected Bride

“This is the epitome of what historical romance is all about. Like all of Mimi Matthews’ books, her characters are full-bodied and evenly matched; the details are historically accurate, coloring the pages with vibrancy. Sure to warm your heart–perfect read for the holiday season!” -Christina Boyd, The Quill Ink

About the Author

Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Ladyís Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Lost Letter) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthewsí†website†and†blog. You can also connect with her on†Facebook,†Twitter,†BookBub,†Pinterest,†Google+, and†Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, November 13
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Wednesday, November 14
Review at Proverbial Reads
Feature at Tea Book Blanket
Feature at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Friday, November 16
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Monday, November 19
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 20
Review at A Darn Good Read
Review & Excerpt at Clarissa Reads it All

Wednesday, November 21
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Friday, November 23
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, November 26
Review at Jennifer Tar Heel Reader

Wednesday, November 28
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Friday, November 30
Review at The Lit Bitch

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of A Holiday By Gaslight! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Giveaway is open to US residents only.
Only one entry per household.
All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Holiday By Gaslight

Jaws of the Wolf by Charlotte Jardine – Excerpt and Giveaway!

Jaws of the Wolf
Charlotte Jardine
(The Visigoth Chronicles, #1)
Publication date: October 30th 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult

He’s her father’s slave. She’s promised to another. But war changes everything.

Tervingi Territory, 376 AD. Gelvira dreams of becoming a powerful jeweler. But the arrogant son of a tribal elder wants her for a wife instead. After a Hun raid sends her people into exile, her chance to master the ancient secrets of her craft are stripped away…

Adafuns yearns to become a great warrior and win Gelvira’s affection. But as a slave in her father’s service, he has little chance of either. Captured and carried off by the Huns, Adafuns’ dream of being a warrior could come true… at the cost of losing Gelvira forever.

With her people starving, marrying the tribal elder’s spoiled son may be Gelvira’s only hope to save her family. Will Adafuns reunite with the exiles in time to free Gelvira from her loathsome vows?

Jaws of the Wolf is the exciting first novel in the epic Visigoth Chronicles series of YA adventures. If you like strong heroines, thrilling action, and rich historical detail, you’ll love Charlotte Jardine’s page-turning saga.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

After the meeting broke up, Gelvira sat by the fire, mulling over everything she’d heard. The wood creaked as someone sat beside her. Their reiks’ son, Widin. She scowled. She wasn’t in the mood to talk to him. Not after the way he’d treated Pa.

“It must be a lot to take in,” Widin said. “Most of the men will be riding to war. Sorry, not to war. To rebuild old Roman fortifications.” His face darkened and he compressed his lips.

“Did you come to Erdeu to round up warriors in Lord Angmar’s name?” Gelvira asked.

He smiled. “Also to see you.”

She glanced around. Praise the Great Mother, Ma hadn’t heard. She’d be planning their wedding feast.

Widin motioned toward her amulet. “This is new. Did you make it?”

She nodded. “After the raid. I worked on it in the evenings, to take my mind off the Huns.” There was no way she’d tell him its purpose.

He traced the outline of the wolf. “I would have thought flowers or birds more appropriate for a maiden?”

A shiver ran through her. A wrongness. Then heat flared from the metal.

Widin snatched his hand back. “It … burnt me. Was it made using the Becoming One?”

“Yes,” she replied, head spinning with excitement. Had her amulet really done that?

He scowled. “Our people are under attack. You shouldn’t be wasting your time making baubles.”

“It’s a practice piece,” she replied, biting down on her anger. “Master Raginmar used it to teach me the rudiments of the Becoming One.”

“Ah, I see.” Widin’s black look faded. “You must make me something useful, once you’ve mastered the art. I’ll need the gods’ aid far more than you, safe behind your palisade.” He wound his fingers through hers and pulled them against his chest.

Ma noticed the gesture, and beamed.

“If it wasn’t for the Huns, I’d marry you before summer’s end,” he said, leaning close so his breath brushed her skin. “My father would prefer I took a wife who brings more political advantage. He doesn’t see it, but you’ve much in your favour: you’re well born, brave, and quite lovely to look at. And your jewellery will bring me renown, now you’re learning the Becoming One.”

“You honour me,” Gelvira replied, lowering her eyes so he couldn’t see her dismay. Marry him after the way he’d behaved? She couldn’t bear the thought. “As you said, you’re a warrior. You must deal with the raiders first. At times like these, marriage must wait.”

For one terrible moment, she felt almost grateful to the Huns.

Author Bio:

Charlotte Jardine writes Historical Fiction, Contemporary Romance and Romantic Adventure. Her books feature courageous heroines, big-hearted heroes, adventure and love.

Her love of history came from reading the adventures of Asterix and Tintin at a young age and continued into adult life, when she studied Classics and Roman History to postgraduate level at university.

While working as a desk slave by day, she spends her evenings escaping into other worlds via her writing.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook

GIVEAWAY!

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A Different Kind of Fire by Suanne Schafer – Giveaway and Blog Tour

A Different Kind of Fire
by Suanne Schafer

Publication Date: November 1, 2018
Waldorf Publishing
Paperback & AudioBook

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

Ruby Schmidt has the talent, the drive, even the guts to enroll in art school, leaving behind her childhood home and the beau she always expected to marry. Her life at the Academy seems heavenly at first, but she soon learns that societal norms in the East are as restrictive as those back home in West Texas. Rebelling against the insipid imagery woman are expected to produce, Ruby embraces bohemian life. Her burgeoning sexuality drives her into a life-long love affair with another woman and into the arms of an Italian baron. With the Panic of 1893, the nation spirals into a depression, and Ruby’s career takes a similar downward trajectory. After thinking she could have it all, Ruby, now pregnant and broke, returns to Texas rather than join the queues at the neighborhood soup kitchen. She discovers her life back home is as challenging as that in Philadelphia.

A Different Kind of Fire depicts one woman’s battle to balance husband, family, career, and ambition. Torn between her childhood sweetheart, her forbidden passion for another woman, the nobleman she had to marry, and becoming a renowned painter, Ruby’s choices mold her in ways she could never have foreseen.

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | BookBub | Waldorf Publishing

Praise

“Writer Suanne Schafer spins a unique tale of a turn of the 19th century Texas heroine and her way of artistic expression. Her paintings shock her contemporaries and the love she’s drawn to shocks herself. A Different Kind of Fire depicts the journey of a determined woman to meet life on her own terms.” –Pamela Morsi, USAToday Bestselling Author of 26 books including The Cotton Queen and Bitsy’s Bait & BBQ

“If you love historical novels about women who throw off the shackles of feminine convention, then this book is for you. In spare but sensuous prose reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy and E. Annie Proulx, Schafer brings Ruby Schmidt to life–a woman who doesn’t belong in the late nineteenth century but gradually finds her place in the twentieth. You can’t help but root for Ruby as she grows from Texas farm girl, to a freethinker and lover of men and women in Philadelphia, and finally into a consummate artist. This is a powerful and deeply satisfying read.” –Helena Echlin, co-author of Sparked and author of Gone

“An exceptional first novel. Schafer has woven a cohesive tale from disparate elements–a stark life in the rugged countryside of 1890s Texas vs the gentility of an arts academy in the East; a traditional marriage and motherhood vs a secret and haunting sexuality. Unequivocally recommended!” –Michael R. Hardesty, Author of Amazon Best Seller, The Grace of the Ginkgo

“With rare artistry, Schafer paints a life both creative and cursed in A Different Kind of Fire.–Willa Blair, Award-winning Amazon and Barnes & Noble #1 bestselling author of His Highland Love, Highland Troth, Highland Seer, and ten other books

“The saga of a young woman determined to follow her dream, whatever obstacles cross her path.” –MJ Fredrick, author of A Texas Kind of Love, Smitten in a Small Town, and twenty-five other books, a two-time Epic Awards winner and a four-time RWA Golden Heart finalist

Suanne Schafer’s A Different Kind of Fire is a powerful story of a Gilded Age artist who brooks convention both in her art and her love. Read this book: It has both the depth of emotion of a modernist novel and the epic scope of a historical saga.–Alicia Rasley, author of The Year She Fell, an Amazon bestseller

“I absolutely LOVED A Different Kind of Fire. Suanne Schafer is a passionate writer with a gift to transport the reader back to the 1800’s. With her book in one hand and my iPad in the other, I learned so much about artists and their work. Ms. Schafer’s words are so visual, I actually watched the story play out with every riveting page I turned. Fantastic character development. There was no stone left unturned. “A Different Kind of Fire” gets a standing ovation and five stars from me. Five stars.” –Tracy Stopler, Award-winning author of The Ropes That Bind

“I was amazed by Suanne Schafer’s poetic and laconic turns of phrase. She has the gift of being simultaneously ornate and succinct, which is no easy task.” –Joshua Mohr, Author Sirens, All This Life, Fight Song, Damascus, Termite Parade, Somethings That Meant the World to Me

“Told in a rich, sensual, style, A Different Kind of Fire is a book about reconciling the irreconcilable. It is a book about boundaries: the dilemmas they place upon those would dare rise above them. The book is also a study in contrasts rather than a polemical treatise. Is Ruby a heroine or a victim?–a free spirit or a narcissist? These questions are ultimately left to the reader to decide.” –James Hanna, Author of The Siege, Call Me Pomeroy, and A Second, Less Head and Other Rogue Stories.

“Suanne Schafer’s A Different Kind of Fire tackles the sensitive subject of bisexuality in 19th century America with grace, compassion, and empathy through fully developed characters in a story readers will cherish long after the book ends.” –C.S. Fuqua, author of Walking after Midnight ~ Collected Stories

“An evocative and compelling story of a Texas-bred ranch girl-to-woman straddling the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and her conflicting and sometimes illicit desires for her art, her lovers and the freedoms some women were just beginning to glimpse. Ferberesque in scope, A Different Kind of Fire harbors the twists and turns of a thriller and the braided threads of explosive affairs that cannot possibly coexist. Schafer’s marvelous book exudes undiminished spirit in the face of terrible loss.” –Guinotte Wise, author of Night Train, Cold Beer, winner of H. Palmer Hall Award

“Insightful, loving, and endearing, A Different Kind of Fire, will draw you in and keep you spellbound. Suanne Schafer weaves Ruby Schmidt’s journey from love in rural Texas to art school in sophisticated 1890s Philadelphia. Ruby’s struggles and triumphs over 100 years ago ring true to the challenges still faced by 21st century women.” –Kristine Mietzner, Founder, The Women Veterans Writing Workshop of California

About the Author

Suanne Schafer, born in West Texas at the height of the Cold War, finds it ironic that grade school drills for tornadoes and nuclear war were the same: hide beneath your desk and kiss your rear-end goodbye. Now a retired family-practice physician whose only child has fledged the nest, her pioneer ancestors and world travels fuel her imagination. She originally planned to write romances, but either as a consequence of a series of failed relationships or a genetic distrust of happily ever-after, her heroines are strong women who battle tough environments and intersect with men who might—or might not—love them.

Suanne completed the Stanford University Creative Writing Certificate program. Her short works have been featured in print and on-line magazines and anthologies. Her debut women’s fiction novel, A Different Kind of Fire, explores the life of Ruby Schmidt, a nineteenth century artist who escapes—and returns—to West Texas. Suanne’s next book explores the heartbreak and healing of an American physician caught up in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, October 29
Book Nerd
Creating Herstory
A Chick Who Reads
Passages to the Past
The Reading Woman

Tuesday, October 30
Jathan & Heather
CelticLady’s Reviews
The Book Junkie Reads
Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Historical Fiction with Spirit
So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, October 31
A Book Geek
Umut Reviews
100 Pages a Day
Just One More Chapter
What Is That Book About

Thursday, November 1
Tea Book Blanket
Amy’s Booket List
Donna’s Book Blog
Clarissa Reads it All
What Cathy Read Next

Friday, November 2
The Writing Desk
Puddletown Reviews
Hoover Book Reviews
Locks, Hooks and Books

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away A Fiery Bookish Prize Pack, including a literary scarf, beaded velvet bookmark, a copy of A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE & $10 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to readers in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen

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Do You Enjoy Vikings and Historical Fiction? Read an Excerpt from the War King by Eric Schumacher. Giveaway!

War King
by Eric Schumacher

Publication Date: October 15, 2018
Creativia Publishing
eBook; 279 Pages
ASIN: B07GT3DB13

Series: Hakon’s Saga, Book 3
Genre: Historical Fiction/Vikings

 

 

It is 954 A.D. and a tempest is brewing in the North. Twenty summers before, Hakon Haraldsson wrested Norwayís throne from his murderous brother, Erik Bloodaxe, but he failed to rid himself of Erikís family. Now the sons of Erik have come to reclaim Erikís realm and avenge the wrong done to their father and their kin.

They do not come alone. With them marches an army of sword-Danes sent by the Danish King, Harald Bluetooth, whose desire to expand his realm is as powerful as the lust for vengeance that pulses in the veins of Erikís brood.

Like storm-driven waves, the opposing forces collide in War King, the action-packed sequel to Godís Hammer and Ravenís Feast.

Available at Amazon

Praise for the Hakon’s Saga

“I was swept up in the action and enthralled by the descriptions of Hakonís struggle.” -Roundtable Reviews

“I highly recommend this historical fiction novel, both for its entertaining story and historical information.” -Historical Fiction Review-

“A story of war, family, sacrifice, honor … one that keeps your blood pumping and your fingers turning pages rapidly. I can’t wait to dig into the next.” -Goodreads Review

Excerpt

Slowly, he slid from under the bearskin and sat on the edge of his bed. As he worked the stiffness from his muscles, he became aware of the sounds and smells of early morning: the faint scent of beeswax candles that had long since surrendered to the night air; the stale stench of the previous night’s feast; the snores of his hirdmen in the great hall; the fragrance of his mistress Gyda, who lay curled under the bearskin beside him.

He pulled on his clothes, then crept from the room, past his slumbering warriors, and out into the receding darkness. The night sentries mumbled a greeting to their lord as Hakon passed through the north gate of the palisade surrounding his hall and worked his way down a well-worn path to one of two burial mounds that sat like warts on the top of the nearby hill. No one knew for sure who was buried in the mounds, though the skalds liked to say they covered the remains of the first owner of the estate — a king named Augvald — and his son.

Winter had not yet released its purchase on the land, and the frost-covered grass glistened and crunched as Hakon climbed the mound and sat on its crest. He gazed out at the waking world with eyes that watered from the air’s chill. Below him, the waters of the bay quivered in the gentle breeze and lapped against the two warships tied to his dock. Beyond the bay, the Karmsund Strait stretched north and south toward the sea like a dark vein. And beyond the water, east, stretched the rolling hills and valleys and waterways of Rogaland, the fylke to which Hakon’s estate at Avaldsnes belonged. It was only a fraction of the realm he controlled — a realm that now reached from the snow-mantled fylke of Halogaland far to the north, to the rocky tip of Agder in the south, to the forested border of the Uplands far to the east. All of it was under his control or the control of his oath-sworn jarls, and most of those were his kin.

He rewarded the jarls richly for their fealty and in exchange, they fought vigorously to keep peace in the realm. But peace was never constant so long as men sought fame and silver and land. It mattered not that Hakon had restored trust in the laws that his brother Erik had spurned or that, in recent years, he had built a system for coastal defenses to protect his people. Raiders still came to his shores. Men still stole and murdered each other. And feuds raged on. It was the way of things, he knew. Yet the strife left in its wake an older king with streaks of gray in his sandy hair, scars on his body, and lines of worry etched on his face.

Time brought with it more than just physical strife. It brought hard memories of people and places that cut just as deeply as any blade. Memories such as Hakon’s childhood love, Aelfwin, who long ago had sacrificed herself for the sake of Hakon’s army. Memories of his long dead foster-father, King Athelstan, who had raised him as a Christian in Engla-lond and was the first to plant the seeds of kingship and legacy in Hakon’s youthful mind. Memories of his kinsman and counselor, Jarl Tore the Silent, with his damaged throat and his big heart that had just stopped beating in his chest not one moon before. A man whose life he would soon celebrate on the northern island of Frei. Memories of his half-brother Erik, with his wild orange curls and mighty axe and brood of sons — sons who even now terrorized the Northern seas, gaining wealth and power and men, and who would eventually bring their death to Hakon’s realm in full force. Hakon wiped the sleep from his face with a calloused hand and the memories vanished.

A tempest was brewing. Hakon could feel it in his bones, and in his gut, and in the ravens that landed each morning for the past month on the burial mounds where he now sat. Ravens were the messengers of Odin, who brought the news of the world to the Alfather’s ears. Though Hakon clung to a different faith, he had lived long enough to know that the earth held its own secrets and that something was amiss — something beyond his control. Something greater than winter’s thaw and spring’s bloom. The elders, who for decades had held the North in balance, were dying; the young and the brash were gaining strength. Old. Young. Order. Chaos. Like storm-driven currents, the opposing forces were colliding, and when they did, Hakon would have no choice but to face the tempest and resist.

About the Author

Eric Schumacher was born in Los Angeles in 1968 and currently resides in Santa Barbara, CA with his wife, two children and dog. He is the author of two historical fiction novels, Godís Hammer and its sequel, Ravenís Feast. Both tell the story of the first Christian king of Viking Norway, Hakon Haraldsson, and his struggles to gain and hold the High Seat of his realm.

More information on Eric and his Hakon Sagas can be found on his†website. You can also connect with Eric on†Twitter,†Facebook,†Goodreads, and†AuthorsDB.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 15
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, October 16
Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Wednesday, October 17
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Friday, October 19
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, October 22
Guest Post at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, October 24
Excerpt at Tea Book Blanket

Thursday, October 25
Interview at Maiden of the Pages

Monday, October 29
Review at Hoover Book Reviews

Wednesday, October 31
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, November 2
Feature at Donna’s Book Blog

Tuesday, November 6
Review at The Coffee Pot Book Club

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away ten copies of War King (ebooks and paperbacks)! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to readers in North America and Western Europe.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen

War King Launch Giveaway

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The Knight’s Scarred Maiden (Lovers and Legends Series) by Nicole Locke

Knight's Scarred Maiden, The - Nicole Locke

From the publisher…

A maiden for the mercenary

Mercenary knight Rhain is living on borrowed time. With a vengeful warlord pursuing him, he has accepted his fate—though first he must get his men to safety.

When he rescues mysterious and deeply scarred Helissent from her attackers, Rhain soon wishes he wasn’t marked for death. He can never be the man she deserves—his scandalous lineage alone dictates that—but Rhain can’t resist the temptation to show this innocent maiden how beautiful she truly is…

Lovers and Legends A clash of Celtic passions

Gina’s thoughts…
I fell in love with Helissent and Rhain immediately and then I couldn’t help but root for them throughout the whole book.

Both characters are filled with self-hate from their flaws but are both so lovable, loyal, and courageous. They both fail to see the goodness in themselves but at least they can see that goodness in the other.

The plot is never slow and the secondary characters are quite lovable as well – even if they are mercenaries! I also loved the dialogue, especially whenever Helissent tried to use baking as a metaphor.

My only critique is that I was left a bit wanting towards the end. It felt like the end was wrapped up a little too quickly, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.

I am now hooked on Nicole Locke and intend to read every book in her “Lovers and Legends” series. If you like medieval romance, this will be a perfect read for you.
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
More reviews from around the book blogosphere…
Have you read The Knight’s Scarred Maiden? Please feel free to post a link to your review in the comments!

Fantasy Fans, Celebrate the Release of Rheia by Cassandra Page with a Book Blitz and Giveaway!

Rheia

Title: Rheia
Author: Cassandra Page
Publication date: October 13th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

“Beauty and the Beast” meets Ancient Greece, with a steampunk twist

Every year, Rheia’s father brought home four prisoners of war, sacrifices to keep the demon Typhein bound. Rheia never gave them much thought … until her father’s enemy made her one of them. Now she has two weeks to find a way to escape death at the hands of the Beast and either save her people or condemn them to destruction.

The last thing Rheia expected was to fall in love with the Beast oath-bound to kill her.

 

 

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EXCERPT:

Rheia waited, fidgeting, until the herbalist finished tying off the bundle of fennel and counting out her change. Then she tucked the herbs into her basket and followed her brother, head down so as not to attract attention: an unwed, unaccompanied woman. She would kill Aias if his running off resulted in any slight against her name. She swallowed and adjusted her veil, making sure her hair was completely covered.

She found Aias standing in the deep shadows beneath the statue. He couldn’t see into the temple from there, wedged as he was between one huge sandalled foot and an outer pillar, adjacent to the shadowed porch, but his head was cocked as he listened, eyes wide as wine cups. “You just wait until I tell Mammidon about this,” she hissed.

“Shh,” Aias whispered, raking her with a contemptuous gaze. “I’m listening.”

“And if the priests see you out here, lurking like a thief, what will they say?” She grabbed his arm and tried to pull him away, but he eeled from her grip and stepped closer to the entrance. If she tried to grab him again, he might stumble backward, out into the bright sunshine where he would be much more obvious. Grinding her jaw with frustration, she glared at him.

He glared back, head tilted upward to meet her gaze. “Rheia, something is going on. They are stirred up like an ants’ nest. Don’t you want to know why?”

“No,” she whispered, shaking her head emphatically. And she didn’t. She wanted to browse the trinkets at Phidias’s stall, see if he knew her name, see whether Galen was lurking out the back somewhere and might come over to see her.

But she couldn’t do so without Aias. “All right,” she said with a sigh, crossing her arms and looking away towards the harbour as though she was merely taking a moment to shade herself from the hot sun. “One minute.”

Resolved not to listen to the voices inside the great building, Rheia studied the mason’s mark hidden at the statue’s heel as though it were the most interesting thing in the world. She had heard of Myron, even though he’d died when her grandmother was a baby; the huge statue had been his last great work. But a babble of raised voices as they passed close by the inside doorway caught her ear: the words thysia and offering louder than the rest, as the speaker emphasised a point. They fell away, and she wondered what had happened to cause such consternation. Had the helot girl tried to escape again? Had she been successful this time? There would be a city-wide manhunt to find her if it were true. A surge of sympathy for the girl made her purse her lips. How awful it would be, to know you would be dead when next the moon was full.

Aias’s fingers digging into Rheia’s arm brought her back to herself. “Rheia,” he whispered, the sound sharp with fear. “Let’s go.”

“Finally,” she muttered, glancing up and down the street for watching eyes before hurrying him away from the temple, her hand at the small of his back so he couldn’t dart off again. But when she tried to stop at the goatherder’s stall to buy a pottery jar of milk, he dragged her on, out of the agora. “Aias, stop! Wait!”

“You heard what they said.” He shook his head, curls bouncing emphatically as he hauled her along the street, almost at a run. “We have to get home. Father will know more.”

Rheia’s heart felt strange in her chest, anxiety making it flutter. “More about what? I was trying not to listen. As you should have been.”

Her little brother stopped, staring up at her with his mouth ajar. Then he pulled her by the hand into a quiet alley, away from the bustling traffic of the main street. “One of the helots is dead,” he whispered, eyes glittering with excitement. “One of the girls. Suicide, they say.”

Rheia’s eyes widened as she stared at her brother. The flutter in her chest expanded to swallow her belly. “But what will happen now? It’s only two weeks until the festival. The offering!”

“That’s what they were arguing about. One of the priests thought the triremes would be sent back out, while the other said it was too late. Father will know; if the ships are to be sent, he will captain the fleet. Come on. Before he leaves!”

Rheia let Aias drag her up the hill towards their villa, her mind whirling with the implications. The Broken Ones were meant to have the thysies for a full ten days before the ritual. Something about cleansing rituals. But that would only give the triremes three days to get to the helot lands and back again. Would it be enough?

And if not, what was the alternative?

Author Bio:

Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat – despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres, all of them speculative fiction. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

GIVEAWAY TIME!

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a $30 Amazon Gift Card!

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Do you love Greek mythology? Are you a fan of historical fantasy? Then read Athena’s Champion by David Hair and Cath Mayo. Here’s my review.

athenas champion

Pre-order Athena’s Champion on Amazon
Release Date: November 8, 2018

Synopsis from the publisher…

The first in a thrilling new historical fantasy series; Odysseus must embrace his secret heritage and outwit the vengeful Gods who would control or destroy him…

Prince Odysseus of Ithaca is about to have his world torn apart. He’s travelled to the oracle at Pytho to be anointed as heir to his island kingdom; but instead the Pythia reveals a terrible secret, one that tears down every pillar of his life, and marks him out for death.

Outcast by his family, hunted by the vengeful gods, Odysseus is offered sanctuary by Athena, goddess of wisdom, and thrust into the secret war between the Olympians for domination and survival. Only his wits, and his skill as a warrior, can keep him ahead of their power games – and alive.

When one of Athena’s schemes goes drastically wrong, and the young Helen of Sparta is kidnapped, Odysseus must journey past the gates of Hades to save her. Falling in love with a Trojan princess, a bewitching woman who poses a deadly threat to both his homeland and Athena, won’t make his task any easier…

Drawing from classic Greek mythology, Athena’s Champion, first in the epic Olympus Trilogy, is perfect for fans of Madeline Miller and David Gemmell.

Gina’s thoughts…

5 stars

Athena’s Champion tells the story of Odysseus as a young man. Think of this book as a prequel to the infamous Iliad by Homer. Its obvious that the authors did their research as they told of the events and arguments amongst the Gods that lead up to the Trojan War.

This book expands on the idea in Greek mythology that the Gods and Goddesses constantly meddled in the lives of mortals, and used them as pawns, to win favor with Zeus, start wars, gain worshippers, etc.

The writing style was very direct and just focused on the action and dialogue. It did take me a chapter or two to really get into the story, but after that, I was fully engrossed and refused to put the book down. I had fun geeking out throughout the novel by looking up the characters and places found in the story.

As I read the story I felt like I was living the re-telling of an old tale; however, that tale was fresh, like I had just unearthed some long-lost scrolls with new stories that hadn’t been told for ages. I had flashbacks of all the wonderful things I learned in my favorite college courses: mythology, ancient literature, humanities, world history.

The development of characters, that you’ll recognize from Greek myths and legends, plus the endearing love story woven throughout the novel, made everything even more enjoyable.

I knew I was hooked when I thought to myself, “Mom would love this book. I’ll have to buy her a copy.” There were several references, such as Jason and the Argonauts and the Battle of Thermopylae between Sparta and the Persian Empire, which all reminded me of story-time with my Mom growing up. She loved to read me mythological stories and the book brought back very fond memories.

The authors brought Ancient Greece back to life and I can’t wait to read the next book in the Olympus Series.

I received an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Connect with the authors…

David Hair – Visit his website and Twitter

Cath Mayo – Visit her website and Twitter

Learn more…

Reviews on Goodreads

Review on Bookfever

Have you read Athena’s Champion? Please feel free to share a link to your review in the comments below!

I just love this cover!

athenas champion large