Monday, March 31, 2014

What to look for in Historical Fiction in 2014 by Nancy Bilyeau with Bonus Chat with Bruce Holsinger from The Daily Beast

What to look for in Historical Fiction in 2014?

as appeared in 
DuJour by Nancy Bilyeau

It’s been a brutal winter. What better way to fire up your senses than to plunge into a rousing historical tale? These brand-new books, ranging in period from the 12th century to the 20th, come from top talents in historical fiction. Whether it’s a mystery solved on the gritty streets of medieval London, an intrigue seething in czarist Russia palaces, a small American town rocked by a Bohemian poet or a deadly mission in a Languedoc gripped by the French Resistance, full immersion is guaranteed. When you next look up, spring should finally be in full bloom.

A King’s Ransom, by Sharon Kay Penman ~ What happened to England’s legendary Richard the Lionheart after the Crusades? Bestselling author Sharon Kay Penman tells the story of the king’s harrowing capture and imprisonment—and the price he paid—both in fortune and in love. (A Marian Wood Book/Putnam)

A Burnable Book, by Bruce Holsinger ~ Prophecy, murder, political betrayal and a desperate search for the book with the answers make for a potent mix in this debut novel, which captures life in medieval London in rich detail. (William Morrow)

Bonus:  Nancy's and Bruce's chat about historical fiction... as appeared in The Daily Beast

Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter, by Anne Clinard Barnhill ~ A touching and suspenseful romance that follows the plight of a young ward of Elizabeth I who is in love—but not with the man the queen commands her to marry—and must decide which fate to choose. (St. Martin’s Griffin)

The Queen’s Man, by Rory Clements ~ The latest in the popular John Shakespeare mystery series, The Queen’s Man sends the “intelligencer” on a mission to uncover the plot revolving around Mary Queen of Scots that threatens the life of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. (HarperCollins)

Empress of the Night, by Eva Stachniak ~ Following up on the enchanting literary tale The Winter Palace, Stachniak brings to life one of the most fascinating—and controversial—female rulers of all time: Russia’s Catherine the Great. (Bantam, out March 25)

Fallen Beauty, by Erika Robuck ~ The author of Hemingway’s Girl and Call Me Zelda triumphs with this enthralling Jazz Age story of what happens when a small-town seamstress struggling for independence takes a job with the uninhibited Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. (NAL Trade)

City of Jasmine, by Deanna Raybourn ~ Romantic, witty and mysterious, this novel follows an aviatrix who receives a mysterious photo of the husband she thought dead—and learns that the answers lie in the ancient city of Jasmine, Damascus. (Harlequin MIRA)

Citadel, by Kate Mosse ~ With her talent for atmosphere and suspense, the author of the hugely popular Labyrinth and Sepulchre produces a heady page-turner that intercuts the life-and-death struggle of French Resistance fighters with the mystical secrets of 700 years ago. (HarperCollins)

Historical Fiction: A Conversation Between Bruce Holsinger and Nancy Bilyeau

Novelists Bruce Holsinger and Nancy Bilyeau discuss the joys and pitfalls of scrupulously researching the past and then turning it into fiction.

Who writes historical thrillers, those thick suspense stories filled with atmosphere and detail? The answer is, people like Bruce Holsinger and Nancy Bilyeau, who each have novels out now. Holsinger, a medievalist who teaches in the Department of English at the University of Virginia, wrote A Burnable Book, a thriller set in 1385 London. Nancy Bilyeau, a journalist and the executive editor of DuJour magazine, is writing a series of mysteries whose main character is a Dominican novice in the reign of Henry VIII. The second book, The Chalice, recently came out in paperback. Holsinger and Bilyeau met on the writer’s conference circuit and discovered they were kindred spirits. While Holsinger was on tour for A Burnable Book, he stopped in New York City, where the two of them met to talk about all things medieval—and how thick a skin you need to be published today.

Nancy Bilyeau: I learned about your book at Thrillerfest last year in New York. That’s my favorite writer’s conference. I was in the audience for one of the panels, and the other four authors talked about their protagonists: cop, forensic pathologist, ex-CIA, whatever. And when it was your turn, you said, “The main character in my book is John Gower, a medieval poet who was a close friend of Geoffrey Chaucer’s.” Then you read a poem of Gower’s and it was utter bleakness. I was so excited! What drew you to John Gower as someone who could be the main character of a novel?

Bruce Holsinger: It came from my teaching of medieval literature. I’ve read all of Gower—he wrote in Latin, French, and English. He’s always been an interesting figure to me: contradictory, preachy but with strains of nihilism. Chaucer refers to him any number of times in his work, and at the end ofTroilus and Criseyde, he basically dedicates the book to him: “Oh, moral Gower, this book I direct to thee.” He’s always had this reputation as a very moral poet, this kind of schlubby, moralistic contemporary of Chaucer’s, and in Shakespeare’s Pericles, Gower is the voice of the chorus. But I’ve always felt that what Chaucer said about him at the end of Troilus was a little bit tongue-in-cheek. I wanted to imagine a somewhat darker Gower.

NB: I’d like to switch to the prostitutes. In A Burnable Book, you do an amazing job of depicting the lives of London prostitutes in 1385. It felt so real, it was as if I were working the streets, too. How did you find all of the details?

BH: I began with secondary scholarship. I read a wonderful history of medieval English prostitution, and then I drew on some of the documents the author looked at. The most provocative one is an interrogation of a male transvestite prostitute from the London Guildhall in the 1390s. It’s an actual document from one of the record offices. It describes his life as a prostitute, the streets he was on, his clientele—which included priests, friars, businessmen, and women.

NB: So one of the prostitutes in A Burnable Book is based on an actual medieval transvestite?

BH: Yes, and one of the things I did craft-wise was, when Edgar is dressed as a man, I refer to the character as a “he.” When dressed as a woman, Eleanor is a “she.” Once or twice, that changes within the course of a single chapter.

NB: What a fun character to write. I’m jealous.

BH: Now tell me about the community of women you wrote and imagined in The Chalice—a priory of Dominican nuns.

NB: I didn’t have Guildhall interrogation documents, unfortunately. But I worked on my first novel for five years, researching the lives of nuns in England in the early 16th century, reading all the books I could and digging up letters and wills. Once I found out what a nun from that period would have to do—their routines revolved around set times of prayer—I could build my characters’ daily lives. It’s the little things, though, that you need to build a scene with convincing detail. What was the material of the novice habit, what kind of incense did they inhale, what was on the plate at dinner.

BH: And you flesh out those aspects of daily life with remarkable skill, without a lot of hand waving or showing off of historical details. I actually struggled a bit with this at first. I knew the medieval period in terms of its literary history, but in terms of the details of everyday life, that was a brand new learning experience. I had to go back and relearn a lot of what I thought I knew. There are so many passages in the literature that will tell you about, say, the food at a feast, but I never really paid attention to those until I had to figure out what people ate in a scene I was writing.

NB: Exactly! I was never happier than when a curator at the Tower of London scanned in a diet sheet of an aristocratic prisoner in the 1540s and sent me a PDF. I had every detail down to how many pigeons eaten a week. It occurs to me we are both writing about societies in fear of their kings.

BH: Yes. Medieval London gives us a particularly rich site in which to explore those kinds of issues, particularly as they pertain to issues of authority, jurisdiction, tyranny and so on. In 1385, England is just about to enter a period that some historians have characterized as the “tyranny of Richard II”—he’s coming into his majority, and he’s just starting to get a bit capricious and arbitrary when it comes to the exercise of his power.

NB: Prophecy is the key source of mystery and danger in our books. I made mine up, although I based it on a real prophecy that was current at the time: “When the cow doth ride the bull, then priest, beware thy skull.” That was interpreted at the time as meaning that Anne Boleyn’s dominating King Henry VIII—convincing him to divorce his royal Spanish wife and marry her—that would lead to the overthrow of the Catholic religion.

BH: I also wrote the prophecies in A Burnable Book. In fact, I wrote them in Middle English, and then I modernized the spelling and grammar to make them more compatible with contemporary sensibilities. I modeled them on the poetry of William Langland and the Gawain poet: lots of alliteration, four-stress lines rather than the five-stress lines we find in Chaucer’s early version of iambic pentameter.

The prophetic language and the cryptic riddling are modeled directly on medieval prophecies of the sort written by Dante and others. If prophecy didn’t have the power to bring down kings, it certainly had the power to make them and their inner circle paranoid, and that’s part of the atmosphere I’m trying to explore.

NB: I’ve read that there’s often a surge of interest in prophecies when any society is under extreme strain. That’s what I try to capture in my second book. The nuns and monks and friars have been thrown out on the streets, the monasteries demolished or given to the king’s cronies. It’s a frightening and confusing time. People grab hold of prophecies and are more susceptible to plots and conspiracies. Yet that is when Henry VIII cracks down on dissent even more savagely. It’s a cycle.

BH: And this happens on the more local level as well. The city of London, with its corrupt and often thuggish mayors, also dealt quite severely with criminals, curfew violations and so on. The butchers, who play a key role in A Burnable Book, are a great case in point. They’re heavily regulated by the city but they also constantly violate regulations and in the records they’re found tossing filth in the river and along the streets.

NB: The details of what really happened are always so intriguing. And I think the poetry and fiction of the medieval period is more emotionally engaging than what some people might think. Did you find many “thriller” type stories in your research?

BH: A great question. There’s lots of hard-hitting crime fiction in the medieval period, and I’m very influenced by the language of accusation and punishment we find in works like the Canterbury Tales. Of all the thrilling and suspenseful moments in literature, probably my favorite is this incredible scene in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the late 14th century. We’re near the end of the romance, and Gawain is riding along to meet his fate at the hands of the Green Knight, who has vowed to chop his head off. As Gawain rides along the bank of a creek, he hears this sickening sound ringing from above. And he soon realizes it’s sound of an axe being sharpened, the very axe that he believes will soon behead him.

NB: That is chilling. I love it. You’re familiar with so many fantastic stories. I think academics are awarded instant respect by the book-buying public but genre writers … not so much. How has it been for you, to plunge into the fray of writing thrillers?

BH: I’ve always been an avid reader of thrillers, and my first “drawer novel” was a contemporary thriller about terrorism, though with a medieval background. A Burnable Book is something of a hybrid: It’s bibliofiction—that is, it’s a book about books—and has a somewhat literary bent given the story about Chaucer and Gower. But at heart it’s a thriller pure and simple, and I’m quite unapologetic about that. Some of the best fiction writing right now is genre writing!

NB: Oh, I agree with you. But not everyone has gotten the memo. Genre snootiness comes from unexpected places. I remember with my first novel, The Crown, the editor in chief of a certain women’s magazine didn’t want to cover it because she preferred “more sophisticated fiction.” Meanwhile, the magazine itself ran stories on how to remove stains from clothing and lose five pounds fast. I just didn’t know what to make of that. OK, to the point of your novel’s description, I see that A Burnable Book is often called a “literary thriller.” Is that because of the literary attention to character and theme? How does that … happen?

BH:  No, I think it refers to the novel being self-conscious about the bookishness of itself and its subject. In this case a literary thriller is a book about a book.

NB: Like A.S. Byatt’s Possession?

BH: Exactly.

NB: Except that I’ve seen The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco called a literary thriller and that is a straight-up murder mystery set in a 14th century Italian monastery.

BH: In many ways The Name of the Rose fits the category, too: lots of references to book culture, medieval philosophy, and so on.

NB: Hmm, maybe you’re right. A lot of nasty things happen in the Benedictines’ scriptorium.

BH: Yes.

NB: I have to say, you seem much calmer than many other authors with a debut novel out. Is that because you’ve published nonfiction books and a lot of journal articles and papers? The academic world does have the reputation for sharp elbows.

BH: Academic criticism, and I’ve written a lot of it and taken a lot of it, is a whole different level of severity. It could be because of that being my profession, I have a pretty thick skin. The life of a novel, just like the life of an academic book, is much longer than the first few weeks or months of publication, and even as A Burnable Book is debuting this month I’m thinking about what I want to be writing five years from now. At the moment I’m working on the sequel, set the next year and beginning with a mass murder and a pile of bodies in the London privy channels. What’s next for you?

NB: I’m finishing the third book in the series: The Covenant. It is set in 1540 and some of the action takes place in Whitehall Palace, the one that burned to the ground in 1698. Which means, of course, I can’t look at it. I found an in-depth book on its construction, and then, after reading a lot of letters from the time and studying John Stow as never before, I was able to re-create it all on my kitchen table: the palace buildings, the gardens, the tiltyard, the gatehouse, the river stairs. The kids had to eat to the side for a while.

from The Daily Beast
BOOKS  03.30.14

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Where Life Takes You by Claudia Burgoa

Where Life Takes You (Life #1)

by Claudia Y Burgoa

Published by: Self-published on Jul 31, 2013
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance


The shiny doors opened to our floor, and I spotted his tall, well-built figure at once. He leaned against the door frame. His gray eyes smiled at me. His damp hair meant he hadn’t arrived long ago, and he wore a pair of worn-out jeans and a black t-shirt—his lazy day uniform. In another world, I would’ve pulled on a pair of sweats and joined him for the rest of the week. “Hi, Dan.” Smiling at the sight, i walked into his open arms. The soapy fresh smell, combined with his musky natural scent, welcomed me. “You came back early.” He nodded, and kissed the top of my head.

Dan pushed the front door open, and we walked into his penthouse. I took my heels off and left them inside the foyer closet, next to his fancy loafers. He linked our fingers together and pulled me to the kitchen, where a few Chinese cartons sat on the counter. He’d ordered my favorite—shrimp with cashew nuts. Dan snagged Mongolian beef for himself and a cold bottle of water for me from the sub-Zero.

I loved his kitchen. We spent hours here, talking about every- thing, and nothing—never a dull moment with us. Life was better, easier, when we shared our time and hid inside our little bubble. For him, it was being away from work, and the press, and everyone who wanted a piece of Daniel E. Brightmore—or his money. For me… the bubble was tranquility, safety. Reality stayed far away from us.

Dan talked business. The Belgium purchase, which helped with the European expansion of the Brightmore Empire’s food division.  Before he continued the conversation, he stood up, walked towards the fridge, and pulled out a box. “For my princess.”  He handed me a box full of Belgium chocolates. I stood up and jumped into his arms.

“I adore you.” I kissed his cheek before he placed me back into the floor.

“I know.” He answered cockily. Then, while we continued eating our dinner, Dan talked about Brightmore Limited and the merges he planned.

Book and Purchase Links

Goodreads  o   Amazon o   B&N

My thoughts

Where Life Takes You is about Rebecca, a woman who has what seems to be a great life: good job, nice home, and a wonderful friend in Dan, aka "Mr. Big", who always has her back.  Believe me, Rebecca needs someone to have her back especially now that her past has resurfaced and Rebecca must confront, her mother, the woman who gave her life, but never love, is now dying.  The revelations about Rebecca's childhood are slow to emerge, almost as if it is the writer expressing the pain in the remembrance. 

Dan, while a steadfast and loyal friend, who also makes living life easy, is very possessive of Rebecca.  Clearly, in order to heal from her past trauma she must also learn to stand on her own two feet.  Perhaps, Dan's strength, means, business acumen, and loyalty, including his tendency to be over protective, was what attached Rebecca to him in the first place.  It is only reasonable that someone who never felt wanted, needed, or loved would run full stop to someone who offers those needs in abundance, but clearly the time has come for Rebecca to find the survivor within herself and walk this path of life alone.

I truly enjoyed Where Life Takes You and selected this novel to review because it was outside of my literary genre comfort zone and it seemed to address similar hurdles and challenges that I have faced and continue to face in my life's journey.  I enjoyed the story and felt Claudia Burgoa did an excellent great job of slowly revealing disturbing details in her narrative.  In the sense that I felt it was more out of compassion to survivors of childhood abuse than any literary ploy and I applaud her for that. 

Without a doubt, Where Life Takes You is an emotional roller-coaster of a read.  Rebecca begins as a weak flat character that grows into one of incredible depth.   Additionally, the relationship of Rebecca and Dan, while so crucial to her life up to this point is now at a crossroads in many ways.  Rebecca must learn to be her own person, to find her inner strength and to not depend so heavily on Dan for emotional support; to make matters even more complicated, much like life, Dan has begun to fill more than friendship for Rebecca.  The resolution to many issues are left unresolved by the end of the novel, but never fear a second is already in the works.  

About the author

Claudia lives in Colorado with her family and three dogs. Two beagles who believe they are human and a bichon who thinks she’s a beagle. While managing life, she works as a CFO at a small IT Company. 

She’s a dreamer who enjoys music, laughter and a good story.

Author Links

Website  o     Goodreads   o    Facebook   o    Twitter

Review: The Midwife's Tale and The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas

The Midwife's Tale
A Mystery

Sam Thomas

Published: January 8, 2013
Minotaur Books
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
Series: A Midwife's Mystery
Pages: 308 (ARC edition)

First I want to applaud Sam Thomas for writing historical fiction/mystery with an attractive, widow of means, Bridget Hodgson, as the novel's central character.  From the start I was impressed by his selection of this independent woman who was very much a loyal subject, she moved in the shadows of society because of her profession, making her the perfect amateur sleuth.  Thomas also pulls the reader in within the first paragraph that sets the novel in York during the English Civil War.  The city is under siege and with it has brought out the immorality, treachery, corruption and deprivation of some of the citizens of York. 

What I loved most about Bridget aside from her determination to remain single, to work as a midwife, even though her earnings were not necessary, but for her love of the work.  She is tough, but so fragile, still overcome with grief, especially for her little girl, but emotions aside if there is something that must be confronted Bridget is a straight ahead full steam woman.  She is a force to be reckoned with, which earns her both respect and scorn from the people of York.  Like most crime fighters she has a partner, in The Midwife's Tale, this comes in the form of Martha, a trusted servant, a skillful and helpful assistant at birthing's, but who has some secrets herself. 

We first encounter the guile and cunning of these two women when Bridget's dear friend, Esther, is accused and then convicted of murdering her husband.  Esther is sentenced to be burnt at the stake and the situation seems hopeless.  Hopeless that is to everyone except Bridget and Martha, who immediately begin to methodically deconstruct what they know about Esther, her husband, her servant's and the case made against her.  As most good deeds, Bridget and Martha's work to help a friend leads to discover a far reaching plot involving many of the town's most respected families.

Bridget holds an unwavering adherence to her midwife oath, "to do no harm", and with that she plunged headlong into the exigent mystery and refused to ignore warnings, threats or attempts on her life as she slowly unraveled the mystery that would lead her all the way to the King of England himself.

Sam Thomas gives his reader a story that repeals the reader further.  It is full of the twists and turns one expects in historical mystery which make for an enjoyable fast moving read.  I would imagine that with a few more novels under his belt Sam Thomas will stand shoulder to shoulder with C.J. Samson.  Thomas has learned the craft of characterization and rich descriptive detail and I firmly believe in time the historical backdrop will be further weaved into his narrative.  Though, on second thought, perhaps that is what Thomas intended; as his main character is a head's down, get through it woman and the war, nor anything for that matter gets between Bridget and her goal, including Civil War.

I highly recommend this novel and look forward to more from Sam Thomas in the future.

The Harlot's Tale
A Midwife Mystery

Sam Thomas

Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Minotaur Books
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
Series: A Midwife's Mystery
Hardcover; 320p
ISBN-10: 1250010780

My hopes and prayers were answered as The Harlot's Tale arrived on the heels of my completion of The Midwife's Tale and I immediately sat down to see what fate held in store next for Bridget.  As much as I imagine Bridget wished that life would return to at least what it had been before she became wrapped up in the criminal quagmire that surrounded the fate of her friend, Esther.  Still working as a midwife, now with Martha as a recognized apprentice, she is back to solving murders as well. 

Puritan religious fanaticism has made its way to York and infiltrated the government, which add further hardship to most citizens' lives as they must perform their work and do so in a manner pleasing to the Puritanical city government officials.   As the Puritans rise in political power in York the city attracts a   fanatical preacher, who arrives in York with not only his family, but a substantial number of devoted followers as well.  Seemingly overnight strict Puritanical religious fervor is whipped up in York.  Mysteriously, around the time of the preacher's arrival the city's prostitutes, as well as a pair of adulterers, start turning up murdered and mutilated with biblical quotes left behind at the scene.  Is it the fervor that the preacher has whipped up amongst the citizenry that has pushed someone over the edge or could it be someone among the large group that surround the preacher himself?  Anything is possible.

Bridget becomes involved with the investigation with her brother in law, a York alderman, asks her to inspect the body of a woman who has been found alongside a man, who has also been murdered.   As a midwife Bridget serves as a medical examiner of sorts as that which concerns the genitals of the woman.   The women are horrified to find that the woman has been horribly mutilated and within her hand a note with a Bible verse written upon it.  Suddenly, Bridget and Martha are faced with a complex and challenging mystery and an ever increasing number of victims.  Bridget feels the strain and the burden of the task that will take every ounce of her influence among all the female citizens of work, her instincts and her hardheaded refusal to quit until the murder or murders are found and stopped. 

The preachers are quick to call the deaths part of God's judgment on the city for its sins and inflame the already tense situation by threatening that more is still to come as York is far from being the godly city it should be.  In The Harlot's Tale, Thomas successfully sets his crime in a historical setting and allows that setting to influence his narrative.  The societal struggles confounded with the rise of fanatical Puritanism as well as the vivid description of the squalor which many of York are forced to live in as well as the numerous orphans running the street, with no one to care or who will care for them, resorting to thievery to survive, which further plunges the city into the lawless hole that the killer thrives on.  Not only the city itself but the narrow minded citizenry holding tight to a societal system that no longer works, but as yet has nothing to replace it, so it seems that scornfulness and judgmental attitudes are in the majority amongst the citizens of York and it seems that nothing or no one will be able to help Bridget and Martha get to the truth and put a stop to the killing.

Each morning Bridget fears news of another death and personally feels the urgency to solve these crimes and the responsibility for not being able to do so before another woman has to die.  Just as Bridget agonizes over the responsibility that she has been given so will the reader become more anguished and frantic for the pair to find the truth which I can assure you is worth the ride! 

The Harlot's Tale is a brisk, well told story in which Thomas further perfects the interjection of a criminal suspense plot immersed within a specific historical setting and time period and successfully keeps his narrative in touch with the known history of the period.  Truly, Thomas has made an innovative and uniquely creative contribution to the sub-genre of crime/suspense within the genre of historical fiction itself. 

Do not miss Sam Thomas' creative, suspenseful and historical novel, The Harlot's Tale; it is truly an irresistible read.

About the Author

Sam Thomas is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Alabama with his wife and two children.

For more information, please visit Sam Thomas' website and blog.  You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Feature and Follow 3.28.14

Feature and Follow Friday

This week's topic:  

Snap it Time! A picture is worth a thousand words. Anything and anything. Just give us a pic.

Well who can pick just one? However, I did limit my photos to my most recent trip to France and to my most favorite district: Montmartre and the resting place of my kindred spirit: Père Lachaise Cemetery, but then I couldn't resist to throw in a few of the catacombs as well. Enjoy!

Père Lachaise Cemetery

My Oscar...

                                        (image from                        
For reasons that are completely unknown to me visitors cover the monument in kisses.  The first time I visited it must have just been cleaned as none were visible.  It was much more peaceful that way.  I love Oscar Wilde I don't understand the kisses, but now the monument is encased in glass (pic on left).  So true fans cannot put their hand near their Oscar anymore.

The inscription from Oscar's Tomb from Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol: ”And alien tears will fill for him/Pity’s long-broken urn,/For his mourners will be outcast men,/And outcasts always mourn.”  When I visited the first time I immediately sobbed as I was and had always been an outcast and somehow Oscar had known all along.  It was so incredibly moving and something I will never forget.

Jim Morrison is the one of the other famous residents whose graves must be protected from the vandalizing homage of "fans".

The Catacombs


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: Citadel by Kate Mosse Now with Giveaway!!


Kate Mosse

Release date:  March 18, 2014 
Publisher: William Morrow
680 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0062281258


From the internationally bestselling author of Labyrinth and Sepulchre comes a thrilling novel, set in the South of France during World War II, that interweaves history and legend, love and conflict, passion and adventure, bringing to life brave women of the French Resistance and a secret they must protect from the Nazis. In Carcassonne, a colorful historic village nestled deep in the Pyrenees, a group of courageous and determined operatives are engaged in a lethal battle. Like their ancestors who fought to protect their land from Northern invaders seven hundred years before, these women—codenamed Citadel—fight to liberate their home from the Germans.
But smuggling refugees over the mountains into neutral territory and sabotaging their Nazi occupiers is only part of their mission. These members of the resistance must also protect an ancient secret that, if discovered by the enemy, could change the course of history.

A superb blend of rugged action and haunting mystery based on real-life figures, Citadel is a vivid and richly atmospheric story of a group of heroic women who dared the odds to survive [provided by the publisher]

Purchase Links

My thoughts

Citadel is the third installment and the concluding volume of The Languedoc Trilogy; the previous novels being Labyrinth and Sepulchre.  Having not read either I can assure you Citadel stands on its own.  It is an impressive time-slip novel, which of late, as many of you may know, has become one of my favorite new genres. 

Citadel is set in a southern region of France, Carcassonne, which seems to evoke not only an eerie beauty but also the feeling that the veil between this world and the past as well as the future is thinner than elsewhere; reminding me of Romania or Transylvania in the emotion the region seems to evoke.   The Languedoc Trilogy is centered on a quest for an ancient Christian Codex; a manuscript believed to have the power to raise a sleeping army.  Citadel continues this theme with the story lines of Sandrine Vidal, a member of the  French Resistance in the Languedoc between 1942 and 1944, and that of a fourth‑century Roman Gaul, Arinius.

Sandrine has an interesting story that adds to the allure of Citadel; she is a young naive woman, living with her older sister Marianne, and has followed her sister into the French resistance in their local village.  During a resistance demonstration a bomb is detonated and innocent people are injured.   It is at the demonstrations that she meets Raoul, who somehow saves her life but she is unable to find him. Needless to say once she does the two begin an intense love affair, despite that Raoul is accused of the attack on the demonstration and is being hunted by the Gestapo.  If that wasn’t enough he tells the women that he has a map, which is thought to indicate the location of an ancient codex; so powerful that possessing it could alter the course of the war, putting them all in even greater danger as Raoul is being pursued by men who believe he has found the Codes itself.   

It is at this pivotal moment that Sandrine realizes that the time has come to take a stand against the Nazi’s or submit to them.  She decides to take a stand.  Sandrine, along with the assistance of Raoul and Marianne, form a female-only Resistance group, the Citadel.  These women take increasingly dangerous jobs in their fight for freedom and who, over the next two years, fight a guerrilla war against the German occupation.   Then Sandrine meets Monsieur Baillard, a man who has spent centuries looking for the Codex and he believe that Sandrine is the crucial person he needs to finally summon the ancient power of the Codex.  Evidently, Baillard is a character that has made an appearance in each of Mosse’s installments in her trilogy.  He is a mysterious and at times sinister character; could his motives to find the codex be what he claims they are?

Meanwhile, back in 342 AD, Arinius is also facing testing times. He has a sheet of papyrus strapped to his chest and is making his was to the fortified castellum of Carcaso– a place of safety for Gnostics and Christians during this uncertain Dark Age.  Arinius is struggles across France to hide the papyrus; he believes to be a heretical document, in these early uncertain days of Constantine’s newly Christian Roman Empire.

I found Citadel completely engrossing and it helped me understand why the historical time-slip novel intrigues me as it does.  History has a tendency to repeat itself and so parallels within history are often easy to discern.  Mosse gives us the end of the Roman Empire and the last days of Hitler’s Third Reich.   I recently heard a theory that Shakespeare wrote Henry V as a means of reminding Elizabeth I of how wars were won despite seemingly insurmountable odds.  At the end of the day neither the reader nor the writer nor the historian will know the unquestionable truth.  It is the informed speculation that makes the study of history so intriguing and thankfully always will be.

Kate Mosse has given her reader an epic, a novel of near 700 pages, but it never felt like one of Hercules’ labors.  Instead it is filled with emotion, intrigue, danger and suspicion combined with Mosse’s ability to combine these emotions to create driven narrative pace.  Additionally, and almost as a bonus, Mosse is a writer who has mastered the ability to capture the feeling of a time and space for her reader, but to actually evoke the same emotions brought on by the sights, sounds and smells encountered by the characters right through to her reader.   Citadel was all these things and still also historically compelling, filled with memorable characters all set within that wonderfully eerie setting which brings the conclusion of the Citadel and The Languedoc Trilogy to its climatic gut-wrenching conclusion. 


About the Author

Kate Mosse is the multimillion selling author of four works of nonfiction, three plays, one volume of short stories and six novels, including the New York Times bestselling Labyrinth and Sepulchre.  A popular presenter for BBC television and radio in the UK, she is also cofounder and chair of the prestigious Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and a member of the board of the National Theatre of Great Britain. In 2013, she was named as one of the Top 100 most influential people in British publishing and also awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to literature. She divides her time between England and Carcassonne, France.

Website | Facebook | Twitter @katemosse  | Goodreads

Spring Bloggiesta 2014 Mini Challenges

Spring 2014 Mini Challenges

Are you ready to get busy working on your blogs? To help you in this endeavor,  we are offering the following mini challenges:

Social Media
General Blog Improvement
Getting Organized
Challenges Specific to Book Blogging
As you click through you’ll discover several hosts are offering prizes in connection with their challenges.

Give all our hosts lots of love and participate in as many challenges as you can. If you have problems or questions regarding their challenges, contact them on their blogs or twitter. They are here to help!

And thanks to all our awesome hosts! You've all come up some amazing challenges!

Happy Bloggiesta everyone!

Spring Bloggiesta 2014 ~ My Master To Do List - Update 3.30.14

Spring Bloggiesta 2014

The Most Happy Reader's Bloggiesta Master To Do List

❏  Write one review
❏  update Goodreads/Amazon reviews - send links if necessary
❏  Update 2014 challenges (in progress)
❏  Do TWO mini challenges 
  • Make your blog pop with Picmonkey @ River City Reading (See my handiwork below)
  • Twitter List Tutorial @ Love at First Book
  • Get Organized - Evernote and More @ Tif Talks Books
❏  Fine One new blogging connection (and post an intro on my blog)
❏  change one thing on your layout and/or look
❏  comment on other Bloggiesta participants blogs
❏  participate in at least one Twitter chat

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly link-up from The Broke and The Bookish who provide prompts for others to join in with their own top ten list. Feel free to have less than 10 or more if you need to at times and put a spin on the topic if you need to! Just please link back to us if you are participating :)

What's on your bookish bucket list??

1.  Tackle my TBR mountain.

2.  Write reviews for books I've read and haven't had time to make my notes intelligible thoughts and then blog the review.

3.  Stop accepting books for review I have no interest in.

4.  Write my own novel... There are several floating about in there.

5.  Create my own meme... I am working on this one.

6.  Branch out with blogging from just reviews...

7.  Catalog my library

8.  Comment more on other's blogs and interact with other bloggers.

9.  Update my challenges which have been neglected since January.

10.  Enjoy a novel without interruption!

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