Monday, August 26, 2013

VBT and Review: Wolf Wood by Mike Dixon

Wolf Wood

Part One:  The Gathering Storm

by Mike Dixon


(Some violence, family and political intrigue, quite a lot of romance, some sex but never explicit.)

In 1436 a dispute arose between the people of Sherborne and their abbot over the ownership of a baptismal font.  Before it was settled, the abbey was burnt down and a bishop murdered.  Some saw the hand of evil at work and blamed a newcomer to the town, accusing her of being a witch.  Others saw her as a saint.  Wolf Wood is set in the turbulent years of the late middle ages.  The old feudal aristocracy is losing control, a new middle class is flexing its muscles, the authority of the church is being questioned, law and order have broken down and England is facing defeat in France.  Wolf Wood is a work of fiction based on actual events.

Release date: June 14, 2013
Self published

Part One, IBSN 978-0-9875989-0-5  
Part Two, IBSN 978-0-9875989-1-2


On the author's website:

Amazon pages:

Author's bio:

I was born in Sherborne (Dorset) and attended school there and (as an exchange student) in the Medoc region of France.  I studied physics at Oxford and received a PhD degree in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge.  Following teaching and research appointments in South Africa, Scotland and Australia, I joined the Australian Government Service and worked, for a while, as a ministerial assistant.  I entered the tourist industry through public relations and scuba diving and established one of Australia's first backpacker resorts.  I have a keen interest in medieval history and I am a frequent visitor to Britain and France.

As a boy, growing up in Sherborne, I heard about the famous fire of Sherborne Abbey and was told that a priest shot a flaming arrow into the tower and set the building on fire.  The marks of the fire are visible today, over five hundred years later.  And there is a lot more to tell us what happened.

There was an inquiry into the dispute that led to the fire and the surviving documents tell of a bitter feud between the abbot and the townspeople.  It's highly dramatic stuff and it inspired me to write my Wolf Wood novels.

My books are fiction.  Some of the characters are based on real people; others are entirely imaginary.  I have done my best to be faithful to the main course of historical events and fill in the gaps with the sort of things that could have happened to my characters.

My thoughts:

I truly enjoyed reading Wolf Wood purely for the love of reading itself.  I know, a strange statement from an avid reader and a devoted historical fiction fan, but honestly, as an Historian, I often loose myself in the details, which I love, but it was wonderful to read historical fiction for the sake of reading an engaging, interesting story alone.  I am grateful for the reminder!

When I began Wolf Wood I selected it from my pile without any real where my read would take me.  I honestly believed that I needed to read the novel for an imminent review deadline and not for pure pleasure.  However this, like much of life of late, was completely backwards and it was the not the novel with the looming deadline.  I didn’t realize and honestly didn’t care; Wolf Wood was a pleasure, cover to cover!

While I will admit that this novel didn’t stop my world from spinning and make me question my knowledge of history nor did it prod me into further research.  Quite simply Wolf Wood gave me something that I had not realized I was missing in historical fiction which was it was simply a good read – an interesting story with rich characters that were interesting in their own right and not because they actually existed within the historical context into which they are placed.  Wolf Wood is an entertaining, engaging read and I would say a wonderful way to introduce historical fiction to new readers and I eagerly await Part Two...

Join Wolf Wood on tour...

Monday, Aug 26
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Tuesday, Aug 27
Review + interview at

Wednesday, Aug 28
Review at I Am, Indeed

Thursday, Aug 29
Review by author Paulita Kincer

Friday, Aug 30
Review at Valli’s Book Den

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received a free ebook edition of this book from the author and France Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I was in no way compensated for this post, and the thoughts are my own.

This review qualifies for the following challenges:
Historical Fiction Book Review #30
Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge #25

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Interview with Jo-Ann Costa, author of The Bequest of Big Daddy

Interview with Jo-Ann Costa, author of The Bequest of Big Daddy, her debut novel!

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Jo-Ann Costa author of The Bequest of Big Daddy. 

A HUGE welcome to Jo-Anna and many thanks for agreeing to this interview for The Most Happy Reader.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

In four words: to please my audience. However, there really is something to the old adage, “One day at a time.”  When I become anxious about whether or not anyone will like The Bequest of Big Daddy, I try to think of what I already have: a blessing of a husband, a son who is healthy and loves me, a ten year-old Siberian Husky who only wants us to love her, a roof over my head and plenty to eat. Each day, I try look at what’s really important. If my work is successful, it will be the frosting on this hundred-layer cake.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Born Horatio Gage Janson, later called Ratio by his friends, and much later, Big Daddy by his respectful family, my main character is a dark individual who is born in remarkably troubled times just as the American Civil War begins. Born to a selfish daughter of Southern aristocracy who will never love him, as a child, Ratio is unwanted and resented. Raised in a world of chaos and change where many of society’s institutions are not only unfair, they are also racially heinous and obviously cruel. Amidst this hostile environment, Ratio is left to fend for himself. Couple this with the fact that he is considered a “nuisance” by his abusive mother and “inconvenient” to her lover, who supports her in exchange for sexual favors, Ratio runs wild. At a circus, he is abused by a freak, but he keeps this shame to himself, vowing to later kill his tormentor. When he is sent away at a tender age for having wanderlust, he enters into an adult world of back-breaking work and equally hard lessons, one of which is being accused of a crime he does not commit. As so it goes: one disappointing experience after another. What is so special about this man? His is a story of ultimate survival. He lives to become a shrewd, if not jaded, antihero who amasses wealth and respect because of his unflinching determination to do it.

How much research do you do?

The history of the Deep South has always interested me. When I retired from my day job, I wrote The Bequest of Big Daddy partly to show the historical side of the political and societal institutions during Reconstruction and beyond, through the telling of a troubled man’s life in those times. The idea for this book began as a writing project at the UCLA Writers’ Extension Program in the 1990’s and it was never far from my mind. I filled notebooks full of information – such as what it was like to work in a 19th century coal mine, how Yellow Fever was spread up and down the Mississippi River at the turn of the last century and how the leased convict system operated in the South. The leased convict system in particular, was fascinating to me. If you think about it, it was a continuation of slavery. While Southern states could no longer buy and sell human flesh, this system, instituted right after the Civil War, allowed enterprising sheriffs to arrest innocent former slaves on trumped-up charges. When they could not repay the sheriffs for their board and care while incarcerated, they were sold to the coal mines. The dangerous world of coal mining required hours of research, culling through archives and newspapers to grasp the fine line between waking up the next day above ground or else dying in an explosion, which was common in those days. I always keep in mind though, that while verisimilitude is important to historical fiction, it should not be at the expense of the story.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I was a stifled child, raised by a single mother who didn’t have time to listen and later enforced by a critical step-father, who believed in the Biblical reference that a child should be seen and not heard. My early way of speaking was to write down my thoughts. And so when I learned the alphabet, then to spell and read, it wasn’t a leap from sounding-out  the text of “Down Singing River” in the second grade to becoming a spelling bee champion.  As a birthday gift I was once given a diary (before journals became popular); in this, I saw a way to chatter daily and it felt like I’d been released from a cage. By the time I reached high school, the poetry I’d been writing turned me into an essay-winner in a high school writing competition. In college, I discovered Creative Writing classes where my musings were fueled by a professor who actually thought I had something to say. For me, becoming a writer was not a decision. Like my hair or eye color, writing has always been an essential part of who I am.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter deals with loneliness, being misunderstood and frequently thwarted in one’s personal desires—not unlike my character, Ratio Janson. I also admire the brilliant Peter Matthiessen. His Shadow Country, a distillation of three books, nailed a distinct mood, language and culture of the Everglades. William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, which portrays the ruthless Thomas Sutpen, could have been Ratio Janson’s literary brother. Thomas Savage is another of my favorite authors. The Power of the Dog, with its eerie mood, sense of place and deft characterizations, is exquisite. Yes, I read and read. I do this for two reasons: 1. For me, good storytelling produces its own “Rapture” and  2. as Stephen King once said, “The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with writing.”

For your own reading, do you prefer EBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

I have both. My IPAD is a product of needing to have a communications and GPS device on the road with me while on tour. The byproduct of this is that I can download books in my hotel room after a long day. To be honest though, I like the heft and smell of a good old-fashioned paperback. I shamelessly dog-ear anything that is not hard-covered and love it when my husband slides a beloved book out of my fingers after I’ve fallen asleep reading in bed. Books are a comfort. Both of my parents once read anything they could get their hands on and my birth father had a book in every room up until the day he died. I admit to having a couple going at once!

Are you reading at the moment?  If so, what?

New Zealand author Dame Fiona Kidman. Her work of historical fiction, The Book of Secrets, is loosely based on a true story about group of settlers led by a stern 1800’s Scots’ preacher who relocates them to New Zealand.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

Warmest thanks Shannon, for your appreciation of good books. You’ve been a generous reviewer and lovely host to this author. I hope your readers will also honor me with reading The Bequest of Big Daddy.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

 Facebook: JoAnnCostaAuthor
Twitter: Costa_Author 
Amazon Author Page:

Jo-Ann, You are truly delightful and The Bequest of Big Daddy a wonderful novel and a FAB way to begin your career as a novelist!

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blurb Blitz and Giveaway! The King of Threadneedle Street by Moriah Densley


By Moriah Densley


He owns three shipping companies, a diamond mine, and his own castle.

He knows Portuguese, Hindu, Mandarin and Morse code.

His assets net thirteen million.

Lord Preston wants the one thing money can’t buy…


Andrew Tilmore, Lord Preston, the financial prodigy dubbed “The King of Threadneedle Street” wants the one prize out of reach: his childhood sweetheart. The papers can waste a sea of ink scandalizing over his lavender-eyed Alysia; so what if she is the daughter of his father’s mistress?

Alysia Villier learned the craft of the courtesan from her infamous mother―by osmosis apparently. A gifted artist who almost won the Prix de Rome, Alysia is not interested in following in her mother’s footsteps, since Andrew ruined her for any other man. But with her legal guardian—Andrew’s father―in control of her inheritance, she has little choice in the matter.

Keeping Alysia out of trouble and away from eager suitors becomes a cross-continental quest for Andrew. Not his old-fashioned family, the disapproval of the ton, nor even Alysia’s dedication to duty and propriety will stop him. Playing newspapers and investors like pawns, tumbling world markets, inciting riots… has he gone too far?

Alysia Villier always knew she could never have Andrew Tilmore, her childhood sweetheart. A courtesan’s daughter is no match for a financial genius and peer of the realm. Alysia sees Romeo and Juliet’s story as a cautionary tale. Besides, who is truly in love as an adolescent? She expects to oversee the wedding preparations for Andrew’s sister, perhaps wave at Andrew from across the room, then never see him again.

A long shadow blocked the sun, accompanied by broad footsteps trampling the grass.

 “What have we here, a unicorn caught sunbathing? Prime hunting,” came an almost familiar voice. A sonorous chocolatey bass, somehow deeper and throatier than when she had last heard it, and his Lancashire accent replaced by a genteel inflection she found jarring.

 “Not at all,” she replied without opening her eyes, rattled by the jolt in her pulse. “Such plodding footsteps could only belong to a troll. Easily outrun by a unicorn. But trolls are really quite harmless, if you keep them fed.”

“On unicorn meat?”

 “No. Pomeranians.” An old joke stemming from their mutual love of mastiffs and disdain for yapping small dogs.

The sound of his laughter was perfectly familiar. She distrusted the easy, boyish, tone tempting her to believe all would be well now that he was here. She winked open one eye, unsurprised to find their years of separation had rendered him not at all like a troll. Over six feet of Gallic demi-god sharing the same body with the most bookish man she ever met. Andrew Tilmore, Lord Preston, heir to the illustrious Marquess of Courtenay. Drew, to her, or when he deserved it, Troll.

“Lisa,” he said in a tone he should reserve for a hot bath or rare cognac, and sat beside her on the grass. “As lazy as ever, I see.” Adolescent teasing which meant, So you managed to sneak away. Bravo.

 “You were not expected until Friday next, Drew. Unfortunate timing you will no doubt regret.”

 “Why? Is something amiss?”

 “Only the apocalypse.”

Andrew snorted, waiting for her to explain. She would not. Lady Courtenay trying to run her household for the first time — while pretending to arrange a ducal wedding, which Alysia was truthfully in charge of — would not mix well with the problem Andrew’s presence would bring. Specifically, his being in the vicinity with Alysia.

She pushed herself up on her elbows, mindful of the buttons she had loosed on her bodice. He wasn’t looking, but fastening them would draw his attention. She sat up and wrapped her arms around her bent knees.

Andrew leaned in to catch her gaze, and she suppressed a shock. Of anxiety or lust-related, she couldn’t say, but in the seconds it took to trade glances, it became apparent that what his parents had tried to douse between them had not yet faded. He cradled her chin between his thumb and forefinger then stroked the edge of her jaw, which in times past heralded a kiss.

Two years ago, he would have mock-whispered, See, I am making eyes at you, Lisa. Wet your lips, I will lean closer, and as soon as you close your eyes, the violins will start. When you see firecrackers, say so. Then he would overly pucker his lips, smacking them together like a fish while she dodged, squealing. But sometimes his manner was quite serious, and those memories were best left buried in the back of her mind.

He was serious now. She knew that expression he wore, as plainly as though she heard his   thoughts. Still it made her stomach drop and her lips tingle with longing. Alysia pulled away, not trusting herself to look him in the eye.

If she had any hope of surviving two weeks under the same roof with Andrew, she had best set the precedent now for their behavior, and this must be her last private conversation with him. Their last kiss had been more than two years before. After his sister’s wedding, she would never see him again.


Moriah Densley sees nothing odd at all about keeping both a violin case and a range bag stuffed with pistols in the back seat of her car. They hold up the stack of books in the middle, of course. She enjoys writing about Victorians, assassins, and geeks. Her muses are summoned by the smell of chocolate, usually at odd hours of the night. By day her alter ego is your friendly neighborhood music teacher. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and four children. Published in historical and paranormal romance, Moriah has a Master’s degree in music, is a 2012 RWA Golden Heart finalist, 2012 National Reader’s Choice Award “Best First Book” finalist, and 2012 National Reader’s Choice Award finalist in historical romance. She loves hearing from readers!


Available now in e-book:


The author will be awarding a genuine Victorian-style pearl jewelry set inspired by the book, including necklace, bracelet, and earrings to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.  So follow the tour (Tour Schedule) and comment often!  Every comment increases your chance to win this lovely set!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 12, 2013

HFVBT: Review of The Bequest of Big Daddy by Jo-Ann Costa

The Bequest of Big Daddy

by JoAnn Costa

Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Koehler Books
Paperback; 280p
ISBN:  978-1-938467-27-1

Ratio Janson is the crusty patriarch with an infamous background and a hair-trigger temper, reverently referred to as Big Daddy by his family clan. His feisty great-granddaughter, Jo-Dee, overhears shocking gossip at Big Daddy's funeral and is determined to plumb his murky past, spanning the Civil War, Reconstruction and forging head-on into the twentieth century.

From a vast turpentine industry to the ruins of a decaying plantation with its feudal order a memory, Jo-Dee explores the complex nature of family and self, only to make a startling discovery. Will she betray her great-grandfather and disgrace the family name, or will she preserve his shameful secret? And on the ancient grounds of the family mansion destroyed in the Civil War, will Big Daddy's spirit claim her even from the grave?


“Costa’s expressive voice effortlessly guides the compelling story… Costa’s debut novel tells the engaging story of a man whose tumultuous life provides an even greater tale than the grand myths that surround him.” — Kirkus Reviews

 “Anyone who enjoys Southern fiction or picaresque novels will love this one!” — Lisa Alther, Author of four New York Times bestsellers

 “All families have secrets, some darker than others. In her richly imagined debut novel, Jo-Ann Costa explores the impact of one family’s secret down through the decades and generations. The Bequest of Big Daddy marks the arrival of a fresh new voice in Southern literature.” — Will Allison, Author of the New York Times bestseller Long Drive Home.

“Ms. Costa writes like she was born to the craft. Wonderful storytelling and memorable characters you won’t soon forget. Big Daddy is not just any character—he gets into your head and refuses to budge.” — Hillel Black, former Publishing Executive and Editor of twenty New York Times bestsellers

Jo-Ann Costa’s Bequest is part gothic, part adventure, part mystery and wholly satisfying. Move over Tennessee Williams, there is a new Big Daddy in town.” — Claire Matturro, Award-winning author of three bestsellers

“Costa is a skilled storyteller who draws the reader into the Southern world.” — The Durango Herald

 “On a scale of one to five I would easily give this one a six, because it’s just that good!” — WV Stitcher, Blogger

About the Author

Jo-Ann Costa studied her craft at the knees of her clannish Alabama kin, who are among the most accomplished at fabricating outlandish tales. Thus trained as a storyteller, Ms. Costa honed her compelling voice while serving in executive roles for a mega-corporation founded by the late Howard Hughes.

Along with the wildlife, Ms. Costa now makes her home at the edge of Colorado's Weminuche wilderness, where she writes historical fiction and mysteries. She is a graduate of California State University, the University of Southern California's Managerial Policy Institute, Leadership Southern California and the Public Affairs Institute. She also studied at the UCLA Writers’ Extension Program.

The Bequest of Big Daddy is the first book in her epic saga, Longleaf Legacy.

My thoughts:

The Bequest of Big Daddy offers the reader a magnificent peek into the workings of a Southern family patriarch.  Big Daddy is one of those swearing, fear inspiring relatives many of us who have been raised in the South remember with both nostalgia and regret.  Big Daddy was born Horatio “Ratio” Janson and lives many more lives than one.  He experiences parental neglect, is wrongfully charged with a heinous crime, experiences the love of a good wife but ultimately does the unforgiveable.  While Big Daddy is inspirational as a survivor of many tempests he is certainly not without horrible faults.

I appreciated Costa’s ability to create characters so human and yet so complex.  I suppose the ultimate compliment would be that several of the characters found within The Bequest of Big Daddy truly brought to mind several members of my family as I remembered them from childhood.  Costa vividly brings to life the tension, turmoil, triumph and tragedy of the Deep South from Reconstruction to the present day.

I found The Bequest of Big Daddy an engaging read and enjoyed the novel initially as a look into the history of the South but primarily as an exquisitely crafted character study.  I would recommend The Bequest of Big Daddy without hesitation.

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received a free trade paperback edition of this book from the author and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I was in no way compensated for this post, and the thoughts are my own.

For the complete tour schedule CLICK HERE
Twitter Hashtag: #BigDaddyTour

This review qualifies for the following challenges:
Historical Fiction Book Review #29

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